Archive for February, 2008

Contributing to the Growth of the English Language

February 27, 2008

I think I just coined a new word today—encomp (verb): the act of getting an application to match the comprehensive design provided by the designers. Usage: “Oh, I just got the slices from Andy so now it’s time to start encomping.”

I can’t find any usages of it on Google, just confusion with encompassing. I claim this neologism then.

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Web.config and Virtual Directories

February 21, 2008

At work today, I ran into some trouble trying to set up a virtual directory as an application in IIS. My two applications, the parent and the child, occupied different locations in the filesystem, had separate app pools, and different app names. Due to the inheritance of Web.config, though, the HTTP modules defined in the parent app were throwing configuration exceptions in the child app even though the child app never referenced any of the HTTP modules.

I thought about adding an httpModule section to the child app’s Web.config with a remove call, but that seemed klunky to me. Frantic Google searching wasn’t giving any better solutions. Following the link chains from blog entry to blog entry to comments to more blog entries, I stumbled upon the answer:

<location inheritinchildapplications="false">
  <system.web>
   <httpmodules>
    …
   </httpmodules>
  </system.web>
</location>
source

Of course! This breaks the inheritance chain and it only touches the parent app’s Web.config.

The Things I Do For Money

February 21, 2008

Pardon me while I vent for a few minutes. I’m doing some contract development work for a non-profit—cleared long ago through my company’s legal team to make sure that I wasn’t running afoul of my non-compete clause—and to say that the conditions are sub-par is to put it mildly.

First, they’ve got a custom CMS that they’ve licensed from a local design house but they don’t have rights to the source code. So it took me forever to set everything up because I’d keep hitting little errors that stymied me because I couldn’t go code spelunking. But I persevered (barely) and now I’ve got a local instance of the CMS running. (The custom CMS, it must be said, is overly complex and often inscrutable. Even the design house’s lead developer had trouble explaining how it worked.)

The only way for me to develop what they need is to inject custom user controls into the page lifecycle. That’s no big deal, just an annoyance. But if I want to see how something looks, I have to copy my DLL from one directory to another each and every time.

Second, the CMS is written and hosted in .NET 1.1. That means Visual Studio 2003 (retch) and trying to remember what subset of C# isn’t available. A task which would be much simpler if I had a copy of my trusty ReSharper, which I don’t. $149 is a lot of money to spend but I’m getting close to throwing in the towel and ponying it up. (I would never even think of pirating it.)

The final abomination is that the database is hosted on SQL Server 2000 and that means Enterprise Manager/Query Analyzer. SQL Server Management Studio, part of SQL Server 2005, is so much nicer than that combo. Every time I fire up this suite of blast-from-the-past apps, I feel so dirty and ghetto. I’m hoping that someday soon they’ll have the budget to allow me to convert over to an open-source CMS built in .NET 2.0.

The relationship with the non-profit and my belief in the rightness of its mission is what keeps me going on this when every fiber of my being says, “Go elsewhere, youngish man!” They got screwed with this custom CMS—the peril of being non-technical—and I wonder how the design firm sleeps at night seeing some of the atrocities I’ve come across. (If I ever feel spunky or get to migrate away from their CMS, I’ll have some excellent horror stories to share. I should probably write them down somewhere for that eventuality.)

PayPal Pwn3d

February 21, 2008

I was balancing my checkbook this morning when I discovered two charges I didn’t recognize. My wife does her fair share of online transacting, so I asked her what they were. She couldn’t remember so I did what I normally do: investigate. Most of the time, my research jogs her memory and I can dutifully assign the transaction the appropriate category in Quicken. This time was different.

I went to PayPal and discovered two illicit transactions in euros to RapidShare. On my online banking site, I found a charge from Yahoo Small Business Hosting. Crap! The guy had changed my email address to a Yahoo one (the same one, incidentally, used to register a domain and set up hosting) and I promptly changed my password. I completed the PayPal dispute form.

I went to Yahoo and tried to login for the guy (hoping he had used my compromised password—a guy can dream, y’know). From my attempt to reset his password, I determined that he had my debit card number! I reported the card stolen and I think all of his attack vectors are closed off. I had only used my PayPal password once before with a wholly unrelated email address so I’m not worried about him ruining my online life.

Sandi and I were trying to think of how we got compromised. It seems like a textbook case of phishing, but Sandi is pretty aware of that and her computer has nothing stored in Keychain for that PayPal account. I’m very aware of phishing and I haven’t been to PayPal in a very long time. What’s particularly confounding is the Yahoo account, which was definitely established with a credit card number and not through PayPal. Very strange, but all is being resolved now.

The moral of this story is to balance your account regularly—I last did it on February 8th. If I had waited longer, there’s no telling how much more damage this a-hole could have done. I’m truly surprised at how little he did—maybe he’s a slacker—so I guess I lucked out by not being violated by someone with ambition and drive.

The Royal Treatment

February 12, 2008

Apparently, Prince Andrew is visiting my workplace today. They’ve cordoned off a huge swath of the parking lot and there’s some signs for media parking, so I expect it’s going to be a zoo. I’m really not a fan of monarchy, but it’s pretty exciting for such a high-profile visit. It sure beats J.D. Hayworth.

[UPDATE (2/14/2008): Here’s the definitive article on the matter with a photo of our president looking thoughtful and the prince looking quite princely—at least that’s how I’d imagine a prince to look.]

[The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Go Daddy Software, Inc.]

Presidential Complications

February 7, 2008

I just read John McCain’s remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference and I’m conflicted. I had written off John McCain nearly my entire political life: he’s my state’s senior senator and I’ve watched him side with Congressional Democrats over and over again. Maybe it was his formative years with Dennis Deconcini but I always assumed it was due to an inner contradiction that he had embraced.

That contradiction is altruism. While many of his most disagreeable actions seem to be motivated for the greater glory of John McCain, I’ve come to realize that he is sincere in his support for self-sacrifice—to others, to the nation, to whomever so long as it’s not self-interested. I saw his willingness to commit troops for incessant intervention and his insistence on mandatory service as indicative of a core ethic of altruism. It didn’t hurt that he says stuff like “[t]o sacrifice for a cause greater than yourself, and to sacrifice your life to the eminence of that cause, is the noblest activity of all.”

So his advocacy of limited government, reduced taxation, and welfare reform rests alongside restricting free speech, criminalizing abortion, and demonizing the rich. He has taken my side on a number of positions, but his support is practically coincidental. If you believe that Americans should sacrifice themselves for the good of everyone—which in practice means sacrifice for whatever the state decides is good—then how can you make a compelling case for capitalism, for freedom?

Most of my disdain for McCain stemmed from this tenuous agreement. My position derives from a thorough defense of the morality of capitalism; his, as best as I can tell, from the notion that capitalism is the most practical means of serving others. Time and again, McCain has sided with the liberals whenever their bill or idea proved more sacrificial or utilitarian. I don’t need that in a president or, frankly, a legislator.

But McCain’s remarks have me questioning opposition to his candidacy. He’s said some really great things:

I am proud to be a conservative, and I make that claim because I share with you that most basic of conservative principles: that liberty is a right conferred by our Creator, not by governments, and that the proper object of justice and the rule of law in our country is not to aggregate power to the state but to protect the liberty and property of its citizens.

This is something the Founding Fathers could have said. It indicates an understanding that the Constitution is not so much a governing document as a limiting document. The founders believed that the Constitution defined what the federal government can do and anything it doesn’t enumerate is beyond its purview. It’s a great statement; I sincerely wish that he (or his speechwriter) actually grokked the underlying theory.

While I have long worked to help grow a public majority of support for Republican candidates and principles, I have also always believed, like you, in the wisdom of Ronald Reagan, who warned in an address to this conference in 1975, that “a political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency or simply to swell its numbers.”

I couldn’t agree more. Further, his actions—the ones that earned him the brand of the maverick—underscore his words. I believe that he is a man of integrity and sincerity, even though I don’t agree with him a lot.

Those are my beliefs, and you need not examine only my past votes and speeches to assure yourselves that they are my genuine convictions. You can take added confidence from the positions I have defended during this campaign. I campaigned in Iowa in opposition to agriculture subsidies. I campaigned in New Hampshire against big government mandated health care and for a free market solution to the problem of unavailable and unaffordable health care. I campaigned in Michigan for the tax incentives and trade policies that will create new and better jobs in that economically troubled state. I campaigned in Florida against the national catastrophic insurance fund bill that passed the House of Representatives and defended my opposition to the prescription drug benefit bill that saddled Americans with yet another hugely expensive entitlement program.

I do take added confidence in his contrarian views. I have not seen McCain pander at all—and his campaign has lacked the religious overtones that nearly every other one has featured. He has had plenty of opportunities to kowtow to the religious right and he has largely avoided it—earning the considerable enmity of evangelicals everywhere. I can appreciate that.

I intend to reduce [the size of the federal government]. I will not sign a bill with earmarks in it, any earmarks in it. I will fight for the line item veto, and I will not permit any expansion whatsoever of the entitlement programs that are bankrupting us. On the contrary, I intend to reform those programs so that government is no longer in that habit of making promises to Americans it does not have the means to keep.

Oh hell yeah! Given that I believe his sincerity and earnestness, I ascribe tremendous value to his pledge to veto any bill with pork in it. I guess it means that a pork-free socialized medicine bill could conceivably be tendered and signed, but I’m confident that the other people’s money flaunters in Congress couldn’t put forth a pork-free bill.

They will offer a big government solution to health care insurance coverage.

I intend to address the problem with free market solutions and with respect for the freedom of individuals to make important choices for themselves.

This is heartening even though it’s not wholly in his control to effect. He’s got some decent ideas on this subject. At the least, they’re head and shoulders above those of his opponents, whose main premise appears to be enslavement of doctors and medical personnel and an insistence on Canadian-style waiting lists. Oh, if only they were that explicit in their intentions! Instead, they focus on the consumer side of socialized medicine: everything is cheap and the same. They just don’t talk about the fact that it’s cheap if it’s available at all and everyone gets the same dismal care.

The rest of the speech is of varying quality and generally reinforces his commitment to sacrifice by his listeners and the American public. While that is damning, it’s altogether too common. Every candidate would agree with his statements, as would most every candidate in the last hundred years. So it’s not enough to torpedo him in my eyes.

In conclusion, I’m re-evaluating my assessment of John McCain as president. I thought it would be damaging in the short-term and disastrous in the long-term but now I think it might only be damaging in the long-term and positive in the short. I’m working on an entry about how I evaluate candidates and I’ll cover the internal debates regarding McCain there.

Priorities

February 5, 2008

My wife and I were discussing politics today as we often do and I discovered that while we agree on the issues—surprisingly almost entirely—we really differed on our hot buttons.

Her big ones are illegal immigration and health care. She will pass on a candidate that advocates restricting immigration or wants to socialize medicine. She asked what my priorities were and I had to confess that I’d never thought about ordering them. To me, when nearly every candidate’s position on nearly every issue erodes liberty and reduces freedom, it’s hard to say which sop is most important.

Thinking on it more, though, I realized that that is really only true in the longer-term. In the short-term, I judge candidates mercilessly on the degree to which they’ll likely hinder my life. So here’s my top five:

  1. Health care: wrecking our health care system by adopting the public systems of generally-socialist countries frightens me greatly. It’s ironic that many of these same countries are moving towards privatization due to the serious problems they’ve encountered. This is literally a matter of life and death to me. And once the health care system goes socialized, its vestiges will be with us for many generations to come.
  2. Global warming: I think that greenhouse gas emission reduction is, at once, the most grievous threat to our economy and the least in our control. The march towards some sort of “solution” seems inexorable and Senate ratification of whatever dreck the global community spews means that it’s the law of our land. I’m pretty sure the Supreme Court can’t second-guess international treaties.
  3. Welfare: entitlement programs represent a blank check on my wages. What’s worse, as the rest of the economy suffers under the inevitable interventionist policies of presidents and Congresscritters the welfare rolls swell. The money’s got to come from somewhere people and that somewhere is the labor of the successful.
  4. National service: the call to required sacrifice chills me to the core. I’m way past the age where this would be a personal issue, but I do have kids and I would hate for them to be pressed into service against their will at any point in their lives.
  5. Stem cell research: I hate that such fundamental scientific research is funded and controlled by the government. The sad fact is that it is and there’s no way around it at present. Stem cell research, from what this ignorant layman can gather, represents the future of medicine. This could easily be a life or death issue at some point for me and mine. I hate that it is being held up because some people feel like a freaking embryo is a person with rights.

To be sure, I care about a lot of other issues but these are the big ones. Soon I will write up how I plan to appraise candidates through the filter of these priorities. Hint: it ain’t easy because there is no candidate that matches for me.