Tag Archives: Links/News

HostForWeb – best hosting company ever

Ok, I have to give a quick shout out to my hosting company, HostForWeb. I’ve had my web-sites and e-mail hosted by them for about…5 years now? I can’t remember when I started, but a while ago.

Today, I noticed that my e-mail was not going out through my domain via smtp. I quickly determined that the server was up (I could ssh in, and locally telnet to port 25), but I couldn’t reach it from my home. Laptop didn’t work either.

First, I called Comcast. They were less than helpful, claiming not to notice anything wrong with my account. I didn’t push the issue, because I figured I should check my hosting company as well. Also, we’re moving in two weeks and Comcast isn’t coming with us.

Well, I went to HostForWeb’s live chat support, and within 30 seconds Greg answered, and asked what I needed. I explained the situation, telling him I thought it possible that my IP was being blocked. He did some checking and tweaking and asked me to try again. Still didn’t work. I didn’t really think the problem was on their end, but I had to check anyway. In the end, he gave me a new port to access the smtp server, and I was on my way. In less than 5 minutes.

Comcast, try to beat that.

I should also mention, that I have had a few other occasions to contact HostForWeb tech support (I screwed up my DNS; my home IP really was banned at one point for something; etc.). Each time, even via e-mail, the problem was resolved incredibly quickly. I think the longest I ever waited was 30 minutes until resolution.

So if you’re in the market, these people are great. The support is phenomenal.

Technorati Tags: , , ,


I’ve been meaning to write about this software for a while. When I started my current job, all software development was done by an outside contractor. I quickly took over, and that necessitated implementing a lot of tools and procedures to handle our large C++ and C# code base.

Choosing Subversion for source control was easy–free, open source, better than VSS and CVS.

Bug tracking software was a little harder. There are a lot of packages out there. I eventually decided on a great little package called BugTracker.Net. It’s written by a gentleman named Corey Trager who does it in his spare time. It’s a very simple system, and doesn’t provide a lot of the heavy-weight features of more complete packages, but if you’re a small team (like I’m in), then it could be perfect. I really appreciate Corey’s web-site, because he acknowledges that it’s not written with every scenario in mind. In fact, he even publicizes comparisons of his system with other popular tracking systems out there.

That said, there is a good degree of customizability in it, and it really was easy to setup, upgrade, configure, and customize.

Some of the features:

Suitable for tracking helpdesk customer support tickets as well as software bugs.

Sending and receiving emails is integrated with the tracker, so that the email thread about a bug is tracked WITH the bug.

Allows incoming emails to be recorded as bugs. So, for example, an email from your customer could automatically be turned into an bug/ticket in the tracker.

Allows you to attach files and screenshots to bugs. There is even a custom screen capture utility [screenshot] that lets you take a screenshot, annotate it, and post it as a bug with just a few clicks. (inspired by Fogbugz)

Add your own custom fields.

Custom bug lists, filtered and sorted the way you want, with the columns that you want.

You can display bugs of a certain priority and/or status in a different color, so that the most important items grab your attention.

Configure different user roles to see different lists of bugs. For example, a developer might see a list of open bugs. A QA analyst might want to see a list of bugs ready for testing.

(and more…)

Like I said, if you’re a small team that just needs to coordinate on issues, this platform could be perfect.

(BTW, this is not a sponsored post–I just want to point out some software that I like).

San Francisco Restaurants – Dining Guide

We have another sponsor! MyChoyce.com is a free dining guide for  the San Francisco area. And wow. It’s nice. I am really wishing something like this existed for the Washington, DC metro area. The site is attractive, easy to use. And they have menus! Awesome.

You can search and filter by food, services, location, price. I’ve used a few restaurant locaters, with varying results, but so far I like this one the best. If you live in the bay area, check them out. If you’re a restaurant owner–I would get onto this site fast.

Thanks to them for their sponsorship, and if you know somebody who would like a little bit of extremely affordable publicity, send them to BuyMeALego.com!

Technorati Tags: ,,

Door to Door Organics

A few months ago, Leticia and I signed up for a service called DoorToDoorOrganics. Simply put, this is a way to get farm-fresh, organic produce from local farmers, delivered to your door.

How it works is this:

  1. Create an account, decide on the size and type of box you want.
  2. Decide how often you want–every week or every two weeks (or just once)
  3. Friday before the week of delivery, you’ll get an e-mail. You can go to the site and customize the items in your box.
  4. Get the box on Wednesday via UPS. It has ice packs, food is fresh.
  5. Eat. Enjoy good, fresh food.

The quality of food is really high. And you also get occasional things that are new and different. We’ve loved it. We never have to go to the store for this stuff anymore. We go only occasionally now for milk, eggs, bread. Maybe every two months for a huge stocking trip.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Resume Help

FreeResumeReview.org is my latest sponsor to my Buy Me a Lego campaign. The cool thing about them: they actually really are FREE. The tips section is useful on its own, but the really cool thing is that you can upload your resume and cover letter and they’ll review it for free.

Free Resume Review dot org was created by a corporate executive who saw a great need for free, professional, personalized advice regarding effective resume writing. After teaching courses in career planning and serving on a hiring committee he decided to create his own free site where job seekers could learn great tips, connect to other helpful sites, and most importantly, upload their own resumes and cover letters to be reviewed by qualified staff.

I’m bookmarking this site and am going to come back to it soon when I update my resume. Go check them out.

Technorati Tags: , ,

digg for developers

I was thinking the other day that there should be a digg-like site that is only for software developers.

Well, it turns out there is! I was analyzing my web traffic and the list of recent referrers. A few were coming from dzone. Apparently, somebody has been submitting some of my articles to this site (thank you!). The site works in much the same way as digg, but the subtopics are programming-related. You can vote up or down various posts. It doesn’t look like it has anywhere near the traffic that digg has, but hopefully it continues to grow.

So if you’re a developer and like to stay on top of new links and articles, get yourself an account on dzone and start contributing and voting.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

The War on Being Different

Bruce Schneier has a wonderful essay on his site today about how our culture of fear of harmless people and objects is being propagated. I think this is my favorite essay of his.

I really like this paragraph about how this happens:

Watch how it happens. Someone sees something, so he says something. The person he says it to — a policeman, a security guard, a flight attendant — now faces a choice: ignore or escalate. Even though he may believe that it’s a false alarm, it’s not in his best interests to dismiss the threat. If he’s wrong, it’ll cost him his career. But if he escalates, he’ll be praised for “doing his job” and the cost will be borne by others. So he escalates. And the person he escalates to also escalates, in a series of CYA decisions. And before we’re done, innocent people have been arrested, airports have been evacuated, and hundreds of police hours have been wasted.

Please go read the full article and digg it, spread it around, especially to influential people you may know. It’s ridiculous, the things people are harassed for these days.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Neo Must Die – Give us the Matrix

We don’t want to be free. Neo is our enemy, not our savior.

Most of us have seen The Matrix, or are at least familiar with the story. Neo is our hero in the movie, a virtual god in training, selflessly seeking to destroy the Matrix and free the enslaved humans therein.

Yet, curiously, one of the freed humans desires to get back into the Matrix. “Ignorance is bliss,” proclaims Cypher. Tired of the grit of the real world, he wants to enjoy his virtual steak in a comfortable booth in a nice restaurant in oblivion. Obviously the bad guy, he makes a deal with the Agents and betrays Neo and the crew.

Pointless to ask which character do you identify with more?

The ironic truth is that we humans are willingly inserting ourselves into the Matrix. We don’t need to wait for the Machines to come get us. We’re building them and strapping them on, plugging them in, and embedding ourselves within them.

Think of these trends:

  1. iPods – It seems like there are nearly as many pairs of white ear buds as humans. It is easier than ever to block out the deafening silence with music, podcasts, and tiny videos for the attention-challenged masses. Do I have an iPod that I listen to while cooking, cleaning, building Legos, driving, falling asleep? You betcha.
  2. World of Warcraft, Second Life, other MMORPGS – I think the resemblance of these to the Matrix is actually more superficial than anything else. They are obvious fantasy playgrounds. And yet…we read about WoW weddings, offline guilds, and more. Companies have virtual presences in Second Life. Real estate is bought and sold. Compare the experience of Mildred in Fahrenheit 451 and her 3-walled interactive-TV enclosure. Is that some way between virtual realities and alternate, livable realities? Does your Second Life avatar look just like you? Why not?
  3. 24-hour news – It’s cliché to rail against the 24-hour media, and I don’t want to do that specifically. But it is another aspect of being “plugged in” to the world. We always have to know what’s going on everywhere (ignoring for the moment that most TV news is now tabloid and worthless).
  4. Facebook, mySpace, etc. – These online communities have replaced many of the traditional face-to-face interactions we partake in. We count our friends, visit their pages, listen to their music, understand and comment on their thoughts, sometimes without ever actually meeting.
  5. Twitter – is there anything more Borg-like than being continually updated with the status of hundreds of other individuals? Once we harness this power we, in effect, become individual cogs in a great machine.
  6. Rise of Video over Literature – Books are still incredibly popular and probably will be forever, but the potential exists for books to be superceded by video-on-demand. We’ve always had a “Matrix” in our minds–a place to escape to, interpreting the words on the page however we like. With video, however, the vision is placed upon us and we become part of it, rather than it becoming part of us.
  7. Simplifying life by placing organization burdens on computers – PDAs, Getting Things Done, Outlook. Unburdening our crowded minds, allowing the computer to track our lives for us, freeing us for more important pursuits. Rather than mindless tasks that we all must do, we can focus our energy on our creativity.

What happens to the human race as our reality is supplemented so heavily by virtual realities, by computers, by constant flows of information, and yet coincidentally we have so many automated processes to filter and store that information for when we need it. Do we become hyper-productive and fantastically creative? Do we enjoy the fruits of nearly infinite resources like learning and exploration for its own sake? Or do we become lazy and unproductive, mere taskmasters over the computers which run our lives, stuck in fantasy worlds more exciting than our own?

It’s not that any of these things are bad. What is evident now is that the Matrix itself isn’t bad. Neo is the Luddite trying to hold us back, pull us out of the hyper-connected, multiplexed virtual realities of the 21st century into the grim shadows of “real” life. Real life–that which deals pain equally with joy, sadness with happiness, tough breaks with outstanding successes, where you’re paid to work, not play, not be a hero.

Of course, the Matrix portrays a world equivalent to our own, with the real world being brutally harsh for human existence. But the difference is only in degree. Either way, we’re happier being in a virtual world that is somehow more attractive than the one we physically exist in.

Neo must die. Leave us alone to enjoy our fantasies, our electronically-fueled dalliances in worlds unknown.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,