Coding for other people

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

I’m a coder, amongst other things.

I’m not a business type person, despite the fact that I have an MSc in E-Business, I’m too  much of a hippy to actually DO business, I hate taking money from people and I hate chasing them for it.  In the past I’ve learned that that I don’t have enough clout to sue people when they rip me off, and I don’t charge enough.

Recently I’ve learned that I can never charge enough if I’m coding for other people.

The problem here is that code is complex, very complex, and much of it is given away, (see Dan Pink, the Surprising Truth about what Motivates us, wait for the programming part).

And that’s a problem, because as an individual I can’t explain what takes time, and I’m often paid for my time, not my output, except…

…I’m paid for my output not my time, when the truth of it comes, because no-one seems to understand what takes time.

Because I code web things, I have to have to hand knowledge of at minimum, four programming or query languages, three different systems setups, two different operating systems, possibly across continents, etc. etc., all the paraphernalia that comes with coding, and people say “wow that’s intense”.  This is often followed by, “Can you just…”

No, I can’t.

I’ve been involved in coding projects recently, I took over from someone else who had left the code in the middle.  I didn’t know how much was involved, because one cannot.  I wasn’t given a proper spec, I wasn’t insistent enough about that, and I should have been.  I didn’t draw lines around what I was expected to do.  Given the amount of time that I’ve put in, now to the detriment of other projects, I cannot probably catch up with those projects properly.

Alright that’s bad.  But eventually, fixable.

But what isn’t fixable is that I do NOTHING else but code right now.  I don’t write, I don’t cycle, I don’t motorcycle with my friend, I don’t see my kids, I don’t work on my teaching material for next year, and I’ve turned into a HORRIBLE person.

I want silence in the house, (the kids are on summer break), I argue with my girlfriend, I argue with my ex-wife, I’m impatient with my boys, I’m impatient with my girlfriend’s kids.  I haven’t been to my roleplay club.  Basically I’m a moody fuck.

Studying for my MSc was easier on my life than coding.

I know this is a bit rambly and a moan, but you know, put up with it.

I have clients from years ago now that I still host, none of them paying, and I don’t even know what status their sites are at because I’m now realising that my American host  changed DNS on me a while back, and though they say there was an email I don’t see it.

So I have to go around changing this stuff, except that I’m going tom write and say I can’t do this any more, not “I can’t do this for free any more”, just I can’t do this, I can’t host, I can’t do code for people any more.

It does not pay enough, because no-one understands what code involves, it makes me tense.

To hell with the money argument, stuff the money.

Coding makes me tense.  Ten cups of coffee a day, (I had gone down a lot, except that Uni gives me a bad coffee habit), makes me tense.

I have realised, finally, that I don’t LIKE coding for other people, and it does’t like me.

I love coding, for me.

I don’t love myself very much when I’m coding, but when it’s for me, I can put it down and become a human being again.

Here’s the thing, no more coding for other people, no more hosting, no more horrible person.

I’m going to dedicate myself to teaching in Uni, and getting my PhD.  I’ll probably write come code for that, but at the end of it, I’ll have a PhD.  I’ll probably teach people to code a bit, but I won’t be doing it.

…and I’ll be a better, nicer person at the end of it.

Backup your data but…

Friday, September 17th, 2010

I got what might safely be termed “A right kicking” datawise over the summer. Yep, the Geek lost data, had it overwritten/lost my work/had to crawl up to my dissertation supervisor and say that I lost two weeks work.

Let’s be clear here; I backup my data, it’s far too valuable to lost and I’ve been bitten before, in the dim and distant past when I didn’t spend money/time on backing up, I learned the hard way that you BACKUP or lose those pictures/data/memories/work.

In fact I often carry so many memory sticks around now, that my single enduring programmer joke is that “I pity the fool! that don’t backup his data!”

Where did it all go wrong?


There were a few factors. I have teenage boys who think that they are invulnerable to a drive-by, so they will occassionally go and download things without thinking, I’m pointing at YOU the eldest, yes indeed. They got two things at once on their latop at once, one just a nasty bit of malware masquerading as a bit of antivirus kit, and the other some kind of Zero Day exploit, a root-kit. Ouch.

I rather airily assumed that these were removable with the usual stuff, wrong! We actually trashed the hard drive ont he laptop looking for this stuff.

I plugged my Ubuntu rescue kit in, fine, no problem, except that it boots Windows too, and took the root kit, which got onto MY latop.

Ok fine, I knew what was going on then, but I was in the middle of doing the other laptop and didn’t disconnect from the cloud.

Oh woe is me, because I backup right, to the clould, a lot.  Really a lot.  Curently my main services are Dropbox, Mozy, Humyo, MS Live Sync (Wonderful), Google syncing, (when I connect right), Skydrive and a few others that are less accessable.  So I synched.  The way I sunch often involved putting my encrypted drive, because only a fool syncs unencrypted password data onto the cloud, and a couple of other files that maintain things for me.  Oh goody, I had my encrypted drive open, but it syncs anyhow.

So, because I had been away from my desktop for a while, (I my boys live with my ex-partner, but we get on really very well and I was on an extended visit), it wasn’t on, Live Sync didn’t, saved the work from two weeks ago at least, but I hadn’t backed up to a stick in at least that amount of time, because I was backing up to the cloud so I’m safe right?

Wrong.  Dead wrong as it turns out.


What is the problem here?

It’s taken me a while to think about it.  It’s not the software or the hardware.  It’s not the malware and virus, (well, it IS, but not in this context), it’s a human problem.  I screwed up.

I screwed up because, like nearly everyone I know who actually backs up, and I do have loads of data that I don’t backup because it’s too expensive, so just the important stuff; I was being LAZY and “SAFE” at the same time.  Except that these two things don’t go together.  Especially in the context of data.

I was being “safe” because, I assured myself, I was backing up so I’m alright Jack, you peons don’t know what it is to backup, and I’m always going to come out on top because of it.  Oh how we learn humility.

I was being LAZY because I relied on non-volitional techniques to keep me safe.  I wanted it done automatically, in triplicate, silently witout hassle.  I wanted an agent to do it for me.

Now, what’s wrong with that?

Well, I lost a hard drive and 100GB of data for the family, and two weeks worth of my Dissertation, (for my Masters), that’s what.

Backup, at some point, must be volitional as well.  In the “good old days” when you had to actually put a floppy in to backup, it was volitional.  You didn’t transmit that Zero-day  exploit unless you were careless, unless you actually inserted that floppy.  Now, if you’re not careful, all you have to do is wait for the cloud.  And if you’re paranoid like me, your encrypted files can’t bec checked on the way in by your cloud service, or even your receiving computer.  You are well and truely, like me, scr…..


Point is, backups, real backups are a hassle, they will always be a hassle.  Take the time.  Use a stick daily.  Use two sticks, on every other day.  Do the grandparent, parent, child backup routine, because one day you will get hit by a Zero-day exploit too, and you’ll be writing blog entry about why it’s so important to backup volitionally.


Friday, March 20th, 2009

Music while you work.  Yes it is important,  I ususally have a big pair of cans on, partially because this means that I don’t have to put up with in-ear headphones, which are invariably uncomfortable, and partially because this is a sure sign that I’m working.

What to listen to?

I tend to favour either  deep beats, very regular and rythmic, or no beats at all, and definitely vocals are to be avoided, though that is harder with variety.

So although I’m an avid Radio 4 listener when not working, I’m into trance and dance and no beats.  I’m talking here here about things like Camille Jones, “The Creeps” (Here mixed by Fedde Le Grand, alright for jollies if you’re into that sort of thing, and wildy popular at the time. Sex sells, what can I say?)

It is in fact a commentary on office politics, and you can see how I might really hate that stuff.  Empowerment, truth and beauty in actions are what count.

Given this, when it came out, I looked for the original version.  Creative.  Here it is.

Propellerheads.  Yeah I know, Spybreak, Matrix, blah, blah.  No.  I came to it through “Velvet Pants” from an internet Radio Station.  Got the Album “Decksanddrumsandrockandroll.”  Get it.  Really.

Aphex Twin, they can be weird, no You Tube for you.  Good beats though.   Mr Scruff: Brilliant mixes, though I cannot listen to the Whale Song and work, too engaging, kids love it.  Fantastic Website.  Really. Quantic Soul Orchestra and Fila Brazilia.  Both wonderful alternatives to the munge spewed out on say, Radio 1.  What trash kids do listen to today.  (Ahem!  Parent alert!)  Actually, my kids are eclectic and investigative, I may speak about this in the future.  Also my eldest is a Bass Player, through pure simple interest, and a great artist already.  The boy is a genius.

Non English language is great, especially Salsa because I can’t understand a word, and in any event, it’s great great art.

Non-beats.  Jean-Michel Jarre and the Cryosleep stream from typify this trend.  BlueMars, you can’t live without it.  JMJ can be complicated and require processing, so I tend to avoid it if I really have to concentrate.  I’ve been listening to his music for 30 years though and it never gets old.

For coding though, there is always blessed silence.  I have run out of time to blog about this further right now, but you can be sure I will return the this subejct in the future.