It's good to be a programmer

Mel Brooks has got nothing on me.

Combine a full time job at Microsoft and weekends spent filming a movie (up at 5AM, back in bed usually around 9PM), and what do you get? A bad blogger. I haven't exactly been lighting up the keyboards of late, mostly because when I sit down to write after working all weekend, the sound in my head is like the wind through the frame of a half-constructed building (though some readers are of the opinion that that is the sound that is ALWAYS in my head).

Last week was worse than usual, as I was in Las Vegas attending the Microsoft Embedded Developer's Conference. Really, I have proof, and you can see me, here, watching Sumo-bots programmed by conference attendees compete for the grand prize (which appears to be some kind of robot kit, though I never found out for sure). Microsoft has turned the .NET runtime they designed for tiny devices, such as SPOT watches, into a product, called the .NET MicroFramework, which can be licensed for use in devices like Sumo-bots, or more practically, embedded devices with very limited capabilities that could use a managed runtime for extensibility or simplified development.

In general, the conference was highly informative, and made me remember why I'm glad I accidentally chose programming as a career (I majored in Economics). There are so many sub-disciplines within computer science that, as long as you genuinely enjoy programming, it's hard to get bored.

I'm not an embedded programer...yet. I have an interest in it, and have for quite awhile, ever since I picked up a book on robotics shortly before I left for Europe in 2000. That's a long time ago, but then again, I have lots of interests (hence my lack of free time), and mundane things like learning the language of the country in which I'd chosen to live took precedence.

One of the advantages of working at Microsoft, however, is that they are amazingly supportive of people who want to try new things. A luxury afforded by large and profitable software companies, to be sure. I, however, have never experienced it. I described to my manager several months ago that what drew me to Microsoft in the first place was the "technology toy box," and that's still the case.

Of course, you can't just decide to do anything, unless you want to move to another job within Microsoft (which at a company with over 60,000 people around the world, is certainly a possibility). In my case, IPTV set-top boxes are based on Windows CE, and it's useful for people who work in IPTV to be knowledgeable about the ideosyncracies of that platform. That's a plank linking my current development life to the next one, but I'm used to that. I like to think on economics-related subjects, and ZDNet probably wouldn't appreciate a month-long tirade on the importance of open markets. Find a way to link it to technology issues, and people are less annoyed. Of course, that doesn't explain this blog, but hey, that was a bad month.

Anyway, sorry for not being as involved in the talkbacks to my last post. I posted it and uptake was slow, and given I had embedded programming related things to do, I did them, figuring this was just one of those slow topics.  I checked again Monday, and boy was I wrong. Anyway, antitrust is one of my favorite topics, so unless Microsoft falls beneath the radar screen of world governments, I'll have my chance to make it up to you.


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