Alienware’s Website Refresh

This past monday ( June 10) Alienware released a refreshed site.  As one of the developers behind this refresh I feel happy that the deployment went well, there where some hiccups here and there during the first few hours but it was all good at the end of the day.  I joined Alienware back in February and I was assigned the task of starting the refresh, that is the reason I feel proud of the site since a lot of my ideas (both good and not so good) ended up in the final release.

When others ask me how happy I am with the end result I always reply that I’m about 70% happy.  I know I could have improved many things but constrains and time are always the enemy.  However I think that the current state of the site is a pretty darn good foundation for whatever we decide to build on the future.  I also feel happy that Mr Dell(big boss) himself said he liked the look and feel of the new site.  Also I glanced thru some message boards and the general consensus is that people like it.

So what does the future hold?  Well I’ve taken it upon myself to improve the speed of the site and rethink my not so good ideas.  And hopefully I’ll get some time to relax now that I’ve crossed the first big hurdle at Alienware and while I wait for the next big thing.

First Joomla Project

I’m happy to announce that I completed my first joomla project-Exotic Car Collections– A project collaboration between Jonas(who came up with the idea) and Myself(who put the back-end together). A little background about this project:

About Two months ago I read in one of the forums that I frequent a post by someone looking for help setting up a site. At the time, I did not have a full-time job per se, so I was interested in jumping into projects just to get my name out there and to try different technologies that I might not see in a regular basis.

So Jonas, who wanted to build the site, told me his idea of having a site to post pictures and articles about exotic car collections. I thought the idea had potential so I decided to help him start the site. I proposed Joomla for the back-end as I did not have the time to build a whole site from scratch. However I had never done a full blown website using Joomla before; I had only experimented with it on a few occasions but nothing serious. Anyhow after some difficulties at the beginning I got to set up all the components and basic foundation to have the site working the way we wanted; all while Jonas learned the ins and outs of Joomla since he was going to take care of the content and day-to-day site management. Long story short we released Exotic Car Collections last week to the public.

So far no major problem has arise, but as with every project something will eventually come up. I do hope that we can improve the quality and usability of the site as time allows; but I see it difficult as I just started my Graduate Degree last week and my job’s work load is steadily increasing. Regardless I’ll try to find time to keep polishing the project.

Alienware’s Alien Network

As some of you may know I currently work @ Alienware. Today we are releasing the first episode for our Alien Network. I’m not entirely sure what will be covered on the episode since I have not seen it, however I’m really interested on what people have to say about that project.

If you have any comments, suggestions or a question that you would like to see answered in an upcoming episode on the Alien Network just submit a comment or hit me up thru the contact form.

Thats all for now, I’ll post later on today after we go live.

Alien Network goes live April 29, 2008 @ 3pm EST

update: Well its 11pm and I finally watched the episode. I think it that it was kind of monotone as some people commented over at Engadget. But I must admit that the idea has potential, hopefully the episodes will get better over time.

Future Of Web Apps Miami 2008 – My Thoughts

This is the first time I’ve attended a conference of any kind, so I was not sure of what to expect. Although from reading some reviews and watching some clips from previous FOWA(Future Of Web Apps) events it looked that it was the kind of conference I would enjoy. Anyhow lets cut to the chase and list my first impressions…

The Best

  • Kathy Sierra’s presentation “Creating Passionate Users” and the slides that went with it. I specially enjoyed the slide that showed a confused user in front of a monitor with a cloud saying WTF?? that was priceless.
  • I enjoyed Blaine Cook’s presentation and the pandemonium while he was speaking(Twitter went down and some where going nuts over that and his cellphone didn’t stop ringing while he was up in stage).
  • Leah Culver’s presentation was good she came across as humble and very energetic speaker. She acknowledge some mistakes she made while developing Pownce. Acknowledging mistakes and trying to tell people to avoid it is not something a lot of people do.
  • The Launch a Web App in 40 min. panel.
  • Cal Henderson’s presentation was my favorite of the day, he talked about robots, kittens and stuff…
  • Gary Vaynerchuk kicked some ass too with his presentation. Actually I think of it more of a motivational speech than a presentation. I didn’t know who he was or why was he relevant to the conference. But after seeing him on stage I think he really represents what he talks about. He is very charismatic and the only negative thing I could point out is that he is a Jets fan(Go Dolphins!).

The Rest

  • Tantek Çelik and Brian Oberkirch where good hosts, although at times they seemed to lack some emotion while speaking.
  • Matt Mullenweg’s presentation was good and insightful to me, however he spoke somewhat fast and was a little too technical for some of the people who went with me to the conference. Nonetheless his presentation was enjoyable.
  • Kevin Marks’ and Emily Boyd’s presentations where interesting, but a little too long.

The Bad

  • I thought Matt Marshall’s presentation was very dull and how many times did he mention google? a gazillion times during his presentation.
  • Microsoft’s presentation was kind of pointless and it was more of a demo than a presentation. From the two demos presented the first one didn’t quite work and well it was basically MS version of Google maps. The second demo worked better but the accompanying explanation was not very clear.
  • Bagels for lunch? Bagels are OK for breakfast and morning break, but for lunch? fortunately there was a Burger King three blocks north of the venue.
  • I didn’t really get to meet new people, but thats just me.

Overall the event was very interesting, it was well organized and the experience as a whole was a first to me. I really wish I could have made some new friends at the event. I also wish I could have met some of the speakers and established some kind of connection/contact with them, but I guess them being some kind of celebrities it makes it hard to contact them. Thats all for now.

update: finally got myself to upload the 3 pictures I took at the event.  I should really really get a NEW Digital SLR, anyhow here is the link to my FOWA 2008 Flickr set.

Secure Contact Form Results in Blank Page

In this website I’m using the Secure and Accessible PHP Contact Form v.2.0 wordpress plugin. After installing and configuring the plugin I tried submitting the form but all I got was a blank page after submitting the form.

I searched google to see if someone was experiencing the same problem but couldn’t find any detailed information, just someone saying that all they got was a HTTP 406 error in their logs. I checked my error logs but didn’t find that error; however, upon inspecting my raw access logs I saw some 406 responses from the server. So the blank page was indeed the 406 response from my server. From the definition of HTTP 406 response I learned that the problem could be that the server didn’t like the values I was passing it.

Now the 406 response could be raised by a couple of things. One of them is mod_security, if this is the source of your problems you could add some lines to your .htaccess to disable mod_security, read this solution on this HTTP 406 post. That being said, the solution didn’t fix my problem so I had to look for another suspect. My next step was to check my php configuration; this is where I found that there was a module installed that was redirecting to 406! The module’s name is suhosin, which is another security measure that is used for php. Now since I’m in a share host I cannot change the configuration of suhosin.

So I contacted my hosting company and asked them if they could change it but they said no. Which I understand, why change the config for just one guy’s code. However they gave me a more detailed log error which pointed out what part of the code was raising the problem. The problem was that some values where too darn long and looked suspicious to suhosin. The solution was to make them shorter.

The form_id, spam trap and send value where the values that where too long for my host’s suhosin configuration. The original code was:

$form_id = ''.$fd.''.$fp.''.$fl.''.$fv.''.$fh.'';
$trap1_value = ''.$fp.''.$fv.''.$fh.''.$fl.''.$fd.'';
$send_value = ''.$fh.''.$fd.''.$fv.''.$fp.''.$fl.'';

The new code:

$form_id = ''.$fd.''.$fp.'';
$trap1_value = ''.$fp.''.$fv.'';
$send_value = ''.$fh.''.$fd.'';

After making this change the form worked, anything larger value would result in a 406 response again. I don’t think this is a widespread issue or I would have found a solution quickly but I guess sh*t happens. If this post helps you or you have a better solution leave a comment.

Developer Meetings in South Florida: My Thoughts…

For many years I’ve seen how the “web culture” has evolved in different places around the world. Some places that come to mind are the west coast of the US and London, for some reason you will find a high concentration of designers and web developers at these locations. More over the best conferences, workshops and meetings for internet technologies and trends occur at those locations. I started to wonder why South Florida didn’t have a community of designers and developers as in the top places? After all South Florida has the ingredients to support such a community, at least thats what I think.

To my surprise I found out late last year, during the holiday season, that South Florida would be hosting the Future of Web Apps 2008 conference. I was so excited that I registered for the event and started to look for locals attending the event. Thats when I found that there is a good, albeit small, community of developers and designers that are on the bleeding edge of internet technologies. I even found that there are a good number of internet startups here in South Florida such as Scrapblog.

After a good amount of time reading about the different meetings in the area I decided to join one and try to be part of the community. The first meeting was very relaxed, informal and with loads of insightful information about the web development/design business in the area. A few days later I attended a Ruby development meeting, this time around the meeting was a little more formal.

If you are like me, a person new to the South Florida Web development / design scene, I recommend that you check out meetup.com to look for the next meetings here in South Florida.

Apple’s MacBook Air

After much anticipation the Macworld 2008 keynote is over and Apple released some new products(time capsule and macbook air) and updates(apple tv, movie rentals and ipod touch ). I have to say that most of what was shown at this year’s keynote was expected.

The most important product released today was the MacBook Air, Apple’s ultra thin computer weighting in at 3.0 lbs and measuring, at its thickest point, just 0.76?. This product has been rumored for a few months already and was generating some excitement among Apple fanboys including myself. However after the initial excitement I realized that the product is disappointing.

On the outside my main concerns with the MacBook Air are the number of USB ports and the micro-dvi port. Only 1 USB port wont satisfy my needs at the moment, I know that wi-fi is the main idea behind the Air but not all the gadgets, the ones I use with a laptop, are wi-fi enabled. Secondly a micro-dvi port? why didnt they try to keep the mini-dvi port? that means that I will have to carry yet another adapter with me.

As far as hardware goes the Air’s standard specs seem good enough. However if we take a closer look at the specs we can see that the HDD speed is just 4200RPM, quite slow if you ask me. The same is true for the processor 1.6Ghz shouldn’t even be there it should have come with 1.8Ghz standard. The 5hr battery life for an ultra thin computer seems low; I remember two years ago while looking for a laptop that IBM had ultra thin laptops with a 7-9hr battery life. Heat is another issue I’m concern with, my MacBook runs HOT most of the time, how is the MacBook Air going to handle heat? The only things I really dig in the MacBook Air are the screen size and full keyboard.

I guess I will be waiting for the reviews from the early adopters. The product is not bad and I dont think the price is excessive as some people complain. Nonetheless I believe the Air is a product whose technical specs were not well thought out.

Watch Apple’s MacBook Air Official guided tour, picture gallery, specs and the Ad

Interesting View On Looking For Good Programmers

I recently started looking for a Job as a developer, either web or stand-alone, and while searching thru some job listings I saw a common trend. They(employers) do not necessarily understand what to look for in a person to fill in a position.

I found this post on digg and thought that I share almost all of this persons views of who is a good programmer.

I particularly agree on his view of self-learning. I know many programmers who complain about new technologies and dont want to learn it unless they are sent to a course or the company invests in (pays) them to learn a new technology.

A good programmer doesn’t need a training course to learn a new technology. In fact, the great programmer will be the one talking your ear off about a new technology that you haven’t even heard of, explaining to you why you must use it in your business, even if none of your staff knows how to use it. Even if it’s a technology he doesn’t know how to use yet.