I Passed MS 070-583 Certification Exam! Now What?

I’m glad someone or something did a good job architecting cloud 9 because I’m floating on it today. Speaking of well architected cloud solutions, I am also now certified to develop cloud applications on Azure! I passed the MS 070-583 exam – PRO: Designing and Developing Windows Azure Applications. I am one Microsoft certification away from becoming an MCPD!

Passing this exam brings me one step closer to fulfilling a long term professional goal as well. I am on a path to position myself as an expert in secure software development with a focus on cloud computing. Security has always been a primary passion of mine. So, one of the next steps in my longer term goal is to validate my knowledge of secure software development practices by taking on the (ISC)^2 CSSLP certification. The CSSLP certification exam is not to be taken lightly, so I’m hoping to be prepared to take it in about 3-4 months.

It all comes together for me when I consider the trend of small and medium sized companies finally willing seriously consider cloud platforms as a solution to their IT needs. Large companies have been doing it out of necessity, but smaller companies should be doing it for economic and reliability reasons. I believe that many companies want to leverage the power and cost effectiveness of cloud platforms, but they are afraid to do so because of privacy and security concerns. On top of that, some people were concerned about the maturity of the cloud platforms and their ability to provide solutions in some fundamental development areas. Those were some pretty valid fears that – until they were addressed at the cloud platform level – made it difficult for small teams to get development efforts started on cloud platforms.

But, the cloud platform offerings have finally matured and grown enough to be taken seriously. Smaller companies are taking note as well and the focus is shifting to the security aspects of these solutions. The core services are there, but are they secure? How do companies evaluate the risks of development environments they don’t keep in house? How do we ensure the deployment process is secure? I see the writing on the wall. My goal is to help development teams address these concerns by incorporating security best practices into the development lifecycle itself, and then educating them on cloud specific security issues.

I believe that once the security concerns are addressed, many companies will see an explosion of development efforts that were previously considered not cost effective become feasible when leveraging cloud environments. I hope to be in the thick of it when that happens.

Posted in Business, Consulting, Informat Technology, Information Security, Microsoft, Productivity, Programming, Windows Azure | Leave a comment

My Blog Was Hacked, Fixed, and is Back

I was planning on writing a productivity post about managing tasks in Outlook (I will get to it later), but I think I’ll recap the last couple hours during which I discovered and removed a WordPress hack (malware and backdoors) from my site instead (detailed post coming later today).

This was likely a straight forward attack on an outdated WordPress plugin. I backed everything up for a good post mortem, took the blog offline, reset all username/passwords involved in the system, removed all the malicious code from the site, removed backdoor files left on the filesystem by the attackers, cleaned up the database, removed all unused themes and plugins, and turned it all back on.

So, while the site is up, it will only have a subset of the functionality it had before while I dig into the entry point of the attack and find suitable replacement plugins for what I need.

Posted in Information Security, Productivity | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Presenting Visual Studio 2010 Database Tools at Aggieland DNUG on March 13

Howdy! Next Tuesday I will be giving a presentation for the Aggieland DotNet User Group (Facebook Group) on Visual Studio 2010 Database Tools. The meeting will take place at the Improving Enterprises offices in Research Park, Suite 260, (map) in the training room. Pizza and beverages will be provided! Below is a summary of the presentation I’ll be giving:

Database Management with Visual Studio 2010 SQL Server Database Tools

Is managing your database as important as managing your application code? Would you like to use the same tools you use to develop code to manage your database? Would you like to version control, unit test, and deploy your database all from one tool? Would you like to know about database hosting in the cloud? If so, please join us to discuss how Visual Studio 2010 helps developers and DBAs work together to manage databases with Database Projects. Databases are a key part of most applications today, and having efficient, effective ways to manage databases are key to maintaining quality in the application development process. We will discuss schema versioning, change script management, data generation plans, code first development, and much more.

Posted in .NET, Business, Informat Technology, Microsoft, Programming | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Productivity Post – Pomodoro App Review

Ready, Set, Go!

I’m pretty excited! Last week was one of the most productive weeks I’ve had in a long time, and it felt really good to get things done. What’s more amazing is that I had some serious time crunches put on me by family matters. Time-boxing my work using the Pomodoro App has been really helpful, and I’m actually doing a 25 minute pomodoro right now to write this blog post. The application is based on the Pomodoro Technique, which I sadly have yet to fully utilize.

Even without the full system in place, using the app to set time limits on units of work really makes it easy to focus and realize how valuable time really is, and how much time is left until your next break. What was more difficult was picking the level of detail for the goals I used as my pomodoro topics. Putting something too discrete for a 25 minute chunk of time meant I ended up stuffing a bunch of other stuff in there that may or may not have been in line with my overall goals for the day. Putting something too vague meant doing multiple pomodoros with the same topic and it also made me lose focus a bit.

Break Time!

One of the more helpful things I used the application for was actually timing break activities like reading RSS feeds, checking email, or playing a video game or two. It’s super easy to sink hours into these kinds of activities without realizing it, but with the Pomodoro app, the loud alarm clock sound and the “Good Job!” sound byte brought me back to focus on more important tasks.

There are also 5 to 15 minute breaks scheduled between the longer work sessions, which I used to do things like get coffee or go to the restroom. Again, a coffee break can become a time sink, but I found myself wanting to check how much time was left on my break and not blow it. This put me back on task and helped me focus… and the coffee didn’t hurt either! ;)

Feature Review

So what features make this app stand out? Couldn’t you use a stopwatch to do the same thing? Technically speaking, yes, a stopwatch or timer would do just as well for the timing part. However, the application collects statistics for you that are very helpful in determining how successful your pomodoro’s are.

For example, the application integrates with messaging programs like Skype and Twitter to set away status messages based on your topic. I got some laughs (and some company) when I did gaming sessions and my Skype status changed, but I was also left alone during some intense work sessions as well. That was very helpful.

The other cool features was the ability to see a log of my pomodoro use to see what I’ve been working on for the day, and for all time (global stats). I can use this to fill in time sheets and determine if my priorities are correct. That’s not something you can get with a timer unless you are using some other manual tracking system.

The application integrates with some GTD packages (Things and Omnifocus) to pull tasks, but it does not integrate with other task management applications like Outlook however. I ended up doing some manual linking between those systems by referencing the task topic. However, there is the ability to run apple scripts for all the events in the application (start, stop, pause, resume, interruptions, etc). I imagine that at some point when I find it necessary to look into Apple Script, I might actually work on writing some integration scripts for just such purposes. For now though, using the statistics was good enough.

Worth The Purchase?

I didn’t know this ahead of time because I didn’t fully look into the website before hitting up the App Store, but it is possible to download the Pomodoro source code for free (read: it is open source) and not pay a dime for this application. That being said, I’m using the application in a professional capacity and it’s clean and works well. I like supporting developers who write good software (and hope others do the same for me), so I have no problem saying I paid for this app. It also guarantees I’ll get updates through the App Store as they become available, instead of having to check for them on the website or yet another product update RSS feed.

Final Verdict

Success! This application has helped me become more productive. According to my dock bar, I have 3:45 left to finish this post, and I’ll spend that time checking spelling, adding links, tags, etc. I recommend that you give it a shot. And with source code available free, there’s no reason not to try it out.

Posted in Business, Productivity | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

KeyCastr for Capturing Keystrokes On Screen

I had a problem with numbered lists in Evernote and wanted to capture the keystrokes in a Quicktime video to submit with a bug report to Evernote so they can take a look at the problem. My good buddy Chris Weldon recommended I check out KeyCastr, and it was just the thing I was looking for. I’m watching my keystrokes while typing up this blog post right now!

If you need to show keystrokes during a presentation, screencast, or for any other reason, check out KeyCastr.

Posted in Macbook Pro, Productivity | Leave a comment