Saturday, July 24, 2010

Block Dude Evolved

My son's first foray into programming started a few years ago playing ROBLOX; a virtual playworld where kids can create and customize the look and behavior of their own online worlds. I wrote a couple of posts including "Professor ROBLOX: Class In Session" covering how ROBLOX is actually shaping the lives of future programmers since kids use the Lua scripting language to customize the behavior of their worlds.

My son moved on past Lua and taught himself TI Assembly Programming and Visual C++. His goal: create games for the TI-84 graphing calculator so he and his middle-school friends could play games rather than pay attention in math class. :-)

With the rise of the Apple iPod Touch and iPhone, he has launched headfirst into Objective-C and delivered "Block Dude Evolved", a recreation of the all-time classic TI calculator game called "Block Dude".

Block Dude Evolved is a puzzle game. The goal is to move your little man across obstacles and out the exit door on the level. The challenge is that you need to pick up and move blocks to help you climb over obstacles that are between you and the door. You can only step up one block at a time, so if you are facing a wall two blocks high, then you need to grab a movable block and plop it down so you can climb up. The first level is pretty simple, but the levels increase in difficulty after that.

The controls of Block Dude Evolved are pretty simple. To move the little man left or right, you just tap those sides of the screen. To climb up a block, just tap the upper portion of the screen. If you are standing next to a block that can be picked up, just tap the block and you will lift it above your head. Then you simply move to where you want to be and tap the spot where you want to drop the block. If you want to exit out of the game, just tap two fingers at the same time.

Block Dude Evolved has a Settings dialog that enables you to customize the look:

For example, you can choose the Future look:

Or the Revamped look:

Anyhow, if you have an Apple iPod Touch or iPhone and yearn for the days of classic brain-puzzle games, then I recommend you give Block Dude Evolved a try.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Job Trends: Spring, WebSphere, WebLogic - what a difference a year makes!

Last year I wrote "Job Trends: Tomcat, Spring, Weblogic, JBoss, EJB" where I discussed the trend towards "Lean Software" and the role that Spring plays in this important movement.

A lot has happened over the past year. CIO's have identified Virtualization and Cloud computing as their top two strategic technologies for 2010. Lean Software has become even more of a Business Technology Imperative than it was a year ago. And, the job market over the past year has been challenging at best.

With that as a backdrop, let's see what the job market looks like for Spring Java developer skills versus the other industry heavyweights.

The chart nicely illustrates that Spring Java developer skills (green line) have been on an inexorable path upwards for the past 5 years. WebSphere Java developer skills (blue line) are next and have been on a downward path for the past year and a half. WebLogic Java developer skills (orange line) round out the chart and have been relatively flat over the past few years.

Companies continue to value lightweight application infrastructure skills (i.e. Spring) since this provides them a way to create applications more quickly and therefore be more competitive. More speculatively, I believe that Virtualization and Cloud computing initiatives are accelerating this trend since these initiatives are forcing enterprises to take a hard look at how they are building and deploying applications...and to take measures (and hire talent) that dramatically simplify the process.

Since I work at the SpringSource division of VMware, I have a keen interest in the health and vibrancy of the Spring community. I'm happy to see that even in a tough job market, the demand for Spring Java developer skills continues to grow.

Credits: I used to generate the chart above. searches millions of jobs from thousands of job sites and provides a neat service that lets you see job trends for whatever search criteria you may have. My criteria was Java Developers that have Spring, WebSphere, or WebLogic skills. Click here to go to to see the latest view of my chart above.