A Living Wage

I recently came across this page from MIT that details a living wage for different areas of the country.  My wife and I decided to see if we could actually live on the reported living wage for our area, Hampton VA.  According to MIT, the living wage for a family of 5 (2 adults, 3 kids) is $50,677.  Anything below that is technically below the poverty level.

The breakdown is as follows:

Monthly Expenses 2 Adults, 3 Children
Food $904
Child Care $0
Medical $449
Housing $1,277
Transportation $777
Other $236
Required Monthly Income After Taxes $3,643
Required annual income after taxes $43,716
Annual taxes $6,961
Required annual income before taxes $50,677

We already don’t pay anything for child care, as my wife is not employed outside the home.  I think that will most likely be the only category in which we are on budget.  My company has a medical plan, and our responsibility is $746.80 a month.  While that blows the medical out of the water (not counting prescriptions, copays, etc), I think we can actually make up some ground in the food category.  That comes out to about $225 a week for groceries, which should be doable.  We have been eating out quite often, and that pretty much ruins our attempts at budgeting.  From now on, eating out will be a thing of the past.  A living wage doesn’t mean restaurants, or even fast food.  Honestly, for us it won’t even mean $2.50 for a loaf of bread.  It will mean homemade bread, at under $0.30 a loaf.

Our mortgage comes out to about $900 a month, and then we pay another $200 a month in property taxes.  Insurance is another $70.90, so our housing runs $1171.  That leaves about $100 a month for repairs and maintenance.  Very tight, but we’re still there.

Transportation comes out to $108.75 for our car payment (one car is owned outright) and then insurance runs about $142.50 a month for two cars.  Gas for the Suburban is around $200 a month, and for the Chrysler it is maybe $50 a month.  So that makes a grand total of $501.25.  I will track fuel expenses more closely while running this experiment to see how realistic this is.  That leaves $275 a month for repairs and maintenance.  I must say, we will use every dime of this.  The Suburban just had its transmission rebuilt for $1900, and the Chrysler is starting to act up as well. 

So one thing I am confused about with this chart is that it doesn’t include utilities.  We have gas, electric, water, cell phone and internet.  We don’t have cable TV.  Gas, water & electric easily run $400 a month, but our home is very inefficient.  We’ll start watching those categories closely, and attempting to reduce these bills.  Normally I would say cell phone and internet are not necessities, however I need them for my job (I work from home), so they are necessities for us.  However, some of it is reimbursed by my company, and that which isn’t is at least tax-deductible as a business expense. (I am not a tax advisor, this is not tax advice.)

I have done a preliminary run-down on the numbers at the beginning of this project.  I hope to get us down as close to the living wage as possible.  Extra income will first go to pay off our remaining debts, and thereafter it will go to our savings.

So turns out that our starting point is $216 over budget, just as an initial pass through.  I will go through and categorize our other expenses (homeschool curriculum, pet care, clothing, etc) and fit that into this chart as time goes on.  I will also take a closer look at our food spending and see where it falls.  For now, I have used the MIT numbers when I did not have my own numbers.  I’m $216 over budget, not counting the repairs/maintenance to the cars and the house. 

Monthly Expenses 2 Adults, 3 Children Actual Difference
Food $904 $904 $0
Child Care $0 $0 $0
Medical $449 $747 $298
Housing $1,277 $1,171 ($206)
Transportation $777 $501 ($276)
Other $236 $236 $0
Utilities   $400 $400
Required monthly income after taxes $3,643 $3,959 $216
Required annual income after taxes $43,716 $47,508 $3,792
Annual taxes $6,961    
Required annual income before taxes $50,677    

We hope to use this experiment as a way not only to be a wise steward of the resources we have, but also to gain insight into the veracity of these living wage numbers that get thrown around in the media and elsewhere.


Twitter Bootstrap and ASP.NET MVC – Building a Responsive UI

I just finished reading O’Reilly’s Bootstrap by Jake Spurlock. It got me very excited about Bootstrap, and naturally I wanted to see how it would play with ASP.NET MVC.

This article does a fantastic job of demonstrating how to take the default MVC 4 internet application template and make a few simple modifications to fully integrate Bootstrap. You can then save the project as a template and create new MVC Bootstrap projects from File -> New Project.

I’m excited to try this out on a project I’m working on: heavy on the forms data entry app. Bootstrap and MVC 4 should be a perfect combination.


Global Windows Azure Bootcamp – Hampton Roads

I’m getting excited about an upcoming event: the Global Windows Azure Bootcamp! This is a worldwide deep-dive into Windows Azure, where we’ll actually be writing code that will push the limits of scalability in Windows Azure. I’ve been working with Azure a lot over the last 3 months, and I’m really enjoying it. This event will be a great way for developers to jump in and see what all the fuss is about.

If you are interested in attending, please register as soon as possible. There’s a limited number of seats and you want to be sure to get a seat. The event will be hosted at SNVC’s Learning Lab. My company has done a lot of work to create a place where people can train. It’s a great environment. We’re partnering with the Hampton Roads .NET User Group, and I’m sure it’s going to be a great time. Lots of fun to be had by all.

Oh, and I forgot to mention. It’s a free event, and there will be food provided. April 27, 8 AM – 5 PM. Register now!


Kindle Fire HD initial thoughts

Raegan got a Kindle Fire HD for Christmas, and I have to say I’m loving this device. When she got the iPad, I tried to play around with it, but I never really liked it. Don’t get me wrong, Bejeweled was great, but that’s all I used it for. Even using it to watch Netflix in bed was all wrong; it was too heavy.

But this device is a pleasure to use. It is lightweight, responsive, thin, and the material on the back is very pleasing to hold. The iPad was too metallic for me. It was cold and more than once slipped out of my hands and hit me in the face while watching a movie in bed. No good.

I also enjoy being able to purchase from something other than iTunes. That makes me happy.

I haven’t done too much with this in the couple hours I’ve played with it. I have read a chapter from The Hobbit, installed some apps, and type this blog post. My biggest disappointment is that a pdf document in my SharePoint library won’t download properly. The other thing I’m having trouble with is the autocorrect. A lot of words keep getting ting changed. Also, I tend to hit the “b” instead of the space bar. That’s annoying. Typing on my Windows Phone 8 has been my favorite experience, iPad is terrible and Kindle is very good.

I’m sure there are more features I will love, and some features I will miss, but this is a device I am really pleased with so far.


This is me, using the camera.


Windows 8 Dev Build Released

And Windows developers across the world breathe a sigh of relief, as the Windows 8 Build team announces that Windows 8 will support apps written in HTML5/Javascript, C/C++, and/or C#/XAML. This is a huge weight off our shoulders, as many feared that we would have to leave behind our C# skills and move to HTML5/Javascript. I don’t mind Javascript for web coding, but to have to build all my apps like that would just be a nightmare.

The Dev preview of Windows 8 will be available later tonight, and I’ll be downloading the x64 Dev ISO and installing it to a VM forthwith. :-D


Hyper-V in Windows 8

I just read a post from the Windows 8 team that says they’re going to be including Hyper-V in the client, and that it will fully support hibernation and sleep. That makes me so happy. I just took my home machine that was happily running Windows 7 and added a drive to run Windows Server 2008 R2 full-time. I desperately needed a development environment, and VirtualBox wasn’t cutting it for me.

I am looking forward to the day I can run a client OS and still get the development environment I need. I currently have a dev domain running a domain controller, a Lync 2010 server, a MOSS dev environment, and a SP2010 dev environment. I might even stand up a Denali box, if I get some free time.

Server 2008 R2 does a decent job of emulating a client OS, except for one critical point that just ticks me off. Zune will not run on it. I have tried my best to get this to install with no luck. It saddens me. So if I want to run Windows 7 on my beefy home box to host 64-bit guests, I have to use third-party virtualization in the form of VirtualBox (free) or VMWare Workstation (pricey). I need to use a lot of training VHDs provided by Microsoft for my training sessions, and I don’t have the heart to convert them to VMX. I have had mixed results in the past. VirtualBox runs VHDs natively, but I couldn’t get them to work with the admittedly complicated setups that are the Microsoft training virtuals. Hyper-V was my only choice.

So back to the announcement regarding Windows 8. Here is a salient quote by John Howard [MSFT] in the comments:

@mktos & Dmitry – no, you will not lose the ability to put the physical machine to sleep when the Windows Hypervisor is running in Windows 8. This is a significant change we did to enable bringing Hyper-V to the client. Virtual machines which are running will be put into a saved state, and resumed when the machine wakes.



Now this of course doesn’t really affect my home desktop, of course, but I will definitely be upgrading my laptop to Windows 8 as soon as I can to take advantage of this. It will be so nice to copy my dev VM from one machine to the other as needed and not have to rely on an internet connection to get to my dev environment.

One other thing to mention is that this aforementioned blog post has an excellent description about why wireless networking was nearly impossible to bind in Hyper-V in the past, and how they have solved that problem. That is very exciting news as well. Check out the new Hyper-V in action in a developer’s build of Windows 8.

I’m so excited about this next client OS it’s just silly. I’m a big fan of the metro interface found on Windows Phone 7, and I think it will be interesting to see how that is brought to the desktop world.


Tech Ed 2011 Winding Down and Ramping Up

Day 4
So I mentioned in my last post that I was going to enter the Speaker Idol competition. Well, I entered as a wild card and actually won my heat! I got some excellent feedback from the judges and after tweaking my presentation I’m now ready for the final competition today at 11:45. I’m definitely a bit nervous, and I hope I don’t make a fool out of myself.

I actually overslept this morning, so I rolled in at 10:45ish. I didn’t make it to bed until about 3:30 am because I was packing and getting ready to head out this evening. I think it’s good that I didn’t try to stumble in here at 7 am… I would have been dead. I can catch the sessions I missed this morning online after I get back.

It is amazing how many sessions there are. Any session you end up in is going to be full of information you can use. I’m most interested in getting the great tidbits out of the speakers like “if you set it up with this option enabled you’re in for a world of pain” or “the first thing to check if things go wrong is that Excel hasn’t decided to disable the add-in”. Real-world experience from these guys is awesome.

Yesterday (Day 3) I attended a presentation called Creating a Custom Service Application in SharePoint 2010. This was one of the best, most in-depth presentations I attended. The speaker said he made a conscious decision not to show any code or demos because he wanted to teach the concepts. In 75 min we could have watched him copy chunks of code here and there, but our eyes would have bled and it wouldn’t have been as helpful as actually going over the concepts. As a result, I know have a fantastic idea of how the service applications work together and how the Service Proxies actually work in SharePoint 2010. I had a vague notion before the conference of how it worked.


Live from TechEd 2011!

Because my company, MicroLink, is awesome, they sent me to TechEd down in Atlanta this year. So I’m here, inundated with knowledge and t-shirts. It’s day 3 of the 4 day conference, and I’m fairly overwhelmed. I wanted to blog more, but I literally have not had time. So here’s my recap:

Day 0
Flew down with Raegan and the boys. Walked from the hotel down to registration, only 7 blocks but seemed longer when factoring in hills. Check-in was pretty cool… touch screen computers and the like. Raegan said, “this is a nice registration… is this a multi-million dollar event?” Um, ya. :-D 10,000 geeks * $2000 = $20,000,000. That doesn’t take into account the sponsorship stuff. And this is a smallish Tech-Ed. Then I got my first T-shirt. Dinner at Das Biergarten was phenomenal. Best jagerschnitzel since Germany. I will definitely find my way back to this restaurant before I leave.

Day 1
This was the first day of the conference. After the Children’s Museum with a local friend, Raegan took the boys and drove on to Florida to see their grandparents. That’s a good thing, because my week is packed. The keynote was good, but I was hoping to see more cool things announced. I guess it’s an off-year. I will say that I’m very impressed with the next version of Visual Studio. That’s some very nice integration they have going on from developers all the way to stakeholders. I attended some sessions and got my first 10 or so t-shirts.

Day 1.5
Most people went to the welcome party at 6 pm after the daily deluge of information. I instead went to the Windows Phone 7 Hackathon. This was a 5-hour marathon coding session where the goal was to get an app sent to the marketplace in exchange for an unlocked Samsung Focus. I did not quite get my app completed, but I still was eligible to receive the phone! So they’re sending that to me, hopefully it will arrive soon after I get back. I had a great time talking directly with the Windows Azure guys. My app involves transcoding video streams in the cloud and delivering them real-time to the app on the phone. The Azure guys were very interested in what I was doing and at one point I had 5 guys from the Azure team helping me whiteboard my solution. Very, *very* cool. I left the 5-hr marathon after 6.5 hrs and crashed in the hotel.

Day 2
Bright and early in the morning got on the shuttle to the convention center. Today I attended a great session on PowerPivot architecture. This was a crazy in-depth presentation where I learned about the PowerPivot architecture forward and back. The focus was on techniques to find where the solution breaks. This was a great session for me since so much of what I do daily is getting dozens of applications to play nicely. Lots of great information. At the end of the day, I went to Tabernacle and listened to some amazing displays of musical talents among my fellow geeks. Wonderful stuff.

Day 3
Got a massage courtesy of the Exchange Server booth. Best booth ever. Now I’m going to try to get into the wildcard slot for the presentation competition. Winner gets a speaking slot at next year’s Tech Ed!

More to come later.


Claims Authentication in SharePoint 2010


Remote BLOB Storage in SharePoint 2010