8 Bits with Brian Benz!

8 Bits with Brian Benz!
This week we are joined by Microsoft Developer Advocate, Brian Benz! Join us to learn about Brian's journey from programming on punch cards in rural Canada to becoming a Senior Engineer at Microsoft!

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BBenz
Follow Chloe on Twitter: @ChloeCondon
Follow Brandon on Twitter: @TheCodeTraveler

Listen to the Podcast

8 Bits with Brian Benz! - 8 Bits
This week we are joined by Brian Benz! Brian is a Senior Cloud Advocate at Microsoft.Join us as we learn about Brian’s journey from growing up on a rural farm in Canada to learning to code! Follow Brian on Twitter: @BBenzFollow Chloe on Twitter: @...

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Chloe Condon  0:09

Brandon Minnick  0:12
to professional,

Chloe Condon  0:13
so professional, graphic design is our passion. If you're listening to this new song, you're probably noticing we've got a new Bach on the show. Barry. We've got a new website, we've got a new Bob Brandon. tell the folks at home about the.

Brandon Minnick  0:30
That's right.

It's like a whole new show now. Yeah, we've been we've been doing this for almost a year now. And we wanted to have one central location where, where you can find us. And so if you if you ever miss an episode, or you want to see who an upcoming guest is, maybe get a sneak peek at the this week's episode, you can always go to eight pits.tv. And you can find our entire back catalogue. And so you can watch any video or listen to the audio podcast of the of the show if you missed it. And we've got it here at the bottom of the screen. So in case you forget just eight bits.tv come check us out. We are so professional now with our new intro song, our website, the podcast, we have

Chloe Condon  1:17
a Twitter handle. At eight bits pod, we're very professional we got a year. But you know, it's the journey to the destination we got we got our act together. And now we have everything in one place. And I'm so excited because we're going to start sharing especially as we come up on our anniversary, we're almost to our one year anniversary of eight bits. We're going to start sharing some throwbacks like on the different social media channels. So definitely follow us on Twitter. We're also on Instagram, eight bits VOD. So check us out there and we'll be doing some throwbacks to some of our amazing guests. We've had so many incredible guests on the show over the year ish. I don't even want to name I don't want to like call anyone specific out we've had a lot of return guests. So we're gonna, we're gonna be celebrating our successes here celebrating the cool people that have come to talk to us, Brandon.

Brandon Minnick  2:17
That's right. All of our all of our favorite moments I love going back through it's It was really fun standing up the website, because I got to go back through and watch the old videos. Because I also, I transcribed all the episodes on tech. So even just reading through our conversations, it's like, Oh, I forgot we talked about that. It's so much fun.

Chloe Condon  2:36
We've talked about literally everything from Slurpee is to clowns, several theme parks.

Brandon Minnick  2:44
Bread, of course,

Chloe Condon  2:46
today is no exception, but I'm gonna bring in our guests. Yeah, but we have a we have an excellent guest for y'all. But before we get to them, Brandon, how is your week? Ben? We were on last week. Was that right? For ignite?

Brandon Minnick  3:00
That's right. Yeah, Microsoft Ignite was going on last week. There's some really cool announcements that happened. But yeah, for me, personally, I kind of took the time to really, really get into some code. As fans of the show know, I'm a Xamarin developer, I love making C# apps or rather mobile apps in C# using Xamarin. And we have this cool library called the Xamarin Community Toolkit. That is, you kind of think of it as like the library that contains all that code, you have been copy pasting around your various apps. So all these great libraries that are just kind of like quality of life improvements, and I've officially become a maintainer on the repo. And one of the first things I did was to turn on what's called nullable in C sharp, which is a new, new ish thing that came out in C sharp eight that allows you to help prevent null reference exceptions. And it's great, and everybody should be using it. But it is not an easy thing to implement, because it literally touches every line of code. So this pull request that we just merged in. I spent six days pretty much straight working on it. It touched over the the pull request is over 3000 lines of code over 150 commits. Hundreds of reviews and comments from the fellow maintainers. It was a beast of a project but happy it said I was able to go to bed on time last night, which was nice. But yeah, busy, busy week. How about you? Oh, wow.

Chloe Condon  4:34
Well, let's see. Um, I have been working on my bots. If you're not following, it's Brittany bot or shanaya underscore or bot underscore shanaya I should say on Twitter. I've been playing around with some really fun, Azure, just like really, really simple Azure Function apps but also just playing around with different ways to odd To meet things on Twitter, now that I'm more familiar with the Twitter API. So I've been using Azure Logic Apps and making these really fun simple bots. So first It started as tweeting every day at the same time. Let's go girls to inspire everyone to go girls as Shania Twain would want us to know. I have it's Britney bot, which is tweeting out it's Britney bots at 5pm every day. It's just very simple, fun bots, that people in the community just really enjoy. And they're like, I love to see this tweet the morning, that gives me inspiration. And I have an idea that I want to so I don't know, the folks are familiar with the meme of Mariah Carey. That goes, I don't know her. It's just her. It's a common thing that Mariah Carey says she goes, I don't know her. I don't know her. So I have decided that some have you ever been in a situation on Twitter, where you tweet something, and it gets a lot of likes and retweets and then people that you don't know, start having, you know, arguments in the comments or something and you're like, I don't know this person. So I think I'm going to be building a Twitter bot on stream. Today, most likely, that will you can tag the spot, and it'll be Mariah bot, and it'll respond with the I don't know her meme, because I'm finding myself situation a lot. So I'm playing, I'm just playing around a lot of Azure function things. And finishing up the latest cohort of big project where all the amazing students of the project have been building these incredible Azure function apps that do things like oh, my goodness, detect earthquakes and send text messages through Twilio, and apps that like do things based on the Spotify API. So it's been fun to see those. But, Brandon, did you happen to see I think this is an important topic. That's a great segue into our guest today because I have a feeling where if, of course, the podcasts are, famously a visual medium for folks who are listening. Right now. I have my Lotus hat on today, which is a vintage hat that I found at a thrift store in San Francisco.

Brandon Minnick  7:06
What is Lotus Chloe?

Chloe Condon  7:08
Um, that's a great question that I think we should. I've never personally used. So that'll be the first thing we ask our guys. But we're talking when we were trying to guess we're talking about some Microsoft nostalgia stuff. And you know, how they got into tech, and I'm sharing my screen right now. And have you heard of Cairo? Frandsen? Do you know who Cairo is?

Brandon Minnick  7:32
Only because I saw this tweet.

Chloe Condon  7:33
Okay. I think it's important but we educate viewers of the show about Cairo. So I found out through a tweet, someone commented on another tweet that I had said that said I'll never forget making savage fun of Clippy and a keynote talk at a Linux conference in Japan. large audience went over dad worse than dead later explained to me that Clippy in Japan is Kai rude the dolphin and everybody loves Cairo. I don't know your audio. So this this sent me down a rabbit hole grandson and I knew a little bit about like, did you ever use any of the other assistants in in Microsoft Word?

Brandon Minnick  8:11
No, this was a whole new world to me. I didn't realize and I don't know why you would want to but yeah, I didn't realize you could swap out Clippy for somebody else.

Chloe Condon  8:21
I didn't know this either. And I because I mostly grew up with Mac computers growing up but we had these in school. So like, I only do Clippy from school. But I knew from this wonderful video, which I highly recommend checking out. Featuring Steve Sinofsky to a16z video about the unauthorized if you just search unauthorized Autobiography of Clippy I knew from that that different countries they had mentioned on this video that different countries had different and you could even like switch it out so if they did like a demo for General Mills they'd have like a lucky charms you know, character that they could put in here. So this sent me down the rabbit hole where I did some research on Cairo and it's it's beloved in Japan and when you asked it to hide him forever, he faints dumb and said I don't understand your question. Try using different words. And if you take a look at the animations y'all like highly recommend checking this out. It's just like a lovable little dolphin that has a shell computer and a seahorse friend that says if you've ever been to Japan or familiar with Japanese culture, I was saying to my boyfriend last night, Clippy and the concept of a virtual animated asst is seems like something Japan would embrace. And I love this. I just love that. This is part of the the the history and the lore of Microsoft Office. So, checkout, shout out to Cairo. We love Cairo.

Brandon Minnick  9:54
He's adorable.

Chloe Condon  9:55
Yeah, I did. This is like a piece of Microsoft history. I wasn't even aware of it. couldn't believe it. I this is now just a Cairo fan show. Sorry. We're we're changing it from eight bits to just the Cairo. But as I was saying, we need we need someone to explain my hat to me, I think, do you think we need to know what Lodha says we need to understand we have someone joining us today who knows a lot about who's been at Microsoft for a while, and comes to Microsoft, a very unique and fun and interesting path. Should we bring him in?

Brandon Minnick  10:32
Yeah, without further ado, let's introduce our guest, Bryan Benz, Brian,

welcome to the show.

Chloe Condon  10:36

Hello. Greetings, Ryan, we're so excited to have you.

Brian Benz  10:44
You know what, you got a vintage hat, you've got a vintage guests. It's perfect.

Chloe Condon  10:49
So first off, tell us what bonuses before anything. Okay.

Brian Benz  10:54
So back in the boy, and I hope I get the dates, right. But in the early 90s, I want to say there was a need for this sort of client server application that did email and had a application development part of it too. And that was Lotus Notes, you could actually do really, really, really sophisticated things like play videos and store videos, and, and replicate them with a server, and all kinds of crazy things that just didn't happen back then. It was really, really ahead of its time. In fact, a lot of what we have in Azure now a lot of the technologies and the ideas in Azure, like Active Directory integrated with your applications, and you just go in and everything's there. That was the kind of thing that we had in the 90s. With with Lotus Notes. So

Chloe Condon  11:45
it's, this is like I I'm basically like original Azure, it's like, original gangster, it's original Azure. I love it. Oh, yes. So Brian, tell for folks who don't know who you are, tell the lovely folks who who you are what you do with us here at Microsoft. Great. So

Brian Benz  12:05
I'm a cloud advocate at Microsoft. I joined Microsoft, about eight years ago, I was hired for my Java skills. Back then there just weren't a lot of them in the Microsoft ecosystem. And so I was joined, I was actually hired as part of a group called Microsoft open technologies. And we were actually a separate company because of some rules about software licensing and things. And we were able to actually contribute and work with open source, which, eight years ago was a very different thing to do here at Microsoft. And we actually broke a lot of barriers and brought in a lot of software that just wasn't used, and including Java and node j. s, and a bunch of other things, and allowed people to start contributing as well to open source software. There was a lot of interesting discussions, a lot of addressing meetings, you know, there's, Microsoft is a multi variant, they make a lot of money. And if you go to a VP and say, Hey, you know, your, your multi, this, this part of your company that you're responsible for, that makes billions of dollars, you need to change it. And you know, it the way they did it, I actually really respect, you know, they were able to move from products, boxes on Best Buy shelves, to services and the cloud without really cannibalizing their business, which a lot of other companies didn't make it. They just didn't survive that, that changed that shift. You know, their competitors just ate their lunch, including Microsoft. So Microsoft was one of the lunch eaters. But yeah, so it's been an interesting journey. It's been an interesting transition. And yeah, and as you mentioned, I did come to Microsoft is a very, as to software in general is a very unconventional background as well.

Brandon Minnick  14:01
Yeah, I think that's so interesting, because nowadays here in 2021, open source almost become the default. Right? If it's not the default, then it's still it's definitely not weird. It's, it's part of the ecosystem. It's a like a lot of the software we use for our libraries that are apps are open source. I maintain a ton of open source libraries. I haven't made an app that helps you maintain your open source libraries. So open source is very much ingrained in today's butcher. And yeah, it's so funny to think that he said just eight, eight years ago, not only was it so taboo at Microsoft, but they were so scared of it that you actually worked under like, Is it like it was like a different company, or literally, I don't know why I did the air quotes there. You were at a different company because of the potential risk that Microsoft didn't want to subsume from doing open source the oh my gosh, the hork Do Imagine if we did open source,

Brian Benz  15:03
it was a real liability, danger. I mean, they really had issues with, you know, with that people could actually sue them for contributing to open source, which is kind of ridiculous. But that's the way that lawyers work. And, you know, that's that's Unfortunately, the the environment we're living in. But there's been some some changes and some shifts. And, and as you know, yeah, we are all open source now. And we work with open source.

Chloe Condon  15:32
I think I even make decisions around like I use signal and prefer to use signal because it's open source. And like, that makes me feel confident that I know, okay, my data isn't being mined. Like I know that this isn't the app that I want to use. So open source everything open source for the win, please. Yeah, yeah.

Brian Benz  15:51
Yeah. Oh, it's a it's a great time to be here. It's, it's been a lot of fun, interesting journey.

Chloe Condon  15:58
So your path to get to Microsoft, though, like, what is the A to B? Where did we learn about technology? I know, we kind of put a teaser in our image promoting the show holding a big book called a dictionary for some of you for tuning in. Tell us about how you got started in programming.

Brian Benz  16:22
Yeah, so really, it was a long time ago. You know, I want to say how do you do fellow kids, you know, sort of thing. It's a, I was I grew up in rural Canada, in the 70s. lived on an orchard. We had 26 acres of apples and peaches and cherries. And, you know, it was it sounds nice. It was it was good. But it was it wasn't. If you didn't have a good crop one year, you can have some really financial difficulties. And actually, now just a bit of trivia, the whole area has torn out all the orchards. And now it's vineyards, thanks to climate change, and a couple other factors. And it is now Canada's wine country. It's called the Okanagan Valley. And yeah, it's actually a very prosperous area now, where it wasn't before, but I grew up there. I knew I didn't want to be a farmer. For my whole life, that was definitely an option. My background. I really loved computers, I really loved working with computers. You know, my early days, my dad actually ran a radio shack in a little town called penticton, British Columbia little town. And it was sort of like the hub for all the electronics geeks in town, you know, you go and you get your, your kit to make a crystal FM radio and things like that. Are you know, there was a battery tester there, people would come in to test their batteries and their tubes. So everything used to have tubes in it. And you'd have to go in and there was a tube tester you can plug your tube in and see if it was actually working. And if whether it was the actual device or the tube, that was a problem. Anyway, but I digress.

Brandon Minnick  18:00
vacuum tube, right. Like, yes. Those vacuum tubes.

Brian Benz  18:03
Yeah, there was this big contraption in the back of the store where you'd have to go in and you could test your batteries and your tubes, batteries are really expensive. So that was a valuable thing and go in and you know, make sure you're not throwing away some $7 battery. So anyway, yeah, so I started working with computers. I at my local high school, they had an apple two. And to work with the apple two, actually, they had two of them. Yeah. And you could, you could book time on them, you had to fill out these little punch cards, similar to people who've had exams, you know, where you fill out the little dots on the exam. So it's the same thing, except there was punch cards, and you'd have like 3050 100 punch cards all filled out. And then you'd run them through this feeder to actually run an application on the apple two. And it was not like the the video through the feeder either it was like and then the next one card and it took like half an hour to put these things in. And so that was kind of disappointing. I was not interested in doing more work than the computer, did they actually get anything done. And and by the way, you could after 20 minutes of loading these cards, find out that card number 62 had an error and you had to go ahead and erase the card and put the new.in and

Chloe Condon  19:26
like a typewriter.

Brian Benz  19:28
Yeah. So anyway, I at about the same time they came out with these Commodore 60 fours and the Commodore 64 you could connect to a television. And it also had a cassette drive. So you could actually write code and save it to a cassette drive. Once again, it's like really slow like this is this is this is it will take like five minutes to save your application. But at least you're feeding these cards. And the cool part was if you had a mistake, you knew right away right? It was like you could do that and then you save it. The cassette drive and then the next time you want to use it, you turn on your computer, you turn on the TV, you turn on the cassette drive, and you let the cassette load the program back in. It was it was real, real innovation. Yeah. So anyway, I had a lot of fun with that. It was It was great. I wrote a few little applications, things that may listings of Greek quotes and stuff like that. I don't know, typical stuff for rural Canadian farmer. And, yeah, I really enjoyed it. And then that was just back in those days in the 70s, early 80s, it was just a hobby. There were no, there were no businesses or anything to be made from building these things. There were some people would write some applications that you can buy on cassettes and things, but they're just really rare. And no one made a lot of money for them. So to me, I had to go get a real job. And I moved from rural Canada in Vancouver, I worked there for a while saved up and I moved to London. I went to London, England for about a year and a half, and started working on computers there. And back in those days, if you had any interest in computers, and it could actually work a keyboard. They would just let you Oh, yeah, well, we have this IBM System 38 over here, just you know, start playing with it. And

Chloe Condon  21:19

Brian Benz  21:20
Yeah. And you know, there were still a lot of manual stuff. So part of my job was adding up receipts and things on Natty machine and making sure they reconcile and then taking the summary of the numbers and put it in the system. 38 really simple and boring stuff. But the real action back in those days was accounting. You know, accounting was, that was the dream job as a computer program. Oh, boy, I wish I could get into an accounting practice. And

Chloe Condon  21:48
we're so different. It's like, oh, get a real job instead of working on computers. And I got to go work in accounting. It's everything's backwards, topsy turvy today.

Brian Benz  22:01
It is it is. But but in London, I got to work on one of the very early maybe the first I don't know, IBM PC. So it had IBM PC. Yeah. And they had this thing called Lotus 123, which was on top of it. And you could run it. And you could calculate things like I mentioned before that I would have to type things like receipts into any machine and type up the role and make sure it adds up on paper and you'd put a little checkmark at the bottom. Well, now I can put that in a spreadsheet. And I could actually add the numbers together. And see in real time, if they reconcile this was a real, real innovation. And, and by the way, lotion, 123 was not the first spreadsheet application that was an application called visicalc. visicalc was created by Dan Bricklin, he's still around, he's got a website called suffered garden. But yeah, visicalc was actually the original spreadsheet application. And then Lotus 123, their innovation was that they had functions that you could use. So you hit the slash key. And a little like, Id would pop up or you could type functions. And you could actually run little operations on your spreadsheet and do cool things. And that was kind of my first foray into real applications or real development. So I was using these things to my theme has always been maybe laziness. I always want the computer to do a bunch of work for me, I don't want to you know, I so that I don't have to think about it, like adding a spreadsheet, instead of adding up adding machine tapes, you know, things like that. So, worked on that and actually had a pretty good career as a lotus 123. programmer, I had my little diskettes with these are five and a quarter diskettes these huge,

Brandon Minnick  24:03
big boys.

Brian Benz  24:04
Yes, yes. In fact, I've got a computer I can show you from the time there. Do I have it here? I don't know. Maybe not. Nevermind. But yeah, back in those days, you had these, these huge diskettes. And they were usually on a separate piece from the PC. And they were like eight, eight inches by 10 inches, and you had to put this big diskette in and, and that's how you actually worked and saved things. So I had all my, my intellectual property on these little diskettes. And I can go into a different company and load these diskettes on and run my spreadsheet applications. And people are actually willing to hire me and pay for this. So I made a decent way to do that. And that was fun. It was it was different. And after that, really what happened was the conductivity and the internet started flowing from there, right. So this was sort of the mid 80s And then when you get into the 90s, things started to get connected a bit. You know, at the beginning there was big companies had a T one line. So a T one line would be a dedicated connection from some telecom or internet company to it wasn't the internet back then it wasn't TCP IP, it was just a console, they could connect through different buildings. And I did that I actually connected. One of my jobs at this London up in was to connect the office in London with the with the office in Aberdeen using T one links. And there's like four or five different way points and you had to do stuff. I don't know if it's good. But so there's all kinds of network things you had to worry about. And then, you know, the internet started coming along with DSL, so ADSL dial up before ADSL you had modems, you know, internet modems, and you probably heard those sounds like a fad.

Chloe Condon  26:00
Yeah. I had to use it at certain times. So we could also use the phone.

Brian Benz  26:06
Yeah, yes, yes. You had those little filters that you had to put on the phone. So it didn't make noise on the modem and all kinds of things is interesting stuff. But back then yeah, so you had and then compuserve started coming to you either. So you could actually go out on a forum called compuserve. And compuserve was all text. But it was a way to log in over your dial up and talk to other people about different things. There was leisure, there was business, all kinds of stuff. And that kind of moved into some other online forums. So you could get like AOL. You know, that's

Chloe Condon  26:45
where I was hanging out. I was in a Pokemon chat rooms for kids.

Brian Benz  26:50
Yeah. Yeah.

Chloe Condon  26:53
elementary school, middle school time just hanging out and AOL chat rooms peak upon 13. If anybody remembers me from AOL. Rage

Brian Benz  27:05
did use I CQ. Remember I CQ. So they had this this one interface you could use for all kinds of ircs. And yeah,

Brandon Minnick  27:12
that was cool. Right. Even Sarris in the comments. Yeah, I CQ. Yeah.

It's so

Brian Benz  27:19
yeah, well use this thing called internet Relay Chat, I believe it's called IRC started in Finland. And there were other platforms that used IRC as well. And then IC q came out with this interface that you could use to integrate all your chats. So you could have one sort of UI where all your chats could be seen. And you didn't have to log in each separate one, really innovative for its time think they're still around. Yeah, so so there was online forums. I remember I was traveling a lot back then. I mentioned I was in London. I was in Australia, Portugal. And one of the cool things back then is, you know, once Netscape started going, actually, the mosaic browser popped up before then. And that was created by a group, the National Center for supercomputing Supercomputing Applications, created this free browser called mosaic. And that was something that ran on top of TCP IP, which was a new protocol for connecting networks together. And, you know, that allowed you to browse to different sites. And that created a Yahoo, Yahoo was the first sort of innovative place where you could go to find things right. And then AltaVista, for people who remember that AltaVista was a way to find things. But where I spent most of my time back then, was the thorn tree, which was a Lonely Planet application. So back in those days, when you travel around the world, you couldn't really connect with people. You you there was no phones, there were no cell phones. There was no internet forums to go on, really, before the internet. And so people would leave notes for each other at different locations all over the world. Like there was, it started with this thing called the thorn tree in Nairobi, Kenya. It's a actual tree with thorns and people would stick notes to meet each other on there. So for example, if you're traveling through Africa, you tell somebody, hey, I'm going to be there in May. Oh, I'll be there may two I'll leave you a note. Maybe we'll meet up. And there are other places there is penzion Roma and Cairo there was the three ducks hostel in Paris. Earls Court had a youth hostel in London. Let's see Outback hostel in Sydney, the firewall cafe and iOS, Greece. These are all places where you would people would just know that. Okay, I'm going to check in with you in iOS and maybe we'll meet up on one of the nearby islands and And and hang out for a while. But then Lonely Planet, guidebooks came up with this online forum called the thorn tree.

Chloe Condon  30:09
Lonely Planet that Yeah, I'm like I've heard this name before. Okay, I have a bunch of those books.

Brian Benz  30:16
Yeah, no, absolutely. So the Lonely Planet guide book. They created this thing called the foreign tree. And sadly I just checked in it's it's the pandemic is it looks like it's finally killed it unfortunately. But it's all yeah, it's like the original TripAdvisor you know, where you could not only just meet people, but they had things about climates and reviews of places to go and places to stay and places like that. Yeah, so somebody's just talking about early 80s. Right now ti 57. Yep. There was so many sort of these one off computers, there was the Radio Shack computers, the trs 80. And the TI application, computers, Osborne. And then compact, which people might be familiar with. And a few others, there was so many, so many computers out there. But yeah, so this was a way of sort of connecting people. And I just loved working with the internet and working on things like that. And so now we're actually in a long way, getting back to omega 1200. Yes, in a long way, we're getting back to Lotus. So Lotus started, you know, in the early 90s. And I really liked it because it was a way of sort of connecting people, you could create these databases, which were basically forums with text and video and sound and things you couldn't do on any other platform. And you can put them on the internet, so you could actually put them out on the internet. And I actually have a website that I created. We found it, we found it on the way back

Chloe Condon  31:48
and we're gonna share a link with this in the show notes. So y'all can make sure you check out just check out the video later. Because this if you have love and having a nostalgia place in your heart for the the websites of yesteryear, this is a beautiful piece of art. So describe to us what's going on here for the folks who are listening, because we've got a beautiful website we're looking at.

Brian Benz  32:14
Yeah, this is a lot. This is a lot going on. So this was my company, Ben's tech, I still have the domain, I don't know I'm gonna sell it one of these days, I think I was a Lotus Notes and Domino because Domino was the new version of the server. They came out with consultants. So I had my own Lotus partnership. You had to qualify, you had to do all kinds of things to sign up to be a lotus partner. And this was my website for it. So this is hand coded artisinal. html. No, no, up on the top here, the incredible shadow effect of the logo. I probably worked on that for like three days or something Who knows? Probably not. And look at the way I've got the the green over here. And it's like a gray background there. And I managed to get everything sort of organized. And even the menu items have a have a shadow effect on them. And if we drill down, I was a competitive intelligence specialist. Yeah, that's probably still something. But look at that GIF. I had the animation. This was very, very, yes. And and over here, I called my applications. I built a bunch of these pre made applications. So it's a natural extension from writing formulas and stuff like that. And Ben's tech Domino web applications. I call them the Ben's tech capitalist tools. I figured that was a good thing. Let's go back so somebody has a special request to see what's new. Oh, there it is. What's new. I think this is probably like my blog or something. Yeah, yeah. I am shocked these links were to and by the way, check out the wallpaper. You see, this is this is what I'm talking about. artisinal here this is I should sell this on Etsy. This should be a What do they call them? The fng is the it says

Chloe Condon  34:09
my wallpaper my high rez wallpaper or my HD view there.

Brian Benz  34:16
Yeah, I were like you had to get the name and this and I wanted like a pattern. This was like state of the art back then. This is 1997 may 1997. There you go. In February to April, I created the bins tech capitalist tools. Let's see if this still works. And you could get them for $139 each. I'll still sell them to you for 139 if anyone's interested. Yeah.

Brandon Minnick  34:38
You heard it first.

Brian Benz  34:40
Yeah, there you go. special offer. This is not working. So the actual page I totally understand. I really appreciate that they've archived this much. But anyway,

Chloe Condon  34:51
I'm so bad that you have an archive and a record of this and that we're getting an archived record of this on this show. Because this is a history of arkell I love of the internet. I love this so much.

Brian Benz  35:05
Look at this I updated later on I went night, I couldn't stand to have that regular background. So I did a different one for some reason. And then yeah, anyway, um,

Brandon Minnick  35:15
yeah and for, for everybody listening on the podcast, just picture the most 1990s to sunny. Beautiful.

Brian Benz  35:29
And now I'm about to demonstrate some very specialized applications. These are mouse overs if you see on the right, yeah. So for those of you at home listening on the podcast, yeah, there's a image that's changing as I mouse over the menu options on the left. And yeah, I'd actually moved from Montreal to Atlanta at that time. And I guess I just had a lot of time. I mean, you've

Chloe Condon  35:54
lived in so many different places, Brian?

Brian Benz  35:57
Yeah. I have actually, yeah, yeah. I've lived all over the world. So yeah, England, Australia, Portugal, Canada, the US and I travel a lot more. So yeah. That's great. I love that. That's one of the things I look for. So

Chloe Condon  36:12
So I don't know if you know this, Brandon, because you moved out of the Bay Area over to Napa recently, but I a historical moment has happened in the Bay Area, which is they have taken down the big neon Yahoo. Billboard that used to be on the freeway. So end of an era here in the Bay Area, no more yaku updated Billboard.

Brian Benz  36:34
That was like the the Hollywood sign for Silicon Valley. Yeah, yeah.

Chloe Condon  36:38
And the Coca Cola sign there.

Brandon Minnick  36:43
And I leave the city, it just falls apart,

Chloe Condon  36:46
what's gonna replace it a Salesforce better? I don't know. The Bay Area is changing every day. So I met Brian, when we were on ignite the tour. And we were talking all about, you know, computing histologia. And how I got started at Microsoft. And I remember, Brian, you were telling me about something that I've not stopped thinking about as far as tools that we needed, that we do not need anymore. And it was something that had to do with a mouse and moving around the mouse. What What was that? Explain to our viewers what that was?

Brian Benz  37:19
Yeah, that's a jiggler. So part of my part of my job in the 90s was installing software on servers, and you would get a big stack of diskettes like this, or when the CDs came out a big innovation, you'd get about 10 or 12 CDs. And they'd come in these binders with a little plastic laminate thing. And you'd have to take each one out and install it in sequence. Now, the problem is the server didn't really have any, any way of knowing that the CD was loading, and that it shouldn't go into timeout mode. And it would it would go out and they had these cool timeouts or sort of these cool screen savers with you know, pipes and things people have probably seen these. They're these pipes, they get built automatically and stuff like that. And they were the flying toaster.

Chloe Condon  38:11
We need a Mac, I feel like

Brandon Minnick  38:15
yes. Forgot about the flag toast is an open

Chloe Condon  38:18
source project that I can like, put that into my slides or something. I'm gonna look that up.

Brandon Minnick  38:24
Yeah, anybody, anybody who's watching live shares a link. We could we could end the show with some flying toasters. Today, I really leaned into the nostalgia,

Chloe Condon  38:33
hashtag bring back the toasters.

Brian Benz  38:37
Be Awesome. And there's another thing I'm gonna mention a little later called point cast. But so getting back to this, when you load it up those CDs or just get the computer with timeout, and it would just stop loading, and quite often, you have to start over from scratch. So people would either sit there with their mouse jiggling it every two minutes, or you can buy a juggler, and they had different weird contraptions you could do for jiggling one was like a serial, just a box. You plug in a serial interface. This is before USB, right? So they had this big, either a Yeah, basically serial interfaces, big plug. Some of them were parallel. Some of them were scuzzy, a CSI, which was a hard drive interface. So you'd plug that thing in to your computer. And it would jiggle the mouse so that it wouldn't turn off. There were mechanical ones. So there were these mechanical things that would sort of move from left to right, and just move your physical mouse. Yeah. And some people I saw I actually saw one recently that reminded me but some people would like tie it to an oscillating fan. So they would put an oscillating fan Oh, yeah. And it would just slide it around the desk, right? And so that way, the computer wouldn't timeout. But

Chloe Condon  39:59
it's not like put hamster in a box that then I was like, but then the hamster might fall asleep. You know, you gotta, you gotta get off late and fan.

Brian Benz  40:06
Exactly, exactly. Well these days they have these so people might not know about this, but this is a juggler I bought on Amazon and you plug it into your machine, and it just circles the mouse around. So what would you use this for these days? Mainly I use it for presentations. So if I get up on a stage and I rambling on for the first 510 minutes of my talk, and my computer times out during that time, then I have to go back in and maybe have to authenticate GitHub and login and you know, all kinds of things if you just have the jiggler everything's still active right and it's still moving so you can buy these on Amazon or you know, anywhere I guess but is that just kind of a thumb drive? Yeah, it's like a you call it just search for USB juggler and you can find them now they're they're this Did you

Chloe Condon  40:56
ever imagine that jugglers would become so small

Brian Benz  41:03
I know the craziest One was that mechanical one it was like this turntable that would spin around on like it would basically oscillate and and and the mouse goes clunk, clunk. side,

Chloe Condon  41:15
mouse's these are like hardwired and mouse's as well. So lay Yes, my gosh.

Brian Benz  41:21
Yeah. This was before serial mouse's before USB. So So these were parallel or a big old serial plug or scuzzy, you know, scuzzy had this, this was about that big SCSI. And that's how you connected your hard drive. And you can have that scuzzy interface, mouse. And yeah, anyway, so that's what it was, it was this particular thing.

Chloe Condon  41:43
I use an app on my computer called the amphetamine that keeps my computer awake during presentations. And it's an it's a Mac, I don't know if it's on PC, but it's so funny to think that like, how far we've come from a big, almost like Disneyland, like moving device. Having it on our computer. sudo plus, plus, yeah,

Brian Benz  42:05
I mean, these days, you don't need the load, things like that. You just get it from the internet. It's like, come on, it's only 17 gigs. Why is this taking so long, you know, sort of thing? And just loads up? And? And yeah, it's it's so much, so much easier. Now. You know, it's like,

Brandon Minnick  42:21
like Lucas says in the comments, you can use it to prevent teams from indicating you're away. So you're working that

Chloe Condon  42:29
brilliant, hot tip here on the show.

Brian Benz  42:34
thought of that, of course, until your boss pings you and ask you a question.

Brandon Minnick  42:42
You're just working so hard

Chloe Condon  42:44
to focus on this? Yeah.

Brian Benz  42:49
That's funny. Oh, yeah. So I mentioned before screensavers so you know, getting around like, 1999 2000. That was a very interesting time. Everybody probably remembers the.com. Bust, you know, but that proceeding the.com bust was this huge amount of innovation, because there was so much investment, right? So yeah, pets.com and all these other websites, they crash and burn, but there were Java was created in 1985. It really came into the mainstream, around 8098 99. dotnet came out around that time, all kinds of things were were happening around them, which really changed the computing landscape. And it was pretty cool. And one of the things I was going to mention a couple of things, actually, some of the things that people were doing to adapt to this new environment, point cast, if anyone remembers point cast. I was just thinking about this the other day. So point cast was a screensaver. But you could configure it to show news. And it would display ads. And every time your screen went to sleep, all of a sudden you get news popping up on the screen, it would be like this animated thing that would play by and it was crazy around that time. And I think News Corp made an offer back then it was like half a billion dollars they offered them to, to to buy it.

Brandon Minnick  44:20
Now screensaver Oh, I know.

Brian Benz  44:21
And they turned it. And here's the problem. So during that time, you know, people a lot of big corporations and things were still on these T one lines and stuff and they still had metered networks. And this thing was loading so much stuff on two computers. So the so when it aggregated all the traffic for the whole company running point cast, it was like mounted in these huge bills, where the companies I mean, it's free for the user. And the company point cast was making money from advertising. But yeah, they ended up kind of crashing and burning around that time after the couple of years after the offer. They they turned down I guess they turned down the offer. I don't know what happened. But so that was interesting that point cast. It's just one of those.com stories that just didn't quite work out. But

Chloe Condon  45:11
I really missed that era of the internet like I live in Oakland. So we have the asq.com building as part of skyline, which is the Ask Jeeves. I think about my memories of the early internet, which would have been like the late 90s, early 2000s. And I miss like everything that you're talking about, I missed this, like, very looking at this website of yours looking at this era of the internet holds such a special place in my heart because I miss the aesthetics so much.

Brian Benz  45:44
Oh, yeah, like

Chloe Condon  45:45
cast. Oh, yeah. A flight.

Brandon Minnick  45:52
Shout out to PJ messing around. got us the link to the flag tester screensaver.

Chloe Condon  45:56
Oh, I missed them so much. I forgot there was toast to in addition to the toasters.

Brian Benz  46:03

Chloe Condon  46:05
We usually on the show talking about theme parks. But I think because this is a very special episode, and it's very theme park adjacent. We've talked before on the show about incredible universe, which is what originally started a bunch of Fry's Electronics. But you were in Las Vegas where there is a pretty cool fries. Is that correct?

Brian Benz  46:27
Yeah, they had a fries here that had, sadly, that had a slot machine over the front door. And this is a 50 or 100 foot tall slot machine over there. And I learned something. I learned something recently that you could actually spin the slot machine via a button that was apparently just inside the store. I didn't know that I'd never seen I mean, I'd seen it in action. I saw it spinning and stuff. And I thought oh, that's kind of fun and sound effects. It was like you're walking in and the whole thing as you're walking is going clunk, clunk, clunk. And then every once in a while, go ding ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. And, you know, it's a pretty cool setup, but I didn't know there was the push button. So after the pandemic, I was gonna go down and try to push button and sadly, they have closed now.

Chloe Condon  47:19
What are you gonna do with that giant slot machine now that it's close? Like, I'll take it?

Brian Benz  47:25
Yeah, yeah. They, they have a pretty cool thing here now called area 15. In Las Vegas. It's created by this company called meow wolf.

Chloe Condon  47:36
I've heard of this. Yeah, I

Brian Benz  47:38
saw some pictures of this. And I was just thinking, wow, timing because they created this thing in a window, like a custom made warehouse, just off the strip, but man that fries would be perfect for it. It's sort of a multi audio visual experience with all kinds of projectors. And it kind of it's very psychedelic experience. It seems to me and I'm just I'm my interpretation of it is that it's kind of taking the Burning Man aesthetic. Yeah. To a sort of 24 hour a day, 365 days a year, indoor outdoor experience because if you go there, there's

Chloe Condon  48:18
permanent CES in a way like it feels very like experiential, like lots of tax projection. Oh, I'm, I've seen pictures of this. And it looks so cool. There's like a giant, like a lot of giant 3d art and things like that. That just looks so interesting. Yeah,

Brian Benz  48:35
yeah. We were down in the downtown Las Vegas area. We have the giant praying mantis huge praying mantis, which is built on top of a rocket launcher. An old military rocket launcher. Yes. And it shoots flames. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. No, we got it. We got to look this up. Um, yeah, it's out there. So the praying mantis in Vegas. You'll see videos of it if you just search for praying mantis Vegas. We're in what part of Vegas? So it's down on Fremont Street next to a place called the container Park. And

Chloe Condon  49:12
yeah, it's wow this so yearning man.

Brian Benz  49:15
Yes, it is. It's from Burning Man. So so they have a whole bunch of different Burning Man installations in the downtown Las Vegas area, which were put there by so Tony Shea was the founder of zappos.com sadly, he died recently. But his legacy lives on. He reef revamped the entire downtown Las Vegas area there he is. Look at that. And that thing is really loud. It plays it plays music like and then the you can actually you sit up in that little box you can see just behind the neck and people can actually go up there and control when the font with flame shoot and it's really loud when they do huge flame fireballs. They usually played along with me As I bump a bump, you know, sir, it's kind of cool. Well, I

Chloe Condon  50:04
know where I want to go after the pandemic. Yes. Yes, ma'am.

Brandon Minnick  50:11
Not only are you saying you can ride it and control it at the same time,

Brian Benz  50:16
it doesn't move. But that would be awesome, actually. But yeah, no, you get up there and they'll play music and you can tap the gas so it pops the gas out.

Brandon Minnick  50:27
And I definitely want to do that.

Chloe Condon  50:29
We're just, we're going well, do you know what that'll be? Our first eight bits on the road? We'll do a Vegas live show from the praying mantis

Brian Benz  50:38
right there. We

Brandon Minnick  50:39
got our way to Dollywood.

Chloe Condon  50:42
perfection, Brian, what kind of stuff are you working on nowadays at Microsoft. Um,

Brian Benz  50:48
so I have a show that I host called the lunch space. In fact, we have one tomorrow. And it's it's a show where we're highlighting releases of software on Azure. Any new offering on Azure, basically, we bring people on the show. And we talk about the latest releases and the latest offerings, the latest ga generally available versions of software, things like that. So tomorrow, we're talking about the security compliance and identity certifications, which are new to Microsoft, they were released actually at Ignite last week. And some new roles you can get for administrators to help with security, identity and compliance. So it's kind of it's a, it's gonna be a pretty good show. We got a few people from the product team yesterday who had the the Azure CLI, new new developments there as well. But yes, check it out. aka.ms, the launch space, the regular show is on Thursdays one to 2pm every week. And we have special shows that come up depending on release dates and other things during the time as well. But you can check out the schedule there. So

Chloe Condon  52:01
yeah, as you're so gigantic and big. I'm sure you have no shortage of content and releases to cover on space. Yes, yes.

Brian Benz  52:09
It's just a question of getting everything scheduled. It's Yeah. It's a challenge, though. Yeah. No, it's been great. It's been great experience. But

Brandon Minnick  52:17
yeah, so anybody who wants to stay up to date on all the latest Azure things, and I'm, I'm impressed because I work at Microsoft. I feel like I can't even keep up to date with it. Right? I'm gonna have to start watching the watch space just to just to do my job.

Brian Benz  52:36
There's so much going on. So it's interesting things. Yeah, that's very cool. I one thing I didn't mention, so I have a website

Chloe Condon  52:47
we saw earlier, Brian. It's very cool.

Brian Benz  52:49
Okay. All right.

I've updated it a bit since then. It's Brian Ben's calm. And I do actually have a way for people to get started with COVID. We're getting back to your original question, Chloe, I think I digressed so far that

Chloe Condon  53:08
journey and journey to get to where you are now. Yes, yes,

Brian Benz  53:13
yes. So I didn't talk about that. I mean, originally, when you had to work with this stuff, you had to work with these big bucks. This is part of our preview image. Right. So these are their subsidiaries, we had to, to use. And if you want to learn software was the same thing. You had to buy a book, you had to know kind of what you wanted and buy a book and buy a computer I had my first real computer was an IBM PC, I had to buy on loan cost $3,000. I paid it off over a few years and learn how to write code myself. And so this website that I put together here is showing you some of the online resources that you have me actually get started. So how to start coding when you don't know where to start. The first question is just what languages do you want to use? And you know, what do you want to get started with. And when you get started with technology, there's all kinds of advice you can get online. There's all kinds of advice you can get from relatives. But what's right for you, right, and so I put this blog site together, because there actually are some places where you can go and research. What's state of the art right now and what you'd like to get into as well. So there's a StackOverflow developer survey. It's 1000s of developers every year, and GitHub state of the octopus. So GitHub actually analyzes all their repos and tells you what languages are being used, which ones are the most active, all kinds of information there. And you can get information and take the advice that you find online and take the advice you see from relatives, and integrate it with some actual data and decide what you want. Like in Python, what would that look like? And the next thing I recommend for people is if you once you Kinda decided on a direction, go check out the code communities on GitHub. There's all kinds of open source projects you can work with. And LinkedIn, believe it or not, LinkedIn is actually pretty good place, you can go and find somebody who's doing the job you think you'd like to do, and then sort of reach out to them, ping them. And don't just send a standard message that says, I want to, you know, I want to connect with you, I'd like to add a little bit you know, I'm a, I'm a student, I'm working on this, and I have aspirations to do a and b, and c, and people will respond, and they'll help you. Also you can see where they went to what jobs they did, and see if that's really what you want to do. See if it's for you. So that's the kind of thing and then of course, Stack Overflow, you'll get all kinds of advice and insults and all kinds of other things. Stack Overflow. But the main thing is you can boil the code from there and work on it. So

Chloe Condon  55:56
this is an amazing resource. Ryan, I get folks who reach out to me all the time and don't know where to start or an even I know PJ in the chat can as a job searcher can tell you even when you're starting the job searching process, knowing like, Okay, what languages are important for me to know and use and learn. When there's so many different opportunities out there as a as a new coder, so I'm, this is gonna be my new go to resource. But I said,

Brian Benz  56:21
there you go. Yeah, don't? Yeah.

Brandon Minnick  56:24
Let's say even Terry, in the comments, said that. They dropped out of coding when they had their first child in back in 98. And are getting back into it. And so even if you have even if you're not brand new to it, I think this is a great place to start. Because, like you said, right, like, everybody's got an opinion. And everybody will make their recommendations. And all in good faith. Nobody's gonna try and trick you. But a lot of our recommendations come from our experiences. And so if you've only worked with one kind of toolset, if you've only done websites, we've only done mobile apps, we've really done desktop apps that that's kind of the path you can guide somebody down. But yeah, like if somebody asked me today, like, how do I start making Python apps for AI, machine learning? And I would have no idea. Exactly.

Brian Benz  57:18
You could end up learning small talk and working to the next point cast and yeah.

Chloe Condon  57:25
Bring all these things back, y'all. I want to I miss even just the sound of AOL Instant Messenger. So this episode was a big hug of nostalgia for me. Where can people find you on the internet? Ryan?

Brian Benz  57:40
I'm on Twitter be Ben's look me up on LinkedIn as well. But just you know, basically any search engine, just type my name and LinkedIn or Twitter or I'm on VB ends on GitHub. Yeah, it's generally BB NZ all over the place. But yeah, definitely connect with me on LinkedIn. Tell me you saw the show. And you have some questions. And we can connect and talk there as well. But yeah, Twitter's probably the best place to events.

Chloe Condon  58:05
I feel like we need to have you back for at least two or three other episodes to cover. Like, we have to cover all of the we haven't even gotten to the tip of the iceberg.

Brandon Minnick  58:16
We even make it out of the 90s yet.

Brian Benz  58:17
No, we haven't covered 2000 to 2020 yet, or 2012 when I joined Microsoft, so I know we're running out of time. So but yeah, I'm happy to be back. I'd love to go over that. What happened there too. There's lots of interesting twists and turns. That got me into Microsoft as well. So

Chloe Condon  58:36
we'll have to bring you back soon because this is actually our month of Brian's for only having Brian's on the show. So we're gonna have another Brian next week. So we're calling it Ryan madness instead of March Madness.

Brian Benz  58:47
There you go.

Chloe Condon  58:50
We had someone in the chat here who says Napster Yeah, we haven't even gotten into the era of all of the fun 90s technology.

Brian Benz  58:59
No, no, yeah, I was talking to you guys. You know before the show about you know, the transition from cassettes to CDs to to online mp3. mp3 is was such a big deal. You know? Nobody no player.

Chloe Condon  59:13
Yeah, okay. We're gonna end the show. Not because we got a book Brian for the next episode. But y'all thanks so much for coming back for another episode of apex. Brandon. close this out. We don't have to close out music yet. Oh, there we go.

Brian Benz  59:28
There we go.

Chloe Condon  59:29
This is the show.

Brandon Minnick  59:34
Join us, everybody. And we'll see you back here Same time, same place next week.

Chloe Condon  59:38