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Journal Journal: Port; Be Proud.

I really need to get working on my website. Of course, practically anyone who has ever visited my website knows this. It has been for the past 3 years, the most stunningly unfinished project known to man.

I have realized my demon though. Like a lot of programmers, I get things "working enough" to show results. Then I get bored. Code to input is much less visibly rewarding than code to display. There is all that input validation, bounds checking and 10,000 other fantastically boring tasks you have to do. It's mind boggling. So my website was working to display the data in the database, but you couldn't actually use it to display more.

That's a problem.

I realized that keeping too many different programming languages in mind current up to speed was very draining on me. There are some I dont have a choice in right now. I program VB and VB.NET at work for a living, I have to remember those. But C, PHP, Perl, x86 ASM ... those call all take a back seat if I wish. With that in mind, it is with slight remorse that I decided to no longer write or maintain CyberKnet.NET in PHP. This here marks the beginning of the third iteration of the dynamic content rendering engine, to be written in ASP.NET.

It is important to realize this is not any reflection is PHP, just my own limitations as a programmer. I do not have the time to keep current on the syntax needs for so many different languages at once... and my website is the only place I use PHP. It just makes more sense to write it in something that I am using every day.

I will still be targeting Mozilla and Firefox as well as MSIE 6.. I haven't completely sold out. If possible, I would also like to retain HTML 4.01 Strict compatibility, but as yet I have no idea if this is even possible under ASP.NET v1.1.

The appropriate quote at this point in time seems to be by Ovidus, and has been my current sig for many months, ironically:
Video meliora proboque deteriora sequor
Roughly translated from latin:
I see and advocate the better path, but follow the worse.


Journal Journal: Phemplate ... where are you?

PHP is nice. It's not so nice that I would throw away all the other languages I know, but it's nice enough that I have transferred over my previously perl/cgi website to it. I'd like it a lot better if I could force variable declaration, but on the whole it's pretty good.

I have tried to use Smarty and a bunch of other templating engines. I gave up on them all and was *just* about to create a new one when I ran across Phemplate. It was crude, but reasonably fast, and had a moderate feature base. I fell in love with it, and have been using it ever since. Anyone out there, if you're looking, Phemplate is awesome.

Back to the point ... I've been using Phemplate for over a year now, and I still really like it. But more over, I've started modifying it. I've added conditions, ability to show loop iterations, and modified their loop implementation to allow recursive loops. It doesn't look like that big of a list, but I felt like it was pretty modest. I also felt other people would like those features, especially the conditions.

So I sent it to the author, given that it's distributed under the GPL, I thought they would like my contributions back. That was about half a year ago, and I never heard back save for a "I'll look at this in a week or so".

Should I continue to submit the changes? I really feel like the recursive loops thing is a big hit. It works really well for me, and I can't see how nobody would have asked for it before... The trouble is that I'm still working from an ancient version of Phemplate, and I think the author is having difficulty patching my changes in. I don't want to have to rework all my changes into the current version, so I kind of understand this too.

I might just have to start making the source code available to everyone.

Okay, so it's time for another quote.... here we go:

Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self. - Mary Sarton


Journal Journal: Wherein We Court Employment, Dog Houses, Apartment Living

Who was it who said "There are jobs out there"? Who was it who said that "The best people are still employed"? Who is it that hasn't called me in two months, hasn't found me a job interview in three months, and when I call them says "The job market is starting to look up. We're seeing a lot more jobs posted, just none with your skill-set"? I'll tell you who. The Recruiting Company. Let me correct them for you. There are NO jobs out there in Oklahoma. The best people are NOT still employed, and the job market in Oklahoma is definitely NOT looking up. While I *do* have a job, I know people much better than me at what I do, and they are unemployed. Yes. I see the common trend in those corrections. I stipulated in Oklahoma. But seriously, if you had already invested $15,000 in a four year degree for your wife, would you really want to throw a large portion of that away to go to a different college? And would your wife throw away a large number of credit hours because you don't like your job? I know that I don't want to throw the money away, and she won't throw the credit hours away. This leaves me at an impasse.

The Dog House. I half suspect that everybody has constructed a dog house except me. You take a box, you add some walls, cut a door, and if you're feeling pretty spiffy, you add a peaked roof. When you think about it, it is just a glorified box. So how is it that raw material will cost about $75 for a 3x4 foot box?!!? Oh well. At least I get a Skilsaw out of the deal. (The cost of the Skilsaw is not, of course, included in the $75)

Meanwhile we actually did get bonuses in the order of about 5%, which was quite nice. I've put mine away in the vain hope that I can afford to buy a house next year. Apartment living, while cheap, does not really tend to give one a lot of space to put things... so my Skilsaw is currently in the back of my gas chugging SUV. Don't break in.

The website got an update again. I found a nice templating engine (PHemplate) and worked on a new style that I stole from MovableType. It is now HTML 4.01 Strict compliant, and has 100% valid CSS. I was originally targeting HTML 4.01 Transitional, but it looked like the amount of work to get from Transitional to Strict was going to be negligible, so I opted for Strict. My, oh my. So many things have changed since HTML 3.

Finally, the quote (having just restocked my wardrobe to accommodate job interviews):
Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes - Henry David Thoreau

Journal Journal: Whilst contemplating your navel...

I haven't heard anything from the placement agency since the failed interview with Arrow. That's just a little bit of a drag. Last time I was in the market, the dot-com boom was still going. Williams was still hiring, WorldCom wasn't firing ... aaah times have changed. I got hired in three days last time. I have been giving serious consideration to moving, too. It's a pretty drastic idea, but for the right dollar figure, I think I could make it work. Lots of thinking to do with that one.

The workload at Cav increases steadily. Weekend work is ramping up, they're getting set to purchas_ anothe_ com_any in M_chigan. (Sorry, I can't spell it out). There is definitely stability at Cav, I'm just not sure that there is any rest, and therein lies the problem.


"Vibrant young programmer with 5 years experience seeks immediate full time employment in a management position with a midsize growing company. Candidate company should have proven track record in asset management, and an accountant with at least a four year degree in a financial related field. Sane working expectations and a non-hostile environment are a must; Please, no third parties need apply."


Journal Journal: The Art Of The "I Didn't Care Anyway..."

Quick entry...

I had an interview at a local company through that recruitment agency. The company was great, their IT Manager was switched on, had great interpersonal skills, and really pitched the job well. I wanted it. Unfortunately that placement agency had sent me on a job for helpdesk support/network admin/(very small amount of) software development. It goes without saying... I didn't get the job. My resume was tuned to my programming skillset. Why do placement agencies do this? Anyway, I still have a job. So no huge issue.

I also went out got the biggest goddamn book on .NET that I could find. Now I know what you're thinking... just hold it in for a few minutes. A guy has got to work to make money, and there just *arent* enough linux programming jobs out there for all of us. So I program windows, and windows is moving to .NET, which means I am rapidly being left behind. And anyone can tell you that that equates to missed job opportunities. Something I cannot afford to have. So. I have 1400 pages of goodness to read, and I'm 70 pages in.

Looks like I'll be busy for the next little while.


Journal Journal: The Quest For The Holy Grail...

Well. The overwhelming response to my previous journal entry has convinced me I really did only have one option. Quit. However, my bank manager quite effectively showed me that quitting is not quite an option. Drat.

So, I thought, the next best thing is to start a charity in name of myself, and spam some large corporations. After that wave of insanity passed, I registered at the local placement agency, whom I have always had GREAT success with. Also whose books I was still unofficially on (for placement, not salary).

What's that old adage? Time Will Tell.


Journal Journal: How many hours in a work week?

This is a rant. Sorry if you don't want to read it, or if you think I'm whining. Give it up, this is my journal.

1:00PM Friday I get a memo from a company VP noting that there was a database update scheduled this weekend that a colleague of mine was doing. No biggie. My colleague is (Deservedly) going out of town. No major issues yet.

In leu of this, myself and another colleague MUST perform the update. I might point out that my good friend who is going out of town got told he was doing this an hour before I got told I was. Now let me reiterate.. my buddy DESERVES this weekend off. He has worked probably eight weekends straight.

This update will commence *testing* at 7:30PM Friday, and finish testing around 3am saturday morning. The production run will commence midday saturday, and you can guess roughly how long that will take from the test.

There was no asking if we minded. There was no asking if we had plans. There was no asking ... period. This is the way this company operates; they get a an itch in their pants at a moments notice, and then it has to be taken care of. Immediately.

The VPs make the decisions, and to be honest, I really don't think that they have a clue about this stuff. They just decide that it has to be done.

I had to scrap all of my plans for this weekend. This is probably about three weekends out of five that they are doing this kind of thing. I work in excess of 55 hours a week, every week. And that is just on the weekdays. Then you get into the weekend work.

There is no compensation for this. There are no bonuses, there is no apology except from my immediate manager, and let's face it. This is not their fault. It is just expected, all the time, and to be honest, it's burning me out.

What can I do about this short of quit? I'm not knowledgeable enough about local laws (or clueful enough to decode them) to know if they are violating any with these kinds of hours.


Journal Journal: PHP and Databases 3

Currently the new site is going to be using a MySQL back end, php middle-ground and apache serving up the pages.

I have found a multitude of very reliable, very helpful PHP/MySQL tutorials. The problem is that every tutorial uses the mysql_* functions. This is fine right now, but it's entirely possible that I might switch to postgresql/MSSQL/etc some time in the not-too-distant future if I have to change my hosting company.

I can write my own wrappers without too much difficulty (I think)... but is there a built-in or pre-rolled perl-like DBI for php? Not like as in syntactically, but like as in universal regardless of database?

Thoughts appreciated.


Journal Journal: CyberKnet.NET Relocation Complete

So I have this friend, who admins for this hosting company. Their servers run some BSD variant, but they hate perl with a passion. No real issue there, I just switched to PHP. I organized the needed DNS changes, and a few days later we have a working domain again. The place holder page seems to work still, including the perl CGI nicenesses like the (insecure) counter and the quoter. neat.

the PHP on the other hand, is really messed up, and will require a heavy rework. This is mainly due to changed autogobals and such. This task would be simplified greatly if there was a way to force variable declaration in PHP, but as far as I know, that is not an option. So instead, I'm gonna have to go through the code and look for all form references. Nasty. Should work better once I'm done though.

Unfortunately my friend hasn't got my database set up yet though, so it may be a while before I can get the PHP working... I'm not fond of the mysql errors that show up right now =P

Wife is calling. I'll write more later.


Journal Journal: Another One Bytes The Dust 1

Okay. So I sat down and had a real think about whether I really wanted to write a SQL interfaced RDBMS. And come to think about it, I really didn't... which isn't really that bad of a thing... after all, who wouldn't jump at the chance to add another language to their list?

So I'm giving PHP a chance... so far, I really like it. There's a lot of functionality that Just Makes Sense(TM). Personally, I don't care for the automatic variable declaration. Experience has taught me that requiring variable declaration is the path towards saving 99% of your headaches... time will tell again.

After using PHP for about three days, it suddenly occurs to me that there is a HUGE security flaw in the way it is making me access form variables. Woah. There is NO WAY nobody has seen this before me. So I check the version number... at this point in time I shall note a second strike on the COMPLETE_IDIOT board for my ISP. They are running some version of PHP from the stone age. And yes, somebody has definitely noticed this security flaw, and it has been patched for close on a year.

This is it. I am changing my hosting company. I have come to the realization that they are completely incompetant. Well... not completely. They managed to write a perl script for their proxy to replace all incoming ads with crappy ads for local companies that they are selling. I wonder if doubleclick would be interested in that information, and the ISP's name?

Off to find a REAL hosting company.


Journal Journal: Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria DBI

Translated from latin:
It is a sweet and proper thing to DBI for one's country.

So finally I decided to do something about my website. It had been dormant for pretty much a year or so. And even THEN it had just been a placeholder with a few cgi-scripted nicities thrown in. Enter the incompetant ISP.

Aparently my ISP does not have the Perl DBI installed. I have no idea why. So I asked them to install it... given that well... what else can you really do with a website and perl if you don't have DBI? So they say they will.

Long story short, three weeks later they still can't install DBI, and I'm trying to figure out what to do with this website... Either I write a nice little TXT database (Woah, flashbacks of MySQL) or I'm going to learn PHP. Given that I know nothing of PHP, and am fairly moderate at Perl, I think I know which would be easier... We'll See.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Happy, Smiling, Crying, Upwards To My Past 1

When I was a child, christmas was a time to look forward to. Every year I would anticipate putting up the christmas tree even as December 1st rolled around. With every day that passed, another twinkle would appear in my eye, and the zest that defined every minute seemed to just grow stronger and stronger. When I was a child... Now it seems that with every day that goes by, I just seem closer to another day. There is no holiday cheer, there are no twinkles, and certainly, it would appear, there is just no zest left. What happened that could so permanently scar me?


  I'm not completely sure, but i have a feeling it has something to do with the difference between the first world haves and the first world have nots. Without a doubt, I was a lucky child. I will never dispute this. I grew up with a roof over my head, food in my stomach, clothes on my back and a set of loving parents. This on its own is much more than a lot children can ever expect. But we did it tough.
As the years moved on, my eyes saw just how tough my parents did it. Throughout every christmas season, they would strive and toil to hide the difference between us and the other kids at school, whom mostly had well-to-do parents, and money seemingly falling out of their pockets. Indeed, my parents did an admirable job sheltering me... but it may be that exact same reason that now shies me away from christmas completely. It is an undesirable time of the year. I dont wish to recall seeing their toils, troubles, trials and pain. And maybe that's selfish. Yes, I know that that is selfish, they tried so hard to hide it from me. The did it FOR me. You might even argue that THAT is the spirit of christmas in its purest form. But to remember everything they went through, for me... that's not desirable.

Then again, maybe that's not the reason at all. I know several families who are doing it just as hard as my family and I ever did. And every year they look forward to christmas with gleaming eyes, getting excited over the smallest things. Are they just naive, and cant see the sadness of it all? I dont think so. They know exactly how sad it can be, they live it every day. What then drives these people to such happiness?

I can only believe that it boils down to pure simplicity. And by that I dont mean that they are simple people, only that they take joy in the simplicity of Christmas. Its not about recognising pain to achieve a goal. Its not even about enduring pain to achieve a goal. It has to be about living FOR the goal, in some way or other.

This christmas, I believe, will be quite a hingeing time in my life. On one side, I have a lived a life of sad christmasses, and on the other, I have shared some of the happiest times of my life amidst that sadness. The answer has to be finding that happiness. Moving back to simplicity, and enjoying every minute for what it is: Another second time around, over and over.

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Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984