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Scott's Column
The Future, Server Migration Almost Complete, Photography Business Summary

February 1, 2015
By Scott Lewis

This month we should be able to wrap up the server upgrades, and I will ponder the direction of this site. But most interesting (to me) is the summary of cost of starting my photography business. Enjoy!

Current Topics:

The Future

Last month I completely forgot to upload the two columns I had worked on in December (and should have published on January 1st). I forgot so badly, that it was around the 9th of January that I realized I forgot. So I forgot that I forgot. Yikes!!!

And here in lies the problem. I don't have enough time to give this site. I detailed some of this at the end of my Car Corner column. I apologize if there is some redundancy here.

I am spending a good deal of my spare time with photography. January was slow because I was sick, and because the weather sucks for automotive photography. But I am already starting to get some work flowing again. Which means less time for this site.

I don't want to completely abandon this site, but I am afraid the quality of the content is going to suffer (and I believe it already has anyway).

At the least I am going to have to reduce the number of columns. My concern is how many columns do I maintain. I like putting my passion for cars & photography on this site. And since those two are aligning at the moment, I can kind of get away with merging them. But photography is more like a technical topic, so it doesn't really belong in an automotive column.

Add to that I like telling about my life lessons. The apartment search I am doing right now, complex server upgrades at work, upcoming Windows 10, Home Network Storage, Camera Gear, Apartment life, etc., etc., etc.

Should I have two columns, and then possibly not have enough time for both, so each becomes irregular? Or do I try to have one column that covers such a wide variety of topics that it doesn't have anything for anyone.

I will be thinking about this in the coming weeks. We will see where this goes.

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Server Migration Continues

The first few paragraphs below were written in December before the holidays. I forgot to publish it on Jan 1st. We have done more, so this is a two month update on the server upgrades. Enjoy!

We are close to finishing the server migration. I setup the last two composition servers. Just before the holidays... the operations team was pushing us to upgrade these last two servers. There is a bit of a story with that.

So... the last server that needs to be upgraded has the previous version of our composition software on it. This in itself is not of a major concern. However, the client side of this software is causing issues within the organization. We use Acrobat Professional to create templates. The previous version of the software does NOT work with Acrobat 11. We are still using Acrobat 8, which has many vulnerabilities.

The operations team has known of this for a long time, and did not help in getting everything together for my server upgrades. I am not even sure they have purchased all the copies of Acrobat Professional 11 we will need for those workstations. We can't upgrade the clients first, because the software on the servers will stop with a message about a template made in a future version of the software. So the server needs to be upgraded before the clients.

The operations team wanted us to do the server upgrade in December, and only complained loud enough that so that the only day possible would be Dec 20th. Yikes. And me with only 2 days after that before my vacation started. Fortunately my boss backed me up and pushed back. He said we would only do the upgrade on the 20th if it was the last problem with the vulnerability issues for the company. Of course, it was not. They complained about it but clearly they were making a lot of noise since they were way behind on meeting their deadline of the end of 2014. Oops!

So the final server install was set for January 10th. I have a massive list of steps needed to get this done...including migrating a little more than 500 GB of data, which alone will take probably 6-8 hours. Of course, I will copy the vast majority of the files over a few days early.

They provided a file/print server for our disc storage needs. They gave us 800 GB, which should last us two years before we need to expand that. From the way this was described I have my doubts about the storage. We asked for it for weeks, and then they finally came up with something at the last minute (due to the issue of meeting the vulnerability deadline above). So I feel the final disc solution was rushed. I get the impression we have just a another virtual file/print server at our disposal. This means my servers will access the storage as a regular share across the network. I hope that is fast enough.

The last time we had disc space connected to the composition servers we are replacing, it was connected by fiber optic channels, not through the network. I am not in a position to complain without knowing the details that they hide from me.

So... here we are... we did the server upgrade on Jan 10th. It did not go as smoothly as I expected. I made one error, and the server team did something that completely through me for a loop.

The error I made was to a script to update lookup values in an Oracle table. It changed far more values than I expected. It took me about an hour to correct all the values in the lookup table manually (and actually missed a couple that cause issues with other systems afterwards, oops).

The problem caused by the server team was in the way they created the file/print server. They put it on a different domain. What???? Yes, all of the servers and workstations I deal with are all on the same domain. Yet they put the file storage server on a completely different domain. I have no idea why. And this lead to me having to rewrite a bunch of Oracle scripts that pointed to the new server. Normally, when all my servers are on the same domain I just reference the server by ServerName. Because the file/print server is on a different domain, I have to change every reference to it to be ServerName.DomainName.com. What a pain in the ass.

If you recall from above (written over a month ago) I was already concerned with this server and its ability to provide the disc space fast enough. Now I am twice as worried.

It took a few days to get every last little detail worked out. We seemed to have a lot of issues with printing. Mostly it was just because of timing. We were pushing the system to make up for the time we were down doing the upgrade. And some work had not flowed right away because a couple of lookup values have not been completely found (due to the domain name issue).

The week of 1/12 - 1/16 was mostly spent getting this working as normally as possible. The business side doesn't know any better, so they complained too loudly over every little thing. I can't blame them. We did a major upgrade over the weekend. They assumed anything wrong was due to the server upgrade. It was not.

I am still left with 1 outstanding issue directly due to the server upgrade. The two newest servers connect to the file/print server in a special way. They run a batch file that maps the file/print server as a drive letter, then change to that letter and folder and run the composition software. As far as the composition software is concerned it sees the files in that folder as local. We are getting about 6-10 jobs a day failing. After enough testing, I was able to determine that just re-running the jobs exactly the same way a second time worked just fine.

I still don't know why we would get different results at different times. I suspect it is the file/print server. If the composition software is having the slightest issue with speed to the disc space... I could envision it putting a hiccup in the output file. I would much prefer an error message that I can deal with, and use to get it to re-run the job before the business tries to print it. But this is all speculation. I do not know what the real issue is yet.

So... we have all our new virtual servers in place and running. We still have several apps to move off a couple of servers onto their replacements. That will take a couple of months. It won't be critical, just time consuming and tedious.

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Photography Business Summary

The numbers are in. I started doing photography as a part time business in 2014. I started keeping track of all my photography expenses in January of 2014, in the event I would need to have it. My total expenses for 2014 was $3,573.31, and my total revenue for 2014 was $3,144.81.

That is a net loss of $428.50. Not too bad for the first year of a business. Granted that does not include mileage on my car, which is tax deductible (@ 56 cents a mile). My mileage deduction for 2014 is $1,250.09. That brings the total loss for 2014 to $1,678.59. So kinda bad.

But let's take a closer look at this. My expenses for the first 3 quarters of 2014 was $1,671.26 with mileage expense of $1,082.98, for a total of $2,754.24. During this time I only had revenue of $176. So my loss for Q1 - Q3 was $2,578.24.

Let's see what Q4 was by itself. Expenses were $1,902.05 with mileage expenses of $167.10. OK, the mileage is low. I knew I was not close to a profit for 2014, so I did not record every single time I used my car for photography. Mostly this was very local stuff, and really would have not been more than another $200 anyway. Regardless of my careless mileage recording... we have total expenses for Q4 of $2,069.15. Revenue for Q4 was... wait for it... $2,968.81. Which means for Q4 I made a profit of $899.66.

Whoo-Hoo! About $900 over 3 months. That is still not enough to justify doing this long term. I need to make at least twice that to justify all my time. At a profit of $600 a month, after income taxes, it is about $5,000 a year. Which is the minimum I want to make for all the time I am investing.

What's next?

Let's take a quick look at what I have... which is a unique look that I developed myself. My use of one flash with a simple strip soft box to create a blacked out background is something no one else is doing. I do need to improve my natural light photography... especially location photography.

I have become the "official" club photographer for the South Alamo Chapter of the Ferrari Club of America. I need to try and expand that into the Austin club. Then I need a way into the Lamborghini, Porsche & Corvette clubs. I also am in tight with some Rolls Royce people and hopefully that will expand as well.

Now for the big news... there is a small chance this could expand exponentially. I can't be too specific yet (it is not public information), but an interesting opportunity has come up. A new automotive business is starting up with a couple of my clients. They want me to do all the photography for this business... to the point it would provide me a 1200 sq.ft. photo studio. That means real overhead, but the opportunity for more work (hopefully a lot more work). I am also trying to swing this into a full time gig. It is a small chance, but if the business takes off, I should know by the end of 2015 if I may be changing carriers in 2016.

How's that for a fast ramp up as a part time photographer in a very niche market.

Of course... if I were willing to take more pictures of people I could make more money. And I will probably have to do that. I have been asked a couple of times if I do portrait work. I told those people that I do not work well with children, but I am willing to do it if they are willing to get the kids to smile (the part I HATE).

Hopefully my recap of 2015 will be even more exciting than my recap for 2014. See you next year for that.

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Conclusion

That's it for this month. I have a special photography project I started this month I will tell you about next time. The interesting part of this project... I did NOT take any of the photographs, and I will only be displaying them in my new apartment. See you next month (maybe).

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