Wednesday, July 09, 2008

I'm a little late to the party, but a tweep, Michael Eaton, posted some questions on how he got started in programming.  So I thought I'd finally provide my own answers.

How old were you when you started programming?  I was probably around 13 or so when I started coding.  I had gotten a second-hand Vic20 that I practically lived on.   After a year or so of that I had saved up some money and purchased a Commodore 64 with disk drive and was in absolute heaven.   About age 18 or 19 I purchased an Amiga 500 with some college loan money (I justified it to my parents since I was going into computer science).  Then at age 23 or so (around 1993 / 1994) purchased my first PC a screaming 486 66 and I paid the extra money to get the CDRom addon.

How did you get started in programming? When I had the Vic20, I loved the old Scott Adams adventures games that you purchased on cartridge.  My coding interest grew really out of a desire to hack those old adventures and write some of my own.  This grew into getting the programming magazines of the day (Compute and Compute Gazette being a few that I recall) and typing the code in from the magazine.  I grew beyond that to start writing my own games (back when you could still develop games in your garage or familiy room as was my case).  I continued in that direction with the Amiga and really wanted to develop games for a living, but I never had the artistic background and got a bit discouraged that I couldn't create the nice looking games I saw on the Amiga.

What was your first language?  I started off with Commodore Basic on the Vic20 and Commodore64 along with learning some 6052 assembly language.  Once I moved to the Amiga I learned C and went on from there.   In fact at one point I wrote C compiler/interpreter for the Commodore 64 in its Basic language....that was fun.

What was the first real program you wrote? I think the first real program I wrote was a few text adventure games on the Commodore 64.  Also I wrote a pacman clone on the Amiga as my first real C program.   One game I started writing with a buddy of mine was called Time Train and was a text adventure with some minimal graphics.  We never got really far as that was about the time girls started looking more interesting to me than computers, but I remember we spent a lot of time on the title screen (animated graphics and such) and on the first few rooms of the game.  I've thought a few times of reviving that concept, rewrite it in Inform (Infocom based development language) and submitting it to the Interactive Fiction competition.

What languages have you used since you started programming? I've used a ton of different languages over the years (some just in college so not sure if that really counts) but of course many version of Basic, from Commodore Basic to QuickBasic, AMOS on the Amiga, and to VB3, 4, 5, 6 and VB.NET.  I've used C, C++ and now practically live in C# (I think I talk to my wife and kids in a C# dialect at times).  I've touched Fortran, Lisp, Pascal, assembly mostly in college.  REXX on the amiga and now starting to use some Powershell scripting.    I'm sure I've forgotten a few obscure languages I played with at one time or another, but those are the major ones.

What was your first professional programming gig?  I got a job straight out of college in 1994 working for a place called Synergy Data Systems, then known as Nationwide Interchange Systems and then Top Echelon.  I met some great people there (Goody being one) and have kept intouch with some people since.  We worked on desktop applications, web sites, and server procesess and I did learn a ton there.  I left in 2001 to work for a local consulting firm (basically an independent who decided to hire an employee) and left there in early 2002 to start my own consulting firm which I've been working hard at ever since.

If you knew then what you know now, would you have started programming? I probably would have as it is a great career.  My only regret is that I've discovered as I get older and my children get older that I really don't like being stuck behind a computer all day.  Consulting has helped in that regard some, but still a lot of time spent at the keyboard.

If there is one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be? I'm going to have to say don't get stuck in a cubicle your whole career.  Also as Michael said in his answers, communication is key.  It is easy to hide behind the screen and not communicate with anyone.  I'll just say it can be very lonely there at times.  Consulting has enabled me to interact with people on a regular basis and that has got to be one of the great benefits of what I do now.

What's the most fun you've ever had ... programming? I can't really nail it down to just one moment.  But I really enjoy working with other developers, especially in the early design stages of a project when ideas are flowing freely and there is just a general excitement about the project as a whole and everyone is just itching to get started.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008 10:46:19 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) | Comments [0] | Misc#
Friday, March 28, 2008

Well, I've heard about Twitter but just never really saw the point.  But after I noticed my good friend Dave was a twitter (what do you call people that use Twitter?  a twitter, a twit, ...) I thought, what they hay, I'll give it a whirl.  I'm trying it out and will see how long I stick with it.  Check me out at

Friday, March 28, 2008 12:28:49 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) | Comments [0] | Misc#
Sunday, March 02, 2008

I'm officially tired of cold, snow and grey days.  I'm ready to mow my lawn, open my pool, crack open the windows to let a warm breeze blow through the house.  I'm ready to end the sniffles, coughs and runny noses.  I'm ready for the sun to set at 9pm.  I'm ready to be kept awake at night listening to crickets, or staying up late laying out on the deck looking up at the stars.  I'm ready for a good thunderstorm.   I can't wait.

Sunday, March 02, 2008 9:05:59 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) | Comments [2] | Misc#
Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Here we are at the start of another new year.  My parents told me when I was just a young lad that time went faster as you got older, how right they were.  Let's look back at a few personal highlights of 2007.

  • Number one on my list:  My continued faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  As any believer, I've faltered throughout the year, but my faith continues to carry me through. 
  • A very close second:  15 years of marriage to a wonderful woman.
  • A very close third:  Another year spent with my four awesome children.

Now some more business / technically related highlights:

  • Started off the year finishing up a fairly large web app, that while it was mostly completed early in the year, has just now in the last two months been launched live.  The delay sprung from mostly marketing timing and issues and some last minute changes from the client.  So far while traffic is light (limited number of existing customers, so not a public site), things seem to be going well.
  • Come June, we landed a huge project that while it was only supposed to last through June, ended up last though October.  This was an open-ended project (basically they called us in to finish up a project that was a bit in trouble)..they anticipated only a months worth of work, but it was quite a bit larger than that.  We still go in sporadically now, but there is some potential for another fairly large project with them that could take us well into 2008.
  • Finishing up another large web application now, hopefully to be completed by end of January. 
  • I recently opened an office with a collegue of mine.  This is really just a place to get away and stay focused.  Anyone who works from home can testify that it can be a distraction at times, especially with children.  My home isn't large enough to have an office I can really go to that can be closed off from the rest of the home (I have to wait until the kids leave the house, which is quite a few years off).  This office away from home has helped gain me a few extra productive hours each week.

Goals for 2008, most fairly typical, I hesitate to call them resolutions though:

  • Become a better husband and father.  Spend more quality time with my family while not taking away the quality time I give my clients.
  • Become a better football coach.  I coach youth football.  2007 was my first year coaching flag (been coaching tackle up to this point).  All boys were 1st and 2nd graders so it was quite the challenge, but I had more fun this year then I did all the years coaching the older boys.  2008 I will be with the flag teams again this year so I'm looking forward to the fall for that.
  • Continue to grow my business while still taking care of my existing clients.  Getting to the point where I need to find an employee or two.
  • Find that one product to develop that may not make me a billionaire, but will at least give me an area of focus to move in that direction (yes I dream large).

I'm sure there will be plenty of surprises (some good some bad) in 2008, but that is what makes life interesting.  Best wishes to everyone in 2008.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008 12:05:52 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) | Comments [0] | Misc#
Friday, October 05, 2007

Been a bit since I've been around, but I won't dwell on that.  I'm here now and that's all the matters.  Here is my question to anyone that still may look at this from time to time.  I often work on projects with other consultants and normally we work remotely.  I've got some ideas on how to handle source-control remotely amongst many independent developers that are not necessarily in the same town, state, whatever, but I wanted to get some other opinions on how others many handle this.  What software do you use?  What services if any are available? 

Friday, October 05, 2007 12:49:56 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) | Comments [1] | Misc#
Saturday, March 31, 2007

Been a while since I posted, so here are some updates probably only of interest to those who know me (though maybe not even to them.J)

I'm working hard to finish up our large project for a client. It's an online ordering app for a customer that only their distributors can get to. It's been a fun app to create, though I can't wait to get it down and on to other things. We're about ready to move it live in a beta mode for those lucky few. I still have some things to clean up, a few pages that need completed and a backend admin type smart client that the customer can run from their end, though this isn't a complete necessity and we can probably hold off on that a bit if need be.

Next we're starting up another online ordering project for another client. This one will be open to the public to purchase their product so we will be accept credit cards and dealing with those issues. Right now we're in the design phase and deciding whether to use a 3rd party shopping cart or develop one ourselves. This app will have some special needs so a cart will either have to be very flexible or open source.

My partner's and I met yesterday to discuss taking on a very large project (initial talks reveal somewhere around 1000 hour project). This looks to be a very exciting opportunity and we're not willing to pass it up, though the timing could have been better. We're going to do the requirements phase of the project and once that is done we and the customer will see how we stand in regards to the length of the project and their deadlines. Once there we will have to decide how to handle.

We also have 3 or 4 smallish websites (20-30 hours) to do in the next two months or so. There's nothing like keeping busy.

Looking at this, we have reached a point where we may need to bring some people on board with us, either in a subcontractor role or perhaps, for the right person, as an employee.

If you live in northeast Ohio and are interested in a subcontracting role, please forward on your information to me (Jason at malachicomputer dot com).

Dave G….give me a call sometime (or an email will do) if you're interested in some side work, I have some for you.

Saturday, March 31, 2007 9:31:41 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) | Comments [0] | Misc#
Monday, January 01, 2007

Well here we are at the end of another year.  Boy did it go fast.  This has been another good year both professionally and personally.  Personally, our family is healthy and happy.  We've grown together as a family and done a ton of fun things together this year.  Professionally business has been good.  While, looking purely monetarily, 2006 has been about equal to 2005s production, things seem to be picking up none-the-less so I'm looking forward to a good 2007. 

So where is the new year leading us? Not sure yet.  Where am I trying to drag it (perhaps kicking and screaming)...well I want to make this year the year that we break out of the mold and take the business to the next level.  To me that means, going after new clients while still maintaining good relationships and high levels of service to our current clients.  This will be a big challenge for me.  I'm not a real outgoing person and the thought of putting myself out on a limb and trying to attract new clients is kind of scary.  Most of my business so far as been word of mouth and that's easy when you come recommended to someone.  But to sell our services to someone I've not met and has no reason to believe that we can help them, well that's a different story.

Another step in growing the business is to look at creating a product that we can sell and service in niche markets.  Yes we have ideas on what those products are and which niches to attack, but no...I'm not sharing :->  This could be a huge step (and a lot of work) but would be a good step for us.

In closing, if 2007 is even close to as good as 2006, then I'll be happy, but I'm not content to stop there.  So we shall see what 2007 brings and we'll trust in the good Lord that He will provide all we need and will open and shut the doors as they come before us. 

God Bless you all and here's looking forward to a good and prosperous 2007.

Monday, January 01, 2007 10:30:47 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) | Comments [0] | Misc#
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

OK....been gone too long from here.  Working as an independent consultant can be great if you have the right attitude.  Most people I know think that because I have my own business and work for myself, that I have all kinds of free time and still make tons of money.  I don't help that perception, because I do use my flexibility and take time off during the days to do family things.  However, what most people don't realize is that I tend to work more hours now than when I had a normal 8-5 job.  My work is always with me and always on my mind.  While I can take time off during the day sometimes, I often work late into the evening after the kids are in bed to make up for lost time.  While there are days I can take off, one phone call can change all that in a heartbeat when a client calls with an emergency.  But I wouldn't change it for the world.  I love what I do, love the clients I work for, and enjoy the challenges that come to me most every day.

Now it's time to take the business to the next level.  This new year will see us exploring new avenues and ways to expand and grow our business, all the while taking nothing away from our quality of service for our existing clients.  It looks to be an exciting and challenging 2007.

Look for this new year to bring more posts here to this blog.  I've been working on a few new projects that have pushed me to learn a number of new techniques and processes.  I hope to expound on those in the coming months in some technical posts.  I also plan on posting our steps and progress as we move into the next phase of Malachi Computer. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 8:53:16 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) | Comments [0] | Misc#
Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Been a long time since I've found a few seconds to post here.  I need to just make the time.....As a independent, I have my slow times and busy times.  Well for the past few months, it seems that all my projects that I've been quoting out for the last year have all been pushed to the forefront by my clients and they all want them now.  I've been subcontracting out some of my smaller websites just to get them out of the way, but more keep coming in.  I just received a phone call today from a client whom I met with almost 2 years ago (when I was very slow and needed the work) who finally is wanting to pull the trigger and build their website.  It's either feast or famine....but I sure like being busy like this!!!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006 3:05:44 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) | Comments [0] | Misc#
Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Wow this new SuperFetch in Windows Vista is a cool feature.  I'm sitting here with my 2G memory stick.  Thanks to Stefano for pointing this out.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006 4:38:47 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00) | Comments [0] | Misc#
Friday, February 17, 2006

A bit off-topic, but I'm always striving to improve my business, my personal life, and my spiritual relationship.  I ran across the Clean Sweep Program which is a checklist of 100 items, when completed, gives you complete personal freedom (at least according to the author).  I took the assesment and scored a grand 34 out of 100.....I have a ways to go and a lot of things to improve on.   

Some seem quite simple to do (make your bed every morning) and I suppose once you complete those, it will give a small bit of satisfaction that may not otherwise be obtainable.  Others, could take a lifetime to achieve completely (if ever), though making strides towards those goals would be a worthwhile pursuit in it's own right.  Anyway, this provides an interesting look into yourself.

Friday, February 17, 2006 10:09:52 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) | Comments [0] | Life Tips | Misc#
Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I've been doing the consulting thing for about 5 years now and I’ve started to notice that over the last 6 months or so I’ve been looking at my time that I spend in a completely different fashion. 

For example, last night my furnace broke.  Normally this is something I can fix myself being somewhat handy (in fact the problem with it this time is something I most likely could fix).  However, while debating whether to cancel my appointments for the morning (at least) and get to work on the furnace I realized that by trying to perform the work myself, saving myself a service fee for a repairman to come out, it was actually more expensive than just bringing in a serviceman and going to work.  With the billable hours, I would make more than what it was going to save me to do the repair myself.

Another example, a few months back I’m sitting in the dentist office waiting to be taken in for my appointment.  They were running behind and I ended up sitting there for 30 minutes or so past my appointment time.  The thought running through my mind was “This appointment is costing me X.XX amount, plus the extra 30 minutes of billable time.”

I guess now that I’m working for myself, billing by the hour, I’m more aware of where my time goes and I make a conscious effort to minimize wasted time. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2006 10:32:11 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) | Comments [0] | Misc#
Saturday, December 24, 2005

Having used Outlook for years and years, there is one feature I've always wished was there, though it has never been a show stopper, just a nice to have.  A Bounce feature that would take an email meant for someone else and send it on to them as if it was originally sent to them.  I know, nothing that couldn't be simulated with a forward.  I've also seen some 3rd party utils out there that have functionality like that (as well as some other email clients)....I've just always been curious why Outlook has never offered that feature.  Even just a button in the toolbar to bounce the current email would be fine with me.

At a former employer, one of my last tasks for them was to write an email client that integrated with their other custom software (they didn't want to integrate their software with Outlook, but wanted to write their own package to distribute to their clients).  The functionality rivaled Outlook (it was when Outlook 98 was the current version). 

One of the extra's I added was a bounce button.  It was one of the favorite features for them and came in handy for them.  The people using the client were often small offices that would have a central email setup (like a sales email) where all emails would come into.  The software did implement rules which could filter some out to the correct users, but often it would take a human eye to determine who the email should go to.  The bounce feature worked great for the situation as the email appeared to come from the original sender and was easily replied to.

While I don't have a huge need for this feature in Outlook, unless I am missing something, it seems that this might be a nice feature to have for some people.

Saturday, December 24, 2005 8:38:14 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) | Comments [0] | Misc#
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