Wednesday, December 31

New Year's Resolutions meme

Got tagged by the New Years Professional Resolutions meme by Michael O'Neill (blog | Twitter | webcomic) ... not a big fan of memes. This one's not bad in content, but any meme then implies I need to burden someone else with it ... that's ok, I have a few of you suckers in mind ;)

1. Become more fluent in Python and Google App Engine (GAE).
2. Become subject matter expert on BigTable, SDS, SimpleDB.
3. Finally learn to ignore the overwhelmingly massive number of idiots, newbs and "please send me teh codez" eternal September SOBs that are flooding every corner of my professional experience.
4. Get decent with Silverlight & WPF.
5. Network more. Present at at least three events this year (up from last year's two). Organize at least two tech events this year (up from last year's one). Do more small business networking -- join the local Chamber of Commerce finally.

My chosen victims:
Griff Townshend Twitter | blog
Chris Miller Twitter | blog
Alex Silverstein Twitter | blog
Cindy Chiuchiolo Twitter | blog
Brian Peek Twitter | blog
Bill Pytlovany Twitter | blog

Any other TVUGers or Albany-area tech-centric blogging types want to get tagged? Drop me a line ...

Tuesday, December 30

I am Now Publishing on AddsYou.com

Social Publishing Network | AddsYou
http://www.addsyou.com
username=MjAwOC0xMi0zMCAwOToxMzo0NA==

Why won't this piece of crap validate? That's it, AddsYou is coming off ... sorry Marshal ...

Monday, December 29

End of year Wrapup

2008 draws near a close. It has been a fantastic year, full of new friends, learning and fresh experiences. 2008 had its challenges of course, but I honestly couldn't ask for a better year.

Involved in a ton of projects right now. Still refining my SharePoint skills for the new day job; also getting familiar with Microsoft Dynamics/CRM. I'm getting a serious Hyper-V setup going on in the home office, for dev/test/play purposes.

We're working to rebuild the Change Round-Up website and webservice API from the ground up; I'm getting ready to deploy the first piece of the new framework to production sometime in January. Various Higher Efficiency projects include work on an IVR+.NET webservices project, PHP/MySQL work for a Moodle module, and a complete overhaul of the Higher Efficiency website to boot.

Together with Griff Townshend and TVUG, I'm working on Tech Valley Code Camp 2009.1 -- we've settled on a March date, though we haven't picked a weekend yet. Details to follow of course; website in the process of being put up again, the host paved it with a default Plesk install after TVCC 2008.

Personally, I'm getting up to speed on Azure and SDS, as well as continuing Python explorations with Google App Engine (GAE) and BigTable. Starting to do some work with Amazon Web Service's (AWS) SimpleDB as well -- I hope to be able to present a session comparing these horizontal data offerings sometime in the spring.

Hoping everyone has safe and happy holidays, and here's to an even more awesome 2009!

Wednesday, December 10

Busy busy busy! Server upgrade ... Oxite ...

Long time no post, I know.

Been getting up to speed on the intricacies of SharePoint farms. Recently rebuilt my home office dev/test Win server, from 2003 R2 x64 to 2008 Enterprise x64; perhaps more details on that fun experience later. Installed SharePoint on 2008, installed SQL Server 2008 on 2008, but most interestingly, I've installed Hyper-V on 2008. Again, more posts to follow on this stuff.

Life onsite at NYS DOCS is your typical consulting scenario ... with a few twists. Inmate cleaning crews. Mandated TB testing. Metal detector for visitors and inmates. Correctional officers working front desk and other security points. You get used to it. Mostly.

Will be in Manhattan overnight on 12-19, returning noon 12-20; calendar's already full for that day and a half, but I think I'll be down again at least once in January.

Now that I've gone to Windows Server 2008, I'm hoping to use Hyper-V in place of XP, 2003, Vista, etc. VPCs for development and testing purposes, as well as live archives of stuff like my current Vista x64 notebook. It has a 120GB drive with 14 months worth of installations, uninstallations, reinstallations, service packs. I want to slap a fresh 200GB drive in here, but I don't want to lose access to the OS that was my primary working machine for over a year. Having ugpraded my fileserver to 1TB RAID5, I have room to drop a Hyper-V virtual machine of a stripped-down image of my notebook. Peace of mind for all those passwords and personal data you don't want to lose.

However, that server's workload has increased pretty significantly as of late. It's a white box Asus P5KC with a Q6600 2.4GHz quad core; 4GB of Corsair 1066 DDR2. With a BIOS upgrade, the motherboard can, according to Asus, support 45nm technology. If I can remove/replace the CPU, I'm looking at moving to an
Intel Xeon X3370 Yorkfield 3.0GHz 1333FSB Quad-Core Server Processor. (Good thing I overdid it on the PSU I initially purchased, but still, with this CPU and the RAID5, I may need a bigger PSU as well.) I'd be moving to 8GB DDR3 1333 at the same time.

Cheaper than buying a new server ... but one of these days, I need to get around to investing in an HP or a Dell. Now might be the time -- this box would serve pretty well as a Linux server, but even maxed out, I'm not sure how well it will support my Hyper-V aspirations.

Final note, did anybody else catch the Oxite announcement from MSFT? I've been working toward rebuilding my various sites into an integrated landing page with lightweight CMS ... Oxite might be a better solution than homebrew after all ...

Monday, November 17

I did a podcast interview

"The Startup Success Podcast, Show #5: Our first Social Media President, Change Round-Up"

I did my first podcast interview, for Bob Walsh and Patrick Foley's The Startup Success Podcast. I'm afraid to listen. We discuss Change Round-Up.

Bob Walsh is a successful software small business (mISV? ISV?) founder/owner, author, writer, etc. Pat Foley is an ISV evangelist for Microsoft.

Sunday, November 16

Brian Peek @ TVUG: Animated Musical Holiday Lights

Brian Peek, Microsoft MVP, book author and writer at Coding4Fun, will be presenting a how-to on "Animated Musical Holiday Lights" this Tuesday, November 18th, at 6:30PM at Tech Valley .NET User Group (TVUG).

  • Abstract: This month, learn how to build an animated light show set to music, much like the famous holiday light show videos you may have seen on YouTube. This session will cover how to build the hardware, how to build the software, and how to combine them to create a synchronized musical show for your home.
  • When: Tuesday November 18th, 2008 - 6:30-9PM
  • Where: VersaTrans Solutions, Latham, NY


VersaTrans:

View Larger Map

Monday, November 3

FriendFeed is exposing user email addresses

I happened to take a closer look at a FriendFeed subscription notification today, and noted that the reply-to field is populated with user email addresses. FriendFeed is giving your email address away to anyone you subscribe to.

Conversation on FriendFeed.

UPDATE: Reported fixed by Paul Buchheit of FriendFeed as of approximately 5:40PM Eastern. Thanks for the quick fix, Paul & FF.

Thursday, October 30

Forthcoming changes

Whew, been a busy week. Shuffling around background check and similar paperwork for the new employer, getting a mentee up to speed to replace me at the old employer, business banking paperwork to deal with, trying to get prepped for a November 22nd Tech Valley Code Camp 2008.2, my first Albany Sushi Meetup in months last night ...

Did a Drupal demo last week -- first commercial Drupal work. So far, so good, but mastering the art of laying out complex, dynamic interfaces within Drupal is not yet one I have mastered.

My Eclipse is pretty much dead; bought one of these (same year & color) over the weekend:



2001 Blazer LT, 4DR, 4WD, auto (first auto I've ever owned!!). Needs some work, but with some decent tires on it, ought to make a decent winter beater/pet bus/daily driver for now.

Now, the point of this post was to touch on some changes I'm working on. I want to be able to aggregate my entries from all the blogs I write on or for, along with the associated commentstream (as much as Disqus & etc. will allow). This way I can keep a completely separate personal blog, professional blog, business blog and blog for Change Round-Up, but still have a landing page where all my various entries are displayed in a chronological stream. I already wrote a .NET 3.5 blog widget that allows me to customize which tagged or labeled or authored entries to display from a single blog -- now I'm going to expand that to operate across multiple blogs.

Tuesday, October 28

Making a career move

Monday (yesterday) morning I gave notice to my current employer, so I can officially announce: I've accepted a role as Senior Consultant with Infusion Development.

Infusion is a boutique Microsoft technologies consulting firm, with offices in Manhattan, Toronto, Boston, London, Dubai; I think there's an office in LA as well, and there's a virtual office here in Albany, NY. Infusion works pretty closely with Microsoft, doing a lot of Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) work. They also employ a surprising number of MVPs, given their relatively small size, and have some sort of VAR or OEM relationship with Microsoft and the Surface. Once upon a time they derived a lot of revenue from the financial services sector, but the past year or two have spent time refocusing business development efforts on the resort industry in Dubai. Yes, THAT Dubai. Hey, who knows, maybe someday ...

For the first six months, at least, I'll be doing some SharePoint work here in Albany for the NYS Department of Correctional Services. I first used SharePoint and VSTO back in 2006 at Xerox; newer versions are out, but frankly, not a lot seems to have changed, at least not drastically. I'm surprised there's still so much COM interop -- wasn't Office 2007 supposed to be purely .NET-driven? Then again, so was Vista ...

Hoping to achieve another Microsoft MVP nomination, and actually win MVP status, this time around. Not sure yet where to focus my efforts -- do they have MVPs for Azure yet? I'm sure the MVPs at Infusion can offer me some insight here.

Anyhoo, my last day with Davis Vision will be Friday, November 7th. I can't say enough good things about the people and the environment at Davis -- they're good people doing good work. They're open-minded toward Agile, but not fanatical. They've started using automated unit testing. They're trying to embrace TDD and CI. I would highly advise .NET developers in the Albany area to apply, they have growing teams supporting a fairly complex web app, or collection of web apps, and the SOA-ish middle tier and desktop GUI. If I weren't constantly driven so hard to create change, I could see myself happily continuing on at Davis for quite some time to come. Their technology roadmap just isn't quite aggressive enough to keep me interested over the long term however -- I was starting to feel as though I wasn't being technically challenged, didn't have a lot of room left to grow there.

My first day on the job with Infusion will be Monday, November 10th.

Wednesday, October 15

Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty


Apparently my head's been buried in the sand, or elsewhere, as I was totally surprised today by Blog Action Day 08. This year's focus is poverty. Expect a more in-depth followup.



Feedburner having a flaky day

Seems like Feedburner is having a flaky day today. Slow loads ... bouncing subscriber counts ...

Monday, October 13

Time for my fat ass to get (closer to) back in shape

OK, I've been doing the fat software geek thing for too long. Ever since a broken ankle back in 2000, I haven't seen the inside of a gym, and have grown less and less active. I'm completely out of shape, and weigh far more than is healthy, by any measure.

I don't care if the Web 2.0 bubble has burst, I'm going to leverage Web 2.0 apps to the hilt. You'll notice the new, ill-fitting skinnyr graph tracking my weight in the sidebar. I'm hunting around for a nutrition planning/tracking app, preferably something with a Windows Mobile or mobile web component, or something with an open API for which I can write my own WinMo app.

I'm setting my first goal today: lose 10 pounds in 4 weeks. I'll be weighing in tomorrow, October 14th, wrapping up a week or two before Thanksgiving -- great timing, I know! I plan to make a few simple changes:

  • add a few minutes to 3x daily dog walks - always at least 15 per walk, instead of 5-10. try and get 4 walks in when possible. (buy new timberlands!)
  • get more sleep; don't half-sleep with the TV on.
  • drink more water.
  • stretch every day.
  • no alcohol, no chicken wings; generally better eating: leaner meats instead of my ribeyes, for instance. no more weekend home fries. no more fast food at lunch.
On other notes, I'm working on a blog redesign, one that will fit widgets and content better, and one I'll be putting together entirely in ASP.NET. I want infinite flexibility and customizability, I want to pull in and manipulate all kinds of outside content. I think the only way to do that is to build a new site around my blog. A new URL will follow.

Tuesday, October 7

Tech trends to keep an eye on

I love how they all have overlap and integration points, and yet SOA/cloud stuff is really on the opposite end of the spectrum from a lot of concurrency technologies and practices:

Mobile devices
RIAs (Rich Internet Applications - Smart Clients)
Clouds/Grids
SOAs (Service-Oriented Architectures)
SOGs (Service-Oriented Grids)
Concurrency
Functional Programming

Mark my words, the next decade in the industry will be dominated be these concepts. They will certainly be playing a role in upcoming posts and presentations.

re: Hank Williams' How Much Is an Idea Worth, and the Tech Market

Hank-

Replying to:

http://whydoeseverythingsuck.com/2008/10/what-is-idea-worth.html

and


http://whydoeseverythingsuck.com/2008/10/tech-market-failure-of-ideas-not.html

I believe what I said on-list was that success is "1% idea 90% team/connections 9% luck", and that 9% luck figure is important in putting context around my perspective.

A crappy CEO can take a crappy idea, and with a lot of luck hits 10%. 10% gets you prototyped, gets you seed funding, maybe gets you a Series A. It gets you users, it gets you news coverage, it gets you hype and buzz, but none of that constitutes success -- not in real world business terms.

Success is sustainable profitability. Success is a high-value exit. A brilliant CEO can take a crappy idea, mature it, and turn it into a hundreds of millions of dollars acquisition in under five years.

A crappy CEO can take a brilliant idea and get further than 10%, but a crappy CEO is going to result in a low-value exit, or is going to end up replaced, probably after a lot of pain and wasted investment.

The strongest indicator of success is the team, not the idea. Obviously, however, the right idea, a matured idea, a well thought through idea, carries more weight, vastly improves chances of success.

I think we're saying a lot of the same thing here, but I will insist that a subpar CEO can easily ruin the most brilliant, bound-for-success idea, whereas it's much more likely that a killer CEO can make a success out of a subpar idea, or one that needs massaging, maturation, etc. And yes, a slick CEO can BS their way to a limited degree of success -- but not sustainable success, which I think we're in agreement on. My definition of a killer CEO isn't the sales guy with the biggest shovel, but the one with the greatest ability to do the most with the least, make the right moves, and please stakeholders along the way.

"idea = 1%" isn't an exact figure, but it's highly demonstrative of proportionate value.

And yes, the market the past few years has made for some fat and lazy management teams and backers with a plethora of redundancy getting funded. That's inevitable, it happens with every peak. It's those who can stay lean and agile even in fat and happy times that will of course have the greatest chance of sustainable success over the long term.

--Andy Badera

Note: you can, and perhaps should, substitute "management team" or "founders" for "CEO" throughout this piece.

Sunday, October 5

Mystery solved: random disabling of Disqus not so random

Turns out ScribeFire and Disqus don't play so well together.

When using the ScribeFire add-on for Firefox to post to a Blogger blog, Disqus commenting gets disabled, and Blogger commenting gets re-enabled. After using ScribeFire, I find it is necessary to then edit the post, show post options in the lower left and disable commenting, with the hide existing option. This then re-enabled Disuqs commenting. Note, disallowing comments but showing previous does NOT re-enable Disqus.

It's begun already: the cheap b*stards come racing out of the woodwork

Google Alerts popped yet another gem today. Hot off of craiglist: ".NET web Developer (Albany, NY)"

"An award winning web design and development firm in Albany is looking for a motivated Web Developer with a proven track record in developing high end websites and the portfolio to prove it."

...

"Required Experience and Skills:

> Solid Knowledge of Object-Oriented concepts.
> At least 2 years experience in a development/programming position, and 1 year experience with ASP / ASP.NET (C#).
> Must be able to take layered Photoshop designs and transform them into web sites
> Experience in .Net 2.0 development in compiled and non-compiled .Net applications
> HTML/CSS hand coding required
> Degrees and certifications are a plus but not a necessity
> Degrees and certifications are a plus but not a necessity
> This is a salaried position for a developer in the Albany area"

...

"Compensation: $30,000 to $35,000 plus benefits"

This is the kind of vulturous crap you saw for a year after 9/11. And this is in ALBANY -- we're not talking up in the mountains of the North Country, on the edge of the Adirondack Park, where I grew up, where I recognize there is a serious technology deficit in play. This is the capital of New York State for gosh sakes.

Two years experience OO, and 1 year ASP.NET/C#. Experience in .NET 2.0 (wait, what's a "non-compiled" .NET application? FAIL! Benefit of the doubt: maybe they mean static and dynamic .NET languages?) applications. Degrees and certifications are nice, but not a necessity. By the way, degrees and certifications are nice, but not a necessity. All that translates into AT LEAST $45,000USD + benefits -- BARE MINIMUM. Someone with these skills, and a college degree, should be in the $50s or $60s.

I know economies are cyclic ... and I know we're in a serious downturn. But when will these smalltime, smallminded employers finally realize, you get what you pay for? That offering this sort of spurious sum only leaves you with a dissatisfied, probably indebted, employee who is a) not going to work to their full potential and b) will be constantly seeking more gainful employment. And worse, c) possibly eventually looking to engage in theft against their employer, or employer's clients, in order to make ends meet?

What does it cost to find, vet, hire, train and do paperwork on an employee these days? Are you telling me that an extra $10k salary won't make up for itself quite quickly? If you've got annual turnover and even a $35k employee, $10k makes up for itself in a single year. (Assuming typical total turnover cost of 50% of employee salary.)

Also, it might help this particular employer to know: the Albany market for .NET people is HOT and TIGHT. Worst case, an economic slowdown is simply going to mean that several of the larger, established local .NET teams are finally going to be filling their open seats that we've been gapping on for two+ years now. You're not going to find bargain basement .NET people in Albany right now, period, at least not one who knows how to use a keyboard, or how to spell .NET.

UPDATE: 2007 national, state, Albany and NYC wage data for software roles:



us_nys_albany_nyc_software_salary_data_2007 - Get more Business Plans

Monday, September 29

Getting started with SQL Server Data Services (SSDS)

I spent this weekend primarily doing two things:

1) hacking away at my new HTC Kaiser (AT&T Tilt, TyTn II), unlocking it, flashing new ROMs, installing new CABs, and
2) getting familiar with the basics of using SSDS.

The David Robinson MSDN Magazine article that helped kickstart me on this topic can be found here. Even better, it turns out there's an invaluable SDK/toolkit for getting to know SSDS -- the SQL Server Data Services SDK (beta) of course. There is also a single MSDN forum dedicated to SSDS. I haven't yet discovered an IRC channel. There are a number of MSDN team blogs, as well as a handful of non-MS blogs that I'll cover in later posts.

To up the ante a bit, I decided to write a console (command line) app for my Windows Mobile 6.1 device, the HTC Kaiser. I was halfway through implementing this app when I discovered the SDK, and the command line tool that comes with it. I'm going to reimplement this tool, ST.exe, for Windows Mobile/.NET CompactFramework 3.5. (I've tried to find source for it, so far, no go ...)

The SDK also comes with a GUI explorer that makes it simple to understand the RESTful operations supported by Authorities, Containers and/or Entities. (You can't PUT, or update, Authorities or Containers. Yet attempts to do so still seem to increment those objects' version numbers ...)

So far, I'm liking the SSDS beta experience. More to follow.

Friday, September 26

Back-and-forth: Microsoft's cloud data offering, SSDS

Quick, raise your hand if you're writing code using SQL Server Data Services right now.

How about, raise your hand if you've even heard of SSDS?

Microsoft's nearly-spanking-brand-new cloud data offering, SQL Server Data Services (SSDS) is a Google BigTable-like horizontally-structured data cloud, still in beta.

Horiztonally what? The basic data model is authorities, containers and entities. Using authorities, one is able to geographically distribute one's data -- not unlike Amazon's Availability Zones, and something Google App Engine and Google's BigTable betas don't yet offer.

Truly scalable web applications beg for this sort of backend. For a slight trade-off in latency, you have extremely affordable, dynamic, distributed capacity.

My friend Michael O'Neill over at crisatunity, one of those DBA guys, isn't a big fan of the data cloud model, at least not at the oustset of this conversation. We're going to have a blog back-and-forth on this topic over the next few weeks, as we both test out the beta, and I prepare for a couple of presentations for an upcoming Code Camp and local user group.

Not only do I come at this from a Developer (vs DBA) perspective, but this sort of service is the sort of thing that's helping drive down the cost of starting up a new business. As CTO of Change Round-Up, I believe cloud services offer us the ability to address a Top 50 retailer's peak transaction volumes, without having a lot of over-priced under-utilized in-house capacity.

I look forward to seeing where this conversation takes us, and if anyone's opinion on SSDS, or cloud services in general, is swayed.

Thursday, September 18

I got to play with a Surface yesterday

I should have taken pics, these just don't do it justice:




One thing that seemed odd was that the fit/finish of the Surface to the surrounding poly seemed a bit rough, as seen through the poly housing. Maybe it was just this particular unit, which was being set up for demo purposes, but it seems like the standard housing, as exampled above.

Thursday, September 4

Microsoft Northeast Roadshow Coming to Albany!

Chris Bowen, Microsoft Developer Evangelist out of Boston, managed to get Albany on the itinerary for the Fall 2008 Northeast Roadshow. Thanks, Chris & Jim!

This event has bypassed us in the past. What is a Northeast tech roadshow without a stop in the heart of Tech Valley?

Quick Agenda:

8:30 – Registration

9:00 – Understanding the ADO.NET Entity Framework

10:30 – Discovering Dynamic Data

11:15 - Exploring Internet Explorer 8

12:00 – RoboLunch

1:00 - UI, UX, U Confused?

1:45 - A RESTed Development

3:15 - Befriending Unit Testing

4:00 – Wrapup, Giveways, and Bon Voyage!


Looking forward to the Robotics Studio, IE8 and especially the REST stuff myself!

Thursday, August 28

Computer forensics & cloud computing

By now, if you're active enough of an online user to be reading this blog, you've surely heard of "cloud computing." You may even have heard of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and their Elastic Compute Cloud, more commonly referred to as EC2.

Cloud computing offers a lot of possibilities and potential. Let's not forget, it "levels the playing field," and all that other corporate jargon that hopefully translates into delivering Fortune 100 computing capabilities to those of us technical sorts who don't, or who no longer, work for the 800 pound gorillas of the industry.


Clouds also unfortunately seem to offer a lot of surface area for abuse and crime. Email spammers have been loving EC2 -- it didn't take long for most of AWS' IP range to get blacklisted by all the major spam watchlists.


What about something a little more sinister? What if an evil foreign spy or terrorist or hacker needs a place to host a bot command & control server, or a temporary shell account for accessing a more meaningful target, or needs a private place to host a "sensitive" IRC conversation or dead drop some blueprints?

When you shut down an AMI instance on EC2, that image resets to its stored state -- all session data is lost. All typical system & service logs, gone. Sure, I know you still have logging at the boundary of the cloud, but with the huge amount of potential data flowing in and out of a cloud, how do you identify individual users of individual services provided by a transient host image, particularly when they make expert efforts to cover their tracks? And what if the owner of the image decides to engage in malicious behavior, through the host server image, from a third IP address, and then claim someone must have stolen their password or keypair to the image?


Now I'm no security expert, perhaps this isn't as big a potential issue as I make it out to be. I'd love to be contradicted here!

Of course, none of that is as scary as the thought of this guy as our Commander in Chief.


Edit: It was noted on #freehackersunion that Tor, and for that matter other such services, offer you an ability to put an anonymous host on the Internet already. Sure, but Tor's bandwidth typically sucks, and the guy sitting on the exit owns you. EC2 basically commoditizes anonymous hosts, all you need is a stolen ID and credit card number.

Monday, August 25

Assert.IsTrue(newspapersAreDying);

I know it's been said before, but I was shocked when I took a look at former-employer Gannett's stock price this morning -- a paltry $17.xx!



They were treading near or around 80 when I started in November of 2002. They were in the low 50s I believe when I bailed in December 2005. The site I was at, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, was doing about 8 million hits a month with over a quarter million unique visitors ... but just didn't "get it" when it came to technology. They became followers rather than innovators, led by the nose by page views and ad campaigns, mimicking their socially-successful neighboring markets of Buffalo and Syracuse, but only years after their lead tech guy (me) had tried to encourage forums and article comments. Rather pathetic -- so much wasted potential and lead time.

They were starting to push the "hyperlocal reporting" and "local data machine" campaigns in a very drone-like fashion in my waning time there. I had some hope for them when they made the token effort of changing their "newsrooms" to "information centers," but unfortunately I think that corporation is too filled with stodgy, curmudgeonly personalities and mindsets to make the transition to the 21st century anytime this decade. No dancing elephants there -- no Lou Gerstner either, for sure. Over the past five years all their sites have, through corporate edict and ad-driven mania, become cookie cutter, ad-noisy copies of one another. Gross. AdBlock Plus is your friend.

Recently, an editor at the Glens Falls Post-Star haughtily insisted to me, via a poorly-designed article commenting system, that the newspaper wasn't dying -- "just look at all the hits this site gets!" Tell that to your parent corp's stock price:



Just for comparison, let's see how the innovation-friendly (ish) big-budget New York Times has been doing over the same 5-year period:



Only slightly better than the corporately-retarded Gannett Co, Inc.

Say it with me now: "Newspapers are environmentally-disastrous dinosaurs, please quit wasting time, money and resources, liquidate your assets and finish laying off your underpaid workforce already."

Thursday, July 24

Short circuit - Meetup.com steals my soul

I never thought this day would come.

I've hit a personal pseudo-Singularity from which I can never return.

This morning, at approximately 4:30AM Eastern, I felt ... wait for it ... over wired!

I've always enjoyed being as connected as I could be. Writing BASIC, Apple BASIC, BASICA, GW-BASIC in elementary school. Modems and BBSes and QBasic and CompuServe and early AOL when I was still a kid. Writing LEGO LOGO in middle school. The wide, wide world of websites, the Internet, opening in high school and beyond. The pagers, the cell phones, dial-up, broadband, ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth, clients, servers, distributed systems, SOA. An evolution I never stopped loving. Until today.

At approximately 4:30AM this morning, I was woken by a SMS notification, heard from my bedroom, on my HTC Wizard charging in the living room. SMS had grown noisy -- Twitter was overwhelming, every other SMS-notifying service was making me simply ignore SMS notifications, missing truly important ones -- so I had trimmed it down to just the ping monitoring service used to monitor critical websites and systems, and ...

Meetup. Meetup.com. It's nice, a little while before a Meetup, to get an SMS reminder with an address or directions in it. Very, very handy. I belong to a number of meetups, both here in Albany and in New York, so occasionally the event reminder itself is valuable as well.

There was an Albany small business Meetup scheduled for this morning, though it was a halfhearted effort that never really materialized, in part due to the organizer being out of town, in part due to people being lazy and otherwise occupied in summer. That Meetup was scheduled for 7:30am.

Ever so kindly, Meetup.com sent me an SMS reminder, a few hours before the Meetup. At 4:30 in the morning. There's no SMS scheduling for Meetup, like any sensible SMS-utilizing service, like Twitter. Perhaps Meetup's new backers, Union Square Ventures -- also early and heavily invested backers of Twitter -- need to encourage Meetup to get with the program like the rest of the crowds that they're claiming to source. Being unable to prevent a 4:30AM SMS from a non-critical service like Meetup.com is unacceptable.

Sure, if I wasn't at this point retrained, like one of Pavlov's dogs, to respond to that SMS chime on my smartphone, I probably would have slept through it, but still, the option to schedule SMS notification through Meetup.com is a simple and necessary feature.

Tuesday, July 1

Philo-blurb: child vs. adult

I've been ridiculously busy -- I'll be back to posting on a more regular schedule soon! Major software release underway at the day job, and lots of good stuff going on with Change Round-Up!

Wanted to shoot a little blurb out into the blogosphere: children sit around and talk about what they dream of achieving. Adults, on the other hand, talk about what they're doing to achieve those things.

Am I off here? Am I too much of a cynic? Are adults "allowed" to idly dream as well? Who has time for that?

Thursday, June 19

The Digg Paradigm: Community Spirit vs. Active Promotion

Everyone knows that having an article hit the front page of a popular social bookmarking site is an instant traffic boon that can't be ignored, but how do you get to the front page? Learn more about the issues involved.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, June 4

Republishing, crawling and linking in 2008

There's an ongoing conversation on the nextNY mailing list regarding linking and republishing of RSS feeds.

An interesting discussion on robots.txt has sprouted as well.
Ed Costello wrote a post well worth reading. A few highlights:

"Why might a site owner block a crawler?

  • on analysis of the site's server logs they realize that a section of their site has been crawled that they had no intention of making crawlable (this doesn't mean that the content is supposed to be "private", but perhaps it's the output of their inventory control system and they just don't want it in the world's search engine caches)
  • abusive behaviour by crawlers, pounding away at CGI scripts for example, or systematically posting content to forms found in retrieved pages
  • misrepresentation of a site's content
  • pretty much any reason at the discretion of the site's owners. It's their site, they set the rules."

"
A spider is not one spider on its own, it's one of potentially thousands hitting popular sites, sucking up bandwidth and other resources away from other users of the site. "

"
My advice:
  • be absolutely certain you comply with robots.txt,
  • make sure your spider is well behaved (take a breather between requests to a single site, or do a bunch of requests at a time, then move onto another site for awhile)
  • make sure your spider responds to weird server behavior by backing off (the number of spiders which don't process redirects correctly is sadly high)
  • include a URL to your spider's description/info page in the User-Agent field of the request (suggest using a tinyurl or something comparable to keep the number of bytes down, no need to waste bandwidth)
  • make sure your spider's IP address(es) reverse resolve to your domain
  • make sure someone's actually monitoring the spider as it runs, or gets alerted if something bad or strange happens. "

Finally, perhaps most importantly:
"If someone complains, don't quibble, stop crawling their site first then work with them to address their concerns"

Long story short: don't be abusive. Crawl others as you would wish to be crawled. Respect published instructions. In this internetworked world populated by an ever increasing amount of content and plumbed by an ever wider variety of open APIs, simple rules of etiquette still apply.

Thursday, May 29

Software Job Listing FAIL



So Google Alerts (terms: albany software) popped this gem this morning:

"Amazing Position"

"VP of Product Development & Support"

"An Albany area software company seeks a talented individual to provide strategic leadership in the planning, direction and oversight for all product development and support. This individual must be experienced in the organization and management of a software operation. The ideal candidate must possess solid communication and people management skills along with the requisite technical skills."

...

"Assist in the development of a structure or framework that integrates all departments with other Senior Management to facilitate communication and decision making."

...

"Resume MUST be mailed."

FAIL.

Here, allow me to instantly produce that structure or framework for you with this WONDERFUL bit of technology from 1965.

VP of product development for a "software" company -- and they don't accept resumes via email? The only thing missing here is really, really bad clip art of a representative dinosaur. Let me fix that.



For all of those who are just dying to apply, check it out.

Thursday, May 22

Giving Disqus a try

I've been far from satisfied with Blogger's commenting system, so I'm giving Disqus a try. This should be the first post with Disqus commenting enabled. I'm sorry for making you sign up for yet another service, but I feel that it has enough value for all concerned that it's worth the five minutes of your time. Thanks in advance!

The integration process seems pretty straightforward. I'll document it in an update to this post, or as a new post, after I finish testing Disqus.

UPDATE: The integration process, for Blogger at least, couldn't be simpler. Big thumbs up to Disqus.

Monday, May 19

Big happenings this week?

Rumors are running rampant about renewed Microhoo talks. Scoble is also proclaiming Microsoft's intent, per John Furrier, to buy Facebook outright, and close it up, turning this from "Facebook vs. Google" to "Microsoft vs. the Web".

What will this mean? To most of us, not much. Digital natives, however, I'm sure wait with bated breath. If Microsoft consolidated a position in search, and landed a major (the premier?) social networking asset, will it open a cloud computing platform a la Google App Engine to fill that gap in its offerings? As an integrated whole, and speaking as a .NET-head, that would be one SWEET setup. Speaking as an advocate for openness, transparency, portability and competition, however, I'd have to note some concerns.

Now if only Windows Mobile could be made a true competitor, outside the enterprise sector.

Meanwhile, Twitter continues to pique interest, peak traffic, and make news.

Friday, May 16

Why Twitter Matters

If Business Week says so it must be so, right?

Quite rightly calling Twitter the "microblogging rage," BW also acknowledges the inescapable "drivel." It's true -- as a lifestreaming-leaning medium, there's plenty of noise (even without considering the Twam.) Plenty of very interesting people have unfortunately unfollowed me due to my own loquacious use of the service.

More importantly, BW touches on some of the bottom line, business-relevant facts of Twitter. Traffic has blown up. Major corporations are using it to enhance their relationship with their customers (Comcast, H&R Block, Hormel) and increase sales (Dell). A rich ecology of third party apps thrives on top of it.

BW also touches on a topic near and dear to the hearts of all Twitterers -- the not-infrequent service outages. Some have blamed this on Twitter's Ruby on Rails platform; the recent departure of chief architect Blaine Cook, Ruby evangelist extraordinaire, has left the question of technological direction wide open.

Twitter's major backer right now is Union Square Ventures; you can find partner Fred Wilson on Twitter daily. With a history of investments including del.icio.us (acquired by Yahoo!) and Feedburner (acquired by Google for ~$100 million USD) and a current portfolio including Etsy and tumblr, you have to think these guys have this thing down.

That said, BW brings up that other favorite Twitter topic -- monetization. What's the model for a microblogging service? The new Japanese-localized Twitter is experimenting with advertising. With the incredible number of third party apps, you'd have to think Twitter begs to go freemium. But the question remains: what the heck IS Twitter worth?

Twitter isn't a fad. It isn't just a trendy toy. It's a tool and a platform that adds value to any business that needs to communicate, whether that's with a community, with clients, with partners, with suppliers or with talent. Twitter is here to stay.

UPDATE: Excellent traffic stats and analysis available at the Compete blog.

Some highlights:



Saturday, May 10

Twitter's Follow:Following Ratio: The one that matters

I'm sure by now I come across as obsessed by Twitter, and maybe that's not an unfair assessment. It's a unique tool that allows extremely easy discovery of "interesting people," and allows you to engage in fairly intimate interaction with those people.

Scoble has huffed and puffed and blown the house down over his "you are who you follow" assessment, which, to me, reeks of grade school cliquey-ness. Why does it matter who I follow? Why does it matter who you follow? Use Twitter however it suits you.

However, there IS one metric I would like to see: on average, how many people do the people who follow me, follow? With what kind of standard deviation, what's the mode? I think that would give you a fairly objective measure of the value of your contribution to Twitter, by gaging the selectivity of those who select you.

Does that make me hypocritical in my use of Twitter? I "follow" over 1300 people, and am "followed" by something like 1400. I certainly follow some very interesting, delightful, informative folks. There are definitely a number of people I interact with regularly. At the same time, there's no question, I follow some people who contribute little or nothing to my life most of the time. People with whom I've never had a conversation. People whose tweets have never twinked my noggin'.

There's definitely an imbalance of value in Twitter. Call it the Great Friend Divide, a la Scoble, if you will. I personally feel that I get more value out of interacting with a large number of interesting, intelligent people through Twitter. However, for every additional person I follow, that's additional segmentation in the attention I pay to my Twitternet -- any one node on my net tends to get less attention.

In other words, there's more value in being followed by someone who follows fewer people, than someone who follows a lot of people. Once you reach a certain point, the only way to get a message through to you is with @s or direct messaging -- which is where Twitter becomes transient, and loses a lot of its initial intimacy potential.

I suppose it all depends on how you use it, what you expect out of it, and what the people who follow you expect out of you. Maybe that's what makes Twitter great.

Thursday, May 8

RANT: Elevator etiquette

Whatever happened to a little elevator etiquette?

You're awaiting an elevator. NEWSFLASH: YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY PERSON ON THE PLANET. In fact, there stands a very good chance that OTHER PEOPLE are using the same elevator(s) you're waiting to use!

When the elevator doors open, GIVE PEOPLE A MOMENT TO EXIT THE ELEVATOR before you go barging in! Seriously -- are you in THAT much of a hurry? At least look before you leap!

But hey, all that said -- enjoy my iced coffee. I bet it tastes quite good, wrung from your blouse, into the ladies' room sink that gets cleaned maybe once a week.

And one more bit of elevator-ness: don't rush to push the button when the door is almost closed with someone else inside, forcing them to wait while the doors reopen, you board, etc. etc. - especially when there are two or more elevators. That other person, or people, was/were there first. Let the elevator depart, THERE WILL BE ANOTHER CAR. Or, better, if you're REALLY in a hurry, TAKE THE STAIRS!

/pet peeves ranting ... for now

This is a test. You can ignore it.

I recently started posting my blog to my corporate site. However, not every opinion I express is necessarily one of a relevant and/or business-like nature, so while widgetizing the ATOM 1.0 feed-consuming blog code, I decided to add tag-based filtering. Only blog posts I tag as "hes" should end up the company page.

So, here goes the first test. Will the widget behave?

Widget source will be published once testing is complete. Widget uses .NET 3.5, ServiceModel.Syndication namespace. Highly configurable, with caching options (particularly handy when your site is subject to security scanning tools, which can cause feed providers like FeedBurner to label repeated feed requests as malware or bot. Thanks, Nanny Google.)

Widget can be deployed in multiple independent instances throughout site, so you could use a single blog with a number of different tags to publish area-specific content across your site by associating tags with those areas. Kind of a weak CMS (content or knowledge management system) taxonomy. Could possibly use it to auto-associate related blog posts as well.

UPDATE: It appears as though the tag-based filtering is working appropriately :)

Friday, May 2

The Albany Tech Market - Part II

OK, quick recap. I'd been in Rochester nine years, worked a few fulltime roles and a number of contract/consulting positions.

Over the years, I'd done what I could to keep an eye on the Albany market. There was little or no call for classic ASP that I ever saw. Java, sure. RPG, yeah. COBOL, yep. C++, absolutely.

.NET was slow to gain traction in the Capital District; when I first really dove into .NET, and C#, at the end of 2005 (I'd worked -- loosely -- in VB.NET previously half-porting classic ASP stuff into ASP.NET 1.0/1.1) I was pretty head-down in various projects, and hadn't checked the Albany market in a while. When I started looking for .NET jobs in the area in the summer of 2006, there were a decent number of listings on Monster, mostly through recruiters. I ended up hooking up with Davis Vision through Robert Half -- an absolutely miserable experience. (Not the Davis aspect -- Davis is 100% pure awesome.)

Allow me to note: I do not, in any manner, way, shape, fashion nor form, endorse the Robert Half experience. Nor any "big" recruiter either. Stick with the locals. Stick with the places that realize you're important enough that you're in touch with principals, not fresh-faced account reps eager to earn a commission and move on to the next available target to leach off of.

Speaking of locals, and speaking of .NET being slow to gain traction, Art Bianco, principal at Computer Technical Services (CTS) in Great Oaks, has echoed my feel on .NET jobs in the area. As someone who's done fair amount of Java and mainframe placements, as of February 2008, Art feels that, yes, .NET listings have certainly been increasing in the Albany area for a while now, though perhaps not disproportionately to listings in other technologies.

I know we at Davis Vision are constantly looking for great .NET people -- our architect has been through many dozens of resumes, phone screened dozens of those. We've interviewed some ... 8 or 10? candidates in the 18 months I've been there. We've offered less than half of those interviewed, we've hired 3. We're still looking for more, but they seem to be hard to find. There's a maxim I read recently about the number of truly good software engineers in any technology not increasing with time. Very limited resource -- the early adopters are often the true professionals and enthusiasts, and everyone else who comes along got into the game because they saw it as an easy route to a good income. I think the noise we see on the DotNetDevelopment Google Group demonstrates this all too well.

I know Jennifer Lee, HR manager at AutoTask, is constantly looking for good .NET people. I know Art Bianco of CTS is looking for good .NET people, and Susan Lundberg, principal at Capital Tech Search, is often looking for good .NET people as well as a variety of other technical roles. Other local recruitment firms seem to have a number of listings as well, but I'm not sure how unique they are beyond what Computer Technical Services and Capital Tech Search offer. I know VersaTrans was hiring, not certain of their current status; they were recently acquired I believe.

craigslist is, like anyplace else, pretty noisy, often spammy. There are definitely a lot of web-related listings, but most of them want something for nothing, or want the world, in PHP, for $12/hour 20hours/week. That said, in the 14 months or so I've been glancing at craigslist, I have hooked up with two solid, paying, .NET-centric clients. One of those opportunities has led to me taking a CTO title. I also know Agora Games over in Troy lists positions on craigslist.

Demise of Martha's Dandee Cream?

Growing up, it was a generally known truth in the Glens Falls, Queensbury and Lake George area that the best soft ice cream around was to be found at Martha's Dandee Cream.

[I really need to find a photo of the giant rooster sign I seem to recall this place had.]

Martha's Dandee Cream is (was?) located across Route 9 from The Great Escape, formerly known as Storytown. The Great Escape was once owned by local rich guy Charles Wood. In the mid or late 90s, Wood sold the park, which eventually became part of the Six Flags family. I seem to recall it changed hands a few times, to Premier Parks, back to Wood, then to Six Flags, but Wikipedia doesn't seem to support this recollection.

Martha's ended up being purchased, if I understand and recall correctly, by Six Flags, or the entity that became or was absorbed by Six Flags. At some point there was a Martha's stand inside the park. Though I didn't have the opportunity to taste either in this time period, I've heard the quality at Martha's took a dive, and that the worthy successor to Martha's was Rob and Deb's, a place over on Dix Ave.

In this morning's Times Union, I read that Cold Stone Creamery is opening its 14th Six Flags location inside The Great Escape. What happened to Martha's? Is it still standing?

Saturday, April 26

Twitter: the following:follower ratio

In recent weeks Twitter has been plagued by follow-spam from thousands of ignorant, immature people blindly following Scoble's prescription for Twitter "success." The ethos was entirely quantity over quality, and quite impersonal -- sure doesn't sound particularly community- nor conversation- -oriented now, does it?

I follow about 250 people more than follow me. I also follow far too many people to be "intimate" with many of them through Twitter. But in my book, that's FINE -- Twitter is transient. It's a firehose -- embrace it, but don't drown yourself!

I could care less how many people you follow, how many people follow you, if you're INTERESTING. If you're engaging in CONVERSATION, if you're sharing thoughts and ideas, I say RIGHT ON.

If you're one of these mass-adding Twammers (Twitter-spammers) then I say: die in a fire. Slowly. Perhaps roasted on a spit.

Follow people because you find them interesting, not because you're trying to play the numbers game. And, don't use Twitter as your personal ego-horse or mouthpiece! Such use is pretty obvious, and not desirable in the LEAST.

Personally I think the two best ways to find new people to "follow" are 1) eavesdropping and 2) outside sources. If you see someone having an interesting conversation with someone you already follow, FOLLOW THE NEW PERSON. Also, if you have outside contact with someone -- whether personally, or through their blog or another social network, then again, by all means FOLLOW THIS PERSON.

/soapbox

Scoble throws in the towel

AKA "Ration and reason win again."

The Albany Tech Market - Part I

Per Michael's (@catalyst? not sure which Michael) request, here's my take on the tech job scene in the Capital District.

Permit me some background. I grew up 45 minutes north of here, in a town called Queensbury, literally living on the edge of the Adirondack Park.


View Larger Map

I was a geek in a decidedly non-technical area. Around 7th or 8th grade, I started getting ideas about software consulting. Around the age of 15 or 16, in 1994/1995, I'd picked up enough JavaScript, HTML and Photoshop that I tried my hand at web freelancing. I did about a half dozen simple sites, encountered client payment issues, had business disputes with my partner -- my brother -- froze some accounts, abandoned the sole proprietorship, and moved to Rochester for college.

The next nine years I was in Rochester. By the end of my sophomore year I was no longer focused on RIT, but working in the field. I'd returned one summer to work a co-op position with Adirondack Technologies, Inc. -- one of the first large-ish web design and hosting firms in the area. By the end of that summer (1998? 1999?), I'd secured my first fulltime job offer, with Meridian Technology Group, back in Rochester as an ASP "web engineer".

From there, at the age of 19, with no degree, I hopped to a Xerox contract, to an IBM contract, to what turned into a year-long 1099 contract with a startup, subcontracted to Global Crossing. Got laid off a month after 9/11, brand new car to pay for, not-cheap apartment rent, etc. etc., and started freelancing again. After six months I took an underpaid, but fulltime w/ benefits, job with one of my clients, Northern Air Technologies.

Six months later I landed a job as "associate webmaster"/technical lead with the Democrat & Chronicle -- one of the earliest non-NYC/LA/DC newspapers with a website, and someplace I'd had my eye on for years. Now, I wasn't hunting at the time, having only been with Northern Air as a direct employee for six months, but a resume I had shotgunned out some time in the distant past had, in fact, been retained -- maybe those "we'll keep you on file, thanks for applying" rejection letters AREN'T all outright lies. After we fired the douchebag, scotched-up, smoked-up webmaster, all such duties fell to me.

I spent a little over three years at the D&C, doing small bits of freelance here and there along the way. Eventually I got fed up with the "the internet is a necessary evil" and "let's cut payroll and use corporate boilerplate rather than write our own code" attitudes that pervaded that institution. A new director came in, with no respect for, nor apparent desire to make use of, my skills. I ended up walking out, after losing my office, after losing the interesting work I used to do there -- I used to be the guy writing the kick-ass, avant garde, bleeding edge code that the rest of the corp used as boilerplate -- after losing any respect I had for the place or a good majority of the people in it. (ID, Jamie, Mike, Rich E, Julie, Nick, Stacia, Ian, Corinne, Karl, Anne, nothing but respect for YOU all, but the rest can die in a fire, especially the cold-fish, man-boy director who can't shut up about his allegedly brilliant daughter. Get over it! Sorry buddy, but those same irrelevant IQ tests I took too, and I scored higher. Too bad I never had the right moment to shatter your beliefs with that fact.) One thing the experience DID afford me was the opportunity to start converting some ASP code into ASP.NET/VB.NET.

I did my first .NET (C#) contract at that time, RnD'g and prototyping a cell-based, IP-centric, no-wires-required, web-viewable "security camera". A month or so into that consulting job, I took my second contract with Xerox. I LOVED it there -- I learned a ton about .NET, got exposed to Scrum, got exposure to all the latest and greatest tech, we had great hardware, all the stuff that comes of working in the software arm of Xerox Global Services. Unfortunately I'd totally goofed on negotiating my rate, and wasn't entirely happy with the situation.

Over the years, I'd occasionally looked for jobs in Albany, eager to return to someplace closer to family. My brother had recently taken a new job, and I felt motivated to start looking at Albany again myself. A day or two after I started looking, I got an inquiry for a job with a place that grows animals for testing purposes. EPIC FAIL -- and I told the recruiter exactly that.

Fortunately within 24 hours, he put something else in front of me -- an opportunity with Davis Vision, Inc. They were looking to migrate from .NET 1.1 to 2.0, they have an enterprise remoting services architecture, and, as I was to learn, they have some truly excellent, wonderful, friendly, caring people in their employ. The recruiter asked if I could do an interview later that week, and it just so happened I was going to be in the area for my mom's birthday and mom and dad's anniversary. How could I say no?

The interview went pretty awesomely. I'd say I interviewed them more than they interviewed me -- and I can't stress enough, if you're going to find a position that is truly right for you, YOU must interview the company as much as they interview you, if not more. Besides which, with you doing the "interviewing," I think it's a lot easier for your personality and skills to come through. It cuts through a lot of the rigmarole and bs.

Davis was kind enough to hold the position for me through September, when the first release of the project I was on at Xerox was due. I returned to the area in September 2006, almost exactly 9 years to the day that I'd left for Rochester.

/background. I appreciate your patience! To be continued ...

Wednesday, April 23

Penny Arcade nails Twitter in one

Yes, we all know, I ♥ Twitter ... but this is painfully truthy, and hilarious at the same time:

Thursday, April 17

Believe me, I'm no Miguel de Icaza

Nor Jeff Atwood, nor Scott Hanselman, nor any of these influential, awesome people ... but I'm certainly honored to be mentioned on this list of rockstar .NET people who also use Twitter.

Apologies for comment moderation

I turned comment moderation back on today -- my apologies, I despise it. Moderated comments on blogs only increase the distance between you and me.

Unfortunately someone decided to linkspam/googlebomb via my comments, and as much fun as it was cleaning that up at 5am, I don't have time for it right now.

StopTwitterSpam, and my 'argument' with Scoble

This morning I learned of a kick-ass new anti-Twitter spam ("Twam" -- thanks Mark Delfs!) site this morning.

When I mentioned it on Twitter, and mentioned my stand on Scoble's mass-adding formula -- aka, a formula for Twam -- Robert Scoble engaged me in a bit of a heated discussion.

Stop Twitter Spam picked it up and reproduced a good chunk of it (I may tweetscan later to rebuild it in its entirety).

Apparently because Scoble and I have differing opinions, I simply have not thought about the topic enough. According to Scoble. Who, after being unable to "win" this "argument" he started, "ends the discussion" and stomps off like a toddler who got told no cookie.

Robert Scoble == Amanda Chapel? (Strumpette) They both seem to thrive on ad hominem "conversations" that get all twisted when their repeated shouting of their opinions on top of someone else's fails to "win" the "argument" or debate they've engaged in.

Tuesday, April 15

My new favorite coffee dealer

After a number of bad customer service experiences with the hippie-run Dean's Beans, I may quite possibly my new favorite coffee bean dealer. Errr, supplier. Errrr, place I order beans from:

Higher Ground Roasters - Organic Fair Trade Coffee- Great Coffee for Good Causes

100% organic, free trade, shade grown (a lot of people have recommended Peet's to me, but I have a very hard time purchasing beans that aren't o/ft/sg) and DARN tasty.

The one downside I'd have to mention -- their shipping process doesn't seem to be super quick. We'll see what happens the next time I order.

Speaking of coffee, time to make some!

Lesson Learned from Contracting, Revisited - SQL Server Central

Lesson Learned from Contracting, Revisited - SQL Server Central (requires free registration, sorry about the annoyance)

This is an excellent article looking at contracting/consulting from an experienced consultant's perspective -- without being anti-business in favor of being pro-consulting.

Contract consultants, a role I've occupied fulltime many times in the past, fill a need. Sometimes, they seem like a quick solution to a difficult problem. Hiring/managing consultants is most certainly not the same art as managing internal employees.

I've known complete dweeb consultants, charging ridiculous rates when they couldn't figure out VB6 dropdowns on their own. On the other hand, I've known consultants that really twinked my noggin, gave me a new perspective on things. Unfortunately, we're not all in the latter category, and far too many businesses have had bad experiences with the former.

State of the tech market

The housing bubble has popped. Oil's at $111.89. Prices at the pump are bumping up against, or setting new, all-time highs. Contracting/consulting budgets seem slimmer. Yahoo's laid off a number of people. Bear Sterns has blown off a lot of employment offers, and the rest of the financial sector is tight, tight, tight -- MBA students everywhere are crying right now.

But hype and FUD aside, what's the REAL state of the economy for those of us in the tech sector? Consulting-wise, I know I'm still seeing new infrastructure work, and I'd like to think that trend is going to continue. I know a number of Albany and NYC area companies that are hiring.

What's the tech economy like in YOUR neck of the woods?

Saturday, April 12

Wikidemic: My second Urban Dictionary entry in recent memory

If you've spent any time around the tubes, especially if you've spent any time on social media sites, particularly digg, you've encountered them. They're often young, brash, obnoxious, overly confident(, Linux users)* -- until you cut their baseless arguments to shreds or otherwise disprove their irrational case. They're wikidemics.

*Disclaimer: I run two different distros at home. I'm just saying.

Thursday, April 10

Idempotence

Idempotence just became my new favorite word. I deal with operations like this rather frequently in service-oriented architectures, but I never had a name to put to it before.

Investment clubs

In the next 12 months, I hope to join a local (Albany-ish area, Hudson Valley too maybe) investment club or two. Maybe one in real estate, another in stock investing. I wonder what the area has to offer. I bet Meetup.com has something along those lines.

Wednesday, April 9

Real Estate Investments

After spending the past nearly 8 years clawing my way back from a post-9/11 layoff, when I was younger, dumber and overextended, I'm finally in, or nearly in, a position to consider investing again.

I've been giving some pretty serious consideration to real estate investing. I need to buy a home sooner than later -- tired of throwing away equity as rent.

Some six to twelve months from now, I envision myself purchasing a multi-family home in need of rehab. Something with two units is probably what I'm aiming for. Rehab unit #1 while in my current apartment, move into unit #1, rehab unit #2, rent unit #2, then find a single family home to rehab and maybe flip, maybe move into.

Albany and Troy are putting increasing pressure on absentee landlords, I'm hoping to come across some genuine deals in the coming months. The area offers a lot of colleges, so I'm thinking there ought to be plenty of opportunity to get into REI in lower-priced properties. Then again, maintenance costs of college housing run high. Ideally I'd love to target young professionals, young families, but I'm not sure the market is as suitable for that.

EDIT: This is what I'm talking about.

Dog parks

The world needs more off-leash dog parks.

Specifically, I wish my town (Latham) had a dog park. Or that there was at least one within 10-15 minutes driving distance, that didn't require residence in a specific town.

As an apartment dweller with a 77-pound dog, I yearn for the day when I have a house and a yard. But even then, dogs need more exercise, and certainly more socialization, than most homes' yards can provide.

The Post-Mortem of Glens Falls, NY, essentially where I grew up, is running its second article in recent memory on a Queensbury dog park initiative.

As usual, you've got your normal mix of cranks and generally cantankerous sorts commenting on the article. I do see some validity to the arguments of those who simply don't want to pay the costs -- and, low as they may be, there are certainly costs associated with owning an operating a dog park. Land, maintenance, insurance, cleanup and enforcement all come to mind.

I wonder if dog parks could be run on a co-op basis? I wish I had more time to look into something like this further. I'd happily contribute, say, $25/year in order to have a nearby dog park for my pupster to run around and socialize in.

Monday, March 31

I need a new Windows Mobile phone

My three?! year old Cingular 8125/HTC Wizard seems to be on its last legs -- hardware issues, no amount of re-ROMming makes it better.

I want another Windows Mobile phone I can hack away at and run my own .NET code on -- this is as much a learning and demonstration tool as anything else. Heck, I hardly ever use any minutes on my phone, but that's beside the point ...

The TyTn II is nice, but a little bit more than I'd like to spend right now. And I'm not sure I trust HTC hardware, especially with the TyTn's missing driver issue. The Samsung Blackjack II was recommended to me by Kris over at Smartphonethoughts.com ... it seems like a solid candidate. $300 or so retail, WM6, GPS ...



Thoughts, other suggestions, welcome! Thanks in advance!

Albany-area history: Isaac Truax and his Tavern of Death

In doing my morning news scans, and subsequent googling and wikipedia'g (does that make me a wikidemic? I'm definitely a googlist.) of various items of interest, I came to learn of one Isaac Truax.

Some of the more interesting bits about Isaac revolve around his tavern, located near his burial ground.



Apparently Isaac had a tavern along the old King's Highway between Albany and Schenectady. This ran through the Pine Bush, which was, to some extent, not unlike the sort of rugged terrain gunmen of the Wild West would hide out in a century or so later, across the continent. Guests were rumored to have disappeared at Isaac's tavern. Recent excavations discovered human remains in the basement.



I love the history of this area.

Thursday, March 20

Job listing: NOC Manager

An Albany-area recruiter forwarded me this requirement today:

I’m looking for a NOC manager – and thought I’d see if know anyone.

Here’s what I need. Salary 85-110K – depending on experience.

The successful candidate will have experience developing, managing and growing a Network-based operating centers. Further, the candidate will must have a strong track record of success in working with senior level decision makers and customers.

Responsibilities will include:

* Oversee, manage, organize, plan, and direct the activities of the Network Operations Center (NOC);
* Manage a call center operation for residential customers;
* Ensure that the highest reliability and accessibility of the infrastructure;
* Install and utilize management tools and processes to improve the NOC services including online monitoring tools;
* Manage the technical team that supports the NOC in the Network, Windows and Linux areas;
* Establish procedures to respond and eliminate service interruptions, faults and alarms according to industry stand SLA’s;
* Provide real time and near real time responses to end users, technical support groups and NOC Management;
* Perform analysis, notification, and trending of faults;
* Perform pro-active network element status and health checks as part of normal surveillance activities;
* Work closely with internal groups to assure continued quality of service for customers;
* Provide day-to-day operational support of a production environment;
* Follow change management and configuration management standards and guidelines; Implement system patches;
* Schedule and monitor hardware maintenance, and upgrades;
* Troubleshoot issues through to resolution, user administration, hardware configuration, system performance tuning, disk management, and custom package creation;
* Coordinates service restoration efforts with service providers, vendors and support areas;
* Initiates, updates, track and closes network trouble tickets; create and sends network alerts and flashes;
* Provide day-to-day operational support of a production LAN/WAN, Voice over IP network, Network etc;
* Tests, turns-up (on occasion), and troubleshoots various types of serial and Ethernet circuits.

PREFERRED SKILLS:

* Demonstrated ability to manage a commercial Network Operating Center;
* Experience supervising a technical organization in a large enterprise environment;
* Strong customer service orientation;
* Strong project management and organizational skills;
* Possess solid oral and written communication skills;
* Demonstrate interpersonal/consultative skills;
* Ability to work in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment;
* Posses a broad level of technical knowledge and business acumen across IT infrastructure/telephony technologies;
* Experience in integrating new processes and procedures into existing customer NOC;
* Knowledge of current telecommunications technology, industry practices ensuring the highest degree of client/partner satisfaction;
* Understanding of information technology (IT) infrastructure operations and use of diagnostic tools (i.e., Sniffer, Alarm and Incident Managers, etc.);
* Knowledge of LAN and WAN hardware and related software/protocols (e.g., Ethernet, ATM, Token Ring, FDDI/CDDI, ISDN); ITIL, Remedy/Netcool

Background and Experience

Five years of progressive management NOC and call center experience.

Experience working with automated project management tools such as MS Project.

Ability to meet deadlines.

Experience managing Tier I, II and Level II technicians

Sunday, March 16

Elitism on Twitter

the known universe

An unfortunate dichotomy is becoming apparent on twitter. It is fast becoming evident that a gulf exists between us common folk, on twitter to enjoy conversation, community and discourse with others -- with ALL others -- and the Marketing Royalty who abuse twitter for their own astroturfing marketing purposes.

Susan Reynolds was one of the BIGGEST twitter snobs around until, hey, she has breast cancer. Thanks to the efforts of fellow astroturfing marketer Connie Reece, they managed to establish a twitter-based hack of a charitable organization, allegedly supporting the fight against Breast Cancer. Suddenly, with the spotlight on, the nose drops down to sea level, and she's Ms. Friendly.

It's sad that people would use such a real, truly needy cause merely to bolster their own reputation, building their list of clients along the way. It's also sad that someone could be such a selfish hypocrite.

I honestly hope Susan Reynolds' fight against cancer is fully successful. At the same time, I also hope she and Connie Reece never see a drop of new business again.

EDIT: GeekMommy/Lucretia, this is for you:



and definition of vitriol: Bitterly abusive feeling or expression.

If you feel there is vitriol in my post, you may need to pop out from under your rock and observe the world as it is.

Saturday, March 15

Salary negotiated with Change Round-Up

Dan Quigley, CEO of Change Round-Up, and myself came to an agreement on (pre-funded) salary yesterday. Not sure I'm "officially" CTO yet ... still working out the equity aspect. But a major step in the right direction :)

Friday, March 14

There are some things in life

That, if and once you get through them, you're pretty sure you can handle just about anything.

Until that next Big Bad Thing rolls along of course.

Tuesday, March 4

Too much awesome!

Today has been more kinds of awesome than I can count -- I ran out of fingers and toes!

Spoke with a development manager in South Africa this morning; his team is moving to NYC next month for what seems like a very interesting project. While I'm not looking to switch roles, or move to NYC, at this time, this is certainly the kind of opportunity I'd definitely consider, were I looking: gomobo.com

Had sushi for lunch, and the new release guy ordered with us for the first time. Also, a co-worker who avoids the raw fish and only orders veggie rolls was convinced to order a Boston roll today. She loved it. Slowly but surely, I WILL make a raw fish lover out of her!

Gave a presentation on EHAB at the day job this afternoon. I know I don't have buy-in from the whole team yet, but what was interesting, I think, is that some of the older guys immediately saw the value, whereas the younger/less experienced devs don't seem to be jumping right on it. I'm sure as I get more EHAB code in place, its value will shine through to them.

Looks like I've picked up some additional side work. Someone I've worked with in the past is engaging in a new WinForms project, needs assistance. Side work is always good! Especially when Poppa needs a new car ...

Then to seal the deal, it looks like we've got a venue for Tech Valley Code Camp! Confirmation and details tomorrow.

The only thing that could make today better would be a winning lotto ticket, or a super model waiting for me as I collapse into bed ... though at this point, I'm not sure I'd have the energy to enjoy that situation.

Product Review Update: Hydracoach

Not much to report at the moment. My replacement bottle may have actually been one of the originals as well -- performance was sub-par. My contact point has graciously volunteered to send me another bottle.

Given how well this matter has been handled, I certainly hope the redesigned model is all it's cracked up to be!