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Summer is over...but it's not a bad thing

Garfield


It has been some crazy past few weeks. Let me do a quick summary of what's happened:


  • I got into work today at 9:45am. Yes, AM! I had a crazy idea (based on an American Dad episode - the one where Roger has the "Sidney" persona that takes the hit out on himself. You remember that one? Don't cha? Right? Anyway...) to place my glasses by my "alarm". I turned off the alarm at 8:15 this morning (because Keat had to get into school before 10), reset it for 9, and went back to sleep. I got up at 9, turned off the alarm, and put my glasses on. Somehow, I felt more....awake and didn't want to go back to bed. So I got dressed, shaved, etc, and went into work. Anyway, I spent 2 hours going through my Reader and finding a lot of interesting business- and website-related articles that I felt would be good resources to share with the interwebs. So I scheduled i-don't-know-how-many posts into the Shadow Dev facebook page all the way through August 30, posting 2 per day. I then got the green light from Tom to send out an intro letter to a potential client in Asheville (after much editing), and sending some carefully worded explanations out as well. Afterwards, I worked on the Analysis followup links (see more below) and created that from almost-scratch to finished; jQuery, Paypal, form creation, and all, in a matter of about 2 hours. I then worked on a setInterval() on the Shadow Dev β site making random testimonials show up in a testimonial box every 4.5 seconds. That took about an hour or so. I had the hardest time figuring out 1) how to have the loop continuous, then 2) having the previous entry fade out, then the new one fade in. Afterwards, I met with Marti (see below) at 2 and met with her until about 4:45ish discussing different and new Project Management techniques, forms, and methods, along with a "Project Closure" sequence, which is new to me. I was getting things prepped for my teleconference at 7 when Tom sent me some requested files for the Maintenance and Rewards programs. I used the files he sent over to create the Rewards and Maintenance pages (finally). After I got done with that, I realized that I was supposed to meet Eric at Frog Level at 5 for casual beers. I hope he doesn't feel bad that I stood him up...? It was about 6:40 when I was done with the previous item, and I thought I would lay down for about 15 minutes. I set a timer for 15 minutes, and an alarm that would wake me up at 6:55. I started it (I saw it counting down), then went to lay down. About ~15 minutes later, I wake myself up, thinking that I overslept...again (see below). I woke up a minute before 7pm. Freaking out, I go over to my phone and try to call in. I see that my phone had only count down 2 seconds (from when I put it down), so it never counted down from 15 minutes. Somehow, I don't think my phone doesn't like to set alarms on Wednesday nights (see below, again). I called in to the teleconference, participated, and we were done in about 45 minutes. I then took it upon myself to clean out the office fridge. Long story short: it was over-freezing, so we turned down the temp. and the ice melted - all of it, so I transferred some out and emptied it in the sink. I then went home and watched some Big Bang, Futurama, Big Bang, and Battlestar Galactica. And that's just TODAY!


  • So, my Wednesday went a little wonkier than usual. I'll skim through the rest:


  • I created a Quote Generation System for Shadow Dev. I also created a Automatic Quote Followup system to send an email to the person who generated the quote for a followup. Quite nice if I say so.


  • The HCC Student Incubator was delayed until the beginning of September.


  • We recieved a new client: Premier Vacation Rentals


  • We gained a new staff member: Marti Daves! She comes to us with plenty of Project Manager experience, with a fine interest in hand-coding web development. Certainly a great addition to our team.


  • We re-worked the packets, again. Removed some pages, added some, and added a design to some of the packet folders. Hopefully, the response rate will be better.


  • Ordered 20 more bowls and sign holders. I find it hard to believe that each GLASS bowl was $1.44 each, but each PLASTIC sign holder was $5.34 each. It was pretty expensive, but the source for the sign holders was the least expensive option out of all of them that were researched.


  • I modified our Quota page to show what the Quarterly bonus would be if Quota is met. Should make things easier to manage


  • I created a newer version of a Contract Creator. Adding in some new clauses, price modifications, and service inclusions, and the new created contract is better than ever!


  • We launched the new SMDC design. Now to implement the information.


  • Added something a little different to a client: Instead of processing credit cards (as expected), they wanted "House" accounts (as in, give us your name, and we process your card on file). That wasn't discussed during the project negotiations, so the checkout system wasn't developed with that in mind. But, we did it.


  • Our first Contest winner won the free website, and turned it down, which is good and bad for us. Good: we have less work and don't have to shell out a loss to cover it. Bad: the Winner doesn't get a new site or PR, and we don't get good PR for offering this. Let's see how Round 2 goes...


  • After the last Monthly Meeting, I delegated out "Drinks with Geeks" and "Hello World". Good news: less on my plate to take care of. Now just to train/help the delegatees on how to do that.


  • I also created an auto-followup for websites that are analyzed using our GetMyAnalysis.com analyzer. For the past few weeks, the followup email would say "Get ____ service!" with a link, but never went anywhere. Now, the ordering page has all 3 services available, along with a checkout system (see above for more detail).



That's it for business. If you got this far, I know you're tired of reading this. I'll finish the rest quickly.

First, a bonus comic:
The System


Personal:

  • I reworked my Magic deck using Core 2013 cards. My battles with Chip and Keat are going better, and I'm not being slaughtered as badly.


  • I am now the Project Manager for Pi Lambda Phi Internationals for the front-end portion of the website. I didn't know what to expect, but I thought it would be a good PR rep, along with experience in the PM world.


  • Allstate was charging me $51/mth for auto insurance. Peaking my curiosity, I searched for some quotes from other companies. Out of all of them, State Farm had the best rate at $37/mth. The rest were $44-84/mth (Geico, Nationwide, Progressive (which has a very flash-heavy version), Farmers (they operate as 21st Century around here), and more). I received an auto-followup email saying that my rate was $34/mth. I went to talk to the agent with a few questions, and she said that it was ~$32/mth. Maybe if I keep talking, it may drop below $0/mth! That'd be nice. Anyway, the same auto coverage I was getting from Allstate for $51/mth, I can get for $32/mth from State Farm. Talk about saving $100's (actually, about $240/yr). I have nothing against Allstate - I know my parents have been with them for years, and my policy was spun off about 6 months ago. My Allstate agent was super nice and helped me out a lot. State Farm just provided a better rate.


  • I tried watching the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood. I'm sorry, but 5 episodes in, and I couldn't get into the storyline. It's too much like Warehouse 13, which I also couldn't get into.


  • I started watching Battlestar Galactica (the 2004 version, with Katee Sackhoff). I'm not totally immersed like I was with Doctor Who, but I like it. Maybe it's because I'm writing a futuristic space-based manga called Phoenix Eye. I don't know...


  • I visited a new Jamacian restaurant around here called One Love. I gotta say: for being out in the middle of nowhere, it was some pretty good food! And not badly priced, either! As soon as I get my paycheck, I know where I'm going again!


  • I gathered the stamina and finally went to a meeting of the "Smoky Mountain Model Railroad Club" 3 weeks ago. I've had their brochure for about 6+ months. The club was mainly about O-Scale trains. Those are nice, but I prefer my N-Scale. I met a guy named Eric there and we tried to go train-spotting during the following week. Due to some bad communication with the relays, our spotting turned up empty. Regardless, it was good to meet someone new. We went to a guy's house in Canton who had a super-ginormous N-Scale layout that he had been building for 20 years. Let's just say that it puts my old 4'x8' plastic-grass oval track to shame. No, worst than shame; I may be in the same "sport" as him, but my set would be "Here's how to play Tee-ball" while his was MLB Atlanta Braves (I'm no sports fan, so if my analogy is incorrect, please let me know). I brought out my N-Scale set and a few books and hope I can go back soon and run my set.


  • Keat and I helped Janet cater a super-fancy party for one of Janet's friends. Let's just say that this guy's garage was the size of our house! He was super-nice, and certainly blows away the "I have a vault-load of money, therefore I have the right to be snooty" stereotype. I don't think this guy could be more friendly. Regardless, the catering event was fun, even if we did walk around for about 8 hours.


  • I am working on a new service called CityFix. It's only in Phase 1 so far, and I'm doing some additional research in order to complete this service. Apparently, there is a need for this, but it hasn't been thoroughly met...yet!


  • I receive daily emails from Randy Glasbergen's publisher for his comic. I will say that I appreciate his humor and quick wit, he has some super-strict copyright policies. If his comic is republished on ANY format, it is $25 per showing. Thank you Randy, but I don't have the budget to shell out $25 per comic. Maybe later...


  • I found a new YouTube series I like: Doctor Whooves. Yes, you read that right. I think my "Brony" is showing...


  • Keat and I attended a MTN. RENDEZVOUS Archery event late July. Personally, I thought "Okay, I pay $10, I get to shoot 10, maybe 15 targets down a range. Not too bad." Instead, Keat and I found out that it was 40+ targets in a woods-style shoot (uphill, downhill, around trees, across creeks, etc). It was 1 arrow per target. 5 pts for the animal (ranging from a rabbit to a bear), 8 points for the inner ring, and 10 points for center ring. I don't recall our scores, but (I believe) Keat beat me during the first 20, and I beat hear during the last 20. $10 for 40+ challenging targets? I'd do that again! (Minus the ticks - I found one on our bed during the next day, and one under my nipple (stop laughing) later that same day). Keat also found a local supplier of traditional archery supplies! Not too bad for one crazy and tiring day!



Okay, that's enough from me for now. Ranting over. Enjoy this penguin:
Penguin!


Tags:#thesystem #garfield #penguin #facebook #reader #americandad #rewards #maintenance #futurama #bigbang #quote #client #hcc #packets #bowls #contract #smdc #contest #magic #mtg #allstate #statefarm #doctorwho #torchwood #galatica #onelove #nscale #janet #archery

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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

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Starting to feel like a President

Garfield

Today is certainly the start of something new. Let's just say that I think I'm finally starting to understand the phrase "Work on the business, not in the business."

Put it this way: a typical day would consist of covering a bit of all areas (as the President does when he wears multiple hats), but mainly development time making adjustments, tweaks, and additions to client sites.

However, today, I worked on the following: Accounting reconciliation, HR development, Internal Affairs planning, Business Credit establishment, Marketing Strategy planning, Client File reconciliation, Budget Planning, Loan Application, Server Status Reporting/Investigation, Partnership Proposal Negotiations, Technical assistance, Sales Team development, chasing a support team for solving a business profile issue, and 5 minutes of coding to update the browscap.ini file.

On top of (finding the correct place to vote and) voting, delivering an application to HCC, delivering a payment for a personal bill, paying my insurance bill, playing with the cats, watching some more Doctor Who (I'm on Season 4), and cooking dinner.

That's a Tuesday for you!

MthruF Fail


Tags:#garfield #mthruf #browscap #president #business #sales #marketing

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(A Small) Time to Breathe

First, here's a good comic to celebrate 4/20:
4/20 with Cats

I don't think the term "crazy" defines the past few weeks around here. It would be more like....chaotic, crammed, catch-up, compiling, compunding....any other "C" words go here?

Anyway, here's a quick rundown of what I've done, and what is yet to come:
Shadow Dev:

  • Fairview's site is coming along, and should be ready by May 1. I spent a little too much time on their scraper, but when it ran, it was a beauty!

    Here's what it was supposed to do: scan the site for links, find product pages, and archive their current product listing.

    Here's what it did: scan the site for links, create a database of the links that every page goes to, scan each of the pages for a common phrase that is on the product pages (since the product pages didn't have a commonality among url's), scrape the code and find the product name, default ID, and default photo, scan for further images (both small and large photos), find the area that lists prices, grab and store the different types of prices and "packages", optimize the database for remote links and make them local, download all images that are listed in the database, scan through the database and delete duplicate product entries, scan the stored images and delete duplicates, and set up a test page to choose a random product and show the different images, prices, and listings based on the information presented. Yeah - that's a mouthful!

    With our other basic developer out of the area for a while, I have to finish the rest of Fairview's site in order to be ready by May 1. Here's the todo list for the next 10 days: finalize the design tweaks, create additional pages, integrate the information into the new pages, create a formalized version of the product pages, order/integrate an SSL certificate, and integrate a Merchant account into the system ready for a May 1 launch. Yay....

  • We've hired another Developer, Cheryl Mason, and she is a real gift! She knows more SEO stuff that I could have ever guessed. She's also well prepped for Developmental work. Put it this way: I had to spend about 3 months training our other developers from basic HTML 4.01 to HTML5, CSS3, basic PHP, MySQL, and basic Javascript/AJAX/jQuery. My overall experience with Cheryl took about 2 weeks. It looks like I may have found my replacement in the Development area! YAY!

  • We've finally finalized the transfer for one of our "potential" clients. I won't go into details, but I'll say this: Potential client "Pete" owns a business. He's had this business for X years. His primary source of new business comes from people calling in (our reasoning: his site didn't work well, so people had to call). Pete knows that his site wasn't doing too hot, and wanted to discuss details about getting a new site. Bad news, his wife owns the domain. More bad news: it's his ex-wife, and they are not on good terms. So.....after about 4 months or so, Pete's domain expired and was available to the world. Pete told us to get it for him. Well, by the time it was available for us to get it, his ex-wife renewed the domain (we believe it was auto-renewed, and she didn't know/care). So....Pete finally talked to his ex-wife and his hosting company, got the domain released, and gave us the EPP. From there, we exchanged a number of emails confirming the transfer (which is another reason we recommend updating the nameservers instead of a transfer, as a transfer can be really confusing and frustrating depending on the technical experience of the transferee). After about a week, the transfer finalized and we got it updated to our servers. He should be signing within the next few days.

  • We are developing some new services to produce some additional income. These services include a: Site Usability Report, Competitor Comparison Report, and In-Depth Analysis (which we used to offer for free, but the time spent on generating these reports didn't produce the ROI we expected). More details to come soon.

  • We are also developing a Rewards Program for our clients. Can't say much, but it should be coming out soon

  • The role of "Presenter" may also be taken off of my plate. I've talked to Cheryl about it, and she's really excited to have control of an SEO Seminar that we put on a while back. If things go well, we should be able to schedule that during the summer or fall. Can't wait to see what she produces!

  • Been talking with AboutUs, seeing what they can do as far as a site comparision and competitor comparision, and we are in talks about a Partnership! Cool!

  • We've released the PR for our site contest. The "fishbowls" have been out since the beginning of February, and we now have all 10 placed, and the PR is out. I honestly didn't even know that we were published until Cheryl (the SMDC Secretary) came over and said that she saw our article. My original response was "We're in the paper?"



Personal:

  • I watched all of Heroes, again. Still a good series.

  • Finally get to watch all of Season 4 of Eureka! now I can see how they got to 1947 and the stories before and after that. I was really excited on Monday (wow, is it really Saturday already?) to see Eureka Season 5! That first episode was....a repeat of Season 4 (with the changing time frame), but still looks good. It really sucks that this is the last season. It seems like all of the good shows are cancelled before their time.

  • Mythbusters new Season! Yay! In addition, Jamie and Adam have a new series: Unchained Reaction, which is really awesome.

  • Psych had their season finale. Boo! I wish their seasons ran longer

  • We went to "Drums of War" earlier this month in Elkin. Didn't win anything, but had a great time shooting some targets and getting to see everyone again since October.



I think I'll call it a night with that. Between now and May 1, I may not be able to post again. I see a lot of sleepless nights in my soon-to-be future.


Tags:#lolcats #heroes #erueka #mythbusters #sca #paper #pr #aboutus #seo #services #epp #html5 #css3 #

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April Showers bring May.....Vacations?

It's been super crazy around here. That's probably why I haven't posted since February. I mean, with everything that is going on, I've barely gotten 6 hours of sleep at night.

But first, here's one reason why I hate March:
FatCats - March


I've put out the latest Shadow Dev newsletter that gives a good insight to what's been going on. But for those of you who don't get it, here's the run-down (business-wise):

  • We've signed on 2 new clients: Fairview Flower Shop and Dehydrated Delites. Fairview is a family-owned company in Decatur, GA, and Dehydrated Delites specializes in dehydrated and chocolate-covered fruit. Yay yay! The downside is that Fairview needs their site done by May 1, and it's one of the biggest projects we've taken on

  • It's been a record-breaking quarter for us. With the accounting records finally (and correctly) updated, we can see how things have been and are going to be. Let me put it this way: All financial reports have increased 430% and higher!

  • Tom and I have been discussing a lot of things and figured out a lot of good (and bad) ideas, both manpower and budget wise. This should allow us to proceed correctly down the right paths

  • Drinks with Geeks has a date: Saturday, May 5th at 4pm. The event is free, and we are trying to see if we can get food there or not. Details to come

  • Tom and I were at the HCC Career Fair. At first, we thought that we would have 3 or 4 people interested, but.....let me put it this way: our table was crowded from the point the fair opened to just about closing with potential applicants and clients. Way to go!

  • I'm researching a way to automatically export a pre-created pre-filled contract for Shadow Dev. Based on our previous process, it would take roughly 1.5 hours to manually fill out the fields necessary, along with doing the necessary calculations to figure out the rates. With this new PDF-Contract system, (which is in a prototype stage now), just put in the information, check the services requested, and BOOM! Contract created. A 1.5-hr process now takes 30 seconds. I call that Success!

  • We are working on 3 new (well, 1 is somewhat-new) services. I haven't started programming anything yet, but we may be able to enter these into the business competition later this month. Here's the overview: an automatic menu ordering system, a city-report tool, and a service comparison tool/app. Can't wait to get started!

  • I re-requested a quote for Shadow Dev from an Insurance Company that specializes in IT Companies. Luckily, the quote they gave us has the same rates from the quote they gave us last year. It would be nice to see that in action.

  • Tom helped re-plan the finance schedule. I don't know how he did it, but the system he developed (with a little tweaking) made the whole "check how much each person is making and payout" system a whole lot simplier.



And now Personal-wise:

  • I'm rewatching Heroes. So far, I'm halfway through Season 3. Although the latter seasons aren't as good as the first, it's still a great series

  • I've been doing a lot of editing on Neko Sentou and found a few areas that need improvement, and a lot of areas that need correcting. Hopefully, by going through the 300+ page draft, it should make for a better storyline

  • My mom came up to visit me yesterday. We had a good visit, but the best part was that she said she was proud of me. I'm so happy (YAY!)

  • I really need to catch up on MLP:FiH. I'm about 10 episodes behind and just haven't had the time to watch them yet

  • I am now off of my parent's car insurance. I know my Dad is happy, but now I have another $48/mth cost I have to work in to my payment schedule.

  • Keat is with her parents from Friday until Wednesday. It's super lonely here without her. I think I may go insane with 3 cats......are they talking to me?

  • I will (with keat and kat) be going to Drums of War next week. This event usually isn't until July-ish, but with the weather being what it has been, along with a wonky schedule update, it is now in April. I just hope it doesn't rain like it did last year



I'll end it at that since this seems like a rant, but hey, if you can't rant on your own blog, who can you rant to?

And now, an additional comic (since my stockpile has been growing):
Pearls March 25


G'Nite!


Tags:#fatcats #pearlsbeforeswine #heroes #mlp #insurance #sca #pdf #automated #hcc #fairview #dehydrateddelites

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(Takeshi's Castle + MXC) = Wipeout?

Saw this comic on Comixed.com, but had to make a modification.
Takeshi's Castle + MXC

Don't you just love it when Americans take over Japanese gameshows? *cough cough*


Tags:#mxc #takeshiscastle #wipeout

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Bachelor for a Week - Day 5 - Almost Over

PvP

Keep in mind that the above comic has to deal with the Ren. Fair(e). I thought it was appropriate since I'm watching Voyager and active in the SCA.

Anyway, this week is over and I've defiantly surpassed 40 hours this week. The server says I logged on this morning at 9:57, so up to now, I've been working about 7.5 hours. Add that to my current work load, and I've worked 42.5 hours. Not bad for a week of Bachelor-ism.

Keat comes home tomorrow (YAY) and my Bachelor-ism will be over. I can't say it's been all great. The majority of the week has been: get up, go to work, come home, watch some tv, go to bed (+10 points if you can get that reference). Literally, I've gotten up (usually around 9), arrived at work around 10-ish, worked all day, went home, watch a movie (and feed the kitties), and went to bed. That was my week in a nutshell.

ANYWAY, I worked on the WHCC page a lot today, and should have that up by Monday as promised. I also worked on the Shadow Dev Beta site again, and things are coming along nicely. I should be able to meet that September 1st deadline with no problems.

I had a meeting with WHCC early this morning to go over some documents, and had the cleaning lady come in after that. Let's just say that what she did (and her daughter) in 20 minutes would have taken me a whole day to do in the office. $15 for a thorough cleaning is well worth it. She even offered to dust and more, but I thought I'd better start off small since this is her first time. She will definitely be back in 2 weeks!


I'm going to call it quits early today and head home to take care of some of the chores that I was supposed to do over the week. I did a few of them, but I have a lot to go. Good thing I don't have any Lumbergs around!

Although I did watch Dinner for Schmucks last night. Some people may have thought it was bad, but once you accept that it is "Steve Carrell"-funny, then it makes more sense. Overall, with the amount of comedy, dirty-ness, follow-through storyline, and cast of actors (including Jeff Dunham), it was a really good movie.

I've also watched: Mortal Kombat Annihilation (crap), Star Trek Nemesis (ok, but I'm starting to like it better once I got past the "Data died" part), Star Trek Insurrection (eh...), and The Karate Kid (yes, the 1984 version - I finally saw it all the way through and it was pretty good).

I'm gonna go home and work now....wait, what? Oh well.

And just for kicks, here's another Star Trek related comic:
Bug


Tags:#officespace #lumberg #cleaning #whcc #beta #keat #deadline #startrek #voyager #sca #pvp #bug

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A Brief History of Programming

Saw this via @GeeksAreSexy - it's amazing how the Java vs PHP and Ruby duels have progress

History of Programming


Tags:#programming #java #php #ruby #javascript #fortran #cobol #basic #c #pascal #c++ #python #perl #ruby #rails

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Drums Drenched at War

JoyofTech


I thought the above comic would be appropriate after last weekend's drenching. Let me explain: there is good news and somewhat bad news.

The Good News:

  • We met a new SCA friend named Bryan (SCA Name: Boar). Very funny guy, and it's amazing what helping a friend will do for you

  • I placed 5th in the first Archery Prize Shoot! (not bad since I had been placing last in almost all competition)

  • I placed 3rd in the second Archery Prize Shoot! (and tied with one of the best archers in the kingdom!)

  • I was recognized in Court for the 3rd place above! Yay!



The Bad News:

  • It was hot, then we got drenched. Here's the story:
    Saturday started out hot, and just got hotter. With most SCA events, most people set up a table in front of their tent for cooking, planning, lighting, etc, and place chairs outside for resting. Most people also place dayshades over the table so their table doesn't get too hot. We did all of these, like smart Scadians. Anyway, after all of the competitions and contests, we went back to our tent to wait for Court in a few hours. We saw the dark clouds in the sky and thought "I hope the rain isn't too much." The 3 of us (House of Felis Noir) were sitting under our dayshade to cool ourselves off and saw our friendly ex-baron Axel. We all said "Hi" and struck up a conversation. A little later, our new friend Boar brought us 4 frozen lemonades. What a great friend. He then offered for us to sit with him under his dayshade since ours was a little full with the table, cooking, and lighting items. We moved our chairs and sat with him eating/drinking our frozen lemonades.

    The clouds above started getting darker and the trees made an odd noise. Boar looked up and said "I hope the wind isn't too much, because this [dayshade] isn't staked down." At that moment, I grabbed one of the legs of the dayshade to hopefully keep it on the ground.

    No more than a second later, a huge gust of wind came from the side (almost hurricane strength) and started blowing us over. Boar started to notice the dayshade was going to give way, and said "Let it go! Let it go!" I wish I could. The dayshade had latched onto me, flipped, and dragged me about 10 feet. Our dayshade fell over with not much damage, but before I could get to my feet to start to regain an understanding of the situation, a massive downpour came and drenched anything that was outside. Our dayshade already collapsed on itself (almost nicely) and we had a few people helping us to get the table, cooking, and lighting materials inside our tent. We zipped up our tent with everything we could get, and Boar let us stay in his almost-empty tent for the storm.

    While we were waiting for the rain to pass, the wind decided to pick up again. With Boar's tent, it was a large rectangle, so it deflected most of the wind, but the 4 of us were posed in corners trying to keep his tent up. Not really a bad situation, but when the tent (with 4 people in it) is tilting 40+ degrees, it turns a little more serious. Boar was afraid that the wind was going to pick up the tent and we were all going to die. To be honest, I'm glad we didn't.

    I kept one corner of his windows open to keep an eye on our tent. Luckily, a modern tent saved the day. I know that being part of the SCA means having medevial tents, but modern dome tents help fend off strong winds by deflecting the wind direction and bending with the flow. Luckily, our tent (after bending and twisting in odd angles) did survive the impact. A few corners inside were wet, but nothing inside was too drenched. Us, on the other hand, were soaking.

    As far as I know, there weren't many casualties aside from a few bumps and bruises, and one tent did collapse in on itself, which was bad. We were lucky that Boar's tent was in front of ours so it did deflect a lot of the stronger winds. A little later, we had a smaller rainstorm and then the sun. When the sun came out, it got hot again. We had "Survivor's Court" a little later and laughed about the situation. Boar kept telling my story and was saying that I was a "F***ed up Mary Poppins". I'm glad I can laugh at that.



So the week begins anew and life begins again. I'm back at work and hopefully can get some of this insanity down to some sane level.

BTW: I thought this was appropriate for the SSL issue a few weeks ago:
There, I fixed It!
What IT Support really looks like


Tags:#sca #war #rain #dayshade #it #support #felisnoir #hot #wet #archery

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New Shirts!

It's the end of the week, so TGIF! Although it's been a pretty rough week, it's also been fairly productive. First, before I get into details, here's a comic:
Yellow Peril

I thought I'd offer a new comic. This one is Yellow Peril, a fairly new comic I've started liking.

Anyway, on to the activities: As the title conveys, we received a new shirt design today! YAY!
Front Back

Honestly, it was a prototype design, but it came out REALLY well! I've started offering it to people via inspiration from CloudFlare.com.

I've also become a big fan of 4 new bands: Porcelian Black (heard their new song on the radio when we picked up Pizza last week), Paramore (they are covered often on Pandora, so I thought I'd create a station for them - still good), Flyleaf (good stuff), and Fireflight (more good stuff). I've never been one to cling to new artists, but these guys do it right!

Anyway, I've re-connected with an old college friend today and found out that she joined the SCA yesterday! Small world, huh?

I'm having a small issue with SSL certificates for a client. I ordered it through our Server company, which orders it through a 3rd party, but it turns out the 3rd party either sent it to the wrong place or didn't sent it at all. Our server company is trying to help us solve the confusion (and I hope soon, because the client's temporary SSL expires on May 10).

I don't recall much of what happened yesterday, but all I know is that I'm working on a mobile version of this blog. It's not easy, since I have to deal with cached pages from CloudFlare (the "developer" option doesn't work as well as I'd hoped), but I'm working with a direct input of CSS instead of an external file. After it's ready, I'll switch the include with the and things should be good as gold.

Anyway (again), I'm off to Asheville to meet up with Keat and another friend at the mall. Till next week


Tags:#ssl #sca #css #cloudflare #yp #new #tshirts