Archive for the ‘General Update’ Category
It’s here! The brand new Hugoware website!
After months (literally) of designing, trashing, re-designing, re-trashing, pouting, shouting and all around general nit-picking, the new Hugoware website has finally been completed.
I’ve been through quite a few designs but I finally came up with something I was happy with.
I’ve converted all of my blog posts from my old blog to this new site. Moving forward I’ll be blogging at my new site. WordPress was great but it's just time to move on.
I've also moved all of my projects to this site. Each of the project have their own section along with instructions, command lists and pretty much everything else you might need.
There are still several parts of the site that need some work but the site is far enough along it is usable.
Anyways, thanks WordPress – you’ve been great!
Cool news! I’m starting a new job on Monday 20th, 2010 at TrackAbout!
I have been with my current employer for more than 7 years now and I’m definitely sad to leave but there comes a point when you simply cannot improve anymore working by yourself. Fortunately, I’ll be working from home (or the nearest coffee shop), so I’ll be able to go catch up with them for lunch every once in awhile.
Anyways, just wanted to share some good news!
CobaltMVC is coming along really well. I’ve been dog fooding it myself for the past few weeks in some projects and it fits nicely. I’ve discovered (and fixed) a lot of flaws and bugs along the way, so overall it has been a good experience.
The site isn’t complete yet – I have a lot of documentation to write along with getting additional work done on my ‘personal’ part of the website, but overall it is a good example of what the finished site will look like.
Additionally, the site itself is powered by CobaltMVC… what a coincidence!
It’s always fun to look back on your career and see where you were and how you got to where you are now. Its also interesting to see the points where your life took the big turns, normally from a single moment or discussion with another person.
I’m not talking about the ‘Big Guys’ like Hanselman or McConnell (order is random ;)). I’m talking about the little moments that happened from parents, bosses or just people we met along the way.
Without these events we might be using different languages, working with different technologies — Heck, we might not even be programmers anymore. It seems to me we ought to thank those people that helped guide us to where we are today – even if it was inadvertently…
My Thank You List
Got me a programming book for our Commadore 64 when I was 6, fixed the computer every time I screwed it up, kept me focused on art and design.
Brought home my first “real” programming language Toolbook from Asymetric – Wasn’t playing with a kid language anymore (…well, I was, but you get what I mean)
The company I worked at didn’t have a software development department when I arrived – Without this guy I wouldn’t have a job (or even had the chance to learn all I’ve learned)
Probably said the most important statement in my professional career – “Classic ASP? I was under the impression that all real software development was done using either .NET or Java!” — or something like that. In any case, that was the kick in the pants I needed to really try and become a professional.
Where do I get the time to blog? Or work on my projects? Or do contract work? Or listen to me sort out a problem when she really just doesn’t care that I think that an implementation of some WebControl is poorly designed? Without my best friend I wouldn’t have ever had the time. (Someone needs to keep the brats away :))
Cheesy But Relevant
Yeah, this is kinda a cheesy, out of the blue, mushy blog post – but take a moment and really think about it. You are where you are because someone helped you make that decisions – even if by accident.
So? Who do you need to go tell ‘Thank You’?
Made another icon real quick today – I didn’t like the existing Reflector icon (since it looked terrible on my dock). I made a quick on to tide me over until I can make a nicer looking one.
Not sure if everyone else has been noticing this but a lot of devs have been developing lists of their favorite tools. While I’m not calling myself a “famous dev”, I do think that I’ll join in party!
Seriously, this tool ranks as one of my favorites – it’s such an amazingly useful concept executed with simplicity and elegant… or something like that. Basically, Copy as much as you want and even use your Paste command like you normally would. But if you need something from your history press Shift+Paste and BAM! A list of previously copied text and images – Awesome!
The classic Windows Notepad has served us well but all things must pass. Notepad++ is actually a bit of a misnomer if they are trying to describe how much better it is compared to regular Notepad. It should be something like Notepad+x42, but you get the idea anyways.
One of the reasons why this Notepad sets itself apart from others is it’s Word Completion “intellisense” – basically it uses the words already in your document for the auto-complete text, which is surprisingly useful!
There is probably thousands of Regular Expression tools out on the web that people all love – my personal choice has always been Expresso. I’m not sure if its the tools, that its free or a sub-conscious choice since I like coffee so much. Regardless, Expresso has been in my toolkit for a long time now and until someone else comes up with another coffee
flavored named version, I’m sticking with it.
Yeah, this looks like the application launcher for the enemy but it is still one of my favorite ways to get access to my most commonly used applications. Windows 7 might change my mind but for now this is hard to beat. You can even download additional plug-ins that can create the same “fan” style folder list! Awesome!
Like most tools, there are a lot of other options out there, but RocketDock is the only one that consistently placed the window focus on programs I launched, which was pretty much the most important part of the whole thing for me. 🙂
I’m shocked when I encounter a developer that hasn’t heard of Reflector – but then again all of us, at one point or another, never knew about it. Even though you probably know all about it I’m going to list it just in case. If you ever need to see what the source of compiled .NET code looks like this is the tool.
It’s like LINQ with your JSON data! Brilliant! Someone needs to get this guy a raise! In all seriousness if you’re going to be doing a lot of work with JSON data, especially large arrays of records, then jLinq will go a long way to help you keep your code short and clear!
If you like gaming then you might want to check this out – the n52te. It is hard to see how I used to play games in the past before this came along. When I get this thing configured I can do 66+ commands reliably all with my left hand! Your keyboard certainly can’t do it!
I also use this thing for work from time to time, interestingly enough. For example, I have a separate configuration for using Blender (3D modeling program) that makes it easier to navigate the application. (I’m not good at 3D modeling, just something I do for fun)
In fact this is my second time buying this – I used to own its baby brother – until he died (granted it took a lot of abuse before it did).
And For Your Viewing Pleasure
You may have come here today looking for .NET programming related content… sorry… But how about a .NET related LOL-Cat?
You may have seen my previous post where I was deciding on the laptop I was going to purchase. I ended up going with the Sony VAIO VGN-FW463J/B (I can actually type it from memory after all the work I did this weekend). I got an awesome deal from NewEgg.com at a mere $899 – no tax!
To recap – here are the specs…
- Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
- CPU Type Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 2.53 GHz
- Screen 16.4″
- Memory Size 4GB DDR2
- Hard Disk 320GB
- Optical Drive Dual Layer DVD Burner
- Graphics Card ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650 (1GB)
- Dimensions 15.1″ x 10.3″ x 1.14-1.46″
- Weight 6.9 lbs.
Overall I’m quite satisfied with my purchase but it was a tough road to get here. This last weekend was rough to say the least. Here are a few of the problems I had when I got started.
I was quite shocked when I felt how hot this laptop is. It isn’t unbearable but is certainly isn’t ideal either. The odd thing is that the bottom of the laptop actually seems to be cooler than the top!. For the most part it seems that the harddrive and the graphics cards are the culprits – but since I plan to switch to a SSD drive later on then that source of heat should go away – and since I use the n52te when I play any games then the graphics card should be irrelevant (even though the vent exits where my arm would be — but whatever, close enough :))
The wireless works until it comes out of sleep mode – then it works for one or two requests and dies. You have to fiddle around with the connection before it finally restores itself. It isn’t terrible since the wireless “on/off” switch is on the front of the laptop and you can use it to “reboot” the connection. Just a slight annoyance that you can easily overcome.
I remember when I was a teenager my parents bought me a VAIO and if I remember correctly they had a bunch of custom software for everything. In fact, instead of using the typical Windows 98 Start menu, they had some custom screen for managing your applications. You could get out of it but it was also a pain since it was in your way at the start.
This VAIO is no different – they have a bunch of silly programs to do things that are already built into Vista (like one to manage your wireless connection – why?). Along with that you have some other apps pre-installed applications like a trial version of Office or Norton Anti-Virus.
The problem comes in since you can’t do a clean install because the restore disks automatically reinstall all the bloatware you didn’t want — well that is unless you intervene. 🙂
The solution is really quite simple – just end task out of the installer!
At one point you’ll see that the VAIO restore disks are trying to install the software and drivers – just press CTRL-SHIFT+ESC to pull up the task manager and then end the process! The program fails, the Vista install completes and all the drivers you need, minus the wireless driver, can all be found on the restore disks.
Everything was installed correctly after the Vista install finished so I doubt you need the restore disks for the drivers – but they are there if you need them (again – the wireless driver has to be downloaded from the Sony website though).
I’m happy with my new laptop even though it took some effort to get to this point. Now my desk looks even more nerdy!
In my defense the teddy bear is a father’s day gift and cannot be removed… ever…
I try to keep the topics on this blog to strictly programming related posts but after a recent experience with Virgin Mobile, I felt this was something that I should make public.
I’ve got a company phone right now but I figured I ought to have my own phone for personal use. I didn’t really want to get a whole new contract so I figured I would go the “Pay As You Go” route. Between the phone and the minute pack (400 minutes) I spent just over $50. It wasn’t a lot of money but it certainly wasn’t pocket change either. Through the last month I used exactly 1 minute and 4 seconds of my 420 minutes I had available. As of last night — all of my minutes had vanished.
The Website Approach
Being a web guy, naturally the first step is to sign onto their website and see what the problem is. So I opened up Chrome and…
Eh… Okay, well I guess I didn’t want to use that menu system anyways. Thats fine though, I realize it’s hard to get everything to work in every browser so I’ll just pull up FireFox. After messing around with it a bit more and finally getting past their login I get the following…
Okay… FINE. I’ll use Internet Explorer…
The Automated Service Approach
I really hate calling phone services and hate it even more when I can’t just talk to a person. While a “voice” controlled automated service is cool from a technical perspective they are a pain because you’re forced to listen to every option and try to find your way to the section you need. Coming from the age of twitchy fast-answer internet browsing the whole process is entirely too slow.
I don’t really need to go into great detail about this part since you can probably guess what happened since I’m even mentioning it. After fumbling through menus for awhile and getting stuck in areas where hanging up seemed to be the only ‘back button’ available, I gave up. I never heard an option to speak with a real person, not once.
The E-Mail Route
I headed back to the website figuring that I must be the one doing something wrong but after a few more login attempts I realized I was getting nowhere. After a little more searching I found a customer service feedback form which was exactly what I was hoping to find.
Except they wanted me to provide my PIN number, which is the same number you use when logging in — a step that despite all my efforts had failed every time. I went ahead and explained my situation, entered the rest of my information and sent it away. After I finished the step I couldn’t help but wonder, what about NON-customers? What if I wanted to ask some questions before I paid for the service? How is this form supposed to help these people? Clearly a usability issue but not something of my concern.
The E-Mail Follow Up
The next day I got an e-mail. I won’t post the entire thing but here is the part that rubbed me wrong.
Thanks for your email!
The Account PIN you provided is not matching our records.
We can certainly help resolve your question but first we must verify we have the right account. Can you please respond and provide your correct Account PIN (numeric security code)?
For real? I’m already having problems with this PIN number and now you won’t talk to me unless I give you the correct information? The letter doesn’t tell you how to get your PIN either – it suggests that you either log into the website (with your PIN mind you) or call customer service (and fiddle around with their automated service again… yay!).
Now after going over the PIN information that I already had I realized I had been entering in the wrong number. Now I readily admit that is my fault — but where was the error messages on the site? Where is the validation that says “Hey man, you entered something that doesn’t look like a PIN. The PIN number should look like…”. Anything would have been better than nothing!!
In any case, I sent back the correct PIN number and finally got the answer to my question.
I would like to inform that minute packs are good for 30 days only and if you do not purchase another Minutes Pack within 30 days from the day you purchased your first Minutes Pack, you will loose all unused minutes.
That is the reason, you have lost the unused minutes on your account as you have not purchased another minute pack.
Customer Hostile Business Model
I have another “Pay As You Go” phone that I purchased for my 8 year old daughter. I’d like for my kid to have the option to call me in case of an emergency but know that if the phone is lost then I only lose about $30 which is a lot better than someone racking up a bunch of long distance calls on a subscription.
With her phone, when I buy minutes they come with service days. Not just a couple days but something like 90 days which is excellent. Whats more, is that those days stack on top of each other along with any unused minutes. Even if I some how run out of service days I can simply buy some more and all my minutes stay intact. It is a great system that is both clear and fair to the customer in how it works.
But take Virgin Mobile – 30 days after you buy minutes, unless you give them more cash, they wipe them out – all of them. Sounds like they got their business model directly from the Dark Side if you ask me.
So to be clear, right after you buy some minutes the 30 day timer starts at the end of which your minutes are erased no matter how many you have. What if you have 5 minutes? gone. Have 500 minutes? gone. Or the maximum 5000 minutes? gone. If you want to keep your phone working then you need to spend at least $20 a month — sounds a lot like a subscription to me.
Just to backup my claim, here is part of an e-mail that I got from their customer service. To be fair, in this e-mail they offered to restore my minutes if I purchased a new minutes pack — but it was a one time exception.
To answer your question: yes, you are absolutely correct in understanding that expired minutes will be lost and cannot be restored. However, if you purchase a minute pack and reply to this email, given you are a valued Virgin Mobile customer we will credit the expired minutes to your account balance.
Summary (read the small print every single time)
Don’t get me wrong, I messed up when I didn’t read the fine print. I appreciate the gesture they displayed at the end of this ordeal but I’d rather not have the threat of a complete wipe of my minutes looming over my head. If there are other, more consumer friendly options, then they need to be the default for the account.
In any event I think this experience helped me and $50 is a cheap price for a valuable “life lesson” — even if it was an obvious one.
In summary, I doubt Virgin Mobile is an evil company but they certainly aren’t looking out for the customer. Always remember to read the fine print in detail.