Everybody Dance. Now.

09.12.2014

In need of a placeholder until I'm feeling creative and wordy, so you get Paul Rudd from 2007 in I Could Never be Your Woman.


random

Re-remote

08.31.2014

I switched over to using Logitech Harmony remotes (evidently) in 2007. I was tired of having, at a minimum, 3 remotes laying around for the TV, receiver, and DVD player. The benefit of the Harmony remotes over others of the time was that the Harmony was programmed via the internet so that it wouldn't become obsolete as new electronics came to market. Instead of punching in a PIN to program the remote to work with the TV I now had, only to hope my future TV would have an equivalent PIN, Logitech just updates drivers on their website and everything magically works.

The 880 was my first remote which I thoroughly enjoyed. Around my birthday soon thereafter the 1000 was on sale which had more of a tricorder feel. I used the 880 in for the bedroom TV and the 1000 for the living room TV. The problem was that the 1000 was not suited for couch surfing as the device + button layout don't lend for 1-handed channel surfing. So after a while I picked up another 880. That was almost 4 years ago.

One of the 880s is starting to show it's age. It's been dropped a couple of times. Pieces of plastic have fallen out. In fact, there's something rattling around in it now. It still works, it just feels like I have to press buttons longer, and sometimes harder, than I need to in order to get it working.

I don't channel surf on the living room TV any more. The majority of time I do anything on that TV, I'm playing Grand Theft Auto 5. Every once in a while I'll watch a DVD. Gone are the days of living room 1-handed channel flipping, so I pulled the Harmony 1000 out of the drawer I had tossed it into years ago, charged it up, and updated it through the Logitech site. Now I've got a 6 year old remote that feels new in the living room.

I could probably download an app for some iDevice that would do the same thing, but I like having a dedicated remote.


random

JavaScript 4 Hire

08.29.2014

Today"s blog is for my own ego, to show what nearly 2 decades of web development actually does for me.

Yesterday Jacob told me of a little JavaScript job I could do for a site he manages. The crux is that sometimes an id will be passed along through the URL, and when that happens it needs to replace that id in a link on 2 pages. People might browse around on the site, but if they originally come in with that special id, it needs to be the one in the link on those 2 pages.

The actual description of what was needed wasn"t much like the above, as it went into unneeded detail about where links were coming from and going to, with special names for each.

This all had to be accomplished via JavaScript as the site is hosted on a server with no server-script side access. Jacob thought of because I know JavaScript and passed it along. While I know JavaScript, I have to look up a lot of the syntax, but I know how JavaScript works. Especially with the help of the Google.

I talked to Jacob to make sure I knew what was going on (see my re-written description in the 2nd paragraph above) and went over my plan:

With the above in mind I set out on the handy home PC and got to work. I found a function online to read in variables through the URL so JavaScript could access them. I found a nice set of functions that let me create and read JavaScript cookies by name (by default it"s just a string with all of the cookie names and values stored). I found a good example of regular expression replacement. After a good hour of programming, which took two to three times that as I kept getting sidetracked and was doing laundry at the same time, I sent it all off to Jacob to try out.

And it didn"t work.

The id would change on that initial page load with the id in the URL, but then it got lost.

So I looked at saw that on the live site each page appears under a different directory. Maybe it was a problem with cookie path permissions? I made a local test with files in sub-directories and had the same results as Jacob. The problem I suddenly had was that everything looked right in debuggers, inspectors, etc. Everywhere but where I had an alert box that was supposed to pop up when JavaScript found the cookie. After a quick chat with Jerry, I decided to just write out what the JavaScript cookie string was.

It turns out the handy dandy functions I found online for creating and getting named cookies worked fine if nothing else on the site wrote a cookie, as these functions used a completely different delimiter than what already existed. As such, my new cookie was getting merged into an existing cookie thanks to having the wrong delimiter. I Googled up a fix (just show me functions that work better!), tested it out, and sent it to Jacob.

And it still didn"t work.

Luckily I had an early breakthrough that would have had me beating my head for a long time. I noticed that on the live site, if I went to http://website.com?id=blah it quickly redirected to http://website.com/?id=blah. This is probably a side effect of some type of SEO URL parsing optimization. Unfortunately, it wasn"t cooperating with my script to read the URL and grab out the id as that added slash broke the JavaScript window.location.search parameter and left it blank as opposed to filling it full of juicy parameters to parse. After a couple of passes of trial and error I figured out how to get the parameter values out, and from there tested some more and passed it along to Jacob one more time.

This time it worked.

This was a little project that was estimated to take 2 hours, that I knew was really 30 minutes of coding. I worked on it off and on for 6 hours, which was at least 2 hours of real work. While I couldn"t remember the syntactical details of all of the JavaScript, I knew enough about how JavaScript worked, what it"s capable of, and more importantly what it"s not capable of, that I got this working and was never in fear of it not. Each time Jacob deployed the code and it didn"t work, I knew where to look (and what to look for) to get a fix coded.

Over the past 2 months of sending out resumes, I tend to underestimate and undervalue my skills when I talk to people - mainly recruiters. While some JavaScript programmer, or even a front-end developer, could have made the above chunk of code in much less than 2 hours, and there"s a good chance it would have worked the first time instead of the third, I can do that plus a whole lot more. Plus, I enjoy doing this kind of stuff. It was a little frustrating when the code didn"t work, but got a little excited about figuring out what was going on and how to fix it, because I knew that I was going to get it done.

I will now return to my humble self. Except when I talk about how far I"ve been walking.


programming/interweb

Dead Walking Season 4... No, 1?

08.28.2014

This evening, after having a pretty good day, I decided to eschew my normal routine of watching and coding along with some Unity tutorials and instead popped in disc 1 of season 4 of the Walking Dead, freshly delivered to my stoop yesterday. At the end of the first episode I was completely lost.

The gang is back at the prison. There's a whole gaggle of people milling about and I don't understand who they are or why they got there.

Somehow I've skewed story lines between the comic and the tv show. I knew it would happen. I remember it happening a little when I was watching a couple of episodes from season 3. But I've got some Walking Dead Dementia/Alzheimer's going on now.

Is would make the most sense to either re-watch the last episode or two from season 3, or more easily go online and look at season summaries. But this is an opportunity for me to start over and re-discover the episodes. I like Walking Dead as it captures what I like about the zombie genre - you're not going to win, just see how long you can survive. I think I remember most of what happens in the first season, but I'm going to start over with episode 1 anyway.

I watch movies multiple times and enjoy them. I've watched the entire run of Friends and Frasier multiple times. Why should I feel so bad doing the same for Walking Dead?


movies/tv/dvd

Job Searches and SQL.

08.24.2014

After almost a month I'm still on the job hunt. That sounds a little bad, but I'm still limiting my job hunt searches to those jobs I wouldn't dread going to (i.e. not on the Arsenal). On Thursday I had a phone screen/interview with the local credit union that was supposed to last around half an hour but instead was closer to an hour. That may sound like good news, but the more I talked to the guy the more I thought of how I wasn't a good fit for the job. A lot of that stems from my lack of formal learning of .net and the Microsoft world it comes from. I know how to do plenty of things, I just don't know the name of what it is that I'm doing. A lot of that comes from years of anti-Microsoft thinking ingrained in my head.

My phone call also led me to think that I need to add more details into my resume. I worked on getting my resume down to 2 pages and only managed 2½ instead. When I was talking to this guy, he seem shocked that I knew HTML. I've been writing HTML for 18 years. How did I not stress that on paper? With that in mind, I've gone back and filled in more details per job and listing all of the little things I've done, especially HTML, CSS, and writing SQL queries, as those seem to be the big questions I'm asked about.

Speaking of SQL queries, my phone call had an interesting question or two when I told the guy I knew and had written plenty of SQL. He casually asked if I knew the difference between a LEFT JOIN and a RIGHT JOIN, and I casually answered yes and told him it just depended which side of the tables you wanted your records. He then asked casually if I knew what a UNION was and I told him it returned all the records from both tables that met the search criteria. His questions were so easy I started thinking about it afterwards. Was there something simple I had missed? I don't know if I had ever written a UNION query, but I made JOINS all the time. 99% of the time I just used the default LEFT JOIN and didn't really think anything about it. So I went to the Google to make sure.

Luckily what I thought was the difference between a LEFT and RIGHT JOIN was right. They're the same, at least the way I think about it. I found out that UNION is a little different than what I thought, or more importantly how I was asked. In a JOIN, records are combined in the results. In a UNION, records are tacked on to the results.

How often am I really going to need to use a UNION?


programming/interweb

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As always, correct spelling is optional in any blog entry. Keep in mind that any links more than a year old may not be active, especially the ones pointing back to Russellmania (I like to move things around!).

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