Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rebecca: Alarm failure

This morning, I had the rare experience of waking up before the alarm.  It was nice and toasty under the covers, so I thought I will lay here and wait for the alarm.  After a little more dozing, I finally thought about checking the clock.  PANIC.  I overslept.  I did not wake up before the alarm because the alarm failed to sound (the power drained on my electronic device that also acts as my alarm).  I immediately went from cozy and comfortable to panicked and harried.  I needed to get me and the kids out the door in under an hour.  We made it, with a lot of help from Ben.

Currently, I am living like I am in cozy, comfortable hideaway without a care in the world.  Ben finished his 30 day project, and he fixed the major bugs in Family Bank.  I am wrapping up 2013 for my job.  Even though I always have projects, emails, meetings, and unfinished business for my job, I have fallen victim to the holiday lull.

The reality is...we have stuff to do.  While Ben and I have a lull in the busyness, we need to map out our business plan for 2014.  What is Ben's software/app goal for 2014, what am I going to do for the business in 2014 (see New Years' resolutions post), what are our revenue targets, what went well in 2013, and what do we need to adjust for 2014?

For my corporate job, I need to re-energize.  What will I do in 2014 to become better?  What processes helped my productivity in 2013 and what got in the way?  What do I want from my career?  What changes do I need to make?

Ben and I also need to balance our professional aspirations with our personal and family dreams.  Are we out of balance with the family?  How should we invest in our family, our children, our parents, and our cherished relatives?  Do our professional goals helps us meet our family goals?  Personally, what do we want to accomplish in 2014, in 2019, and beyond?

It is so easy to doze, but life will wake you up.  I want to be ready...but just one more hour.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rebecca: Charity

Our children receive a weekly allowance.  From this allowance, they put $1 into savings and $1 into charity. Using Family Bank, I am able to track their contributions throughout the year.  The kids are able to donate at any time of year and to just about any charity. Not only am I able to track their charitable contributions, I am also able to record to what organization that they donated.  Over the years, the kids have supported organizations like the following:
local animal shelter - http://www.kingcounty.gov/safety/regionalAnimalServices.aspx
Toys for Tots - http://www.toysfortots.org
Vine Maple Place - http://www.vinemapleplace.org
The Bridge - http://www.thebridgeofhope.us
World Wildlife Federation - http://worldwildlife.org
JDRF - http://northwest.jdrf.org
USO - https://usowishbook.uso.org.

For me, it is important that our children learn the importance of giving.  Firstly, we are blessed with way more stuff than we need.  There is a world and a community full of people that need basic things like water, food, shelter, and clothing.  We are our brother’s keeper, and we should spread our blessings.  Secondly, there are many organizations that rely on charitable donations for their mission.  If you enjoy the opera, support it.  If you want to save the turtles, contribute to make it possible.  If you love the national forests, donate for their upkeep.  Finally, as a contributor, you are becoming part of your community, part of your world.  It is so easy to get lost in your own little world.  For my family, charity causes us to reflect on our bigger community.  What are the problems facing our local community, our nation, and our world?  Instead of just worrying about it, charity gives us an opportunity to help solve the problems.  It allows us “to put our money where our mouth is.”

Bugs and Design

    I love coding.  Granted, on days like yesterday, it can be frustrating when the bug is hard to find, but I like the detective work involved in finding the problem.  In this case, the reason why Letter Rain's X number of letter words achievement is not working with the wildcard tiles included.  If you ever get the chance to monitor a programmer trying to find a bug, it can be very entertaining.  (Not really.  If you are given this chance, run away as fast as you can.  Only the developer is entertained.)    

    Developers use different systems for working bugs.  Some use the compiler and debug system to 'walk' through the code step by step and capture the point in time the issue occurs.  Others dig into the existing code and create a logic chart of some sort to track what is happening.  Myself, I use a combination of the previous two, but usually throw in some Log messaging to see what the results look like.  It is an old school programming technique, where we had to rely on log messages a lot more than we do today with the fancy development environments.  I like it, because I can turn the logs on/off when I want to see more detail in how the program is acting.   I also find at least one part of my data layer that could use a bit of polishing to allow it to display the important information easier.  This helps later when you revisit the code for a different bug.

   The best part of coding is seeing the results of an idea form and display on the screen or device.  Logging data or logical points in the code is also a part of this fun.  You dig into the code, add your display hooks, and then watch the magic unfold as you run tests on the program.  This is not always necessary if the code you are working on is fresh in your head, but after switching to 1 or 2 different projects, you can find your old familiar code is looking a bit foreign.   Sometimes turning on the logging is just the jumpstart you need to get your head back into the frame of mind you had when you created the program.   I also like the pretty print outs.

    Coding is as much about a concept and design as it is about using some sort of language to implement that design.  The little feedback loop that logging or tests on the code provide are the 'pellets' that keep the developer going on the project.  "Yeah, that worked!  So what is next?"  The logical thinking and analysis is much like working a logic puzzle or figuring out a crime scene from the clues.  Only in this case, I was both the victim and the culprit.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rebecca: A beautiful game

One of my favorite games at iFest Seattle was Buddy and Me by Sunbreak Games (http://sunbreakgames.com).  The game has amazing graphics and a wonderful story.  I was able to pick-up the iPad and play.  (In our household, I am the most tech inept.  My kids are light years ahead of me.  They get frustrated because I am never able to help them in Minecraft.  I purposely keep it this way.)

As I mentioned, the graphics are great.  The artist creates a world that is straight out of the fantastical dreams of children.  As a mom, I love that game is graphically rich AND does not involve blood and gore.

Sunbreak Games is a small team.  If I recall correctly, the team is less than 10 people.  The company has 1 very talented artist and 1 very overworked developer.  I know that there are other folks that invested a lot blood, sweat, and tears into this project.  While it may feel like corporate America dominates our lives, there are a lot of independent people creating wonderful products.  Kudos to Sunbreak and the many other entrepreneurs that remain the backbone of America.  It is a lot risk to go it alone or with just a few close colleagues, and Sunbreak should be proud of their accomplishments.  With great graphics, a solid story, and excellent playability,  Buddy and Me is a great app for all ages.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Walkabout or What I learned from Crocodile Dundee

    Yes, the family watched this movie over the weekend and it was still very entertaining.  One of those times when you need to not think, but just enjoy the moment.  I especially liked the notion of the "Walkabout" which Dundee used to clear his head and find his path, I suppose.  Thanks to being a dog owner, I too get mini walkabouts every day to clear my head and get away from the computer.    

    At least once a day the dog and I walk for about 1 - 1 1/2 miles on a nice trail near our house.  The dog gets time to explore nature and I get to work on design decisions or dream up new concepts.   We both need the exercise, so it is a win-win situation.

    Todays walk was pretty chilly, but gave me time to put together a schedule for putting the latest updates into Letter Rain and Letter Rain Free, our spelling game.  Along with some code and achievement fixes, I also need to clean up the interface a bit.  The app is not showing everything correctly in iOS 7.  It is a fairly small set of tasks, but would be nice to have this submitted before the 15th.

Geek Side Note

    The really major changes to Letter Rain will be replacing the core graphics with the Sprite Kit framework. I need to run some more tests, including how the sound effects will perform, but the prototype is looking good.  Since this is fun code to play with, I will confirm the whole Sprite Kit revamp decision during the later part of December.  Should I enhance the existing custom graphics and sound framework, or replace it with the 'Kit'?  Either way, I will be releasing an iPhone version of the game.

    It will probably be an easy decision at this time next year, due to the extra year of Kit testing and feedback by developers like me.  Apple seems pretty committed to the game space, so I assume an update to the Kit will be at WWDC 2014.  Also, the iOS 7 requirement will be more acceptable to people who have upgraded their phone.  It seem to be a safe bet for us to release a Universal version of the game using this framework.  I am just not sure if it will be in early or late 2014.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Holiday Season AKA Crunch Time

First of all, I have to be thankful for a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We had the traditional dinner with family and friends, which was great!  Only later in the evening did we realize we forgot the cranberry sauce.  For those of you that don't like 'the Sauce', no biggie.  For myself, I think it completes the turkey dinner and it did with the next day leftovers.   We hosted the festivities this year which means we have the lion share of the leftovers.

Tis the season for getting those last minute items put into your App and published before the Holiday season.  When developers submit Apps to Apple, you use the iConnect site.  For the last few years, Apple has enacted a policy that limits your submissions to before Christmas or after the New Year.  It is a good policy, as I am sure they are swamped with new or upgraded Apps for the holidays.  I like the idea that people get the holidays to just enjoy family and friends.  Put the code aside, it will still be there next year.  Waiting.
What this really means is that if you are submitting changes to Apple in December, get it done and submitted well before Christmas.  I am assuming that the 15th is the last day for submitting anything that I want available on Christmas day.  2 weeks of crunch time to plan and update the lucky Apps that need updates.   I haven't decided which Apps will get the attention yet, but will have to split my development time with a bit of Christmas shopping.   Tis the season.
In hind site, I should have done the shopping on October.  What the heck was I doing that month?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rebecca: Time to Pause

After Ben completed the Thirty Day App, I was intending to take a short break from the blog.  It was not meant to be a whole month.  Without Ben bugging about the blog, I added other things to the “to do” list.  Zenerdgy fell to the bottom.  For me, I never get to the bottom of the “to do” list.

I did start to feel a little guilty about shrugging my responsibilities, but Ben decided to host his family for Thanksgiving.  I had a great excuse for neglecting Zenerdgy. For the weekend, we had 2 additional families staying with us.  Six adults and eight kids (under 11) all stayed in our home.  In case you’re wondering, it was hectic. It was loud.  There were tears and tantrums and fights. 

We also had laughter, hugs, smiles, huge family dinners, and love.  Because of Ben’s decision to start his own business, we had the time and energy to host Thanksgiving.  Finishing an app in 30 days (October) was brutal for Ben, but he was able to choose to spend November with family and friends.  Our lives are different since Ben started Zenerdgy, and I love it. 

During my time of pause, I was reminded of my priorities.  Zenerdgy cannot always fall to the bottom.  More importantly, I am so thankful for Faith, Ben, our family, and the amazing rollercoaster of life.