Last week I attended Microsoft’s Build Conference in Seattle. It was my first time attending so I was excited and didn’t know what to expect. It didn’t take long to realize that Microsoft puts on a top-notch event. From DJ’s playing music during the waiting line, to the constantly available live-stream piped everywhere throughout the event, to “cuddle-corner” where attendees could pet animals and relax, to the awesome expo, and non-stop new features and functionality being rolled out one could easily be impressed.
It was indeed a great event and I’d like to share a few things I learned from having attended the conference. These items will be more high-level and conceptual things I noticed versus down-in-the-weeds technology specific items.
As attendees listened to live-streamed sessions and keynotes the word cloud and “Azure” was prevalent throughout. I spent a lot of time in the expo hall of the event and I must have walked around it 6 or 7 times looking and booths and talking with Microsoft staff. Each booth has a navy-blue sign with white letters at the top indicating the technology being demonstrated at the booth. It was very eye-opening how many of the booths started with the word “Azure”. Sure, Azure has been out for a while now and that’s nothing new. I’m just communicating that walking around the expo and listening to sessions and keynotes it is crystal clear that Azure is a major component of many Microsoft technologies.
Take Home Point: If you are reading this and are hesitant to embrace Azure, you should re-think your position, or you’ll soon be left in the dust.
At the event Microsoft released “Sphere” which is a solution for creating highly-secure connected microcontrollers (IOT devices). And you guessed it… they connect to Azure! Many of the highly attended sessions and one of the most highly-trafficked booths all centered around Sphere.
As an IOT hobbyist I spent some time at the Sphere booth asking all kinds of questions about the Sphere Development Kits. I think the devices will be high-powered and offer a lot of functionality, but right now the price-point seems high in comparison to competitor solutions and the device that was being demo’d only connects to wi-fi currently. I imagine in the future they will connect to cellular via a SIM as well. One could argue that the increase in cost is the tradeoff for security as Microsoft touted how secure these devices are.
While micro-controller devices were being demo’d it’s important to note that Microsoft is not making the micro-controllers, rather they are working with established vendors in the industry to do so. Microsoft is collaborating in the design of the devices and helping align them with their IOT strategy for the future.
Take Home Point: Microsoft is continuing to invest in IOT, is linking devices to Azure, and is promoting the security of their IOT solution.
Another common thread throughout the event were the words “ML” and “AI”. You could hear this being presented in several sessions, keynotes, and there were booths discussing and demoing these topics as well…. and it makes sense. If your overall strategy is the cloud (Azure) and now IOT devices are easily connected to the cloud and sending tons of data to the cloud, then what will you do with all the data? The answer: you will learn from it and use it to make better decisions and become predictive.
An example demo showed a DJI drone flying over the top of a building looking at HVAC pipes analyzing them for inconsistencies or anomalies. Within seconds the drone was able to pick out the pipe that had the issue and show it to the audience in real-time. One can easily see the benefits of equipping the drone with AI capabilities.
But it doesn’t stop there… Microsoft is making it easy for developers to tie into their ML and AI capabilities in Azure. If you’ve got data stored in Azure, chances are leveraging the ML/AI capabilities offered to you by Microsoft could help your organization.
Take Home Point: Don’t write “ML” and “AI” off as just buzzwords. If you are using Azure then you may be surprised at how ML and AI can already help you. Give it a look!
One thing that also stuck out to me at the conference was the energy and level of enthusiasm of attendees and exhibitors. And I’m not just talking about Microsoft fan-boys. There were a lot of non-Microsoft developers at the event which was interesting and served as proof to me that Microsoft is on the right track strategically speaking.
As of late Microsoft has been heavily promoting open source and being open in general. From the open-sourcing of many of their .NET Technologies, to embracing non-Microsoft technologies (think running Linux in Azure) Microsoft is earning the respect of developers. But this stuff doesn’t just happen by luck. Microsoft has taken a different strategic stance and it is paying off… you could easily “feel” it while at the conference.
Take Home Point: This ain’t your granddaddy’s Microsoft!
I’m glad I went to Microsoft Build. I’ve been to several conferences over the years (including South by Southwest) and Build was by far my favorite. Yes, the content was great, but the conference experience extended beyond the content of the sessions and was woven all throughout all touch points of the event.
Everything was well-planned, organized, and first class from what I could tell. The registration process went smoothly, swag was everywhere, food and drinks were easily available, “Flow” of the expo was easy and open, the venue was great, several hotels were close by, the new technologies and content was awesome, and the Microsoftees were friendly. I didn’t see any attendees who had issues connecting to the internet or complaining about the typical things you’d see at conferences. All the details seemed to have been handled.
After all, where else could you hear about the latest and greatest technologies, pet dogs/rabbits/miniature horses, get free massages, meet the leaders of Microsoft, and have bottomless refreshments and snacks all in the same room?
Take Home Point: If you haven’t been to Build, you should go. It’s a great event.
My wife and I recently sold our townhome and set out to buy a new home. We spent a good deal of time researching, driving out to communities, and looking at floor plans. We finally settled on a new-construction development that was a Lennar community.
As we looked at the different floor plans we had a few that we liked, but ended up settling on a plan called the “Westley”. We chose a lot that was having the foundation laid so that we could still pick floor colors and have a little control over some features. We were excited to watch the home as it went up.
Of course once we sold the townhome we were displaced and without a home while the new home was being constructed. Based on the word Lennar gave us we would close on June 26th. Since we sold the townhome on June 5th that would give us about 3 weeks where we would shack up with my mom. This was where the “fun” began.
While the home was being constructed we made a few trips to the community to meet with the builder and to fill out paperwork regarding the loan. On one trip the home seemed to be a long way from “closing” and I asked the supervisor if he thought he was still on track to close on the 26th. He responded “Oh yeah, shoot if this good weather keeps up we may close early”. With the house still having a lot of work that needed to be done it was difficult to believe that timeline, but I am obviously not a builder and so I leaned on the supervisor’s expertise.
The day finally came for the walkthrough. As you can imagine, my wife and I were excited to go and review our soon-to-be new home. I had recently been to the home and had a list of items that I wanted to ensure were completed while we reviewed the home. At this meeting there were 2 building supervisors present, my wife and I, plus our real estate agent team members.
When we arrived at home we learned that the electricity had not been turned on. Translation: there was no air conditioning on and it was in the dead of the humid South Carolina summer. As all the windows were closed in the home it was like an oven and it didn’t take long before we all were sweating. The Lennar representatives told us that we would go through the home with blue tape and mark every item that needed to be touched up or corrected. They also indicated that this would be our only chance at creating a “punch list” and that moving forward only items on the list would be worked on. So this was our only opportunity to find items that were not done correctly – during the middle of a work day, in a house with no air condition, during the heat of the summer, and with a scheduled hour for the meeting. As you can imagine, the conditions were not the best for the walkthrough.
We started in the garage and I started asking about things and marking things up. The supervisors told me that the garage was “still a work in progress” and that a lot of work still needed to be done. I thought to myself that it wasn’t really fair to tell us that this was our only chance to make a punch list, but then to turn around and say that this area was still “in progress”. What were we supposed to do other than just trust them? We couldn’t really call out items that technically were not through or finished. That was the first of several red flags throughout the failed process.
As we went through the house we found several items that were not as they should be. There were door casings with no paint at all, door casings with large splinters, several areas that should have caulk that did not have caulk (such as the bathroom sinks), a noticeable bend in the metal in the front door’s casing, thin and uneven paint throughout the house, a metal awning over the bay window that looked terribly crafted, a crawl space door that had sprayed foam through 2 of the 5 gaps in the wood, and the main thing we noticed was a pretty nice hump in the dining room floor and in the kitchen pantry closet that was along the same seam in the floor. The uneven floor signaled a foundation that wasn’t level and that really concerned us.
By the end of the first walkthrough everyone was completely soaked in sweat, hot, and we had gone through 2 and a half rolls of blue tape. Every room in the house literally had blue tape all over it. In short, the home was a long ways from being ready and there was still a lot of work to be done. The following week our real estate agent spoke with a representative from Lennar who guaranteed our real estate agent that “Your clients won’t close until they are 100% happy".
As any home buyer would do we hired a home inspection company to inspect the house. A week or so later we met the home inspector at the house to review his report. He had been there 3 hours inspecting the house by the time we arrived. The good news was that in order to inspect the house the electricity had to be turned on, which meant this time we wouldn’t leave soaked in sweat. The home inspector found several of the items that we had blue-taped but he also found several more items that we hadn’t. He indicated that the vertical seams in the outer trim work needed to be caulked, an item which I had already raised to the supervisor in the first walkthrough and that they told me didn’t need caulk. He also identified areas where the bay windows & fireplace met the roof where there was clearly exposed wood beneath the flared edges. The inspector pointed it out to us and said “If I can see that wood and you can see it then you know that moisture can enter as well as bugs”. Needless to say you don’t need any wood exposed to the elements. The exposed wood was due to a technique Lennar uses in scenarios where bay windows connect back to fascia boards near the roof. This exposed wood scenario was present in several areas of the house’s roof. And since the air condition was on the inspector was able to identify a whistling sound in the air conditioning. The whistling sound represented air either coming through or getting out of somewhere that it shouldn’t and it could result in an increased bill to heat or cool the home.
In the end the Home Inspector created a staggering 85 page report filled with images and lists of issues with the house. I’ve included several images from the report in this blog entry. While we were glad that the home inspector found these issues it didn’t make us feel any better about the home.
By this time the builder had reviewed our punch list and had also received the inspector’s 85 page report. We worked with Lennar to accommodate their request to push back the closing by a week. A week later, when I arrived to this walkthrough I saw the entire front door being removed and there were several vehicles at the home. When I entered the house I learned that we now had a new supervisor. I’m not sure if the old one was fired, transferred, or what happened, but we would be dealing with a new supervisor going forward. There was also a Lennar representative there who appeared to be the manager of the supervisors. He maintained his distance throughout the walkthrough, but I saw him through the windows outside of the house just walking around and shaking his head as if here were saying “No” when looking at the craftsmanship of the home.
In our initial conversations with the construction supervisors our real estate agent let them know that we shouldn’t have even done the 1st walk through when we did. She told them that the house wasn’t nearly in the shape it should have been for a walkthrough. The Lennar team seemed apologetic and the new supervisor seemed to recognize that he was thrown into a difficult situation. While we were there talking one of the supervisors told us “We really do want to deliver a quality product to you all”. He seemed sincere and at the sight of seeing the front door being replaced and then hearing the reassurance from the Lennar crew I felt somewhat better initially.
As we re-walked through the home we again put blue tape on areas that needed to be updated. There were still several of the same areas that needed work. We just, again, put tape back on the same areas where we previously put tape. At one point the new supervisor said that we should just stop the walkthrough and let them revisit the entire house themselves. It was as if he recognized all the general theme of the issues and knew the house wasn’t ready for a walkthrough. Though, after making that comment they continued walking through with us. It was a little odd.
Upon walking into the dining room area it was apparent that nothing had been done with the hump in the floor. This was one of our major concerns that we had voiced to them several times. We called it out to them and continued the re-walk through. When we got to the attic we still heard the AC whistling. We again cited that to them along with the areas outside the needed caulking + the exposed wood above the windows. On this walkthrough the garage doors were up and we were able to see that the “stud” boards that the garage door was bolted to were bowing inward toward the door.
At the end of walkthrough we were in the garage talking with the Lennar representatives and our real estate agents. This time the corporate guy or the supervisor of the construction managers joined us. We again expressed concern over the hump in the floor and the most senior guy piped up saying that the hump in the floor was normal. I questioned him about that and he said that the hump in the floor was within their “tolerance” and that they wouldn’t be doing anything about it. My thought was that if something is within your tolerance then we shouldn’t be able to see it with a naked eye. My wife then spoke up saying that it was unfortunate to hear that Lennar was essentially drawing the line and not going to do anything to make the floor right. Her comment apparently got to the guy’s ego a bit because he puffed his chest out and said started telling us that he had been building houses for over 18 years and that this kind of thing is expected. I laughed out loud at him because he took my wife’s comment personally and tried to tell us how much of a building legend he was. I had never seen this guy before. All I knew was that he showed up, stood around, and was on his cell phone a lot. He could have been our neighbor for all I knew. I guess he wanted instant credibility because he wore work boots. I asked him to get his level and let’s go look at the floor. We went back into the dining room and found that the wall was also bowed. The level we used was a 6 foot level and was long enough to get from one hump to the next so to me it didn’t accurately represent the hump in the floor. They again stated that they would work on the wall, but not the floor.
By the time walkthrough #3 got here we were 3 weeks past schedule on the house. The lender was forced to extend the interest “rate-lock” agreement for the 2nd time and it was costing Lennar money each time. I had also started a new job and had been gone for 10 days which gave the builder plenty of time to fix the items that remained. I figured with me being gone so long Lennar should have no excuse for not having the items taken care of.
This walkthrough was unlike any other and was odd from the onset. We again showed up with our real estate agents and it became very clear that the Lennar sales representative + the construction manager were rushing us through the walkthrough. Why did they want to rush us? We had a punch list and before even addressing all items in one room, the Lennar reps were saying “Ok, what’s in the next room?” For much of the walkthrough I was lagging behind actually spending time looking at the issues they were supposed to fix.
When we continuously called out the thin paint the Lennar sales representative told us that in a walkthrough home buyers are supposed to stand 5 feet away from a wall and look rather then get up close to the wall. This puzzled us. If were are going to make a significant investment in a home I don’t care if I lay down on my back and look upside down. If something is supposed to have paint on it, then it should have paint on it. This goes back to a conversation I had one evening with a painter, but more on that later.
By the time we had gotten upstairs we had noticed the hump still in the floor downstairs + newly scratched up wood in the den area. When the lady told my wife to stand 5 feet away from the wall to review the thin paint it kind of put a line in the sand. We just all stood there in this one room and had an awkward moment of silence. I asked the question “So you’ve known about the punch list for over a month now and there are still issues. Are you going to fix these issues?” At this point the construction manager responded “The house is what it is and we are not making any more updates” and that essentially sealed the deal. At this point we were half-way through the walkthrough and we knew where we were headed. Though we continued walking through the rest of the house.
As we continued upstairs to the 3rd floor the building supervisor accused my wife of “creating new items” that were not on the initial punch list. As you may imagine that comment didn’t go over well. My wife responded “That’s interesting because I have video of all the items from both previous walkthroughs and if you want me to go downstairs and get my phone I can show you the video.” The supervisor responded “No you don’t have to do that” because he knew he’d been caught in a lie. After being pegged the supervisor commented, with a voice of frustration “I can’t be here all day watching people, I have other projects going on as well”. It seems like Lennar either has their supervisors on too many projects or that this guy didn’t really care about providing us a quality home.
As we reached the outside of the house I asked the supervisor about the mud that was on the fascia board above the garage. I called this out to them on the very first walkthrough over a month ago. The supervisor said they weren’t able to get it off. While we were going through the walkthrough a painter had arrived. The painter was Hispanic and I asked him in Spanish if it was possible to get the mud off. He went and grabbed his ladder, climbed it, and took 3 minutes to wipe the mud off. It was that simple. This action essentially meant that in 2 weeks’ time the supervisor hadn’t even attempted to wipe the mud off or had anyone see about it and then lied about it. That was at least 2 lies within an hour from the Lennar crew.
At the “end” of the walkthrough the supervisor asked me “Well what do you think?” What I thought was that the fact that they rushed us through the walkthrough, told us to stand 5 feet away from walls, got caught in multiple lies, and didn’t seem to care about the things that concerned us represented a surface level signal to a much more deeply rooted problem. And that problem was that Lennar wasn’t serious about not closing until we were happy and they weren’t serious about fixing the house. Ultimately they Lennar team knew we wouldn’t buy the house with the issues it had and they also knew they weren’t going to fix them. Consequently any time they spent with us was wasted time and wasted money. It was as if they wanted to hurry and get us through the process so they could start over a new buyer.
By this point in time we had already put down earnest money on the house and even transferred the down payment to the lawyer’s office. We were supposed to do the walkthrough in the morning, sign a release accepting the condition of the house, and close on the home the next day. It was down to the wire. We left without signing papers and told the Lennar reps we needed to think about some things. Of course everyone knew what was happening. The Lennar reps told our agents that they would refund us back the earnest money should we decide to withdraw the offer. This was a sign that they knew they were in the wrong.
We thought long and hard about the home. It was a nice floor plan, in a nice area, and a seemingly nice community in the making. However, we just didn’t feel good about things. You know that uneasy feeling you get in your stomach that’s always an indicator that you’re fixing to mess up… yeah that’s the one we had. The main things that led to our decision to withdraw were the poor quality home (the hump in the floor being number one), Lennar personnel rushing us through the walkthrough, and also getting mixed messages from Lennar throughout the process. They didn’t do a good job at building credibility and good will with us throughout the process.
At least for us, when considering making a large investment such as this, we wanted to feel good about it and have a sense of trust in the company with which we’d be doing business. We didn’t have that feeling and felt that we’d lost faith in Lennar by the time we got to the end of the process. As you just read it had not been easy to get the builder to take care of the items they guaranteed us they would take care of before buying the house… so needless to say, we didn’t have much faith in them coming back to fix things after they had our money.
I will give Lennar credit on the refund. They did refund us the earnest money we had put down on the house. By their paper work, which was heavily slanted towards them, they didn’t have to technically give us our money back. Though, I feel like they knew the house was not quality and thus they instantly agreed to refund us the earnest money. This was one of the few areas in which I’ll say they did right by us.
While my mom was a flexible and gracious host (thanks mom!), her home is about 50 miles from where we planned to live and where my wife works. The logistics were difficult to manage in this stressful time, so we decided to rent an apartment closer to the area we hope to live. As we looked for apartments we visited 3 apartment complexes that were brand new and still being built. This area of town is rapidly growing and thus there are houses, communities, and apartments going up everywhere. As my wife and I visited these apartment complexes I still had the flaws in the home we just backed out of in my mind. As we walked around I wasn’t so much paying the apartment representative attention as I was more so examining door casings, hardiplank implementations, observing where there was and wasn’t caulk, paint consistency, and the overall quality and craftsmanship of the buildings. And as you would imagine, there were things that were done differently than what we had just experienced with Lennar. For example, the caulking of vertical seams of the hardiplank, the same areas that the Lennar builders had just told us that didn’t need caulk. There also were no whistling air conditions, dents in door casings, door casings left completely without paint, paint in the carpet, stair “skirt” boards with dents in them, etc. The list could go on, but the point is that the quality was much better in the apartments we were reviewing than the house we’d just backed out of. After the apartment reviews I knew we had made the right the decision even though it was going to cause us more stress in the short term.
During this process we incurred several costs. We had to pay for the home inspection, movers, I’m still paying on the storage, we had nice gas tabs for our commutes, now we’re paying on an apartment, and the major cost was the inconvenience in time. Rescheduling furniture deliveries with multiple furniture companies, with movers, and with the internet installer all added up to make this a “fun” process.
The experience was unfortunate for both my wife and I and I believe for Lennar as well. We really did like the community, the floor plan, the lot, and the area of town. I believe that Lennar knew the specific house wasn’t well managed from the start and they knew the hump in the floor was an item they weren’t willing to fix because it would eat into their profit margins. I think once they recognized that we wanted something structurally updated with the house they just wanted us to hurry and withdraw our offer because they knew they weren’t going to get down to the foundation and fix it. The longer they kept us around the more money they were losing. In taking this stance they showed their true colors and literally left money on the table. I’m sure they will sell the house, but I’m also sure that house will have problems down the road.
So the process has been unpleasant, but tucked away in the frustrations and disappointments are great lessons to be learned. We learned what “problem areas” to look for when buying a house. We learned the signals and body language from home builders when things aren’t quite right. We learned about the core principals, ethics, and organizational character with which Lennar operates. We learned more about the house buying process in general and are better off for it in the long run. It was like a 3 month education on house buying. I would rather be displaced and incur stress in the short term in exchange for having a problematic house in the long run. Sure it’s not fun, but it would be even worse a few years from now if we had purchased that house.
The Lennar reps statement of “You won’t close until you’re 100% happy” still holds true and it is true because we will close on another house, with a different builder, in a community just up the road when we are 100% happy.
Last week I attended Microsoft’s Build Conference in Seattle. I was helping at the .NET Open Source booth which promoted the .NET Foundation and all things open source. The conference was very nice, and the energy level was high. I had conversations with a wide variety of people during the conference and it is obvious that Microsoft’s strategy of embracing open source is welcomed by developers.
During one of my discussions a gentleman told me that his organization uses open source software (OSS) and he wants to allow his developers to contribute to OSS, but he needed to be able to justify it to his corporate leadership. His organization is a large, global organization so he needed solid and clear reasoning for why contributing to OSS is something his company should support.
He asked me if I knew of any blogs or resources that could provide insight into this topic. I thought about it and while I’m sure there is info somewhere, I wasn’t aware of any specific blogs or content about this subject. I am obviously biased about this topic, but let’s consider some reasons why a business should support OSS… especially if their organization is using OSS-based products.
Before we list out reasons we should first define what “support” means. When business people hear the term “support” they generally think about money, cost, or financial implications. Though, in the open source world it’s not necessarily about money as support can come in many different forms. Of course, the obvious need for any OSS project is code contribution, but there are more ways to contribute than one may initially think. As examples outside of the code, organizations could allow their developers to assist in marketing and promotions of sub-projects, conferences, user groups, GitHub repos, project documentation etc. Developers could also volunteer in any area of the OSS project as well as exchange knowledge online via forums, blogs, StackOverflow, and others. Organizations could also open up their offices for user group meetings, donate swag & door prizes, or sponsor the food at meetings. Any step taken to help move the the OSS project forward is a form of support.
Now that we know that support can come in forms outside of financial contributions let’s get back to the subject. If you are faced with the need to justify supporting open source software to your business leadership here are some thoughts and ideas to consider:
In this blog I’ve summarized my thoughts around why it’s important for organizations to give back, be active in, and support OSS projects and communities. As one considers justifying OSS participation to the business side of an organization much of the conversation will center around educating the business-side on how OSS ecosystems function. Communicating the potential positive benefits will be what’s needed to help bring on a change in perspective or cultural shift within the organization.
In my mind there are only positives to gain from contributing to OSS projects. Your developers will learn more, be empowered, meet new developers of all ages and skillsets, and your organization will be more efficient, and will likely be viewed as a great organization to work for.
If you don’t want to jump in head first then just try this one small thing to get your feet wet - if your developers have “down time” then simply encourage them focus their energies and time to assisting with the OSS project in any area they choose and watch what happens to your company in the months ahead. Be sure to pay attention to job satisfaction levels, quality of incoming new hires, general passion for work, and the perception of your organization among developers in your space.
After all, have you noticed that OSS projects that thrive are the ones with active community support? Who doesn’t want the project they use to not thrive? From my perspective the benefits of contributing to open source software far outweigh the drawbacks of not contributing.
Our crew had a blast last year at DNNWorld 2011 so we eagerly looked forward to this year’s conference all year long. This year DNNWord was moved up a month from November to October which was a welcomed change by me as November is the best part of deer hunting season in South Carolina. As soon as the early-bird registration came out I registered.
To me, DNNWorld is like a combination of a family reunion, a pep rally, and information-loaded-boot-camp. It’s really hard to describe and put into words, you just have to experience it. There are great people to meet, prizes to win, awesome sessions to inspire you and get your creativity flowing, a side-conversation constantly going on via social media, competitions to enter, arrows to shoot at people, good times to be had, and trees to be climbed. It’s fun and I always leave energized about the future. There was no way we’d miss it.
As an open source enthusiast and a .NET developer I’ve been watching the transformation of Microsoft happen and it has been great to watch. You see I’m an avid user of DotNetNuke and if you know anything about DNN’s history you know that DNN was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, open source project in the .NET Ecosystem. From 2003 on DNN has been a pioneer in the .NET open source world.
A lot has happened and several trends have come and gone in the Microsoft world since 2003. As an open source project built on Microsoft technology the notion of being open source wasn’t always a popular conversation topic. Being open source wasn’t “cool” and sometimes negative perceptions about open source solutions were visible.
Boy have times changed!
Microsoft is Serious About Open Source… and It’s Not Just Lip Service
One of my college football coaches always said “Your words don’t mean anything, but your actions mean everything.” Actions are a really good sign of what someone really believes.
Microsoft’s strategic shift to embracing and focusing on open source over the past few years has been such a refreshing transition to see, feel, and experience for me and my fellow DNN’ers because of the actions we are seeing.
If we look at the recent and strategic moves Microsoft has made it’s easy to see that Microsoft is indeed serious about open source. If you aren’t convinced that Microsoft is serious about open source or if you are not keeping up, let’s look at some of the actions Microsoft has taken related to open source. And these are just the ones I have observed… I’m sure there is even more evidence out there.
Why It’s a Great Time to Be a .NET Developer
There has never been a better time to be a .NET Developer. Literally everything you need to get started building is online and free to use and even better it’s likely open source. Anybody, anywhere can download code, look at it, enhance it, modify it, and submit it back to the projects if desired. If you can dream it, you can build it and you may build an online team of users and contributors to assist you in the process. Microsoft is literally making it easy to build open source projects via the technologies and resources they are providing. They are removing roadblocks for developers and being 100% transparent.
Consider the following capabilities anybody, anywhere has...
I referenced one of my college football coaches earlier, but he wasn’t the only one to to impart wisdom during my athletic days. My high school coaches had more one-liners than anyone could remember. One line that stuck with me was “If you do the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.” Microsoft is not only doing the big things, but they are also doing the little things that continue to reinforce their seriousness about open source.
We are watching a culture and paradigm shift occur in real-time and it’s awesome. By going “all in” on open source Microsoft is not only winning the hearts of developers, but they are making it easy for developers to get started with their technologies! I think the strategic decision to embrace open source will have a big impact for Microsoft in the long term.
We’ve hunted in the WeHuntSC.com Predator Challenge for 7 years. We’ve hunted hard and have yielded minimal results other than being frustrated. Lately we’ve heard a lot of people telling us how effective they have been with hunting coyotes with night vision. This year we aimed to reduce frustration and get more coyotes on the ground by upgrading to a night vision setup. This journey would lead to many lessons learned, which I’ll share in the below blog entry.
After doing some research it seems most hunters are using AR’s for their choice of weapon when coyote hunting. The AR model frees hunters from having to manually chamber another shell as this is done by the gun. This allows more rapid fire at targets which is beneficial when hoping to shoot multiple coyotes … if you can get multiple to come in.
I’d recently heard about Anderson Arms having a unique AR setup. Anderson uses a nanotechnology called RF-85 on their guns that makes it to where you never have to oil the gun. It’s pretty sweet technology. I went with the Anderson Arms AM15 optic ready. If you haven’t checked it out, head on over to https://www.andersonrifles.com.
With the gun selection done it was time to move on to the scope. This meant I had to learn about night vision. It seems in the night vision world there are 2 routes one can go – infrared or thermal. I’m sure you can get into religious debates about the advantages & disadvantages of each, but in the end I chose thermal. Once I decided on thermal I needed to pick out a brand. I had previously purchased a FLIR monocular for spotting scope which I use for tracking wounded animals and ensuring I’m not spooking deer on my way in or out of the woods. It’s very handy, but not very clear. I wanted to try a different brand to see if it was any different. PULSAR seemed to be a popular brand based on the research I had done. I ended up going with the PULSAR Apex XD38.
I worked with the crew at Reel Determined Outdoors to get this rig set up. If you haven’t checked out Reel Determined or the team up there you should give them a shout.
One initial note about night-vision gear. I was surprised at how expensive these technologies are so if you’re looking for a cheap night vision solution get ready to be surprised. However, I can tell you that once you use a night vision setup for coyotes you will never go back.
Sighting In a Thermal Scope
With the gun in hand and scope mounted on it we were ready to venture into the world of thermal night vision. Before we got to shoot at any coyotes however, we needed to sight it in. This is where we really started learning some stuff.
When you take a thermal scope out and look at a target you don’t see the lines on the target. This is because the scope is responding to heat signatures and, as you would imagine, the lines on the target aren’t putting out any heat. Yes, this would seem obvious, but to some rookies we didn’t think ahead about this too much. On our first attempts at sighting this thing in we ended up cutting the center of the target out and putting up some tin foil as the tin foil maintained different temperatures and we could *vaguely see the contrast in the scope. It was all we needed to get excited and get started though.
Once inside the scope I realized that we’d have to learn the menu systems inside of the PULSAR scope. At first sight it was a little overwhelming because I had no idea what all the icons represented. Yes there is a book that comes with it explaining it and yes we didn’t really read it before getting started! In retrospect the best thing I did was watch some YouTube videos of people talking through the menu items.
The menus are not difficult to understand I was just in initial shock of trying to understand them all. The icons make sense and there are 2 menus inside of the software. Yes, software… the thermal scope is essentially a computer system on your gun that’s giving you a screen with information on it and view into the dark. As such, it does require some time to boot up when you press the on button.
The thing that is important to understand about the menu is that you zero the sights in in the menu, that it can hold “sight-ins” for 3 different weapons, and there is a reset button. Sometimes I got lost in the menus and didn’t know what I was clicking and changed the weapon number and even clicked reset. This did indeed make for a frustrating time sighting in the weapon. Once I learned what buttons not to click things got easier.
Gavin and I ended up sighting this gun in about 3 or 4 times as we learned more, messed things up, saw that our scope wasn’t tight on the gun, and figured out the menu items. Once you understand how it works sighting it in is fairly easy. Another trick that made sense was to use hot-hands hands on the middle of your target. If you want to go the extra mile, soak a pizza pan in ice-water and then put it behind the hot-hands on the target. This creates a cool circle encompassing a hot center, which in the scope creates a good contrast for you to aim at.
After several times out with the gun and sighting it in we finally started hitting the target where we wanted to… in the bullseye.
Videoing with a Pulsar Recorder
One neat thing about digital night vision is the ability to record the footage from inside your scope. Since it’s a computer, why not right? PULSAR has different models and with the more recent models the video recording capabilities are getting even better and more user friendly. Our experience with the video recorder left some to be desired and required some learning on our behalf.
The video recorder for the model scope I have is the CVR 640 and it mounts on the weaver/picatinny rail… that is it can be attached to anywhere you see the grooved sections on the gun. In my scenario this meant I could attach the recorder on the side of the scope or on the front of the gun. I initially attached it on the front of the gun because this made ergonomic sense. The recorder holds an SD card and you simply pop the SD card out to download the footage. The recorder plugs into the base of the scope and screws in tightly. The odd thing about this is that your gun literally has cables running down & around it (however you handle your cable management that is).
I was very excited to video all the coyotes we would be busting in the near future! Sure enough it wasn’t long before we had coyotes in the scope and started pulling triggers. The first time I was sure that I was recording when I shot. I looked at the video box and noticed the blue light wasn’t on anymore. How terrible luck was it for the batteries to die right before the shot! So I got new batteries.
A few hunts later the same thing happened. Did I have a bad batch of batteries or what? After 8 live-action shots that were recording, but yet failed to record I had had enough. I’d put in numerous new batteries and nothing worked… I was going to get to the bottom of this. We had some hunts coming up and I left the gun with Gavin during one of our re-sight-in attempts. Gavin and I were both doing research on this issue. Gavin noticed that even though the recorder has a weaver rail and mounts to the gun it was NOT rated for recoil. I told Gavin to remove the video recorder from the gun, put it in his pocket and record himself sighting the gun in and see if the video stopped recording. BINGO! We’d found the culprit. Gavin said the video recorder continued to record during the shots when not attached to the gun. This let us know that the video recorder will record if it wasn’t attached to the gun when shooting.
The First Coyote on The Ground With Night Vision
With multiple times to the range figuring out the sighting in process and now with the video issue out of the way we were ready to rock and actually get some footage. We had been bummed about previous footage attempts because we had some great encounters. We were about to change that.
Gavin and I were requested to help a local farmer out who has a hog problem. We had indeed gotten hogs on camera at the location and were headed in to assist. When we arrived to the location we went in to the field scanning with the monocular as we walked toward our stand. Gavin saw that hogs were already in the field. So we dropped down to a knee and just watched. Right then a coyote started howling very close to us. To our surprise the coyote howl startled the hogs and they exited the field that they had just entered. I was surprised that hogs would be intimidated by coyotes, but thinking back on it the hogs has some young ones with them and maybe their leaving the field was to protect the young ones.
I told Gavin we should go to the area on the other side of the field where there is a deer stand and just be patient. I was sure the hogs would return. We agreed and slowly retreated to the other area of the field. We were just sitting there talking letting time pass when coyotes started howling very loudly again. This time there were more than one howling. We were hog hunting, but we did have the coyote call in the truck. Frustrated at the situation Gavin said “I’m going to the truck to get the call”.
After returning back from the truck Gavin set the call up and said “Get in the gun because when I hit this call they are going to come in”. So I did as Gavin instructed and turned the scope on.
If you’re wondering why my scope would even be off… night vision and thermal optics flat eat batteries. If you’re going thermal do yourself a favor and order the extended battery pack so that you are not like me and have to carry around packs of batteries in your pockets and constantly replace them.
Back to the story... Gavin told me to get in the scope and I did just that. Gavin played some coyote whimpers and a coyote duet, new sounds we’d just downloaded to the FoxPro before leaving. I was scanning left and Gavin was scanning right. We stopped the calls and it was quiet, crisp, and clear out. Nothing responded… no howl backs, no barks, nothing. Then all of a sudden Gavin whispered “There he is” and at that I turned to the right and saw a coyote crossing my face from right to left. I followed this coyote waiting on it to pause so that I could squeeze the trigger. Gavin said “What are you doing turn right turn right”. What we didn’t know until afterwards was that Gavin didn’t see the coyote I saw. He had seen another one, a bigger one, to our right. I told Gavin “Shut up” and he said “There’s a big one here on the right”. I said “Make him stop, say something, bark” and he responded “A big one on the right”. It was not easy to pull the scope off the one I was following and turn right, but I did. What I saw was indeed a larger coyote on our right. I put the crosshairs on him and squeezed off. I could tell from the video that I hit him! I then swiveled back left and got back on the coyote that I had seen earlier. It paused just enough and I dropped it on the spot.
It all happened so fast. My heart was pumping and adrenaline was racing, but one thing was for sure. We definitely had the scope sighted in correctly this time. And when I pulled the video recorder out of my pocket it was still recording! We had footage to review!
We looked and looked for the first coyote, but could not find it. We think it ran off and died somewhere, but we did recover the second coyote and got some pics. Man it was a fun hunt.
And now you can re-live the hunt with us in the below video:
Tips For Hunting With Thermal Night Vision
Throughout this process we’ve learned a good deal about AR-15’s, night vision scopes, PULSAR, and recording video. Here’s a list of things we’ve learned and hopefully they are helpful to you in some way: