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Leap of faith

I went in to work yesterday and I quit my job. I've worked there for 7 years, since I was 17. It's been a bit crazy and emotional all day, I was fine this morning, then once I'd handed in my resignation letter it started to hit me what I've just done. From this time next month I won't have a salary to depend on. Whether I pay my mortgage or even eat will depend on what work I and my business partner have won, completed and managed to extract money for. It's a really scary thought right now, we've got work lined up but we're still some way from completing it, and even further from getting clients to sign-off and pay. It's also really exciting, it sounds cheesy but I've never felt more in control of my own destiny, everything and anything seems possible right now. I've been quite humbled by some of the reactions in the office, there were a few people in tears, and my boss seems to have been knocked for six by it. We've known each other for a long time and been good friends, I'm hoping we can keep that going and maybe turn it into a good business relationship. For me the fact that no one could of imagined me leaving the company has just reinforced my reasons for leaving, I'd become part of the furniture. I'm glad I'm not doing this alone though, my business partner is very much like me in a lot of ways, but from a very different background. He's very business and marketing, with a fascination in technology, I'm all technology and development with a fascination in business. We've worked together before and we've always bounced well off each other, and possibly more importantly we both respect each other. So it's on to a new era of my life, I know a lot of people have taken this same step before but that doesn't make it any easier. I know that the only thing I could possibly regret would be to not have done this though. I'm taking some risks, maybe I could loose my flat, but I won't regret trying. The company is called glow, website is coming soon. We can build content managed websites, bespoke web based applications and have years of experience of web based marketing (viral, search engine, cost per click) and innovating all sorts of new ways to converse with your customers. If you're interested then get in touch!

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PocketGCal Update

Chris Keane has released a binary of my PocketGCalSync that is also compatible with smartphones, his changes will be merged into the main code repository soon. In the meantime you can get the binary from his site. http://www.agiweb.org/~keane/pocketgcal/

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Plus Addressing

I've been meaning to blog something about this for a while, Mikes rant just reminded me. I had to shut down most of my domain catch-alls recently because of a massive increase in spam, it wasn't actually direct spam but bounces and autoresponders due to people spoofing with my domains. I had a massive list of forwards to set up though, for all the companyx@domain addresses I've used. There is of course an easier way, plus addressing, except I keep coming across websites with incorrect email validation. I make a point of contacting every one I come across (please do the same!). I also discovered my current host 1and1 doesn't support it, even though every major mailserver does (I've got a whole other post about the problems with 1and1 in my drafts). Then there is another teeny little issue, if people start using plus addressing a lot, the spammers can simply strip the + off. You'd have to make a point of always giving out plussed addresses and blocking anything that doesn't have one.

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PocketGCal update

Chris Keane has submitted a bunch of changes and fixes that I've just commited into the main repository, including:
  1. Timezone issues are now handled so that poutlook shows events in local time
  2. Added ability to exit the application
  3. Added a status bar to let folks know what is going on
  4. Added the ability for the user to store their credentials
Go here for the latest source and I promise to get a binary up here soon.

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Criminal Genius

I saw a bit of Ed Gibsons impromptu talk at DDD on security, he's a bit of a caricature of the hard case FBI guy, quite funny though (some people were a bit upset about him hijacking others sessions). One of the points he made was that the criminals out there today aren't interested in your personal details, they don't want to login in to your bank, they want your bandwidth. If they can get a trojan horse on your machine then they can use you as a spam relay. You might think "hangon a minute, I get loads of phishing emails after my personal details", but where do those phishing emails come from? Compromised PCs. Hijacking your bandwidth is just the first step though, they then need to turn that in to money. The people who control the trojan horses simply hire them out to anyone who wants to spam, so then how do the spammers make money? Well a lot of it is just marketing some products, something they can sell easily and make plenty of profit on, like cheap drugs. There are quite a few new tactics on the rise though, like stock spamming. The spammers choose a target company with cheap stock, buy a load up, then spam millions of people telling them about this hot stock tip, for some reason people buy it (maybe they think if they're quick they can make money a long with the spammer), the spammer sells high and the stock quickly crashes. The genius of this technique is that there is no direct link between the spamming, and the money making, there is no need to launder the money or try and move it between countries, you can sit in your aparment in Liverpool and buy up stock online, then hire a spambot network from some Russians. There is another tactic that people are using to extract money from stolen credit cards, this is even more incredible! The person simply creates an account with a stolen card on a betting site, and creates another account with their own card. Then they bet on a sports event on one account, and bets against that event on the other account. If they win on their own card, they withdraw the money, if they win on the stolen card they bet again until it's in their favour. This is called bet matching, and it allows the criminal to withdraw massive amounts of cash from a card, over the internet with absolutlely no traceability! It never ceases to amaze me how money can inspire people to come up with such things, this is the ongoing arms race and it looks like us law abiding folk are loosing! One last thing, lots of betting sites offer some free cash when you setup a new account, which you can't withdraw. It's possible to get that money out though using bet matching, I've heard of quite a few people doing it. Doesn't seem worth the effort to me but if anyones had any success with it let me know!

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Google Calendar in your Pocket

I recently got myself a groovy little PDA phone, the SPV M600. It's not one of the cheesy silver ones, it's matt black, ignoring the fact its a bit crap as a phone it's been pretty cool! The first thing I wanted to try was playing around with the .net 2.0 Compact Framework, I tried deploying a couple of "Hello World" type things. Then I wanted to get my google calendar on it, I had a little look around for something that would sync but couldn't find much, most of the tools sync with Outlook then rely on ActiveSync to put it on your device, there is no way I'm going to install Outlook on my laptop just for that, it's bad enough having to install ActiveSync! Plus I went out of my way to get a WiFi PDA exactly so I wouldn't need a PC on all the time (I use a few shared calendars that I need to keep an eye on) So I had my project, an app to pull my GCalendar feed into Pocket Outlook. I dug around a bit and came across an item on Googles Code blog posted a couple of days before about their API library for .net, announcing it now compiled on the Compact Framework. Add to that the managed Pocket Outlook Object Model API in the windows mobile 5 SDK, easy! A few days of faffing around and fixing bugs in GData (I was on the pre-release stuff), and I've got it working. I've set up a project on google code. Still got quite a few things to do (it doesn't even support shared calendars yet) but please go and try it and if you want to help out then check the issue list and let me know! Even if you're not a programer, I need an icon for it ;)

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An interesting geekend

There were four of us heading down to DDD on friday, the geeking started pretty much straight away, derek and mike spent over an hour in the back of the car creating an ad-hoc wifi network between my SPV and a tablet pc, so that they could RDP from the PDA to the PC and open the CE webserver page in IE. I know what you're thinking, that's so cool! After a few late drinks in the bar it was bed in the tiny single rooms, you'd think they were designed especially for tech conference delegates except for the serious shortage of power sockets. The very first session I went to was probably the most practical. I was aware of msbuild before and knew that VS2005 used it, but now I've seen a bit more of what you can do with it I reckon I can double our companies productivity by the end of the week ;) On Friday afternoon I had a certain desire to stick my name on the list for the grok talks, (looking at that list now I notice a few people chickened out!). I figured since it was just a 10 min thing they wouldn't expect much, I had no slides, no code samples, not even a screen shot, and I was doing a talk on image manipulation :-s The first guy had slides, the second guy had a whole routine where he was talking to a video of himself, and the next guy did a pretty funny written on cards thing ala Bob Dylan. Then it was my turn... and somehow I won best talk! The prize was an MSDN licence worth about £1500! I was a bit surprised, I'm not gonna try the total improv approach again though! Correction: As Colin just pointed out, no one chickened out, it was down to time constraints, so sorry if I upset anyone! I really wouldn't blame any new speakers for changing their minds though, it was the largest audience I've spoken infront of since at least the school play.

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Developer Developer Developer

I'm heading down to reading tonight for DDD, this is the first one I've been to. I've got a rough idea of what I'm going to see for each session but there are few I can't decide on! There are 3 other guys from my company going down so between us we can go see everything then just compare notes after. I'll be going to see Sarahs web2 session, I'm sure she'll have a few good insights, plus it'll be a nice break from all the dreary architecture stuff (joke, I love it really!). I put my name down for a grok talk, I think I can talk for a few minutes about GDI+ before I run out of thoughts, I'm not really sure what'll be expected of me though or how many will turn up to listen. If you want to meet up then let me know, or if you see me about then say hi!

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Thom Shannon's background in making chips gives him a unique insight into the web development industry. As the Technical Director of Glow New Media he works with clients across the UK to deliver high quality web marketing solutions using the latest techniques, accessibility practices, and web standards in both straight and crinkle cut.

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Thomas Shannon-Smith
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Thom Shannon-Smith