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CromeDome (4395)

CromeDome
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Hello, I'm MrCromeDome from Perl Monks. [perlmonks.org] See my account there or my home page for more info.

Journal of CromeDome (4395)

Monday September 20, 2004
01:26 PM

Needing product name ideas. . .

So I'm writing Yet Another E-Commerce Application. . . while there are some out there that would likely do what I need, there's not the same satisfaction as there is rolling my own. The app is coming along, but I still am lacking a name for said project.

Sooooo. . . . we are selling light bulbs, lighting fixtures, and related accessories. The application, however, is not specific to these things. I'm looking for a suitable name for this project, with Valuable Bonus Points being awarded if the name has something to do with those items.

More seriously now. . . this project is being funded by a not-to-be-named (yet) company. I'm sure they won't let me pay someone for coming up with a name, but I can probably arrange purchase of a book or two for the winning suggestion, or gift certificate for a restaurant of choice, or something similar (they have been cool about picking up some expenses of these types for me to date).

If anyone has any ideas, please fire them my way :) I've been thinking for a while now and am drawing blanks. This type of creativity I do not possess :(

Thursday September 16, 2004
10:39 PM

Getting Educated

So frustration sank in for the longest time. . . I had just completed development of one Perl application, and was anxious to get back to another when Other Work Happened. And so a few weeks/months later, I'm back to that project.

In the time between then and now, I have been trying to get myself a bit better educated. I've spent a lot of time looking over Andy Lester's presentation notes and slides on automated testing, and he's also shown great kindness in fielding my hundreds of annoying questions on the matter ;) It's taken some getting used to, but the concept of "POD, test, code" is really starting to work for me. It just kinda... flows. The process has already helped me catch errors for those times when I refactor some code and don't think of everything it might break.

I've also started dabbling with mod_perl, and honestly, it's not been the big scary animal I thought it would be. I've set up and tinkered with a couple of different handlers, and am starting to get a little feel with how mod_perl behaves. Today (with the help of Sam Tregar, I was able to get an error handler set up for one of my applications. I've been having a heck of a time trapping errors from the deepest depths of my API, and with Sam's explanations I was able to get a suitable handler working (somewhat based on the work he did with Krang).

As always, I think I got a long way to go in my Perl programming. But I feel a lot smarter about some things than I did even a few weeks ago.

Thanks to both of you. You are two people that help make the Perl community so great :)

Wednesday August 11, 2004
04:17 PM

Thought for the day...

There is no place in business for hurt feelings.

Monday August 02, 2004
02:12 PM

Growing Pains

For those of you who don't know me (and I'm guessing that's most of you), I'm a partner in a software company. I think we're over the hump of starting a business now, being over 7 years into things now. And while staying afloat isn't a concern, I feel we are starting to experience some growing pains. Or rather, I am starting to experience them.

I've always been a programmer, and it's really where my passion lies. Over the years, my role has changed from being just a programmer to our lead developer, and I enjoy the challenges that designing our software has provided. Now I find myself on the brink of another transition, and I'm not sure it's one I'm wanting or ready for.

More and more I find myself not only designing our software, but large parts of our corporate infrastructure, and frequently find myself out working with various IT departments and discussing technical issues with prospective clients. I feel like I'm ending up as more of a CTO than a developer, and I don't think it's what I want. I want to program and not deal with the other crap.

I realize that in a small company, an owner/partner needs to be able to wear multiple hats. But the extra stuff is not just getting in the way of my passion, but the overall development effort. Right now, in addition to all the programming I'm supposed to be doing, I'm maintaining company web and e-mail services, the company network, the phone system, all of our web products, and one of our tax products. I'm lucky if I spend a full day of each week writing new code. This week, for example, I'm going to have to investigate phone systems to replace our presently-dying PBX. This will leave me with less than a week to implement and debug a module that we promised to a client by the end of next week.

Frankly, I don't enjoy being out working with existing and prospective clients. I don't want to be responsible for the company infrasctucture. But there's no one else here that can. The frequent interruptions and hassles incurred by non-programming issues are causing me huge amounts of stress and, unfortunately, some rather severe anger management issues.

There are two options as I see them: 1) Suggest we find the money to hire another developer and embrace the set of duties I seem to be moving into, then code for fun on nights and weekends to satisfy my programming urges, or 2) find someone that has the skillset to manage all aspects of our corporate infrastructure so that I can deal with the development issues. The problem I see with #2 however is still lacking someone to meet with and schmooze potential and existing clients.

Has anyone else found themselves in my position? What did you do? What would you do differently if you could go back? What would you do in my shoes?

Tuesday July 13, 2004
11:21 PM

Livin' La Vida Linux!

Now that I have all of your attention with that awful, awful title. . .

I am now Windows free at home!

There's a lot to this story. While I'm not sure why I went Windows-free at home, I do know how I went from using Windows to not using Windows. Went through a few Linux distros getting there, too ;)

I used to have a Linux box to play with at home, and when I started this project, I moved it to FreeBSD 5.2.1. Been using FreeBSD on my servers at work for about a year or so now, and frankly I'm loving it. The former Linux box was a perfect candidate for a server: decent memory, processor, and storage capacity, kinda sucky video and sound. The install went over without a hitch - thank you ports system!

Next was kicking the main Windows XP box to the curb. Well, the OS at least! Inspired by my success with FreeBSD ports, I gave Gentoo a shot. There were some things I really liked about Gentoo, but I ended up experiencing some build problems with a rather vanilla install. After a lot of fighting and hair pulling, I went back to good ole' Slackware. And in all these years, it's never let me down. I was very impressed by the quality of Slackware 10.0. It was the fastest, most painless Linux install I've ever done. In fact I was so happy with it I dug out my old Thinkpad, wiped out the drive and installed Slack on it too!

Once you go Slack, you never go back! ;)

The only snag I encountered was setting up the onboard NIC with my primary computer. Gentoo detected the card as eth1, and Slack picked it up as eth0. Blew an hour or so figuring out why the hell the interface wouldn't come up. Oh, well. Live and learn, live and learn. . .

My final setup includes KDE on the desktop, Kate for programming, postgresql for the RDBMS, and Apache 1.3.31 with mod_perl 1.29. Alternating between Firefox and Konqueror for the browser because I can't make up my mind which I like better. The Kontact suite (Kmail, etc.) is pretty sweet (I really like using Kmail). xmms has been a fine subsitute for Winamp. . . And for entertainment, Neverwinter Nights and Unreal Tournament 2004 (both play natively and VERY nicely under Linux).

And fonts are really nice under X. Much more cleanly rendered than under XP.

So what have I been doing with all this? Right now, learning the ins and outs of CVS. I've never had to work with it before, and I really want to reap the benefits that CVS can provide a project. KDE comes with Cervisia, but I'm staying away from the GUI for now as I feel it will gimp my ability to learn CVS (and, to paraphrase something Petdance told me, the command line is the way God intended it to be!). From there, I'm off to pick up mod_perl, Basset, and a few other things.

If I could only figure out how to make the scroll wheel on my Logitech mouse work, I'd be a really, really happy boy. I tried messing with imwheel, but 1) it doesn't seem to support my hardware, and 2) it seems old. Does anyone have any suggestions for me? I'd really, really like my scroll wheel back.

Friday July 02, 2004
08:20 PM

Launch day went well. . .

Just rolled out the latest version of a website for my client this week. VERY major overhaul of a very aging product. And thus far, I'd say it's been most successful :)

The most noticable things have been the speed increase (woo yeah!), new look and feel, and that I rewrote almost every line of code for it ;) There's a pretty nice feature set for registered users too. It's almost like I paid attention to all the issues people had with the original version of the site and did something to address them ;) Every day I sing praise to CGI::Application, HTML::Template, and CGI::Session ;)

Also learned some other good things along the way. Namely, about how to build and maintain a better firewall (thank you, OpenBSD!).

It's been a good week.

Thursday June 03, 2004
02:58 PM

selectall_arrayref

I see lots of great things in and about Perl, but I don't always use them or grasp them until I come across a problem where one of those things make my life infinitely easier. Today, selectall_arrayref (in DBI) is that thing.

Some creative use of selectall_arrayref is preventing me from having to create additional database connections within an app I'm rewriting. Given the increasing popularity of the site I'm working on, every free resource I can preserve is like gold.

All hail the mighty selectall_arrayref!

Wednesday June 02, 2004
10:25 AM

Measuring Spam

I installed a new spam fighting solution for my company on May 9th. I checked today to see how we were doing, and was rather astounded by the numbers:

Blocked:       143,465
Blocked: Virus     314
Allowed: Tagged  2,193
Allowed         12,380
----------------------
Total Received 158,352

I don't know what I'm more surprised by: the total amount of messages we've received, or how little of what we received is actually legitimate. Keep in mind we have maybe 20 e-mail users at most. Perhaps that's why 158k total messages astounds me.

So for a small company with a handful of users, less than 10% of all e-mail we receive is legitimate. I can only imagine that this problem is exponentially worse for larger installations.

How are others faring? Post your horror stories here!

Friday May 28, 2004
11:19 AM

Note to self. . .

Typos kill. *smacks forehead*

Spent half an hour tracking down a bug before I noticed this:

<!-- TMPL_VAR NAME=NWNW-->

which is obviously not the same as this:

<!-- TMPL_VAR NAME=NWNW -->

which is what I meant.

I'm such a dumbass sometimes :P

Friday February 13, 2004
08:54 AM

Frustration

I will probably start an OS war with this, so I apologize in advance. Just recounting my personal frustrations with some OSes lately. Doesn't mean I think they suck, just outlining my personal issues of late ;)

I've been using FreeBSD on two of my servers for over a year now, and love it. I was a Linux user before that, first with Redhat, then after 7.0 came out I went to Slackware. I really enjoyed Slack, but after playing around with FreeBSD on a friend's server, I wanted to give it a run. And I was hooked from that point on, and never looked back. Till now.

I finally got around to rebuilding my old Thinkpad, and wanted to give FreeBSD 5.2 a whirl on it. I know there have been some issues with 5.2, but after some research, didn't think those issues would apply to me and so went for it. Unfortunately, the computer hangs whenever sysinstall executes. After some tinkering, I went back and tried 4.9 on the same machine. It doesn't crash, but won't recognize my PCMCIA ethernet card either.

I said "ok, I've always wanted to try OpenBSD, let's try that." I installed it without issue. And I like it, daresay moreso than FreeBSD in some respects. It's lean, it's clean. It felt kinda bare bones, but I liked it. Until I tried installing the ports. I recognize that this doesn't weigh on the quality of the OS, but having come from FreeBSD, goot ports are a big deal to me.

Installed nmap port. Success! Installed iodbc port. Success! Installed FreeTDS - crap, didn't build with ODBC libraries. Upgrade to latest iodbc - won't compile on OpenBSD. Install unixODBC - success! Install FreeTDS - still no ODBC support. Finally upgraded to most recent FreeTDS and it compiles ok, but DBD::ODBC won't compile for me against that setup. Grr!!!! Install KDE - downloads, compiles forever, crashes near completion.

I have since learned that I might need to update the PLIST for the FreeTDS port, that maybe it's building the ODBC libraries but not installing them after build. Which is fine, but all the frustration at this point has really got to me.

I realize that free and OSS software might not be as user friendly as their closed-source commercial counterparts. And I'm ok with that ;) I've used Linux and FreeBSD for 8+ years now, and I'm accustomed to working a bit harder at things. But this type of frustration still gets to me. I could accept if I was doing something wrong, but if I am this time, it sure isn't something obvious.

Suggestions are welcome. NetBSD? Gentoo? What have others used on a laptop with more success than I'm having. FWIW, I'm using an older Thinkpad A20.