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September 2006 - Posts

Review: Facebook, open but to the public but still closed

I wrote up my initial impressions on Facebook now that it went live here: 

http://www.nerdlifestyle.com/News/24.aspx

Added notes for the code monkey crowd:

This is easily the most cross-referenced database I've ever seen. Everything in a profile can be clicked on and matched with other people in your network or friends list. It's not rocket science to do, but you don't see it very often. Sites like IMDb and RCDB do this, but you'd think it would be a more common practice.

The AJAX stuff is all over the place, mostly in the form of auto-completes. Typing in your college name, for example, is infinitely easier than having to do some awful drill down of drop-downs.

The photo uploading tool is really cool. Remdinds me a lot of Kodak Gallery, only better. It's also Java-based, so it just worked right away on my Mac in Firefox. The tagging mechanism is cool too, particularly how it (again) cross-references to other profiles.

Will it catch on with "grown ups?" Hard to say, but I guess time will tell.

Awesome Apple Pascal ad

Come on... you know this is funny stuff...

Apple Pascal ad

The best dating sites for nerds

Off-topic, I know, but I know some of you developer types are still single. I wrote up this little summary on the dating sites out there:

http://www.nerdlifestyle.com/news/13.aspx 

Posted: Sep 20 2006, 03:38 PM by Jeff | with 9 comment(s)
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I f'ing shipped something!

I've been in a coding slump for quite awhile. It seemed like I couldn't finish anything. Then, in a burst of inspiration, I made a bunch of changes to my blog app, and I launched NerdLifestyle. I had been sitting on that domain for almost a year with the intention of writing about nerd stuff, and never did anything with it.

I plugged the site in my last post, and was unprepared for lots of comments, and several hundred visits. Strange how just when you think no one is listening, it turns out that people are.

A couple more iterations of the blog/news app and I'll post it out there for download. 

Posted: Sep 18 2006, 11:55 PM by Jeff | with 1 comment(s)
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Nerd Lifestyle, blogged

Some time ago I realized that I like to write about nerdy stuff that isn't really programming and it's not really personal stuff either. It's stuff that is more lifestyle-oriented.

That's when I registered the domain NerdLifestyle.com, but never really did anything with it. I also never really did much with the news/blogging app that I started.

Well now, I'm working on both, and I turned on NerdLifestyle.com. My intention isn't really to make money with the site (though that would certainly be nice), but rather I need another creative outlet where I can write about stuff that makes my inner nerd become aroused. It may take awhile to come up with some focus in terms of content, but I'll feel it out.

As an aside, yes, I will release the underlying app when it's in a better state. Stay tuned! 

What makes a developer happy with their life?

Over the past few years, I've written about career and happiness a great many times. (And honestly, if you're one of those people who thinks I care about your dislike for posts like this, just stop reading and move on.) It's interesting how many time things have changed since I started this blog more than two years ago, and how I'm still not entirely able to answer the question: What makes a developer happy in life?

Early 2004 was an interesting time for me because I got a contract to write a book. That was an amazing experience that I treasure, even if the sales were mediocre at best and I was dissatisfied with the publisher's marketing efforts. Amazon still runs out of it from time to time. Being a technical author and playing with the newest stuff was a very rewarding experience, even if it didn't do much to pay the bills.

Contract work was fascinating too. That's what I spent most of 2005 doing, and it was exciting to take a lead role in an interesting project. Where it became less interesting was the point that I was the most experienced person on the project. I don't mean to second-guess myself or take away from my abilities, but it suddenly becomes a lot harder to get better at what you do when you're not a genius and you're the most knowledgeable person in the room.

I spent almost six months where all I did was coach high school volleyball, and loaf the rest of the time. That was during the long separation prior to my divorce (which just became final last July), and while it wasn't a productive time in terms of career, I had a lot of time to ask meaning-of-life questions and really work things out in my head. So at least in my personal life, I feel I know myself better than ever.

This year I took a salary job at a start-up (relatively speaking, the company is six years old), and the work is interesting with a lot of very smart people. I'm still not used to the structure of the "daily grind," but I do get a lot out of it. There were times when I wanted to run for the exit out of boredom or frustration, but I'm surprisingly settled right now.

All during this time, and since 2000, I've also had my "business" in the background. It makes enough money that I could make a Wal-Mart manager living, but you know, I'm used to the J-Pizzie lifestyle now. I've got a million ideas in my head about what I could do, but no actual business plan. It's mostly by accident that I have a bunch of Web sites that generate ad revenue at this point. I wonder if I could do better.

So in two short years, I feel like I've experimented with all kinds of different career modes, and I'm still insanely uncertain about what I want to do when I grow up. Do you ever get that feeling? I wouldn't say that I'm unhappy, but I'm always wondering what the best use of my time is since I have to work in some way if I intend to keep gas in my car, a roof over my head, and dinner in my stomach. Balancing that notion and accepting that we're all worm food eventually is not easy. It's not helpful to write it off as all being meaningless, so you have to create meaning on your terms. 

Apple really gets it
The Apple announcements today were more or less what people expected, but there were some really nice twists.

New iPods, yeah, that was an obvious move. Selling movies was expected, but I don't think anyone really knew they'd move up to 640x480 resolution for those and the TV shows, which is essentially standard definition resolution. They just hooked me, because that's about as good as a DVD, only without the piece of plastic. It's the quantum shift that music made a few years ago.

Even more impressive is the "iTV" box that they previewed, and will ship early next year. People have been wondering for awhile if they'd introduce a DVR kind of device, and they've totally looked beyond that. A DVR is a broadcast-centric device, that has to do with the old distribution of content, on a schedule, via broadcast and cable. That's old news, and the a la carte pricing of content seems to be working. Let's face it, the best TV shows are like commercials for me to buy the DVD's. And if that new box really does support HD the way the demo did, the whole BlueRay vs. HD-DVD argument is even more pointless than it already is.

There certainly is some danger for Apple. I mean, they have to accept some outside influence now and then. They were smart to work podcasts into the store. They support video of the same as well. As long as they don't close that out, the entire platform is looking positive.
Posted: Sep 12 2006, 03:52 PM by Jeff | with 4 comment(s)
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I wish I could play with Facebook

I have a lot of younger friends, some of them in college. I don't know what that says about me personally, outside of my reluctance to really grow up, but it is what it is.

College students are very into Facebook. Being a purveyor of online communities for years, I'm really, really curious to see what it's all about and play with it. But I can't. I don't have an .edu e-mail address so I can't. I think it's a great way to keep out the perverts and stalkers, but it's a bummer that I can't play with it as a curious software developer. They even have an API that you can manipulate.

Anyone know the guy that runs it? 

Vista pricing: no thanks

Microsoft announced pricing for Vista. I'm laughing at them.

Sure, they'll sell OEM copies just as they've been doing for ages, but do they really expect to sell any at retail? This is not a compelling upgrade. I haven't seen anything in Vista yet that makes me want to run out and buy it. Sure it's pretty, but I get my pretty from OS X anyway.

I was really pulling for Microsoft a couple of years ago, because the original plans really seemed like they would offer something exciting. What we're really getting is something pretty that's still Windows XP. I know the fanboys will come out and say that it does this or that, but does anything "new" really solve a problem not currently solved by XP or OS X?

Someone explain why Vista is worth a couple hundred bucks. I'm not seeing it. 

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