This blog is going to have surfing, snowboarding, tech stuff and maybe some 'meaning of life' stuff if I'm feeling particularly stoked.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Goodbye '04

Surfed out 2004 in style this morning at East Strand.

4ft & clean, there weren't too many out at around 9.30 and I caught some lovely rides.

Happy New Year.


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Moving Madness

Due to the combined facts that (a) we have no storage space in our house and (b) my wife allows no clutter whatsoever, I assumed that packing up for the move would be easy.

It's not.

Anyway, we're moving to Seattle on Jan 10 and at the moment I'm doing one day surfing and one day packing so today was my packing day and tomorrow I'm surfing again. I just hope the conditions hold up.


Wednesday, December 29, 2004

East Strand Perfection

Surfed East Strand today.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

I felt a bit zonked from G&Ms party last night which wasn't ideal given the great waves but at least I was there.


Monday, December 27, 2004

Sombre Surfing

We had a great surf today, even though the swell was pretty small, 2-3ft or so, nice for longboarding and definitely surfable.

I surfed with Marty and his cousin Karen today. Karen's a star striker with a ladies football team in London and pretty game, to face December conditions on the North coast.

Pat and Brendan (Sean Burns brother) paddled out after about half an hour and for a while there was more talking than surfing but there were long periods between decent sets so that wasn't such a bad thing.

It was great to get back in the water after the excesses of Christmas but I found it difficult not to think of the thousands who had lost their lives in Asia, lives taken by the very force we were harnessing for fun.

Anyone who has surfed in big waves (i.e. any waves they feel are big, that can be 5ft to 15ft) will appreciate the power of the ocean and know all too well that death (or one of its close neighbors) can feel very close when faced with that kind of power.

It's a humbling time to be a surfer.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

Destructive Power of the Ocean

The awesome power of nature was horrifically displayed in South East Asia with an 8.9 earthquake in the Indian Ocean, sending tsunami tidal waves out towards India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Words can't really describe a disaster of this scale.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas

My wife Gina & I are going to have our first baby next year. What a Christmas present!

Good will to all men.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Does a "Smart Guy" culture stifle innovation?

In the interest of brevity this post makes no reference to the great software Microsoft consistently produces. That's a given with "smart guys", this is about the x factor that makes a company cool.

Robert Scoble recently came in for a lot of stick for the post in which he implored Microsoft (his employer) to drop everything and produce a worthy competitor to the iPod. While Scobles supporters and detractors battled it out in the "blogosphere" the post made me think firstly that this was a very public "let's blow them out of the water"-type rant and secondly that Microsoft, for all their smart guys, never really seem to innovate, yet they appear to have so much potential to do so.

A company with the brainpower, cash and ubiquity of Microsoft should be leading the way and not following (albeit following, overtaking & extinguishing).

Does the "smart guy" culture lead to a company of followers?

I can't pretend to be an authority on MS culture but from books, blogs and indeed visits to Redmond I feel I certainly have a taste for the public perception of that culture.

Bill Gates has been famously quoted as shouting "That's the stupidest thing I have ever heard" upon hearing a point he didn't agree on. This attitude is bound to create a reluctance to throw out new ideas before they are fully formed. Creative types would say these can often be the best ideas.

The book "How would you move Mount Fuji" talks about interviewers who are terrified of being responsible for a "bad hire". This is entirely understandable when you consider that the hiring of a "not so smart guy" would immediately affect your own "smart guy" rating. Why risk that for the chance to hire someone different, they wouldn't fit in here right?

If you need to see some tangible evidence of a follower culture just check out the Microsoft blogs. Obviously the inherent nature of blogging means that trends are spotted early and strenghened quickly, however the eagerness of Microsofties to rush out and buy the latest set-top-box, smart phone or video game, simply because "everyone else has one" is often astounding. I often imagine a deafening bleating sound reverderating round the Redmond campus.

Lastly in the way of evidence, a couple of real-life experiences I have had up in the mother ship. I suppose one of the most surprising things I found the first time I met with a Microsoft development group was the talk of money around the table. While I wanted to talk tech, and I'm not suggesting for one minute that those guys couldn't talk me right out of tech land, the softies always seemed to always drop in a "that wouldn't make money" or "that sounds like a money spinner". Certainly you want every person in the company to be concerned about the bottom line but everyone knows that this is not a ideal bed-fellow for innovation. My second visit was a "tell us what you're doing" call up so that one pretty much speaks for itself in the context of this discussion.

To sum up, this is in no way an anti-Microsoft argument but rather a call to Redmond to start hiring a few people "Bill wouldn't approve of"!


Monday, December 20, 2004

It's legal, but it ain't moral.

Just found a great C++ FAQ site which answered the one interview question I couldn't. And the best thing is that the technique described is not recommended so I don't mind not being aware of it:

You know you can override member functions in C++ without them being declared virtual; and you know when and why you should declare them virtual.

"Experienced C++ programmers will sometimes redefine a non-virtual function for efficiency (e.g., if the derived class implementation can make better use of the derived class's resources)"


Interview Questions

Greg Reinacker (founder of NewsGator) recently posted this list of requirements for developers he wants to hire.

Since I could be interviewing in the US sometime soon I tried to see how many boxes I could tick!

You know the difference between _beginthreadex and CreateThread:
I would have been able to explain this succintly a few years ago (when I developed Win32 desktop applications) but I probably would have had to go into waffle mode. _beginthreadex is the C runtime method to create a thread. You should use this call if you want the new thread to call into the CRT (talk of CreateThread leaking memory in this case) so most guidelines recommend using this instead of the Win32 API call CreateThread. If you're using MFC of course you should always use AFXBeginThread().

You know all of the ways to share memory between Win32 processes:
Memory Mapped Files

You know what an AppDomain is, and you can think of a reason you might want to create one yourself:
I hope I know what an AppDomain is since I have been building DotNet applications for the last two years! Jeffrey Richters Applied Microsoft .Net Framework Programming is just a great book on the nuts & bolts of the framework. For my applications IIS usually hosts the CLR and the AppDomains that come with that (e.g. one per site) but you may want to host your own instance of the CLR and some AppDomains if you were planning to run some managed code on an application server (i.e. CLR hosted in an NT service).

You know what a HttpModule is, and you can think of at least two examples of why you might use one:
Again, building ASP.NET application for the last 2 years has meant getting to know pipeline modules pretty well. Plenty of good articles out there on when these would be useful but of course you need to understand ASP.NET Request processing and the HTTP pipeline first. Most people use these without even realising (e.g. Forms Authentication).

You know what Mutexes and Semaphores are used for:
To be honest I haven't used low level synchronisation techniques nearly as much as we talked about them at university! Today .NET provides high level constructs with the Lock statement and ReaderWriterLock class but I suppose it all comes back to the initial Critical Section Problem outlined by Dijkstra in the sixties. Just type "Critical Section" & Dijkstra into Google and you'll find plenty of academic content on this. Watch out for Dining Philosophers!

You know you can override member functions in C++ without them being declared virtual; and you know when and why you should declare them virtual:
Hands up, don't know what he's getting at here, really need to refresh my C++. I'll find out and post the answer.

You can explain the difference between:
A::A() {m_x = 5;}
A::A() : m_x(5) { }
Second constructor is using an initializer list to achieve the same thing as first, so no difference?

When someone asks you to write code on a whiteboard to reverse a string in place, you're disappointed that they didn't ask a more interesting question:
That's just nerdy, as far as I'm concerned there's no such thing as too easy a question in any interview.

You know that IL isn't interpreted:
Again, I'm deferring to Jeffrey Richters great book for a superb section on IL & JIT compilation. pp 11-21

You can explain transaction isolation levels as they relate to SQL Server:
The isolation level at which your transaction runs determines your applications sensitivity to changes made by others. The four isolation levels are Read Uncommitted (Dirty Read - most concurrent, least consistent), Read-Committed (this is the default), Repeatable Read and Serializable (least concurrent, most consistent). Book Recommendation Inside SQL Server 2000

You know what the Running Object Table is, and can think of situations when you might want to use it:
This was a COM technique of InterProcess Communication (kind of) where you could register your application in the ROT and then clients could get at that instance (e.g. automation clients, like VBScript using GetObject). I don't think I've ever registered anything in the ROT but I have accessed Word application objects from it to get at a running instance of Word and maybe pull data from there?

Just one passed, are there any wrong?


Beautiful Day

Too busy to blog yesterday but not too busy to surf! Surfed West Strand at around 10am with only about half a dozen surfers in the water.

Bright sunshine, clear blue sky, probably just above freezing temperatures, almost no wind and big clean waves. Beautiful.

There were some big sets and even though I wasn't right down at Black Rocks the waves seemed to be sucking the beach almost dry and I got bashed against the sand bar a couple of times.

Not many North Coast surfs left before the big move (will post more later on this). Have to go and complete a tech post.


Friday, December 17, 2004

The Cribber

The legendary wave in Cornwall has been making the news this week.

Chris Bertish from South Africa was the only surfer to ride the wave although his session was interrupted by someone who wasn't quite ready for double-decker faces.

North Coast looks set to have some big waves of its own this weekend. Today was 6-8ft plus and Troggs were not renting equipment. If the gale force onshore turns around and softens it could be nice.

See you there,


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Managed Memory Leaks

Rico Mariani has posted a useful step-by-step guide to tracking down managed memory leaks.

I don't really like posting an entry that is essentially just a link (see Rory Blyths interesting solution for this) but sometimes just getting a post up is the main thing.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

King Monkey

Just back from Ian Brown at the Ulster Hall. Brought me right back to student days at the height of the Madchester scene. He played loads of Roses classics and we danced the night away. My wife said there were people who got as much fun out of my dancing as they did from the music but I couldn't have cared less.

Highlight of the set for me had to be "I Wanna Be Adored".

I also passed my Bronze Medallion assessment and am now a qualified life saver!

The King is dead, long live the King.


Bronze Medallion

I'm doing the Assessment for Bronze Medallion Life Saving Award this evening.

Myself and another guy are being assessed 4 weeks ahead of schedule (I'll be in Seattle when the scheduled exam is held) and we're also doing Life Support 3, rather than Life Support 1 which we originally trained for, so it's been a very rushed preparation.

After 10 weeks of 8.30 Saturday morning starts it's good to be near the finish so I just hope we get a result.

I've been training 3 days a week for the last fortnight and studying first aid in my spare time so it will also be good to free up some time to prepare for the move.

Off to rescue a baby from a horrific case of drowning, bleeding & shock with some choking thrown in for good measure.


Saturday, December 11, 2004

Camper Van To The Coast

I was back in my van today, except this time I was a passenger, not the driver.
Marty (who I sold the camper to) took the van up the coast and we had a late, but great, session at Whiterocks (btw you need to be registered to see this pic).

It was beautiful glassy sea surface conditions, 2-3ft waves and a nice enough wait between sets so that you could have a chat.

When I got out the back I realised I knew everyone out there, if not by name then at least to say hello to and that always makes for a really mellow surf.

Pat was out there, who Marty & I know from years ago and we hadn't seen him since Seans wedding in October. I learnt to surf on Pats T&C board which he still rides today.

Anyway, Marty rode a great wave, he was super-stoked and I stayed in until it was so dark I was basically surfing blind, which just capped of a great little session.

The van seemed to have a good day too!


Friday, December 10, 2004

Out but not Down

All Irish competitors now eliminated from World Juniors in Tahiti.

Easky Britton & Fergal Smith both came last in their Repercharge Heat 1.

Oh well, it's still 3ft & offshore on the North Coast, hopefully it will stay this way for the weekend.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Surf's Back

Thursday 9 Dec 2004 8:40am

It's 3ft and offshore at West Strand right now.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

World Juniors

Congratulations to Easky Britton & Fergal Smith who are still in the Championships in Tahiti.

Disappointed for Cain Kilcullen since I saw him surf brilliantly to win the Co.Sligo Open earlier in the year.

I suppose it shows that it's still a big struggle for young Irish surfers but it's great to see them competing on the world stage.

Swell has dropped on North Coast today.


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Ship Party

Team Celebration today, organised by yours truly.

With the surf report giving 4ft with light offshore winds I really wish I'd organised a trip to Portrush.

Not sure everyone else would have been too keen on getting changed in West Strand car park mid-December, or on me sneaking off to enjoy the waves!

No "i" in team they say, but there is a "me".


Monday, December 06, 2004

The City Ain't No Place for a Surfer

At this rate the current swell will probably go down as the best of the year and today I was stuck in Belfast with no transport to the coast!

I don't think I can spend many more years living this far from the ocean, life's just too short to let waves like this go by.

Good luck to the Irish team at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships in Tahiti.


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Size Matters

Haven't really been able to take advantage of this recent swell through being fairly busy in work, even weekends are hectic with my life-saving exam coming up next week and the start of the Christmas party season.

Made it up to Portrush yesterday afternoon, there were a lot of surfers in at East Strand but the size was dropping with the falling tide and it seemed that Whiterocks still had decent size and it was also super-clean.

Not too many surfers out at Whiterocks but the huge numbers of kayakers had probably put people off. By the time I got there the paddlers had moved down the beach and the main breaks were clear.

The big right at the East end of the beach looked to be holding sets of 7-8 ft and just looked too gnarly for me, or anyone else but the smaller breaks were very fast and hollow and probably measured 4-5 ft on the regular sets.

The combination of the size, steep faces and a very heavy wave made for some hairy drops and very fast rides where it was difficult to control the board. I could have opted for an easier time at East Strand but I thought I should tackle the bigger stuff, even if it meant more wipeouts.

Steadily more surfers arrived, mostly short-boarders. The body-boarders were out in force, the North Coast has a fairly big crew of very talented spongers but sometimes I think they have a worse attitude than the short-boarders. I had to pull off a wave to avoid taking the head off one yesterday and all I got for my trouble was a mouthful of abuse. I heard another bodyboarder call a young surfer off a wave with a very aggressive "Don't you even f&$kin' think about it!" while he was mid-take-off.

I suppose it's something to do with the increased danger levels out there when it gets big but there always seems to be an increase in tensions.


First Lapse

I haven't posted for a couple of days, not through lack of material but simply because I haven't had a chance to get online and post.

I had hoped to post at the very least a brief surf report every day even when I was busy so I will be trying to get back into that habit. Blogging must really be going mainstream, I read an article in the Observer Magazine today about a high-profile NYC blogger.

There has been a good swell on the North Coast all week and it looks like it will continue into next week. Surfed yesterday at Whiterocks, report to follow.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

New Blogger

This blogging is definitely contagious.

My boss now has a blog. He's got a strong database background and lately has taken to whispering conspiratorily about code generation. We think that was something he picked up down under and we're hoping it will wear off with the jet-lag.

If Marty's admirable straight-talking is reflected in his blog we should be in for a treat.