Archive for the 'Entertainment' Category

Thoughts on Call of Duty Elite

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

For those of you that may not know Activision recently announced an online service called "Call of Duty Elite". This is directly related to their Call of Duty game series and works on kind of a freemium model. Ultimately I think it'll be a cool idea. However, the way they announced it to their customers lead to a pretty big negative reaction. Recently I recorded my thoughts (over a Call of Duty: Black Ops game play) on how they could have handled the announcement better, not abused their community managers in the process, and even whether or not they should build some of this stuff themselves (in particular in the social networking area of things).

If you're interested you can see the video on my YouTube channel or via the embedded player below:

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Austin Java Developer Job Market

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I stopped getting paid some time in late January of 2010. My "former" company still paid for my health care while they hoped to bring me back on "very soon." Between then and roughly the beginning of July I kind of just hung out and piddled around. I wrote an Android game for the hell of it (still haven't bothered publishing it), read a few books, and played a ton of Call of Duty.

Around the beginning of July my company decided it "wasn't fair" to me to pay for my health care any longer. I think it took them that long to realize that I have an amazing ability to sit on my ass and do nothing as long as I have health care.

Since the beginning of July I've been looking for a Java developer position in the Austin area. That is, I put my resume (sans funny accented characters) up on a couple of job sites and have been mostly waiting for recruiters to come to me. Okay, so I was only half looking. Through an ex-coworker I landed a 100% telecommute contracting job for the time being. Meanwhile, I thought I'd write up a brief summary of what it's like to deal with the recruiters that find you on both Dice and Monster (soon to be referred to as "D&M").

One Job List to Find Them…

Apparently 95% of the recruiters on D&M get their jobs from the same source. They just spam emails and calls to any candidates that even come close. That means for any one position you will receive calls from about a dozen recruiters trying to fill the very same position. Given the recruiters' often complete absence of any kind of technical understanding they can't even screen me properly. I'm not sure what value they're adding or if they ever even successfully place a candidate.

Hi! My name is.. (what?) My name is.. (who?)

The next thing that gets me is that about 75% of the recruiters using D&M are located in New Jersey and are originally from another country guessing from their accents. I'd guess from their names (Adwait, Aneesh, Kaushal, Kavitha, Prashant, Raghu, Raj, Rajiv, Susheel, Tervinder) that it may be India. This means they apparently 1) don't know how big Texas is, 2) don't know how big the United States is, and 3) can't read the words "I am not willing to relocate" on my resume. As such I get a lot of inquiries about jobs that would require anywhere from a 3 hour commute all the way up to a whopping 27 hour commute. That's a hell of a drive. They seem honestly surprised each of the 12 times a day that I explain to each of them that Austin is 3 hours away from Dallas. It's an honest mistake.

The other thing is that I typically get an email followed immediately by a call from the same person. They're really hot and heavy to talk to me. Once I explain that I'm not interested I get a call back from the exact same person about 10% of the time. I guess he lost his place on his call sheet.

The Crown Prince of AT&T Needs My Help

And finally there are those impossible to fill jobs. AT&T and Bank of America are hiring in the area. Due to their complicated, highly corporate rehire screening policy all recruiters with thick foreign accents are required to get social security numbers from all prospects as soon as humanly possible. For some reason this feels weird to me so I've never gotten to see what happens if I actually give my SSN to them. But since these jobs must pay a premium to the recruiter and are all but unfillable due to the SSN requirement they account for about 10% of all calls by themselves.

But You Seem So Normal

On the plus side I get about one call per week from someone that honestly seems to know what they're talking about regardless of where they're located or from. They can ask all the right questions, seem to understand my answers, and actually ask what it is I'm looking for. Unfortunately they just don't have any opportunities in which I'm interested. If you are good and are willing to work (yet again) for a dysfunctional organization you can get a job in about 4 weeks. If you're willing to work a little cheaper than what you're worth then you can probably trim that down to 2 weeks.

So in case any of you were wondering, it seems to be a pretty okay time to be looking for software development work in Austin.

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An Embarrassment of Fixes

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

I finally broke down and picked up a copy of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for the XBox. I do love me some multi-player first person shooters. When you try to play online multi-player the game attempts to connect to EA's servers. Unfortunately I could not for the life of me connect. I tried multiple times, reset my XBox, reset my router, etc. A couple of minutes of Google searches led me to this little gem. It says that the EA proposed fix for this problem is to disconnect from XBox Live, reset your system clock to 2005, log back into XBox Live, and then try the multi-player mode again. It sounds stupid but I tried it and it actually worked.

As a programmer I feel embarrassed for EA. That's a stupid fix. That's the best they can do? As someone interested in user experience I feel even more embarrassed for them. Any hope of using your product right out of the box requires someone to either Google around for this idiotic fix or to contact your support group and have them suggest this idiotic fix. That blows. I would think a company of that size could do better. The best case scenario for any hope of a defense is to somehow claim that Microsoft is to blame. That'd be a stretch since every other online multi-player game I have works right out of the box. Oh well.

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MP3s and Ratings

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Don't you hate when you put ratings on most of the songs in your massive music library only to find that you need to do it again when you switch players? On Ubuntu I use Banshee which allows you to save ratings to the ID3 tag right in the MP3 file. That means those ratings are available from any Banshee player. Nice.

The problem is that I'm working a contract gig that sort of requires Windows (well, they think they do at least) and I don't fully trust the port in progress of Banshee to Windows. So, I'm using iTunes (which I hate). I think it'd be nice if other players could use that same custom ID3 tag to use the ratings but I realize that many people have an issue with subjective information (the ratings) being stored in a repository meant to store common supposedly objective information about the song itself. Then there's the whole issue of standardizing on the custom tag. In a perfect world more stuff would use a plugin based design and you could simply write an extension to get the ratings from wherever you wanted.

A simple import / export to an agreed upon format could also sort of solve the problem but you can't get people to agree on things and you would then have some annoying synchronization issues. I think it'd be swell if something like last.fm acted as that song and ratings repository since they're a bit of a de facto standard supported by most MP3 players. It seems simple to stick the rating in there when you scrobble whatever you're listening to. Then it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to an import / export to get up and running. It also feels like it'd add some value to their existing service. Somebody get on that…

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The Tech That Should Not Be

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

I just read this post about a thing called the Espresso Book Machine that allows a bookstore to print a fully bound book in minutes. The idea is that they could print an out of stock book for you rather than ordering it.

I have mixed emotions about this. Nothing pisses me off more than going to an old fashioned bookstore in search of some instant gratification only to find that they don't have the book I'm looking for. "We can order it for you," they say. Well, I can order it for me too. Only, when I order it for me it comes to my house and not to your stupid little store (and I don't pay sales tax (or shipping fees usually (nested parens FTW))). This print on demand idea seems pretty boner inducing on the surface.

Unfortunately the kinds of technology that make this dream possible also instantly make it unnecessary. In a world where this machine can acquire and store the number of books required to make it useful it has already been replaced by the ability to instantly purchase, download, and read the book on an e-reader without leaving my precious home or touching any dirty, sweaty money. Sure it will probably still be successful but only because of the Luddite fetishists that insist on consuming their information the old fashioned way.

This whole thing reminds me of those stupid redbox DVD dispensaries. In any sane world they would have never existed. I have a relatively high speed Internet connection and an abundance of digital cash. Can't I just instantly stream those movies directly to my viewer of choice for a the same reasonable price? Ah, the devil's in the (bold) details. I have a variety of ways to pseudo instantly watch movies but the only reasonably priced option is Netflix. Unfortunately their instant queue selection needs a little work. Knock down that barrier and the only benefit of redbox is to satisfy weirdos that reached for the technological dream and missed, coming up with a beer in one hand and their disk in the other.

I digress. To sum up, in a perfect world everything would be peer reviewed, indexed, searchable, remixable, and digitally available from the comfort of my own home. I could watch new movies on my own television without someone kicking the back of my seat or mistaking the theater for open mic night at the Laughatorium. "And I wanna be rich. You know, someone important … like an actor."

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I Wish They Made This

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Rhapsody is a music subscription service. For $10 a month you can stream music to your computer from their pretty massive catalog. It seems like a nice idea but I don't actually use it. I'm not sure why not. Anyway. I do love me some Guitar Hero (pretend I said Rock Band if your allegiances lie elsewhere). I would gladly pay a monthly fee to get access to a huge catalog of GH ready songs.

I know that Rock Band has opened up their tool set to allow independent bands to create RB tracks (and simultaneously get raped by an unfair split) but they're still selling the individual songs. I want to drink from the fire hose! Are there technical hurdles? Sure but that's not my problem. See, I'm an idea man, Chuck.

Yes, they can continue to release a new "game" every quarter or so and have a 50/50 chance of getting my $50, but wouldn't it be better to screw me out of $10 or $15 every month like clockwork? I think so.

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Usability: Suspending and Resuming Shuffle

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

So I'm actually using my old iPod again rather than using the ultra-fantastic Pandora (highly recommended by the way) and I had an idea for a feature it should have. Keep in mind I'm several generations behind on my personal media player so this may be in the current iteration. What I'd like to be able to do is suspend shuffle mode, listen to a few songs by the artist that came up in shuffle, and finally resume shuffle mode. That's it. I can do this but it requires navigating through multiple menus. Not so convenient.

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Flat Organization: Job Interview

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

I just don't feel funny this week.

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Flat Organization: It's an Art Form

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

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Flat Organization: The "Lost" Episodes

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Before I started putting the comic directly on my blog, I had a few other episodes of Flat Organization. Since many people never click through to my BitStrips page I'm going to lump all of the "missing" episodes into this one post. I could post them individually but that seems more annoying and like it would require more effort. Apologies to those that have already seen these.

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