Robert Plante [rdplante]
Your mind is your work tool. How do you take care of it?
Enough sleep every day and a decent diet is absolutely key. Exercise also helps out a lot as moving about gets the brain moving as well.
Have you ever had a job that was so stimulating that you could not get your mind off of it?
Absolutely. There have been many nights where I would just lie in bed thinking about all the different possibilities, and coming up with so many possible problem and solutions that it can take me hours to fall asleep.
Does spirituality contribute to your creativity?
Not at all, no. That's not to say that certain ideas cannot come from religions, but my personal spirituality really never comes into play.
It is possible to fall in love with a bad idea simply because it is yours. How do you avoid this?
Yes it is. I avoid this by stepping back and re-evaluating what I'm doing, and also bring other people in to criticize what I'm working on. Being able to be objective about one's own idea regardless of the amount of time and effort put in is very important.
Ideas can come simultaneously to different people in different places with no connection to one another. How do you explain this phenomenon?
Two smart people see a problem and devise a more practical solution. Problem solving is by no means limited to geography, and more than one person can come up with the exact same idea. Having it happen to two people at around the same time is of no special significance.
How did you begin programming and at what age?
I started Programming pretty early on in my life by scripting some simple systems in trueSpace with JScript. That was around 6th grade.
What languages do you code, and in what platforms?
On all major platforms:
What machine configuration and operating system do you use?
Windows, Mac, and Linux.
My desktop at home is something spectacular, but I can work on pretty much anything.
Please list web addresses where we can see some of your work
What motivates you to undertake a new project?
A number of things usually, but I tend to like the atypical projects that present a challenge as opposed to the mundane routine jobs.
Construct an aircraft engine mathematically, with time based animation rather than keyframe
Construct a shader network that would allow for hundreds of different types of unique metals from changing a few parameters
Mundane examples that I may or may not do, depending:
Setting up web/mail servers
Coding a forum system
What part of project development is most gratifying to you?
I really like getting down into the nitty-gritty of the creation of complex systems. Watching all the pieces come together is just an awesome thing.
From the outside, it seems a rational job, but is creativity necessary for programming?
Absolutely. Creative problem solving is almost always required, especially when things are more complex. For an email form, probably not, for responsive web-design, absolutely. Being able to take an idea of what needs to be accomplished, and rearrange it to work more efficiently is definitely a creative problem.
What conditions do you need to concentrate when programming?
Most any conditions are fine, obviously the fewer interruptions the better, but having a good memory means that being interrupted every few minutes about something will not lose me my place.
After working for long periods of time, have you ever felt as though you were in a bubble?
I can't say that I have no, unless you mean a time bubble. Then yes, yes I do.
When you check out code you wrote time ago, what's the main difference with respect to code that you write nowadays?
Long long ago I had very little understanding of convention, style, and the importance of comments. These days it is very different. I have a consistent style and convention scheme and plenty of comments for the case where code may need to be revisited a few months down the road. Overall efficiency of processes has also undergone considerable change for the better.
Do you still buy programming books, or do you learn everything from online sources?
I love books. Nothing compares to having a book on hand and being able to flip right through it. For some things I do use the internet, but since I'm staring at a screen all day anyway, it's good to get a break from that without losing productivity.
Do you think programming should be taught at the basic education level?
Depends what you mean by basic education, but I do think that there are enough jobs out there that do not require programming that it would not be necessary. Problem solving and critical thinking, however, should certainly be taught.
What has been your experience in marketing your software?
Very little. Being a student I've been more focused on project completion than necessarily the marketing side of things.
What do you learn from software users?
That developers and users are two very different types of people, and that while a developer may think the usability and interface of some project may be perfectly logical, the average user probably does not. Users also tend to find ways to break things that most developers wouldn't consider simply because it is the "wrong way" to use something. Where I work I double as a tester because I can take code that I've written, or that others have written, and can try to use it in ways that most people don't consider right away. This is what makes my overall code so stable, because every change I implement I test in as many conventional and unconventional ways as possible.
What would be your solution against piracy?
Ah yes, the age old question of DRM. To be perfectly honest, I do not think there is "a solution" to the "piracy problem." If there is a demand, it will eventually get pirated. That's not to say there are a great many ways to deter piracy. Registering keys with a database upon sale, and then having rigorous security checks whenever someone would like to use the software is one option, Ubisoft does this for some of its games. Then there comes the issue of "always being connected" and how that's not entirely practical. Stepping back slightly is the one time registration with an offsite server, then the product is free to use on that machine whether internet is available or not. At a more base level, providing the software at a reasonable price is one of the largest deterrents to piracy that I have ever seen. A boxed copy of a new video game from a AAA company will be $60, if the digital copy, which requires absolutely no distribution model of any kind, costs the same, people will be more likely to pirate it. The price point does have a large impact. Then there is the model of giving away the shell of the game for free, and all things inside the game must be purchased with real world currency, thus rendering pirating a moot point.
Would you consider yourself rigorous in the organization of the coding that you write and on commenting it?
Oh yes, very much so. Especially since a number of things that I write I eventually come back to again later. My comments may not always be overly extensive, but that's also because I use variable names like "dragForce" instead of just "dF" or some other abbreviation. In today's day and age, legibility typically takes precedence over character count. That's not to say I couldn't limit my character counts and not allow variables over four letters in length, but computers are powerful enough to where that is typically not an issue.
What are your favourite games and on what platform do you play them?
Between the Xbox 360 and my PC I have all my favorite games. My PC has a 1TB drive dedicated to my video games, and it's almost full. I don't really have any favorites per se, but if you want to see the kind of games I do play, you can see my games list here: http://steamcommunity.com/id/zukazamme/games/?tab=all
How often do you clean dirt-buildup on your keyboard?
I clean out all my machines and peripherals once every few months, depending on the buildup. I have a can of compressed air and a microfiber cloth sitting right next to my machines.
How do you feel when friends or family ask for your help in solving domestic computer problems?
It usually does not bother me, until they ask for the same exact issue to be solved for the fourth or fifth time. Especially since I try to walk them through the problem so they can figure it out for themselves the next time something like that happens.
As machines for development, what opinion do Macs deserve?
Personally, I'm not much of a Mac person. I do not hate them or anything extreme like that, but I do prefer the Windows environment. Ultimately it all depends on the target platform. If you want to develop for an Apple product, you need Apple hardware/software. If you want to develop for a Microsoft product, you need Microsoft hardware/software. If you want to develop for someone else, they typically have the option to use either Mac or Windows based machines.
How do you protect your computer from viruses?
Between Spybot: Search & Destroy, Avast! Antivirus, and regular checks, that's all I need. Simply not being dumb on the internet helps too. Make sure you know exactly what you are downloading, and everything that it wants to install with it.
In social settings, do people become interested when you tell them you are a software developer?
Depends on the social setting, and what exactly I follow that up with. Generally speaking, people are interested if I bring it up in a context that makes sense.
Do you work alone or in a team? Which do you prefer?
I do both. For a lot of my school projects I have been working on my own thus far, and at work I typically work in a team. To me it makes no real difference whether I work alone or in a team, so long as the team I'm working with is good at what they do.
Are you one of the first to update to new software when it comes out, or do you normally wait until more stable versions appear?
What I'll typically do is keep the older version around and go ahead and grab the new version if I can. Being a student I do have access to certain software for a greatly reduced price. At the same time, I cannot afford to upgrade everything I own all the time.
What is your main reason for not meeting project deadlines?
There are two main reasons for that. Neither of which have occurred at my job, but both of which have occurred with school projects.
1) Something became more complicated than it should have been. E.g. Tuio Touch Events not properly propagating to children of stage objects means that I now have to completely redesign the class based system that I had originally implemented for memory management reasons to be more flat.
2) Things were taking longer than expected, and I had to stop to make sure I get work for all my other classes completed. This typically happens in conjunction with point number one.
How many breaks per day do you normally take?
Anywhere between one and three depending on how things are developing. I take breaks based upon stress level, because stepping away from a frustrating problem typically allows for a solution to reveal itself. If things are not too stressful then I can sit and work for 8 hours straight, only breaking for food.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a programmer?
What is your professional position? What technology do you work with?
I am currently a Technical Artist intern at Kaneva. Although I am really more of a part-time employee than an intern at this point. I work with Visual Studio and DirectX 9 on some pretty low level things, and then also with Lua, XML, Photoshop, Maya, and Illustrator on a more presentation level within the software.
Do you consider yourself a geek?
Yes and no. I do consider myself a geek, but not the stereotypical type of geek. I certainly am less socially awkward and more attractive than many movies portray the average geek as.
How did your professional interest in technology come about?
When I was very young I got interested in 3D, some basic scripting, and a little bit of robotics. I could not tell you exactly what it was that made me interested in those things, I just liked solving problems and automating things.
Were you one of those who broke toys to see the inner workings?
Absolutely yes. But I would also buy some general robotic kits and make my own toys.
How would you describe the emotion that comes from getting involved in a new technology?
I typically get excited by the possibilities that are opened up by the new technology. Things like the Kinect and AR on mobile devices really do open a lot of new doors.
How do creativity and methodology combine to resolve technological problems?
Being able to approach a problem from a different angle is very very important, but almost meaningless without any experience to base it on. Knowing how something works will always allow for more relevant creative ideas to spring forth than when someone has no idea how something works. Being able to creatively apply methods in a more efficient manner is the goal of every product developer out there.
Which one is needed to work in technology: great patience, or an especially ordered mind?
The more one has of both the better. Being able to understand the way a computer follows processes is very important, and it is even more important to be patient when working on something as things can very easily be overlooked due to simple human error.
Does pressure impede your concentration or is it a stimulus to outdo yourself?
It can go either way. At first it can be a stimulus, but after constant doses of high pressure, it begins to wear one down thus resulting in one being less effective than before.
Are kids and teens too “technified”? Can one become addicted to technology?
In short, yes. To clarify, seeing a five year old with their own IPhone is more than ridiculous. There is a lot more to the world than just technology. In many cases it is not even appropriate. Kids in elementary school requiring social networking via Facebook and Twitter are missing the point. The main reason I have Facebook is to stay connected with friends that I had long ago in other countries. With Twitter I help put myself out into the world to be found, same with LinkedIn. I'd say, until high school, if even then, those kinds of things may not only be frivolous, but troublesome.
Which is more difficult: dealing with machines or dealing with people?
It depends on the machine, and the person. I typically do not have much trouble dealing with either. I have been around machines long enough to understand their typical operation. Dealing with people is all about understanding, having worked at a Blockbuster and a movie theater, it helps to know how to adjust your attitude and demeanor based upon the type of person one is dealing with. People generally aren't mean spirited, and keeping that in mind can really help you to not explode when someone is yelling at you. Chances are they just had a bad day and this one thing really just set them off. If you're polite and listen, then nine times out of ten they will come back the next day and apologize. This I know from experience.
How often are you called on outside of work hours to solve an urgent problem?
No too frequently, the people I work with are very smart and competent. There is only a few cases here and there where I just happen to have a particular insight into something.
Do you attend fairs, conventions, or other events related to your sector?
As often as my busy schedule and limited resources will allow me to, yes.
What hobbies have you got?
All kinds of things. Coding, making 3D models and scenes, playing games, general tinkering.
If you were sent to a deserted island, which book, CD and film would you take with you?
I'd bring the SAS Survival guide book. CD and film would ultimately be useless without any electricity to use them. This assumes that deserted island means no prior human presence, and that being "sent" there does not come with any conveniences, just what is strapped to me.
Did God create the world in seven days, or do you believe in the theory of evolution?
Do they have to be mutually exclusive concepts? Could a higher power not aid in evolution? Does it have to be God specifically? What about the concepts brought forth by religions and beliefs other than Christianity and the main thing it's been trying to depose? This is a very narrow question. For all we know everything that ever existed is a lie, and we all just came into existence right now. All memories and evidence of the past are just simultaneous creations, and our notion of time began right now. We have no way of absolutely proving otherwise. I do not profess to know the origins of humanity, or of the planet we live on. I do not even know if we are all just part of an elaborate dream, or some large scale computer simulation. The only thing that can be proven beyond the absolute shadow of a doubt is that "something" exists.
To what percentage do you believe in statistics?
I see what you did there. I believe statistics can be very useful in determining certain things, but there are many cases where it just does not matter. Citing a plethora of statistics at everything is a moot point.
Do you believe many illnesses can be caused by the mind?
I do believe ones attitude can impact their well being. But I don't believe that one could give themselves a specific illness, just that one could adversely affect their immune system.
Does brand name influence your buying habits?
To a point, it does. But nothing trumps what I can test and witness with my own senses. Previous experiences with certain brands tends to help narrow the field. I'd never look for a Bose television, or a 3D software by Sony, some things just do not make sense that way.
Do you think tipping is a good custom?
Absolutely, servers are typically payed less than minimum wage because they are meant to make the difference in tips. While they cannot legally make less than minimum wage when their paycheck comes through, they still technically do. Also, they bring out your food to you, check on you periodically, make sure you are satisfied with everything that has been brought to you, make sure to fix it if you aren't, and they do this with up to 10-12 groups at any given time. They work very hard and get paid very little, tip your server.
Are there too many holidays in the work calendar?
There are only a few a year. America is one of the most overworked populations of any country, and someone thinks there are too many holidays? Not even close.
Do you think the catastrophism about climate change has been exaggerated?
No, but the time scale has certainly been misinterpreted. Helping the planet is never a bad idea, it will eventually help itself if we don't help it. Currency is meaningless compared to a global reset.
What is your opinion of the rise in popularity of plastic surgery and implants?
Would you rather condemn a person to lead a life of self-hatred and self-loathing. While there are many cases where the plastic surgery or implant was gotten for no real good reason, there are very many other cases where it is important and justified.
Do extraterrestrials exist?
Considering the size of the entirety of space, yes. Do they exist in the capacity of what most people think of when they think of aliens? I don't know. To me, some microbe on a far off planet counts as an extraterrestrial, that certainly exists within the vastness that is space. Is there another life form that is within a moderate technological proximity to the human race and its accomplishments? I do not know. We'll just have to see as time goes on.