Ultra Small Mobile Writing Rig

For my job, I tend to travel a lot to conferences. When I am away I like to get as much work done as I can, but sometimes it isn’t really appropriate to get my laptop out, for example on a smaller airplane, train or in a restaurant; but in those times I like to get some work done like answering emails or drafting blog posts. To make these times more efficient, I have developed my little wiring rig that uses my phone, a copy of the Ulysses Writing App and the excellent Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard which allows me to be productive, yet more discreet or in smaller spaces when traveling.

Mobile Writing Rig using the Ulysses Writing App and the Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard.

The keyboard itself is very thin, even when folded which means it takes up hardly any space when packed in my laptop bag. It’s not the best typing experience as it takes a little getting used too, but it is indeed very workable. You can pair the keyboard with Windows, Android and Apple IOS devices which gives you a lot of flexibility. I pair it with an iPhone and an iPad. I don’t usually take the Apple Keyboard with me for the iPad when I travel as it makes the device quite thick in my bag, so I think this is a better solution for occasional typing; this setup has helped me remain productive when using a laptop isn’t easy to do.

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April 2018 Update Video

I admit I have been a little lazy in producing videos since the new year, but I am back producing them. Here is a quick update on what I have been doing over the last few months. This includes my new course, Blockchain – Principles and Practices and 2 new books, A Gentle Introduction to Agile and Lean Software Development and A Gentle Introduction to Beating Procrastination and Getting Focused.

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.

 

Want to Quit Your Job? You Need an Income Strategy

So you are thinking about quitting your job and going solo? Before you do, you need a plan for where your income is going to come from. This should be split down into Active and Passive income.

For example, for Active income, this will be things like contracting, consulting, where you are exchanging your time for money. This is great, but once that time has been spent, you will not earn extra for it.

With Passive income, you will spend time producing work, such as an ebook or online course, and once it has been put live, you will earn income off of it from there onwards with no extra work.

Speaking at NDC Sydney

It’s taken me a while to catch up with some posts on this blog, but back in August, I had the amazing opportunity to fly to Sydney in Australia to speak at NDC Sydney. I feel very fortunate to be offered this opportunity as I have never been to Australia before.

This is is also the longest I have ever flown before too. The trip took 2 flight to get there. First was a 9-hour flight to Abu Dhabi, and then 14 hours to Sydney. To make this even more challenging, I had a 10-hour layover in Abu Dhabi overnight. Instead of just hanging around doing nothing, I decided to pay to use the business class lounge. This meant I could get some decent food, have a shower and use the business centre there to get some work done. To help me adjust to the Australian time difference, I forced my self to stay awake and work. So I got a lot of coding for LadderPay done. I thought this would be very challenging to do, but actually, I got through it fine. Then on the 2nd flight, I had a few whiskeys and some sleeping tablets which meant I got a reasonable 6 hours sleep. This meant that by the time I got to Sydney at 7.30am, I was actually feeling ok. That first day was tough, but once I had a good night sleep at the hotel I was adjusted, so no horrific jetlag for me…

Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney
Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney

After I arrived on Sunday and checked into the hotel, I met up with my sister (Charlotte) who is living in Sydney. By a bizarre twist of fate and timing, she was due to fly back to London that evening. So we spent the afternoon together before she had to go to the airport. I met Charlotte and her boyfriend at my hotel (Hilton) and we went for a really nice lunch at the Sydney Opera House restaurant followed by hitting a few bars. The weather was really sunny so had a really nice afternoon. After that, I went back to the hotel to rest a bit and then met up with Troy Hunt and a few others for dinner and drinks.

The next few days were spare for me as the conference didn’t start until Wednesday so I did a bit of sightseeing as well as working. On Monday I took a ferry to Manly Beach and spent the day walking around there and working from various coffee shops. I was very productive and got loads done.

Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney
Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney

The conference started Wednesday and I was booked to do 2 talks. The first was my cryptography in .NET talk, and the 2nd was my social engineering talk. Both talks went really well and rated very highly. For my social engineering talk, one of the people in the audience (Sammy Connelly) made an awesome infographic version of her notes (see picture below). She came and saw me at the end to give me the original copy. She likes to do these pictures and give them to the speakers as gifts. This was such a nice gesture and I was delighted to receive it. I am looking for a suitable frame so I can put it on my office wall.

Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney
Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney

Once the conference had finished on Friday, we went to the official afterparty called PubConf. I was speaking at pub conf. All the talks were supposed to be funny and done in front of a drunken rabble of developers. You get 20 slides and 15 seconds per slide. The slides increment automatically so you have no control over them. This is probably the hardest talk I have ever written, but it was so much fun and the audience seemed to like it. I did a talk called, How to lead like an utter bastard, and it got a lot of laughs. This was quite a boozy night, but luckily I had no commitments the following day.

Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney
Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney

I wasn’t due to fly back until Monday evening, so I had pretty much 3 days to myself to explore the city. On Saturday I went to Sydney and the Harbour taking photos. I also had booked to do the Sydney Bridge Climb, which was an amazing experience. It was very windy up there but very safe as you are in a climbing harness and attached to the bridge. The whole thing took 3 hours including getting kitted out and doing some training.

Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney
Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney

On Sunday, I took the ferry to Taronga Zoo which was about a 15-minute boat ride away. I had a really good time here. The weather was nice and they had lots of animals. My favourites were the Giraffes as they overlooked the Sydney Opera House. I deliberately didn’t do too much this weekend and just took in the sights.

Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney
Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney

On Monday, I didn’t fly until 9pm, so I decided to do the Sydney Opera House tour. The tour was amazing as we got to see all the main music venues. We even got to see the Sydney Orchestra rehearsing for a performance, and the sound inside the main opera house was amazing. After this, I got lunch again at the Opera House restaurant and then went to the Sydney Modern Art Gallery for a good look around. What was really cool as this was free entry, which is nice as everything in Sydney is really expensive.

Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney
Stephen Haunts at NDC Sydney

Overall this was an amazing experience. As always, NDC put on a fantastic conference and I feel very privileged to have spoken at one of their events again. I will definitely be submitting again next year, as I would love to go again. The flight back was hard work though. 24 hours on a plane with a couple of hours in Abu Dhabi. I was shattered by the time I got back to London as I struggled to sleep on the flight, but it only took me a few days to readjust before I met my Wife and Kids on holiday in north Wales where I got to properly recover.

Bose QC35 Noise Canceling Headphones

I do a lot of traveling for my work both on the train and by air. Whenever I used to travel, I always used to get quite bad headaches once I got to my destination. I was discussing this with a colleague once and he recommended the Bose QC35 noise canceling headphones. The idea is that when you are wearing them, they listen to the sound around you and generates a canceling sound wave that is played in the headphones. This means noise around you like a train engine or the engines of an aircraft are significantly reduced.

On his recommendation, I purchased a pair last year and I now use them daily as my main headphones. Since wearing them for travel, I no longer get headaches as my travel is now much quieter. Also, for a set of headphones the sound quality when listening to music is also pretty good. They are not the best quality sounding compared to other high-end headphones, but they sound pretty decent, and the noise canceling also means that you do not need to play music as loud when out and about.

Bose QC35 Noise Canceling Headphones
Bose QC35 Noise Canceling Headphones

The build quality of these headphones is exceptional. They are light in weight and very sturdy. I think I will get many years of use out of them. The headphones are also Bluetooth which means I pair them with my iPhone, IPad, and laptop, so I never need a cable. Saying that though, they do come with a standard audio cable in case you want to use them with a device that doesn’t support Bluetooth.

To use the noise canceling you must charge up the headphones and I have found that the battery lasts a whole week with moderate use every day, and they charge pretty quickly. If you use the included cable, they act more like a traditional set of headphones, which means they do not require battery power. This has been useful on the one occasion where the battery ran out and I didn’t have a means of charging them, so I just switched to the cable.

Bose QC35 Noise Canceling Headphones
Bose QC35 Noise Canceling Headphones

The Bose QC35’s also come in a very handy and tough carry case which means I can keep them protected when I put them in my laptop bag. I never leave the house without them now. They have become an essential part of my daily life. They are not the cheapest headphone on the market, so they are most likely outside the impulse purchase bracket, but I have to say, the price is definitely worth it, especially when traveling to reduce the headaches I used to get.

Speaking at Code Europe in Krakow Poland

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to Krakow in Poland to present at the Code Europe conference. The conference organizers first got in touch with me a few months ago to ask me to speak, and I was invited to present my cryptography talk,.NET Data Security – Hope is Not a Strategy. This has been a popular talk of mine over the last 18months, so I was delighted to travel to Poland to deliver the speech.

Code Europe Conference in Poland
Code Europe Conference in Poland

The conference itself was hosted at the Krakow ICE Congress Centre, which was a fantastic venue. The building is less than 3 years old, and it looks very modern and new. I am a big fan of architecture, and this building didn’t disappoint. Before being invited to Code Europe, I had not heard of this conference, but I must say it was very well organized and as speakers we were all well looked after. Our hotel was next to the arena, so it was very convenient to get to the event. This particular event was a 1-day show, with 2 following days in Warsaw later in May.  Even though it was 1 day, I decided to stay out an extra day so that I could see a bit of the city.

Code Europe Conference in Poland
Code Europe Conference in Poland

My talk was at 11.30am and seemed to be well received and I had a full room, which I estimated to be around 150 people. Once I had finished my talk and had a walk around the conference, I did a bit of sightseeing with my good friend Filip Ekberg from Sweden. Krakow is a beautiful city and I spent a fair bit of time walking around the old town. The weather wasn’t the best as it was raining a lot, but I made do and still got a lot of sightseeing done.

Code Europe Conference in Poland
Code Europe Conference in Poland

Overall Code Europe was a great experience and I hope I get the opportunity to speak at this event again. The conference was well organized, everyone was very friendly and helpful and Krakow is a really nice city to look around.