Dom's Dodge Charger: LEGO, Amazon US
I was in my local Wal-Mart this past Sunday afternoon picking up some quarantine supplies. While in there, I happed to go by the LEGO aisle. I always check this aisle because sometimes you can find sets on clearance at a good discount. I didn't find any good discounts, but I happened to see this set on the shelf all by itself. I knew it was coming out in April but I didn't remember when. I was not all that interested in this model when I saw the announcement on Facebook, but I had a feeling that I might have stumbled across it on sale a few days early. I have found sets on sale early at this particular Wal-Mart before, but the last time the set was only on sale a day early and it wasn't even in their cash register system. I scanned this model using the Wal-Mart app on my phone and found out that it was listed as costing $99. Ok, I guess maybe they released it. I'll buy it.
I get home and check on the release date of this model. It isn't supposed to be released for 3 more weeks! I've never found one on sale that early! I thought it would be an interesting little find so I posted a photo on the Facebook LEGO Technic Group. It blew up! Several people claimed my photo was Photoshop as a site that checks for Photoshop fakes incorrectly identified it as fake (it was not) and that Wal-Mart's Point of Sale system should not have let me buy it that early. I wasn't planning on building it right away, as I was in the middle of building another set, but there was so much requests for more photos and more information on the set, I opened it up. After posting some more pictures, the skeptics on Facebook finally believed me that it was real. I set out to open it up and start building it so everyone else could get an early look at it. Here's what I found.
All in all, this was a pretty easy build. The numbered bags greatly reduce the number of pieces you have to search through to finish each stage of the build. I often have trouble with Technic models that contain a lot of gears, but this one did not have that many, so it was no problem. There were a couple of places where the instructions had you insert pieces into weird angles. I rarely come across sets that require these weird steps, but this one definitely had a few. There were also a couple places where the instructions don't show clearly what needs to be done, so I had to guess based on visually comparing the before and after photos. This particular problem happens way too often in LEGO instructions.
This is a fairly cheap model of a cool hot rod car. I really like the design of the engine and suspension, but I don't like the car's body. I'm not a big fan of Technic designs that looks overly 'hole-y' wit lots of gaps in them. This model definitely qualifies as one of those. The entire body is full of holes. This set would serve as a good base for a hot rod model, but toss the ugly body. I much prefer the more clean look of the non-Technic Ford Mustang model. If you like Technic models, it's a fun build, if you prefer the more clean lines of traditional LEGO models, skip this one in favor of the Ford Mustang model.
Yes, my blog has been very quiet for the last few... years. Ack. I'm going to try to change that going forward and write more regularly.
The first step in reviving the blog is to bring it up to the latest versions of everything. As such, I just updated the blog to the newest version of the blogging software. It was probably over a year out of date up until now.
However, the biggest change I am happy to make is to switch the entire site to full, always on SSL, through the awesome new LetsEncrypt. LetsEncrypt is a new certificate authority that provides automatic and FREE SSL certificates to everyone! How awesome is that?
Kudos also go to my longtime webhost - Dreamhost for providing support for LetsEncrypt right on their webpanel. Well done guys!
So the blog just got a fresh coat of paint and is now fully secure. A good start to a renewed blog.
Last weekend I decided to try Comcast's Xfinity internet service. I wanted to try it because they offered a faster connection than my current service with AT&T U-verse. My current U-verse offers 26Mb/sec speed and Xfinity offers 50Mb/sec speed. Obviously getting nearly twice the speed is a good thing. I ordered the box and got it this past Wednesday evening. Today I called and canceled the service, 3 days later, in utter disgust. Here's why.
Comcast wanted to charge me $10 to ship the new cable box to them. I suggested they give me free shipping since I was a new customer. The sales agent agreed, but said he couldn't give me the $10 credit until AFTER I received the box. He put a note in the computer that I was offered the $10 credit and said to call back after I got the service enabled and they'd give me the credit. I did call today and they did give me the credit. However, It's stupid that they can't offer this ahead of time.
Comcast sends you a box and expects you to set it up yourself. U-verse has a technician come out and set up everything for you. AT&T doesn't charge for this. Better service is always a good thing
Can't turn the Wifi on the cable modem off
I already have a very good Wifi router - a brand new Apple Airport Extreme Time Capsule. I don't need another Wifi signal in my house and an inferior one. I looked everywhere through the router setup website, read the router manual and could find no instructions for turning the Wifi off. U-verse easily allows you to do this on their router. I did some Googling about this issue, and it seems you have to call Comcast and have them shut off the Wifi on your router remotely. Um, no, I do NOT like this. I wasn't even supposed to get a router with Wifi. I told them I already had wifi and didn't need it, but they sent me one with it anyway.
They want to use the Internet service I pay for to provide 'free' Wifi to others
Recently I came across this article that explains how Comcast has been testing a new service that turns their customer's Xfinity modem into a free public Wifi hotspot. They say that this service won't effect the bandwidth of the customer, but I am very skeptical of this. Granted this service isn't active in my area yet, but I'm not happy about Comcast deciding to use my paid for service to offer free Wifi to others. I strongly suspect it WILL affect the bandwidth of my service, and I'm also concerned with the potential legal issues of allowing others to use my Wifi connection. Who's to say what type of illegal activities could be carried out over a connection that is identified with me? I won't subject myself to this.
Useless and invasive 'install' software
When I got the Comcast cable modem box, I set it up and went through the online account activation. This is a series of web pages where you enter your account information, set up a Xfinity website email account etc. At the end of this web based account setup, it gets to a final page that tells me I have to download and run an install program to finish the install. I don't recall it saying WHAT this install program would do, but I don't think it said much. I was skeptical of why I'd need this program when I saw this. It can't be required to connect to the service, because the service is simply Wifi. In addition, the service will work on any device that uses Wifi (cell phones, iPads, laptops, Windows, Macs etc.) so it didn't seem of much use. Despite that, I went ahead and downloaded the app and installed it on my Mac. It didn't seem to do much, and it was a very small download. It did tell me at the end of the install that I had to restart all my web browsers. This again raised red flags to me. Why does it need to restart my web browsers? What did it change in my web browsers that required a restart? I restarted my web browsers and noticed that suddenly the home page of my web browser had been changed to the Xfinity web site without my permission. In addition, it added a couple of links to Xfinity websites to my desktop. These 3 changes appear to be all that this install program did. So let me get this straight. I have to install this program to finish my installation? All it did was essentially give me 3 web site URLs. This is completely useless. They could have easily included a piece of paper with this information and not had to mess with my PC in order to throw links to their stuff everywhere. I especially resent the changing of my browser homepage without my permission. You do NOT do this.
Xfinity Intercepts SSL connections!
This was the last straw. This morning, I was on my Mac, using Chrome to browse eBay. I found something small I wanted to buy so I clicked on the Buy Now button on eBay. This button took me to signin.ebay.com over an HTTPS SSL connection. However, when I did this, Chrome displayed a full page warning in the browser window that a comcast.com URL was identifying itself as signin.ebay.com! This means that the Comcast system was intercepting my secure, encrypted SSL connection to signin.ebay.com and redirecting it through one of their own sites. This is what in security circles is known as a man in the middle attack. Had I not noticed this, Comcast would have been able to access anything sent over this secure connection - including credit card numbers, account names and passwords. This is unacceptable. A short time later, on the same Mac I was using iTunes and I got a warning message saying that the secure certificate on the iTunes Store was invalid. I suspect Comcast was intercepting this SSL connection as well. I suppose it's possible Comcast is doing this to do some kind of optimization of their network, but this is unacceptable. You do not intercept secure communications, Comcast. This is 'grounds for termination' with me.
I called a bit earlier and was able to get that $10 credit and cancel my account without any problems. Since I cancelled the service within the first 30 days, they said their would be no charge. We'll see if they send me a bill or not. About the only thing good I can say about their service is that it's extremely fast - 50Mb/s was giving me almost 6.7MB/sec download speeds. This is much faster than the 26Mb/sec service that U-Verse was giving me. I get at most about 2.9MB/sec download speeds on U-verse. However, I'll take this slower speed if it means I'm not dealing with an invasive, impersonal service.
This whole Xfinity experiment was a collossal failure. Back to U-verse for me.
Pilgrimage to the Mothership
Every year someone plans the annual pilgrimage to the mothership, i.e. a visit to the Apple Corporate Headquarters. Last year I atteded this. Everyone met outside the Moscone center and boarded a couple of chartered buses for the trip down to Cupertino. Once we arrived there, we spent an hour or so visiting the on-site Apple Store. You can find some nice, exclusive gifts and t-shirts here. After that, we went over to a restaurant in the parking lot of the Apple HQ and had lunch.
All in all, I found this trip kind of a let down. The only thing you are allowed to see at the Apple HQ is the Apple Store. If you want to buy a few t-shirts I suppose that's a good thing, but otherwise, it's not much different from visiting any other Apple Store. It's also a fairly small Apple Store at that. The food was decent at the restaurant. If you are a first time attendee of WWDC, you might enjoy this trip, but once you've gone once, it kind of loses it's appeal.
If possible, book a nonstop flight! Yes, it costs a bit more, but it's worth it. I went cheap last year and booked flights both ways with stopovers. I live in South Florida - about as far from California as you can possibly be and still be in the same country! These stopovers added several hours of travel time and were a real hassle. This year, I'm travelling nonstop so instead of 10+ hours of travel, it's down to 6 hours. Also, if your airline offers seats in coach with extra legroom and you are a tall person, get it! Coach seats are very cramped, especially legroom. The seatback tables in coach are also tiny.. If you have a big laptop, forget it. It will never fit. A Macbook Air or an iPad would certainly fit though.
Pay close attention to the maximum weight your airline allows for checked baggage. If you go over that, they charge really high fees. Weigh your suitcase before you leave. If it's over the weight limit, leave some things behind. For example, you can leave such things as many toiletries (toothpaste, deoderant, shampoo etc.) behind. There is a Walgreens around the corner from Moscone if you need these things and it's a lot cheaper to buy them there and toss them than to pay the suitcase overweight charges. Also, leave some space and weight free in your suitcase for bringing items back. You are going to be coming back with at least a new WWDC jacket and likely a few t-shirts so keep the weight of thse things in mind. Also, if you must go over the limit, you can move some items into a carry-on bag and take that on the plane with you. Most airlines allow one carry on bag, but a laptop bag does NOT count as a carry on bag, so you can carry on a laptop bag and a carry on bag, for these extra items.
Hotels in San Francisco are very expensive. A cheap hotel is at least $200/night. A good hotel can be several times that. If you want to stay in a decent, relatively cheap hotel, The Pickwick Hotel is a good choice. I stayed there last year and it was a clean and well kept hotel, if nothing fancy. The Pickwick Hotel is about a block or so from the Moscone Center so it's very close. This year, I have a bit more money to spare on the trip so I'm staying at the Intercontinental Hotel. This hotel runs about $350 or more a night. It's a large 30+ story hotel directly behind the Moscone Center. This is about as close as you can get to staying in the Moscone Center itself!
The keynote is the first event Monday morning. Get there EARLY. It usually starts at 10AM. I got there at about 7AM and the line was already 3/4 of the way around the Moscone Center! You might want to get there even earlier than that to insure a good seat. The room where the keynote is very large and will hold most of the people who are attending, so even if you get there relatively late, you should still be able to get a seat. If not, they have an overflow room where you can watch it on video.
Most of the attendees at WWDC are men. Probably 90-95%. This means that the bathrooms are going to be VERY heavily used and get kind of gross by the end of the day. If you are a female attendee, you are lucky. You'll have the bathrooms all to yourself. If you want to find a clean bathroom, try to locate some of the more out of the way locations. The bathrooms in the front, and the ones near the large conference rooms will get the most use, so avoid those if you can. There are several bathrooms located in a corner in the back of each floor. These are usually fairly clean, so use these instead. Bring a bottle of hand sanitizer and use if A LOT. If you don't you will definately get sick by the end of the week. I did.
Apple provides breakfast and lunch every day, Monday through Friday at the lunch area on the first floor. This food isn't great, but it's edible. Breakfast is usually lots of bread - bagels, muffins, etc. Lunch is usually a pre-made box lunch. They offer several different lunch choices every day including a vegetarian choice. They offer sodas, juices and water to drink. The juices are Odwalla juices. These are VERY good, but have lots of sugar and calories, so don't go too crazy with those. They don't provide dinner, so you are on your own there. You might want to also consider getting to the lunch room a bit early for lunch. It fills up fast and it can be hard to find a seat.
The downstairs conference room isn't just a place to feed yourself, but a place to feed your laptop / iPhone / iPad as well. Along the center of every table is a bunch of power strips and ethernet cables. When you sit down for lunch, you can plug in your laptop to charge it and plug the ethernet cable into your laptop to download all the lastest betas that they offer at the show. This connection is INCREDIBLY fast, so use this to download software rather than the wifi which is VERY spotty. If you have a slim laptop such as a Macbook Air or Retina Macbook Pro, don't forget to bring the ethernet adaptor plug for your laptop!
The whole point of going to WWDC is the training sessions they hold throughout the day. If you see a session that looks interesting, by all means, attend it. However, if no sessions interest you during a particular hour, don't be afraid to just find a chair / beanbag and relax. You'll get videos from every session anyway, so yo aren't going to miss anything. Last year Apple released all the session videos on the Monday following the conference. This year, they say they'll release them the same day! I wouldn't be surprised if you can download the videos from the ethernet connections in the first floor lunch room. Take advantage of this! And if you do decide to skip a session, sit down next to some other attendees and strike up a conversation with them. There's no better place for networking with other Apple fans than WWDC. Chat with them. Exchange business cards. Ask what they do. Be social.
Every year, Apple announces some surprise lunchtime sessions. These are sessions, usually held in the large Presidio conference room on the third floor (the same room where the keynote is held). These are NOT included in the videos Apple provides after the show is over, so be sure to attend. These are interesting because they are NOT programming related. Last year we had Le Var Burton talking about his Reading Rainbow App, and JJ Abrams talking about movie making. Both were very interesting. These lunchtime sessions are not to be missed. One thing to know about these lunch time sessions though is that they are very popular. There is going to be a LONG line to get into them. Because there's only about a 15 minute delay between sessions, you are unlikely to be able to attend the lunchtime sessions and the session immediately before it. Feel free to sneak out of the session before lunch early or skip it entirely in favor of standing in line for the lunchtime session.
Socializing / Networking
Don't forget to socialize at WWDC. There is no better place to network. The videos will cover any sessions you miss, so don't worry about that. Make time to just sit and relax and chat up the guy/girl next to you. You may make a friend or even arrange some paying work that way. There are also often social events outside the Moscone Center in the evenings. Attend these if you can. Get out and have some fun!
Acclimitizing to different time zones
If you are flying in from a differnet timezone, you might want to consider flying in a few days early to give yourself some time to adjust to the differernt time zone in California. I came from Florida, which is only 3 hours off, and I was tired for most of the week until I adjusted.
See the sights
If you've never been to San Francisco, take some time to see the sights. Check out Alcatraz. Take a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Go for a ride in a cable car. You are there already. You might as well get a little 'tourist-y' while you are there.
San Francisco is windy and can get quite cold at times. Wear jeans on your flight over and have a light jacket in your suitcase for when you arrive. The wind isn't as bad inside the city becasue the tall buildings block a lot of it, but if you are on the bay or walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, it will get cold.
Coming and Going
The conference starts on Monday. They open Moscone center on the Saturday before to give you a time to register and pick up your ID badge. Do NOT lose that badge or they won't let you in. In addition, the last session on Friday ends at noon. This means that most people will fly in Saturday. They check in on Saturday. The show runs Monday through Friday. Since the show ends at noon on Friday, what most people will do is check out of their hotel Friday morning before they arrive as Moscone. Then once you get past the last lunch time session, grab your suitcase and head to the airport. Apple provides a place at Moscone to store your suitcase, but last year, this didn't strike me as a very secure location. It was just big fenced off area with tons of suitcases piled up. Personally, I plan on checking out of my hotel Friday morning and then leaving my suitcase at the counter downstairs where they can lock it up in a more secure room.
If you are staying at one of the hotels near Moscone and arriving at San Francisco International Airport, the easiest way to get to your hotel is to take the BART subway from the airport to the Powell Street station. This station is only a couple blocks from Moscone, so your hotel should be short walk from here. And of course when you leave, just get back on the subway at this station and take it back to the airport. As I recall, it costs about $8 each way. A lot cheaper and faster than a taxi.
I decided on Monday of this week that it was time to get serious about this App Store thing, so I decided to establish a corporation and move all my apps over to that corporation. Below is a description of the whole process I went through, step by step.
Step 1: Establish the corporation
In order to establish a corporation in Florida, you go to the sunbiz.org website. On the sunbiz.org site, go to the section to file for a new For Profit corporation. You can find it here. While there, you fill out some basic information, pay a $70.00 filing fee and an optional $8.75 for a Certificate of Status. The $70 gives you the Articles of Incorporation for your new corporation. You will receive both of these forms immediately as PDF files. Save them in a safe place, and print out a copy of them. You'll need them. You should receive an email shortly showing that your corporation was successfully filed. This email will also contain the document number for that filing of your corporation. Write down this number and don't lose it. It's important. Of course if you live in another state, you'll have to go to the appropriate website for your state in order to file the corporation, but the process should be similar.
Step 2: Be assigned a Tax ID Number
The next step is to go to the IRS web site here to apply for a new Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is essentially the 'social security number' of your corporation and will be needed in order to file taxes for the company and in order to open a bank account for the company. You will be issued an EIN immediately and they will provide you with a PDF letter confirming this. Save this in a safe place and print out a copy of this letter.
Step 3: Open a business checking account
Go to the bank of your choice to open a separate bank account for your business. NEVER run a corporation from your personal bank account. Make sure that whatever bank you go to, you confirm that the bank has a SWIFT number. This number is used for international wire transfers between banks. You need this because Apple uses this SWIFT number to make payments from international sales to your corporation. If the bank does not have a SWIFT number (credit unions often don't), find another bank. Bring with you the copy of the Articles of Incorporation and the EIN letter from the IRS that you printed out. You'll need these to prove your corporation exists and that you are rightful owner of it.
Step 4: Contact Apple to request a conversion of your account from Individual to Corporate Standard
Log into your current Apple Developer account and go to the contact site here to send an email to Apple requesting that your Individual Account be converted to a Corporate Standard. You can probably skip this step because all that's going to happen is they will send you the following email:
Thank you for contacting Apple Developer Support regarding the iOS Developer Program.
If you wish to enroll a company, you may do so by contacting our Apple Developer Support team 1-800-633-2152 and advise that you wish to migrate your Individual program to a Company Standard program.
I hope that this information is helpful to you. Please let us know if you have any questions regarding this information.
Step 5: Call Apple Developer Support
As the email suggested, call Apple at 1-800-633-2152 and tell them that you would like to convert your account from Individual to Company Standard. They'll ask for various information from you. They'll warn you that your account will be locked out while the conversion is taking place. This means you can't go in and submit any new apps or any app updates during this time. You can still log into your account and read documentation etc. At least when I did it, it seemed you could still log in and download any betas of Xcode, or iOS or whatever, so as long as you aren't planning to submit any apps for the next couple of days you should be fine. They'll start the process and let you know via email how it progresses.
Step 6: Fax corporate information to Apple
Not long after you hang up with Apple, they will send you the following email:
We are currently in the process of reviewing your Safari Developer Program, iOS Developer Program and Mac Developer Program enrollment information. In order to continue the enrollment process, please fax one of the following forms of identity for your business. Ensure your business documents match your enrollment information:
Articles of Incorporation
Certificate of Formation
Partnership papers (Must be Notarized)
Reseller or vendor license Operating Agreement (Must be Notarized)
File Articles of Incorporation (must be accompanied by a Certificate of Status)
Developers located in the US and Canada may fax their documents to 1-877-838-1382.
Developers located internationally may fax their documents to 1-408-974-7683.
This email is a bit confusing that it lists just the Articles of Incorporation on one line by itself as a requirement but then lists the Articles of Incorporation again along with a Certificate of Status. To be on the safe side, I chose to fax both, the Articles of Incorporation and Certificate of Status (you did print those out right?) A short time later you will receive an email from Apple confirming that they received your faxed documentation. If all goes well, a day or two later you get to the next step.
Step 7: Receive a call from Apple Developer Support
I received a call from Apple Developer Support earlier today. They called to let me know that they were ready to switch everything over to a corporate account. The lady on the phone started to tell me that I had to go and sign up and pay the $99 registration fee, but I told her I already had a membership and that this was converting an existing membership. Make sure when you talk to them that you let them know that you are converting an existing membership, so they don't make you pay this $99 fee. She said she would be sending me an email shortly that would send me back to the iOS Developer Site to re-agree to all the contracts etc. for the new corporate account.
Step 8: Re-agree to all the various contracts
The email link received takes you back to the iOS Development site. From here you have to go through and agree to all the contracts again. You also have to redo all the banking information to point them to your new corporate account. Also, don't forget to update all the copyright notices on your apps to list your company name instead of your personal name (might want to add '2012' to the year too if you haven't already!). You should probably update all the website links and support emails assigned to your apps to your corporate website and emails (assuming you've set those up).
From that point on you should be done. Two days to convert from individual to corporate account, start to finish.
Hope this helps all my fellow iOS devs out there!
On January 29, 2010, I wrote a blog article about how the iPad had just been announced. I wrote in that blog that even though my first impression of it was a bit negative, I was still going to buy one. On February 2, 2011, just a couple days over a year later, I started a new job working full time developing applications for the iPad! What a difference one year makes!
This job that I started doing iPad development in, is my first ever job where I was not doing Windows programming. Not only did I find a new job, but I essentially changed careers at the same time! It was interesting how all this happened.
Ever since the iPhone SDK (now called the iOS SDK) first came out in 2008, I've been interested in it. I started programming on the iPhone way back in 2008 with the beta SDKs. Within a couple months, I had my first iPhone app completed and launched on the App Store. It was NOT a very good app. Most of the time your first app in a new development platform isn't going to be very good because you are still learning how to use it. The app never really sold much. Maybe 10-20 copies a MONTH. Needless to say it wasn't a very profitable app. I toyed with several other iPhone apps along the way but never really made much progress on mastering iPhone/iOS development. While doing this, I continued to work at my current full time Windows development job. This was a job I was not very happy at, but I took the 'comfortable' route and continued to work there and collect a paycheck. Over this time, my iOS development stagnated and largely grinded to a halt for a year or so.
In January of 2010, they announced the iPad (as I mentioned in that blog). In March of 2010 they released the first betas of the iPad SDK. This SDK was very similar to the iPhone SDK, with a few additions, so I already had somewhat of an understanding of it. But I hadn't done much work on the iPhone SDK in over a year so I was really rusty. Of course the release of the iPad renewed my interest in iPhone development, so I decided to adapt my first app to the iPad and 'refocus it' from kind of a joke app to a serious photo editor application for the iPad. I took parts of that old app and started a new project I called Photo Maker as my photo editor for the iPad. I spent about a month working on it in the iPad simulator. The iPad hardware hadn't been released yet so I had no way of testing it on the real device. Since the SDK was also in beta, I had no way of seeing how any other iPad apps worked so I didn't know the right way to do iPad apps. I just continued developing it in the same style as my first app.
A month later, the iPad was released, I bought one and they released the final SDK. I bought my iPad and started downloading iPad apps and seeing how they worked. I realized that the app I was writing had a UI that was completely wrong for the iPad, so I started the app over. I basically threw out a month's worth of work and started again fresh. This time I was determined to do it right. After a few weeks of working on the app, I was really starting to enjoy myself. I made the decision right then and there that I was not going to give up this time. I was going to devote my every spare minute to learning everything I can about iPad programming and try my damndest to do it right this time.
I spent a couple months working on it and released it in June of 2010. It made some sales, around 10-20 copies a day. Again certainly not enough to live on, but quite a bit better than that first app. Once that first version was released, I dove in and started working on updates. I've released several updates since then and I continue to work on it on a regular basis.
I had been wanting to leave the field of Windows development for years, but never really put much effort into doing so. I'd apply for an occaisional job here and there, but again only in Windows because I thought that was all I'd ever get hired for. After all, I had no work experience doing any kind of Mac/iPhone/iOS development, so noone would hire me. I continued my day job of working in Windows (unhappily) and my night job of working on the iPad (and enjoying it immensely) for months. I was not happy at my job but I was too lazy to do anything about it. I got comfortable. Of course, while I was comfortable, I was VERY unhappy at my job and this showed. I complained all the time at work and clearly was not a happy employee. In early December of 2010, my company decided that they'd had enough of that and they fired me.
Getting fired that day was the best thing that ever happened to me.
So now here it is, early December of 2010 and I am unemployed. December is NOT a good month to be looking for a job. It's the end of the year, so a lot of people are thinking of vacations, yearly budgets are used up, and noone is hiring. Despite that, I started looking. Of course I started looking for a Windows development job, thinking that's all I could ever get hired for. I had plenty of money in the bank. I could have easily lasted a year unemployeed so I wasn't stressed out about it. I spent the month of December looking for that Windows job without any luck. Despite my Windows job hunt, I knew what I really wanted was a job doing iPhone/iPad programming. I wanted to get out of the Windows world. I'd spent the better part of the last year working towards that goal.
I had been attending the Ft. Lauderdale CocoaHeads Users Group for many months before that ominous December day. I continued to do so. It was at one of these meetings that I mentioned that I was unemployed and looking for a job. I said that I was looking for a Windows job - to which my fellow CocoaHead's members (rightfully) looked at me like I was crazy. Why the hell was I looking for a Windows job if I was doing all this iPad development? That same night, I happened to get an email from a former CocoaHeads member who was now working out in California. I mentioned to him that I was looking for a new job and I'd like to work on iPads in that job. Turns out he was the hiring manager at his company out there (which I didn't know!) so he started forwarding iOS job listings he saw to me. He also suggested that I forward him my resume in case he came across any jobs I might qualify for. Of course it had never occured to me to contact him before about this since I figured, why ask a guy in California to help me find a job in Florida? But I sent him my resume anyway. I figured it couldn't hurt. He takes one look at my resume and writes back to me saying it was horrible! He suggested some changes to it to better emphasize my iPad experience (since that's what I wanted to find a job in). I took his suggestions and updated my resume. I submitted it to several jobs and a week later I had a job offer doing iPad programming!
I had sent my (iPad development) resume in to the company I now work for. They contacted me right back and asked me to come in for an interview. I came in and they brought me into the meeting room. I had brought my iPad with me with Photo Maker loaded on it to show them, to prove that I could do the iPad job. Of course when I get there, they say they are going to interview me for a Silverlight (Windows development) position! The company was also hiring for Windows and my resume showed some Silverlight experience so apparently there was some confusion on their part there. I told them that I had actually been brought in for an iPad development interview. So, they shuffled interviewers and brought over the head of the iPad team to interview me. We chatted and seemed to really hit it off. I showed him my app and pointed out various parts of the program and how I had written them. He showed me the early prototype of the company's iPad app. I went through his app and described my guesses as to how they had written it. We seemed to get along really well in the interview and I thought I he liked me. I later met the owner and chatted with him for a while. They thanked me and I left. Not an hour later they called me to offer me the job and wanted me to start the next day! I told them I would take the job, but I needed to start in two days, so that I could make a few prepartions for the job. They agreed and two days later (on February 2, 2011) I started the job. I'm still there now.
My friend out in California turned out to be instrumental in me getting this job. He helped me write a good resume that got me a job - a job I never thought I could get. Looking back on things now, I think what got me that job, in addition to the resume, was the fact that I had a proven track record in iPad development. I had a published iPad app on the App Store and I could prove in person that I was knowledgeable about this stuff. The iPad is a very new platform (just over a year old now), so you are not going to find anyone with 5 years of experience on the thing. However, in leiu of that, a proven track record of ability at the platform had substitued for work experience. This never occured to me. I learned a lot from this experience.
This is my first job where I work on a Mac all day. I don't even run Windows anymore. This is a GOOD thing. I am very happy about that fact. I have started a new career, and I find my enthusiasm about software development renewed by this shift to iPad work. For the first time in a long time, I actually enjoy my job. I am also doing very well at this job and never complain about things. Is the job perfect? No. No job is. But it is a far cry better than the job I left. I was unemployed for two months, but when I found a new job it was so much better than my old one (and making more money!) that I am glad I lost those two months of work. I never want to go back to Windows programming.
I've written in the past about all the issues I've been having with my 2005 Honda Accord. Well, those issues are over. I no longer have a Honda Accord. Several weeks ago I traded it in and bought a Lexus.
In my previous blogs, I had gone on and on about how I had a 100,000 mile warranty on the Accord and that I was hell-bent on keeping the car until that warranty expired. Well, something happened several weeks ago that pushed me over the edge and made me decide to get rid of it. On September 16th, the monthly meeting of the Ft. Lauderdale CocoaHeads user's group was scheduled to occur. CocoaHeads is a user's group aimed at people who write software for Macs (as I do). So I went to work that day, and then left work at the end of the day. I was driving north on the interstate and everything in the car was going fine. I continued north until I reached some bumper to bumper traffic. So I slowed down and inched along for a while. Everything seemed fine. After a little while of this I happened to notice that one of the 'check engine' lights on the dash had just lit up. I didn't think much of it. So I continued to inch along in traffic. At a couple points there, the traffic would open up in front of me enough that I could accelerate and make some distance. So I'd press the accelerator. The problem was, the car didn't accelerate. It continued to plod along very slowly. Since the traffic never stayed open for long I didn't think much of it. I just figured maybe I had missed pressing the pedal right with my foot or something. But after a bit more crawling, the traffic opened up again in front of me and I hit the gas. Again no acceleration. I tried several times to make sure I was hitting the pedal right. The car would just barely move. I tried everything I could do to get it moving faster without much luck. Great. So now my damn car is crawling along the interstate going maybe 30 MPH while every other car around me is zipping past me. Plus, I'm in the center lane going very slow. Obviously something is wrong with my car and I need to take the thing in in the morning and get it fixed. By this time,, it was probably the 12th time I'd taken it in for some kind of repair this year. I'd had it. I said to myself right there as I crawled along the interstate, that this car was history. Obviously, with this car trouble, I wouldn't make it to the CocoaHeads meeting, so I decided to see if I could make it home. With some effort I was able to maneuver it over and pull off at the nearest exit. I eventually discovered that the car did accelerate, it just did it VERY slowly. A light would go green and I'd step on the gas. My car would be lucky to hit 30 crossing the intersection. If I kept pressing the accelerator, it would slowly accelerate up to speed, but meanwhile I'm blocking traffic as my car plods along. So I ened up driving the 20 miles or so from where I was home, in a car that was driving at an average speed of maybe 30MPH. It took a while. I took it to the dealership the next morning to get it fixed. Oddly enough it drove fine. But the dealership checked it out and determined that the sensor that detects when I press the accelerator had failed and so it couldn't tell I was pressing the accelerator. Hence the car wouldn't accelerate. They fixed the car under my 100,000 mile warranty and returned it to me with no cost to me. Despite that, I knew it was time. The car was breaking down so often that I didn't trust it. It was time to get rid of it.
So I have my Accord back and it's working fine (for now). I decide to start hunting for a replacement car. I knew immediately that I was going to buy a late model used car - something with low miles and 2008 model year or newer. I also knew that I was going to buy the car, not finance it. A good friend suggested that I look at buying a Lexus. So that weekend (the day after I got my car back) I went used car shopping. I first went to JM Lexus. I had done some research on their site and had narrowed it down to a 2008 or 2009 Lexus ES350 sedan. I drove up to the dealership, looked around, test drove a couple of the Lexuses and liked what I saw. But I wasn't sure it was the best deal. So I left without buying a car and drove to a few other places. I went to two different CarMax dealerships and looked around. Nothing much there I liked. I found a nice Acura TL at one of the CarMax dealerships, but I thought the price was a bit high. It was almost as much as the used Lexuses I had looked at. I looked at some late model Nissan Maximas. No luck. I looked at an Acura dealership for an Acura TL. I found a decent TL there, but I mentioned to the salesman that the TL was expensive. I could buy a Lexus for the same price. He asked me how much I would be willing to pay. I gave him a number $4K less than the sticker price and he agreed immediately. This struck me as a bit shady, that he would so easily drop the price so much. That meant the car was overpriced to begin with. I wasn't comfortable with this, so I left. I also went by a BMW dealership and looked at a few of their cars. They were very friendly and helpful, but I didn't much like the cars. They were OK looking but the Lexus had more features for the same price, so I ultimately ruled those out.
So after a weekend of extensive shopping, I didn't have much to show for it. About the only decent car I'd found was the Lexus ES350. The price was decent, the cars all looked brand new. They were spotless. It looks like Lexus is the way I'm going to go. The problem was money. I had the money I needed for the car sitting in a mutual fund account. I had to sell the mutual funds and get the money transfered into my account. I figured it would take about a week to do all that stuff, so I decided to not buy a car that weekend. I would sell the mutual funds on Monday, give it a few days to get the money into my account and then buy the Lexus the following weekend. So I sold the mutual funds, and got the money into my account. It took about a week as I expected. Once I had the money ready, I went back to the JM Lexus website and looked again at the cars they had for sale. I figured I'd better do this since it's possible the cars I looked at the previous week had been sold. I narrowed it down to a couple of possible cars, and contacted the salesman who had helped me the weekend before. I told him I was ready to buy and would be coming in on Saturday to look at a couple cars. If they worked out, I'd buy one right then and there.
Saturday arrives and I hop in my Accord and drive up to the Lexus dealership. I show the salesman the cars I want to see. We take a couple out and test drive them. I settle on a 2009 Lexus ES350. It was in good shape, had low miles (under 20,000) and had everything I wanted. It had a few minor problems in the interior that had to be corrected though. The salesman assured me that those would be fixed at no cost. Lexus has a 3 year, 100,000 mile warranty on their used cars. So, now reassured, I go into the office to buy it and fill out the paperwork. I'm sure you can guess that it's here that the fun began.
We sit down in the office. He gives me the sales price on the car. I give him the key to my Accord so he can get it appraised for trade in value. Of course I'd already looked up the trade in value online. it was $9,000. I had $20,000 cash from the mutual fund, so with those numbers in mind, I told them that the final cost had to be not one cent about $20,000 after trade in value. On the first try, the low-balled my trade in value badly. They offered me $5,000 for a car that had a trade-in value of $9,000! I told them absolutely not. My car was worth 9K, not 5K. So they come back with another offer. $6K for my car. The final price is now $23,000. That's $3K more than I told them I could spend. I told them I could not afford anything over $20,000. They then suggested that I finance that $3K difference over 3 years! Um, NO! I told them emphatically that I will not be taking out a loan and I will not be paying over $20,000. After some more negotiating I got them down to a final value of $21,000. I told them $20,000 or nothing. So they said they couldn't sell me the car. So they suggested I look at another car. I reviewed my list of possible cars and found a 2008 model that was nearly identical to the 2009 model I had been trying to buy. I suggested we go look at that one. So we went off, found the car, test drove it, and it looked good. It was also in better shape than the 2009 model I almost bought and had about the same 20,000 miles. So I agreed to buy this one instead.
We go back to the office and start negotiating on that car. We argue back and forth. After much arguing, I get them down to $20,400. I told them that I could only pay $20,000. No more. Granted it was only $400, but I was firm on this. So they said we don't have a deal. I can't buy the car. So I thanked them and left. Not 20 minutes later, I get a call on my cell phone from the head of the used car department. "What can I do to put you in that car today?" I said $20,000 even. He agreed. I asked me to come back and pick up the car. By now I was already half-way home, it had been a long day and I was tired. I didn't want to go back. I told him that I'll buy the car but I couldn't go back today. I would come back the next day and buy it. I don't think he was happy about that, but he agreed. So I went home.
I returned the next day, ready to buy the car. My car is there right at the front of the dealership all shined up and with a 'Sold' tag on it. I went in and filled out all the paperwork. Not as bad as I expected. I guess there's a lot less paperwork when you don't finance a car. I was in there maybe 1 1/2 hours. Of course they tried to sell me on an extended warranty, but I refused. I didn't see much point in the warranty they were trying to sell me. The car already comes with a 3 year, 100,000 warranty. The warranty they tried to sell me was expensive and would have only extended that by 1 year and no extra miles. I asked them if they would take a personal check for $20,000. To my surprise, they did. So I wrote the biggest personal check of my life and walked out the owner of a Lexus! I had mentioned to them while doing the paperwork, that I had several pieces of stereo equipment in the Accord that I wanted to get taken out. I was going to keep those parts. They said they would have one of their techs remove the stereo parts and return them to me. I should just come by the next evening and pick them up. So I agreed. I then moved all my stuff into the Lexus. The salesman spent a lot of time with me helping me set up the car. We programmed the radio stations. We programmed the seat memory. We programmed the Bluetooth interface for my cellphone. All very well done. I then drove off in my new(er), completely paid for car!
I've been driving the car for a couple weeks now and I have to say, I love it! I still have to remind myself that the fancy car in my driveway is MINE. It blows my mind that I OWN that thing. I went out and bought a car outright and did not take out any kind of loan. I've never done that before. It's an amazing feeling. It is such a weight off your mind to know that no one can take that car from you. I'm proud of myself that I was able to stick to my guns and accomplish the goal I set out to do - NO LOANS. The car looks and drives like it is brand new. It does not look like a 3 year old car. I'm very happy with my purchase. When the time comes for me to buy another car, I will do the same thing. I will buy it outright and I will buy it (slightly) used. I will never buy a new car again. My next car may also be a Lexus. Who knows? I'm really enjoying owning this car.
Some people thought I was crazy to spend that much buying a car, cash. Why not just finance it? That way you have all that money in case you need it. Well, true, but what a lot of people just don't grasp is that when you finance a car, you have already spent all that money. One way or the other, they are going to get that money. Why not just get it over with at the beginning? When I buy something, I prefer to buy it and not have to worry about payments. I buy it. I own it. It's mine. You can't have it. End of story. It's much less hassle, and it's much less stressful. Try it. I have to say though that most people's reaction when I tell them that I bought the car outright is very positive. Usually it's something along the lines of "That's great!" or "I wish I could do that!" This tells me that I made the right decision doing this.
Of course, seeing as how I just blew $20,000 on the car, I need to be ready for the NEXT car. That means that next year is going to be 'rebuild the car fund year'. I'm going to save $20,000 in my savings account by the end of next year. That money will be saved for the next car I buy. I already have enough money in savings to cover at least 6 months of expenses, so that isn't a worry for me. I just want to have the car fund ready to go for the next car down the line. Once that fund is restored, I resume my pay off the house early plan. That plan has been delayed a bit, but I haven't given up on it. I will achieve it.
However, I am not going to replace it yet. I'm going to suffer through this hassle until it hits 100,000 miles and that warranty expires. I estimate that it will hit that point 11 months from now. Why? Because that warranty is my 'free ride'. I could replace the whole engine in the next 11 months and it still wouldn't cost me a penny. Is it aggravating to be constantly fixing it? Yes. But it's worth the money to put up with the hassle. Once that warranty expires though, this thing is history.
But I will not be buying a new car. I will be buying a late model used car. They are much cheaper, don't suffer as much depreciation, and are just as reliable. I also, will not be taking out a car loan to do so. I will be buying it with cash. My goal is to save up $20,000 between now and that 100,000 mile point. I figure if I can save $15,000 or so on my own and then sell the Accord at that time, I could easily get another $5,000. That puts me at the magic $20,000 point. Once I reach that point, I'll shop around for a car, and see what I can find. I may have to get a rental for a little while. That's fine. I'll deal with that. I refuse to buy a new car. Why? They are expensive, they depreciate rapidly, and I hate having car payments. I will not do that ever again. I am through with borrowing money. I don't use or even have any credit cards and I don't take out car loans. Those days are over. Ever since I stopped borrowing money and started concentrating on buying things with cash, my financial situation has improved so fast it's amazing. I won't go back to those bad, borrowing ways.
The thing that has me most upset, is not that I have to buy another car in about a year, it's that I have to put my accelerated mortgage payoff on hold for that time. I had originally planned to try to knock off $30,000 of my mortgage this year. That's not going to happen. Instead that money goes into the 'replace the car' fund. The numbers don't change. it's just what 'pile' they go into. I'll have to resume the accelerated mortgage payoff next year. I had planned to have my mortgage paid off my by 45th birthday (July 14, 2014). That likely won't happen. I might get delayed by a year as a result of this incident. But this won't stop me. I will pay off that mortgage early. Once I do, look out world! I will not owe money to anyone. I will own my own house, I will own my own car and I will own everything inside that house. A house or car that is paid off cannot be repossessed or foreclosed on. That is a goal very much worth pursuing.
It's amazing what you can accomplish when you actually plan ahead. I've done a decent job at that kind of thing in the past, but last year, I really kicked it into overdrive. Last year was the first year that I actually started making plans for years in advance. I made a plan on January 1, 2009 that I was going to spend the next year increasing my savings to $25,000. I did this because I wanted to have enough cash in the bank to cover at least 6 months of expenses should I lose my job. Once I reached that goal (and I did!) I would start paying extra towards my mortgage. That started in January of this year and was a plan to pay off my house in 4 1/2 years. Unfortunately, this trouble with my car will delay that plan slightly, but it won't stop it. Five years from now, I will have another, paid off car, and I will have paid off my mortgage.
Mark my words.