Category Archives: Techie

WordCamp Boston 2010

WordCamp at the NERD Center

WordCamp at the NERD Center

If you want to experience the best of what I got from WordCamp Boston, you’ll need to:

My Twitter Rulebook

I’ve been using Twitter for a little over a year now. During that time, I’ve developed a few internal rules that help me use the system to my best advantage. These rules stem from three guiding principles:

  • Trust Your Friends
  • Time Is Precious
  • Ideas Need Exposure

In the following article I’ll discuss the guiding principles and then I’ll talk about the rules that help me stick to the principles. Continue reading

Reflections on “The Survey”

A List Apart recently published the findings of their 2008 Survey For People Who Make Websites.If you’re in the web design, development, or other similar fields, you might find it interesting to read to see just where you fit into the demographic spectrum of web developers.

Much of the survey didn’t surprise me: most respondents were white males from the United States. Most had personal websites. Most worked around 40 hours per week. But there were a few things that I thought were notable enough to share my observations:

  • I work for a company that’s larger than 78% of respondents’ companies (around 500 employees)
  • I’ve been in the field for longer than 75% of respondents (nine years).
  • I’ve been at my current job for longer than 95% of respondents (nine years).
  • I get more paid vacation than most (about five weeks).
  • I get about the same paid holidays as most (six days… I assumed most people got more).
  • My salary is better than the average (gentlemen do not divulge their actual salary figures).
  • Freelancers really don’t have great salaries (and I suspect that many of them are not sole providers for their family, something I’d like to see covered in a future iteration of the survey).
  • If you want a killer salary, be a creative director or UX expert.

So those are my thoughts. If you’re in the field, what did you find interesting about the survey?

Slicehost and Smugmug

Almost three weeks ago, our website had an outage that lasted over 24 hours. This was due to the shared hosting server that our site ran on having an outage, and was totally out of my control. Though I suppose this could happen to any server, it was just the latest of many similar incidents over many years of being with this particular web hosting company, and I’ve never appreciated the way they handle these incidents. So, while the outage was going on, I took the opportunity to sign up for a Virtual Private Server (VPS) account with Slicehost.

Continue reading

Modern Archaeology

I was bushwacking and cutting some brush on the far side of our driveway today. As I kicked around some branches on the ground I dislodged an historic artifact. Brushing off the dirt with my shirt I discovered it to be a Motorola i1000plus cellular phone; circa 2001.

phone open phone

It’s huge, doesn’t turn on, has moisture in the screen and has become Catherine’s favorite plaything. She’s been calling all her friends on it for the past several hours!

cPhone

Why I didn’t buy an iPhone

I want an iPhone. Really, I do. I love the idea of having this spiffy little device with a gorgeous screen and the ability to get online from just about anywhere. I’d love to have my phone, cameara, multimedia player, organizer, and applications all running on the same slim device. I’ve seen the iPhone, played around with it, heard lots of love stories. There’s also the fact that just about every web developer seems to have one. It’s only $199, so why not take the plunge?

Let’s take a look at what would be involved in my potential acquisition of an iPhone.

First, I’d need to purchase the iPhone. The price is $199 with a two-year contract through AT&T. Then, I’d need to sign up for a service plan. The cheapest individual AT&T plan that works with the iPhone is $69.99 plus tax and fees. That’s $69.99 out of our monthly budget for at least the next two years, which works out to $1679.76 over the two year span. So for $1878.76 over two years, I’d have my very own iPhone 3G. Unfortunately, our budget is pretty tight, and we simply don’t have the extra funds to spend on the added monthly fees. So there’s a fairly clear reason not to buy an iPhone.

Now, let’s think about workarounds. Rebecca and I already have cell phones, with a Sprint plan that costs $59.99/month and allows us to share minutes between our phones. So couldn’t we cancel our plan and use that money toward the iPhone and AT&T service plan? Sure, but there are a few problems. First, our contract with Sprint is still in effect, so we would need to cancel that and pay the $200 early termination fee. Signing up for the $69.99 individual plan above would leave Rebecca without a cell phone, so we’d need to sign her up for her own cell phone. The cheapest plan I could find for the amount of minutes she normally uses is an AT&T GoPhone prepaid plan for $39.99. So we would both end up with phones for about $50 more per month, which is $20 less than we’d spend if I went straight for the iPhone. But still, $50 is not a small amount in our monthly budget, so this isn’t all that appealing. Plus, we’d be adding the $200 early termination fee onto the purchase price of the iPhone for a total of $399 spent up front.

There are other factors as well. We’ve been Sprint customers since 2000, so we have a fair amount of brand loyalty. Their service is excellent everywhere that we need it, call quality is crystal clear, and the plan we have is a good deal. I’ve not heard good things about AT&T’s service or call quality in this area. Also, the above-mentioned plan from AT&T doesn’t include any text messaging, which I’d almost certainly want to use, so that would be an extra $5-$20 per month depending on the amount of messages I wanted to send. And of course, there is the fact that Rebecca would also love to have an iPhone, and in order to have a shared plan for two iPhones, the cost for the plan jumps to a minimum of $129.99, which would put us back at the same price as if we had kept both of our Sprint phones and our Sprint plan active. Not to mention buying a second iPhone for another $199 (that’s $600 for two iPhones and one early termination fee). Finally, there’s the fact that even though it would be really cool to use the Internet from anywhere, it’s not something that I really need to have.

In reality, it all comes down to the extra monthly service charges. If it was just the early termination fee and the purchase price I had to deal with, I’d be willing to consider it. It’s not hard to come up with that kind of money in the short term. But consistently paying an additional $50-$70 per month for the lifetime of the account for something I don’t really need just isn’t worth it. Perhaps if I was able to claim it as a business expense and write off the monthly fee, or if my company was subsidizing the extra cost, I’d go for it. Or if I got an enormous raise and forgot about all of the other things my family needs to have or would like to do. But for now, the iPhone is out of the picture.

Which is why I bought an iPod Touch. More on that later, but for now, here are some photos.

Update, 06/09/2009

With yesterday’s introduction of the iPhone 3G S at $199, Apple also knocked the price of the iPhone 3G down to $99. While this is definitely cheaper, I still am unable to bring myself to buy an iPhone because:

  • It’s only available on AT&T
  • The required data plans are still priced out of our range

However, I am very excited about the iPhone 3.0 software update, which will also work on my iPod Touch, and which I will certainly be willing to pay $9.95 for.

iPhone

I’ve been flattered, over the past week, to have several people ask me whether I would be buying or whether I had bought an iPhone — flattered that people thought I might possibly have the financial wherewithal or budgetary flexibility to buy one. However, with our recent house purchase, all the usual monthly bills, and the continuous challenge of supporting a family of three on one income, it simply hasn’t been a possibility.

Sure, I’d love to have one. If Apple is listening, here are some things that would make me more likely to buy one:

  • Offer the iPhone for Sprint customers. I’ve been a Sprint customer for seven years, and have no desire to switch to another carrier, particularly AT&T, Apple’s partner, since I’ve heard some pretty bad things about AT&T/Cingular’s service. However, Apple’s deal with AT&T is for five years, so there’s always the possibility they could offer a Sprint plan after that.
  • Offer the iPhone for $300 or less, without subsidy. That’s about the price of a new iPod, and being an iPod user, I can conceive of wanting to buy a new one within a few years. $500 is just a bit too much for me to pay for a pocket-sized device, especially when I get a new cell phone for free every two years.
  • Make the iPhone work better as a phone. From all of the reviews I’ve read, the phone functionality is one of its weakest points. I don’t want to spend all that money and be stuck with a phone that’s a pain to use.
  • Offer more storage. If this thing is going to replace my iPod, it’s got to have at least 20 GB of storage space.

In the meantime, however, I’ve come up with what I think you’ll find is an elegant workaround. It has many of the features of the iPhone: it has some of the features you’d expect from an iPhone: high quality audio playback, cell phone and contact manager functionality, web browsing, and a digital camera. It even has some features you won’t get in the iPhone: 20 GB of storage space, a five-megapixel camera with 4x optical zoom and flash, and the ability to run on the Sprint network.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the MyPhone.

Redbox

I’d noticed a shiny new red vending machine in Stop and Shop a few months ago, and I finally stopped to check it out. The machine is managed by a company called redbox, and it is essentially a DVD rental vending machine. For $1 per night, plus tax, you can rent a DVD from their selection. Get it back before 7 p.m. the next day and that’s all you pay. After that, it’s another $1 for each additional day, and after 25 days without returning it, the DVD is yours to keep (and you just paid an outrageous amount to buy a movie).

The selection is understandably limited by the physical size of the machine. They do have some of the day’s more popular titles, and it is stocked with new releases on a weekly basis. There is no membership to sign up for – you just provide a credit card at the time of rental. The touch-screen on the machine allows you to browse the inventory of DVDs, make your selection, and pay. The DVDs themselves are vended mechanically from a slot on the side of the machine. They come encased in hard plastic. To return the DVD, simply go to any redbox kiosk and put the DVD back in the slot. Presto! You can also browse the selection of your local redbox kiosk from the website, and place your order there. Then, just go to the kiosk to pick it up.

You can get a free one-night rental if you visit the website and provide your email address. We did so a few weeks ago, and last night I stopped by to pick up a DVD. The whole process was as simple as could be, we enjoyed our movie, and I returned it today with no hassle.

It certainly won’t replace Netflix‘s breadth of selection or nifty feature set, but it can’t be beat for simplicity and price. At some point, they’ll probably enable the kiosks to download any movie you want, and then burn it instantly to DVD… then Netflix will have something to worry about!

If you’re interested, find the nearest redbox location and check it out!

Nope, I’m not getting paid anything for this post, I just think it’s really cool.