Category Archives: Misc

And then there are bad days…

I’ve had my own consulting business now for a little over 4 years (wow, already? Man… time flies!) and I’ve really enjoyed it.

Having my own consulting business gives me more freedom to apply myself where I think I can provide the best benefit to my clients. It puts me in control of my professional life versus relying on some manager to “guide” me (“John, I really think you’d be a wiz at Struts and EJB 2.0!” – no thanks!). On top of that, I tend to make more money as well (not a bad thing! :-) )

I frequently recommend going “independent” to friends in a similar situation as myself so that they can share in the success that I’m enjoying.

However, sometimes Shit Happens.

About a year and a half ago the “vendor management” firm for my client declared bankruptcy (I wrote about it here). It was a real made-for-Hollywood style con game being run by a couple of thugs at Chimes (actually their parent company Axium). I ended up losing a bunch of money, but thankfully I still had work and my client at the time did all that they could to smooth over a very bumpy situation.

So for the last year and a half my company get tons of letters explaining how the bankruptcy trust is spending more money on accountants and lawyers. I filled out paperwork to try to claim the money my company was owed hoping to at least see some of it (though… I know Smalltalk has a better chance of becoming mainstream than I do at receiving any money).

Then last week I get yet another innocent looking letter from the bankruptcy trustee…

Ah… but this one was different! Not only did I lose money that was owed to me when Chimes declared chapter 7 bankruptcy, it appears that now the trustee wants my company to send back the payments it received FOR THE PRIOR 90 DAYS!!

So, due to no fault of my own (or my end client for that matter), these crooks believe they’re entitled to nearly 1/3 of my company’s annual revenue. They’re claiming that my company may have received “preferential payments” and according to the bankruptcy code the trustee has the ability to go back 90 days looking for questionable payments (and I’m not alone).

I assume the code is there to catch a situation where crook knows he’s about to go bankrupt so he decides to pay off his friends first before he goes under and everything is turned over to the courts.

However, in my situation that is clearly not the case. There is a clause to the code that excludes “ordinary course of the business”, but its on me to prove it. So it looks like I’ll be talking with a lawyer…

So, back to my original comment about being an independent consultant: Today is NOT one of those days where I’d be recommending it. :-(

Upgraded to WordPress 2.7!

Quick Note – I just upgraded this blog to WordPress 2.7 and it rocks! It didn’t change anything that you can see, but they improved the Admin pages with nice, slick “Web 2.0” style menus. The best part is that upgrading was effortless thanks to to the automatic upgrade plugin. I’d highly recommend it!

WordPress Upgrade

As I alluded to in my previous post, I had some issues upgrading WordPress.

I started by using an automatic upgrade plugin. I followed the steps exactly as outlined, but ran into problems. After I was done and supposed to be greeted by the “upgrade your database” page. Instead I got caught in a loop where I could log in, but it would return me to the login screen instead of taking me to the admin screen.

This was really frustrating and despite all the posts I found via Google, none of them worked. So… I gave up on my 1/2-hour-turned-into-3-hour project and called it a night.

Today I thought I’d give it one more try, otherwise I was going to have rebuild my blog from scratch (supposedly there was a backup created by the plugin, but… I think I accidentally deleted it – genius… I know :-/ )

Fortunately I found one other post that recommended renaming the WordPress plugin directory. Sure enough… that did the trick. Now TextMate works perfectly and I’ve got a bright and shiny new theme (which makes me think about racing down the open road in a 911 Turbo :-)).

I’m back!

Whew… I finally got WordPress back. I’m hopeful that this will help fix the issues I’ve been having with TextMate posts. Now… I’ve got a bunch of plugins to install.. 😀

Oh… and special thanks to this person. That post is what finally got me past the WordPress login snafu.

Upgrading WordPress – Cross your fingers..

This blog is currently served by a rather rusty version of WordPress (2.0.5). I don\’t know much about maintaining WordPress. It came pre-installed by the kind folks at Bluehost.com and I really haven\’t had to fiddle with it much at all. That said, I think its time to upgrade to the current version (2.6.1) Hopefully it\’ll take care of some of the issues I\’ve been having with Textmate posts and allow me access to more plugins and themes. Well… if you don\’t see this blog again… you\’ll know what happened. ;-)\n\nHere goes nothin\’….

The Ideal Setup

As a developer I spend a lot of time in front of my computer (and when not developing I’m still on the computer with my other bad habit). I’ve known my posture isn’t very good, but never done anything about it. Finally it seems my poor posture is catching up with me. I’ve been having neck-aches and headaches that appear to be related to my “slouching”.

So… to fix that I set out to setup my desk at home a little better.

The first thing I did was pick up a new 22″ wide-screen monitor from Best Buy. I’m a bit of a cheapskate so I went with the Hannspree HF229H. It was $50 off at the time I purchased it. :-). I think this monitor is pretty good. Its very bright and has good contrast. However, I can clearly see the display on my MacBook Pro is sharper, better contract, better color, etc. Not enough to make me think about dropping 3X on a LCD from Apple, but you get my point. Anyway… I set it up so that it sits up, almost level with my head so I’m not bending my neck.

Step two was to put my MacBook Pro on a stand. Here I went the cheap route again, and I’m regretting it. The stand I got is OK (just some no-name thing from MicroCenter), but it really doesn’t fit my Mac well. I didn’t realize how little (relatively speaking) the Mac’s screen is able to open up. Other laptops I’ve had can go nearly flat. The Mac can’t go much past 90 degrees. One of the limitations of its design – oh well (side note – its funny, but that issue with the design doesn’t bother me, instead I take it as good trade off from having the “hinge posts” protruding up out of the back of the laptop like your average HP or Dell).

Now I’m not slumped over my laptop on my desk trying to get my nose close enough to see. Next, I needed a new keyboard. I picked up the Logitech Wave Keyboard. I’ve always had a thing for “ergonomic” keyboards and have been buying Microsoft Natural Keyboards since they first came out. In general, I like Logitech mice better so I thought I’d give it a try. To be honest, its a little funky using it on the Mac. Home and End don’t work like I think they should, but overall I like the feel.

Finally, I picked up a Logitech VX Revolution mouse. Not the Nano though – you can see my thoughts about the Nano here. I have to say the “freewheeling” scroll wheel has to be the best thing to happen to a mouse since the original scroll wheel was added. After it stopped working on my Nano, I really missed it.

My next steps start getting expensive – new chair and a new desk. I haven’t found anything that I like yet, but I’m thinking of checking out Target’s Commercial Interiors near my house and see what they have. Its nothing I’m going to buy anytime soon though. If you have any suggestions on a good desk or chair, I’d love to hear it.

All of these changes have helped quite a bit. I now sit with much better posture (I have to force myself to and still catch myself slumping at times). I should’ve done this a long time ago.

Ubuntu 8.04 First Impressions

Being the software junkie that I am, I pulled down the lastest version of Ubuntu a couple weeks ago (ok… it was the the day it was released – see? I’m a junkie.)

I’ve always wanted to like Linux and OSes in general always fascinate me. I think the first Linux I ever tried was Red Hat 5 probably ten years ago. I was really excited because I could use a window manager very similar to the old NeXTSTEP operating system.

I got it installed and learned real fast that only a few programs really looked like NeXTSTEP. In fact, almost all of the useful ones looked nothing like it and in general it looked like a hodgepodge of poorly designed apps.

My how times have changed…

I installed Ubuntu 8.04 (64 bit!!) on my 3 yr old Compaq R3000 laptop replacing a Windows XP install that was constantly blue-screening. :-( (In fact, I suspected it was a hardware problem). I was hopeful, but thought it probably wouldn’t work.

Ha – I was wrong!

Ubuntu installed perfectly and has been running like a champ for a couple weeks now. It detected almost everything. The only two things it didn’t detect (actually it did detect them, but didn’t activate them) were my video card and my wireless network card.

This was easily fixed by enabling the drivers in the “Restricted Driver Manager” and installing the non-open source drivers. Once this was done I was rockin’.

Ubuntu looks really nice and if you enable the “Extra Visual Effects” you get OS X like eye candy. And… I’m a sucker for eye candy. Overall, Ubuntu seems really polished, clean and consistent. It runs fairly fast, includes Firefox 3, OpenOffice, F-Spot (iPhoto-like tool), etc.

If my family didn’t need to play Windows-only games (I know… there’s CrossOver, but that looks like too much effort for a “maybe” solution.) I’d switch our home PC over. Furthermore, if I didn’t have a fantastic Mac and had to use a PC for development, I wouldn’t hesitate to use Ubuntu.

Even if you’re not a junkie like me, I’d seriously give Ubuntu a try. It can run from a “live CD” (just have your PC boot from CD instead of the hard drive). It’ll run slow, but you can get a feel for it. You can even install into a folder within a Windows partition saving you the hassle of repartitioning your hard drive.

With One Breath

Two really great friends of mine have a daughter with Cystic Fibrosis. It is a horrible, horrible disease that affects children.

This saturday, they’re are having a fundraiser at O’Gara’s Bar and Grill in St. Paul. They’ll have some great local music there including one of my favorite local bands: The Billy’s.

It is a really good time! This event is one of my favorite things all year. Its like a yearly college reunion for me!

Are you LinkedIn?

Shortly after I started my last contract another contractor there said “Do you know know Jennifer Smith?” (real name not provided to protect the innocent) I was floored! I could not figure out how he made the connection. I asked him how he knew that I knew her? (say that three times fast :-))

It turns out that it was through LinkedIn. Huh?? Then it dawned on me… probably 3 years ago she’d sent me an invite. At first I thought it was junk mail, but later decided to sign up. I only gave it a half-hearted try and never went back to the site.

At the time I didn’t see the value. And the few times it came up after, it seemed to much like a teenager popularity contest – myspace for “adults”. Between that moment and several others since I’ve changed my mind: there may be some real value in it.

My plan is to spend some time over the next few days filling out my profile. I’m hoping to use it to improve my network. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

I’m curious. Have you used it? Have you found any value in it?

Desperation DVD

This is a very non-developer post, I promise I won’t do this often… :-)

I saw this over on CNET tonight. I love how companies try to put a positive spin on things – and Toshiba is trying.

For those of you who haven’t been obsessing over the who HD-DVD & Blu-Ray wars, its a battle that smacks of the old BetaMax vs VHS debate 30 years ago when the market chose the VHS format over Sony’s BetaMax. With HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, they’re both basically the same and for a long time the market was split 50/50 with about 1/2 the movie titles available on each format. There were a couple of publishers (Warner Bros in particular) that made their titles available on both formats, but there were plenty that were exclusive to each format.

So…most of us have sat on the sidelines. But, after Christmas, Warner Bros has decided to drop HD-DVD in favor of Blu-Ray. Now less than 25% of the titles are going to be HD-DVD. I think Blu-Ray has won.

That brings me to this article. Toshiba is cutting the prices on their HD-DVD players! Can you believe it!?!?! I love this quote: “For them to drop MSRPs now couldn’t come at a better time”. Really? Now that only 1/4 of the titles are on the player? Wow! And this one: “Even if we promote a single format…people are still not going to pay three to four times as much for a player, they’re not going to pay double the price for movies” – Sure… I’m gonna run out and buy a HD-DVD player and save money on it so that in a year when I have nothing to watch on it, it becomes a cheaper boat anchor.

I have no idea why this got me wound up tonight, the article just seemed like such pathetic spin to me…