Tech and Career blog by Andy Smith, Senior Software Engineer based in London, UK
Designing When You're Not a Designer
How I redesigned my website and blog with no design experienceI never once had a vision of what I was building. I knew vaguely what I wanted to achieve and what I needed to allow the user to do, but no thought at all was given to how it would look or feel like. I knew that I wasn't good at making things look decent and I would get frustrated at trying so I just lost interest in improving. Could I actually get better though?
Why You Should Care About Web Performance
Techniques for optimising - Every 10th of a second countsPerformance is about people. If you're involved with a website in any way whether it's because you're the sole developer or you're a product owner, you want to create a great experience for your users. What happens when you do this? Not only will your users be happy, but they will statistically come back! Return visitors means more conversions and sales.
My Decade in Review
My journey from failing student to senior engineer in 10 yearsExactly a decade ago I'd just finished my first semester at University studying Computer Science and I'm not going to lie, I didn't take too well to it. I was convinced I'd never get the hang of anything and I was seriously contemplating dropping out. I'm glad I stuck with though it because 10 years later I'm living in London working as a senior software engineer with a tech blog where you're my 5th reader this year! Look at me now, mum!
The Planck - Key Theory
Part 2, How I approached and adapted the layout of the PlanckPart one of this two part series talked about the building of this Planck keyboard. It concluded by mentioning the full programmability aspect of one of these things, allowing you to customise every aspect of it. Every single key can be mapped.
Part 1, My build log of the 40% Planck Keyboard.I became particularly intrigued by tiny keyboards as they not only look weird, but supposedly can help with both typing efficiency and RSI. After many months of browsing enthusiast forums I came across a Planck.
A how-to guide on code debugging techniques.As you grow as a programmer you learn to fix bugs faster. However, starting out it can be frustrating to debug code through lack of experience and understanding of techniques. I've interacted with a lot of junior developers where the only technique that they use is guessing.
Let's Talk Keyboards
Membrane vs Mechanical. Which is the right one for you?There are two different types of keyboards: membrane and mechanical. Almost everybody will be familiar with the former. These are the stock keyboards that new computers come shipped with or the keyboards that you buy probably from your local tech equipment shop.
The Art of Greenfield
What to think about when starting a brand new software project.Software is everywhere. Broadly speaking, successful companies are either technology-first that know how to market 'x' well, or currently sell 'y' and are learning how to utilise software to keep up with the market. Where does this software come from?
What does your git commit contain? Your data may be being harvested.I would never under any circumstance use my work email address. In fact, I never use it for external purposes. This gave me a bit of an itch that I just couldn't help but scratching; how did they get my email address?
Building a Custom Keyboard Case
My build log of a custom oak keyboard case.I've talked before about my weird hobbies and interests. I have a collection of random impulse buys that would probably baffle future archiologists if the earths population and records were almost completely erased. One of these interests is the wonderful land of mechanical keyboards.
Top 10 Developer Podcasts
10 great developer podcasts to listen to on the move to stay productive.I spend a lot of time in my car. Like, a crazy amount of time. It's normally my preferred method of transport as it gives me the freedom to go where I want and when I want without enduring the unreliable nature of the public transport system (which if you're following the UK Southern Train News right now then you will know just how bad it is).
The Insecurities of a Full-Stack Developer
Coming to terms with the problems facing full-stack developers.I've been a full-stack developer for the past 2 years, of which I was the only full-stack developer on my previous project. I feel that it suits me. I don't like staring at the same thing for too long and it scratches that itch that I have; the need to know how something works from back-to-front.
Do you need a new job?
Identifying when you're stagnating in your current position.Nobody should get too comfortable in their job, especially in the tech industry. Getting too comfortable normally means a decrease in learning. The learning curve has started to level off and you've become content. This may suit your situation, but it shouldn't.
Using Meteor Offline
Tips and tricks to workaround package management offline.Most modern web frameworks use package managers. It's almost unavoidable when building larger projects or projects that use modern concepts or components. They allow for easier development where dependency trees are managed along with versions and updates. Unless of course you're working offline. Then they're a pain in the arse.
Backend vs Frontend Learning Curves
Noted differences between learning frontend and backend technologies.I'm a backend software developer by education and trade. Sure, I dabble in full-stack and have cobbled together a few frontend projects in a hobbyist sort of way, but the main chunk of my knowledge and experience lies in (but is not limited to) Java and C technologies.
Silicon Milkroundabout 11 Round-up
My experience at my second Silicon Milkroundabout tech fair.Tech moves fast. No duh, right? This is not new information, and I was fully aware of the momentum of the industry that I'm in. This is also not my first time at Silicon Milkaroundabout. Silicon Milkroundabout (which I'll shorthand to SMR) is a tech job fair which boasts to be like none other, with around 200 companies ranging from big names like Facebook, StackOvervlow and the BBC, to smaller start-ups going through their first round of funding to more established start-ups who are becoming well known and already making their mark.
A Raspberry Pi project to let you know if your media is currently being viewed.Ever been curious if anybody is currently looking at your website, watching your YouTube video, or on using your mobile app RIGHT NOW, but can't be bothered to open up and sign into Google Analytics? I've recently launched this blog, my portfolio website and a few other projects, and like most that start up they are still gaining traction.
Datarize My Life
My life as a JSON object.Hi, my name's Andy and I'm a dataholic. It occurred to me that I may use too many apps. For some reason, I feel the need to obsessively monitor, track and quantify every recordable aspect of my life. I use Swarm/Foursquare to record my locations, Untappd for beer, MyFitnessPal for diet, Places I've Pooped for... well, it explains itself, Last.fm for music plays, Fitbit for activity, HabitRPG for my daily tasks, YNAB for my financials and Sleep Cycle for my sleep habits.
Raspberry Pi and the Impulse Buy
Discovering some dusty treasure in an old shoe boxWhen I moved out of my family home I wasn't quite aware of the challenge at hand. I owned a lot of stuff. Like, more than I thought I did. Arguably more than a lot of my friends did. I'm not saying this in a pissing-contest kind of way, no. More of a "with this kind of behaviour I'm going to end up on a channel 4 documentary", sort of way.
If you know me, don't read this
I accidentally shared my post on facebook when I didn't want anybody to know I had a blogI apologise for the clickbait-sounding title, but I guess in an intensely annoying way I'm just going to blend in with the rest of the Internet - which I hate. Not because I want to be different, but because I bloody hate clickbait. Perhaps I'm on the Internet far too much to not recognise when "21 unusual uses of cheese - you wouldn't believe #20" will be a pile of garbage. I'm looking at you, Buzzfeed.
Keeping Fit as a Programmer
How exercising has affected my comfort at work.Three years ago I was the fittest and strongest I have ever been. I was on my placement year during University, lived five minutes from where I worked, and was going to the gym four-five times per week. My diet was incredibly strict and aside from the fact that I drank more alcohol than during this working year than the University years combined, my lifestyle couldn't have been better.
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My first experience of developing blindly with next to no code examples and confusingly written docs.I'm lucky enough to work with a lot of talented developers with a wealth of experience and many years under their belts. Most of these guys have been programming since long before I was even born and joke about Visual Basic and Fortran 90 being cutting edge when I was just learning how to talk. When I talk to my peers about my degree I sometimes get standoffish comments about how tough it was for them "back in the day". Joel Spolsky, CEO of Stack Overflow frustratingly blogged: