RubyNation – a Ruby conference in the Washington, DC area

I’m proud to say that we are going to have our very own Ruby conference here in the Washington, DC area! It is called RubyNation and it will be happening on August 1 – 2, 2008 at the Center of Innovative Technology in Herndon, VA. That’s probably one of the strangest shaped buildings in our area that should be hard to miss – it sort of looks like a squarish ruby with its point up.

We’ve lined up Stu Halloway, Neal Ford, David Bock, and Giles Bowkett as keynote speakers and we’ll have lots of Ruby content. I think it will be single track which is my preferred format – fewer things to think about. Plus, if you’ve got something cool you’ve been working on, you can present them during the lightning talks!

I hope to see you there!

The software industry lacks political clout

So I’m still upset at this new Maryland tax on software services. I hope it is not a harbinger of what is to come. Hopefully it is just a bad move that is a short term fix for whatever is ailing Maryland’s budget. But I think it points out something that is broken about the software industry. We lack political clout.

The Washington Post had this to say in its lead editorial today titled O’Malley Increases Influence With Wins on Taxes and Slots:

Interest groups with savvy lobbyists and deep pockets got special breaks; car dealers, for example, were treated to a subsidy worth $80 million. Those who lacked comparable clout, like some segments of the computer services industry, will be hit by a sales tax increase that, inexplicably and illogically, still does not apply broadly to most services in the state.

Now, I’m not saying that we need to have any subsidies, tax breaks, or any other sort of special consideration. But it is completely unfair that the computer services industry was singled out for a new tax. We should at least be able to defend ourselves from getting sand kicked in our collective face.

Perhaps it is because thankfully, we’ve been successful. The Washington Post had this to say in its main article yesterday about the new tax titled Md Lawmakers Approve Package:

The only service agreed to yesterday by House and Senate fiscal leaders was computer services — largely because of the nearly $200 million a year in estimated revenue it could generate.

There is some hope that it will be reversed in 5 years when they review it:

Computer services that would be subject to the tax include consulting and programming help, as well as software installation and hardware maintenance. Legislative analysts said at least nine other states tax computer services. The group of legislators agreed to revisit the issue in five years to determine what effects the tax has had.

But I wonder… will we be in any better shape then as an industry to defend ourselves?

Taxes on consulting?

I woke up this morning and nearly spit out my coffee as I read that the neighboring state of Maryland (I live in Virginia) is going to start charging sales tax on computer consulting – to the tune of 6%. That starts next year, January 1st 2008. This is a huge change and seems somewhat arbitrary since among the list of things considered were landscaping services, tanning salons, saunas, etc.

I’m not sure how the Maryland software consultants are going to cope with this. The easiest theoretically but probably hardest in real life is to just move to Virginia or Pennsylvania or Delaware, which don’t tax consulting services. They could also pass the cost on to their clients – which may be ok in the short term but I think will probably put them at a disadvantage vs other companies in neighboring states. They could eat the cost, but basically that’s a 6% pay cut. Or they could go and do something else, which is unfortunate. I’d say the first and last option are those unintended consequences that you always hear about. Side-effects in programming terms.

So what about everyone else in other states? Do you have to charge your clients sales tax if you’re doing consulting?

Beanetics – a micro roaster in Annandale, Virginia

Beanetics has got me hooked. On coffee. The last time I was hooked was when I went to vacation in Italy. Ever since then, most coffee has been pretty blah or just plain bitter. But this summer I thought I’d cut back on my Coca-Cola consumption and drink coffee instead.

My wife went online and researched the best places to find good coffee beans. Also, how to make coffee. I had never really learned how to make good coffee. We settled on using a Bodum Champbord 4-Cup French Press with matching Bodum Antigua Burr Coffee Grinder. So the next step was find good beans without going to Italy. So we checked out a few places and tried a few different beans, but the best by far was Beanetics.

BeaneticsBeanetics is a micro roaster in the Washington DC area, Annandale, VA to be exact, which is not too far from where I live. I had never heard of a micro roaster before, so I was pretty curious what that actually meant. I’ve been to micro breweries. I used to work for a company based near Portland, Oregon which probably has more micro breweries per capita than any place on earth.

So a micro roaster is basically a shop that roasts their own coffee beans. That way you get the freshest roasted beans and the result is that your coffee tastes REALLY good. They’ve got quite a few different beans they roast and also blends of beans. Plus of course they serve good coffee, they’ve got Wi-Fi, a few tables, and coffee equipment. I bought my grinder there. The staff is pretty helpful and friendly too. Its also an Indie business, which I find refreshing in the age of franchises. I think the backstory is that two guys got together and wondered why there wasn’t better coffee in the Northern Virginia/DC area and so they started up Beanetics, which opened up just a few months ago.

BTW, my favorite beans are the El Salvador beans. They’re the sweetest. I’m trying out the Mexican right now and I hear that the Costa Rica is the most popular. Anyways if you like coffee and you’re in the area, go check out Beanetics!

2005 Prediction Recap: Washington Redskins

Last year I made 10 predictions, with one bonus prediction about the Washington Redskins:

11. Gibbs makes good: Redskins go 9-7, barely squeak into the playoffs but lose in their first playoff game in years. Oh well, its progress. The difference? Gibbs hands over offensive coordinator responsibilities to someone from the Denver Broncos, giving Portis the spread plays he likes as well as putting Ramsey into the shotgun more often. Redskins routinely score 21+ points a game, while still having a top 10 defense.

So far the Redskins have beat my expectations.

They’ve gone 10-6 in the regular season, one better than I thought. They just won their first playoff game and are going to play Seattle on Saturday.

Gibbs didn’t give up the responsibilities, but he did put in more spread and outside running plays for Portis as well as put in the shotgun. They definitely won the game today over the Bucs with their defense – they set a record for lowest offensive output while still winning a playoff game. :) They did average almost 30 points per game over the season. And they ranked 9th in total defense and 11th in total offense.