Internet

18th June
2009
written by simplelight

jQuery Tools is a great UI javascript library for web designers

16th June
2009
written by simplelight

Twubs is a great website for tracking a specific Twitter hashtag. For instance, you can follow the post-election chaos in Iran in real time. The window below shows the current activity surrounding the election in Iran. It was getting over 1000 messages per minute on June 16, 2009.

10th June
2009
written by simplelight

If you use Google Analytics’ Site Overlay functionality, it occasionally results in a white or gray haze over your website which prevents you from clicking on any of the links.

The good news is that your browser is the only one affected (none of your customers will see the same effect). All you have to do to fix the problem on your end is clear your cookies (specifically a cookie called GASO).

1st June
2009
written by simplelight

I’ve been playing around with Wolfram Alpha’s new computational knowledge engine and it seems to need a lot of work before it becomes more than an exotic curiosity. I entered the following query:

US Debt / US GDP

and it returns the following answer:

0.585 years (2007 estimate)

I’m not sure how to interpret that but it seems ominous!

29th May
2009
written by simplelight

The thought of managing accounts with 450 different ad networks made my head hurt so I signed up with Rubicon Project .  They claim to optimize the ads on your blog and show better performing ads more frequently. It’s been running for over a week on my blog and (as you can probably see on the sidebar to the right), I’m still running public service ads for the Red Cross. The dashboard on Rubicon Project’s website says that it’s still activating, though.

Update: The reason no ads were running is that I had forgotten to add baseline ad tags from Google and Rubicon Project has limited inventory in the 200×200 size that I had chosen (since it fits nicely in my sidebar). Their customer service is very helpful, though, and they were excellent at clarifying what I’d done wrong.

28th May
2009
written by simplelight

If you want to share video and visual information from your desktop you should check out Dyyno. They have combined some pretty cool video compression technology with a peer-to-peer networking layer and the result is very slick.

Their technology provides the plumbing for Xfire’s live video service. It’s still in beta but if you need a WoW fix, that’s the site to visit.

14th August
2008
written by simplelight

I’ve been watching the Olympics on TV Tonic’s platform. NBC collaborated with TV Tonic to provide viewers with the ability to watch the Olympics over the internet.

Some scattered thoughts in no particular order:

  1. It’s great that NBC has finally realized that some of us want to watch the Olympics over the web and this is a huge leap forward from prior years.
  2. NBC apparently managed to sell ad space to only one company: Lenovo. I used to contemplate buying a Lenovo laptop. After watching the same ad 15-20 times a day I can now say I will never buy a Lenovo laptop.
  3. It’s great to be able to watch sports sequentially. I no longer have to have gymnastics coverage interrupted with rowing. Far less time is wasted.
  4. The user interface becomes somewhat unuseable after a while. It’s difficult to see which events you’ve watched, they don’t always seem to appear in chronological order. Also, it would be nice to be able to remove the heats and only download the finals. Even better would be able to specify exactly which events to download rather than having NBC decide for us.
  5. I realize that nothing is live for us poor saps in the USA but posting the content more than 24 hours later makes a mockery of the idea of live sport.
  6. It’s a pity the water polo isn’t broadcast in higher definition. The compression algorithm completely choked with all the water and the end result is that you can’t see the ball. That detracts from the experience but leads to my next point…
  7. We all want HIGH DEFINITION. You’re making us wait until the next day to watch the events everyone was talking about at work….at least give it to us in high definition. People watching the Olympics over the web have a decent setup. You should cater to them or risk ending up on the scrap heap of failed internet video start ups.
  8. Those Chinese gymnasts definitely aren’t 16. (That was obvious even on the low def video that NBC slopped up to us.) Let’s call it what it is: CHEATING
  9. Phelps is a legend in any quality video.
1st August
2008
written by simplelight

Unfortunately, the New Relic performance monitor for Ruby on Rails doesn’t work with mod_rails (Passenger). According to a support email from them it currently “only supports mongrel and thin (without sockets)”. They plan to support Passenger in the future. That’s great news because they provide an excellent performance monitoring tool which is very easy to install and use.

Update: New Relic has added support for mod_rails. I received this email from their excellent customer support:

I was just digging through my support emails and found a few people who had inquired about RPM supporting Phusion Passenger, aka mod_rails.

 

I wanted to let you know that we released a version of the agent with ‘beta’ support for Passenger.

 

If you’re interested, check it out and let us know how it works for you!

 

To try it out, just do:

 

script/install –force http://svn.newrelic.com/rpm/agent/newrelic_rpm

 

Bill Kayser

New Relic RPM Developer

 

1st July
2008
written by simplelight

Every now and then it is forcefully driven home to me that Linux is not yet ready for mass adoption. I have been trying to set up my back / forward mouse buttons on Feisty Fawn. There is no reason why this should be difficult but the official instructions are alarmingly non-deterministic! Exhortations to “experiment” are just plain annoying. Plug and Play (TM) might not be perfect but it gets the job done most of the time.

25th June
2008
written by simplelight

I was once a respected coder. But for 5 years I’d designed ASIC’s using Verilog (where everything happens at once) and then for 5 years I’d turned to business. And it all changes in a decade. I’d let my skills lapse and in the interim C++ had morphed to Java and then suddenly CPU’s got really fast and scripting was back in vogue. 

I realized that my CS undergrad was quickly becoming worthless. Web programming was a complete mystery to me. (Whether that was really a problem is a philosophical question beyond the scope of a humble blog entry). Here is my road to recovery. In bullet point form amenable to PowerPoint and as buzzword compliant as possible.

Jan 1st, 2008: Resolve to brush up on programming skills.

Which language should I learn? Web development seems cool….what’s involved in that? Narrowed it down to a) the LAMP stack or b) Ruby on Rails. Do I want to be a) paid as a programmer or b) hip ?

I went with Hip. Rails it is.

Here are the steps (and mistakes) I took on the road to recovery:

  1. Linux – I remember that: “ls -al” and all that. It’s the sine qua non for a real programmer.
  2. [email protected](k. That’s a lot of variants of Linux. Go with Ubuntu because I’m semi-African.
  3. Hmm… Windows XP is standard issue at work.
  4. Get an old PC from my IT guy. Spend an entire day installing Ubuntu. Realize I’m now a web programmer so start again and install the server version. What the hell? What’s involved with web programming anyway. Will I be writing the client or the server?
  5. Call college roommate who is on “tiger team” at Yahoo. He says: “Buy Pickaxe“. Sold. In a flash of environmental sympathy I buy the PDF version. It also saves $10. Print it out on corporate printer. Double sided to save the environment.
  6. Need the Rails part: Buy “Agile Web Development with Rails“. We invested in an Agile software company so “agility” must be good.
  7. Start reading. In the interest of time and an anxiety to see the global greeting I dispense with Linux and deploy InstantRails on Windows –> Instant gratification. (Nice to see those programmer types have dropped their antipathy towards Microsoft. I’m a web programmer. Even if it’s only on localhost. (Wow: It’s only February and I could compete with Amazon if I wanted to and if I knew where to buy all the books for my bookstore)
  8. I have a bookstore up and running. No one can see it. That’s ok….how hard can deployment be.
  9. March. Deploytment is hard. People don’t recommend Windows. Could I be the only person writing Ruby code in a Rails environment on Windows XP. Seems to be from my google searches.
  10. Let’s reinstall Ubuntu Linux.
  11. Install ruby gems. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat. Check dependencies. Rinse Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.
  12. Install MySQL. (It’s nice that I don’t need to think too much about the database. Seems like something business people should concern themselves with).
  13. Stuff is working. Slow as all hell on this ancient PC but what the hell. People will wait for the page to load.
  14. Becoming a problem that I can only work on my hobby at work. Can’t afford another PC at home.
  15. VMware to the rescue. Downloading an Ubuntu VM on my home PC is a cinch. And hip. Which is important.
  16. Realize I need a real hosting service. (Weeks of agonizing research). Settle on Dreamhost. (I love those guys!)
  17. Deploy app. Hmmm…this is a [email protected](k1ng nightmare!
  18. Passenger (mod_rails) is released a few days later. I realize I’m back on the cutting edge. Deployment is now piss easy.
  19. www.assetcorrelation.com (Live as of June 1st, 2008 — 5 months start to finish)
  20. Start to harass Google to show me some organic search love.

It’s been a wild ride. And not as hard as I thought. In the end, we return to the beginning. I still hate writing test benches. Hacking is still fun. And not having deadlines is the way to go. :)

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