Stories about Software


I’ve decided to create this as a catch-all to answer questions that I frequently get. Specifically, I’m talking about reader questions like, “what do you use to do {insert thing I do here}?” or “what is that tool you’re using in your videos?” In the interest of full disclosure, I use affiliate links when offered by the outfits to which I’m linking, meaning that I may earn commissions on these recommendations. It costs you nothing, and I earn a few extra bucks from the vendor if you decide to make a purchase. But an affiliate program or lack thereof doesn’t affect the recommendations I make.

These are, literally, tools and products that I use, and that is the extent to which I’m endorsing them. What you can infer from their presence here is that I use them, and I’m happy enough with them to continue to use them. Some delight me more than others. With all of them, I think you may find them useful, so they’re at least worth a look.

What do you use for your blog?

  • I use Hostmonster for hosting.  It’s only a few dollars per month, and I originally chose them because of the combination of inexpensive hosting and the fact that I get FTP/SSH access and the ability to run most things that one could want on Apache.  They’ve grown more and more reliable over the years; I honestly can’t remember the last time I had an outage.
  • I use WordPress as the blog CMS.  I can’t overemphasize how much I recommend using a CMS and particularly one as fully featured as WordPress.
  • This theme that I’m using is Designfolio from Presscoders.
  • I use Feedblitz for feed syndication.  I used to use FeedBurner, but when support for that went away some time back, Feedblitz made the transition really easy.  The cost is nominal, and it’s made RSS syndication dead simple for me.
  • Lately, I’ve taken to using Hootsuite to manage a lot of things that I do in social media.  This includes mostly announcements of my blog posts and site activity.  Hootsuite allows me to write one message and send it across all of my social media, and its scheduling services are pretty nice.

What’s all that stuff in your chess TDD videos?

  • I don’t imagine it’s too hard for anyone watching to recognize Visual Studio.
  • The productivity add-in that you see me use with all of the cool screen painting and refactorings is Code Rush, which I’ve been using for years and years.
  • The continuous testing tool responsible for the real-time, red/green dots is NCrunch.
  • NDepend is the tool you see me use from time to time for architectural and static analysis concerns.
  • SpecFlow is what I’ve been using for the acceptance test automation.

What do you use for recording pluralsight courses and videos?

  • The microphone that I use for recording is the Rode Podcaster, and I cannot speak highly enough of it.  I love this mic.  This mic is an official recommendation from Pluralsight to its authors.
  • Shock mount and swivel arm combine with the mic to give me hands free recording that is excellent.
  • The software that I use for recording and editing screen grabs and audio is Camtasia.  This is the official recommendation from Pluralsight to its authors.

What are some geek tools that you use?

  • I am a happily paid Sublime Text customer.
  • I’m really not a huge fan of Eclipse, so whenever I’m doing stuff in Java, I prefer to use IntelliJ IDEA from Jetbrains.
  • I’ve paid for a long term subscription to Digitalblasphemy forever.  Definitely check it out if you like cool space-scapes and surreal images as desktop backgrounds.
  • I use synergy (and have for years) to sync multiple computers to a single keyboard/mouse.  Works across Windows, Linux and Mac.

What are your hardware preferences?

Caveat Emptor.  I am not a hardware geek by a long shot.  Historically, I’ve made more out of less, slapping Linux on aging machines and coaxing many extra years out of them.  Here are the computers and peripherals that I currently have, optimized for nothing in particular.

  • My phone is  a Samsung Galaxy S5 that I got at the end of 2014.  I’m mostly content with it, though I think I actually liked the S3 that I used to have a little better.
  • On the road, I carry around a 15 inch MacBook Pro and it has excellent battery life and a beautiful screen.
  • I also tend to bring my Samsung Galaxy tablet along with me, and I use it mainly for reading online media, and managing my Trello (more on this later) workflows.
  • I also have a simple Kindle that has served me really well for years now.  So much so that I rarely get paper back books anymore.
  • At home, I have this Asus, though mine has 16 gig of memory.  I also have Windows 10 currently installed on it.
  • At home, I have a Logitech Darkfield keyboard and mouse, which is awesome because the mouse works effortlessly on a glass desk.
  • Speaking of home desk, this desk on Amazon is the closest I can find to the one I have.  I think they’re the same (or at least nearly the same).  I really like the style and find it comfortable and open. YMMV.

What are some productivity hacks that you use?

  • I make use of virtual assistants (VAs) to handle stuff that’s easily delegated and free my time up for more hourly work.  My Tasker is the firm that I use for that.  They’re great at handling administrative tasks such as booking travel, doing research, and various logistics.
  • I’ve been using Brickwork for help on the more technical side with the DaedTech site.  They’ve handled tasks like converting back posts to a new syntax highlighting plugin and helping me with SEO.
  • I use Trello basically to manage everything in my life these days.  This is an utterly indispensable tool for me, these days.
  • For keeping track of time, billable and otherwise, I use Toggl.

How do you keep up to speed?

  • I listen to a lot of podcasts on DoggCatcher, which is a pretty nice Android app for managing podcasts.
  • Amazon’s Audible is their audio book platform (mobile apps available as well), and I tend to listen to a lot of audio books, especially when traveling.
  • And, of course, as an author for Pluralsight I take advantage of my membership to watch and listen to a lot of courses.

What are some podcasts you listen to?

I can divide these into three categories.  The first I’ll list is probably of the most interest here.  These are developer podcasts that I listen to with varying degrees of frequency.

  • Dotnet Rocks is a really entertaining and well done podcast on all things .NET.
  • A favorite of mine, but one with only occasional episodes these days is the Polymorphic Podcast.
  • Hanselminutes is a developer podcast with an eclectic collection of topics and guests, and the host is the prolific Scott Hanselman, who is always worth a listen.
  • Another one that’s done only occasionally these days is This Developer’s Life, which is kind of about the human side of being in this industry.

Another category is non-tech podcasts that I find interesting.  Here are some that my fiancee and I listen to on road trips:

  • I love all things about the Freakonomics podcast.
  • Radio lab is worth checking out, though it’s hard for me to say what, exactly, it’s about.
  • I just recently learned that You Are Not So Smart has a podcast, and it’s been fun listening.

A final category that I’ll offer is one with only one entry (right now), but that I intend to grow.  These are entrepreneurial podcasts:

What are some audio books that you like?

  • One of my favorites these days is the 4 Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris, which is basically about hacking your lifestyle to eliminate waste and do more of what you want.
  • Getting Things Done has a lot of great tips on how to be more efficient and reduce your stress via eliminating the “there’s probably something I should be doing” feeling.
  • If you’re a consultant, Getting Naked is required reading.  Consultants that stride in and immediately start telling everyone what they should do are a dime a dozen.  This book is about how to be the kind of consultant that solves people’s problems.
  • The Lean Startup should be required reading for programmers and entrepreneurs both.  It’s the perfect intersection of those concerns.

What are some programming books that you’d recommend?

  • “Uncle” Bob Martin’s take on software development changed my approach to writing code, and Clean Code is the crown jewel of his work, in my opinion.
  • Working Effectively with Legacy Code should be required reading for all devs.  If you work with legacy code, it will help, and if you work in green field code bases, it will help you not write legacy code in real time.
  • Code Complete may be aging a bit in some of its ideas, but this is an iconic book about software development and definitely worth both reading and having read it.
  • Early in my career, I read The Pragmatic Programmer for grad school and got a lot of great, practical tips for improving my craft.
  • The Mythical Man Month is an old book, but Fred Brooks is a luminary industry thinker and he was figuring out that waterfall estimation and throwing bodies at problems don’t work before a lot of us were born.
  • Kent Beck’s “Test-Driven Development By Example” was instrumental in helping me early on in the TDD journey.
  • The original Design Patterns book is showing its age, but it was the original and will give you historical pattern (just, please, skip the Singleton chapter, for the love of God).