The amazing adventures of Doug Hughes

To paraphrase Monty Python:

It’s not pinin’! It’s passed on! This business is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet it’s maker! It’s a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If Doug hadn’t dragged it out so long, it’d be pushing up the daisies! It’s metabolic processes are now ‘istory! It’s off the twig! It’s kicked the bucket, it’s shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-COMPANY!!

As of the first of October, 2014 I have officially ceased operating as Alagad Inc. This has  been a long time in coming, but the time has arrived. At the ripe age of 18 Alagad has ended. Enter Doug Hughes LLC, stage right.

Running Alagad was a wild, amazing, horrifying, unforgettable, stressful, heartbreaking, astonishingly awesome experience. I founded Alagad in 1996, while still in high school. Initially it was supposed to be a graphic design company, but that didn’t take off. Around 1997 it started to gain traction as a web development company. Throughout college it fed me, kept me housed, and stocked me with plenty of beer.

In the years since I have had the pleasure of working with a diverse range of more than 80 companies and organizations around the world. (I think… part of me wonders if that number gets bigger every time I say it…) I have worked with dozens of employees and contractors. I have worked tirelessly with some very awesome teams.

But now I’m moving into a new phase of my life. I’ve stopped imagining that Alagad will someday be my ticket to retirement. I am now working with a single steady client, less than 40 hours a week. I’m not working on any side projects or a Next Big Thing. I’m idling and recuperating and I couldn’t be happier about it.

As I idle I’m working with new hobbies such as engineering a homemade CNC machine, 3D printing (eventually), wood working, reading, spending time with my kids, any anything else that strikes my fancy. I’ve even returned to college via Arizona State University Online to finish up a bachelor’s in Software Engineering.

I’m also on what I call a Unicorn Hunt. What is this Unicorn Hunt, you may ask? Well, I’m keeping my ears to the ground for an amazing opportunity as a traditional employee. This opportunity would allow me to learn and use new programming languages, techniques, frameworks, approaches, etc. I would be a junior to mid-level team member working under some amazingly brilliant people from whom I can learn new things. I would be working on a single project that I believe in and which is interesting and challenging. And I want to be paid like an executive (or at least what I am currently making) and be able to either work remotely or within 15 minutes of home. Oh, and I want my own pet unicorn too!

If you have an opportunity, checkout my resume!

Doug Hughes LLC is the new Alagad Inc. Eventually I’ll move good blog entries from alagad.com to doughughes.net. If you have my doug@doughughes.net email address in your contacts you may wish to update it to doug@doughughes.net. My phone number is still 651-252-4234.

So, for now I idle. Life goes on.

I’m back again this week with another installment of Office Hours. Last week’s Office Hours went well and we all learned a bit about Git. This week Phillip Senn has asked to go over how to setup a local development environment for ColdFusion.

The show starts here at 3:30 pm today, Thursday November 8th. I’ll post a link to the Google+ Hangout and a link to the streaming video in this post around 3:15. I hope to see you this afternoon.

Join the hangoutor watchthe YouTube stream:

Office Hours: Git

I announced on Wednesday that I was going to start holding Office Hours as an open forum where I can help someone work through a problem they’re having. This week I’ll be working with Phillip Cenn to get him started with Git. Our session begins at 3:00PM ET. Up to eight people can join into our Google+ Hangout. Everyone else is welcome to watch the life stream below.

Google+ Hangout:https://plus.google.com/hangouts/_/20d73fe568f5f674d1d7370072e2a2358ae3af26?authuser=0&hl=en

And this is where the live video stream will be:

A couple of weeks ago I was honored to speak at the very excellent NCDevCon. While there I had a very interesting conversation with a guy by the name of Phillip Senn. Phillip expressed that he was looking for a mentor, someone who would push him towards better development practices and help him get unstuck when he encountered a problem he couldn’t get past. For example, he needs a bit of a push to get started with Git. He’d like to see how people setup their development environments, etc.

While I don’t really have the time or inclination to be a traditional mentor, the request got me thinking. I certainly don’t know everything there is to know about programming, but over the years I’ve gotten really good at learning new things quickly. I feel comfortable being thrown (or throwing myself) into new technical situations. I recognize patterns and can Google with the best of ’em.

So, Phillip and Iconceivedof what he dubbed “Office Hours”. The plan (at least for now) is for me to have a scheduled time to do a screencast where I help someone get started with or learn something new for free. I will be doing this in a Google+ hangout and streaming it live to my YouTube channel. I also plan to make archived sessions availableonline.

The first Office Hours will be this Friday, November 2nd from 3 to 5pm EST. Right before the office hours is set to begin I’ll publish the Office Hours Google+ Hangout URL, the live stream video, and any other relevant information. Those who are interested (up to 8 additional people) can join in the hangout and help out or follow along. Anyone else will be able to watch the video in real time.

For this first I will beworking with Phillip to help him get started with Git. Truth be told, while I use Git, I’m no Git guru. My intention, however, is to help him get it installed, create a new repo, commit code, branch, merge, etc. Basically, to give him a tour of as much of it as I can. I imagine this will be rather organic with a few false starts and dead ends before we really get anywhere. To me, part of what makes Office Hours interesting is that I’ll be learning while I do it too.

I want to make Office Hours a weekly event. I also want you to feel free to email me with your requests and suggestions. For example, perhaps you want help getting started with Node.js (or anything else). Just send me an email and, if I choose your topic, we’ll schedule a time for your Office Hours. I would request that you not limit your questions to what you expect me to know. If the topic is new to me I’ll work ahead and be ready to hit the ground running in our Office Hours session.

So, do you have any thoughts or suggestions? I’d love your feedback on the concept.

 

 

Back in 2009 my company, Alagad, had what I think of as The Big Layoff.  We went from about 13 employees and contractors down to three people in a matter of a fifteen minute phone call.  This wasn’t the first round of layoffs I’ve had to do, but it was the hardest.  I loved the people who worked with me.  I cared about them and their families and I felt as though I had personally failed them. Frankly, I did.  I’m sure that I could have done more to protect them, their jobs, and their families.  That said, they’ve all gone on to bigger and better things and I’m extremely happy for them.

In the year or so leading up to these layoffs I was constantly assaulted with panic attacks. My chest would seise, I’d get tunnel vision, my mind would shut down everything except worry.  White hot worry. I worried about the people who worked for me and the overwhelming responsibility I had to them.  I worried about paying my bills.  I worried about my family.  Through the support of my family, the remaining employees, and the miracle of modern pharmacology I somehow made it through that period.

Sometimes I wonder if I didn’t completely fry my nerves. I wonder this because I am again tearing Alagad down.  Three weeks ago we were faced with the very real fact that we would likely go out of business.  Both my personal and business accounts were overdrawn and we couldn’t make payroll.  Again.  We had to leave the PEO that provided our health benefits and payroll service.  The walls were coming down.

So I held a call with all four of us, three family members and one employee who may as well be family at this point.  We talked about shutting down and what that would mean.  Throughout this experience I felt calm.  Not happy, but calm, collected.  Worried too, but not like in 2009.  I sincerely felt as though I had done everything I could and that, if we failed, no one could blame me for not trying.

What’s interesting to me is that I don’t feel the same panic I did in 2009.  I don’t feel like a hole is being burrowed in my chest.  I can breath and sleep. I’m not entirely sure why.

I imagine that when death is imminent – when you are terminally ill – that a certain peace and calmness comes from that knowledge.  I imagine that you release your desperate grip on everything that holds you to the physical world. Nothing can harm you now.  There are no more consequences. You transcend fear.

That’s where I am. Nothing can hurt me now. And strangely, because of this, I am free.  I can do anything I want.  I can take tremendous risks without fear.  I am like the terminally ill patient who decides to live each day as if it were their last, because it might be.

Much to my surprise, out of that phone meeting was born an entirely new strategy we’re calling Alagad 2.0.  I’ve detailed it on an all-new Alagad.com website and will spare you the details here.  Suffice it to say it’s not the traditional way of running a software company.

I feel like the terminally ill patent who is given experimental treatment.  It might save their life, but might just kill them even faster.  There’s only one way to find out and I’m comfortable with this.

I can’t lie and say that I’m entirely at peace.  I still worry.  We don’t currently have health insurance and we depend on our prescriptions for our mental well being.  Many have criticized our new approach saying that we don’t understand the business.  But others have suggested it’s might actually be a good idea.

Maybe I’m just delaying the inevitable, but I’m ok with that. The picture that has emerged to me is that there is in fact life after death.  It’s a rebirth of some sort – a renaissance.  A new start. I look forward to it with an open and calm mind.

NCDevCon LogoI was pleased to find out that I’ve been invited to speak at at NCDevCon again this year. NCDevCon is a ColdFusion and web development focused conference event held annually at theCentennial Campus of NC State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. The even is put on by the fine folks at the Triangle ColdFusion User Group, aka. TACFUG.

Here are the details of my session:

Javascript: things you never knew you didn’t know.

So, you think you know JavaScript? I think not! There are a ton of small features hidden under the covers that many developers either don’t know about or don’t know how to use. This topic will go over an ad-hoc list JavaScript related goodies that I’ve picked up over the last year or so, including typed arrays, accessors, array folding, object inheritance, various tips and tricks, and more. Many of the topics relate to newer revisions of JavaScript and may not work in older browsers.

I hope to see you there!

Also, thanks again to TACFUG for inviting me to speak again! You guys are awesome.

Unborking VPN on OS X

For those of you using the inbuilt VPN features on OS X, you may have noticed that from time to time it will stop wanting to connect. For me, pretty much any time I disconnect from VPN, the next time I try to connect I will get an unfriendly message that looks like this:

VPN Connection An Unrecoverable error occurred. Verify your settings and try reconnecting.

This happens to me way too often. It can happen when trying to connect, it can happen after disconnecting and then reconnecting, it can happen without any apparent provocation.

In the past it seemed like the only option was to completely restart OS X. As you can imagine, this is not an acceptable solution to someone who keeps a lot of apps open, needs to use VPN frequently, and who doesn’t wish to waste time rebooting for no good reason.

Thankfully, Joe Bernard was able to track down the solution and was kind enough to share it with me.

Apparently there’s a process in OS X called “racoon”. Racoon is in charge of VPN connections. Here’s what Apple’s man pages have to say about it:

racoon is used to setup and maintain an IPSec tunnel or transport channel, between two devices, over which network traffic is conveyed securely. This security is made possible by cryptographic keys and operations on both devices. racoon relies on a standardized network protocol (IKE) to automatically negotiate and manage the cryptographic keys (e.g. security associations) that are necessary for the IPSec tunnel or transport channel to function. racoon speaks the IKE (ISAKMP/Oakley) key management protocol, to establish security associations with other hosts. The SPD (Security Policy Database) in the kernel usually triggers racoon. racoon usually sends all informational messages, warnings and error messages to syslogd(8) with the facility LOG_DAEMON and the priority LOG_INFO. Debugging messages are sent with the priority LOG_DEBUG. You should configure syslog.conf(5) appropriately to see these messages.

In a nutshell, Racoon gets borked. Sometimes this means that the racoon process needs to be restarted, but in my experience 99% of the time it means that it’s not actually running.

So, you can restart racoon from the terminal like so:

sudo /usr/sbin/racoon

I’ve also found that sometimes you need to restart the various networking interfaces you’re using. Because of this, I ended up writing a shell script I call fixnetwork.sh:

sudo ifconfig en0 down
sudo ifconfig en1 down
sudo ifconfig en0 up
sudo ifconfig en1 up
sudo /usr/sbin/racoon

I put this in my home directory, set it to be executable, and can run it like so:

~/fixnetwork.sh

Works like a charm for me. No more reboots to fix borked VPN connections! Productivity, here I come!

Tag Cloud