C4G 2015

Code For Good is one of my favourite events at work. Used as a recruitment event as well as for philanthropy, the event gives university students a chance to show their skills off to JP whilst helping charities accomplish something they really need. This year I had the opportunity to attend and help at not only the London event, but also the first Glasgow one.

The challenges at Glasgow were drastically different than those of London, focused more on the smaller community feel of the Glasgow and Scotland area rather than vast size of London and it’s huge population. The Glasgow office is a tech hub, and certainly shows it. The walls are writable, with dry erase markers everywhere, and different colours fill the office at every turn. There is no canteen like the London office, but there is a communal lunch area where people can congregate over their food and discuss whatever needs discussing. Appropriately, that is where we held the event.

The London office is one of our showcase buildings, making it another perfect location for the event, allowing us to show off the gorgeous facilities JP has. Each year, we take over the canteen and in-house Starbucks for the event, transforming it into a work area with team tables, retro games, a “genius bar” for employee volunteers, and so much more. There’s music playing and prizes along the way for the teams who have been the most active.

The university students who attend the event come from all over the country, and this year, some from outside it as well. There were some students from France among others, which made it a truly international event.

But it is not only the students who make the event so wonderful. There are many staff and volunteers who dedicate hundreds and thousands of hours to making this event successful, and if not for them, it wouldn’t be what it is today. They have done such an amazing job over the past few years, taking the first event and building on it each year to make it better and better.

From the sounds of it, this event is just going to keep expanding to new locations while getting bigger and better, and I can’t wait!

Bletchley

The Imitation Game. Anyone who’s seen it, or know the history of Alan Turing, know the importance he and his invention had during the 20th century and into today. Having learned all about it during my MSc studies, The Imitation Game was a movie I had to see. The groundbreaking science and maths that took place during the war, and the significance it had on history are simply amazing. Had none of that taken place, we very well may all be speaking German right now.

Anywho, that isn’t the only influence all of that had on history. Looking at the technological advancements that have taken place since then, it’s hard to imagine a time when the foundations of it were just being discovered. 8k memory was considered massive? We can barely store one document on that. And a hard disk that has a 4ft diameter? The technology in that entire building still failed to match that of the tiny iPhone in our pockets.

 

The place went in order from oldest to newest, starting with the machines built there during the war to today, including all the game consoles, calculators, and other things that rely on the same technologies. It was a throwback being able to sit down and play the first versions of the Commodore 64, Pac Man, and more.

All set in the same building as everything took place in, it was a really neat experience. Apparently there’s an awesome park there as well but given the time of year and weather, another trip for that will be in order sometime.

Code For Good

This weekend was the JPMorgan Code for Good Hackathon, and every year it seems to get better and better. Of course there are the usual improvements that are made based on the feedback from the attendees and volunteers, but I’m talking about the students and the solutions that they come up with for the challenges presented. Every year, the applications the teams create are more creative, inventive and clever.

This year showcased three new charities and one returning from last year, all of which needed very different solutions. I decided to attend both days, although I was only “signed up” for Saturday, so about mid-way through Friday, I made my way to our Bank Street location to get my goodies(this year was a pullover fleece and t-shirt) and namebadge. Afterwards, I went down to the lobby where the students were pouring in from all over the country and walked around to mix and mingle a bit. The groups were quite varied and traveled from all over with kids from northern Scotland as well as here in London. Most majors and backgrounds were Computer Science, but there were some MIS, engineering, and other science-related degrees mixed in here and there as well.

The kickoff speech and NGO presentations lasted about an hour, and then it was off to deliberate, assign groups to NGO’s, and chat with the charity representatives for a better understanding of just what it was they were looking for. Finally, after a few hours it was time to hop into the code and let the kids get their hands dirty. And for us, that meant finally being put to good use as SME’s(Subject Matter Experts) and being able to help out with problems the kids ran into.

The coding area was the same this year, in the buildings’ canteen area, but this year there were several really cool additions including a jukebox, life-sizes board games(think Connect 4 that’s two metres high) and a fuse-ball table. They also moved us SME’s out of the separate back room into the middle of everyone, which was a welcome change. Last year the divide seemed to keep the students from coming to ask questions, whereas this year they didn’t seem nearly as scared to ask for help.

Knowing myself and that I need a good nights sleep to function, I went home to catch some shut eye before returning first thing the next morning to do some more SME’ing and judging. In what few hours I was gone(about 7 to be exact), the teams had a lot to show for themselves. They had until noon to finish their prototypes and submit the code and presentations, and then the judging began! We went through technical reviews, then sent the teams to present to the NGO representatives so they could each choose one team to progress to the final round where they were to present in the main auditorium.

The winning team wasn’t necessarily the one that had coded the best over the last 24 hours, but they had a good working prototype and a wonderful presentation. And they each got an iPad Air as a prize! Can’t beat that in return for 24 jam-packed hours of caffeine and coding! It was a great event with some fantastic projects that can be taken away and continued by teams within the bank. I can’t wait to see what next years event has in store for us now!

Until next time.

Meteor 0.9

meteorjs

I love technology. Probably too much, but hey, we only live once! I’ve been learning and following several different technologies recently and learning way too much not to share it.

Aside from the commonly known languages of Python and C#/.NET, I’ve recently gotten interested in Meteor and Famo.us, both for easy-to-write web applications. Famo.us has been rather quiet recently, working towards the immanent version 1 release we’re all waiting for. Meteor, however, has recently upgraded to version 0.9 with even more features than ever. Yes, I’m a nerd.

Being in the middle of writing a Meteor app, this new release means updating current work and fixing anything that breaks, which is always an unknown. So I know what my evening is going to be filled with now. But enough of that. What IS Meteor, you ask? Awesomeness. That’s what.

Meteor is a framework that allows you to write apps in pure javascript that can be used cross-platform, ie- Apple, Android, Desktop, Tablet, etc. It’s incredibly easy to use and has several libraries built in for things such as creating and logging in with Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc, or for doing simple designing with Bootstrap, etc. There are so many things to choose from and not enough time in the day to try it all out!

Apps written with Meteor also refresh automatically, so any changes to the data in the database will automatically be displayed on the screen in real-time. No more page refreshes and waiting for data to load, and a lot less back end development too. Same goes for code changes and software releases. Any changes made to the app can be pushed out to all the users without disrupting anything they’re in the middle of. Given the recent Facebook downtimes, this might be one of their strongest selling points thus far.

One of my favourite bits about Meteor is how versatile it is. It has the ability to connect to any technology out there, meaning that regardless of whatever you’re currently working on, Meteor can be added to it and it will work. No rewriting what’s already been done. And it can be hosted anywhere with Node.js, removing any dependencies on host providers, etc. App ownership is finally yours.

Don’t forget though- version 1 hasn’t been released yet and the framework is still in its early, immature stages. There are tweaks that have yet to be made, and security is still a major concern seeing as Meteor apps give the user full write access to the database. Certainly not a good thing if there’s any private user information in there. This is a technology to watch, and start getting acquainted with, if you want to be a part of the next big thing.

London Tech

London is becoming one of the major tech capitals of the world, and we get to experience its benefits everyday. We have some of the most technologically advanced buildings, newest inventions, startups blossoming all over, and more. There isn’t a night that goes by that doesn’t offer another tech event or talk in the city, covering just about anything you can imagine. As a software developer by profession and ‘techie-nerd’ by night, I love the range of things to do, see and get involved with.

New York City Mayor Bloomberg even says he spends more time eyeing London than he does Silicon Valley in the battle to be the champion city for the tech industry. He even stated that “Our competition is only going to be in other cities that have similar kinds of characteristics. And the city that comes to mind is London”. To pass up Silicon Valley as the biggest competitor to New York City? That’s huge. And we get to live it everyday.

Amazing.

Best yet, that leaves me with all sort of things to go do and see, take part in, and share. And I intend on doing just that! So watch for all sorts of exciting new tech-y things to show up here. And watch out NYC! We’re steaming ahead at full speed!