Saturday Musings – A 38 Year Project Is Completed

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I remember when I was about 13 years-old, my friend and I used to ride our bikes a few miles to a local Tandy Electronics store. Tucked in the back was a thing with a keyword and black and white screen that just captivated our attention....it was spellbinding.

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For some reason, the store manager didn’t mind a couple of kids spending hours each Saturday morning tinkering away on his demonstration machine. Maybe he thought it was a good sales tool, “Even these kids can do stuff with a computer!”

I’ll never forget filling the screen with white blocks with some simple Basic programming code. It was an amazing event that sparked the imagination and caused us to believe we could do anything with this thing.

10 FOR X=0 TO 128: FOR Y=0 TO 47: SET (X,Y): NEXT Y,X

Type that line into a TRS-80 (affectionately called a Trash 80) and you’ll get the same rush as we did 38 years ago. BTW, the same two kids that road their bikes to the store each Saturday are now working together in ParkLogic.

So why have I just completed a 38-year project? It just so happens that around this time my father met a guy that gave him a copy of a game. This game wasn’t the traditional Star Trek, kill all the Klingons but more of a strategy game that could have you engrossed for literally hours……and it did.

It just so happened that I made a photocopy (remember that wet photocopy paper?) of the code and have kept it in a safe spot waiting for its day to shine once again. Over the years, I’ve made numerous failed attempts to recode the game on different platforms. I even tried doing it in javascript over my recent summer vacation…..yes, for me, the game was that much fun.

Last night, my lifelong friend and I decided to focus and get the job done. We worked until about 2am and this involved some debugging and reading about 10 pages of old code. Laboriously we checked each line that was entered into an old TRS-80 emulator and finally we were in a position to run the game. Guess what, it worked!

The game is called Saratoga (no idea why) and it’s awesome. By today’s standards of fancy graphics and sound it is pathetic (there is no sound but the sound of space) but for two 50+ year-olds we were in raptures as we “geeked” out and became 13-year-olds once again.

What readers should understand is this game ran in 16K of RAM. This is less space than the banner graphic on my blog.....but boy was it fun to play!

The impact this simple game had on my life is not be underestimated. For instance, the starship that I would always captain was called Yorktown……the server that you are reading this blog on is called Yorktown. It also taught me programming, inspired me to get into IT and reminded me to be ever curious.

Have a great weekend….I know that I am!

Ping me if you would like a copy of the game…..like I said, it’s awesome!

BTW - don't forget to have your say in the Leaders survey!

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Saturday Musings – A Smile On My Face

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I’m typically a positive sort of individual and recently I’ve had even more reason than normal to have a smile on my face. Is it the fact that the next Bladerunner movie is coming out soon? As good as that will be (fingers crossed) it’s not that. So what’s got me so upbeat?

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For a start, after working on it for over 2 years, ParkLogic is migrating the last of our clients across to the new Next platform this week. It’s been a heck of a journey where we rebuilt our entire platform from the ground up……and yes, it’s a million times better! It also means that we will shortly be focusing on a single system rather than two (the old one and the new one) which will free up so much time for the team to continue to add value for clients.

I’ve also been working on a platform for developing websites on the fly. It evaluates, tracks and scores everything a user does on the page (leaves Analytics for dead!) and will be the basis for our next generation of ParkLogic products aimed at both the sales and development market segments. So far we have several million pieces of traffic a day moving through the system and it performs brilliantly…..so all is good and my smile is expanding!

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Saturday Musings - State of Fear

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Are you driven by fear? Some would say that more than any other time in human history we are captured in a grip of fear. If you really think about it, we’re scared, worried, and stressed by about everything.

Before you say, “Michael, I’m pretty relaxed about life”, let me lob a few fears at you.

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Will I keep my job in these uncertain times? I’m feeling older, will my next medical checkup reveal anything? Do my kids really love me? Why can’t I find the special someone to spend the rest of my life with? Is it safe to travel? Will Google stop paying out on traffic domains? Why haven’t I had a domain sale lately? Will I have enough money for the mortgage this month? The list goes on and on…..and at the heart of it all is fear.

Let me share with you some good news. Compared to any other time in human history we live in the most remarkable. We live longer and have better standards of living. Go back less than 100 years ago and having a toilet inside the house that flushed was a rarity. Many diseases still ravaged the majority of the people on the planet and the wonder drug called penicillin had only just been discovered (by accident).

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Saturday Musings – What I’ve Learned from Netflix’s “Girl Boss”

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OK, I admit it that I’m guilty. Yes, I’m guilty of watching a Netflix series that would be typically more targeted at my daughters rather than their fifty something father. The show is “Girl Boss” and if you ask me it’s a great study (grey hair words) of an Internet powered generation, a bootstrapped startup and mushy girly stuff.

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The main character is a twenty something girl that is about to be evicted from her San Francisco apartment (I use that term loosely) and dumpster dives for food because she has no money and no idea about life. After visiting an “op-shop” she finds a leather jacket and pays $9 for it and this is where she gets an epiphany (another old timer word).

She takes her jacket, puts it up on Ebay and sells it for more than $600. So now she knows what she has to do…..get more clothes to sell online. The 25-minute episodes unfold with her discovering a lot of things about business amidst the turmoil of her relationships with the other characters. She’s a pretty volatile character with a wicked temper but now focuses her energy on building her online business.

So why do I like the show? It reminds me of my own experiences in the domain industry. Building my own portfolio, having people around me tell me I’m nuts and then proving them wrong. It was an incredible journey and one that I will never forget.

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Saturday Musings - Pushing Through Adversity

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This past week I’ve been wrestling with developing a number of graphs in Google Charts. Wrestling is more of a polite way of me thinking a bunch of four letter words combined with hitting my head against a brick wall. It’s been a lesson in frustration while a carrot dangled tantalizingly just out of reach.

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I hate giving up on anything…..it’s one of my strengths and is also one of my weaknesses. I’m like a dog with a bone. I’ll just keep on gnawing away at some problem until it’s fixed or in some cases redefined.

It all started when I decided to build a dashboard for some clients that displayed a few graphs on a webpage. How difficult could that be? After a few 3am working sessions, I figured out how to pull data from a database, convert it to JSON format, push it to Google charts and voila! Out popped a beautiful chart!

There was just one problem….I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to design, so I wanted to have the right colours. OK, solved that, tick! Then I thought, it would be nice if the clients could scroll through a date range……a few hours later, tick!

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