2020 has been an interesting year so far, and it’s looking like work from home is the new normal. We sat down with Metova developer Brandon Cox to ask about how he has adjusted his work routine since COVID-19, hear about his controversial thoughts on Chicago vs. New York-style pizza, learn about his work with Fleet Management technology, his love of gaming and a lot more.
It’s been quite a year for the world, and for you. What are some changes to your life and expectations around what’s normal have you faced in the past 6 months?
Well, a lot has changed for me. I’ve enrolled in an online master’s degree program through Georgia Tech that I’m working on at night and on weekends, so I’ve been a lot more busy lately. Prior to COVID-19, I went to restaurants often. Like not more often than reasonable, but definitely more than I do now. Now, I’ve almost stopped getting food from restaurants, and I’ve been trying to try to make new things myself. As an example, I’ve started learning how to make pizzas from scratch.
You began as an intern, how was that experience?
Interesting to say the least. I feel like most internships are geared towards those with little to no experience in an enterprise environment. However, I had already had 1.5 years of internships on a similar platform prior to starting at Metova. It was really interesting to see how Metova operated differently when compared to my previous internships, even though most of the differences can be attributed to how spread out Metova is and how Metova is geared towards multiple platforms.
What does your work from home setup look like?
I’ve been a computer gamer for a long time, so naturally I already had a complete setup at home that is better than what I’d have in an office. I’ve got 3 monitors set up horizontally with an RGB-backlit mechanical keyboard and a mouse that basically has a full number pad on the side of it. Whenever I want to switch from gaming to work, I just move the cords from my gaming desktop to my work laptop.
Are there any changes you have made to your work schedule (shifting hours, starting/ending earlier, etc) since working from home due to COVID-19?
No. I think that it’s important for me to maintain a consistent schedule so I have time to complete all of my school work and watch all of my lectures once I get off work. Working from 8 to 5, I’m able to make dinner and finish my school work by 9, so I’ve got around 3 hours each night to do whatever I want. I’ve considered working from 7 to 4 or something like that, but I think I’d just become a zombie if I woke up much earlier than I already do.
You’ve competed in some interesting coding, hacking and programming challenges and won accolades including 1st place at a University of Arkansas Programming Contest and 1st at Arkansas Governor’s All-State Coding Competition? What sort of projects did you do for those competitions?
So most of the programming competitions I’ve competed in have been centered around problem solving in a team environment rather than developing a product of some kind. Typically in these competitions, you’re given a period of around 3 hours to solve 5-10 challenging programming problems. Each solution must run within a certain time frame, and it must provide the correct output for a given input. These competitions really challenge your ability to complete challenging tasks in a team, as well as your computer science skills.
You work on an interesting IoT project around fleet management. What sort of technologies have you researched and worked to implement?
So for this project, there were a variety of small GPS-based location sensors attached to vehicles. These GPS sensors were connected to the internet and told a server their position every few minutes. I implemented the functions that converted the location information from the device’s message format to the message format that we wanted. I also implemented the code that communicated with AWS’s IoT Core service, which acts as a means to bridge the gap between IoT devices and the server-side software that they interact with in a way that is convenient for the server-side software.
Mac or PC?
I work as a dotnet core developer, and dotnet core is a Microsoft product. That means that the first-party tools are developed with Windows in mind. With recent releases, dotnet core development on Mac and Linux is getting better, but it still isn’t quite to where it is on Windows. I’m also a PC gamer. Most PC games are built with Windows in mind, and many old and new games just outright don’t run on anything but Windows.
Android or iPhone?
Android. The battery on my Android phone can last me up to 2 days without battery saver on given my normal usage patterns. When’s the last time you heard of an iPhone battery lasting much longer than 1 day? There’s also a lot more customization options available on Android. I can use whatever texting app I want, I can use whatever camera app I want, and I can even just replace the OS if I want.
What’s your all time favorite video game?
Now this is a tough one. Generally speaking, I like games that have a high replay value. Games like Europa Universalis IV, the Civilization series, DotA 2, Factorio, Minecraft, and Mount & Blade all make my short list. From that list though, I’d have to say that Factorio is my favorite. Factorio is a sandbox game where your goal is to build a factory that can eventually produce a rocket that can take you off of the planet. Factorio is the type of game where you have to vigilantly watch the clock to avoid spending 4 hours playing the game instead of one. During the game, you mine up resources around you and build out assembly lines that you designed yourself to make your factory more efficient or have more stuff. It’s really a problem solving game more than anything else, but it’s one of the few games that I can play for a long time without getting bored.
What are you playing now?
Recently I’ve gotten into Rimworld and Sea of Thieves. Rimworld is a game where the player is responsible for controlling a small colony of people that have crash landed on an unknown planet with the ultimate goal of surviving and then getting off of the planet.
Sea of Thieves is a game where players can crew ships and roam around a fictitious sea on ships prior to the golden age of piracy. Players can play with friends and work as a team to crew their own ship. Once sailing, players have the options of gathering their own treasure, or they can attack other players and try to steal their treasure.
Alexa or Google Assistant?
Google Assistant. I use an Android device, so Google Assistant and the remaining Google Home devices integrate really well with my phone. I can cast music or videos from almost any app to my TV and the collection of speakers scattered about my house. If I had an Alexa, there’d be support for most apps, but probably not as many as there are with Google Assistant.
What technology are you excited about becoming mainstream in the next 10 years?
Self-driving cars, mostly because of the safety features that will be brought along with them. There’s been so many times I’ve almost been hit because the other driver was not paying attention. A self-driving car won’t have distractions in the same way that human drivers do. And of course I also want self-driving cars so I don’t have to drive everywhere. It’ll be really nice when I can just tell my car to drive me somewhere 3 hours away while I take a nap.
Chicago or New York style pizza?
Chicago “pizza” isn’t pizza. It’s a tomato-cheese pie. I also don’t like cheese that much, so I might be a bit biased against the very cheesy Chicago “pizza”. NY style pizza is still pretty good if you go light on the cheese though.
What are some favorite dishes you like to cook?
I really enjoyed making pan pizza last time I made it. Normally when I make pizza, the pizza dough is really difficult to get into the right shape, and the dough doesn’t end up very thick. With a pan pizza though, the crust ended up thick, almost like a small slice of bread (remember, this is my pizza, and you don’t have to like it). The dough also had an excellent flavor, almost like (you guessed it) homemade bread. Pizzas are also really fun to experiment with. Typically the dough recipes I use produce enough dough for 2-4 pizzas, so I’ve got a few attempts to try different toppings or different sauce recipes.
I also enjoy making just about any kind of fish. The first meal I actually made on my own was a sauteed piece of salmon with a wasabi lime mayonnaise sauce. I know it sounds weird, but it’s actually really good if you like wasabi.
Making my own Indian curry is another recipe I’ve had fun experimenting with. As of now I’ve only ever made chicken tikka masala, but it’s still fun to make. There’s a lot of variables that I can play around with like how creamy I want to make it or how spicy I want to make it.
If I want to make food that turns into good leftovers, I’ll make gumbo. Especially during COVID, gumbo satisfies the part of me that really wants cajun food. Again, with gumbo, I can experiment with stuff like what kind of meats to use or how much seasoning or vegetables I put in.