Looking Forward This Time

I’ll try not to make this post about the things that have happened since I last posted like the birth of our first child and how magnificent it is to be a dad, selling our old house :-( and moving into a new old (1919) house and all of the pains and pleasures it brings us, the purchase and renovation of our first investment property, or our recent trip to Turkey for my brother in laws wedding. I won’t reflect on the details of what has passed and how it feels like it was only yesterday I made my last post here but it has actually been more like 2 years, or closer to 5 years if you only consider posts with some girth. Instead I’d like to look forward into the next 10 years and see how accurately I can predict the future. Here are my top 5 predictions for my life in 10 years.

  1. Family – It won’t just be the 3 of us any longer, we will have had our 4th and probably final child by 2023. Ellia will be the responsible 5th grader keeping the other 3 in line. With any luck we will be nearing the end of “the diaper years” and finally getting an adequate amount of sleep.
  2. Work – OWL Computing will be in it’s 16th year and will continue to provide for us and it’s employees in a way that allows for a financially worry free lifestyle.
  3. Home – Although we’ll still live on Oakleigh we will spend much of our summers at our cottage on a lake somewhere, Fishing, Swimming, Tubing, with family and friends.
  4. Real Estate – Our real estate “empire” will be well in the works to provide for our retirement which I’ll be thinking heavily about as I begin to approach 40.
  5. Hair – I’ll be bald, I think this is easiest prediction to make (Just remember future Ryan, bald is beautiful ;-)

iPad a Fresh Start / Allows for Innovation

One of the things you realize over time as a software developer is that once you build a feature into a piece of software you can rarely ever take it out. The more people that use your software the more true this becomes.

If you watch the following video you’ll notice that photoshop is providing a subset of features on the iPad and since this is a “new” piece of software nobody can complain about all of the features the left out. You can find the same thing with some of the Apps that apple has released including the latest addition “GarageBand”. Maybe this is what truthfully sets the iPad apart from the Windows Tablet PC’s of the early 2000′s. A fresh start.

Life is not short but we make it so.

It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. Life is long enough and our allotted portion generous enough for our most ambitious projects if we invest it all carefully. But when it is squandered through luxury and indifference, and spent for no good end, we realize it has gone, under the pressure of the ultimate necessity, before we were aware it was going. So it is: the life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully. Kingly riches are dissipated in an instant if they fall into the hands of a bad master, but even moderate wealth increases with use in the hands of a careful steward; just so does our life provide ample scope if it is well managed.

-Seneca

1099 vs. W2 – 7 Reasons to be an Independent Contractor

There are two types of people in the workforce. Those who understand independent contracting and have seen the light of the 1099, and those who work directly for a company on a W-2. Most of the people in the second group are under the impression that their employer cares about them and that being an employee brings a kind of security that you won’t get as a contractor. I hope that the following 7 reasons help those in a W2 situation (where there is an opportunity for a 1099) to see the light and that this post can be a catalyst for change for someone, somewhere. Your thoughts in the comments are greatly appreciated!

  1. Money
    As outrageous as it may seem it is not uncommon for independent contractors to make nearly twice the income that they could have made with a conventional job. In the IT world for instance it is not out of the ordinary for a programmer making 50K salaried a year to charge companies $50/hr for his services. Assuming the there isn’t an excess of available talent looking for work this programmer shouldn’t have a hard time staying busy for 50 Weeks out of the year.
  2. Overtime
    Salaried employees enjoy being salaried because they know that there is consistency in the amount of money they will be bringing home week after week. Employers also like the consistency as it makes for easy financial planning. However, what happens to most salaried employees when something goes wrong at work and they need to work a weekend or a 50+ hour week? They still get that same check! It doesn’t take long before most bosses recognize which employees they can abuse with overtime without getting pushback and they do this until the employee feels underpaid and overworked. I’ve been here and it is what pushed me into Independent Contracting.
  3. Taxes
    Taxes can be a questionable area of savings. However the question isn’t whether or not you get savings as an independent contractor it is how much savings is realized by various accounting practices. I won’t go too far into this but you can be certain that with itemized deductions you will pay less into taxes than you have previously working as a W2 employee. Starting your own Consulting/Contracting business is an additional way that tax savings and maximizing retirement benefits can be increased.
  4. Freedom
    Freedom is certainly more important to some than others. While it is true that an employer will give you paid time off in a salaried job, how much say do you have over this? As an independent contractor you make your own determination as to how much time you want to take off. The counter argument to this is that a employer pays you even when you are on vacation. I will refer those with that argument back to Reason #1.
  5. No “Performance Reviews”
    This one is simple. Since most would agree that performance reviews and “goal setting” tend to be loaded with crap in most companies I think we can all agree that not having to deal with this is a huge plus. The reason that employers don’t subject contractors to these this type of yearly review is that generally contractors are hired hands there to get a job done and if they aren’t doing a good enough job they are let go. So I guess it should be noted that if you are the kind of person that coasts along contracting may not be for you.
  6. Insurance Benefits
    This isn’t so much a reason as it is an excuse that most people use when discussing why they stay employed full-time on a salaried w2 basis. The truth is that insurance, as expensive as it can be, is still very available to the self employed and when you are making double the money can you really not afford this?
  7. Job Security
    Job security is a joke and given the downsizing and cuts throughout the nation in the past couple of years it should be very apparent that you are no more safe in a full-time job than you are in a contract. If you want job security (full-time or contractor) I’d suggest reading Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin. This book teaches you how to turn yourself into the type of employee that your employer can’t afford to let go of!

Newsflash: Green != Liberal Hippy

Contrary to popular belief, "Going Organic/Green" doesn’t actually mean becoming a hippy. Showers and regular haircuts are still welcome! Over the past year my wife has made some what I consider to be radical changes around our household that have impacted us and our surroundings in an very positive way. At first I rejected the changes as any hippy fearing right winged man would. However now I am beginning to embrace them and come to the realization that eating organics foods or using green cleaning products around the house does not mean I am a changed person, it just means I am more informed about the potential hazards of relying on American standards to guide my well being.

I won’t get into too much detail about the specifics of the changes but if you want to hear more you can check our her blog at http://www.openeyehealth.com.

P.S. No offense to any of my hippy readers…as if they have computers psshhh :-) Oh and this doesn’t mean you won’t find me eating at Applebees or anything in the near future…..I’m not suggesting I am a changed man….just open to change!

iPhone Development

Recently I started working on a new project for which there will be an iPhone app. So far I have found 2 hidden nuggets I would like to share with any other iPhone developers out there that may be reading this.

iPhone – Parse XML to custom objects

This simple set of classes very easily allows you to map your XML coming in off of a URL (Like a REST based service) to an object.

SQL Lite Persistent Objects

This is basically a simplistic ORM (object relational mapper) written in objective c and meant for the iPhone.

As I discover more tidbits I will try to make note of them here. Also I will try to blog in a bit more detail about them and my project in near future.

Media Center Woes

I recently spotted the Hauppauge 2250 on Newegg.com and decided that it was time that I upgrade my media center with a tuner that was Clear QAM capable. If your unfamiliar with Clear QAM it is essentially unencrypted HD channels that are sent to every cable subscriber. If you have a TV with a QAM tuner (Alot of Sony’s do) then you can browse these channels without the use of a set-top box and the HD is just as beautiful. 

I picked up one of these tuners and started installing on my HP a1720n when I realized that I’d have to remove my graphics card in order to have a spot for it as the PC only comes equiped with one PCI Express slot. I’m alright with that though, I don’t have a problem using the onboard video or an older PCI based video card. So I remove the PCI Express video card,  put in the tuner card, and power the machine up…..Nothing….no video….what follows is an evening of swearing, moving and removing cards, and rebooting about 50 times!

As it turns out the motherboard of my media center doesn’t allow anything other than a graphics card in the PCI Express slot. It actually goes as far as deactivating the onboard and PCI based video options in the BIOS when you put anything in that slot. UGH…

My next thought is that I can either upgrade my motherboard or upgrade machines. I poked around online and decide that a QUAD core upgrade wouldn’t be a bad thing. So I ordered up a Quad Core Dell w/ 6GB of RAM from bestbuy.com and I went in and pick it up last night.

Within 3 hours of playing with this new machine I decided I didn’t like it and that it was going back for a few reasons:

  • Seemed to run slower than my Core 2 Duo
  • Video seemed laggy
  • Sounded like a lawn mower or weed-whacker as things spun up and down
So just a few short hours later I headed back to Best Buy and returned it. I have to give Best Buy some props here. They didn’t give me any troubles about returning this machine that didn’t actually have anything wrong with it. No restocking fee, no gift card only, etc..
The ease in which they returned the product prompted me to look at getting another tuner card while I was there. This time I choose one that wasn’t PCI Express but USB instead (PCTV HD PRO from Pinnacle) . At about 10pm last night I got that installed and configured and it seemed to be working pretty well. I haven’t been able to get the QAM configured inside of VMC (Vista Media Center) yet but I don’t think that will take much more configuration. 
I guess the moral of the story here is not to change a good thing. My sub $500 Core 2 Duo from over a year ago seems to be the perfect little Media Center and I’m not sure I’ll be trying to replace the little guy anytime soon.

A closer look at my Geneology

Since my trip to Ireland last June I keep thinking about my heritage and what exactly I am comprised of. I think this is mostly due to the fact that I saw so many faces that looked so familiar in Ireland. These aren’t the faces you tend to see when you think of the Irish but the faces of every day people. I could really see my maternal side in these complete strangers and that got me thinking. So here is the breakdown based upon my great grandparents 8 last names.

McMillan – Irish
Borelli – Italian
Burns – German
Finnerty – Irish
Rose – Dutch
Vanderzwagg – Dutch
DeYoung – English/Irish/Cuban :-P ??????
Smallegan – Dutch

The only name I’m not very sure of is DeYoung….based on this image it could be from any number of places:

DeYoung Port of Departure from Ancestry.com
200810211837.jpg

From this I can derive that I am about:
37.5% Dutch
25% Irish
12.5% Italian
12.5% German

So far I’ve been to Ireland and if it turns out DeYoung is from England I’ve been there as well. This year we plan to go to Italy and I can’t help but wonder if I am going to see more family resemblance….It is kind of crazy how so many different nationalities are classified together as caucasian but with so many varieties of facial and physical body structure. Based on my mutt status I guess I’m gonna classify myself as Durisianman :-) What are you?

How to get a free iphone 3g

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months you have probably seen the new iPhone 3G. I’ve devised a plan that will let you get the iPhone 3g very cheaply if not free and I will lay it out here in steps. If you have a bunch of cash up front this will be alot easier. If not you can do it in steps. I will demonstrate with alot of cash up front but I think you’ll easily be able to see that you could do one phone at a time. This might also be less obvious to AT&T.

  1. Go buy yourself 5 iPhone 3G’s on a family plan. ($300 for the white 16GB * 5 = $1500).
  2. Call up AT&T (probably 4 different calls) to tell them that you have either lost the phone or it was stolen for each line. They will then let you cancel the data plans. So now the total cost of ownership for each phone is ($300 for the phone and $240 for keeping the line on the family plan for 24 months) $540.
  3. Sell 4 of the iPhones on ebay. You should be able to get at least $650 out of each phone. This nets you a profit of $110 bucks on each phone. This means a total of $440 profit which more than covers your initial $300 for your own iPhone 3G.
  4. As an added bonus you now have 4 additional lines that are prepaid for 2 years and you can simply hook up on GSM phones or one of the cheap new gophones to.
  5. Enjoy!

Latest Gadget Update

I love my toys! Recently I have gotten a few new toys. Here is a quick rundown.

  • iPhone 3g – LOVE IT …only wish battery life was longer so I could use apps all day long.
  • LG Dare – SUCKED….got this as a line for OWL Computing and instead I cancelled the line with Verizon and went with ATT and a second iPhone instead.
  • Garmin nuvi® 200 Portable GPS Navigator which I got free from http://www.mygpsoffer.com/ this device has an amazing user interface.
  • EEEPC 2G – Just picked this one up. Review to come…
  • Flip Mino – Amazing little 640×480 video camera that records on hour at a time on solid state flash memory. Even has a nice little built in program that allows you to do direct uploads to youtube and such.