Category Archives: Consulting

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Been a little quiet

What with 360|Flex San Jose in under 30 days, planning Ignite Denver getting officially started, working on a really cool project for UM, keeping busy on The Flex Show, oh and trying to have a life, man oh man.

360|Flex: We’re in the home stretch, which means spending money, mainly. Ordering shirts, books, signage, plenty of cool things I’m not telling you about so I don’t spoil the surprise, etc.

It’s about this time we start wrangling the speakers for their presentations, which is a lot like herding cats. Really creative and brainy cats, but still, LOL.

Ignite: I’ve got some assets from O’Reilly (right), they’re working on a cool Rockies specific logo, which I can’t wait to see. I’m sending sponsor invite emails out today and this is the official “call for papers” as well. I’m hoping we can bring together the kick ass thinkers that make Denver/Boulder the ‘Silicon Mountain’ that we are. Whether speaker or sponsor, please email me (ignitedenver@gmail.com) and we can get this thing started!

UM: I’ve been on a pretty cool project with Universal Mind since June sometime, it’s been very fun, I’ve learned a lot and worked with a ton of cool folks. It’s due to run through the week of 360|Flex (How’s that for timing). I’m really hoping to we on more projects with them, I’ve really enjoyed my time these past two months.

Flex Show: Jeff and I have been busy trying to get a bit of an episode buffer built up so that we’re not as rushed with interviews, that’s been going rather well, so I’m pleased with that. We’ve had some incredible interviewees, that frankly blow my mind. It’s a privilege to speak to them, what’s more, most are speakers at 360|Flex, so that kinda doubly rocks. I’m really excite to be a part of the show and can’t wait to help Jeff with our video series (which is in episode 2 now, great work Jeff!)

Life: The ever illusive ‘life’. Between one of our dogs, essentially falling apart before our eyes in the span of 4 weeks, to traveling to Indianapolis scouting locations (mmmm for what I wonder), to being fully engaged in work, it’s been a busy time family-wise. Nicole and I have managed to get in a few hikes, which are always welcome. We went and saw a movie for the first time in a dogs age it seems, we’re getting the house a little more in order, 8 months after moving in, sheesh the stuff piles are never ending. I’ve had the unfortunate luck of having two clients turn dead beat, which blows, so that’s added some truly whack stress, since it’s hits us in the pocket book. But what ya gonna do, other than sic the lawyers on ’em.

So that’s sort of a catch up on what’s been keeping me from blogging as frequently as I’d like. I’m hoping to really turn up the ignite posts as we get speaker submissions and add sponsors.

Follow up to my Time tracking quest

So I’ve been playing around with a few options and so far it’s narrowed down to two: Harvest, and Freshbooks.

Harvest has a few really good “pros” I like that I don’t have to email the invoice to myself under the clients name in order to get access to it as a PDF. That’s huge. I also like the way the invoice looks.

The major “con”, is that it’s not free. OK OK I know, good things aren’t and you get what you pay for, which in this case seems to be a pretty good time tracking app. The other “con” for me is that I can’t have a timer. Freshbooks, has a nice little pop up that runs a javascript timer, which is pretty handy.

Freshbooks, is great in that it’s free. but it’s a huge PITA to have to put my email in for each client, and “email” them the invoice, just so I can get a PDF of it. In my work with UM, I submit an invoie through their intranet, so emailing an invoice is pointless. That’s a huge drawback.

Both apps seem to have one thing that I’ve either not figured out, or just doesn’t work like I expect. When generating an invoice from time tracked, It desn’t populate a quantity cost. Even though in freshbooks’ case the time I’m logging is against a work type with an hourly rate. WEIRD. If, when I’m in invoice mode I then select a type that has the right billable rate, it clears the description. LAME. so in both apps, i have to paste my rate in for each line item, that’s no fun.

I’m still not sure which service I’ll go with, which sucks, since that means I have to enter my time 2x, ACK, that sucks!!!

I think Harvest would be the clear winner if it wasn’t 30 bones a month.

Time tracking and billing, whatchu usin

I think Sean Corfield asked this question a while back, I remember following it with interest. Now it’s my turn to bring it up again. I’ve been using my home grown solution for years. I really like it, but in moving servers and such, it’s had problems. The admin section doesn’t work since the stored procs no longer exist. It’s entirely CF which I just don’t do much of any more, so maintenance is tedious. Plus I need a windoze box when I need to do any SQL work since the DB is MS SQL.

All that said, I really like it and use it daily to track my time and invoice for it.

I’d like to find something new though. I don’t have many requirements really. I want to be able to generate PDFs. Enter time by client/project. Report on time spent by project or in total by week and month. Lastly, be accessible. My current solution is on my web server so I can get to it on any machine. I have .mac so something that uses a flatfile or whatever, would be just fine.

I’ve tried Billings, it’s ok. What I don’t like is that sharing across X machines isn’t built in. so the solutions are pretty hacky. It also isn’t easy to update invoices. Sometimes you need to update an entry, take something out, whatever. Billings doesn’t really do that very well.

I also tried freshbooks.com. It solves the accessable problem, even has third party tools for widgets and apps to enter data through, should I not want to use the website. The one thing I really don’t like is that I can’t just generate an invoice that I’d email to a client. I can email one from the site, which then gives me a PDF, but by then the client has it. That’s ok but right now I’m working with Universal Mind, and their system supports me uploading my invoice, not emailing it to some one.

What else is out there? I’m contemplating just sucking it up and fixing up my tool, but I’ve got a few other projects that my wife would like done first :) so I’d like something I can just use more or less out of the box.

Freshbooks is still in the running. I’ll be using it tomorrow to track time and see what I think. Oh and in case it wasn’t clear, it needs to be Mac friendly. Windoze only tools need not apply.

Inverting an Axis on a chart

I had a case on my latest project where I had a chart that needed to not start at 0,0 as most do. Rather this chart, and the data it represented needed to have it’s Y Axis inverted. The better numbers were closer to the bottom, and higher in value. 0 was bad.

I did some searching and there seemed to be one common approach. manually invert your data. I wasn’t sure that was what I wanted, but it turned out that that approach worked really well.

in the function that creates the data for the chart, I simply invert the values by subtracting 2* the value, from itself

val.perfRank = (performance – (performance * 2));
val.availRank = (availability – (availability * 2));
val.consistRank = (consistency – (consistency * 2));

After populating my dataprovider with the inverted values, all I needed was a label function to undo my voodoo.

private function rankLabelFunction(labelValue:Object, previousLabelValue:Object, axis:IAxis):Number
{
var newAxisValue:Number = Number(labelValue);
newAxisValue = (newAxisValue + (Math.abs(newAxisValue) * 2));
return newAxisValue;
}

You’ll want to make sure to do the absolute value, LOL. Otherwise you’ll be like me, “Why is the negative number, even bigger? Oh yeah! Duh!” Math, not my strong suit.

There may be more elegant  ways, I sorta hope there are or will be, but this is a pretty straight forward way to simply put your lowest value at the top of your axis, which is what I needed.

Long time no post

The other day my wife IM’ed me, “Your blog is broken or something.” turns out, when you don’t post in like 2 months, it has nothing to show.

It’s been a busy few months; Tom and I wrapped up 360|Flex Europe, and immediately dove into 360|Flex San Jose 2008. After Milan, my wife and I spent an extra week in Italy, hitting Venice, Florence and Rome.

I got home, started a project with Esria, attended Software 2008, and now am finally enjoying being home.

My project is one challenge after another, but I’m learning a great deal, so it’s almost worth it :)

Software 2008 was an experiment to see how I worked with a potential client (free trip to Vegas, can’t complain) so that might bear fruit.

I was also in San Jose for a day last week, get this. Denver -> Vegas, vegas -> San Jose in the AM,¬† San Jose ->Vegas in the afternoon, Vegas -> Denver in the evening. That’s some seriously frakked up travel. On top of that, i worked all night the night before on my project, so I didn’t go to bed at all. w00t!

Aside of a trip to Japan, followed by another trip to San Jose (friend’s wedding) my traveling is mostly done for a bit, I love to travel, but these past few months have been killer!

Tom and I have some interesting things on the horizon too, interesting enough for me to want to accelerate time a smidge to see what happens. I’m not jynxing anything by saying what’s up, but I’ll say this, we’ll be at MAX in a bigger way than “attendee” or even “speaker” Should be really cool.

The other thing, well I don’t even know how to make a hint about so you’ll just have to wait, the same as me to find out. To quote that not very good Jim Carry movie, “How will it end?”

So I have a MacBook AIR now.

I still wouldn’t buy one with my own money. It’s just too specialized.

Tom and I ordered them for using at the conferences. We typically use our personal machines, which is great, but mine is a MBP, and his is some kind of 12 ton windoze thing, neither are light by any means.

So this way we can carry a little less weight for checking people in, looking things up, doing keynotes, etc.

The other upside, for me is travel. My wife and I are staying in Italy a week beyond 360|Flex Europe and blogging and surfing the web will be much nicer without a 3 or 4 lb MBP. I’ll be in Japan in May, again, a lighter machine will rock.

Plus, my MBP is my dev machine, it’s much more important and when I travel I sometimes worry about it, losing it or being damaged, would really impact my work.

So my thoughts…

it’s nice. it’s too small to work on all day, but as a second machine, it’s pretty nice. I won’t say how light it is, because I knew it was light, and those reviewers who repeat the obvious are kinda lame. Battery run time, easy to argue, weight, kinda hard, I figured Steve wasn’t fudging.

Combined with .mac I think it really comes into it’s own as a second machine. I moved all my conference stuff to .mac and created aliases in my regular docs folders. I have my iDisk available offline so the files are always there. So far it’s pretty smooth. I like it.

I definitely doesn’t feel powerful enough to do development, and the Hard drive (we opted for SSD) is WAY too small for that. My MBP has my code, CF and Flex, my iTunes library, my iPhoto library (not really that big), and gb’s and gb’s of other data, no way 64gb, or even 80, could handle it.

The battery seems ok, I’ve yet to run it down. The power adapter is pretty whack. It’s yet another brick to carry (should I take both machines) and it seems like the plug could easily have been a flat spot in the body to accommodate a standard mag safe plug, but this way consumers have to buy additional plugs, more $.

The fancy multi-touch trackpad…. haven’t used it. Firefox doesn’t recognize it (obviously) and I can’t fit my photos on it, and using it in the Finder, just makes my icons all the wrong size. So I’m not too bummed my MBP doesn’t have that feature.

It does boot fast, i’ll give it that.

My final verdict (for now at least) it’s a good second laptop for travel (we should all be so lucky to have that kind of coin) and presentations, it’s no way a primary developer laptop. It may very well work ok for someone who doesn’t compile code, or run photoshop often. We’re leasing these two, so we can have some write offs for 360Conferences, plus if they suck, we’ll buy them for the 1$ fee (cuz we’re paying so bloody much) and use them as conference terminals for whatever.