June 12th, 2006
The thing about H1-B visas as I see it is that they are an exception to American immigration policy. We’re supposed to screen foreign people from migrating to the US so that the terrorists don’t end up over here. Plus, we’re told that we need these H1-B visa holders in order to fill the employee reqs that can’t be filled by Americans that could do the job.
The thing is though; both of these things are not really true. As far as I can tell, the H1-B visa holders are not subject to the same screenings that we would subject other immigrants too. I guess the US Government thinks that terrorists wouldn’t get a degree in computer science. Well, for my part, I never met any non-social, young and single men that work as programmers. Have you? And who would imagine that an educated computer scientist would believe in fanciful stories with an antithetical posture towards modern life? Certainly not the Yoda loving, mushroom in the dark-sitting programmers of the world, eh?
My beef is that is that there are usually Americans ready to do the work. The issue is that there are no trained American citizens that are willing to work for the amount of money that corporations want to pay. It’s a vicious cycle. Programmers work their arses off to get through a computer science curriculum with the promise of a rewarding and well-compensated role at a company. The companies need these programmers because they provide the tools to improve workplace productivity. But then the companies start rooting around for highly compensated employees that aren’t directly contributing to the bottom line through sales and think, hey how can I cut the budget. Wait a minute, I’ll sunset a bunch of programmers that contributed greatly to my growth in the past and send their jobs to foreign and distant lands where dinosaur programmers can be paid much less. Next, I’ll hire an H1-B programmer to do the work that absolutely has to be done over here.
And the best thing for the companies is that the H1-B programmer is really an indentured servant of sorts. They can’t apply for another job, because another company will need to sponsor them. So they use them for a while for the cheap labor and then send them home after a few years to replace with a fresh new H1-B.
May 25th, 2006
Some days I just feel like I gotta get my blog on. It’s a beautiful day in Boston so I thought I’d go inside and use a computer.
May 10th, 2006
Last night I had dinner with some friends that run a business that focuses on amateur pilots. My good friend Andrew writes a blog, and Guy does camera work. Andrew used to be a newsman at New York 1, but then he went back to law school and now works in publicity. I think that Andrew has changed more directions in his career than I have, which is a feat I think! Aside from the blog, they make and sell DVDs about aviation, the latest of which is called Flight School.
So Andrew updates the blog pretty often, well more often than I update mine anyway. And it’s gotten some attention too, but they wanted to spruce up the site and I recommended Wordpress for the blogging software. Then we got to talking about advertising and trying to get more traffic and marketing a website. We all know one guy who spent something like $50.00 a day to advertise a DVD that he made about the Lake Plaid miracle USA hockey team, and it didn’t bring in any incremental revenue. I had the same issue when I was doing the pay-per-download program through CNET for the Java Contactor. I was bidding between $0.30 and $0.45 per download, and was maxing out my budget after only 4 or 5 days in a monthly cycle. After maxing out the budget, I’d sit and wait for customers to buy a licensed copy of the software…but no. Then CNET created a wrapper program that forced a registration. And that’s when I realized that the quality of users downloading the software was total crap. Most everyone registered bogus names, email addresses, street addresses etc. Everyone wanted free goods and wanted to remain anonymous too. Pretty hard to run a business with anonymous non-paying customers:)
April 24th, 2006
So, my favorite programmer moved away from the job here. It’s kind of sad now because we used to talk during the day about the market and about Java and about how much he didn’t like being here. Which is one of the reasons he left here. The other reason is the money. The contract rate for him as it turns out was roughly equivalent to the one that I’m getting, but while I’m pretty satisfied with it, he thought it was a pittance and wanted a minimum of 20% more. I’d take 20% more, but I’m more or less satiated with my rate. But that’s a good thing because it means that I’m happy with what I have right now and can probably get more later on. That’s a whole lot better than knowing I’m getting the max and feeling like I need more just to be happy!
I took him out to Peter Luger’s in Great Neck, Long Island near to where we work. I ordered the steak for 2, which I thoroughly recommend there. It costs a lot, but it’s a thick porterhouse, which is the New York strip on one side and the filet on the other. We talked about the place where I work and he used to work and basically his reason for leaving came down to a question of money and a lack of programming assignments. Most contractors I know are the same; they all want to program and be productive, which is pretty healthy overall I think. I mean there’s not a lot of slacker contractors out there that really want to sit on their asses all day long, doing nothing but just collecting.
April 14th, 2006
I walked in this morning and my ITG ticket was rejected by the duty manager at 10:00 PM. It was rejected because there is a new process whereby all tickets need to be accompanied by a screen shot of the business user’s acceptance. So like, I have this production problem with some data that the user doesn’t know anything about and I need an acceptance email saying, yeah please go ahead and make an update to some production data that they don’t really know about. Oy!
But it gets better. The duty manager decides that contractors shouldn’t even create ITG tickets, they should originate from the users. So, now I have to call up the users and say, “Hey, can you send an email to the help desk so that they can open a ticket to fix X” where X is some highly confusing technical data that doesn’t make much sense to anyone but a programmer. Then after I write the update scripts and check them in test, I need to get an email later from them where I take a screenshot that says, yeah, go ahead and do that thing that I opened a ticket for earlier. I can hardly wait for the day when one of these requests goes awry and the users get afraid of creating and approving things that are opaque as the day is long.
April 1st, 2006
OK, so now I’ve been in SOX land for about a month–that’s Sarbanes Oxley to the uninitiated—and it still SUX. I used to be a programmer that wrote code to support user requirements to custom systems. Now I’m a help desk person, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Except I’m not a help desk person.
Here is what I do all day now. I wait for tickets to be created in ITG a product from Mercury. It’s a pretty good product, but since its highly configurable it allows IT departments to layer enormous amounts of complexity. So if you are an IT manager that always feels like you are out of touch with what is really going on, then this is the product for you. If you’re a programmer trying to get anything done in a reasonable amount of time fuggetaboutit!
March 10th, 2006
So the leaders of the IT department where I work got in big trouble with the SOX auditors and failed the SOX compliance test. OUCH! Of course they must’ve known this for a long time because by the time the contractors got to know about it, there were diagrams and PowerPoint presentations outlining the strategy for becoming SOX compliant. OK, SOX compliance according to Ernst and Young of course.
So I went and looked at the summary of the Sarbanes-Oxley act of 2002 to see what types of things that they were talking about. As far as I can tell it’s all about accounting standards and trying to keep people from painting a rosy financial picture over a rotten core, the poster boy being Enron.
But according to Ernst and Young’s SOX experts working here, it is a SOX violation for technologists who develop and enhance new systems to login and modify anything on production. Of course the production admins are responsible for dozens of systems and don’t have the knowledge to solve problems on specific systems, so it is my job to divine problems that might occur on a production system. Only now, I can’t really get in and poke around because it is apparently a SOX violation.
The irony seems that Arthur Andersen went out of business because they took the heat for doing the accounting for companies like Enron that went belly up. So guess who benefits from the new SOX compliance rules? More consulting companies of course. Another self-perpetual billable hours scheme as far as I can tell. And now those same consulting companies are trying to build the business around the world. Even though SOX compliance is a US law, Ernst and Young thinks global businesses would benefit from SOX compliance.
February 27th, 2006
Man it’s tough getting a little attention for some shareware. That’s probably my fault and it’s not like I wasn’t warned about it, like years ago. For example, I wanted to be a writer at one time and my grandma told me that it was a really tough field to get noticed in. She bought me a book about marketing novels to the world and the thing I really remember was that it said there are 2 kinds of writers, one that writes a book and then goes to find agents and book publishers to publish them, the second is one that finds what needs to be written and seeks a contract before writing the whole thing. The lesson was that the latter makes the consistent money. When I take on new self-created projects, I’m usually in the former category. I dream up something and then get running on it, sometimes without realizing what a huge dump of time and energy it is going to be.
February 22nd, 2006
I started writing a personal information manager written in Java back in 1999. Over the years, I’ve gotten lots of suggestions about cool features to add in; features that one person thought would be the cat’s pajamas. For instance, my best man thought it would be really hot to add the ability to pop off an email to anyone in the list. So, I added a wizard to send email to any group within the contacts using any field in the contact list. Then a customer told me that it would be a state of the art personal database if you could change the field names dynamically. He wanted to use it for his business and had some special fields that identified clients. Then another customer groused that “not everyone lives in the states” meaning that the address fields weren’t right for his international contact list. So, I added the ability to change the field names, which also makes it easy to turn the PIM into another language, well except that the help page is still in English.
What I found interesting is that after finishing these new features, some of which are pretty time-consuming, the customers are not always so enthusiastic. Sure, they use the new features but then they come up with other new features right away or imply that the feature isn’t exactly the same as they envisioned. So you bust your ass and get a mediocre thanks in return if you’re lucky. Excellent!
February 20th, 2006
Most people that I talk to are really concerned about providing their own health care. All right, healthcare is expensive, but if you have your own corporation healthcare is a tax deduction. If you are a sole proprietor or LLC, then you can deduct some, and if you can’t charge enough to pay for you healthcare, then get a job for god’s sake, don’t be a contract programmer. From looking at the labor situation over at Catepiller, it looks like a companies are starting to really gripe about paying for employee healthcare and employees are opting for steep pay cuts to keep it. I don’t get it. I have lots of friends that go to the doctor once a year and to the dentist twice a year and maybe need a couple of pills or some antibiotics once in a while. As far as I can tell, most of them could just pay cash for that and move on. I mean if they are really worried about being wiped out with a major bill, then I’d suggested catastrophic healthcare coverage.