Monday, July 20, 2009

Ann Arbor Give Camp 2009

As most of you know this past weekend gave way to the second Ann Arbor Give Camp. It was awesome. For those of you who don't know what a Give Camp is, keep reading. A Give Camp is where developers of all walks of life, skill level and craft come together for a weekend to use the skills they/we posses to create public facing web sites, back end databases or something developed to help run the non-profit organization better. In most cases these non-profits don't even have a web presences with a public facing web site. In today's day and age if you don't have a web don't exist to the world today because that is usually how one goes about finding you. The hours were long but the feeling of handing over what you and your team worked on all weekend to finish and then the joy and appreciation of what have done makes all those long hours and pure exhaustion instantly go away.

This year we had 3 Give Camps going on at the same time. Obviously the Ann Arbor, Michigan one, but we also had Knoxville, Tennessee (who worked on Michigan non-profits headed by Nathan Blevins) and Columbus, Ohio. How was this all This year they had a cool live video stream, which we all loved the bird thrown by Alan Stevens, during the love demo to the charities, not realizing we were all watching him on the big screen. Thanks to our sponsors & people that helped out we had no shortage of food, drinks, Wi-Fi or a home. Michael Eaton did a great job running the show this year. Next year's date has already been set thanks to Washtenaw Community College allowing & welcoming us back. It will be July 16-18 2010 at the same location but new building. We had a guy by the name of Barry Stahl fly out to Ann Arbor from Phoenix, Arizona. He attend the Give Camp to see what is was all about. He said he wants to start doing them in AZ. The Give Camp is spreading across the country. If I could swing it, I would defiantly attend the AZ Give Camp.

Now time for the details. The project I worked on was for Resource Genesee. They are a non-profit that needed an updated web presences. Being the old site had not been updated since what looked like December, we thought the best choice would be to take the wrecking ball to it and just start from scratch. To represent Resource Genesee, we had the pleasure of working with Julia Zaher, the Director of Volunteer Services. She was awesome. She stayed with us almost the whole weekend. We definitely got lucky to have a non-profit that was completely engaged with us this weekend. By the time we were done with Julia, we had her Twittering, Fackbook-ing, Flickr-ing & Blogging.

We chose to go with DotNetNuke a CMS system that would fit Resource Genesee best because once we were finished with the pieces we needed to develop, it would leave them with a site that could easily be maintained & updated by themselves or in this case Julia. We gave it a custom look and feel so it did not look like it was out of the box and kept things with the branding they as an organization had already adopted. Once we changed the look and feel we started putting elements into the site like A calendar, Flickr & Twitter. Then we migrated content from the old site that was to be kept. The site is not fully finished with content and the old site has not been decommissioned yet. The new site is currently sitting on another server. When it meets the organization's standards, the domain name will be pointed to the new server. Keep an eye on it. it is, the old site is up now, so keep checking back and you will soon see the new one.

Give Camp is great for a lot of reasons. It is a great thing to give a skill you have to help out organizations in your community. It is great to meet new people & build new relationships. I met so many great people last year that I still keep in contact with. This year I met even more. It was a community of Developers (1 Designer) who worked together to help others. Most of us ran into problems or roadblocks, help was usually a Tweet away. People jumped projects for a few hours to help other teams with the road blocks. It was just a weekend of everyone helping everyone. I have already committed myself to Chris Woodruff (Leading the Give Camp) that I WILL also be attending the Grand Rapids Give Camp in a few months. The Ann Arbor Give Camp was approx a 2 hour round trip commute every day, but Grand Rapids will be north of 5 hours round trip so I will literally be camping out at that one.

A special thanks goes out to Microsoft & Dominos Pizza who took care of us all weekend, Matt from Verio who came in from Florida to help give free hosting to the organizations that needed it, WCC who gave us a home for the weekend and all the sponsors and planning committee for making it a great running weekend. I also need to give a shout out to Telerik who hooked a brotha up with a copy of the Premium Collection of Controls for .NET. I am loving the Silverlight and WPF RadControls, thanks for the love.

Another list of people who helped out with planning and just making it run smooth are Patrick Steele, Josh Holmes, Jennifer Marsman, David Giard, Greg Campeau & I am sure I am forgetting a ton more and I am sorry if I forgot.

So another Give Camp goes by. So does finding a picture of David Hasselhoff, naked with puppies (I am not joking) on the internet and putting on a fellow developers laptop as wallpaper, when he foolishly left his laptop unlocked around me when I only had 4 hours of sleep. So do the tears, the laughs, the long days/nights, and the new faces...........until the next Give Camp. I hope to see you there.

This is a time line below of the weekend.

Friday Afternoon (Smiles)Saturday evening
(clutching the caffeine)
Sunday (Coma)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Been Busy.......Again!

It has been a looooooong time since I have posted on this blog. Between training for my next fight, learning more Silverlight 3, Expression Blend 3, WPF, Microsoft Surface and Azure have left me not much time for the blog. I am hoping to have my Silverlight site up soon (I know I have said that 100 times already).

It is time for Ann Arbor Give Camp 2. When? July 17-19 2009. It looks like we will have no shortage of charities. Let's hope we have enough Developers to fulfill the need. So check it out at and if you have the time register and come on out I will be attending all weekend. I will post another blog post after it is complete to talk more about it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Verizon Customer Sevice SUCKS!!!!!!

I get my usually text message telling me my bill is ready for review. I am shocked when I see it because it is an additional $500 than the usual bill. This is very odd to me because I have unlimited text, data and voice minutes. So my bill is always the same amount. So I login to my account to see what is up. It says $499 for equipment charges. I think what in the hell is this, I haven't bought any equipment. So I think maybe some fraud on my account?? I email those wonderful people at customer service. Now, it took almost two days to get back to me. The reply was that fact that I did not return my broken device. I think to myself. Wow that was back in mid December when my Blackberry Storm stopped working so I got a replacement. I put it back in the box and two days later dropped it off at FedEx. Now the fun begins.

So I kept a copy of the tracking number because I always have such a great experience with Verizon (sarcasm if you did not catch that). So I go to and type in the tracking number. It shows I dropped it off two days after I got it. It shows it was delivered to Verizon three days later. It also shows it was signed for. Those great people at FedEx also have a downloadable pdf version of the signature. A few things are coming to mind. First why would they not email, or text message or call to say they never received it? They send text messages for everything else they are trying to sell me. I mean the instructions in the box said I had 10 days from receipt of new phone to return it. Wouldn't you think after 10 days they would get hold of me? Nope, let's just slap that on your bill. Now another thing comes to mind. Wow are they lazy, they didn't even check the number themselves? I have to imagine that they must have a way to link my account number to the tracking number sticker they put in the box for me to put on the box and send back to them. If they don't, then hey Verizon send me a text, I will write you some software!!!

At this point I am less than pleased with Verizon. So I reply back to the email with the tracking number included in the body and I even attached the pdf document which shows the tracking information (when it left, when arrived and when it was signed) with a copy of the signature. I then get an email back saying I have forwarded it to our investigations team and I can call and find out the status. I don't care what happens in your investigation…..clearly they have a thief working within. As far as my concern is, the status at this point is take the $500 off my bill. So I send another email saying, I could care less what happens in your investigation, the tracking number shows I sent it, you got it, you singed for it and who signed for it, case closed on my end. I get another wonderful email saying, sorry I can't take it off your bill until the investigation is over, oh and by the way we have new promotions that you qualify for. Are you kidding me? I am about to walk, and you are not resolving an issue that is clearly some s*** bag you have working for your company has stolen equipment and you are blaming me when I have the smoking gun in pdf format and you are trying to sell me on services????

My thought on this is if your IQ is below 2, you automatically qualify for a job at Verizon. So kids, when your parents said you better stay in school or you will work at the car wash, things are looking up. You can work at Verizon and get some sweet discounts on cell phone service.
What sucks about this is Verizon phone service is great. This is not the first time. They have pulled crap like this in the past. Seems every few months they do something ignorant. I had a problem before and I got a call from a local rep. I called her right back and all I heard while it should have been ringing was some rap music. I think, wow this is professional. She doesn't pick up. 2 days later she calls and said sorry she has been off work…..then why call me?? Then the district manager called & left me a voicemail telling me how bad his day was and how he was sorry he did not get back to me in a few days. I am like…I care about your day, let me tell you about the horrible customer service I got at one of your stores. I still have the voicemail saved & should post that on my site. I hope one of the other company's get some more cell tower coverage because I will be outie so fast.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Review of Alienware m15x

I have always wanted to get an Alienware computer. I heard about them in 2000 and thought man those are sweet, but expensive. Never was down with the desktops. I am not saying they suck, it's just I have always built my own and that's what I prefer to do with my desktops. Thought the laptops were fu-gly, until i saw this silver, Ripley design. I fell in love with it. So about a month and a half ago I ordered one.

First impressions. Well I must say when you get this thing via FedEx, becomes quite the un-boxing. At first the box is black (go figure). When you pull it out it is securely bundled up. I could have probably thrown this off my roof and it would have been fine (kids don't try that at home). So in the box is the laptop (obviously) a leather case which holds the documentation, software disks and an "Agent ID" card. I felt very much like I was one of the Men In Black. You can now call me Agent L. Anyway, the box also has a hat (which I would never wear) and the power supply. So far I am very impressed with my experience thus far.

My setup is as follows:
  • Design & Display: Silver Ripley Design
  • Display: 15.4" WideUXGA 1920 x 1200 LCD (1200p)
  • System Lighting: Alienware® AlienFX® System Lighting
  • Video/Graphics Card: NVIDIA® GeForce® Series - 512MB NVIDIA® GeForce® 8700M GT
  • Processor: Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T9300 2.5GHz (6MB Cache 800MHz FSB)
  • Operating System: Windows Vista® Ultimate (64-bit Edition) with Service Pack 1
  • Memory: 4GB Dual Channel DDR2 SO-DIMM at 667MHz - 2 x 512MB
  • System Drive: 320GB 7,200RPM (16MB Cache) w/ Free Fall Protection
  • Optical Drives : 8x Dual Layer Burner (DVD±RW, CD-RW)
  • Wireless: Internal Intel® Wireless 4965 a/b/g/Draft-N Mini-Card
  • Sound Card : Internal High-Definition Audio with surround sound
  • Keyboard Options: AlienFX® Illuminated Keyboard
This thing is heavy, but it has a lot under the hood. The screen is amazing. I have been playing Crysis & Unreal Tournament 3 on this thing. Everything is set on high and this thing does not skip a beat. For those gamers who don't like bringing the whole rig to a Lan party this is for you. The lighting system is cool looking. You can change all parts of it to change colors for different things. Let's say when I open Ableton Live 7 I want the keyboard to turn green, and the screen trim to turn yellow. I can set that profile up in the software that comes with it. It has many configurations and many colors to choose from. Now the motherboard can handle 8 gigs of ram but at prices ranging from $240-$350 per 4 gig stick, well I will hold off until that number drops.
One disappointing thing about it is the case of the laptop seems very weak and thin. My assumption will go to the fact that to probably keep the weight of the laptop down this was necessary. Another part I don't really care for is the screen/lid part. When I type it kind of bounces a little if that makes sense.

Over all I liked it so much I got a friend of mine to get the 17 inch version. For me the 15 was good enough for my needs. If I need any bigger I would just use my desktop because that sports dual 22 inch monitors. It did live up to all the hype for all these years of waiting. One thing for sure is that whenever I pull this thing out at a coffee house, people do look.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Silverlight site coming soon.

I have been working over the past month or so on getting a Silverlight site up and running. Well it is almost here. I had to switch my hosting provider because the servers were not Microsoft servers. To get the full benefit of Silverlight I had to make the switch coming from Media Temple whom I have been with for 7 years. I had zero issues with them, the customer service or up time. Just to expose Silverlight for all it is worth, I had to mode to a server that had Windows Server 2008, .NET 3.5 Framework and Microsoft SQL Server DB.

If you are in the Detroit area be sure to check out the MSDN Developer Conference. That is where I will be all day tomorrow with some of my friends from Microsoft and Sogeti. Be sure to check it out. Be sure to check out Chris Woodruff when you are downtown. He is a great guy and an awesome developer. We worked together in the trenches downtown for some time together. If you do talk to him, say to him "Mike told me to say bitches" but you have to yell bitches....he will get it.

So keep checking back to to see the progression of the site and the possibilities of Silverlight. I have dropped Flash development completely to dive deep into Silverlight.