Dave Noderer's Blog

October 2007 Entries

My First Tri-Rail Trip...

Here in South Florida there is a commuter train that runs between Miami and West Palm Beach. I live in Deerfield Beach about 1/2 way with a Tri-Rail station next to the entrance to I95 that i would normally take to go north or south.

Today I need to go to a customer in downtown West Palm ~30 miles but always a pain in the ass due to traffic and construction on I95. I don't make this trip very often but today I'm trying Tri-Rail (http://www.tri-rail.com/)

I planned to take the 11:57 am train so picked up a ham and swiss sub at Jersey Show Subs (my favorite sub place) and headed to the station.

I arrived at the station early enough to finish my sandwitch, "validate" my ticket and wander around a bit. There is also an AmTrack (http://www.amtrak.com/ ) station  I poked my head into and realize i could travel to Gainseville to visit my daughter at UF or even to Boston which takes 1 1/2 days...

There is also train museum (http://www.sfrm.org/ ) there but it has limited hours, another thing on my list of todos!

I keep hearing horror stories about the tri-rail service. Sometime in the past couple of years they built a second track which is shared (and currently dispatched out of Jacsonville by CSX) with CSX. My train was late but only by 7 or 8 minutes, no big deal and we were rolling north before 12:07 pm.

I went to the upper deck where there are pairs of facing seats with a small table between them. I've setup my laptop and getting verizon broadband service no problem...

One of the reasons I'm particularly interested in Tri-Rail at this point is a "TOD" (Transportation Oriented Development) proposed next to the Tri-Rail station. Deerfield Station (http://www.deerfieldstation.com/home.html ) looks like a very good replacement for what is already there but it is very dense and will add a lot of cars to the area. On the positive side they will re-engineer the  entire area to distribute traffic flow and provide for turn lanes where there are none now. I did speak in favor of the project at a recent planning and zoning committee meeting (it was approved) but the developer still has quite a way to go, they are already a few years into it.

 Although we left a few minutes late, we pulled into the West Palm Beach station 4 minutes early. I could use the Tri-Rail ticket to get a "Palm Tran" bus to where I'm going downtown but it is a nice day and I'm walking the six blocks. There were dozens of cab's waiting, hustling fares as I got off the train.

On the way I stopped at my new favorite place in West Palm, the Paris Creperie & Cafe at 212 S Olive. Nice little cafe, good coffee and you get your eggs wrapped in a freshly made crepe for breakfast (not today)....

And I never took the return trip as my customer who lives in Boca insisted on giving me a ride back to my car in Deerfield so we could talk.

In any case it was a great experience and I'll try it again.




DayJet Official Launch in Boca Raton, FL

Tonight I attended the official launch of the DayJet (http://www.dayjet.com/), on demand, point to point air service to under-utilized airports around the state of Florida (initially)... This was held in the Avitat hanger (a fairly new Fixed Base Operator) overlooking the Boca Raton Airport Field.

Besides knowing some people who work there, I was looking forward to seeing an Eclipse 500 VLJ - Very Light Jet(http://www.eclipseaviation.com/), the first of a new generation of low cost jet aircraft. I did get to sit in one, a two pilot, three passenger plane. Not large but meant to be low cost, fast transportation. DayJet has taken delivery of 12 jets with another few hundred on order. Eclipse was founded by Vern Raburn, former, early Microsoftie.

As Ed Iacobucci, DayJet (and Citrix) founder pointed out. DayJet is the first company to get a fully digital certificate from the FAA. The entire process from customer negotiation/booking through to automatic generation and filing of flight plans to the FAA is a first. Most airlines have hundreds of people doing this work, DayJet has zero. They hired a group brains from Georgia Tech to come up with the algorithms for the underlying engines then built all the automated business software on top of that.

While he was talking about how quiet the Eclipse is given the somewhat rocky history of the Boca Airport and it's relationsship with the surrounding neighborhoods (curved approach path and  all).. a DayJet Eclipse took off, made some noise but not bad, he did not have to stop talking. A few minutes later a larger business jet (a Falcon??) followed by a smaller (than the Falcon) took off, both made a LOT more noise so that Ed had to stop speaking.

A point of history on the Boca Airport... it was a very large complex during WWI where both air and ground crews trained on the then secret and evovling RADAR systems developed in England and then at MIT. Sally J Ling wrote an interesting book on the subject "Small Town, Big Secrets". Much of the former airfield is now occupied by Florida Atlantic University with the Boca Raton airport retaining one of the airstrips.

Code Idol Results

All the code Idols did a great job. In the end, mostly by popular vote, Steve Potter won the "Top Geek" title. I'm sure we will see more of Steve as he is very interested in presenting at future meetings!

Thanks to the code idol contestants:

Steve Potter - Cache Register
Jonas Strawski - SQL Server as Document Repository
Lou Yovin - Volume Shadow Copy
Tim Corbett - System Tray App
Louis Datz - dashCommerce
Martin Anderson - XML Schemas and powershell
Max Trinidad - Powershell script to create CSV file

We will definitely do this again at code camp and at other UG meetings. A few lessons were learned!

- Next time we will limit it to four contestants and give each at least 15 min, with 5 min of Q&A while the next person sets up. Seven was way too many but we were not sure how it would work out.

- I was a judge and it was not fun to try and pick a number for each contestant. None of the judges liked this. So.. in the future the judges will still be there but only for the normal banter, asking questions and embarassing the presenters.

- The way to go for judging is the "Popular Vote". We did this by having the contestants (the top 3 of 7 in this case but in the future all 4) stand at the front of the room with their backs to the audience. The audience is given the chance to vote by raising their hands as each contestant is indicated by the MC. This is much more objective and far more humane for both the contestants and the judges.

- From a code idol presntation standpoint, focus is important. Boil what you have down to something that can be shown from end to end including the code. I think that Tim Corbett's system tray app might have been the best example of this even though he did not win.

Other than that it was different and a lot of fun. Blasting through a bunch of different subjects in one night was great. I saw a number of things i will use myself!

Thanks to Shervin Shakibi for the concept and being a judge and also to Jeff Barnes of Microsoft who was the third and  "Mystery Judge".