I made it into Google+…first impressions

Today I finally got into Google+ after trying to catch the invite windows. I’d been sitting on 2 invites since day one, but never managed to hit registration when it was unlocked. Today that all changed, and now I get to experience what other techies have been on about.

My first impressions:

  • UI – an emphatic +1. I’ve already changed my gmail theme to ‘Preview (dense)’ because I love the clean simplicity and minimalism; beyond that everything is beautiful and make excellent use of HTML5, CSS3, and all those other web goodies to provide a beautiful interface.
  • UX – again, an emphatic +1. Here, I would have to use the word ‘graceful’ to describe their use of HTML5, CSS3, et al to provide an exceptional user experience. Nothing is in your face about its activity; but the more you look, the more you see.
  • Circles – I like this implementation of what many are calling Facebook Groups. Other than the lovely way of implementing your groups, the UI provides for much better control and understanding of both your own Circles, as well as the Circles that you have been added to. +1 from me.
  • Hangouts – the hangouts interface is smooth. An intuitive, clean interface that doesn’t beg for lots of assistance. It just gets down and does what it’s meant to do. I’ll have to wait til I’m at a real computer (with a web-cam), but then I’m all up for some serious testing of this.
  • Chat – pretty much just the same as Gmail Chat from my first look. That said, gmail chat is a good IM client anyway, so all good.
  • Photos – again, the interface is well implemented. I’ll need to have a decent play over the next few days, but I can’t say I expect to be disappointed at all.

It’s pretty obvious that the word-of-mouth surrounding Google+ and the features it is offering forced Facebook’s hand and made them bring forward the “awesome announcement” that they were integrating Skype into their framework. However, it already makes them look like they’re playing catch-up to Google+; as XYZ said the other day: “they aren’t the first to integrate video calling with social, MySpace did it in 2007, but now it’s the right timing for the product”. Google+ seems to have opened the gate first, if only by a couple of days. Facebook is already having to justify why their implementation is better (“most people only want to use person-to-person”).

The converse is also true though, as it seems Google+ is already fast-forwarding their Beta schedule and allowing more and more invites to be cashed in. This is possibly in response to Facebook’s moves; or, it could just be a response to public demand and the quality performance of Google+ internally for Google. They would much rather offer a schedule of months, and deliver in days or weeks, than the other way around. This is afterall the Google who still had gmail in beta 5 years after launch, but had been fully open to the public for 2 and 1/2 years of that 5 years (Wikipedia).

I’m going to be having a dive into the features as much as possible this weekend, I can’t wait. Here’s a vid:

XKCD wins again

Mathematically annoying advertising

stripping end characters from strings in PHP

I’ve been doing some updates to my URL shortening service (sqwi.sh) recently, and some functionality I needed was to remove the last 2 characters of a string. Now, the normal way to remove the last character of any given string (as taught most places) is:

$str = substr($str,0,strlen($str)-1);

But, I was feeling like being out of the ordinary. After a bit of a rummage around, and some lateral/creative thinking, I came up with the following:

$string =  strrev(substr(strrev($string), 2));

I’ll break it down a bit below:

// first of all, reverse the string
// so, "thisIsAString" becomes "gnirtSSsIsiht"

$string = strrev($string);

// now, get the substring starting at the 3rd character
// so, "gnirtSSsIsiht" becomes "irtSSsIsiht"

$string = substr($string, 2);

// now, reverse the string again
// so, "irtSSsIsiht" becomes "thisIsAStri"

$string =  strrev($string); 

You can change the ‘2’ to be however many characters you wish to remove from the end of the string.

The one using strrev() is a lot faster then the ‘normal’ one for larger strings or many strings as it doesn’t require the script to count it’s way to the end of the string, but the first way is absolutely valid and works equally well so I would be remiss to not mention it.

New Year, new job, lots of new goings on…

I started my new role as Software Developer/Engineer on Monday. A very exciting start to the new year. A steady start to the pace with the first week or so set to be all about the induction process. I spent much of Monday and Tuesday meeting new people, going into meetings to get more information, and watching videos, reading PPTs, and reviewing LOTS of documentation. Today was more getting into looking at the actual product we make, and having an explore. Also starting automating some tests for it to get a bit of a handle on what it actually entails. So much to take in – not just the code (which I haven’t actually gotten into yet), but also the actually industry we are working for.

The company is Productivity Software, which supplies and supports a very large MIS for the printing industry. Most of my learning so far has been about printing, and the processes involved. All an integral part of understanding what we are trying to assist with and deliver for the clients.The office space I’m in great; it’s a big, open-plan, area with about 20 desks. Polished hard-wood floors, in an old warehouse-type building. Now it’s been refurbished and filled with advertising agencies etc. Very cool. I’m using a serious dev box, with a 64-bit OS running 8GB @ 2.67GHz on a 1TB HDD. The screen’s “only” a 30-inch widescreen LCD – hahaha!! Nice people to work with, very non-hierarchical and level, so anyone is happy to be asked questions and take the time to answer them. All-in-all a not unpleasant environment to be working as a developer finally.

Other than this excitement, I spent the last few weeks on Christmas holidays but stayed busy with planning and preparing for my upcoming wedding. It is absolutely amazing how fast the budget grows without even trying (and that’s just for the wedding itself!!), so if anyone wants to donate some cash this way it will be gratefully received [or stuff for the house too – I am more than happy to do a bit of product placement and “positive” reviewing here and anywhere else I can]. We’ve been quite well behaved and conservative with our planning and expenses for both the wedding and honeymoon (apparently we are running a wedding bill of between 1/2 and 2/3 of a normal wedding – depending on what a normal wedding costs…), and for kitting out the house, but it all still mounts up. Haven’t actually got a place yet, as there’s no point renting somewhere now, and anything we find now will be gone in a few months time (or if it isn’t, we don’t want it!).

Doing a bit of a surf on Etsy the last week or so also, and got very inspired to build some of our furniture myself; nothing too flash, but I’m going to be making some nice solid rustic bookshelves with concrete blocks and big slabs of kauri or other reclaimed wood, as well as some cute side tables for the lounge which will take a little of my wood-working skills to do (pics will be posted once made). One of these weekends I will be doing a bit of a cruise of industrial recycling yards to find some nice chunky units to refurb a little into side dressers and other furniture. I’m not just going for 2nd-hand, I’m going to be properly bringing them back to life – but they will definitely have character and a story to tell.

As part of starting the new year, starting a new job, and preparing for the next great adventure part of my life, I did a review of my eating and fitness habits (or lack thereof, ahem) and set myself some goals and some rules. For eating, I have got myself kitted out to take all the fixings for making healthy sandwiches at work for lunch (so much cheaper too!!) and I also have a supply of rice cakes for snacking, as well as finding some fantastic dried fruit bars that were also cheap (means I can have a week’s fruit supply without worrying about it staying fresh; and each bar is the equivalent of 2x minimum daily fruit intake requirement).

Also established myself a routine for walking at least every 2nd day, with plans to progress this to jogging/running pretty quickly [thanks to Rob’s blog post here -> @noozeeland]. Pulled out the weights bar, and setting up a dips block too. I’m definitely on a mission to get back to the old style lean Cameron – who knows, I may be actually able to be proudly flaunting abs on the beach soon.

I’ve got a few YouTube videos to post up as well, as I didn’t get any posting done while I was away – I really do need to get my iPad WordPress app configured ASAP – but I’ll do a separate post for them shortly.

what am I doing??

I haven’t really posted for a while. Been manically busy, so only updating via my Twitter for the past few weeks. Been having many visits to the oral surgeon and orthodontist and am now booked in for my jaw-break operation mid-October. Just sorting out the nitty-gritty details of finance at the moment, as my health insurer changed the coverage rules part-way through the process (I started back in 2006). Bit of negotiation going on there. Also, had to trash my room finding documents that had been filed away in 2006/2007 for health cover. Turned out that a “helpful” family member had moved them elsewhere for safe-keeping; hence my inability to find them where I had put them (stress much??!!??).

Also had my car die at the same time as discovering that health coverage may not be there. That was not so pleasant, as the initial thoughts were that the car was a goner. Turns out is was fixable, and relatively cheaply (praise God!!).

Also been attempting to get some work done on sqwi.sh to update it with oAuth for auto-tweeting; and I want to get some statistical features up and running too, to enable analysis of what your sqwish’d link has done.

Along with all this, been keeping my head into the ongoing job hunt. The stats aren’t helping at all, with the US having it’s highest rate of unemployment in the IT industry, and New Zealand’s industry consolidating. The 3-5 years experience barrier has now been bumped to 5-7 years experience as there seems to be a flood of experience being down-sized and made redundant. Who’d hire a recent grad when they can get someone with 7 years experience? I’m still being positive and applying with my best foot forward though. Also pushing on my web and software projects, ‘cause it could be one of those that nails it and gets me a job or becomes my job. I did a photo-shoot for Auckland Uni Science Faculty on Friday for a profile on recent graduates, me being specifically a recent graduate of the Computer Science department (and the Information Systems department of the Business School).

Grrrr, so that all sounds like doom and gloom, it’s not. On a positive note, I got an iPad for birthday/graduation present from my folks, and I’m loving it. Still torn over whether I want an iPhone4 too (money precludes this at present), but iOS and the app store are bringing a smile to my face. I’ve mainly gone with free apps, but I have also bought a few after watching review trends etc. I’ll be doing a post shortly about my favourite apps, free and paid, based on consistent use over the past month or so. First use reviews are great, but I find knowing how the reviewer feels after a month of use (if they still use the app after a month!!) is essential to being able to make a well-informed decision. Also, following on from my previous post, I have tickets to U2 on 25th November!! So I am a happy Cameron. And tickets to Bon Jovi on Dec 5th.

That’s enough for now, but I will be back to blogging properly now. WordPress iPad app here I come.

here I am again

Well, here’s a sight for sore eyes….a new update. Much has been happening in the last wee while, and not much online time. I had my graduation Friday week ago (7th May) and that was AWESOME!! I’ll be posting some photos, once I get the digitals of those who had cameras. I am now officially qualified with my BA (Politics and Philosophy) and BSc (Information Systems and Computer Science). The job hunt is in full swing at present. I’ve kept coming very close 2nd at quite a few opportunities, which is getting rather frustrating I have to say. Trying to head towards a Business Analyst role, which is easier said than done. I’ve even had consultants tell me I’d be perfect with my background and previous roles; but everyone still wants 3-5 years experience. I seem to be the only one who spots the oxymoronic nature of this – that you need 3-5 years experience to get the job, but you need the job to get the 3-5 years experience. I’m keeping my search broad at present, looking down the support role and other similar roles to get in the door.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of coding though, but offline at work. Mainly PHP and MySQL, but also keeping up on my Java and C# with re-learning Objective-C for good measure. Mainly working on a little (or, not so little if all goes well) web application of mine, as sqwi.sh is running along smoothly these days. I’ll be opening the API for sqwi.sh shortly though.

I’ll do a 2nd post with some YouTube vids etc in a few minutes. Also, I’ve roughed up quite a few tuts over the last while, so there’ll be a bit of a flurry of tutorial posts in the next few days.

quick update – April Fools around the web

Just a brief list of some of the April Fools going on around the web today

There’s heaps more out there, so get hunting  and add them to the comments.