Saving $50 with a 5 minute phone call

Humans are fallibile.  Programmers are human.  Programmers write automated systems.  So, automated systems are fallibile, and that proved itself this past month when I terminated my two year contract with AT&T.  I left them for Verizon, who provides better coverage and speed where I live, and I knew I would have to pay an early termination fee.

Doing my research in advance, I discovered that their fee was $325 minus $10 per month of your contract that you had completed.  Previously I was on a family plan with my mom and sisters, and one of them had used my “upgrade” to get a replacement iPhone 4S back in December.  At the end of May I migrated my contract off of the family plan and created a new individual account for myself.  A few weeks later I got my final bill for AT&T, but it said my termination fee was $295!!  Far more than three months had passed since December 2011, but apparently they recognized my account as being only “created” at the end of May, so when I cancelled my account in September only three full months had passed.  Needless to say I was a little disappointed.

While on my lunch break today I made a quick phone call to AT&T’s customer support line.  I explained my situation, and verified my existing account info, as well as the information of the account I previously belonged to.  After being on hold for about 60 seconds I was told, “We’re sorry Mr. Pintozzi, your final bill has been adjusted and you now only owe $245.”  Just like that I was able to save $50!

I’ve run into this a few times, if you ever feel like you’re being charged too much, just ask.  Worst case scenario you waste a few minutes, but it can really save you a good amount of money!

Define: Shower Curtain

If I’ve learned anything from moving in with Erin, it’s that communication is key.  It is especially important when it comes to dealings with money, as we don’t have joint accounts but we do split the cost of bills and food.  As we have vastly different interests, our “play money” is spent in vastly different ways.  Something that’s helped immensely in understanding each other is coming up with our own definitions of a few already defined words.  One of those such words (well I guess technically two words) is: “shower curtain”.

The one thing that was hardest to wrap our heads around was the fluff, the extra stuff, the unnecessary.  Even before we moved in together, when out shopping we would occasionally ask each other, “why are you buying that?”.  Answers of, “because I like it” were always greeted with a “but why?”  Never able to formulate an answer that made much sense, I finally settled on, “You know how you have that second shower curtain on the outside of the shower?  It does’t actually do anything, all of the water is held back by the white plain one on the inside, but you like the look of the fancier one on the outside, so even though it’s technically unnecessary, you bought it.”  And with that it all seemed to make sense.  “Why are you putting new brake lights on your motorcycle?”  Shower curtain.  “Why did you pay more Anniversary package on your car?”  Shower curtain.  With those two little words I was able to convey my thoughts more clearly than had I used twenty.

The infamous shower curtain

There are other -isms and words we use, though none are quite as efficient as “shower curtain”.

Engineers Don’t Have Deadlines

“Engineers don’t have deadlines”, or so I overheard this morning while waiting for my breakfast bagel next door to the GoKart Labs office.  There was a small group of young adults, probably college students in their final year, standing around and talking while they waited for their coffee.  Not having much else to do while I waited for my morning treat I couldn’t help but overhear the inaccuracies of what they thought an engineer (and from the sounds of it, a software engineer) does for a job.

“Yea man, all engineers code in C, because that’s what apps are written in these days.”

I’ll say it’s close in that a good amount of desktop applications are written in C, but it’s far from “all engineers”.  iOS apps are written in Objective-C, which IS a superset of C (making it fully compatible with straight C code), but Android and Blackberry apps are both written in Java.  Web apps are written in a myriad of languages including Ruby, Python, and PHP.  Database engineers might spend days at a time simply writing SQL queries.

“If you work as a scientist or engineer, it’s great because you never have deadlines.”

…..what?  Are you crazy?  Maybe you’ve confused “research assistant” with “engineer”, but even then you still have some form of deadlines to adhere to.  App developers have tons of deadlines, whether they be self-imposed or demanded by a client, coding needs to get done by certain dates.  True, I have a number of projects that have no deadline assigned to them, but those are the projects that aren’t making me money right now.  If someone is paying you to work on a project for them, there will most definitely be a deadline.  We don’t just sit around our computers just working at whatever pace we desire.  Well, maybe when it’s a weekend project…

“You’ll get paid tons of money to just work in a factory programming machines!”

Yea, you might, but not everyone does.  Some people do get paid great amounts to code manufacturing machinery, while others don’t, and location is a surprisingly large contributor to that.  Also, generalizing that engineers get paid a lot of money is like saying all lawyers get paid a ton of money.  As with any field, not everyone succeeds.  Personally I enjoy heading over to Salary.com to see what other people in my industry are worth, and seeing how I compare.  I’ve fallen in the bottom 10% before, and I’ve been in the top 25%, because like economics tells us, your pay will correlate to supply and demand.  If there is a greater demand for your skill, and the supply is low, you can demand more for your salary.  That applies to all jobs though, and not just engineering.

I think some people fail to grasp how HARD programming is.  I’ve had a few non-tech friends tell me they want to program a video game, yet they have no prior experience in programming of any kind.  Now I don’t mean to discourage those individuals (shoot for your dreams!!), but many of them really underestimate how complex computers really are. Everything in a computer breaks down to 1′s and 0′s.  For example, in order for your monitor to display a single red pixel, your videocard must send it the color red.  In “computer talk” (binary), that is 11000100 00100010 00010110.  That’s just to display a single dot of color on your screen.  Yes, most code libraries will handle this sort of action for you, I only bring it up to point out that there is a lot more to programming than just sitting at a keyboard and typing out something you think will work.  Just take a look at the following bit of code:

Does that look complex?  To me, not really, but I wrote it, so it all makes sense.  And all that does is merge two arrays of calendar events.  Programming things like games involves thousands upon thousands of lines of code and require much more physics calculations (yay math!).

Still, I love my job.  I love being a software engineer, and it’s nothing I would ever want to change.  Yes I have deadlines, but sometimes I find that a little pressure forces me to get creative with my code, and in turn produces some very interesting results.  I love the environment I work in, the technologies I get to work with, and the people I get to work alongside.

If you’re a software engineer/programmer/developer in the Twin Cities area (or are willing to relocate) and looking for a job, check out the positions we have open here at GoKart.  We’re always looking for talented individuals!

Old Habits Die Hard

I’m no John McClane…

With all of the painting I’ve been doing recently, I’ve been reminded of the habits and things I’ve learned from past jobs.  Every summer after high school  I worked as a painter’s apprentice for my dad.  Some people thought it was easy for me to have a job working for my father, but they couldn’t have been further from the truth.  I was essentially the everyone’s bitch.  Since almost no one had seen me interact with my father, they didn’t know I was related to anyone else in the company, and I was treated the same as any new employee.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t treated poorly, I was just giving the hard “new guy” tasks.  For that though, I am appreciative.  I have never worked a more physically demanding job, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to complain about the luxury of sitting at a desk job.  I learned plenty of useful skills during those summers though, how to paint, tape (mud), clean up work areas, and many other things I will never forget.

That was certainly not the only job I picked up habits from though.  Working as a bank teller really changed the way I viewed money, and even handled it.  Money in my wallet is always sorted from smallest to largest denomination, and all of the bills are facing the same direction.  From working at the Centegra Hospital I learned the proper amount of time to wash your hands is 14 seconds, which is the amount of time it takes to sign Happy Birthday twice.  Working at The Dogg Haus taught me plenty about dealing with drunk college students (most of whom were my friends), as well as how sometimes you need to do the work available, instead of waiting around for your “dream job”.

I’ve made many friends throughout the different places I’ve worked, and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to meet all of them.  While some of my former jobs may not be relatable to the skill set I show off on my resume, each one has shaped me into the man I am today and been a stepping stone on the path that is my life.

iPad Mini, or iPod Jumbo??

Yet another iDevice has been unleashed upon us.  This time it’s the iPad Mini.  A few people joke that it’s just a large iPod, but that’s hardly true, atleast from a development standpoint.  While it has no retina display, the 7.9″ screen packs the same number of pixels as the iPad 2 (1024×768).

Courtesy of www.apple.com

What does this mean for developers?  Pretty much nothing.  UISplitViewControllers are still used for Master/Detail style views, and there won’t be any changes to the SDK.  One thing designers will definitely have to keep in mind though, is that everything is smaller.  Yes that button you designed will remain 90 x 44 pixels, but with a smaller screen that target will be physically smaller for your end user.  If your users had a hard time with small controls before, get ready for them to fail miserably when those controls are an additional 21% smaller!

It’s an interesting move by Apple.  Steve Jobs seemed to scoff at the idea of a 7″ tablet, but with the recent success of sub-10″ tablets being manufactured by other companies Apple may not have a choice.  I think it will be interesting to see the Mini play out.  It’s been a while since Apple has had a product flop (think Newton), and with the iPad’s overall success I doubt it will do poorly.

I look forward to working on some slightly smaller iPad experiences to add to the GoKart Labs portfolio!

Want an Izzy scoop with that paint?

This posting will probably end up having a timeline similar to that of Momento. Today Erin and I took Tucker to his very first puppy training class. While he wasn’t exactly the best trained, everything needs a first step. There was adorable Golden-doodle there, who I’m sure my mother would have loved.

And her name was Bella!!
Puppy face!!

On our way home, we stopped by Izzy’s Ice Cream. It’s a fun little shop that adds an “Izzy scoop” on top of a single or double scoop of ice cream, which is pretty much just a baby scoop. It’s a cute novelty, and gives the shop a unique feel to it. I grabbed an M&M scoop with Pumpkin on top. Delicious!

Izzy scoop!

Over the weekend we started painting our apartment. Not wanting to go with full colors in each room, we decided instead to do accent walls in the office, the bedroom, kitchen, and living room. I think the colors turned out nicely, though it turns out we picked the same colors that theme the Sherwin Williams store.

Well that’s….. familiar
Before
Working on the 2nd coat
After 3 coats
Kitchen in progress
They see me rollin’
Hand trimming the ceiling
All done!

I’m really happy how the few spots we’ve done (ok, mostly me) have turned out.  Erin does a great job at trim work and cleaning up, and I consider that a fair trade since I do the rest.

Last week I finished the final book in the Hunger Games series. They are definitely fantastic books, but I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. It was very….. different than what I was expecting. I’m happy to be getting back into reading books though, it’s a pleasure that I’ve forgone for too long. I have a few more books lined up on my Kindle, and we’ll see how long it takes for me to finish all of them.  Since I just watched John Carter today, I found myself wanting to read the books.  It turns out Amazon has all 7 books for just 99 cents!  Score!  Looks like I’ll have bus reading material for the next few months.

There was a one and a half hour gap between that last paragraph and this one.  It turns out when migrating my WordPress installation the database got set to read-only mode.  Sadly I didn’t realize that and attempted every fix on the sun before discovering the error in my database permissions.

Anyways, back on track, I recently ordered a shavette in order to get into the world of single blade shaving.  It definitely provides a close shave, but in a few spots I got a little…. too close.

Nicked myself with the shavette

Apparently I’ll need to work on my technique, but shaving is something I certainly don’t mind putting time into, as I find it to be a quite enjoyable way to start/end the day.

Now I need to start getting ready for the weekend.  Erin and I fly back to Chicago on Friday for her cousin’s wedding, but since that isn’t until Saturday I get to spend Friday night with Brad and Danny.  Looking forward to seeing them and riding in Brad’s new car!

Social Butterflies

This weekend has been a blast, and both Erin and I have been having awesome social adventures. On Friday we hit up the Shout House with Jake and Samantha. There was a short stint where they just belted out a Disney songs.

Unda the sea!!!! Unda the seaaaa!!!

Before going out though, we cooked up some great dinner! Well, at least I did. Erin is usually the house/apartment cook so I thought it would be nice to return the favor. On my work lunch break on Thursday I picked up some goods from the downtown Minneapolis Farmer’s Market. Fresh corn on the cob, peppers of various colors, and hand picked tomatoes accompanied white rice and chicken.

Such a colorful dinner!
Mood lighting, and a guest appearance by the GoKart Labs cup

Today (Saturday), Erin and I brought Tucker to visit Chad and his family in Saint Anthony. We all played in the back yard for about two hours, and I was easily the most worn out by the end of it. A quick power nap was a great way to reenergize. Then this evening Sam and Mike stopped by for some burgers and other miscellaneous food things. (Side note, they do GREAT frontend web development.) In preparation I stopped by the local liquor store, Big Top! I find it humorous that it’s called Big Top, and the logo is literally a circus tent. They do have a fantastic micro-brew section, both local and domestic.

The store says “No Cameras”, but…….. oh well

In my preparations I failed to get cheese for the hamburgers. I’ve never been a fan of having cheeseburgers, so much so that I had a whole shopping list for dinner and didn’t even write cheese down. A quick jog over to the nearby gas station and I was able to grab some. Along the way I was able to get a quick panoramic photo of our apartment building.

The sun caused the rest of the photo to darken (to balance the light)

It’s been a great weekend with great people, and I look forward to a lazy Sunday tomorrow.

Faster than a Speeding Bullet

Yesterday my Retina MacBook Pro finally came in the mail. Needless to say, I’m very excited, and this machine definitely performs as well as I hoped it would.

Unboxing, a geek’s wet dream

Two two biggest differences are the screen and the flash memory (replacing what used to be a hard drive).

She packs a ton of pixels

The amount of pixels blows away competition. 2880×1800 on a 15″ display? Never been done before. And the flash storage crushes other SSDs.

13″ MacBook Pro with a 64GB OWC SSD
i7 Hackintosh with a 128GB Crucial M4 SSD
15″ Retina MacBook Pro with “Flash Memory”

Boot times simply cease to exist. EFI takes longer to initialize than it does for the OS to load.

Obviously CPU is a big factor as well. I paid the extra $100 for an upgrade from 2.3 GHz to 2.6GHz and it’s noticeably snappier. While it doesn’t crush an overclocked Hackintosh for speed, it definitely keeps up (which is impressive as it’s over 1.1GHz slower!).

I Hate Politics

I just had to get off Facebook.  I truly can’t take any more of the incessant bitching and complaining about the damn debate.

Tomorrow at work we are having “Crocktoberfest”, which I’ve taken to calling “Rock out with your Crock out”.  It might not be the most politically correct phrase, but meh.  Half of my goods for the event will be brownies, and I’m backing them Butch Pintozzi style.  That’s right, DOUBLE BATTER!  In about 5 minutes they should be done and I can start frosting them, because REAL brownies have frosting.  After that I’m gonna have to check out Dishonored (PC videogame), because I picked it up off GreenManGaming, but I haven’t had much time to play yet.

Pumpkins!

Another week has gone by and it’s been a blast! I had the chance to grab a drink with Miles earlier in the week (a former GoKart employee) and this weekend Erin and I made our way out to Stillwater for their annual Harvest Fest! Erin’s friend from Marquette (and mine since), Matt, was able to join us and we trekked out in the mild rain.

Largest was 1,465lbs
The winner!
And the losers.

Stillwater is a fantastic little down, and is the kind of place I hope to be able to have a family when I reach that point in my life. We saw giant pumpkins, though my favorite attraction was the chili cook-off! For $10 you get to try 12 different chilis, and at the end you vote for while you think tastes best. Chili #2 was made by a Chicago transplant and his friend, so while their chili wasn’t the absolute best, it was definitely in the top two for me and I voted for them because of their Blackhawk pride!

Chili number 3 out of 12

Sunday was very relaxing. I wiped Matt’s Macbook Pro clean so he could sell it, and drove it back to his house on the NorthWest side of Minneapolis. There aren’t many snow-free days left, so any chance I get to drive the Camaro around is one I won’t turn down. We also made kabobs when he was over on Friday night. We used the gas grill on the roof and they turned out perfectly!

They smelled so good
Garnished with a side of sweet potato fries and strawberries!

Tucker is doing well. He’s starting to use the bathroom outside more, as I think we made the mistake of training him TOO well to use his potty matt when inside overnight. Oh well, he’s still only 9 weeks old so I can’t expect much from him. I look forward to our drive home on Thanksgiving, not sure how that will turn out, but hopefully it’s not too bad. We’ll be driving with one of Erin’s family friends, Pat. He’s a nice kid and I’ve met him before, and he attends the U of M up here. I get to drive through the campus every day on the buss on the way to work, and it’s exciting seeing the student attire change as the temperature drops. There are still a few crazies who wear t-shirts and shorts, but I doubt it will remain that way for long.

My two adorable roommates

Tonight for dinner Erin made some tomato soup from scratch and it was DELICIOUS! Blended tomatoes, vegetable stock, onions, and other stuff I don’t even know. It was amazing and was topped with two grilled cheeses. I think my favorite part about living together is the fact that I get amazing food all the time!

Homemade!!

Finally I ordered a new Macbook Pro Retina yesterday. It’s weird, because even though I’m insanely excited for it now, I know some day I’ll be an old man with kids and a house, and will laugh at the measly excitement I get from purchasing some piece of technology. Or maybe I’ll still be the same boy who got excited over his N64 when his parents Santa got it for him on Christmas. Either way, it’ll be sweet when it arrives, and I plan on having a whole weekend of re-doing my home network!