Announcing: Bullfrog

In case you missed it, I’ve been blogging about the development of my new game: Bullfrog over on Make Mac Games.

I’m hoping to enter the game into the Original Mac Games (OMG) contest over at iDevGames.com. The contest deadline is November 28 of 2005, so I have my work cut out for me.

Regardless of how the game does in the contest, my plan is to release it as an Outer Level product once it is completed.

Motorola RAZR

It’s finally time to retire my trusty old Sony Ericsson T616 mobile phone. It served me well, even though it tended to frustrate me with the overly tiny buttons and the need to constantly lock and unlock the keypad.

I was a long time AT&T Wireless customer and was recently absorbed by the Cingular Wireless buyout. The buyout went smoothly for me. The signal coverage grew and seems to be a bit more reliable in the Boston area. I’ve travelled all over the Midwest and North East parts of the US without any troubles. A recent trip through France proved that Cingular’s international service works as advertised.

Anyway, a couple of days ago I got tired of recharging the aging battery in my T616 every day, more often if I actually had a long phone conversation. So a trip to the local Boston Cingular store produced a shiny new Black Motorola RAZR V3 GSM.

This is one nice phone! The buttons are nice and big. I prefer the flip phone design so I don’t have to lock the darn keyboard. The screen is actually bright enough to see in sunlight. It is flat and light enough to put in my shirt pocket or pants pocket without really noticing its there. If you’re into gadgets, it definitely has the cool factor going for it.

I do have a few complaints though. The included ring tones stink. I realize you can buy ring tones everywhere these days, but come on. This is $200 phone. Include some decent ring tones. Games, what games. This is a fully Java capable phone. The menu has a section for games. What games to they ship with the great $200 phone? A limited demo of Bejeweled and a slide show application? My Sony Ericsson came with a several fully featured games. Now, I’m not really a phone gamer, but if I’m sitting in an airport waiting for a delayed flight, I may want to whip out my phone to play a quick game or two to pass the time. Now I have to buy some? Come On!

These are minor issues, really. But I can’t believe that Motorola couldn’t afford to include a couple of decent ring tones and one or two decent games with their phones.

Purple Cow

I finally picked up a copy of Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin. Better late than never, right?

The first thing that made me very happy was the size and length of the book. It clocks in at 145 pages and the dimensions are similar to a short paperback novel, even though in hard cover.

I’ve always preferred books that can get their points across in as little space as possible. As a small business owner, I have tons of things to do. Spending all my time reading a wordy, repetitive, and verbose tome purporting to have all the answers is not what I call productive. The fact that Seth Godin realizes that his audience is busy and needs information presented in an easy to read, brief, and to the point format says volumes.

Anyway, what does the book say? Even in its small stature, it says a ton. Godin covers why traditional thinking in old school marketing doesn’t work any longer. Plenty of examples show why following the tried and true path won’t buy you success. Purple Cow then leads the reader through Seth Godin’s “Take Away Points” that comprise of list of ideas and tactics for marketing in this new era. With examples of currently successful Purple Cow companies and products, he shows us how to find our own way to creating our own Purple Cow.

As I said, it’s a very short and easy read. Well worth the few dollars and the few hours it takes to read through it. I already have my next Seth Godin book on deck for bed-time reading.

Email Autoresponder

The power of a quick email reply can not be underestimated.

I recently began contacting vendors for quotes and proposals on some work I need done. I began by visiting their websites, which I had bookmarked over time.

I emailed four companies for their proposals. I received one auto-reply instantly, with a follow up email the next morning. Two first replies arrived by the next morning. On one vendor, I’m still waiting on a reply.

In this case, this doesn’t directly affect my decision process only because I’ve been watching these particular vendors for a period of time and am confident that they are all capable of doing the work in a timely manner.

But if this was my first impression of each, can you guess which one I would have the highest opinion of?

I have not made any decisions on which vendor(s) I will work with, but my initial impressions of each business is definitely affected by my initial attempt at contacting each of them.

The moral of the story? Setup that autoresponder on your sales and support email addresses. Give your customers the feeling that you are listening to them and that they will be contacted soon.

Announcing: LicenseKeeperTM

Over the past year, my collection of shareware or demo-ware that I’ve downloaded and purchased off the internet has grown significantly. All these products have something in common. They send me a license key to unlock the full version of the software after payment. This license information comes to me via email and I copy and paste or type in this information into the application and it “magically” unlocks its full feature list and I’m ready to go.

So what happens when I reinstall Mac OS X or upgrade my computer? I need to find these emails again and then enter all these license keys and related information. I can use SpotLight or search in Mail.app to help me find all these registration receipts, but that assumes I can remember the applications I registered and their names. Magnify this problem if I ever need to buy multiple licenses for future employees and their computers. What about software running on multiple company servers? It would be nice to have all this information in one place.

This leads me to a new software development project: LicenseKeeperTM.

LicenseKeeperTM is a Cocoa application that keeps track of all the applications a user has purchased, the license keys and serial numbers needed to unlock the software, and all the registration information that was used to purchase each product.

Additionally, LicenseKeeperTM provides me a good way to gain more experience with Cocoa, Objective-C, and CoreData. It also gives me the opportunity to learn about the details of packaging and distributing a Mac software bundle and pushes me to work out the details of my distribution system (i.e. website, payment gateway, etc).

Introduction

Ah, the first post.

Well, first of all, welcome to my readers coming from my Mac Game Programming blog: Make Mac Games. Thanks for checking out this site and giving it a chance.

So what’s this all about?

For years, I’ve been consulting to the corporate world. I started out working for a Chicago engineering firm writing software for utilities such as electric companies. Much of this time was spent travelling to various nuclear power plants, programming applications to help streamline business functions, and doing a fair amount of learning.

About eight years ago, I relocated to Boston where I discovered the large focus of financial companies in the North East.

I spent a little over one year working at a software vendor developing financial software. Primarily we built portfolio management or stock and bond trading systems. This was extremely valuable experience for me. I was exposed to the joys of developing and fine tuning “off the shelf” software products and managing the nightmare of deploying to all the variant Windows systems that exist in the corporate world. Here, I also jumped on my first opportunity to build, lead, and manage a small development team.

This is where things changed. Part of building a small development team included hiring contract programmers. Part of interviewing and hiring contractors is knowing what they are paid. Knowing their hourly rates compared to my team leader salary and how much more work I was putting in than they were started me down the path of the next seven years to present day.

So seven years later, I have a five year old consulting company that has been very successful. In those seven years, I have had approximately two months of down time between contracts. One of those months was over December immediately following the stock market disaster of 2002. The second month has been this past month and was by choice.

Before the end of my contract in November 2002, I was developing a server application in C++ to run on Sun’s Solaris (UNIX) operating system. The department I was working with shared an aging development server with several other departments. I decided to try and replicate what I needed on my IBM Thinkpad using Red Hat Linux in order to speed up development time and the lag I was experiencing using remote terminal sessions. I was familiar with Linux on the server side by then, but had never used it for desktop use. I spent several months customizing, learning, fixing my user experience until one day I just about threw the lap top out the window with frustration over things just not working.

So on a whim, I visited the newly opened area Apple store and took an Apple Titanium PowerBook home with me. The next few months of development were sheer bliss. I was able to do all my C++ work and add a Java Swing application to the mix all developed on my PowerBook and deployed to Solaris. I had become a switcher.

Fast forward through three more years or so (not sure the math is right, but who’s counting) and several contract gigs ranging from small Windows-based Visual Basic applications to huge ASP (Active Server Pages) web sites and the transition into .NET development with both C# and VB.NET. All the while I’ve been happily using my now aging and well used PowerBook and my incredible PowerMac dual 2GHz G5 in my home office to run my business. They’ve provided everything I’ve needed and more for daily operations as well as a great platform for doing UNIX-based work for clients that have included php and MySQL websites.

Ok, so what’s the point?

Over the past year, I’ve gotten the itch to build software for the Mac. I’ve looked for consulting opportunities to gain experience with Cocoa or Objective-C but have not encountered any. So, I’ve set off to create my own opportunities. But, what to build? I honestly was pretty happy with the software I was already using.

This is where Make Mac Games came in. In June I started writing about developing video games for the Mac. I have plenty of game ideas and there seems to be market demand for games, so this was my direction.

But a funny thing happened to me since I started writing about my pursuit of Mac game development. New needs, ideas, and opportunities have arisen. Some directly related to blogging, some related to running a MicroISV, and yet others related to my normal everyday technology-centric life.

These ideas didn’t fit into the games realm, so it was time to start a new blog. A blog focussed on these new ideas as well as lending time to my company’s core business of consulting and custom software development.

Welcome to my new company blog.