Look Who’s Back In Town

Sep 30 2012 Published by under General, Technology

You know what I hate? Subscribing to a blog and that blog doesn’t get updated for months and the blogger shows up and says, “Sorry I haven’t been blogging, been really busy, blah, blah, blah. But I’m really going to start blogging now!” and then they don’t blog for another few months and come back and say, “Whew! Still so busy! But I’m really going to get back into this blogging thing now! I promise!” and there’s no actual content in those posts, just promises of impending awesome content. That’s what I hate. That, and silverfish. Those things freak me out.

So, I’m not going to apologize, I’m not going to tell you how busy I was, and I’m making no promises. But, I will tell you what’s been up, what’s up, and what might be up in the future.

What’s been up: not a whole heck of a lot, to be honest. I kind of took a coding sabbatical. Of course, I’ve still got a full time job where I code all day, but historically, that’s only a warm up to the cool personal projects I work on when I get home. But for the last few months, I haven’t really been coding anything at all in my own time. In the few months before that, I’d started all kinds of various projects, apps, games, etc. These dead orphans litter my hard drive. Finally I just stopped forcing it and let myself have a coding vacation. Honestly, for about a month, I’d often not even open my computer at home. I’d check my email and do any other web related tasks on my Nexus 7. If I did open my computer, it was likely to watch a movie or some TV show, or log my runs of course. And you know what? It felt GOOD! Consider that in addition to my full time job, I’ve been coding at the very least, a part-time job’s worth of projects for most of the last 13 years – at times no doubt another whole full time job’s worth of projects. Not that this was something I didn’t like. Obviously, I did it because I love programming and creating cool stuff with code. But damn, you can get burnt out after a decade or so doing that stuff. So yeah, took a couple months and just said screw the code. Had no real plan of when I’d be back or what I’d do, but knew something would come along and yank me back out again.

So what was I doing? Running, reading, (finally) learning to play guitar, maybe spending a bit more time with the family.

So what’s up now? Would I be blogging if I were still playing hooky? Of course not. For the last two weeks or so I’ve been coding up a storm.

What happened was that about a month ago I installed Windows 8 on my PC. I’d previously had a dual boot system on a single hard drive – Linux and Windows 7. That was OK, but it limits your space on both systems. When I decided to try out Win8 I wanted to be able to install whatever I wanted without worrying how much of the disk it ate up, and the same in Linux. So I pulled out the optical drive and bought an adapter tray that allowed me to install a second hard drive in there. Now each drive had its own full 500GB disk. Installed Windows 8 on one, and Ubuntu 12.04 on the other. Great.

My first day on Windows 8 scared me to be quite honest. The whole Win8 interface (formerly known as Metro) looks nice, but is so damned different, I had no idea what to do or where to find anything. After a couple days though, I started learning the gestures and shortcuts and it really all started growing on me. Before long I was using Windows 8 pretty much full time.

The next thing that happened was that my friend, Jesse Freeman, joined Microsoft as a Windows 8 evangelist, and started bugging me to make Windows 8 apps. It did intrigue me, and Jesse is pretty persistent, so eventually I downloaded Visual Studio 2012 Express for Win8. I created one of the sample apps and ran it and messed with the HTML a bit, but didn’t immediately get hooked. But I had an idea.

When I was off doing nothing, I did have one concept for what I wanted to do – revive my Art From Code site and create a framework in JS/Canvas that allowed me to make high resolution generative art pieces that could be printed. Most of the stuff on the site now is not high res enough for quality printing. I had some very cool ideas for how this framework would work, including saving of code, parameters, and results, so that the pieces could be regenerated and rerendered at varying resolutions. One sticky part of it was saving the images as bitmaps. If you are working in a web page, you can get the canvas’s image data and assign it to the src of a new image and display that image. You then have to right click and save the image. Not very elegant, and in my experience the browser constantly chokes on large images. This would be a problem.

So I asked Jesse if it was possible to save a canvas as a bitmap from within an HTML-based Windows 8 app. I’d googled around a bit and it didn’t seem like it. But he came up with a great link that worked like a charm. I made a quick sample and I was hooked! From that day, for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on an app that generates artwork and allows the user to save it. Although it was just a proof of concept for the app I plan to make for myself, it was cool enough that I just submitted it to the Windows 8 Store.

That was the first personal project I’ve actually completed start to finish since May of this year. And I’ve already started on my next app – a Windows 8 port of Falling Balls! So I guess it’s safe to say I’m back.

Like I said, no promises, but there are lots of things I’d like to blog about at this time – the app itself, the technology behind Windows 8 apps, and the submission process, to name a few. So who knows, you might see some more posts here before the end of the year.

5 responses so far

  • Mark says:

    Good to see you back Keith. And to hear that you’re trying out Windows 8 development. I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

  • Next time I suggest using Bing to do your searches 😉

    Glad to see you are back coding and my persistence paid off. There is a big push now for all kinds of apps on Win8 but I am glad to see you started off with something creative and artistic. Can’t wait to play around with it, and hopefully you show some pictures of it in your next post!

  • daklab says:

    @Jesse Freeman – Nice plug 🙂

    Good to see you back for sure, but an image or two would be nice as Jesse suggested.

  • keith says:

    Pictures coming. Had to leave something out to make sure that I do another post, right? 😉

  • […] wasn’t even doing anything blogworthy. A bit of a technology sabbatical, covered well enough in this post. Also mentioned in that post is that Windows 8 programming is what pulled me back into activity. I […]