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Father, Husband, computer geek, gamer, aspiring fitness nerd. I architect and code by day, and often keep at it into the dark of night. Currently fascinated by Python / Django, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, and CentOS. Always on the lookout for a new Oracle DB challenge.

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Matt Chamlee

Some recent happenings

2 min read

So, I'd thought at first about this being a 2018 catch-up, but figured it was too ambitious. I want to write, and I need to keep myself motivated to write, so I'll make this first post in a while a bit shorter.

So, we moved into our new house in June, a process we started in October of 2017 with a 5-acre land purchase. It's crazy, and cool. Probably deserves it's own post, but suffice it to say it's good to be a home/land owner again.

I'm trying to separate myself from Google. It's going to be a gradual process, though I did do one cold turkey move by dumping Chrome on my PC, Mac, and mobile devices. Using Firefox on Windows and Safari on iOS and macOS. Things are fine so far. Need to get the bookmark syncing between Firefox and Safari setup still. Also switched search engines, using Duck Duck Go now. Yeah, it doesn't feel quite as complete as Google does, but it works surprisingly well.

After weeks of debating, contemplating, and bellyaching, I bit the bullet and ordered an iPhone Xs. It will arrive today. I'm excited.

Got the family out for a hike, posted some of those pictures on Instagram. That was a lot of fun, and really happy Carolynn and Laurin made it through the 5.3 miles and 1.5k elevation change. Definitely want to do more of that as a family. though solo trips are nice once in a while.

What else? Well, I've been digging into Azure for work and personal stuff. Ejoying that. Getting deeper into Cloud and Big Data. Feels good to be part of that space, and to add those highlights to my resume. That reminds me, still need to update LinkedIn.

That's it for now. Hope to post more soon.

Matt Chamlee

[SPOILERS] Some thoughts about The Last Jedi

1 min read

First off, I enjoyed the movie, a great deal. These are just some random thoughts after a first viewing. It's a very different Star Wars movie, and I firmly believe that's a good thing. A second viewing is definitely in order.

Kind-of wanted to know more about Snoke, and not convinced Kylo can take his place as a frightening, poweful sith leader. In fact, I was just starting to get that oh shit feeling about Snoke when he "fell apart". Kylo and Hux leading the First Order? Not so sure.

The Fin/Rose adventure as a social commentary trip. The accomplished nothing, except for maybe inspriring some young Rebels. In fact, all Fin, Rose, and Poe really accomiplished was getting a lot of people killed. Again, social commentary? Everything is grey? Best intentions...?

I do kind-of like what they did with Poe. Kind-of. Brash, cocky pilot is put in his place. Hmmm...

Speaking of people dying, Holdo? I liked the character a lot, wanted to see more of her in the next film. Oh well.

Some incredible cinematography. Music, as always, spot on. Great acting across the board, especially Mark.

Matt Chamlee

Apps That Help Make My iPad a Laptop

3 min read

I’ve been repeatedly impressed by this iPad Pro and how it works as both a tablet and a laptop. Granted, there are still severe limitations in some areas compared to a full Windows or macOS experience, one being serious software development, but I’ve been able to take Python development further on this device than I ever thought possible. Some credit goes to iOS itself, especially version 11, with the multitasking bits allowing overlaid and split-screen application usage. Lately, however, I’ve found myself impressed in the application design itself, usage of the space on the iPad, and elements of very thoughtful design. Not all of it is perfect, and some of it you pay a hefty pricetag for (looking at you Omnigraffle), but it goes a long way to helping me settle into using this as both a tablet and a laptop/productivity device.

Editorial, which I’m using to author this post, is a great example of clean, get out of your way design. While I’m sad my current blogging platform of choice, Known, doesn’t support Markdown directly, Editorial is still great for publishing layout and organization. It can be what you want, from a simple text editor to a robust word processor, and even includes scripting which I have yet to try out.

Omnigraffle, what some might call the premiere vector design and diagramming tool for Apple devices, really shines on iOS in it’s latest release. It’s expensive, but if it’s something you have a need for the flow, performance, and ease of use make it worth it.

Word, which I’m using more and more on my iPad for outlines as I plan out projects and applications, is a great example of taking something as long lived and feature-rich as it is and distilling it into just what you need to get the job done. The features are all there, but it gets out of your way and let’s you work on the task and hand. The more I use it the more I’m curious to see what I can do with Powerpoint on iOS.

A few apps I’ve used very little, but am exited to spend more time with, are Pythonista, Ynab, and Terminus. Pythonista take a lot of cues from Editorial, which makes sense since it’s the same developer. Ynab I just feel more comforable doing the regular stuff on the web app and quick things on the phone, but I suspect over time the iPad app won’t feel so awkward, already doing several things very well. Terminus is a superb terminal application that I just haven’t had as much need for, but I know of ways I could put it to more use.

I look forward to being able to do more on the iPad. I’ll probably never get to any more serious development, at least not locally (Terminus provides some remote development options), but I expect to find more capabilities as time goes on.

Matt Chamlee

Inspiring My Daughter With Tech

3 min read

Hear Us Roar: A Manifesto for Women and Minorities in Startup Tech and Business Communities

I’m a little late to the article above, bookmarked in Medium many weeks ago, but well aware of the situation that spawned it. It’s a great article that I’m glad I finally got around to reading. Anyone in tech, especially those with kids, should read it.

My biggest takeaway relates directly to my daughter. I’ve been driven since the beginning to inspire her with technology wherever the opportunity presents itself. This led to granting her access to our old devices as we upgraded our phones and tablets so she can experience using them, becoming familiar with what they do and how they work, because her life will be filled with them. I’ve also, where possible and reasonable, exposed her to computers, which she now uses regularly in school. She might not choose a technology based career when she gets to that point in her life, but I want to be sure she knows that she can do these. It’s the same motivation that has pushed me to expose her to science, art, and other aspects of creativity (Legos!).

This article touches me in a way that relates not only to the women I work and interact with every day in my job/industry, but also to the women in my life, my family and friends. My wife has a technological interest, but there is no drive to learn to code/engineer solutions for things in her life. She leaves that to me. She does, however, understand the importance of it to me, and how important it is for me to make sure our daughter is exposed to it. She also agrees with me that exposure to many/all things is the best approach, which is why she does horsie and crafty stuff.

Who knows what path she’ll take in her life as she grows and experiences things. I hope, like me, she has at least 10-20 idea’s of different things she wants to do with her life before she has to make a decision, and who says she has to pick just one. The more she changes, the better I’ll feel as I know I’ve at least helped expose her to many of life’s possibilities. I want her to grow up knowing she can do anything, only limited by her desires and ambitions. I want her to be able to ignore the discouragement, to push through the disappointment of failure, to learn and to grow, and to know she can do absolutely anything she wants.

Matt Chamlee

How I Get My "News"

4 min read

I've recently curtailed my Twitter activity. It started with a week off, which turned into about 3 weeks after practically forgetting about the service. Well, that's not entirely true. I was well aware of it, mostly through articles I read that referenced a Tweet for purposes of the article lead or some kind of supplimental. I was, however, not driven to log in. I would occasionally click on one of those embedded tweets to see more by the user or read the conversation thread, but I never signed in nor logged back in to check my own feed. Honestly, after about a week I was turned off by the idea of going back to it, the feed, or the flood as I now think of it. WhenI finally logged back in today the first thing I did was unfollow everyone I didn't know IRL. That really felt good, and on a quick browse surfaced activity from friends that I had no clue were active (Twitter's algorithm at work?).

I came to the realization that I was using Twitter for my news, and way more than I could've imagined. Twitter has been known to be "great" for being the first place find out about things breaking in the world, everything from celebrity deaths to the worst this world has to offer, but far too much of Twitter is reactionary. This is not news to anyone who has used Twitter for any length of time and has followed at least one person outside their IRL circle, and I have been caught in it at least a few times. Retweeting something that was an emotional reaction to something said and having to delete or retract it moments later as I read through the thread of the retweet is embarrassing, even if you're sure none of your followers saw it. Makes you feel stupid, or at least it did me. I then try to be better about [not] doing it. Then I think about it more, now especially, and realize how much of my tweeting is retweeting. Yikes, that must be annoying to anyone that follows me and is actually paying attention.

I consume news in several ways. I have my RSS feeds, which I've had for years. I follow some specific sites with content that I know interests me, sources of tech and other news that I trust. I recently subscribed to The New York Times digital because of their excellent coverage of current events and some of the best editorial I've read anywhere for non-tech topics. I've also picked up on Medium more, with news as well as random interests. I check Reddit randomly, but that's more for entertainment than it is news. I have several great podcasts I listen to. The great thing about all these sources? The severe lack of hostile discourse. Many of the sources do have commenting systems, but I rarely look at those, and when I choose to I can just go away if things get childish. Twitter for a long time, and even more now with the coverage of our new president, is just hateful, vile and depressing, and very frequently brought me down when I would just browse my feed. Besides, with all these other sources, why did I even need it? To catch some breaking thing, that I would have to be browsing anyway to catch? My time away proved I didn't need it, and found I was much happier without it. Twitter does, however, have value, which is why I went back today and pruned my follower list.

Social media is powerful and important, but what I've found is I don't need, nor do I really want, to be connected to every person and thing that interests me. Instagram has become a nice place to follow some celebrities and other personalities because pictures always seem to bring an immediate joy (except when they post text, in which case they get unfollowed). Twitter can be a feed of such vile, hateful, and depressing things, but you can control it, and that's what I'm starting to do. I might actually look forward to checking Twitter once a day, verus used to feeling the need to check it regularly throughout the day. I dumped Facebook years ago because of that, should've realized the similarities in Twitter sooner. If something goes up on Twitter that's really that important I'll hear about it shortly thereafter, either via a friend, or one of my preferred sources, filtered in a way that I trust. Twitter may get some things first, but what is the value of knowing about it seconds/minutes before someone else? To me, nothing.

Matt Chamlee

Video Games and Frustration Factor

7 min read

My video game tastes have been changing slowly over the last 10 years. When I say tastes, however, its not so much styles or types as it is gameplay and difficulty. Over the past few years I've struggled to come to terms with these changes, and the genuine emotions around them. In the end, however, I've found relief and comfort as I've finally settled on what I'm feeling and why. I don't have time or patience for bullshit.

Now, bullshit, in this case, is being used broadly. Bullshit in a game can be anything from poor/incompetent design to diffulty and annoyances that I'm just not going to put up with. There have been bits and pieces of this in a few games I've abandoned over the years, but they all came together most recently with Shadow of Mordor.

I'd been sitting on Shadow of Mordor for about a year. Like most games in my "Pile of Shame" I picked it up on a steam sale, likely $10 or less. I got it mostly because of the positive reviews that pinned the combat to "very much like Batman Arkham Asylum". The nemesis "system" was also widely liked/praised for what it added to the game. As it turns out I both of these things led directly to my reasons for dumping it.

The combat has elements of fun, but it's lesser in many ways, not really a refinement or even a betterment of what was in Batman. Aspects of it are inconsistent. It's hard to know when certain finishers can be used, the tells just aren't there (or I was completely oblivious). Aspects of the timing were sluggish, I didn't always feel a failure was my fault, where in Batman I always knew that was the case. Without the tells you try to rely on button hints, which were also inconsistent. They came up more as occasional reminders when you didn't seem to be doing something after several opportunities, where in Batman, if it could be done the hint was there every time. I couldn't trust the system, and that just made things frustrating when something wouldn't work the way I was expecting it it.

The nemesis "system" is a very cool idea, frustratingly implemented. At it's worst are aspects of the way it works, the most frustrating of which revolves around the named Orcs/Uruks that can show up at any time. This can add a level of challenge, one showing up in the middle of a battle or while approaching a target area. Challenge I'm okay with. What makes it frustrating is when you get 2, 3, or more that all show up at nearly the same time, sometimes each their own crew of Orcs. What kills it for me is when this happens not only repeatedly, but when you're in a triggered quest/event and trying to take down a harder boss enemy while already surrounded by a group. You jump in expecting one challenge and it triples in difficulty within 30 seconds. This happened to me several times throughout my 8 hours of play. I'd just had enough of it.

The game had other flaws, like repeating envirionments layouts and common design throughout, and effectively nothing but combat as the only gameplay element. When you're fighting the same enemies with only minor variance in look and attack style, coupled with several very similar environments and structures, abilities that didn't always play together, and the aforementioned frustrating nemesis tactics and combat mechanics, it just became not worth the frustration. Also, what the hell was going on with the story?

The point of the past few paragraphs was not really to review the game, but to point out things that, say 5-10 years ago, I would've powered through to complete the game. Even so, I did play with that frustration longer than I'd wanted to. I thought about quitting at 4 hours in, and again at 6, but it was finally around the 8 hour mark that I just said to myself this wasn't worth it. I have plenty of other games I could play, other uses for my time. Yelling at my monitor/TV was once a cherished pastime, but not any more.

This isn't the first game I've abandoned in recent years, but it's the one that finally made me completely okay with the concept. I tried to play Doom 3 a few years ago and gave up. Gave Rage a try. Even ended up abandoning Fallout New Vegas, which was a personal surprise being both an RPG as well as a setting I loved in Fallout 3. Even dumped Batman Arkham Knight after loving the first and mostly enjoying the second. Perhaps it helps that a lot of these games I've picked up on a sale after the fact, much easier to abandon something that was $5-10 versus $40-60.

I think part of what happened with Shadow of Mordor had to do with my love of Horizon Zero Dawn. HZD is a beautiful, fun, challenging game, that I consider nearly perfect despite a list of little annoyances. HZD shows how to do gameplay and combat right, as well as story, wrapping it all together in a package that has kept me enthralled through almost 3 complete playthroughs.

I think the most direct comparison I was making, internally, between SoM and HZD was the combat. In HZD you're always in control. If you fail, you know it's because of something you did. You always know your limits, and you can usually find a way out, if not a way to win. Some of the combat scenarios in HZD are very challenging, and I've died a few times, but I always knew it was becuase I did something wrong. In fact on my 3rd playthrough I'm playing it on Ultra Hard. It's hard, but I love it, again because I know my limits, I know when something is possible or doomed to fail, and I can chose to stick it out or to escape and try again later. There is always a level of fairness to the game, even at it's hardest points. There are always several clear, defined ways of attacking each battle, and plenty of skills/tools to mix and match for the scenario and how you like to play. Everything works together so well. Many times while playing SoM I asked myself why didn't I just shut it off and go play HZD instead.

There are too many great games to play, many of which I've owned for some time (HZD, Forza Horizon 3, Diablo III), and others I have yet to sink my teeth into (my Pile of Shame). It's just not worth it anymore to sink time into experiences that just aren't fun. If I'm cursing at the game more than once for something that the game is doing wrong it's time to uninstall it and walk away.

Going forward I'm probably going to stick to extended gameplay investments, such as racing/space sims and other long-term multiplayer experiences. Games I can enjoy at a leisurely pace, and games that I can enjoy with my family and friends. They're going to be better value ($ spent versus time played), and in most cases I'll be buying into companies/francises that are well established so I know what I'm getting into.

Matt Chamlee

My Road to the iPad Pro

5 min read

Why the iPad Pro? Well, it actually starts with the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2.

Actually, it probably started with the Newton. That really was a toy, at the time, but it was one of the best toys. The handwriting recognition was amazing. Digital notes, never having to worry about paper again. Unfortunately it didn't really fit anywhere into my lifestyle. It went into storage, and then I think I gave it to someone. Part of me misses that slick little device.

The Note Pro was bascially the follow-up to that Newton. I had a Note 3, and was a neato big phone with a Pen, but the note taking just never worked on that small of a screen. The Note Pro I could take notes on, doodle and draw when the desire grabbed me, double as a laptop with my bluetooth keyboard and mouse. It worked well, for a while.

Almost immediately I noticed performance issues. It had almost the same hardware as the Note 3. While the hardware generally speaking was plenty powerful, the Note Pro had a little over two times the resolution, on the same GPU. For most day to day things this was fine, and even performed admirally for some games, but for the overall experience it was way more hit and miss than it should've been. One of the bigger disappointments was Touchdraw, a 2d vector and diagramming app for Android. No, the app was amazing, but the performance was horrible. Things just chugged on that tablet, and while I had found some other great pen apps to use on the Note Pro, Touchdraw was the app that really suited what I wanted to do most with the device. It killed me.

So, the Note Pro got used less. It would get pulled out for meetings sometimes, but I was bothering to get it out less and less. It was heavy, mostly because of the case I had on it (which was arguably one of the best cases for the tablet). Oh, and then the Android parts of the tablet set in. It stopped getting updates a little over a year after a bought it. Not even two years of updates. Samsung is probably mroe to blame than Android/Google, but this is not the first android device I've owned that's been abandoned sooner than it should've, it's just the quickest.

A few months ago I re-committed myself to using the Note Pro again, and things were going well, but I wanted to see if I could sideload the latest Android OS. Low and behold I found Lineage, and with little effort I was able to get it updated to 7.2. Yes! This was great. Performance was even better in some cases. Awesome. Oh, wait, now I can't utilize my internal home DNS becuse of some Google/Android bullshit? FUCK!

So, that was pretty much it. I needed a multi-purpose tablet. I needed something that could be an all around productivity device, typing and note taking, consulting and side work, reading, studying, and entertainment (games/videos). I didn't want a laptop, didn't really need the size, and definitely didn't need the expense. I knew the iPad Pro had been announced, and was fascinated with the first 12 inch version, but it was huge. 9 was too small, but this 10.5 sounded just about right. I went by an apple store about a week before the actual purchase and played with it briefly, but didn't come away impressed. Decided to take the plunge a few weeks ago and am ecstatic I did. It's proved to be an amazing, endlessly useful device. I can do long form writing (like this), diagramming with Omnigraffle, reading, studying, consuming video and audio entertaiment, and even multi-tasking around with all the above (and with more awesome features to come in iOS 11). I can write Python code when the bug hits me (Pythonista). I can VPN and them SSH to my home servers to fiddle, fix, and deploy code. I can RDP/VNC to desktops and servers if needed. I can even play games (which I've always done, but man do they look really good on here). Nothing will beat my uber Windows 10 desktop at home for the real heavy lifting work/coding/gaming, but whem I'm on the go or want to be away from the desk/office the iPad Pro is my goto.

I hope to relate more experiences and other adventures as I go, but suffice it to say I expect to get a lot of use out of this slick tablet. I will say this. Apple has me on the portable iDevice front, and I've always liked the Mac Mini. The laptops  are nice, but overpriced for my liking. Loving my iPhone SE and now my iPad Pro. Looking forward to whats next.

Matt Chamlee

First Times, iPad Pro Edition

2 min read

First time traveling with my new-ish iPad Pro. Using this device for all my personal "things". Typing posts, like I am now (need to see if Known can now take Markdown directly). Working with Japanese as I travel, though I've done that before with my Note Pro. Consuming media, though I haven't synced any movies/shows. So, maybe it's a collection of things I've done before, or could do, but all that and much more. I love having this keyboard as part of the cover/stand that I can pull out easily. I have the pen for when I want to take notes directly, or sketch/doodle things, hopefully I'll have a meeting in which I can test it out. This paragraph seems like a collection of random thoughts.

It's the first time in a long time that I've traveled with something that is or doubles as a laptop, and I mean truly. I tried to do the same thing with my Note Pro, but not having the keyboard attached made it very hard. I love my portable Bluetooth keyboard, but trying to use it with the tablet was always cumbersome. This setup on the iPad Pro just works.

This is a more recent option, but first time I'm going to try consuming content that syncs between devices. With Audible and iCatcher my books/podcasts should sync position. I should be able to use my phone throughout the day and my tablet at night, we'll see how that goes.

I just realized I'm not doing much markdown in this article. Not really going to be a test. Maybe next time.

Matt Chamlee

What I want in my next laptop/tablet

2 min read

I have two tablets. A Samsung Note Pro 12.2 and a iPad Mini. Between the two, and my iPhone, I can get most things done on the go and when otherwise not at my desktop. I would love to consolidate. Here is what I want.

  • Size, 10-13 inches.
  • Pen, for handwriting/note-taking and building diagrams 
  • Keyboard, when I otherwise don't want to hand write.
  • Flexible on OS, but preference would be Windows, iOS, Android

iPad Pro can get me pretty much all the way there as long as I get the Logitech keyboard/case (like the one I'm using now with my iPad Mini), but by the time I have the tablet with sufficient storage, pen, and other needed accessories I'm at about $1500. Ouch.

In contrast I can get a Surface Pro 4 with laptop-level specs for about $1299, but they keyboard and tablet stand combination won't work well on any surface other than a desk/table.

A Samsung Note tablet would do the trick, but they haven't updated the line in over 2 years now, and I'm kind-of over Samsung's software and Android in general.

What I have now with my multiple devices works, but eventually they're all going to age out and i will need to replace them. Hopefully by the time I need to some solution will meet my needs and desires in one device.

Matt Chamlee

Reminder to Self: P4CONFIG and P4IGNORE

1 min read

Something that I seem to miss every time I setup a new machine to work with Perforce is how to implement P4CONFIG and P4IGNORE files/settings per application. It's the envirionment variable dummy!

By default, at least on Windows, neither P4CONFIG or P4IGNORE envirionment variables are set. 'p4 set' contains  a few things, but most of these are global defaults like user, server, etc. Where I usually run into the issue with not having P4IGNORE and P4CONFIG set is configuring Pycharm to use Perforce integration.

Set these envirionment variables as you would normally in Windows (or other platforms) to a file name versus, say, a specific path. The filenames can be anything, but the .name convention seems to be the most popular.

P4CONFIG=.p4config

P4IGNORE=.p4ignore

Once this is one Pycharm and other apps should see your configuration and ignore settings per directory/application/procject as you need them set.