Sunday, July 23, 2017

Speaking at my First Iowa Code Camp Conference #ICC19

Yesterday I had the opportunity to present on two different topics at the 19th Iowa Code Camp located at the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in Coralville, Iowa. Not only was this my first year speaking at this event it was my first time even attending this event. I was impressed on how well this one day event was put together. I am only estimating here but I would guess there was a little over 200 attendees. What makes that impressive is this event is held on a Saturday so this was people taking time away from their personal lives to grow professionally.

Both of my talks were held in the same room which was nice because after the first one I had complete confidence that my laptop was working and I had the correct adapters etc to make everything work. Again I am not sure what the room's capacity was but I enjoy the smaller rooms because it often times makes people more comfortable and they start to interact more. When I have spoke to larger rooms/groups in the past it's hard to not just talk to the first few rows.

While I was preparing for this event my family, friends and coworkers asked questions that all had a similar theme: Why are you doing this? Are you getting paid? What's the point? Are you looking for a new job? What's in it for you? Why? Why? Why?

I like doing things like this. I love meeting new people. I enjoy learning about what other people / companies are doing and can I learn from their mistakes, can they learn from mine? Did I get paid? No, in fact after parking I actually paid to go to this event.

I don't think the question should be "why am I taking a Saturday to get better?" the real question is "why aren't you?"

The next time you hear about Iowa Code Camp I would highly recommend attending. It's a real conference! There were 6 presentations going on at a single time and each talk lasted a little over an hour. That means there was a lot of content being shared by speakers and for the attendee the admission was free. An all day tech conference that includes breakfast, lunch, refreshments and an unlimited opportunity to meet other local people working in the same field fighting the same fights as you.

I truly want to thank each person who attended my talks. You took time out of your day to come and listen to me speak and for that I am grateful. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

AWS vs Azure: Compare getting started promotions

One question that I routinely hear is should my company / project go with Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services? Without knowing anymore than that I unfortunately can't answer that. There is a huge overlap of services that each company offers but there are also unique situations where either cloud platform could be named the victor.

Today I want to review what each platform provides you for free to help you learn the differences that would benefit your project or company.

What did you just say? Each company gives you free shit while you try and learn / use their cloud products. Let's take a look at what each gives you.

The details around what Amazon offers you can be found here:

They give you a bunch of services for free or until a certain threshold is reached. Honestly if you are just spinning up things to see how they work the free tier is amazing. After 12 months some items are no longer free and you would need to pay the regular rate for those items. On the other hand some items such as DynamoDB or SQS always have a free tier. In my opinion that is because to use those free services you probably will be paying for others.

The first thing most people think about is compute or virtual machines and Amazon gives you 750 hours during your first year. You don't get a real powerful machine but it's more than enough if you want to look at deploying servers etc.

Microsoft Azure has published their free tier / trial here:

Like Amazon they provide a bunch of free things that you can deploy and test out. As far as compute goes you get a $200 credit that will expire after your first 30 days. In this sense I do like Amazon's better because as an adult who works I can't always test what I need in 30 days, that time slips away pretty fast. You might be thinking "Shawn Woodward that is crazy! If you focus you can get anything you need completed in 30 days". I get where you would be coming from but in my case that simply isn't the case.

If you haven't looked at cloud technologies yet be prepared to be a bit overwhelmed. It's NOT just virtual machines running on somebody's hardware. If you don't have a development background a decent amount of services might seem rather foreign to you. Everything they offer someone has been doing that same functionality inside a corporate walls before you just might not be aware of it.

Have fun!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


In an effort to keep this page fairly technical and not fill it with other projects that fall more than a few feet from a keyboard I would like to introduce Woodward Acres. This is another project where I hope to share other non technical items. Anyone who knows me is aware that my family lives on about 6 acres of land located in Jones County, IA.

Owning and operating an acreage is a lot of work but it comes with a different flavor of rewards too.

We always have a never ending project list and this is where I will try and share those stories.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Preparing for Iowa Code Camp

July 22, 2017 is the Iowa Code Camp Conference that will be held at the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in Coralville, IA. Here is the session schedule. I will be presenting on two topics and I wanted to write a short description of my process and my concerns while I prepare.

I have recently been rather busy with a bunch of different things. Trying to keep perfectly transparent this event has arrived a little sooner than I had hoped. It's not that I am not prepared, I know the topics but I haven't sat down and put together my outline yet. That's what I am going to put together this weekend.

The details: I have two talks to give and the length of each is roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes. Topic one is AWS Cloud Formation Templates and the other is Amazon Auto Scaling Groups.

My goal: Introduce those that are new to these topics and cover as much detail as I can without appearing to be scattered or overwhelming anyone. I love it when people are interactive so be sure to leave time for Q and A.

My concerns: My hope would be to run my demos live but that means I need the internet to be 100%. I was assured last night that they have never had issues which pretty much means I am sure to have issues. One idea I have is to record my demos now so I can focus on talking about it while people watch. I know this kinda sucks but it would just be a backup.

Side note: In my past I taught at a local college and one day I showed up to class to teach, I forget what it was, maybe html or doesn't matter. As I walk toward my room I see 30 students standing outside the room and as I get closer they tell me the door is locked. There is a key pad on the door but I have no idea what the code is. Keep in mind a giant winter storm is taking place and this is a night class. Some of these students drove an hour to get here because that is how serious they are taking their education. Then I show up and don't have the ability to open the door. Needless to say I lost some credibility that day but quickly earned it back.

Ever sense then I tend to assume something is going to go wrong but try to have a backup plan in place.

My outline will probably follow something like this:

  • Brief introduction of myself and what I hope the benefits of sitting with me for an hour will provide to the person.
  • Show a couple of slides
  • Demo 1
  • Couple more slides while I explain how we expand on Demo 1
  • Demo 2
  • What did we see so far and why does it matter to you
  • Expand a bit further with more slides
  • Demo 3
  • Keep an eye on the clock....if it went faster than expected have another set of data to show or be prepared to move on to Q & A
I am not promising that I will have 3 demos or 4 or maybe only 2 - the point is I like to go with the flow and keep things interactive with the people. My intention is to provide value to the people who are taking time out of their weekend to come and visit me. Make it worth their time. Maybe when they are eating supper that night they can think - "Wow that Shawn Woodward guy didn't stink as much as I thought he would". 

It should be fun and I am looking forward to meeting each of you!

See you next weekend.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Review: Amazon Prime Pantry 1st Order

Last night our first box of Amazon Prime Pantry showed up on our door step. Even though I knew exactly what to expect because I was the person who submitted the order it still felt a little like Christmas. My son was really holding on with his fingers crossed that somehow a new Nerf gun was going to be in the box, he was disappointed.

When I first heard of this new service I was immediately interested and straight away started making lists for weekly, monthly and quarterly deliveries.

My wife is an RN and she works a different schedule during the traditional school year which puts me in a position where I am up to bat to make supper for the family most of the year. The issue is Mrs. Woodward does the grocery shopping so each night it's like a puzzle. What was she thinking about when she bought this or that?

Okay on to the review: I really like the process of picking out items and not only seeing the price but also what % of the box that item will take up. Everyone knows that a can of pork and beans takes up less space than a large bag of Doritos but now you are shown exactly the difference. Pretty cool.

Also like the idea of doing all of this from home or the office and having it just arrive at my door step.

Things I don't like: They say if you buy 5+ items you get free shipping, that's not exactly true. Out of all the items you need to buy 5+ items out of a smaller selection. Example: Oreo cookies, a normal sized Oreo cookie bag doesn't count but if you buy the family sized then it does. I was unable to pick out 5 items from that smaller bucket to get free shipping so for our first test run I did pay $5.99 for shipping.

The other main thing I didn't love is the selection for some items is rather small. In our house we eat canned vegetables, yes I know fresh is better but isn't canned better than no vegetables at all? There is no canned green beans or corn or carrots. Well there is one can of carrots but it's bigger than a normal sized can. I wasn't even that concerned about what brand the items were which was good because they didn't exist no matter the brand. I found this to be true for a few other items I was looking for as well.

If I could fill a box with the items my household needed I wouldn't hesitate to schedule that shipping so I could take advantage of the extra 15% off. At this time I don't see enough items that I want regularly delivered.

I'm sure they will eventually get there but they just aren't there yet, at least not for this family. I understand Wal-Mart has something similar, maybe I will give them a try.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How come your website isn't adaptive and what does that even mean?

adaptive mobile website example
When a user visits your business website does the layout automatically adjust to fit their phone or tablet? If you answered no to this then you may have worked with an amateur. When dealing with websites in a world of social media I feel they often get over looked.

"But I have a Facebook page, isn't that like um the same thing"?

I've said this before - you need a home on the web and a website is the only thing that is going to provide that to you. Believe it or not you have potential customers that are not on social media.

Do you or do you not need a website isn't the point of this post....the point is does your website adjust automatically when a visitor uses a mobile phone or a tablet? If you find yourself having to use two fingers to zoom in or all of your navigation isn't there that needs to be addressed. It's no secret more people today than ever before have mobile phones and honestly more people use the web from their mobile devices than a traditional computer.

Perhaps you were working with amateurs or maybe you bought a $99 deal....either way let me help set some expectations. I suppose there could be another option, your website is older and hasn't been updated in many years. I guess to be perfectly blunt it doesn't matter how you got it it just matters that it gets fixed.

Adaptive. That is the word that makes all the difference. Your website needs to be adaptive and if it is adaptive then no matter the device the layout will automatically adjust and still have that same look and feel you were going for. There are a few ways your developer can achieve this. First they can just write a bunch of code and do all of this manually or they can use a predefined library such as Twitter Bootstrap or Google's Angular. As of this writing I am more of a fan of Bootstrap but that is mainly because I haven't pushed myself to play with Angular yet.

If you are taking a look at your website and wondering how you might be perceived or what improvements you could do this is just one area I would seriously consider getting reviewed.

For a Tuesday night that is what I have to offer.

P.S. - my daughter actually got in the pool tonight at swimming lessons! (only 7 days into a 2 week class but better late than never) 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Weekly Update June 21, 2017

I don't have much tech related stuff in my update tonight but I did want to share a few things going on both work related and maybe even a few things on a personal level. I have been logged into my day job from home getting all caught up on email as I plan to return to my "9-5" on Monday morning. Feeling pretty good and I would just like to say kudos to Dr. Mouw! Coming from a guy who has had 6 total back surgeries and 3 the last 3 summers I am honestly tired of this routine so I will keep my fingers crossed.

In the mornings I have been working on a side project a couple hours a day. I have been given the opportunity to write a book. I am only 40 or so pages into it but the process at least for me will be to write 3 chapters and then turn it in essentially for review and then I believe I will get a thumbs up or thumbs down. If I get a thumbs up then I think things get real and I continue and write the next proposed 9 or so more chapters, if I get a thumbs down then at least I can say I took a shot. Will I stop submitting ideas? Absolutely not, that isn't who Shawn Woodward is. Back when I was getting into tech I didn't have any money so I would spend countless hours at our local Barnes and Noble and would read books as fast as I could. When I was there I would catch myself thinking how cool it would be to have written a couple of books so one night I just submitted an idea and I got a response that has been positive. If I get a thumbs up I will feel more comfortable sharing the details around this, to be honest I am not sure if I am supposed to or not at this time.

On a personal level my son passed swimming lessons last week and my daughter this week doesn't really want to get off of her moms lap. Maybe next year. Oh and I fixed my wife's Keurig coffee machine. I have never drank coffee in my life so I really don't think I did anything, I honestly just stood next to it and then it started working and I got a smooch. Sometimes I know when to keep my mouth shut. :)

Oh I guess one thing a little tech related was I got registered for Amazon's re:Invent 2017 conference in Las Vegas this November. It has been a few years since I attended a large conference and I have never attended Amazon's. In the past I have attended Microsoft TechEd but that shows you how long ago it was before it was called Ignite.

Lastly I *think* this weekend talks for Iowa Code Camp get finalized so maybe early next week I will know if I need to get a couple of presentations prepared. It was kind of a hassle getting that approved from my "9-5" legal department so it might be kind of a pisser if I get a thumbs down. Mrs. Woodward would like me to get a thumbs down because she wants me to be available to see a crappy singer that night.

It's only Wednesday night but it feels like a weeks worth of activity so far. Have a good night!