Thursday, July 27, 2006

House buying lessons learned part 1: "It will all be worth it. It will all be worth it. It will all be..."

I am approaching the “official” two week point in my first home buying experience. Time for a “lessons learned:”

Check your credit report at least once a year.
This is just good advice in general. It was also a major concern for me as mine seems to be made of some sort of Velcro that attracts a lot of incorrect information. It’s easy to get cleaned up; all three agencies have a method to file disputes on the web. But, it takes time. At least 30 days. Luckily, I started this part of the process a while back, so I was in good shape.

Do not count on any large bureaucratic entity to do the right thing.
Still on the credit front, I do have one issue; the company that has my student loan is reporting on this loan in a misleading manner. I don’t want to get into too many details, as this is clearly personal information, but suffice to say I don’t disagree with the amount they say I owe, and they don’t disagree that I’ve never been late or delinquent in any way. But everybody I’ve talked to be it mortgage brokers, attorneys or loan officers from the four largest banks in the country agree that they are doing it wrong. Their response is basically “We don’t care, we’re right, we don’t feel the way we are reporting it is negative and everyone else is wrong and we’re not changing it.” They are sending me a letter that I can show to banks explaining why they are reporting it this retarded way, and the consensus is that that should be sufficient. I was tempted to ask the CSR if they would sign the letter “Sorry we’re so retarded,” but I figured this was a time for maturity, so instead I’m posting it here, where maturity has no lease. Maturity can’t get a lease because its credit isn’t good enough because of its student loan. Damn deadbeat maturity…

Still, it wouldn’t have been a big issue, and I’d be farther along if they would just do it the way they are supposed to from the beginning. Several people have suggested suing or filing a complaint with the government agency that oversees them. I’m not ruling any of that out, but I’m not going to stir the pot until the ink on the deal is dry and I have the keys to the house in my pocket.

Everybody has “a guy.”
And by “guy” that’s just a generic term that could mean “a gal” as well, so please beat back the urge to post a comment of the “You sexist pig!” variety. Invariably, everybody else’s guy is smarter, more clever, cheaper, knows more people and is more connected than whoever your guy is. If my current realtor is unable to deliver, I have 13 more in line based on referrals, so she knows the pressure is on! I suppose this is really a good thing, my parents are realtors, and get most of their business by referral, and my feeling is that in a business based on referral, you want to do a good job to keep the clients coming in. Still, it was funny when someone INSISTED I had to call their mortgage guy because he was clearly superior to my guy. Well, turns out his guy IS my guy. To which he responded “Uh, well… I’m sure he’s doing a great job then.”

People will try to correct their first home buying mistakes through you.
I appreciate the advice I am receiving from friends, family, co-workers and other acquaintances. Even the advice that directly contradicts the advice someone else gave me. I know these people want to see me do well here, but some have taken my home buying experience WAY to personally. I have one friend who seems to think that she will somehow be vindicated on a bad deal she made recently by me “sticking it to” who ever I buy from and their realtor. I’m not out to “stick it to” anyone, that’s just bad Karma (Thank you TV, always teaching those valuable life lessons!). I’m out to get the best deal that is acceptable to all involved. After all, I’m going to be on the selling end one day, and I would hope that whoever buys my house will come into the deal with the same mindset I have not.

Wow! All that and I haven’t even finished securing the financing yet. Just wait till closing!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Blog spammers take note...

As the popularity of this blog has increased (I know, I'm shocked too!) the amount of people attempting to post spam has increase exponentially.

While I'm sure this post will fall on deaf ears because I'm addressing a bunch of soul-less robots, I just want to make it clear to all the spammers out there that if anyone is going to make money of this blog, it's gonna be me dammit!

Monday, July 17, 2006

OK, you're all in big, big trouble!

I'm pissed and I want answers! Which one of you told Henry Rollins that he was funny and people cared about his opinion? Was it you? I was subject to this aging moron twice this weekend. The first time was Saturday morning when he was played on XM's comedy station. And in case you're wondering, it wasn’t funny. Angry, venomous and ignorant, but not funny.

The second time was when I caught the first five minutes of his TV show in The Independent Film Channel (IFC). Again, it was just him ranting for five minutes under the guise of a "comedic monologue."

Basically his act was/is "Bush is stupid." Uh, OK. Anything more to that? Whether or not you agree with him, you have to admit that it's getting old. Six years ago when you said "Bush is stupid" it would either start a fierce debate or an outbreak of riotous laughter. Nowadays, regardless of how you feel about it, people are de-sensitized to it. Rollins just shows that he has not ability to move on with life if this all he has time to talk about, and it shows that IFC is starving for programming.

I was hoping this whole “celebrities as full-time political activist” thing was about done. I guess I was wrong.

I know celebrities are people, and have a right to their opinions. But I have a right to not give a fat rat’s ass about what they think and to mock them for their ignorant, uninformed, follow-the-leader viewpoints. I also have a right to make fun of people who follow these half-wits like a bunch of lemmings. I just can't see myself ever saying "Well, a flat tax sounds like a good idea, but I can't give you my official opinion till I find out what the guy from 'F Troop' thinks."

Just because these humps do something that manages to entertain people long enough to get their names in the paper does not mean they are smart! Frankly, based on interviews I've seen on TV, 99% of people in the entertainment industry have no clue what it's like to live in the real world! They are going to tell me what to think?

Make you own opinions. If you can't do that, at least listen to the people around you who know and care about you and not some talking head inside the idiot box.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

"Programming with CTP's is like a box of chocolates..."

In preparation for what I'm sure will be an award-winning presentation on Sevice Factory, I am going back through all various tutorials and virtual labs since there is a bit of "mismatch" with the various drops and supporting technologies:

you need the Guidance Automation Extensions (GAX) and Guidance Automation Toolkit (GAT) to run Service Factory. The most recent drops of those are May 2006

The current ASMX Service Factory code-drop is July 2006.

If you want to use WCF, the most current drop of WinFX (SORRY, SORRY! .NET 3.0 Framework) is May 2006, however the latest Service Factory drop for WCF services only supports the Feb 2006 CTP of .NET 3.0 Framework (actually, back then it still was WinFX...) Per Don Smith, (whose blog is a must read if you want to stay up on things in the Service Factory world) a WCF factory for the June CTP is being built, and will be out sometime this year.

So, anyway, here's what I've been working with (all in a blindingly fast Virtual PC):

  • WinFX Feb 06 CTP
  • GAX and GAT May 06 CTP
  • WCF Service Factory May 06 Drop

The "interesting" thing to remember is that the GAX and GAT I have are the newest pieces, but not "entirely" compatible with the other two, meaning that there are a few breaking changes.

The first hideously deformed offspring from this un-holey alliance was delivered yesterday; I tried to use the Service Factory recipe to expose a service. After several minutes of chunking away, I was presented with a rather ugly error (OK, they are all ugly, but some are uglier than others), the meat of which was:

"Compiling transformation: 'System.CodeDom.Compiler.CompilerErrorCollection' does not contain a definition for 'Add'"

Gah! I had to wade through some forum posts (mostly people asking the same question) before I found the answer in the GAT forum. When the new drop of the GAT was pushed, a breaking change was introduced. The fix for this is to edit all of the T4 templates (no, I don't know what T4 stands for) which are located (usually) in \Program Files\Microsoft Service Factory\Guidance Packages\WCFGuidancePackage\bin\T4. There are five files. To fix this problem, you need to add the following line near the top to all of them:

<#@ Assembly Name="System.dll" #>

That takes care of that.

The only other issue I've found so far is minor; in the wizard you cannot set a method of a Service Contract as "IsInitiating" unless you mark the service contact as "Requires Session." A few minor code changes by hand, and your good again. This does raise another issue I am trying to work though however; Service Factory provides recopies for almost everything, including exposing your service in a host application (for testing). Part of the recipe is selecting a binding type via a drop down list. The only option for this I get is basicHttpBinding, which does not support sessions. Not a huge deal, I just need to go change is to WsHttpBinding by hand. But, it would be nice if I didn't have to dig through the web.config myself. The documentation does speak of an "Advanced Configuration Editor" and maybe that's where you can choose other binding options. The package I would need to download this is no longer available for download however. So, for now, I may be on my own. I'll re-post if/when I learn more.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Torn between two Beacon scores...

Wow, two-fer today!

At 34, I have decided that it is time to stop living like a gypsy and actually purchase a house. To that end, I pulled my credit reports today to verify that there wasn't any misinformation or other surprises. Of course there were.

None of the three bureaus have the same score for me, but the surprising thing was that the difference between the highest and the lowest score was in excess of 200 points! That's quite a swing. The difference can be attributed to a lot of erroneous information. Like, for example, the bank that is currently reporting me 120 days late on a car loan that was paid-off in 2001.

So, the "Great Credit Clean-Up of 2006" has begun.

This does present me with a bit of a morale dilemma; one of the bureaus has an "AKA" listed for me. On one hand, it's an error and should be fixed. But, this guy has OUTSTANDING credit! Frankly, I'm tempted to say nothing and let his accounts stay!

But, on the other hand I don't want to get turned down because they think I have three car loans.

The point is if you haven’t checked your credit report in a while, you probably should. Mine is riddled with errors, which is going to stall my house-buying progress while they get fixed.

Who says this blog isn’t educational?

Get these mutha-f*@king snakes out of my mutha-f#@king blog!

So, Samual, is the "Star Wars" money all gone? Already? It must be, because I can find no other way to explain the imminent release of "Snakes on a Plane."

The good thing about a movie like this is that you know exactally what you're in for. You're not going to be standing outside the box office saying "'Snakes on a Plane?' What could that possibly be about? Is it a Shakespearean romance? Is it a documentary about Wisconsin cheese making? I wish I knew!"

If you go to see this movie, I supposed you can't complain too much. You pretty much know what you are getting yourself into. It's not "Citizen Kane" afterall. Personally, I have phobia's about snakes, shallow plots and insipid dialog, so I'll probably skip this one.

On the bright side, Clerks II comes out in nine days... :)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

OK, now what?

Over the past year, there has been a lot of "stuff" happening in the .NET world. My primary areas on interest (in no particular order) are:

• BizTalk
• Team Foundation Server (customizing and extending)
• WCF (and Service Factory)
• WF

That's kind of a lot to cover. To help get a handle on it all, I've kind of grouped BizTalk, WCF and WF into a single "thing" since they are all very much related to each other. WF is built on BizTalk technology and BizTalk is being positioned by Microsoft as their SOA platform, which makes WCF a great compliment to it. Also, these are all developer related technologies that are all available (in some form or another) today.

LINQ/DLINQ are cool, but still in a very preliminary form. To be honest, when I first looked at these, I thought there were interesting, but I didn't really get excited about them. Recently, I've been reading some blog entries by Sahil Malik where he's been doing some very cool demos of what you can do with this stuff. It looks like it might be something that can complete with persistence frameworks like nHibernate. As cool as nHibernate is, the idea of a native solution baked into the .NET platform, not to mention no more XML mapping files, is very appealing. We'll have to see where this goes.

The Team Foundation Server stuff is cool, but it's mostly "implementing methodology"" type stuff, and once you get one custom project guidance, a few custom check-in policies and some extensions to MS-build under your belt, it sort of becomes a "been there, done that" sort of thing.

Currently I have a client who is not an "early-adopter", which they are comfortable with. However, they recognize the need, given their situation, to jump in with .NET 3.0 (specifically WCF) and Team Foundation Server. I’ve also spoken to them about moving to BizTalk since they already own a license and it is much more reliable, feature rich and user-friendly than their current solution and they are very excited about this possibility as well. What I'm looking forward most of all is seeing how a large, conservative shop will adjust moving to several new technologies (almost simultaneously) and moving to Feature Driven Development, which they've also asked for my help with.

So, as far as .NET posts, I'll have some WCF, TFS and FDD stuff coming pretty soon.

But don't worry; there is still plenty of other non-work stuff to blog about. Like, what’s up with this new Bobby Flay show"Throwdown?" Has he gotten tired of beating up on people on "Iron Chef" that he now has to go embarrass people in their own homes? So, is this the culinary equivalent of him knocking on someone’s door and sucker-punching them when they answer? Doesn't he have a restaurant to run or something...