• 2011-11-11 12:00:00

    New beginnings – sleep(6566400)

    It has been a very long time since I last blogged.

    The primary reason is that I have been busy and somewhat lazy. Hopefully that trend (the laziness) will not last that much and I will be able to post in higher frequency.

    The biggest update for me came this July. I was actively searching for a new employment opportunity for quite some time, but due to the current market situation, it has been a really difficult task.

    In July I received (and accepted) an offer from Avectra Inc. I am now a PHP developer for MemberFuse™, a professional networking application that integrates with the client's association management software and builds an online community for that client.

    My colleagues and I are programming in PHP using a frameworks such as Doctrine, Zend Framework, Smarty on the client side. The application we produce is offered as SAAS (Software As A Service) and we have well over 1 million users.

    Although adjusting to the new environment was rough and the learning curve was steep (it didn't help that one colleague decided to resign and I inherited his workload from week 2), I managed to survive and I am more and more confident every day.

    I can only say that working with smart people that push you to excel is a blessing!

    The second update is this blog's location. With the introduction of the new dynamic templates in Blogger, I decided to move from Wordpress (and my personal installation for my blog) to Blogger.

    The downside was that Blogger could not import my blog. I would always get errors when trying to upload the XML file and after a few tries I decided to go the manual way. I therefore sat down and copied and pasted all the content that I had posted in the past to the new platform.

    Luckily it was not a very difficult task, but it was time consuming. Last night I managed to finish everything and write this blog post.

    With this move unfortunately I lost all the comments on my posts and I am sure that there will be some broken links here and there but in the end it will all work out.

    It was my intention to post this message today (11-11-11) at 11:11 but I kinda messed up the scheduling so the post is being posted a few hours later.

    I hope you will enjoy my posts.

  • 2011-02-06 13:47:00

    A look in the past and the future

    It has been months since I last posted a blog post. A lot of things have happened since August and I have a lot of material to post - just not the discipline to sit down and proof all the drafts so that I can post them.

    2010

    2010 has been a rough year mostly on a personal level. I lost my brother in law in March, my daughter was born in May, there was great uncertainty at work during the summer, an upgrade went bad for Long Hair Care Forum to name a few of the highlights.

    Since this is officially my first year of blogging, I was happy to see some of the statistics for that year (well 8 months to be exact since I haven't posted since August).

    Visits 8,940
    Pageviews 11,979
    Pages/Visit 1.41
    Bounce Rate 81.34%
    Avg Time on Site 00:01:10
    % New Visits 85.04%

    The most visited posts were:

    Google Apps and Google Accounts merge with 1,601 pageviews (13.37%) Subversion Backup [How-To] with 1,289 pageviews (10.76%) Android 2.2 (Froyo) Review with 1,124 pageviews (9.38%)

    Not that bad for a first year.

    2011

    When I started blogging my main focus was to mostly address coding issues. However due to the plethora of solutions on the Internet, the content that I wanted to relay was not that interesting or had been covered a hundred times or more. For instance I did start posting about design patterns here and here, but at the same time Giorgio Sironi started blogging about design patterns and did an excellent job at it, so that topic was scrapped. My posts then started covering a much broader scope, mostly that of technology with a small personal flare.

    For 2011 I will continue on the same scope. I intend on blogging about interesting things technologically, how-to's and topics that I want to share with the community.

    As always, whatever is presented in this blog is my personal opinion. Every post covered here as well with any code are free of copyright and you are free to use them in your projects at your own risk.

    A big thank you to everyone that visited this blog whether you shared your opinion with me or not. I hope to meet the expectations of producing interesting content in the future.

  • 2010-05-31 12:21:00

    2010 Memorial Day

    Today, the Memorial Day is celebrated across the USA. There are similar celebrations in Greece, not the same day as in the US but remembering and honoring the veterans for their sacrifices for the freedoms we and our families enjoy.

    I received an email this morning which I thought was too precious to be archived in my mail folders. Since I hate mass mailing and chain emails, I thought I would duplicate the email here for my archiving but also for everyone else to see.

    Please note that I am not the original author of the email and I do not know if it has appeared as a blog post or an article someplace. I do not own the images presented below either so if there is a copyright issue, please let me know and I will remove them immediately. If you know who the original author is, please let me know so that I can give them the mention they deserve.

    MEMORIAL DAY

    It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.


    It is the VETERAN, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.


    It is the VETERAN, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.



    It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.



    It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.



    It is the VETERAN, not the politician, Who has given us the right to vote.



    It is the VETERAN who salutes the Flag,



    It is the VETERAN who serves under the Flag,




    ETERNAL REST GRANT THEM O LORD,
    AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.

    No matter what the country of your origin, there are always some people that step up in difficult situations. Those men and women gladly give their lives for the better good, so that others can enjoy a better future. Those people are the Veterans that we must always remember and honor.

    There is plenty of material regarding Memorial Day on the Internet. A site worth visiting is http://www.usmemorialday.org/ and two videos worth watching on YouTube are http://youtu.be/afdsDNYbpY and http://youtu.be/wK0T4pVHP28

  • 2010-05-18 12:00:00

    Update

    It has been more than a month since I last blogged. I started a couple of blog posts but they are mostly ideas written down than structured posts, hence they are in my draft folder.

    Throughout this month and change that I have been absent (I know my favorite readers have missed me - all 5 of you and no mom you are not in that count) many things have happened that made me sit back and reflect on what I have and what I have lost.

    As any other family living the American Dream, we outgrew our current car capacity and therefore had to purchase a minivan!

    We decided to get the Dodge Grand Caravan mostly due to the fact that it looks great and also because we had a Dodge for the past 10 years and the features on it were exactly what we needed. The new vehicle would accommodate easily ourselves, our son Dimosthenis, our 2 year old Golden Retriever Hairy and our soon to arrive daughter Zoe, with plenty of room for our 'stuff' when going on short trips.

    So the weekend after we purchased the minivan we decided to drive to Delaware, where my in-laws live to surprise them. They always love it when Dimosthenis visits so we thought it would be a good idea to spend the weekend there. We woke up relatively early, packed our stuff and were on our way to the beach. It was when we stopped to fill the minivan up when we heard the news.

    Jim - my brother in law - had passed in his sleep. It was all a bad dream, I did not want to believe it but there was no denying it.

    James Ruel Poston died peacefully in his sleep on March 20th. Cause: Heart condition.

    We turned back home, let Hairy in the house (our neighbor was going to look after him) and headed straight to Baltimore where Jim's apartment was. The whole family gathered there,  and inevitably we had to deal with the mundane logistics of the situation i.e. moving all of his stuff out of the apartment and cleaning it. It took a great deal of effort do do so and the psychological burden of the event did not help. A few days later, exhausted physically and psychologically we managed to complete the task.

    Jim's obituary reads:

    James Reuel Poston, 40, died Sunday, March 20, 2010, peacefully in his home.

    James was born April 11, 1969 in Washington, D.C. to Joy and Phillip Poston. He studied sports broadcast journalism in college – a passion he carried with him throughout his life. Family and friends will always remember his wonderful sense of humor and strong commitment to those he loved.

    James is survived by his parents, Joy and Steve Smith and Phillip and Susan Poston; grandmother Mary “YiaYia” Pantazis; his sister Tia and brother-in law Nikolaos; brothers Jonathan and Peter; sisters Lauren and Abigail; and nephew Dimosthenis.

    A funeral service was held Thursday, March 25, at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 8805 Coastal Highway, Ocean City, Md. Interment was in Bethel Cemetery, Lewes. In lieu of flowers, make donations to the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, ripkenfoundation.org.

    Arrangements by Watson Funeral Home, Millsboro.

    On Thursday, 25th of March 2010, Jim was buried in Lewes, DE. Family and friends gathered to say goodbye for the last time.

    Jim will never be forgotten. His goofiness, smile, kind heart, unconditional love towards his nephew and infinite knowledge about sports will always be the things that defined him.

    After the 40 day service following his passing, we started getting ready for a new arrival, our daughter Zoe Dimitra Dimopoulos.

    Zoe Dimitra was born at 12:06 on the 3rd of May 2010. She weighed 7lbs 11oz and was 20 inches tall. She came out screaming, but soon was calm and happy in her mother's hands. Her name means Life in Greek, and it is also the name of my mother in law. It is a tradition to name your children with the names of your parents or in-laws.

    We decided that she will have a middle name (Greeks rarely have middle names) and it is Dimitra.

    The reason we chose this middle name is to honor my recently departed brother in law Jim. His Greek name was Dimitris (it translates roughly to James in English) and Dimitra is the female version of that name. James/Dimitris was also my wife's grandfather ('pappous' in Greek), so we thought that it would be nice to remember him too this way.

    It has been a really rough month and a half, filled with tears, sorrow, tears, joy. Life goes on and Zoe is here with us.

    I have started taking the train again to go to work which will give me roughly 3 hours uninterrupted programming and blogging. I will finally be able to continue on some of my projects like the <angular/> bug tracker, a blog based on Google App Engine, Python development and more.

    Stay tuned!

  • 2009-11-08 12:00:00

    New Blog

    Hello everyone,

    I finally gave in and decided to become a bit serious with my blog. I have been trying to find time to update this website for years and finally decided I cannot procrastinate any more.

    So welcome to my new site. I have installed the latest and greatest Wordpress version and although I have never used this software, it seems pretty straightforward i.e. it works :)

    Feel free to browse around. So far I have moved all my past posts into this site, in an effort to keep what I had already written in case anyone ever wanted to look for those blog posts.

    You can subscribe to this blogs feeds and you can follow me on Twitter or on Google Plus.

    Thanks for visiting and as always I welcome your comments!

    Nikos

  • 2009-11-07 12:00:00

    Ultimate Incompetence #2

    Further to my previous post Ultimate Incompetence..., it has been a week or so since we contacted the DMV so as to have the suspension lifted from my wife's non existent (for a year now) VA drivers license. We were promised that the information will be sent in the mail and that we will have to act when we receive it.

    Luckily we are vigilant about these things - especially deadlines - and we followed up with the DMV yesterday. To our surprise the lady that my wife talked to yesterday was a hundred times more helpful that the previous one. From what my wife tells me, the lady yesterday did not sound bored and was not dragging her words, was very knowledgeable and did indeed help us with our problem.

    It appears that we did not have to wait for any documentation from the DMV in the mail. The lady yesterday told my wife that she can fax the relevant documentation to my wife, then my wife can pay over the phone and all the relevant information (suspension lift, receipt of payment etc.) can be faxed back to my wife. The whole process taking less than the phone call last week.

    Sure enough, 15 minutes later I got an email with the scanned receipt of payment as well as the statement notifying all interested parties that my wife no longer has a suspension on her VA license.

    I am really appalled by the laziness of certain people. I will give the benefit of the doubt to the lady that my wife spoke to originally (a week or so ago) for not knowing. I somehow do not thing that this was the case. From what it sounded like, the information we received was filled with boredom and the attitude leave me alone I just want to stay here, get paid and do nothing.

    It is sad to see this kind of attitude in organizations throughout the US. I have lived the first half of my life in Greece and have seen bureaucracy at its best – aka if you don't know someone to do you a favor you won't get far. Lazy people or people that do not take pride in their work and do not do it well, hurt us all. They waste their time, our country's money (and I am using me as part of the US since it is my home for the last three years) and more importantly yours and my time.

    Is there a solution to this problem? I do not know. What I do know though is that if you don't get anywhere or you are met with unhelpful people, it is always best to escalate the matter and talk to the supervisor or the supervisor's supervisor. If all fails, a letter (having things in writing always draws attention) to the higher management might get some heads turned.

    You or me alone might end up with zero effect to the problem. If however, everyone starts doing this, then we will definitely get attention AND we will start getting better service or the service we are entitled to. Soon enough there won't be any room for lazy people, since employers will no longer tolerate attitudes – their customers (us) will demand more.

    /0.02 USD

    PS: When we checked our credit card transaction log, the charge was $93.00 instead of $85.00. It appears that the DMV charges a $8.00 convenience fee for credit card processing. I am wondering who's convenience because it definitely is not mine...

  • 2009-11-06 12:00:00

    Ultimate Incompetence

    This post has nothing to do with programming or the world of computers.

    Despite the fact that I was really happy today to receive two new books that I ordered in the mail regarding eXtreme Programming and Test Driven Development (TDD) the day was not short of frustration.

    I got a call before noon from the lady that handles our insurance (home and auto) who told me that we cannot be insured since my wife's driving license was suspended in Virginia.

    A bit of background here: My wife and I used to live in Virginia, but moved to Maryland on November 2008. When we moved we went to the MVA and changed our driving licenses (and surrendered the Virginia ones) as well as the tags of both our cars. We assumed the matter to be closed but we were wrong...

    It appears that Virginia is either too desperate for money or has ultimately incompetent people working in the DMV. Ultimate incompetence comes from the fact that they cannot receive information from a neighboring state (Maryland in this case) that Nikos no longer lives in your state and cancel his driving license because he has a new one. Desperate for money comes from the fact that the incompetent people do not update records and expect you to contact them to let them know that you left the state - and then they will update the records.

    So despite the fact that we have surrendered our licenses and changed tags in our cars (let alone move out of Virginia) a bit shy of a year ago, Virginia claimed that they don't know anything and they suspended my wife's license.

    This results in us not being able to renew our insurance since no underwriter will insure anyone who has a suspended license in any state.

    When we called the DMV today (and after waiting for 26 minutes) the indifferent employee that managed to get of her butt to answer the phone basically said 'we don't care it's your responsibility to contact us'. I am not going to dispute the fact that this information is available in documents that the DMV produces or the title of our vehicles. What really annoys me is that the MVA did forward our driving licenses to the DMV and they did know that we no longer live in Virgina. How do I come to this conclusion? Nothing happened to me. My license is clean, no suspensions, nothing. Why my wife then? I didn't inform them either if they want to stick by the letter of the law. Don't get me wrong - I am not begging to be charged $85.00 (this is how much the DMV wants to lift the suspension - see my earlier comment about 'desperate for money') but if you are upholding the law, you should uphold it for everyone.

    So the long story short, we will need to wait for them to send us documentation which will arrive God knows when, pay the $85.00, wait until the DMV employees decide to actually work for a change and have the suspension lifted so that we can be insured. Now the good thing is that our insurer gave us a lead time of 50 days but I want to get this over with as soon as possible.

    I have mentioned in this post that the DMV has incompetent people and hinted that they are lazy. From personal experience - that is 100% true. Nobody should have to go through what I did to get a driver's license (in Virginia that is). Have you ever heard of someone going to the DMV for 5 days straight only to be asked to bring a different document every time and to finally discover that all the initial documents were in perfect order. That along with the fact that I had to take the exam for the signs twice (since they did not bother to record my test results the first time around) allows me to say without a shed of doubt that there are really lazy and incompetent people working in the DMV. The branch that I am referring to is the one which is close to Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria, Virginia. Those that have gone in that branch know exactly what I am talking about.

    Anyhow, the venting is off. Lessons learned?

    • Read always carefully what people give you
    • Don't try to get a license in Virginia :)

  • 2009-11-01 12:00:00

    Annoyed

    Nowadays we are all about gadgets. My new printer, my new digital camera, my ability to connect my phone with my PC etc. As a consumer society we tend to buy stuff that we do not need or hardly ever use. I of course am no exception to this rule. I have tons of junk which are either replaced by newer models - and I didn’t have to replace them - or just obsolete items.

    What I am annoyed though is that although technology concerning peripherals is moving quite fast, the vendors themselves live in a prehistoric age and make the deadly wrong assumption that there is only one operating system in the world.

    Yes I am talking about Windows and the refusal of vendors to release drivers or software for their products for use in other operating systems.

    When I bought my Ferrari Acer 3000 it came with Windows XP Home Edition. I duly did not accept the Agreement Microsoft plastered all over the screen, took the manual and the CD and sent it back to them for a refund - which they have sent me. I chose to install Gentoo Linux on that laptop to have it as my little baby and play around. The initial obstacles arrived with the WiFi. It appears that Broadcom (the vendor of the WiFi device) claims that they cannot release the code for their drivers as open source since it violates an agreement they have with some US Government Organization/Agency. Fair enough we do not want you to release the source code. Release drivers for Linux then. Official ones, supported by Broadcom. If Broadcom or any other vendor has the resources to write Windows drivers, some of those resources can easily be targeted to the Linux community. Luckily the ingenuity of some people on the internet allowed the use of the Windows drivers in Linux with a package called ndiswrapper.

    Today I went to buy a new camera. Not that I didn’t have one (see first paragraph of this post) but I thought I might take one with a better resolution. Again… no Linux drivers. Why is that? Why are there drivers for almost all flavors of Windows and not for Linux? Granted that throughout the world there are more users that use a Windows distribution than Linux or MacOS. However the gap between Windows and Linux is decreasing every year. How many years must we wait until the vendors start releasing Linux drivers and software for their products I wonder. Notable that of all the cameras I saw today, only one (a Phillips) was giving software and drivers for MacOS.

    As far as drivers are concerned we all have to rely on the efforts of Mr. or Mrs. John Doe, an anonymous student or individual who knows a bit of programming and creates a project to make his/her hardware work while at the same time help others that have the same problem.

    Compared to just a year ago, the problem of missing Linux drivers for particular hardware peripherals has gotten better. But peripherals like TV cards and card readers can still present problems. Oliver Diedrich, "c't. magazine"

    I do hope this situation changes in the near future. It is a shame why users would not choose Linux because the hardware they own is not supported…

    Now let me get back to work...