Sunday, November 24, 2013 – 17:19 – Tough times at work
The last few weeks have been very difficult. You see, I work at a company that is shrinking. Income has dropped by 50%, they have been losing money and every year in October there is another large layoff where between 500 and 1000 people are suddenly out on the street.
This year the IT area was affected. We lost 150 people from IT, including half of my department. Seniority in the company did not matter one bit. Anyone who was not a top performer lost their jobs. Actually in some cases these people were the top performers who had worked hard and sacrificed for the company and suddenly they were without a job. The people remaining – including yours truly – are apparently the cream of the crop. We are all in shock.
It appears that they calculated exactly the bare minimum number of IT people that would be required to keep the company up and running. My department will be merging with another department to reduce redundancies. My job duties will be changed to perform more software development to help the company by automating several functions, thus making us more productive. Will this be a good move for me? Well, they say it is always darkest before the dawn. Quite often what I see as a disaster turns out to actually be a blessing so only time will tell. In the meantime, I will be working harder to get up to speed on the technologies that I believe will define my future.
Persson Technologies is temporarily on hold while I deal with these changes in my life and try to determine what this change of direction really means.
One more thing – this entire layoff incident has reminded me how happy I am that I am not a manager. I don’t know if I could do this – that is, let people go and then wonder how they are going to feed their families. Besides this fact, I was once a manager years ago and I didn’t like that I was not actually involved with the technology. Instead of having fun, I was helping my employees to have fun while I was on the phone telling customers why we were not working faster.
For those of you who are curious, I was a manager when I was around 20 years old. I could tear apart and rebuild a car stereo blindfolded so they made me the manager. It reminds me of Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan. Promotion is not always a good thing.
Sunday, September 29, 2013 – 17:15 – Latest Xamarin development
I did some timings on the String Transformation Utility and compared them between Windows, Linux, and Macintosh. On the Macintosh the application ran dog slow and kept crashing. I created a small test application that performed some major string transformations in a background worker thread and sent the application to Xamarin support. When processing only 15,000 lines this was how three similarly equipped machines performed using this test application:
Windows – 46 seconds
Linux – 22 seconds
Macintosh – 3,944 seconds
Now….you need to realize that on the Xamarin web site it says that projects written using Microsoft Visual Studio will run fine on the Macintosh using Xamarin. In response to my bug report, the Xamarin support people stated they do not support applications that are written using Microsoft Visual Studio. This is because I did not read the fine print.
All the application logic needs to be embedded in DLL files that are written using Visual Studio. The GUI for Macintosh needs to be written in Xamarin. This will need to be postponed until version 4.x of the String Transformation Utility is created.
Saturday, August 31, 2013 – 13:11 – Persson Technologies & Xamarin!
There are quite a number of things happening right now at Persson Technologies. We are gradually moving forward. I still need to get a special license from the state of Arizona to sell software licenses and support contracts on the web. There are several other things I need to accomplish as well so we might not be going live until January 1st. One of these tasks is finding and installing a free opensource web-based helpdesk ticket tracking system.
In other news, we were able to purchase a used Macintosh and I have been testing our code on that machine. The String Transformation Utility now works on Windows, Linux, and Macintosh! In order to get it working on Macintosh I am supposed to be using something called Xamarin. This software will allow us to also port the application to Android tablets and the iPad platform at a future date. However, this software is not free so after the 30-day free trial I will not be pursuing this further until Persson Technologies is bringing in some money. It occurs to me that only one tenth of our customers will be using Mac computers so paying $300 a year to move the application to that platform does not make much sense.
On the other hand, I am looking into an option that will allow the application to work on the Mac without using Xamarin. I will have to post updates concerning this at a later date. Even if the application works on these non-Windows systems it would take time to package them and create a one-click installer for our customers. Since the vast majority of our customers will be using Windows it seems unwise to spend months of effort pursuing these other platforms. I have had a great deal of problems with the speed and reliability of the String Transformation Utility on the Mac. I am creating a small test application that I can send to the Mono/Xamarin people to hopefully aid them in tracking down and fixing these issues in case we want to port our applications to that platform at a future date.
Friday, August 9, 2013 – 17:10 – Presidential pictures!
For a limited time only you can see some special pictures of Air Force One and the president of the United States driving through Phoenix!
Sunday, June 16, 2013 – 12:13 – Latest technical puzzle
I cannot get my license key for the String Transformation Utility to work in Linux. This is strange. The key works fine in Windows, I verified the key using the license key verification utility. However, when I try to use it in Linux it says the license key is invalid. I just simulated a fresh install in Linux and it created the 30-day free trial key without a problem. I then put that key back into the application and it worked fine. It uses all the same license key verification code. The only difference between Windows and Linux is that in Windows I am using version 3.4.2 of the String Transformation Utility and in Linux I am using version 3.4.0. I don’t think that should make a difference. Hmm…..
Okay, I tried my license key in the 3.4.0 version in Windows and it worked fine. I created a 15-Day free trial key in Windows and the Linux version also would not accept that. This has me worried. The really strange thing is – I am certain I tested this and it all worked before.
I took the 30-Day free trial key that works fine in Linux and sent it over to the license verification routine in Windows, This was the error – The intermediate data has more than four elements: 脰䋻ｃ潠6/16/2013+30 DAY FREE TRIAL
Saturday, June 8, 2013 – 17:35 – My latest development snag
In developing software for Persson Technologies I always want to target my efforts not only for Windows (today) but also the future. What I am thinking of is Linux, Macintosh, iPad tablets, Android tablets, etc. Therefore, each application shouid work in Linux today. This is assuming that if it will work in the Mono Framework it will be that much closer to working on all those platforms in the future. In the process of creating the latest version of the Email Composer Utility I am using something I got off the web called the “RicherTextBox”. It is a free package that includes a bunch of cool features that can be used when composing emails. You can embed screenshots, bold text, use different colors, etc. and then just copy and paste them into any email package. Here is a picture of this control, I have imported a picture of some penguins as a test and played with some fonts. I think it looks so cool! My usual standard is to only use our own internally developed software but I looked at the source code and it all seems very straightforward, it is not rocket science.
Unfortunately, running it in Linux using the Mono Framework was a train wreck. There are a number of features that will not work correctly, if at all. It was very strange. Thinking that it might be a function of how they created this high-tech package I decided to create my own using all standard RichTextbox methods. Guess what? I still had the problem where a number of features will not work correctly, if at all. Then it crashed on me!
According to the Mono web site the current version of the runtime module is 18.104.22.168 which is what I am using in Ubuntu Precise Pangolin. Now I will need to track down how to submit a bug to the Mono developers to get them going on this to get it fixed for me.
I have read some reviews on the web stating that the Mono Framework is ready for prime time and corporations can use it as a platform for their mission-critical applications but I don’t know if I am convinced yet. I don’t get a warm fuzzy feeling when my applications crash and burn in Mono.
Friday, May 10, 2013 – 21:53 – Salesforce Kool-Aid
So….have any of my IT friends out there encountered the Salesforce Kool-Aid yet? This is a company that is gradually taking over the minds of business people across the planet, in both small companies and large. This is basically their sales pitch:
1. Let us handle your data in the cloud. You don’t have to purchase servers, you don’t have to manage a data center, you don’t have to maintain the servers, we will do it all for you.
2. You can lay off all your developers – your entire application can be created with a few clicks of the mouse.
3. Future changes to your application will be easy – just a few clicks of your mouse is all it will take to completely change your application as your business rules change.
4. You can report on anything you want, there are no limitations.
I have just been to thirteen full days of Salesforce training and I have to say that I think most of this is marketing. I mean, if you attend the classes it looks great – on the surface – but consider these points:
1. Salesforce is extremely expensive – so much so that I cannot see how it could possibly be a cost savings.
2. It still requires a huge IT staff – yes, you can change lots of things with a simple point and click but understanding what that point and click will change and the effect on other objects will still require IT professionals.
3. There are several things that cannot be accomplished via the simple “point and click” approach and that will require developers.
4. There are several “governor” limits built into Salesforce which will keep you from designing the system to accommodate your business requirements. It is your data and your business, but Salesforce will dictate to you how you run your business.
5. There are some capabilities – such as reporting and backups – where Salesforce recommends you keep an entire copy of your data in your data center. Well….if I am keeping all my data in my data center because Salesforce has obvious limitations then why am I paying lots of $$$$ to also store it in the cloud?
6. Regarding large data operations and response times, going with Salesforce means you are giving up your control. If a query takes 20 seconds to return, then too bad – you do not have access to the database tables to tune them, you are no longer in control of your business.
It seems to me there should be a modular application development tool – that can be tied to several different database types – that companies could use to quickly and easily create business applications, but still be in control of their destiny. Sending all your data – and control of your company – up to the cloud and paying millions of dollars for the experience just seems wrong to me!
Friday, April 12, 2013 – 23:31 News from the front
As I am typing this in Libre Office on my Linux machine, it occurs to me this is destined to be my first real blog entry in 2013. I am sorry this has taken so long, but it seems I am living in the midst of change.
At the beginning of the year I was working on my Persson Technologies web site to get it up and running. I have some friends who do web development and they moved the web site from Joomla to WordPress and they were setting up the e-commerce package so my customers could order products from my web site. Somehow we didn’t communicate and while I thought they were still working on it, they thought I was all set.
In the meantime, everything suddenly changed at work. They wanted me to attend two weeks of classes to learn this new system that was taking over our company. Then I was supposed to teach everyone else in my department while still performing all my regular work (I am still not sure how that will work out). Also I think I might be moving into a new career – more about this at a later date when I know what I am talking about.
In my current job I am now the “go to” person who has all the answers and when I look at a problem I usually know in moments how to go about researching it and in some cases I already know the answer. This is good and bad. This means I am very productive but it also means I am not being challenged and I am therefore bored and ready for a change. This happens every six years or so and I have been in this job since May of 2006.
If this big change happens in 2013 as predicted it means I will be ready for another change in 2020. I have to wonder if at that time Persson Technologies can become my full time job.
I have decided that to track customers and support tickets in Persson Technologies we will be using an application called OTRS. It is open source and it is really quite impressive. It will run on pretty much any platform. For now we will be running it on a Windows Vista machine and it will be an application for internal use only. If the company takes off and we have several customers I want to move it to a Linux machine here in our house and make it available on the web so our customers can open, view, and update their own tickets. There will be a special link for customers on the Persson Technologies web site that will lead to the Linux machine. I feel better having it on a Linux machine because of the security features.
While the String Transformation Utility is for the most part a mature application, the Email Composer Utility is undergoing a massive transformation into…..well, I am not quite certain what it is becoming. I hope the end result will be something that will add value to the lives of our customers instead of replicating something they already have.
In other news, although the String Transformation Utility works perfectly in Linux running on the Mono Framework, the Email Composer Utility is a total train wreck. The bugs with regards to the RichTextBox object in Mono are well documented on the web but I have not yet checked to see if there is a fix in later versions of the Mono Framework for the problems I encountered. The version of Ubuntu I am using is exactly a year old so I might be living in the past. The RichTextBox object is a recent enhancement that was added to the Windows version of the Email Composer Utility but I am not certain yet if this is a good move or not.
Sunday, March 31, 2013 – 20:00 Okay, here it is
I know that countless hundreds of people out in cyberspace have been patiently waiting for my 2013 blog. You don’t believe hundreds of people are waiting for my blog? Would you believe dozens? No? How about approximately five people?
Anyway, here is the humble beginnings of this new year which is already 25% gone.