I remember a conversation with a client about certain coding practices.  We were discussing things like code reviews, paired programming and similar concepts.  These were concepts that we both believed in but yet at certain times in the project we scrapped these ideas.  Why?  Why else, we were behind schedule and we didn’t have time.  Thinking about it, I said to him that this was precisely the time we should NOT ignore these practices.  Why is this?  Because when you are close to a deadline and running out of time, you don’t have time for mistakes.  And paired programming is a great way to minimize mistakes.  I’m not trying to say here that Pairing is the only way to prevent issues.  The point is that we shouldn’t rush our work when we have limited time.  I know that while we were in our frantic pace to the finish we made some mistakes.  We then had to fix those mistakes before we released anyway.  If we had taken our time a bit more, we would have saved resources in the long run because it is faster to write better code than fix bugs. 

I thought of this conversation today.  I was listening to Studio 360 on NPR and heard a great quote.  The show had guest host Alec Baldwin interviewing actress Laura Linney. Laura Linney was recalling a quote by some other woman, I don’t recall her name, who was a Broadway director, if I recall correctly.  In any case, this woman used a phrase all the time that really expresses my thoughts from above.  She used to say “Ok people, we are almost out of time, we better slow down”.  Isn’t that perfect?  I’m not positive that I’m quoting it correctly, word for word, but I am close enough and the point is clear.

I hope to remember this quote and repeat it a lot.

I used to be Andy the Employee, but now I am Andy the Contractor.  Ok, enough election puns.  Actually I would write more but I can’t think of any right now.

After many years of working as an employee, I have decided to become and Independent Contractor/Consultant.  What does that mean?  Well really it isn’t all that different.  From day to day, my job will still be the same but now I have to make sure I can find enough work to keep myself busy.  So I guess my job will be harder.  Plus I get no health benefits and I have to pay more taxes out of my paycheck.  Hey, this isn’t sounding too great!  Actually, a lot of software developers work this way and they seem to like it.  There are pros to this work model too.  You typically get paid more to cover the extra taxes, etc.  I hope that turns out to be the case.  And you get to choose the kind of projects you want to take on which is great.  I have worked for several consulting companies over the years and I didn’t always like the assignments I got, well now I am in control!

Now I have a lot of work to do and I hope to blog about the process.  I need to set up a company (incorporate), figure out how to track expenses and billing, and finish a list of other business management stuff.  I’ve been talking to a lot of people about the benefits of different business structures:  DBA (Doing Business As), LLC (Limited Liability Company), and S-Corp.  It seems that they each have different tax benefits in the order I listed them.  S-Corp has, from what I can tell, the best tax breaks but seems to be the hardest to manage.  I think most software developer types choose LLC because of the benefits/complications ration is pretty good.  I need to figure it all out.

Also, I plan on learning some new technology and hopefully some good blog posts will come of it.  In the meantime, here goes nothing…

I’ve already written about trying to choose a camcorder, selecting the Canon HG-10, and problems with shipping.

Now that the camera has arrived, I’ve had a little time to play around with it.  Here are some of my first thoughts:

First, this may be obvious but, this camera is small.  It’s not even the smallest camera out there but but I like the size.  Most of the controls feel good, especially the zoom rocker control, which was mentioned as a highlight in reviews.  When recording and playing back HD video with the 2.7in LCD, the picture is really awesome.  For the most part the camera seems pretty easy to use.  I did notice, immediately, that the scroll wheel that is used to do a lot of the menu navigation is a little weak.  I read about this in some reviews.  Everyone seems to agree that this is a cool attempt by Canon and a step in the right direction but it needs work.  Basically, the scroll wheel feels like a cheap plastic toy that could break easily.  I certainly hope it is stronger than it appears.

Unfortunately, I had some problems watching the video off of the camera.  First, the HDMI cable I purchased is the wrong size (see below).  So my only TV hookup was “low def”.  The pictures looked good but not spectacular.  But I hope a new HDMI cable solves that.  So it was off to the PC for me.  I easily and quickly uploaded the files via USB to my PC’s hard drive.  However, when I tried to playback the video using the included software, Corel Intervideo WinDVD SE, the picture was was a little choppy and was not synchronized with the audio!  I know HD video playback is hard on the processor but I have a dual core 3.2 GHz processor with 3GB of memory.  Plus my video adapter is an NVIDEA GeForce 7600 GS, which I thought was supposed to be pretty good.  I even used a 1 GB ready boost thumb drive and I turned off the Vista Aero features to try and help but no luck.  I am really surprised at this performance problem.  I expected it for editing but not playback.  This was a really big disappointment.  Could the problem be that I need to upgrade the software?  I also tried editing with the included  Ulead DVD Movie Factory SE but that didn’t work very well either.  First, the PC couldn’t keep up very well.  Second, I am not impressed with my first look at the software.  Again, maybe I need to upgrade.  The free software is probably not the best one on the market.

I also wanted to complain about some accessories I purchased at Best Buy.  I should know by now to trust my instincts and not listen to the people there.  First, I already mentioned the incorrect HDMI cable.  They told me that was the correct one, even though I said I thought the connector looked too big.  Second, they said that the camera bag I purchased would hold the camera and the accessories.  I was interested in a slightly larger bag but they told me not to bother.  Strike two.  Why do I listen to them?

I expect that I’ll be very happy once I get my HDMI cable and can view my home movies on my 46″ High Def TV.  Then I’ll need to figure out how to edit these videos.

 

In my last post, I wrote about my decision to purchase a camcorder.  So here’s what happened next.

So I ordered the device at around 11:30PM on Tuesday 1/29 from TigerDirect.com.  Since it was pretty late, the item would ship on Wed.  Since I splurged $3 extra, I got 2nd Day Shipping which meant I have my new toy on Friday.  Now I’ve ordered from TigerDirect before and I’ve had problems with them, so I know what to expect.  Still, I trust them because even when there are problems, they seem to be genuinely nice about it and are pretty accommodating.  And don’t forget, the price was right – about $350 less then Best Buy!  So starting Wednesday I got my tracking information from TigerDirect and started following my package on UPS.com.  Yet another cool benefit to the Internet, I can watch my package get closer to its destination.  OK, it left the factory, good start.  It’s headed to Philly, this is going well.  Thursday night I checked and it arrived in town, this is good!  Friday morning it is listed as Out For Delivery – this baby is on the truck!  It was raining that day so I left a note on my door for the drive to leave the package on my covered porch in the back.  Early afternoon I checked UPS.com again and low and behold my package was listed as…Delivered!  I was so excited that I even called home on my way from work to make sure.  Rebecca assured me that the package was on the back porch when she came home and now it was in the house!

Upon arriving home, I immediately opened the box and started checking out my new Canon HG-10.  Wow, this is small.  Cool, I can plug it in and test it without the battery being charged.  Wait, what is this!  Why is there a door covering a DVD burner on my HG-10?  Wait, why does my HG-10 say HV-20 on the side?  I was so excited to check it out that I never noticed that the box said HV-20…TigerDirect shipped me the wrong unit!  Arrrrrrgh.  So I called up TigerDirect and, like usual, they were cool about it.  They can’t ship me my model until I return the old one, or they can temporarily charge me for both on my credit card.  I can understand that, they don’t want me running off with both of them.  And they promised to send the correct model next-day.  Since it was Friday at 5:00pm, next-day means Monday.  I still need to send the wrong one back and get my credit.  But I’m expecting that to go well.  If not, I’ll be sure to blog about it!

Oh well, no camcorder for the Superbowl party.  Now all I really needed to do was convince my wife not to go into labor until Monday night at the earliest! 

OK, it is getting late.  Tomorrow I’ll write about my first thoughts on the Canon HG-10.

 

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About a week ago I posted on my struggle to choose a camcorder.  Well after lots of research, conversations with friends, and a little bit of “oh, what the hell”, I picked a camcorder.


I selected the Canon HG-10.  It’s an HD model that uses an internal Hard Drive for storage.  The web site CamcorderInfo.com has a pretty thorough review of the model, its features, and issues.    Here’s what lead me to choose the HG-10…


Storage – Hard Drive:  All I read about the cameras that record straight to DVD is that they are a pain to edit.  Since I plan to do some editing, that was ruled out.  The mini-dv tapes are still popular and seem to actually have the highest quality video due to lower compression then the other formats.  But, you can’t quickly access portions of video and transfer to the PC is a pain.  The hard drive model has pretty good video quality (I think it is in the middle between dvd and min-dv) and offers some other features, like quick access (mentioned above) and the ability to record large portions of video without changing tapes of dvds.


Format – High Def:  This was a tough call too.  The quality is obviously much better, that’s easy.  But it is quite a bit more expensive.  Also, I was concerned about editing (you need a strong PC).  Another factor is that I don’t have a way to burn DVD’s in HD.  So I can only watch the videos off of the camera in HD.  Well, I’m hoping the prices come down soon on those HD burners.  In the mean time, I’ll save up my footage, and wait for prices to drop.  I’m told editing won’t be too bad since my PC is Dual Core 3.2 GHz, with 3 Gigs of Ram.  That left price.  After some research, I got a good deal, so HD was the way to go.


After doing a lot of research, I settled in on the Canon HG-10.  Basically, I thought it had a great feature set, excellent video quality, and was rated well in low light conditions.  That’s fairly important because in video terms, most conditions except outside are considered low light!  A few things I was disappointed about with the Canon was the manual focus (not a ring, it’s menu driven) and no mic adjustments.  But everything else looked good.


I started looking at BestBuy.com where the price was listed around $1100.  I think Circuit City had it for about $50 less.  At some point it went on sale at Circuit City for around $850 and I started to get excited.  Some more research on the web and I found it for about $835 at Buy.Com, $800 at J&R and then $717 at 42nd Street.  There were a few other places that were pretty low too. But Tiger Direct had the camcorder for $759!  Bingo.  This was a little more then some a few of the others, but I have done business with them before and I don’t mind paying a few bucks extra to a company that I trust (that’s not too say I don’t trust the others, I just don’t know them).


It was around 11pm and I was pretty excited to find a good price on the model I wanted.  I went to sleep, figuring I’d sleep on it and order it the next day.  A little while later in bed I thought to myself…What if the deal ends tonight at midnight?  What if they run out of stock?  So around 11:30 pm I came downstairs and ordered the Canon HG-10.  As a bonus, I found out I had a $50 credit from a previous purchase!  Plus, shipping via 2nd day air was only $3 more than the standard, so I could get the Camera by Friday!  Sweet. 


This is getting long so I’ll end the story here.  To read about a few problems that came next, along with my first impressions, read my next post.