Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Announcing ShadowTeq!, the new home of EverHarvest, is officially online! New purchases and license extensions are still currently disabled, but I hope to rectify that situation very soon. The new EverHarvest launcher is available from the site, so I can once again provide updates myself, without any of the lame manual downloading that was necessary over the holiday season.

At present I don't plan to use forums for customer support; I'll be using a combination between email support, a knowledge base, and comments on knowledge base articles to provide help and support. The infrastructure for this is currently online, but I haven't written the articles yet. These will come very soon as I start converting such things as the original EverHarvest guide, and some of the common problems encountered from the old forums. In the meantime, if you require support, email me directly from the email address listed on the ShadowTeq site.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Life Update

So almost two months ago, I found a new job.

After I came back home from Seattle, my wife and I stayed at her dad's house - he helped us to get back home, provided a place to stay for us and our children, on the expectation that it would take me around 2 months (in the current economy) to find a job. I looked daily - I started out with a narrow focus, looking for software development jobs so that I could continue doing what I love to do. During this period I had two telephone interviews for Blackbaud, and one for BenefitFocus; both of which considered my lack of team development experience as a reason not to hire me. As the weeks ticked by, I broadened my scope - networking jobs, PC repair jobs. After my first jobless month I began looking into contracting work, and had some small successes there with another contact of mine in NYC - but it wasn't stable or steady enough to earn me a living.

I began to lose hope in finding a job in my field. At around the second month I began looking locally at jobs in computer retail outlets, where at least I could use my knowledge to help me sell stuff. None of the local houses were hiring, and neither were the chains - Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. I began to consider retail in any form - the local mall, other places - but none were hiring (or, at least, hiring someone with no retail experience).

During the fourth month I began to scrape the bottom of the barrel. Gas stations, fast-food, Target or Wal-Mart. I had a fairly promising interview with a telemarketing company, which might have become my fate if not for Tasha's diligence - you see, she never gave up looking for programming jobs in the first place. Throughout this whole process she would send me a list of programming jobs to apply for - and although I had already given up hope of getting one, she would hound me until I applied anyway.

Thank God for Tasha.

Near the end of the fourth month - after Ta's dad had told us that he wanted us out, kids and all - I got an email from a corporate recruiter for a multi-national military contractor who was interested in interviewing me. I wasn't terribly excited - I figured it would be another dead end, but I called her anyway. She asked me the standard bits - questions about my experience, schooling, etc. After we were done she asked me to come in for an in-person - I of course accepted, but still wasn't optimistic. The in-person is usually where I bomb; I get nervous, and when I'm nervous I sound like I have no idea what I'm talking about.

But there was one plus-side: she told me that my interviewer wanted to see a code review. Here at least I would have the chance to prove I'm capable of programming, even if I stammer like an idiot through the interview. So that's what I did - specifically, I spent about 30 minutes building a simple recursive descent expression parser and evaluator in C# (very similar to the one I wrote in F#), and send that on. It ended up around 150 lines or so - 3 printed pages, so I figured it was large enough to serve as a sample, yet small enough to evaluate.

The interview day came, and off I went. I met my future boss (Dan) and his senior developer, and had the interview. We discussed my resume, my experience, my schooling. Soon we came to the code sample - which Dan had printed out and brought with him. At this point I was still quite nervous, though Dan had a very open demeanor - but when the code sample came up, I knew that this would be the thing to either make me or break me, as it were.

I shouldn't have worried so much - "Quite pleased" I believe the words were, describing the code sample I submitted. He asked me why I picked that particular topic, if I'd used that piece of code in a project - I told him no, but I've always been fascinated with compilers and languages, so since I wasn't given a specific assignment I figured I'd display that interest in the code sample. The more we talked about the code sample, the more they seemed to like me, and the less nervous I became.

After that we talked about technology, the trends therein, and how closely I follow new developments, and that sort of thing. I asked about the team, who I'd be working with, and where I'd fall in the spectrum. Surprisingly, he told me that the entire team is largely made up of lone coders, like me, who, also like me, are looking for more than the lone coder experience - they, like me, want to build a cohesive team that works together, rather than as separate entities on separate projects.

I was to suffer for a week before I found out whether I got the job or not. After the interview, I was stoked - this was a company that seemed to really get it, and was trying to put together a solid development team. I badly wanted this job - not just because I needed it, but because I truly wanted it.

Needless to say, I got the job. =) So this is where I work - and so far, it's been a blast. =) The people are great, the work is stimulating, and the company is stable - growing, in fact, despite the economy. I joined sort of at the ground floor on this particular team, and already I'm helping to set policy and precedent regarding how the team will work. I'm part of a committee tasked with developing a team-wide code standard, and along with our senior developer I'm helping to bring everyone up to speed on .NET (we have a great variety of development talent and experience, but not much .NET).

So there you have it - that's been my life for the past 7 weeks. =) Things are looking up for me, and despite the fact that I write code all day, my interest in it is actually *growing* rather than shrinking, as it did at my last place of employment.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Future of EverHarvest

Michael and I have decided to separate our business - EverHarvest is no longer being hosted on his site or supported via his forums.

This does not mean, however, that I will not be continuing to keep it running. At present, the authentication service that allows users with active licenses will continue to run on Michael's site, and I will be effectively extending licenses indefinitely - that is to say, if you purchased an EverHarvest license at some point in the past, then you will very soon be able to use it regardless of whether your license is expired or not. This is a temporary measure however since license extension purchases have been removed from Michael's site.

I will continue performing updates to EverHarvest that are required as a result of EverQuest patches and client changes. In the event that a patch occurs before I have my new site up and running, I will be working with Michael to publish the changes and maintain EverHarvest's working status.

At the moment I am unable to field support requests except via my email inbox, which you can reach by following the Contact Us link at the top of the site.

Know that Michael made a decision he felt necessary to protect his business, and that he's not 'screwing me' or anything like that. He feels that my inability to provide timely updates to EverHarvest impacted negatively on his business (by virtue of association), and he has taken steps to mitigate any damage to his business's reputation it might cause.

As far as the money goes - Michael and I did share some of the revenue for EverHarvest at one point, but that was part of a deal regarding hosting and support (which he ended up paying back to me at the time anyway). He has provided the hosting of EverHarvest for free for longer than a year (if memory serves). I wrote the Autocrat framework upon which both EverHarvest and EverCraft are built, and he paid me for my time and effort.

Summary: it is my intention to build a new site for hosting EverHarvest. Michael is going to host the authentication server temporariliy while I get the new site up and running. During this time period, there will be no need to purchase license extensions for EverHarvest - your software will continue to work regardless of how much time is left on it. After the new site is up and running, your licenses will be back to normal (and I'll be applying some heavy license extensions as well to cover the last couple of downtimes, plus the time spent in this "limbo" between sites). Michael and I are communicating amicably, and are going in fact considering setting up a sort of 'partnership' whereby we recommend each other's services. There aren't any details on this yet but expect to see something on my new site (still unnamed) within the next couple of weeks.

PLEASE don't go on his forums and try to defend me, ESPECIALLY if your defense includes personal attacks on Michael or his business. That sort of thing will not be condoned by either of us - and while I appreciate the loyalty, it's entirely misdirected.