In the olden days, people navigated the earth using a combination of maps, agreed-upon street numbering and naming conventions, and indicator signage. When folks wanted to go somewhere, first, they would consult a map. Then, as they drove, they would follow the map readings to identify turns along the way, helped by signs which indicated the location of the turns.

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I still use Ranch Manager’s sheep management database application, which I continue to like a lot. It supports sync’ing the PC app with a handheld device. But somewhat unfortunately, the handheld support is getting outdated. It is only compatible with Palm and Windows Phone, and not even the latest version of Windows Phone. RM has been promising new versions for the iPhone and Android (in that order) on their Facebook page for quite a while. But my impression is this must be somebody’s side job, so it gets done when it gets done. And it could be a long wait.

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VmWareI have finished entering all of my lamb growth data for both 2009 and 2010 into the National Sheep Improvement Program’s (NSIP) new database tool, Pedigree Wizard. NSIP moved this year from being supported by university researchers to a commercial company in NZ Australia called Sheep Genetics, makers of LAMBPLAN. [Some info from them on their origin: Sheep Genetics is a joint program between two Australian industry research companies that represent the red meat industry (MLA) and wool industry (AWI). As such, most of the development for LAMBPLAN and Pedigree Wizard comes from Australian grower levy funds. While Sheep Genetics is operating under cost recovery for basic services, it is not commercial.] This is my first year enrolling in NSIP and I am looking forward to seeing what the metrics tell me. Here are my impressions of the new software. With apologies, because I’m a software engineer,  and I live, well, here, in the birthplace of Microsoft and Amazon. So I review it from the spoiled perspective of someone who usually gets to use the latest and greatest software.

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j0443718[1] Job hunting was pretty slow over the holidays, not too many companies advertising for new positions. But after the first of the year, things have really started to pick up, so I’ve been doing more job applications, interviews and all that jazz. At first I was focusing solely on landing a traditional, full-time job. But since the market was lean, I finally decided to start applying for more contract positions. I realized there is not much constraining me to seek a more traditional position (like being the primary breadwinner of a family or something). And it might be fun, for a change, to switch jobs and companies more frequently.

Many of these vendor and contractor positions are at “The Software Giant” in Redmond, as all the recruiters and staffing agencies call it in their job ads. Working with recruiters is new to me, as in the past I’ve always applied for jobs straight with the hiring company. And when I’ve been on the interviewer side of the table, my  group was always interviewing a new hire directly after filtering through resumes ourselves.

Some of my more worldly engineering friends give recruiters the less flattering moniker of “pimp”- making me slightly wary of what kind of role I’d be entering into, exactly. But so far it hasn’t required mini-skirts, gum-chewing or hoop earrings; and none of the recruiters I’ve seen appear to be packing heat or sporting tattoos, so I think I’m safe! 😀 I’m still finding there is a lot to learn about this underworld of engineering contracting, however.

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image I have always used Microsoft’s now-obsolete FrontPage software (which has since been replaced by their Expression Web tool) for creating websites, and it works pretty OK to do the basic stuff. Simultaneously, I’d always wanted to buy Dreamweaver, which is now owned by Adobe and sold as part of their Creative Suite package. But, the cost always held me back.

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