Nail-biting success with Windows 7 Media Center and CableCard

by Jon Davis 22. June 2009 01:34

I got CableCard working today with Windows 7 Media Center. This is my first CableCard install. The install was not smooth, but it was successful. I'd heard a lot of horror stories about CableCard, but most of these stories were from two years or so ago. I expected the whole matter to be cleaned up by now. It has probably improved a lot, but I was surprised by how bumpy the ride was.


COX technicians really, genuinely, deeply hate CableCards. This was the first visit to install CableCard, but the second visit from COX in the last couple weeks where the subject of CableCards came up. These guys acknowledge that the idea behind CableCard is a sound one, but the problem is that they are so different, and the devices are so different, that it's really hard to get a successful install. [I think Microsoft can relate to this sort of experience, being that their software works with most any white box PC on the planet.] Today's installer had a nauseous-looking frown on his face consistently from the moment he climbed the outer stairs to my door until the minute he walked out the door.. although, he had a slight skip in his step when he left. I'm not sure if that's because he was glad the torture was over or if it was because it wasn't another failure.

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Electronics | General Technology | Pet Projects

Quickie Alarm

by Jon Davis 13. May 2009 23:39

I flew out to California on Friday night to visit my siblings, and when I arrived I rented a car and drove around in the middle of the night looking for a cheap place to sleep. After an hour of getting completely lost I finally found a Motel 6 (*shudder*), climbed into bed, and then realized that there’s no alarm clock in the room. Great.

So I threw together another alarm clock on my laptop. I went through the trouble of giving it a nice touch, so it took an hour or two rather than a minute or two, but it did the job and I was proud and still managed to sleep well.

And now I’m sharing it here online. This is freeware with source code included. (Uses free Developer Express controls.)


.. click ‘Go’ and ..



Stupid Visual Studio Tricks: Speak ‘N Code

by Jon Davis 7. March 2009 01:58

I got bored tonight and created a Visual Studio macro that reads my code to me as I type it. First I had it read the keys (“a”, “b”) like a Speak ‘N Spell, but then I realized it’s better if it actually just waits for me to spell out the words instead. It also correctly pronounces a few special characters.

I have absolutely no use for this but for “duhh huh huh huh” giggles.

If you care to play with it, just open Visual Studio, choose Tools –> Macros –> Macros IDE from the menu, double-click MyMacros on the left, double-click EnvironmentEvents, then paste the following code inside the module body.

Private Speech As Object
Private Sub TextDocumentKeyPressEvents_BeforeKeyPress(ByVal Keypress _
As String, ByVal Selection As EnvDTE.TextSelection, _
ByVal InStatementCompletion As Boolean, ByRef CancelKeyPress As Boolean) _
Handles TextDocumentKeyPressEvents.BeforeKeyPress
If Speech Is Nothing Then
Speech = Activator.CreateInstance(Type.GetTypeFromProgID("sapi.spvoice"))
Speech.Voice = Speech.GetVoices("gender=male")(0)
End If
Dim Key As String
Key = Keypress
If Key = vbBack Then Return
Select Case Keypress
Case "!"
Key = "not"
Case "%"
Key = "mod"
Case "@"
Key = "at"
Case "#"
Key = "pound"
Case "^"
Key = "caret"
Case "&"
Key = "and"
Case "*"
Key = "star"
Case "/"
Key = "slash"
Case "\"
Key = "backslash"
Case ","
Key = "comma"
Case "<"
Key = "less than"
Case ">"
Key = "greater than"
Case ":"
Key = "colon"
Case "("
Key = "" ' "pahrens"
Case ")"
Key = "" ' "close pahrens"
Case "."
Key = "dot"
Case "{"
Key = "" ' "begin brace"
Case "}"
Key = "" ' "close brace"
Case ";"
Key = "" ' "semicolon"
Case vbTab
Key = "" ' "tab"
Case " "
Key = "" ' "space"
Case "["
Key = "" ' "left bracket"
Case "]"
Key = "" ' "right bracket"
Case """"
Key = "" ' "double quotes"
Case "'"
Key = "single quote"
Case vbCr, vbLf, vbCrLf
Key = "" ' "line break"
End Select
Dim Say As String
Const a2z As String = "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz"
If Not a2z.Contains(Keypress.ToLower()) Then
Say = Key
Dim editPoint = Selection.ActivePoint().CreateEditPoint()
If Not IsWhitespace(editPoint.GetText(1)) Then
Dim Word = editPoint.GetText(Selection.ActivePoint.AbsoluteCharOffset - editPoint.AbsoluteCharOffset)
Dim HasLetter As Boolean
For Each letter In Word
If a2z.Contains(letter) Then HasLetter = True
If HasLetter Then
If Not IsWhiteSpace(Keypress) Then
Say = Word & ", " & Say
Say = Word
End If
End If
End If
End If
If Say <> "" Then
Speech.Speak(Say, SpeechVoiceSpeakFlags.SVSFlagsAsync + SpeechVoiceSpeakFlags.SVSFPurgeBeforeSpeak)
End If
End Sub
Function IsWhitespace(ByVal s As String)
Dim rgx As New System.Text.RegularExpressions.Regex("\s*")
Return rgx.Match(s).Length > 0
End Function
Enum SpeechVoiceSpeakFlags
'SpVoice Flags
SVSFDefault = 0
SVSFlagsAsync = 1
SVSFPurgeBeforeSpeak = 2
SVSFIsFilename = 4
SVSFPersistXML = 32
'Normalizer Flags
SVSFNLPSpeakPunc = 64
SVSFNLPMask = 64
SVSFVoiceMask = 127
SVSFUnusedFlags = -128
End Enum

EntitySpaces 2009 Q1 WCF Demo

by Jon Davis 25. January 2009 16:45

I created a new WCF demo for EntitySpaces, one of the most popular ORM solutions available for .NET which now comes with its own code generator (no longer relies on CodeSmith or myGeneration). The demo is bundled in the Release Candidate for v2009 Q1. (The developer version is released, trial version will be released tomorrow.) This one includes both console and Windows Forms clients, and a console-based service, for showing the barebones basics of what it takes to get EntitySpaces working with WCF. Both full proxies (EntitySpaces runtime libraries referenced on the client) and lightweight proxies/stubs (*no* EntitySpaces runtime libraries referenced on the client) are demonstrated, but the lightweight demo is currently limited to a console app.

Next on my plate will be a WPF demo for the lightweight proxies/stubs. No guarantees...

Anyway, here’s the documentation that went with the demo. It got posted on the EntitySpaces blog.

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C# | Cool Tools | Pet Projects | Software Development | SQL Server | WCF

Update on my stuff - June 6, 2008

by Jon Davis 7. June 2008 14:29

OK it's been a while since I did any real blogging lately, here's a sum-up:

  • I've still forgotten how to blog. While this is my blog and I can post whatever I want, this blog has become a high-level geek toy discovery dump rather than a software development blog. While I make no apologies for this--I can do whatever I want here--I'm trying to figure out if I should fork my blogs, one for serious software development discoveries and one for shallow geek discoveries. I've already been wishing I could add a personal blog somewhere, not here, and post thoughts and feelings about non-tech stuff. (This is something I used to do but it got carried away so I boycotted it and focused on purely geek speak here. I miss doing personal blogging though, and I feel like it would be good for me to do it again, if I'm just a bit more careful.)
  • I keep mentioning the LION Search Service, how we intend to open source it, and how it's been cancelled, and then I deleted that cancellation post, etc. It keeps coming back and going away and coming back again. Well part of that is just the reality of how it's being treated at the office; open sourcing LION required all-or-nothing support on the part of my teammates at the office, and I was getting really pointless "I'm building my own search service instead of yours but I'm gleaning ideas from yours" feedback from others on the team. Lately, though, they've discovered that what they were doing was accomplishing the same tasks as what I had already implemented, and in the absence of time availability they reverted and have adopted LION. So LION is back, the team has adopted it, and we're about to go live with our first faceted-searching web site using LION (a couple other web sites were already using it but without the new faceted searching). It's now a lot more official, LION is our exciting new search platform going forward.

    • LION is a nearly-sort-of-enterprise-class search engine, written in C#, currently in development, built on Lucene.NET, and its continued development is being inspired in part by the Apache Solr project (but was conceived and put into production before Solr was discovered).
      • It currently offers
        • rich, paginated queries with field and index selection,
        • Lucene.NET break-neck speeds,
        • faceted searching,
        • strong document modeling, and
        • dynamic updates (currently limited to index A/B switching but that will be improved soon).
      • It currently runs on WCF (.NET 3.0). Not BizTalk or anything otherwise weird or expensive to support. It currently does not have, but will soon have, REST and AJAX support.
      • It does not have and might not ever have the high availability "server farm" feature set that I believe Solr offers. Service stability and uptime has been a constant thorn in our sides, so rethinking and possibly rewriting portions of the service itself is going to be necessary before we put it out there for the world to consume in open source.
      • It is currently not, but soon will be, built around IIS 7. Right now it's just a standalone console application, wrapped in a Windows service.
    • We will still be open-sourcing LION, eventually. Right now it's looking like a late-summer or fall time frame.
    • LION will be "internally sourced" first, to be shared to other departments in our large and disperate company, to be evaluated and discovered first. (I think this is very wise, just something I didn't think about until the boss said to do it that way.)
    • LION has been made a team-shared ownership; since I built it on the job, there's little I can do to stop the boss from handing it to a certain other team member and telling him to own it, which would be totally unsurprising. While I wouldn't agree with the situation (I've only put my heart and soul into LION, and I'm also the oldest and most experienced person on the team, even if I have a couple areas of technical weaknesses), a situation like that is not something I can change without throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and I'll live.
  • I've been thinking about engaging in one or more side projects I would wholly and independently control. Given the big ideas I have, I'm still not sure I want to do one, though, as it's all a lot of work, some of it very tempting to try to bring into the workplace, and I don't want my authortitative work to be disrespected in the workplace like LION has been. Even so, the ideas are still on the table for consideration
    • BlogObjects - I registered back when I registered (I wrote in VB6 and rewrote in C# a commercial blogging desktop client application about five years or so ago, with zero commercial success but significant personal/professional technical growth for myself) and was considering making PowerBlog's development API a set of open-source blogging tools. I'm thoroughly persuaded that this will never be commercially viable as blogging APIs are a dime a dozen, but, like PowerBlog was five years ago, starting from scratch on a client/server blogging API would be a good refresher on technology in general. This is something that, if I do it, it will be not only open source, it will also be cross-platfom to Mac and to Linux, and will also be complemented with a PowerBlog resurrection or else PowerBlog-like alternative with fewer feature (no Active Scripting [VBScript, Javascript], no team synchronization support).
    • CMSObjects - Taking BlogObjects to another level, CMSObjects would build upon BlogObjects's idea (but not the codebase) and add:
      • An enterprise class CMS service
      • Rich support for the Atom Publishing standard API
      • Content typing (for example, a "Story" article type, a "Video browser", a "Photo gallery", a "Product Detail" page, etc), with scripted or compiled coded definitions that support inheritence
      • Rich templating both per content type and per content instance
      • Workflows
        • Team member security (user can post, user can only read, user can only post to a particular category or to a particular URL prefix, etc.)
        • Team members' posts can be flagged for approval, and then approved by a senior editor
        • Content can be annotated, seperately from the publshed output -- ideally, the annotations can be made inline, directly inside of the content
        • Content publishing to the web can be postponed to a digital publish date
      • Content versioning 
      • Again, completely open-sourced, but more web service oriented, possibly web-driven, and much less GUI-driven (so no PowerBlog for CMSObjects except for basic blogging to a CMSObjects service)
    • CRMObjects - Yeah the "Objects" suffix is getting a little silly, but my short experience with Sage Software's SalesLogix exposed me to another facet of software and business technology that reflects the genuine needs of businesses in general, which is using technology to support sales and support staff. CRM can be painfully messy and awkward, but tossing together some basic building blocks might be a fun and rewarding experience, even if it is not commercially viable (way too much competition, as with blogging). Who knows, though, businesses might actually use it, and supporting it could actually become lucrative.
    • ERPObjects - I'll do that by myself, in my spare time. Just kidding.
  • I have a book here on Cocoa programming. I'm curious about Objective-C, how it's a weakly typed, object-oriented C language superset, which just sounds weird (C being object oriented and weakly typed?! .. weird! .. but cool!!), I can see why the book comes right out and says that it can be extremely dangerous, I saw enough of this with VB6 programming's suport for weak typing and evil Variants in my past, but keeping in line with C linguistics and C power, I'm very curious about it. I'm guessing that Microsoft's answer to Objective-C is C++/CLI, but the CLI in itself is still strongy typed, so you have to look at integration points with JScript.NET or something (but then there's Lua, Python, etc., which the non-Microsoft community also has). I watched an introduction to Objective-C video amongst the iPhone SDK videos recently and, while it does look different, I can see how it as been used to give Mac and iPhone developers a lot of shortcuts into fast and efficient software development.
  • Over the last two or three weeks I've become less and less excited about cross-platform development libraries and APIs, such as Mono, Java, wxWidgets, Qt4, and SDL, for a few reasons:
    • While cross-platform GUI APIs pretty actually do work across platforms like they promise, their end output is a bit less predictable and/or desirable than one might expect.
      • Choosing a GUI API that uses its own UI rendering results in software that can be predicted by the developer, but it is not predictable by the user in the context of other software. Java Swing apps traditionally demonstrated this a long while back with is blueish, proprietary look and feel, and that's not what users want. Users want software that looks and feel like the software already installed on their systems. Sometimes these cross-platform APIs, like Java, come bundled with visual schemes that simulate these operating systems, but they are clearly faked and do not take advantage of the rendering APIs already offered by the core operating system.
      • Choosing a GUI API that uses the operating system's rendering and layouts (such as how the Mac uses the Aqua scheme but also puts the main menu up on the top of the screen) does not always result in predictable rendering output. Sometimes, for example, the borders or clickable "handles" of a drop-down list sticks out further to the right, above, or below the dimensions specified by the developer, or else the text rendering inside becomes unreadable because the internal padding or inner/inset "border" that contains the content is too small on one operating system while on the developer's operating system it appears fine. Sometimes there is somehow a mismatch of pixels to DPI, and the GUI code is using one unit of measure while the OS has adopted another, and so some "defensive layout programming" needed to have been written but wasn't because the developer's operating system didn't have this or that feature. And so on.
    • Java and C# are both still too slow for my liking, and other non-native languages are not mainstream enough to feel confident in building around with the knowledge that others can help carry the torch.
    • I've found that some cross-platform software applications that use generically cross-platform dependencies such as SDL are actually quite unstable. This doesn't mean that SDL et al are unstable, it just means that it is too easy for developers to build upon such a framework and not hash out platform-specific causes to application failures. There is no such thing as a silver bullet, SDL/wx/Qt/etc notwithstanding.
    • Ultimately, C and C++ (but not Objective-C) are themselves cross-platform languages, with platform-specific dependencies (and, of course, CPU-specific machine code compilation). The best thing to do, I think, is to get a handle on building C++ applications for one platform, but build things out generically enough so that platform-specific dependencis are broken off into libraries. Then, when porting the applications, you only need to port the platform libraries. This is what most cross-platform software I've seen ends up doing when they also take advantage of the features of the operating system like DirectX.
    • Another approach might be to build upon a cross-platform API first, or perhaps even a cross-platform non-native language like C#, and then port each component, piece by piece, to C++ on behalf of the native patform.
    • None of this is to say that I think wx, Qt, SDL, et al, are worthless or that I won't use them on a regular basis (if indeed I can get myself coding C/C++ apps to begin with), I'm just trying to say that there is no silver bullet and use of these libraries, rather than native Cocoa (for Mac) or MFC (et al, for Windows), would be a slight compromise for time and resources, not a magical, perfect answer for excellent software that "just works".
  • At the end of the day, I'm still scratching the surface and barely finding time enough to sleep, much less write the software I'm envisioning. Ugh.

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My First Mac-Ported C# App

by Jon Davis 17. May 2008 22:10

Here's a screenie of my little GDI+ (System.Drawing) based game engine ported to the Mac using MonoDevelop. The sandbox "game" instance is just some bouncing balls that collide against the walls, the rectangular blocks, and each other, with fairly realistic physics, emitting dual-light draw drop-shadows, etc. In Windows, DirectSound is also used to create stereo "bump" sound effects that make the bumping balls feel a little more realistic.

Wow, this only took about ten minutes, from "I wonder if .." to "wow, look at that, it's working!" My steps:

  • Add my home Subversion server as a SCM repostitory in MonoDevelop
  • Check out my game engine (called "Level1Engine") to ~/Documents/dev/Level1Engine
  • Watch MonoDevelop puke on the absolute UNC path of one of the project references
    • Manually add the missing .csproj file to the solution
      • MonoDevelop exits unexpectedly
    • Reopen MonoDevelop, reopen solution
    • Create a new project with the same name/directory as the broken project
    • Remove the generated sample .cs file
    • Add the existing .cs files to the project, in-place
  • Comment out the DirectSound references from the game engine class library. (Sadly, that means there's no sound yet.)
  • Let 'er rip

Overall, this blog post took me about twice as long as porting my app!

The result is not flawless, though. Rendering performance is about 1/3 what it is in GDI+ (in Windows), and apparently the 2D matrix transformations (which I had to touch for the drop shadows) are a little buggy in Mono because that text on the top left, which is rendered with System.Drawing, jiggles around erratically by about two pixels.  

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Pet Projects | Software Development | Mac OS X

Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) + VMWare Fusion + Mono = Bliss

by Jon Davis 17. May 2008 15:13

I have been using my new Mac Mini for less than 24 hours and it already looks like this:

In the screenshot I have VMWare Fusion with Unity enabled so that I have the Windows Vista Start menu (I can toggle off the Start menu's visibility from VMWare itself) and Internet Explorer 7. (I also have Visual Studio 2008 installed in that virtual machine). Next to Internet Explorer on the left is Finder which is showing a bunch of the apps I have installed, including most of the stuff at On the right I have MonoDevelop where I can write C# or VB.NET applications for the Mac, for Linux, or for Windows. And of course, down below I have the Dock popped up because that's where my arrow actually is.

I also, obviously, have an Ubuntu VM I can fire up any time I want if I want to test something in Linux. 

Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) comes with native X11, not out of the box but with the installer CD, and it's the first OS X build to do so (previous versions used or required XFree86).

This point in time is a particularly intriguing milestone date for the alignment of the moons and stars for blissful cross-platform development using the Mac as a central hub of all things wonderful:


  • X11 on Mac OS X 10.5
  • MonoDevelop 1.0 is generally gold (released, it's very nice)
  • System.Windows.Forms in Mono is API-complete
  • VMWare Fusion's Unity feature delivers jaw-dropping, seamless windowing integration between Windows XP / Vista and Mac OS X. And to make things even more wonderful, VMWare Fusion 2, which comes with experimental DirectX 9 support, will be a free upgrade.
  • For game developers, the Unity game engine is a really nice cross-platform game engine and development toolset. I have a couple buddies I'll be joining up with to help them make cross-platform games, something I always wanted to do. This as opposed to XNA, which doesn't seem to know entirely what it's doing and comes with a community framework that's chock full of vaporware. (But then, I still greatly admire XNA and hope to tackle XNA projects soon.)
  • The hackable iPhone (which I also got this week, hacked, and SSH'd into with rediculous ease), which when supplemented with the BSD core, is an amazing piece of geek gadgetry that can enable anyone to write mobile applications using open-source tools (I'd like to see Mono running on it). The amount of quality software written for the hacked iPhone is staggering, about as impressive as the amount of open source software written for the Mac itself. Judging by the quantity of cool installable software, I had no idea how commonplace hacked iPhones were.
  • Meanwhile, for legit game development, the Unity 3D game engine now supports the iPhone and iPod Touch (so that's where XNA got the Zune support idea!) and the iPhone SDK is no longer just a bunch of CSS hacks for Safari but actually binary compile tools.


Embeddable Cross-Platform Silverlight

by Jon Davis 15. May 2008 00:02

I've been wanting to start discovering cross-platform development with Mono, MonoDevelop, Gecko#, C++, XPCOM, XUL, XULRunner, WebKit, et al. I have a couple vaporware apps in mind and I have just purchased a Mac Mini and an iPhone mainly for this purpose. And meanwhile since Silverlight happens to be cross-platform as well, I was curious about its licensing. Theoretically, one can accomplish an Adobe AIR-like cross-platform application implementation using Silverlight and XUL or WebKit. Problem is, I had heard that Silverlight was explicitly written to disallow it from being used on anything but a standard HTML web browser (Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer).

After spending an hour or so poking at the n00b tutorials on XUL and XPCOM, I went to the Silverlight site and spent several minutes looking everywhere for the darn EULA. (Sadly, after finding it, once I hopped on this blog editor I lost it and it took another 15 minutes to find it again.) and

I didn't see any such limitation there, nothing about "thou shalt only use Silverlight in a 'standard web browser', namely Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari".  There are some limitations, of course, such as perhaps redistribution, which theoretically if the app is a XUL app can be deal with using HTML+JS+XUL+XPI, getting Silverlight into thinking it's downloading and installing itself through and onto Firefox. (All theory, of course.)

On a side topic, if anyone out there is reading this, can someone tell me why there are almost no open discussions correlating XUL and XAML/WPF? They seem to attempt to do the same basic function--create apps using XML and components--albeit WPF is far more powerful and versatile in itself as a tool in its niche, whereas XUL is Javascript/HTML friendly and is cross-platform.

UPDATE: After discussing with a buddy who's done cross-platform .NET programming with Mono, apparently Glade + GTK# has an XML markup language that also meets the same objective.

On second thought, maybe I just wasn't searching hard enough. I see a lot of hits here:

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Pet Projects | Computers and Internet | Software Development | Linux | Cool Tools | Web Development

EntitySpaces on Silverlight 2: Part One

by Jon Davis 4. May 2008 18:25

I managed to get EntitySpaces running on Silverlight over WCF client proxies. I documented the steps as a tutorial and Mike Griffin at EntitySpaces posted it up on the EntitySpaces blog. kick it on 

Demo here:

I retained my Word doc so I can retain my personal preference of formatting, fix typos, and add a few annotations and disclaimers here and there like, "So far these steps don’t lend themselves very well to an offline development workflow. Finding a more appropriate workflow pattern, though, is beyond the scope of this initiative. (Good luck.)" We can thank Microsoft for making WCF on IIS 7 such a pain in the behind for binding service endpoints, without any code generation or GUIfication. But enough whining, client-side business objects in Silverlight is a hawt approach to LOB RIAs. and Silverlight Demo - Part 1.doc

Part two will be short 'n sweet but much more focused on actually working with EntitySpaces. This part didn't give ES justice...

EntitySpaces RIA running in Safari 3.1 (on Windows) with just about 20 lines of hand-written client-server code and XAML markup:

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XHTMLJS: Updated to v0.3

by Jon Davis 22. March 2008 23:17

I've updated XHTMLJS to version 0.3.

Try the XHTML editor.

This implements the full strict tagset listed at:

It still has some flaws, but this mainly resolves what I observed previously, "a few more failures beyond indentation, namely some XHTML-accepted tags (like <input>) are still going missing in strict mode. The Editor should allow for the de-toggling of strict mode, and IMO I think enabling strict mode for the jQuery extension was a mistake. Also, plain-text '>' (&gt; in markup) is not outputting as '&gt;' but as '>'. "

There are still indentation bugs and missing event handlers, among a few other glitches, but this is an important milestone.

UPDATE: The editor itself had a bug I just fixed (kept the 0.3 version designation) where it would only XHTMLize the first node entered. This required no change to xhtml.js.

kick it on

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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