Archives by Date: January 2006
January 18, 2006
I've been enjoying reading The World Is Flat, a refreshing look at outsourcing and its effect on our now global economy. If you are at all interested in business and technology, I recommend you read it.
With this in mind, an article in today's Wall Street Journal about Computer Science students outsourcing their homework caught my eye:
But if U.S. companies can go online to outsource their programming, why can't U.S. computer students outsource their homework -- which, after all, often involves writing sample programs? Scruples aside, no reason at all. Search for "homework" in the data base of Rent A Coder projects, and you get 1,000 hits. (An impressive number, but still a tiny fraction of all computer students, the vast majority of whom are no doubt an honest and hardworking lot.)
A few examples: "I need a simple console-based program and a PHP script written that uses the openssl library." "I need 2 algorithms filtering -- median and Gaussian." "A C++ program that will implement a billing system using threads. Needs to be completed tonight if possible."
Indeed, some programming students appear to be outsourcing their way through college. "Pascal Rookie," from Colorado Springs, Colo., has put five school projects to bid. And while he may be a plagiarist, at least he treats his helpers well: Mr. Rookie has received the highest marks possible for a buyer in the eBay-like rating system used by Rent A Coder. "A pleasure to work with him," said one.
You can't tell from the site how much was paid for the help, but usually it's well less than $100.
January 15, 2006
Notes from my Barcamp Session
I'm not quite cool enough to know how to use a Wiki, so here are some notes and links.
Some Useful WordPress Plugins
· Get-a-Post: I use this plugin to let the front page blurb be edited without changing the rest of the front page template.
· Get Custom Field Values: This lets me create templates with multiple text areas, using WordPress' custom fields. An example is the two-column layout on this page. The right column is the body text, but the first column is a custom field.
· Redirectify: Allows a WordPress "page" to actually redirect to another site entirely. Useful for integrating "legacy" pages into your automatic navigation structure. On the MGross site, this is used for The More Things Change link in the books submenu.
A Note on .htaccess
One of the most important things to do when you recreate a site in WordPress is make sure the old links still work. Lots of people still link to your old URLs -- they don't want a 404 error! So, you can go to Manage > Files and add redirects to the beginning of your .htaccess. Here's a few from mgross.com's .htaccess:
# Redirects from Old Site
Redirect 301 /profiles.htm http://www.mgross.com/articles/profiles/?
Redirect 301 /articles.htm http://www.mgross.com/articles/article/?
Redirect 301 /author.htm http://www.mgross.com/about/?
Redirect 301 /740.htm http://www.mgross.com/books/740-park/?
Redirect 301 /times.htm http://www.mgross.com/books/740-park/?
Redirect 301 /model.htm http://www.mgross.com/books/model/?
The 301 means permanent redirect, so search engines like Google will update the link. The /? is required, or else WordPress will get confused and error.
These are some links I've found on Google, though I haven't had time to read all of them:
· WordPress 1.5 as a Website CMS [AlexKing.org]
Find more? Comment here or email me, scott AT skidder.net.
January 13, 2006
The Dell Outlet: Lemons for Sale!
I recently documented the problems I had with a client's Dell refurbished computer. Up until now, I've been a big supporter of the Dell Outlet. No longer -- apparently, they don't fix machines that are sent back because they are faulty!
As this screenshot shows, I wasn't the first person to have major problems with Dell Service Tag 7PN0581. The previous owner had almost a dozen support calls with problems that seemed to focus on a blue screen error (the support history "detail" doesn't tell me much). They had so many problems that they ended sending the computer back. Just like I did.
Why wasn't this system fully tested? Even minimal testing would have discovered the serious problems this computer had.
· Previously: Dell Hell, Indeed [ScottKidder.com]
Barcamp New York
This weekend will be my first back in New York City for over four months, in addition to the last weekend of winter break before beginning my Spring semester. So, it's obvious what I'll be doing: spending Saturday and Sunday talking and learning about new technology at BarCampNYC.
BarCamp is an ad-hoc un-conference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees. All attendees must give a demo, a session, or help with one.
January 10, 2006
Persuasion vs. Intimidation
As some explained to me recently:
If someone has something you really want, intimidation will not work. If they were intimidated, they probably wouldn't have that thing. Instead, you need to persuade them: how can you make it work for both of you?
Credit Card Roulette
If you're ever out to dinner with a bunch of people and feeling adventurous, you can always play credit card roulette when the check comes. Each person puts in their credit card, and you ask the waiter to choose one at random. Whoever win's pays for the entire check!
January 06, 2006
Dell Hell, Indeed
For as long as I've been dealing with the technology needs of myself and my clients, I've recommended Dell. In the past 14 days alone, I've spent thousands of dollars at Dell ordering new computers for clients.
So, obviously I was upset when I got a lemon yesterday. I'll save you from the technical details, but the machine just simply didn't work. From out of the box, Windows crashed with every opportunity. I called them and after 1.5 hours on the phone, "Sam" determined that the problem was... a defective Dell Resource CD?
I don't think so. Later they said it was the hard drive. Then they weren't really sure. They also apparently have no way to tell the time in America from India: they asked me what time it was at least six times.
Almost 5 hours of being on the phone, hours of hold time, 2 techs and a manager later, I convinced them to ship me a completely new system. But the experience was far from pleasant.
Buyer beware, indeed.
January 04, 2006
Movie Theaters are Not in the Movie Business
Popcorn, for example, because of the immense amount of popped bulk produced from a relatively small amount of kernels—the ratio is as high as 60:1—yields more than 90 cents of profit on every dollar of popcorn sold. It also serves to make customers thirsty for sodas, another high-margin product (supplied to most theater chains by Coca-Cola, which makes lucrative deals with theater owners in return for their exclusive "pouring" of its products). One theater chain executive went so far as to describe the cup holder mounted on each seat, which allows customers to park their soda while returning to the concession stand for more popcorn, as "the most important technological innovation since sound."
This interesting article says the movie theaters are not solely in the business of showing movies, but in fact in the businesses of fast food, "movie exhibition," and advertising.
· The Popcorn Palace Economy [Salon]
January 02, 2006
JetBlue and Las Vegas
The holidays have given me some time to do a lot of reading I've had on my wish list for a while, including Blue Streak, a well-written and interesting business biography of JetBlue.
I also managed to catch the tale end tonight of CNBC's Las Vegas, Inc, an excellent look at the mysterious business of Las Vegas.
Both are highly reccomended!