Thankful #20: Real Studio

Today I am thankful for Real Studio.

Every now and then, I come across a product or technology that not only makes my life better, but it changes the direction of my career.

Real Studio, for those who don’t know, is a cross-platform development environment. I started using it when it was still called REALbasic, back around 2002 or so. I had been trying to get into computer programming for years before that, but it never really “took” with me. One day my friend (and boss at the time) Dave came into my office and said, “Have you thought about REALbasic?”

Dave and I were trying to come up with ideas for our own business, and one of those ideas was custom software. We began with FileMaker Pro, but we quickly hit the limits of what we could do with it. So I tried REALbasic, and it was like the heavens opened. Suddenly I could write my own software, and it was easy.

At that point, my career started to change. I had been doing mostly tech support, along with a bit of database work and some web design, up to that point. After diving into REALbasic, I started spending more and more time building custom applications, at work and at home.

I became very involved in the REALbasic community, which is a friendly and supportive bunch. I attended Real World, the developer conference for REALbasic programmers, five times. I even presented at the conference for three years in a row. Somehow I ended up as original board member of the Association of REALbasic Professionals (although I had to step before their public launch because of family issues).

At work, I developed Kodiak, a student information system that I built from the ground up to do attendance, discipline, grades, transcripts, report cards, assessment tracking, progress monitoring, and state reporting. Kodiak was retired in 2009, but I learned an amazing amount building it. I even built a parent portal using a different programming language: PHP, which is what I use every day in my job now.

At home, I wrote some shareware programs that mostly revolved around blogging. I never made much money from them, but I learned a lot, and I earned enough to buy a new computer (granted, it was a piece of junk white box from Tiger Direct, but still).

Learning REALbasic, later renamed Real Studio, gave me the confidence I needed to learn other programming languages. It literally changed the course of my career and my life.

Maybe I should write a book about it….

I am thankful for Real Studio.

Thankful #19: My Career

Today I am thankful for my career.

Not just my current job, for which I am thankful, but the whole arc of my career.

I started working in technology in 1992, when I was attending college with the hopes of being an English teacher. Somehow I ended up doing some clerical work for a local software developer who also did some hardware reselling and support.

One day they were short staffed, and they needed someone to visit a customer site. So they said, “Hey Brad, do you think you could install this tape backup drive for a client?”

I responded with the five words that have gotten me in more trouble than any other words in my life: “How hard can that be?”

That started me down the road.

It took me a while to let go of teaching, though. But I eventually found a way to combine my educational background with my vocational experience when I took a job as a computer lab aide at Hans Herr Elementary School in Lampeter Strasburg. That job paid very poorly, but it was the best job I ever had. I would actually wake up on weekdays excited about going to work. I loved working with the kids, and I even got to spend a couple hours a day outside being the Recess Guy. That was so much fun.

But we all have to grow up and soon I took a full time “grown up” job in the tech department of the Eastern Lancaster County School District. That lasted five weeks, until Etown came calling and offered me more money and more responsbility.

Twelve more years passed at Etown before my current boss called me and asked me to apply for my current job at Manheim Township.

It’s been a fun ride, and I never would have predicted where I’d end up. And who knows? Maybe the ride isn’t over yet.

I am thankful for my career.

Thankful #18: Facebook

Today I am thankful for Facebook.

Sounds silly, I know, but there’s something you need to know about me: I hate, hate, hate talking on the phone. Not at work – I mean it’s part of my job – but for idle chit chat and just catching up, I’d much rather type than talk. Heck, even most of my communication with my wife is via iMessage and iChat.

So Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch better with so many people, because the phone is no longer the only way to stay in touch. Yeah, there was email, but I find that most people I know don’t check their email very often (this is exceedingly strange to me; I check my email dozens if not hundreds of times per day).

And it’s been great catching up with people I haven’t seen since high school or even earlier. It’s funny to think about the things that we all argued about and drew lines about back then, and not we’re all pushing 40 and just trying to make it through each day.

Throw in event management, photo sharing, and group pages, and you have a great platform to share from.

I am thankful for Facebook.

Thankful #17: Apple

Today I am thankful for Apple.

This is another one that I hope doesn’t sound too superficial or crass, but I really am thankful for Apple and their products.

Apple’s devices have transformed my life and career. I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be working in my current field if it weren’t for Apple.

My first Mac, a Mac Classic purchased in 1991, convinced me that computers were in my future.

My first iPod, and I don’t remember the model, allowed me to experience new levels of freedom while listening to my music.

My first iPhone, a 3GS purchased in 2009, helped me lose weight and get into shape, among so many other things.

My iPad, the original model purchased in 2010, has changed the way I think about user interfaces and web design.

My current iPhone, a 4S I bought in the spring, has allowed me to capture so many moments in pictures and in video (as they say, the best camera is the one you have with you).

I am thankful for Apple.


“Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

– Douglas Adams
The Salmon of Doubt


So I’ve had my iPad for just shy of a week now, and so far, I’m loving it. It’s one of the best pieces of technology that I’ve ever invested in.

I ordered it on Black Friday, sitting in a hotel in Ocean City, Maryland, where I had taken my family for a two day getaway over Thanksgiving break. I opted for the 16GB model with 3G networking. I haven’t had the occasion to use 3G on it yet, and I don’t expect to anytime soon, but I figure it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Someday I’ll likely be somewhere without wifi and then I’ll activate the 3G.

Anyway, the iPad arrived the following Wednesday, and I’ve been using it heavily ever since. The battery life is amazing, watching videos is great, and overall it’s just a joy to use.

I haven’t purchased iPad versions of many apps yet (only Reeder, which is my absolute favorite RSS app these days), but a lot of my apps are universal, so the iPad version is built-in. Very cool. I honestly don’t mind most of iPhone games on the iPad, since i just run them double screen.

In fact, I’m writing this blog entry on my iPad right now, and i just used it to activate the Christmas theme on my blog. 🙂

Web vs Desktop

For all intents and purposes, I haven’t done any desktop programming for almost a year. This was after years of writing Mac and Windows apps, even going so far as to be a regular presenter at REAL World.

But since taking my current position, I’ve been all about the web. PHP, to be exact.

To be honest, I miss the desktop, but it’s not all bad.

For example, I really like being able to call functions without knowing the their names, just using a string. That’s pretty cool.

Also, there is TONS of documentation and help out there for PHP. Way more than I ever found for REALbasic, my desktop weapon of choice.

The JavaScript event model, though, leaves something to be desired compared to REALbasic’s event model.

And while it’s convenient not to have to declare my variables, I find it makes it all too easy to use unconventional and meaningless names.

Best 419 Scam Email

This is the best 419 scam email I’ve ever received. I’m so glad my spam filter didn’t catch it. Bonus points for an original take on a cliched genre. Email follow in its entirety.

Region No. 2 New York City
P.O. Box 804 Knickerbocker Station
New York City, New York 10002-0804 USA

We, office of the international police authority (IPA) hereby write to inform you that we caught a diplomatic lady called Mrs. Vernon Wallace at (John F Kennedy International Airport) here in New York with a consignment box filed with United State Dollars.

Meanwhile, base on our interview to the diplomat she said that the consignment box belongs to you, that she was sent by one Williams I. Luis to deliver the consignment box to your doorstep not knowing that the content of the box is money. The diplomat also said that her first transit in the state was at Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport Ohio.

Now, the diplomat is under detention in the office of (IPA) security, and we cannot release her until we carry out our proper investigation on how this huge amount of money managed to be yours before we will release her with the box.. So, in this regards you are to reassure and prove to us that the money you are about to receive is legal by sending us the Award Ownership Certificate showing that the money is not illegal.

Note, that the Award Ownership Certificate must to be secured from the office of the senate president in Nigeria, because that is the only office that will issue you the original Award Ownership Certificate of this funds, this is because the fund originated from Nigeria

You are advised to forward immediately the Award Ownership Certificate if you have it with you, but if you did not have it we will urge you to contact back the sender of the diplomat to help you secure the Award Ownership Certificate if at all you did not have it.

Below is the contact information of the person that sent the diplomat:

Name: Williams I. Luis


Phone: +23480-88-926-727

Furthermore, we are giving you only but 3 working business days to forward the requested Award Ownership Certificate. Please note that we shall get back to you after the 3 working business days, that if you didn’t come up with the certificate we shall confiscate the funds into World Bank account then charge you for money laundering, but if you forward the Award Ownership Certificate then we will release diplomat with your consignment box also gives you every back up on the money.

Thanks for your understanding and co-operation

Yours Truly,




Blue Streak

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here, but I’ve been busy. The biggest news, of course, is my new job. I started at Manheim Township School District on October 1 after almost twelve years at Etown. Honestly, it was tough to make a change after so many years at Etown, but it’s been good for me and I’m really enjoying Township.

Tim, the guy who hired me at Township, is someone I’ve known for a long time. He was my cooperating teacher when I did my student teaching back in 1995. I should have ben able to tell where my career trajectory was going to take me, because even back, on my first day of student teaching in Manor Middle School, I was helping him run LocalTalk wires for the school office.

After student teaching and graduating, I went to find lots of work as an English teacher. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to secure any of that work for myself. I decided to change paths temporarily, and I took a job as a computer lab facilitator for Lampeter-Strasburg School District. That was an awesome job, the kind of job where I woke up on weekdays and thought, “Cool! I get to go to work today!”

But it wasn’t meant to last. Within a few months, I had been contacted both by Etown and by Eastern Lancaster County School District about tech jobs. Still not the teaching job I had trained for, but it sure paid a lot more than being an aide. My preference at the time was to go to Etown, since my good friend Joe worked there. His boss Dave had recently left Etown to moved over to Manheim Township. But Etown moved more slowly and Eastern Lancaster Country offered me a job, which I took.

For five weeks.

Because five weeks was how long it took Etown to hire me. I started working alongside Joe in February of 1998, and we had a blast.

For about a year and a half.

Because that’s how long it took for Joe to move over to Exeter Area School District. Interestingly, at that point, Dave came back from Township to work at Etown again, where he stayed until the fall of 2008.

In 2000, Dave and I managed to hire Mike, a talented computer tech and network admin. Mike had previously been working for Dave at Township. Are you getting a sense of how cyclical things are?

Mike moved onto IU13 in 2007, but Dave I kept working together until his departure from Etown last year.

Then, about two months ago, Tim called me. This wasn’t terribly surprising since we had kept in touch over the years. He had moved out of the classroom and into technology. He had also moved from Penn Manor over to Township shortly after Dave left Township to go back to Etown. Confused yet?

Tim said he was looking for a new webmaster/database administrator and asked if I’d be interested in applying. I said yes and got my paperwork together. The funny part is that I wasn’t looking to leave Etown. Etown had been far from a perfect workplace over the years, between administrative scandals, leadership upheavals, and various technology-related situations that I’ll never be allowed to talk about but took quite a toll on us personally and professionally. But in reality, in 2009, things were better for me at Etown than they had been in a long time. Still, I felt like it was the right time to move on when I got Tim’s call.

And move on I did. I’ve been at Township just over a month now and I’m really enjoying the work and the people.

Truth be told, though, I do miss my friends at Etown. I’m blessed to have been part of a great team at Etown and to have worked with some amazing people. Some great tech people I’ve worked with over the years at Etown: Dave and Mike (of course, mentioned previously), Tom, Dan, Ted, Christine, Kathleen, Brian, Gayle, Amy… and the list goes on.

Some of you may be wondering what happened to Kodiak, the student information system I had developed for Etown. Honestly, Kodiak kept me at Etown for a long time, through several job offers, one of which was particularly tempting. But Kodiak was retired in July, 2009. It had a good run, but Etown understandably decided it wanted a commercial product. With Kodiak put to rest, I felt more comfortable moving to Township, since Etown’s SIS no longer depended solely on the knowledge in my head and my head alone.

So, long story short: Yeah, I actually left Etown. And yeah, I’m happy.