At the Dawn of Spring

The first quarter of 2016 almost out of the way, and everyone around is waiting for the spring to finally settle. Now it’s a good time to take a small break and make a summary of the accomplishments I made so far. Everyone needs a bit of extra motivation every now and then, even if it’s patting yourself on the back.

On 18th of February I published another article on SitePoint.com – “Cleaning House after Internet Explorer“. That makes three so far and I definitely don’t plan to stop here. I am working on a follow-up and I hope to finish it as soon as possible. I think I managed to hit a sensitive topic here, as in only a month I got over 9000 views. Enter Vegeta, stage left:

It's over 9000!!!

Next on the list is my activity as SitePoint Ambassador (see my previous post from December). I made a couple of presentations of their behalf, participated to several meetups and got more involved in the community activities, like doing peer reviews for new articles of fellow authors or participating to discussions on the forums. Here is the slides for two presentations I made a local meetup – Web Developers Ireland.

First one was promoting the launch of a new SitePoint book – “Jump Start PHP Environment”. It is a great guide on how to set up a modern professional environment for PHP development.

The second one was on the topic of my latest article: an exploration of the various web development practices that are no longer required if you decide to drop support for old versions of Internet Explorer.

As a bonus, you can amuse yourselves watching me actually delivering the first presentation.

Unfortunately my camera let me down when I tried to record the second session and stopped recording after 8 minutes. Most probably due to overheating, as later tests recorded a lot more, until it hit a file size limit of 3.99GB. At the moment my only option is to record at a lower resolution. For further amusement, here’s the only part that survived.

This should be enough for now. Expect a few more updates soon, as I’m working on the launch of a few projects. Until then, I wish you all the best.

SitePoint Ambassador for Ireland

SitePointAmbassadors

“Internet. The final frontier of human communication. These are the voyages of the SitePoint ambassadors. Their continuous mission: to push the limits of UX, design and web technologies. To spread out knowledge and best practices. To boldly go where no other web geek has been before.”

I wrote these words back in June when I had to come with a job description for the new activity of SitePoint ambassador. The first of us invited were a bunch of hyper, enthusiastic people and I wanted something equally funny and serious, to post on my LinkedIn profile.

How did all this started?

I got my hands on the first SitePoint product back in 2005-2006. It was my room mate’s copy of the Web Design Business Kit (https://www.sitepoint.com/premium/books/the-web-design-business-kit) and I was fascinated by the opportunities it promised. I begged and cajoled until I got permission to study it myself, took many notes and promised myself that one day I will have my own business in this area.

Over the years I returned often to SitePoin.com (especially for the CSS reference – sadly outdated at the moment) and to pick up interesting articles to read. Then, the last summer, I noticed the invitation to join the new Ambassador program and I was delighted to know I was accepted. Now, when the program got real traction and things are moving in the right direction, I am really glad I followed my instinct to volunteer my efforts.

Like with any other activity there are pluses and minuses. And the most important thing is that most of the good effects will happen sometime in the future, while the efforts tax my already limited time. As this program is a volunteer activity, I can only allocate it time and effort after my daily job took its course. To keep up with the “motivational quote” trend, for this situation I like best this piece of Internet wisdom: “There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.”

Yet, even disregarding the future bonuses, there are many immediate benefits about being an Ambassador. The part I like best is participation to offline events, where I met some very interesting people. I did more networking in the last three months than I did in the last 5 years. I look forward to continue these activities and hope to meet as many as possible of my fellow Ambassadors directly, not just over the Internet.

Last but not least, I had the great honour of receiving the second ever Ambassador of the Month title. To quote our fearless leader, Elio Quoshi, I managed “to impress with various offline events, structured reports, meeting notes and occasionally NSFW humor”.

Until next time…

I’m a SitePoint author

sitepoint-author

Today marks an important milestone in my professional career. My second article got published by SitePoint.com. I did indeed say “second”, as the first one was published on August 5th. Normally I should have marked that day as the more important one. But today proved that I can persevere and that I can go further on that path. It proved that the first article was not a fluke or a freak lucky accident. And I intend to continue on this path, so stay tuned for new articles.

Without more delays, I invite you to check my writings. Hopefully there will be something that will help you with your front end coding projects:

A new year, a new beginning

homepage

Note to self: When you write your blog post, always save draft before uploading media. You won’t risk loosing the entire text, thus being forced to write it again. Or better, write it somewhere else and just copy/paste it to WordPress

We return to our scheduled program.

I’m trying to keep true to my new year plans (my resolution remains the same – 1920×1200) and got my online presence refreshed and updated. Thus I present to you the online residential complex of Adrian Sandu:

  • The main site (www.adriansandu.com) now hosts my profile and portfolio. Hand-coded over a Bootstrap 3 base, for maximum control.
  • The blog got moved to its own subdomain (blog.adriansandu.com). Powered by WordPress and using the latest default theme. Because it works well enough, it looks good enough and I don’t have time to make a custom theme matching the main website. As people say in my country, “the boot maker always has holes in his boots.”
  • The latest addition is the Lab (lab.adriansandu.com) where I’m keeping older projects and my experiments. Here there be dragons. And zombies. And a lot of other stuff. You have been warned.

Another new year goal is to improve my photography skills. I keep my best shots at 500px.com/AdrianSandu and I’m still considering whether to upgrade to their better plans or not. Other pictures might end on Google Pictures or Facebook. I’ve kind of given up on Instagram as I don’t use a smartphone anymore and my tablet only has internet connection over wifi.

Over the next weeks I plan to update these three websites some more as I dust up old work, concoct new experiments and begin new projects. See you next time!

LinkedIn InMaps scheduled to close

A while ago I had discovered a very interesting application from LinkedIn Labs – the InMaps. This application will connect to your LinkedIn account and put all your connections in visual format. Here’s what my network looked like at that time:

linkedin-map

 

Today I got a notification that InMaps is being discontinued on September 1, 2014 – that is in less than a month. This prompted me to have a last look at my current network, while I still can. And this is the result: inmaps-last

 

Plenty of change, as it can be expected from almost two years and moving from Spain to Ireland. Entire new country, new jobs, a lot of new people – and a lot of recruiting agents in the mix. It was interesting to see the evolution. And it will be just as interesting to see what LinkedIn will bring forward to replace InMaps.

Hello Ireland

Ireland_Largest gathering of leprechauns 12.ss_full

After a month of unrest and two days of complete and utter mayhem we finally arrived to Dublin, Ireland. It was also the first time our cats were separated from us to travel alone – a pretty stressful even for all involved.  It got me thinking about the old saying – “Home is where the heart is”. In our case it would transform into “home is where our cats are” – be it a hostel, a rented apartment or a hotel room.

Dublin did not give us a warm welcome – the harsh wind made it quite chilly. We’ll have to get accustomed with the Irish weather after two years of mild Catalan climate. We had rainy days, clear days and mixed ones – we even got to see a genuine Irish rainbow. And our first leprechaun was taller than me and was collecting money for charity in front of Trinity College.

What next? I’ll be chasing a job full time now and use the spare time to get back to my projects: Trident Design got neglected for more than a month and this very website looks too plain. I am even considering dropping WordPress and moving to a file CMS. The most popular one at this moment seems to be Jekyll – I just need to study it a bit more before committing to the change.

Hasta la vista, España, adéu Catalunya

Terminator

All things, good or bad, must come to the end. And so is my Spanish and Catalan adventure. There have been a bit more than two years since I first arrived here, without knowing more Spanish words than Arnold’s famous quote and some similar expressions. Yet, when I drew the line and made the balance of these two years, I found myself wanting. Let’s have a look at what I gained and what I failed to achieve in these two years.

On the pro side I must start with the fact that in terms of professional avancement I moved further and faster than ever before (and I need to thank my Emagister work buddies for that). I found out how it is to be away from all that is known and familiar to you. I got myself to a serviceable level of Spanish (and knowing another language is always a good thing in my book). My wife and I found a pair of great friends here (coincidence or not, both Romanians too). I got to know in what environment I don’t like working in (my first job here) and how you can integrate into a great team in just a couple of weeks (tip of hat to Emagister, again). I got to know the inside of a different culture, even if I did not integrate into it. I found out that there is a lot of common vocabulary between Catalan and Romanian and that I need to make my brain stop translating everything through English first.

On the con side, the most difficult thing to adapt to was local cuisine and food. I am picky about the fish I eat. Same about seafood. Add my terrible talent of biting hard on any foreign object in the food (bone splinters, sand, shell pieces) and you’ll understand why I never touched a paella here after my first try. I get sick only by smelling goat cheese and they use it a lot here. The times we went out for tapas (local finger food) can be counted on one hand. Yet we’ve been many more times to Asian all-you-can-eat buffets.

And last, but not least (it can even climb to the first place) is the economic factor. My wife couldn’t find a job in all this time (and not for lack of trying), so it all fell down on my shoulders. And at the end of each month we were (more or less) breaking even. Yet any unexpected event (and there have been enough of those too) threw us more out of balance. When we add the failing economy, the massive unemployment and the cost reductions everyone is applying, it gets clear that we need to look for greener pastures.

An English speaking country is practically the only way we can try and make it work. As UK maintains the work restrictions for Romanians and Bulgarians, the only valid alternative is Ireland. So here we are, preparing to close all loose ties that remain here and getting ready for relocation. There are so many things to do, so many bureaucratic loops to jump through and so little time to do it. Yet we still look forward to the new opportunities, to the change in scenery and to a new chance to get things done the right way.

Hasta la vista, España, adéu Catalunya! We promise to return to visit some day.

Happy Birthday Romania!

 

This is Google Doodle displayed today on the Romanian portal for Google, in celebration of the Romanian National Day. The author is a young 8th grade lady – Iasmina Maria Răceanu – from Suceava, winner of the first edition of the Romanian “Google 4 Doodle” contest. She received a prize of 15.000 RON (about 3350 EURO), while her school got a technology grant of 20.000 (about 4500 EURO).

 

Iasmina imagined Romania as “a green country, with mountains and valleys, hills and plains, colored by beautiful traditions worth preserving, uplifted by artists and sportsmen that raised her name to the heavens. My Romania is worth being loved.”

I join then all the other Romanians, from back home or spread all over the world, in saying today: “La multi ani, Romania!” (Happy Birthday, Romania)

Amateur photographer

 

Over this weekend I got hooked to yet another Social Media activity. I became a member of 500px – a community of photographers all around the world. I have been planning for some time to cleanup some of my best photos and have them online. Now, I got the ball rolling. Just like with this blog, not everything is perfect from the beginning. I still need to spend some more time adding details to the pictures (titles, description, tags), but I am glad I did the first step.

About my gear: I am still at the compact camera level and most probably it will remain the same for the near future. I have a Canon PowerShot SX200IS, the red model and I am very satisfied with it. Unfortunately I managed to get it splashed last summer at Port Aventura and it left a small amount of residue on the inside of the lens, causing a slight distortion in some cases. If you are interested in a review, you can find a very nice one on CameraLabs.com.

 

Of course, like any self respecting geek today, I also have an Instagram profile. I had it linked in the footer of this blog for a while now and it usually has pictures (more or less serious) that I take during the commuting to work and back, when I take a break or just simply when I am taking a walk with my wife. I don’t always carry the camera with me on these occasions and there is something very satisfying about taking a quick picture and being able to post it online, with links on Twitter or Facebook. This must have been the same feeling the Polaroid owners had with their instant cameras. For the moment I am using my Nexus One phone, which does not have a very good camera, but as I was told over and over again, the composition is more important than the gear, so I’m ignoring the noise in the pictures for now and try to make the shots as interesting as possible instead.

To wrap things up, you can check my photos both on my Instagram profile and on my 500px profile. If you find them interesting,  don’t hesitate to leave a comment. I might release the most popular ones as wallpaper sets, so stay tuned.

Drive testing the new Seat Toledo

 

Today I can check off another item on the “List of things to do in my life™”. I have test drived a new launched car – the new Seat Toledo. I’m not gonna bother quoting excerpts from official reviews – you can find a very comprehensive one in the Parker review for the UK market. I think it was not launched there yet, as the pictures in that review are all of the normal left-hand drive at this moment.

I have booked my test drive a couple of weeks ago, when I receive a promotional email in my inbox (I have participated to a raffle related to the new launch). It’s obvious I did not win the raffle, or the post name would have been totally different. Anyway, I was invited to test drive the new car when the promotional caravan reached the city I currently live in – Sabadell (30 km away from Barcelona), at 9:00 AM.

I was at the local concessionary bright and early, 20 minutes before the announced time and found only peace and quiet. As the moments passed by, without any sign of movement inside the showroom, I thought that perhaps there is another location for the event and I was not aware of it. Or that the normal schedule was from 10:00 AM (as written on the door) and nobody bothered to synchronize the scheduling application with the concessionary time table. I moved round the corner to the entrance to the service area and at 9:02 I was greeted by the view of the caravan: 6-7 cars, with the model name inscribed in broad letters on the side. There was a black one, a dark red one, while the rest were a few shades of grey (not 50 though …).

It took a while for everything to be set up. One car was parked outside, with banners around, a couple were pulled inside a secondary showroom. Meanwhile, somebody who appeared to be the “caravan master” offered me a coffee and some sweets while I was waiting for the test drive to start. I only took one picture of the entire setup (the one below) and it would have looked a lot better if they would have used the dark red car instead of one of the grey ones.

 

 

 

We got all the papers done quickly and started for the chosen car, a grey 1.6 diesel, with 105 bhp, in the top configuration (Style), with a nice cream interior finish and manual gearbox with 5 steps. I was given first a quick tour of the car – the boot/trunk, the folding back seats. I was also invited to sit on the back seat, behind the driver, with the front seat pushed all the way back, to understand that there is enough place for another person there at all times. Then I jumped into the driver’s seat and got through the preparations. I took no more pictures, but I’m adding one from the catalogue:

 

This image shows the extra option of integrated navigation, which gives a larger central screen, with touch controls.

 

Because the SEAT official coming with me was in the area for the first time, I was given the freedom of choosing the route and I decided to go two roundabouts away from my office, thus reenacting my normal daily run to work and back home. Of course I appreciated the lack of normal morning traffic jam, that allowed me to push effortlessly to the speed limit of 120 km/h.

Overall the experience was great. The Toledo is a great car and the engine had more than enough power for my normal driving style. I can’t say I disliked something in particular – the ride was relatively short (about 25 km), I did not have to do any special maneuvers (like parking) and the traffic was light enough for a pleasant journey. I am not a great fan of the exterior grey color and the cream interior, although very pleasant visually, stains easily and might require a lot of attention in the long run to remain clean.

I also loved the little details: like the audio controls on the steering wheel, the USB and AUX entries for the audio system, the quality of the sound system, the lack of road noise (both from traffic and from the engine, although I did not rev it too much), the small indicator on the dashboard prompting you to choose the best gear for optimal fuel consumption. I did not appreciate the lightness of the controls (pedals, steering wheel and gear change) until later, when I returned to my 13 years old car.

I can’t say I would buy one, even if I had the money – being the first new car I drove would would require some more tests with its rivals. If I would have one for a week to put through its paces it would be enough to make an opinion  But I did enjoy driving it and I would love to be given the occasion again.

Credits: The instagram picture is mine. The rest of the images are from Seat.es and Parkers.co.uk