And just like that …

graduation imageI know this blog has been extremely quiet over the past two years, but I am hoping to get back into writing a little bit more going forward …

… and that is because I completed my Master of Arts in IT Leadership from The College of St. Scholastica this past week and graduated on Saturday.  With that is the rear view mirror I can turn some of my attention to other things (like a new daughter, house improvements, my family, etc.). For now, I have updated my Now page.

So, hang tight!

Stanford iOS 8 Course Now Available

The Developing iOS 8 Apps with Swift course from Stanford University is now available on iTunes U …

… and it is entirely in Swift! Obviously.

I’m done with the first lecture and half through the second. I’ve started a number of the old classes, but never finished since I ended up finding them after they had all of the materials available and my tiny little brain was too intimidated to stick with it.

This time I am hoping to keep up with the material as it is released. Hopefully that will help me push through. So far, so good.

Choosing Your Tools Again

I forgot one huge thing, at least for me, when I am looking at tools: how they look.

It is completely and totally superfluous to an extent, but I won’t deny that how a tool looks (thinking of software mainly, but the same goes for hardware) does have an effect on how much I enjoy using the tool which generally affects how I feel about it overall.

A tool that looks terrible is less likely to have me coming back to use it in the future. For a CLI tool, the better the interface I am using, the more likely I am to continue to use it.

This is one of the reasons I continue to use Apple OS X and iOS instead of moving onto something else … they look and feel better. To me. This is entirely subjective, but it is still a quality I use to judge a tool by.

If you have a tool, and a website for that tool, but do not show off the user interface there is a good chance I am going to just pass on by for something else. Have a demo I can play with? Even better. Do you take real pride in your interface (both software and hardware)? That’s going to get my just that little bit more excited about looking at your tool.

Any tool still needs to ultimately get the job done, but if it can get the job done and look good doing it … then all the better. If it can get the job done, look good doing it, and then also be easy to use … I’m getting ahead of myself here. I’m going to try to not get greedy.

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Choosing Your Tools

What sorts of questions does one ask when choosing a tool?

I’m running into issues right now in my own head when it comes to choosing the tools I want to use for my work. It doesn’t matter if it is for my day job as a sysadmin or at night attempting to somehow fall into becoming something approximating an iOS developer (maybe … perhaps … somehow … ). It is hard to choose tools if you don’t have any questions to ask when you are choosing them.

Since sysadmin work is something I do more often at the moment, I’ll just list off some of the questions I ask when trying to evaluate a software package or any other kind of tool.

  • What is the license? This is where I start with systems stuff because licensing is a pain and often full of different ways to try and “get” you in the end. Microsoft seems to change its licensing scheme every few hours and SMART Technologies is doing the same sort of thing with their SMART Notebook software. Even forgetting the issues I have with interactive whiteboards (don’t get me started, they are a support nightmare), just dealing with licensing is a pain. If something is open source or has a pretty easy-to-understand license (thank you Attachmate), then I am more likely to look in that direction.
  • Does it have a web component? We have some things on campus which lack a web component and it hurts at times. What a first-class web component does is allow me to choose other tools (like my operating system) based not on if I have the proper software, but if I want to actually use something. “Enterprise” software is the worst with this because almost everyone has some Windows-only GUI you are almost required to use to do anything worthwhile.
  • This is a new one, but here we go: Does it have a mobile component? This is becoming more important as I use my phone for more and more sysadmin work. I can do a lot of stuff while on the road, but often mobile is an afterthought. Currently Request Tracker is the one tool I wish had a better mobile access to their excellent issue tracking software. I know these things will come, but it would be nice if it was sooner rather than later.
  • Does it force me to choose an operating system? I want to use my Linux distribution of choice and something forcing Windows on me or only “supporting” Ubuntu really doesn’t make me all that happy. I’m not going to toss it aside automatically, but I’m also more skeptical from the start because the tool is attempting to dictate infrastructure choices I would rather be able to make myself.
  • Is it in active development? Pretty self-explanatory. I want to see life before I start using a tool for something important.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, but it is a place I can start when trying to evaluate options. I left off some obvious ones (I assume that the tool will do the job and do it well), and there are many I automatically use even if I don’t think about them. What are some thing you need to consider when you are looking at tools?

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