Found 40 results for tag "it"

2017 is a Rollercoaster!

Many authors/blog writers/facebook fanboys would make a statement after not posting for so long saying “Sorry for not posting, but I’ve been super busy.” However, I’m not going to do that.

This is a professional blog, and neglecting a post for almost 6 months is ridiculous! I’m not going to apologize, because I am at fault for not dedicating the time to post to a blog, especially one as important as this.

Even though I may not be a super-famous author like J. K. Rowling or George R. R. Martin, I do believe that something as important as this should not just be left aside (especially since I was never one to believe the fact of “leaving a site alone”).

Regardless, I won’t apologize. Instead, I’ll gloat.

I’ll gloat about how much I’ve been able to get done over the past 6 months:
  • My job with Heart renewed back in April, and I am continuing to teach English 40+ hours a week to Japanese children
  • My job with AB Tech continued throughout the rest of the semester, and also continued into the fall (the summer was not kind)
  • Japanoblog has many, many new videos (including Ueno Zoo, Tokyo Hanami trips, rescheduling videos, recipe videos, a few new comics, a few food challenges, informational articles, and more, including a new site design which took me a good portion of the summer to complete)
  • ALT Helper has almost taken a backseat, but has picked up (which is also surprising, as the Facebook page has over 100 likes, even though nothing important is on it!). While progress did teeter off in the summer, to make way for Japanoblog’s design, it has continued with database building, design implementation, and browser testing
  • Meow City Café has started (at least, the initial planning has started)
  • Life in Japan has become a bit more complicated. With a bunch of new bills, including Citizen Tax, National Health Insurance, Pension, and more, both Keat and I are paying nearly $1,000 a month just in bills!
  • Speaking of life in japan, Keat’s going through a rough patch right now, so we may or may not continue to have dual incomes in the near future.
  • Transportation has become a bit harder, since nobody told me that I could apply to have my foreign (US) license converted to a Japanese license, and that the process doesn’t take 2 months of classes. Hence, my International Driver’s Permit expired in August, so the company took back the car, and Keat and I are car-less, which isn’t too bad in Japan, but it is certainly a pain when my furthest school is a 60+ minute walk (in total), and the nearest grocery store is almost 30 minutes away…
  • On a related note, I’ve taken the responsibility to replan, rewrite, and reorganize the Training Manual for Heart, because there is quite a lot that their training did not provide for that we had to learn on the job


I don’t care about that! Where’s the next story?


Well, I have some good news and some bad news: the good news is that Omega Noir is coming! The bad news is that it I had to transcribe the story – all 325 pages! Since Japan is a bit paranoid about having non-BoE issued technology in the Teacher’s Room, I carried a notebook with me and wrote story when I had downtime.

Which does mean that it will take some time to digitize the hand-written material into a workable format, and then the editing begins.

My hopes are that this story works better than the first-first draft, and keeps the reader guessing at every page, but only time will tell.

What’s in the future?


Honestly, I don’t know. My expectation is that I will still be writing, and hopefully Omega Noir #1 will be out before the end of the year, my job with Heart continues to at least the end of the contract, and things with the bills and transportation smooth out.

What will happen next year? I don’t know – we could move to Chiba, Tokyo, or move back home to America. Only time will tell…


Tags:#rowling, #martin, #japanoblog, #meowcity

My Journey into Git

Git logo

My Journey


My journey to discovering git was not an easy one. Since git was not covered in my formal programming lessons, I had to learn "version control" the hard way - the very hard way.

When I started learning HTML back in 2001, I learned to save and modify local files only. In 2002, I learned PHP and MySQL by working on a team server, but version control was not introduced (git was introduced to the world in 2005, but options like CVS or SVK weren't taught). My first local server came in 2004, when I learned to FTP files, instead of testing local files only.

I quickly updated to SSH'ing into the server and editing the direct code, and backuped the files using a combination of file extensions (such as .bak, date stamps like.20150515, and "Backup 20140523" folders).

...and I used this method up to about a year ago, when I took a git intro course online. Unfortunatly, I didn't quite understand the purpose of git because the demos kept talking about files that either already existed, or branches that were made by someone else - never really diving into the underlying purpose of git, which was version control.

I also couldn't get used to the idea of uploading my database login information (along with other private code) to the public site GitHub, which is great for open-sourced projects (see mine here), but not great for a company version control backup. So I dabbled in git for a while, until it hit me about a month ago: I could use git on my own server(s) and not have to deal with private repositories on GitHub (or the prices).

So, I started using git on my server for backups of projects site-wide. Then, I wanted to deal with errors on a non-production server basis (I didn't want the world to see my error testing, because that would be unprofessional). After getting a local Apache server, and MySQL server, and installing PHP (on Windows), I thought that I could use the GitHub software to create backups - but that was only for the GitHub site; I needed something to work with my own existing servers. Therefore, I installed Cygwin and got the Linux-enabled commands with git to my production server.

Overall, this is what I learned, and I hope it helps others:
The Process
The "direct" process vs the git process

Usage


(If you don't already have git set up on your remote server, then please do so by installing it - I recommend sudo apt-get install -y git. Otherwise, this won't work, and it's just a bunch of lines of code)
The SetupRemote (seperate from production folder):
mkdir [dir].git && cd $_
 
git init --bare
 
cp ~/post-receive.sample hooks/post-receive

The hooks folder deals with webhooks to automatically catch incoming files and do something with them (or at least, that's what I've discovered). To make the hooks run properly, you need a post-receive file, and this is what it should look like:
post-receive.sample
#!/bin/sh
 
GIT_WORK_TREE=[absolute path to production] git checkout -f


Once you have that set up, you can work on your local machine to create and modify files.
Local development machine
# If files do not exist
 
git clone [email protected]:[dir].git 
 
cd [dir]
 
# If files DO exist/update
 
cd [dir]
 
git pull
 

 
# Time for editing
 
vim [file]
 
[...]
 
[work on files, test on development machine]
 
[...]
 
(Ready to upload to production server)
 
git add [file(s) - * works as well]
 
git commit -m "Relevant message to update"
 
git push


One important note: As I have learned, your Git folder is not your production folder. I had my .git folder in my production folder of a project, and it was good for local editing, but not remote pulling. If your project folder (example: project.git) is somewhere else, like your home folder, then you can use the post-receive webhook to automatically pull committed files to the production area

Bonus: SSH Login w/o PW


Unless you want to type in your login information every time you git push, I recommend setting it up so your local machine/development server can automatically upload to the production server. If you are running a Linux system (and I recommend you do), then you can do the following:
SSH Password-less LoginOn your local machine (hopefully a Cygwin or Linux/Mac Terminal)
ssh keygen -t rsa
 
ssh [email protected] 'mkdir -p .ssh'
 
cat .ssh/id_rsa.pub | ssh [email protected] 'cat >> .ssh/authorized_keys'
B = Remote server



Summary


There is still quite a lot I don't understand about git (like branches, merging, etc), but I am getting better. I've been using this guide as a resource, as many other guides are very technical for a non-git person.

My takeaway: Better integration into team development instead of just "solo development"


Tags:#git #development #php #mysql #html #linux

VIM Search and Replace

VIMI thought I'd post this because I needed it, and quick access doesn't hurt. I had a recent experience where I needed to replace a lot of text in a text file in the command line.

While I like to use vim as my text editor of choice while in a Linux system, I hated the fact that I had to find each instance of a word and manually type out the replaced word.

So, I found a solution: (thank you VIM Wiki)

:%s/
The %s command works just like wq, so you need to proceed it with a colon. But here's how it works:
:%s/FIND/REPLACE/OPTIONS
I hope this seems straight forward, but here's the breakdown: %s - initiate the :substitute feature FIND - the word/phrase you want to find REPLACE - the word/phrase you want to replace it with OPTIONS - there are a series of options you can include, the most popular one being g Here is an example:
:%s/cat/dog/g
This replaces all instances of "cat" with the word "dog". Simple, right?

Options

Here is the list of options I have come up with so far:
c - ask for confirmation (similiar to the -i flag)
i - case insensitive search/replace
I - case sensitive (the flag \C can also be tacked on to the word in case you want the word to be case sensitive only)
:%s/\<cat\>/dog/g - while not in the Options field, this searches for the whole words only (such as "cat", but not "categories")

There are plenty of other examples on the VIM Wiki page, but I thought I'd post this guide here for my benefit and anybody elses that needs it.


Tags:#vim #linux #texteditor #search #replace #guide

Japanese Experiment: Result

It's been 30 or so days since Keat and I started our "Living Japanese" Experiment, and we've received the power bill, which means it should give us a better understanding of how our different lifestyle has helped or hindered us.

So here's the result:
October Bill

For those of you that like table comparisions instead of images, here's the September bill (when we started) as compared to our October bill:

SeptemberOctoberΔ
Water$15.82$15.82No Change
Sewer$15.81$15.81No Change
Electricity$92.42$78.51-15.05%
GarbageCollection$9.00$9.00No Change
Renewable Energy Fee$0.56$0.56No Change
Tax$6.51$5.54-14.9%

The verdict: Not much.

Our Electricity usage went down a bit, which I'm not sure whether it is because we used less electricity because we didn't use the big energy drainers (like the stove and dishwasher) or because my primary hosting server quit and I took out the servers (although that was on 10/5, only 10 days short of the end of the experiment).

I was quite surprised to see that our water, sewer, and garbage stayed exactly the same (I knew the Renewable Energy fee would stay the same, and the Tax of course would differ). I thought that we would have used remarkably less or more water since we were washing all of our dishes by hand, but I guess our town just doesn't work that way.

Does this mean that Keat and I will continue this 'experiment'? Probably, since we are looking at moving to Japan in 5 years or less. It will depend on a number of circumstances, including jobs.


Tags:#japanese #japan #experiment #kitchen

Japanese Lifestyle Experiment: Day 1

So Keat and I decided to "live Japanese" for a while, just to see how we can do it and what it is like.

The Rules

With that being said, here are the rules that we are setting in place for at least the next 30 days:
  1. No Dishwasher: That's right. We will be hand-washing everything. Even though throughout all of the houses that we looked at 4 years ago, this house was the only house that had a dishwasher, we are going to try to not use it.
  2. No Stove: Since most Japanese houses/apartments don't have stoves, we will be using a 5th Eye only. We found out that ours kind of sucks, so we may need a better one.
  3. No Oven: Most Japanese apartments/houses don't have ovens, only toaster ovens. So we will be trying our best to reduce (if not eliminate) our oven-usage.
  4. Only using one side of our kitchen: Let me explain: our kitchen is fairly huge compared to most Japanese apartments, so we are reducing our usage to only one side: the sink side. It will drastically reduce our counterspace, but we think it may be a bit better (if we don't kill each other first for the space).
  5. No Dryer: We will be using our washer to wash clothes, but we will be drying them on our back porch. Mainly, so we can reduce our electricity usage because of the dryer, but also to get used to drying our clothes outside (although with Winter sneaking up, that may not be the best idea)

That's everything for right now.
Our kitchen setup
Our kitchen setup - everything off of the good counter
The GOOD side of the kitchen
The GOOD side of the Kitchen that we are going to use
Our first night hand-washing dishes
Our first night hand-washing dishes

The Interim Results

Since we technically started this experiment last night, here's what we've learned so far:
  • Cooking hasn't changed much. However, the counter space is very small, but that's okay for a 5th eye, a rice cooker, and some prep space.
    Cooking
    Gyudon!
  • Our 5th eye sucks! (See above) We have an electric 5th eye that we picked up a few years ago, but haven't really used it. We started boiling some water to make some home-made Mirin, and by the time we made the Mirin (which should have been a 5 minute ordeal), the rice was completely cooked (which takes 30 minutes). So we are doing some research to find a new one.
    5th eye sucks!
    We are just now starting to cook the meat, while the rice has been done for about 5 minutes
  • Cleaning all of the dishes is a bit hard, but the good news is that it all gets done in roughly 10-15 minutes!
    All the dishes!
  • We are reducing the amount of dishes we are using to cook and eat! Which means less to clean! (Well, mostly)
  • Our Town came by and recorded our power and water usage at the beginning of our experiment (which was lucky for us). According to our average power/water usage, our utility bill is $140. Hopefully, in 30 days, our power bill will be a fraction of that!
    Our Power Bill at the beginning

That's everything we've learned so far. More reports later, and (hopefully in 30 days) there is a comparison report!


Tags:#japanese #japan #eating #kitchen #experiment

My Thoughts on Writing

As I finish Chapter 5 of my 3rd novel, I thought I'd transcribe some of my thoughts on the writing process, hopefully helping out friends and other fellow writers.

  • Word Quota: sets a goal to strive for, and helps with keeping yourself accountable and trackable (additionally, it lets you know when you last wrote, so you know if you slacked off or not). NaNoWriMo helped me out with this by setting a "50,000 words in 30 days" goal. At first, I thought it was insane! I honestly said, "50,000 words? I don't even think I've written 50,000 words in my life! That's impossible." Well, I tried it, and after tracking my progress, I write 60,000 words in 21 days - hence, my first novel (of 4). So it is possible, and when you approach your word goal, it's like the final stretch in a race - anything over that is just gravy.

  • Know your tense: my first novel was written in "3rd Person Singluar Present Tense", which meant that the rest of the books in the series had to be in the same tense. I realized that after my first book was published. If only I knew that I should have written it in past tense, but it works out well to my advantage because it really grabs the reader and puts them into a story at play

  • Write what you know: scripting can only get you so far. Only you experience what you experience, so write about it. Use it as inspiration. Change it up to make it more interesting. Additionally, write down your dreams. Sometimes, they are memorable, sometimes they are interesting. They could be your next story.

  • Stuck? Just start writing. You can change it later: I would always get stuck at the early hours in the morning, and would have no idea how to proceed. After just typing out a few words, the rest of the story proceeded, and I kept on writing. Sure, I had to change a few things afterwards, but that's what editing is for.

  • Get a good editor! You may save a few bucks by editing yourself, but try to get an unbiased approach so anything new is caught and you aren't overlooking things because you are familiar with your story.

  • Sometimes, the story writes itself: I've been writing a script for the past 7 years for my first series of novels. Interestingly, I've written almost 14 volumes of script for it (Let me clarify: the original intent was that it would be a manga series, but I thought that the NaNoWriMo goal would at least start the process of getting recognized). However, I only recently converted it into a novel-form, and when I started writing it, the story took a direction all its own and things that I had never planned suddenly popped up (or other items that I thought would be interesting in the script never showed up). Sometimes, the story takes control of itself and starts to write itself - you are just the tool to convert the story to text. Personally, I like when this happens because you never really have to do any of the thinking - just let the story flow.

  • Do your research, and let your friends know about it: if you are searching for nuclear weapons on the internet, let your friends know so they aren't calling the FBI on you for your search history (aside from other things)

  • Keep a notepad handy: you never know when an idea will strike, and you don't want a dead battery when you need to write something down.

  • You don't need thousands of dollars to publish: I personally use CreateSpace to publish, which is a great channel for independent authors to publish their books and get a foot in the door with Amazon (and other retailers, such as Barnes & Noble), along with getting a Kindle edition published as well. You pretty much do all of the managing yourself, upload your manuscript with their formatting, upload your cover, and publish! It's a "Print on Demand" type of service, so if you want a copy (or if anybody else wants a copy), it's printed when they order it and ship it out! Their team also double checks things (like cover size for the book) to make sure you're doing things right (they also provide professional services if you have a few hundred $$$ to drop). Other services include Lulu for self-publishing as well. There are a few others, but those are the top 2 I know of.

I'm sure I'll add more to this list once I think of it, but I just wanted to write this down when I thought of it (hence, the purpose for "keeping a notepad handy").


Tags:#books #writing #novel #process #thoughts

What I learned from my first Startup Failure

I was inspired to write this from many articles referenced in the December 21st Edition of Startup Digest. In that newsletter, I found many articles about "What I learned from my Startup Failure" (or along the lines). Therefore, I thought I would write this.

Work on the business, not in the business


As the quote from Michael Gerber goes, it is best to work on the business instead of in the business. In my college career as an aspiring Entrepreneur, I never really understood that quote. My logic consisted of the following phrase: "If you can do the task, then do it and market yourself. You are the business - it's your idea, it should be your fame." It took me roughly 7 years to understand that I was wrong.

From Day 1 up until the end of 2012, I was the "CEO/President" of Shadow Development (CEO from 2005-2009ish, when I learned that if I was a "CEO of a small company, then the credibility hasn't been built", so I downgraded to "President" thinking "Yeah, that'll work"; yeah right). In 2013, I stepped down from "President" to "VP of Operations" basically stepping aside from the Presidential duties and taking a look at the business as an outsider and not just as myself.

That was probably the best thing that I've ever done. Not in the "This was a great decision, it made a million bucks" kind of way, more of a "I see what is actually happening and not just want I want to happen."

I saw that the business had been running on my hopes, my dreams, and my stubbornness for far too long. I should have shut the doors a long time ago if I saw this happening. Even throughout the ups and downs, it was my stubbornness that kept my business up for so long.

What should I have done? Hired someone to take care of the project management, project development, and selling. I shouldn't have done those things back when the business was started. I should have managed the business, sought out investment, asked others for help, evaluate the cash flow, find ways to save money, establish marketing channels, etc; not become the primary developer.

Basically, I've learned that "If a person can't do the work, then they should be fired. Based on the logic, if you can't do the work, then fire yourself, but then the company will no longer exist." However, I couldn't fire myself because I was too damn proud.
Entrepreneur Fail


Surround yourself with like-minded people who can do the jobs you ask


After dealing with managing people, it's a lot harder than just "Do this task." You must take into account their schedule, their emotions, their skill sets, not "playing favorites", their quality, etc. I always thought that "If I surround myself with people that have the skill sets, I can delegate tasks to them" (see the next point as well). Well, I hired developers, designers, project managers, sales people, and interns. What did I get: next to nothing.

My designers didn't have anywhere near the skill sets that I had imagined. I thought "They have design experience and an eye for design. Their designs will be great!" What I received was "This is what I think will work", not what I had in mind.

My developers knew what they were doing (for their development levels), but they had a long way to go in order to provide what we promised the clients.

My sales people said they knew the material, they knew the sales process, they knew the contracts and services. However, they also fell short of expectation and probably couldn't sell water to a dying man in the desert. (Hell, neither can I)

My interns were treated as "gofers" instead of the "learn as you work" kind of experience. I didn't like that.

My project manager was great at managing projects, but we didn't have many projects to give them that weren't already being managed (or the budget to allocate to them).

In short: Just because the person you hired had the title "X" doesn't mean that they can do what you expected of your last "X".

(However,) Hire Slow and Fire Fast


Just because you are in a company doesn't mean you need to have 10 employees around you. Take your time to hire the right person for the right job. If you hire someone just because they have "X" in their previous title, that doesn't exactly mean that they know everything there is about X (for example: just because someone says they are a salesperson doesn't mean they can actually sell).

If a person isn't the right fit for a job, get rid of them. If a person isn't doing what you want them to do, get rid of them. If the person is trying to take over the company, get rid of them - quickly.

I know that many Managerial books have said "Hire Slow, Fire Fast", and I never really understood what that meant. However, now I know what they meant, and I have been burned in order to learn that.

Don't think that "If I just keep them on the payroll for another few days/weeks/months, things will turn around." That never worked for me. I also knew that my stubbornness got in the way for "being nice to people" because I wanted to see them come around, like in TV shows. Yeah right.

If a person isn't doing their job, you have 2 choices, and you better choose one fast. Either 1) Train them to do their job better, or 2) Fire them without resentment.

If I could go back in time and do one or the other, I would have chosen #2 in a heartbeat instead of waiting around for about a year to see what would happen. I would have rather hired the right person for the job, instead of someone who I thought would work based on their previous title.

Never expect to copy yourself


If you are super-skilled in X, don't expect others to be as well. They may have the same basis, but you can't expect them to know what you know in 24 hours - especially if you were trained over several years.

I have been studying Web Development since 2001, since my first HTML class in high school. Since then, everything else has been self taught: Advanced CSS, PHP, MySQL, jQuery, XML/XSL, DHTML, JavaScript, Python, Ruby on Rails, etc. So I've had over 10 years of experience in the field.

When I hired on extra developers, I had a high expectation: they were on the same level as myself and could crank out stuff just like me.

I could not have been more wrong.

Most of the developers I hired on worked under the premise that they would learn additional skills under my leadership. Well, I spent roughly 2 months teaching them the most common advanced PHP techniques, jQuery items, CSS3 markup, and even Database management with MySQL (as much as I could do). What did I expect? I expected them to come out of the training doing what I was doing. The actual result: I advanced their skill set a bit, but they were still a long way off from developing what we needed for our clients.

I always said "If I could copy myself, I would", but in today's technological era, that's an impossibility (unless you're a sheep).

Basically, it came down to the education gap between me and the other developers; I knew a lot more than they did, and they needed to know a lot more if they were to crank out stuff like me. That wasn't going to happen in 2 months or 2 years - they needed the "on-the-job training" like I had; they needed the "decade of wrong-doings" that I had; they needed to "do things the hard way before learning the ease of a shortcut" like I did (I spent nearly 2 months of nights and weekends in my room hand-coding a visual editor (without advanced PHP functions) because I "wanted to do it").

Location, Location, Location


Waynesville, NC, is not the place for a high-tech kind of company. It took me many years of trial and error (mostly error) to figure that out. As my business advisor once said, "I'm sorry you are in this area." If I was in Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, etc, it would make more sense, but you can't force a business model (or technique) into an area that isn't ready for it. Most of the businesses in this area are "Mom and Pop" stores with owners who are usually the ones behind the counter. While there isn't a problem with this kind of business operation, it isn't the kind of market that can allocate thousands of dollars towards marketing.

I also didn't find out until a few years in (after moving to a small office space in 2007) that we could not put up any additional advertising on the building we were renting, or near the building in general. The landlord did provide us with a large sign on the front that had all of the businesses listed that were inside our building, but any additional logos, signs, even something saying "HERE WE ARE" were prohibited.

My suggestions: prime location for exposure (like Main Street), a professional environment that you can advertise with/on, and/or an easy access office.

Price is not always a factor, but it is a big one


Price may be beneficial, but you can always set it too high or too low. Most people in this area want a low-cost solution, and if your only price range starts in the $1000's, you can easily price yourself out of a market, which is pretty much what we did. After calculating how many hours went into the research, the design testing, the development creation, the usability tweaking, and the launching of a site, $1000 was the bare minimum for the kind of work we produced. While a company in Atlanta wouldn't bat an eye at that, people up here would turn us away within a second. The people up here want the $5 solution, the "What can I pay you to do that won't cost me an arm and a leg" type of solution, the "I have $100, what can you do" kind of solution. Not the "$1000 will get you X, Y, and Z" kind of solution.

Create an enjoyable work environment


A happy team is a productive team. While I'm always the one to think of an enjoyable environment such as Google, IDEO, Patagonia, etc, we didn't really have that, and it showed. Although the extent of our budget allowed for the purchase of some darts with my own dart board, it didn't provide much of an "enjoyable environment" as it were. I also brought in my personal PS2, games, and TV to hopefully provide a few hours of entertainment for the staff. It was never touched. I would love to provide a ping-pong table, a pool table, a HDTV with PS3 entertainment, and more, but our budget didn't allow for it, because I didn't put the money aside to do so.

Don't grow too fast


Grow your company as needed. Don't expect to have your own glass-covered office in 5 years. Don't expect to have a pool table and 200" TV next year. Don't expect to have 30 employees and your own stock options next month.

If you grow too fast, your goals and focus will be thrown out of alignment and you will be focused on the end-goal, not the "right now" goal. So your company is 5 years old - does that mean you need your own conference room? No - invest that money into more marketing and product development, maybe even some staff training. If you absolutely need that conference room, then your company will tell you so. Until then, find a library meeting room, somebody's house, or even a coffee shop to meet at.

Don't get caught up in meetings


Just because you have meetings doesn't mean that they (or the people who attend them) will be productive. As I learned from my years at Last Minute Productions, the majority of items that were discussed in the board room usually stayed in the board room. During my reign as President, I vowed to change that, although my board didn't like the idea (they wanted more money for doing less). In most Board Meetings, assigning a task to someone that will get it done usually results in responsibility, accountability, reliance. If a task is not assigned, then it will not get done.

Also, I always thought it was a great idea to bring my board member attendees up to speed with what has been happening. Usually, that turned into 45 minutes of me blabbing about calls, meetings, and other items that didn't concern, relate, or include the other members. I could have just as easily summarized those blabbings, or even just said the end result and cut the time down to 5 minutes, but my stubbornness got in the way and I was too proud of myself for all of the work that I did (and nobody else). What I should have done is delegated out some of those items to the members so I wasn't always bogged down with items like that.

Don't over complicate things


When I first started my company, I thought that the idea of making websites easy to use would be easy. I mean, the whole world was doing it wrong: Geocities, Yahoo Sites, Homestead websites, even "Welcome! I'm HTML Code!" websites were designing things wrong. The wrong resolution, relying on "Best Viewed in Internet Explorer" tags, over complicating things with animated GIF's to make the site "cute", creating 5-minute flash "splash pages" that you had to sit through in order to get to the site's content, and the list goes on.

I thought I could change this. Instead, I made it more complicated.

In The Oatmeal's blog posting on "How A Web Design Can Go Straight To Hell", the artist/programmer/fun guy Matt Inman talks about exactly what I mean: taking a poorly designed website from the 90's and improving it with high-def graphics, a nice content flow, a beautifully laid out menu, and easy-to-read items. Instead, the client wants what they had: a poorly designed site from the 90's because that's what they had, and that's what they're used to (hence, the "cute kitty", the "mother who designed a Bake Sale flyer in the 80's", and the "pop" and "edgy" items that only exist in their mind). Personally, I also hated it when people would come into Staples (when I worked there) and acted like they knew more than I did in Technology - the same concept applies here: when clients think they know what they should based on the latest article, blog, or news report and want "Web 2.0 items" and "SEO Techniques" integrated into their sites, thinking that those are the most important and absolutely necessary items to have a great site.

I also tried to put too much focus on "how the site worked" and not so much on "how the site looked". My logic said that "if the site worked beautifully, we can design around it. Too many companies focus on how the site looks and not how it operates. Let's flip that." I was wrong. I knew that people went to websites because they looked great (the latest graphics, the flowing sections, even the effects on the photos). I also knew that people left websites because they operated poorly (bad links, page redirection went wrong, server errors that didn't make sense, etc). I wanted to focus on the development of the site to make it operate as expected.

What should I have done? Balanced the design and development, making sure that the design was exciting and the site operated as expected - nothing more.

Always have a backup. And when you do, backup some more


Having your hosting company hold your content hostage is bad business. Over the course of 8 years, I switched hosting companies 4 times. In 2005, I self-hosted, thinking that it wasn't that hard. I was wrong.

In 2006, I moved over to "Website Source" and it was pretty easy to manage, but it cost roughly $66/mth. I did lose some data while with them, and it cost me $50 to recover it from one of their backups.

I migrated to some larger systems while with Website Source, but in 2013, I had to call it quits. In early 2013, I switched to another company (I won't name names here) that would provide me with direct access to our server with backups.

In late 2013, they called it quits with us and froze our server, which meant that all of our data (ours, customers, databases, financial, emails, etc) was gone, and it took me nearly 4 days to get them to "unfreeze" the server so I could transfer the data off. And their "promise" of a backup system? Never happened, so the only place that our data existed was on one single hard drive.

Late 2013-now, I'm now back on my own hosted server (with a lot more experience for managing) and have a backup script to an external server running 2x/day, just in case.

Overall, backup all of your data. Once you do, back it up again, because you never know when you will need it.

If you are going for professional, don't cut corners


Even the iPhone 4 launch was pushed back due to some flaws. Back in 2005, our slogan was "We stay in the shadows, you get all the credit" which was okay. In 2007, our slogan changed to "Simply Professional, Professionally Simple." Personally, I liked it; it portrayed an image of professionalism along with the confidence of knowing that we would be simple (not to contradict a previous point, but that wasn't relevant right now). We even got some professionally printed white polo's that had our company logo on them to display our professionalism. Whenever I went to a client meeting, I made sure that I was clean shaven, my hair was washed, my teeth were brushed, my polo was clean and tucked, my pants were clean, and my shoes were shiny, along with other items to show that I was "A Professional." I thought that this image would be a standard and everybody who copied me would show that we were professionals.

My primary sales person thought otherwise. When I first brought on our primary sales person, I knew that he was a laid-back guy. He was my old freshmen english professor, and I thought that with his "relaxed state" and our "hardened professional mind", we could go far. I didn't expect him to cut so many corners in our "professional environment." For starters, he thought that just because we were a "company", we had millions of dollars sitting in the bank, and $20 meal wouldn't be missed. Little did he know that the $20 he just spent on a meal could have gone towards other resources, such as supplies (and we didn't have much in the bank to begin with, so $20 could have been all that we had!) To make matters worse, I had to order a button up shirt instead of a polo for him, because he didn't like things over his head. When he went to client meetings, he rolled up the long sleeves on his button up shirt. Sometimes he arrived with his button up shirt untucked from his pants, and even left it unbuttoned. He would approach potential clients like they were old friends, taking the conversation on completely irrelevant tangents, and even throwing in a few curse words to get his point across (playfully). Although I knew that we should have let him go a lot earlier, my stubbornness got in the way and thought "he can be reformed." Again, I was wrong...for 2 years (he finally left under his own accord).

Keep in touch with your team


Miscommunication (or lack of communication) can make team members drift apart, and if you constantly rely on them, then losing them is not an option. When I used to talk to my team members on a daily basis, it almost got annoying. However, going days, weeks, even months without any communication seemed like we were drifting apart, almost to the point of "Do I have a job anymore?" (which I have received a few times). Communication is key, but effective and frequent communication is better.

Make all of your goals and intentions clear


Stick to a timeline, schedule your goals and expectations, make sure that everyone knows what the result will be. Missing a deadline is a lot more than just a lowered grade on a test - in the real world, it can mean losing somebody's business.

Whenever I assigned a task to someone, I expected it to get done by the deadline set. When the person says "no problem", my expectation of getting the job done seems worthy. However, when the deadline comes along and there isn't a completed project (or even progress on said project), then my reliance becomes less and less, almost to the point of "If you can't do the task, then you're fired." But, once again, my stubbornness got in the way and I didn't fire anybody. However, when something is delegated out to a person, and that person hasn't completed the task, then the blame is put on the person that delegated the task in the first place, and personally, I'm tired of being blamed for delegating uncompleted tasks (which is why I would take the tasks in the first place, so that I knew it would get done on time, but then I was blamed for not giving anybody else any tasks and hogging everything). It's an endless cycle....

Basically, make the goals and intentions clear. Make the deadlines important, and the punishments clear. Don't allow anyone to slip by because of something that isn't understood.

Never stop seeking out investments


Bootstrapping is a great solution...if you are in your 2nd week of operations. But much later, you will need to seek out more investments in order to grow your business and can't always rely on bootstrapping. If you are taking in your income and only keeping 30% of it as profit, then you won't have enough to cover any additional items, such as moral-boosting get-togethers, upgraded office equipment, RENT, and more.
Also, make sure your team can get paid. Basically working a "freelance" job (or an on-call part-time job) isn't going to pay the bills. If your team isn't committed to you, they will seek out other opportunities for income and leave you.

Set the example


You are the boss. Show your team what you can do. Otherwise, you're just a team member. If you need to resolve a conflict, then resolve it peacefully. If you ARE the conflict, fire yourself or get a 3rd party arbitration.

If you expect your staff to be there on the holiday, you need to show up on the holiday(s). If you expect your team to be there at 7am, then make sure that you are there at 7am (preferably with a hot pot of coffee). If you expect your team to work 40 hours on a project, then you work 40 hours on a project.

Don't just sit back and expect to take the credit while your team does all of the dirty work.

Never expect someone to completely understand what you are offering, and the benefit of it, within the first few minutes of your presentation


Entrepreneur Fail

I expected people to see what we offered and go "Hey! That's what I need! And look at all of the great features!". Instead, I received glassy-eyed stares, basic technology questions, bored attendees, and other signs saying "I have no idea what you are talking about."

When we offered "Advanced, modern websites with the technologies of HTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL, jQuery, and more", I expected a bit of confusion among the crowd, especially at the acronym part, but that was to show our expertise in the technologies and show that "We know what we are doing." Therefore, the potential client would say "They know what they are doing - we should go with them." Instead, it resulted in "I have no idea what that means; therefore, I'm not listening to you anymore."

My expectation was that people would easily understand what we were offering by our presentations, our elevator pitches, and our portfolio. Instead, most people didn't understand or care what I had to say. It basically took an educational session to bring them up to the same level as us for them to understand what we were saying. Let's just say that it didn't turn out well.

Therefore, simplify your techniques. Don't throw in all of the bells and whistles just to impress people. Tell them what they want to know, not what they need to know. It's like an interview: tell the person interviewing you what they want to hear ("I can do the job"), not what they need to here ("With my three decades of experience in X, I suggest that you should do A, B, and C"). Even if it means that they are missing out on an important aspect (ie: security flaws), they want to hear what they want to hear.

Do research on your market, then create the product - not the other way around


I always thought "If you build it, they will come" (insert movie reference here). That may work for some items, but not everything, such as my business. I created a "modern, high-tech web design company" that I thought people would be busting my door down for us to work with them. Instead, of the clients that we found in the Western North Carolina area, most of them were busting my door down because they were unhappy with the service.

I also thought that if we created a service that cranked out quality websites and charged a monthly fee to maintain them, then we would be rolling in the profits. Easy as pie, right? Well, it wasn't so. First, we had to go out and almost physically drag the potential clients to sign with us. Then we had to make sure that we did almost every project underbudget, then provide continuous tech support for the most basic items, even if it went against our "best practice" recommendations. Yada yada yada.... Not really the best idea for starting a business, then sitting back and relaxing while the profits roll in.

Another developer wrote an article about a similar concept, and I agree with him: Research the market, then build the product. Just because you have the best designed, flashy, sparkly billboard in the desert doesn't mean that people will see it, or want to see it.

Don't screw up your credit


As an 18-year old, my first credit card was a surprise. I just entered college and had a personal banking account with Wachovia for a few months (there wasn't a branch of my local bank in my college town, so I switched). A few months in, I received a card from Wachovia saying "Your New Credit Card". I thought "My parents warned me about this. My sister had a bad experience with one. I should not use this unless it is an absolute emergency." So what did I do? I went to Taco Bell and got a drink to test the card out. It worked!

A month later, I used the card some more on a few small things, thinking "I'm getting paid, I can pay it off." I receive my first credit statement. "Amount due: $105. Minimum payment required: $5." When I saw this, I thought "Great! I can make the minimum payment and pay it off slowly." I would like to point out that this card had a limit of $10,000 because I used Debit since I opened the account.

Six months go by. I pay the minimum payment for six months. My credit bill is probably in the medium-to-high 100's. Suddenly, on my credit bill for the 7th month, minimum payment jumps to near $75 or so. In my mind, I'm thinking "Whoa! What happened? This is insane!" I call Wachovia asking about the jump in payment, and they say it's a "Promotional Period that has expired." I told them that I never heard of a promotional period when this started, and I was never offered it as the card was sent to me in the mail, which I never signed up for anyway. The lady was extremely persistent on the fact that since I had the card and was using it, that I was liable for any purchases, regardless of what the promotional period was or what the minimum payment was. I told her "I can't make the minimum payment right now! I don't even have a (well funded) job!" She basically said something along the lines of "Not my problem."

I will say at this point: I never expected my personal credit to cross paths with my investment record.

A few years go by, I get a job that pays roughly $150/mth. Not bad for a part-time gig. I start to pay off my credit bill little by little. Next thing I know, my minimum payment jumps to around $250/mth. I call again and complain, but I was told again by the bank "Not [their] problem". So, my credit bill keeps going up because I can't make the minimum payment, and 29% interest is gained on the bill because it hasn't been paid. At the $7,000 credit mark, I completely stopped using the card altogether. After all of the interest and "late fees" added up, my card topped the $10,000 limit within no time at all. I told Wachovia "I don't use the card. I will never use the card again. Please close the account and I will pay it off." They basically said "The account can't be closed until the card is paid off." So, the account stayed open and accrued interest. Just great. It finally got closed a few years ago, and I'm still attempting to pay it off, but I expect that will take about 10 years or so to pay it all off.

Later in my college career, I start to seek out additional funding for my business. The first few places I go say "Your business plan looks good, but in order to get you funding, we need to take a look at the Owner's credit report." What? This was never covered (in depth) in college!

Let's just say that pretty much every investor I talked to said "Yes" to the business, the plan, and everything else, then changed their mind to "No" once they saw my credit score.

I have never accepted another credit card since the first one, and never will again, regardless of any "offers", "Cash back deals", or "frequent flier points" they provide.

If I could go back and change history, I would have never bought that drink at Taco Bell and shredded the credit card. My credit score would keep going up because I was making so many on-time payments with debit, and I could probably have a few thousand (if not hundred thousand) in investments right about now.


Summary
I know that I've covered a lot of points in this entry. I just wanted to get most of them off my chest before I went to some type of therapy (Even referencing this article was a stretch). Hopefully, other entrepreneurs will read this and discover that not everything will work out like in the movies, the books, or even in the classroom scenarios. You are not indestructible. Your life does hold secrets that others will find. You cannot hide from everything. There is no "reset" button. And, you should fail before you succeed. I know many Venture Capitalists may not look at me because "I have a failed business", but you know what? So what. I've gone through 8 years of self-torment, stubbornness, hopefulness, and grief to know what to do and what not to do. If that means that you won't look at me because of that, then I will go elsewhere.

I'm not saying that you (as an entrepreneur) should read every business book out there. I'm not saying that every article on the internet is right. Go through your own experiences and learn the mistakes. Even Albert Einstein once said, "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." Therefore, I have learned many lessons through my mistakes?

Am I done learning mistakes? Not by a long shot.


Tags:#entrepreneur #fail #credit #php #html #xml #css #jquery #business #lessonslearned #server

I wrote my first book!

What are Sales?

It's official. I have officially finished writing my first book. The first book of the Night Blade series has been finished as of 7:40pm today.

Over 60,000 words, 220 pages, and 9 chapters later, I have converted (and revised) Volumes 1-5 of "Neko Sentou" into "Night Blade". I must say, I'm proud of myself for doing such a large feat.

I must give a lot of credit to NaNoWriMo for giving me the "kick in the butt" I needed to start something like this. On November 2, when I first learned about it, I thought that the "50,000 goal" was way out of the way. I would have to incorporate all of my scripts into one novel, and then add some more to make the goal. Instead, using the first 5 volumes as a basis, and a 1,666 word/day quota, I not only met the 50,000 word goal, I surpassed it by 21.06%!

Yes, my official word count is 60,530. And that's just the first 5 volumes. I'm expecting to make Volumes 6-10 into Book 2: Day of Reckoning. Let me first get through the publishing process before I begin that book.

It was definitely a challenge to take visual aspects and put them into descriptive terms. However, through many late nights between Nov 2 and now, I can say the novel has been completed!

My stats for this novel:
Words per day track Words vs Goal

...and here's my sleep pattern for the past month, just to show how late I was up during some intense-writing mornings:
Sleep Duration



Tags:#nekosentou #nightblade #novel #writing #book #nanowrimo #charts #sleepbot #pearlsbeforeswine

My First Mobile App

I've been trying to push my limits for the past few days, to make up for the fact that I've been very de-motivated. So, I decided to pick up the progress on WNC Local, which has been going well. I've also been working on the WePay API as well, and that's been...enlighetning? It's been a little challenging, but it's good to get the experience.

So, to take a break from the many hours I've spent slaving over the API, I decided to switch directions for a bit and start tackling the Android and see what I can do with mobile apps. Not having a speck of knowledge in Java, it is a real challenge.

However, thanks to the Android SDK bundle, the Eclipse IDE was included (I've had experience with Eclipse when I was working on C++ back in 2003), and Eclipse+Android Development Toolkit (ADT), getting to "Hello World" was fairly simple.

Using the techniques mentioned on the basic training page, I created the following:
My First App Icon
(Yes, that is Asuna in the background)

My First App

The basic training allowed for the creation of the basic app: input text, output the text.
My First App Output

The documentation was not completely fool-proof, so I had to do some additional research to do a few things (thanks to Toast), like this:
Search Button Pressed

Settings Button Pressed

And the documentation didn't go this far, so I thought I'd add this based on some UI experiences:
String cannot be Blank

I know it's not a very impressive app, but it's not bad for my 1st one done within an hour.

In case you want to fork it or view the source code, I have the app on Github: https://github.com/kode29/MyFirstApp

Here's the APK if you want it

Here's to seeing what Mobile App Development can do!


Tags:#android #app #development #github #wnclocal #wepay #c++ #sdk #eclipse #ide #adt

Post-Government Shutdown/October Progress

Derpy cat - why not?

I decided to put up a derpy cat. My reasoning? Why not.

Anyway, it's been a while since my last post. Since the Government shutdown lasted an agonizing 16 days (at least, agonizing since I've been an adult, since the last one was in 1996 when I was too young to know the difference), I've heard more than enough about the parks closing, veterans storming the gates, furloughed paychecks, federal services that closed, etc.

Since the Government shutdown is now over (as a seemed force-of-hand by the Republican party), hopefully this process can be easier to proceed.

Anyway, government techno jargon aside, here's what's been keeping me busy:
  • I've picked up progress on WNC Local again, and it seemed that my thought process almost repeated itself since I worked for a few hours only to realize that the work was already done (yeah, I feel stupid). I've been working on the front end aspects and it seems to be coming along nicely. According to the original timeframe, we are right on track, but I'm hoping to move the timeframe up some.
  • Since we launched the new Shadow Dev site, there were a few things that weren't quite finished. I believe that I have patched up those few things and polished up, including the services pages. I was able to write a posting about the Q4 expectations and celebrated 8 years of Shadow Dev. It's not completely glorious, but it's better than completely shutting down.
  • After reviewing the analytical data, I realized that Two Cats wasn't getting any traffic. I realized that the site wasn't active and it had to do with some misplaced site files within the internal file structure from the new Shadow Dev design launch. I took about 15 minutes and remedied that today. The site itself isn't fully functioning, but I've decided to pick up the coding again.
  • Basically, here's my work docket: WNC Local, CityFix, OmniCard, Two Cats Studios, Lunar Productions Beta, Zoomiform, and ScrumIt (and eWaiter, but it has a long way to go). Yeah - that's everything I have so far.
  • I'm also working on (again) integrating the WePay API into the services to help online charges and auto-payments. It's been a challenge and I believe I'm up to it, but it will just take time.

In (what's left of) my personal life:
  • I started watching Yu Gi Oh on Hulu. I know it's been over a decade since I've seen the series, but at least I can now watch the series in order and finish up the series (since after Duel City, the new series started - I don't know (or care) what the name of the series was, because I stopped watching it).
  • Keat and I attended War of the Wings last week, and it was a lot of fun. One of the many things I can say about it is that it was a lot more comfortable than previous WoW's. The temperature never reached about 75, and the nights were never below 60, which meant that the heat wasn't too unbearable and the nights were nice and cozy under the blankets, but never enough to bring out the cloaks/capes for warmth. There were a lot of other items that were fun, but I won't go into it here because it will take up 5 pages of text. If you want to know, ask me, because I have a great story about an idiot on the Archery range.

And, just for good measurement, here's a comic that I can relate to as far as Retail work:
Retail jobs are obsolete


Tags:#dilbert #derpy #warofthewings #wnclocal #omnicard #yugioh #lunarproductions #zoomiform #twocatsstudios #cityfix #shadowdev

My Thought Process

SALAD!
No, my thought process isn't this.....squirrel!

There have been many instances when people that know me very well start talking to me, and during the conversation, my eyes go back and forth very quickly. Some people may think I'm having a spasm. Technically, no. It's just my "Thought Process" starting up and going 1000MPH.

For the sake of understanding, I have (at least started) a list of items that my thought process goes through when it gets started. 99% of the time, it deals with a new website or web-based service. And to give you a better understanding about what my process goes through, instead of just staring at me with a quizzical look, here's (mostly) everything:

My Thought Process: (by the way, all of these happen at the same time)
- preestablished functions and methods required during the development process
- passing variables between applications/pages/databases/forms/etc
- best way to "write" the code
- memory consumption limits
- resolution flexibility
- information security (transmission and storage)
- "what will the end result be?"
- infinite loop restrictions
- shortening the "writing" process with custom functions
- function recursion process
- CSS formatting
- interactivity with jQuery
- script automation
- plausibility of completion
- requirements for device compatibility (mobile, tablet, phone, etc)
- legal hurdles
- usability practices
- SEO tactics
- overall user flow throughout the site/application
- mock designs
- database storage and retrieval designs

(Yes, it's a lot. What did you think, I just thought about the design?)

I may add more to this list as need be, but at least it's a start.


Tags:#thought #process #websites #webapps #css #jquery

Mid-September Review

Bug Martini

It's halfway through September, and things have been less than calm. Ever had one of those days where nothing goes right and you pretty much have to change everything in order to fit one request/demand/requirement? Yeah, stretch that over about a week, and that is/was my past 2 weeks.

Here's the rundown:

Server Downtime, Transfer, and Remodification


Over the past week, I had to majorly downgrade/upgrade the primary hosting server for Shadow Dev. Since our primary hosting environment was costing us $200/qtr, we were looking for an alternate hosting environment. The requirements were simple: Linux hosting environment, ability to SSH into it from a remote location, and root access. You'd be amazed how many services out there offer a "Windows/Linux" environment for a much lower price, but no Admin/Root access. I'm sorry, but I need direct control over the server, and shouldn't be waiting on the hosting service to perform updates (especially security updates).

So, we had a partner company help us out. Over the past few months, we transferred all of our primary data to their hosting server, since they were helping us out. Things were going smoothly. Our old VPS system ended their service on September 1st, and we weren't going to renew. Things were going as expected.

Since our primary hosting environment was hosted semi-locally, I split off my personal stuff and the business stuff. I modified the DNS servers to point home so I could host my personal website (this one), and have the business stuff on a "business dedicated" server. Meanwhile, my plan was to relaunch the main Shadow Dev site with a new design and direction on September 1st, but that had to be delayed by a few days.....and then the problem started.

Do you recall my previous blog posting about the "Server Connection Confusion"? On September 2nd, I was trying to SSH/FTP into the server to update some business pages and could not get through. I could access the server via Port 80 (HTTP), but not 22 (SSH) or 21 (FTP), which meant that I could view what was on the server, but I could not modify it in anyway. There was one option: I could access Port 10000 (VirtalMin backend management) and download/upload one file at a time, but I had about 200 files to download, modify, and upload, so that would have taken forever. I kept trying over the next few hours with no success.

On September 3rd, I tried to access the server hoping that the Port 21/22 issue was just a fluke (as it sometimes happens). However, I could not access any part of the server. SSH, FTP, HTTP, VirtualMin backend, Email, anything (which meant that my primary email server was down as well). I sent an email to the company that manages the physical hardware and said that the server was down and if they could look into it. Their response: "Yes, it is down, [they] will boot it back up. You will need to start paying for this server or remove your content from it. Out accounting software has placed a hold on it. As we have decided our relationship has not been mutually beneficial." Long story short: our "tradeoff" was not paying off. The tradeoff was "website service" for "hosting space". I should have realized something when the person we were talking to said "You have creative freedom." In an inexperienced mindset, that means "YAY! I can do anything without limits and they will like it!" In an experienced mindset, that translates into "I don't know what I want. Read my mind, or I will turn down any ideas/suggestions you have" which, in a "web designers" standpoint, is a huge red flag. It also doesn't help that we only had one informal meeting about a new site for them.

Anyway, in my response to that email, I said "If that is the case, then we will remove our content from it. In our current state, we cannot afford $1200/year for hosting, as we were paying $800 before. / Please reactivate it so I can move all of the content from it within a reasonable timeframe, then you can do with it as you wish. / I wish our relationship could have been more beneficial."

Afterwards, I tried to re-login to the server (as I was told they would boot it back up). Same result: nothing.

I waited and tried to re-login to the server over a few hours. That turned into the next day. I sent another email to the company restating "Please reactivate the server so I can move all of the content from it within a reasonable timeframe".

Once again, nothing. This downtime was really starting to mess with our uptime records, which we try to strive for a 99.9% uptime record. This was not helping. However, I did get an idea; get a cache of our main site (CSS3 and minimal design concepts only), modify my home server to act as a proxy-hosting server, and get the uptime records going. It took about 3 hours to get (since the primary hosting server was pretty much "blocked"). Thanks to CloudFlare's uptime caching, I was able to get the egg, the egg shadow, and the CSS3 that I used to make it move. I made the DNS changeover, and our uptime was back up and going. It wasn't the full-fledge hosting server, but it's better than nothing.

Day 3 of primary server downtime: I sent yet another email to the hosting company and said "I have tried to be patient with you, but my patience is wearing thin. I have asked nicely in my previous emails to reactivate the hosting server so I can transfer our content off of it. I have not heard back from you since my email on the 3rd. Since it seems like you are holding our content hostage, we are facing our 52nd hour of downtime, and our clients (and ourselves) are suffering that have their sites hosted on this server. In addition, any one who has email being handled by the server is not receiving any emails, including myself, which is causing panic since the emails are not bouncing or anything." Seems like a mostly professional message, right? (By the way, we had about 25GB that we needed to get - note to self: don't have the primary hosting and backup services by the same 3rd party)

I received a response within minutes: "You patients is thin? It is your actions that caused your problem by not producing anything. If you are that poor of an admin and do not have a backup of your content sounds like a personal issue... However I have issued the boot command to your server. Remove your content asap." (yes, misspellings and typos are maintained). I will say that 'Yes, we did not have a primary backup, because you said that you were going to enable that for us, but never did after many months of saying you would.' Regardless, situation has passed.

Anyway, the server was booted back up, which meant that I could get the files....or so I thought. I tried to SSH into the server, but for some reason (whether through my own doing of automating a port blocker or not), I could not. After many hours of fiddling with system and network settings, I came to a conclusion: my IP address was being blocked via Port 22 (SSH). This meant that I could not SSH into my home server and initiate an SCP transfer (Secure Copy - basically a command-line FTP between two Linux-enabled boxes). However, FTP was still open, so I initiated a primary backup to my home desktop (not the home server). I had the max system simultaneous downloads set at "2". I increased it to "3". Yay, things were going faster. I increased it to "4". Even better. I increased it to "5", and things crapped out. I could not SSH/FTP/HTTP or anything into the remote server. Which meant that I was back at square 1.

Based on my previous experience, I knew that I could log in to the server via SSH using my phone (thank you ConnectBot) and the 4G connection. I did so and tried to initiate an SCP connection from the remote server into my home server (for some reason, incoming SSH connections from my IP weren't getting through, but outgoing's a whole new story - and before you bark at me, yes, I did check the iptables for an Incoming blocking rule. There were none. Anyway, I let that run since I thought things were going a bit slow, but better than nothing.

After about 30 minutes, ConnectBot just quit. No reason, no message, no disconnect dialog boxes. It just quit. Which meant that I couldn't SCP for more than 30 minutes, which was a problem.

I tried to FTP into the server again, and was able to. I decreased the amount of simultaneous downloads to "4" and let it run. It took about 8 hours to transfer everything, including the primary MySQL databases.

After everything transferred, I ran a rm -rf command in the /var/www/vhosts/ folder. I know it's not completely secure, but at least it gets rid of things on a first level basis (installing a secure command like shred was possible, but the documentation didn't say anything about shredding a folder - it was only 1 file at a time, which for 25GB, will take a very long time). I also dropped the primary MySQL database and let it. My last words: good riddance.

So, I had the primary hosting files on my home desktop. Now to begin the mega-upload to the home server. 3 hours later, transfer complete. Now for the fun part: setting up the "Linux Desktop" to operate as a "Linux Server" (which, by the way, is not GUI based anymore, so all of this was done via Command Line), to be able to handle multiple domains and subdomains, import the huge MySQL database dump, setup the permissions for the databases, files, and folders, and re-initiate the cron jobs to run. Let's just say that I'm 99% done all of that as of now.

One of the hardest portions I had to deal with was separating out all of the domains. Let me explain: on the old hosting environment, all of the domains (except for the primary shadowdev.com domain), were managed and recorded under one central apache2.conf file, which Apache looked for and loaded for all of the domains. My home server, although the same operating system, didn't like that. Therefore, I had to go into the primary apache2.conf file and separate out each domain into it's own file under /etc/apache2/sites-available/[site], then run sudo a2ensite [site] to make it enabled, then sudo service apache2 restart to allow for the webserver to reload and reread the configuration files. Yeah, that was fun.

I still don't have the Postfix/Dovecot system completely operational yet, but the server can now receive and forward emails. It can't 100% send emails yet, but I'm working on it. I also have some finer points of the cron jobs to figure out. Aside from that, the server (hopefully) should be back up and operational.

Liquidation Sale Troubles


On a related note, we had our Liquidation Sale on the 31st for the office. Let's just say that apparently this town doesn't like any "Liquidation Sale" signs around the area. I posted a few around town, hoping that they would allow them for just a few days (since the event was on the following Saturday). I can understand taking down signs that are for an event a few weeks away, or for personal services or hand-written items that are pretty much illegible. However, after checking on all of the signs I put up, all of them were taken down. Now, I want to hope that it was because people liked the event and wanted to make a note of when/where it was. Based on the attendance record of Saturday, it was obvious that the signs were removed. We only sold $110 worth of stuff, 1 buyer, and 2 browsers. I mean, it's better than nothing, but I wish that we sold more. Now, the agreement that I put in with the landlord was "Anything that we didn't sell on the 31st is free-for-all for any tenants." That didn't translate quite as I expected. It turned into "We [the landlords] will keep what we think is ours, but you have to remove everything else." So, I get a large box from Walmart and try to remove a bunch of the small stuff. I receive an email a few days later saying "We have a tenant that would like to move in, so please remove all small items from the office." So I have to get another box (luckily they are cheap) and go back and get the rest of the small stuff. So much for getting rid of all of the small stuff.

Let's just say that our home is overflowing with office-related stuff. I'm just glad that we don't have to bring any of the BIG stuff home - I have no idea where we would store it. So yeah - our nice, professional, dedicated office is now sitting at home.

Getting the main site back up


The new Shadow Dev site
Meanwhile, I got the new Shadow Dev site up and going and wrote a State of Shadow Development Address for the public. Basically, it says that "We did our best, it wasn't good enough, so we are changing directions to pursue new ideas." That's pretty much it summed up. You can read the rest if you want.

I've been working on finishing up the touches on the new Shadow Dev site (like cross-browser compatibility, improving it's performance on other connections, and finishing up the content distribution with the database. It's coming along a bit slower than I had hoped, but working at home has it's own pros and cons to it.

Personally, I'm having a hard time dealing with the major downsizing and removal of partner services. What I had to do 7 years ago in my dorm room (where I had the main hosting server sitting in my dorm and I was managing all of the services via Command Line Interface (CLI), I'm doing yet again. Although I'm more experienced in how to handle the technology, and the technology is a bit easier to handle, the amount of responsibility needed to make the server work like it was before is no short order.


Lunar Progress


Crystal Blaze
I'm trying to channel some creativity and write some storylines for Lunar Productions' mangas. I did create a new site for them using the old Shadow Dev design, and ramped up the interactivity and information distribution (see beta.lunar-productions.com for a preview), so that helped a bit. However, I can't launch the new site yet until we get some final items down pat. I did, however, completely revamp Death Rose into a new series. Any storywriter will tell you that there was a part in a story (or even the story itself) that seemed to make the storyline go off-track. Well, Death Rose wasn't going anywhere, and I was getting tired of forcing myself to write storyline that didn't fit. So, I revamped the whole thing: the primary storyline, the storyline concepts, the characters, the antagonists, the setting....everything! It's now called Crystal Blaze. Let's just say that it's like Sword Art Online/Matrix/StarCraft/Accel World/Star Trek mix. Yeah, I know it's a lot, but it is making sense, because I'm already on Page 19 of script. The story is unfolding in my head, and sometimes my fingers can't keep up to type the story fast enough. I will say that the beginning of the story is a bit slow, so I am thinking of adding some concepts in the beginning to make a more enticing "hook" to the story. We'll just see where it goes.

Wedding Ups and Downs


Colonnade
On a positive note, we have the Colonnade! (For the wedding, not permanently) The final "OK" was put forth by Keat's parents and we were able to sign the contract and put the downpayment in. That's just 1 of the multistep process that is wedding planning. (see more details at (temp site) kk.shadowdev.com - actual domain to come later) I will say that I knew the whole wedding planning process was going to be tough, but I thought the major disagreements and compromises would be between Keat and myself, not Keat and myself vs her parents. No matter how much planning we/I put in (I am saying "I" here because I have been self-designated as the primary planner since Keat is finishing up her last year of school. As anyone will say, "Put Education First". She's already taking 18 hours of classes, and my schedule is not set, so it's pretty much been put upon me to do most of the calling/negotiating/researching/quoting/etc for this event), it seems that her parents have some minute detail that they must demand. For example: the reception. During our discussions, Keat and I talked to the event planner at our location. She gave us a packet that outlined all of the details, prices, and items that would be provided for the reception. I had a few follow-up questions to clear up any non-clear items (like "when does the 4-hour reservation start: when the guests arrive, or when the crew starts to set up" and so on), and things were going well. Suddenly, Keat's parents demanded to have custom beer and wine at the event. They even "suggested" (kidded? I hope) to have a keg at the reception. I'm sorry, but if this was a frat party, a keg would be acceptable. At a wedding reception? I may not have been to many nor planned many, but I find a keg unacceptable.

Anyway, we asked our location how much it would be to have "a local microbrewery supply beer and a remote winery supply the wine". According to the planner, they had to purchase it because of their liquor license. Okay, understandable. I don't want to impede the liquor liability on any one unnecessary. After 2 months of asking that question, we finally received an answer: the microbrewery has to bottle their beer and ship the bottles. Our cost: $10/bottle. HOLY CRAP! $10 a bottle? That beer must be made of gold or some super rare gems! We still hadn't heard back about the winery question, so I contacted the winery directly. Within a few hours, I received a response and forwarded that to our planner. Still haven't received a response (I think at this point, they are starting to hate us and may force-cancel our penciled-in reservation with their location). After waiting so long, Keat's parents said "Let's forgo the custom wine and beer and just go with what they have. Can we get an itemized proposal for this?" At the absolute end of my frustration, I sent a calmly-worded email to the planner and asked the question. She pretty much responded with the exact same thing that the packet says that she gave us. The location, the DJ, the setup/cleanup, China, Silverware, chairs, linens, tables, etc, etc, etc, for the set price (tax and gratuity included as well). If they were getting mad at us, I don't blame them, but please don't kill the messenger. We're just passing the message along to get the check signed.

What we would like
We've also talked to the cake company that was highly, highly recommended and received a quote from our tastings. $800 for a custom, high quality, delivered day-of cake. Not a bad price. We told Keat's parents, and (I quote) the response was "Keep looking! That is out of sight!!!" Based on the amount of cake companies around here charge, yes, that is a bit high, but we're dealing with a high-quality cake here, not a "Let's go to Walmart and order a cake" kind of thing. Yes, Walmart makes great cakes. We even got our 7th Anniversary Cake from them, but I don't want to go to them for a wedding cake. That's like having a keg at the reception. At this point, it's either "go all in or get out" kind of deal. I don't (and Keat doesn't) want to compromise on a lower-quality cake that we will wish we could have improved 20 years from now just to save a few bucks. So, I contacted other cake companies around here and once you add in the amount of guests we will have along with the design concept we want (along with their delivery fee), it pretty much averages out to $800. (We had a "phone conference" (although if you call Keat's parents on 1 phone and Keat and I on another a "phone conference") about the overall budget. Basically, Keat's dad was mad that we had multiple versions of the budget. I thought he would be happy that I split the budget up into 2 categories (Estimated and Actual), then subsplit that into what Keat's parents would pay, my parents would pay, and we (Keat and I) would pay. That seemed acceptable, but he had made some adjustments that we didn't know of until he sent us his copy. I sent him our latest version (since we were the ones doing the research), and he seemed to get upset that there were multiple copies floating around, so he claimed "his" copy the official one, which means that any additions that we find due to research, we have to let him know instead of just using our own copy. I thought I could simplify things by using a Google Docs copy that would allow for simultaneous edits from multiple users, but that seems to have majorly backfired as they do not know how to use Google Docs, so we are back to "his copy being the only one that should ever exist" scenario. Yay.... I have, however, asked on multiple occasions "What is your optimal budget? What would you like to spend on an event like this? Therefore, we can stay within that range and know what the limits are." Seems like a reasonable question, right? I mean, we're trying to shoot for a $10k budget. Keat's dad is acceptable with a $15k budget (in passing conversation), but we aren't trying to spend millions upon millions on this thing. Heck, we're even below the average cost for a wedding Haywood County ($16-24k). The only answer we have received is "We don't have a set budget - we just want to make you happy", which means (yet again) "Read our minds or we'll turn down every idea and suggestion you have". Great.....)

So, if this whole wedding thing was a TL;DR for you, let me sum it up: we have the Colonnade for the ceremony, I think our Reception location hates us, we need to find a high-quality custom cake for less than $800 total, and the budget seems to be out of our hands.

Additional Money Needed


So, in order to gain some additional money in order to pay for this "seemly outrageous wedding", I decided that I should try to apply for some part-time work (heck, since I don't have to "go into the office" any more, my schedule is pretty freed up). I found out that there was a Trader Joe's opening in Asheville, so I tried to drop off an application last Tuesday. The website (which isn't 100% working) said that they were accepting applications Monday-Friday, 10-7. No problem, right? I arrived at 4:12pm on Tuesday. There was a whiteboard out by the front door that said "Accepting Applications: Tuesday - Thursday, 10-4", which meant that I was 12 minutes late. Well, that's pretty much a trip to Asheville wasted. However, thinking ahead of this process, I thought "Why not apply to Kitchen & Company?" (it's a kitchen supply company that offers a whole lot more than Walmart or other kitchen companies. Keat and I found a lot of good quality stuff in this store during our previous trips). I tried to contact the store via their website, but their careers section was on their parent company website (which was a pain to find), and they only have 1 job posting available. They said "Please contact our Admin offices to inquire about other positions", so I sent them an email inquiring about the question in hand. Within 30 minutes, I received a response basically saying "Walk into the store and bring a resume." Seems simple enough, right?

Well, I head on over to the store and start to walk in. Little did I know that there was a sign on the front door that said "Part Time Sales Associate: Must be energetic, ability to multitask, and passionate about cooking" (I may be paraphrasing here). Seems like my kind of day! (Since I do most of the cooking at home anyway). I walked in, asked for an application, filled it out, and talked to their manager. Since he saw that I had previous experience at Staples, he said that this would be pretty much the same thing (I hope so too). Although, if there is a "Kitchen Quiz", I should be ready. Questions like "How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon? What's the difference between a Santoku and a Chef's Knife? What does a 'sharpening steel' actually do?" and other questions should be easy, thanks to Alton Brown. I don't know if there will actually be a quiz, but can I say that I kind of hope so? Anyway, I received a letter in the mail today from Trader Joe's saying "Thanks for applying, but you have not been selected for an interview." Basically saying "Thanks for coming in, and we appreciate your interest, but we don't need you right now." Oh well - my dad did say to stay out of the Grocery business. I guess this is the Universe's way of keeping me out. No biggie - I have higher hopes for Kichen & Company anyway.


New Anime: Accel World


Accel World
In order to blow off some steam, I thought I would give "Accel World" another try (in laymen's terms: Accel World is by the same author as "Sword Art Online", but set about 20 years in the future (from SAO, so about 2046) where all of the <15 year olds have a digital device that allows them a "virtual environment" to type, send messages, view emails, save video, and even enter their own VR world. 'Accel World' is an advanced version of the VR world that heavily relies on a software called "Brain Burst", which allows your processing power of your brain to be increased 1000x. The (semi) downside is that in order to use it, you need to build up some "Burst Points" by fighting in the "Accel World". The theory seems legit). When I first tried it, I got about 5 minutes in and had to stop. I didn't watch the series again until this past Sunday. Throughout the week, I watched all 24 episodes (and got some great ideas for Crystal Blaze) up to Thursday evening/Friday morning.

I will say that it had some flavors of Sword Art Online, and I liked how it wasn't exactly the same (as the author wrote this post-SAO and submitted it first to a writing contest, where it won first prize) as SAO. The concepts portrayed in the series were unique enough to hold their own, but also reflected some traits of other series like Bleach), so I was able to find those traits and mold them into what Crystal Blaze (and other series) should offer. I was never in any "Creative Writing" classes, but I believe this gave me a better understanding of how to write a compelling storyline (although I still have the fan-crush on Asuna from SAO. Accel World didn't really have any characters that I could really connect with, but that's not necessarily a bad thing).

Is this the end?


That's it for now. I believe that 27,000 characters is pretty much my max limit on a blog posting like this. However, I hope this gives a better insight to what one chaotic, crazy week I have had.


Tags:#swordartonline #accelworld #wedding #colonnade #vr #kitchen&company #traderjoes #altonbrown #beer #crystalblaze #lunarproductions #shadowdev #design #server #hosting #sale #apache2 #sudo #scp #ftp #http #css3 #email #virtualmin #port #bug

Hittin' the Tracks with Rails

Well, more like a "Ruby" and "Ruby on Rails" scenario, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, here's a comic that I wish I could create:
FatCats


Getting back to the topic, I've been going through the Codecademy's track for Ruby to understand the concepts for Ruby (I went through all 10 courses they had within 11 hours), then studied up with RailsForZombies.org and Rails Tutorial book to get a grasp on Rails. I've been working on that book for about 2 days now, and it has really shown me the in's and out's of a basic dynamic rails structure. I'm on Chapter 7 right now.

All I can say is that Ruby seems very robust, but Rails seems very picky.

It is a different standard from what I'm used to with PHP. Whereas Rails is extremely picky with "only my way works" (kind of like older HTML), I'm used ti the PHP mindset where "if you have an idea, there are about 50 ways to create it". Personally, I still like the PHP way, but I haven't given up on RoR yet, but I like the MVC procedures that Rails incorporates (and now that I can finally use git for a good reason). You can checkout my progress at http://cdn.kmp.link:3000 or even view my github releases at https://github.com/kode29/sample_app.

On the lighter side, I've created a "Skillset Chart" on my blog showing off some of my skillsets and how experienced I am with them. Just view the middle right section of my blog layout to view it.


Tags:#fatcats #rails #ruby #ror #php #html #github

Early Bird get the....you know the rest

Good morning world! Yes, it is 3:47am here on the east coast, and what am I doing? I am at work! Not because someone forced me to be here at this ungodly hour, but because I wanted to. Yes, I am that insane.

Don't believe me? Here's a photo I took about 30 minutes ago:


Actually, I'm not that insane. Most developers work best at night, and since Keat is out of town for 24 hours, I thought it would be a good chance to come in and get some work done without the distraction of home (and since Netflix doesn't (completely) work on Linux, I can't stream it from the office. Pandora on the other hand is a joyous pleasure).

Usually at this time, I have been up for 12+ hours and have been drugging away all day with the standard day-to-day activities. This time, I've turned the tables. I went home after work yesterday, got some dinner, finished "Rules of Engagement" (at least, Season 6 on Netflix), slept from 10:30 till 2:30, got dressed, had breakfast, fed the kitties, got all of my materials together, came to work, loaded up Pandora, got some tea ready, and I'm working! YAY!

I don't want to jinx the day so early, but I would like to estimate that today looks like it will be a good day.

Anyway, my expectation is to get a lot of development-specific work done during these wee hours. We'll see how things go.

On the brighter side (ha, get it? Because it's before sunrise.......), I thought I'd post a few comics here to free up my un-used collection. Enjoy, and Good Morning!









Tags:#goodmorning #shadowdevelopment #keat #dilbert #bug #kitty #linux #netflix #badjoke

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 #

Alton Brown to develop Zombie Cooking Show

Alton Brown


"And just so you know…I am working on a zombie cooking show spoof. My zombie cooking show doesn’t have a home yet though…I’m guessing youtube as I doubt #foodnetwork will appreciate it. brain brûlée, brain chili, brain cake, brain sliders, brain on the half skull…" [via @AltonBrown - full tweet: https://twitter.com/#!/altonbrown/status/200911207312539648 ]

My input: not enough statements of "AWESOME" can be said.

How can something that has "Alton Brown", "Zombie", "Cooking", and "Show" not be more awesome?

Source: thebraiser.com/alton-brown-zombie-cooking-show/


Tags:#altonbrown #twitter #zombie

Repeal Amendment One!

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

Get an RSS feed for Twitter Searches

I tried to get an RSS feed for a Twitter search earlier today, and found out that they removed the ability to get an RSS or Atom feed from their searches.
Twitter - No RSS

Luckily, I had some saved RSS feeds in my Reader from a long time ago, and found the URL setup:

  1. The URL for the page should look like this (in the example above):
     https://twitter.com/#!/search/ice%20cream 
  2. Replace "https://twitter.com/#!/search/" with the following:
     search.twitter.com/search.atom?q= 
  3. The URL should look like this now:
     http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=ice%20cream 
  4. Copy the URL and transmit that to your favorite reader. Now you have an RSS feed for your search!
See? Simple.


Tags:#twitter #rss #workaround

Double Twitter Explosion!

This has been one great day! I submitted an article to the popular social media site SocialMediaToday.com and I can't believe how much it has spread across the corners of the 'net. I submitted it less than 24 hours ago, and it has received more retweets and shares than I can track!

Here's a quick overview:
On SMT, it has 109 LinkedIn shares, 12 Facebook Shares, and 97 Tweets
Twitter Trend


To make things better, it was also picked up by TweetMeMe's Twitter account, @TM_Twitr
TweetMeMe


TweetMeMe has 39 retweets alone:

TweetMeMe
TweetMeMe


I know some of the other big-wig article writers have somewhere around 1k shares, but for my first article published outside of the company website, I call 257 shares within 24 hours a success!

Not too bad for an article that was a quick idea and written in about 3 hours!


Tags:#social #media #today #smt #twitter #retweet #linkedin #facebook

Happy Post-Valentines Day!

It's been a joyous Valentine's Day 2012. Especially since I've been sick over the past few years on this date. Really. Over the past few years on Feb 14, I have come down with an extremely bad virus that kept me in bed all day. And when I go down, I really go down for the count. The good news: I wasn't sick this year! Yay!

However, I did stay home and work since I had a lot of work to get done (and another reason, but I'll get to that later). Really, it's not a bad thing. I spent most of the day in front of my desktop at home, played Pandora in the background, and worked on some tasks that have been living on my ToDo list for a while.

The other good news is: Keat got me chocolate for today! Here's a snippet:
CHOCOLATE!


Now, you may be thinking: "What did you get for her this year?" Well, the short answer is: nothing. WAIT! Before you start flipping out on me, hear me out. We observe/celebrate "Valentine's Day and White Day". I'm sure the latter sounds like a racist celebration. I assure you it is not.

White Day is actually a holiday in Japan that the younger generation celebrates. Instead of me trying to rant on about what it is, here's a quick overview:

In Japan, Valentine's Day is observed by females who present chocolate gifts (either store-bought or handmade), usually to a male, as an expression of love, courtesy or social obligation. A handmade chocolate is usually preferred by the receiver, because it is a sign that the receiving male is the girl's "only one". On White Day, the converse happens: males who received a honmei-choco (本命チョコ, "chocolate of love") or giri-choco (義理チョコ, "courtesy chocolate") on Valentine's Day are expected to return the favor by giving gifts, usually more expensive. Traditionally, popular White Day gifts are cookies, jewellery, white chocolate, white lingerie and marshmallows. Sometimes the term sanbai gaeshi (三倍返し, literally, "triple the return") is used to describe the generally recited rule that the return gift should be two to three times the cost of the Valentine's gift. [source] [another source]


You may be thinking this is a quick cop-out for me forgetting Valentine's Day. I can guarantee that I didn't forget it, but just didn't have the necessary means to get something yet. However, she is going to get something 2-3x nicer next month (and I'll be 25!).

Anyway, here's the comic for today:
The System

I thought this comic would be relevant to this past week, since I do have a few projects going on that could fall anywhere on this chart.

However, on Sunday, I had a revelation. After thinking over the events from last week (revamping the contract, the preliminary fish bowl launch, Drinks with Geeks planning, getting the new computer up and running, finalizing the new prices, straightening out the accounting records, meeting with AdvantageWest about funding, fixing a co-worker's computer problems, getting a new contract signed, planning some new "ease of use" projects to help new sales people, and more), I realized that everything that we were doing seemed to be working in countless different directions, causing our workforce to become thin and not be able to take on much work. I realized that if things were going to improve, we have to mainstream: make the whole "first contact to project launch" process a whole lot faster, easier, and more flexible.

After thinking about the process we had in place for the past 6 years, it occurred to me that we are basically reinventing the wheel each and every time. Overall, this wasn't getting us anywhere. We need to have a tried-and-true process for going from Step 1 to Step 2 to Step 3 without any hassle. Right now, in order to get one task passed along the production line, a person either has to be trained in that area to take care of it, or it needs to be taken over by someone who can get it done quicker, and some communication between the lines gets lost.

We need a company-level Sales tracker, Project tracker, Site Manager (not just a CMS, but a Company-wide version), Customer notifier, integrated payment system, team calendar, and EVERYTHING else that we have been working on. Instead of working on so many different projects, the solution is simple: make this 1 massive project for the company. This way, Sales people can track leads, Designers/Developers can work on any site, Customers can keep track of their projects, Customer payments can be processed/managed, teams can collaborate on projects and tasks, and more. By integrating the Scrum methodology to this process, we can shrink 3 months down to 1 month or less! Just imagine the work load we can take on!

To be honest, I feel stupid for not seeing this earlier. The solution is so simple. I was trying to create 20 different things to do 20 different tasks. What I should have been doing is developing 1 project to do these 20 things and integrate it into the company so it would be easier to manage.

Why am I confessing all of this here? Two primary reasons: 1) So I have an official record of what I am thinking about so I can look back on it at a later date, and 2) So I can be held accountable for this. Looking back on a few projects that I've worked on, they were started anywhere from a week to 2 years ago, and they all seem to be in the same state: hiatus. To be honest: that sucks. How can I work 5 days a week from 10-5pm and 10-5am and get so little done? This will change.

On a related matter, one reason why it will change is because of the following:
TNG, DS9, and Voyager. Done


Yes, I have finished watching Star Trek: TNG, DS9, and Voyager in their completion. I will admit that I spent a few nights in the past months up till wee hours in the morning watching Star Trek, but now that I've gotten through TNG, DS9, and Voyager, I can dedicate more time to getting stuff done.

I find that I get a lot done with background music. Time seems to work with me when I'm in that "state of mind." However, when I find a series I want to watch (or I'm curious about) on Netflix, that seems to occupy my time instead of getting things done. For example: I didn't think I'd really get into Heroes. I thought "I'll watch the first episode and be done with it." Yeah right. Before I knew it, I watched all 4 seasons and lost valuable programming time during those 16 days it took me to watch it. I have lots of other items on my Netflix instant queue to watch, but I have a ToDo list that is breathing down my neck. I have to get that done.

Enough procrastinating on this blog. I have work to do.


Tags:#thesystem #chocolate #keat #valentinesday #whiteday #startrek #tng #ds9 #voyager #japan #netflix #heroes #accountable #streamline

Where has the time gone?

The past month has really flown by, hasn't it? Before I knew it, it's already a week before Valentines day and 2 weeks before I turn 25. Wow...a quarter of a century old. When it is put like that, I feel super old. No offense to the "old fogies" I know.

Anyway, here's a run-down of significant things that have happened between my last post and now:

- I'm finishing up DS9 on Netflix. I'm at the tail end of Season 6.

- Finally got my desktop at the house up and running. I can now work at home....into the wee hours of the morning. As I told Tom today, I work from 10-5(pm), and 10-5(am). Good? Maybe. But it beats staying at the office 24/7. Not that that's a bad thing, but I think Keat would miss me.

- Keat may be going to Japan for 2 weeks to a semester next year. On one side: I'm super happy for her (not sarcastic). Going to Japan for 2 weeks was an exhilierating experience for me, so I can only imagine what a semester could do. On the down side: I'll be left alone with 3 cats for a semester! I'm going to go insane.......again.

- We've launched a new "Fishbowl" contest in the area to get some leads. So far, it's looking good. We spent $100 on the materials, and should get more than 100% ROI on this. On a related note....

- Tom and I talked to the owner of Frog Level Brewery, a local brewery in Frog Level (next to Waynesville), about a potential event/conference for local geeks. The owner said "Yes" and planning hit full force. This event will allow the local non-techies to network and ask questions to the local geeks (and get a few beers while we're at it). It's called Drinks With Geeks, and it should be a great event! It won't happen in the immediate future, but maybe in April or May....

- We got a new client: ALP Systems Inc. The owner is a great guy, and it seems like we are copies of each other, if you know what I mean. He's a guy with a "No BS" attitude, and I want to make sure we keep it that way.

- We launched the TICS site on the 1st. So far, so good.

- Allan had a major computer virus that took out his PC for a bit. I'm still working on it after 48 hours, but I think this sums it up:


- Since my laptop finally called it quits, I was able to acquire some funds to get a new computer. I decided on a desktop for the office for the processing power and stability. I turned it on the first day I got it, and it hasn't been turned off since. I know it's Windows 7, but Quicken/QuickBooks doesn't run well on Linux, and I don't have the funds to get a Mac (although that is my wish)

- I'm working on a few new projects: Client Portal (project in progress), Sales Portal (planning has started), and a few others. I've been really preoccupied with other tasks at hand, but I think this sums it up well:
Ceiling Cat


- I found out about Star Trek RPG thanks to this little comic:
Real Life - Star Trek RPG

Since Kat's been helping us with WhiteWolf, I'm glad we are able to experience RPG gaming without having to worry about battling against super-experienced players.

That's it for now. The rest of the month looks pretty busy and my guess is that I'll have a lot more sleepless nights.


Tags:#ds9 #reallife #icanhascheeseburger #quicken #pc #whitewolf #tics #alp #facebook #drinkswithgeeks #fishbowl

CEO Day #2

I didn't mark this last week, but as of last friday, I'm making all fridays afterwards CEO-Only Days where I push the Development side of the business to the side and work on the business instead of in the business. Here's my report from today:


  • Day started: 11:15am

  • Checked reader

  • Balanced bank account

  • Cleaned my desk off a bit

  • Took care of a customer's inquiry and renewal

  • Learned something new in Notepad++: Auto-Completion on Functions - no more having to search php.net for what order the haystack and needle go

  • added some new keywords to the Analyzer landing page based on Google's Analytics reports

  • Generated and submitted Sitemaps for a few sites

  • Found a great site: japaneseswords4samurai.com - it's not the greatest design-wise, but they have a lot of neat stuff (including Paul Chen quality swords)

  • Ran through the rest of the Kit manual

  • Created Shadow Dev specific "Client Management Process" for review

  • Started Shadow Dev specific Client followup process/script

  • Created "Design Approval Form"

  • Media Kit started

  • Started agenda for annual meeting

  • received notes for annual meeting

  • Accepted contract for new client

  • Send out task list to employees for new client

  • Lost a lead - sent out "Thanks for the opprotunity" letter

  • Made some updates to the accounting records

  • Found CancanIt.com - good analysis site

  • End: Now


That's it for me today. These CEO-only days are proving quite useful.


Tags:#ceoday #cancanit #notepad++ #php

Google meets SimCity

Google ceases to amaze me. I was trying to find the quickest way to my local polling place today, and I saw a new button on Google Maps that said 3D. Couldn't help but click it.

Not to change subjects, but this marks my 100th Blog Entry! Yay!

Anyway, after a few minutes of processing, I was surprised! Google merged Maps with Earth and added 3D effects to the browser-based directional application. It seems like Google took a trick from Maxis' gamebook and created a realistic SimCity.

Before proceeding, take a look at what SimCity can produce (as of SC4):
SimCity


Here are a few samples I thought I'd try:

Raleigh, NC


Raleigh, NC


Charlotte, NC


Charlotte, NC


San Fran


San Francisco, CA


Washington DC


Hey look! 3D Trees and 3D Fountain!
Washington, DC


Hey look! A CG person in DC!


A Person in DC!


My fellow Con-goers should recognize this structure


Can you guess the con?


If you get a chance, try it out yourself. It's only in Metro areas for the time being, but other places (like Waynesville) have a topographical 3D layout instead of buildings (yet).


Tags:#google #maps #earth #simcity #maxis

E-Consulting is a Bad Company!

It's taken me a day or so to post this, but I thought this would be beneficial to anyone who is considering working with E-Consulting from 5850 Canoga Ave, Suite 308 in Woodland Hills, CA 91367.

Long story short: I was first contacted by E-Consulting back in April 2010 with a promise of a "potential partnership arrangement" - basically, I sent in a few samples of clients' sites for them to run their SEO program on and get back to me. A week later (after I inquired about it), I was sent back my samples. It looked exactly like they copy and pasted the keyword analysis reports on each.

I responded with the following:
[...] However, I do believe that the proposal format is a little lacking. After taking a look at the 4 proposals (all of which you should have received copies of), it looks like they were just cut-and-paste from a 10-minute document. I don't mean to sound insulting if I am, but it really doesn't display a level of professionalism. I'm sure we can work these proposals to better fit our clients (like adding analyses of local competition and what keywords they have, including the business name(s) into the proposal (only 1 had it), adding their logo for more of a "customized" feel, and giving the clients a more broken-down understanding of what they will be getting for their money; more importantly, putting OUR logo on it as you mentioned before).
 
You did say in your previous email (or a forwarded edition of Matt's email), "Keep in mind, you don't have to do anything on your end, we'll create the proposal for you and put your company logo and branding on it.  You can just forward it to your client with pricing and see if they are interested.  We want it to be as painless as possible! " However, if we forwarded these to our clients as they were, they'd probably regard the attachment(s) as spam and delete it. We would also have to do a lot of re-vamp work on our end to make these presentable. We did fill out each form completely with the site information, client name/site (in the Client/Website section; we put Client Name and their site), and asked for SEO for all of them and SEO and Social Networking Management for ourselves. However, all of the proposals looked the same and our proposal didn't even mention the Social Networking Management at all.
 
As I said, I don't mean to sound insulting, but I don't believe that our clients would purchase the services you are offering if they saw the attachments we received. [...]


Keep in mind that I talked to 4 different people during this situation, including Matt Watson, the CEO of the company. When I finally received an answer from him (4 months afterwards), the main contact I was talking to about the reports (Chris Morris) was no longer with the company. This was his response:
Chris Morris is no longer with the company and all I can do is apologize for the lack of attention in answering your questions and concerns.  We have an amazing SEO Platform and I think it would be best for both parties to at a minimum to discuss how it works and what it does.  I'm an entrepreneur and it pains me that we botched the opportunity with you initially.  See if you can carve out some time for me so that I can address all of your concerns as forthcoming as I can.  The platform has changed, proposals have changed, and the process has changed as well.  In regards to auto-emails, just delete them for now and we'll find our own working relationship from here on out.  If you still wish to discontinue our business relationship, that is your call and I wish you the best.
After being bombarded by "Sign up with us" emails from different people at the company between last December and this September, I sent in emails saying "Stop contacting me or I will file a complaint with the BBB" - twice. So, I did. Here's the report:
BBB
Long story short: I filed it on 9/20. I didn't get a response until 10/15, almost a month later. The worse part: it was the exact same "canned response" sent to their last BBB complaint. I sent in my reubtal two days afterwards (the BBB didn't let me know until then). By 10/31, E-Consulting didn't response, so BBB closed the complaint. My reaction: they didn't know how to answer since they screwed up. Overall: Don't agree to do anything with them!


Tags:#econsulting #badcompany #dontgowiththem #bbb #complaint

Busy Monday: Part 4

Yeah, yeah, I know: it's Thursday, but this day seemed like a copy of monday.

Anyway, here's the comic. Enjoy.
Endless Origami

For those of you who do not get this reference, here's an (edited) snippet from the movie that references the above comic (head's up for all of you "PG-13" people: it does have the F word in it)


And here's the rundown:

  • I arrived just before 10am to meet with a potential client. Apparently, Tom had the same idea as I arrived just seconds behind him (extra points for him for showing up before the Boss). We had a good talk while waiting on the potential client, who called at 10:30 to say he was going to be late. No biggie. He arrived, we talked, possibly have 3 potential contracts from one source. Yay!

  • Which leans into the next item: our 10am potential client called one of our current clients and asked when they could deliver an outstanding check. Next thing we know, the outstanding check arrived less than 30 minutes after the call was made. A week of constant emails and calls to get one task done, and he does it in less than 30 minutes. I would say "Showoff," but I'm appreciative of the fact

  • Anyway, the reason why I showed up so close to 10 this morning was because the kitties decided I shouldn't go to work today. 1 kitty decided that he wasn't going to take his pill, 1 kitty decided to make a run for the door, and 1 kitty decided to knock everything off of my nightstand (and the stories go on). So I had to deal with the kitties before I could leave for work.

  • Back to the chronological timeline: Since Tom had never deposited a check via Wachovia before, we left to 1) deposit the check, 2) have lunch, and 3) stop by a potential client that Tom didn't know where they were.

  • While we were stopping by the potential client's location, I received a call from our Fox Carolina ad rep. Apparently, our ad went live yesterday without our approval, and (in addition) there was some confusion on exactly where the ad was to show up on the Fox Carolina site. The call I received said that they were deeply apologetic about the ad going up, as it usually never happens (why do I not want to believe that?), the ad would be taken down, they would wait for our final proof, and more representatives would get in touch with us about our requests (because our previous contacts weren't very helpful; long story short: the person I was told to call said he didn't know how to help us, and he didn't know why we kept calling, so he gave us a number to call at another location, so I called and left a message, but THAT person won't be able to get in touch with me until tomorrow (I hope)).

  • SOOOOOOO....after that was done, Tom and I stopped by his wife's place, Women in the Moon, and his wife talked about her services as an interior designer. Certainly something we could use in the future. She and I got on a discussion about how the office could use some sprucing up to make it "more attractive for clients". Although I fully agree, I told her the short-and-sweet version of how the SMDC Board has basically full control over the building, and we really can't do much (except to hang stuff). We'll see how it goes.

  • After Tom and I realized that there wasn't much else for him to do that day, he dropped me off and took care of some personal business. Anyway, our friendly janitor came by today and spent 15 minutes in our office to clean it up. I believe I have said it before, but I'll say it again: she can perform miracles in a fraction of the time it would take us to clean it.

  • After she left, I made a bunch of calls that I was supposed to make: 1 to a potential client from this morning's source (left message), 1 to Dr. Lockwood to schedule our strategy meeting next week, 1 to a client about a contract, and a few others. It's a little hard to remember all that happened today since it was a lot.

  • I then took care of a few client modification requests and tied up some loose ends in the financials and some file locations. Finally, i checked my reader for the day.

  • I then came home (around 5), changed clothes, and tried to find some headphones. Long story short: I have become a Celldweller fan. I planned on playing Pandora on my cellphone while I cut the grass. After unsuccessfully finding headphones, I called Keat to ask her where some were. After not finding any from her suggestions, she said there were some at the office. Luckily, it's only 6 minutes down the road. I drove down there, got the headphones, drove back, started by Pandora, and cut the grass. I know that the grass usually takes me roughly an hour, but having some background music (especially some hard-core instrumentals), the cutting process went by a lot faster.

  • After that, I found that my cell phone had only gone down 10% in an hour of constant pandora usage. Not bad. not bad at all.

  • Anyway, I gathered some materials and decided to wash my car, since Tom's wife would be borrowing it (you know the story about "My boss needs my car"? This situation calls for "My employee's wife needs my car"). I got some soap, water, a cloth, and luckily one of our faucets is hot water. So I proceeded to wash my car. At the end of my washing, our neighbor, Lee, said "Looks better when it's clean, don't it?" I agreed, and said "This is first time I've washed it in....6 years." Without skipping a beat, he responded with "You're kidding, right?" I was not. Since I had the Pontiac since 2005 and it was at college, and at apartment complexes after that (with strict rules), I never had a chance to wash my car myself (stupid rules of "no soap on the asphalt" and other BS). So finally, I washed my car.

  • Nightfall came, Keat got home. She checked some things on her computer, and basically went to bed. She was tired. After she went to sleep, I had some custom-made mushroom/onion/extra cheese/hot sauce pizza, which was pretty good for a last minute menagerie of toppings.

  • At this moment, I'm watching Matrix Reloaded. Yes, I know it's nowhere as good as the first one, but I'm watching it more for the philosophical points and fight scenes. I know Tom would approve. Although while I'm watching it, I'm realizing that in retrospect, the Programmers are really the controllers of the world. I mean, if you think about it, programs do run our lives. Our cars, bank cards, medical records, communication, travel, etc, all run on some type of programs, whether software or webware. As a programmer, we have the "key" (pardon the pun) to access, read, modify, or even delete our lives. I mean, I know Identity Theft is a big crime, but think about this: with a few clicks and some raw code, all records could be deleted for 1 person. Just imagine how insane their life would be if they couldn't purchase anything, travel, communicate (long distance)....you get the picture. Who knows - the machines are running our lives, and if the machines are gone, our lives as we know them would cease to exist (or at least, revert to medieval times).



Okay, enough philosophical crap for today. Tomorrow's going to be a long day as well, since we have to plan a seminar, more calls to make, cars to trade, 5 hours to travel, and more. Here's to tomorrow.


Tags:#endlessorigami #matrix #client #kitties #foxcarolina #witm #ad #janitor #meeting #grass #pandora #celldweller #car #pizza

Busy Monday

Zits


Whoa, it's Monday already. What a busy day/week/month so far.

Here's the rundown:
Today:

  • I received 2 calls 15 minutes before my alarm this morning from 2 clients. Way for a Monday to start.

  • Stopped by Post Office to pick up package that wouldn't fit in the mailbox on Saturday

  • I got to the office and got ready to make some calls that I was supposed to make. Had the first client come in. Nice lady, but seemed like she just wanted to vent. No biggie - but did find out that her husband has some Pro Photography experience and could take pro photos of us on Wednesday for the Ad

  • Tom came in as I was finishing up with the 1st client. I finished things up and went to him. He and I started talking about some personal stuff.

  • 5 minutes into that meeting, client #2 walks in, talks for 5 minutes, leaves. I go back to Tom and discuss options for him

  • Spend an hour or so deciphering odd Paypal code. Tom makes packets.

  • I did some budget analyzing and found out that it costs us (figuratively) $13 to make an info packet. Whoa.

  • Tom left; I called/contacted most of the people on my list today

  • Responded to some emails, cleared up confusion in a contract, and graded an email

  • Ordered more ink for the business - $50 for each other, 2 standard blacks, and 1 XL black - not bad.

  • updated and re-printed a sign for the office (with hours and updated QR code)


All in all, it doesn't seem like a lot, but I've been going non-stop since I got here at 10:15.

And not to bore you with the finer details, here's the quick-and-dirty summary from last week:

  • My old phone was sick. I got a new one! YAY!

  • Kat, Keat and I played WhiteWolf on Saturday and Sunday

  • Had meeting with Shadow Dev staff on Monday, hired Kat on

  • Planned Developer Training for Shadow Dev

  • Working out the finer details of our Movie Night

  • Had to deal with the Copier missing the Scanning function - had a meeting with Allan and going to figure it out

  • Fixed a client's login/check issue - that took a while

  • Finally got ST:TNG Season 1 and 7 back on Netflix - now I can finish Season 1

  • My 2nd oldest sister and Dad stopped by on Friday - she is now in TN

  • Met wit 2 potential clients. Wish I was more professional

  • Finally got a response back from the Fox Carolina guys about the relationship. I was told to call another person. Here we go again

  • Had a major server outage on Friday for about an hour. I can honestly say IT WASN'T MY FAULT! Apparently, the server company had an issue with their main operations server and had to force a shutdown/restart. All details are at the Shadow Dev Blog

  • Fixed some issues with another client's site. Should be getting the final check soon

  • Watched the 4th Bleach Movie. It was really good.

  • Created a Site Reporter using Google's API. Now, I get daily reports telling me where Shadow Dev is in non-biased Google Rankings for our area

  • And of course, the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. Still can't believe I was a freshmen in High School when that happened. My support goes to those in need.


That wraps up last week. And now for something completely different (but TOTALLY worth it):
Blade!



Tags:#blade #twilight #foxcarolina #server #outage #google #sttng #training #developer #shadowdev #phone #ink #sign #calls #postoffice #zits

Bachelor for a Week - Day 4

The System

It's been a while since I posted a System comic on here, but I thought this would be nice.

Day 4 of Bachelor-ship, and the days are starting to run together. I've completed more work on the Shadow Dev Beta site, and if I keep this up, I should be able to release it by September 1st. That'll be one major accomplishment out of my way.

Not much has really happened today. I kept watching Voyager - I'm on S7:E2 now, so almost done with the series. Still glad I got to see the whole thing from the start.

I also found out the issue behind why my txt's wouldn't sync with Gmail: my IMAP was turned off. After I turned it on, all of my txt's synced within a matter of minutes.

If I keep up this "blogging" thing, I'll have been blogging for a year in just short of 3 months. To be honest, I'm glad I'm doing this. If not for a personal record (or for you readers out there), then for personal enjoyment to entertain whoever is reading this.

Keat comes home in T-48 hours. Honestly, I can't wait. With the kitties meowing their heads off, no internet access at home, and trying to get work done during these ever-longing days, I may lose my mind before Saturday gets here. Good thing I have a small client meeting and a janitor coming tomorrow to keep my schedule in tact.

PS: According to the server log, I've been logged on since 1:05pm. To date, I've worked 35 hours so far this week. Only 5 more, and I'll qualify for overtime! (that is, if I got paid for it)


Tags:#thesystem # #keat #voyager #txt #blog #kitties

Bachelor for a Week - Day 3: Lazy Day

Dilbert

Yep, today was a lazy day. I was awoken at 10am sharp by a fellow door-to-door "Do You Believe In God" advertiser, and after that, I went back to bed. My plan was to sleep for a hour, then go into the office. I didn't get into the office till 3. So 3 till 8, not a bad (or good) work day length-wise. So far, that makes....what? 26 hours so far? Either way, I'm still ahead of schedule if I'm going to get 40 hours in this week (is that too much to say since I'm employed by myself?).

Anyway, I did some more work on the Site Analyzer and it's coming along nicely. It's not 100% perfect yet, but it's pretty close.

I also watched 6 episodes of Voyager today. I just finished the one that Kim Rhodes is in. I think I first saw her in Zack and Cody, but she still has a unique perspective on her acting style.

I've also downloaded SpinFire for Android. As a hint from @WhitsonGordon, I've explored it and it seems a lot better than the stock browser. I had Dolphin for a while, but Android 2.1 only has <20MB of free space, and no APP2SD support, so I'm stuck uninstalling items to install new ones. 2.1 sucks - I can't wait till I upgrade and finally get 2.2+. If you are wondering why I still have 2.1, it's because I have the Eris, and Google/Verizon don't want to upgrade the Eris for some unknown [insert curse words]in' reason.

Anyway, that's pretty much the extent of my day. I better get home and let the kitties out before it gets too dark.

Also, here's a bonus comic I've wanted to share for a while. One hint: SPLORF!
Dilbert


Tags:#sinfest #dilbert #kitties #voyager #android

Bachelor for a Week

Well, it's here again. The week that I am alone. Keat's with her parents spanning the US (NC to CO, AZ, NM, and others). All I have is 3 cats and only 1 internet connection. This is going to be a LONG week. In addition to keat being gone for a week, our new sales person will be gone from Wednesday till next Thursday. So I will literally be alone from Wednesday till Saturday, when I pick Keat up at the Airport.

But enough griping....here's today's comic:

Non-Sequitor

In plight of the major downside, I've made some great improvements and completed some major work that I've been needing to complete over the past few weeks.


  • I've added a mobile image optimizer to my blog. The images will now be loaded to 10% of their original filesize for faster loading on mobile devices

  • I've finished work on NSMT's password complexity, as well as finished a 180-day expiration policy. It's taken a longer than usual, but it has been completed. Now, on to the rest of the to-do list

  • I've added shadowdev.co as an official URL shortener for Shadow Dev. There are more details on the Shadow Dev Blog. Right now, it's not really open to the public, but general readers can create shortened url's at shadowdev.co/shorten - we are working on some analytic procedures and may have those up within the next week or so (at least on a basic level)

  • I've also created a nice 404 page for our URL shortner. You can view it at shadowdev.co/nonfolder (this doesn't exist, so you should get a 404 error). Thanks to the @Oatmeal for those images
    TumblBeasts

  • I've created some HowTo articles on the Shadow Dev blog - mainly about some techno-babble like DNS systems, Proxy servers, and Email hacking solutions

  • I've been on a Voyager-trek (no pun intended) for the past few days, and without (borrowing) Keat's laptop, I can't watch it at home (and our PS3 has a faulty laser, so that's out of the question), so I've been watching it at the office all day. I am at the end of Season 5 and about to begin Season 6. I'm so glad that I've been able to watch all of the episodes in chronological order and without commercial breaks
    PvP
    Although this is from April, I thought this would be appropriate since I'm on a Voyager-trek

  • I received my new license in the mail today (with my updated address). However, my license still expires in Feb of 2012, so I still have to go get it updated then. So basically, my license is good for about 6 months

  • I've also created 3 major cron jobs: one to report 404 errors to me to see where people have been trying to access (and block attackers), one to update YUM on a nightly basis, and one to send weekly reminders to our Independent Contractors to send in their weekly status report

  • We've finally received info from one of our clients that has been pretty quiet. I hope that the rest of the information we receive should be able to make the site live (especially since they wanted it on July 15, but we had no information to go live)

  • I played WhiteWolf with Kat on Saturday, and we've progressed fairly far. I had 1 quest to get a Silver Braided Cord to trade for a skill, and now I/We had to go to a trailer park and "take care of it". Right now, we are stuck mid-dash trying to get away from the trailer park. We'll see what happens in a few weeks when the episode resumes


That's it for now. I'm sure this is a lot to read, so I'll leave you (the reader) with additional comics, one I think may make my generation cry a bit.

Corpse Run
Dilbert



Tags:#corpserun #cron #witewolf #url #shadowdev.co #dilbert #keat #non-sequitor

What Websites are made of

What Websites are made of

Source: sixrevisions


Tags:#websites #php #hosting

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

SSL Relief

After spending 1 week with email support from Website Source, Comodo, and enom, I finally have the SSL Certificate for a client that was assumed "lost". It turned out that after getting super-frustrated at being sent in circles, Comodo sent me an email saying "Please call support". So I called support and (finally) had my SSL Certificate within 10 minutes. 5 minutes later, I installed it on the client site and everything was at peace.

Here's an overview of what happened:
  1. Ordered a "Comodo Essential SSL Certificate" via our Control Panel (powered by Parallel's Plesk) which is through Website Source (aka: "WSS"), our reseller on May 6

  2. Comodo sent me a "Domain Verification Email". I clicked on the link, provided the code, and verified the domain.

  3. 24 hours later, I did not receive an email from Comodo with a "Here's your Certificate", so I contacted Comodo about it

  4. They said to contact my reseller (they said "enom", which isn't true)

  5. I contacted WSS about the issue, and they weren't sure about the WSS/Comodo relationship. They also said that I can contact Comodo and cc them on all correspondences in the future with Comodo

  6. I sent back an email with the instructions that I used to obtain the Certificate purchase procedure.

  7. It turns out WSS didn't even know that purchasing SSL Certificates through Plesk was possible (even though I did it a few months ago). This was their response:
    Well, that clears up our first source of confusion - buying SSL certs through the Plesk panel might be a new thing, we didn't know it was possible.
     
    SO- unfortunately it doesn't seem to do anything to clear up what happened after you ordered it.
     
    Perhaps you could write to Comodo again and say, basically- your last message didn't make a lot of sense, Enom shouldn't have anything to do with this transaction, could you please either tell me exactly where the certificate was sent, or just resend it to the proper address?
     
    As I said, feel free to cc us on this stuff. I hope that you can clear it up with Comodo. If not, then I imagine that we'll have to open a ticket with Parallels.

  8. I contacted Comodo again, and they sent over the same response ("The certificate has already been issued. Please contact your webhost reseller")

  9. I sent them a response saying "I know - I've contacted them and they said enom shouldn't even be part of this"). I also asked "Where did it go?"

  10. They responded with "Please be informed that i have sent the certificate once again to your account email id. Kindly contact your web host. Also for your information you can directly download your certificate from your account login."

  11. I tried to login to their "Account manager", but none of my login combinations worked. I tried their "Forgot your password" feature, but it said that all of my login information was wrong. SO...I contacted them about it

  12. They responded with:
    If you want to get the login detail, you will have to reset the password and get the login detail through the account admin email ids.
     
    You can reset the password by the given below link by entering the order number and account admin mail id and get the login detail through your account admin email id: [password reset link]

  13. I responded saying "THAT DIDN'T WORK! This is why I'm writing to Comodo - to say it didn't work!"

  14. They responded with "The certificate has already been issued. Please contact your webhost reseller (enom)" (sound familiar?)

  15. So, I set up a support ticket with enom and awaited a response.

  16. In regards to my "Account Manager" issue, I received
    an email saying the following:
    For this reasons you need to contact your webhost [Secure Business Services],they will assist you in better way.
    meaning I need to talk to enom
  17. I appended the ticket I sent to enom saying this
  18. I finally received a response from enom late last night saying
    Thank you for contacting eNom technical support. I will be glad to look into this for you, but I will need some additional information to better assist you. Unfortunately I was not able to locate the domain: #### or any account associated with it on our system. Do you have an account with eNom? And if so, what is your login ID? In order to 
     
    purchase this certificate, you would need to have had an account with eNom or eNom Central. Unfortunately without additional information I won't be able to find any additional information, and it is likely you did not purchase this directly through us.
     
    It is possible that you may have ordered this through a reseller that uses eNom as their backend service provider. In which case, you would want to contact them to find out more information, and for further assistance.

  19. I tried to respond to the ticket, but enom's ticket management system kept logging me out for some odd reason. I even tried a different computer and different browser, but it kept logging me out even when I wasn't logged in. I couldn't go anywhere or do anything, so I emailed them about it.

  20. I received an email from Comodo again (with the title "Password Reminder") saying that enom had the certificate and I had to go through enom to get it. I also received an email from WSS asking what the issues were with my password. I responded saying "I only cc'ed you on this. There aren't any troubles with my login"

  21. I responded to Comodo saying "I can't login to the account manager, I can't get access to the certificate, I can't get a straight answer!" (paraphrasing)

  22. Comodo responded saying "The instructions enom provided you were wrong" and some other @^(*&$! about how I have to go through enom to get it

  23. I said that the instructions were NOT provided by enom, they were provided by Comodo! I think this is the 3rd or 4th time I said "If I can't get a straight answer, I will demand a refund and go somewhere else" (at this point, I was ready to punch through my laptop - my mediation training from Martial Arts couldn't save me now!)

  24. Comodo sent me an email saying "Thank you for your reply, please call into our support staff for further assistance at US"

  25. I called Comodo support, and got the certificate emailed to me within 10 minutes

  26. I told WSS what had happened and cleared things up with them saying it wasn't their fault. I am still awaiting some type of answer from enom if I ever get it.

...and that was the past few days. May 6 to today to be exact. It feels good to get that off my chest and release some steam. I was driving like crazy today and about to rip something if I got my hands on it since nobody was paying attention and didn't understand what was going on.

ANYWAY, here's today's comic (which I think is very relevant):
SMBC
Is this the first time I've posted a SMBC comic?

That pretty much sums up my past few days. Keat and I went house hunting on Sunday and found a few houses that we liked. We sent the list off to her parents and are awaiting "the talk."

I also called my mother on Mother's day and wished her "Happy Mothers Day". Yay for mothers!

Also got Half-Life re-downloaded from my old Steam account and started that back up. By using a wireless mouse I have from ??? ago, I'm doing pretty well for not having played the game in about.....4 years? The CD didn't want to install on Vista 64, but luckily Steam had my account active and I was able to re-download the install files. Yay! Now to deal with all of the stuff that piled up over the past few days while I was dealing with the SSL stuff.

PS: Keat finished up her final semester at HCC today and graduates on Thursday! Hooray for her! Now on to Western to finish up her Bachelors.

PPS: I (and Keat) am on the Squishable Gallery! (2nd page) YAY!


Tags:#squishable #ssl #comodo #websitesource #enom #halflife #certificate #plesk #parallels #smbc

Weekend Overview

Zits

I think this comic would have been better with last week's posting, but it didn't come out till 4/29. Anyway, here's the run-down from last week:
  • Our neighboring branch of the SCA had their annual Southern Atlantian Archery Day (SAAD) over the weekend, and it went well. Unlike last year, I actually participated! And it was great! I used my hand-me-down bow with a few new arrows that Keat had made, and I shot 37 points (out of 21 targets/3-6 arrows each)! Not bad for my first tournament shoot. I can't wait till the next one so I can shoot more! The good side: we didn't have an uncontrolled fire like last year (although one of our camp-mates caught his tunic on fire for a few seconds). The down side: we traveled to and arrived on the site, ready to set up, and we found out that we forgot our tent poles! I had to drive to Walmart down the street and (luckily) bought the same tent - we harvested the poles and set up camp in about 10 minutes.

  • Keat and I went to the AB Tech Jump Start day last thursday, and it was okay. Most of the vendors there I had already dealt with, so the event itself was a little down. I can understand "New" businesses going to that to get connections, but being that we have been in business for a little over 5½ years, I didn't feel the need to talk to most of them. I did, however, talk to the organizer of the event and register Shadow Dev as a vendor for next year's event - yay for free marketing!

  • we also went to our monthly meetup group last thursday, and it was great! We had about 7 people show up, and we talked about everything from PPC to AdWords to Niches to SMI to....you name it! I also met a rep from TopFloorStudio - although one of our direct competitors, it was good to get to know a name other than Ty Hallock.

  • I was feeling really bad early Thursday morning, so I had to call in to my morning event, a TCC Peer Entrepreneur Lunch. I wish I could have gone, but my body said different. I hope I don't get sick before the next one!

  • Keat and I semi-decided on the Allen's Creek apartment that we looked at earlier, but then we received a call from Holly, our broker, who had a list of foreclosures that she wanted to send us. I swear she was listening on our conversation, because Keat and I were talking about that with Keat's parents just moments before Holly called us. We have looked at a few of those houses (online at least), and we are interested. Now if we can only get the finer paperwork done.

  • Speaking of moving, Keat and I started to pack up the apartment. As I said last week, it looks like a tornado went through it and took everything off the shelves and out of the closet. We are working on cleaning that up, but it's pretty much a death trap right now.

  • Finally received an email from the owner of the lawn care service that our apartment uses - he was willing to replace our catnip plant, but the attempt at communication came a little late. Exactly 1 month late. I sent an email the day of the lawn work (March 29) to the landlords, and they said they contacted the lawn care guy (I saw CC on an email). I received an email on April 29 saying "Sorry for the delay in this email. If my employees cut you plant down I want to apologize and see what I can do to replace the plant. If you want to tell me where you bought your plant and what it was I will replace it. In the future if you will put a stake or something for my guys to identify it from other plants or unwanted weeds they will not cut or remove it. We have alot of apartments to take care of and lot of people who plant items in the beds but never mark it. So when the mowing crew comes around they didn't see it last week or last year so they think it needs to be removed. Once the mowing crews knows its suppose to be there then they will leave it alone." So much for support; this seemed like a "We're sorry we did that - here's a coupon as our apology" attempt

  • While I was at SAAD, I received an email from Mint.com (great service, btw) saying that Wachovia charged me $5 on my personal savings account. I recall the phone call on March 14 saying "Would you like to open a savings account?" / Me: "Is there a monthly maintenance charge?" / Them: "No, as long as you have your free student checking, there will be no charge to use the savings account." So I transferred the money out of the account (they said the same thing on my Business savings account, then charged me for it, then said "there is a charge to use it", so I closed it), went over to Wachovia, talked to an Advisor, and she said that there wasn't a discount code added to the account. She refunded me the $5, added the "No Charge" code to the account, and sent me on my way (in a good way). Hopefully, they don't gouge me out of more money, or I may have to transfer my 3 accounts from them to somebody else

  • I set up a cron job last week to scan for IP addresses that try to SSH into our main web server (which runs every day at 12:01AM), and so far it has blocked 26 unique IP's since it was first set up. Not bad for a quick "let's-set-it-up-and-hope-it-works" attempt

  • One last thing about SAAD: Since I didn't have much archery equipment, I had to borrow someone's leather glove to shoot off of (so I wouldn't scratch up my hand with fletching burns). He said "I'm letting you borrow this, so you owe me". I agreed, and he called in the favor. Late Saturday, I was called over to the Cordial lady (who is "Madison", btw, and she lives in Fletcher! Small world, huh?) and she had a little challenge for me. I was tied to another guy (who I didn't know) by some leather rope and we had to get out of the "tangled mess". Being of stupid-, sleep-deprived-mind, and tired-body, I just wanted to get out of it. It was some fun trying to figure out how to get out of the knot when everybody around us was laughing, recording, egging on, tempting, and trying to "help" us (although I don't think the "helping" was "helping", if you know what I mean). After about an hour and a half, the other guy wanted to give up. If we gave up, we had to lose a pinky for an hour (Madison would tape our pinky down to our hand for an hour). The guy I borrowed the glove from gave up in the last round and lost his). I wanted to keep going and find the solution. I don't know how long we lasted, but the other guy finally surrendered and gave up. He didn't lose his pinky, but he had to get up SUPER early on Sunday morning and help Madison pack her van. I was tied to another friend known as JR (real name unknown). After about 10 minutes of looking silly, JR and I (mostly JR) finally figured it out. I won't say how, but we had to perform the "escape" again since Madison didn't see it. We both got a cookie for winning, and she said "At the War of the Wings, come to me and ask 'Where is my prize?' and I will give you a much better prize!" I made sure to put that in my calendar (and post it on this blog) so I wouldn't forget. The other guy in Madison's tent sold swords and other unique items, and when he walked up to me, I thought he was going to say "Congrats" or something. He hands me a claw-like necklace and says "I can't let you go with just a cookie. Here, take this". Cool! I got a free gift for being stubborn! As my good friend James Contratto would say, "ROCK!"



I think that about sums it up from last week. Until my next posting!


Tags:#zits #saad #cron #wachovia #catnip #tcc #entrepreneur #apartment

Google Maps API Success!

Garfield

Today was a fairly successful day. I worked on the NSMT system a bit and got the Shuttle Service 80% complete. I also revamped my ToDo list, and now have it squared away better. And HEY! I even got today's blog entry in.

The reason for the title is because I researched, learned, tested, and successfully implemented a Google Maps API today for NSMT. I applied for a Google API key for the site, found some test scripts, and customized the scripts to return the road distance between a location and their office (my first script only calculated the direct distance, but I'm guessing my client wants the "Road" distance, which makes more sense). I also used those variables to calculate rates based on their service charges. Best part of all: it works in all browsers, even IE!

I also researched a JS function to detect if you're using IE (which you shouldn't be, anyway) and if you're using IE 8's compatibility view (which you ALSO shouldn't be either). Turns out that NSMT tested the "Request a Transport" system we created at a local school, and the majority of students were using IE8 with Compatibility View! What a nightmare for Web Developers! Luckily, the script successfully determines if IE8 Compat. view is on, and how to remove the site from Compatibility view standards so it runs better (IE8 and html5 were hard enough, and now we have to deal with Compat. view!)

I also browsed the internets some and found a lot of good stuff, like the live feed of the Firefoxes at firefoxlive.mozilla.org and the 24-hour broadcast of Keyboard Cat at exitthroughthepetshop.com - how entertaining! (not sarcasm)

I actually got a 20+ increase in twitter followers this week, which for me is great! Usually, I see a 1-2 increase, but to see a 20+ increase was amazing.

Overall, this has been a great day and I'm heading home. I've been in since 12 and only had 1 can of Dew so far (I know, I know....BLASPHEMY!) I'm going home to rest.

Oh, I also finally beat "Ratchet & Clank" yesterday. I got it Friday(?) and beat it last night. The last boss was a killer, but after I realized I had the PDA to order weapon reloads on-the-road instead of running out of 1 type and using whatever I had left. It actually worked better to use my Blaster (200 mini-shots) first, then use my Devastator (20 big shots) to kill the boss. The first 10 tries or so, I would use the Devastator and keep reloading, but the PDA charges a convenience fee to restock, so it was 2000 bolts each time. After I realized I could use the Blaster first, I killed him on the first try. Now I can go back and get the RYNO and Tesla weapons and get them free in R&C: Going Commando and R&C: Up Your Arsenal.


Tags:#nsmt #ie8 #compatibilityview #js #firefox #keyboardcat #garfield #ratchetandclank

February already?

Rudy Park
Squeezed this one before February hit with just a few hours to spare!

It seems like just yesterday I was making my last journal entry, but I mean WHOA! It's already February. My last entry was on Dec 11, the day that my internet provider left and I haven't had internet at home in.....wow, almost 2 full months. That's, like, forever in Internet-land. It's really a strain when you have a lot of work to do ON the "internets" and when your clients are breathing down your neck to get stuff done, but you can't get anything done because your only stable internet connection is 30 minutes away (I'm speaking of the Office, here) and you're snowed in so much you can't even leave the parking lot! Yeah, it's been a hard 2 months.

I won't go into any fine details, so I'll just cover the basics in 60 seconds or less (I hope). *big breath* Here I go: Keat and I went across the state (twice) for Xmas, had fun with my sisters and their signifiant others (and accompanying children), got a few gifts for Xmas, spent New Year's at Keat's parents' and met Thomas' new girlfriend, shucked oysters (fun), came back to Raleigh, found out that I mixed up my Secret Santa person (oh well), came back to Asheville, got snowed in for 2 weeks (not fun), got Chi fixed before Xmas (semi-tragedy; almost lost her (temporily misplaced, not due to surgery)), finally got into work and have been working for 2 weeks straight, Keat is back in school and it's kicking her butt, doing well with the Shadow Dev Newsletter (yay - committment!), got 2 new Ratchet & Clank games (spent many wee morning hours playing those), signed up for FourSquare over the holiday, got tired of it, stopped doing it, attended many, many seminars over the past few weeks, started a new service Receipt Rescue (which seems to be progressing well), worked on client stuff (did I say that yet?), trying to shrink my to-do list, worked on Neko Sentou and 50% through Vol 12 (YAY! Check our story progress at Lunar Productions), participated in my first PiLam Omega Zeta initiation after 2 years, and we are moving to Waynesville in the summer since Keat's transfering (hoping) to Western in the fall.

Was that 60 seconds? Probably not, but that's a lot easier than filling x number of pages with finer details.

Over the past few weeks, I've been working on NSMT's request system. After a (literal) system overhaul with some finer tweaking, the system is finally finished (99.9%). Technically, it's done, but I'm revamping a record modification system with jQuery and it's taking me longer than expected.

I've been working closely with QR codes on the Shadow Dev site for today (take a look at the QR Page I created - I think it's pretty cool), and replacing the images with image sprites (to reduce the server hit response; in laymen's terms: 10 images produces 10 hits, meanwhile 1 image sprite with 10 images used 10 times produces 1 hit - smaller server response time, faster loading, and more accurate analytics). I'm also working on NSMT's Shuttle Service, which is a new service they want. May take me a few more days to get that finished.

Just saw Inception, and that was pretty good. It took a while to get into it, but once you got into it, it's like a roller coaster ride (same goes with The Men Who Stare at Goats).

Oh yeah, I have been receiving a butt-load of spam-bot comments on the blog. I finally revamped the comment system to strip out a lot of what the spam-bots were sending in. I used to receive 1 email every 30 minutes saying "New Comment" with the content of (but not limited to): free poker online, certain underage adult actions, enlargements of a certain male body part, getting 1000 Facebook fans (tons with that), "I like your site and visit it daily" (if they really submitted that, they would realize that the blog hadn't been updated in 2 months), and various other spam-bot-like material. They're getting really desprate and/or creative. I like to think the first. Anyway, since I revamped the comment posting system and implemented some new filters, I get maybe 1 spam-bot a month now. Nice to have those multi-level filters in place.

One last thing: finally met Janet at the Specialty Sauce place down the hall. Turns out that she and her husband(?) owned the Sushi restaurant down the street for 16 years. They had to leave since a nail salon moved in next door and the toxic fumes were getting into the restaurant - not a good experience. However, it turns out that she's a semi-expert sushi and nigiri maker, and she's making/selling sauces since her restaurant is kinda downhill right now. She also said that people from all over the area went to her specifically to have sushi (even people in Sylva, Asheville, and even Robinsville (where the heck is that?)). Can't wait to try some of her sushi!

I'll try to keep up with the postings as much as I can. Till later.


Tags:#inception #xmas #rudypark #qr #hits #sprite #nekosentou #receiptrescue #chi #asheville #snow #shadowdev

What happened to Friday? And Saturday?

Zits

Sorry I missed Friday's update. It was a hectic day and I had such a headache after I got home. I'll explain it in a bit. I don't recall what happened exactly, but here's the best I can remember it.

Friday
I was supposed to wake up at 9ish and go to an auto-repair shop to get my tie-rod checked out. Turns out I woke up around 12ish and went over to the shop. After I walked in and explained the situation, the guy came back and said he didn't see anything wrong with it. I called Dad and he said "Just as I thought." Great. So the auto place I went to first either lied to me or was trying to gouge my wallet. Either way, I'm not going back there. Dad said he'll file a complaint with the BBB, but personally, I don't know how much "good" that will do since I found out that they aren't BBB Accredited over lunch. Keat and I went to lunch at Hardee's and then went to the office. We spent about an hour there, and I worked on the server configuration trying to make the subdomains work right. Turns out that there was an issue with the configuration file saying "Indexes" and "+Indexes", which was the main issue.

I also received a potential client contact and responded accordingly. A teammate from Keat's business class called and asked a few questions for the business paper. After the discussed options between us and her, I would like to get a copy of that paper; the things said in that paper would be a great media content!

Keat and I left from there and went to Barnes & Noble for some market research (class-related for Keat), and I got some hot cider and Keat got some hot chocolate and some cheesecake. After taking the cider and cheesecake, I didn't think life could get any better....

Keat and I browsed the mall for a bit, then went home. I had a small headache that turned into a large headache, and at about 12, I went to bed. I thought I would fall asleep before the intro to Futurama was done. I skipped the blog post and went to sleep.

Saturday
I woke up around 12 again, but it felt great to sleep in. Keat and I went to the store to pick up a few things, got "Grown Ups" and watched it (which was a great movie, by the way). I returned the returned the Redbox and came back home.

I also found out that the support guy responded to my email from Friday, after I told him about the "+Indexes" thing and mentioned the constant downtime issue. He responded saying the following:
Thank you for your email. The sub domain m.####.com is working fine for
 
me. Please clear cookies on your browser, close them. Now, try it again.
 
Thank you!

Yet, I didn't need to clear the browser cookies (I'm not stupid) since I checked the subdomains with 4 browsers on 2 systems (one local and one remote), and still nothing about the downtime issue I mentioned earlier. I replied saying that that subdomain issue was solved, and I needed to investigate the downtime issue, and received this:
Thank you for your email. I am sure what your question is this 
 
time. i checked all the sub domains and everything seems to be 
 
working now. Quick question, did you have to do something with those 
 
sub domains like 'kp.shadowdev.com'? 'cause it kept downloading the 
 
homepage when i visited earlier. It works now.
 
Thank you!

and then...
Hello,
 
Thank you for your email. Great to hear everything is working 
 
properly for you now. I think there were some sub domains that 
 
were down because the dns records were missing. Overrall, 
 
everything seems fine.

No real reason why the download thing happened, but I still have no response to the downtime issue. Overall, the downtime has been 1-2 minutes every 30 minutes or so. What "support!"

Just FYI, here's the uptime and downtime report as of now (over the past 5 days):

Uptime
Uptime Report

Uptime
Downtime in Response Time (ms)


As the day went on, Keat and I got some Papa John's pizza and watched some American Dad. We're now on Season 3, although I believe we have actually seen all of the episodes. The biggest thing that keeps bugging us is that our neighbor's dog has been crated alone in their apartment for 24+ hours. I'm pretty sure that's a little inhumane. The dog loves people and doesn't like to be alone, and the constant howling is getting on our last nerves! Keat wants to get in there a free the dog, but that would be against the law. We've sent an email to the landlord(s), but they most likely won't get that until tomorrow (if that early). The Internet has been slowing down every now and then, so Netflix has been 'nixed for the time being until things get faster. I just hope the dog goes to sleep soon. It doesn't really help to crate the dog, then leave all of the apartment lights on and the blinds open so everyone can see the dog inside and the dog can see everyone outside.

It also doesn't help that it seems that Chi is in HEAT again! She was meowing like crazy on Friday night and has been meowing her head off again today (and peeing everywhere). It was only last week that she was in heat, so this seems impossible for her to be in heat again. I actually had to close the bedroom door on Friday night because the meowing was too much. Little did I expect for Niko to be scratching under the door again after n months. The under-the-door scratching wasn't too bothersome, but the fact that he scratched under the door and shook the little springy thing (you know, the thing that protects the door from hitting the wall), which made an annoying "SPROOINGGG" noise.

One final note: I received another note from Progress Energy saying that they couldn't process my account. They have a direct connection to my bank account, so they can't say "Can't find account number." Aside from the howling neighbor dog, Progress is also getting on my nerves.

Let's see how the rest of tonight goes, and hopefully things get better. Keat has some homework she has to get done, so she'll be spending all of sunday doing that. I'll most likely be implementing the cURL system that I need to get done. Until then, 'night!


Tags:#hardees #americandad #dog #howling #chi #heat #barnes&noble #zits #headache #bbb #futurama #papajohns

Black Friday is Over! Time for more zzzzzzzz's!

Zits
\r\nBlack Friday is here and was gone. And guess what: I did not get up at 4:30am and work. Instead, I slept in till 10, which is reasonable, ate a hearty breakfast, went to an Alpaca farm, traveled throughout Virgina, bought some artwork, and came home. Not a bad day for Black Friday! As I said before, I never want to work another BF again. On a related subject, I found a few good comics that I wanted to share.
Ctrl+Alt+Del
(edited from the original for audiences - view original)


Chuck & Beans - c/o Shoebox Blog

As I said, I'm never working a Black Friday again, and I will enjoy my friday instead of working it.


On another related note, I found that Pearls Before Swine actually has its own cartoon series! I found one that I liked (this far) that I wanted to share:


Disclaimer: As I said, I do not own anything above except for the text. The presented comics and/or videos are copyright of their respective owners, and I do not take any credit for them.

Best part of all: I got this in before midnight! Night all!

Small Biz Saturday
PS: Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday! Celebrate it by shopping local! We're in Waynesville, NC, so if you're in the area and looking for a website, come by for a great deal! Here's the blurb from the site:\

November 27, 2010 is the first-ever Small Business Saturdaysm.
A day to come together in support of the small businesses we love.
The shops and restaurants that employ our neighbors and reinvest our money close to home.
The businesses that are the heartbeat of our communities and local economies.


Tags:#blackfriday #pearlsbeforeswine #zits #ctrl+alt+del #chuck&beans #art #alpca

Shadow Dev has a Vanity Facebook URL!


I've shared it everywhere else - why not here? Yes, Shadow Development officially has it's own Vanity Facebook URL at facebook.com/ShadowDevelopment, and I have all of the Fans to thank for it.

It took a few hours and a bit of Social Media marketing to do it, but what was only an idea this morning became reality about 30 minutes ago! And best part of all, I'm giving every Facebook Fan a 10% discount for new clients! Tell your friends! Tell your family! Tell your fish! If you're a fan, you'll get 10% off of your service amount - just like that!

It's been an eventful day, and I hope to get another post in before midnight - don't know if that'll happen or not, but here's hoping....


Tags:#shadowdev #facebook #vanity #url #fans #discount

Sick Day vs. Entrepreneur's Day

Cat Proximity - xkcd

I can't say much about today. I spent most of it in bed....with a killer headache. I got to bed around 2-ish, which isn't bad for me, but I wasn't feeling too bad so I thought going to sleep would be easy. Turns out, Chi is back in heat. It feels just like last week that she got out of it, and now she won't stop the constant meowing. I think I laid awake until 6 or so when I finally got fed up with her and tossed her out of the bedroom and closed the door. When I'm very sleep-deprived, my long fuse of patience quickly becomes smaller than a micron. It's times like these that I regret her half-Siamese background (in case you don't know, Siamese have very large lungs and can meow very loudly. Chi is an Ocecat, so she's 1/2 Abyssinian, 1/2 Siamese, and a little tabby mixed in for color. Adorable cat, but very annoying when in heat).

Anyway, I woke up (and got out of bed) around 2pm because I had my Angel Investment class at 2:30. Keat was nice enough to take me although I had a headache all through the class. The class itself was nice, since we finished up the talks of a 3-week topic. Now I feel better prepared to talk to Angel Investors, although not completely confident. It may take me a few practice sessions, but I'll get there.

I went back to bed after I got home around 4:30, and slept till 8. My head was a little better, but not great. I finally got up, took an ibuprofen, ate a little dinner, and watched Price of Persia with Keat. Not a bad movie, but I do wish the ending scene could have been a little better. Great story and effects though.

I took another ibuprofen after the movie, and although my head isn't 100% better, I wouldn't be typing this if I didn't take those pills.

On a related matter, I spent the past 30 minutes or so going though my reader (with more than 150 items on there). I was surprised to find that President Obama announced on Tuesday that today, November 19th as National Entrepreneur's Day! I was under the impression that November 20th was the official day, but I guess today is better than tomorrow. Also, Nov. 14-20 is National Entrepreneurship Week. Glad that the work of David Hauser and Siamak Taghaddos, Founders of Grasshopper Group, and the petition they started actually produced the result they were expecting. It only took them 6 months, but they did it! Way to go guys!

I'm going to finish up some work while I'm up and then back to bed. Stupid headache.


Tags:#entrepreneurday #chi #headache #kitty #angel #xkcd