Go Daddy Discount Domain Club

I got an email from Go Daddy asking me if I wanted to join its discount domain club. I read the email trying to think if it is worth it and my initial impression is --- no, at least not for me. Here is the email:

Dear Joel Marcey,

How would you like an extra 15%, 30% or even 63% off new domains? Our Discount Domain Club is designed for customers like you who have multiple domains — and right now, you'll SAVE 20% on your membership, just $89.99/yr $71.99/yr! This offer expires December 24, 2008, so act today!

Your Discount Domain Club membership includes:

  • The best domain registration, transfer and renewal prices in the industry -- no minimum to buy ever!
  • FREE CashParking Premium (a $107 value)! Earn 80% of the revenue from ads placed on your parked domains.
  • FREE Go Daddy Auctions Membership! Take advantage of the Web's premier auction house, including 15% OFF premium listing fees.
  • Discounted Domain Buy Service! Let us help you negotiate a deal on the pre-owned domain you want and SAVE 33% off our standard rate.

  • Deep Domain Discounts! When we say the lowest-priced domains in the industry, we mean it. Here are just a few of the discounts you'll enjoy as a Discount Domain Club member:

  • .COM domains for 31% OFF — Just $7.29/yr*
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  • .INFO domains for 90% OFF — Just 99¢*
  • And MUCH MORE!

  • Don't pay full price for another domain! Join the Discount Domain Club now for just $89.99/yr $71.99/yr with your special 20% OFF discount. But hurry, this exclusive offer expires December 24, 2008, so sign up now!

    Thanks as always for being a Go Daddy customer.
    Sincerely,

    Bob Parsons
    CEO and Founder
    GoDaddy.com

    So, for $71.99, I get an automatic discount on domain names and some cash parking and auction stuff that I have yet to use and am not sure if I will.

    So let's just say, for simplicity, that I am paying $71.99 for 31% off of .COM domain names. I am sorry, but I just don't buy that many domain names -- and I can always use coupon codes when I do buy a domain name.

    Don't get me wrong, Go Daddy is a fine domain name registrar that I exclusively use, but I think something like Amazon Prime for free 2-day shipping is a better deal.

    Change is, um, err, good?......

    Well, I have completed my migration from wordpress.com to wordpress.org. I think it went well, but I will continue to have trepidation until things settle down a bit. I love this new theme. Good work, deniart. I think I will stick with it for a while (assuming it remains stable of course). Let me know what you think of it.

    Anyway, I have learned a lot during this process. And, I am going to create an updated post to the one that proved to be relatively popular that talked about installing LAMP and Wordpress on Slicehost. There are a few things to add to that step-by-step guide, and believe me, I know that first hand. :-)

    Movin' On Out

    MMj02135350000[1]

    I have finally re-established my relationship with Slicehost (oh, you didn't know I left. Well, it had nothing do with them; it was a personal decision on my part to leave temporarily). And now that I feel that this time I will be sticking with Slicehost more permanently, it is time to do some housekeeping.

    One item on the agenda is to move this blog from wordpress.com to Slicehost.

    There may be some intermittent downtime, but hopefully I can get this all up and running by the end of this week.

    As I understand it -- joelmarcey.com will remain, but be stale (with this as the last post). That is, of course, unless I delete the old blog.

    joelmarcey.com will be transferred to the new host where you will see all of my previous posts, including this one, and all new posts.

    We'll see how it goes!

    See you on the flip-side.

    How I Resolved the “There Was A Problem with this Installation. Windows Live Suite Was Not Installed” Catastrophic Error

    So I wanted to install the latest version of Windows Live Mail. I figured OK, that should be easy. (Note: I am running Vista x64 w/ SP 1)

    I went to http://www.windowslive.com/Explore/Mail and clicked on the Get It Now Button

    image

    then I clicked on Download Now

    image

     

    After clicking on Run for the Windows Live Installer, accepting the agreement and allowing it to try to start installing, I got this:

     

    image

    I was thinking what the heck is this. I tried again, and same thing.

    So I did what every person would do in this situation – GOOGLE!

    Doing a search with these terms:

    "There was a problem with this installation. Windows Live Suite was not installed" "Catastrophic Failure"

    yields many results with help options like:

    image

    After thinking about this and really not wanting to go through a workaround for something that I think doesn’t require a workaround, I realized that I already did have Windows Live Writer installed. As such, I figured I would look into my Control Panel Add/Remove Programs.

    And here is what I found:

    image

    Ahh Ha!

    Right click on it and you will get an option to uninstall or change Windows Live Beta.

    I then choose Install or uninstall

    image

    and click continue.

    Then you get to a window that shows you all of the programs that you have not installed. And you click a check box to the one(s) you want to install, and it works like a charm!

    image

    I had already installed Mail Beta before I wrote this post; that is why this is checked.

    There are two things that I am still unclear on:

    1. Why did the original installer still not work? Was it because I already had an installer available locally?
    2. Did I install the latest version of the Windows Live Mail Beta? I think so according to my research, but I am only 99.9% confident.

    image

    I hope this helps at least one person. Let me know if you have any questions.

    Back From the Dead

    Well, back at least from a blogging perspective. It has been a long time since my last post. What to say about why that is – well, mainly I was taking care of some personal work and also finishing up a consulting gig.

    It has been a successful first “out of a corporation” year for me. I have made some money and made some great contacts.

    So where do I stand right now?

    I am in a state of flux. I am between consulting/contracting opportunities and I have not made much headway on any micro-ISV product (mainly because of the consulting work, but also for some other reasons).

    I have some decisions to make.

    Here are my current options:

    • Flesh out 1 or more of 5 possible product ideas, if for anything to get me back in the programming “spirit”
    • Do some side, primarily non-programming work that has been offered to me, more for the experience and satisfaction than any monetary reason.
    • Work on some technical articles or books that I have been floating around. as possibilities I have some possible leads for publications, but some other things have to fall into place, which I am working on.
    • Look for some more consulting work – I may have a possibility in January, but I am not sure I can 100% count on that.
    • Go back to school to earn my Masters in Computer Science or MBA or, at the very least, take some courses to get the brain juices flowing
    • Look for a full-time job

    Now, the options above are not necessarily exclusive, but I do need to prioritize and make a decision. And make a decision is exactly what I am going to do now…..

    ……well, after I watch my Buffalo Bills hopefully beat the Browns tonight!

    Go Bills!

    Buffalo Bills logo

    UPDATE: The Bills lose on another "wide right" field goal. Bills fans know those are the two most dreaded words a Bills fan can hear :-(

    Installing a LAMP Server, with Wordpress, on Slicehost (and maybe elsewhere)

    [UPDATE: April 19, 2009: I added a follow-up post to this article with some more tidbits]

    [Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any mishaps that may occur by following these steps or advice because you follow them out of your own free will.] -- I figure I better put that up-front. :-)

    Someone wrote me an email today asking me how to get a LAMP server up and running on a Slicehost VPS (...in Slicehost land, your VPS is called a "slice").

    During the time when I was setting up my slice, I made a little personal document on how to set up a LAMP server with Wordpress (I used Ubuntu Hardy as my base Linux installation).

    While this is by no means anything official or 100% complete, I figure when I need to set up a LAMP server again, it will serve as a great starting point for me.

    Like I insinuated in my disclaimer, I cannot guarantee the accuracy  or the 100% "foolproof"-ness of these steps. I am by no means an expert at this stuff, but, hey, they worked for me.

    Below are the contents of that document in its raw form. Feel free to ask any questions, although I cannot guarantee I will know the answer. Feel free to correct any mistakes in comments, although I cannot guarantee I will fix them.

    Ubuntu Linux (Server): Setup @ Slicehost

    Basic Commands and Instructions

    • sudo aptitude install <package1> [package2]
    • sudo aptitude purge|remove <package>
    • whereis <program> (to find out where something is located)
    • root shell: sudo –s (get out of the root shell by ctrl+d)
    • ps aux (to find out processes running) (ps aux | grep <process name> to narrow --- e.g., ps aux | grep httpd)
    • apache2ctl configtest (to make sure your Apache configurations are ok)
    • Apache logs are at /var/log/apache2 (Must be in a sudo shell -- see above)
    • sites-enabled is a symlink; make vhost changes to sites in /etc/apache2/sites-available
    • Don’t worry about .htaccess and httpd.conf files. Use vhost config files instead.

    Server

    1. Get bare bones install
    2. Log on as root via ssh ( ssh root @ <ip address> )
    3. Use provided password and immediately change it via passwd.
    4. Change time zone
      • sudo ln –sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/US/Pacific /etc/localtime (replace US/Pacific with what your timezone is)
    5. Follow these instructions for security http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/25/ubuntu-hardy-setup-page-1
    6. Backup the private (and public if you want, but especially private) key from your local machine! (preferably in a couple different places)
    7. Continue with these security instructions http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/25/ubuntu-hardy-setup-page-2 (add \u@\ before \h\ to add user name in front of hostname in PS1)
    8. A good package to install would be unzip for downloads (only tar is available at this point): sudo aptitude install unzip (http://codeghar.wordpress.com/2007/12/08/zip-files-in-ubuntu-cli/ )

    Setup Domain via DNS Manager

    1. Log into the slice manager: https://manage.slicehost.com/
    2. To configure the DNS records for your domain, go here: http://articles.slicehost.com/2007/10/24/creating-dns-records
      • Make sure you have set the nameservers properly on your registrar (e.g. ns1.slicehost.net)

    Setup Domain Email via DNS Manager

    1. I use Google Apps for email. The next steps are specific to that. If you don’t use Google Apps, just make sure you set the MX records properly in the Slicehost DNS manager, otherwise you may be without email if you have completed the “Setup Domain via DNS Manager” step.
    2. If you haven’t done so already, set up Google Apps for your domain (www.google.com/a)
      • For verification, you can use the HTML method since you can control your website
    3. Set up the MX records like described here: http://articles.slicehost.com/2007/10/25/creating-mx-records-for-google-apps

    Apache/PHP

    1. Start here: http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/25/ubuntu-hardy-installing-apache-and-php5 (making sure you use your own server name and user names)
    2. Read http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/28/ubuntu-hardy-apache-config-layout to understand enabling/disabling sites and modules
    3. Follow these instructions: http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/28/ubuntu-hardy-apache-configuration-1, and at least change the Timeout and KeepAliveTimeout to something much lower.
    4. Follow these instructions: http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/28/ubuntu-hardy-apache-configuration-2
    5. Read these articles about virtual hosts before setting things up: http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/5/28/how-to-serve-multiple-domains, http://articles.slicehost.com/2007/9/17/introduction-to-virtual-hosts
    6. Read this article to understand how you are going to layout your directory structure for the domains you are going to host: http://articles.slicehost.com/2007/9/13/multiple-hosts-layout
    7. Secure virtual host permissions and create skeleton virtual host directory: http://articles.slicehost.com/2007/9/18/apache-virtual-hosts-permissions
      • For all new domains, just follow the following command:
        • cp –a /home/<user>/public_html/skeleton /home/<user>/public_html/<new domain>
    8. Create your first virtual host: http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/29/ubuntu-hardy-apache-virtual-hosts-1 (remember to change domain1.com, domain2.com to your own domains in the examples AND 'demo' to your username) (note: search and replace in nano is “ctrl-\”)
      • Remember that if they navigate to the IP Address, they will most likely get the “It Works!” message for the default Apache site. You can change this.
      • Change DirectoryIndex to “index.php index.html” if you are going to be using WordPress
    9. Change and add settings in your domain virtual hosts file: http://articles.slicehost.com/2008/4/29/ubuntu-hardy-apache-virtual-hosts-2
      • Make sure you set some directory options – one I would for sure do is turn off directory browsing

    MySQL

    1. Follow the instructions here: http://articles.slicehost.com/2007/11/23/ubuntu-gutsy-mysql-and-ror. Only do the MySQL part and make sure you do not put the Ruby option in the install string (unless you want Ruby of course)
    2. Follow post setup instructions here: http://dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/5.0/en/default-privileges.html to secure your initial mySQL accounts
    3. After I am done, I like to clear the mySQL console history. Exit mySQL and at the command prompt do 'rm ~/.mysql_history'
    4. Setup DNSUtils (for dig especially): sudo aptitude install dnsutils 

    Set Up Sending Mail From Slice

    1. You need to change “exim” settings on server to send email from Wordpress
    2. For Google Apps, see this thread: http://wiki.debian.org/GmailAndExim4. Follow the instructions all the way down to Run # chown. I didn’t have to do this.
      • Also, accept all defaults for questions after the DNS-queries minimal question. There are more than the thread instructions let on.
    3. See this thread for more general info: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=196112 (don’t need sendmail after all, exim is already installed so try that first, see page 2 of thread for meat)
    4. Now for multiple email addresses (when you have more than one blog, for example, each representing a different domain), you will need to follow some different steps. This might be a good place to start: http://www.debuntu.org/2006/05/17/52-how-to-exim4-virtual-host-on-debian-etch.

    WordPress

    1. Load mod_rewrite for Apache
      • Sudo a2enmod rewrite
      • Sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 reload
    2. Follow instructions here: http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress (especially Detailed instructions)
      • DB Name: wordpress (or whatever)
      • DB UserName for wordpress: wordpress (or whatever)
      • Append table names if (1) you want more security (2) going to have more than one Wordpress blog using the same database
    3. Probably don’t want to put on google and technorati until you are done with the blog design
    4. Make sure to change admin password after first log in
    5. Change the “admin” user in MySQL to something else:
      • Mysql> use wordpress;
      • Mysql> UPDATE <wpTableName>users SET user_login=’admin’, user_login=’<new admin name>’;
    6. NOTE: Many instructions say to add things to “.htaccess” or “httpd.conf”. Since you have root access, don’t worry about these files. Make your configuration changes to the vhost file (or maybe, sometimes, the master apache2.conf file).
    7. Add Rewrite Log to vhost file
    8. Turn off directory in “public” browsing in the vhost
      • <Directory /home/<user>/public_html/<domain>/public>
        • Options –Indexes
      • </Directory>
    9. Put wp-config.php database and key info into another file and put that new file in /home/<user> (outside the public_html). Then put an include to hat file in wp-config.php. This is for security (http://danemorgan.com/blog/wordpress/wordpress-security-secure-your-wordpress-wp-config-info )
    10. Log into the Wordpress admin panel (http://<domain>/wp-admin/) and go to Settings/Permalinks. Set the permalinks to something like “Day and name” and click on Save Changes
      • Then, assuming you don’t have an .htaccess file, go to the bottom of the page and copy the code in the text area and paste in your vhost file (within the <Directory></Directory> for the top level directory (usually /home/<user>/public_html/<domain>/public)
    11. Do some security around the wp-content, wp-includes and wp-admin directories.
      • Only allow access to images and javascript to wp-includes and wp-content
        • <Directory /home/<user>/public_html/<domain>/public/wp-includes>
          • Options –Indexes
          • AllowOverride None
          • Order Allow, Deny
          • Deny from all
          • <Files ~ “.(css|jpg|jpeg|png|gif|js)$”>
            • Allow from all
          • </Files>
        • </Directory>
        • ….and do the same for wp-content
      • Either restrict access to wp-admin by adding a password layer or by IP address
      • You might also want to do the same as you did for wp-asmin for wp-login.php at the file level since going to http://<domain>/wp-admin redirects there (see: http://www.reaper-x.com/2007/09/01/hardening-wordpress-with-mod-rewrite-and-htaccess/
        • <Files /home/<user>/public_html/<domain>/public/wp-login.php>
          • …..
        • </Files>
    12. Install login plug-in @ http://www.bad-neighborhood.com/login-lockdown.html. Copy the download link and use ‘wget’ to get it from the command line (instead of FTP)
    13. Activate the akismet plugin in the admin panel.
      • You need a Wordpress.com account so you can get an API key. This key is found in Settings/Your Profile
    14. Install WP-Super-Cache plug-in

    DIDN’T INSTALL

    phpMyAdmin

    This is a MySQL front-end that is more user friendly than the default mySQL client

    1. sudo aptitude install phpMyAdmin
      • IMPORTANT: Make sure you press the space bar when selecting the web server you are using
    2. Go to /etc/apache2/conf.d/ and edit phpmyadmin.conf
      • Change Alias from phpMyAdmin to something more obscure for security purposes
    3. Change the /etc/phpmyadmin/config.inc.php file to support https: http://forums.vpslink.com/security/2282-do-you-use-phpmyadmin-2.html#post11246
    4. Then go to https://domain.com/obscureToPhpMyAdmin

    My Web Host Is ...... Slicehost

    Amazingly, I have finally settled on a web host. For all intents and purposes, this is the first time I have ever personally signed up for a web host. To choose one was a long and arduous task of research, research and more research. I really hit a paralysis analysis wall. Choosing one finally is a relief. I am signing up with a web host because I plan to first host some blogs. Then, down the line, I plan to host some other web sites.

    I knew I was either going to go with Shared Hosting or VPS Hosting -- I don't need dedicated yet. Shared Hosting would have been easiest for me because I could get blogging software up and running very quickly, it would have been cheap, and I wouldn't need to know much Linux (or Windows) if I went that route. VPS Hosting is more expensive and requires command line knowledge of Linux (oooohhhh, command line), but you are guaranteed a set of memory, CPU and resources (albeit not as much as some of the shared hosts *claim* to give you). Plus, you are in control of everything from the OS perspective -- you get root access.

    I decided to go with a VPS solution (to tell you how close this decision was -- this morning when I woke up, I was *sure* I was going with shared hosting). At the very worst, I learn a little bit of Linux and understand how to run my own LAMP server (LAMP = Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). At the very best, I am able to successfully host everything and anything I ever need to host, all under my control. In the end it will cost me $10 a month more than shared hosting would have. But that is OK. I am excited about the process.

    So, the host I decided to go with after much deliberation is Slicehost. I had two VPS providers in mind, and I chose Slicehost because of what I considered its great website, excellent tutorials, community support options (chat being one of them), and the recommendations from many at the Business of Software forum. The last one was the tipping point.

    So I am excited to try this out. I have already signed up for a new account and got the LAMP server up and running. Their tutorials helped out a lot here. It is important to note that this is an unmanaged hosting environment, which means, other than hardware failures, I am responsible for everything. There are no traditional support mechanisms other than the community.

    In case you are interested, I signed up for the smallest package of $20/mo which gives me 256 MB of deddicated RAM, 10 GB disk space and 100 GB bandwidth/mo. You can upgrade/downgrade at anytime and I have 30 days to try this out to get some of my money back (You have to pay for at least 3 months of service initially - this was the only "downside" I saw about this)

    My first major project is to move this particular blog over to the new host. I figure that should inundate me in the whole hosting process, real quick. That will be the topic of a future post.

    I had 5 web hosts in mind; if you are interested in the other 4 that were on my short list, let me know.

    That's all for now.

    State of the Me - Quick Hits

    It has been a while since I have given a progress report of where things stand for me professionally. Back when I worked for Intel, I was mandated to give monthly status report. I am feeling nostalgic today.

    Here is  quick bulleted list.

    • I am still consulting, but, unless I am told otherwise, my current work is ending fairly soon here (maybe in the next couple of weeks).
    • I told you about a month ago that I figured out the product I was going to develop to start my micro-isv. My progress on that front has been limited. However, I am fleshing out a new idea that would make that product a subset of this new, what becomes an overarching, idea. I won't say much now other than say I am looking for a couple of partners and it includes, but goes beyond, software development into the world of internet media and other information dissemination mediums.
    • I am exploring the options for a webhost. I believe I have narrowed my choice down to 1, but I have an outstanding question to their sales department before I can say for sure. The hard part was to choose to go with a Linux based host over Windows because Windows is what I know.
    • When I choose my new webhost, I believe I am going to move this blog from its current home (Wordpress.com) to the new webhost via Wordpress.org. The reason for this is two fold - (1) Consolidation of all blogs and websites at one place (2) A learning experience about Wordpress.org and the migration process. I have never self-hosted a blog before.
    • I have gone totally Mac. Well, that is a little disingenuous, I suppose. I am running Mac OS X Leopard as my primarily operating system and running Windows Vista via VMWare Fusion (primarily because my current consulting gig requires it). This configuration is just awesome!! I love it!!! I am beginning to love Mac OS X as much as Windows. Also, I just bought a 20" Apple Cinema Display on Ebay that I expect to get today or tomorrow.
    I will provide more detailed posts on any of these bullet items as warranted.

    If You Are A Yahoo! Stockholder, Are You Mad This Evening?

    After seeing the news that Microsoft has abandoned its bid for Yahoo!, do you think the average Yahoo! shareholder is angry that they are unable to now get $33/share for Yahoo! stock, and instead is going to have to watch it (most likely) plummet down to around $20/share again -- the price it was at before Microsoft made its initial offer? I sure hope Jerry Yang and the Yahoo! Board of Directors know what they are doing. These are rich folks on the board and may not be able to see things through the eyes of the everyday shareholder.

    Personally, I think they made the wrong decision to not accept Microsoft's $33/share offer this weekend. I honestly think it is a case of "I would rather have the ship sink than be with the "Evil Empire"....well, that wish might just come true. I hope not.

    Steve Ballmer's letter to Jerry Yang is very interesting...and the response.

    And how does Google feel??????

    Boot Camp 2.1 Update Gave Me Hell!

    image

    I have a MacBook Pro, 2.2 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM laptop. I can dual boot either into Mac OS X Leopard or Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit via the Boot Camp technology provided by Apple.

    So here I am minding my own business in Windows Vista, when Apple's Software Update prompt appears saying a new version of Boot Camp is available, 2.1. I figure, cool, maybe it fixes a few problems and it is only a .1 release (I am currently running 2.0), let me go ahead and download it.

    Well, that was mistake #1.

    The update failed. I tried downloading in manually, and running it failed. Then I noticed some funky things going on with my current Boot Camp installation, like what happens when an installation gets 1/2 way through but didn't finish.

    I was like "Oh no! That's not good"

    So needless to say I spent the better half of the weekend reinstalling Windows Vista Ultimate from scratch and I am keeping Boot Camp 2.0 until Apple gets this whole installation thing figured out.

    I am surprised Apple would release something that has had so many problems; I generally have had a good experience with them.

    Please release Boot Camp 2.1.1 soon Apple!

    I recommend staying with Boot Camp 2.0 until things stabilize a bit. I sure am.

    User Interface Before Code

    Jeff Atwood had a great post earlier this month entitled UI-First Software Development.

    In the blog he mentions:

    Of course, UI is hard, far harder than coding for developers. It's tempting to skip the tough part and do what comes naturally -- start banging away in a code window with no real thought given to how the user will interact with the features you're building.

    Actually, I am the exact opposite of this. I need an understanding of the UI before going off and writing any code for an application. To me theory, while important, is different than reality. The UI prototype serves as a guide not just for the navigation of the application. For me it serves as an aid in understanding what classes, methods, etc. are going to be needed for the application.

    Jeff's post is apropos since I am just starting to sketch out how my application Z is going to look and feel.

    That leads me to a minor dilemma. What to tool to use to create my UI prototypes. Many people use pencil and paper, and I see much merit in that. However, I am, for better or worse, and electronic type of guy. So I am trying to see if I can use something besides pencil and paper to do my prototyping.

    I have Visual Studio 2008 that I could use, but I am trying to stay somewhat away from the temptation to do any coding.

    I also have Microsoft Expression Studio which I may indeed just end up using. I could use Microsoft Expression Blend which is specifically geared towards application UI development. The only downside is that it might be way overkill for what I am trying to do initially.

    So, if I don't use Microsoft Expression, what do I use then? PowerPoint? Paint.NET? Other?

    I found a couple of posts that list some UI Prototyping tools.

    Here is one.

    Here is the other.

    Given that I already have Microsoft Expression Studio, and even Microsoft Office 2007 if I wanted to go the PowerPoint route, I am not sure I want to spend a bunch of money on such a tool. However, if anyone has any recommendations, I am surely open to purchasing something -- I mean, come on....being a wannabe micro-ISV who would want people to buy my product, I need to support my fellow software developers if it warrants. Of course, a really good free tool isn't so bad either ;-)

    Btw, here are some free trials I am thinking about checking out:

    1. Mockup Screens
    2. Serena Prototype Composer (this is actually free)
    3. Designer Vista

    If anyone has any thoughts, recommendations, or ideas about this, I am all ears.

    Until next time.....

    Finally! I Know the Product I Am Going To Develop

    image

    So, a while ago, I put a list of ideas out into the wild that I was choosing between as my first micro-ISV project. I haven't really made progress on those ideas because I have been busy doing consulting work and I haven't always been convinced that the ideas were all that good.

    But now, I have finally broken through. I have what will be my first micro-ISV product. And I am very excited. I am not going to let the cat out of the bag this time. What I will say that is primarily a desktop application, has some competition and sprouted from a need that I personally have had for a long time.

    I have started the design specification. I have most of my development tools in order. I am ready to go!

    I am still doing some consulting work, but that may be winding down soon. Thus I will be able to concentrate on this full time. I am thinking a beta within 6 months, maybe sooner depending on what else is going on. We'll see.

    Whether this succeeds or fails, it is great to finally know that I can be excited about something and put some passion into it. The worst that is going to happen with this product is that I will learn something and I will be able to market my software development skills again. Woo Hoo!

    And, to boot, I have some other ideas to follow this first idea. So I am building a nice little queue.

    Until next time....

    P.S. I have a name for my company, almost have a logo developed and have someone to develop my web site.

    Top 15 Listened to Songs of 2008 So Far

    I love music. I really love music. I have many thousands of songs from country to rock to R&B to rap. So it is real hard to pick all-time favorite songs. I gauge my favorite songs by the play count in Windows Media Player, where I play most of my music when I am working on my computer.

    Here are my top 15 listened to songs of 2008 thus far (I had some ties, so I went with 15 songs):

    1. Killer Queen - Queen (One of the greatest bands ever!)
    2. No Diggity - Blackstreet
    3. Life Wasted - Pearl Jam (My favorite band!)
    4. Behind These Hazel Eyes - Kelly Clarkson (yes, that Kelly Clarkson -- this is a great song and she can actually sing)
    5. Man in A Box - Alice In Chains
    6. White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane
    7. Killing Me Softly - The Fugees
    8. Total Eclipse of the Heart - Bonnie Tyler (One of my favorite "slow" songs ever, period!)
    9. Hot Blooded - Foreigner
    10. Pretty Vegas - INXS (actually saw the new INXS in concert -- very good!)
    11. Sin Wagon - Dixie Chicks (By the way, the documentary Shut Up and Sing was great)
    12. To The Bone - Sex Police (My favorite band in college)
    13. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd
    14. Alone - Heart
    15. Verse Chorus Verse - Nirvana

    Will see if these stick throughout the rest of the year.

    Sometime I may be able to come up with my favorite songs ever. I have to imagine at least one of these would make the list.

    Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

    It has been a while since I have written a post. So as to not disappoint my one reader out there ;-), I am making time to do so today.

    I have been really busy actually - to a point where creating blog entries has fallen below the ZBB line. (Now, I am pretty sure ZBB is a foreign term to many -- it is an acronym used at my old company that stands for Zero Baseline Budget. Actually I don't know what that means, per se, but the gist is if something falls below the ZBB line, it doesn't get done for that quarter).

    So what has kept me so busy. Let me give you an idea of my daily schedule.

    • 6:30 AM Wake-Up
    • 6:30-8:00 A little email, eat breakfast, get the boys ready for daycare
    • 8:00-12:00 After seeing the kids off to daycare, I work. I have the fortunate opportunity of having another consulting effort, this time where I am the lead editor on creating a technical specification.
    • 12:00-12:30 Take a walk around the block
    • 12:30 PM -1:30 Pick up the kids from daycare, put them down for their nap
    • 1:30-2:00 Eat lunch
    • 2:00-6:00 More work after spouse comes home and watches kids
    • 6:00-8:00 COMPUTER OFF LIMITS, spend time with the family
    • 8:00 Put the kids down for bed
    • 8:00-10:00 Eat dinner, down time, relax
    • 10:00 PM Bed time

    So between my consulting job and my family, I am kept super busy. The weekends are generally kept for family time and some outdoor adventures.

    The bigger question for me is how the work I am currently doing affects my overall sole proprietor / Micro-ISV plan. I am using this technical editor opportunity to decide if this is something I would like to do long term. What this has going for it is:

    1. Flexible hours
    2. Good pay
    3. Interesting (at least for now) work
    4. Oh, and did I say good pay (i.e. a real paycheck)

    If I decide I do want to continue down this career path, my plan for starting my Micro-ISV may indeed change. I know I will have some downtime where I will need to be doing something. The well will run dry for short or long periods of time. In fact, I do have an idea that I have been throwing around in my head (I have the domain name reserved and the software idea floating around). But being a "full-time" Micro-ISV has now not a certainty.

    We'll see. Stay tuned. I will keep you updated.

    Until then, best wishes!

    Microsoft offers 44.6 Billion for Yahoo!

    [Update: It is 44.6 not 44.5 billion -- that 100 million may not be significant to Bill G., but it is to us mortals :-) ]

    [Update: Would Microsoft try a hostile takeover if Yahoo! rejects the offer? That would be very interesting and a can of worms I am not sure Microsoft wants to open]

    Yahoo! has not accepted this deal yet.

    In the back of my mind, I knew this would happen. In fact, after Yahoo! reported earnings earlier this week, and the stock plummeted, I thought to myself "I bet Microsoft buys Yahoo! now". I didn't buy Yahoo! stock. :-( Oh well, woulda, coulda, shoulda, I guess.

    Anyway, I am still chewing on this deal. Is it good for Microsoft? Is it good for Yahoo! Is it going to be a disaster a la Time Warner-AOL?

    The big and obvious question is how Microsoft plans to integrate Yahoo! into its Windows Live offerings. That is a huge undertaking in my mind, and not a 100% slam dunk by any means. For example, what becomes of Yahoo! Mail -- does it get integrated into Windows Live Hotmail? Does Microsoft integrate Yahoo!'s search algorithm into its Windows Live Search?

    And, not to mention the culture clash of the two companies. Yahoo! is already laying off 1000 people. Can Microsoft absorb the other Yahoo! employs, or will a mass layoff come?

    And then comes the other side of the equation. How does this affect Google? Of course, this deal is a direct aim at Google. Google's stock is starting down after it reported "not great" (according to analysts) earnings last night. That doesn't really matter with respect to this deal, I don't think. It is a long term question -- will Google's dominance be affected by this deal in a negative fashion? This deal would make Microsoft the clear #2 in the search/advertising space, but could it make Microsoft #1?

    Very interesting start to the morning, for sure.

    Reconsidering My Micro-ISV Ideas

    image It has been a 1.5 months since I posted my ideas to start my Micro-ISV. After moving across the country, continuing on my consulting efforts, and some personal research and reflection, I am reconsidering whether I should move forward with any of these ideas.

    With respect to the RSS Reader, I do believe I have an interesting idea that would "uniquify" the product; but, I also am beginning to believe it might be better to just contribute that idea to something like Dare and company's RSS Bandit rather than go with a full-fledged development project.

    I was most jazzed about the Fantasy Football web site, but that excitement has fizzled lately -- maybe because the football season is almost over; maybe because of the reality of differentiation; I am not 100% sure, but my initial glee about the prospect is not there anymore.

    The "Bag-O-Tools" idea is still on the table.

    I am now doing a re-analysis of the direction I want to go with my company (i.e. do I need a "born-again" moment?) To give you a glimpse into my mind, here is my current thinking:

    My Company = Consulting Company?

    My consulting effort has been going really well, with real money and possible future prospects. I have been complemented for my good work. So, do I become a consultant/contractor instead of a Micro-ISV? But, the phrase "possible future prospects" can be a bit unnerving -- the well can dry up at anytime and without notice. So a backup plan is a must. Also, the possibility of constant travel may prove a bit prohibitive depending on how things go with my family.

    Do I Want a Partner(s)?

    I waiver on this quite a bit. On the one hand, it is very intriguing to know that I could control *all* aspects of my business. On the other hand, I know what a lonely road that could be. I don't necessarily mind giving up some control for the chance to share in the production of something successful -- in fact, running the business aspect of the business (vs. the technical aspect) intrigues me quite a bit. Also, I am still 100% convinced that the right partner, in general, is better than going solo -- if, for nothing else, to keep motivation high and have a listening ear for the business.

    What Is My Niche?

    This is the hardest hurdle to get over, obviously, for any successful Micro-ISV. But, this is arguably the most important hurdle. My initial ideas do not carve a specific niche, per se. I knew that going in, but now I am thinking that maybe I should try to carve a niche to complement my initial business goals. What product(s) could I develop that uniquely solves a problem for a certain group of people. On the other hand, it could very well be my niche is in the consulting business. It could very well be my niche is in technical editing, or managing a project or an effort. I am not ready to say what it is yet.

    So as my current consulting effort ends (sometime before April 1st), I really need to do a lot of soul searching to figure out what comes next for me. I do hope I at least have the opportunity to make a decision to make about another enjoyable consulting or contracting after this one ends.

    No Case-Sensitive Searches in Windows Vista?

    For the life of me, I cannot find a way to do a case-sensitive search in Windows Vista.

    I am trying to search the documents on my computer that contain a specific word, let's say "Foo". It shows me all documents that contain the word "Foo", "foo", "FoO", etc.

    That is fine in and of itself, but there should be an option somewhere in Vista to say "No, only give me 'Foo' and nothing else".

    Alas, I cannot find such an option.

    Anyone?

    State of the Joel

    It has been a few weeks since my last blog post. I have what I consider a valid excuse for that -- I moved across the country.

    In the spirit of the new year, and inspired by the various State of the State/Union addresses that have occurred or will occur, I have decided to provide you a "State of the Joel" address.

    The State of Joel is a calm after the storm.

    We have completed our move from North Carolina to California. We met with some old friends who have helped us as we settled in (thank you very much -- you know who you are). We have made our rental house into our new home. And things are starting to feel "normal". Being back in California feels right, and visiting San Francisco yesterday just affirmed that even more. By the way, I highly don't recommend flying across the country with two near-two year olds on a regular basis ;-)

    My wife starts work next week, and I watch the kids for a week (see below as to why only a week). After that, we have a trusted person to watch the boys for 3 weeks. Then they go to part-time daycare starting in mid-February.

    On my job front, I just finished one consulting job. That lasted around 3.5 months. I have another 3-6 week consulting job that starts in two weeks, related to the work I just finished. I like the consulting work that I am doing as it provides some new challenges and great flexibility.

    I received an email last night from an old friend and colleague of mine asking me if I would like to partner on a business venture with him. I am in the midst of reviewing the idea. I have a lunch meeting tomorrow with another friend and colleague to talk about other venture possibilities as well. These startup ventures may never pan out, but it is very cool to even consider things like this.

    I still have my initial business projects to focus on. However, I will continue to examine new ventures and consulting work as they come available and make appropriate decisions.

    Oh yeah, and we bought a Panasonic 50" Plasma TV as our Christmas gift to each other. I didn't go 1080p -- I figure the prices will come down in the next couple of years and we are sitting 13' feet away and thus will not notice any noticeable difference. So I went 720p for a very good price at Costco. Watching the NFL Playoffs in HD is awesome -- and I cannot go back! My next home entertainment decision is whether I should go get a Blu-Ray player now that it seems like it is leading the charge in the hi-def DVD war (although I have friends who work in HD-DVD land, the other competing format).

    So, what do I see for 2008? I see this as a year of clarity, specifically with respect to the careers of me and my wife. I also see us buying a house.

    Lists

    image

    Being the holidays, and remembering the lists of things I used to ask for from Santa, I thought I would make a post about lists.

    I admit it. I like lists. No, programmers, I am not talking about the data structure kind -- although those are fine in their own right. I am talking about those other types of lists -- the ones that, for example, rank items in a certain category.

    For example, I like David Letterman's Top 10 lists. I like Billboard's Top 200 lists. I like Ebert and Roeper's 10 Best (and Worst) movies of the year. I like a city's top 10 restaurants.

    I know these type of lists are subjective and have no real intrinsic meaning. But lists like these serve a couple of purposes that I find valuable:

    1. They remind you to do or get something. For example, I was reading a list displaying the Top 300 rock songs of all time. It reminded me to go buy some music to add to my music collection.
    2. They are good conversation starters. For example, if you and some friends are going out to a restaurant, but do not know where to go, you can always look up a list and say "Well, Food Magazine says the best restaurant in Anytown, USA is McDonalds". Then you discuss whether you should go to McDonalds or not (although, if your best choice is McDonald's, well, ummm.....)
    3. They help you find out about a person or entity. For example, if you see a list that ranks the top 10 movies of all time, and they all have Mr. Bean as the lead character, that would tell you something about the person who created the list (what that would tell you, I am not sure, nor do I think I really want to know)

    So periodically, I may throw in some posts where I list some of my favorite items (songs, movies, quotes, books, programming languages, etc..). It will give you a chance to find out some more about me, what I am into, and maybe trigger something that you can go do or get.

    Choosing a Web Collaboration or Conferencing Solution

    I wanted to show my brother a skeleton of a website that we are developing. He lives about 30 miles away from me right now, but soon he will be living across the country from me. So this type of functionality will be crucial.

    I could have emailed the skeleton. That would have been simple, I suppose. But it is not real-time collaboration. We can't make changes on the fly. Those sort of things.

    We both have Windows Vista. I have Ultimate. He has Home Premium. We are on different networks -- basically our home networks via our Internet Service Provider (ISP).

    So what to do? What can we use to collaborate real-time when we are basically just two people on the Internet somewhere.

     

    Windows Meeting Space  image

    Vista has this new "feature" called Windows Meeting Space. I thought that would help, but no such luck. It only supports collaboration on the same wired network, WLAN or ad-hoc, PC-to-PC network. Basically, you have to be close to each other. That really doesn't help me in this situation.

    NetMeeting  image

    So I looked for NetMeeting. That would work, of course, right? I have used it before. Wrong! NetMeeting exists no more in Windows Vista. Apparently Windows Meeting Space is supposed to take the place of it. You can download NetMeeting for Vista, but it only works on Enterprise, Business or Ultimate. Again, can't be used in my situation.

    Remote Desktop Connection  image

    I thought about Remote Desktop Connection. But then I realized Remote Desktop Connection is not really for web collaboration. It is more of a 1-way communication system with another desktop. Only one person can see the desktop. So that was out.

    Windows Live Messenger  image

    I have the latest Windows Live Messenger. My brother could have easily downloaded it. I know I remember in the past being able to use Windows Messenger to share my desktop. There was a button or menu item to do this. It is not there anymore on the latest version. But then I realized that it used NetMeeting on the back-end -- so see my comments above about NetMeeting ;-)

    Microsoft Office Live Meeting  image

    OK. So Microsoft Office Live Meeting is now Microsoft's recommended way of web collaboration. It could work, sure. But the pricing is prohibitive. For now, I am trying to be a bit frugal (i.e. free). So I looked for other less pricey alternatives.

    GoToMeeting, WebEx, etc.  image

    For comments about GoToMeeting, WebEx, etc., see comments for Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

     

    Yugma image 

    So I found this thread on the Business of Software forum where someone recommended Yugma. I never heard of it. But the poster used his real name and had a link to his website, so I figured chances were that it wasn't spam or anything evil. I went to the Yugma site. Seemed easy enough. Sign up for a free account. Install some software. And go.

    Both my brother and I went through the sign up and install process. I started a meeting. I gave my brother the session id. He joined the meeting. And off we went. It would pretty flawlessly, actually.

    And, it is free for up to 10 meeting participants. This more than meets our needs.

    And, it is Java based so I can host a meeting using Mac OS X if I wanted to and my brother can still remain on Windows.

    I was very impressed for our first collaboration. It was quite cool.

    Yugma will be my collaboration tool of choice until something better comes along.

     

    Any comments?

    Anyone have any experience with Yugma? Any better collaboration tools out there? Am I mistaken on my thoughts about the other collaboration tools I mentioned here?