Category Archives: PersonalOpinion

Akamai NetSession Required to Try Out SQL 2014?

I went to download the 180 day trial of SQL Server 2014 today, and after being forced to log on to Live and verify a couple screens of data (annoying), I then got prompted that to complete the download I would have to install the Akamia NetSession Interface.

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Just how annoying can this be? Is it Microsoft’s goal to purposely make it difficult for people to try out SQL Server 2014? It seems that they should want the lowest possible barrier to entry for people to get this. If it’s a great product, which I suspect it will be, then make it super simple for people to use so that you can get them hooked on it and they’ll make a purchase.

I’m annoyed enough with this process so far that I cancelled the download above and I’ll look for another way to get the software. The last thing I want is to install some unknown piece of software on my test machine – just to get a download.

Royal Caribbean–Freedom of the Seas

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We’ve been back now for a week and I’m finally getting around to writing a post about our Eastern Caribbean cruise via Royal Caribbean on their Freedom of the Seas ship.

Overall – it was a good trip and excellent value for the cost. I’ve been on better Caribbean trips, but certainly none this affordable. Enjoyment per dollar was pretty good. :)

 

The ship

The ship was in good shape. There were only the smallest hints of age and wear. I’ve owned boats before so I know how hard it is to maintain them – I can only imagine the work to keep one this large in good shape.

The Promenade was pretty cool. A couple of pictures from different angles and times of day (which had different lighting and decorations) are shown.

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We had an “issue” on a couple of windy days (more on this later) where the wind caused a horribly loud whistling noise through our balcony sliding door. A short call to maintenance and someone showed up, banged on things for a bit, and fixed the issue – whisper quiet after that.

The dining

The buffet (Windjammer) was good considering what it was – bulk food sitting under warming lights. The My Time dining was excellent. The service was *fantastic* and the food was fresh and tasty. The variety was appreciated also. We did one breakfast, and couple of lunches, and a couple of dinners here.

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The first night we did the Mystery Dinner meal – that was a lot of fun! And the food was from Portifinos (their paid-extra Italian restaurant – dessert pictured to the left here) and was very good. The cost included wine, so that was a nice surprise.

We also did one night in Chops – their pay-extra steak restaurant. It was excellent! Again, great food and great service.

There was also a Johnny Rocket (“free” but a $4.95/person cover charge – doesn’t sound free to me; we skipped this), a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop (not free – wish it was), a Cupcakes (not free – also wish it was), and a Starbucks (again, not free, but there was free coffee – just not the Starbucks brand). There were just enough non-free places to be annoying in my opinion.

The stops

The first stop was Coco Cay in the Bahamas. This was a great little spot to sit on the beach. We wish it didn’t have the non-stop band playing. It would have been perfect if it were a bit more peaceful and quiet. The beach was great, plenty of seating was available, and the water was crystal clear. The water was cold, but it was cold at each stop this trip.

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The next stop was St. Thomas.

We didn’t actually get onto St. Thomas. We stepped onto the pier then onto another boat to do a snorkeling excursion on St. John. The snorkeling was great (Cruz Bay) but about half of the excursion time is spent just getting to and from the location, so for the cost, it was a very small amount of snorkeling / beach time. Probably wouldn’t recommend this.

This first picture is Cruz Bay. The second is the view from our balcony just before leaving.

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The third stop was St. Marteen.

We went ashore here just to check out the downtown area, but found out that just off the ship is a tourist trap of little shops and actually getting downtown to check out the town is either a hike or ride. We decided to head back to the ship and enjoy the peace and quiet.

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It was very pretty thought for sure!

The journey (travel between stops).

This trip was the last week of February and I’m not sure if this is normal or not, but it was WINDY! The winds were blowing about 20mph and when the ship was traveling against them, it meant gusts to around 40mph. Serious if you were on the top deck you needed to hold on to the railings near the steps because it would blow you over. That was a bummer.

The wind also caused a bit more ship rolling than we would have preferred. Thankfully someone working on the ship recommend Motion Ease, which is a all-natural oil that you put on your finger then dab behind your ear. Surprisingly (yes, I am a skeptic) it worked quite well.

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Our cabin dude was very professional, called us by name when he saw us in the halls, and set up these neat little towel animals.

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Overall, again, it was a good trip for the money. We’d do it again if we were trying to fit vacation under a certain budget that fit this cruise. Depending on the time of year, it looks like you can get some really great rates (like $800/pp for a balcony room) – making it all the more of a great deal.

I’d recommend Royal Caribbean as a cruise line, and even this specific trip and ship. Happy cruising!

Going on a cruise – no virus for me please! :)

I’m going on my only second-ever cruise this year. (Dear bad guys: No, my house will NOT be empty and yes, my dog will bite!)

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The first cruise was around the Hawaiian Islands and was pretty cool. Actually, the cruise was “okay” but the fact that it allowed us to visit multiple islands in Hawaii without having to deal with puddle-jumpers and other transportation (and lodging, etc.) was pretty cool.

This time I’m headed on an Eastern Caribbean cruise. We picked Royal Caribbean based on many online reviews we read, and discussions we had with people at AAA.

Since booking this cruise two different ships have had major outbreaks of the nova-virus. It doesn’t sound like fun stuff and NOT contracting it will be a primary goal during the trip. If you happen to be on the same cruise and see someone constantly using Purell and refusing to touch railings, that just might be me. :)

I’m not a big fan of large crowds and eating bulk cooked food. I am a big fan of boats, islands, and warm weather though. I’m very much looking forward to it and I’ll post some information afterward to share some thoughts.

What development language is in the most demand right now?

This is far from a scientific test, but I’m curious what programming language seems to be in the highest demand right now. To check on this I’ll look on Dice.com to see how many job postings mention a specific language.

As of 2/3/2014 and looking at postings within the past 30 days…

VB.NET: 1,447
Ruby: 2,439
PHP: 3,466
Python: 4,210
Perl: 4,067
C#: 8,198
C++: 16,125 (wow)
Java: 16,229 (wow again)

What does this mean? Who knows. Maybe nothing at all. I was just curious.

If I were even semi-logical though, and needed a job (or change in job if my job sucked [it doesn't]) then I think I’d probably look into one of the many online free training resources and start learning how to program.

There are a ton of open programmer jobs right now. And guess what? Programming jobs generally pay pretty well.

BTW – best way to learn how to code? “Just do it” (thanks Nike!). With almost every programming language you can obtain a free tool to help write the code and both write and test it right on your local PC. The more you tinker with it – and solve the problems that you’re sure to run into – the better you’ll be at it down the road.

How much do you need to save for retirement?

How much do I (you) need to save for retirement?

It’s a tricky question, but a popular one. Let me share my thoughts on it for a moment.

In my mind, an ideal “retirement” situation (and/or even an ideal target “wealth” situation) would be for someone to have enough investments that generate enough returns to match their current salary. So if you make $50,000 per year now, having investments that grow at least $50k/year, IMO, would be rather wealthy and acceptable for retirement.

Many people, and retirement calculators, estimate how long someone will live and work that into the calculations. Technically you can draw down the investment balance and spend principle rather than just growth. The trick there is timing – if that’s your plan you don’t want to draw down too quickly or you could run out of money. Personally, I think that’s fine, but I also think it would be an *awesome* goal to not have to draw down the investment balance and just live off the returns – leaving the balance to your heirs.

Let’s step back and look at some math. I’m not code-savvy enough to actually put a working calculator on this page, but I have an Excel spreadsheet that I’ve created that accepts a few values and then returns some results. So let’s play with some numbers based on some assumptions.

Current age: 22
Target retirement age: 50 (hey, let’s be wealthy young enough to enjoy it! :>)
Current income: $50,000
Estimated average investment returns: 8%
Current savings/investments: $5,000
Expected inflation rate: 1%

Based on those numbers, you have 28 years to retirement at which point you’ll want $66,065/year in salary (inflation adjusted). Based on an 8% return you’ll need at least $825,807 worth of investments. To reach that amount in the time given (28 years) and the rate estimated (8%) you’d need to save 17% of your income or about $717/month. That sounds like a decent chunk of change but not impossible – how bad do you want to retire at age 50? :)

Okay, let’s say you just LOVE working and plan to work until age 67. With everything else being the same you’d need to save just 5% of your income, or about $210/month. Certainly that $7/day is reasonable for many people.

Let’s pretend that you’re fairly optimistic about the stock market and accept Dave Ramsey’s thoughts on estimated returns based on historical data shows we can estimate 12%.

With that one change the “retire at 50″ scenario above would only require saving 6% of income, or about $240/month. In the “retire at 67″ scenario you’d only need to save 1% of income, or about $40/month (yeah, really).

I’m pretty solidly comfortable personally assuming 8%. It’s fun to look at the numbers based on higher returns, but I tend to think conservative and would rather be pleasantly surprised at retirement with an “excess” (much more than I need) of investment returns/income. It would be a lot of fun to take the extra returns and pump them into some well-deserving non-profits or other philanthropic ventures.

Really though, more than the rate, the age at which you start saving makes a HUGE difference. Back on our 8% and 67 retirement age example: If you want until age 30 to start the saving/investing, you no longer need $210/month but rather $368/month – a whopping 75% increase in the necessary monthly savings. If you wait a long time to get started, it’s hard to catch up. It really is. So start now, and explain compound interest and growth to your kids and encourage them to start as soon as they have a job – no matter how small. Money saved from a paper route over 50 years has tremendous growth potential.

Now go look at your budget and start planning for your retirement today.