An aspiring jazz trumpet player's blog about jazz improvisation and ear training.

March 7, 2009 Jazz Blog 3 Comments

The February that wasn't

It’s been almost two months since my last article on this jazz blog. Some of you have already asked what I’ve been up to, so I figured I’d let all of you know what I’ve been doing. I’ve been working… a lot!

The past seven weeks have been a blur as I raced to complete an entirely new project for work. I realize this project might only interest my geeky readers, but since a lot of you are trumpet players, I know there’s a pretty high geek to non-geek ratio! So, here are some details…. The project is called Tropo, and it allows you to create interactive voice applications with common programming languages like JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, Python, and Groovy. For example, here’s a very simple JavaScript application:

say("Hey man. I was doing all right. Shoo be doo be doo.");

Can you guess what it does? Call it at 206-607-8934.

On the Tropo project, I was responsible for designing and building the website, which includes account registration, file creation and editing, and application management. I created the initial site by myself, but I did get help from a couple of coworkers during the final few weeks. It’s with their help (especially StevenB -- Thanks!) that I was able to get everything polished and ready for the launch. You can visit the site yourself at www.tropo.com. If you build a cool application, let me know!

tropo screenshot

In many ways it’s exciting to work on a new project like this. I got to use some new technologies for the first time, including Google Web Toolkit, and I had a mostly blank slate to create whatever I wanted. That type of freedom comes rarely in day-to-day work, and it’s something I really enjoy. The downside, however, is that I only had seven weeks to design and build all of it, since we were planning to unveil it at this year’s eComm conference.

Seven weeks of 12+ hour days, including weekends, takes its toll. This is especially true if you’ve got other things you like to do in your life, like, say, playing the trumpet. And as my trumpet-playing readers know, the trumpet isn’t especially forgiving if you don’t practice regularly. I, for one, need about 20 minutes of practice, five days a week, just to maintain my current level of playing. And that’s just basic trumpet stuff. On top of that, I also need to account for jazz improvisation and ear training practice. Unfortunately, with time in such short supply during the Tropo project, I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time on the horn as usual. I didn’t lose too much ground, but I can safely say that I haven’t improved at all during the past couple of months. Oh well, now you know why I haven’t posted any new jazz improvisation clips this year.

Last Tuesday was the big day for the Tropo product launch. It was an event that I was looking forward to, not only because I was finally going to put this crazy workload behind me, but also because I was genuinely proud of what I had accomplished in relatively little time. Unfortunately, the launch day wouldn’t turn out to be much of a celebration for me.

At 6am, on the morning of the Tropo product launch, I began to see intermittent connectivity errors with the server that hosts iwasdoingallright.com. The next thing I knew, the site was down. Making matters worse, I still had several things to do for the Tropo launch, so I couldn’t spend any quality time troubleshooting my server. In total, this website, the ear training tools, my personal email, and the other sites that I host were down for almost 48 hours (sorry!). I eventually discovered that the firewall appliance had died. Once a new firewall was installed, everything started working again, but the outage definitely caused a lot of unneeded stress.

Well, now you know what I’ve been up to, and why I haven’t had any time to update this jazz blog until today. Hopefully things will calm down now, and I can get back to cursing my trumpet instead of my job!

Comment by Toby Ho

Very cool stuff, Rick. I am in the same line of work, and I am very impressed.

Comment by Rob

Great work Rick. I called the number so now we finally know what you sound like! Are you related to Stephen Hawking by any chance?

Can your API also accept and interpret phone keypad input for say PIN number entry?


Comment by Rick

Hi Toby and Rob, thanks for the nice comments!

@Rob: Yes, the system can accept keypad input (known as DTMF input). It also supports voice recognition so you could have a prompt like "press or say 1 to check your bank account". Here's some sample code if you're interested: http://docs.tropo.com/samples:javascript-sample


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