One Step at a Time

Too often I get caught up in lofty goals which are impossible to achieve. I set the bar so high that I give up before taking a single step (I know, I’m mixing metaphors left and right). On top of that, I spend way too much time consuming and not enough time producing. I’m addicted to Google Reader. I have too many subscriptions. I can’t tell you how many amazing tutorials and articles I’ve read, bookmarked and stored for later, that I’ve never come back to. What good is that information? Well instead of storing that knowledge up like a chipmunk, I’m going to start producing again.

I’m going to plan less, or at least plan for shorter and smaller goals. I want to be proactive and not plan so far ahead that I never reach my goals. Really my checklist is very simple. Every day I want to learn something, build something, and write something. I’m hoping each one leads to the next. We’ll see how I do.

Learning Object Oriented Javascript

I’ve never considered myself a programmer. Developer yes, coder, sure, but not a programmer by any means. Although I took some computer science classes in college, I never learned the basic tenets of programming and instead always learned just enough to get by. Focusing on HTML, CSS, and jQuery has always been enough. With my new position at Incisent, I’ve had to dive into the deep end of some very complicated, custom Javascript. This code has huge custom classes, uses Underscore, fastFrag, and Lawnchair (three JS libraries I’d never heard of). Although it’s easy to fix bugs, given enough time, adding new features the “right way” requires a bit more knowledge.

A few weeks ago I saw this post: learning object oriented Javascript in 15 minutes or less and I knew I needed to walk through it. So I finally did. The best thing about this is that it was short. Like the title says, it took less than 15 minutes and I was able to understand some concepts that were always at the edge of my knowledge. So it was definitely successful.

From there, in the comments, someone linked to this short collection of OO JS articles. These obviously go more in depth and are helping to take my knowledge to the next level. Armed with this new information and I’m starting to really enjoy the challenges at work and I hope to apply what I’ve learned for some of my own after hours projects.

Passpack: Protecing Your Passwords Online

Over the years, my password schema has evolved to be more and more complex. With huge, professional services like Sony PlayStation Online and Steam being compromised by hackers, it seems your passwords are not safe anywhere online. This means using the same password for everything you do just isn’t smart. I have essentially three levels of passwords.

Level 1

Totally insecure but easy to remember. This is for all the services that I sign up for on a whim and don’t contain any sensitive information beyond my email. You could argue that I shouldn’t ever use an insecure password, but I’m not too worried about someone hacking my LazyMeter account (task list), for example.

Level 2

Slightly cryptic, but used often enough that I can remember it. This one has a more than 5 characters, a combination of letters, numbers and capitalization. I’ve since added the first two letters of the domain to the beginning, so that the password is unique to each service. This is great for sites that I visit regularly and on multiple devices: home computer, work computer, my phone, etc.

Level 3

Totally random, the more characters the better. I use this tool to get a long, random string for any service that requires my credit card or social security number. You could argue that I should use this level of complexity for all my passwords and so I am heading that direction.

Obviously my brain could never remember a 14 letter random string of letters, numbers and punctuation. Saving this information in a text file on my computer kind of defeats the purpose. Between browsers saving form information and sites leaving cookies, I usually don’t have to type them in. But, what if I login from a different computer, or clear my cache? Or give my login to my wife?

For that, I’ve used Passpack without issue for at least 2 years. Although there is always the risk that someone could compromise Passpack and suddenly have access to all my passwords, I’m actually less worried about that. They use multiple levels of government level security to keep your information safe. I’m much more worried about companies like eBay or Sony who are not only larger targets, but also less worried about your security. With Passpack, that’s pretty much all they do.

I’ve since started using it at work and it has been a boon for productivity. Before we were storing passwords in a database and looking them up with phpMyAdmin. Now that everything is in Passpack, it is easier to search, available remotely, and easily allows us to share individual passwords without giving access to the entire set. This is perfect for remote developers or plain new staff that we don’t quite trust yet to have every password for every client we’ve ever had.

The best part: Passpack is a freemium service. That means the basic account is free and you only pay for access to more storage and other features. For most individual users, the free account is all you need.

WIP – Work In Progress

As you can see, this blog is still a WIP. I’m planning to put my portfolio and resume back into WordPress. I’m actually thinking about changing “Portfolio” to “Projects” to allow me to better encompass all the work that I do. To me, Portfolio represents finished work and usually is more design oriented. As a Front-end Developer, I tend to work with sites that have most of the design already done. Not to mention some of my best work is in projects that aren’t “done” either because they were shelved or we’re waiting on the client, etc. Also projects is a little more informal, allowing me to simply blog about my work instead of waiting to formalize everything.

I’m using a free theme, which is fairly sparse, so I’ll try to add some color and icons and bits of design here and there to spruce it up. I don’t want to take much away from the content, but it needs some love.

In the meantime I’ll be making sure my sitemaps, analytics, and basic SEO is up and running. Just installed WordPress SEO by Yoast, now moving on to some contact forms (maybe Wufoo), Disqus, etc. Any other suggested plugins?

And we’re back!

Well, it took a year for me to recover from my blog being hacked, but my blog is finally back. A lot has happened since my last post. I got married to my best friend, I started a blog about the Fiat 500 Abarth, and I moved (down the street). After my blog was hacked I decided it was easier and more productive to turn into a permanent resume. It has served me well, but I’m currently at a job I love and I want to start blogging again.

At SiteGoals we have a lot going on, that’s for sure. We’re creating a project management application that will help our current business, but we think its so good that we can sell it to other agencies like ourselves. So that consumes much of my thoughts during the week. It took several years, but we’re finally at the point where it actually does something very useful and we’re getting close to launching a very limited beta, hopefully by the end of the year. So we’ve started to look into marketing and the whole launch process, which thankfully, has been covered by hundreds of very successful application developers already.

I’m also finally making a little bit of money from blogging, all with AdSense on my blog about the Fiat 500 Abarth. It definitely took a significant amount of time to set up and develop to the point it is now, but at this point it literally requires no time to continue to make money. However to make it grow, I still have to invest an hour a day or so on content development, or improving the design, or social media marketing. But it is essentially at the point where it is cruising and it only requires additional effort if I want to grow it larger, which is great. I’m now looking into how to replicate the minor success into multiple blogs so that I can start to build a portfolio of passive income. Exciting times indeed!

My Favorite Forum

Obviously I use Google Reader, I keep up on lots of RSS feeds. I read blogs, news websites, Twitter, all the usual suspects. But by a wide margin, I find the majority of my useful information from a more unexpected source: the Something Awful forums. I was a fan of the website back when it first started and after “lurking” in the forums for a long time I finally bit the bullet and paid the $10 fee to get an official membership. Since then I’ve checked it almost daily, staying up to date on a number of different subjects. That is the wonderful utility of the forums, they have so many members that there is a thread for just about any topic you could imagine.

For web design, I keep the WordPress thread bookmarked at all times. If I ever have a question about themes that Google can’t answer, this is where I go for answers. In fact the whole coding forum has a wealth of useful information.

Since I just bought a new GTI, I keep up on both the VW/Audi Question&Answer Thread and the 2.0 FSI Tuning Thread (that’s the engine). If you have an even remotely sporting car, chances are there’s a thread for your make/model. Sometimes there might even be an official rep from a dealer or manufacturer that chimes in with very useful information.

I’m playing Fantasy Football this year (go USC Boosters!), so I’m now following the Week 1 Sit/Start thread (I’ll have to bookmark week 2, etc.) and Fantasy Football 2010. Even if I have a very specific question about which player I should pick or start/site, its likely that someone else will have the exact same problem and has already asked the question and had it answered. Like I said, there are just so many members of the forum, there is a wealth of useful information available.

Be sure to look for free magazine subscriptions, find some hilarious comedy podcasts to listen to, catch up on what you’ve missed since you stopped collecting Legos, and see some beautiful automobile photography.

Trust me, if you can think of a topic, you’ll probably find it buried somewhere within the Something Awful forums, where a group of nerds are discussing it fervently. I’m sure you’ll lurk for awhile before realizing that $10 is nothing and it will be worth it to get rid of the annoying ads, bad language filter, and have the ability to actually contribute something yourself.

Long Time No Blog

Birth. School. Work. Death. That’s how my cynical co-worker paraphrases life. Sometimes I have to agree. So many things happen on a daily basis, but when I sit down to write about them, all I can think to say is, “School. Work.” I guess the biggest news is that my girlfriend, moved away to start her own business. It is definitely sad times around here without her. I pretty much spent all my free time with her everyday up until a week before she left. So it has been very weird without her, sort of like we’re both on vacation or something. I want the time until I visit her to pass by as quickly as possible.

A Look Back at PAC

A week from today it will have been a year since closed shop. Can time really have flown by that fast? Well, I’ll skip the cliché’s because obviously, it has. When we (Kristin, Bill and I) made the decision to close the forum and by extension the entire site, we talked of recreating it from the ground up. That, also obviously, has not happened. In fact other than a few times shortly after the closing we haven’t talked about the website at all. Everyone pretty much moved on. I was so shocked, annoyed, frustrated, and hurt by the reaction from the community that I distanced myself from it for almost a year now. I think we’ve both been better off for it. But am I still the people’s enemy? I wonder, but not enough to ask them. I also wouldn’t want to open any old wounds.

However I did make a visit to their site today, just to see how things are going. Thanks to the community and to Skorpion and Paladin specifically it seems, the forum appears to be humming along quite nicely. I’m glad to see that; I really am! Because I’m human, I couldn’t help but search for my own name. Nothing has been spoken of me since November as far as I can tell, which is fine. The last post was made by Paladin and it reads like so:

“Did you know that Sim has all the stuff he did for PAC on his resume? Not sure I’d think that was very impressive as an employer. Maybe the kind of work he does it makes sense to put it on there but it seems a little cheesy to me. I think he is going through a rough patch right now.”

That made me laugh at first but it also really bothered me. Why should it? It’s just some stupid comment that he probably doesn’t remember typing, but for some reason it gave me this terrible feeling in my stomach like I’d just been kicked in the balls by a small child. I think it bothers me so because it seems to reflect the attitude that a lot of people had about the Cult. They didn’t respect the work that we (again, mostly Kristin, Bill and I) did for it. Because they spent a couple hours a day chatting with their friends, a lot of people felt they had more ownership over the site than we did. While I agree that they were and still are the community and that the site would have been dead years ago without them, I still don’t see how that entitles them to ownership of the site that Tycho paid for, that Bill’s dad hosted, that Bill built from the ground up, that I invented, and that Kristin dedicated her time to running.

I understand that it was a low blow out of nowhere to shut down their favorite forum with little notice and I wish I hadn’t done that. If I could go back in time I would definitely change the way it was handled. But to this day I cannot understand how certain people can say that we “took” something from them by closing our website. We closed down a phpbb forum. It only took a couple days for Skorpion to put up a new one (on his own dime I assume). The community popped right back up! It was impossible for us to destroy the community because it was and still is an entity far out of our control. The only thing we “took” was an address. I can’t believe that would incite such venom.

After reflecting on all this for the first time in months, I came to a realization as to why it all bothers me so much. I believe that most of the forum members used to respect me. I think I earned it by the amount of free time that I put into the website from its creation to closure. Well I lost all of the respect I had built over those six years in one fell swoop. And it hurts to see people that I respected turn around and disrespect me. I can only hope that by being forced to run the community themselves, they have gained a little bit of respect back for the work we did.

Oh and to address Paladin’s post (unfortunately seven months late), yes, putting all the stuff I did for PAC on my resume did help me land the job I’ve been at for the past two years. Since I only had one real previous job working as housekeeping for a hotel, I needed something more pertinent on there. I figured it would relate since I was applying for web design work and as it turns out, I talked about it for half the interview and I’m pretty sure it helped get me hired. So no, I’m not going through a rough patch right now.

For anyone from the old forums who actually reads this: I’m glad the community is still alive, I thank you for the years of entertainment you provided, and I wish you all the best of luck.

Television’s warm glowing warming glow.

I watch way too much television. I used to be pretty disciplined: The Office and Lost were pretty much my only indulgences. But Lost, The Sopranos, and Entourage are all back at the same time and I just can’t stop watching any of them, no matter how far many people think they’ve fallen. The more I cook the more I want to pay attention to Iron Chef and Good Eats, which really are the only good shows on the Food Network. Somehow I got sucked into watching the second half of The Apprentice this season (Stefani is the only one left that I wouldn’t like to see fired, although Frank is very entertaining). Karen got me addicted to America’s Next Top Model, which I pretty much consider The Natasha Show (for those who know). Oh and I can’t forget Ugly Betty. Plus I just bought season one of Arrested Development on DVD. Do I have a problem?

If you make a comment on this post, you have to include your list of currently watched programs (i.e. still in production) so that I can compare.

Listen to a Movie

If you sit at a computer all day, say working in an office like I do, you probably listen to the radio or CDs or podcasts, or something audible in nature to help pass the time. My work involves updating a lot of webpages, which usually consists of adding or deleting a line of text or sometimes messing with fonts and colors. So the majority of my work doesn’t take a lot of deep thinking. This means that I have my headphones on throughout the day. Unfortunately I crave something more engaging than just music. I get enough background music at home and in the car. Rob, Arnie, & Dawn have been my staple audio meal since I discovered they posted MP3s online. Unfortunately I consume their daily handful of clips rather quickly. I listen to PTI whenever they talk about something besides baseball, but that’s still only 20 minutes per day. I already plowed through the Ricky Gervais archives. So what’s left?

I was loading up my musical playlist with disdain until someone linked this wonderful site from the Something Awful forums (which provides all the visual entertainment I need during breaks). The site is called Listen to a Movie and the title is very descriptive of its function. I couldn’t be happier being able to listen to The Big Lewboski while I work. They have also posted a bunch of stand-up comedy DVDs which are perfect for this. The best part is that it’s all free and streams very quickly.