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Summer Review

This has certainly been a crazy summer. Since my last post in May, I'll sum up what has happened, but first, this:
Dilbert

Business:

  • We have decided to evolve the business: after 7 years of creating client websites, we are taking a different direction focus to the business. The plan is as follows: we will be offering "quick to create" CMS websites at a low-end price for the businesses and organizations that don't have $1000 to spend for a website, and require the ability to update their own website (although we have been pushing and emphasizing our "Website Management" service), and focusing more on developing "Software as a Service" (SaaS) applications. These applications include the following:

    • CityFix

    • OmniCard

    • WNC Local (which is actually coming along quite nicely since I am developing a primary framework for it to work off of, which I can use for other projects to help reduce the amount of coding required)

    • ScrumIt

    • ...and a few others


    Let's just say that based on what our developers want, they would like the ability to code, develop, design, test, and innovate in-house applications instead of having to conform to deadlines or produce less-than-quality websites.

  • Based on the next upcoming months, we should be moving out of our current office space. All details aside, things just aren't working in our favor to keep it. The move out should happen within the next 60 days.

  • We did receive 2 new clients during the away-time, but we also lost about 5 clients. One client we gained wanted a full-fledge basic website, while the other wanted some custom work done to their current site. Either way, it's good money. However, we did lose about 5 clients, and (to say what I've told others) I have no specific idea why. So there was some bad to go with the good, but I do believe that this was a sign telling us to get out of the "design client websites" business. Therefore, "message received."

  • (This can be classified as either business or personal, but either way) I signed up for CoFoundersLab.com, which is basically a Match.com for Entrepreneurs. Overall, I like the concept, and within the first few days of signing up, I already had a meeting with a potential business partner in Asheville. (I put on there that "[I am] looking for someone to join [me]" to help bring all of these SaaS services up to speed. We can produce the code if they can manage the business) After the meeting, things went well, but not as well as expected. I was later contacted by many people who were looking for me to join them. When I explained that I already had prototypes of my services and were looking for someone to join me, they backed off. However, I did receive one good contact from Atlanta who (after a lengthy phone conversation) will send me investor connections he has. So, things look good so far.



Personal:

  • I beat Tales of the Abyss (finally). When I last played it, it took me over 70 hours to play fully, and when I reached the final boss, I could never beat him. Using a walkthrough I found (supercheats.com/playstation/walkthroughs/talesoftheabyss-walkthrough01.txt), I was able to level up appropriately and beat the final boss on the first try. I got to see the end of the game, and I'm playing through again with 2x the experience, which should allow me to beat the stronger optional boss at a later time. Yay!

  • Keat and I have started (seriously) began planning for the wedding. I'm saying "seriously" because her parents are finally getting serious. We have pretty much everything planned out, including: the locations, the downpayment schedules, the overall budget, the payment logs, the tuxes, the reception menu, the program design, invitation design, Save the Date designs, groomsmen, bridesmaids, preacher plans, limo scheduled, flowers, etc, etc etc. The only things that we have left are to finalize everything, test/decide on the cake, and order the printing material. Just over a year to go.

  • I was interviewed for the Magnet Program for Wake County Public Schools. I wasn't quite sure what to expect (since I had been through the magnet program since 1st grade and didn't have anything to compare it to), but I went down last Tuesday, went through the interview on Wednesday, and got it over.

  • I finished my Python program through Coursera and received a 90.6% with distinction (I didn't do the first week's quizzes). Not bad for my first online course. I tried to enroll in a "Programming with Design" course, but that seemed to be more of a "how to emphasize design in programming" geared more towards designers with little to no coding, so not really my kind of course. I also tried enrolling in an Algorithm course from Stanford, but I did not have the time during my week to watch 20 hours of videos each week, so I had to unenroll myself out of that course.

  • I've tried to install Ubuntu on my home server and failed miserably. After multiple, multiple attempts at trying to install it, I believe the issue was that my hard drive had officially died. I don't mean "dead as a doornail" kind of dead, but it could not have anything else written to it, so I cannabilized the spare office computer and inserted the hard drive from it into my machine, and I'm using that version of Ubuntu on the old mainframe. Not pretty, but it works.

  • Keat and I have picked walking back up. Based on the past few weeks, we are doing an average of 2.5 miles a night, at a pace of 2.2 mph, which isn't bad. I'm sure I can go a lot faster, but I'm going Keat's speed, which is fine with me. I'll get up to running around the block again....one of these days.

  • I finally saw "Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead". This is the one Tennant movie that I could not get via Netflix or any other online streaming source (aside from BitTorrent), and while I was in Raleigh for my WCPSS interview, it was on BBC America! So I got to watch it! YAY!

  • One of my favorite animes, Sword Art Online, got an American adaptation with dubbing. Now, I know that I'm probably being prejudicial by saying "The American version won't be as good as the Japanese version", but in this case, I can freely admit that. Based on my previous blog posting, I said that I had a fan-crush on Asuna, and I meant that. However, when I heard that Toonami was picking up SAO when ThunderCats ended, I was excited....and scared. When I heard Episode 2 (that's the first one that we get to hear Asuna speak), I will admit that they didn't do anything to capture Asuna's spirit or personality. In addition, the same actress that played the daugter (Natsumi) in Sgt. Frog voices Asuna. I was semi-okay with the voice-over work, until the tail end of Episode 2 when Asuna said "I'm so stupid". At that point, I didn't see Asuna anymore, but the pink haired main female character from Sgt. Frog: Natsumi Hinata (don't get me wrong: Sgt Frog is a great, yet stupid, series). And...that ruined it for me. I still prefer the original Japanese version any day of the week.

  • I got a haircut. Yes, I know. "What a shocker!". I thought "It was time for me to get rid of the ponytail and get with a more realistic haircut....how about a 'David Tennant' inspired style?", and that's pretty much what I was aiming for. Not perfect, but I have a year to get it right before the wedding.
    My haircut

  • Wow, has it really been over 2 months since ConCarolinas? Keat and I attended Con during the first weekend in June and it was really fun. We saw the Team Tardis Cosplayers which did an amazing job cosplaying Doctors #9, #10, and #11, with an awesome real life Dalek, Keat entered into a Costume Contest as Katniss and she should have won (personal arguments against the actual winner aside, and the judges for making the contestants and audience wait 4 hours for a result), we met up with a lot of friends, attended a few parties, got a bunch of stuff, then drove back. I didn't have much of a costume, so I threw together some khaki's and a button up white shirt, trying to be Jamie Hyneman (I can't be Adam Savage), but it turned out more "Han Solo" than "Mythbuster" (see below image). Oh well, better luck next time.
    Wannabe Mythbuster turned Star Wars

That's it for now. I'll try to get back in to posting soon, as soon as I can get back into it.


Tags:#talesoftheabyss #saas #coursera #ps2 #wedding #ubuntu #debian #concarolinas #mythbuster

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July Progress + Christmas (List)!

It certainly seems like my posting frequency has been reduced to 1x/mth. Well, we'll see how it progresses.
Zits

Between my last post and now, here's a summary of the last month's operations:
Personal:

  • I started re-watching Voyager again (since July 1). I'm already on Season 3 Ep. 16. At this pace, I should be done with the whole series (again) by the end of the month.

  • Keat got me a new bow! It's a 45lb'er, so it takes a little more strength then the ones I've used before. My previous one was a 29#, and Keat's a 35#. I've developed some blisters and had some string-bite welts, but nothing permanent. With a little more strength training and practice, I should be able to hit the bullseye 9/10 times!

  • I went to Games and Gluttony in Canton in June. It was really fun - I learned to play some medieval games and had more than enough feast. Next event: SAAD in September!

  • Star Fleet! I'm already starting my Christmas list for this year. Here's my first item: Starfleet Uniform (pre 2370)

  • Next item: Tickets (and hotel, and airfare, and transport, and spending money) to ComiCon! I'm seeing all of the photos, videos, cosplays, merchandise, comics, etc, and it's just making me want to go even more!

  • I can't believe the last episode of Eureka airs next week. It will be missed!

  • Futurama's next season started on Wednesday at 10pm. This season has been....interesting.

  • I've taken up Python....again. Hopefully, I can stick with it this time. If Python sticks, I may try Ruby as well, if the server will support it.

  • I installed Debian on my work computer. Now it dual-boots into Win7 and Debian, although I'm using Debian more. There are only 2 differences between Win7 and Debian:
    1) I can't run Netflix. Without going into too-technical detail, Netflix uses SilverLight to play their titles. SilverLight is a MSFT product. Netflix/Microsoft has declared that SilverLight will NEVER be available for Linux (I can run it by creating a VirtualBox, but I have to install Windows on that Virtual partition in order to run anything. Apparently, I can't have the VirtualBox load the existing Windows partition because it doesn't like to work that way, and without the original installiation discs (the computer only came with a recovery partition), I can't install a 2nd copy of Windows on the VirtualBox, which means I can't run SilverLight, which means no Netflix)
    2) Windows-programs (and the Windows half of the hard drive) run SUPER SLOW whenever they are accessed. Quicken has to be run for financial records, and it runs like it is on a 256MB system instead of a 4GB. Everything else is super-fast.



Business:

  • A few tools have been created for public use: Phrase Encrypter, tinyJpg, FontTest, and GTS Homepage Tool (the last one we've had for a while, but we finally decided to release it for public use)

    And I created a Japanese Name/Word Generator. While working on Omega Noir, I needed a tool to help me create some Japanese names and words. Most of the japanese words in Omega Noir were created with this tool.

  • I've created an automated "Weekly Facebook Resource Mailer" that I call our "Web Utility" Newsletter. In short: this gathers all of the posts made on the Shadow Dev Facebook page (via RSS), puts them in a database, pulls out all of the ones from the past week (based on date comparison), makes those nice and pretty, then sends them out to everyone who wants a copy of it.

    I had a few issues with the initial concept of it, but after studying the structure of how the RSS feed was presented, but after looking at it with fresh eyes (after 24 hours), I figured out a good de-structuring method and configured the system to parse the RSS into the database. In short: it's working!

  • Today, I was invited to a grand opening of a new data center in Asheville. I invited Keat because I thought it would be a unique experience. Apparently, the experience was nowhere what we expected. Let me explain:

    Based on the original member invite that I received, my assumption was this:
    Arrive on site, see 20-30 people gathered in a small security room with some crackers and sodas, mingling for about 20 minutes, taking an extended tour of rows and rows of servers in a chilled room, seeing the backup generators, seeing the security room of a data center, following up for questions, leaving in about 1.5-2 hours

    Here's what actually happened:
    We arrived at 5:20 (10 minutes before the event "begins"), about 50 people were already there. We walked into a fairly large "lobby" (about 700 sq. ft.). I found my nametag and Keat had to write hers. Tours began at 6 and ran every 15 minutes, and we wrote our names at the top of the list.
    We found the "refreshments", which consisted of wine, beer, and water. More people gathered. After about 20 minutes, there wasn't any wiggle room in the lobby because of everyone cramming in (my assumption, 120ish). We were introduced to the "Board room" which had a large table of finger foods. We gathered some, ate, then tried to "wiggle" out. 5:45 - about 180 people, and more were pouring in. Keat and I were starting to get dizzy and a little claustrophobic.
    We gathered around the "tour table" hoping it would begin at 6 as expected. More people were coming in.
    6:05 - no tour, more people coming in. My guess - 200+. This arrangement made a sardine can look comfortable.
    6:10 - tour was about to begin. The guides looked at the list, looked around, looked at the list, looked around, said "We will only take 6 people on the tour." (I'm thinking: "6 people! That's only 1% of the people here! Come on!") The first 6 people around the table rushed to the hallway behind the guide. "1, 2, 3,4, 5, 6! Okay - that's it!" (I'm thinking: "WHAT!?! We were the first names on that list! We've been waiting ever since we got here! Why can't we.....aw, nevermind")
    Keat and I wiggled our way to the front door, threw our cups away, and drove off. So much for a tour.....

  • We had a some-what "Part 2" of the Shareholders meeting with Lockwood. Let's just say that the meeting was....more personal than business. It was good to catch up with Lockwood and Donna.

  • We had a meeting with the owner of Chimsesa (?). His product was definitely interesting, and I wish I could have helped him out, but he is looking for a Technical partner with a python background. That is one thing that I/we do not have.




That'll do it for now. My days have been merging with nights, and I'm lucky if I can recall what day it is. I'm trying to wake up at 9:30am. Let's just say that my 9:30am days are starting at about 12-1pm. So, my day consists of the following:
1pm-ish: Get up, get dressed, get to the office
1-7pm: Work on everything: programming, accounting, legal, project management, sales, secretary, janitorial, etc
7-10pm: Go home, do home-based chores (cut grass, laundry, dishwasher, clean up, cook, etc)
10ish: Dinner
11pm: more home-based chores (dishwasher, laundry, gather files, feed the cats, etc), go for a daily walk
11-1am: Get ready for the night (help with pills, tuck Keat in bed, etc)
1am - 4:30ish: work/program (while either listening to music or watching Netflix)
4:30ish - 9:30am: sleep
9:30am - 1pm: attempt to get up, sleep more
Repeat


Tags:#startrek #voyager #zits #archery #comicon #saad #sca #python #win7 #debian #netflix #silverlight #virtualbox #tools #datacenter #

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May June Catch Up

(get it?)

Before I go apologizing for not posting, let me say that the absence of posting is a good thing and a bad thing. But before I go blabbing on what happened, here's the first comic as promised:
Garfield


So, in no chronological order (because I can't recall exactly what happened), here's a summary of what has happened since my last post:

Personal:

  • Alright - where to begin? Well, I guess I can start with the obvious. Kat and I are working on an online tabletop emulator for role playing games. Long story short: Kat, Keat, and I just didn't have the time (or resources) to meet up and play our role playing game, Werewolf the Apocalypse. So Kat and I designed an online system that will allow for players to virtually role play. The system is still in the planning phases, but Kat hopes this will expand her PHP experience. More details as they come.

  • I'm still a newbie at Magic, and since I only have 1 deck (white and blue), I feel good about any games I win against veteran players. I've won a few games against Kat, and 1 or 2 against Keat (who is also a newbie). When Chip Green came over last weekend, we had a bunch of Magic rounds. Now, keep in mind that Chip has over 20 years of experience, and I have.....2 months? Out of the numerous games we played (against my 1 deck and his ??? decks), here was the final score: Chip: Infinity; Me: 3. Hey, I won 3 games against him! I call that a victory. A small one, but a victory nonetheless!

  • I traveled to Keat's parent's beach house in Nags Head during Memorial Day weekend. I won't go into details, but I will outline the "highlights": we brought the Wii to watch Netflix at night and during alone time. It was "taken" by one of her cousins who used it to play Lego Star Wars for 5 days. I'm surprised he didn't kill the remote batteries when we got it back. Aside from not being able to use our Wii, it was still fun. And I didn't turn into a lobster this time!

  • I finished Doctor Who on Netflix in just over a month. No, not the WHOLE series, just Doctor #9 (Christopher Eggleson) to Doctor #11 (Matt Smith) in the latest season (The Wedding of River Song and the Xmas special). I won't go on a rant about this, but David Tennant did it for me; he defined the "Doctor" and made a role that only a few could fill. Matt Smith has his own personality, which is okay, and I know the primary writer (Russell Davies) left the writing cast, but the Matt Smith series isn't a replacement for David Tennant. Overall, it was a good run. I would like to see what the latest series has to offer once they put it on Netflix (since I don't get BBC).

  • In addition, I wish they put the Tennant-Smith transition on Netflix in order of the seasons. For most people, they went from Tennant saying "Bye" to Donna, then Smith came in. There were some DW movies that filled the transition during the downtime, but you had to go searching for them on Netflix. I mean, at least have "End of Time" easily available so people can understand why Tennant left, Smith came in, and why the Tardis comes into the Matt Smith/Amy Pond season flaming.

  • Great news! (and I will admit it) My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Season 1 and 2 are on Netflix! No more having to find torrents or 3rd party video services to watch MLP. I'm almost through Season 2 - still need to watch the Wedding epsode(s), but I hear that Season 3 is in the works (and John de Lancie will be in it again! Ponys vs Q - Take 2!) Yay! And to sum up the past 2 statements, here's something totally relevant:
    Doctor Who [Tennant] Pony Shirt!

    And for those Star Wars fans, here's DW/SW crossover which I found funny:
    Dw vs SW


  • After a year of being in our new house, we finally changed the dreaded iron lamp on our front porch! We changed it to an almost flush structure that gives off plenty of (almost too much) light. It soothes my head just knowing that we don't have to duck every time we come on/off the port. Now, for the dining room "death-by-chandelier"

  • I know I've been the advanced Developer on a lot of our clients' projects, but this past week has been especially stressful. To give a better idea about my "sleep schedule" (or lack thereof), here's a graph of my sleeping times (Thanks to @Sleepbot) :
    Sleeping schedule

    Yes, I have been going to bed between 4-7am for the past week or so.....?

  • Thanks to my wonder girlfriend, I now have a new bow to shoot with! I appreciate the 3rd-level hand-me-down bow that I used to shoot with (all 29lbs of it), but it was getting a little too.....used for my purpose. This new bow (which came in today) is a 45-pounder, which requires about 1/3 more power to pull back. After a few break-in rounds with it, I realized a few things: 1) I need a larger arrow rest; 2) I need to either build calluses or get a shooting glove; and 3) I need to do some muscle training (45 lbs of strength is a little too much for me right now, but I can do it).

  • A while back, we invited some of our SCA friends over to our house for a little get-together. Little did we know that the "little get-together" invitations spread like wildfire and we had 10 or so people in our house (we only have 1000 sq ft). Since we were not prepared for 10+ people, we were a little sparse on the meal (but that was okay since only a few were hungry). Most of us shot in the backyard with a "Marshal (In Training)", and did fairly well. I actually "Robin Hood"'ed an arrow. Regardless, all of us had a good time with music, signing, food, shooting, talking, and more. Defiantly something to repeat (with better planning) in the future. On a semi-related note, we didn't know that one of our good SCA friends, Dervila, lives about 20 minutes away from us! Small world, huh?

  • Our Sushi Chef friend, Janet, had to close her restaurant for a few weeks. Don't worry - nothing bad. She just needed the time off to help her husband recover from a surgery. However, before she closed, she called us over to get some leftover soup and some free sushi (to get rid of materials before the closing, since the fish wouldn't hold up for a month). In the process, we helped create a "Kaita" Roll, which is "The Best of Both Worlds Resembling an Everlasting Love". Janet said that the roll name should be "the marriage between you and Keat, so make it special". Trust me - it was much harder than it sounded. Photos to come later.

  • I also made 2 major Linux upgrades: I upgraded my home computer from CentOS to Debian (better supported), and finally got my work computer to dual-boot Win7 and Debian (Ubuntu wasn't working well with nVidia). So, long story short: I can now use Linux at home and work (and since my Windows-only programs run ok on WINE, I don't really have a reason to go back to Windows!)



Business:

  • Modified the "Request for Information" page for Shadow Dev to automatically save upon textarea blur. This was done for many reasons - the main one being because the form is so freakin' long! If Clients type in their information, and (for some reason) their computer loses the connection, the information will be automatically saved based on what was previously put in. Not a bad mashup of HTML, PHP, MySQL, and jQuery if I must say so.

  • I've been working on Fairview's website probably harder than any other client website. Let's just say that it has been one hurdle after another. Not to say that it is bad, but playing the middle man was not easy. I've pushed my limits on PHP/MySQL/jQuery and I've learned a lot, and by creating a PHP/MySQL/jQuery auto-save function on the Address portions of orders, the RFI-auto-save feature (above) was created. Fairview's site is almost complete and I expect it to launch in the next few days (if everything works as it is supposed to). The biggest challenges in this project were: creating the custom scraper to auto-download the information from their old templated website from the 3rd party, auto categorize/label/describe the information downloaded (and the different types); getting an answer back from their Credit processing company (finally received an answer, and they sent me somewhere else, which gave me the authorization codes, and I had to go somewhere else to get the documentation and PHP code in order to process the forms); and lastly, creating the custom checkout process (standard e-commerce systems just wouldn't cut this project).

  • I worked on adding a testimonial page to NSMT. Found a way to add a dropdown function via jQuery, and (through some confusion in technology) posted a testimonial video to their site along with restructuring a few pages

  • We have a new client! Frog Level Brewing Company - long story short: owner received a WordPress site from a competitor, he became tired of just "blogging" and needed a more functional and more responsive website. Since we already had a relationship with him hosting our "Drinks with Geeks" event, we got him signed on!

  • We've also hired on 3 new people on the Shadow Dev staff: Rachael Caldwell (Developer), Darren Mastrangelo (Designer), and Steven Rich (Intern). Our family is growing! We are now 10-strong! What an eventful 2012!

  • Had the Shadow Development Annual Shareholder Meeting on Tuesday. Lots of things discussed. Lockwood attended via phone, which was a little unexpected, but we have "Part II" on July 2. Hopefully some good things come out of that meeting.

  • I can't say much (because some competitors may be reading this), but we are expanding our Markets! Without giving out too much information, I can say the following: We are expanding to Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and Central/East North Carolina. More to come in the next few months. The numbers are coming in, and things look good to expand!

  • One of our oldest clients, Smoky Mountain Development Corporation, asked us to perform a redesign for their site. I won't specifically say "they needed it", but it was time for their site to be refreshed. We completed the design early this morning (5am to be specific), and things look good.

  • I've reconfigured the main Shadow Dev site to reference images via "img#." subdomains. To put it in simple terms: it's like driving some moving trucks. By having 1 really big truck go from Point A to Point B, it will take a lot of gas and effort. By having 10 trucks drive from Point A, C, D, E.... to Point B, the loads each carry are smaller and they use less gas. This is in reference to loading images from the Shadow Dev site. By having the main site load all of the images through the www subdomain, the one request had to load EVERYTHING from the one source, and it took forever. By dividing the images onto dedicated image subdomains, and assigning random numbers to each, the load time decreased and the site loads a lot faster! Yay for me

  • I discovered a security issue with some of our sites that required password functions. Personally, I was encrypting the passwords with sha1 and md5 encryption. Bad news: they are easily decryptable. So, in order to respond with a more secure feature, I've switched the encryption to a crypt functionality, which automatically generates a $salt each time (a randomally generated key to encode the string), which makes each decryption that much harder.

  • Shadow Development has a Rewards Program in the works. The proposal phase is complete, it has passed the initial approval, and it is being formalized. Things should be ready to launch for the Rewards program by July 1

  • The Shadow Dev portal has kind of been left in the dust for now, since we have other urgent matters that require advanced developer attention (ie: mine). As soon as things calm down and I have a moment of free time, I will work on the portal again.

  • I've proven a proof-of-concept and +1 for automatic generators. By testing an "keyword density" tool on my own blog, I believe I have created an automatic keyword generator for pages. I know this won't replace in-depth SEO practices, but it helps automatically create keywords based on dynamic content (like blog entries). This tool is still in Phase 0.01, but it's a proof of concept none the less

  • We've started a public toolbox for anyone to use. In regards to the Game system and the Security hole above, we've created tools.shadowdev.com which will allow visitors (mainly developers) to use these tools for many things. So far, we have an automatic encryption form for SHA1, MD5, CRYPT, and BASE64 items as many times as needed. Other tools (like an auto web-font viewer) are in the works.



And for the end of the night:
System


If you are reading this far, I would like to congratulate you. This portion is reserved for a sneak preview. Not really, but since my comic repository is building up almost beyond belief.


Tags:#garfield #thesystem #robinhood #sca #gaming #werewolf #magic #doctorwho #mlp #sleepbot #sushi #fairview #rfi #froglevel #smdc #encryption #tools # #debian #linux