Business Politics Stupidity

Ownership Rules

My reaction was “because they own it… because they fucking OWN IT.”

Duh. End of discussion. “Stakeholders”? That’s always been utter bull.

Business Movies Politics

Atlas Revisited

Had a rare interlude of TV available without kids and not needing/wanting to do laundry, dishes, etc., which led me to discover Atlas Shrugged Part 1 was on Netflix. So I watched it again. Went to great lengths to see it when it was in theaters originally. I was surprised at how well it held up for me. The most jarring part remains Hugh Akston , and I found that even more so this time. The current times and economy conspire to make it all the more fascinating to watch.

Books Business Movies Politics

Looking Forward to This!

Except it still seems a little weird having Atlas Shrugged updated to be set in modern times, and the characters don’t look much like my mental images. Reardon, to whom I most relate, comes closest.

I’m overdue for a reread, but with the film pending, I considered it recently and decided to put it off.

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Link Dump 2

Continued from and explained in Link Dump 1.

Schoolhouse Barack

Eggless batter for deep fried shrimp (works nicely for chicken, came out just like Chinese chicken fingers but that Henry can eat, moved from this to lighter tempura style)

It’s just a draft

Efficient markets after the financial crisis

RIP Fess Parker

Do you think you love me?

Controversial propositions (some good ones! including Bobby Orr)

The shocking ages of rock stars

Ethiopian Injera recipe and another and another and a detailed post about making it

Nerd, Dork and Geek explained in Venn Diagram

The parable of the satellite dish

Alien Versus Pooh

Latters to Scalzi, Pt 2

What if the jobs are never coming back?

Shy and introverted process the world differently

Quasars don’t show time dilation – what’s up with that?

Fighting allergies by mimicking parasitic worms

The whiskey standard

How to wreck a marriage

Truth in accounting (Madoff vs Social Security)

Massive tax change hidden in healthcare law

11 Music superstars who are technically one hit wonders

Most people carry neanderthal genes (big surprise!)

S&P Priced in gold

Creating a more private Facebook alternative

Caring for woulds when medical system has collapsed

Doubt cast on many reports of food allergies

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Dead Zone

One problem we’ve had lately is exactly this dead zone, which you can see as a sharp drop in the 30s before the steadier line upward. You have to click the chart to see a bigger version.

And basically if I do anything other than what I am now and/or work at home/online work as allowed, we then run into daycare issues. If I were on my own, I’d keep what I have for security and bootstrap from it. A part time other job even if I could get nothing full time. Return to being available for unpredictable side computer/support or other gigs. Use any spare time for building more passive but by no means self-constructing income streams. Six months and I could probably be back to “real money” without even relying on a single “full time” thing.

Right now our net effective income is actually down because our income went up, but not enough. A full time job roughly opposite the other full time job would net less than I do now up to hourly rates that start to approach those of a “real job.” It’s a conundrum.

The good thing is the kids are becoming more self-contained, so I’m starting to see clear to being able to do some of the passive side stream and work from home stuff without having to leave for on-site/emergency work of the sort I used to do. Just trying to work out a system where that is organized and balanced against housework…

This is the source and has more, and a second, more impressive chart of how implicit marginal tax rates fluctuate.

Business Geekery Job Hunting Money


Life may be like a box of chocolates, but Flow is like a good cup of coffee.

Great post about a concept I’ve talked about before, which is central to some of the types of work I do, and not at all necessary to others. At the old business, it was a mix, where I could be anywhere doing anything and answer quick questions that might come up, put out proverbial fires, but frequently not need a flow state at all. That’s the drive-by stuff, the small stuff.

I’m perhaps more needy of it than some, and may even have a harder time achieving the state than some. It’s how I write the best, or at least the most painlessly productively. It’s how I do certain things that are oddly at both the especially creative and especially analytical ends of the theoretical spectrum that calls those distinctive.

I always need it more for the equivalent of loading a program into my head and wrapping my mind around it. Or more accurately, when there is more to load, or material that is less fresh.

I may as well have been a programmer. If I could scrape by for a while and have a lot of uninterrupted time, (re)learning to be one is high on my list of possibilities.

Business Controversies Kids Money

These Things Aren’t Always Simple But…

His wife, who used to look up to him as a glamorous writer, begins to view him as an “unreliable employee.”

From Patriarch to Patsy

Via Dr. Helen, via her hubby.


Marriage and Business

Balancing Marriage and Business

Slide into bed with an entrepreneur, and you wind up cuddling with his business. At a certain point, the entrepreneur’s spouse has to answer the question: Are you in or are you out? It is a question that surfaces in many forms over time. Are you in? In for as long as it takes this business to succeed? In for what is potentially a lifetime of financial risk? Or are you out? Out of patience, out of tolerance, out of your mind with stress and the bitterness of dreams deferred? The entrepreneur usually doesn’t pose the question overtly. Yet the spouse does answer it, by giving or withholding support, encouragement, warmth, and reassurance — the manifestations of love.

My single biggest “what if” involves having had a job rather than a business. Or having set out to close the business five years ago, or dump it on my partners, taking a “real job” instead, be it here or by being the one to relocate. In any event, it really is tough, not like simply having a job, even a relatively demanding one.

On another note, perhaps I couldn’t help being in business or flirting with the idea frequently, since tendency toward self-employment is genetic.

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American Idol Blogging (and way too much else)

Let’s see if I can sneak in a quick post around my daycare duties. They (and by “they” I mean Henry) tend to know the difference between my fingers hitting the keys for anything substantive and not, so I can type a tweet or something like a Google query or URL, but not a post or e-mail. Haven’t tried the in-between of writing or revising a resume or LinkedIn desriptions lately, but they fall more to the substantive if only in terms of concentration and here he comes, like clockwork. Well yay, he… nope, he started walking off until I started typing again. Okay, he left. And Val drew him back. Score! He couldn’t get to my lap so he gave up. Go me!

You will have noticed a distinct lack of American Idol blogging. Or other TV blogging. I mean, ignoring for a moment the limited blogging generally, which is a combination if things, partially overlapping, which see a subsequent post, if not a full explanation therein.

Sadly, for the moment we have settled into a reasonable combination of Deb working 2:00 to 11:00 PM, while I work out of the house 3:45 AM until somewhere between 6:30 and 8:00 AM, normally to just after 7:00 AM. Her 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM shift didn’t work well, though it could have if I’d set a strict bedtime for me and the kids of 7:30, and not worried as much about her getting supper of whatever we’d had not long after we’d eaten, or making her something when she arrived. In the last few months I struggled with being boxed into the role and slipped a bit, but generally I take the “feed everyone” job seriously. (On that note, Sadie says “more apple!!!” and I am called away…)

Where was I?

Right. I don’t know how I was doing the “FredCo” job well enough to be retained as permanent, because I almost never got enough sleep the whole time, and I sleepwalked through every day between shifts, which come to think of it may not have helped my enthusiasm for my domestic duties. Oddly, though, I had faith I would become perm, while Deb wasn’t so sure I’d even last the seasonal stretch. Doesn’t take so much: Don’t let anything stop me from going to work, focus, do the job well, be inexorable, try not to get so hurt I have to stop. The new policy is get to bed as early as possible and even if it were tempting to wait up for Deb, 11:30 PM would be out of the question. It means easier to have a routine that gets us there, with flexibility the 7:30 thing would not have afforded. So the target bedtime is 8:00 PM, but if it takes until 9:30 sometimes, oh well. If we are asleep at 8:30, that lets me sleep potentially as long as 6.5 hours, which is amazing. I was routinely getting 4 and under. If I got more, it was by Deb being the evening parent and the morning parent. She routinely got too little sleep, and had less time for herself than needed, let alone customary from before I had even a job tucked into a theoretically out of the way, brief time slot. Interstitial employment?

(Pause to peel another apple because Sadie wanted more. Apparently the Pink Ladies are a huge hit.)

(And he is on my lap.)

(And saved by Val needing to be wiped.)

(And finally closed door to try to finish this quick, since my solution of doing dishes to feel unencumbered went far worse than this did, with two of them mothing me.)

Now where was I?

I go to bed before Idol, and Deb works during Idol. Part of the charm was watching together. We also are too busy to tape and watch. Thus I have been catching highlights via Rickey, except for having caught bits of some of the audition rounds. I have some idea who is participating and how the competition stacks up, know some of the drama, know details of how they’ve changed things this year, and so forth, but the viewing experience? Not getting that this time.

Not to mention the TV problem

(Sadie pounded on door to roust me because Henry changed the channel and messed it up. He will not learn not to do that.)

Not to mention the TV problems we have had, which I troubleshot yesterday, resulting in a revelation as well as the expected.

The signal comes through rabbit ears, and through the miracle of cables and splitters we could record something on the VCR on one channel while watching another channel, or watch a tape. The DVD player hooked directly into the requisite red, white and yellow jacks, rather than the antenna jack.

It barfed a couple months or so back. Ended up having to feed antenna to VCR and VCR to TV using DVD cables, or leave the DVD cables on the DVD player. Switching between them had to be a physical act of moving cables, so it was a big deal to watch TV as it happened, or to tape it, which couldn’t be done while watching a DVD anymore. If the kids picked something we had on tape, like Mary Poppins, we’d make a proverbial day of it and watch multiple tapes, maximizing the benefit of the cable swap.

I’d meant to try the “old” TV, which is the newer TV, which is smaller, else there’d have been no reason to switch to the other.

(They just busted into my locked door. So Val could ask for help with one of her new belts she got for her birthday. Then succeeded herself. Then left him in with me, closing the door behind her, Go Valerie.)

It was fairly apparent that the antenna jack on the big TV was more or less fried, but that wasn’t beyond all doubt.

(Pause to let Henry out and stuff.)

Thus the desire to test, if not automatically, definitely switch.

I confirmed the diagnosis, leaving us a good working kind of small TV that can be used as we used to, and a bigger, older TV that isn’t good for much besides hooking to a DVD player. Which might be viable if and when it could go in a separate room for the kids, or if one of us had space and preference for it versus the fact we can watch DVD on our computers (or will be able to, in Deb’s case, once I put in the drive that I ordered), and versus the watching of Hulu that can and does happen on our computers.

Having started on the course of not being able to watch AI this season, I can’t see us suddenly starting to tape it, but at least now we could.

Except… we can’t. Not yet.

You know how Obama has an advisor on such matters who worked for a company that benefits from a delay in the switch to HD, so mysteriously a delay has in fact been invoked? That was not enough to stop Fox. Home of American Idol.

In my A/V geeking yesterday, I found that

(Pause to wipe Sadie and hand out snacks to the bottomless children and be amused at Sadie’s declaration she didn’t want to miss much of the show she was watching, ‘I’m watching PBS Kids!”)

I found that channel 64 was on an endless loop announcing you were not seeing their programming because they had switched, so get off your asses and get a converter if you don’t have cable or a new set, here’s how. That’s Fox in Providence. Channel 25 was gone entirely. That’s Fox in Boston. It’s a tossup which will come in better for us, so normally we’d watch whichever was clearer that day. Not that Fox was alone, since it appeared channels 10 and 12 were gone as well, essentially eliminating commercial network television as an option for us.

So much for the delay.

And TV watchers or not, HD transition delay or not, the coupons for $40 of a $48 converter box expire, so I will need to get one or two sooner rather than later. For an extra $8 I’m inclined to get a spare, just in case we use a second TV or one dies or whatever.

In long, that, folks, is why you have not been and probably will not be seeing breathless commentary here about American Idol this season. Maybe sometime in the season we will manage, or I will manage, to do some actual watching of it, live or taped. The “FredCo” job can’t be forever, if you ask me, just because it’s too little to be so much of what I rely on, and it’s too physically demanding. The trouble is that I have to transition to work that pays so well that daycare is not an issue, or that is “work” not a “job” and can actually fit in with the kids and dishes and stuff, either being relatively interruptable, or doable during time Deb can and will cover me as if I had left the house and was no more available than I am now Tuesday through Saturday mornings 3:30 to generally about 7:30. I’ve been interested in working from home at times in order to be available to help, but mostly that just doesn’t work. A couple of saving factors are that we live in a 24 hour, 7 day world, and that we won’t necessarily overlap hours entirely for the foreseeable future, even if I extricate myself from domestic box into corporate cubicle.

Now. I have another post in mind for here, and maybe I can put that forth today, but also I have a post I started last week, elsewhere, directly relevant to getting work, potentially to be seen by tens of thousands of people, potentially meme-setting in scope. But at least self-motivational and all that. I was white-hot inspired and then wasn’t able to work on it and lost the feel, but at least it can be done enough without the heat, so long as there’s time and permission to actually work on it.

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Not Official But…

The job I have totally not blogged about as intended is planning to keep me beyond seasonal. I am “reliable and a hard worker.”

I’d been wanting to post about how cool it is, in terms of logistics, handling and managing physical stuff, being no-nonsense and well run, and reminding me of a computer program written in physical form rather than in software. It is, after all, a sorting and routing routine. Then there’s the physical fitness aspect, and the fact I’m so capable to handling it, offset by the downsides of how easy it is to be injured and how grueling it is. In the “here’s an entire day or two of exertion to do in 3 – 5 hours” sort of way.

More significantly, I’d been mentally composing a post about my psychology and aspects of my employment history it resonates with, and it being a mental as well as physical reset. I’m not the fastest at unloading trailers and slinging 1000 – 2000 or so packages a shift, but I’m up there, without losing quality in the process. My boss at my last job like this would probably not have been satisfied I was fast enough!

Anyway, in a cosmic sense it’s not enough, but in an ohshitwhatarewedoinginjanuary sense it’s fantastic news. If it’s less intense and we finally get used to it and manage bedtimes and such better and get the cars fully reliable and do some strategic child offloading, many things could be possible. It can hardly help but be a better year, but still, why not shoot for a good one.

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While You Were Sleeping

I’ve spent much of the night not asleep, and ended up perusing some old material here and there. I wondered whether I would get different results on some of the quiz thingies. Here are some of them. In the first case, how the results are presented changed, no more secondary element included.

Your Dominant Thinking Style: Visioning

You are very insightful and tend to make decisions based on your insights.
You focus on how things should be – even if you haven’t worked out the details.

An idealist, thinking of the future helps you guide your path.
You tend to give others long-term direction and momentum.

What’s Your Thinking Style?

Original thinking style post.

You Are a Hunter Soul

You are driven and ambitious – totally self motivated to succeed
Actively working to achieve what you want, you are skillful in many areas.
You are a natural predator with strong instincts … and more than a little demanding.
You are creative, energetic, and an extremely powerful force.

An outdoors person, you like animals and relate to them better than people.
You tend to have an explosive personality, but also a good sense of humor.
People sometimes see you as arrogant or a know it all.
You tend to be a bit of a loner, though you hate to be alone.

Souls you are most compatible with: Seeker Soul and Peacemaker Soul

What Kind of Soul Are You?

Original soul post

I am an

What Flower
Are You?

Original flower post

The text of that result:

“You are a health conscious person, both your health and the health of others. You know all about the health benefits and dangers of the world around you.”

Entirely unrelated to quizzes, this post strikes me as a demarcation where things really went to hell with the old client. That month was an insane volume of work – afraid to do the invoice levels – in no small part because one file version in Windows was off, and vendor support was less than stellar. It was the beginning of the “must upgrade for real” sequence, flowing right into a second large month in which a lesser server died and required I move files and shares still living on it. A Pentium 200, that was, in 2006. Having already run up over $18,000 in time for March and April, I was skittish about spending too much time in too short a period to set up the new servers I finally got them to order later that year.

I’d forgotten it was May 2006 when I did my AS/400 magic. I thought that was before the Juris mess. But I digress.

Maybe I’ll get sleepy eventually.

Business Controversies Money News Politics

Bailout Poll

John Hawkins did a flash poll, in which I participated, on the bailout. Interesting results, more skewed than I had expected. The last question, though, looks like people answered based not on where they stood, but what they thought public perception must be.

Related to that, it is heartening to see that Barney Frank’s role in the crisis, and its roots in the Carter administration, ballooning from tinkering in the Clinton administration, close ties to Frank, Kerry, Obama and others, and connection to the likes of 9/11 scoundrel Jamie Gorelick are becoming widely known.

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Domains for Sale

I have updated the domains for sale post with the links to the auctions that didn’t have links available yet at the time.

Business Geekery Money

More Domains for Sale (Updated)

I put several domains I probably can’t afford to renew and may never use up for 7 day auction at very low minimum bids. The ones I just did haven’t registered in the system to have links yet, so I will update this with direct links when they are available. The names and minimum bids are: ($20) ($20) ($20) ($30) ($20) ($20) ($20)

Obviously, I am most attached to the South Shore one. The plan for all of these, and a ton more long expired, was to promote and expand geographically. I had a bunch that were [Town], where the name of towns in my coverage area and beyond were included and I could have local focus or portals. I actually used briefly, as an emergency contact page for clients there. I still have, and while I am not strongly attached to it, and may add it, I don’t expect there’s a market for the name. I did not put up for same, and that is high on the “find a way to renew it” list. Ditto for These probably won’t sell, and if they sell for the minimum it’s fairly pathetic, but hey.

The last three are movie inspired, hearkening to You’ve Got Mail, an unexpectedly awesome film. Probably all of them would have been used in marketing campaigns, not for name of business, though would work for that.

That’s the small fry. They are up for a week, a day or so of which is already gone on the first three, so get your bids in. I have the others up on more extended auctions with a buy now feature: auction auction

Respectively those have minimum bids of $300 and $500, and buy now prices of $1000 and $2000. Those represent the lowest I consider acceptable for each, and the amount I consider neither unreasonably high or low if someone wants to end the auction on the spot and guarantee snagging the domain. Those are more like selling a house or a business. The small ones are like selling… maybe a car or used furniture or something. Heh.

Added the links that were missing.

Business Money News Politics Stupidity

Darth Spitzer Returns

One of our favorite villains, Elliot Spitzer, may have helped create the AIG situation. Go Spitzer!

Business Geekery Job Hunting Totally Random

Repost: Experiences and Accomplishments Scratchpad

Originally posted August 6, 2007, now archived here.

I’m trying to come up with a good set of descriptors of what I’ve done and of accomplishments, both as selling points for the new support business, and as resume fodder to have a more traditional resume available. This was my initial set that was oriented mainly at distilling the massive amount of software and hardware experience into a relevant series of bullet points. Below this I’ll put what I have come up with so far, starting from scratch, with minimal reference to this first list, incorporating some things that don’t necessarily fit into a “what software I’ve used” type of scenario.

  • Built, upgraded, repaired, used and supported many PCs and peripherals over the past 19 years.
  • Used and in some cases supported almost every version of Microsoft Windows and DOS, with lesser exposure to other operating systems, including OS/2 Warp and Linux.
  • Supported multiple versions of Microsoft Word, both as part of Microsoft support and for law firms and other users. Specialized in macros, drawing tools, and interaction between Word and other software. Used several other word processors, text editors, and mixed software packages/suites from 1985 onward.
  • Used and sometimes supported Microsoft Excel, other spreadsheets, personal and business finance and accounting software, including Peachtree, Quicken, and Juris.
  • Worked extensively with Paint Shop Pro. Used and sometimes supported various other graphics, presentation, scanning software, and associated standalone or networked scanning hardware.
  • Supported Microsoft Access, SQL Server and MSDE. Used or less extensively supported several other database tools.
  • Supported Dragon Naturally Speaking versions 3.0 through 9.5, tested alternatives, and supported a handheld digital dictation device and associated software and hardware for download and transcription.
  • Online or connecting remotely to other computers in some form since 1993, involving BBS, PC Anywhere, or internet, involving modems, DSL, T-1, and FiOS.
  • Supported all things computer-related in law firm environments for several years. That includes industry-specific applications such as those from Juris, Westlaw and others.
  • Used and supported various backup and file consolidation/compression software, including PKZip, Winzip, ARCserve, Backup Exec, Retrospect, and more.
  • Installed, used, supported — informally or formally, troubleshot, and sometimes even wrote and maintained countless software applications, from the obsolete and obscure to the recent.
  • Cleaned viruses and malware from dozens of machines, manually and with software tools. Installed, ran, troubleshot and supported antivirus, spam filtering, and malware scanning software, including Norton individual and corporate, Sybari Antigen and Spam Manager, Ad-Aware, Spybot Search & Destroy, and others.
  • Set up, troubleshot and supported peer-to-peer and client/server networks since 1993.
  • Here are the other blurbs I’ve come up with. I’ve modified or purged as needed to eliminate some overlap.

  • Wired ethernet cable to install twenty network jacks in a three room office. Made patch cables from raw materials.
  • Configured Small Business Server 2003 and networking controlled by it, established internet connectivity for the network, added six workstations and associated network and Exchange accounts, and added a networked printer/scanner/copier.
  • Migrated a network of fifty users from Novell and an NT member server to a pure NT network.
  • Setup and maintained Exchange Server 5.5 and 2003. Migrated Exchange ahead of impending hardware failure.
  • Setup a proxy server, implemented internet connectivity via T-1, and established internet e-mail transfer via Exchange for a fifty user NT network.
  • Cleaned up viruses, including Code Red and Nimda, and malware outbreaks manually and with freely available tools in an environment where the management refused to deploy corporate protection.
  • Installed, used, supported — informally or formally, troubleshot, and sometimes even wrote and maintained countless software applications, from the obsolete and obscure to the recent.
  • Wrote customer timekeeping software.
  • Wrote and supported a utility for gathering and formatting complete and accurate information for Visual Basic support cases being escalated to second level support.
  • Maintained and tweaked code for a customer document/legal case management software package.
  • Pioneered and helped set standards for “web response” online Microsoft Visual Basic support.
  • Migrated firm of fifty users from DOS/bTrieve-based Juris Classic accounting system to Windows/MSDE-based version of Juris and associated offline timekeeping software.
  • Deployed and supported beta version of legal case and document management software at two small firms.
  • Tested legal case and document management software as it was being developed.
  • Wrote a supplemental utility to copy all the documents associated with a case from the file server, optionally changing case status to archived and purging the documents from the server.
  • Created and maintained web sites starting in 1997. Started blogging in 2003. Co-founded and administered Carnival of the Capitalists, pioneering and largely defining topical blog carnivals.
  • Wrote documentation for a computerized time clock system.
  • Revised, improved, scheduled and managed the entire new hire training program for Visual Basic support. Taught the introduction and product history, Setup Wizard and app distribution, and graphics segments of training.
  • Determined client requirements and designed user interface for an extension to legal case/document management software, intended to ensure accurate, complete collection of data on the nature and outcome of legal cases when assigned a status of closed. Supervised coding, tested and debugged, and integrated the module into the existing program.
  • I know I could come up with more, and that some of this is better than others, and that what is included or emphasized depends on the target and purpose. What’s weird is that putting this all into a blog post made it easier to read and edit what I already had, and to add more. Why should it matter whether it’s blogging or a blank Word document?

    Experience Posts (links to reposts):

    Intro to Experience Dump
    Hardware Experience
    OS Experience
    Word Processing Experience
    Spreadsheets and Accounting
    Graphics and Presentations
    Database and RDBMS
    Dictation Software
    Communications, Internet, PDA, Blogging
    Legal Industry Software
    Backup and Compression Software
    Miscellaneous Software
    Security, Spam, Malware…
    Call Center and Tech Support Tools
    Languages and Programming Tools
    Server Software
    Software Creation

    Employment and College
    Experiences and Accomplishments Scratchpad

    Business Geekery Job Hunting Totally Random

    Repost: Employment and College

    Originally posted August 3, 2007, now archived here.

    A while back I did a series of posts in “list plus elaboration” format, collecting my thoughts about as close as I could come to everything I had ever used for software and even hardware. I referred to them as an experience dump, and tied them together with links to every related post in a template at the bottom of each one. Go me.

    What that didn’t cover was a more descriptive set of things of interest I’ve done over the years, be they “accomplishments” in the fuller sense, or merely less dramatic descriptors.

    It will help me to create a complete set of those via the blog, because I find it easy to write such things that way, and because I can be exhaustive, including things I might not put on a resume proper.

    This has a couple purposes. First, I want to create a resume for the first time since 1997. Really, since 1994, as the 1997 version was a relatively modest update of that for internal consumption to land a promotion. As an exercise, and to have ready as it might be needed. Heck, I intend to put it online for the stumbling and the pointing out. Second, for the business, the sales pitch is effectively a resume, and this feeds my ability to write that. Third, someone stumbling across or already knowing me via this blog might gain appreciation enough to make some kind of offer, even a side one, that I can’t refuse and could use. I mean, just from the related experience entries, let alone a formal resume.

    I can be as complete as I want, here. With a resume, presumably even an online one that breaks the old single page barrier, you might only go back so far. While I didn’t set out to list employment, just what I’ve done, including outside of employment, I could. That might be fitting for making this an introductory post.

    The rest will be, I’d say, as much as I can think of in one post, followed by either updates or additional posts adding anything I forgot on the first pass. I’ll add these posts to the experience template and embed it in each of them, tying these and those earlier posts together.

    Let’s see… here’s a where, when, title and brief description of each to get things rolling. It’ll make me think about all the finer points as I write these.

    XTreme Computing
    1996 – Present
    Managing Partner

    Handled most of the business and administrative end of things. Designed, wrote, debugged, upgraded, maintained and coordinated development of software. Provided software and hardware support, with an emphasis on law firms. Setup and managed servers and networking. Worked with vendors and evaluated products and services on behalf of clients. Sold computers, both premade and built in-house, and sold parts and accessories. Created and maintained web site starting in 1997. Built and updated, or helped to build, client web sites.

    Corporate Software/Stream International
    1994 – 1999
    Support Rep 1994 – 1995
    Developer Support Rep 1995 – 1997
    Senior Developer Support Rep/Mentor – 1997
    Technical Development Lead (TDL) 1997 – 1999

    Supported Microsoft Word for Windows versions 1.0 through 6.0, with emphasis on the latter, specializing in Word macros and drawing tools. Supported Microsoft Visual Basic versions 3.0 through 6.0. Supported VB for DOS, QuickBasic and PDS final versions until supported product life expired. Acted as liaison with Microsoft support counterparts. Pioneered and organized VB support via the web. Did technical screening of job applicants. Supervised and advised on technical and incident handling matters over twenty VB support team members. Revamped, scheduled and managed new hire training.

    Tranti Systems
    1993 – 1994
    Support Rep

    Provided mainly callback support for PC-based POS systems in the fast food industry, with some on-site support, installation and training, and remote troubleshooting using PC Anywhere.

    Solo Services
    1986 – 1994

    Provided tax preparation, bookkeeping, a touch of computer services, and mediated dissolution of a business partnership.

    Arisia, Inc.
    1990 – 1992, 1994 -1995

    Volunteered as corporate and convention treasurer for non-profit organization running New England’s largest annual science fiction convention, with terms falling in the years noted. Unofficially acted as central source of information in the planning of the 1991 convention. Worked heavily in marketing, copy writing, and program book production for 1991 through 1993. Ran or otherwise worked on sales of merchandise and advance memberships for several years of conventions.

    The Renovator’s Supply
    1990 – 1992

    Received, routed and tracked external and internal finished and raw materials. Stocked the picking area for mailorder fulfillment, keeping inventory accurate. Unloaded and delivered materials to the brass, medallion, metal fabrication and CNC departments. Delivered and picked up mail to and from the post office and delivered incoming mail to the appropriate departments. At times picked and packed outgoing orders, handled customer pickups, cleaned brass fixtures in preparation for dry lacquer coating, assisted the human resources manager, trained and helped people with computers and terminals, and updated the company’s material safety data sheet files.

    Hannon-Miller Security
    1990 – 1992
    Security Guard

    Provided unarmed, watchman-style security services at various paper, cutlery and cotton product factories.

    Community Newsdealers
    1986 – 1990
    Delivery Driver

    Delivered Boston Globes to home delivery customers and paper route holders. Collected and accurately tracked customer payments. Won customer-nominated Globe driver of the month service award for December 1997.

    Christy’s Markets
    1982 – 1986
    Closer 1982 – 1983
    Floating Summer Assistant Manager 1983
    Clerk 1983 – 1985
    Assistant Manager 1986

    Rang up purchases, helped customers, stocked and fronted shelves, cleaned and closed convenience store that was not yet open 24 hours. Spent a summer filling in as a floating assistant manager at several stores, covering for manager and assistant manager vacations. Ordered, received and checked in stock. Prepared and made bank deposits. Trained new hires. Oversaw retrofitting one store with a deli counter, and subsequent operation of it, including preparing sandwiches to order.

    Richard Peabody, CPA

    Reviewed, assembled and packaged tax returns for presentation to clients. In a pre-computer, small firm environment, prepared summaries, updated ledgers, balanced accounts, prepared working spreadsheets for accounting and auditing work by CPAs, and did most anything else for which actually being a CPA was not required. Purged obsolete files in preparation for sale of the firm.

    Halliday Lithograph
    1980 – 1982

    Packaged and sent drop shipments, mass and individual mailings of books on behalf of publishers via mail and UPS. Processed into transient, shipping floor or longer term warehouse inventory pallets of finished product coming from the factory, verifying counts and details against bind order sheets for each run. Repacked stock onto pallets or glide packs per specs as required. Loaded trucks. Worked with traffic manager, office staff, receiving, and factory personnel to solve problems. Counted inventory. Maintained postage/package meters, changing eprom cards as needed.

    That’s as far back as I think I need to go, as there are only two piddly jobs left, and self-employment mowing lawns and such. This has brought back so many memories! Some of what might have been in the specific accomplishments might be previewed or hinted at here, but I was trying not to have them overlap too much.

    Part of the way through, I realized that any resume-like review would bring up education as well, as decreased as its importance may be in time. Here, then. is the education part…

    Bridgewater State College
    BS in Management Science
    Finance & Accounting Concentration

    This included classes in Pascal and Cobol.

    So that’s a start. Now to do the rest, inspired by this.

    Experience Posts (links to reposts):

    Intro to Experience Dump
    Hardware Experience
    OS Experience
    Word Processing Experience
    Spreadsheets and Accounting
    Graphics and Presentations
    Database and RDBMS
    Dictation Software
    Communications, Internet, PDA, Blogging
    Legal Industry Software
    Backup and Compression Software
    Miscellaneous Software
    Security, Spam, Malware…
    Call Center and Tech Support Tools
    Languages and Programming Tools
    Server Software
    Software Creation

    Employment and College
    Experiences and Accomplishments Scratchpad

    Business Geekery Job Hunting

    Repost: Software Creation

    Originally posted May 5, 2007, now archived here.

    For further explanation why this post exists, see Intro to Experience Dump. This is the section for software I have written or otherwise been involved in the creation of, be it in the form of testing, customer relations, determining requirements, debugging, management, or whatever. It overlaps with a few things I have mentioned elsewhere, but deserves its own category even had I mentioned it all elsewhere. There are probably things I have forgotten, or that are too small or incomplete to be worth mentioning even if I remember them. Do web sites count as something akin to software development projects? I’m not counting them, but that would be another angle, given the various sites I’ve created or helped create, modified or maintained, even besides blogs. Anyway, I believe this will be the last post that lists software and then talks about it. I anticipate following with other posts discussing my background, experiences and interests, to try to get a handle on the rest of it too. I may also create a master post that includes just the list of software, tools and languages in one place. Just for the fun of seeing it.

    Escalation Assistant
    Proof of concept internet keyword search engine
    Web Response Tracker
    Web Coach
    Training Evaluation
    XTreme Data XChange
    XTreme TimeTrakz
    XTreme Time Minder
    Winlaw Scanning & Archiver Utility
    Winlaw Closing Wizard
    Technology Management System (TMS)
    Custom groundskeeping billing in Access VBA
    Prometheus PDF Supplement
    Quote Factory
    Icon Extractor
    Password Generator
    Blood Pressure Logger
    Too many samples and snippets of code to count, including some publicly available ones like this textbox tip and sample.

    There are things I was more on the periphery of, where perhaps I dealt with a client, or was aware of the nature of the code being written or improved, but was not in a position to see or be involved in it myself. For instance, a stock analysis program co-written on-site with our client at their offices in Rhode Island. Three of my colleagues worked on it, with one of them flying to California to deploy the application and configure Oracle for the client’s customer. For another instance, a CRM/sales management tool for an insurance company in Connecticut.

    The item I listed as “Proof of concept internet keyword search engine” borders on that, but I was actively involved in the planning and testing, and evaluating the proposal. That was in the early days; 1997 and just into 1998. Someone had the bright idea, of which we were highly skeptical, of selling keywords. In your TV ad you’d tell people to type “cars” in their browser. No http. No www. Just a word. Remember, this was a long time ago. That would provoke a search at the host site, looking up the URL that matched the word. Then the user would be redirected to the URL; perhaps a page on the car company’s site advertising a special in detail. The guy behind this wanted it to be available in time for the Super Bowl, and wanted the thing to be able to handle the sheer volume of traffic that might imply.

    We never got paid a cent, but neither did we provide anyone with code. However, it was serious and, until they ran out of money, apparently well enough backed that we were supplied with a massive HP server to use for testing. It was up there with some of the best machines one might deploy as servers back then. A couple of my colleagues did their magic writing some code. We networked with the server, hit it with massive traffic tests, and couldn’t even get it to break a sweat. That was cool. Then the whole thing fell apart. They didn’t want to pay us realistic money for it anyway, and the guy behind it apparently ran out of funding, so nothing happened. Except for subsequent, presumably unrelated developments online that made the idea look better than we’d thought at the time.

    Backtracking a bit, I covered Escalation Assistant in the tech support tools post. I wrote it to add uniformity to and help ensure completeness of the details supplied in the text of escalations to second level Microsoft Visual Basic support. It was kind of cool to have written something, even if it wasn’t particularly large or fancy, that was used by most of the department.

    Ditto on having talked about the Web Response Tracker and Web Coach programs before. I believe the former was the first programming project I ever oversaw without writing it myself. It was a great experience. The latter is notable in that my friend and colleague Bob saw me working on it with gleeful intensity and observed how much fun I was having, and that I was kind of a natural at it. That brought home to me that, indeed, he was right.

    The WebWizard I had forgotten about until I poked around to see if I’d missed anything. In answering web responses – support requests people left via the web site rather than by calling – there were certain elements that were uniform or recyclable. One of the thing I did was establish certain standard protocols and bits of text used in responses. For instance, letting someone know that the answer above should resolve their problem, and we would close the case after so many days if we didn’t hear back. Something like that saved us having to harass the customer into actively saying they were all set and saved us accumulating open cases that were open only because the customer never replied. In two partially written variants, I set out to automate parts of that. The trouble was, I distracted myself by creating a cool splash screen on which an animated spider dropped down and up a strand of web. It was strictly voluntary and experimental, so no biggie, and I had fun.

    The Training Evaluation project is another I mentioned earlier, and another project I oversaw. It was written by my friend and colleague of the time, Nicole.

    Programs I called Time Trakz and Time Minder were two different timekeeping programs I created and used for billing purposes. The first had start, pause, resume and stop buttons and would, using them, stopwatch and increment your time for you. We weren’t really using that feature and it was easier simply to type in how much time, and the big client requested a particular way of categorizing work (which six years later they now say is too ambiguous). So I wrote a new version that has been used regularly since, initially against SQL Server 7.0, then with Access. I never “finished” it in terms of things I’d have liked to add, but it has served the purpose. There were times I’d have likes something web-based, or an e-mail parser, but hey.

    Data XChange is a big story. The story of the entire business, in a way. A cautionary story about what could and did go wrong.

    When I left Tranti Systems and ended up in Word support, I had developed a nearly incurable distrust of companies as employers. I knew I needed and wanted to learn more, but even as I started that support job, I had a vague notion I’d stay there several months or a year, absorb more knowledge, and then leave for some vaguely defined “computer consulting” self-employment. That job showed me how much I didn’t know, and was comfortable enough, especially during the first several months, it diverted my original plan to flee and go out on my own. I never fully forgot it, but it receded. I still have the “memory” of my mental image of myself in a small office, oddly enough located in Halifax, near the current location of Wal-Mart.

    While in VB support, some of us were dismayed when comparing our abilities to that of the developers we were helping, who made far more money than we did. That led some of my colleagues to discuss starting a side business. They brought me in on it, after choosing a name but before meeting officially for the first time outside of work. It started as much as a social club as a business, but the initial idea was to write software we could sell in some quantity. That was music to my ears. While we had others who were downright prodigal at programming, I made big plans for product marketing, production and fulfillment.

    Another thing we knew from support was that there was demand for a utility to convert between database formats, including things like going backward from newer to older Access. That would be our first product, which we called Data XChange. Since we named it in 1996, use of “xchange” and “data xchange” in some form or another has exploded from nothing to absurd, if not as absurd as the proliferation of use of the word “xtreme” in some form.

    That hummed along nicely. Some of us gave feedback on the interface and helped with testing. Others pounded out the code. Within several months we had a 1.0 product that quite literally could have been released with caveats, then patched or updated in a 2.0 version. However, one partner insisted that it had to ship with absolutely complete and bug free functionality. No warning people that it couldn’t handle Paradox indexes reliably, or whatnot, for the almost nobody to whom that would matter. Another partner insisted it had to be completely rewritten from scratch, object-oriented, enabling us to sell an SDK version as well. At that point the creative energy deflated, everyone else steered away from it, and the partner with the big plans to rewrite it never even started. We did manage to get a copy of the code modified to disable all but conversion between Access data versions and made that available as a free download.

    We missed the opportunity to bring in enough money to keep people excited and to pay us to continue improving it. The business structure, which fell into partnership by default, precluded the ability to supervise and direct the work in any traditional manner. There were also too many of us, with too many differing ideas of what we ought to do for a buck. Thus we steered into the consulting/custom software direction. Which was always something we were open to, but some of us had a greater desire to go with “packaged” software as much as possible.

    Flash forward a bit, and we had a company looking for a limited functionality SDK version of Data XChange, meaning a DLL they could call to do the conversion task. They only needed it to go one way, between Access versions. The partner who’d wanted to do the SDK approach sat down and wrote what was needed within a couple hours. Some quick testing and it was in the hands of the customer. I charged them not for custom, but for what we’d retail it, and I was excited to be able to market even a limited SDK Data XChange product. When I tried to get the code from my partner, he had lost it to an fdisk he’d just happened to do right after writing it and getting it out to the customer. After his pride at how little time it took, he refused to spend the couple hours to recreate it. Meanwhile, it was cool to know that a copy of our DLL was installed in several hundred locations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, but it was irritating that hundreds or even thousands of dollars in revenue per hour of my partner’s time wound up being tens of dollars per hour. Not even the discounted rate we were by then charging the big client.

    This post isn’t supposed to be about lessons in business or software development, but it can’t help but be just that.

    I discussed Winlaw under legal software. It was originated by another company, as a custom package for a law firm that ranged between 40 and 52 people in size. They apparently hoped to make it a standard offering to other firms. We imrpoved it, as it had serious problems, and upgraded it to 32-bit. I did a lot of UI tweaks, plus functionality improvements and bug fixes over the years I maintained it.

    One of the features we were contracted to add was a closing wizard, to more comprehensively gather information about a case as it was being closed. I designed the interface and worked with the client on requirements. With my help and supervision, one of my partners wrote the meat of the code and we ported it from a standalone program for ease of development into Winlaw proper.

    Another element of the Winlaw project was the addition of a program for archiving documents. I wrote that one, and made it so it could also be used less emphatically, to make a mere copy of all the documents from a case. That turned out to be the most used feature, as it was used in conjunction with scanning externally sourced paper documents at the time each case closed, to have a snapshot on CD of the documents as they appeared on the server then.

    The Winlaw project ended up having elements in common with Data XChange, and our business elements in common with the originators of Winlaw. In the latter case, the story was that the partner whose baby Winlaw was left the company, nobody else there cared about it, and that was why the client had to hire us to fix it. In the former case, my partner who was the primary on the project got a certain amount done and then decided it just had to be written entirely from scratch. The benefit of that would be we could have a more widely marketable version, while also fully satisfying the original requirements and some. That was where Prometheus came in, and as far as it went, it was amazing. In both versions; the first one wasn’t good enough and was tossed when it was mostly complete, to be rewritten from scratch. Then the partner whose project Prometheus was left.

    I ended up deploying a version of it in beta for a small firm. That was the hard part. Once in service, it worked great. Until they needed to handle PDF files, and not merely Word and other MS Office file types. While I tried to figure out how to create a plug-in that would work for PDF files, I created a side program they could use to associate selected PDF files with a case, list the ones for a case, and open them. Too much of a kludge, but it was better than nothing for a time.

    For me, the whole code writing thing wasn’t so bad, except it didn’t have anything like a current payoff, and quite possibly it had no payoff, ever. In the case of Winlaw, the agreed upon price was so absurd, and not in our favor, that it was barely worth lifting a finger even on the assumption of collecting for it someday.

    Kidpaint is a silly yet cool little program I wrote while still in VB support. It’s pretty much how it sounds, and could also double as a demo of some of the graphics methods available natively in VB, which were one of the things I taught in VB training. There’s a drawing area, with a background color that can be change. You can switch between each of the different “pens.” You can select a width. A separate form below the main form has colors to pick from, resembling an old watercolor paint set. A separate form beside the main form lets you click on an icon-sized picture and then click to “stamp” it onto the drawing. Left-click is once only, while right-click leaves it available to stamp over and over. Right draw is randomly multicolor, while left draw is the selected color. You can show or hide the colors or stamps. It’s cute, but not sophisticated.

    Technology Management System, or TMS, was a project we did for a long defunct company named Marine Optical. The sad thing is that they showed every sign of being on the verge of going under, and being likely not to pay us for the whole thing, but the money – and somewhat fascinating project – beckoned and blinded us to the signs.

    It was a program for people at the company to put in work requests of the IT department. The manager of a department would approve a request by one of their employees. The manager of IT would approve and assign things as the ultimate arbiter. The tough part was the way in which they wanted a combination of assigned priority, time in the queue, and absolute priority overrides by the IT manager to be computed and interact. I ended up being the only one with a clear grasp of what they were asking, but I wasn’t the one writing the code, so I did a lot of explaining. I basically managed the project. My partner spent his last week before leaving the office to take a full time job over at the client’s building, helping the co-writer there prepare it for deployment. Between his leaving and our knowing they wanted to save money, we left some finishing touches and creation of reports to them.

    A few weeks later, their employee got stuck, had modified the code in a suboptimal way, and it came back on us. In about five weeks, we almost doubled the cost of the project, fixing it, debugging and polishing it up, and doing after all the things they’d have saved money doing internally. In a way, I had a lot of fun that month, working with another partner (who was conveniently between day jobs), troubleshooting and modifying the code. What happened, though, is the partner who’d done most of it in the first place (Marine’s employee had worked with him, mainly on the user interface) would stop by after work, take over from us, wipe out what we’d done and write whole swaths of code from scratch, concluding that what he’d done initially wasn’t good enough. Hark, a behavioral pattern emerges.

    We managed to get it just finished and deployable by the end of the year. Their employee still was unable to deploy it. His boss, the IT manager, left. Once she was gone, after the beginning of the year they were in full throes toward bankruptcy and there was no chance we’d ever get paid, and within a few months he was laid off too. It was bad. The program was excellent, though. Some of the requirements were a bit goofy, but a modified version of the program would probably work fine for many companies as an IT management tool, similar to others, fewer of which existed at the time. Indeed, they wanted custom then because nothing off the shelf quite fit them.

    I was essentially manager, customer contact and support person for a custom billing solution for a small groundskeeping business. It was in Access VBA. The biggest problem was probably the lack of feedback from the customer as to precisely what he needed. He simply liked to talk and talk socially, but left us almost on our own when it came to business. He also didn’t have the approval of his wife to have the project done, when she would be the user. In actually deployment, the biggest problems were lack of computer skill and comfort, and ease with which entering bad data would crash it. The good thing was anyone who could open an Access table and eyeball the data could fix it. In theory. It was interesting and kind of cool, but should probably have been done in VB, even if it meant greater cost.

    Quote Factory was my name for a project I started and didn’t get much past the UI on. It was for generating printing price quotes. I was at a low point and didn’t engage with it as I should have, but I also saw the warning signs that we would never see remotely adequate, if any, money for the project. There was also the classic mistake of showing the customer a GUI and having him see it as practically a done program. The time it would have required would have been somewhere between two and ten times what the customer would have been willing to pay. I abandoned it. It seemed like a cool enough project I sometimes wish I’d have created it, even if it meant getting screwed.

    Icon Extractor is a program I wrote to show and be able to copy to the clipboard any icons contained in a file such as a DLL or EXE. I also wrote a simpler one long before that to display and zoom in on ICO files, and to copy them. Cool, if essentially little more than samples of how to do a particular thing.

    The password generator is something I created to give me random looking yet relatively easy to remember passwords for people, based on certain inputs, one of them internal to the user database.

    The blood pressure logger would have been completely pointless, except that it gave me something to try writing with Visual Basic 4.0 beta. I would enter blood pressure readings I got, checking sometimes several times a day, and it would append them to a Word document. That way I was able to give the doctor a printout of readings, dates, times, and circumstances.

    Finally, the least significant of the above are little more than sample code. There was tons of that. In support, we had to be careful we weren’t writing people’s programs for them, but sometimes we got carried away. Since that was product support, there was more to it than code, including Visual Basic and Visual Studio installation problems, and distribution problems with programs written in VB. That last one could effectively mean being product support for someone else’s program, at least to the point of getting it to install. But I digress.

    I want to move on to some other posts, but my next thing after this will be a review of all my sundry experience. It’s a bit voluminous and perhaps lame, but it’s making me think and examine myself. This is the time for that, as one thing phases down and it’s not entirely certain what the next thing(s) will or ought to be.

    Experience Posts (links to reposts):

    Intro to Experience Dump
    Hardware Experience
    OS Experience
    Word Processing Experience
    Spreadsheets and Accounting
    Graphics and Presentations
    Database and RDBMS
    Dictation Software
    Communications, Internet, PDA, Blogging
    Legal Industry Software
    Backup and Compression Software
    Miscellaneous Software
    Security, Spam, Malware…
    Call Center and Tech Support Tools
    Languages and Programming Tools
    Server Software
    Software Creation

    Employment and College
    Experiences and Accomplishments Scratchpad

    Business Geekery Job Hunting

    Repost: Server Software

    Originally posted May 4, 2007, now archived here.

    For further explanation why this post exists, see Intro to Experience Dump. This is the section for server software, including operating systems. It overlaps extensively with things I have mentioned elsewhere, and is primarily another way of classifying and discussing some of it. I could be forgetting some…

    Windows NT
    Windows 2000 Server
    Windows 2003 Small Business Server
    Windows 2003 Server
    Microsoft SQL Server
    Microsoft Exchange Server
    Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS)
    Microsoft Proxy Server
    Veritas Backup Exec
    EMC Retrospect
    Juris Classic
    Juris Next Generation
    Norton Antivirus
    Sybari Antigen and Spam Manager

    Do I include that which can be run networked or not, like Lawyer’s Diary, Turbolaw, Peachtree or Wintitle? Does figuring out how to access an old AS/400 from its lone remaining terminal count as a server? When I set out to make a server software category, I thought it would be straightforward. Most of the afterthoughts technically only use data on a server, so really wouldn’t count in the manner I decided Winlaw, local except the SQL Server backend, didn’t count.

    My big server OS experience is with NT4. I’ve installed it many times. I’ve run networks using it. I helped run it mixed with Novell, then migrate entirely to NT. The trouble was, I was in an environment where it was used well beyond the point when many had switched to Windows 2000 or 2003 Server, so I feel like I was held back in obsoleteville. Not that NT4 didn’t rock, but sometimes you gotta move on.

    Thus I only dealt with Windows 2000 Server in the form of adding it to an NT network as a member server, because NT didn’t support the SATA RAID on the new server. It was never quite right – like one of those “haunted” computers you encounter periodically – and the people administering it now plan to retire it as soon as can be managed.

    I setup 2003 SBS for a client and thought it was pretty cool. I also helped migrate another client from a Novell server with a degraded drive to a 2003 server. Finally, I did the preliminary setup of two Windows 2003 servers for the client that had been clinging to NT, and have otherwise worked with them.

    I setup a client with the version of Exchange on SBS 2003, and have otherwise worked with that version of Exchange. Mainly I’ve used Exchange 5.5 though. I helped set it up initially, reinstalled it multiple times, and installed it on other servers for subsidiary purposes like enabling a backup agent to work. I administered Exchange 5.5 for a firm of 40 – 52 people from late 1999 through late 2006. During that time, I got the firm onto the internet, adding IMC (internet mail connector) via a proxy server.

    Which was also when Proxy Server and IIS came in. IIS was required for OWA (Outlook Web Access), and handy for creating an intranet site for everybody not to use. I helped the client select an upgraded phone system that was T-1 based and included four channels of the T-1 for data. Later we switched providers and doubled the bandwidth. Proxy seemed like the best way to handle it at the time, while also feeding the owner’s desire to know and control what everyone did on the web.

    ArcServe was the original backup software. It wasn’t bad, but when I had to rebuild the server the tape drive was in, the media was nowhere to be found. At that point we switched to Veritas Backup Exec, which came hugely recommended and was even easier to use than ArcServe had been. I deployed and redeployed that variously over the years, including when we got a new tape drive on a new server because the old tape drive’s 12 GB capacity became too small for even the most important files.

    The IT firm that’s taking over most of the work switched them to EMC Retrospect during the network upgrade, utterly ignoring the existing license for a vastly superior product in order to feed their vendor relationship or whatever. Retrospect, which subsequently became an orphan product for which there are no further release plans, is hands down the worst backup software and quite possibly the hardest to use software of any kind that I have ever encountered. Nonetheless, I have to my dismay used the product, as I had to check and change the selections, and try to figure out whether the time the backups took could be reduced. Backup Exec had been taking around five hours. Retrospect was taking around eighteen hours. Ouch.

    Juris was covered under accounting-related software. It is very much server-based, so I included it here as well. I supported the classic version, encouraged them to upgrade to the modern version, worked with them arranging it, deployed the new version, migrated the data from the old version, and supported that from then on.

    I tried for many years to get the big client to get a corporate Norton Antivirus (or something like it!) license, which they steadfastly refused to do, even when presented with explicit pricing and ordering information and left to do it… or not. They finally went for it when the people we outsourced the network upgrade to insisted on it, which was correct, notwithstanding again the massaging of their vendor relationships. In the meantime, I dealt with Norton corporate elsewhere.

    I did get the big client to adopt Sybari Antigen to scan e-mails for viruses, which was a huge help, given that’s the overwhelming source. Prior to doing even this for protection, there were two major outbreaks. One was e-mail borne. The other was simply “hey, you’re connected to the internet” in nature. There were no major outbreaks after I deployed Antigen, which was the most highly recommended product of its kind. Two years later, we added Spam Manager, which was also superlative until replacing the Exchange server disrupted it.

    That should cover at least the most important items that can be called server software, even if something is missing.

    Experience Posts (links to reposts):

    Intro to Experience Dump
    Hardware Experience
    OS Experience
    Word Processing Experience
    Spreadsheets and Accounting
    Graphics and Presentations
    Database and RDBMS
    Dictation Software
    Communications, Internet, PDA, Blogging
    Legal Industry Software
    Backup and Compression Software
    Miscellaneous Software
    Security, Spam, Malware…
    Call Center and Tech Support Tools
    Languages and Programming Tools
    Server Software
    Software Creation

    Employment and College
    Experiences and Accomplishments Scratchpad

    Business Geekery Job Hunting

    Repost: Languages and Programming Tools

    Originally posted May 3, 2007, now archived here.

    For further explanation why this post exists, see Intro to Experience Dump. This is the section for programming tools, languages and such. As usual, I may be forgetting some that would fit here. Also, lest one get excited, just because I have laid hands on a language, perhaps written a “hello world” program with it, maybe compared its language and syntax on paper, that does not mean proficiency, or even familiarity. It’s merely indicative of a bit of added depth to my overall background. The only things I’d claim proficiency in are VB through 6.0, Wordbasic from Word 6.0, and perhaps VBA as applied to later versions of Word and Access.

    Visual Basic 3.0 through 6.0
    QuickBasic 4.5
    Professional Devlopment System 7.1
    Visual Basic for DOS
    Visual Basic.NET
    Borland C++
    Borland Delphi
    MS Visual C++
    Visual Interdev
    Visual J++
    Visual FoxPro
    MS-DOS batches

    I think I’ve looked at other things like Python or Ruby, but I can’t remember exactly which, so I left them out of the list. I definitely played with, and helped a friend with, Perl. Guess I should add that. J is something I discovered a couple years back, downloaded and played with a bit. I find it fascinating to look at new languages.

    The first six items on the list I supported for Microsoft to some degree or another. Officially in Word support we did not support macros, but that was my specialty and we tended to make exceptions to some degree. That carried over into automation of Word from VB programs, which later meant becoming familiar with VBA when Wordbasic was replaced. Right around the time I migrated from Word to VB support, the first Word macro virus hit. Because I’d shown you could do some mischievous things with macros, colleagues jokingly suggested I might have been the source. Flattering, in a twisted sort of way.

    The interesting thing about supporting a programming product is that you get a huge range of exposure that you might not get coding a project, but you don’t get the intense depth in one area that coding a project that uses certain features might impart. You also learn how to find things out in support, which is extremely useful. I always emphasized when providing references that the candidate in question might not know a specific thing – there’s too much for anyone to know it all pat – but troubleshooting and research ability on top of the broader knowledge are a huge benefit. Sometimes it was depressing talking to software developers and realizing just how bad many were, yet they were making real money. Sometimes it was weird having limited knowledge about a customer’s question, compared to them, yet having enough knowledge, access to information, and alternate perspective to cut right to it and look like a miracle worker. Despite having started the call in a panic because you didn’t know much about X.

    Then there were the obsolete products we supported for a time. The training was all about VB3 and then VB4. If someone called about the DOS versions of Basic or VB, it got really interesting. Even when it wasn’t someone doing something goofy like running QuickBasic from floppies on an ancient PC without a hard drive. (Perhaps the equivalent in Word support was when someone couldn’t make Word 6.0 run on a 286, where I congratulated them for getting Windows to run and could do nothing for them.) It helped that I had dabbled with BASIC off and on since I learned my first bits of it circa 1977.

    Before I even got the job in Word support, I had bought and installed Borland’s C++ product, dabbled with it slightly, and eventually read a book and tried the code it taught. The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to C Programming or something like that; great book. I dabbled just as slightly with some of Microsoft’s versions. Most recently was trying to run and compile a component one of my partners wrote in VC++ to be used from Prometheus, our case/document management product.

    Pascal and COBOL were classes in college. That and I dabbled with Delphi, which used a form of Pascal. What was weird was when I read the book Code Complete, it gave examples and comparisons in various languages, and Pascal always looked surprisingly familiar to me. It’s kind of like French from 7th, 8th and 9th grade. I can see or even hear French and it doesn’t sound alien to me the way another language other than English or German might. Years later, when I took German, I’d find myself needing the German word and inexplicably remembering the French word for something, and usually forgetting the German in the process. I’d have told you I’d forgotten it long ago, but there it was, bubbling up.

    It’s hard not to have learned some HTML, or at least gotten comfortable looking at it, after having web sites for ten years. Still, I am not a wizard and like tools that make it easier. Thus so much of my work having been done in FrontPage, or using blogging software. Except that both, and especially blogging software, very much call for getting into the HTML, the PHP, the CSS; the alphabet soup of it all. I didn’t include CSS on the list and could have. For that matter, SQL could go on the list, and matters more than a lot of it.

    I poked Rexx with a stick when I played with OS/2 Warp, having seen much discussion of it ahead of time among Team OS/2 denizens. I don’t remember anything, but I know I touched it and was naturally curious after hearing so much.

    Whereas I did a lot with DOS batch files, which do count as a form of programming/macro language/tool. I still do. My most recent VB program was a quick utility to read a couple of fields from an Access database and write out a text file with traditional file I/O (rather than referencing FSO – File System Objects – and going beyond an EXE that would run fine after a straight copy to the target machine). The fields were original and current paths of archived documents. Restoring them called for a mass of copy commands using the two paths. Nothing fancy.

    It’s funny; I could probably have gone ahead and done programming for a living. I’m better than I generally give myself credit for, and certainly more of a natural, but I tended to be surrounded by people who were prodigal by comparison. In a business started originally to write software, that was why I was the business guy, along with some testing, user interface work and such. I’m good at orchestrating the activities of other people, understanding requirements, and grasping a whole project. I’m good at debugging existing code. I’m good at making attractive and usable interfaces, or improving existing ones. Sometimes I think about it and it seems cool. Sometimes I think about it and it sounds onerous to have to maintain that level of concentration all day, each day. Which is not actually how it works, because that just isn’t possible, which is one reason why production of code isn’t as voluminously fast as some less technical types might anticipate. These days I think about it and worry about having to get up to speed on new tools.

    When dotnet came out, none of us were doing Visual Basic support anymore. That meant we wouldn’t receive the customary training and were on our own. While I and others checked it out on our own to some degree, which was frustrating when it took forever to figure out how to do the equivalent of Form2.Show and other simple things that were the beauty of VB, it wasn’t the same. So I organized a couple of day long sessions at my office. A bunch of us gathered around several computers and banged away at it, getting pointers from anyone who knew more about or was faster to figure out a given thing. It was excellent. We also had some partial training material from within Microsoft to look at. Other than that and playing with it (and C#) a bit before and after, I’ve not used dotnet. Code I’ve maintained or worked on has continued to be in VB6. There was no reason to change that.

    Oh, forgot VBA. I’ve used it directly and through automation in MS Office products. I’ve also looked at the VBA kit that came with MSDN, and in at least one non-Microsoft application. I seem to recall that having been Lotus WordPro, and the app-specific commands having seemed rather obscure even by Word VBA standards. One of my partners created an Access-based application using VBA, a custom billing program, for a groundskeeping business. I helped with it some, and was primary contact for the customer. Actually, I ended up doing most of the support, debugging and testing. It seemed best to use Access directly, because of the convenience of generating reports as invoices. It was so shaky (mainly prone to collapse under the slightest bad data) that a real program in VB might have been better and not much more time-consuming. We ended up charging what the customer was willing to pay, which was about a third of what it was “worth” by the hour, yet still very real money. The partner had nothing else doing at the time. At any rate, that was a big education in Access VBA.

    There you have it. This will sort of overlap one of the remaining sections, in which I list and discuss software I was involved in creating (or attempting to create) on at some level. I believe all that’s left is that and a partially redundant collation of server-based software. Then it’s on to other things.

    Experience Posts (links to reposts):

    Intro to Experience Dump
    Hardware Experience
    OS Experience
    Word Processing Experience
    Spreadsheets and Accounting
    Graphics and Presentations
    Database and RDBMS
    Dictation Software
    Communications, Internet, PDA, Blogging
    Legal Industry Software
    Backup and Compression Software
    Miscellaneous Software
    Security, Spam, Malware…
    Call Center and Tech Support Tools
    Languages and Programming Tools
    Server Software
    Software Creation

    Employment and College
    Experiences and Accomplishments Scratchpad