Category Archives: Life

2016: A Hung Truong Year in Review

It’s been a while since I wrote a year-in-review on this blog, let alone any blog post. 2016 was a big year though, so here’s some stuff I did.

In January Emily and I moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan where we had been living for a few years (Emily since grad school and me since the last time I moved back from Chicago in like 2012) to Seattle, Washington. I’ve loved Seattle ever since I moved here in 2009 to go work for Microsoft, and it’s great to be back! I’m working for a coffee company in Seattle called Starbucks (yes, I get free coffee). I get to work on their iOS app and make latte art in my spare time. Here are some highlights:

 

Latte art: Betta Fish (using almond milk)

A photo posted by Hung Truong (@hungtruong) on

Made a pumpkin latte art #latteart #meta #pumpkinlatte

A photo posted by Hung Truong (@hungtruong) on

For the first year that we’ve been here, Emily and I have been exploring the sights in Seattle, including a bunch of parks like Discovery Park, Volunteer Park (which has lots of cute baby ducks) and Seward Park, among others. With all the free coffee I’m getting, I’m also experimenting with different brew methods including Aeropress, cold brew, and most recently with a Kalita Wave.

In June I went to WWDC for the first time as an attendee and got to meet lots of other cool developers. I got a photo with Craig with the good hair who does the funny parts of the Apple keynotes. Next year I’m going to be attending a conference in the UK as a speaker, which I’m really excited about.

Last year I got a new digital camera which I started using quite a bit to capture our hikes and other interesting moments. This year I upgraded from the Sony RX-100 to the Fujifilm X-T1. It’s been really fun learning more about photography as a hobby and reading about lenses and techniques to get cool photo captures. Here’s a few shots that I like, taken from this year:

In September I bought a bunch of supplies and built a tiny solar powered charging system on my roof. It was a fun proof of concept and I’m using it to charge some of my lower power devices, including an electric bike that I bought for my commute (when it’s not rainy). I’m guessing that it wouldn’t have enough juice yet to power an electric car, but that’s on my to do list.

In October, Apple announced a new piece of hardware, so naturally I wrote a fart app for it.

That’s basically the noteworthy stuff that happened to me this year. Moving and getting used to Seattle is basically a full-time job. I’m also keeping myself busy with updating the house and automating it as much as possible using a Samsung SmartThings hub and various light switches, etc. Other random things I’ve been working on are experimenting with Instagram by using a copious number of tags in all of my posts, buying a pair of Snapchat Spectacles and experimenting with those, and cooking new recipes with the pressure cooker I just purchased from Amazon.

I’m looking forward to doing more stuff in 2017 and hopefully blogging about it more often as well.

Collecting Wedding Photos with Twilio MMS

Last Saturday I got married to my longtime pal Emily. Emily handled a lot of the wedding planning and she did a really great job. I wanted to do some fun things for the wedding and reception and thought it would be fun to make a way for friends to share their photos of our day with us.

I was thinking that it would be easy enough to give people an Instagram hashtag and be done with it, but I wanted to make sure all (or at least most) of our guests would be able to participate. I figured that Twilio’s MMS would be a pretty straightforward way for our guests to share photos throughout the day without having to remember a hashtag or use a specific app.

I set up a Twilio phone number to receive and send text messages. Actually, I just re-used an old one that I still had enabled since I used it for voice only. Because I wanted to write as little boilerplate as possible, I decided on using the Django web framework which I’m already really familiar with. The Django admin panel was incredibly useful for debugging and made it dead simple to view photos that were sent. I used the django-twilio library which also uses the twilio-python library. I’ve been on a Heroku app hosting streak lately so I made sure the app could be easily deployable on Heroku for free.

Since I didn’t have a whole lot of time to build this app (wedding planning takes a lot of attention), I limited my scope to a few goals:

  1. Be able to broadcast messages to guests throughout the day.
  2. Accept messages that contain MMS images (one or more) and save them to a database.
  3. Allow guests to “unsubscribe” to messages in case they didn’t want them.

I ended up using Ngrok to test the app locally, then threw Runscope in front of it for good measure (yo dawg, I heard you like proxies). Runscope was pretty useful in that I didn’t have to keep sending test SMS and MMS messages to my app; I could just replay ones that I had sent previously. It probably saved me ~$1 in fees!

It was pretty straightforward to implement all three of these using the Django library I mentioned earlier. Because all Twilio text messages hit just one endpoint, I had to design around different use cases which made my code a bit messy. It was fine for an app I’m only going to use once, though. The code is gross but it worked and I’m glad I didn’t make it more complicated than it needed to be. I was originally going to use the broadcasting feature more than I ended up using it (I wanted to do something like cat facts) which added a bit to the codebase.

As far as final statistics, I received 70 images from guests during and after the event. Some of them are pretty awesome. In case anyone is interested in how the app works/worked, I posted the source code with my hardcoded phone numbers removed and turned into environmental variables. You can check it out here.

I am not posting any photos that my guests sent here since they were meant to be private, but here’s a photo I took with my selfie stick of us and the cake!

Cake Selfie

 

Getting Back Into Video Games

Glorious PC Master Race

In terms of gaming I feel like I’m pretty inconsistent. There are times that I only played the big name games (like Grand Theft Auto and Skyrim) and basically ignored all the other smaller games. My interest in gaming ebbs and flows.

I think that a few recent events have gotten me back into gaming fairly regularly. About a year ago I subscribed to PS Plus, which provides monthly installments of games for your PS3 and PS Vita/PSP if you have them. I was introduced to a bunch of cool games that I probably wouldn’t have bought otherwise like Saint’s Row 2, Borderlands. As a result, I ended up buying Saint’s Row 3 and Borderlands 2.

It was also about a year ago that I built a PC for gaming. It’s kind of ridiculous how much cheaper it is to play games on a PC than to buy them for consoles. Plus, my PC has the added benefit of a better graphics card and more RAM (how the heck can the PS3 only have 256MB of RAM in the first place?).

During the 2013 Steam Summer sale I went a little crazy and bought more games than I can possibly play. It’s just way too easy to buy them when they cost $5 or less and provide a lot of entertainment, even if they’re kinda old. I ended up buying Fallout New Vegas (the ultimate edition or whatever) even though I originally bought it for PS3. Luckily, it’s a lot faster and less buggy now.

I’ve been playing a lot of video games in my free time for the past few months. While I sort of feel guilty that I should be working on web stuff or mobile stuff like side projects, I think it’s sort of necessary to avoid burnout. Plus I naturally tend to lose interest in games once I find a new piece of technology that I’m interested in learning.

Yet Another Employment Announcement (And More Moving)

I wrote in my New Year’s Retrospective that my greatest fear for 2012 was that I would not get as much done as in previous years due to working a regular job for the first time in years.

That concern turned out to be quite prescient as within a couple of months, things quickly changed. While I enjoyed increasing my proficiency in Django and hanging out with cool co-workers, I found that I couldn’t break into areas that I was really interested in, specifically mobile. I decided to look for a new opportunity where I could grow as a mobile developer.

I’m happy to announce that I’ve accepted a new gig with Canopy (whose name is going to change soon), a spinoff of a company called LanguageMate. Canopy is based in Ann Arbor and specializes in language applications for medical professionals. I’m working on a neat tool that helps nurses and doctors communicate with patients who might not speak the same language. I think it’s an interesting space and presents a lot of interesting challenges in interface design, marketing, end user support, and other aspects that revolve around mobile development.

I believe this will be a better fit as I’m now able to work on a startup that is investing heavily in mobile. On top of that, I think it’s great that the app actually does something meaningful. Sure, a photo sharing app might sell for a billion dollars, but has it ever saved a person’s life?

Right now I’m in the middle of another move. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be back in Ann Arbor (for the 4th time) on Friday. I’m looking forward to hanging out there again, spending more time with Emily, and eating at BTB every day.

I am really thankful for all the friends I made at Threadless, and I feel bad leaving them so soon. Having said that, I am really looking forward to making a big impact at a small startup that really needs my skills. Here’s to an interesting second half of 2012!

New Tumblr: People Walking Dogs

When Betsy left to work at Razorfish, I decided to commandeer her desk. It’s really nice. It has lots of natural sunlight and a good view (minus Atkins’ head). One thing I noticed right away is that a lot of people walk their dogs along the street in front of said window. Maybe it’s just the unseasonal crazy nice weather. Anyway, I decided to start a Tumblr of pictures of people walking their dogs. Why? Why not?

Mostly this is a way to practice my camera phone slinging skills. I’m not used to swiping up to get to the camera (it’s a new iOS 5.1 gesture)! Also, I have a theory that once something becomes sufficiently easy to do, there’s really no reason not to do it. So, while it lasts, please enjoy my photos of people walking their dogs outside my office window. Hopefully I will get a book deal soon.