Saturday, July 14, 2012

Evan's Software Tools

I've had a few friends / contacts ask me what tools I use... well here's my current list and why I use them. This is just my opinion and there are other equally good tools out there, I use several of these just because they were the first ones that I used, I don’t claim that this list is ‘best of breed’.

Last Update July 2012

This list is always available at

Primary Tools

Email Client Gmail
Office Software
Microsoft Office
Web Browser Google Chrome Anti Virus Microsoft Security Essentials
Online Backup Mozy

Secondary Tools         

Notetaking Evernote Has a clipping add-on for chrome as well.Online Storage Dropbox
ISO Mounter Virtual Clone Drive
Online Office / Storage Google Drive
RSS Reader
Don’ use this much anymore, it now feeds a tool on my iPad called Zite
IM Client Google Talk
Bitmap Drawing Paint.Net
Text Editor Notepad++
Photo Orgaizer Software & Online Album Google Picasa
Calendar Google Calendar
System Cleaner CCCleaner
Secure File Delete Eraser
Virtualization VMWare Player (It now allows you to create new vm’s)
Changed from MS Virtual PC, vmware has better Linux support and has better hardware
Torrent Client uTorrent
Bit-Torrent is a file sharing protocol, yes, much of it's traffic is less than legal but I suspect that over time Bit-Torrent will become a major way of sharing legal/open source/creative commons material.
Game Purchases Steam
Music Management iTunes

Installer Service

Ninite allows you to check off the 'best of class' tools in several categories and install them in one run!
If you are setting up a new PC I’d recommend you run PC Decrapifier before running Ninite.


Visual Studio 2010 Premium (C# is my language of choice)

I have a list of development tool ad ons at

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

American Contrasts

Las Vegas Street Person

I've been at a developer conference in Las Vegas for the past few days. The contrasts have been striking, absolutely over the top bling and glitz and 'forced scale'. The hotels are huge, the distances between the hotel where we are staying and the hotel where our conference is being held is over a km as the wolf runs. To get there we need to go through a casino, part of Arthur's castle, part of New York, two more casino's and past a very large pool area to the conference center - and these hotels are directly across the street from each other.

While we are moving between those venus we frequently pass beggars and hawkers on the street. The beggars are most commonly white, the hawkers of the little cards for naked girls are most commonly latino. As we are in the casino's the service staff are most commonly black...

The beggars stack out ground on the few limited 'public' spaces. Much of the Vegas strip is in-fact not public space, it's part of the buildings that they are in-front of, and it's under the control of the security staff of that building, who 'Move Along' anyone that is begging, drunk etc. very quickly - and they contact the security at the next building to come and meet the beggar to keep them going.

I've passed war veterans, poor young couples on the street with their dog, a female accordion player with no legs and what appeared to be a woman in her 60's that had a sign up asking for help with her medical bills because she had cancer and needed treatment. She looked like someone's grandmother. Obviously ill, and in need of a warm bed a comfy chair and a little care, not sitting amongst the dirt and plants on the ground, with her dirty cardboard sign, half falling asleep in the afternoon heat...

The contrast between that crushing poverty and a society that is so obviously rich. So rich that they can build monuments to wealth, where people sit and put their money into machines and bet it on cards for hours on end in a vain hope of getting still more money, is stunning. This is a country that claims to uphold Christian values, to care what happens to people as Christ did. What I've seen here has nothing to do with the message that Christ gave us and much much more to do with greed.

It makes me sad, I suspect that I will return here sometime in my life, but I see little reason to seek this place out.

Three more days to go, and I'm ready to go home.


Photo: Evan Young 2012


Sunday, March 06, 2011

C# Teaching Results

So what was the result of teaching C#? some points better than I had hopped, the students were able to get a grasp on the syntax and get programs running. But...I wouldn't say that they had an 'integrated' idea of what they are doing, just a bare minimum ability to execute a program.

What didn't work at all well was the book. The book was, strictly speaking, good, but it adhered to the 'classic' approach - editing and running programs from the command line first - with no visual interface. The language proved to be as much a problem as I was worried that it might be. It simply isn't possible to introduce brand spanking new programmers to C# and expect them to do well. By the end of the course the students could get a program to run but a lot of it was by rote - they hadn't internalized the syntax... C# uses four different kinds of brackets <> () [] and {} and they can all be on the screen at the same time.

The book also focused on the 'object approach' which is common in programming but this emphasis while important - caused no end of confusion - almost every example had a mainline program and then customized code that did the example that the student was working on was done in a class. Then the student created an instance of the class in the mainline and executed a method to run the code. Now, this is technically correct - but it was introduced immediately - without showing why it needed to be done. Object oriented programming was a response to a need - it's important to communicate what that need was.

So why am I writing this now? Because I'm coming up in a few months, on training this course again. This time it will be a larger class of around 30 to perhaps as many as 35. I've changed the language in the course to Visual and the book for VB has been updated to use only visual programming, no command line work (a point they specifically mentioned in the update notes to this new version of the book.

Out of my original 11 in my course 8 passed and of that 5-6 actually could write a program. I'll spend much more time when I teach this again setting context and trying to 'connect' my students to the activity of programming. These students are not in a pure computer/ it program, it's a business skills mix, with programming only as a part of it. So the effort needs to be made to help the students see the relevance to their lives and career.

I'll update you again as I teach

Friday, June 25, 2010


I've been teaching for the last few months - first a Java course that went OK until the end of it...I didn't get the schedule down right and had to rush the prep for the final project - resulting in putting the students at a bit of a disadvantage. On top of all of that the course as I taught it generates a Tonne of marking that I'm still slogging through 2 weeks after the end of the course - I'm about to get yelled at...

Java was an OK language to learn, yes learn, going into the course I didn't actually know Java - just C# which is very similar. For the record I wouldn't recommend this approach to others but it is a powerful way to learn something. It's just that it's painful. I spent two months teaching for four hours a day followed by an afternoon of marking and prep then an evening of reading and prep. I still prefer my and C# over Java, most likely because I'm more comfortable with Visual Studio than the open source tools that are used in Java.

My managers at work seem to think that all you really need to do is read the power points as you present. And in some smaller one and two day seminars you might very well be able to get away with doing that, and I have previously done so but I don't like doing that. I feel really vulnerable - if anyone asks anything that is the very least 'off script' from the book there is the very real possibility of looking like a complete fool.

Now I'm coming up on teaching an Object Oriented theory course and a C# course. I'm reasonably familiar with the topics but have never taught either of them and for the three day object oriented course I need to develop the course ware. But I'm concerned with the C# course it will be a challenge to bring them through that language.

The first issue is the students, this class is composed of new programmers, they have done a little java script coding but never any full-up compiled programming. They have struggled a bit with SQL (mostly because of self esteem issues - they are quite capable of doing it when talked through it)

No the challenge is that the language they are going to be presented with is C#. C# is a very powerful first rate multi-purpose language. The problem is that it's syntax is not very intuitive. would have been a much better choice for 'first language' it reads easier, is more 'English like' and would help students that are already having confidence issues. The book I'm using is quite good but has significant 'density' - it's a hard read, even for me (in that I know this topic) to accomplish in the time we have.

So the challenge is how do I teach students that have no previous frame of reference for programming a complex language that is inherently going to be a fight for them. I'll post back with what I decide to do and how it works out.

Update: They are just finishing their SQL tests - no panic so all seems to be ok...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Getting Re-Energized

I spent a weekend a little while ago at a leader training seminar for Scout Leaders. I had a great time teaching and sharing with these new leaders.

This was my first time training at the Woodbadge II course and the the first time we have run this course as a 'full weekend' event. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to be with people that want to be there, to want to learn, who are actually volunteering their time to mentor or to learn without compensation (it actually cost the instructors to train!).

Every so often we get the chance to do something different, to in some way contribute - much of the time we see the opportunities as they pass us buy, to realize 'what we should have done' much to late to make a difference. It was great to not be looking back this time.

Photo Credit : Wikimeda Commons

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Year in Review 2009

Year in Review 2009

Personal Development (Training/Certification)

Interesting...I've made some progress in formal certification training and I'm working through my WPF training manual and I'm lining up to write my .net exam in Q1 2010. But I've also spent LOTS of time over the last year writing C# code and those skills have grown considerably over the past 12 months.

Organization & Tasks

The 'stuff'' is getting deeper. We are planning to work on the basement bathroom this coming year - we'll see if that spills over into a cleaning frenzy.

Well, some help here - the Aimless Surfing has been removed as the laptop died :-) Turns out that I still take time to sit and play games etc. but I'm not watching TV at the same time. The other thing that removing the couch surfing did was ruin my blogging time. In fact, it may be that I'm better at clearing my personal email box when I am couch surfing - something I hadn't expected! I've recently purchased a new laptop we'll see what kind of effect this has...

We did get the living room painted and it looks great

Activities & To Do's

We didn't have great summer weather - I accomplished little outside at all. I'm going to have to be harder on myself and commit to getting more done. There is little time in the evenings when it's nice and I enjoy being outside in the garden and I would enjoy it more if it looked more complete!

We did plant a garden but yields were poor - it was very wet during the prime growing period and we didn't drain well - resulting in few carrots and poor beets - got some good beans. We continue to produce good tomatoes in almost too large quantities. We added a willow in one corner

Fall on the other hand was very nice - we had some nice family adventures - strawberry picking and petting zoos for instance. The snow held off until almost Christmas so that almost made up for the poor summer.

Our winter task is the basement bathroom - just a toilet and sink for now and it shouldn't be that hard to do. We were able to go and buy the vanity and the toilet on a boxing day sale and get a pretty good price! I'm ok doing most of the plumbing and the electrical but putting in the toilet from scratch (installing the flange in the floor for example) is something I haven't done - I'll be calling a friend to help with that!


Our experience this year at our parish has been less than stellar - we are in an interum time, meaning we don't have a permanent priest. The process of getting a new one is taking by far too long, there was little that needed immediate repair and the previous priest retired after 10 years of good service. Leaving little real conflict. The congregation is loosing membership and energy. The 'corporation' (the executive of the parish council) has become insular and controlling - issuing directives vs. being consultative. Not to mention that some members are (to say the least) abrasive towards S. This distancing continues, as the interim withdraws from various committees that she was chairing, in particular the key music and worship committee. We cannot reasonably expect to have the new priest in place until the fall and I am deeply concerned that we will be in really deep trouble by then. Frankly my willingness to do volunteer work for them is failing and we're considering a different parish - one that might more closely match us and that might be appreciative of the skills and experience that we as a family bring.


K and now P ( 4.5 and 8 months at this writing) are doing just fine, taking time with K to be with him, play with him and enjoy his time and enjoyment of life and the world is a at times a task (way too much energy) but I enjoy being around him greatly. He started school this year and while shuttling him back and forth is an issue P is just beginning to crawl it will be interesting in the next few months as she gets mobile and can begin to enjoy the world - while dad chases after her!

S is bored - she's been home with the kids now for 8 months and really, she needs to get back to work - just for her own enjoyment, I saw this last time, she really doesn't seem to enjoy 'homemaking' much, at least not when it's full time. She is often tired and finds the constant interaction with K draining. She's much much happier when she can work - thankfully that's over in four months!

Overall, a successful year - more like plodding ahead really but onward to the next!

Have a great year!


Photo Credit: AltoExyl

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Day At The Zoo

Hadn't posted in a while and finally felt like it...

We spent the day yesterday at the Zoo with K1 and K2 (yes for those of you who don't know K2 is now present in the world.)

What an interesting 'time warp'...The Winnipeg Zoo has been the same for decades - and it's showing - the animals are well kept (I presume) but the displays are boring, lacking interest for us (or one must assume for them.) A great many of them are just empty - and haven't been occupied for many years. A few have been re-purposed from older exhibits that were very promising when they were made (such as the live beaver ponds...) but now they are used for something else entirely and look sad and run-down.

The Polar bear pen is empty now, our old polar bear having passed away, the pen no longer meets international standards so it will remain empty...

The Great Panda Bear exhibit center has become badly run down but is now under some form of construction - not sure what that will be, the playground that used to have a water wheel the kids could turn, has nothing but sand.

K1 enjoys the running around, and the slide in the playground, but the rest of it - I think maybe it's time we took the zoo off our list of attractions - until they decide to do get serious about fixing it up.

Photo: Evan Young