Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Development Mercenary

I’m sort of having fun now on RentACoder (RAC).  I’ve been taking on some pretty small sized bids just to get the hang out things.  There’s some really weird requests now and then.  It’s interesting, though, because a lot of the time the people requesting stuff have no idea what they really want.  So when someone asks for, say, five separate reports that show essentially the same thing, I will challenge that a bit and make sure that is indeed what they really want and that they have a need for it.  And then there are projects that just seem to have no real value to them, but that in and of itself is sort of a motivation to do it, if that makes sense.  As an example, one guy wanted an application that would read a list of URLs from a text file and then load all of those sites one by one in new browser sessions.  How weird.  Maybe he has a few favorite pages that he goes to every day and he’s looking to schedule this so they are ready and waiting for him when he wakes up or gets into work.  Or perhaps he’s trying to use it to abuse query strings on some sites so he can spam them with comments.  Heck, he could even be using it to attempt to fluff stats for traffic, ads, etc.  Who knows.  I don’t really care, either, for the most part.

So far, the hardest part for me has been when I bid on a project and come up with some way of doing it in my mind and then the person chooses another bidder.  It can be frustrating.  I guess it’s good training, though, in the long run… since it forces me to learn how to turn on and off my development mind.  Normally, I sort of just come up with whatever plan seems to make the most sense for the situation and then run with it.  If it proves to be more involved or time-consuming, I’ll re-evaluate… Otherwise, I’m usually done with the project before most people would normally be anywhere close.

Stu’s got a few side projects lined up for me, apparently.  He’s having me write programs or come up with suggestions for new ways his company can do certain things.  Initially, he’s paying me out of pocket, but I think if there’s enough noticeable benefit from it, I think he’ll probably get recognition for taking the initiative to fix a lot of these issues that have been around for ages at his company and I may have an opportunity for larger scale or longer term projects over there if the need arises.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Blog Upgrade

I migrated my blog to WordPress 2.1 tonight.  There were a few small issues, but things seem good now.

It’s got some interesting new features along with quite a lot of bug fixes.  Their plan from now on is to mimick a release plan similar to that of Ubunto, so the next minor update will be at the end of April.  At least with the minor version releases, I can use a diff file.  I am not a big fan of these full release installs.  Always afraid I’m going to break something.

If you run into any issues with the new version, though, please let me know. Thanks.

Visual Security

A developer by the name of Don Park has created a new way of identifying users. His method turns their IP address into a unique image.

Within his blog, each commenter gets a cool generated image to represent their identity. Don has provided people with a simple webservice to use on their sites, if they want to use his technique as well. His creation was mentioned on CodingHorror this morning along with a port of the code to .NET 2.0

I don’t really have a use for it just yet, but it sounds interesting, for sure. I like that it somewhat hides the identity of the person while still uniquely tagging their connection.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

My Time On Their Dime

I ended up turning down the bid I won on RAC for that SQL Server Backup project.  It ended up being that the guy was using MSDE and, eventually, would be using SQL Express and simply wanted to back up his databases locally.  I’ll admit, that made things a lot less interesting.  I had nearly finishing making something to handle that on SQL Server 2000, but doing that on one of the desktop based SQL environments (MSDE or Express) would’ve been way too large of a rewrite for only $30.

I used to do a lot of locally run applications to do helpful stuff, but now that I’ve been spoiled with server-based solutions, a lot of the local stuff just seems so…. cheap, you know?

Scheduling backups of MSDE databases via some application running in the system tray that emails someone via an external SMTP server just strikes me as an application I don’t want to get involved in.  I do have standards, you know?  At least for stuff I’m going to work on in my spare time.  After all, time is money…. but my free time is worth more.


I just got a reply back from the guy whose project I declined.  He made a comment about how unprofessional it was to back out on him, since he’s already put funds in escrow and that I’ve now made him waste 2-3 days on the project.  What the heck? He only even accepted my bid a few hours ago!  So I wrote back in order to clarify things:

There’s a 24-hour grace period where the coder may choose to decline a project for any reason without penality.  You can read more about it in the Seller contract.  I already submitted this to RentACoder so they can send your funds back.
As for your 2/3 day loss, I’m not sure if I follow you. You accepted my bid tonight and, one hour later, after I found out the environment you were running under, I responded saying I would not be taking on the project and declined the bid through RentACoder.  I’m sorry if you view an hour of waiting as unprofessional.

In any event, the whole point behind the grace period is for this sort of situation. SQL Server and MSDE/Express both use SQL tables, but solutions for them vary greatly at times.  My proposed solution to you, which was server-based, used code I already had ready for you, which is why I agreed to a low bid amount.  Building the project from scratch for MSDE/Express changes the development time to more than I wanted to invest on a $30 bid.


I feel bad for the guy, but is it really that big of a deal? Not really…  Apparently, he didn’t know about the Grace Period thing.  And he agreed that I had some valid points, so things ended alright, I guess.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Dreaming In Code

I don’t even remember why I ordered it, really, but Amazon shipping me a copy of Dreaming In Code a couple days ago.  I finished that book by Linus Torvalds quite a while ago, so I’m happy to have something new to read in between projects.

Also, somewhat in reference to the post title, I had some further inspiration for that SQL Backup program I was making.  I still don’t think the project needs a custom solution, but if that’s what the person wants, that’s what they’ll get.