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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Attending September’s NEPA.js meetup

On September 12th, NEPA.js held its September meetup. Anthony Altieri presented on beacons – the typically small Bluetooth devices that “chirp” some very basic information multiple times per second allowing app developers to understand the proximity of a user. This allows for things like understanding where a shopper is in a retail space.

His overview of the devices, the spec, some of the software, and the differences between iOS and Android, and iBeacon and Eddystone – was a really nice introduction into the space. He did a great job.

I learned a lot during his presentation. Thanks to him for putting it together.

If you haven’t yet been to a NEPA.js and you live in our area – I implore you to check one out. It is consistently attended, always fun, and isn’t always focused solely on JavaScript. But even if it was, it is worth your time.

Jason Washo interviewed on tecBRIDGE Radio

Jason Washo, owner of Sho Technology Solutions in downtown Scranton and someone who I’ve worked with on multiple client projects and who has become a friend over the last year, was recently interviewed on tecBRIDGE Radio.

Here’s just one bit:

I work hard, and I will work to bring things to close and I think a lot of people won’t do that. Getting something 80% of the way there is easy but bringing it to 100% I think is one the hardest parts. That is something I’m committed to.

Jason’s interview exudes positivity about our area, good work ethic, and a drive to do a good job. We can all learn from Jason.

Reading Ready Player One, Downtown Scranton – July 2017

Easily my favorite book this year. Eliza just finished it too. I may want to read it again before the movie comes out.

E19: Launching Summit’s public beta

Recorded on August 23 2017.

A quickly captured audio bit while walking to get a coffee the day after launching Summit’s public beta.

Download MP3.

Morning on Penn Avenue, Scranton, PA – August 2017

Bank Towers, Scranton, PA – August 2017

LEVY, Penn Avenue, Downtown Scranton, PA – August 2017

Attending the August NEPA.js Meet up

The NEPA.js Meet up is really hitting its stride. Each meet up is pretty well supported – even in the summer – and the camaraderie and general feeling around each event is pretty great. Also, the Slack channel is pretty active.

If you’re within an hour or so of Scranton I’d recommend joining the meet up group, jumping into the Slack channels from time-to-time, and attending at least a few events per year. If you need help with any of these things send me an email.

Also, within the past few weeks we’ve seen a new group spin out of the NEPA.js group. A more general meet-and-work-on-stuff type of group created by Den Temple. This event fills the gaps for when there isn’t a NEPA.js group event.

This month’s presentation was by Ted Mielczarek. Ted works at Mozilla on build and automation tools for Mozilla’s primary product Firefox. He has, though, dabbled in a variety of other things at Mozilla like crash reporting and the gamepad web API. It was his experience building this API that spurred this month’s topic; Web APIs.

I remember jumping onto the web in the 90s and being blown away when I was able to put animated GIFs of X-Wing fighters on my personal Star Wars fan page. Today, web browsers support a variety of Web APIs that make the open web a true software development platform. There are APIs to control audio and video, to connect to MIDI-enabled devices, to connect to Bluetooth, VR and – of course – to allow for game controller input. There are lots of others too.

Ted did a great job showing demos of many of these APIs. Just enough for us to get the idea that the web has matured into a powerful platform upon which just about anything can be made.

Thanks to Ted for the work he put into creating the presentation and to all the attendees for helping the NEPA.js community thrive.

Central Railroad of Pennsylvania and New Jersey Freight Station, Lackawanna Avenue, Scranton, PA – July 2017

I captured this one on a recent afternoon constitutional. I hate seeing buildings like this waste away to nothing.

Published: July 25, 2017

Franklin Court, Scranton, PA – July 2017

I hastily snapped this walking back to my car from July’s NEPA JS after-gathering at Ale Mary’s.

Published: July 19, 2017

Bank Towers, Scranton – July 2017

Published: July 18, 2017

Presenting at the July NEPA.js Meetup

Earlier this week my Condron Media cohort Tucker Hottes and I presented at the July NEPA.js Meetup. Our presentation was about automation and all of the things we can automate in our lives personally and professionally. And also how we employ automation in our workflows for creating applications and web sites using our own task management suite.

Here are just a few examples of reproducible tasks that you can automate that perhaps you haven’t thought about:

  • Your home’s temperature
  • Applying filters to multiple photos at once
  • Social media posts
  • Combining many files together into one
  • Deleting unused files
  • Calendar events

There are countless others. Perhaps you’re doing some of these things now. You might set a reminder for yourself to clean the bathroom every Tuesday. Or, your using a Nest to control your home’s temperature based on your preferences.

But there may be others that you’re not doing. Posting regularly to social media can seem daunting to some. But automating those posts can make it much easier to set aside time to schedule the posts and then go about your day. Or editing photos or video may never happen because you don’t have time to go through them all and edit each one individually. But these are tasks that can be automated.

We showed a quick demonstration of automating the combining of multiple text files using Grunt. There are a lot of ways something like this can be useful. Combining multiple comma-separated value (CSV) files that are reports from many retail locations, web development, and others.

Then Tucker provided a list of all the tasks we do when we get a new client at Condron Media. The full list can take a person up to 1.5 hours to “start” working on that customer’s project. So we’ve begun working whittling away at that list of tasks by using another task manager called Gulp. We call this suite of automation tasks Bebop – after one of the thugs from Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Bebop is separated into the smallest tasks possible so that we can combine those tasks into procedures. Creating new folders, adding Slack channels, sending Slack messages, spinning up an instance of WordPress, adding virtual hosts to local development environments, etc. etc. Bebop can then combine these tasks in any order and do them much quicker than a human can clicking with a mouse. We estimate it will take 1 minute to do what took 1.5 hours once Bebop is complete.

Another benefit of automating these types of tasks is that you can nearly eliminate human error. What if someone types in the wrong client name or forgets a step in the process? Bebop doesn’t get things wrong. Which saves us a lot of headaches.

Here is the example Gulp task that we created to demo Bebop to the NEPA.js group.

We then asked the group to take 5 minutes and write down what they would like to automate in their lives. The answers ranged from making dog food to laundry to simple development and environmental tasks. Every one in attendance shared at least one thing they’d like to automate.

Tucker and I had a blast presenting but we enjoyed this final session the most. Similar to my event suggestions to Karla Porter earlier this year, I find that the more a group interacts with one another the more I personally get out of a meetup or conference. Presentations can be eye opening but personal connections and calm discussions yield much fruit for thought.

Thanks to everyone that showed up. I think we had 14 or 15 people. The NEPA.js community is active, engaged, and I’m very happy that it is happening in Scranton.

Electric City Building, Scranton, PA – January 2017

Published: June 17, 2017

Coney Island Lunch, Scranton, PA – December 2016

Published: June 2, 2017

Penn Avenue Parking Garage, Scranton, PA – January 2017

Published: June 1, 2017

Northern Light Espresso Bar & Cafe, Scranton, PA – January 2017

Published: May 31, 2017

Human waste. Scranton, PA – November, 2016

Published: May 22, 2017

Iron Horse movie bistro in downtown Scranton

On Sunday we went to the Iron Horse movie bistro in downtown Scranton. I was going to write a review but Joe Evans of NEPA Scene has already hit most points that I would cover.

All of the follow quotes are from his review. Be sure to head to their site to read it.

The first thing that stood out to me was how simple it was to buy tickets. Being able to reserve and select exactly what seat you want is fantastic. Knowing that you’re going to have exactly what seat you want is awesome. You don’t need to worry about fighting through a packed theater with your date, hoping for two seats together that still have a decent view of the screen.

We bought tickets through the Fandango app. Reserving specific seating is fantastic. I had zero anxiety about “where will we sit?” and that changes the movie-going experience pretty dramatically.

When you finally reserve a seat, the theater recommends arriving about 30-45 minutes early to grab a bite to eat and a drink in the theater’s lobby bar.

Evans made this bit a little confusing for me. In reality, they want you to order your food and drinks when you’re in the theatre not at the bar. At least, that was the direction we were given. Perhaps you can do both? By getting there 30 minutes prior to the show this gives the waiters plenty of time to take your order, get you the food, and pay your bill before the movie starts. I recommend aiming for 40 minutes before so that you can walk in the moment they allow you to. This process worked fairly well for us but not for the woman sitting next to me. She never got her drinks and asked for a refund after the movie. So clearly there are some kinks to work out. I’d give Iron Horse another month or two if you care to be a beta tester.

Evans goes on.

So here’s my biggest issue with the theater so far – the food, in my opinion, is thoroughly mediocre. There was nothing really wrong with it, it was by no means bad, but it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

Because I read Evans’ review prior to going to Iron Horse I did not have the same expectations as he did. So for me, the food was fine. To me, the chairs and a beer were what made the experience.

Seriously, these seats are the best of all the theaters in the area. And it’s not even close.

Not only are they big, wide seats but they are plush and soft, almost pillow-like. They blow the seats at Regal and Cinemark out of the water.

Agreed.

He goes on, later, about the seats.

Since the button for the electronic reclining system is on the inner arm of the seat, I did press it accidentally while shifting in my seat a couple times, so keep an eye on that. It can be pretty startling in a dark theater if you’re not expecting it.

I did this 5 or 6 times. My hand, for whatever reason, hit the button and I kept making the seat move. This isn’t a complaint. I don’t think the seat design is poor. And I don’t think I will do it again next time. But I couldn’t believe how many times I hit this on accident. I felt like a moron.

Overall, the Iron Horse delivers a pleasant ride that adds a little something more to your local theatergoing experience.

Exactly. Iron Horse isn’t Regal and it isn’t Cinemark. And that’s great.

Oh, one final thing. Overall the experience cost us over $80.00. So it isn’t the most affordable way to go to the movies. But I think that is a very fair price for what we got and I think we’d likely do this a few times per year.

Pete Ventura on Scranton

Pete Ventura, friend and owner of Coney Island Lunch on Lackawanna Avenue in Scranton:

All of the years I’ve been here, and I’m 62 years old, I can’t stand it when people put Scranton or this area down. I won’t get mad at them, but I’ll tell them about all of the good things. I’ll say, “We might have had some trying times here and there, but it’s not like what you’re saying.” That’s my pet peeve. Don’t badmouth Scranton if you’re going to talk to me, because it’s been good to me.

Totally and 100% agree with Pete here. Also, each perceived “negative” that may be aligned against Scranton can also be thought of as a positive. Buildings are readily available and inexpensive, marketing to the entire region is inexpensive (get in touch), and being a big fish in a small pond is possible.

Be sure to stop by Pete’s place, shake his hand, and eat as many Texas wieners as you can afford.

Attending NEPA WordPress Meetup for March 2017

Last night was the NEPA WordPress Meetup for March 2017. It was a panel discussion regarding how agencies use WordPress with Jack Reager of Black Out Design (our gracious host, thanks Jack and team), Liam Dempsey and Lauren Pittenger of LBDesign in the Philadelphia-area, and your’s truly of Condron Media.

As these types of events typically do, the discussion meandered through many different topics including the reasons our agencies have decided to use WordPress as our platform for many of our projects, about how someone can get started using WordPress, about JavaScript and how it is the language that is currently eating the web, and even a bit about baking bread somehow.

One question that was posited by Phil Erb, our moderator for the evening, was what do the agencies or individuals get out of the WordPress community. Most of the answers were focused on what each individual gleans from WordPress-related events. If you’ve read my blog at all you know that I’m a strong advocate for attending events and that I think they have immense value. It was good to see all of the panelists agree on this point. I hope it spurs some in the audience to attend even more events and certainly more events out of the area and bring that energy and knowledge back to our nook in the mountains here in Pennsylvania.

It was a great meetup in a great space. Very glad to have been part of it.

Thanks to Phil and Stephanie for organizing the event, to Jack and his team for opening up their new space to us (they should be proud of the space they’ve created there, it is lovely), to Liam and Lauren for driving a few hours through fog and lastly to Liam for sharing his Duke’s pizza with me.