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I’m Chris Malek and this is how I work February 13, 2013

Posted by Duncan in How I work.

Next up in the ‘How I work‘ series is Chris Malek of Cedar Hills Group. Chris is a Technical Consultant and President/Founder of Cedar Hills Group. He has 12 years experience working on PeopleSoft and is a former PeopleSoft employee. Although some of you may know him from this time, most will have heard his name from the blog he runs – his articles are often featured in the PeopleSoft Weekly.


Name: Chris Malek

Occupation: Independent PeopleSoft Technical Consultant @ Cedar Hills Group, Inc.
Location: San Diego County, CA, USA
Current computer: My main computer is an Apple MacBook Pro with 15 inch Retina display (16 GB RAM, SSD Drive), 24in Apple iMac (4GB RAM) – I use this iMac as a ‘thin’ client mostly and its large screen.
Current mobile devices: Iphone4 and an Ipad 1st Gen (upgrading to an iPad Mini soon)
I work: to learn something everyday and be mentally challenged.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Snagit – I have been using snagit for years. It makes communication and documentation so much faster. It is super easy to grab a screen-shot, then use the simple but powerful editor to mark it up with text, arrows, call-outs and even pull in other screen-shots. It is worth every penny.

Sublime text 2 – The best text editor I have found. Once you spend the time to learn the subtleties of it and install some plugins (there are hundreds) it is a powerful editor.

PeopleCode PeopleBooks – I write a lot of Peoplecode and I am constantly referencing the PeopleCode API documentation.

Balsamiq – I create a lot of PeopleSoft bolt-ons. I have found that creating low fidelity / pencil drawn UI sketches helps clients understand the proposed application and helps me flush out requirements faster. In general, people do not know what they want until they can see it. So quickly sketching out some UI options in something like Balsamiq helps get better requirements and helps create better applications.

Aperture – I have a large photo library and enjoy photography. Aperture is a great application that is powerful and integrates nicely with the many Apple devices my family has.

Google Reader – I have been a heavy Google Reader user for years. It is a great web app and it allows me to stay up to date on various tech blogs and niche topics I am interested in.

JungleDisk and Amazon S3 – I don’t keep paper and scan all business records to PDF. I backup all my computers to Amazon S3 using JungleDisk. I have piece of mind that if my computer fails or my house catches fire that I can get my records without a problem. It also allows me to do secure syncing with my family computers and I hold the encryption keys which is unlike something like DropBox where they control the encryption keys.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
I don’t know if you can call it a gadget but I can’t live without my surfboards. I started surfing when I moved to Southern California about 8 years ago and it has become a passion. It is really fun, keeps me in shape and is a great stress reliever. Staying in shape is a top priority for me and my TRX Trainer is another favorite non-tech gadget. It is light, portable, and versatile. It gives you an exercise combination between Pilates, Yoga, and weight training.

I also love my Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner. As I stated above, I don’t keep any paper records. This little scanner is amazing and it was pivotal in allowing me to go completely paperless about 5 years ago.

What’s your workspace like?
In my home office, I have a desk that can be adjusted for standing. I don’t always stand while working and actually prefer sitting most of the time. However, it is nice to have the options to change postures. I have a white-board on the wall where I can sketch ideas and jot down my daily to do list which helps me stay focused.


What do you listen to while you work?
I love Pandora. Lately, I have been listening to the “Jazz Essentials” station. Another popular station for work hours is my Massive Attack pandora channel which has a bunch of down-tempo type music. I am also a big fan of anything by Yo-Yo Ma  especially the album titled “The Cello Suites.”

What PeopleSoft-related productivity apps do you use?
1.) Chrome Developer tools to find field names of PeopleSoft fields by inspecting the HMTL.
2.) HTTPFox FireFox plugin and Fiddler to troubleshoot cookie issues, dig into weblibs and spy on javascript Ajax calls.
3.) My DataDumper application class to quickly view buffer states and debug code because I hate looking at trace files. You can view an introduction here.

Do you have a 2-line tip that some others might not know?
If you are viewing any PeopleSoft page in any web browser (except IE), right click on a field and choose “inspect element”.  That will bring up the developer tools and will display the HTML source of the field that you had highlighted. The “id” attribute will have the record and field name in the form of {Record Name}_{Field Name}. This is really useful for dynamic pages where opening up the application designer page definition may not be obvious especially if there are nested sub-pages. This is a good trick to teach analysts that create tech specs as they can easily find the technical names and communicate in the language of the technical staff.

What SQL/Code do you find yourself writing most often?
I create and support a lot of electronic signature / approval type customizations. This requires me to log in as many different users throughout the day for testing purposes. Therefore, I do a lot of password resets from the back end. Here is a script I use against my base account where I know the password and reset some target user’s password to match mine so I can login as them.


There are some caveats to this trick. This will not trigger an integration broker message since you are updating from the back end. Therefore, this will not sync to other PeopleSoft databases. I have also seen in the 8.53 pre-release notes that the password hashes may be stored with a salt soon so this will probably not work after 8.53 is released.

What would be the one item you’d add to PeopleSoft if you could?
If I could not get version control then I would focus some of the following areas of Application Designer:

* Code completion
* Better support for navigating complex Application Class hierarchies
* An option to force PeopleCode variable declarations
* Support for message catalogs on compare reports
* Support for exporting message catalogs to a file with the project

I could go on for hours.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
I think I am a very quick learner and have the ability to understand complex problems and break the problem into smaller manageable chunks. I owe this to the Engineering program that I completed in college. The program taught amazing problem solving skills and transformed the way I think.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When I was in training at PeopleSoft, a veteran consultant told me “Never learn COBOL or you will be stuck as the COBOL guy on a big project and never learn any new technology.” This stuck with me because I love learning new technologies. I took the advice and stayed clear of COBOL and I don’t regret it.

I also recently heard a quote the resonated with me: “It is OK to make mistakes as long as they are new ones.”

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