No, not here!!!

Over there! I asked you all politely to visit my man Rory. The very next day as I looked for a flatline my stats increase by a whopping 3 visits! (when your spot’s as lightly traveled as mine you’d notice if a squirrel got too close to the building hosting your HTML/CSS.) Now I’ll ask those extra 3 visitors to round up the other 12 people and head over here. This guy needs the traffic way more than I do. Man, I try to do a good deed and look what happens!

On the real to reel

Lot of talk about video editing lately. Rory’s been giving shots out to me (I have nothing to do with video editing) his homie Clint Rutkas (who may be in the same league as me with video editing) and pointing out another site by Astrid. I’m just starting to read pocketsized and it’s pretty cool. The stuff posted on her home page is off da’ hook. Maybe it’s because I don’t know nothing about filmeotography and cameras and stuff and it’s just as easy to impress me with a Kodak M753 taking mpegs at Hershey Park after hours with poor lighting and calling it a moonlight effect. At any rate the home page looks pretty professional to me. Once again that’s not much of a compliment. (Why do I pretend to give credit while quickly rescinding? It must be that bit of Indian in my family somehow influencing my giving habits and no that doesn’t make sense because it wasn’t the Indians that did the Indian giving analogy I was trying to run with rather the Europeans that quickly took back what they gave to the Indians… I think sometime shortly after the holiday they called Thanksgiving so they could be all like, “thanks for giving me your land you Indian” over a hundred years later and then make jokes with the word “Indian” in it when it should really be like, “You filthy European giver… Gimme that back!” but nobody really thinks about the specifics unless they’re either smoked out, drunk, or bored in the middle of the night after baking cupcakes and looking at tiled mapping code which has nothing to do with the topic up above but I digress…) It’s funny because I’ve been looking to do a little video tinkering of my own as a hush-hush project that I would spring at the party people I work with… Ssshhh… don’t tell noone ’bout this ok?

The point is video editing is a cool thing to do. It lowers your cholesterol and provides much needed anti oxidants. Say no to drugs and yes to video tinkering. For more details on how to edit your baby’s first steps send a self addressed stamped envelope (with signed blank check tucked inside) to:

Emporer Cliff
2404 Killamanjaror Ave.
Slaughtersville, PA 19101

Your (check will be cashed and your) request will be forwarded to a qualified professional. Please allow 3-4 weeks for processing. All rights (to torture) reserved. Copywright (plagiarism wrong) 2007-2010.

Sites I’m keeping an eye on

I posted a while back about the listings in my blogroll. I stand by them however there are a couple in there that I have not yet read much of. Shortly after posting about my blogroll I started throwing a couple of sites on it that looked interesting. It’s nothing personal if your site is there and I haven’t read much of it. It’s just that my eyes only move left to right so fast and there are only so many hours in a day. While I do read the many of the links listed there I plan on becoming familiar with all of them. With that I’d like to list a couple of other interesting sites that have caught my eye. Rory links specifically which makes them more intriguing. There’s this Astrid place with a pocket-sized cinnamontog… cimanym…tog… synonymtograf… aww bust it! It’s this gal that does filmy type stuff. I love video and graphic stuff so I might be checking it out. Then there’s Massif. I’ve seen his comments repeatedly on but I didn’t make the connection to the creation story until recently. Somehow he ended up as a god in the story so there must be something up there. Finally there’s this Yuvi cat that Rory mentioned at least once or twice so I got to peep his stuff. there were plenty others on the Neopoleon linked in list but these are the few that caught my eye. If you got John Blaze stuff but I ain’t recognizin’ let me know. Like I said I can’t list and read everything but I will list the things that I pay attention. Also, if you’re into the tech programming stuff like I am then it’s well worth your while to check out Juxie. I listed this spot a while back and recently I’ve been catching up with it. Lots of good things there. And always keep an eye on my main peeps Meryln and Tiago. as well as the others listed on my roll.

Linking Logs

I’ve never jumped on the Rory bandwagon before but I do admit that I dig his writing. (Most of it anywayz, except for when he’s rambling about killing himself b/c we don’t like seeing depressed people right?) Anyhow he’s doing this linked thing and now I’m all like wassup wid dat? Call my the Mad Blogger because I got John Blaze stuff… I mean my blog is more John Blaze than than! I’ma tell you why I’m mad son… Y’all just ain’t recognizing! I mean, yeah, he’s got his little smartestmanintheworld thing going. I’m all like, “that’s cool” and all. But I’ve been blogging about hard core tech stuff. I-I’m making headline… I ain’t made no money yet! I ain’t got no in-bound links. I got all dat good stuff like how to unit test ya’ style sheets. People’s just ain’t up on that stuff on the real. But peep this, right? I’m gonna drop this linking log thing cuz I know my stuff is hot. We’ll just see how many hit I get on the in-bound… after I drop some more hot stuff like sigining MIDlets from your Mac and roping MPowerplayer into IntelliJ-Idea and Maven. Check it out y’all…

(All of you that ain’t up on it, the above is just a parody of the Mad Rapper and a shameless attempt at inbound links, with the, “tell’em why you mad son” and all. I think it’s funny but your mileage may vary.)

And then they laugh at you

There’s nothing worse than doing a presentation then realizing your software is non-functional. I don’t know if being a software developer makes it worse or better because when you kinda know what’s wrong 1 1/2 minutes before the curtain call you tend to panic even more because you have a rough idea how many lines of code and how many code/test/debug cycles it would take to fix the problem. When you’re just a regular user you have a little extra confidence that the old reboot/restart trick may work. Hi, I’m Cliff and you’re here because you have nothing better to do with your computer than aim it randomly at various tech blogs and pretend that you’re abreast of technology. (Abreast! Ha… why would anyone want to be a breast?)

Anyhow, I’m writing not because I’ve been laughed at (recently) or unprepared for a power point (in the past two-three days) but because I’m afraid of being laughed at or unprepared. I’m writing because I’m silently working on material.. filler material for those embarrassing moments when you’re caught with your pants down. If you read some of the nonsense I’ve posted in the past you’ll see craziness like my paying homage to a Java exception, my fight with Verizon, and my hollering about why test coverage is so unimportant. You may also find a reference to hip-hop sprinkled in with JUnit teachings or something like that ever now and again. Generally I’m a nut ball. I post here because I only get about 100-120 hits a day 100 of which are web-bots and random Google searches. That leaves about 20 or fewer hits which originate from family or coworkers who want to know why I waste time talking about Groovy at the bars instead of indulging in more interesting topics like who won last night’s game. What I’m really saying is nobody cares about this dumb site because it’s whack. That’s why I post practically anything I want because I know nobody’s going to laugh at me. I can go in unprepared, act a fool, and leave all while saving face. Then I can learn from the stoopidity I leave littered around the net. I can learn which wise cracks are funny (none) and what I sound like in front of a crowd. I’m a shy person so my speaking in public is nothing like my speaking here. I ramble, repeat myself and never get to the point, while most of my writing is more focused on point with timely delivery. Today’s topic is no different. I can’t remember where I left off but I’m sure you’ve learned something by now.

People come from from across the country pointing their browsers in my direction while they stare holes through the hypertext emitted from their buzzing monitors. They come, read, and leave enlightened. That is, after all, my gift to you all… the gift of enlightenment… by the way has anyone tried the latest release of the Enlightenment desktop for Linux? I think I last tried e16 but I’m sure it’s more than mature by now. What are we on, V18? I forget… I’ve been soo far removed from my Linux hacking days. Have any of you been keeping an eye on (K)Ubuntu? What’s up with KDE plasma? Are all the kinks worked out of Compiz/Fusion yet? Wasn’t the biggest hassle related to proprietary video drivers running Xgl? If you don’t know what I’m talking about in the past few sentences then I suggest you start here and get with the program. Linux is more than an operating system, it’s a way of life for some of us. Ever since I got off of Windoze every other OS and desktop just felt soo much better, cleaner, more responsiv, more fun. Even some of the lightweight desktops on Linux outshine XP in the worst way. Well, it’s getting late and I’ve made my point… get a Mac and you’ll be happy. Don’t forget to try out Groovy and always end our statements with a closing . Show ya’ love people…

Everything but the kitchen synch!

I got this cool MacBook that I’ve been yapping about and I’m getting hooked. It started when I had my first conversation with it. I’ve never met a PC (or computer of any type) that I could talk to. So then I started doing development on it. It’s got a native bash shell, none of that Cygwin stuff, it’s got an easy to use interface, and everything just works the way you would naturally expect it to. As a testiment to that fact let me explain what happened the first time I did a power-point presentation with it. I setup in our conference room and plugged the projector into the DVI (using the supplied VGA to DVI adapter) and the thing knew what I wanted to do. It figured out that there was an extra screen attached and split its display accordingly. I merely had to drag my power point window off of the Mac display onto the projected screen. I could review my notes on the Mac display while I gave my presentation! How slick is that? We recently I’ve been doing a lot of Windows development and I got this new flat screen ViewSonic which makes things pretty. So now I connect the new monitor to the MacBook and run Parallels on the Mac display with OS X showing on the flatscreen. It’s like two computers side by side without the hassle of an extra keyboard and mouse. Whenever I want to do something in Windows I just pull my mouse over to my Mac display on the right and click a Window to start working. Whenever I want to do something on OS X (check email, code in Idea, run a shelll script, etc.) I drag my mouse back over to the left flatscreen display and go to town. Then I have my Core Duo Wintel Dell that I use. It has it’s own flatscreen connected but I’m finding less use for that screen (along with the attached mouse and keyboard) because I can just remote desktop in from my Mac and bring that up on the windows display and use it just as easily.

So what’s wrong?
As cool as I think my setup is there’s always something that annoys me. First off, I have a lot of redundancy. Thunderbird runs on all three machines (My Dell, My Mac, and the VM on my Mac) but it’s not too painfull since I use IMAP accounts keeping most of my mail on the server and filtered into folders. But there’s the calendar problem. I got used to Lightning with T-Bird on Windows but that doesn’t work on the Mac, so all of my calendar entries have to be re-entered in my Mac iCal. I have Entourage but I don’t use that because I like TBird better. Maybe I should just buckle and use Outlook/Entourage and things would be more simple. I was hoping, however, that there was some sort of slick way to auto synch iCal with my Lightning calendar on my Windows box and also over the VM but I haven’t discovered it yet. Also I got this blackberry that I want to keep up to date with the contacts from my Mac. I find myself frequently adding entries in both address books with no clever way to synch things up. I guess Entourage may be my best bet for this as well. I’d just rather use the Mac’s native software for PIM (that’s geek talk for email, calendar, contacts, etc.) If there are any Mac gurus that occasionally take pity on me speak up. What’s the best way to synchronize PIM data between a Mac, a blackberry, and two Windows instances?

Cliff Vs. Verizon Wireless – 175 is the number

So I’m at work and I hang up the phone, right? …And the net result is $175 credit applied to my latest Verizon wireless bill. The obvious question is how did we get to this point. I mean, whats’up with Verizon wireless and why would hanging up a wired telephone at work apply monetary value to your personal wireless phone bill? We’ll get to that in a moment but first… what’up y’all???!!! I’ve been absent from my regular posting for quite some time. I mean there’s about 6-7 recent stories backed up in my queue but I never have time to finish and publish anything. (Look for some of these queued up stories in about 6-7 business days as I carve tiny holes in my busy work and over scheduled personal calendars to dedicate to things such as Groovy, wireless J2ME development on the Mac, Mac OS X and Quicksilver, Mint Linux and more.) Man, I miss you all. I haven’t looked at my stats but I’m sure they’ve sunk to the single digits. No worries. I have some new stuff that’ll hopefully bring some of my crowd back. (It should also entice new-comers who’ve never heard of a Linux Kernel or a TCP/IP port.)

Back to the point. what’s with this $175, the wireless bill and all? It started a long time ago when Cliff decided to buy into the Verizon network and purchase a chocolate phone. (It was an actual mobile phone with the brand name of chocolate not a choclate bar molded to the shape of a mobile phone.) These phones are actually kinda cool especially with the Verizon VCast option. I was enjoying my phone and life was good… but then I had to get it cut off. Not because of shoddy service, bad hardware or whatever but because of an Embarq screw up. Yes, Embarq’s screw up was the reason I had my Verizon service disconnected. I’d elaborate more but it looks better in print if I move on with my story. (Suspense builds.) So after canceling I get these two Verizon bills totaling over 300! In self defense I assumed Ki-pong-ya-ebu, (…that’s basic form #1 from my childhood taekwando training. Even as I still remember the specific names for the stances I continued to get beat up in high school.) picked up the phone (still maintaining my stance), and dialed customer support. I wanted to explode with profanity but Christian teaching and prior experience held my tongue and cooled my temper as I casually explained my dilemma to the rep on the other end.

Me: I see a discrepancy on my recent wireless bill. It shows a balance of $206 but I canceled my service well within the 30 day trial period.

Verizon Rep [innocent and will remain nameless/blameless]: Ok sir let me look into your account to see if I can figure out the problem.

Me [thinking, “give me a lower number you scumball or I’ll torch your workplace and harass your neighbors!”]: Thank you.

Verizon Rep [innocent and still nameless/blameless]: I see they charged you an early termination fee on one of your lines.

Me [bubbling with anger and the following comment, “See, that’s the brain-dead stuff I’m talking about! I just told you I was well within the 30 trial and here you go with an early termination fee!”]: I see

(twenty second pause and moment of silence on both ends broken only by faint keyboard clatter on the Verizon end of the phone.)

Verizon Rep [sounding guilty but still nameless/blameless as before]: let me see if I can go in and correct that for you.

Me [Surprised and excited at hearing the words “correct that for you”]: Ok.

(Three additional minutes of quiet keyboard clattering ensues)

Verizon Rep [completely innocent and now my bestest buddy]: I’m sorry for the delay sir. There’s a few screens I have to go through and update.

Me [choking on a rainbow of joy]: Take your time.

(Two more minutes of quiet keyboard clattering…)

Me [speaking in my big-boy professional voice]: With whom am I speaking?

New Best Buddy Verizon Guy: My name is ****.
(name omitted to protect the guilty, me, from additional follow up charges)

Me [continuing in my big-boy professional voice]: And do you have a rep or employee number?

New Best Buddy Verizon Guy: Yes sir that number is 1234.

(more silence while screens are updated and balances are deflated in Verizon-town.)

New Best Buddy Verizon Guy [politely]: OK sir. I’ve taken care of that problem for you and you will have a $175 credit applied to your bill.

Me [seeing blue diamonds, red hearts, green clovers, and teddy-bears yet still pretending to be professional]: Alright, so that should be decremented from the $206 reflected in my latest bill?

Cool As Ice Verizon Guy: After taxes sir. I’m not sure what the final amount will be after the adjustments are made.

Me [cautious as diamonds, hearts, clovers and teddy-bears evaporate into reality]: Fine. Then can you confirm that the $175 will be applied to my subtotal before taxes? Also can you confirm that I am not being charged any late fees or extra charges due to the bill not being paid? I ask because I still have no idea what my total amount is.

Polite and Helpful Verizon Guy: Yes that credit will be applied to your subtotal before taxes. There will be no late fees or penalties and actually you can call in and phone pay after three days when the credit completely processes. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Me [lips puckered to be applied to Mr. Verizon’s rear end]: Not at all. You’ve been a great help today ****, Thank you for your assistance.

Verizon Guy: And thank you for doing business with Verizon Wireless. You have a great day.

There’s a couple of things to note here. First thing is my decision to spring into action and make the call. Far too often we consumers accept the mathematical prowess and computer accuracy of various companies as superior to our own common sense. Double check your bills, your monthly statements, your receipts, and anything else dealing with money. If you see something that doesn’t add up or feel quite right, report it. It sounds like second nature but you’d be surprised at how many accounting and transaction errors occur on a daily basis, even within your own life. You probably got ripped off twice on your way to work if your weren’t careful. For example, in my experience I have yet to enter into a telecommunications deal where there wasn’t some mistake or discrepancy. (Cable, telephone, Broadband, Wireless, providers all try to sneak extra charges and remove services you were promised on sign up.) Stand up for yourself as a consumer and make the salesman, customer service guy, or whatever rep explain everything in detail. Have a calculator handy as you work through charges.

Another thing to point out from the aboves discussion would be my asking for a name and a customer or rep number. Whenever you speak over the phone to a representative make sure you record their name and rep number. This is critical for tracking down discrepancies. I saved $60 on my phone bill over last year because I wrote this information down when I initially ordered my service. You have a lot more power when you comment, “I spoke with Andrew, representative #938, on April 15 last week and he said…” than you do when you say, “The dude I spoke with a while ago told me I wouldn’t be charged for that service…” Always record every detail. Write down every charge/transaction you agree on and every one you don’t. Contest the ones that don’t make sense and if you don’t get satisfaction ask politely to speak with a supervisor.

That brings me to my third point from above. Notice how I kept my cool? I’ve made the mistake far too many times of overreacting with a customer service rep. If you show them respect and mechanically talk through a discrepancy often times they can reverse charges and apply credits to things you may not even be entitled to receive. Think of it like remotely programming a computer on the fly. Saying the wrong thing can result in an irrecoverable error so be patient and think each word through. To hammer my last point home consider the above conversation under a different context. Here’s how it could’ve gone if I had just gotten in late after being stuck in rush hour traffic and also after having a nasty fight at home.

Me [poised to jump through the phone in a moment’s notice]: I see a discrepancy on my recent wireless bill. It shows a balance of $206 but I canceled my service well within the 30 day trial period.

Verizon Rep [innocent and should remain nameless/blameless]: Ok sir let me look into your account to see if I can figure out the problem.

Me: give me a lower number you scumball or I’ll torch your workplace and harass your neighbors!

Verizon Rep [innocent and still nameless/blameless]: Sir you were charged an early termination fee on one of your lines.

Me [bubbling with uncontrolled anger]: See, that’s the brain-dead stuff I’m talking about! I just told you I was well within the 30 trial and here you go with an early termination fee!

Verizon Rep [Calm and completely in control of the situation and my wallet]: Sir the line that we charged you for was not converted over to another number. If you read the fine print on the contract you signed you will note that the thirty day garauntee applies only to numbers that are converted to another provider. I’m sorry but you’ll have to remit this payment.

Me [$206 lighter in net worth yet loading pistol loudly so it can be noticed over an analog line]: Look here! I refuse to pay the damned bill. Either you fix this mess or I’ll fix you!

Verizon Rep [still in control of my wallet]: I’m sorry for your misunderstanding sir. Also I must inform you that this is the second notice we’ve sent so there will be an additional $40 late charge applied on top of the $206.

Me [choking on daggers of rage and $246 lighter in overall net worth]: Gimme your supervisor you putz!

(Two minutes of quiet keyboard clattering…)

Unnamed voice: Hello?

Me [completely unaware of who I was just talking to]: With whom am I speaking?

Voice: I am the floor supervisor, Murray, may I help you sir?

Me [continuing in my little-boy tantrum voice]: I was talking to the other guy and he tol me I had to pay something that I don’t agree with!

Murray [also in control of my wallet]: Yes sir our records indicate that you were charged an early termination fee for a number that was not ported. Also I see a mistake in the bill. We were supposed to charge you for the actual use the secondary line as well. There will be another bill sent out with the pro-rated $50 usage and the applied monthly charge of $119.

(more silence broken by the sound of pistol cocking gestures.)

Me [$415 in the hole]: OK I’ve had it! I’m going to report you all to the BBB and we’ll see who has the last laugh!

You see a lot can go wrong when you talk to a rep. You have to be diligent and professional while walking a tight line of composure. I’d love to give more stories of how great I am and how my code is much better than yours but the clock is well past quitting time and I gotta bounce. (“Bounce” is urban slang for “bye-bye talk to you later!”) Get up with me people!

(The author leaves the last phrase as an excercise for you to decipher.)