The New MSDN Subscriptions

About 5 years ago now, while I was at the start of being a consultant all on my own, I purchased an MSDN Universal subscription. I went with that level because it was the only one that included the database schema integration with Visio, which I was using to architect databases.

For a consultant, the price tag is high, but you definitely get a lot for your money. It made it a lot easier when I bought it from Vio Software which was recommended by a .NET trainer from a class I was in at the time.

This year, Microsoft updated their MSDN subscription offerings. If you had a Univeral subscription, you could choose between their 3 Team Systems: Architects, Developers or Testers.

Looking over the information, I found that what I really wanted was actually in the middle of the Architect and Developer editions. There were features of both I wanted, but I couldn’t choose both.

I had made the decision to go with the Developer version since it seemed better suited to an individual developer. When I went to Vio Software to place my order, I could only find 2-year subscription renewals. A pre-requisite for these was that you had to renew an existing 2-year subscription.

When I asked about the availability, I was told that since Microsoft restructured their plans, they no longer offered what I wanted through third party resellers.

Since this made the Team Systems more expensive for me, I finally decided to downgrade to the Professional version. I felt like I was backed into a corner and forced to choose between way too much or not quite enough, so I chose the lesser of the two, if nothing else, to avoid having my subscription lapse and having to pay the updated, very high prices for a new subscription.

Initial Vonage Experience

My setup package from Vonage was waiting for me when I got home from work today, so I’ve been busy making some phone calls to test things out.

The instructions were very simple. I have an existing Linksys SRX200 wireless router plugged into my cable modem, so all I had to do was plug a cable from the VoIP router to my existing one, plug in a phone and finally power it up. I immediately got a dial tone and searched through the documents provided to see what else I had to do. That seemed to be it.

I called my own cellphone and since I was right there that didn’t make too good of a test so I called my girlfriend. We could barely understand each other due to the constant fading in and out of sound on both sides. It was like an audio rollercoaster catching every few words of the conversation.

After testing a few things and reading the online help, I disabled the firewall on my Linksys SRX200 and it seems to have fixed my issue. I called my mom and the sound was crystal clear. Better than I would have expected.

I would like to re-enable my router’s firewall but a quick search on the internet wasn’t fruitful, so I’ll have to keep looking. I also need to hook up my DirecTV to it, but there seems to be a lot of info available for doing that.

So far, so good. I’m currently happy with my decision.

UPDATE: Setting up DirecTV was as simple as setting up a ,,#019 dial prefix as described here.

I’m switching to Vonage

I hate SBC After moving down to the Dallas area, I decided to use SBC for my phone service. They seemed to offer some competitive plans for local/long distance calls and they had a really good web site. I signed up. I hate them now.

One of the first features I missed from my old Verizon plan when I lived in the Philadelphia area was answer call. Their automated voice mail system. After going through a number of answering machines it’s one feature I liked a lot. It just always worked.

Since I found out my new SBC plan didn’t include their CallNotes™ feature I had it changed around to add it. Doing this meant moving to a wider area plan which forced me to change my phone number. I don’t know why. Being a new resident, and having deliveries being made, I had to call up everyone to update them. Inconvenient, but I had my voice mail.

I had a plan I thought included free long distance calls, too. I was surprised to get a $230+ phone bill the next month which told me otherwise. It wasn’t free, the plan “included” long distance but that doesn’t specifically say it’s free.

Okay. MCI calls and asks me to switch long distance. I switch. Screw SBC.

My next bill comes and I’m getting more irritated now by my local charges totalling up to $70 a month. About 40% of these seems to be all these mysterious taxes and surcharges.

I would call SBC’s support to weed out unnecessary features, but prior experience with that was awful assuming I could even get through to anyone.

So today, I was prepared to call them and decided to check out VoIP as an alternative. I’ve read a lot of things both for and against, but I’m taking the plunge because I’m disgusted with SBC.

So that’s why I’m switching to Vonage and I’ll report my experiences here. Stay tuned if you’re interested.

To var or not to var my javascript

This is probably trivial to a lot of people. I’ve done a bit of javascript work recently and in looking at reference material and code snippets around the internet, I noticed that the ‘var’ keyword to declare a variable seems to be optional in all cases. Even popular libraries, like Script.aculo.us, have revisions where ‘var’ appears where it wasn’t in the previous release.

In your own coding there’s two things to keep in mind about it.

  1. For global variables, it doesn’t matter, but you may want to use it for consistency.
  2. Always try to use ‘var’ to declare variables in local functions. It makes sure you’re using a local copy of the variable instead of another variable of the same name in a different scope.

For example, the two similar functions here have very different effects:

var myvar = 0;
function affectsGlobalVar(i){
   myvar = i;
}
function doesNotAffectGlobalVar(i){
   var myvar = i;
}

What categories should I use for my site?

As I’m finishing up this site, one thing I’ve gone back and forth on is what categories I should create. How specific do they really need to be? For example, If I write an article on how to create some nifty do-dad in PHP, would a Code category be okay, or should I have a PHP category. Both?

After thinking about it for a little, I decided to go to a few blogs I frequent and see what categories they use. Maybe I should be consistent with what others are doing. I’m not sure how many people really make use of categories, but maybe consistency would be important.

What I found is that there isn’t too much commonality in category naming. Some people use a lot, others not. It’s obviously dependent upon the type of blog.

One interesting thing I found out was that a number of sites had categories listed with no articles attached to them. Therefore, I decided to just start with nothing and create categories as I go. I’m sure I’m not the first person to do it this way, but it just didn’t occur to me right away.

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