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Frustrations of a Web Developer on a Mac

October 25, 2013 Leave a comment

As a web application developer I made the switch years ago to Mac.  My decision was heavily influenced at the time by the fact that  tools I use in my development environment.  I needed a new computer anyway, so at the time, I figured it would be easier to use the Apache and MySQL that were built-in to OS X.  My first Mac was an old PowerBook G4.  In fairly short order I was able to get my development environment up and running with ColdFusion, Apache, and MySQL.  I came to really like working with that set up, but at some point it was clear I was going to need to step up to an Intel based MacBook to keep up with software requirements.  And that’s when I really took the plunge into the Apple ecosystem with my first MacBook.

I’m now on my 3rd MacBook.  This one’s a 13″ MacBook Pro with 16gb RAM (that’s not a typo). It came with Snow Leopard and I ram ColdFusion 9 and MySQL to do my web development. Of course by this time Apple had ditched MySQL so I had to download and install it myself. Not a huge deal. Soon after, Lion came out and with it quite a few new problems. With Lion came a new version of Apache and new permissions settings.  I may be a web developer but I do not spend my time configuring web servers. After  quite a few hours of trial and error with the httpd.config file and the virtual hosts file I thought I’d ask Apple. I take my shiny Mac to the Apple Store and for the first time a Genius could not help. Even better, I call Apple support and am told that they don’t offer this type of support. I may be crazy but if you’re gonna package Apache with your OS, your people should expect customers to use it and you better be ready to support it. I did eventually get it figured out and had been running my ColdFusion under Apache for some time even through upgrades to both ColdFusion 10 and OS X Mountain Lion.

Enter Mavericks. I thought pretty hard about whether I wanted to upgrade. I knew the potential for problems. But I figured I’d made it through Mountain Lion easily enough that I could handle it. That as a mistake. As soon as the upgrade was complete, I couldn’t hit any of my local development sites. I couldn’t figure out if it was a permissions problem or what. Nothing seemed to work. For about 3days I tried everything I could with no luck.

Finally, I gave up and just installed MAMP Pro. It is now my web and db server. I was also able to get ColdFusion 10 running under it. It only took about 90 minutes to get everything back up and running under MAMP Pro. In order to get support for virtual hosts, I had to buy the full version which costs $60. But it is so worth it to not have the frustration that seems to accompany the built-in Apache. I don’t think I will be going back any time soon. It seems to run counter to Apple’s mission to be simple.  For me this has not been simple. But I am glad I can get back to writing code.

How I Got Started In ColdFusion

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment

By all accounts, I’m not supposed to be a CF developer.  You see as an undergrad, I majored in biological sciences and was focused to the point of tunnel vision on a career as a doctor.  There’s a saying that goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  That certainly holds true in my case.  After 2 unsuccessful attempts at applying to med school, I had to look elsewhere for my career path.  I was working as a lab tech and hated it because I wasn’t doing research and it certainly didn’t pay what I at the time thought was a decent salary.

I made a switch in 1995 to telecom and worked my way up from customer service to revenue assurance and became a software quality assurance analyst.  In this position, I found myself butting heads constantly with developers.  A few of them were nice enough to teach me a thing or two.  In 1998 I got my first taste of developing my own personal web site.  I tore my ACL in a touch football game and decided to document my surgery and recovery in what we now call a blog.    I started getting emails from people asking questions about my injury and telling stories about their recovery.  I was hooked.  I would check the site each day to see how many hits I’d gotten.  I updated the site nearly daily with some new story or picture.

Web development remained just a hobby for me until 2001.  Like a lot of IT workers, I was laid off just after the September 11 attacks and spent quite some time unemployed.  During this time I learned of a free state program that would train people in web application development.  After completing the program, they would secure an internship which would lead to a 1 year job at a very small salary as a way to repay the free training.  I learned HTML, ASP, SQL, and just enough ColdFusion to be dangerous and completed the program in August 2002.  It took a few months but I landed my first paying ColdFusion job in October 2002 with the National Association of  Secondary School Principals (NASSP), in Reston, VA.  There I maintained principals.org as well as the sites for the National Honor Society and the National Association of Student Councils.  We ran CF 4.5 and migrated up to CFMX, before they implemented an ASP.NET content management.  I learned so much in those 2 years and had a lot of fun.  I have gone on to work in ColdFusion as a government contractor and now as a federal government employee with the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.

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Where’s the PLUS in Hulu Plus?

October 7, 2010 Leave a comment

So I recently acquired an iPad from my dad after he decided to upgrade his. For the past 3 weeks, I have been struggling to figure what purpose an iPad would serve in my life. It seems to me that one good use would be to stream video and audio from my network-attached hard drive to it. My wife and I have been watching movies streamed to our laptops around the house for some time now. It took a bit of doing but Air Video seems to do the trick, at least for video and for the most part I like being able to watch a movie on my iPad while lounging in the sitting room or in bed.

I often catch up on the few shows I follow by watching them on Hulu.  I have even installed the Hulu Desktop application on my laptop.  It works wonderfully and the really cool part is that it works with my Apple Remote.  It’s not uncommon for me to connect my MacBook to my home theater and watch shows on Hulu,  though most of the time, I am watching on my laptop somewhere around the house.

When I got the iPad, I knew there was a Hulu app available and that it required a Hulu Plus subscription for $9.99/month.  Hulu Plus promises more content available in more places (i.e. mobile).  I figured I’d give it a spin so I plunked down my $10 after I got my invite and I though I was off the races.  Boy was I wrong.  Once I fired up Hulu on my iPad, I take a look at my queue.  Imagine my surprise to find of  the 5 shows I subscribe to, only 2 are available on my iPad.  I think something must be wrong so I fire it up on my MacBook.  Sure enough, I find that not everything available on Hulu is available when using it from a mobile device.

My queue in Hulu.

So what or where exactly is the Plus in Hulu Plus?  I guess I’m supposed to be happy that my shows are now available in HD, which is cool, and that I can now watch complete seasons of some of my favorite shows, also cool.  I don’t consider it a Plus when you don’t offer at least the content that is currently available on Hulu.  To me when you at the Plus, I should get everything already available in Hulu, plus all the other cool stuff.   Lesson learned.  After one week, I’ve decided to cancel my Hulu Plus subscription.  Another gotcha.  Here’s the message I see when I click cancel.

Upon requesting to cancel my Hulu Plus subscription

They’ve already gotten my money for a one month subscription.  Yet if I cancel today after a week of ‘service,’ I lose the  service immediately.  There is no mention of me getting a prorated refund, so I guess I have two options: 1) Wait until the last day of my billing cycle and hopefully remember  to cancel my subscription; or 2) Cancel now and accept the fact that I paid for 30 days of service and only got 7.  Somewhere in the vast Chrysler building, is a person who gets paid a lot more than me to think up stuff like this.  I guess there’s a reason the rich stay rich.

Needless to say, I am completely underwhelmed by Hulu Minus, I mean Hulu Plus and I will be cancelling my subscription on Halloween.

Categories: Personal Tags: , , ,

Getting back into Sketchup

September 1, 2010 1 comment

The past few days, I haven’t done any coding at home after work.  I decided to get back to something I really enjoy doing in my free time…3-D modeling.  I once had an interest in becoming an architect and still find myself looking at buildings taking in different elements here and there.  Google Sketchup is a free and simple tool used to build 3D models of buildings and everyday objects.  I’ve been using it off and on for a few years now and like to think of myself as something just past beginner.

About a year ago, I set about to model the entire ground floor of my house.  I walked all around the place with tape measure and pencil and paper.  I’m sure my wife thought I was crazy.  In the end, I had a fairly decent model including furniture, flooring, and appliances.  It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed doing it.

First floor

Life happened and I got very busy at work so Sketchup kinda took a back seat.  Recently, however, I decided to pick it back up.  I remembered a video podcast put on by Harwood Production Network (www.harwoodpodcast.com).  There are now at least 20 episodes I haven’t seen so I picked up where I think I left off building a simple model of a house.  It was great to see that I remember many techniques I had picked up before so I was modeling pretty quickly in no time.  3 episodes in and I’ve got walls, door and window components, paint, flooring, and cladding done.  Looking forward to finishing this one off.  Here’s what it looks like so far.

My first Career Day experience

June 10, 2010 Leave a comment

I had the opportunity to speak at my daughter’s school last week for Career Day.  This was the firs time I had ever done something like this so I was nervous but excited.  I have plenty of experience working with children of various ages so I was not nervous about interracting with them at all.  I don’t like my voice and when I’m nervous, I get the “Umms” and “Ahs”.

Maya came to “pick me up” and escort me to Ms. Mattsen’s Kindergarten class.  I guess it was good to start in familiar territory since I know most of these kids.  To them I was Maya’s dad and that was good enough.  During the year, the kids have learned about attributes and using them to describe things they see and read about.  I thought it would be cool to explain to them the basics of HTML.  I used a sign in their classroom which contained sentences in various colors and with some words underlined.  I asked them for various attributes of the sentences.  These kids know so much more than I did at their age.  I had my laptop with me and a page in development.  So we wrote several sentences and then the kids assigned several attributes, or HTML tags to change their appearance on a web page.  At the end they got to see their web page, which was satisfaction for them.

The most asked question of the day was, “Do you make games?”  I began to wish I did program games for a short while.  It might have made me seem more cool to the kids.  I also spoke to Ms. Meadows Kindergarten class and 2 fifth grade classes that day.  Hopefully, I inspired at least one to become a web application developer.

Categories: Personal Tags: , ,

Career Day

June 3, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m excited to have the opportunity to speak to my daughter’s Kindergarten class for Career Day.  I’ll have to keep it real basic, but it should still be fun.  We’ll talk about what the Internet is and the language used to display web pages.  They’ve learned about attributes this year and how to use attributes to describe things so I think this lends itself well to a discussion about HTML.  As an activity, I’ll have the kids help me assign attributes to text to create a class web page which I’ll post here afterward.  Hopefully we get a programmer or two out of the bunch.

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

August 11, 2009 Leave a comment

This is a departure for me, but I with all the talk about healthcare reform and all the rumors, lies, and confusion out there, I felt I could get away from programming for a bit to talk about this most important issue.  I hope you’ll bear with me.

I continue to be amazed by those, particularly on the right. You know who I’m talking about. Most of them call themselves Christians. They rail against healthcare reform saying it’s too expensive or that they shouldn’t have to pay for those unfortunate enough to not have coverage. People, we are our brothers’/sisters’ keepers. If we don’t invest in them, who will? Remember the first Christians lived a communal life. We read in Acts 4:32-37 that they sold their possessions and share the proceeds so that no one among them was wanting for anything. I for one believe that in the greatest country in the world, with all our advances and resources, every American, even the least among us, is entitled to basic healthcare at the very least. We don’t get ahead at the expense of others. We move forward together or not at all. If we don’t invest in our own people, we have wasted our most precious resource. Reform will cost money, a lot of it. There’s no doubt about that. But I believe it is money well spent. I am fortunate enough to have health insurance that provides for me and my family. I don’t worry when my child gets sick or if I should suddenly develop a heart condition. I have absolutely no problem paying more in taxes, whatever the cost, so that the uninsured may have the same peace of mind. I do however worry that if I should become too sick, that my insurance provider could simply drop me, making care much more difficult to get. Again I have no problem paying more, whatever the cost, if it takes that worry away. People need to get over themselves. Our taxes go for programs and purposes we disagree with every single day. That will never stop. I think we can all agree that it is absolutely ridiculous that the greatest country on earth can’t be a leader in healthcare even though we have the most advanced medical technology and pharmaceutical research, the best medicines and doctors. It’s time we start acting like the leader that we are.

Categories: Personal