Jump Start’s Easy Guide to Credit Card Processing

Jump Start Credit Card ProcessingEven though we now have over a decade of e-commerce history under our belts, credit card processing is still one of the most stone-knives-and-bearskins primitive aspects of web app development. It seems like a lot of trouble and arcana just to move money from buyer to seller, an action that at its essence is as old as civilization itself.

Making matters worse for the developer is the sad state of documentation on credit card processing. It’s often unintelligible, written as if it was given as an unwanted task to an intern who couldn’t care less. Sometimes it’s outright wrong.

Enter the folks from the Freckle time-tracking web application: Amy Hoy, Thomas Fuchs and Dieter Komendera. They decided to do a good deed an create a guide titled Jump Start Credit Card Processing, a 15-page PDF guide that explains credit card processing in a manner that’s not just comprehensible, but fun to read. Here’s a sample page:

"Credit Card Processing Lifecycle" page from "Jump Start Credit Card Processing"

Among the things explained in this guide are:

  • The credit card processing life cycle
  • Key industry terms and actions
  • JavaScript code for validating & detecting card types
  • Code samples for the ActiveMerchant Ruby module
  • A “getting started” checklist & account information

Best of all, this guide is available for download absolutely free of charge. If you’re new to the world of e-commerce apps and want to make sense of credit card processing, I strongly recommend Jump Start Credit Card Processing. Grab it from the Jump Start site.


EnergizeIT 2009: Coming Soon!

Banner: EnergizeIT - Anything is possible

It’s been announced on Canadian Developer Connection, but I thought I’d mention it here: we folks at Microsoft Canada are gearing up for the 2009 edition of EnergizeIT, a cross-country tour where we’ll show off our upcoming tools, technology and platforms.

Logos: Windows Azure, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7

For starters, we’ll be showing off Windows 7. I’ve been running it on both my “developer” and “TPS report-writing” laptops for weeks now, and it’s been nothing but rock-solid: all my XP and Vista-based software, from development apps to games and even my synth software (I run Ableton Live and FL Studio, a.k.a. “FruityLoops”) work like a charm on it. We’ll show off the improved UI, additional capabilities that you can take advantage of as a developer, and even give you a chance to install the beta on your own machine.

EnergizeIT is also an opportunity to check out what we’ve got in the way of server tech, such as the revamped Windows Server 2008 R2 with its Hyper-V virtualization and Windows Azure, our cloud computing platform that scales to meet your needs and saves you maintenance headaches.

We’ll have five different kinds of events at our EnergizeIT stops:

  • The Future of the Windows Platform: We’ll talk about Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, all with this question in mind: “How is this going to make my life easier?”
  • Energize IT: From the Client to the Cloud: Find out about our “Software + Services” vision, where you can access computing power anywhere, any time and on any device.
  • Student Connection: Get Energized About the Future! Get a head start on your journey from academia to “the real world” as we show you some upcoming tech and talk about the opportunities that exist, even in current economic mess.
  • Faculty Connection: Supporting Faculty to Support the Future: Find out about our programs to support people who teach technology and let us know what you need.
  • Enthusiast Connection: Windows 7 Installfest: Take Windows 7 for a spin and ask us about our experiences with our up-and-coming desktop operating system.

Map of Canada

In the past, we’ve only held EnergizeIT in Toronto, but this time, we’re borrowing a page from Aerosmith’s book and coming to your hometown. Starting in mid-March and running through until the end of April, we’ll be hitting these cities:

  • Victoria
  • Vancouver
  • Edmonton
  • Calgary
  • Regina
  • Saskatoon
  • Winnipeg
  • London
  • Kitchener-Waterloo
  • Mississauga
  • Toronto
  • Ottawa
  • Montreal
  • Halifax
  • Moncton
  • Fredericton
  • St. John’s

As for how much it’ll cost for you to attend our EnergizeIT events: nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Bupkis. Honkis de Konkis, as we say in some circles. Simply put, it’s free of charge.

Want to find out more about EnergizeIT or register? Go hit the EnergizeIT site.


Future Man Tried to Warn Us

Early 1960s businessmen talking to man in astronaut suit: "So you're saying people will 'tweet' what they're eating for breakfast?" "And 'upload' pictures of their breakfasts to a 'Facebook'?" "And other people will look at the breakfasts and make comments?" "No offense, future man, but is everyone in your time retarded?" "Sorry to burst your bubble, dudes, but you asked. Yes, that's the future."
Click the photo to see its source.


Coffee and Code: This Tuesday Afternoon at Le Gourmand

This article was originally posted on the Coffee and Code blog.

Here’s a picture of where this week’s Coffee and Code will take place:

Le Gourmand: Best damned chocolate chip cookie in the city

On Tuesday, February 24th, from about 1:30 p.m to 5:30 p.m., I’ll be at Le Gourmand, which is located at 152 Spadina (on the west side, south of Queen and north of Richmond). If you’ve ever gone walking around Paris looking for a quick bite to eat, it’ll give you a sense of deja vu. It’s a cafe that doubles as a somewhat pricey mini-grocery that carries gourmet food. They make excellent coffee and hot chocolate (you even get a choice of two of French chocolate mixes), delicious sandwiches, a nice bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with fruit, but most importantly, cookies to die for. Hell, they’re cookies to kill for.

As with all Coffee and Code events, I’ll be working there instead of at my home office or the Microsoft offices so that it’s dead simple for you to walk up to me to talk about anything – Microsoft, our tools, tech and platforms, the industry, whatever!

(Prior to Coffee and Code, I’m going to be at the Developer Lunch at the nearby Sky Dragon restaurant. If you’ve got the time, you might want to check that out too.)


Toronto Developer Lunch: Tuesday at Sky Dragon

Photos from the last Developer Lunch

It’s hard to believe, but tomorrow’s Developer Lunch – the get-together of Toronto-area developers organized by Kristan “Krispy” Uccelo – is going to be the 20th in the series. It’s a chance for us to get together over lunch and talk about anything and everything over some tasty dim sum.

Here are the details:

  • When: Tuesday, February 24th, from 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m.
  • Where: Sky Dragon Restaurant, located on the 5th floor of Dragon City Mall
    (southwest corner of Spadina and Dundas)
    Ask for the room with the large gatherings!
  • Who’s invited: Anyone!
  • How much: Every table splits the bill – it seems to average about $11 or 12 per person

After this lunch, I’m going to scurry down the street to this week’s Coffee and Code at Le Gourmand.


FutureRuby: July 9th – 12th, 2009

First Came RubyFringe

RubyFringe logo

I can’t talk about FutureRuby without first talking about RubyFringe.

Last July, the fine folks at Toronto’s Little Coding Shop That Could – Unspace – created one of the best and most memorable conferences I’ve ever attended: RubyFringe. RubyFringe made its mark by taking the standard geek conference formula and turning it on its head. Among the things that distinguished it were:

  • RubyFringe was intentionally a small conference, with its attendance capped at 150 attendees.
  • No sponsors!
  • It had a single conference track, and all presentations took place in the same room.
  • The presentations were vetted carefully by people who really, really, really loved the Ruby programming language. This meant that we got interesting speakers and no vendor pitches. We felt Damien Katz’ pain when he talked about his situation prior to creating CouchDB, grooved as Nick Sieger talked about the parallels between jazz and programming, and stayed glued to our seats as Giles Bowkett gave us his rousing call to action in his 400-slide extravaganza, even though he’d gone well beyond his allotted time and was cutting into lunch (it was that good).
  • They didn’t allow questions at the end of the presentations. In organizer Pete Forde’s words: “Our experience has been that questions are hard to hear, generally of poor quality, often just statements, and almost always an exercise in demonstrating how brilliant the questioner is while dominating the attention of the whole room.”
  • There was a “companion track” for attendees’ non-geeky significant others, where they were taken on a tour of the city while their partners were at the conference.
  • They served some of the best food I’ve ever had at a developer conference. The lunches were at the Downtown Metropolitan Hotel, and the big dinner at the Drake Hotel was beyond anything I’ve ever had at a developer conference.
  • The conference also included parties at some of the best spots in the city, some of which you wouldn’t find on vanilla tourist guides. Better yet, those parties were open bar!
  • Not only was there an opening party at a brewery, complete with stand-up comic, rock band and DJ, but there was a great closing party on Unspace’s roof.
  • The organizers paid attention to little details that set the conference apart, from giving everyone transit passes to heralding speakers as they walked on stage with the song of the choice to the giant polaroid montage featuring every attendee.

The organizers’ decisions in crafting RubyFringe made it a high-quality, memorable and inspiring experience, and its carefully limited scale gave it a sense of community that I could almost describe as familial.

Many people who went declared it the best conference they’d ever attended, and many who passed up the opportunity kicked themselves for missing it. Those pale next to the highest praise for the conference: the fact that after attending RubyFringe, a half-dozen handful of attendees were so inspired that they quit their day jobs to strike out on their own doing Ruby development.

Now Comes FutureRuby

FutureRuby comic

With RubyFringe’s resounding success, it was only natural that people would ask if Unspace would be doing it again next year. They gave it some serious thought – the last thing that they wanted to create was a weak sequel. They didn’t want to simply rehash RubyFringe, but reinvent it, just as they had reinvented the developer conference with RubyFringe.

So they reinvented RubyFringe as FutureRuby.

FutureRuby will take place from July 9th through 12th, and will build on what RubyFringe accomplished. The organizers bill it as “an opportunity to prepare for the future by learning from the mistakes of the past”, and promise us that it won’t just be RubyFringe warmed over – we shouldn’t expect to find the same things in the same places!

What else will it have?

  • Parties and nightly entertainment, three nights in a row
  • FAILCamp (which I co-hosted last year, and which I am invited to host again) is back with a vengeance, and an adorable sailor suit
  • “More better than” swag that you’ll be proud to wear in public
  • The return of the companion track for partners and secret lovers during the conference
  • An amazing two nights of lunches and dinners that you’ll photograph and tweet about
  • Loving attention to all of the details, like excellent wifi, transit passes, and no paid presentations

All the details are in this post at Unspace’s blog, Rethink. You can bet that I’ll be at FutureRuby.


The Cafe as Workplace

This article originally appeared in the Coffee and Code blog.


The USA Today article titled Working Out of a “Third Place” may date from October 2006, but it’s still relevant today, and especially in the context of Coffee and Code. Some points from the article:

  • About 30 million Americans, roughly one-fifth of the nation’s workforce, spend significant hours each month working outside of a traditional office. Even the U.S. federal government is pushing to give one-quarter of their workforce the option to occasionally work remotely.
  • The number of these mobile/flexible workers is growing 10% annually because corporations are increasingly supportive of teleworking for various reasons, from cost savings to redundancy in case of a disaster.
  • The rise of the office-less worker has fueled the rise of places like Panera, which has grown to 1,000 locations by catering to them with living room-like surroundings and free wifi.
  • Although the people interviewed had home office setups, many found that working in a cafe or other “third place” at least some of the time kept them from feeling isolated.

The article is accompanied by a sidebar piece that lists some of the unwritten rules of etiquette for working at a cafe, which include:

  • Pay the rent. Buy a coffee or food reasonably often if you don’t want the owners and staff to think of you as a squatter.
  • Watch your stuff. Take your laptop and other valuable gear and documents with you if you’re going away from the table for anything other than a quick run to the sugar-and-napkin station.
  • Respect the invisible office walls. Don’t walk into another remote worker’s “office space” unless you’re invited, and no “shoulder surfing”!
  • Learn to live with other people’s power cords.All electrical outlets are fair game, so expect to accommodate the odd power chord as it snakes past your dominion.”
  • Don’t be a squatter. “It’s fine to keep your things piled on a table when you step out for a breath of fresh air, but not if you plan to be away a while.”

The article also features bits from interviews with a number of people who either do their work in cafes or study the phenomenon. One of the interviewees, who works at the Pew Internet & American Life Project observes that "It remains to be seen if this is a cultural breakthrough or a generational artifact."