Author Archives: Marc

Protect Your Electronics

By Marc|November 30, 2017|Life|

If you are a practitioner, or a fan, of coding and technology, I am happy to hear from you. Meanwhile, join my blog and help me spread the word to a new generation of programmers. There are many out there that need to be brought up to date. The world of computers is not as undecipherable to the layman as it may seem. The more you learn, the better you can make use of the Internet. Whether programming is your cup of tea or not, surely electronic equipment is. We all have many devices that we must keep in top running condition. We depend on these marvels for many things. Tablets, laptops, iPads, iPods, and whatever you own in the way of a mobile phone are our entrée to the world at large. We keep in touch with people, places, and things through them. My advice today is to keep them clean and working properly. How? There are surge protectors, anti-static cleaning products, and my recent discovery, dehumidifiers.

Electronic gear will not take care of itself. If you drop it, spill soda on it, forget it in the rain, or otherwise harm it, you will immediately miss its services. One way I like to attend to my stuff and prevent theft is to store it in the basement when I am not using it. If it is there for long periods of time, I need to turn on the basement dehumidifier to keep moisture and mold out – I bought it from If you don’t take precautions, your money is going to waste. You will have to run out and buy something new. Protection means many things, but the first order of business is to buy a good case. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors so you can customize your electronics according to your taste. The better the quality, the longer it lasts. This is vital.

Next on the list of protective measures is a cleaning cloth. While you have to keep your digital friends away from pets, food and water, there are times when it is too late and a cleanup job is in order. Some tips about cleaning: don’t keep gear in the kitchen when you are cooking. In a pinch, a bag of uncooked white rice will do the job of draining away invading water. Hopefully, this will happen before the damage is done. Leave it in for ten minutes or more and then test it. Obviously, the bigger the gadget, the bigger the bag and the more rice you need.

If you are super diligent, you will invest in a cleaning set. For a few dollars, you can acquire a kit that includes a special rag and the appropriate chemical treatment. For smudged screens, a protector is a good preventative. Otherwise you can remove smudges, dirt, and the like with the cloth. I know people who even get squashed bugs on their screens. My, my.

New Project

By Marc|January 7, 2017|Computer Programming|

Computer software programming is a mystery to many. Just what kinds of programs are you writing and why. Are they helping people do more practical things or are they there just for the heck of it, so much has been done, so what’s left? A lot. There is a whole new generation of young programmers looking for projects. It is still a wide open field and can use new talent right now. All the software is by no means complete. New inventions are waiting in the wings. I want to participate and help others move the field forward. I get freelance jobs that are very particular to a business and their products and services. For an investment firm, I created software for an updatable spreadsheet. It contains the clients stock holdings and is linked to data that can update the prices so it doesn’t have to be done manually. But isn’t it time I help myself? Do I need something that practical, too? Yes, I certainly do.

I am talking about my above ground swimming pool. I enjoy the pleasure of the warm water at night and on weekends and it is the focal point of water parties for friends and family. So it gets used and everyone appreciates that it is heated. The problem is that the temperature does not stay consistent on its own. It varies day to day with the outside temperature and general weather. I have to manually reset the above ground pool heater all the time. It is a pain in the butt. I was now intent on writing a software program that would help regulate the temperature of the swimming pool water on its own. It would operate a trigger in the heater so activate it if the pool ever reached a certain level. It worked both ways. It could make it cooler (if it got too hot on a blazing day) or warmer. The software wasn’t hard to write and it was super practical and would make my life that much easier. I love that I could apply my work talent to something at home. What’s next? One of those houses in which everything works automatically if preset. You know. The coffee machine goes on in the morning, the water heater is always full of hot water for numerous showers, the lights go on and off at will, you can shut the garage door from inside the house, etc. It is the house of the future and more and more people imagine having this advantage. They are used to things like starting the car from a few footsteps away or locking the house if you forgot when you are in the car.

Software isn’t just for complicated computer programs. It is for everyday life as well. Just imagine what can be done. This is my goal in life: to use computers to make a better world. Hence I chose the profession. This is true for many others.

How Nerds Learn

By Marc|December 8, 2016|Life|

How many times have you taken your watch in for a new battery or cleaning—maybe some major repair. You end up paying a lot for the service. I presume that it takes a certain skill and years of training to work on timepieces, so why not try my hand at it. I am pretty handy with technical things. Some would say I have a gift. Recently, I decided to take apart my automatic watch to see how it ticks, literally. The technology in these newer watches is fascinating. I will no doubt progress by trial and error. I bought the best watch repair kit in the store so I would be sure to have all the right tools. Not having done this before, I didn’t want to be caught by surprise and have to rush out and buy the correct implement. When I get into a project, I like to run with it until it is done. My goal was simply to understand the mechanisms behind a quality watch. This is how nerds learn.

My brother wanted to watch this event. He was curious to see if I would succeed. I heard through the grapevine that he even placed a bet with friends that I wouldn’t get far. I should consider that rather insulting; after all, I am known for my mechanical mind. I am a computer programming whiz and can solve most any software problem. If you want a custom program, you’ve got it. I wanted to ban my brother from the premises but finally decided to let him in. He sat quietly as all the pieces of my automatic watch were displayed on the kitchen table. I had a lot of room to work. I would let him know when his presence became annoying. Many hours passed from morning into night. I was enjoying the challenge and was not about to stop. My brother ran out for some dinner and left me to my task.

The deluxe watch repair kit lived up to its name. It was easy to dissemble the watch, but I knew it would be harder to put back together. The tiniest parts were begging to be relocated. I considered it to be a kind of puzzle, but I have a great memory and knew where everything would go. I observed what piece lay next to another and how the watch was deemed automatic as there was no winding mechanism or battery. It was a sort of mystery at first that yielded an immediate resolution. I think I had got it even before my brother returned, so we celebrated over take-out Chinese food. He had been skeptical but I had turned his thinking around. He couldn’t tell how the watch work himself, but he took my word for it. He was impressed enough to say that he wanted an automatic watch. Okay, now I know what to give him for his next birthday. It will be a welcome surprise.

The Future is Now!

By Marc|October 5, 2016|Computer Programming|

My company has this mentoring program—it’s a great program where college students meet with programmers and other IT professionals to learn what it is really like to work in the field—but it has an unhelpful name like “the future is now” or something equally as meaningless. I got into it for the same reason I got into blogging. This can be a confusing and competitive field, and it would have been nice for me to have someone who told it to me straight. I try to be that person for others who are thinking of walking the path behind me.

Anyway, so they had this big, day-long retreat for everyone in the mentoring program right after the college kids finished for the school year. It was early May but it has been oddly chilly, and of course the smart people over in Human Resources booked this as an outdoor thing. So we get there and it is drizzling and cold and the kids are looking at us like we are the absolute worst for making them come out there. And I have to wonder why they’re even there, as they’ve already gotten their college credits for the semester. Then I realize that for some of these kids, it isn’t about the credits. They’re actually looking for something. And that’s really cool. I go into the main office and find a lot of sporting equipment that you can borrow and some grilling supplies. Buried in the corner, though, was a kero heater. I could not believe my luck when I saw that it was fueled up and ready to go. Excellent find!

I brought it over to a reasonably enclosed gazebo and set it on the floor in the middle. I checked to make sure that the wick was wet with the kerosene. Then I borrowed a lighter from one of our friendly smokers and touched it to the wick. It went up on the first try. I gotta say, I certainly felt like a genius. I adjusted the heat so that it was warm but not too warm. Worked like a charm. People started flocking to the heater like moths to a flame. Pretty soon just about every one of the students and half my colleagues were sitting around the heater, warm and chatting about the drudgery of school and some of the more ridiculous computer related questions we have gotten. We talked about how every friend of ours who isn’t in the field always calls us with every single one of their computer problems. How easy or difficult it is to do programming on the side. What the app market might look like in a couple of years. All the stuff that mattered to these kids. It was a really great conversation, and everyone was clearly enjoying themselves. That little heater did a mighty job of beating back the cold, dreary day. It felt like chatting around a cozy campfire. Geek camp, I guess. Everyone hung in until it ran out of fuel, and then we started packing up to go home.

I returned the heater to the main office and let them know we used all the fuel, offered to pay for the kerosene we used. The folks manning the desk didn’t mind at all. I told them that we would probably come back and do this again next year. Even if the company doesn’t, I might invite the kids to do it again on my own time. This was a really cool thing.

That’s me all right, lighting the path to the future and keeping it warm.

Outside During the Day

By Marc|September 4, 2016|Life|

I would be surprised if the beach is not tops on everyone’s list of favorite places to spend a nice vacation day. It is only a good choice on a nice sunny day and it can get pretty cold off season. No one wants to sit below dense foggy clouds. Sure, you can always take a walk in the sand and do a little wading in the water if you can bare the cold. You want to warm your bones and give them relief from the past winter’s gloom. You chose your days appropriately like everyone else. No wonder the sand is swamped in the middle of summer or even early fall. Indian summer can be a great time to catch a few rays. If you are subject to a cool day, you can always wrap yourself in a big beach towel after some body surfing. I have been known to visit the beach on windy days as well. They can still be sunny but the wind plays havoc with your beach umbrella. You better get a sturdy one that doesn’t fold up inside out at the least gust. They are impossible to set right. You want an umbrella that can handle any elements like strong breezes. They don’t make special beach umbrellas just for wind; they just make good ones that you can use for any conditions. So don’t get something flimsy and fragile.

If the wind is strong the umbrella begins to teeter totter and you have to constantly grab the handle no matter how well you have secured it in the sand. This is all part of beach preparation 101. You learn after a few breezy encounters. Most of the time it is not a problem, however, and I accept whatever weather exists. If it is a warm day, the umbrella is not much protection; and if it is a cold one, you would rather be somewhere else. A really windy day might merit a tent. It is all how you like to experience your beach adventure. Do you like to be out there in the elements, sporting a waterproof jacket, or do you like to bundle up? Some people avoid the problem altogether by going in the late afternoon or early night. Then you don’t have to tote the umbrella at all. Some people love the cold so they can enjoy a fire pit if it is allowed on the beach. I have no preference. I love the beach and will take whatever conditions it has to offer. Roasting wieners is my idea of a nice summer night.

Meanwhile my beach umbrella, whether for sun or wind, is poised and ready at home in the garage awaiting the next outing. I have yet to have it fail any test the beach may offer. I doesn’t get super windy where I go and there are places near the rocks that are natural shelters on their own. Just get yourself a decent umbrella whether it is for you alone or family and friends. They will appreciate the added comfort afforded them during their beach outing.

High Tech Paint Sprayer

By Marc|March 22, 2016|Life|

My interest in technology goes beyond just computers and coding. For example, I like to figure out how things work, whether it be Teslas induction motor or the code to a great program. I am always trying to improve myself and my programming skills so sometimes even improvements on an idea intrigue me.

For example, I was in the market for a paint sprayer and realized there were several different kinds. There were pneumatic sprayers that worked off of air compressors, electric versions that had their own turbines, high volume low-pressure models that are more environmentally friendly, and airless versions with a pressure pump. So many options! I looked at information for all the different types of sprayers and attempted to narrow the field down a little. I ruled out one whole type right off the bat: I wasnt interested in any sprayer that required an air compressor to run. Although they can be cheaper, I would need to buy a compressor, which would negate most of the savings I might have incurred in getting a sprayer that did not work under its own power. This considerably lessened my options, leaving my only choice to be electric sprayers. From there, the choice seemed to center mostly on HVLP models vs airless paint sprayers. HVLP paint sprayers use compressed air to mix with the paint and atomize it. Airless sprayers use force to do the same thing. Airless sprayers can handle paints with higher viscosity, but HVLP paint sprayers can be easier to maneuver. All of the reviews I read did say that if youre doing things around the house, an airless sprayer would be better because it has the ability to handle more types of paint. The reviews said that the job gets done quickly, too.

That solidified my decision to go with an airless sprayer. I read reviews of specific models and chose one that works on a bag system?instead of having a siphon to suck up the paint, it basically creates a vacuum to force the paint out of the bag, and the bag collapses as you go. I thought this was an excellent feature because no siphon meant one less thing to be cleaned, and it also prevents the paint from drying out?in other words, I can paint a little, take a break (or nap, as it were) and then start back up again. I am also able to spray at any angle because there is no gravity feed or siphon tube. Not that I think it is incredibly useful to have the capability to spray upside-down, but it is really cool to be able to do it. I imagine that if I were painting the underside of a heavy piece of furniture that might be helpful, or if I was painting a ceiling or something. It was really easy to get started, too. You just prime the pump a little and then start spraying. For someone with as little patience as I have, it is great not having to wait a long time for enough pressure to build up before I can start.

All in all, I think the research paid off and I got the product I needed.

Weekend Project: Chairs Actually Comfortable Enough to Sit On

By Marc|December 19, 2015|Life|

I got an assignment. One I didnt particularly relish doing. Sometimes you have to go with the flow and be a good sport. I dont mind taking a minute or two away from coding and technology, my preferred passions, but this time it got carried a little too far. I was asked to help my parents fix some old furniture so it could be refurbished and reupholstered. I am mindful of how much money it saves to do things yourselves. In their case, it means having your son do things himself.

I am not particularly adept in the fix it department but I can get by. I dutifully agreed to the task and showed up to the garage on time. This was to be my temporary work area, not having one at home I was willing to spare. Computer work areas are quite a different matter. Dust and debris are their mortal enemies. Nevertheless, I took my handy tools kit with me and expected the worst.

In the garage were a few overstuffed club armchairs and a small loveseat in the same fabric. It was all old and frayed and clearly had to go. I knew my role instantly and I started to gnaw at the staples on the underside of each piece. Pick, pick, pick. The stapler remover did its job. Out came the old, making room for the new. After quite some time and a sore right hand and forearm, the fabric was stripped away revealing some ancient padding and lonely bare frames.

Now the fun part–adding new fabric back on. I had agreed to phase one and here I was expected to do phase two without a fight. Dont you want to see the results? I was asked. Dont you want to see it through? I didnt reply, just straightened my shoulders and set my sites on the work ahead. In the corner of the garage was a big bolt of brand new fabric, rather nice actually, if a bit garish. It wasnt hard to cut it in three pieces for the two chairs and the loveseat. Then these pieces were subdivided into seat and back cushions.

My mother had the sewing machine on the kitchen table outfitted with the heavy duty needle. I am glad I was not tagged for the next job. She deftly put piping around the various cushions and it was time to staple the seat fabric to the wood frame beneath. Because I don’t do this all of the time, I decided to settle for a manual staple gun?and it was the savior of the day for this part of the job. It held the fabric securely to the frame until the next round of upgrading some time in the distant future (when I am not around). For the moment, things were looking up. New cushion and seat padding gave the furniture a nice comfy feel and luxurious look. These were chairs actually comfortable enough to sit on.

After all the complaining, I was pretty proud of my contribution and the outstanding, if not stellar, results. With the right tools (a staple gun and the corresponding remover can loosely be so designated I think), you can do just about anything.

Working In Computer Programming

By Marc|October 1, 2015|Computer Programming|

Working In Computer Programming

I have talked to some people in the field that said that they wanted to be computer programmers because they just found computer programs and their languages so fascinating that they wanted to dedicate their lives to unpacking them as often as possible. Most of the people who I addressed on the subject gave me a strange look and then mumbled something about money and job opportunities. Indeed, I’m pretty sure that money and job opportunities motivate most programmers to get started and to get finished even when the going is rough.

I don’t think that this is a bad thing: we all need to eat, even sedentary programmers, and sedentary programming is certainly a ticket to a life of no hunger. However, I like to look on the bright side a little more when I’m thinking about this subject, and I think that one of the great things about learning programming and working in programming is the simple fact that it gives you so much flexibility.

I work for a huge company with regular paychecks and benefits, because that’s the sort of lifestyle that works for me. I’ve gotten a few promotions, and I rose through the ranks. However, if I wanted to quit tomorrow in order to start a freelance career as a programmer, I could do it and I would automatically have all of the skills that I needed.

You can do all sorts of jobs freelance on the Internet these days, and some people seem to make all of their money by doing what used to be known as odd jobs on the Internet. The thing is, if you’re a programmer of some stripe, half of those jobs are going to be for you in one way or another. There’s a certain satisfaction in going on a freelance job board and knowing just how much people want your skills.

There’s also the fact that programming is one of the most useful skills that an entrepreneur can have. Obviously, networking and marketing are going to trump programming any day in the business world, which is full of rich people who know people better than they will ever know computers, even if computers and people merge at some point. However, if you can program your own website or your own software or both, there are so many business opportunities open to you as a result.

Almost anything that you can imagine can be coded using your skills, which should make a huge difference for the people who want to start their own businesses at some point and just haven’t settled on a plan yet. You don’t need to have your plan figured out yet: you just need to have the skills that will actually allow you to execute that plan. It’s hard to go wrong with computer programming in any language. If you’re young and you’re not sure that you know what to do with your life, I recommend learning programming. It will keep your options open and create new options for you.

Are You Better Off Learning JavaScript or Python?

By Marc|September 1, 2015|Computer Programming|

JavaScript or Python

Many people will debate about whether Python or JavaScript is the most useful programming language, particularly in the context of advising beginners about how they should get started when it comes to learning programming languages themselves. Both programming languages are going to have their avid fans and supporters, which is just going to make things that much more confusing for beginners. Beginners will eventually have enough information to make their own decisions, but that won’t be the case for a while. At first, if you’re a beginner, you’re going to have to rely on the opinions of others in order to plan out your next move or make decisions regarding how to educate yourself in programming languages.

Really, I think you’re better off getting the full story on both of these programming languages, because I don’t think it’s fair to say that one of them is strictly better than the other one. I really think that it’s a good idea to learn both of them if you really want to get a job in this field and you’re interested in trying to diversify as much as possible. Naturally, not all beginners are going to have the time or the energy to learn two different programming languages, which is going to be difficult for a lot of people at the best of times anyway.

Ultimately, I think that the simple act of learning how to learn programming in the first place is a useful skill on a meta level. Programming languages are constantly changing. The utility of them is changing even more rapidly. If I told someone years ago that JavaScript was going to be widely regarded as one of the most important programming languages to master, I think that I probably would have been treated with skepticism at best and outright mockery at worst. JavaScript is more useful now and has a much better image, to say the least. However, the fact that this change happened in the first place is more or less proof that these kinds of changes do happen in a way that is difficult to predict, and a similar change is liable to happen again. You’re better off not really getting stuck with any particular programming language if you really want to manage to stay relevant in the field for years.

I recommend that beginners learn Python in part because of the sheer usefulness of Python, but also because it’s just a good language for beginners to learn. People need to be able to work their way up to the more challenging programming languages, and that means that they need to be good at learning programming languages in the first place. People need to get in the habit of learning these programming languages in order to become skilled at learning them, and that is what they’re going to be able to do if they start out with the sort of programming languages that will offer them some immediate rewards for all of their efforts.

Jumping Into Learning Computer Code

By Marc|August 15, 2015|Computer Programming|

Learning Computer Code

One of the great things about learning code today is that the logistical aspect is at least easier than it has ever been before this point. You don’t necessarily have to go back to school for it. In fact, depending upon where you’re going to school, it may not even be cost-effective to go down that route in the first place. You really can just teach yourself coding today, which is at least going to remove some of the barriers involved with learning code.

I recommend taking an online course. A lot of these are free today, but they’re still going to provide some structure in the form of required tutorials and assignments. If you just pick up a book and start reading about the subject, it’s going to be that much more difficult to motivate yourself. Knowing the material intellectually is also not the same thing as knowing how to actually implement it. A good portion of computer programmers know more about the mechanics of computer programming than the theory, which is going to make them better programmers than someone who is simply well-versed in how computer programming works on a theoretical level and what people are supposed to do with it.

Some people might think that they’re going to need a lot of formal education in order to get a job in computer programming, but this is not necessarily the case. Naturally, the people who can program well are going to have an advantage if they also have degrees. However, potential employers ultimately just care that the people in question can do the work. If you’re a good programmer and you can really get the job done, you shouldn’t have any problem finding work.