Barcamp Tampa Bay '09 - Future of Microcontroller Programming

As I understand it, this is an investigation into developing a cross-compiler using Python along with a language specifically designed for the purpose. I think that this could be a valuable exerise to the participants as an exercise, but am admittedly skeptical as to the practical implications.

The project seems based on the premises that:

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Barcamp Tampa Bay '09 - Tampa Bay Microcontroller & Robotics Group

I was suprised to see this one listed on the schedule and happy to see that I was effectively free to go off the beaten path (no other topics in that slot that were more work related/compelling). Essentially, in the last 4 months a group has gotten together on meetup to explore embedded programming with an eye to robotics. Make Magazine was attributed as the inspiration and, I have to admit, I can think of no other magazine that makes me think that I am wasting my weekends. There literally are so many people working on cool projects and pursuing their unique, and sometimes not so unique goals that it is hard not to feel like a slacker.

Anyway, it is always cool to see those with a desire to learn something new go for it. It is better yet when they exercise the sensible judgement to crawl before they walk and stick with the goal even in the face of a steep learning curve. The group shared their current projects, pitched their meetup and otherwise shared their enthusiam. Not sure if I can dedicate the time to that group, but I'll definitely be trying to steer some friends and family that way.

Barcamp Tampa Bay '09 - Augmented Reality

This was definitely the fun session of the day. I had seen previous demonstrations of AR as part of pitches of the Flash Platform, but this was the first presentation I have seen explictely on this technology. The impact of the technology is undeniable tremendous. I think we all crave interaction, and the ability to interface with the computer using a web cam is novel enough to still wow crowds. Keep in mind that augmented reality is not exactly a new concept. Even in the Flash world, you have very talented programmers that have been exploring the boundaries of user interface for quite awhile. Grant Skinner immediately comes to mind and if you want to be inspired about Flash and UI, you need to check out his galleryincomplet. To really drive it home, keep in mind that he hasn't updated it in nearly 3 years.

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Barcamp Tampa Bay '09 - Developing Applications

Admittedly, this talk wasn't what I was expecting. Charles Armstrong of Spark Labs didn't go into development tools, methodologies or really the nitty gritty of actually writing the code. Instead, he covered what I have come to appreciate more and more over the last couple of years as the significantly more important process of researching and engineering the problem and its solution. Specifically, he worked from a very succinct slide that detailed three stages of development: Research, Engineer and Implement.

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Barcamp Tampa Bay '09 - Getting Sued

I caught the last half of this session and it was definitely interesting. The presenters had travelled down from Birmingham to share their experiences of web contracting turned sour and put forth a good case that even when everything seems to be going ok, you can still have a bad time.

The biggest take away for me was the idea that you can insure yourself against a contract dispute. If I understood correctly, you can even do it on a per contract basis as opposed to a blanket policy that covers your whole enterprise. Of course, the devil is in the details, but given that we live in a very litigious society, it could prove to be very worthwhile to check out the recommended insurance sites:

http://www.ioausa.com/

http://www.techinsurance.com/

[Aside: I'd definitely appreciate any feedback from those who are using this kind of insurance presently. Particularly looking for names of firms offering coverage and the nature of the coverage. And, has anyone who has coverage actually had to use it. I think this a discussion that a lot of developers would find interesting]

Barcamp Tampa Bay '09 - Web to Print Solutions

Wasn't sure what to expect when I saw the listing, but given that my day job is RIA and workflow (and some SEO) for an online printer, any talk on printing technologies is likely to be too tasty to pass up. And Enthusem's presentation was worth the time. Admittedly, I was aware of their offering from earlier research in small quantity variable data printing - in this case, a custom print piece in a greeting-card form factor stuffed into a transparent envelop and sent via postal service. Sort of a micro-VDP direct mailer. What Enthusem is doing right is focusing on a core business offering while exposing an API to developrs.

Smartly, they brought along a partner/customer who has created a custom iPhone application to leverage that API and allow purchasing custom cards featuring photos taken by the iPhone. A very cool app that I will likely never use (I'm anxiously awaiting the release of the Motorola Sholes Android 2.0 phone on Verizon - and hoping that it won't be a lemon)

Barcamp Tampa Bay '09 - Dev Day

This was my first barcamp and even my first unconference so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. I managed to attend six sessions that covered a broad range of topics, but all were very interesting; I'll blog separately on each of the sessions.

I do want to mention that it was a very worthwhile experience and I was genuinely surprised by the quality of the presentations. Actually, it gives me a lot of good examples on which to lean as I prepare my first presentation (I'll be posting on that in the very near future). All of the speakers had very different approaches, but all knew their topics incredibly well and were able to interact in a relaxed format that encouraged participation (I like participation as it encourages actively pondering the information; good for rentention).

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