an IPhone, the experiment

apple iphone 4For the last six months, I have been an IPhone user.  Yes, yes I know, anyone who knows me is saying “what? the Linux guy turning into an apple fanboi?”  Not quite,  the phone is a company phone.  The phone is a black IPhone 4G.  I must admit, it was a pretty cool phone.  I still had my problems with it, but overall, it was an enlightening experience that I enjoyed.

First the good, this was my first experience in having a smart phone, sure I’ve used them on occasion, but never on a day to day basis.  The IPhone’s interface is really well done, apps are easy to install and use.  Navigation on the phone is nice and harmonized, and things are mostly where you would expect them to be, sometimes too many levels deep in the menu, but where you would think all the same.  The base installation of the IPhone is a very nice platform to use.

Lets talk about apps now.  The Apple AppStore, as of this post, has 350 000+ apps.  That is a huge number, and I have only sampled a very very microscopic sampling, but my experience has been mixed.  Some apps are really well done, to the credit of the development team, but some have been AWFUL, to the point of crashing repeatedly.  It goes to show that more isn’t always better.  I even at one point worked on an IPhone app, for a former company, and can only say that the development is one part, but then the process to get the app published to the AppStore, is both complicated, and not entirely logical.  Some apps make it online easily, while others get refused for weird reasons.  It almost feels like there is some guy ( or girl ) at the other end, and depending on their mood at that moment.  I had thought that the complicated purpose of getting apps onto the app store was to GUARANTEE quality, but that seems more fiction that fact.  So I ask myself, why the complex and lengthy submission process?

Of those 350 000+ apps, there are hundreds that do the same thing, I agree selection and competition is important, but at some point having 400 options becomes a hassle to find one, that isn’t broken, no longer supported, that does what you want, etc.  My only real other comment about the apps, is the selection of pre-installed apps.  Some of which I would have preferred not being there.  There are some options, that I wish I had the option to not have there.  For instance the weather app, for a Canadian is not the best option. The YouTube app, is “unnecessary” since you can add the mobile web page to the home page.  The Notes app, is also not the greatest, but usable.  I just believe that if you are going to impose apps, make them the best around, or offer people the chance to remove them.

I guess that’s it for now,  I will be switching to an android phone in the next couple weeks as I must return this phone upon leaving the company I was formerly employed at, so look forward to seing a post about that at some time in the future.

anyone have a career compass?

Now as anyone who has read the earlier posts to this blog, I am in the process of seeking new employment.  Part of this whole ordeal has required me to re-evaluate what direction I would like to focus my career on.  I’ve worked in Big Business, I’ve taken my stab at startups, and have had personal and professional success in both.  Each has their own interesting challenges, as well as their, lets call them not so interesting points.

I’ve now had a couple interviews, well mostly with different recruiters who are looking to place people ( I’m in the process of writing up another post specifically about recruiters, and my opinions about them, so stay tuned ).  Some of these interviews have been, to me anyways, productive, even if they haven’t landed me the ideal job offer yet.  What I have learned, based on conversations I’ve had during this job search, is that the best fit type of position doesn’t really exist elsewhere than in a small company.

See what I enjoy most is working with small dynamic teams, having “carte blanche” to get from beginning to end.  I strongly believe in “find the best solution to solve your problem, not fit your problem into this solution”.  The problem with Big Business ( of which I’m interviewing at two of those companies now ), is that they usually have “fixed” selection of tools and technology, and you must, from that selection, solve the problem at hand.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have worked for Big Business, and have enjoyed, and learned a lot while I was there.  I have the required skills to solve the problems within a fixed set of constraints, so it’s not a matter of “can I do the job” its more like “do I want that kind of job”.

That is the pleasure of a small company, finding the best solution available with minimal restrictions.  However small companies don’t usually have the budget of the larger ones, so your selection of options is usually “as cheap as you can find”.  Fortunately for us, open source is a wonderful thing, and gives us plenty of choices ( but this isn’t meant as a closed/open source debate, the time may come for that, but that’s neither here or now ).  The down side to this, is what I’m living right now, searching for a new job when money runs out.

I have come, over the years, to accept that I am not “the idea man”.  I know a few of them, and I am not one of them.  What I am however, is the guy that will get your idea done.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with some extremely talented people over the years, and with them we have accomplished miracles by most standards.  My strength is in being resourceful enough, and skilled enough to solve the problem, and getting the right team and motivating them to get there.

My internal debate now is focused on do I tempt my hand in another small company, or head back to Big Business.  With a family, and young children Big Business seems like the wise choice, at least for a couple years.  I can always work on some extra-curricular projects for the challenges, I have a few open source projects I have contributed to in the past that I would like to get back into.  Or a serial entrepreneur friend who is always looking for a resourceful person.  But a small company always has that, “je ne sais quoi” that gets you interested and motivated.

any comments/recommendations/suggestions?

In(out)-laws

We have just survived another visit.

I have the pleasure of “receiving” my father-in-law every year. I use the word visit very very loosely.  I don’t want to over generalize, but most people seem to complain about their in-laws in some way or another, they meddle too much, they try to control, etc.  Mine is quite a bit different.

First, some context he lives on the other side of the planet, Hong Kong to be specific.  We only see him once a year, about 2 weeks at a time, during that time he stays at our house.

Now, to what bothers me about him, he’s a nice enough guy, he doesn’t look for conflict, he doesn’t try to start arguments, he just treats our house as you would a hotel.  He comes and goes as he pleases, well actually more time going then coming, this is part of the problem.  As a man with 3 grandsons, I (as a father ) couldn’t imagine not spending time with them, he could barely care to do anything with them.  One evening my oldest, 4 1/2, went to ask him to play a game with him after supper, my father in-law flat out told him NO, why, not because he was tired from jet lag, not because he was busy, but because he was watching some movie on his laptop.  The man is only here once a year, why would he not want to spend some time with his grand kids.

Most of the time he spent actually at the house not watching TV on his computer, was spent on the phone, trying to find something to do.  He spent 20 years in Canada, so he still has friends around, which I can understand he would like to see them, but at what cost.

What frustrates me the most however, is that my boys, just want to spend time with him, and every time he says no, walks out of the house or is on the phone, they ask me why he won’t play with them.  How do you answer a 4 1/2 year old, and a 3 year old that just want to spend time with their grand father that they don’t see very often, that he couldn’t care less.

There is a common question that gets asked, what would you do if you knew you had a fixed amount of time left to live/spend in one place/ etc, the answer: make the best use of that time, enjoy it like as much as possible and make it count.

Well every time he comes into our lives, it’s with a fixed amount of time.  I ask you, in what universe can going shopping, spending 2 hours on the phone trying to find someone to go see be  more important than spending 30 minutes playing with a child, any child.

enough of my rant for the day.  he’s left now, and we can get back to spending time as a family, and dread the next visit.

Securing an FTP server on Ubuntu

As some of you might notice i setup a new blog recently, and with that, the most important thing needs to be dealt with, backups.  My blog is running WordPress, and i used one of the numerous backup plugins from the repository.  One of those options for backup is FTP of the files.  I like having a copy of things on my home network, so i decided to setup an FTP server on my Ubuntu machine.

Setting up an FTP on Ubuntu is really really simple

sudo apt-get install vsftpd

I chose vsftp since it has good reviews, is easy to setup via the repository and is known for strong security.

Once you have run the install, you can edit the configuration of vsftp with your favorite editor ( mine’s vim )

sudo vi /etc/vsftpd.conf

There are a couple changes I strongly recommend you make the following changes

uncomment the following lines

local_enable=YES # this allows only users that have an account on the machine to login via FTP

write_enable=YES # this allows authorized users to write to the FTP server not only read

chroot_local_user=YES # this locks users to their home directory

Once this is setup,  I proceeded to create a “throwaway” account for the WordPress backups with a strong password.  Once the account is setup, the WordPress backup plugin copies the backups to this account, and i move them to somewhere else using a script.

Getting back into shape

Now as most people in my situation, three young kids under the age of five, IT job, home renovations, keeping fit hasn’t always been number one on the priority list, and I am no longer in the shape i once was.

Being in IT, means long hours in front of a computer screen, followed by ( in my case ) a one hour commute in each direction.  Not exactly conducive to staying in shape, is it.

When I get home, I want to enjoy some time with my 3 boys, and my wife before the kids head to bed.  Once they are in bed, there are the usual household things that need to get done, dishes, cleaning, laundry, etc.  Once this is all done, well I really don’t have much motivation to head out to a gym, especially since most of the gyms around my place suffer from what i like to call, the social gym circle.  This is what I call the people who just go to the gym to talk, socialize, flirt, you name it while sitting on some machine or just taking up space.  So if gym’s are out, what are my options, running, which I enjoy, when the weather permits, home gym, we aren’t really setup for that.

A while back, a colleague, well former colleague actually, started talking about a program called one hundred pushups that he had just completed.  The premise of this is that you train up to be able to do 100 consecutive push ups without stopping.  Push ups are an extremely good exercise ( if done well ) as they work shoulders, chest, arms, abs, back and legs.  The focus is to perform “good form” push ups, in sets and increase the amount every day ( 3 times a week ) until you can accomplish the magic number.

I started the program on February 18, only managing 13 good form push ups before my form began to falter.  On Thursday night, March 31st, was the second “test”, after completing week 4, I completed 44 good form push ups.  Now I haven’t completed the 100, but already I can already feel the difference.  I am actually enjoying this training, as it takes no more than a couple minutes in the evening after everything else is done.  I know it’s not a full workout, but it is a beginning.  and once that base is established, I can/will be able to move on to other exercises.

Sir Irisch Moos Shaving Soap

Recently, well a couple months ago really, I started getting into more, shall we say traditional, shaving techniques.  I had been suffering for years from razor burn, razor bumps, and an overall poor shave, to the point, I dreaded shaving.  I would go a couple days without shaving on purpose, actually to be honest, I would wait until having the facial hair either irritated me, or it just looked ridiculous.  See I have the odd genetics, that leaves me with extremely dark brown hair, almost black, and very bright red facial hair.

A couple weeks ago, I placed an order with http://www.fendrihan.com for a variety of shaving supplies, to try out different things.  Today was my second use of Sir Irisch Moos Shaving Soap.  I had read a great review from Shaving101 and wanted to try.  It was relatively cheap, so i figured it was worth the try.

The shaving soap is different from cream, both traditional and the pressurized cans, that i have used in the past.  It comes in a stick, and you just apply it to your face.  Word to the wise, wet your beard first.  When that is done, just lather up with your brush, and that’s it.  The lather isn’t as foamy as any of the creams, but it is just as slick.  So far, I believe this soap will become my goto for shaving, it offers good lubrication, and nice lather.  On top of that, it has a nice smell, very similar to Irish Spring Soap.

anyways, I’ll be updating my experience along the way.