# Monday, 18 June 2018
Monday, 18 June 2018 03:46:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

IMG_0860Most of the Norway I saw is defined by towering cliffs, the result of glaciers gouging their way through the country thousands of years ago. Many of these filled with water to became the famous fjords of Norway.

This was the Norway I experienced when I made my first trip here this week.

I was invited to speak at the The Norwegian Developer Conference (“NDC”), so I flew to Oslo after speaking at IT Camp in Romania. I arrived in Oslo on a rainy Sunday night after a week in Romania.

IMG_0920The first 2 days in Oslo, I worked on a Machine Learning project for Bane Nor - the Norwegian national railway. This was a great experience for me, as Microsoft flew in engineers from all over the world and I had an experience to learn about the train industry from the customer and about data science from several experts.

NDC began on Wednesday, so I arrived bright and early to experience it all. The conference was amazing. Hundreds of speakers from all over the world come to Oslo each year for some high-quality sessions. I knew some of the speakers and I had the opportunity to meet many more.

IMG_0873Wednesday evening, the conference organizers treated all the speakers to a boat ride around the islands near Oslo, which was a great chance to meet new people.

IMG_0932My presentation - Building and Training your own Custom Image Recognition AI - was the last one of the day. I was happy to get it over with on Day 1, but I spent much of Wednesday preparing for it. In the end, it went very well. The bright stage lights prevented me from seeing the audience, but I received several good questions afterward, so I think the audience enjoyed it as much as I did.

IMG_0993The day after the conference, I booked a trip to Bergen. Oslo is near the eastern border of Norway and Bergen is on the west coast, so this all-day trip took me across the entire country. It consisted of 3 trains, a bus, and a boat. The boat ride was the most impressive as we traveled through the fjords of central Norway. The trip was designed to be more scenic than efficient and it took us from Oslo to Myrdal to Flåm to Gudvangen to Voss to Bergen. The fjord boat cruise took me to the northernmost point I have ever been, edging out my trip to Upsala, Sweden 3 years ago.

IMG_1028I only had one day in Bergen and I was exhausted from 2 weeks on the road. But I did a lot of walking around the city, and visited 2 art museums, and drank some local beers, and ate reindeer stew and whale steak, and sat by the harbor to watch the sun set at midnight. Scandinavian daylight last for over 20 hours this time of year, making it very difficult for me to pace myself.

IMG_1035I missed Father's Day in America (most European countries celebrate in March), but I will make time with my boys in the next few weeks.

IMG_1049In a few hours, I fly home, tired but content from 2 weeks abroad traveling thousands of miles. I feel like I need to return to Norway and see all the places I missed. Hopefully, NDC will make that happen next year.

Monday, 18 June 2018 00:21:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, 16 June 2018

There exists a competition in which a speaker must deliver a presentation in front of a slide deck that advances automatically every few seconds. The biggest challenge is knowing when the slide will change. Because most of us are not capable of simultaneously counting time and speaking, these talks often feature either awkward pauses waiting for the next slide or a rush to finish talking about a slide that disappeared a few seconds ago.

Prior to such a competition, one of the speakers asked me how to create a bar that would display across the bottom and gradually disappear as time expired. Here is how to do this:

Step 1: Create your slide

In PowerPoint, create your slides as you like each slide and set them to advance automatically. Fig. 1 shows an example of such a slide.

pp01-Slide
Fig. 1

Step 2: Draw a rectangle

Select one of your slides and insert a short wide rectangle shape at the bottom. From the Insert ribbon, select Shapes and click the rectangle shape, as shown in Fig. 1; then, drag your mouse along the bottom of the slide to draw the rectangle, as shown in Fig. 2. Make the rectangle exactly as wide as the slide.

pp02-InsertShape
Fig. 2

pp03-Shape
Fig. 3

Step 3: Animate the rectangle

Select the rectangle shape you just added. From the Animations ribbon, expand the list of animations and select "Wipe" from the "Exit" section, as shown in Fig. 4.

pp04-Animation
Fig. 4

By default, the "Wipe" animation will wipe the shape from the bottom. You want to wipe it from the right. Select the shape and, from the Animations ribbon, select Effect Options | From Right, as shown in Fig. 5.

pp05-EffectOptions
Fig. 5

Finally, set the timing of the animation. In the "Timing" section of the Animations ribbon, set the following:
Start: With Previous
Duration: Set to the same duration as the slide timing
Delay: 0

These are shown in Fig. 6.

pp06-Timing
Fig. 6

Step 4: Test your Transition

Press SHIFT+F5 to run this slide with the transition. You should see the rectangle slowly disappear from the right and completely disappear as the slide transitions to the next slide. Figures 7a, 7b, and 7c illustrate this.

pp07a-Results
Fig. 7a

pp07b-Results
Fig. 7b

pp07c-Results
Fig. 7c

Step 5: Copy Shape to Other Slides

When you are satisfied that the animation is working properly, copy / paste this shape to your other slides. The animations will copy along with the shape.

Saturday, 16 June 2018 04:59:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, 14 June 2018

GCast 2:

Azure Machine Learning Studio

Azure Machine Learning Studio is a graphical designer that allows you to quickly build Machine Learning solutions without writing a lot of code.

Thursday, 14 June 2018 02:47:24 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 11 June 2018
Monday, 11 June 2018 00:40:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, 10 June 2018

Romania

Achievement unlocked: I played Dungeons and Dragons last night for the first time in my life. And I did it in Transylvania!

I am writing this while sitting in the Cluj-Napoca airport, waiting for my flight to Bucharest and my connection to Oslo this evening.

IMG_0762This is the fifth consecutive year I have visited Romania to attend IT Camp. I enjoy it more each time I come - the conference, the people, and the country.

IT camp has become like a family reunion for me. I look forward to seeing old friends from Romania and from Europe and America. Most of them I only get to see once a year, so it is a real treat for me to come here. And, as always, the Hotel Grand Italia spoils me with their excellent service.

IMG_0824The conference continues to grow. Attendance was 500-600 this year (about 10% more than last year) and the speaker list grew to over 40. Session times were shortened to 45 minutes this year in order to accommodate the larger number of sessions. I delivered 2 presentations: "Own Your Own Career – Advice from a Veteran Consultant" and "How Cloud Computing Empowers a Data Scientist". I had a packed room for the first session, with many people standing in the back. A number of people approached me during the conference to ask more questions about my topics and to tell me they enjoyed my talks, which is always a treat.

In between sessions, I met new people, re-connected with old friends, recorded 4 interviews, learned a few things, and Tudy taught me how to play Dungeons and Dragons, even though I was so tired I nearly fell asleep an hour into the game.

IMG_0807Some inclement weather and a need to prepare my presentations kept me close to the hotel during the conference; but IT Camp always includes a field trip the day after the conference. This year, they took us to Sighișoara, a small city in central Romania most famous as the alleged birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Count Dracula.

IMG_0818I am grateful to Mihai and Diana and Tudor and Noemi and the many volunteers who work hard to make IT Camp a success and to make me feel welcome. I got a lot out of this trip.

And how many people can say their first game of Dungeons and Dragons took place in Transylvania?

Sunday, 10 June 2018 20:48:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, 09 June 2018

SilverthornSilverthorn by Raymond Feist continues the Riftwar Saga, begun in Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master.

The interplanetary war has ended, the rift between the world has closed, and Lyam has been named king.

But evil forces still lurk on Midkemia and an assassination attempt on Anita, the betrothed of Lyam's brother Arutha leaves her dying from a poison-dipped crossbow bolt. Most of this book follows Arutha and his companions in their quest to find the rare silverthorn plant, which promises to provide an antidote for the poison that is slowly killing Anita.

Pug, the title character of the first two novels is relegated to a minor role until the last few chapters, when he returns to Kelewan to seek a way to battle an evil magician hoping to take over and destroy Midkemia. The journey is perilous because Pug is an outlaw in Kelewan, thanks to his disruption of the High Magicians and a powerful warlord.

Feist does a good job of keeping the action flowing and the reader engaged. This book's story is more straightforward than that of its 2-volume predecessor. It does not suffer from the weakness of the earlier volumes - having characters summarize certain events, rather than letting the reader experience them directly. We follow the characters as the action unfolds.

Silverthorn stands well on its own; but is best enjoyed as part of the Riftwar Saga. I have already begun the next book in the series.

Saturday, 09 June 2018 17:54:01 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, 08 June 2018

MagicianMasterA warning: You are much more likely to enjoy Raymond Feist's "Magician: Master", if you first read his novel "Magician: Apprentice". This story was originally published as a single volume, titled simply "Magician"; but after the success of this novel, Feist convinced his publisher to allow him to expand the story into 2 books and release those separately. As a result, neither book stands well on its own, but together they form a solid story.

"Magician: Master" continues the story of Pug, who was captured by the Tsurani of Kelewan during the Riftwar and sold into slavery before rising to power via his magical abilities. He ultimately returns to his home world of Midkemia in attempt to gain a truce; but he is confounded by evil forces and by a senile king.

This book and its predecessor hold up well as a high fantasy novel. Numerous characters are developed and cross paths through multiple subplots.

The greatest weakness of the story is Feist's tendency to skip significant events, then relay them later in retrospect. A character dies, but we don't hear of it until his girlfriend relays the news;  Pug transforms into a master magician, but we have very little insight into how this happens; he goes away and somehow is more powerful than his teachers when he returns. Showing the reader these actions would almost certainly have more impact than telling us about their results.

Despite its weaknesses, I enjoyed the 2-volume story and I have already begun reading the next book in the series.

Friday, 08 June 2018 09:56:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, 07 June 2018

GCast 1:

A Lap Around Cloud and Azure

What is cloud computing, why is it important, and how does Microsoft Azure fit in?

Thursday, 07 June 2018 17:22:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, 06 June 2018

I have twice begun a screencast web series; but each time it fizzled as I ran out of time, motivation, and/or subject matter.

This time, I'm optimistic and I have a lot to say.

So, starting tomorrow, I am re-booting "GCast", a technical screencast in which I will walk through a technical topic in a short video.

My new computer and a fresh install of Camtasia Studio and Adobe Premiere Elements will help.

I’ve recorded a few episodes and I’ll be releasing them here once a week, for now. The first 2 are about 20 minutes long, but I plan to keep most videos 5-10 minutes.

Tomorrow's episode is A Lap Around Microsoft Azure and talks about the advantages of cloud computing in general and Azure in particular. 

I hope you like it an I hope you keep watching.

GCast | Video
Wednesday, 06 June 2018 09:03:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)