Becoming a Wedding Software Developer

I’m currently preparing to become “a lawful wedded husband”, which involves buying tons of stuff. I was comparing various offers and one pattern emerged: if a thing X is renamed to “Wedding X” it automatically becomes at least two times as expensive. See for yourself: wedding photography costs 295-1500 GBP while corporate event photography 75-180 GBP for comparable time and effort. Wedding cakes are priced at 250-850 GBP vs event/birthday cake which can be bought for 10-80 GBP. So I decided: from today on I’m charging wedding software engineer rates!

You may ask what is a Wedding Software. I’ve analysed the differences between normal and wedding items and I found some common elements, which I intend to apply to software.

  • basic wedding offers are mediocre, so they enforce customizations and add-ons. For cakes you get a plain sponge cake with a white icing. You want some taste, maybe chocolate? No problem – just add +30% to the price :) Do you want some decorations? No problem, 25 milk chocolate stars pressed into the icing – +20 GBP! Or maybe you’d like to write something on the cake? No problem, …
  • customizations of wedding items are charge more for. The same text written on a birthday cake costs less than half of the price of the same text on wedding cake. Oh why?
  • you get a ribbon with everything. It’s a customization, but everyone is willing to provide you with this one for free.
  • you are not allowed to buy non-wedding items for wedding. They may fit, they may suit your needs, you may love it, but still your forced to buy something with a “wedding” tag
  • wedding items tell you that they are prepared for “your special day”, “most important day of your life” etc.

So, applying the same rules should improve our margins dramatically. What’s more we it should increase customers satisfaction level. So:

  • wedding software should be usable, but ugly and limited as possible. Create a blackAndWhite.css and doNotScaleForMobile.css and apply it to any page you release. Basic version of apps should run up to 800×600 and play sound in mono only. But plan ahead for at least 2 customizations for each feature, including (mostly) irrelevant ones like ALHMMO “Advanced Left-Hand Mouse Movement Optimization”.
  • customizations are sometimes called “extras” for a reason, they should be extra pricey. Just remember to tell the user that the extra stands for extraordinary usable and smart.
  • excel kills millions of lines of custom code a year, wedding software should not allowed users to use multi purpose tools like that. All data should be exported in unportable formats and all 3rd party imports virtually impossible. Or at least customers should be educated that doing so it a very nasty behavior and they should never do it. Hint: avoid question “why?”.
  • software should no longer be commodity or necessity. Wedding software should be luxurious and exclusive. Buying software should be advertised as a transition from the dark times to enlightenment. People live to buy software. It will take some time for them to understand that, the only way is constant repetition.

It worked for wedding industry, it will work for software also!

ps. I still haven’t found what the software counterpart of a free ribbon may be…

Share

Chrome Webstore “message.json” issue

Today I have encountered an issue while I was uploading new version of my extension to chrome webstore:

"An error occurred: Cannot parse message.json file from uploaded package."

I wasn’t expecting that since the extension was working locally without a problem. Also the error message says about message.json which was not a part of my package as the i18n files are called messages.json.

The error was trivial to fix (although not so easy to find) – I have put some comments into messages.json file, which seem not to be supported by extension gallery even though Chrome itself can handle them properly. But the thing that made me smile was that a Google guy created an error message with hard-coded (incorrect) filename. The gods have fallen ;)

Share

Missing markers when two Google maps divs are placed on same page

Google is making constant changes to their APIs and they seem to roll the alpha/beta versions for us to test. Which should be fine unless you expect your webpage to be stable and working all the time.

One of the issues in current version of Google APIs is problem of missing markers when you try to place two or more Google maps objects on a page. All maps are displayed in their div tags as expected, but only one of them gets the markers actually displayed. No error message is displayed, individual maps work with markers when they are separated, but together they don’t.

The only solution I have found so far is to tell Google that we want to use Stable Google Map API instead of latest. Do to it add v=3.0 version selector to URL of JavaScript librery, i.e. instead of

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://maps.google.com/maps/api/js?sensor=true">
</script>

use

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://maps.google.com/maps/api/js?v=3.0&sensor=true">
</script>

So far I haven’t noticed any drawbacks of this solution. New unstable versions probably add new features and/or improve performance, but I’m willing to wait until the changes are tested and moved to stable API. I bet you do also.

Share

Secret Nuclear Bunker

Just couple of miles north of London you can find one of the most secret places in United Kingdom. Well… it was secret until the Cold War ended. Then it has been sold and it’s now available for tourists to enjoy.

The tour in the bunker takes about 3 hours during which you visit all places including government HQ, BBC studio, communication room, surgery, air filtering and conditioning facilities, dormitories and many other rooms. It’s a hidden gen, I highly recommend it to all geeks and military passionates!

Check Secret Nuclear Bunker webpage for admission times, as they vary depending on season.


Share

Welwyn Garden City

This is a first post in new “MG’s Great Places” section. I intend to list here the places I visited and I consider worth recommendation. Today we start with a city, which is quite unique.

Welwyn Garden City is a small city 10 miles north from London. It’s absolutely fantastic to visit, but don’t expect too much action. Actually do not expect any action, it’s a most peaceful place I have visited for a long time.

The city itself is designed with utopian garden city urban idea in mind, which worked actually pretty well. The streets are spacious, there’s greens everywhere and benches invite you to stop every couple of yards. Architecture consist mostly of spacious houses built with typical red brick. Just wandering around almost empty streets gave a feeling of total tranquility. I am making a mental note about it to revisit when I will be selecting a place to move when I retire.

Welwyn occupies area which was located near main roman roads when the Roman Empire occupied Britannia. The area abounds with archeological sites, one of them are Old Roman Baths discovered in 1960s. The museum of Welwyn Roman Baths consists of only one small room, which contains the ruins itself and some information tables about roman bathing customs and the history of the place, which is quite unusual as the museum lays UNDER A1(M) highway. Visit to to learn more!


Share

New features “Translate and speak!”

My chrome extension just got two new features:

  • Show in Wikipedia
  • Show in Wiktionary

They do basically that they say on a tin. The language of both wiki sites is determined by Google’s translate language detection function. It’s not always accurate, but it’s best I can get at the moment.

I encourage you to install Translate and Speak! and play with it. Any feedback will be appreciated.

Share

Chrome can speak now!

Yesterday new version of “Translate and Speak!” (previously TranslateMe) Chrome Extension has been released and it’s now ready to download on Chrome Webstore.

New features in version 1.4 include:

  • “Speak!” function, which uses amazing Google’s TTS to read text
  • Translate (detect language) function, which tries to guess language of the phrase before translating it to your selected language
Share

How British police made me set up my next project on the cloud

Today British police made available their new service – a complete street level map of crimes in England and Wales. The webpage made to all possible headlines in daily papers, tv and radio. The effect is that the service is virtually down and won’t be usable until the novelty wears out.

All web pages have a peak from time to time. It can by due to various reasons – PR publication, Facebook craze, advertisement campaign, algorithm change at google or change of cosmic radiation. You can predict some peaks, some will come as a total surprise. In both cases the effect is the same – the system overloads and you’re starting losing users. That’s bad, really bad.

What could site owners do to prevent this? There are couple of options:

  • Scale IT infrastructure to handle the traffic during peaks. This sounds good until you start calculating cost. If you scale for a peak 10 times larger than normal traffic, you will spent 10 times more money. And how can you be sure the peak won’t be 11 times normal traffic? Or 101 times? Or 1001? And what would you do if when the peak is over? You can donate unused computing power to Seti@Home, but I doubt your CFO will appreciate this.
  • Deploy to a cloud. When your application is running in a cloud and you foreseen incoming peak, because you’ve bought nation wide TV ad campaign for exmaple, you allocate more resources for some time (for example start some new instances on Amazon EC2). And when the peak is unexpected? You allocate more resources when it happens! Or if you set up the cloud to allocate additional resources automatically for you, you just sit and monitor if everything works smoothly. When the traffic calms down, you just switch off unwanted resources and stop paying for them.

“What’s the catch?”, you may ask. There is none. The whole process just requires some planning in advance. Designing application for scalability is slightly tougher, but it’s not a black magic. And it’s not even rocket science. There are many infrastructure scalability patterns detailed on web. You will have to make some technical decisions on load balancing, session sharing, fallback procedures. The testing is also bit more complicated, but only due to fact of additional features. The rest will be exactly the same as normal design and development job.

I have always known that police is a useful force ;)

Share