And We're Movin' On Up...

… okay not to the deluxe apartment in the sky, but close. We finally have our own space at the Innovation Depot.

After months of working out of our homes and coffee shops everyday, I have to admit it’s nice to come in to the Depot everyday. I can’t think of the last time I was able to have a passenger in my car without rearranging all of the Pointz swag, equipment, flyers, etc. piled in my tiny coupe.

We were pretty impressed with the size of the room, which easily swallows the two of us. There has been some debate about what we will get to fill the remaining half of the room. Putting green? Beanbag chairs? Ping pong table? Hammock? To be determined…

Oh yea… and we have these awesome lights. There are over 200 settings that can be changed through an app. So right now my day boils down to:

95% Implementing Pointz marketing objectives or selling to local businesses

2% Wondering what I am going to eat today because I am starving

2% Deciding what music I am in the mood for

1% Staring at these lights

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5 things to do in Birmingham this Fall

Well, the weather is cooling down and it’s finally starting to feel like fall (whoop whoop). If you’re looking for some things to do and events to go to in Birmingham this fall, here are a few…

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1. Moss Rock Festival at The Preserve

Enjoy live music, local artists, food trucks, and much more at this awesome festival at The Preserve in Hoover on November 3-4. Click here more for more information.

 
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2. Fright Furnace at Sloss

If you’re looking for a good scare before Halloween, I would highly recommend checking out Fright Furnace. It’s a haunted tour through the historic Sloss Furance and it’s always one of my favorite things to do on Halloween. For more info or to get tickets click here.

 
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3. Boo at the Zoo

Check out the 27th annual Boo at the Zoo event where the Birmingham Zoo transforms into a destination of spooky attractions, themed rides, and carnival games for 18 nights. It’s a can’t miss event if you’ve never been. Click here for more info.

 
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4. Magic City Classic

Join the city of Birmingham on the streets downtown at 8am for the classic Magic City Parade. There will be live entertainment, celebrity artists, free swag, giveaways, and more. The game kicks off at 2:30pm. Check out their Facebook page for more info.

 
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5. Día de los Muertos

The Dia de los Muertos hosted by Alabama Multicultural Organization (AMOR) is the must-attend FREE pop-up outdoor cultural event of the Fall! Held outside in Birmingham’s beautiful Rotary Trail in the downtown area. It’s on October 27 from 12pm – 8pm. Go here for more info.

The Pointz Tech Stack

I often get asked by other developers what kind of stack we used to build Pointz (if you don’t know what I mean by “tech stack,” it’s just a term software developers use to refer to what technologies were used when building your app, website, etc.) and since I love talking about nerd stuff I figured I’d go ahead and write a blog on it.

Here’s exactly what we used to build Pointz (spoiler alert, it’s pretty Google-dependent).

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Frontend - Flutter

If you haven’t used Flutter, consider this a personal ringing endorsement. Before Flutter, React Native was the go-to for writing mobile apps that needed native-like performance, without having to go full native and manage two separate apps.

 
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Now, Google has come out with a new framework called Flutter that in my opinion, is superior to React Native. Why do I like Flutter so much more than React Native? There are many reasons but I’ll just go into a few.

First, there’s no Javascript bridge. This in and of itself is enough reason to at least try Flutter.

 

Second, you develop in Dart, not Javascript. As a backend developer by trade, I abhor Javascript. I have a solid preference for strongly typed languages that are compiled first. It is not only safer and results in much more structured code, but it’s also faster to develop because errors are shown immediately before you test it. If you’re new to Dart- don’t worry; I was too but like every other Flutter convert says, it’s very easy to learn.

Third, Flutter comes with amazing styled components out of the box. This is huge for me because I do not have a designer yet, nor am I very design-conscious. I end up spending more than half my time trying to make an app look good. With Flutter, I don’t need a designer. Everything comes out looking great.

There are many more reasons why I really like Flutter, but I’ll end it there for brevity sake.

Database - Firestore

A lot of people have heard of Firebase, but not so many about Firestore. Firestore is just like Firebase except it’s… wait for it… scalable!! It’s still a (very) realtime database, but unlike Firebase, you don’t have to worry about all the necessary data redundancy in order to get adequate perform and Firestore is much more queryable.

Coming from a SQL based background, Firestore is pretty much a cross between a SQL database and Firebase from my viewpoint. I can’t tell you how excited I was to run a query and have it spit out in the console, “Hey, you need to create an index for the query. Click here to do so.” This was music to my ears. I am more accustomed to being forced to call a DBA to create some index that won’t be created until weeks later (sidenote: I worked at a bank previously).

Backend - Firebase Functions

Firebase Functions gets another endorsement from me. Realtime database triggers with server-less functions, and no need to write a custom API make me a huge fan of Firebase functions. My only criticism is that I wish I could write the functions in Dart instead of javascript, and sometimes my functions get called too many times. Other than that, IT IS AWESOME.

Analytics - Mixpanel

After trying so hard (and I mean really really hard), I simply cannot convert to Firebase Analytics. It’s watered down, has bad reports, and is unnecessarily difficult. I feel like I may be alone on this one, because everyone else seems to love Firebase Analytics (and I really wanted to as well). Mixpanel is just a stronger analytics program and easier to use in so many ways.

Hardware - Beacons

This is kind of obvious, but thought I would include it for the sake of having a complete overview. Right now we haven’t committed to any particular beacon manufacturer, despite trying multiple. All of them lack one thing or another, so we’re hoping our ideal version will come out in the future. If not, we’ll just end up building our own.

Conclusion

Any-who, that is our tech stack. Thanks for me letting me nerd out for a little bit.

A little taste of Puerto Rico in Birmingham's vibrant Avondale Neighborhood

Walking into Tropicaleo, you immediately get a sense of the colorful culture of Puerto Rico. It is a small restaurant packed with tons of color and flavor. The food is absolutely delicious with numerous plantain dishes, tender pulled pork, and plenty of sampler options so you can try multiple dishes. If you are not sure what to try, the staff is more than happy to pick out some of the most popular items for you!

If you walk through the restaurant to the back patio, you will be pleasantly surprised by the vibrant murals lining the building’s exterior walls. The restaurant stays open late and frequently has a DJ in the back courtyard playing latin music. The whole scene almost makes you forget that you are in Birmingham, AL. The courtyard backs up to Cahaba Brewery so the owners have made an entrance for customers who want to grab their food while hanging out at the Brewery.


If you haven’t tried Tropicaleo, it is well worth the trip. My personal recommendation- Carne Frita.


The Most Underrated Place to Get a Drink in Birmingham - The Wine Loft

Have you ever just wanted to grab a drink somewhere with a friend or colleague and not have to worry about dealing with crowds, finding a table, or wondering if you’ll even be able to hear each other talk?

Well, if you’re like me, this is something I encounter a lot of the time, but thankfully Birmingham has an amazing spot with an amazing drink selection, delicious food, and an awesome atmosphere.

I’m talking about the The Wine Loft.

Now, I’ll be 100% honest, since I’m not a huge wine drinker I had actually never visited The Wine Loft until a friend asked me to meet them there about a year ago, but to my surprise The Wine Loft not only has an incredible selection of wines, but they have a huge selection of craft beers as well (not to mention some pretty amazing cocktails too). When we were there we tried the food as well which was delicious.

Probably my favorite thing about Wine Loft though is the atmosphere.

 
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The Wine Loft has this sophisticated, yet casual, lounge-like atmosphere. The walls are lined with super comfortable leather couches and coffee tables which makes you feel like you’re drinking and talking with your friends in your own living room (albeit, a much nicer living room). The layout is very spread out which is amazing because I can have a conversation with the person I’m with and actually listen to what they’re saying.

It’s a nice a break from the loud, crowded, “can barely find a table” experience you get at many of the bars or breweries around town.

Since my friend introduced me to Wine Loft, it’s been my go-to place for drinks after work with a colleague, catching up with an old friend, and even first dates.

If you haven’t checked out Wine Loft, you totally should. You’ll be glad you did.