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November 2004 - Posts

Introducing Lappy 486
Many Strong Bad fans had remarks about The Death of Compy 386. Despite my hopes for a more moderner computer, like The Cheat's iMac, he has replaced his slightly shotgunned computer with Lappy 486.
Posted: Nov 29 2004, 09:46 PM by Jeff | with no comments
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My new HP 2550Ln
One of the things that I have to do to run CoasterBuzz is to send out membership cards to our club members (premium subscribers). When I started the club in late 2001, I had the cards printed up with perforation on a full sheet of card stock. I wrote a little Access app that pulls the new memberships out of the database and prints the name, expiration and address, fold it into a windowed envelope, and off it goes.

This automation and printing ended up costing me more than a buck a card. Combine that with postage and the absolutely ridiculous Visa/Mastercard fees and already I've spent 10% of the $20 membership fee. I guess it isn't that big of a deal, but considering the combined cost of bandwidth and my own time in maintaining the site (not to mention the eventual rebuild), I have to pay attention to expenses. I don't work for The Man anymore, so this essentially is my living.

So I decided to do the math, and found that a color laser printer would save money and get the card cost down to around 55 cents a piece through the first thousand cards, then lower after that (since the printer will essentially be "paid off"). At this point, the only real question is about how (or if) to perforate and still get a credible looking membership card.

Anyway, I decided to go with HP's 2550Ln, the "n" meaning it has the built-in network printer server. The fact that they could get this machine down to a reasonable price point is impressive, especially considering how the inards are so cool. It has a Web-server to access all kinds of stats, including the number of pages printed and how your toner levels are doing (for all of the toner carts). The single imaging drum was certainly a good idea.

The only real negative, and I didn't really realize it at the time I bought it, is that it doesn't have a real paper tray. The fold-out "drawer" on the front holds about 50 pages or so and just generally sucks. So as it turns out, to make it a more practical solution in the home office, I needed to buy the optional paper tray so that it's contained.

Overall I'm pretty impressed with the print quality. I'll still send my 10D photos to Ofoto, but it does do remarkably nice work with surprisingly OK color.

Despite feeling a little cheated with the paper tray situation, overall I think any printer with these capabilities would be a steal for under a grand. To start the series at half that seems like a miracle. Now if I can just unload my LaserJet 1000...
Posted: Nov 29 2004, 12:11 AM by Jeff | with no comments
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RegEx Challenge III
I admit I'm mentally weak. I can usually get a regular expression to work until I have to come up with something to NOT match. Here's today's challenge. Match only e-mail addresses that are NOT preceded by a colon or closing bracket. Your test string is this:

test[url="mailto:name1@domain.com"]name2@domain.com name3@domain.com test

Only name3@domain.com should return a match. For simplicity's sake, I'm using this for the actual e-mail address matching (I realize it isn't perfect and may allow non-RFC compliant addresses through):

([\w\-\.]*@([\w\-])+(\.[\w\-]+)+)

Here's a handy test page. The prize is grand recognition and a pat on the back. It's the best I can offer... I'm poor. :)
Posted: Nov 23 2004, 02:13 PM by Jeff | with 6 comment(s)
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More on ridiculous work hours
I noticed there was more on the EA/game industry work hour expectations last week. More interesting quotes there from people working in fear of The Man.

Here's what I don't get. What compels people to continue working in that environment? My wife was telling me about something she read recently in one of her graduate nutrition classes about the things that motivate people, and chief among them was survival, which relates to food and shelter. Fear is clearly a motivator when considering the possibility you and your family can't "survive" without the job. I remember how upset I was when I got laid-off for the first time, shortly after I bought my house. Talk about living in fear.

But at what cost? At what point do people say, "This is no way to live?" I mean, if we're lucky enough to do something we really like, it's generally OK to spend a lot of time doing it, but if it's your entire life, you're going to miss something. Balance is not an easy trick to pull off, but without that balance you're going to fall down.

Stephanie, my wife, was fortunate enough last year to make a serious realization about what she really wanted out of her professional life, and I had a similar realization earlier this year. Six months ago, I quit working for The Man. Despite taking an 80% pay cut (not counting future income from the book I wrote), I have never been happier in the decade I've been out of school. My financial security falling into my own hands was scary, but things you have more direct control of are a lot easier to deal with than those you can't control.

I'm not trying to brag or pat myself on the back here, I'm just trying to offer some perspective about what constitutes success or security. Don't wait until you're 60 to ask the hard questions. You technies are smart people. You can figure out a way to make it work.
Posted: Nov 23 2004, 11:28 AM by Jeff | with no comments
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Google H4xoR
I'm sure everyone else has seen this already, but it's funny to me...

http://www.google.com/intl/xx-hacker/

I guess it's an official language now.
Posted: Nov 23 2004, 10:29 AM by Jeff | with 12 comment(s)
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Amazon posted my book preface
Someone pointed out to me that my book was not only listed on Amazon, but it also has the preface posted. I can't even explain how weird that feels. It creates all kinds of anxiety for me, because I hope it doesn't suck. I should trust that A-W and its editorial folks thought it was a good idea.

The chapter summaries seem particularly weird given that some of the topics cover a product that isn't even out yet. I'm a little disappointed that it only clocked in at 300 pages, but I suppose it's about the quality of the content, and not the quantity. Some of the reviewers thought it should go into more detail, but I was trying to stay focused on an intermediate audience. Not every book should explain what a mouse is, any more than every book should explain how to build the back end for Visa and MasterCard.

Despite the daunting task of writing the book, I'm thinking about writing another one... if the idea makes sense to people. We'll see.
Posted: Nov 22 2004, 01:51 PM by Jeff | with no comments
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Beta 2 changes to compilation and folder structure made public
Wow, I missed a lot while on vacation. I see that some of the changes for beta 2 of ASP.NET v2 have been posted. Good to see. I noticed there are people in the ASP.NET forum that are still not happy, but it's like I said... you can satisfy most people or satisfy no one because you'll never ship.

I'm starting to get excited about the new bits. When they finally come out, we can finally start using this stuff in practice instead of in theory.
Posted: Nov 22 2004, 12:20 PM by Jeff | with no comments
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Wes Haggard is the bomb
Way back in whenever, before I went killing brain cells at Universal's City Walk, I put out a plea for help in getting my regex nonsense in order for the forums. Wes Haggard delivered with a solution that wasn't even slightly obvious to me. I'll post the updated code as soon as I finish some additional testing.

Wes is The Man today.
Posted: Nov 22 2004, 11:17 AM by Jeff | with 2 comment(s)
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What happened to the Whidbey hype?
Back in March, if you were in on the Whidbey scene, you were a l33t haX0rz!!1111 Today, it's amazing how all of that hype and excitement has largely subsided. I see fewer blog entries on it, almost no articles, and generally no press. What a difference a couple (lots) of months makes.

I'm still of the firm opinion that VS 2005 will save your life, or at the very least help prevent mental anguish. As soon as I bang out the project I'm on now, I think I'll return to it and get back to the forums and such.

I'm hesitant now to talk about it I guess in part because I had to get on the NDA list when I was writing my book, and honestly I don't have the energy to keep track of what's public and what's not.
Posted: Nov 17 2004, 11:16 AM by Jeff | with 4 comment(s)
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The death of Compy 386
I don't know if there are any Strong Bad fans out there, but he got a virus, and I think we've seen the last of Compy 386.

This begs the question... will he get a Mac like The Cheat?
Posted: Nov 16 2004, 10:56 PM by Jeff | with 11 comment(s)
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