Monthly Archives: October 2011

More Interview Stupidity

I’m still looking for a new job.  Here’s some more stupid things I observed.

One place gave me a multiple-choice C++ test.  I didn’t pass.  My policy should be to refuse to do these things.  They’re probably thinking “HAHAHA!!  We screened out that loser FSK with our test!”  Actually, their test was defective.

Here is a sample question.

if (a = 5)

Does the above C++ code compile?  True or false?

Well, that’s a trick quesiton.  It is legal to use assignment equality in an if statement, although it’s generally a stupid idea.

However, any decent compiler will give a compiler warning.  If you aren’t a clueless twit, your policy should be “All my code compiles and runs without warning messages.”

What answer do I give?  I have to estimate the intelligence of the test-writer and what they’re measuring.  Do they want me to know that assignment-equality in an if statement is legal C++?  Do they want me to know that it gives a compiler warning?

When employers say “Our policy is that everyone takes a technical skills test.”, I should reply “My policy is to refuse to take technical screening tests.  It’s an insult to my experience and background.”  It’s generally a stupid idea and a waste of time, but I’ve got nothing better to do.  I’ve been doing it.  It’s astonishing how often I take their stupid test, and don’t make the next round of interviews.  I know that I know my stuff.  The test is usually defective.

It’s pretty amusing.  These technical tests usually measure obscure language features that I don’t normally use.

For example, at my last job, a coworker got stuck on the STL.  The code didn’t work and he couldn’t figure out why.  I responded “That’s why I don’t use the STL.  It can be impossible to debug.  I always write my own templates.”  It might seem foolish for me to write my own template classes, but I only have to do it once and I know exactly what they do.

Here’s another excerpt.

Idiot: Have you worked with Java and Spring?

FSK: Yes, I have.

Idiot: What tool did you use to edit the framework code?

FSK: I manually edited the XML and source.

Idiot: We want someone who will edit the code with the GUI tool.  Therefore, you are unqualified.

That was pretty foolish.  Manually editing the code is harder than using the GUI tool.  I had to manually edit it, because the code had become not-synchronized with the GUI tool, and that was the only way to do it.

I wonder if he just was a jerk, and didn’t like me for other reasons but gave that as the excuse.

It’s pretty frustrating. I never noticed that in my previous jobsearches. All the employers and recruiters seem nearly completely clueless. It’s a symptom of a dying economy. I wonder if the cluelessness factor is increasing, or my overall awareness is increasing. I suspect it’s both.

No AdBrite For FSK!

AdBrite has banned my new blog website.

I made a mistake.  I put the AdBrite code up while I was still building the site.  AdBrite’s software thought I was a spammer/scammer.  I only had a few posts when I first put up the AdBrite code.

Now, I can’t get someone from their customer support to fix it.

Oh well.  I was thinking of looking into other ad networks anyway.  This forces me to do it.  I was making an eCPM of $0.50 from AdBrite, so that’s the target for a replacement.

It’s kind of amusing.  I was only a $5/month customer.  Presumably, if I was making $5/month, then AdBrite was making $5/month.  It’s only $5/month, but it’s silly for a business to throw away a customer because they can’t afford someone to actually read customer support E-Mails.

The customer support representative was eager to “close the ticket”, rather than actually solve my problem.  I couldn’t make them understand “I’m already a publisher.  I moved to a new site.”  They also refused to answer any of my questions, such as “How long should I wait before trying again?  How many posts do I need to have ‘enough content’?”  Their customer support said “Sorry, your site is banned.  Ticket closed.”, without answering my questions.  Now that I’m in their computer systems as a spammer, they won’t take me seriously anymore.

It’s just like AdSense.  They unfairly banned me, and I could never get a human to review the decision.  Nobody has decent customer support anymore.

You might say “So what, $5/month is nothing!”  If they do that to 1000 customers, it adds up.

Blog advertising is a pretty poor way to earn money.  If I make an eCPM of $0.50, then I need 100k+ regular readers to earn a living from it.

I really would like an ad option that isn’t spammy or scammy.  Most of the ads, both from AdBrite and AdSense were spammy and scammy.

The people who are hostile to ads can see this blog ad-free for now.  There’s also the ad-free RSS feed.  I never found a good RSS ad option.  Besides, if you know what you’re doing, you can block the ads.  I also have the Google Analytics cookie, which you also can block with NoScript.  I’m planning to parse out my Apache logs, compare the results with Google Analytics, and then ditch Google Analytics.

So far, Google Analytics is still showing zero visitors.  I know that’s false.  I intentionally went to my blog with IE (no NoScript), and GA didn’t count it.  According to Google Analytics, the tracking code is working, but it’s showing zero visitors.

Verizon And The State

My parents were fighting with Verizon, trying to get them to fix our landline telephone service.   It wasn’t working for more than a month.

My parents decided to complain to the local politician, state Senator Marty Golden.  (I met him once on the subway.  He seemed decent and intelligent.  He has the “abused productive” personality type.  Not every politician is evil.  If that were true, then the State couldn’t accomplish anything at all.  Of course, Marty Golden is probably easily manipulated by evil lobbyists.)

I thought it would be a stupid waste of time, to complain to the politician.  I was wrong.

My parents spoke with Marty Golden’s secretary, and not him.  She said that there were a lot of complaints against Verizon lately.

Politicians have a special “Verizon hotline”.  If a constituent files a complaint against Verizon, there’s a special phone # to call, and then the support ticket is given priority.

A special repair agent was dispatched, to fix my parents’ phone.  My mother said that the repair guy looked intelligent and nerdy, rather than the typical clueless unionized worker.  The phone works now.

What a clever scam!  Now, the politician looks like the hero, because he fixed my parents’ problem.  Verizon also had an out.  A severely disgruntled customer got their problem fixed, rather than taking other action.  If a customer is angry enough to complain to a politician, they probably have a legitimate complaint.  Most reasonable people would complain to the politician, before trying other things.

The State gets credit for fixing my parents’ problem.  The State caused the problem, by giving Verizon a monopoly, but my parents don’t understand that.  All they know is that they complained to the politician, and their problem was fixed.  Hooray for the State!

Notice all the clever fnords at work here.  The politician is the hero, fixing my parents’ problem.  The State caused the problem by giving Verizon a monopoly, but the State gets credit for fixing the problem.  Also, Verizon has a way to identify really disgruntled customers.  If you’re angry and aware enough to complain to your local politician, then you probably have a valid complaint and you’re articulate enough to be taken seriously.

That’s a very clever scam.  Verizon gives politicians a special support hotline.  Then, when a constituent complains about Verizon, the politician gets credit for fixing the problem, and Verizon handles a severely disgruntled customer.

According to Verizon’s website, I finally got credit for my new Android phone rebate.  It was a credit for mailing in my old phone.  They made me jump through all sorts of hoops to get the rebate.  I’m very angry at Verizon.

On the rebate website, they have a “check rebate status” option.

I had 2 phones upgraded.  I was always checking the same one.  The phone I was checking said “We received your phone.”  For the one I didn’t check, they didn’t say they got it.

That seems odd.  I mailed both phones at the same time.

I wonder if Verizon configured their computers to say “If the person clicks on ‘check update status’ more than 5 times, then give them the rebate.”?!  I clicked on check status a bunch of times on the second phone, and then the other phone showed up as delivered!  That would be an amusing incompetence hack.  Don’t keep track of when the phone arrives.  Just keep track of how often the user checks their status!

WordPress Admin Panel Hangs?

I’ve been having a mysterious problem.  The WordPress admin panel is hanging out me.

Some people say it’s a bug in the latest version of WordPress.

Some people say it’s a problem with your theme.  I’m using a basic theme.  Why should the theme affect the admin panel?

If I do “sudo apache2 reload”, that clears up the problem.

Has anyone else had this problem?

Has anyone noticed performance problems, reading my blog?

I think I figured out the problem. I tried to enable Apache logrotate, but messed it up. I’ll see if it’s better now.

FSK Asks – Good WordPress Plugins?

I’m shopping around for WordPress plugins now.  I may write something myself, if I can’t find anything else out there.

Here’s something I didn’t know about WordPress.  Even if you comment Anonymously, I get to see the IP address of the comenter, even though that isn’t displayed on the blog.

So far, Google Analytics is showing ZERO visitors.  I know that isn’t right, because I can look at the Apache logs, and there were some non-spam comments (all by the same IP).

I’m looking for a decent Analytics tool.  My requirements are *NO THIRD-PARTY CODE*.  If the plugin requires an image or cookie or script from a 3rd party, then I’m not doing it.  Google Analytics violates that rule.  I’m putting up Google Analytics temporarily.  I want to compare it to results from other methods.

I may just parse the Apache logfile myself.

I’m also looking for something that will display the archive like Blogger did.  The default WordPress archive lists are lousy.

I’m looking for other generic stuff.  I’d like to have an auto-generated “Best of FSK” list, but I may write custom PHP for that.

BlackBerry Outage – What Really Happened

This story was amusing.  BlackBerry had a pretty severe service outage, lasting 3 days.

I wonder if that has anything to do with this?

Research In Motion will shed around 2,000 employees this week, in yet another indicator of the company’s battered state.

In July 2011, RIMM fires 2000 people.  (RIMM is the corporation that owns BlackBerry.)  In October, their servers stop working.  Is it a coincidence?

It’s pretty obvious what happened.  RIMM fired 2000 people.  Did they fire the 2000 least qualified workers?  Did they fire the people who actually knew how to keep the servers running?

Suppose you’re a middle manager at RIMM, and you’re ordered to fire a subordinate.  Do you fire your friend?  Do you fire the guy who actually gets the work done?  Obviously, you fire the competent guy before your fire your friend.

If the middle management is able to distinguish between competent workers and dead weight, then firing people can boost profits.  When middle management is insane, the most skilled workers are the ones who seem like dead weight.

In a large corporation, the incentive is for a middle manager to do what’s best for himself, instead of what’s best for the whole organization.  Therefore, middle managers will fire competent workers before their friends, if they’re ordered to fire someone.

There is an important difference, between computers and the rest of the economy.  For other areas, you can coast off past success and get complacent.  For example, Coca-Cola would have to really make a huge mistake, to lose their market position.  Even if Coca-Cola’s management is unqualified fools, they get to keep their market share.  For computers and software, you have to keep improving or you lose customers.  There are many fewer barriers to entry in software, than in other areas of the economy.

BlackBerry’s management is content to coast off their past success.  They’re losing market share to the iPhone and Android.  BlackBerry’s management is acting like they have a monopoly, while they’re in a very competitive market.

That’s the problem with the economy.  If you fire a lot of people, you boost short-term profits.  However, you wind up firing the people who actually know how to make things work.  The incentive is to boost short-term profits, while destroying long-term value.

AdBrite Rejected My New Blog!

AdBrite rejected ads on my new blog, due to “not enough content”.  Maybe I’ll wait a few weeks and try again.

That may force me to investigate options other than AdBrite.

Someone already tried hacking my site.  They were looking for phpmyadmin, which I didn’t install.

I did put in the Google Analytics tracking code.  I’m going to compare that to the raw Apache log files.  I’m also going to try other WordPress analytics alternatives.

Google Analytics was woefully inadequate.

Initial Impressions – WordPress vs. Blogger

So far, I really like WordPress compared to Blogger.

I was using Blogger for 4 years.  Blogger only introduced two useful new features in the time I was using it.  They introduced “post queuing” and “comment spam filtering”.  Blogger was completely stagnating.

Switching to WordPress is like jumping ahead 10 years technology-wise.  There were a couple of features already that made me say “Duh!  Why doesn’t Blogger do that?”

WordPress does autosave posts, just like Blogger.

WordPress allows me to see old revisions of posts.  That feature is amazing!  It’s neat and useful.  I can’t believe that Blogger doesn’t do that.

With Blogger, I can manually edit the css file for the page.  However, it’s presented as one big wall of text.  With WordPress, I can edit each page element separately.  I can edit “header.php” without having to also edit everything else at the same time.

Originally, I was going to download a plugin for adding Google Analytics and AdBrite.  Then, I realized I can just edit the page myself and put in the code.  (The top of page AdBrite code doesn’t seem to be working.  I may wait a day or two before moving it.)

That’s another advantage of a Linode, compared to other options.  Other hosts give me limited control.  Here, I can edit or reconfigure anything.

Also, I can add my own custom PHP code.  With Blogger, I’m stuck with whatever features Google chooses to offer.  With WordPress, I can use other people’s plugins or write my own.

I also like the “static pages” feature.  Blogger just introduced that, but in a half-implemented fashion.

The only negative is that the “edit page” feature is laggy sometimes.  I wonder if that’s my Linode, or a general WordPress feature?  Maybe it’s my ISP, and not the Linode?  Let me know if you see any performance problems.  However, Blogger was frequently outright down.  I haven’t been using my Linode long enough yet, to see if they have a reliability problem.

Overall, I’m happy with my decision to drop Blogger for WordPress.  I’m really happy with my Linode.  I learned a lot in few days, just from configuring it and setting it up.