On Weighing Job Offers…

As my apprentices are wrapping up this 12-week bootcamp, they’ve been interviewing and some are getting multiple job offers. The #1 question I get from those with multiple job offers is… How do you weigh the offers and make a decision?

What I do:

  • Write out the pros and cons of every offer.
  • Talk with my mentors about the companies and the offers to get their feedback.
  • Talk with my husband to make sure I make the right decision not just for me but also for us.

These are just some of the points that I look at and the questions I ask (not necessarily of the company but through my own research as well) when I look at offers side-by-side.  These are listed in no particular order.

Skills

What skills will I be using in this position?  Am I using the best of my skills to the best of my abilities?  Is there room for growth to hone my skills and pick up new skills?

Environment

What is my environment like?  Cubicle farm, open spaces, or something in between?  What’s team collaboration look like?  Who will be my teammates and what are their backgrounds?  Is the company involved in the community?

Location

Is the company in a location that’s right for me?  Highway accessible?  Near places that I need access to (bank, post office, grocery store, food sources in general, parks, etc.)?  What’s the traffic like between home and this location during the hours I’m commuting?  How much time am I sinking into the commute and will it be worth it?

Benefits/Perks

What benefits are offered?  Health insurance – types of coverage/costs? 401k? Profit sharing? Flex-time? Remote working?  Pair programming? Mentoring? Team building? Development/training or other opportunities to learn?

Company’s Mission and Goals

What does the company do?  Am I truly interested in what they do?  Is it creative enough of an outlet for me to stay interested?  If it’s a place where it isn’t creative enough but yet I believe in them, will I have time to do side projects to appease the creative side of me?  Is this a company that I can wake up and be happy going to?

Salary

What does this company pay for this position?  Is the pay rate comparable to similar positions industry-wide?  Are there contract stipulations tied to salary that I need to be extra-cautious of?  Are there signing bonuses that I need to be aware of?  Is there a certain salary range that I need to survive in the world and if so, does this offer fit in that range?

Sarah’s Must-Have Apps on Windows 8

Tonight, I got my Windows 8 RTM installed on a VHD.  I have to admit that I was skeptical of seeing the Metro interface that looks a lot like Windows Phone on a desktop.  I didn’t think I’d like the user experience, especially being on a laptop with a touchpad and no touchscreen.  The only thing I’m grumbly about so far is that it told me to install the Zune software to sync my Windows Phone with my PC.  Yeah, I don’t feel like ruining my fresh install (and my happiness) with that awfulness, so my phone will have to deal without a relationship to my laptop for now.

While looking around the Windows 8 Store, I found some apps that I just had to have.  These are some of my must-haves and why.

 

Xbox SmartGlass– This app encourages my laziness with the XBOX.  It’s bad enough that my 4 month old son hears me commanding the XBOX with voice commands thanks to my Kinect.  But now, while I’m tending to my little guy’s needs, I can also control my XBOX from my laptop with this Xbox companion app.  I no longer will startle my son with Kinect voice commands while he’s eating as I have this to control the XBOX.  Did I mention this encourages my laziness?

 


Microsoft Minesweeper – Oh dear… did I just recommend Minesweeper?  Yes, yes I did.  This is a game of the past that continues to get more awesome – complete with themes, achievements, daily challenges (coming soon), and yes, even an adventure mode (coming soon).  It’s nice to see how this game has grown over time to look better than the battleship grey sad thing it used to be.

 

 

 

TEDw – If you aren’t familiar with TED talks, you can find out more about these motivational talks on TED.com. This app puts recent TED talks right at your fingertips.  For example, when I look at the app now, I can easily access talks such as Rob Legato’s “The art of creating awe” and Timothy Prestero’s “Design for people, not awards”.  These are truly ideas worth spreading, and the TEDw app is great at spreading those ideas!

 

 

Microsoft OneNote MX – As I am writing this post, I have OneNote MX docked to the right with the list of apps that I’m recommending.  I’m a OneNote junkie – love using it to organize ideas and take notes!  So for me, I love keeping it docked while working on things to jot down that one idea that happens to come at the wrong time.

 

 

 

How Stuff Works – I love the site, and my father-in-law and husband are both huge fans of the How Stuff Works books.  Some random articles from the app include 5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Car Safer for Driving in Foul Weather, Does the Higgs boson exist?, How Hackers Work, and 10 Remarkable Exoplanets.  If you ever wanted to know how random things work, this app could probably quench your thirst for figuring out how things work.

 

 

 

Conclusion

These are some of my must-have recommendations for Windows 8 apps as of this point.  As time goes on and I stumble across more fun apps, look forward to future recommendations.  Meanwhile… do you have any Windows 8 apps that you recommend?  Either blog about it and leave me a link to your post or leave me a comment with what you recommend!  I look forward to hearing what others are recommending!

Our Technical Solution for the Baby Monitor

Many months ago, when I was pregnant, my husband and I were talking about baby monitors.  While looking at the ones already out there, none really jumped out at us.  Now, with both of us being geeks, we decided we’d evaluate our options here with the hardware and software available.  After figuring out that we had spare hardware laying about, we decided that we had to find a piece of software that could do monitoring.

Software Requirements and Test

Our requirements were simple:

  • Allow audio monitoring of the baby (video would be an added plus)
  • Desktop & mobile clients needed to be available – for both Android and Windows Phone

That first option was easy – there are plenty of conferencing and video/audio chat programs out there that would meet that requirement.  Now the second requirement, that’s where it got tricky.  My husband has an Android phone, and I have the Windows Phone.  Finding programs with Android clients is simple.  Finding programs with Windows Phone clients alone is okay.  But finding a client that works on both platforms – that wasn’t as easy.

Thankfully, Skype had a beta client for Windows Phone and already had a client out for Android.  We took it for a test spin to see how it would work, and sure enough it worked wonderfully.

Skype Setup

So… how did we set up Skype?

  1. Create an account for the baby monitor.
  2. Add ourselves to the baby monitor’s contact list.
  3. On the baby monitor’s Skype client:
    1. Click Tools
    2. Click Options
    3. Under the Call Settings section:
      1. Check Allow calls from… people in my Contact list only
      2. Check Answer incoming calls automatically
      3. If you want video, then also check Start my video automatically when I am in a call
      4. Click Save

The other thing we did at this point was muted the sound on the baby monitor’s client so that we wouldn’t have to mute ourselves every time and so that the baby wouldn’t hear us when we connected.
Portability
At the beginning of June, we went on vacation down to Outer Banks with a bunch of our friends and their families, and it was easy to travel with this setup.  We didn’t pack the netbook, as we had two laptops packed.  There were times where we had our baby in the crib in our room downstairs while sitting upstairs and playing games with the other adults.  We would log in on the baby monitor account on one of the laptops, run through the settings from above, and then call in from one of our phones.  This helped us hear our baby’s cries and tend to him while playing games.
Recommendation
Today marks 4 months of us using this setup.  While we both can’t be Skyped in at the same time separately – someone has to set up a conference call to make that happen – Skype has definitely worked well for us.  If you have spare hardware laying around, as well as need Android and Windows Phone connectivity, Skype works well for this!

Google+ Pages SUX

As some of you know, I’m one of the many people behind the various Stir Trek social media accounts.  Recently, I was asked to set up a Google+ Page for the event, and I figured… “I’ve set up Pages on Facebook before.  How painful could it be with Google+?”

Creating a Google+ Page

After seeing the Google+ Pages section off to the bottom right, I clicked that “Create a Google+ page” link.  Choosing a category was difficult… was I creating a page for the Stir Trek brand? The Stir Trek organization? When in doubt, go with “Other”.

After creating the page, I needed to customize the public profile.  This is where things got tricky.  If you haven’t seen it, the Stir Trek logo is rectangular:

 

StirTrek2012logo

However, Google+ wants a square.  Google+ – It’s no longer hip to be square.  I really wanted to capture both the name and the Avengers “A” (as this year’s movie is The Avengers).  I ended up settling with just the “A”.

All My Life’s a Circle

All these geometric shapes but not a rectangle!  My next idea was to set up circles for the organizers and this year’s speakers.  So I went about creating circles much like I did for my personal Google+ account.  With the circles created, I was ready to add people to them.

 

image

Really?  Hmm… I had tried adding organizers first but nothing worked.  I started following the Stir Trek page on my personal account and then tried adding myself to the Organizers circle.  That worked.  But adding anyone who hasn’t added me didn’t work.  Time to invite others to follow the Stir Trek page so that I can come back here and add them to my circles.  Well so much for getting people in their circles before telling people about the page.

A Picture’s Worth 1000 Words

The one thing that seemed quite intuitive and easy to work with was the Photos section of the Page.  I was able to create albums for past Stir Trek events and upload pictures without any problems.  So if you want to see things such as the theater posters that our sponsors had designed for last year’s event or even the picture of transporting 50 dozen Krispy Kreme donuts, you can check them out in the Stir Trek Google+ Page’s Photos gallery.

A Mostly Frustrating User Experience = Unhappy User

These experiences are just some of the headaches I’ve had with Google+.  It probably doesn’t help that I really haven’t adopted the Google+ platform personally – while people claimed that it would replace Facebook, I’m finding Facebook slightly less painful to use.  However, because we have it set up, I will periodically post updates to the Stir Trek Google+ page and hope that my Google+ experience turns more positive.

Microsoft Billing and Account Management SUX

Recently, I wanted to manage my billing options, as I had an invalid credit card tied to my Zune and XBOX Live account.  Unfortunately, I had the experience of meeting the Microsoft Billing and Account Management site.  This is unfortunate, as it is a site with horrible, HORRIBLE user experiences.

Select from Account IDs 

Yes, somebody didn’t get the memo that exposing accounts as account IDs really is a bad user experience.  Let’s see what I have…

  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-00020-12345 (Personal)
  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-02300-12345 (Personal)
  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-02412-12345 (Personal)
  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-02460-12345 (Personal)
  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-00302-12345 (Business)

Now those aren’t my real account numbers, but these are the options that I’m given. I have no idea what any of these account IDs mean. What’s better… in their respective applications, I don’t see these IDs. So why are you showing them to me as an option? Why couldn’t I get options that look more like the ones below?

  • Hotmail Plus (Personal)
  • XBOX Live (Personal)
  • TBD TBD (Personal)
  • Platform Services (Personal)
  • marketplaceformobile.somerandomstring.US  (Business)

I have no idea what some of these are even for – especially if there’s no service listing for that account.  And TBD TBD… no idea what that even is let alone why it appears there.  Some of these are even cancelled services, so why would I care to manage their Billing if I don’t have them anymore? (Edited note: Talking with my husband, we think this might be a migration of multiple billing systems into one, which could only lead down an ugly path.)

Now one of my accounts looks like it manages my XBOX Live, Zune Pass, and App Hub accounts.  So maybe coming up with friendly names for the accounts is a bit harder for their devs… how about letting the end user create friendly names for those accounts rather than showing them Acct ID# 00000-00000-00020-12345?

Disconnect in Payment Data

I went through the process of removing the invalid credit card from my Zune and XBOX Live account.  Looking at this in the Billing portal though, I see that this card has been marked as Removed on my cancelled MSN Hotmail Plus account. If I switch to my XBOX Live account, I see that same credit card listed, without being marked as Removed.  Really?  Mind you, under both accounts, it shows as Xbox Live (Visa: xxxxxxxxxxxx0000) – same exact name.  Why wouldn’t show as Removed on the XBOX Live account?

400 Clicks Later

As I mentioned on Twitter today, I was having other issues with my Zune account where credits weren’t showing.  Thankfully, @ZuneSupport and the Zune support chat team were able to find a solution that works for my needs.  However, I had Tweeted that I had hoped I wouldn’t get sent to the Microsoft Billing site as it was a headache user experience.  Leave it to one of my friends to point out that there’s the joys of clicking through a lot of screens to get the data you need.  Boy was she right!  Even the context-driven FAQs on the right of each page… click, click, click… ah there’s what I need… maybe.

Conclusion

I hope that one day Microsoft will invest in a great user experience team that can go through their websites and find these problems before we do.  At the moment, there are a lot of painful user experiences on their sites that I use, and the more I have to use these sites, the more I’m tempted to look at alternative solution providers or weigh the cost of abandoning my current services just to get away from these bad experiences.  Painful user experiences are what drives users to competitors who get the user experience right.  Please, Microsoft, save us from the painfulness known as your billing site by working with UX experts on making it easier to deal with.

Spam SUX: Chase threatens…

Waitress: Well, there’s egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam;
Vikings: Spam spam spam spam…
Waitress: …spam spam spam egg and spam; spam spam spam spam spam spam baked beans spam spam spam…
Vikings: Spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam!
Waitress: …or Lobster Thermidor a Crevette with a mornay sauce served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and spam.
Wife: Have you got anything without spam?
Waitress: Well, there’s spam egg sausage and spam, that’s not got much spam in it.
Wife: I don’t want ANY spam!

– Monty Python’s Flying Circus

I feel a lot like the wife in the Monty Python Spam skit.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like spam – be it from someone I used to do business with, someone I’m currently doing business with, or even someone I may deal with in the future.  Though if you want to deal with me in the future, you’re smart enough not to spam me in the first place.  Lately, though, there have been some reputable companies that have been turning to spam that have made me sad and made me wonder – When did spam become an acceptable business practice?

Definition of Spam

Taken from Encarta, via Bing:

Definition
spam
NOUN
spams plural
1. electronic junk mail: an unsolicited, often commercial, message transmitted through the Internet as a mass mailing to a large number of recipients
TRANSITIVE AND INTRANSITIVE VERB
spammed past and past participle
spam·ming present participle
spams 3rd person present singular
1. send unwanted e-mail: to send an unsolicited e-mail message, often an advertisement, to many people
2. post unwanted electronic messages: to post a message many times to a newsgroup, or an inappropriate message to multiple newsgroups

Let’s see… words that stand out there – unsolicited, unwanted, and inappropriate.  That describes the piece that I am covering here in this post.

Chase – Threatening to Spam

This was piece of mail that we received at home, telling us that Chase realized that we weren’t on any of their mailing lists and that they were going to start mailing us all sorts of stuff unless we opted out.  Really?  My husband and I each got a copy of this letter – so count the postage on both to be sent out, the paper to print said letter, the trees that were killed unnecessarily.  Apparently one of the guys I follow on Twitter had this same experience:

 

Chase letter: “You are not being mailed any of our product spam. Circle the products you DO NOT want to receive by mail, sign & date.” #Evil
Nov 02 via TweetDeckFavoriteRetweetReply

Really, Chase, when did it become acceptable to realize you weren’t mailing your customers and figured it’d be good to warn them that you’d be mailing them if they didn’t opt out?  Rather than taking that approach, why couldn’t you have said, “We have {such and such services}.  If you’re interested, please fill in the circles of those you’re interested in.”  Sad state of affairs when you’re forcing people into your programs and making them opt out rather than taking the opt-in approach.   Customers really don’t appreciate that kind of business.

Problem with Telerik’s recent geekette shirt…

I have no problem identifying with being a geekette (as is obvious with my domain name). However, I do have a problem with one of the more recent geekette shirts to hit the public (this one courtesy of Telerik):

Most geekettes I know dress like a typical geek.  We like our hoodies and geek tees just as much as the guy geeks.  Places like ErrorWear ThinkGeek, and SnorgTees cater to geek wear for women very well.

Sure, some of us have our girly moments of dressing up in dresses or shirts and skirts.  However, most of us tend to try to blend in with the crowd.  We don’t like being singled out by our gender and like being able to compete with other devs without the gender factor being brought up.

Not all of us are hourglass figures, as depicted in this new Telerik design.  Not all of us like to show off our *ahem* assets *ahem* as depicted in this design.

A friend’s husband called this design “slutty”, and I can see where he got that from.  I am not a fan of this design, and I would not encourage others to wear it.

This makes me miss their older geekette shirts:

Geekettes from Ann Arbor GiveCamp 2008

Please, tools makers, keep making tools but don’t be tools who create geekette shirts without really thinking them through.

SUX Adventures with the Dell Latitude E6520

While in the middle of surfing a web page in 1 tab in Google Chrome, with nothing else in the background, my favorite blue screen came back. It’s frustrating that this blue screen doesn’t stay up long enough to get details and also doesn’t log to the Event Log. But the KERNEL_DATA_INPAGE errors continue, even with the new hard drive.

So what else could it be? My frustration was getting me to the point of wanting to go Office Space on the laptop… all I wanted was a reliable laptop that worked and this thing has proven unreliable so far.

Rather than calling ProSupport again, I talked with my IT guy, my awesome husband. We talked through this headache and ended up finding out that Dell issued another BIOS update just recently. Hmm… let’s see what they fixed…

1. Addressed CD boot issues.
2. Addressed Hard Drives hang issue in AHCI mode.
3. Addressed Hard Drives encryption issue in ATA mode.4. Fixed issue where the MAC address would be incorrect after disabling the Integrated NIC in Setup.
5. Added support for Signed Firmware Update Transition BIOS.
6. Updated to the MOB_P_11 version of the Intel microcode patch.
7. Updated to the 1.2.0 version of Intel System Agent reference code.
8. Updated to the 1.2 version of Intel PCH Reference Code.
9. Updated to the 1.2.1.1 version of Intel PPM Reference Code.

Hard drive hang issue… hmm…

We’ve applied BIOS A06 and are now hoping it stays stable again.

I would love to write a positive SUX story about this laptop, without focusing on ProSupport’s awesomeness. But this is more and more a struggle.

Dying hard drives on new laptops SUX

Just a few weeks before devLink, I purchased a new laptop to replace my ASUS G51JX. I ended up getting a Dell Latitude E6520. Within the first few days of getting it, the laptop had a KERNEL_DATA_INPAGE blue screen and lost sight of the hard drive. After rebooting a few times and working with Dell ProSupport, it came back up. Unfortunately, we couldn’t identify what had caused the issue. We figured it would be a one-time deal, perhaps a fluke.

Fast forward to today… so the laptop made it through devLink without showing any adversity. However, this morning, while listening to Zune, reading emails in Outlook, and chatting with my husband on Lync Communicator, the laptop decided to spontaneously throw another KERNEL_DATA_INPAGE error. Unfortunately, this BSoD doesn’t log info or create minidumps and reboots quicker than you can say “Dude… don’t get a Dell!” So my frustration was back. Rebooted, couldn’t see the hard drive… rebooted again and the hard drive came back just fine.

This special 512e hard drive just doesn’t like me. I think it’s a 512evil hard drive for as stable as it has appeared. However, we’ll see if its replacement is any better.

After an hour and change of diagnostics with Dell ProSupport, I’m getting a new hard drive. I’m thankful for Dell ProSupport – support in English with a very knowledgable crew. I didn’t have to deal with a script, and Todd in Nashville was great at getting me what I needed.

Why am I Wi-flagged with laptops lately?