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An Englishman living in small town America

James Shaw

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Facebook Like Button Bug

I added a facebook like button to a few sites last night, and then noticed something curious - big horizontal scroll bars that weren't there before. 

It turns out that the Facebook javascript inserts some buggy code into the fb-root div - it creates an off-screen div that is 575 pixels wide, and absolute positions it only in y.  It says top:-10000, but there is no left position. The end result is that if you put your Like button on the right side of your website, you'll get scroll bars because of this hidden div.

Dumb, right?

So, here's a simple fix that works in all the browsers I've tried so far (but CSS guru's please let me know if it should be improved):

In your stylesheet, add this:

#fb-root > div { left:0 } 

HelpYourSite - SEO/SEM help in San Fernando Valley

Today I opened another business venture, this time to help businesses make their websites work better.

"Work better" covers a lot of ground, sure. But after toying with the idea for over a year it seems like a good time to put my technical knowledge of search engine marketing and conversion to good use.

The final push was when I met some local business owners last week who had established websites that were making money..yet one had a site where every page had the same page title. Another had no idea that meta descriptions were a key sales tool - they had none.

Basic stuff.

I realized then that even though I spend my time in forums with other geeks and experts in online marketing there were plenty of people who just didn't have the time - or desire - to learn all this. But they did have the ability to hire someone to help them.

So, duh.. I bought a domain and threw a site up. It's at www.HelpYourSite.com and I'm going to focus first on local businesses in the San Fernando Valley and surrounding area. That way I can meet with them regularly, in person, and I think provide a better level of service.

Wish me luck!

F5 not starting your Visual Studio Build?

I have to write this down, it is totally bizarre. A colleague come to me to ask why F5 wouldnt build his project any more.

Sure enough, pressing F5 showed the File/Open dialog, but Debug/Start on the menu worked perfectly. The green arrow toolbar button worked perfectly.

Any ideas?

Well, if this happened to you then I'm guessing you're using a Microsoft Natural Keyboard too. It has a goddamn "helpful" feature called the F-Lock key that remaps all your function keys to common windows features, like - you guessed it - File/Open. Press F-Lock and F5 will do a File/Open in whatever app has the focus.

This reminds me of the day when Visual Studio started being "helpful" with my markup. Remember that? Yeah, I'm sometimes not a big fan of "helpful".

Silly thing is, I've used a Natural keyboard for years and I didn't even know this key existed. I'm probably not going to be winning any "most observant" prizes any time soon.

Finally got to try ReSharper

Here at my current gig at Lamps Plus I've been hearing more and more about ReSharper, and a couple days ago my license key arrived via email. Hard to believe it's been out since 2004 and I have never even seen it before, but I guess you don't miss what you've never had.

I've heard of ReSharper before of course, @scottw or peeps have mentioned it, sure, but I figured it was a simple app that would probably die off when Visual Studio added those few refactoring options back in VS2005.

Yeah, I know that sounds dumb and naive when you know the answer (smartass). Embarrassed

Turns out I like ReSharper A LOT.

As a test, I took a new small project that I wrote last week and opened all the source files and started hitting Alt+Page down to see all the red and yellow lightbulbs. RED? Jeez, this code was as good as I can write, wasn't it?

After nunit, I hate red...and being anal like all good programmers I can't just walk away and leave them red, can I?

First, I'm more impressed by the fact that they can remove the unused 'using' statements than by them actually being gone. Yes, I'm sure it's child's play really, but it's still cool - I've just always used plain-jane VS and haven't been spoiled by tools that are actually, you know, helpful.

As I look at some of the warnings/suggestions it's telling me, I start to get that feeling that I did when Intellisense was introduced. Like, "oh holy SHIT".

Loved the way it showed me my namespace didnt quite match the folder structure.

Loved that it refactored some code to use object initializers

Loved how it gently reminded me I should be using a lambda expression

Loved how little icons appeared on my unit tests so that I can run them immediately. Bye bye nunit-gui!

Loved how it suggested using var when the initializer expicitly declares the type..

..except at this point I had to pause.

I'm not a var fanboy, you see.

No, let's be blunt, I HATE var being used everywhere. I want readable code, thankyouverymuch.

Take this code below:

            var lwc = attr.ToLower();
            foreach (var a in GetAttributes())
               foreach (var v in a.Values)
                    if (v.ToLower() == lwc)
                        return a.Name;

Nope, not a fan of that. You have no idea what a is, and you only instinctively knew that lwc and v were strings cos of the ToLower()'s. I'm sorry, var might be less keystrokes and less text to read, but I'll stick with var being used in a lot more controlled manner.

But, aside from the fact that ReSharper got the default setting wrong IMO, it was an easy fix in the options dialog. Even better was the fact that even after the refactoring you can Alt+Enter a line to change it right back.

There was one more grumble, but I haven't even looked that hard for an answer yet; why can't I walk through the hints too? I can only find a way to walk through highlights or errors. Can I somehow highlight hints?

Anyway, it'll probably take a few months and lots of code to get half way decent with ReSharper. And after seeing this Jedi Coding video I may not even get half decent by those standards. Maybe eighth decent.

Cruising Ventura

I'm a sentimental sonuvabitch, and love listening to late fifties/early sixties music, pretending it was 1962 and wondering why there aren't any DJ's like Wolfman Jack any more.

So, tonight the setting was perfect. All it needed was Tara sitting next to me and it would have been Died-And-Gone-To-Heaven perfect. I drove down to Ventura on the 101 around 6pm thinking I would walk along the beach (its my favorite beach) but first I decided to cruise down Main St.

Hehe. Take a look at this.

 

The picture doesn't do it justice. Main St in Ventura is beautiful and there were at least a couple of old hot rods cruising, and I kept seeing an early sixties cadillac doing the rounds. I wandered a bit, cruised a bit more, then stopped to eat in what looked like a fun Diner.. man, what a find!

 

The Busy Bee Cafe  is a full-on fifties-style diner that I decided on the spot that will become a new Saturday night tradition. It just doesn't get any better - check out the slideshow on their website. Click on About Us, then Slideshow.

I did make it down to the beach too, gotta love free parking everywhere in this town unlike Chatsworth area where I'm living and working. I parked right on the beach and savored the sea breeze for a while, then another lap around and down Main St.  :D

It's 50 miles/50 minutes from work, but if I don't end up living in Ventura we're going to be as close as I can get!

One more thing - I wandered into a store that ended up being huge - and filled with old fifties stuff, dozens of shelves and cupboards full of old toys, kitchen stuff, furniture, old cars, and the biggest collection of tin signs I've ever seen. This is one place that I need to spend more time in. This is just one aisle of three or four in the store..

28 Days to LA: Epilogue

A week later, I'm sitting at a different desk now, in my own 1 bedroom apartment. Bizarrely, after driving all over the surrounding cities looking at cheap apartments I ended up 100 yards from my hotel.

The first week of work was the same as any first week of work - didnt get anything concrete done except install and configure software and find out what was where. Tracking down databases and web servers for websites that hadnt been touched for over a year.

The hardest thing for me was that we're almost cut off from the outside world. No IM, no Twitter, no Skype. And any websites you view are openly tracked and reported on. Some are blocked. Perhaps this is normal in the corporate world nowadays but it's very sad that it's come to this. It's a far cry from my working from home for the last 7 years, where my most efficient way of getting information was to use these channels.

I'm sure I'll adapt. But to those I used to chat to, I won't be around much. That pisses me off, but what can you do?

On the plus side, I'm pleased with my apartment, especially at $800/month. Everyone thinks that's impossible and quotes prices from $1200 and up, but apparently I'm not in a "nice area". Whatever that means; everyone I've met or even walked past on the street has been friendly, and I've walked for hours around the city streets late at night and never seen or heard any trouble.

Since I don't have a TV, I haven't bothered with a couch either. Instead I found a great desk and chair deal in walmart (all this for $150) so this is now what the living room looks like :)  Plenty of room for my two screens and beer! This is obviously just after I finished assembly, it looks a little more lived in now.

I just put my feet up and watch a movie on the computer when I'm done programming.

 


What else? Well, now I have a real place to live (and a fridge) I had to go shopping so I now know where the local Target, Walmart, Trader Joes, World Market and Costco are. I cooked for the first time in what seems like a couple of weeks - and it may be curry night tonight if I can find some chicken pieces. :) 

Aren't I domesticated!?!

Next trip back home is in a couple of weeks when I fly home for the weekend and put the house on the market. Giving it 2-3 weeks to sell and wrap up the family should be out here in around a month, right? hehe...

28 Days to LA: Day 24-26

I'm here, sitting in my room on Sherman and DeSoto. As the other Arquette sister says in Pulp Fiction, this is trippy.

The drive was unreal. It took, as the maps said it would, 3 days of hard driving. Day 1 I didn't leave until 9:30, so didn't quite make it to Dallas, I was about 100 miles short. It's amazing how much slower you drive a 45 year old boat, especially around corners. 

Day 2 was Texas day. I really had no idea a state could be so big. I mean, I entered it mid-afternoon on Day 1 and didn't leave it until 24 hours later. Ok, I slept, but still. I haven't looked it up, but how long *IS* I-20 through TX?? Whatever it is, it's Too Long. It's not like it's even an interesting state to look at. 

Day 3 (jeez, I guess that's today, but road-trip time is weird and ends up getting all confusing) was desert day. 

Desert.

Conjures up images of dry, desolate landscapes, right? Hardly ever rains, by definition really. So, why did I have to slow down to almost a crawl on four separate occasions and in more than one desert state due to horrendous thunderstorms?  It's surreal when you can look to your left and see sunshine, look right and see blackness. And dead ahead you can actually see the column of rain that you are about to drive through.

The roads are long and straight for the most part, just like in the movies too. But they don't explain well enough that they just go on and on and on for days. and days. 

I didn't do any site seeing along the way, there just didn't seem any point on my own, and that damn clock kept ticking. Ellie, my GPS, was infuriating at counting down the miles left to the desk at which I sit. Let me tell you, when you get up after a 13 hour day of driving and she tells you that you have over 1600 miles left, it wipes away any romance from the road trip. I cracked 973 miles on day 2 when i worked out that I could stretch a tank full to almost 300 miles so I stopped much less often. It usually takes 4 to 5 hours to drive to the beach from GA, so I just kept doing "one more trip to the beach" until, well, until I got here.

That's kinda the last part of this story, in some ways. Tomorrow I go to a local car show and meet up with some friendly locals that I've met on the HAMB. The show's in Ventura where I shall make sure I take the time before or after the show to sit on the beach and walk barefoot in the ocean. I took this picture in Ventura last week with Tara.


I start work on Monday, but there are lots of things I want to do in the evenings. Find some permanent digs would be good, preferably before my week stay is up under Ramada's roof. Drive Mulholland and look down on LA at night. Cruise Van Nuys Blvd on cruise night. Visit LA Ink. Lots more - you know the drill, you've been in those movies theaters too.

I made sure that Wolfman Jack was playing on the American Graffiti soundtrack when I drove off the freeway today. I first saw that movie when I was 17 and in my first year of college.

That damn movie has got a lot of answering to do.

28 Days to LA: Day 19

A day in Monterey and Carmel today. This morning we went whale watching and got close to a couple of 80ft blue whales and some humpack whales. Pretty cool and the weather was perfect - calm and 75f.

 

We then drove 17 mile drive to Carmel via Pebble Beach and wandered around before returning to Monterey for a walk to Hula's Island Grill and Tiki Bar - well worth the walk. We started with the potstickers and a Mai Tai, and finished with some Hawaiian Butter Fish and a Zombie :)

 

28 Days to LA: Day 17

Really it's Day 16 to me, but strictly speaking it is after midnight, so very early on the 27th.

I'm in the air now, flying with Tara on our 5 day vacation to California. The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of working mornings for StomperNet as they prepare for the latest big launch on 9/9/9, and the afternoons/evenings continuing work on the house renovations. We literally filled a 30 cubic-yard 5 ton dumpster this week with "stuff" from the house, including a collection of useful lumber that kills me to throw away but I just can't pay someone to ship wood scraps 3000 miles.

The bathrooms are complete, and beautiful. Big smiles on the womenfolk around here :)  I never got a chance to take pics before we had to pack around 4:15pm today, before driving to Maisy's softball game at 5, followed by a quick bite and a dash to the airport at 8. Thunderstorms delayed the takeoff, but I've never been so glad to pay the $60 upgrade and be sitting in business class right now...typing live at 30,000 feet courtesy of  a trial of AirTran's new gogo internet that I was offered in the terminal. Pretty damn amazing, inflight wifi it is.

I don't know if I've mentioned this vacation before. It's a complete coincidence that we're flying to CA right now, considering that I'm starting work there in less than two weeks time. It's Tara's birthday treat, but everyone agrees it's pretty weird that this happened right now.

We made one change to our plans - we still fly into San Francisco but now we fly out of LA - so instead of driving north to Sausalito and onto Napa Valley we decided of course to drive down south so we could both check out our soon-to-be new home town. 

We left the kids with the grand-parents, so this is high heaven for us. A rare treat to get away and completely relax - and with the next months having the potential to be pretty stressful at times this will be a great little "breather". It'll also give Tara first-hand experience of the area and a picture in her mind to aim at.

Btw, I bought a webcam for Tara's computer for her birthday too, so that'll allow us to have more fun conversations every day after work when I call home to speak to the kids.

I did a little preparation for my marathon drive too. My poor 64 Catalina has no idea that it will be driving me 2,286 miles across country. But I bought her some treats last night. New fan belts, new top and bottom radiator hoses, new spark plugs, new oil filters (they are quite hard to find in oil change shops, so I carry my own). These are all spares of course, to be used in case of emergency one lonely dark night on I-20W.

How long will it take me to drive 2,286 miles? Take a guess. Google Maps cryptically says 1 day and 9 hours which I assume means (really) 33 hours, which is an average of 69.27 mph. That seems to me quite a high average? I mean, stopping for gas and food and just to straighten my legs every few hours I know that kills average speed.

I haven't thought this through much at all, but I'm assuming I'll aim for Dallas, TX on Day 1. I've driven that twice and it takes around 13-14 hours. Tucson, AZ is about the same distance according to Google for Day 2, leaving a leisurely 8 hour drive into LA on Day 3.

Anyone done this?

Day 3 is of course Saturday Sept 5th, the day of the Primer Nationals in Ventura. Hopefully I can get a good sleep and still make the show on Sunday and meet up with some other HAMBers.

Back to our vacation first though. we'll land in SF in a few hours and grab a car and hotel near the airport for a few zzz's. Tomorrow we'll hit Monterey for some well-deserved R & R!!

28 Days to LA: Day 10-14

The in-laws arrived for a 4 week stay on Thursday, Friday was heads down for a big (but internal) launch at StomperNet and Saturday was Tara's 40th birthday! The worlds largest dumpster (30 yards/5 tons) was also delivered in the morning as a special treat but I think the 2 dozen roses made up for it. Tara's Father Alan and I spent most of the day filling the dumpster and rewiring and finishing up a basement storeroom.

In the evening we all went out to Carrabba's, our favorite Italian in Morrow. The Iners came too, making a party of 13 which was a lot of fun.

Sunday, throwing things in the more dumpster (how much trash do we have?) and then we went to watch the Braves beat the Marlins at Turner Field. An awesome game and the weather was a lot less humid than normal. I still got my arms burned though, of course.

Tara is painting the master bathroom today, so I'll be able to start putting it all together this afternoon (I'm only working mornings this week). Looks like we'll easily be all done before our vacation on Wednesday..

28 Days to LA: Day 9 cont..

Ok, that's done. Booked. One less (large and looming) thing to think about.

Priceline did the deed at about 2/3 price of the public rate.

 

28 Days to LA: Day 8 and 9

I wouldn't say it was exactly perfectly going to plan, but we're close.

Tara's parents arrive tomorrow so Bathroom 1 had to be done. And after a long evening we're almost there. Door frame installed, toilet in, cabinet in, sink and faucets in, towel rails, toilet roll holder.. check.

One small snafu - the wall cupboard was missing some parts (an already open box from Lowes). So we returned it and got another - this one had broken glass in it. So this morning Tara is on a mercy mission dash to a further-away Lowes to get another replacement.

Bathroom 2; I spent Monday evening ripping up the tile floor - about as much fun as ripping out my own spleen - but the sheetrock guys did final sanding this morning and the tile guys just showed up. It's nice watching others work for a change!

On another note, priceline failed to find me some cheap-ass moldy accommodation, but I'll keep trying with different areas/prices/durations and see what I can get. There's probably a waiting list for sleeping on a park bench, I wouldnt be surprised.

28 Days to LA: Day 6 and 7

I ache this morning.

Over the weekend I worked 20 hours in our bathroom, taking out everything - a wall, all sheetrock, a tiled shower, cabinets, sinks, mirrors and lights. Then I did some studwork, re-wired the lights and outlets and got it ready for the sheetrock guys this morning. I must have moved half a ton of rubble from that room.

 

 

It's kinda fun aching though, I don't ache enough. My fingers are even finding it hard to switch from hammering to typing, so I'll leave it at that for today.  :)

28 Days to LA: Day 5

"Let's go to lunch", Tara says, "and we'll pop into Lowes and pick up a few things."

Quizno's was good, then came Lowes. We need some more cement board for the shower and floor in master bathroom, and we need to "order the carpet". Ok.

Order the carpet.

If you hear those words, make an excuse immediately. Say you have to stay home to clean behind the toilets if you have to. Say you noticed some "stuff" down there and it's grossing you out (she'll believe you).

I entered Lowes like a lamb to the slaughter.

Some numbers:

3 assistants.

2 hours.

$3,000.

6 months interest-free credit.

I'm told that this is cheap and I am a tight b*stard. Probably right on both counts, but it still stings. Anyway, this weekend I won't be seeing much sunshine; I have to take the master bathroom from functional-but-dated to zero floor or walls in 48 hours. That's a lot of tiles to bash/shatter/scrape and an optimistic deadline. Luckily I have a large sledgehammer and already very little feeling in my knuckles.

Wish me luck!

28 Days to LA: Day 3 and 4

Remember this: door frames are not made to be easily removable.

Removing all the sheetrock in bathroom 1 meant removing the door frame - which is coated in a finish that we dont have, so is effectively irreplaceable. Usually a 280lb guy and a crowbar aren't good at delicate operations like this, but I did it with a "minimum" of splintering.

What I really mean is, I hope Tara doesn't notice the huge long split down one side of the frame. 

Anyway, I did my part in time, and now the sheetrock guys have been here this morning and the room is all fancy looking again. Tomorrow we can start tiling and re-assembling - but more importantly I can attack the master bathroom with prejudice.

I've also been considering where I will sleep when I arrive in Sunny CA.

Initially I assumed that accommodation would be the same price that it was when I toured SF to LA "on the cheap" via Motel 6.

Back in 1986.

It isn't.

I fondly remember that it cost $12 a night, and I would just call ahead to book the next night, so I could tour on a whim, not knowing where I would end up. 

Now it's goddamn $60 per night in Motel 6. SIXTY BUCKS!

Ok, perhaps that's still "cheap" for a room, but multiply it by 30 days and $1800/month doesn't sound cheap any more. Long term rates I hear you say? Dream on. I can't find anything much cheaper.

Renting a 300 sq ft "suite" in someones house I could do for as low as $650/month, but that's usually signing a lease for a few months at least - and I want to be testing out different cities every few weeks if possible. Seeing what the commute is like, seeing the city at night, the shopping, etc, etc.

I even considered camping - easy to do, right? Not so fast. Apparently the weather there is SO perfect that they have a problem with camping. You cannot stay in any campsite for more than 7 days, and cannot return within the same month. And the gates all shut at 9pm or so. And it's still not cheap enough. And showers apparently cost extra; 50c for 3 minutes. *Sigh*

Plus, all my friends thought it was hilarious that I'd even consider living out of a tent. Ok, fine. Perhaps you have a point.

The only hope I have at this point I think is to use priceline - the cheapest I can find on there is $50-$60 a night in some dodgy hotel where the reviews actually talk about mildewy showers and *cough* "hairs in the bed". Nice.

But doing the whole priceline "give us your credit card and we'll get it cheaper" thing has been recommended by a few people now so I'll give it a go for the first stint. Then I can always look again when I'm there and have my feet on the ground.

 

I still think the tent on the beach in Ventura would have been cool though. 

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