Andrew's Blog

Random Thoughts of an ASP.Net Code Monkey

An Invite to the Palace!

July 2, 2014 01:15 by Andrew Westgarth

Being introduced to The Queen

Last month I was extremely surprised and honoured to receive an invite to a UK Technology Reception with The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace on Monday 9th June 2014.  The reception was hosted by The Duke of York and I was among 350 guests from all over the UK Technology industry invited to this fantastic occasion.  I received my invite for the work I’ve done in the community with user groups such as NEBytes and events such as DDD North and Imagine Cup North East, which is very humbling as I love the work I do in the community and think of it more as a hobby than actual work, many thanks to everyone in the community who has supported the events, students and our fantastic user group here in the North East!

My Invite to the UK Technology Reception at Buckingham Palace

I joined other representatives from the North East Technology Community, David Dunn – CEO of Sunderland Software City, Kevin Beales – CEO of Sunderland based Test Factory, Mike Fish – Managing Director of Dontyne Systems, Ajay Sood – Managing Director of Orchid Software and Workcast Director Gerrard Callaghan, among many others.  We were all privileged to be introduced to both The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh and we discussed the UK Technology Industry with our peers throughout a very pleasant evening.  An experience I am very proud of and very grateful for the opportunity, certainly one to remember and what a great picture to put in the family album!

DDD North 2014 Announced

June 25, 2014 02:00 by Andrew Westgarth

This morning I am delighted to announce that DDD North 2014 will be held at the University of Leeds on Saturday 18th October 2014.  DDD North is a free one day technical event for developers. This is the fourth Developer! Developer! Developer! Community Event ever ran in the North of England and we are delighted to be hosted at the University of Leeds following on from our three previous events with registrations rising over 425 last year! DDD North is a day of learning, discussion, contribution and involvement in the community in the North East, North West, Midlands and Scotland. The goal of DDD North is to provide free technical education with the added benefit of the networking possibilities with peers and the development of relationships across the .NET Industry!

DDD North 2014 is now open for session submissions so get them in now!! – http://www.dddnorth.co.uk/sessions

The timeline for the event is as follows:

  • Session submissions open now till 00:00 on Friday 22nd August 2014
  • Session voting begins at 00:01 on Friday 22nd August 2014 and closes at 00:00 on Friday 29th August 2014
  • Agenda will be published (subject to speaker confirmation) at 08:00 on Monday 1st September 2014
  • Registration will open at 10:00 on Monday 1st September 2014

For more information and to stay up to date check out www.dddnorth.co.uk and follow the event on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/dddnorth

Telemetry on Cloud Platforms–Resources

May 28, 2014 03:26 by Andrew Westgarth

Last night I had the pleasure of presenting at Dot Net Notts (@dotnetnotts), a relatively new User Group in Nottingham.  Having been born in Nottingham, it was a really nice experience to go back visit some family and then present at this vibrant and welcoming new user group.

Last night I was talking about Telemetry and Logging experiences on a Cloud Platform (namely Microsoft Azure) and was trying to impart the benefit of some experiences running a large multi product platform.  Hopefully the talk was well received and everyone enjoyed it.  The talk was a different type to the majority I’ve given before and I’ve been wanting to deliver it for a while.  The content of the talk discussed mistakes that are easy to make, processes that can help, and some tips along the way for mitigating mistakes and providing a supportable approach to telemetry.  Here are some of the tips, conclusions and resources from the talk last night:

Logging Tips:

  • Instrument for insight into application
  • Capture inter-service application activity and latency
  • Ensure level can be altered at run-time
  • Abstract logging – gives agility to change framework
  • ALWAYS ENABLE LOGGING

Logging Level guides from a talk by Scott Guthrie at NDC 2013

Level Context

ERROR

Always on in Production. Any errors will trigger ACTION to resolve (automated or human)

  • Configuration issues
  • Application failures

WARNING

Always on in Production. Warnings will INFORM, and may signal potential ACTION

  • Timeouts or throttling in external service

INFO

Always on in Production. Info messages INFORM during diagnostics and troubleshooting

DEBUG (VERBOSE)

On during active debugging and troubleshooting on a case by case basis

NDC 2013 – Scott Guthrie: Building Real World Cloud Apps With Windows Azure PT2

Conclusions

  • Involve key stakeholders early in the design phase from a product and platform perspective
  • May have to tell them what they need
  • Consider telemetry needs at early stage of development
  • Consider SLA want to provide and how to prove it
  • Choose frameworks and services carefully
  • Iterate repeatedly – requirements evolve during lifetime of a product/platform
  • Telemetry is important – just as important as new product features

Resources

Bringing A Code Club to 9-11 Year Olds

January 19, 2014 10:06 by Andrew Westgarth

This is a cross post from my blog on STEMNet. - http://networking.stemnet.org.uk/blog/bringing-code-club-9-11-year-olds

For a while now I’ve been a STEMNet Ambassador working with local schools on Technology related activities and have been working on getting involved in Code Clubs for quite some time.  This week I started my first Code Club with a local school.

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I am a strong believer in giving children the opportunity to discover the fun in Computer Science and Computer Programming.  I believe the current National Curriculum can be boring, mundane and uninspiring so much so that we are losing many, many potentially great programmers, developers and technologists at a very early age.  I have worked with a variety of age groups and unfortunately the size of groups get smaller as they get older because they don’t see the fun in the subject, often spending year after year working on nothing more stretching than Microsoft Office (PowerPoint, Excel and Word), admittedly not all schools are this limited but in my experience this has been more a case of the exception rather than the norm.

However, in a rare and unrepeated occurrence, Michael Gove actually said something I agreed with, in that Computer Science is to become an important part in the National Curriculum from September 2014 with children getting the opportunity to explore and experience Computer Science, looking at design, coding and algorithmic skills.  This really struck a chord with me and is something I’ve been keen to get involved with for quite some time.  In order for the UK to encourage students to look further into all scientific subjects, we need to capture the imaginations of students at an early age, i.e. before they leave Primary School (age 11), and then continue to stretch their imaginations and interests throughout Secondary education and onwards hopefully to Further Education or positions in the industry.

Schools are currently not fully equipped with the knowledge, skills and resources to teach coding skills and this presents a great opportunity for our industry to build strong links with the education system, providing valuable support and resources to help bridge the gap.  One such way that I have started to do this, amongst others, is to run a Code Club at a local school.  Code Club is a UK wide network of after school coding clubs for children aged 9-11 run by volunteers.

This past week I held my first Code Club session and what a fantastic and rewarding session it was!  Using the wonderful resources and tutorials prepared by Code Club, I was able to introduce the group of approximately 11 to Scratch, a programming language used to teach children how to build animations, games amongst others.  I started with a quick overview and demonstration of the Scratch IDE and then set the group off with a tutorial with which they were able to build a Cat and Mouse game using sprites and logic they put together using Scratch.  Within minutes of working with the tutorial they were all looking at ways in which they could stretch the possibilities and inject their own customisations into the program.  The hour long club past very quickly and when I had to tell the pupils that it was time to go home and their parents were waiting for them, there was a chorus of disappointed “Awwwws” as they wanted to carry on working.  The pupils seemed to really enjoy it and many took the tutorial notes home so they could continue working through the week until the next Code Club!

If you’re reading this post, work in the IT Industry and have an hour to spare a week why not consider getting involved in helping children to learn to code? Check out the various initiatives in your area and nation, including Code Club, Hour of Code; and look to see if there are any schools or community groups in your area who are looking for a volunteer.  Personally I think it’s the least we can do.  We complain that there aren’t enough good new people for us to hire in our industry, let’s take aim at the long term goal and look to help the next generation of coders grasp the opportunities that our wonderful industry provides!

DDD North 2013 Announced and Session Submission Open

July 1, 2013 13:00 by Andrew Westgarth

On Saturday I attended the inaugural DDD East Anglia and took the ideal opportunity to announce the details for this year’s DDD North!  The event has been in the planning stages for a while and work continues apace.  I’m delighted to announce that we will be returning to the University of Sunderland on Saturday 12th October 2013 for DDD North.  The University of Sunderland’s Sir Tom Cowie’s Campus at St.Peters’ is a fantastic venue and was a fantastic place to study when I was studying for my degree many years ago.  We are working hard with the University of Sunderland, Sunderland Software City and Sunderland City Council to make sure this is the best DDD North yet! 

dddMedDDD North has launched a new site at http://www.dddnorth.co.uk and improvements and functionality is being added hourly at present as we ramp up our efforts.  The DDD North Call for Speakers is now open and will remain open till early-mid August before voting will commence so get your session submissions in now!  We’d love to see some new speakers submitting sessions as the original premise of DDD Events was to encourage and introduce new speakers.

DDD North is a free event and would not be so if it were not for the support of our fantastic sponsors.  If you know of any business or groups who would like to sponsor DDD North, we have a range of packages available and are open to discussions about suggestions, please get in touch using the contact form.

In the meantime keep an eye on www.dddnorth.co.uk for more news and sessions being added daily.  I look forward to seeing you at DDD North 2013 at the University of Sunderland!

NxtGenUG Manchester Slides

April 23, 2012 14:59 by Andrew Westgarth

Thanks to all the attendees who came to my talk on IIS8 last week at NxtGenUG Manchester Daresbury.  Apologies for the delay in posting the slides, you can now get them on my Slides & Resources page and the direct link for the IIS 8 Presentation slides is - http://www.andrewwestgarth.co.uk/Presentations/IIS%208%20–%20Platform%20for%20the%20Future.pdf

Want to Hear About IIS8?

April 1, 2012 13:59 by Andrew Westgarth

With the recent release of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and the Windows Server 8 Beta I’ve been looking at the new features in IIS8 such as:

  • Web Socket Support
  • Application Initialization
  • Configuration Optimization
  • SNI Support
  • and many more…

If you would like to know more and are in the Manchester area why not come along to NxtGenUG Manchester on Wednesday 18th April 2012 where I’ll be giving my first in a number of sessions on IIS8.  For more information or to signup please visit the NxtGenUG Website

iis-8

You Can Change the World Through Technology

February 1, 2012 05:33 by Andrew Westgarth

Are you a student in the North East and interested in technology or do you know of any North East based students who are interested in technology?  Would you like the opportunity to change the world and potentially win a free trip to Sydney, Australia?

If you've read this far then you must be interested, so what is this all about?  The Microsoft Imagine Cup, that's what!  The Microsoft Imagine Cup is the world's top student technology competition.  Ever year Microsoft gives students a fantastic opportunity to envisage, create and deliver a technology solution that addresses the Imagine Cup slogan - "Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems!"   The Microsoft Imagine Cup theme this year is inspired by the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Sunderland Software City and Codeworks have teamed up this year to run a regional heat of the Microsoft Imagine Cup to highlight the fantastic talent that exists in our great region!

Imagine Cup North East - Are you up for a challenge? from Codeworks Ltd on Vimeo.

The Imagine Cup North East is an exciting opportunity for students to work together in teams to solve some of the worlds toughest problems, learn new skills, make new friends, win prizes (did I mention the grand final is in Sydney, Australia?) and test themselves against the other UK and Worldwide teams.

So how do you get involved?  Why not come along to one of the taster events to find out more on Thursday February 2nd in Newcastle (17:30-20:00) and on Friday February 3rd in Teeside (17:30-20:00).  At these events you'll see presentations from Microsoft about the competition, kits available and outcomes required and then on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th February you'll be whisked off to a secret location for a 36 hour non-stop hackathon to work on your team projects

To find out more check out the Imagine Cup North East website - http://www.imaginecupnortheast.co.uk and follow the Imagine Cup North East on Twitter - http://twitter.com/imaginecupne

If you're not a student but would still like to get involved the competition is also looking for Mentors and Sponsors, so get in touch with the Imagine Cup North East, let's get behind the fantastic talent in our region and show the rest of country and hopefully the world how good they are!!

Finally I'll leave you in the capable hands of Captain Rob Miles to give you some more information on the Microsoft Imagine Cup

Computer Science Curriculum is Changing and You Can Help!

January 26, 2012 05:51 by Andrew Westgarth

We as professionals in the Computer Science industry have a responsibility to aid and assist our individual education systems in educating and encourage the next generations of Computing Professionals, be they Developers, IT Professionals, Testers etc.

Change is Coming!

Michael Gove announced recently that the current Information and Communications Technology (ICT) curriculum in England is to be replaced in September 2012. This was all announced at the BETT show and the current curriculum was described as demotivating and dull.

I have long been concerned about the quality and delivery of the ICT curriculum in schools with the curriculum being insipid and not enough time devoted to it (indeed I am little concerned about how this new change will be implemented as I have heard stories of Teachers who believe that any ICT curriculum doesn't need to be taught anymore!).

I indeed remember countless years spending many hours in Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Access. Indeed my first exposure to Access came with the instruction from my ICT Teacher "learn how to use it and then teach me!" Fortunately for me despite spending year after year doing the same thing I was also learning how to code and make more productive use of my own Commodore 64 at home with the support of my parents.

However had I not had that support and encouragement it's likely I would have become disillusioned with IT and moved away from it, I did consider a career as a solicitor for a while, but the draw of the World Wide Web and the endless possibilities captured my imagination.

It is the imagination of the young fertile minds in our school system which we as an industry have been losing for many years with an insipid and dull curriculum which demotivates and makes Computer Science seem boring and unchallenging. Indeed if I started at an early age and spent the next 5-10 years only being exposed to Office programmes I too would quickly decide that IT/Computing was boring and unattractive. Indeed my own brother went through a process of completing an NVQ in IT at GCSE level but when presented with options at A Level his school decided to only deliver an advanced version of the SAME course rather than the Computing qualification which included programming, scripting and networking. Hence someone who is very competent and enjoyed working with computers quickly determined that he would never move towards a career in IT ever! A great loss to our community! This is just one personal example how many more are there. Indeed when I finished my BA (Hons) Business Computing degree many of my peers were of the opinion that computing was the last field they wanted to work in. This I'm afraid is a sad indictment of the state of Computer Science curriculum throughout our education system.

Call To Action!

This recent acknowledgment by the government that our Computer Science curriculum is not good enough and does not match the needs of industry has taken far too long in my honest opinion, but looking at the positive aspect there is now an agenda for change and a visible campaign to increase the quality and breadth of Computer Science teaching. However now is the time for us as an industry to influence and assist our Teachers. In the same way that we spend time educating ourselves and each other on the latest advancements, methods, languages and Computer Science technology we now need to find ways in which to take this enthusiasm and skill into the classroom and lecture theatres.

Get Involved!

Professionally we have user groups and societies in order to foster learning and to advance our own knowledge and equally there are similar avenues for us to take in influencing Computer Science curriculum! Two shining examples of this are STEMNET and the Microsoft Imagine Cup .

STEMNET works with industry to provide opportunities to inspire children and students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), this is achieved by assisting or delivering activities in schools and colleges, I have taken part in an activity in the last six months and found it a very rewarding experience helping a group of students work towards completing a challenge to create a mobile phone application centred around the London 2012 Olympics.

The Microsoft Imagine Cup is another initiative where industry can help Students to solve world problems by using technology and putting their learning into action and ultimately, this year, win a free trip to Sydney, Australia for the Imagine Cup 2012 Worldwide Finals.

These are just two examples of how we as an industry can assist with the Computer Science curriculum to inspire and encourage pupils and students to get more involved with how things work as opposed to just being a user.

Now more than ever we have a chance to make a real difference, it is up to us to help to Make a Difference to Computer Science in Schools!

FREE DDD North Geek Dinner Sponsored by Devexpress

October 5, 2011 01:33 by Andrew Westgarth

After enjoying a great day at what we hope will be a fantastic first ever DDD North, please join us to enjoy a fantastic Geek Dinner at the Sunderland Stadium of Light.

Developer! Developer! Developer! North

Thanks to the fantastic folks at Devexpress we are able host a free Geek Dinner for 120 people!! We hope this will be a fantastic opportunity for speakers and attendees to chat and relax after a fun filled day of great technical content at DDD North

Devexpress

Please join us at the Sunderland Stadium of Light after Developer! Developer! Developer! North for drinks in the Sports Bar and then we will move onto enjoy a fantastic meal and relax with friends and reflect on the day.

The menu is fixed but the choices are below:

Carvery Choices (2 of the following)

Topside of English Beef

Loin of English Pork

Menu

2 Roast Meat Carvery with Yorkshire Puddings, Home Made Stuffing, Market Vegetables and a Rich Roast Gravy

Vegetarian Main Course Option

Chunky Thai Green Curry with Kai Pow Dumplings and Savory Rice

Chef's Dessert/Whole Fruit Selection

Please indicate when booking your ticket if you would like the vegetarian option. If you have any other dietary requirements please indicate too so we can do our best to cater for your requirements.

PASSWORD FOR THE REGISTRATION FORM IS devexpress

Register for DDD North - Geek Dinner Sponsored by Devexpress in Sunderland, United Kingdom  on Eventbrite



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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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