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ajtaylor (1283)

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Journal of ajtaylor (1283)

Friday October 18, 2002
09:05 AM

New journal interface

I like the look of these new tabs (they actually look like tabs!), but it doesn't quite feel right. I'm sure pudge is still working on the final layout, so here's my thoughts:
  1. My chief complaint is that when I'm in someone's journal it's not obvious whose it is. How about "user's journal (Friend of a Friend) in the blue bar? I really don't want to have to look at the tab or window title to figure out which journal I'm reading.
  2. The "Logout...username" tabs should consistently stay on one side or the other. But I definitely like having them.
  3. The journal links "user's journal...Friend's journals" should be above the dark blue line, not below. It's too easy to lose track of it in the current position. Perhaps a 2nd line below the links for "FAQ...Logout". Speaking of which, don't the new tabs make some of said links redundant now?

OK, I think that's all my gripes for now. But I still like being a guinea pig! :-)

Wednesday September 25, 2002
01:12 PM

Users aren't stupid

James said it best in the slides he just posted: "Users aren't stupid. They're ignorant. That's largely our fault". There have been many times I wanted to just say "Stupid user, I can't do that. Don't you know that?" When, of course, they couldn't possibly know because I had never told them so before.

That reminds me of a project I worked on earlier this year. It was a relatively simple web application. Just some forms and a bit of logic to display/save data. But the users were completely amazed at what I could do, and how fast I could do it. To me, it was all simple things. Like throwing some more data on the page, or massaging a SQL query, or having a "printable" report format. But I guess they were used to other people's code, which apparently was not very flexible or easy to change.

I tried to educate them as we went along as to what was possible and what was not. They learned quite fast, especially considering they were very non-technical folks. So really it's up to us, the programmers and technical folks, to set the expectations of our users. All we have to do is bang the limits/possibilities into their heads and we will all be so much happier. Of course, that's the tricky part. ;-)

Friday September 06, 2002
09:29 AM

How do I live like this?

This is a quote from the NYTimes about Jack Welch Jr's "standard of living". What I want to know is how can I spend $420,000/yr, much less $1.5 million a year? That's a lot of toys & swanky apartments. :-)

Mrs. Welch was seeking additional support because her husband had canceled their joint credit cards and had provided her with support of $35,000 a month, which she accepted under protest and said was far below their previous standard of living.

Though Mrs. Welch describes $126,820 a month in costs incurred by the couple to maintain their lifestyle...

Thursday August 15, 2002
02:49 PM

Journals (and perl) rock

First, I have to say just how much I love reading journals here on use.perl. For some reason I find it facinating to watch other's lives from a distance. And even better, I've learned a whole lot from people much better/experienced than myself. Conferences are also very cool for learning as well. I had an excellent first time experience at YAPC this year and plan to keep attending in the future. Hearing that YAPC was actually more technically advanced helped dull the pain at not being able to go to TPC one more year.

For instance, gav mentioned the Burner idea in a journal, which he stole from Bricolage. I had started to do something similar here at work, but had not considered creating a seperate object for it. So I finished hacking and polishing it yesterday and I'm very happy with the results. I still have my TT support, and my boss has HTML::Template support. And since he's the boss and I'm the employee, his choice wins the coin toss. But I don't (yet) have to convert any of my old programs that are using TT since I still have that support.

And due to my forward thinking, it was very easy to retrofit the existing code I had done to use the new Burner object. MVC to the rescue! Perl made it all very easy and provided me with the multiple excellent templating systems I can use. So here's to perl (and the community members)!

Wednesday June 26, 2002
08:14 PM

YAPC Day 1

Well, here I am at YAPC with all my fellow perl mongers. And from the number of folks w/ laptops & wireless connections I have to say I feel a bit like a fish out of water. But hey, at least I'm here. We got in late this morning and missed Larry's opener. I'm hoping that Gnat videotaped the whole thing and not just the darkness when Larry turned off the projector. :-)

I learned a bit about Mason this morning, and then I went to Damian's Perl 6 talk. They both were very informative and interesting. I look forward to playing with Mason in the future. Now if I could just bolt on the user/authentication/groups features of OI with the excellent component goodness that is Mason I would be in hog heaven.

Tomorrow looks quite interesting as well with lots of short talks. I'm glad I'm here w/ a co-worker so we can split up and share notes later. Next year I'm resolving to have a personal laptop to bring. Oh, and it must have lots of stickers on it as well. I particularly like the "Coding is not a crime".

Tuesday June 25, 2002
11:07 AM

Getting to St Louis late

It's been a long time since my last journal entry. I'm going to YAPC (yay!) so I'm very much looking forward to meeting all the people I know only by nicknames in person. Unfortunately we're flying in Wed morning for various reasons & will miss Larry's opening speech & probably the first round of classes. So I'm wondering if there will be audio/video recordings of the opener and/or the RT & POE & Mason classes. I'm truly bummed i'll be missing them as those are three of the things I've wanted to learn more about for a long time. POE because it is just so darn cool, and Mason because lots of FT positions want experience with it. I want to implement RT here at work for bug & feature tracking. Slides are great, but you miss a LOT if that is all you have. Hopefully I can at least get any handouts that Jos, Jesse, and Dave will be handing out.

But either way I'm quite psyched to be going, even if the timing sucks. How's this for a schedule? YAPC wed-fri, moving into boston sat/sun, picking up my wife from school wed, then vacation for 1.5 weeks. Did I say how these next few weeks are going to fly by?

Tuesday March 19, 2002
01:14 PM

Arrogance of carriers

Here's my favorite quote of the day. It's from a NY Times article about number portability for cell phones. (

Asked whether the customers' perspective had become lost in this debate, Ms. Hoskins of Verizon said, "Carriers are in the best position of figuring out what consumers want."

Need I say more? Is it any wonder why competition benefits consumers so much with the incumbent carriers thinking they know everything? The paragraphs immediately following are just as good:

Yet one Verizon customer who filed a comment with the F.C.C. said he was reluctant to switch providers because of the cost and trouble involved — even though another carrier offered a feature he would like that was not available through Verizon.

"Being a Verizon customer," he wrote, "I find it hypocritical that they fought so hard to prove they were competitive when it came to their being allowed to enter the long-distance telephone market and now they are fighting just as hard to reduce the competitiveness of the wireless industry."

Thursday March 07, 2002
02:43 PM

I got a job!

Woohoo! I finally got a real job. Looks like I'll start on Monday. I was laid off Sep 6, so yesterday was my 6 month mark. Holy cow, has it really been that long? wow...

Boy, it's amazing how that time has just flown by. I watched Sep 11 live (luckily not in person). I had Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all without a full-time job. Thank goodness I have some freelance work that has been helping me stay afloat. I really couldn't have survived with out it.

And for those who care and have read this far, thanks for your kind words & thoughts. I can truly understand how others in my situation feel. Until you've walked a few miles in their shoes, you don't really know what it's like.

While this is not my dream job, it will be a good one for me. The pay is not as good as I had hoped, but I'll get a nice raise after 3 months. And I'll be 2nd in command of the technology side of things. Lots of chances to prove and stretch myself. I've found that's important if you want to, to quote a famous slogan, "Be all that you can be.". :-)

I wish all those still looking for work the best of luck. And I hope it won't take 6 months for you to get off the unemployment dole.

Monday February 25, 2002
04:53 PM

DSL upgrades

This weekend I was looking through Speakeasy's site and noticed that the difference between the 608/128 package I have now, and the 1.5/128 is only $10/mo! Why I hadn't had this all along I don't know. So I called, waited on hold for < 5 min (much better speakeasy!) & the friendly, clueful tech put in the order to upgrade my line. After a little waiting, I tried the ever popular and ubiquitous speedtest java applet at To my surprise, not only did they increase my DL speed (as I wanted), they upped my UL speed too!

Now, being the paranoid and cheap person that I am, I wanted to make sure I wasn't getting charged too much. So I logged into the TAC to see what they had me listed under. With a impish giggle, I saw:
1.5/128 RADSL LineShare

Hehehe! More speed! Am I bad to graciously take the extra 260kbs difference and not tell them? After all, it's not my mistake. Why shouldn't I use it while I can? It's kind of like my former dotcom employer continuing my COBRA coverage for 3 months after I told them to stop it...

Gotta take advantage of it while you can. Now it's time to download some ISO's or something. :-)

Monday February 04, 2002
03:38 AM

Modules and tests and freelance work, oh my!

Tonight I needed a module to read a simple config file. Right now I have a config hash in the cgi scripts which is passed on to the module constructor. But this means I have to change code to go from development to production. This is not a good thing, and it makes using CVS really hard. A separate config file is perfect for this situation. So I looked at AppConfig by the amazing Mr Wardley. It almost fit, except that I didn't like how it handled blocks (it prepends 'blockname_' to block variables). And I definitely needed access to the individual blocks, which AppConfig doesn't do since it flattens blocks. I suppose I could have subclassed it, but it was simple and easy enough I wanted to write my own. It's not like I'm creating another templating system...

So I wrote my own parser from scratch, with the exception of the hairy regexp in AppConfig::File::parse(). (I hope you don't mind Andy!) It's very simple, with methods to set the filename, parse it, and get/set values. It also uses AUTOLOAD to automagically support method calls like $cfg->variable(). And I figured out how to do method chaining so I could do $cfg->block()->variable(). It's pretty simple and it works nicely.

Now it was time for tests! Hooray, I'm going to write a test suite. I used Test::More, and I must say it was quite easy. (Thanks Schwern!) I wrote enough of the module to have something to test, and then I wrote my tests. Of course, I found a few bugs and promptly fixed them. It also helped me to flesh out the implementation. And best of all, I now have a set of comprehensive tests that I can run at any time to see if I've broken anything. I think I'll definitely be taking the time to write tests from now on for anything major. Tests are cool!

And now for the motivation for doing all this work tonight. I've decided that the market is going to suck for me for a while still so I'm going to focus on my existing freelance work, while developing new customers here in MA. This last fall I rewrote an application I had developed over the last year with the express intention of selling it to other printers. It takes business card orders online, and does some neat stuff w/ PDFs to save on human layout time. Oh, and it does the requisite reports as well. :-)

Of course, I need to get more organized if I want to have this software running for multiple customers, which mostly entails getting it under CVS and setting up development environments / backup strategys. It's been fun, and I've already found some areas I need to tackle to make it more commercially viable. Nothing terribly difficult as it's primarily in automating setup of objects in the system.

I've decided that if the good commonwealth of MA is paying me to be 'idle', I might as well make the best use of that time. I already feel much better about life & work because I've been busy. Last week was good for me freelance work wise, and I also remembered about some time I had forgotten to bill a client! It seems that no one else can help me, so I just have to pull myself up by the bootstraps and do it myself. Besides, I REALLY want to go to one of the perl conferences this year and to do that I'll have to pay for myself. Can't make it to TPC, much less YAPC on unemployment wages.

Finally, I would welcome any tips on how to approach businesses w/ my product and/or programming/networking services. I'll have a demo site setup where they can see it in action. I'll have business cards and hopefully a one page "fact sheet". I have all the tools for networking. I'm not very good at cold calls, but I can make a good impression. I am happy to listen to any proven sales techniques that would get me a few minutes w/ the owner/manager.

If you got this far, thanks for reading my ramblings. I do hope I made sense at least some of the time.