September 2008

Stack Overflow

There is a new web site for software developers to ask questions and get answers: Stack Overflow.

I've been one of the site's beta testers for the past month, and I've been impressed with the quality of the information available on the site. Of course, there are plenty of a-holes there, but I think it will become one of the top go-to sites for developers.

What's cool about Stack Overflow:

  • It's free (unlike some other programmer-question-and-answer sites).
  • Simple question-and-answer format keeps things focused.
  • Voting lets the good information rise to the top, and the spam disappear.
  • Editing allows outdated information to be corrected.
  • Reputation system prevents newbies from screwing things up too much.

It is now open to the public. Please read the FAQ before participating, and please don't screw it up.

Also take a look at Joel Spolsky's explanation of how it should work, and Jeff Atwood's blog entry.

Troubleshooting the MacBook Air SuperDrive

My wife has a MacBook Air. One of the things that makes it so light is that it doesn't have an internal SuperDrive (writable DVD/CD). Apple sells a special external SuperDrive designed to specifically work with the MacBook Air.

Unfortunately, we couldn't get the SuperDrive to work. Any disc we inserted would be ejected, without being recognized by the computer. After a few days of struggling with this, we decided we'd take it back to the local Apple Store.

We live far away from civilization, and a trip to the Apple Store requires D-Day-like preparation. So, the SuperDrive sat on the desk for a while. Then my wife figured out the problem:

It was upside-down.

Yep, we were trying to use the SuperDrive when it was upside-down.

You see, Apple products aren't designed like other computer manufacturer's products. Most products have a shiny logo on the top of the product, and the bottom looks like a piece of Soviet military hardware. The MacBook Air SuperDrive has a shiny silver side, and a shiny side with an Apple logo.

It never occurred to us that the logo-side would be the bottom. She turned it logo-side-down, and now it works fine.

We feel really smart for figuring that one out. At least we didn't have to be told by a Genius at the Apple Store.

Favorite Podcasts

If you're like me, you might like the same podcasts I do. Here are my current favorites.

  • You Look Nice Today: A Journal of Emotional Hygiene: I find this hilarious, although I suspect most people won't get it at all. It's basically just three guys talking, alternating between being absurd and being abusive toward one another. The cultural references are primarily geared toward white American males in their 30's and 40's who have never played team sports. This podcast is not safe for work.
  • Stack Overflow: This is a series of conversations between Joel Spolsky (the Joel on Software guy) and Jeff Atwood (the Coding Horror guy). The conversations are centered around development of the new stackoverflow.com programmers' web site, but they follow a lot of diversions into general software development topics. If you're a software developer, you'll find this podcast very interesting. If you're not, you won't know what they're talking about.
  • This American Life: I've written about this before.
  • The Moth Podcast: This podcast consists of people telling stories on stage. Most are pretty good. Some aren't.

Secrets of Recruiters

When you are contacted by a recruiter, they will give you a description of the job they want you to take, but they won't tell you the name of the employer. This ensures that they will get their cut for their "assistance" if you eventually get the job.

Luckily, recruiters are as lazy as the rest of us. If you Google the description, you can usually find the job listing or company profile.

I don't do this to screw recruiters out of their take. If I am interested in the job, I'll go through the recruiter. I just do it to save time; 90% of the jobs offered via recruiters are not worth pursuing.

Night Shift

The team I'm working with is involved in installing a new system in South Australia. A few people are on site in Adelaide, but most of us are still back here in Georgia, USA.

South Australia is thirteen-and-a-half hours ahead of US Eastern time. This has made it difficult to provide support from home, as they work while we sleep and vice versa.

We came up with a solution: the people in the States will be working from 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM, which is 4:30 AM to 12:30 AM in Adelaide. The people in Australia will show up at 7:00 AM their time (which is the earliest they are allowed into the building), giving us a few hours of overlapping duty.

So, this week I get to see my wife and stepson for just a few minutes each morning (as they prepare for school/work) and each evening (when I get home around midnight). That stinks, but I guess it's better than traveling to Australia myself.

(I know some people will chime in and say "Oh, you've got to go to Australia! It's wonderful!" You people obviously aren't IT workers. If I go to Australia for this project, all I will get to see is the airport, the hotel, and the basement where they keep the computers. Sightseeing is for people in Business Development.)

JacksOrBetter for iPhone and iPod Touch

Several years back, I created JacksOrBetter for Palm OS. Now, I've created an updated version of that for iPhone and iPod Touch.

It is available for free. Click here to download from the App Store.