My Static Blog Site Experiment Has Ended

A few months ago I got the itch to move off of WordPress and onto some kind of static blog generator system. I read and researched and finally settled on OctoPress and set it up on GitHub pages. There has been a lot of attention to static blog and site generation over the last year or so and there are definitely use cases for them, but I’ve decided they are not for me. What I found was that, while I could host my blog for free on GitHub (after jumping through a few hoops), there were several issues with using OctoPress that made me crazy.

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Gettin’ off my duff

Well, at least partially. Since there are so many different ways that could be interpreted, let me explain.

I’ve worked at home almost all of the last 14 years as both a full-time employee and freelance programmer–a good chunk of that that time in both roles at the same time. That means a LOT of hours spent at my desk writing code sitting down. For the past couple of years I’ve been mulling over the idea of converting to a standing desk because of the recent research telling us that sitting for long periods of time is killing us slowly.

One of the things that has kept me from jumping into this with both feet has been cost. Dedicated standing desk units are pricey and I honestly didn’t want to drop a ton of cash until I knew if I could commit to a full-time standing desk arrangement. Couple that with the fact that I had knee surgery a few years ago to remove some cartilage and I wasn’t sure if I could even physically make it work. So, I kicked the idea can down the road…and kicked it…and kicked it.

This is the part of the story where my buddy Jim Priest enters stage left. Jim has been a standing desk person for years. He happened to have a spare standing desk sitting around and agreed to let me borrow it for a test run. I got it last week and went about figuring out how to rearrange the home office to integrate it. The desk was well used and the blonde-colored top that was with it had a slight bow in the middle. The rest of my office furniture is black. Continuing in the “be cheap” vein, I went to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore here in Cary and bought a 24″ interior door, painted it black and screwed it to the top of the desk frame. Total investment so far is about $12 including paint for the desk plus an anti-fatigue mat to stand on (which I have no idea how much it cost because my wife picked it up for me on Friday).

I knew that my body wasn’t strong enough to stand 100% of the time from the beginning. A few years ago I bought a really nice office chair on a recommendation from Dan Wilson. It’s not inexpensive either and I certainly didn’t want to lose the use of it. The last time I was thinking about doing this, I bought a replacement cylinder for the chair that was much longer than the factory one. I installed that last week so now I have the ability to switch between standing and sitting during the day. My theory is that standing some during the day (as much as I can) is better than sitting all day.

Anyway, today is my first full day of work at the new standing desk so we will see how it goes. For you visual people, I’ve attached a couple of photos of the before and after of my side of the office.

Home Office - Original Version Home Office - Standing Desk Version

Reason for the silence

Wowzers! It’s been 10 months since I created a post on my blog! There is a good reason for that, I promise. I’m obviously not a prolific blogger like Ray Camden or some of the other folks that seem to be able to churn out blog posts as often as some of us sneeze, but I like to post about things that interest me from time to time.

Lately however, there just hasn’t been enough hours in the day–and here’s why. My father-in-law is an optometrist with a small practice in the town where my wife and I are from. Several years ago, he looked at me and said something along the lines of “all the practice management software packages that exist today are terrible–why don’t you build something better?”. We experimented with the idea of an internet-based application, but the technology just wasn’t ready for that kind of application at that time. More importantly, people’s attitudes on having their core business data hosted anywhere but on a computer in their office weren’t ready for what we were thinking. So, we shelved the idea.

Then, about 2 years ago some the changes in healthcare regulations happened that made us pull the idea out of mothballs and give it another look. During the intervening years, things like Flickr, GMail, Hotmail, Dropbox and others had totally changed people’s idea of where they would store their data. Mobile internet access (and people’s demand for it) was starting to take off thanks to the continued adoption of smart phones. Additionally, the tools for building compelling web applications had matured greatly and new ones had been born. With all that in mind, we decided to give this idea a go and a new company and product was born.

Today, RediPractice is the result of that idea. RediPractice is a web-based practice management system for tracking patients, appointments, insurance and billing for small optometric practices. Our core goal is to give the doctors and staff a system that is intuitive and easy to use. Our belief is that your practice management software should not cause more headaches than it solves so we have worked hard to remove processes that we’ve seen in other packages that make getting work done more difficult.

We launched live with our first customer on 1 Jan 2012 and have been in a sort of “private beta” phase since then with a small number of customers. Over the last six plus months, we’ve worked very closely with our customers’ staff members to iron out any wrinkles, revamp things that don’t make sense and add new features that our customers have told us they need to run their day-to-day practice activities.

However, as anyone that has started a new business can attest, you don’t normally get your incorporation papers in the mail and suddenly find a plethora of money in your mailbox. Starting a new business is hard work–and there are dozens of areas involved that I know nothing about. So, while we’re building this new company and product, I’m still doing consulting work for clients during the day to keep the lights on, so I can work on RediPractice nights and weekends. I have to say it’s already been an incredible journey–from doing a deep dive into medical practice processes, regulations and such to meeting with doctors and staff who are potential clients and pitching my product to them.

So, whether you really cared or not, you now know why my blog posts have been so few and far between.

Can you be too object-oriented for your client’s good?

Unless you’ve been coding under a rock since ColdFusion 4.5, you’ve likely noticed the massive momentum behind object-oriented design and development in the ColdFusion sphere over the last 2 to 3 years. I love the idea of designing apps using object-oriented techniques–so much so that I’m presenting a session titled “OOP: What is it and why do I care?” at NCDevCon next month. After a while of developing OO-style applications you can get really spoiled to that way of writing and organizing code.

As a consultant, I get the opportunity to work for a wide array of companies and an even wider array of projects–not all of which are designed and built using the latest and greatest OO principles. Sometimes you can fall into the trap of thinking how you’d do a certain thing in an object-oriented way when the application you’re working on is written in a (good or bad) procedural manner. As tempting as it might be to scrap the client’s procedural code and write a shiny new OO block of code, you have to step back and remember what the client is paying you to do and decide if that’s the best use of the client’s money.

Unless the client is specifically paying you to refactor an older application, sometimes it simply doesn’t make sense to change the way the client’s application works so drastically. Sometimes you just have to “forget” all the OO goodness that you’ve learned to love over the last couple of years and go back to the “old” way of doing things in order to best service your client. It may not be fun, exciting or cutting edge work, but there are still a great number of procedural applications out there that we might be called upon to work on.

Disclaimer: This post was written as a “note to self”, not as an indictment of anyone that I have worked with.

How I got started in ColdFusion

After separating from active duty with the US Air Force in early 1998, I took a job working at a telecommunications company located in Brentwood, TN as a desktop and server support IT guy. About 6 months after I started, the company advertised an open position for their first full-time web developer. I applied and, owing to their policy of trying to “hire from within” first, I was chosen to fill the position.

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