Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sully 2.0 Coming May 7th

I began E3 Systems over a year ago.  In that time, I have made over eighteen upgrades to our product Sully®.  I have hired a sales person, put together a board of directors, and learned numerous lessons the hard way.  I am proud of this company and what it stands for.  Now we are ready for the release of Sully® 2.0.

The new version of the software has a lot going for it.  The interface is cleaner, customers can manage purchase orders with a mouse click and it works on all tablet computers and smart phones.  We will launch this product May 7th, 2012.

This makes Sully® 2.0 the most affordable and complete inventory management system on the market.  Any type of device with an internet connection makes it possible to view bills of lading, manage packing slips, and leverage Microsoft Tag technology to create bar codes which work with any smart phone.

We are redoubling our sales efforts and we are going to be posting videos all over social media.  Sully® 2.0 is coming and you are not going to believe your eyes.

Until Next Time.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bastard Spawn of a Development Tool.

Not bad for a bastard.
One of the basic truisms of technology is that any solid professional relearns their job every eighteen months. Based on that reckoning I have had to retrain myself nine times during my career. It is not pretty and it can be mighty humbling. I complain about the process on a regular basis but I also understand it has given me a modicum of independence and a living wage. This constant struggle of competence is just a fact of life in this business.

I am going through a similar transition right now as I learn how to run my own business and master this funny technology known as MVC. In this blog, I want to talk about MVC and how I am starting to slowly like this bastard child of PHP and ASP classic.

MVC stands for Model View Controller and it is touted as different means of building web application in the ASP.NET framework. MVC partisans claim that this approach better supports test-driven development, total control over HTML generated on the page and divides complexity of the application into meaningful chunks.

When confronted with MVC3 in August 2011, I felt a wave of despair because it looked like I would have to unlearn everything I have ever done with web development over my entire career. It also did not help that my manager used to say things like, "..of course you don't know any better you are a web forms guy."

Instead of a page with code behind as is typical in web forms, I had a controller which handled the http behavior, a view which had no server controls , and models which are nothing more than classes which are passed between the controller and view. Even the markup on the view seemed alien looking like old ASP classic.

Matters were made worse by MVC3's steep learning curve. Unlike web forms which allow a gradual learning process from entry level developer to master. MVC demanded you code a particular way right away. It felt like learning to fly in an F-15 fighter jet instead of a single prop Cessna. It was maddening being given tasks in MVC which would have taken me hours with web forms taking days and weeks.

Over the last six months I have gone from completely helpless with MVC3 to an entry level developer. I still feel that the training books out in the market need to be better to help web forms developers make the transition. I also feel that Microsoft and its partners could provide more classroom style training to get developers up to speed. If I ever get a chance, I might write a book on the subject.

Complaints aside, I have learned to like MVC. Thanks to MVC3 and JQuery mobile, it is easy to write mobile application. They do not even need to download an application. Just fire up the smart phone web browser and you are in business. I also like MVC3's ability to finely control HTML so that CSS and JQuery behave in a cleaner fashion. The security model of MVC 3 is exactly the same as web forms which allows you to use the same security for a web forms application as a phone application. Finally, MVC has forced me to be a better object oriented developer and improved my LINQ skills.

I may be just a "web forms developer," but I understand where MVC fits in the pantheon of web development. Barrowing from Greek mythology, the hero Perseus was the bastard son of Zeus and Danae. Somehow in spite of his questionable upbringing, Perseus turned out OK. I expect similar things from MVC.

Until next time.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Watch Me Pull a Rabit Out of My Hat

Pulling a Rabit Out of a Hat is Hard!
One of the biggest constants in software development is failure.  Projects fail to get completed on time.  Software fails to work as expected and software developers fail to keep their jobs.  It is a vicious cycle and it takes an emotional toll on the people who spend their time working on it.

People want to be successful and competent.  Software humbles the smartest and best of us.  Add to the mix unrealistic time pressures, unhealthy lifestyles, and marketing professionals forcing me to keep their promises and you have a blueprint for mental illness.

Shortly after my wife moved out of the house, I sat in a planning meeting and I had a revelation.  A business analyst was talking about improving the click ratio for a page and it just dawned on me.  I was living in a bizarre world where people were making decisions about my work and life and they had no understanding of web development or the challenges it entailed.  To them, it was just like magic.  All I had to do was pull out a rabbit from my hat each day and hope I could correctly guess the exact color, size, and fur quality these people expected. 

I was not a professional with an opinion to be respected.  I felt like a birthday clown making balloon animals for ungrateful children.  Something had to give and I slowly began to start planning for the launch of E3 systems. 

In the almost two years since, I have been writing code after hours and on weekends.  I put together a business plan and I have rounded up a board of directors to help me.  I even have a sales person.  All that is left are customers, because contrary to popular believe, just because you build something they may not buy it. 

I am not deterred because this has given me time to refine my production and this month we will be doing a 2.0 release of our Sully® Warehouse Management System.  I am pretty proud of it.  We now make it possible to manage inventory, bills of madding, addresses, invoices, packing slips, and not purchase orders.  I even have a movie version of the application which works with Microsoft Tag so that a piece of paper automatically communicates with a smart phone or tablet. 

What makes this so fantastic is that is less expensive than most software packages on the market.  There is not software to install and it works on most modern browsers and smart phones.  It is cloud based computing without the hype. 

I will have more news about the release of Sully® 2.0 as we complete testing.  We also have YouTube videos going up and we are putting together a training manual.  We are also going to start a full court press for customers. 

Two years ago, I looked and felt like a clown.  Now, I am on the cusp of being a full-fledged entrepreneur.  It is worth the wait. 

Until next time.