Two things I heard that I can’t un-hear

Without further ado, here they are. These both happened years ago, so I’m likely paraphrasing, but here’s they retain the spirit in which they were given.

“If I am going to be spending time reading anyway, I may as well read something that will help my career.” –Timothy Flory

“If it took you ten hours to write a program, and you make $20.00 / hour at your day job. You’d be better off spending that ten hours earning $200.00 and spending $85.00 for an app that does it.” –Craig Lubitz

Well, pretty good advice, that’s for sure. Nothing bad ever happened to anyone for doing either or both of those. More likely, and I can attest first hand to some degree, that both of these has helped me out over the years.

<rant type=”tongue-in-cheek”>

Every damn time I am in a bookstore, or browsing Amazon.com and I come across a tasty fantasy (I’m looking at you Elric of Melniboné) or some sci-fi gem (take a bow Mr. Asimov (mmmm, old school baby)) I am inevitably plagued by Tim’s voice and it honestly makes me feel a bit guilty.

Likewise, every time I feel a little urge to write some not for work code, I think of Craig and feel a bit inefficient.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is completely my own idiosynchrocies, and I have no problem doing things just because I want or need to. They both need to be applied, like anything, with moderation and it’s all good. I guess I’m just surprised that it still happens.

</rant>

Thanks fellas 🙂

On moving, home buying, and me

Well, it’s been much longer than I had planned between writing here. But I have a reason excuse?

I just purchased my first home. It’s pretty exhausting and umm just really a general pain in the ass. However it is also pretty damn exciting. I’m relatively late to the game at 38 for a first home. I’ve been making enough money to get the job done for quite some time now but due to a marriage, child, divorce. I ended up doing some moving around and really grew to enjoy the freedom of being able to be where ever I really needed to be, if I really needed to be there.

My general first time home buying view is not as great as it could have been. But it certainly was an interesting learning experience. The home that I purchased was the second home I brought into the underwriting stage. Which, for the uninitiated I’ll just say is pretty far into the “buy it” portion of the game. All the inspections, appraisals, repair work, documenting repair work, re-repair work due to lack of work permit originally had already been completed it was simply the act of jumping through the lender’s financial hoops for final thumbs up.

The annoying part is that the financial guy should have caught the problem the second he had all the financial numbers. In a nutshell, since the whole housing market collapse debacle, the mortgage industry does a lot more due diligence (as then damn well should have been doing all along!) which basically results in many small rules changing every week. Well, absolutely your financial guy should be on top of every nuance of it. That’s his job. However in this case, since I earned my income though contracting, I had to prove a years worth of uninterrupted employment instead of a standard six months, for you average permanent employee.

Make no mistake, I am happy to abide by any laws / rules that guide this process, but this was something that could have saved a whole lot of people a whole lot of time. In the end, the sellers did not want to risk not selling their house on the hopes of my employment not being terminated (which was never an issue, but how do you really prove that anyway.) I can’t blame them, though sadly, their house is still for sale and I live in a larger house around the corner for the same price. Sometimes gambles don’t pay off, or maybe they just didn’t care.

It was tough getting that far invested into a house and then have it unravel. It all worked out for the best and my financial guy did in fact come through come close time, which I really appreciated and totally helped out at the exact second I needed it to!

The second house, the one in I did in fact buy, really felt like home the second I walked into it, and the seller was great and easy to work with. I like to think I was a good buyer as well. After negotiating the price that is Winking smile

It’s just almost a surreal feeling to sit in my basement in front of my computer and bang out a post in my own home. I honestly thought I would never buy one. It’s amazing how much life changes, and how good it can turn out being despite hard-times, penny-pinching, and life’s not-so-little obstacles.

Overall, the whole experience is a must have. +1

Damn gimicks, aka “The Hat Trick”

So I'm minding my own business, restarting my Steam client to check for any game updates and what do I see but this (click the image for the full sized version):

Dirty Cheap Trick

So if you're at all interested in Team Fortress 2, you'll know that a few months ago they introduced the concept of unlockable customization content for the characters in the game, in the form of Hats. They are typically not achievement based but some magical percentage determines if you are eligible to unlock one every hour or so and if you're lucky maybe you get one. Well, I guess it's ok but really who cares, they simply are aesthetic, but I have found exactly ONE hat after many many (far too many) hours of playing… It's annoying when others have a whole bunch of 'em.  But fine, you wait long enough, you get 'em…

Now this, Pre-Order a different game of ours and get a free hat for TF2? I mean, yeah, it's not a bad marketing ploy, but we are all still waiting for an inventory trading system… Which in itself is kinda lame in a FPS… If I wanted a MMORPG, I'd go play one… I'm already grinding on getting lame achievements to get weapons which I will actually use… but hats? Really? That's what you're spending your time on?

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Bad customer experience: Valve and Steam delivered games

I returned home from a week long vacation out of state to find my internet connection is down, which after some calls to tech support, yields a technician coming to my house in three days. At any rate, as I’m a pretty avid gamer, I have a stash of single player games which typically I save for these “rainy days”.

Well, over time, it seems I have picked up a fair amount of single player games which were purchased and delivered on Valve’s Steam system, which I am a pretty big fan of. The ability to just download and play the games you have already purchased is awesome!

Now normally, when your internet connection temporarily goes down, Steam supports an “Offline Mode” which allows you to play your games even though it can not connect to the Valve servers to validate the purchase. And usually it works fine. Games which require internet access don’t work so well, but you’d run into that with or with-out Steam, no doubt.

The problem I have run into however is, I would have to call a bug. As I mentioned I have been away for a week and my machine was turned off. So after some period of time, the Steam client decides it needs to check for an update, which ultimately falls as the internet connection is down. So, really that’s fine, the problem is, when an update fails the Steam client will not allow anything else to happen and closes Steam. An even more frustrating, it pops up the dialog which let’s you either Cancel running Steam or to start it in “Offline Mode”, however, when a Steam client update fails, it can only close steam and will not allow “Offline Mode” to proceed.

Here are some screenshots of the process:

1) So far, so good, starts up and tries to update

1

2) Starts doing something, in fact it gets to 27% pauses for a second, then retries. It will try 3 times in total never getting past the original 27% . This is likely due to the fact that the internet connection this machine is currently using is a tethered mobile phone using the 3G network of my provider. I’m not blaming Steam for this. With absolutely no internet connection, this #2 shot never happens, it just proceeds to #3.

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3) After 3 failed attempts at completing the download and update, it errors out.

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4) We are now presented with an option to Retry, Quit, or Start in Offline Mode. Retry repeats items 1 thru 3. Quit simply quits the steam client here. We then try the “Start in Offline Mode” to get to our games list or onto the game we started via Steam generated shortcut.

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5) The Steam client update is apparently a MUST HAVE to proceed, and since it has failed (and in this case can never proceed as no internet connection is available). We are denied starting in “Offline Mode”

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6) Surprise, surpise, there is a problem with the internet connection… We knew that, but I am now being denied access to any of my PURCHSED ($$$) games delivered by Steam.

WTF IS THAT ABOUT?!?

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Surely this is normally a temporary inconvenience but I can’t play games I’ve paid for for 4 days, plus however long the internet connection actually was done while I was away… It’s not Valve or Steam’s fault, but it is there problem.

Regards!

AT&T Uverse is AWFUL!

Ok ya got me, awful is nowhere near strong enough a word but it'll have to do. Why? Ok here we go:

1) If you have a TV it MUST have a set top box otherwise you'd better have an air antennae or the tv is useless. $5.00 a month per set top box.

2) 4 Incoming TV streams. So you can watch different channels on 4 TV's. if you have 5 simultaneous viewers on 5 TV's, one of them must watch what someone else is watching or they can watch a DVR recorded show (if ya spring for the extra money for a DVR set top box.). Ok, sounds a little constraining but that's a lot of TV to watch at once right? Oh you forgot about the DVR didn't you. If the DVR is recording two different programs at the same time, there goes 2 of your streams leaving you 2 streams left to watch on your remaining TVs.

3) If you opt to pay the additional $10 a month for HD programming, 2 of your 4 channels are HD, the other 2 are SD. So if you happen to DVR those two programs in HD (and why the hell wouldn't you???) well you've still only got 2 channels left, but they are SD so enjoy watching that SD on your HD TV ya paid all that money for.

4) Only 1 DVR per house-hold. You can watch recorded shows from the DVR on any of your TV's but you can only schedule recordings from the DVR Tv (or the web based interface (which is only available to the primary account holders login on their site, so sorry spouse, roommate, or children, better ask the account holder to do it for ya…))

5) The 2Wire DSL modem / wire-less router combo. OK the device itself isn't awful for your average web-surfing person, but I have a swell D-Link wireless router that I purchased because it has all the features I require. It did work behind the 2Wire one, but has no way to disable the router or route all traffic to the real router so it effectively crippled some features (automatic DYNDNS updates, UPNP firewall, etc)

6) Understaffed installers and incompetent customer service personnel. I'm sure there are a few who actually know how to do their job, but I have no empirical evidence of that. The woman I spoke with to order my service got the number of TV's wrong (3 instead of 4, I realize there only one away but its a pretty important detail…) So of course when the installer gets there, he only has 3 for me. 6 hours later he leaves after drilling 2 holes and running cable to 2 rooms 10 feet from each other (….) and tells me I can schedule another box to be delivered. Which I do, of course the 1st appointment available is 3 weeks out. So I tell them to cancel the service, and magically they can drop it off 2 days out. So I take the day off work and wait for my 8:00 am – 10:-00 am appointment. 10:15 rolls around and the installer says he's running late and won't be there until between 10:00 and 12:00. 12:30 rolls around and I call them as I've heard NOTHING and he's running late and says he won't be there until between 12:00 and 2:00. 2:15 rolls around and surprise, he won't bet there until between 2:00 and 4:00. So at 4:30 I call them to see where the hell he is and of course customer service says no installer has been assigned to do anything and they can schedule one (…wait for it…) in 3 weeks.

So, thankfully, I never cancelled my Time Warner service as I suspected AT&T Uverse was incompetent and lo and behold, they are. So I re-wired my cable in 15 minutes (6 freaking hours it took the moron to wire in the Uverse) and I have reliable service again.

On the positive side, the set top box UI is way better then Time Warners, but that ain't any reason to keep the service.

Clusterfuck is far more an appropriate term. I suggest you stay FAR FAR AWAY from this garbage. Asta la vista baby, you can suck it!

A p0x upon teh job search!

Well folks, as a friend recently pointed out, I need to post something all ready. So here's the skinny, as some of you may or may not know, I have most recently been employed by a  large auto-insurance company in North East Ohio. Well due to a relatively flat insurance market over the past few years, and some less then innovative IT leadership, a decently large re-organization has been undertaken by the company, and in doing so they have decided to eliminate around 250 positions from the Business side (Business Analysts, Product Managers) and a corresponding 250 poistions from the IT side as well. I'm sure it looked good on paper, and to be honest I do believe it was required to truly change direction which is what is needed. At any rate I among with a large number of my breatren had our jobs eliminated on Nov. 15th (Happy Holidays folks!)

So, to make a short story long, I am in search of a job and hence the less frequent updates. My apologies, if any of you wanted to put me on your pay-roll, I promise to get back to more frequent rants 😉