New Pluralsight Course : Blockchain – Principles and Practices

My latest Pluralsight course, Blockchain – Principles and Practices is available now.

The introduction of blockchain based technologies has been one of the most significant developments in computing in recent years. We now have access to public blockchains and cryptocurrencies with systems like Blockchain and Ethereum, and also private blockchains that can be used by more regulated consortiums of companies. As with any technology, it is important for developers and architects to have a good grasp of the underlying principles of these technologies, even if they are going to use a 3rd party toolset.

Blockchain - Principles and Practices by Stephen Haunts at Pluralsight
Blockchain – Principles and Practices by Stephen Haunts at Pluralsight

In my latest Pluralsight source, Blockchain – Principles and Practices, I take you under the covers of this fascinating technology and show you how it works at a data structure and algorithm level. As well as explaining the principles I also build up a working blockchain sample written in C# and .NET Core to help illustrate the principles in something that you can play with and debug. If you want to understand how this technology works, then this is the course for you.

Here is the course description:

Blockchains are probably one of the most highly talked about technologies at the moment as they provide a way to attain digital trust on the Internet. There is so much emphasis on the technology that companies are very keen to learn about Blockchains and adopt them. Venture capitalists are currently diverting a lot of investments into funding Blockchain-based companies.

In this course, Blockchain – Principles and Practices, you will explore the fundamental data structures and algorithms used to build a typical Blockchain and build up a working example over the course. First, you will learn how to store single transactions in a block. Second, you will discover how to store multiple transactions in a block using Merkle trees. Next, you will be taught how to make the Blockchain tamper-proof using mining and proof-of-work. Finally, you will learn how nodes on a Blockchain maintain consensus.

By the end of this course, you will have the knowledge and tools necessary to build your own Blockchain.

 

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Apple HomePod – First Impressions

I have been using Apple Macs for my work for nearly two years, and out of all the machines I have ever used, and I have used a lot, using Macs has been by far the best experience, and this helps with productivity if you enjoy using your tools. Over this time, I have also started using more of the Apple eco-system as it all works together so well. This means the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and AirPods. They all work together very well indeed.

Unboxed Apple HomePod
Unboxed Apple HomePod

When Apple announced the new HomePod speaker system, I was intrigued. They wanted to enter the voice assistance cylinder market alongside Amazon and Google, but Apple said all along they were putting the most emphasis on sound quality as well as Siri integration. I don’t usually do the early adopter thing, but in this case, I thought I would give it a go and see if the speaker sounds as good as all the reports have been stating. In a worst-case scenario, I could just send it back if I didn’t like it as Apple as a 14 days returns policy.

The HomePod has a system internally that can scan your room (spatial awareness) and adjust itself to give optimal sound for your environment, so it is much more than just a speaker. It also has extensive integration with Apple Music, which is good as that is the music streaming service I use.

Taking My Backup More Strategy Seriously

My job involves dealing with a lot of videos when developing Pluralsight courses and recording YouTube videos and it was getting to the point where I had a lot of footage and course material stored on a laptop and external HD. I have been thinking a lot about backups and have put in place some pretty nifty processes to make sure I am covered. Let’s go through them.

File Synching with Dropbox and iCloud

First of all, I use Dropbox and iCloud to synchronize all my files between all my machines. Technically this doesn’t count as a backup system, but it is good to know that all my work is synced between machines, and a feature I particularly like with Dropbox is the version history which has helped me a few times when I accidentally deleted some files. I could just log back into Dropbox and restore the file.

Offsite Backups

The first proper backup process I run, after file synching, is using an offsite backup system. My chosen system of choice is BackBlaze. This has an agent that runs on your laptop and backups up your selected files to their servers. I run this across to Mac laptops that are constantly uploading any changes to Backblaze. The initial backup from both laptops took a couple of days due to the amount of data, but you have access to throttling controls in Blackblaze so that it doesn’t hog all of your internet bandwidth.

BackBlaze : Cloud Based Backup System
Backblaze : Cloud-Based Backup System

Happy Delayed New Year

Happy New Year. Yes, yes, I know, it’s February, but December and January have been absolutely insane with work and a few projects coming to a close at the same time so blogging and YouTube videos and blog posts took a temporary back seat. But I am back. I thought I would update on what I have been up too.

A Gentle Introduction Book Series by Stephen Haunts
A Gentle Introduction Book Series by Stephen Haunts

First of all, in December I released 2 more eBooks’. The first is about public speaking and the second is a follow up to my Agile software development book about Lean software development. I am really proud of these books and I have much more on the way, but I had to halt working on them in January to get some other projects completed.

Advanced Secure Coding for the Enterprise Workshop by Stephen Haunts
Advanced Secure Coding for the Enterprise Workshop by Stephen Haunts

That other project was putting together a 2-day security workshop that I was going to be teaching at the NDC Security event in Oslo, Norway. The workshop was called “Advanced Secure Programming for the Enterprise in   .NET”, and it was about the incorporation of cryptography in your software solutions to protect your companies data. This was all material that I have taught and spoken about before, but I had to collate it all together into a structured workshop, that is both informative and practical.

I delivered the workshop in Oslo, and it was a great success. I had a very eager group who paid to take the class, and we had a blast together. Overall I achieved some excellent satisfaction ratings afterward which made it all worth it. It was also fun being at the same event as my good friends Troy Hunt, Scott Helme and Dominick Baier. One of the fun things about going to these events is catching up with friends.

As well as completing the preparation for my secure coding workshop, I also had to finish my latest Pluralsight course that I have had in production. The course is called Blockchain – Principles and Practices. It is about the theory of how blockchain data structures and algorithms work. It has been a fun course to write, but also a challenging course, but I got it all recorded and edited in January. At the time of writing this post, I am waiting for my final peer review to complete and the course to go live.

Sound Libraries by Stephen Haunts Available on Sounds.com
Sound Libraries by Stephen Haunts Available on Sounds.com

Another project I have just completed too is a bit of a curve ball as it involves some work I used to do years ago before me and my wife had kids. I used to design and create professional sound and sample libraries that are aimed at musicians and TV sound editors. The libraries were quite successful for a part-time business, but it became hard to do after we had kids due to the amount of noise I needed to make. Anyway, to cut a long story short, a company called Native Instruments, got in touch in December to say they were setting up a subscription-based sound sample marketplace and they asked if I wanted to stock my back catalog on there. I said yes, and after signing all the contracts, I had to prepare my libraries and metadata for upload. These libraries are quite large (60gb+) so it took a while to sort out, but all my libraries are now available from sounds.com, which is fantastic. I am also going to be making some custom content for them too in the not too distant future.

So, overall it has been a busy few months. I am not complaining though, it has been fun. I am next delivering the workshop in March at an NDC Conferences event in Copenhagen, so I have a few tweaks to make to the material based on feedback, so I will be doing that this month, along with getting 2 further books ready for release. I am also aiming to write another chapter for my APress book month too. It was a bit daunting leaving my job last year to work for my self, but I am glad I did it, and this will be the first full year of going it along.

I am excited about the future, but I always have that sense of slight fear of the unknown, but it is that fear that helps keep you driven. I have lots of conference appearances planned this year so I will be traveling loads, which is loads of fun as I can work on my projects anywhere in the world.

Writing Holiday to Whitby

Last week I went to the coastal town of Whitby in Yorkshire here in the UK for a writing holiday after my trip the previous week to Web Summit in Lisbon. I have just started a new book project for a publisher called APress, and as with any project, it takes a lot of upfront effort to get started, so I decided to lock myself away from the world to get started as I have a deadline to deliver the first 3 chapters.

The trip was timed to coincide with an inset day my kids were due to have on Friday of that week. I went to Whitby to work from Monday to Thursday, and my wife drove up with the kids on Thursday evening so we could enjoy a nice long weekend there as a family.  The trip was a massive success, getting away for that week enabled me to focus and get the 3 chapters delivered. I am not going to talk much about the book just yet until I get nearer to completion of the complete first draft, but I am quite excited about it.

It will be interesting to compare the results from it against my new Kindle publishing business to see how it does. I have already published one short guide myself called A Gentle Introduction to Agile Software Development, and it is doing really well. I have my 2nd short guide ready to release very soon so I will update on that shortly.

 

Web Summit in Lisbon

The last few weeks have been quite busy with a lot of traveling, which I am going to cover over 2 posts. First of all, a few weeks ago, I went to Lisbon to the Web Summit conference. I wasn’t speaking at this conference but was there as an attendee to show off another project I have been working on called LadderPay. The purpose of the trip was to talk to investors and validate what we are working on. For those reasons, the trip was a success.

I went to Web Summit last year too with the company I was working with at the time, so this wasn’t a new experience for me. The conference is huge with 60,000 attendees. It is split over 4 large halls and a huge arena. As well as being a place for startups to show off what they are doing, it is also a conference with lots of talks. Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of a lot of the content at Web Summit. The speakers only have 20 minutes to talk which makes it hard for them to go into any depth. This isn’t the speaker’s fault, it is just the format of the conference. Because of this, none of the talks really going into any depth, it is more just high-level concepts.  This is probably fine for most people, but I prefer more detail. This is why I like conferences such as NDC, Techorama, and Code Europe where the talks are more detailed and advanced.

Anyway, it was a good trip, and it was nice to get a little sun as the weather back in the UK is much colder and miserable. Not sure if I would attend web summit again, we will have to see what happens in 2018.

Pluralsight Play by Play: Developing Engaging Digital Realities

Earlier in the year, I was at NDC Oslo in Norway where I recorded a couple of Pluralsight Play by Play courses with my good friend Lars Klint. One of those courses, called Developing Engaging Digital Reality Experiences is now available for Pluralsight subscribers to watch.

Pluralsight Play by Play Recordings at NDC Oslo
Pluralsight Play by Play Recordings at NDC Oslo

A Play by Play course is a little different to a conventional Pluralsight course because it is filmed in front of cameras as opposed to narrated slides. A Play by Play course is unscripted and is a conversation between the two of us about a particular subject. The subject is meant to be narrow enough for us to have a good discussion about it in around an hour. These courses are great for opening peoples minds up to different subjects or ways of working or thinking.

Play by Play Course at Pluralsight with Stephen Haunts and Lars Kint
Play by Play Course at Pluralsight with Stephen Haunts and Lars Kint

The photo above was taken while we were filming in Oslo. I recorded two courses with Lars that day, and this is the first one to be released. They are great fun to record, if a little scary at first with all the camera, lights, and mics. Thankfully I didn’t need the anti-glare makeup powder, even though it was very hot in that room. This is the 2nd Play by Play I have had this year. The first was about Enterprise data security and encryption key management in Azure.

Pluralsight Play by Play Recordings at NDC Oslo
Pluralsight Play by Play Recordings at NDC Oslo

This course is all about virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality with the Microsoft Hololens. In this course, Lars was the subject matter expert, and my job was to drive the conversation by asking the questions that the viewer might ask when learning the subject. We cover a lot of ground in this course, and Lars also demonstrates some of the tools used, like Unity 3D, for creating engaging Hololens experiences.

Here is the official course description:

Play by Play is a series in which top technologists work through a problem in real time, unrehearsed, and unscripted. In this course, Play by Play Developing Engaging Digital Reality Experiences, Lars Klint and Stephen Haunts introduce the fundamentals of the major pillars in designing and building universal apps for HoloLens in particular. Learn how to use gaze, gestures, voice, and audio to create an app that is immersive and engaging. By the end of this course, you’ll understand the possibilities as a developer in creating a virtual world, where a mixed reality app uses the real world around you.