# Friday, 13 March 2015

I'm a little surprised I enjoyed this book as much as I did. Other than a brief period in my teens when I was obsessed with Asteroids and Defender, I've never been much into video games; My kids kicked my butt at Halo and various EA Sports games for years until I finally stopped playing; And, although I created a few computer games last year - including the unforgettable Spinach Top series, I've spent only a small percentage of my life creating video games.

But I admire those who can create these games - the people with enough imagination to conceive of a great game idea and enough technical skills to execute that idea.

Honoring the Code: Conversations with Great Game Designers put me in touch with those people. Video game enthusiast Matt Barton sought out the programmers and artists who worked on many of his favourite games and he asked them about their lives and their work. This book is primarily a transcript of those interviews.

Interviews include:

George Sanger, who composes and compiles music for video games, including 7th Guest. His main advice: "Be nice to each other".

John Romero, who built the influential first-person-shooter game Doom. Romeros was hailed as a rock star in the industry until his marketing department published a poorly-thought advertisement with the text: "John Romero is about to make you his bitch", which turned many fans against him.

The reclusive Rebecca Heineman, who was born William Heineman, but changed her name when she transgendered to a female as an adult. Heineman earned the nickname "Burger" by a habit of buying a sack of hamburgers, storing them in her desk, and eating them over the course of several days.

My favourite interview is in the last chapter - Paul Reiche and Fred Ford seem to be having the most fun.  For example, they started a company named "Toys for Bob" and they chose that name only because they liked the sound of it.  Although there is no actual "Bob", everyone in the company had to make up a story about who the "Real Bob" was.

One can read this book to learn and copy the habits of great games designers. Although there is a wide spectrum of personalities among the interviewees, most of them share a passion for video games that drives them to work long hours designing, building, and playing these games. And most of them began this passion early in life - well before high school.

One nice thing about this book is that you can read the chapters in any order - each interview stands on its own.

The author provides an introduction to the book - describing his motivation for conducting and publishing these interviews. I was surprised he did not end it with a conclusion - summarizing all he had learned.

For me, the book was interesting because I enjoyed a peek into the lives of people who have a passion for what they do for a living.

Friday, 13 March 2015 11:46:15 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, 12 March 2015

March 6-8, I attended Hack The Anvil hackathon at Purdue University. About 350 student hackers - all from Purdue - attended this hackathon. I was joined by my colleague Brian Sherwin for most of the event and by Sarah Sexton on Sunday.

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Following the opening ceremony, I delivered a 30-minute tech talk describing cloud computing and Microsoft Azure I showed how to use Azure Web Sites, Azure Virtual Machines, and Azure Mobile Services. Although we didn’t offer a prize (as Microsoft often does at these events), a number of teams decided to incorporate Azure into their projects.

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We spent much of the weekend helping people debug their code. In addition to questions about Kinect and Azure, students asked questions about JavaScript and interfaces and HTTP, updating the Java SDK on a MacBook. 3 different teams set up node on Azure used Brian Sherwin's blog post (http://briansherwin.com/blog/2015/03/hack-tools-1-node-js-on-azure-with-linux-vm/) as a reference.

  • The best projects I saw using Microsoft projects were:
    An application that used Kinect to change the color and intensity of lights based on the user's hand gestures. This project integrated Python code with the C# code using the Kinect SDK. Brian Sherwin this team use the Kinect SDK and requested a copy of their source code. David Giard recorded an interview with the team.
  • A portal that allows video game enthusiasts to find other players with similar interests and to schedule multi-player games with one another. The portal was built on Azure Web Sites, the data was stored in SQL Azure and exposed via Azure Mobile Services
  • A Tampermonkey Chrome plugin built on Azure web sites that displays the text of a linked page below the link.

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Some other interesting projects were:

  • "ShotBot" - a robot bartender
  • Gloves that interact with a Wii remote to allow users to control mouse pointer movements from across the room.
  • "SmartFridge" - an Android application that allows users to scan the bar codes of the items in your refrigerator and keep track of when each item expires and when it is time to buy a new item.
  • A Java-based app to assist Dungeons & Dragons "Dragonmasters" to create the environments used in D&D.

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Many students integrated .NET or Azure into their application because we were there to help them.

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Purdue will be hosting a multi-school hackathon (BoilerMake) in the fall and I hope to attend this as well.

HackTheAnvil Photos

Thursday, 12 March 2015 14:07:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Microsoft sponsored the HackIllinois hackathon held at the University of Illinois February 27-March 1, 2015. Approximately 900 students attended. The following people from Microsoft worked on site:

  • Bill Fink, Technical Evangelist
  • David Giard, Technical Evangelist
  • Martin Schray, Technical Evangelist
  • Sarah Sexton, Technical Evangelist
  • Paul Sledd, Recruiter

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Of course, students love free stuff, so we came armed with some prizes: We gave away a t-shirt to anyone who completed a brief survey. When we ran out of t-shirts, we gave away books, stencils,mugs, and stickers. From those who completed the survey, we drew a name to win a Surface Pro 2.  William Su of Ga Tech won this drawing. We offered a HoodiePillow and a free Azure pass to anyone who wanted to incorporate Azure into their weekend hack. 42 people took advantage of this offer.

Throughout the weekend, the four evangelists answered questions from teams using Azure and other Microsoft technologies.

On the final day, we offered a Dell Venue 8 Pro to each member of the team with the best use of Azure. 18 teams completed an application with an Azure component.

It was a difficult choice and we debated for some time. One team hosted an impressive translation application on Azure; another created a GPS application that displayed the location of the user's dog and whether it had left their yard.

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We awarded the prize to a team from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology for their Flock application - a system built on a Pebble watch to communicate restaurant recommendations to friends. Most of the application logic was in an Azure web service that called out to APIs exposed by Twillio and MailJet. The Pebble watch called to the Azure API. This team spent some time at our booth asking questions of Bill and Martin. You can watch an interview with this team at Technology and Friends.

Bill Fink brought his Kinect Photo Booth and it was a big hit. Many students were drawn to our booth when they walked past and saw themselves in front of a dinosaur or live volcano on the giant monitor at our table. The Photo Booth sent out 102 emails over the weekend.

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Overall, the event was a great success - Students came away with a positive impression of Microsoft and many used Azure and Kinect that probably would not have had we not been there. Many students were unaware what Azure even is. They were excited when they found out how it could help them and their projects. One team planned to use IBM for their back-end data storage; but after struggling with the IBM service and talking with Bill, they switched to Azure and completed their project successfully.

HackIllinois Photos

Wednesday, 11 March 2015 13:48:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, 10 March 2015

This is the fifth in a series we are doing at DevRadio on female entrepreneurs. I interviewed Luan Cox of Crowdnetic – a global crowdfinancing platform.

Watch episode at DevRadio

Tuesday, 10 March 2015 12:26:42 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 09 March 2015
Monday, 09 March 2015 15:54:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, 08 March 2015

This is the fourth in a series we are doing at DevRadio on female entrepreneurs. I interviewed Jennifer Whaely and Jeff Everett of Pose-a-Pet, a Chicago-based company that helps find homes for animals.

Watch episode at DevRadio

Sunday, 08 March 2015 12:38:26 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, 07 March 2015

This is the third in a series we are doing at DevRadio on female entrepreneurs. I interviewed Diana Paredes, CEO of Suade - an open regulatory financial platform.

Watch episode at DevRadio

Saturday, 07 March 2015 20:20:21 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, 06 March 2015

The second interview in the Microsoft for startups series is with Bernadine Brocker, CEO of Vastari - a company that matches art collectors and museums.

Watch episode at DevRadio

Friday, 06 March 2015 13:34:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, 05 March 2015

At DevRadio, we are starting a new series on Microsoft for Startups.

In this recent episode, I spoke with Microsoft Startup Evangelist Tereza Nemessanyi about her history as an entrepreneur, what she and Microsoft are doing for startups, and what it's like as a female entrepreneur.

Watch episode at DevRadio

Thursday, 05 March 2015 14:36:32 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, 04 March 2015

NickZackTimmy

This is a photo of Zech. He's the one with no shirt. The other two are my sons. When he was a boy, Zech lived next door to us. All 3 boys have grown to adulthood since I took this photo.

Zech was close friends with my boys, even though he was a bit older. There was a time when Nick and Zech were inseparable during the daylight hours. I remember Zech as quiet and polite. He always addressed me as "Mr. Dave".

I haven't seen Zech in years. He had a tough life. His parents were not around for much of his childhood; When he was my neighbor, his aunt and uncle were raising him; and I am told that, as an adult, he struggled with a heroin addiction and spent some time in jail.

A month ago, Zech was reported missing. This weekend, his body was found in a snow bank in Cincinnati. He was 27 years old.

I grieve for Zech and for a young life that was cut short; I grieve for the life and childhood he should have had but did not; I grieve for his family, who are suffering a tragedy I pray I never experience; and I grieve for myself because I was not there to help someone who could have used a role model and maybe just a little more guidance.

If you are reading this, call your kids and tell them you love them.

If you are reading this, call your siblings and ask them how their week is going.

If you are reading this, call you mother and listen to whatever she feels like talking about.

If you are reading this, hold tightly to someone special in your life.  Tomorrow is not promised to either of you.

Today, my prayers and thoughts are with Zech's family. I hope that they remember him as I do - a quiet, polite boy who was kind to my sons.

Rest in peace, Zech.

Wednesday, 04 March 2015 14:45:41 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)