How Google Wallet Failed Me...

When I purchase items online, most sites are happy with my base authentication - password, billing address, verification code, etc.  Google wallet fails so much harder requiring everything short of DNA.  Must be nice to not want my money...

Back to the 80's...

Most of my first week in Mexico was spent doing battle with two cellular companies:  Boost Mobile and AT&T over cellular coverage and pricing.

As the loser of said battles my only remaining recourse is to document the events within this blog so to serve as a warning to those in similar predicaments so that they will learn from this experience and not waste time getting gobsmacked by indifference and incompetence.

Prior to moving, I enjoyed AT&T cellular service in the SF Bay area.  I very recently changed back to iPhone ownership because the iPhone would pair with my hearing-assist device where as my HTC (Verizon) would not - this, despite spending a full day at the audiologist coaxing the phone, like a groundhog emerging from it's hole, to "see" the bluetooth device.  Eventually I abandoned my HTC phone in favor of the iPhone since the iPhone took the pairing on the first attempt.

(side note: to the credit of Verizon, when they learned of why I was switching phones, they waived the contract cancellation fee.  Well-played, Verizon - you have, through your sense of humanity, ensured an advocate in me!)

Anyway, life was good until I crossed the border into Mexico.  Within inches, AT&T graced me with a free text message informing me that cellular roam rates would now be incurred at $0.99/minute of talk-time and $19.97/megabyte of data.

Considering I had an unlimited data plan, with tethering, $20 per meg struck me as wee bit...shall we say, excessive...  Off to the interweb lumbered I, searching for call plans for my phone that would allow me to use my US phone in Mexico (albeit within a few miles of the international border) without the looming threat of immediate bankruptcy for doing so.

I was unsuccessful in locating a comparable AT&T plan that included Mexico in it's cellular goodness without having first to pledge most, if not all, of my future earnings to this corporation in return for minimal utilization of their services.  So, back across the border to the nearest AT&T store where I met a most-helpful clerk.

Jonaton was aware immediately of my "special" needs -- I don't care for cellular minutes being hard-of-hearing but, instead, rely heavily on data use for my communication needs.  In other words, I communicate with emails and text messaging.  I can use the phone but it's an involved process and, I assure you, I will not hear every word spoken with accuracy.

The best plan, even after he called advanced customer care, was something called the Viva-Mexico plan -- where I can have 450 minutes of talk time per month (on either side of the border) but data would be offered only as a pay-as-you-go option:  text messages would cost $0.50 each and data can be consumed at the rate of a mere $5/mb.  This would also lower my basic bill by half - to about $55/month.

I commented: Boost offers me unlimited text, email, phone and data, with international support, for $55/month -- how can you (AT&T) compete with this?  He just threw me a sad look and said: We can't.

Having, literally, no other choice being a new contract holder, I accepted the new calling plan.  When I later crossed back into Mexico, I tried the cellular service and it works ok.  Texting still seemed really flaky and I don't want to pay $0.50 per text, so I turned off all cellular service and now only use the phone, while in-country, when I can access wireless.  Basically, I am paying AT&T $55/month to not penalize me for the cost of the phone (new plan) or contract cancellation, said total being close to $1,000.

Phoneless, I next went to Boost Mobile because (a) everyone in Mexico uses the radio over the phone, and (b) the phones work in Mexico this close to the border over voice and text as well.  Finding a radio-phone, however, turned out to be an epic quest as all stores in the US have stopped stocking the phones in preparation for the removal of the IDEN towers which provide radio communications, making the (what I like to call the "beep-beep") part of the service go the way of the dodo.

Boost is actively tearing-down their IDEN towers - radio, a far superior communication service in terms of speed and clarity imo, for some reason is going away in the US at the end of this year.

I visited a total of five Boost stores without finding a single radio-equipped phone.  I finally decided on the smart phone option but the last store was out of stock of the particular model I wanted, (weird -- phone stores with no phones) so we headed back to the first store we stopped at.  Where at I learned that the store manager had contacted her manager who hand-delivered his last two radio-phones to the store.  Of which one had already sold.  Awesome!

I snatched the other one up (prematurely) declaring victory over the phone consortium's efforts to thwart my communication needs!  Huzzah!

We activated the phone and I returned to my new home...where I learned that the phone would not work on the cellular or text network.  Dialing 611 -- Boost's customer service number which they promise on their website will never be restricted was, on my phone, restricted.  The split-second I pressed the "ok" button to send a call, a screen pop-up declared "Service Restricted" on my call.

Two people, sitting next to me on my couch, both with Boost service, both with the exact same model of phone, were able to make cellular calls (to the US and Mexico) and send text messages.

At least my radio worked.

The next morning I searched their web site for solutions and, finding none, called customer service.

Remembering how difficult it is for me to use a phone, stumbling through Boost Mobile's IVR (interactive voice response) system was an absolute nightmare of chaos and misdirection.  I challenge you to get to a live person within five minutes of making the connection.  Not hold-time, mind you, but simply by navigating through their IVR options.  It took several tries - hanging-up and recalling - before I learned which options to not press.

As a former support manager, I've designed IVR systems.  Companies use them when they either (A) want to quickly route customers to the right person to talk with or, (B) do not want to talk to their customers.  Boost was clearly in category B - you have to have the persistence and patience of a diplomat to get to a real person.

I finally reached a live person and was further aggravated by having to repeat all of the information I plugged into the IVR back to the CSR.  This, to me, screams of incompetence and ambivalence towards the customer.  If you're not going to use/save the information I provide, then don't waste my time asking me for it.  (IVR Design Note:  A good way to reduce turn-over in your customer service organization is to not have your customers so spun-up and angry that they free-rage on your CSRs when they finally reach them.)

The CSR was clearly ESL (English as a second language) and I spent several minutes explaining the situation to her.   She attempted to "fix" my phone by having me turn the phone off and on several times, and performing master resets from the advanced settings menu.  Restricted service prevailed.  We quickly exhausted her catalog of diagnostic options.

I was escalated to level 2 -- which was another ESL person, who immediately asked me for all of my information starting with everything I plugged into the IR and why I was calling.  So, in addition to the IVR not recording anything, the CSRs apparently do not record anything about why you're calling them so that people in other departments can access (and learn from) the information.  Or they silo the info and the tech folks simply cannot see what the non-tech folks write.

Then the tech informed me (as did the CSR) that the IDEN service was going way at the end of the year leaving me with the impression of: since my phone has radio and this service is expiring, they don't feel as if they are obligated to help me with my issue.

First thing level-2 wants me to do is reset the phone: turn it off/on, master reset, remove the battery, etc.  I wondered if he thought that if he asked me to do this, if it would differently from when the CSR asked me to do this.

Still restricted service.

Side note - on my phone display, I show full bars, that line-1 is ready, and I am connected to the Boost network.  There's no reason why the phone should not work.

So eventually, the tech gets frustrated and takes the cop-out response of: well, since you're in Mexico, our $5 international plan only means that calls are guaranteed to work from the US to Mexico and not from Mexico to anywhere.  Doesn't care that services work on other phones in my proximity and has no interest of pursuing the issue further.

And that's how we ended the call.

So, my next thought was that maybe the counter-person at Boost (back in the US) forgot to register my cell with the network.  I gave my phone to one of my friends with an identically-working phone because she was heading over the border the next day and agreed to stop by the Boost store and ask them to look at it.  However, when she got to the border with the phone, she called her husband from my phone and since cellular service seemed to working, she decided to not go to the store and instead returned with the phone.

Which was still service restricted.

So, I called Boost back, and within about 30 minutes finally made it back to a level-2 tech who was quite puzzled as to why my phone wouldn't work.  We tried several variations of the reset, but nothing worked.  I opined to him that because the "Service Restricted" message was popping up so quickly when I pressed the send key, that the problem was in the phone's ROM and service restriction was software and not tower based.

He agreed that this was a possibility especially considering that my phone, chronologically, was a year or two older than my friends' phones that were working.

I asked him to call me, to see what he heard on his end and that was the end of that call as I was dropped.  Apparently too much to handle, the tech either intentionally dropped my call or his phone system was at a level so advanced he cannot work it properly.  In either case, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to get resolution from him.

Contacting Boost CSR a final time about my brick, that I've yet to use successfully, I asked about returns and refunds and was informed, in no uncertain terms, that I have pre-paid for my service.  They have no refund program.  Is there anything else we can "help" you with today?

So I paid about $110 for a brick -- at least I can use the two-way for the time being.  $3/day for 30 days (more or less) with more features I can't use than I can.  Sweet deal, yo.

Yesterday, I went to the Nextel store in Rosarito to inquire about IDEN and cellular service.  tl;dr - I can get a minimal calling plan (120 minutes) with unlimited radio for about $40/month.  I only get 20 text messages per month but additional texting is about $0.06 per message.  (It's nice when a phone company doesn't subject you to violent sex acts for a service, isn't it?)  All services on the phone work into California up to about Bakersfield at which point they become 1-way only.  Not sure how I feel about that but, hey, at least it works and I would have full services.

So, I'm going to chuck my Boost phone into the ocean once my month is up and buy the Mexico Nextel phone.  I use my Google-Voice number, which is paired to my Skype number, for all other phone services and eventually I'll add a Vonage number to my house that has a US number (to which I'll forward my Google phone to) and I'll be set.

Side note - I made the mistake of enrolling in auto-pay on the Boost mobile website assuming I would have a working phone similar to what my friends enjoy. While it was super easy to enroll, it's impossible to un-enroll from autopay on the website.  So another dreaded call to Boost is looming.  If you ever have to call Boost mobile, I recommend this information to help you get to a live person as quickly as possible.  I want something in writing from them canceling my autopay so that when they autobill me next month, I can force a refund.  (Look!  A windmill!  Chaaaarge!)

My AT&T phone I can use as a data terminal over wifi (facetime calls with the office and such) but I won't turn it on unless I'm back over the border in the US.  Once my contract is at a point where I can quit for $200, I'm out.

I have my Mexican Nextel for calling when I'm not at home.  If you're in the US and you want to call me, you're going to have to deal with your cellular provider and pay the extra fees that they'll extort from you.  Good luck with that.

Finally, I'm really hoping that Richard Branson does something spectacular with his Virgin line of phones.  It would be awesome to see a cellular company erase international borders and just have a phone that works, regardless of where you are, for a consistent fee.

Other than shoveling obscene amounts of profits into the never-satiated maws of the phone conglomerates, I just don't understand why this should be so difficult.  I honestly look forward to untethering myself -- like a heroin junkie coming clean -- from the cellular leash.  Freedom, I crave thy sweet sting!

I'm taking the path of least resistance.  If the phone companies don't want to offer something reasonable in return for my hard-earned dollars, then I have absolutely no problem converting those dollars to pesos and spending them here.

Just saying...

HTC Thunderbolt - The Honeymoon? Definitely Over.

First, let me begin by saying that I have been an Apple fan for a long time. In addition to using their computers, I was a first generation adopter of both the iPod and the iPhone.  I've gone through the original iPhone, the 3G and the 4. What I like about the iPhone can be summed up by saying that it represents exemplary engineering on top of a ghastly deployment.

After all those years of being an iPhone user with AT&T, I could no longer justify paying for AT&T's sub-standard cellular services.  The times I could complete a conversation on my iPhone without dropping the call, or losing call quality was an extremely rare event.  (And I live in the Bay area, home to AT&T which is touted as one of their major coverage areas....)

AT&T's cellular service is simply pathetic.  As a matter of fact, I deemed it justifiable to pay the contract cancellation penalty with AT&T to come to Verizon.  I never realized how bad AT&T service was, however, until switched to Verizon.   Within my first week of using my Thunderbolt, I experienced NO dropped calls, NO poor signals, NO service interruptions of any kind.  (Unless I was connected to an AT&T cellular customer...)

And, while Apple is, in my opinion, the best hardware engineer in the business, the other factor in my decision to move phone platforms was that Apple never quite got the whole synchronization thing down. (Pre-iCloud)  I really don't need seven different listings for my veterinarian in my address book.  Syncing services with Google have been working for me perfectly - and I don't have to pay them $99 per year to screw up my address book contents or my calendar.

So I dropped .me and my iPhone for a Google phone living in a Google world.  Since the Android requires a Google account, (Hey! I have one of those!), setting up my phone required that I only provide it with my account information and everything from that point was auto-magically configured for me.  Insta-integration with all my Google-based services.  Plus really cool stuff like Google Voice for messaging.

....

It's now been six months with the Android. Apple has just released their iPhone 4S...and, within a day, I find myself browsing the provider's pages looking/comparing contracts and service offerings.  What the hell am I doing?!?

The shine on this Android HTC Thunderbolt phone is definitely gone.  While I like most of the Verizon services, specifically the quality of the cellular coverage, I am really dissatisfied with some of their processes and, as far as the phone is concerned, the HTC Thunderbolt is a complete a total piece of crap.  I will NEVER, EVER buy another phone from HTC every again.

Problems with Verizon and the HTC Thunderbolt Nobody Talks About:

1. Crapware

I rooted my Android within a week of getting it.  Verizon pre-loaded the Thunderbolt with an amazing amount of crapware that they don't allow you to delete off their phone.  Seriously bad software.  That does nothing except eat tons of space in my memory store.  Once I rooted the phone (similar to the jail-breaking process for the iPhone), I was able to delete that bloatware and regain my lost storage for other applications.

2. Say My Name, Bitch!

Of course there's a problem with rooting your phone -- and that's dealing with Verizon's never-ending attempts to force software updates down your throat and to your phone.  Should you make the tragic mistake of leaving your phone "on" (which I do when sitting at my desk with the phone plugged into the charger) then Verizon assumes control of your phone by forcing your phone to accept updates over the network.

Since you've rooted your phone, said updates (which are image zip files stored to your cache) will not install after the download completes and the phone reboots itself.  All without any confirmation or interaction from your part.  Special, no?

When your phone reboots, you're presented with the broken-android symbol and you have to go into your root-tools menu to delete the cached files from your phone.  This removes the forced-download and allows you to reboot your phone into it's previously rooted state.  Of course, leave your phone on for too long and here it comes again!

There's no "off" switch to disable the forced downloads.  Verizon's attitude, gleaned from the forums, is that: "It's our network.  Suffer, bitch."

3. Random Reboots and Disappearing Apps

My co-workers claim that my phone re-booting itself (without an "upgrade" being pushed down) is because I rooted my phone.  After reading the complaints about the HTC Thunderbolt out on the etherstream - I beg to differ.  I think the HTC/Verizon mash-up operating system is just so crappy it crashes and forces a reboot.  I've noticed that this happens when the network flips around a lot.  I've also noticed it booting for no apparent reason.

What's also special is that apps just disappear off your phone following a reboot.  Once your phone restarts, you have to give it several moments of 4G time to restore whatever apps it randomly deleted.  Totally weird behavior.  It's almost like using a Windows operating system.

4. I've Lost My Network and I Can't Get Up

Several times with this Thunderbolt I've noticed that I'm stuck in 1G mode.  I try toggling the mobile network connection off/on to reset it, but it always comes back to the 1G network.  This occasionally happens when it gets stuckin 3G mode as well.  (Funny, I've never seen 2G...)

The only way I've found to fix this problem is to force a restart.  When the phone regains consciousness, it happily joins the 4G network.

5. Sucks like a Starving Vampire

Granted, the Gingerbread update is supposed to fix a lot of the issues with the HTC Thunderbolt's ability to drain your battery faster than a starving vampire in a blood bank.  I even upgraded, spending about $50, for a uber-battery, doubling the phone's weight and thickness.  It's worth it, though, having a battery that can last me on the train ride between San Jose and San Francisco.

There's entire web pages devoted to tricks and tips to prolonging the battery life on this phone all of which basically involve crippling, or at least diminishing, all of the features that justified the purchase of your phone in the first place.

I'm really hoping Gingerbread offers better battery life as, since I don't live in a winter-zone anymore, it's a shame to waste the hand-warming features of a rapidly depleting battery.

 

So...I un-rooted my phone so that I could get the Gingerbread update, replacing Froyo on this phone.  I have no idea why it takes Verizon so long to roll-out these updates.  Perhaps their visual basic programmers are having a hard time with all the Android unixey stuff.  Who knows?  I mean, you have to make sure that the user can't delete the fucking golf demo, right?

When Gingerbread was finally available for the Thunderbolt, the update lasted all of a day, if that, before Verizon yanked the update from the download stream.  It was as if they were like: QA testing?  We've heard of that...  The update was so bug-ridden that it was disabling or severely-impairing phone functionality.

Now, as of yesterday, they're starting to push the Gingerbread update back out to the users.  At a time when Google is announcing the Ice Cream Sandwich update (the successor to Gingerbread), Verizon, after one false-start, is now only 1 release behind on the operating system.

Tell me -- why am I paying premium rates for a phone Verizon and HTC can't keep current?

So, as soon as I come into a little cash, I think I will call Verizon customer services (snicker) and complain to them about this phone and their inability to provide a stable (or current) operating system platform.  I'd like to negotiate them into a new Motorola Android phone...Verizon seems ti play better with Motorola -- timely updates, better hardware, non thermo-radioactive battery, etc.

I want to stay in the Google universe because everything works there.  The iPhone is looking sexy -- but it's still not 4G...not yet...

Waaaaake-up! Hello? Lion? You awake? WAKE-UP!

Oh, Apple.  What did you do now?

It's one thing to introduce broken (or bent) functionality in an upgrade release.  It's quite another to break (or bend) existing functionality in the same upgrade.

I really like Lion so far.  What I thought I would miss, I don't, and I've already become dependent on several of the base features that the upgrade offers.

And, hey, Microsoft (you big wad o' suck) take note:  a major update for $30 that I can install on all of my machines!  And I don't have to pay attention to see if it's ultimate home premium 64, too!

(aside:  I'm more pissed that usual at Microsuck.  Earlier, using Bootcamp, I was playing Rift and I noticed that performance was lagging badly.  To the point where I just decided to log-out and get some work done.  After logging, I see that my tx/rx light on the dsl modem is solid.  During shut-down, I see the usual dire-imprecations and deadly warning spew that pops when you update a Microsuck in-progress system update download.

WTF?  I explicitly turned off the "feature" of independent updates in favor of only-update-when-I-tell-you option.  You know, the way real operating systems do it.  Apparently this setting means jack-shit as the crapware decided, again and on it's own, to go out and download god knows what from the 'net.  Pure and unadulterated hubris.

Now I don't mind the constant virus updates -- I deleted three security exceptions from the Windows box today alone.  But this constant updating without my permission really is pushing it.  You confirm everything I want to do, concerning downloaded content, several times.  But true to the "do as I say not as I do" philosophy of this bloatware, Windows continues to ignore user selections and configurations and just farts and whistles it's way through a continuous stream of critical updates.  Pure crapware.

Wanna end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Send them free copies of Windows to install on all their military infrastructure.  War will be over in a week, guaranteed.)

That was a long "aside".  Or rant.  Or some factual observations.  Whatever.

Anyway, back to a real operating system that not only let's you get real-work done, but also listens, remembers, and then doesn't ignore your configuration settings...

I've been having problems with my Lion installation not waking from deep sleep.  I define two levels of sleep.  One is light-sleep: where the computer's screen saver kicks-in, and a simple mouse-twitch brings it back.  The other is deep sleep: this would be when you explicitly put the computer to sleep, or your power management settings kick in.

What I've been experiencing has been happening either on weekend-mornings, or in the evenings when I get home from work.  I sit down at the computer and poke the shift key, twitch the mouse, tap the space bar and ... nothing.  Repeat shit-key poke, mouse twitching, space bar tapping. ... Still nothing.

I poke the caps-lock key.  ... No light.  This is not good.

Both my keyboard and my mouse are wired USB peripherals.  So I dis(re)connect the devices from the hub and, again, twitch the mouse, poke the cap-lock key and ... black screen.  There is no power indicator on the new 27" iMacs.  So I have no idea what state the computer thinks it's in.  Time for some drastics.

I tap the power button.  This is usually enough, on my MacBook Pro, to jog it awake but, on my iMac...nothing.

Eventually, frustration wins out and I do a hard-reset by holding down the power key until it powers off and then I reboot.

Goddamnit.

I have a three support contract with Apple on this desktop but I'll be damned if I'm going to call them to confess that I've no idea on how to wake-up my desktop from sleep.  So, I google it.

I found this article, which explains how to reset the PRAM and NVRAM on your iMac because, you know, batteries get old and flash memory gets stupid over time.  So I follow the steps and, when the computer restarts, it's definitely brighter.  (I'm not that good of a touch typist and I tend to inadvertently do things to both the brightness and volume controls...)

But, the next day when I get home from work, the computer is back in Rainman mode and I have to power-down to bring it back.

So I google it again, and this time I see a post on a mac-forum that blames the problem on disk permissions.  Sure.  Why not?  So I run verify disk and, lo'!  I have a bunch of crap that gets re-perm'd.

Still not going to call Apple.

I'm writing this article and I guess I'll see what happens the next time I try to roust the machine from deep-sleep.  I'm pretty confident that it's going to fail and, if it does, then I'll log a call to tech support.

In the meantime, if any of you have suggestions, I'm open...

 

 

Welcome to the Real World, Rookie.

This is a true story...or at least this is how I remember it when it was told me about 30 years ago.

Two small-town cops walk up to the front-door of a house where they're going to attempt to serve a misdemeanor warrant.

(The cop telling the story explained to me that a misdemeanor is a "piddly-ass" warrant - it's usually for minor infractions and seldom requires anything more than a minimal cash bond.  This, as opposed to felony warrant for which, now-a-days, they'll call out the SWAT team to serve it, on a Friday, where you'll sit with a no-bond hold until sometime Monday when you appear before a judge who will set your bond.  Misdemeanor: no big deal.  Felony:  big deal.  Ok?)

One of the cops (the one telling me this story) is the "veteran" -- he's training the other cop, the "rookie" who was fresh from cop-school.  Just as in every movie, the veteran had instructed the rookie to forget everything they taught him in rookie-school because this is how it's done on the streets.

So, as they're approaching the front door, the veteran cop is watching the rookie cop, evaluating him for mistakes, gigs, so that he can school him on being a better cop, dig?  It's a routine call and it's a training mission.  The veteran tells the rookie that he's "handling" the call -- they're to approach the house, determine if the person named on the warrant is within the house and, if so, serve the warrant.

The veteran cop hangs back as they approach the front door.  He nods in approval as the rookie approaches and takes a position at the side of the door following safety protocol, while he knocks on the door with his flashlight/beatstick.

No answer.

The rookie knocks again, louder.  Waits a few seconds then glances at the veteran.  The vet nods to the rookie.

The rookie beats the hell out of the door and yells, at the same time:  POLICE.

No answer.

The veteran is starting to relax while the rookie is getting spun-up as he *knows* someone has to be inside the house, laughing at him, laughing at his auth-or-a-tie.  He creams the door again with the light, screaming:  POLICE.  OPEN THE DOOR OR ELSE!

The veteran looks up the rookie, a smile starting to crinkle his eyes.  He says:  Or else what, rookie?

Non-plussed the rookie stands there, mouth open, no answer forthcoming.

The veteran is relentless: Or else what, rook?  It's a misdemeanor warrant.  Or else what?

The rookie, like the proverbial deer in the headlights, just stares at the veteran.  Finally he shrugs a small  I-unno back to the veteran.

The veteran starts to laugh: Or else what, rook?  Or else we leave and go back to the station?   He shakes his head.  Come on rookie.  Let's go; no one's home.

I'm telling this story because the one kernel of truth in this story is the advice about "forget everything you ever learned in the academy"...  I believe it to be (a) advice common to pretty much every profession requiring training, and (b) valid in that it represents the difference between practical and theoretical.

I'm coming to the point, so bear with me please.

Theoretical is when you're taught that the Software-Development-Life-Cycle is a process of which coding actually takes between 15-20% of the total effort.  Practical is that seldom are you given a decent spec to work off of, often time you're cramming features into product simply because some sales dweeb,who can't even set the gps in his beemer, told a customer "oh, yah, it does that too" when demo'ing your product and god help you if you risk his commission over something as trivial as a missing feature even if it wasn't in what you laughingly refer to as the "spec".

Theoretical is refining your code in iterative processes, performing code reviews with well-mannered engineers, and getting polite notices from Q/A about the latest "opportunity for improvement".  Reality is the "if it compiles, ship-it!" work-ethic.  Spending massive amounts of time at work trying to get the software to limp out the door on it's own without patching the patch that patched the hotfix for the patch.  Product Managers balancing staggering workloads under the euphemism of a "sprint" while you watch your family age courtesy of the updated photographs your wife emails to you every Christmas, and your boss informing you that if you don't come in this weekend to work, perhaps a start-up environment isn't for you.

Theoretical is getting paid vacations as down-time, off-time, time actually away from the office.  A complete and total absence of a work-presence.  Reality is being on-call 24x7x365 and, if you're lucky enough to get a vacation approved, it's never in a chunk of time long enough to do anything other than spend "free" time imprisoned with either in-laws or the strangers you think are your children.  To you, "vacation" is the week of Thanksgiving and the two weeks between Christmas and New Years when all the sales/marketing dweebs are suntanning in Aruba, your boss is at home gorging on eggnog and fruitcake, and the office is blessedly quiet enough to where you can almost get caught-up on your code-load because you're not wasting half your work day in pointless meetings.

Theoretical is all your projects that you were going to develop in your "off time", all of the open-source projects you planned on  making substantial contributions to gain international recognition,  and the agony of having to pare your resume down to three pages because of your efforts in on-going self-directed research.  Hah.  The reality is that the great side project you've dreamed about your entire career is abandoned on a 3 1/2" floppy somewhere in a cardboard box in your packed-full-with-everything-but-a-car garage.

Once you leave the ivy-covered towers of academia, the world is waiting to poke you smack-dab in the eye with the reality finger.  Elegant code isn't the priority anymore nor are esoteric algorithms, obscure architecture theorems, or theoretical models.  What's important is that you've built the the product, to spec, within the allocated time frame.  Everything, and by this I mean, well, everything, else is secondary.  And, in the real world, secondary never gets bandwidth.

Because the second you've completed your current project, the very minute, you're already racing to catch-up with the next project you've been assigned to, several weeks ago, but haven't had the bandwidth (yet) to fully engage so, out of the gate, you're behind.  Within a few days, your short-term memory will have purged your previous project from it's banks, replacing it with your current crisis-code.  Maintenance developers coming to you for guidance and hints walk away frustrated because you weren't on your last project long enough to dump the fine points into long-term memory,or even electronic documentation.  Maybe you threw a few comments into your code but those, too, are probably obsolete.  Even your own scribbled notes you cribbed while developing the product look like someone else's writing.  In another language.

Sales and Marketing folks come back from a leisurely client lunch, belching cocktails and talking about their next golf outing while you're digging melted cheese from your microwaved hot-pocket out from between the keys of your keyboard.  The next time you look up from your coding jag, it's because the janitor has startled your while reaching for your full (of crap-food wrappers and amazon packing) trashcan and you realize that, once again, you're headed for another all-nighter.

So, the next time I go on a job interview, and some smarmy, fresh-out-of-college twenty-something manager asks me about "design patterns", don't be surprised when I get up and walk out on you.

See, I'm a working software engineer that lives in the real-world.  My only concern is the monetization of my product.  I know that the only way I'm going to retire early is if my product becomes the NEXT BIG THING.  I work at a start-up -- my stock is pretty much going to be worthless because it's been so heavily watered down through seed investor funding.  And I have no expectations of a stock based pay-day.  Not in this economy.  You're good at match -- you figure out the odds of being the next Facebook, Google, or Zynga.

My only chance to take that beach-front retirement package is through the executive exit-plan for the company.  See, I don't want to become one of the nameless horde working at Zynga, Facebook or Google.  I'm here to contribute heavily to the success of the product; my opinions and my work matters at every level of my involvement and if I were to suddenly leave the company, turmoil would follow in my wake.  I am not an afterthought represented by the CC: tag line in a product email.  I am in the To: block always.

If you think design patterns, O(N) search algorithms are important enough to ask as  interview questions, then I don't want to work for you because I don't feel that you have a grasp of what's important.

The bottom line is the bottom line.  It's as simple as that.  If you're not focused on the monetization, the promotion, the saturation, of my product, in the ethersphere,  then you're only in my way.

I'm a software engineer in the real world.