My Virtual Coffee Table

Kathy Sierra asks, “What's on your (virtual) coffee table?Here, in roughly reverse chronological order, is my recent reading list.

As I entered my books into LibraryThing, I was surprised that I had read so many books last year. Most of my reading is technical in nature, so I tend to prefer electrons to atoms. Two factors contributed to my reading more than usual in 2005:

  • Our trip to China. There’s plenty of time to read on a 12–hour flight (especially when the movies are in Chinese!) I polished off four books on that trip, including the only fiction title on the list, which I purchased at Shanghai airport for the flight home.
  • Starting a new job. Two of the books on my list are related to my new position as a trainer, and Kathy is responsible, directly or indirectly, for both of them.
  • The first, Head-First Java, bears her byline. I purchased it after she revealed in an e-mail that “the exercises in our head-first books come right from our classes.” Variations of the book’s exercises have indeed proved effective in my C# classes.
  • In that same e-mail, Kathy recommended the other book, Designing World-Class E-Learning, whose primary message is that students learn by doing (and failing); to teach effectively, we must let students experience what we want them to learn. No more Death by PowerPoint!

The only disappointment on my list is Gerald Weinberg’s Weinberg on Writing. I bought it on Johanna Rothman’s recommendation; she seemed to promise that the book would help me become a prolific writer. Weinberg is an engaging storyteller, but his book is really about accumulating ideas for writing: he advocates carrying a notebook at all times and recording “stones” (ideas) with which you can construct “walls” (finished works).

Ideas are not my problem: I have a long list of topics about which I’d like to write. My problem is lack of motivation. After 40+ hours of work and 10 hours of volunteer work each week, all I want to do is sleep or watch TV. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found a book to solve that problem.

permalink 28 Feb 06 1:40 AM · Comments (2) · Tags: Career, Personal
Cingular Update

I never received a reply to my e-mail to Cingular Sales (brimstone beasts!) I was all ready to close my Cingular account and switch to Verizon, when I realized that it would cost me $175 to get out of my contract. Time for Plan B…

I switched my account to “Cingular Orange” (a full-blooded Cingular account, as opposed to “Cingular Blue,” a half-breed formerly-AT&T Wireless account) and ordered a free Nokia 6102. If the Nokia had Bluetooth so that I could use it as a wireless modem, that would have been the end of it. But it doesn’t, and I’m not crazy about the clamshell form factor (“Is that a phone in your pocket, or…?”)

So I purchased an unlock cable for my one-year-old Sony Ericsson T637 and unlocked it. I inserted the SIM card from the new Nokia, and voila! My old phone works great on my new Cingular account, and I now qualify for the $60/month unlimited LaptopConnect plan. I also unlocked the new Nokia phone (which I was able to do free of charge online) and gave it to my wife, whose 5+ year-old Nokia 8290 is getting a bit long in the tooth. Transferred her T-Mobile SIM card to the new Nokia, and it works great, too!

It cost me about $30 to unlock my old phone and I had to sell my soul to Cingular for another two years, but I now have high-speed-anywhere connectivity and my wife has a shiny new phone. I can live with that!

permalink 27 Feb 06 10:09 PM · Comments (1) · Tags: Tech
And the Winner Is...

I closed the polls on my contest at midnight (Pacific Time; apologies to my readers in Hawaii who thought they had three more hours to enter) on February 1. Next, I went through the 100+ entries and disqualified those that were over 100 words or lacked originality. I forwarded the remaining 26 to my boss, who volunteered to help me judge (she’s a sucker for a good contest: she also loves American Idol). She narrowed it down to eight, and from there I agonized over three. The winner of the free copy of Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite with MSDN Premium Subscription is...

John Dukovich of Green Moon Solutions!

It was a difficult decision. I like that John works for non-profit and socially-responsible organizations, and his company may actually be able to take advantage of Team System’s features.

Congratulations to John, and thanks to everyone who entered. Just a reminder that if you’re a teacher or student, you may qualify for free or dramatically discounted Microsoft developer tools through the MSDN Academic Alliance program, and if you run a software company, you can join the Empower for ISVs program.

permalink  7 Feb 06 12:42 AM · Comments (3) · Tags: Programming
Cingular Sucks

From: Phil Weber
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2006 8:15 PM
To: sales@cingular.com
Subject: Please take my money!

I am a former AT&T Wireless customer. I am satisfied with my current phone and calling plan. I would like to add a Laptop Connect Unlimited line for $59.99/month and purchase a Sierra Wireless Aircard 860 PC Card modem. Cingular's Web site allows me to order them, but when I get to the checkout page and enter my payment information, I am told to “double-check my address and try again” (see attached screenshots; the address is correct).

I went into my local Cingular Wireless store today and attempted to order them in person, and was told that because I am a former AT&T Wireless customer, I do not qualify for the $59.99/month price. In order to qualify, I must switch to a Cingular plan, which would be fine except that in order to do so, I must also purchase a new phone!

This is unacceptable. I am an existing customer who WANTS to pay you an additional $60/month, and Cingular won't let me. I would prefer to keep my existing phone and calling plan, but if I have to purchase a new phone in order to obtain wireless broadband access, I'll do so with Verizon.

Can you help me?

Thank you,
Phil Weber

Update: Apparently, I’m not the first customer to experience this frustration.

permalink  6 Feb 06 11:56 PM · Comments (3) · Tags: Rants, Tech