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February 16th, 2007 by Walt Schlender

I took this while I was biking through Crescent City, CA last year.

 img_0292.JPG

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Ourchart.com

January 11th, 2007 by Walt Schlender

So we released a couple of pieces of software to the world over the past week! I’m pretty proud of them. First off is Our Chart — which uses a video player, slideshow component and social network visualization tool all of which we designed and built.

The social network visualization component isn’t yet hooked up to the social network we wanted to hook it to, but that’s in the works.

It’s been almost a month since I did a post on this blog and I’ve been working 24/7 during that time. It all reminds me of Micheal Gerber and his whole thing about working ON your business not IN your business. Well, I am definitely working IN my business right now. It’s been going well — ourchart is basically Showtime. There were articles in New York Times and TV spots advertising the thing which was exciting. I think we did a good job on it too. But it was most interesting for me to work with other guys who have managed to hire guys to help them on client work. It’s still stressful, but you get good stuff done with more management time involved — ideally that’s where I’d like to be by the end of the year.

Yesterday was my one year anniversary in the state of California. Over the past year I’ve done SO much. I was just thinking about all the stuff –

First - started my business - from ads off of craigslist it grew until I was working to build stuff for Showtime and had connecting with people who go to TED and help build Macromedia Flash.

Second - got married - To YaChin You. And it’s been really good.

Met lots of wonderful friends out here in California. Seems like everyone is from somewhere else and is interested in meeting and learning about new folks.

Got into going to software development conferences (which is really fun).

Played lots of Settlers of Catan

Paid income tax for the first time

Developed lots of cool software

Saw the iPhone in person at the MacWorld conference

Worked on 2 personal entrepreneurial projects which taught me SO MUCH.

Met old friends moved to the bay area

Learned I could take care of myself

Joined an improv troupe and actually performed twice!

So next year? What do I want to do?

-Start my own entrepreneurial project which is something I like and which is something other people like (specifics? Robots?).

-Move into a new house with more space

-Learn to dance

-Write and tell stories

-Figure out how to work with other people within my business

-Get a car and learn to drive in the bay area

-Learn to invest

-Have some kind of crazy adventure

And so it shall be!

Posted in Software, Personal, Projects | 1 Comment »

Migration Complete *Sigh of relief*

November 29th, 2006 by Walt Schlender

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New Theme + Migration Pains

November 27th, 2006 by Walt Schlender

How do you like this theme? I think it’s nice and orange and clean. I wrote a theme a while ago — decent, but it lacked a way for visitors to leave comments and I like this one better. So thanks guy who made this theme!

I’ve been working today on migrating my stuff from textdrive to dreamhost. It’s been a real struggle — ever wonder why the hosting companies pay such HUGE affiliate bonuses when someone signs up with them? Subversion is EXTREMELY important to everything I do. I maintain all my client’s software under subversion. Business records are backed up remotely. Mistakes made in software need to be reversible and the only way I can keep track of clients’ work long term is to use subversion. Projects which haven’t been put under version control have a habit of splitting into a million version where nobody knows what version is the current one.

So I was migrating subversion repositories to dreamhost — it’s not TOO difficult. You simply run svnadmin dump on the subversion folder. You get a bunch of dump files and then on the other end you have to create new repositories and run svnadmin load to load the dump files into the repositories. It only took me 4 hours. Now the only problem is that the permissions on the files aren’t correct since they were created using svnadmin. It’s a headache.

Another migration issue I had was figuring out how to install ROR on dreamhost — actually this is easier than it ever was on TextDrive. Still, there was a learning curve. For a while my fcgi stuff wasn’t working correctly. The thing which really saved me was dreamhosts’ policy of limitless subdomains and mysql databases. That way I could configure each subdomain with different features needed for different apps I’m writing.

Why am I moving? Lots of reasons. Here are a few things which really pissed me off — Take note web-hosts. Don’t be stupid. You’re job is to provide a simple stable system which eliminates headaches.

Textdrive claims they have a premium service specially suited for running Ruby On Rails — To make the claim hold some water they have a few policies they list which you have to abide by.

-Their servers are for production code only — they do not approve of code under development - so developers, don’t develop on their systems.

-They’ll only give you 4 domains/subdomains with the basic plan and 4 mysql databases to go with them. If you need more (I need lots. It’s much easier if each project has it’s own database it draws from and each major project can have it’s own domain/domain name)

-They offer less space than other comparable web service providers.

-When you run ruby on rails, they suggest that you run it using a web server called lighttpd. They don’t have this installed by default. Instead, they force you to figure out how to install it yourself. A basic install of lighttpd takes following 5 pages of instructions, the patience of a monk and the education of a rocket-scientist. My setup took me 2 full days to get figured out because I wanted to be able to have multiple projects running on lighttpd using different languages and violating their 4 sub-domain limit at will. When I wanted to add another sub-domain, it would take FOREVER.

-They capped my processes — this is not necessarily a bad thing if you cap it at a reasonable level, but their cap was low. I kept running out of processes and having to restart lighttpd in order to get my blog back online. If I had too many projects running at once, they would start locking up my ability to go into the system via a terminal and I’d have to go into the clugey textdrive web-panel and kill processes.

-The web panel SUCKS! It’s the worst one I’ve ever seen. It’s totally 100% non-intuitive. They call it light-weight. It’s non-existent. And it’s slow as hell. Oh, and their servers kept going down all the time.

-Finally, to add insult to injury, they are raising their rates (and throwing in a few little useless extras (like extra disk space) to try to say that they’re giving you a deal). They’re a full 7$/month more expensive than the rest of their competition.

So dreamhost is SO MUCH BETTER. I know they’ve recently been having some issues with down-time. I can handle that occasionally. Their machines have gotten much faster and they don’t put any stupid limits on people who use their systems.

They’ve figured out a way to get Ruby on Rails to run reliably on apache so setup time for a ROR app is MUCH faster. So far I haven’t run into any process limit issues. I’ve been running tons of apps at once with no issues. It’s WONDERFUL to have unlimited mysql databases and domains and sub-domains.

Their web panel actually makes sense. They’ve got some nice one-click installs. They give much more disk space and everything is organized really nicely.

You wanna get at your mysql for one of your domains? It’s not somerandomserver.somethingyouwontremember.whatever. It’s mysql.yourdomain.com

Each new domain you create gets it’s own folder and subdomains are the same. You can set up fastcgi or not. It’s up to you when you create a domain. htaccess isn’t a pain to set up now that I’m not running lighttpd.

Oh! It’s just all SOOOO much better. I’ll be moving everything over and then canceling my textdrive account.

Posted in Software, Entrepreneurship, Company, Personal | 1 Comment »

What I’ve been working on

November 26th, 2006 by Walt Schlender

I just emerged from what I like to call programming deep dive — a state in which all I do day and night is code. The deep dive came from getting way too many clients (5) at once or rather from getting follow-up work from multiple old clients at once. I haven’t yet learned how to hire people to help me… at least not very well, so it meant that I spent my wedding weekend and the week following my wedding coding to try to catch up with demand.

Demand hasn’t really slowed at all, but I’ve said no to a few projects which have come my way and now I’m having some breathing room so I can start focusing on my life once more. The results of this coding binge? This time I can actually SHOW you some of them! Check these out:
I made a video map for http://turnhere.com — Turn Here Business Directory. It’s up and functioning! Very cool!

I made a bunch of video players and audio players — I can only show you one (the others are under NDA) It’s for Suretone Records — Suretone Records

There’s other stuff of course but it’s not ready yet. One piece is incredibly cool and I can’t wait to share it. There are a few neat little side apps I developed too — the video game is now multi-player.
I’ve really been enjoying the work. It’s taken up too much of my time — I haven’t been able to keep my pledge to spend 3-4 nights/week exploring the nightlife of San Francisco over the past couple of weeks, I didn’t hang out with anyone, and coding for that long makes me sick eventually ( I get tired, stop sitting up straight and then don’t breath very well ). I can’t keep doing all my business stuff on my own — I’ve begun to work with another developer — We end up smoothing out the work flow by teaming up on projects and there’s another guy who I’ve hired from time to time to help speed up projects which are taking too long. Still, there’s more work than I can handle and it’s high-time I found somebody who I can supply with some of the work I can’t handle.

Something has been bothering me lately as well — I have been building all these wonderful things for other people and getting paid for it. But I haven’t had more than a few seconds to work on my own projects and actually worse than that, I feel like I can’t come up with projects I want to do myself. When I make things for other people I’m proud, but a part of me thinks, “Hey… what am I doing building this thing for him… I should be building something like this for me”. A big project takes time — work every day. I’ve found that the big projects I’ve done don’t come alive for quite a while. When they do they’re easy to work on, but before that the only thing which really keeps me going is money being paid to me and the thought that I made a commitment to the people who hired me. I’m looking for solutions to this. I feel like I don’t know what to do with my life (and I want to do something cool). My business was always meant to be a means to learn to build things which could change the world. I’ve learned a lot, but the one thing I haven’t learned is how to come up with a good idea myself and stick with it until it begins to take on a life of it’s own. The closest I’ve gotten so far is my game. It works, but I keep putting it on the back burner.

*sigh* so much to figure out…

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Company, Personal | No Comments »

Gmail Down + Rhapsody Down

November 8th, 2006 by Walt Schlender

2 things I can’t live without… down? AHHHHHHHH!!!!

On another note - been EXTREMELY BUSY with writing software for people. 2 extremely cool projects have taken over my life. One of them should be going live in a day or two so I’ll let ya’all know when it’s up so you can all check it out.

-Walt

Posted in Software, Company, Personal | No Comments »

Leverage + Contractor VS. Employee

October 25th, 2006 by Walt Schlender

A few words on leverage here. People are always talking in business books about leverage and using it to your advantage to “accomplish more and more with less and less” — what. I’ve never really understood what they were talking about. They would give a few concrete examples like buying a small house watching it appreciate and then flipping it and re-investing in a larger house, but my business is not houses. Heck, when I started I would have had a hard time affording a house.

Recently it’s been more and more clear to me that I’ve begun to use leverage to grow my business and it’s really interesting what those sources of leverage have been.

When I started contracting a few years ago, I was paid 15$ an hour. Most of you don’t know what a good contractor can earn hourly. It’s a lot. Many earn more than 100$ an hour. The money wouldn’t have covered my bills for long at all but the experience I was getting and the connections I was making were very valuable - At this point, I was leveraging my time and energy into knowledge.

I did good work and I’m pretty good at programming and engineering - It was my hobby in high school, no I didn’t study computer science in college - I’m self taught and I find that being self-taught means that I can learn new languages fast and I’m very creative in solving problems - the creative programmer. Pretty soon my pay had tripled and then I moved to California.

It wasn’t easy getting a foothold in the business when I got to California. I can learn almost any language, but to really understand it takes time and when I first moved, I didn’t know the languages like I do now. I also didn’t have a reputation. I could convince people to hire me though - so I started getting gigs off of craigslist and I learned SO MUCH - about business, programming, you name it. I really polished my web-programming languages during this period - I would take a job not having a clue how I was going to accomplish it and I would fight through. Many times I lost money overall on the job since I would often bid a project flat-rate and then it would take way longer than I had expected. I always finished projects I started though.

Well I’ve built quite a few things for quite a few people and now referrals have started to kick in like crazy. I’m swamped with work and the new form of leverage comes from having steady clients who pay me higher hourly wages than I used to make. Now when I walk into a contract negotiation, I’m smarter and I’m not as hungry - I can afford to negotiate and pass on jobs where the employer isn’t someone who will treat me well.

Another form of leverage is emerging. I’ve been spinning off jobs to other people. Some of the time I’m managing the job. Other times I’ll simply write to all the programming buddies I know. Many of my jobs have come from people passing along work requests they’ve received and which they haven’t been able to fulfill.

I wrote a post about the yousendit guy a while ago and I’m beginning to realize that I’m walking along that path. We’ll see… perhaps the company will really start to grow soon.

Contractor VS. Employee - lesson

I’ve worked for people in jobs in the past - I never really learned how to get more work and the ability to have 5 different employers at once gives me wonderful negotiating power. When contracting, I work ALL THE TIME and I’m completely responsible for the project at hand and that means that I learn 1000 times as much as I ever learned at a job. I have control over my own schedule and I’m developing my own valuable assets - my marketing materials, my skills, my connections and code snippets I can use later (when I write that into the contract)

I love it. It was lonely in the beginning but now I’m constantly calling people I’m working with - getting to know people at conferences, meeting them for lunch and talking about business which is a passion of mine.

Where I need to go from here? — I don’t know how to take a product to market. and I’m terrible at believing in my own ideas. I do much better work for other people than I do for myself. I want to have my own products and my own assets sometime soon so I’m always on the lookout for what I want to devote myself to. I’m also learning to leverage my money into having my projects built. That may be a better avenue for me than building the thing myself. The key is that I know how tech projects should be built so I can hire good people. I cringe for CEOs who don’t understand technology.

I’ve worked for lots of people where not understanding technology completely clouded their vision. I probably have blind spots too - maybe in advertising or artistry or leadership or management or something like that. Anyway, lots to work on.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Company | No Comments »

Getting Married

October 25th, 2006 by Walt Schlender

I’m getting married this Sunday to Yachin You. It’s really interesting to see what happens when you let a family know that you’re going to get married. My family is like a machine and they all sprang into action to make the thing happen.

When we first released the news that we were getting married, we sorta roughly picked a date - Oct 22nd but that date wasn’t set in stone. In particular, I thought it would be cool to get married on Oct 31. The word got sent out to my family and all of a sudden we were receiving emails from my family saying that the wedding would be held in Colorado at my Grandmothers’ house on Oct 22nd.

I don’t know many people in Colorado any more and that was not OK with me. We quickly vetoed that idea and had to write an apology email to the family saying that we had not been the ones making the decision.

Since then, everything has gone much more smoothly. I’ve been EXTREMELY busy with my work (things have really been picking up) and so it’s been really nice having family members handle lots of the details of the wedding.

I think it’s going to be really nice. I’ll post pictures of course!

Posted in Personal | 1 Comment »

The scams of San Francisco

October 11th, 2006 by Walt Schlender

I’ve been scammed twice since I moved out to Berkeley. I guess I’m just trusting and like to try new things because I know most of my friends when I tell them about being scammed swear that it could never happen to them.

Over the weekend we all went out to fleet day to visit the ships and I saw the scammers in full swing swindling people out of their money all along the docks. I thought I’d post a quick story about my experience so that you guys can profit off of my experience.

The scam I fell for the day I moved to San Francisco happened on the BART as I was shuttling to my new home. I was sitting on the train minding my own business when a guy came onto the train. He had 3 bottle caps and a little piece of fuzz. He kept putting the cap over the fuzz really fast and he’d ask people which cap the fuzz was under (I thought this guy was just amateur or something because he was using the fuzz - I’ve since learned that the fuzz and caps are the way it’s done). Well, people on the train began to guess - 2 other guys. And some of the time they’d get it right and other times they’d get it wrong. Well one of the times I spoke up and I was right.

The guy said, put your money on it? Dollar for dollar and it was only a dollar so I said ok. I won and the guy paid me my dollar. Then the guy played the game with another guy who was on the train going 10 for ten (20 dollars in the pool) and the other guy won. I guess I thought for a second, “This guy must just be really bad at this” - he went 50 for 50 with me and everybody around me wanted to see if I’d win and I don’t know… I had 50$ on me so I went in… and I lost.

The crowd was bummed out - 2 other guys and they started saying, “You gotta get your money back man” 100$/100$ and I had 100$ on me and was really confused and then it hit me - These guys all know one another! They’re collectively only out 1$ and I’ve just lost 50$… and the spell was broken.
I saw this scam being performed on the docks and lots of people losing money. In each case the scammer had a bunch of guys who were super excited - egging players on - and people were betting 50$/100$ ~ The key was that the scammer was paying his buddy off with lots of “winnings” while all the targets were losing money.

They’ll NEVER allow you to take pictures, but they’re too busy to come after you if you do take em. So here you guys are:

Exploring 003.jpg
That’s the one I fell for. Pepsi caps and fuzz (must be some reason for this setup)

Just down the street there was another one:

Exploring 004.jpg

I guess it’s amazing how people will jump in and do something they wouldn’t normally do when it seems like everybody is doing it.

Posted in Personal, Marketing | No Comments »

Writers’ block

October 9th, 2006 by Walt Schlender

Oops, I’ve had writers’ block for a few days - that and I’ve been out of town visiting a farm/working on programming some new software for some new clients so writing slipped through the cracks for a few days.

I’m back at my machine and I’m adding entries and picture and stuff again. Today it won’t be anything that deep. Just some neat stuff I saw and took pictures of while I was out exploring today.

A fire hydrant exploded:

Exploring 001.jpg

And the Blue Angels did their thing:

Angels.JPG

And I went to a comedy performance.

Yesterday my girlfriend Bonny gave me a Tabla - Arabic drum so I’ve been listening to belly dance music/watching belly dancing quite a bit - Check this out - Belly Dance Video

I’ve got a neat post for tomorrow. Check back in.

Posted in Personal | 1 Comment »

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