Finding the datavisualization.swc for Flex 3.x

October 30th, 2010

Need the link for datavisualization.swc?

Follow the link below for the 3.3 link (don’t want to steal their post!):

I extrapolated their link to find 3.4 and 3.5:

However, Adobe does not seem to want you to find these links.

In August, my development computer died. Tech support had to blow the machine away and reinstall the OS. I had to install all of the missing software, which I actually enjoy doing for the most part. After getting Flex Builder 3 back up and running, I realized that I was missing the datavisualization.swc file. I was only using it for the AdvancedDataGrid, but it was necessary for some current code that was in production. The usual search on the web and Adobe’s site was turning up nothing. I don’t think the link above was working, or perhaps it was not showing up? Not sure.

I opened a ticket with Adobe. After opening the ticket, I eventually realized that I still had the swc files in my “downloads” folder backed up on my external drive. I had been able to pull them from there and install as usual. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from technical support about my issue. In this day and age, one would usually expect an email or another less time-consuming support option, but I got a call. Interesting approach. When I explained that I was able to find the files (but not where I got them from), the tech support person sounded very worried and asked where I found them. The implication was clearly: We need to shut down the site that is giving them away! I found this very odd. In the end, I revealed the source, but asked her what someone was meant to do if they needed to use 3.3 and couldn’t get these files, pointing out that most corporations are slow to upgrade, so not likely to be ready for Flex 4 right away.

She did state that they would send out the zip files on request. To me, it sounds like a pain for them, but maybe it’s the classic upsell? Get you on the phone, and then push push push the new product? Maybe, who knows? Seems odd to make things more difficult for your users, but we all know that happens often enough (right Microsoft?)

Either way, the links above still work. So, if you work in Flex 3, grab them now while they are still available!

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Droid 101: Limiting which Gmail contacts are synced to your Droid

March 22nd, 2010

If you are like me, you use Gmail contacts as your “master” database for contact information.  I not only have email, address, and phone information on friends and family, but also work-related contacts, Frequent flyer numbers, and lots of contacts who I rarely need to contact.  When I got my new Droid, I was psyched about how Gmail would automatically sync contacts with my phone.  Then I was bummed to see that all these unnecessary contacts were added as well.  When I need to make a call, I don’t want to scroll through all that junk to find the one person I need.

Here’s the easy way to limit which contacts get to your phone:

Organize your Gmail contacts into at least two Groups.

  1. My Contacts: this is the Gmail default address book.  This is where you want to store anyone you want to sync to your phone.
  2. Other Contacts (name it what you want): These are the other contacts that you don’t want on your phone.  For me, it’s mostly contacts from past employment, membership numbers like frequent flyer numbers, and people I haven’t contacted for years.

In my case, I named it “Info, Not for phone”.  Stupid, but exactly what it is.

To adjust Groups in Contacts, select all of the Contacts you want to keep off your phone, go to “Groups” button, and select “Add to New Group”, or add to an existing group if you prefer.  Next, with the same contacts selected, go to Groups and select “Remove from My Contacts”.

Your Droid will sync automatically and you’ll find you have a much cleaner contact list on your phone.

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How to devalue your LinkedIn Recommendations

March 2nd, 2010

Over the past month, I have received two endorsement requests from connections in LinkedIn. One from a high school classmate I have not seen in over 15 years, and another from a friend who I know from non-work activities. My question is, why do they think I can endorse them? Is this their fault, or my fault? My fault for accepting them as connections in the first place, or their fault for thinking a recommendation from me is what is going to make their profile stronger?

The first I ignored completely. I have not seen the guy for years, and have no idea if he is a good employee. I think he was student body president at some point, but can I judge his performance accurately after all these years? He had, and has, great hair. Ok, good hair. All hair is good hair at my age. I did not bother letting him know why I could not endorse him, I actually figured he sent requests to every connection, hoping to bulk his profile, so I did not consider this something we needed to discuss.

The second, as is usually the case, is more complicated. This is someone I see about four times a year, so I can’t really just ignore. Thankfully, I also feel really comfortable telling him I can’t endorse him based on our lack of a professional relationship. I’m ok with that, and I suspect he will be as well. Thankfully, neither is a former co-worker who just does bad work. Those are the awkward conversations that we all need to brave enough to have, but you’re on your own there!

As an employer, would you rather read through three awesome recommendations, or see a person has 20+ recommendations and assume they are great? I guess, based on feedback on how long HR spends on résumés (10-20 seconds), maybe the numbers game is the best bet. However, what if the HR person decides to look at those recommendations? Of course, they will never read them all, but they might see a few. Maybe they only see the generic ones from your high school buddies, and they don’t see the one from the VP of your company that details how you saved the company $500,000? Probably not what you were shooting for when bulking your profile.

If you ever meet with a career counselor, they will advise you to remove anything from your résumé that does not say something important about you. Something that adds value. I think we should approach recommendations with this in mind. Average is not worth it.

Thoughts? Do you believe in quality over quantity?

Bonus Tip: If someone writes you a disappointing recommendation, ask them to fix it. If you are not comfortable with that, then just use settings to make it invisible in your LinkedIn profile.

Note: Between drafting and publishing this post, I heard from one of the guys who contacted me for a recommendation. It turns out he is being laid off this month. I still can’t write that recommendation, but I can see why he might be seeking the extra boost to his profile, and will try to help in other ways.

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LinkedIn and Porn: Like chocolate and peanut butter?

January 20th, 2010

I had no intention of writing a follow-up piece about LinkedIn this month. No intention at all until yesterday, when I stumbled upon Charly Barry.

A few days ago, I noticed a contact on LinkedIn was part of the Fidelity Investments Alumni group. Although there are several groups with variations on this name, I figured it couldn’t hurt to join. I submitted my request to join, and a few days later, was accepted. Nothing weird so far.

Usually, when I join a new group, I check out the “members” page to see who I might know in the first few pages. LinkedIn’s default “sort” is by how you are connected, so your 1st level connections come up first, followed by 2nd level, and so on. It turns out this is a smallish group of under 400 people, and I only have a few 1st level connections in the group. I then notice an intriguing member who is a 2nd connection to me. Charly Barry. Current position: Sperm Bank Donor at 4 Your Skin. This was either a masterful piece of personal branding, or there was something wrong with this account.

I click into his account, and sure enough, he lists Fidelity Investments as his only employer for 22 years, as Vice President of Architecture no less! Ok, interesting.

Oh, he went to Bates College, good school…got his Masters…Yeah, you probably see where this is going by now.

Although I did not click through, I see the website in his profile links you to pornhub(dot)com. I am assuming that is exactly what it sounds like.

At this point, I am laughing out loud. And then it hits me: How is this guy a 2nd level connection? Doesn’t that mean that someone I am connected to is connected to him directly? How can that be? I look on the right side of the screen, and I see that three of my connections are linked to this guy!!!!! Three! And none of them are pure LIONs either (Open Networkers who connect to anyone).



Even weirder, he seems to have written two recommendations!!!

So, as follow up to my last post, please please please think before you accept every single connection on LinkedIn. This is the best example I have ever seen to support a measured approach. In addition, if you are like me and allow fellow group members to send you messages, you might find yourself receiving unwanted solicitations, although I have never heard of this happening. Finally, if you start a Group on LinkedIn, try to keep an eye out for the spammers! It won’t reflect well on you in the end.

I have deliberately not included a link to his profile, and I will be reporting the account to LinkedIn and the group owner for removal, but I have included screen prints below for your amusement.

Note: I can’t help but think the name of this post might make this end up in a lot of spam folders!

(Click below for full size images)

Charly Page 1

Charly Page 2

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The Weakest Link(edIn)

December 13th, 2009

I can no longer deny what has become obvious to me.  I have failed to use LinkedIn appropriately for too long, and it’s starting to make me rethink my approach.  Maybe you can learn from my mistake!

LinkedIn suggests: Accept invitations only from those who you know and trust.

This past week, I finally realized how low I’ve let my requirements drop.  I have long accepted connections from mere acquaintances.  However, this time I accepted an invitation to connect from a former co-worker who I know for a fact is NOT a good worker.  He was a nice guy, but we worked on a project together, and he exhibited some of my least favorite qualities.  He complained when asked to do work.  He would kiss up to the project leader, and then disregard her when she was gone.  He consistently did the bare minimum that was required, or even less.  This person was an awful teammate.  I kept hoping he would drop out of the project, but he never did.  Is this someone you want working for you?  Me neither.  Would I ever consider recommending this person, or offering to connect them to another contact?  No.  So why did I accept his request?

It’s an easy answer actually.  I was laid off a year ago.  Like most people in that situation, I started networking like crazy.  I met a lot of people, and many of them elected to connect with me via LinkedIn despite our lack of real connection.  I should note that I rarely reached out myself unless we had broached the topic of connecting during our own conversation.  Here I am, one year later, with 176 connections, and 3 invitations in my inbox.  How many of these are quality connections?

My connections:

Category # Description
Work – Good 61 These are people who I can legitimately recommend based on their work.
Work – Casual 40 We worked in the same company, but I can’t really tell you much about the quality of their work. To varying degrees, I can likely tell you if they are a nice person.
Networking 49 People I met at networking groups, or professional groups (Java User Groups, Agile Bazaar)
Family and Friends 13 I know these people well enough to tell you they are good people, and I might be able to judge how they might be at work.
Old School 8 People I went to school with, and may not have seen in 15-20 years. I can’t say too much about these folks, but I can vouch that they were good people then.
LION 4 These are those annoying but necessary people who with Link with anyone. They can possibly be useful since most are recruiters. We are mutually predatory, so it’s ok.
Work – Bad 1 The inspiration for this post. People I can verify are BAD to work with.

The good news: My largest segment is the “Work – Good” category. Bad news, it’s only about 32% of my overall network. I think I can add some of my friends and family section, but still low. Yikes.

Although LinkedIn doesn’t offer one, I think I’ll start using the following rating system for my contacts:

5 stars: You can ask me for a LinkedIn recommendation, and I will connect you with my other contacts.
4 stars: I can connect you with my contacts, but it’s been a while since we actually worked together, so I can’t write a recommendation. (I can recommend you generally, not specifically)
3 stars: I can likely connect you with my contacts, but only for information, not for information interviewing.
2 stars: I can provide you with information about a company I have worked for, but will not share contacts with you.
1 star: I can’t remember what you look like, and will likely deflect requests in a manner to suggest I can’t help.

Next step:  I am going to do the right thing, and drop the Weakest link.  In fact, I’ll do it before I post this!  How about everyone else?  I think I will leave them for now.  However, I will look at future connections with a more discerning eye.  If we are already linked via a Group, we do not need to be connected directly.  If you are a recruiter, I may connect since you are unlikely to ask me for a connection anyway, and may be able to help me out some day.  If I met you once, and we started building a relationship, well maybe LinkedIn will help us get to the next level.  I’m quite torn, as it’s hard to flat out reject connections, because this is an accepted way to network.

What are the alternatives?  Well, I will relay one experience.  I met a guy named Larry at a networking meeting last summer.  We had a great conversation, and I wanted to continue the conversation.  As he had no business card, I looked him up in LinkedIn and invited him to connect.  He wrote a great message back explaining why he was not comfortable with that, based on LinkedIn’s own standards, and that started a great dialogue.  We have continued that dialogue since then, and I can honestly say I know a lot more about him than about many of my contacts.  I still don’t know if he is great at his job, but I know he’s one smart dude.  My point here is that there are other ways to connect if one chooses to truly build a relationship, versus just adding another notch to your LinkedIn bedpost.  Hmmm, that got weird.

Although I do enjoy the email correspondence, it seems much more personal than LinkedIn messaging.  Email is in my personal space, whereas LinkedIn offers that extra layer of separation that many people appreciate, myself included.  Even more personal would be talking on the phone, which I honestly hate, and would consider a total intrusion.

In the end, it should be about Quality, but it’s so much easier to expand your network by Quantity instead.  It takes patience over time to truly build a strong network.  I recently started a new job.  I hope, in about 12 months, I will have proved my value and will be able to connect with many of my co-workers.  Because I work remotely with only one other person right now, that might only turn into a few connections.  However, they will be quality, the types that can be of value, so they will be worth the wait!

Some might say, “Hey, are you sure you want to put this out where your LinkedIn connections can see it?”  I say yes, because only my good connections will make the extra effort to support me by reading my blog posts.  Those weaker connections aren’t likely to see this at all.

I invite you all to analyze your own results and post them in the comments below, I’d love to see them and hear how you do your analysis.  Of course, I can’t help but wonder if my connection count will fall after this post!

Now, what to do with those three invites in my inbox?

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The Hangover: Seacoast Half Marathon

November 9th, 2009

No longer can you say I will never be “half the man my brother is!” Yesterday I became that half a man!* You may recall that I began running back in April out of boredom and really enjoyed it. This year’s hobby finally culminated my attempt of the Seacoast Half Marathon yesterday. This was my first race over 4 miles, and the first race for which I partially trained, more on that later.

(Note: *Half-a-man because all of my brothers have run marathons, and I have finally run a half)

For those who just want the facts and figures:

  • 624th overall
  • 118th in my age group
  • 2:05:36 overall time
  • 9:35 minutes per mile

Full results here:

Fun facts:
I was 1st out of all “Rorys”
Only two people from my town beat me, and they were not in my age bracket.
I beat 434 people, plus 36 race walkers.
No one over 70 beat me.
I beat that guy wearing jeans.
I saw a bunch of seals sunning themselves on the rocks off the beach.
I have never run further than 10 miles.

Not fun facts:
100% of people from my town beat me, and they were both at least 10 years older than me
The oldest person ahead of me was 65. (Oldest woman, 63)
Youngest was 16.
Two race-walkers beat me.
Every mile after 11 was pure agony.

Approaching the finish line

Approaching the finish line

Run summary:

12 weeks before: I start a program for ramping up my mileage to race day.

7 weeks before: I meet my orthopedic surgeon about knee pain. He diagnoses a partially torn patella tendon, advises 4 weeks rest. I rest.

3 weeks before: I start running again, but only about twice a week, 6 miles maximum.

Pre-race: I started to get a little nervous around Wednesday. You see, most advice online says “try these tactics during training” so you aren’t surprised on race day. My training has been severely limited by a knee injury, so I haven’t tried much of anything!

I eat the traditional pasta and bread the night before, heavy hydration all day. Banana in the morning (should have had a lot more in retrospect)
Approximately 1200 people are registered for the race. I have only run 3 races in my life, and none with more than 100-150 people. It’s a crowded start, new experience.

Gun goes, and it takes me about 45 seconds to pass the starting line. Downhill, crowded, weird. My goal is 2:00 hours, and I know that 10:00 minute miles will get me in at 2:11. After running 7:30s for 6 miles about two weeks before, I figure I should be able to run faster than 10:00 minute miles (note to self: 6 miles is much shorter than 13.1)

I run at about 9:30 per mile through 2, where seeing my girlfriend cheer me on keeps the spirit strong. Feeling no pain, and feeling good physically.

Next five miles loops us along a gorgeous stretch of ocean, makes me wish I was sitting on the beach with a good book. Around mile 5, the bottoms of both feet feel like they are burning. At mile 7, when I see my girlfriend again, I flash the universal sign for “Timeout” and explain that everything feels great, but my feet are killing. Around the corner, I take off both shoes, adjust socks, and feel much better. I had also just passed the only water station with “Gu” available. This is a high energy snack that real runners probably use, but I had never tried it and didn’t want conflict in my stomach. Big mistake, because I realized I was out of energy about a mile later.

I was thrilled that my bum knee was feeling fine, bummed about the apparent sock/shoe issues, but generally still feeling on track. Around 9 miles, I realized I really needed to pick up the pace to beat 2 hours. I picked it up, but was obviously kidding myself. I ran a fairly fast mile in about 8:00 minutes, but around the 11 mile mark, my legs started to get sloppy. Not only had I not eaten enough, but I did not drink enough water. My feet were still burning, and when I stopped to adjust the shoes and socks for about the 4th time, my calves cramped up. This freaked me out, and was the first time I really wondered if I might not be able to finish. Pain wouldn’t stop me, but muscles refusing to function would be hard to ignore.

Despite hitting 11 miles around 1:45, leaving me close to hitting 2 hours with two fast miles, my goal had shifted to finishing. I jogged for a while, walked, jogged, stretched my calves. In a cruel twist, the only real hill on the course is the last mile, and I ran it like a fragile shell of the person who started the race. It’s hard to run in a fetal position, but I did my best to do just that. That said, I actually plowed through the last two miles in about 22 minutes and made the finish without dying, which was nice.

I had some trouble eating post-race, but got two waters and a banana down while walking around outside. Inside, they had a nice spread of food for the runners. After eating half a pizza I was good to go. Iced my knee when I got home, but with only two blisters and sore muscles, I feel pretty good.

One day after, I am very stiff, worse than yesterday. I feel like I have become stiffer as the day has gone on. I did take a short walk today that felt good while doing it, but may not have helped. I hope to get back in the gym tomorrow or Wednesday, but I have no plan to run again before the spring. Ski season takes precedence, despite being the source of the knee injury in the first place.

So, will I do it again? Probably. I would like to prove that I can do it with less drama, and maybe under 2:00. Despite finishing, those last two miles showed me that I wasn’t ready, and I don’t like that feeling. However, with the little training I was able to do, I should be satisfied just to finish, but that’s just not who I am.

Footnote: The title of the post was from some running advice I read that stated that you can feel hung-over post-race due to dehydration. I definitely experienced that yesterday. Now, I just feel like someone whacked my legs with a sock full of quarters.

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Volunteerism and the Job Search: Getting the most out of it

October 8th, 2009

Most professional career counselors will tell you that you should do some volunteer work while you’re looking for a new job. Their reasons are many, including:

  1. You can make contacts
  2. You can refresh or update your skills
  3. You get out of your house and avoid a rut
  4. It fills your time
  5. You can do some good in the world (note: Some put this last, I don’t)

Of course, volunteerism is something you can do whether employed or not, but the unemployed may have more reasons aside from altruism.

After conversing with a fellow job seeker, I believe unemployed volunteers fall into a few categories:

  1. Those looking to stay busy
  2. Those looking to look busy, and hence not lazy while interviewing
  3. Those looking to learn new skills for their next career move

It had been easy to stay busy while looking for my next role, so I certainly am most interested in #3. In fact, that is part of what this blog was all about in the beginning. My goal was to find places that might be able to put some of my skills to use, and thereby help expand my resume along the way. I have done a decent job doing this, but admit that there have been a lot of false starts as well.

As a full-time employee, I was always looking for a regular volunteer gig that would allow me to give a few hours per week, without getting overly involved. This was satisfied a few years back when a co-worker suggested I get involved with the Special Olympics. During the school year, I spend two hours per week bowling with my Special Olympic team, and it’s great. It’s an easy commitment, and it is “timeboxed.” It rarely impacts other commitments, and my role is clearly defined.

Fast-forward to this summer. Back in April, when launching this blog, I put out the call far and wide that I was searching for pro bono opportunities in the technical arena. My preference at the time was for Java roles, but I was also open for helping with any technical tasks in the greater web or database areas. I ended up volunteering to help a few groups who were in turn supporting job seekers through their organizations. In each case, I assumed I might be able to do a few hours work for each, and help them while building some skills. At the same time, I landed some work doing Java for another company, so I was really cooking.

Before I get to the warnings, here are some of the good things I’ve experienced:

  1. Meeting good people: I have met some great people across my various activities. Some have become friends, and some will likely be great contacts in the future.
  2. Contributing to worthy causes: I know that I have helped people and organizations become better. It’s the same thing I do in the for-profit arena. This is rewarding.
  3. Getting positive feedback: It is incredibly rewarding to have people tell you that you have done a great job on a project. When you are out of the workforce, this is something you don’t hear enough. (And if you are not hearing this in your own job, think about that too!)
  4. Building skills: I have mentioned it before, but I have expanded my skills through some projects this summer. My HTML and CSS skills have expanded. I know a lot more about WordPress, blogging, RSS and PHP. My Java skills have expanded drastically.
  5. Filling the interview void: If you are out of work or under-employed, you will have current projects to talk about in your interviews. Even if the opportunities are outside your target industry, you can still talk about the skills you applied to make your volunteer time successful.

Now, lessons from experience (a.k.a. warnings!)

Lesson 1: Don’t play the field
Volunteers are like employees. They should be focused. Right away, I realized I had spread myself too thin. Most groups who I spoke with were seeking major overhauls to their websites, or other efforts of similar scope. These would involve weeks of concentrated effort, and possibly months of follow-up maintenance and monitoring. Once I found the ideal role doing Java work, I realized that much of the other work I was slated to do was going to have a negative impact on my job search. I did make one smart decision, which was to inform two groups that I would not have time for their projects. This proved the right decision, but was something that I have always found hard to do. Since that time, I have turned down or postponed other volunteer opportunities for this same reason. This is tough for me, as I hate to say no when asked for help.

Lesson 2: Beware: Volunteering for a start-up non-profit is like working for a start-up for-profit company.
The hours are long, management is inexperienced, and roles morph constantly. One of the groups I have been doing work for is a new organization. I volunteered to help with their website in April, and have filled various (non-web) roles for them. These included: Impromptu teleprompter, Tweeter, database designer, project coordinator. I did draw the line at some tasks that were clearly outside of my professional realm of interest, but not all. Again, my expectations were that I would spend “some” time volunteering with them, and most of my time doing other things. This fell apart finally in July, when they decided they wanted to redo their website. Over the next six weeks, I spent a majority of my time each week working on new site designs and the related work. This took away from the time I could put toward my job search, networking, and my other pro bono tasks. Although a rewarding project, the effort involved did have a negative impact on my job search in the short term.

Lesson 3: Set expectations
If you have time commitment concerns, set expectations right away. Speak with the volunteer coordinator. If there isn’t one, question why this is (or at least find your volunteer “boss”). Like a real job, find out the level of commitment and decide if you will be able to follow through before beginning. This is best for all sides. Find out if they need you ongoing, or just for a specific project.

Organizations that rely on volunteers do not want to lose good talent, like any other organization. They also may not be ready to put your talents to good use at the time they are offered. Find this out right away. If they need you for a project, then suggest that they contact you later, when that project is ready to go. If not, you may find yourself twiddling your thumbs in meetings, wondering why you are there, and soured on the experience while your skills are being squandered.

In Summary:
Volunteering can quickly become a 40-hour commitment before you know it. As a job seeker, remember your primary directive: To find a new paying job. No matter how much you may enjoy what you are doing, you need to consider the long-term implications. Ideally, consider these implications before you get too involved. Volunteerism is a great way to explore your passions, and you may find a passion that you wish to pursue full-time. Even so, you still need to think about the financial impact and reorganize your job search in that new direction.

I know that much of this post is a warning. I hope that it does not dissuade people from volunteering, but allows them to make better decisions instead. Most importantly, when you land a new job, keep volunteering. It’s good for you, and for your community.

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Back to (Grad) School time

September 2nd, 2009

How old do you have to be to stop dreading early September?  I dreaded it well into my late 20s, all due to years of schooling.  Back-to-school shopping ads still bother me when they come out in mid-July.  Well, this September is different!

When I was a fresh-faced college grad, I really wanted a Graduate degree.  Not in a sensible way, but in a “I need a Graduate Degree” type of way.  I wanted to be able to say, “I have a Masters degree.”  It was an expectation in my family, and in fact my three older siblings all have Masters degrees, done full-time.  I studied for, and took, the GMATs for a potential MBA program.  I ordered literature from some of the top 20 programs.  (Yes, the Internet did not handle this stuff well at that time, and certainly not on my 28.8 modem.)  I expected to take two years away from work and study full-time, preferably somewhere far away.  I don’t know why I never pulled the trigger on the MBA, but I’d guess the idea of jumping out of the workforce held me back.  Plus, two more years of business classes held little appeal after doing the same in undergrad.  Basically, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and going to school just for the degree seemed like a bad idea.

Eventually I realized I did not have to enter a full-time, all-or-nothing program to continue my education.  I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I liked computers.  I started courses in 1998, and by 2004 had completed a graduate Certificate in Applied Sciences from Harvard University Extension School.  This provided me with a decent computer science foundation, and I took courses in Java, C++, Perl, HTML and Technical Writing.  Although the development knowledge did help me with my former employer, I should have done more with it.  Caught up in promotions at work, I didn’t realize I was missing career opportunities on the outside.  I failed to truly capitalize on my new “degree.”

So why think about a Masters now, you ask?  Well, needless to say part of it is based on the economy, and part on my own knowledge gaps.  However, part of it stems from my first job post-college.  I worked at a small Retirement Services provider in Boston with less than 100 people in the office.  We were small enough to have a single person in charge of our network and desktop computers.  This guy encapsulated several stereotypes:  He was a classic ex-Marine, and he was a classic “computer guy” of that era.  He was the type of guy who gave you a hassle every time you reported an issue, making sure you knew that you were an idiot, whether it was your fault or not.  Think the old skit on Saturday Night Live with Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy or, for my UK-based readers (a.k.a. Tom), The IT Crowd (but more disparaging).  This guy was such a jerk, we had a new employee quit on his first day because of the disrespect he had been shown when being taught how to login to his computer.  This was not the only occasion this happened.  In fact, as the company grew and I had the chance to join the networking team, I ended up turning down the opportunity purely based on this man’s attitude.  It’s not to say I couldn’t work with him, but the observations over three years proved to me that he was an awful manager, not just a bad co-worker.

I distinctly recall stating at the time that someone like him will be unemployable in ten years.  Computer guys would no longer have the right to be jerks, and they would need to be well educated in business and technology.  They would likely need common decency too.  I assumed at the time that such roles would require more education in the future as well.  As technical knowledge has become more commonplace, I think that techies are now required to have better bedside manners than in the past.  In addition, I do think education is becoming more valuable, or at least expected, among younger candidates.  Although not a barrier to entry at this time, a Masters will certainly open up more options.  I have common decency, and I have a business background.  The only thing I lack is a Masters degree, so it’s back to school time!

When I was younger, I wanted degrees for all the wrong reasons.  I wanted the line on my resume, and the piece of paper…and maybe the respect of my parents?  I also just wanted it “out of the way.”  Now, I feel like I have turned a corner.  I want to go back to school not for the degree, but for the content of the courses.  I want to build up my knowledge, and actually apply it to my career.  I have seen lots of people bang out an MBA and never use it, and I don’t want to be one of those people.  I plan to use everything from this program, and hope it will enhance my abilities appropriately.  And yes, in the long-term I hope that it is a differentiator when I apply for jobs.  This will not help me find my next job, but hopefully the one after that.

Next week, I begin my journey toward my Masters in Computer Science.  I have two classes this fall.  It is starting on the right foot, as I have done things differently than I would have in college.  I have already met my two professors, and begun establishing relationships.  I have talked to an alumnus about the program.  I have done all of my homework, no pun intended.  My goal is an A in every class, not just getting by.  It’s going to be a lot of work, but I think I’ll be happy about this.  Plus, with a Masters, I’ll never have to report to that jerk, right?

Got to go stock up on supplies, and find my old lunchbox!


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What I’ve been doing lately

August 26th, 2009

Yep, I’ve been busy.   Too busy to write?  Yes, at times.  Also, lacking in appropriate topics.  More on that another time.

Why so busy?  First I spent a lot of time prepping for my presentation to a networking group on Personal Branding.  After that, I implemented a survey to gather feedback.  Then, a lot of volunteer projects suddenly came to a head.  On the plus side, I have some results that I can actually share with my readers.   It’s not Java stuff, but it is other web stuff that should help round out my knowledge for Web Application positions.

About two weeks ago, I finally completed work on the revamping of my brother’s website.  This took a fair bit of time, but was mostly limited to tweaking HTML and CSS, plus messing with images and such.  One of the hardest parts is always figuring out where to start with these sites.   It probably took me about two weeks to finish, which seems like a lot of time. Most of that is the going back and forth on design ideas.  I did get to do some Java work on this as well, although I was unable to use it in the end due to my web host being unfriendly to Struts2.  However, I’ll tell you about it anyway.  I designed a pretty awesome login system using Struts2 Interceptors that would have allowed me to have my brother’s site available for review in a private section of my own site, where no one else could see it.  Although it worked fine here on the development laptop, I couldn’t run it on my web site.  Plus side, I felt good about what I was able to do quickly on that project.   I’m still not sold on the Green/Black combo even though it was my idea, but I think it is a fairly serviceable site. More importantly, the client was happy.

See my work here:

I should note that you should check out the editorials on his “Recent Op/Eds” page.  Although many are political in nature, he is a talented writer and usually quite entertaining.

In addition, I have been working with the marketing team of a non-profit to revamp their multiple websites into one site.   This rolled out today for the New England Job Show, basically a WordPress self-hosted blog:


Initially, this group had a website, and three separate blogs.  This was an SEO nightmare, and virtually nothing was connected. I researched our various options, and was able to customize the blog theme to do exactly what the team needed.  This involved adding a PHP file, and tweaking a lot of other PHP code, plus some CSS, HTML, and image manipulation within GIMP.   The hardest part of this entire process was the initial selection of a WordPress theme.  I ended up doing customization on about five themes before we landed on one that worked for the marketing team.

So, were these efforts worth it?  Yes, in that my knowledge of the following technologies moved forward:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • PHP
  • WordPress
  • Struts2 (Java framework)

Oh, nearly forgot to mention that a “for-profit” organization saw this latest site today and has asked to meet with me for some paid work.  No idea if it will work out, but it’s nice to feel wanted.  It would be a single site, not a full-time gig by any means, but something anyway.

Hopefully more posts to come as things settle down.  I have a few topics in mind, but am feeling shy about sharing them at this time.

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Guide to Subclipse Decorator Icons

July 15th, 2009

In my current role, we are using Subversion (SVN) as our version control system. As an Eclipse user, I am using the Subclipse plugin that allows you to easily interact with Subversion to commit changes and make updates to your code. I quickly noticed that there was no online resource out there that specifically talked about what the “decorator” icons mean in Subclipse, and thought this might be helpful for new users of Subclipse. “Decorator” icons are icons that are added to your file icons in Eclipse whenever you make a change, add a file, etc.

Eclipse does include the icons under Preferences > Team > SVN, but the explanation is reduced to one word in each case. I have included the one word descriptions with the icons below.

Table 1: Icons within your project

Icon What this means to you
Plus sign The “plus” sign indicates that this is a new file that did not exist before.
Asterisk The “asterisk” indicates that this file has been changed since the last Commit
Question Mark The “question mark” indicates that this file is not part of the Version Control. All new files you create will have this icon. You need to add them (right-click >> Team >> Add to Version Control). If you don’t add them, they will still show up when doing your Commit, so you may be able to add them here by including them in your commit.
Unchanged The “yellow pipe” indicates no change to the file. It is also used on folders.
ignored No decorater means the file is ignored completely. This is similar in effect to the Question Mark. By default, files have the Question Mark. To remove that mark, you need to (right-click >> Team >> Add to svn:ignore…)
conflicted Conflicted: I have not encountered this.
Read Only Read Only: I have not encountered this.
Check Mark Locked: I have not encountered this.

You will also run into some new icons within the commit process, documented below

Table 2: Icons during the Commit Process

Icon What this means to you
add The “plus” within the arrow means this file is new in your version, and will be added to the latest Server revision
delete The “minus” within the arrow means this file has been deleted in your version, and will be deleted from the latest Server revision.
updated The blank arrow means this file has been updated, and will be updated in the latest Server revision.
Unversioned Commit Icon with Question Mark The Question Mark means this file has not been added to Version control. I have not checked if this updates if you check the update box!

I am likely missing some icons above. I have not run into any conflicts as of yet, so I may not have stumbled into every scenario. I will update this post as I encounter new icons.

Note: I am using Eclipse Ganymede 3.4.0, and the “Default” icons.

Any questions or corrections, leave me a comment!

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