Friday, March 31, 2006

Textpad and ant

Did you know that you could get textpad to easily call ant for you? This allows you to compile your code from inside of textpad and jumpt to errors.

Why you want to do this? Well, in cases where installing Eclipse would be more of a hassle (both in time to install, setup and train), textpad is a nice middle ground. Especially, because the folks around here have textpad handily available.

A quick search for textpad ant compile in google found me the perfect page. Except for one small detail, the link was dead. Thanks to Google's cache though, this was no problem.

So, here are the recommended instructions. Thanks to Tom Wilczak (whover he is) for suggesting the following:


  • First get all your environment variables set--if you are able to run Ant from the command line you should be fine.
  • In TextPad, select Configure -> Preferences then highlight Tools
  • Click the add button, and select DOS command
  • Enter "ant -find" in the Command field
  • Click the apply button.
  • In the left pane, expand "Tools" and highlight "ant -find"
  • Make sure that the 'capture output' and 'save all documents first' options are selected. You may also want to select 'Prompt for parameters', as this will allow you to run the other ant targets besides the default project build (ie: Ant clean, ant test, etc.)
  • Enter the following in the 'Regular Expression to Match Output' field:
         ^[ \t]+\[javac\] \([A-Za-z]:[^:]+\):\([0-9]+\):
    
  • Set the File Register to 1, and the Line Register to 2.
  • Click the apply button.

To run Ant, select it from the "Tools" menu while editing any project source file. The build.xml file may be in the same directory, or any ancestor directory.

To jump to the offending line on a compiler error, double click the second line of the error message. This works only for compiler errors and not for failed tests.

You can also configure the tools to run from your choice of keyboard shortcuts by selecting the Keyboard option in the preferences box, and selecting tools. The rest should be self explanatory.

Subversion Cheat Sheet

Subversion Cheat Sheet

I've started playing with subversion - a sort of next generation CVS. It seems to do everything CVS does, but with improvements (one big item: directories are under version control, just like files).

I found the above cheat sheet and it seems like a very useful reference.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Conferencing on the cheap

I'm all for cutting costs, but I think this is getting a bit silly. It's time to invest in a longer phone cord.

Though it does make for interesting games of conference-call-limbo.

--Ben

Wisdom Of Crowds - the quick version

I just listened tonight to a talk by the author of Wisdom Of Crowds, James Surowiecki. The talk essentially gives a summary of the book by the author himself ( a rare opportunity!)

The theory of the book is simple - groups of poeple, under the right circumstances, can be much more accurate in making decisions than even the smartest individuals. This holds true for even especially wicked problems.

At first this seemed a bit of a crazy notion - afterall, I've had my fair share of group meetings in the past that were hardly wildly productive. But after listening to James, I really think he's on to something big.

Do yourself a favor and listen to the talk. At the very least, read the Wikipedia entry. Then, when you are so impressed, listen to the talk.

Via: Start-Up 2.0 - A Beginners Guide.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Official Google Blog: And we're back

Official Google Blog: And we're back

I just love this post. If the great Google can screw up and accidently delete their own blog, then us mere mortals can probably be forgiven too if we make the occasional production system mistake.

Making us feel better when we screw up....one more reason to love Google.

IT Conversations: Clayton Christensen - Capturing the Upside

IT Conversations: Clayton Christensen - Capturing the Upside

The above is a link to a talk by Clayton Christensen from two years ago (3/17/2004). While it's a little dated, it's still a good listen.

Clayton wrote The innovator's Dilemma, which is a popular book among startup folks (any book that says a tiny company can kill a big company is going to be popular among small companies...). I've tried to get through the book a couple of times, but I've never made it all the way through. I always seem to get lost in the first few chapters. Perhaps it's all the jargon, or the lack of relevant examples (disk drive manufacturing is just not as exciting as one might think), regardless I just never connected with the book. So it was really nice to hear him talk through some of his ideas. Perhaps this is the motivation I need to try again.

The premise of his talk is that he's introducing a theory for one reason businesses fail. He goes out of his way to emphasize that it is a theory, and that we need more theories in the business world. Why? One of the reasons he gave is that we typically make business decisions based on data. But you only have data on the past, which means that by the time you have the data it's the signal that you are at the end of the game, not that you need to start changing. A theory allows you to predict how something will behave, allowing you to act before the data has shown you a problem.

How valid his theory is? I think it's pretty good - certainly worth hearing out. Some parts of the theory make great sense (like how you should pick an unserved market, versus an already served market) and others didn't make sense (he talks about how Linux is modular and Windows isn't - which I'm not sure I agree with).

If you are a small company, you should probably take an hour and give it a listen. It could be just what you need to topple IBM, GM, and lots of other companies that have accroyms for names.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

British Surivival Guides

Having a conversation with Simon can be tricky - as we both speak English, but he speaks The Queen's English, while I speak American.

To help improve things, he suggested site to englighten me about certain Britishisms

A quick Google search turned up this page, which includes some handy mappings between British and American.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm just knackered, and this rubbish I've been dealing with today makes me wish I could just put on my plimsolls and go for fornoon trip on my motorbike. However, I'll just settle with knocking up my wife instead. Ringing off now.

Quick (Apache) Logging Hack

I needed to know if a browser was sending us the expected JSESSIONID cookie. So, rather than hack our code (or, heaven forbid, add logging statements), I simply added a custom log like:

CustomLog logs/cookies_log "%t %r %{JSESSIONID}C"

All the % options can be found documented here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

AJAX -- where to start?

Tonight I wanted to delve into the wondeful world of AJAX. I knew better than to write my own backend library, as I figured there must be plenty of options out thre already.

Boy, was I right. I have to admit, I was a bit overwhelmed at first.

One of the trickiest parts seems to be understanding the realtionship between a bunch of the packages - and choosing one with both the right features and complexity to start off with.

At first I was leaning towards Rico - but the lack of docs, and the fact that it was built on top of Prototype caused me to have second thoughts. I decided to first understand Prototype and then go back and make use of Rico, and perhaps other libraries.

It took a tiny amount of digging, but sure enough, prototype is documented.

So what's Prototype all about? Well, first and formost, Prototype attempts to be an advanced JavaScript library, allowing you to do things in JavaScript easily. This ranges from getting a form field value, to iterating through an array. It has a nice and lisp'ish feel (lots of uses of anonymous functions), so I feel quite at home. If you do nothing with AJAX, but write plenth of JavaScript, this is worth checking out just for it's utilities.

Next, it has some components to do AJAX. This turns out to be a handful of simple objects to make communicating between a server and the browser as easy as possible. In the end, the AJAX part of Prototype isn't that large or hard to understand.

So, as I said, my next plan is to play with Prototype a bit more and try to fully appreciate it. Then, I'll graduate to Rico where I can take advantage of it's clever effects and widgets.

This stuff really is cool, and not nearly as painful to learn when you remember - there's no magic to it, it's just the same JavaScript I've been writing for years.

See Google's Redesign Experiment

See Google's Redesign Experiment

Oooh, a neat little hack to get a peak at what Google's playing with. I'm not sure I see much value in the UI (yet), but it's cool none the less.

Book review: The Watchman

The book, The Watchman by Chris Ryan, started off on a rough note. The back of the book (OK, CD case) describes an intriguing story of escape and evasion during the Gulf War. This was in fact what triggered me to rent the book.

This turns out to be the author's personal story, not the content of the book (do'oh!).

Things didn't improve much from there. The vast majority of the story seemed nothing special. Yeah, one assasin is chasing around another assasin, but that's hardly anything to write home about.

Luckily, and as should be expected, the book mostly redeems itself with a pair of clever twists at the end. They are so clever in fact, that I've still been turning the completed book over in my head for the last few days. Any book that can make me do that was worth the read (or listen).

I give the book an 8.5/10 for enjoyability. The vast majority of the text I could do without, but final chapters make it all worth while.

--Ben

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Optical Illusions

Optical Illusions

I'm not sure why I'd ever need this site - but it just seems like it could come in handy. It's a collection of optical illusions.

Maybe this is just a good reminder that things aren't always as they appear...

Wired News: World's Greatest Tool: Duct Tape?

Wired News: World's Greatest Tool: Duct Tape?

You can never go wrong with an article about duct tape. Never. So here's one.

I even learned this new tidbit of information: Duct Tape is terrible at ... sealing up ducts. Odd. Luckily it's good for everything else.

Explaining and Fixing java.lang.OutOfMemoryError: PermGen

Explaining and Fixing java.lang.OutOfMemoryError: PermGen

I've never run into this type of OutOfMemoryError until recently. This article not only tries to help fix the issue (which boils down to setting -XX:PermSize) but more importantly, shows you how you can measure the memory usage.

If you can measure it, you can fix it.

Another First

My first boiler maker. Consumed at a local establishment - Witlows. I think the loud music and smoke had more of an effect on me than the drink.

This is all part of my alcohol education project, as instructed by Jenna.

It was lots of fun hanging out with the gang tonight, even if we did retire early because it was past my bedtime.

--Ben

Friday, March 24, 2006

Rush Hour

This was not my most fun morning. I was up till about 3am doing various stuff, and went to bed for a few hours of sleep before I had to meet someone at work at 7:00am.

One thing I know better than to do, but did anyway, was to set my alarm clock at 3am in the morning. I set it for 5:45 and went to bed.

At 6:28am Shira woke me up. Of course I had set the alarm to wake me at 5:45pm! (Wishful thinking, I guess).

I got cleaned up, got dressed, packed a lunch and took out the garbage all in about 10 minutes. I jumped in the car, and by some miracle, made it to work in record time. I arrived at the office at 6:57am. Whew.

I then checked myself over. Pants? Check. Matching shoes? Check. Laptop AND adapter? Check. Lunch? Check.

That is until I actually unpacked my lunch. In my haste I grabbed a made-for-the-oven knish instead of the microwave friendly pasta I intended.

I guess I'm just glad I brough the lunch and threw out the garbage, instead of the other way around.

Oh, and I'm also happy I wore pants. And so is the rest of the office.

--Ben

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Trafficonomy - How to Check if Your Listed and Ranking

Trafficonomy - How to Check if Your Listed and Ranking

It never occured to me that you could actually check and see if Google has indexed your pages properly. But of course, you can. Just try a google search like:

site:benjisimon.blogspot.com ben

Why this works is explained in the article above.

Now that I know about it, it makes Google just slightly less than a black box (it's now very, very, very dark gray).

Shoes on demand

I've bought quite a few things online before, but this is still a first - purchasing shoes online. (Got a great deal on furance filters, and where else does one get a midnight blue Acura paint pen?)

The other day Shira went shoe shopping without even getting out of her PJs. She found the perfect black shoes which were totally unlike the other 6 pairs of perfect black shoes she already owns. And bought them.

All I want know - is there a husband support group for this kind of thing?

--Ben

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Customizing Tomcat - Turning off directory listings

Customizing Tomcat

I was suprised how long I had to dig around to find the answer to the simple question -- "How do you turn off auto directory indexing in tomcat?"

You would think this woudld be a common request, as production sites should have this set.

Oh well, the answer is to find $CATALINA_HOME/conf/web.xml and look for the init-parameter named listings. Set this to false insead of true.

The above link explains it all.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Lyrics: We Didn't Start the Fire

We Didn't Start the Fire

After a healthy debate about the lyrics in Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire I decided to google them. (Is it: trouble in the Suez or trouble in the Sewers?)

I came across this site which not only provides the lyrics, but also links to each event in the song. Pretty neat idea and well executed (minus the bright yellow background and animated gifs).

How to Safely Get Rid of an Old Computer - WikiHow

How to Safely Get Rid of an Old Computer - WikiHow

I keep meaning to discard some of the old hardware that I've managed to collect over the years. I came across this article and it looks like it might be a good place to start for this endevor.

Anyone have any favorite ways of getting rid of that old black and white SUN workstation?

Contractor Wisdom

For the first time since we moved in, I had to change a lightbulb in the chandelier in our foyer. This reminded me of some sagly wisdow my contractor passed on to me at the time...

He explained to me that the chandelier is held into the cieling via a nut. And that over the years, as people clean and change the bulbs on the light, they ever so slightly twist the chandelier - causing the nut to get unscrewed. 20+ years of these minor movements causes the whole setup to collapase one day for seemingly no good reason. So be careful.

So there you have it - home ownership advice staight from a pro.

Now, for the life of me, why can't I remeber anything useful he attempted to show me....

--Ben

Monday, March 20, 2006

Work smarter, not louder

KFC claims victory in DVR-only commercial - Engadget

KFC pulled a little stunt - they took a single frame in their TV ad and put a coupon on it. Their theory - that DVR owners will find the frame and redeem it on their website.

This one little frame got 100,000 people to redeem the code and increased website traffic by 40% the following week.

Clearly this ad leveraged the viral nature of things like the web. And it did so by being subtle - not by trying to beat you over the head with the concept.

Can this stunt be pulled off again? Nope, I don't think so. But I bet there are plenty of other opportunities out there for people who want to be creative instead of just sitting around complaining that things aren't the way they used to be...

Entrepreneurial Proverbs

O'Reilly Radar > Entrepreneurial Proverbs

This is article is essentially a list of everything you never knew you needed to know about small business - all taught via proverbs. How can you go wrong?

Here's one that I especially liked:

Give people what they need, not what they say they need -- interviews are tricky. People will swear up and down that they would buy a product you describe if only it were available, and then fail to do so as soon as it is. Likewise, in conversation an idea can sound terrible, but in actualization the idea can become a compelling product. You have to sherlock out the truth of the interest people express, and "yes/no" questions are usually less useful than "how much" or "how bad" questions.

What's your favorite? Have any to add?

Via: The Entrepreneurial Mind.

Nasty AIM Virus

So, yesterday I got this odd AIM message from a coworker:

SomeOne9823: can I put this picture of you on myspace or facebook? http://xxx.yyy.com/1/087480967/files/yourpic02.pif

The message caught my eye, and I was just moments away from clicking on the link till I noticed the .pif extension. This of course is trouble - as a .pif is an executable program which more often then not is used to deliver viruses.

Sure enough, it's a virus and it's going through the office. I got IM'ed again with:

AnotherSomeone995: want to tell me what this is about? http://xxx.yyy.com/1/707994821/files/wtf.pif

I had the following thoughts during this attack:

  • If the person who had this much creativity to do something evil put it toward good, he/she could accomplish amazing things. (Who are we kidding? It's a he. And he's 13 years old. And angry.)
  • Just when you think a medium is virus free, think again.
  • One word: copycats.
  • How on earth can browsers still download and run .pif files that came from a fundamentally untrusted source like AIM without jumping up and raising a stink?
  • Why is that I can't send image attachments to people, yet I can still be infected using this primitive download-throug-the-browesr trick?

The good news is that the advice one gives for this virus attack is the same as all others. If you don't know what's behind that link/attachment, don't click on it. Ever.

House progress

The house across the street is getting a brick face. This officially transforms it from a tiny-nothing-special residence to an impressive home.

I totally didn't dee this coming, given what the builders had to start with. But I guess that makes them good builders - they don't see what is, they see what can be.

--Ben

Shoes at Zappos.com - The Web's Most Popular Shoe Store! Our shoe store features dress shoes, casual shoes, and athletic shoes for men and women!

Shoes at Zappos.com - The Web's Most Popular Shoe Store! Our shoe store features dress shoes, casual shoes, and athletic shoes for men and women! Multiple views of every shoe, and user reviews on individual pairs of shoes! Where do they get all this data? Regardless, they do a great job of selling shoes over the internet. Who knew?

Be smarter at work, slack off - Mar. 17, 2006

Be smarter at work, slack off - Mar. 17, 2006

This article mentions one of my favorite management books -- Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency by To m Demarco.

It's one of those books that you read and makes so much sense you wonder why you didn't think of the approach yourself.

If you are in a stressed out work environment, stop what you are doing, get the book, read it, then add slack. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Useful kitchen appliance

Mmmmm....fresh bread when you wake up.

I'm still amazed how much use we get from our bread maker, and that it wasn't just another kitchen appliance we've accumulated and never use.

I think what makes it so useful is the ratio of effort to results that it has. Add in a boxed mix that takes about 4 minutes to prepare (and almost not untensiles), set the timer for 14 hours, and poof, you've got the smell of fresh bread the next morning.

Our favorite recipies include Challah and pizza dough. The pizza dough is fun for company as you can have your guests add toppings to their own pizza before cooking and serving it.

It also helps that cleanup is a breeze.

I bet there are some lessons in here for designing any product people will use. Though I'll leave it to you to discover them. Me, I've got bread to eat.

--Ben

E-mail citations -- emacs does outlook

In some circles what you do with the text of an e-mail you are responding to is a big deal. There is one school of thought that is concerned with quoting too much text back to the user, not putting quoted text in the right order, and about half a dozen other rules.

And then there's another school of thought that says, copy the entire e-mail to the bottom of the message, and just start typing at the top.

While I'm usually in the camp that says to quote back messages properly, the majority of the world is in the latter. Why? One word, Outlook. It's the style used by Microsoft Outlook, so it's the style used by most of the world (and probalby lots of other e-mails too that are too weak to provide quoting functionality).

I use emacs to read my mail, and it comes with a very fancy Citation Engine. Which does remarkable things, yet, doesn't behave like Outlook. As a result, my e-mails stick out like a sore thumb.

Tonight I finally gave in and decided I would support Outlook style mail replies. Below is the code I used to support this. If you use emacs and want to blend in better with Outlookers, this code may be useful.

(defun outlook-style-citation ()
  "Quote back messages in an outlook style. I can't begin to describe
how ugly this is. But this is the style folks use."
  (let* ((start (point))
         (end (mark t)))
    (setq message-yank-prefix "")
    (setq message-yank-cited-prefix "")
    (setq message-reply-headers
          (save-restriction
            (narrow-to-region start end)
            (message-narrow-to-head-1)
            (vector 0 ; 0
                     (or (message-fetch-field "subject") "none") ; 1
                     (message-fetch-field "from") ; 2
                     (message-fetch-field "date") ; 3
                     (message-fetch-field "message-id" t) ; 4
                     (message-fetch-field "references") ; 5
                     0 0 "" ; 6, 7 , 8
                     (message-fetch-field "to") ; 9
                     (message-fetch-field "cc") ; 10
                     )))
    (message-indent-citation)
    (goto-char start)
 (unless (bolp)
   (insert "\n"))
    (insert "\n\n")                     
    (insert "-----Original Message-----\n")
    (insert (format "From: %s\n"  (aref message-reply-headers 2)))
    (insert (format "To: %s\n"  (aref message-reply-headers 9)))
    (if (aref message-reply-headers 10)
        (insert (format "Cc: %s\n"  (aref message-reply-headers 10))))
    (insert (format "Date: %s\n"  (aref message-reply-headers 3)))
    (insert "\n")
    (goto-char end)))


(defadvice message-yank-original (after goto-top)
  "Make sure we go to the top of our mail message after 
a yank."
  (re-search-backward "^--text follows this line--")
  (forward-line)
  (insert "\n\n--\n")
  (insert-file-contents message-signature-file)
  (re-search-backward "^--text follows this line--")
  (forward-line))
(ad-activate 'message-yank-original)

(defun message-cite-use-outlook ()
  "Make sure we are setup to use oultook citation style."
  (interactive)
  (ad-activate 'message-yank-original)
  (setq message-cite-function 'outlook-style-citation))

It's worth noting that the code marked with defadvice is actually advice to an existing function. This is more commonly known today as Aspect Oriented Programming. This has been a standard feature of emacs lisp for years.

To switch to Outlook citation mode, I just run the command message-cite-use-outlook and I'm good to go.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Piano Man

Tonight we got to see Billy Joel in concert. I must say, I was impressed. I thought he was both a good musician as well as a good showman tonight. The way he engaged the audience and played a range of styles (from rocker to piano soloist) was impressive.

It was also nice because he played every song I wanted to hear from him, and only a few I had never heard of.

There was one annoying part of the show - the drunk kids (ok, maybe they were adult age acting like kids). They were too loud at times when they should have been quiet - but in the end, it didn't matter. Billy put on a good show and we enjoyed it.

Sound clips to come when I get time to work on them...

--Ben

Us

Sorry, couldn't resist.

This was an overexposed accident that I think looks pretty cool.

--Ben

Business Cards -- leave home without them

Business Cards -- leave home without them.

This article suggests an interesting strategy to something we all take for granted: handing out business cards. The suggestion is this:

When a prospect asks you, "Do you have a business card?" say, "I don't have any on me. But give me yours, and I will put one of mine in the mail to you." Then, in conversation, qualify the prospect and find out his needs. When you get back to your office, send him the appropriate catalog, brochure, or other relevant literature on your products or services. Enclose one of your business cards with these marketing materials - fulfilling the promise you made to send it.

This is a clever concept and one worth remembering. Of course, you need to make sure you don't come across as unprepared and most importantly, you need a fair amount of chutzpah.

For now, I'll carry business cards. But every time I hand one out, I'll think of this article.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Lorem Ipsum - All the facts - Lipsum generator

Lorem Ipsum - All the facts - Lipsum generator

Need filler text for a layout or example? Need 5 paragraphs of text? Or 350 words? Or maybe 14 bullet points? Then you need the Lorem Ipsum generator.

Why should you care about auto generated text?

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout. The point of using Lorem Ipsum is that it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, as opposed to using 'Content here, content here', making it look like readable English. Many desktop publishing packages and web page editors now use Lorem Ipsum as their default model text, and a search for 'lorem ipsum' will uncover many web sites still in their infancy. Various versions have evolved over the years, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose (injected humour and the like).

(Discovered while looking for sites that would create place holder text for my ITD 210 students so they could play with CSS.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Arlington Alert

A while back I heard about this program in Arlington, VA where you can be alerted when critical events happen in the area (learn about the program here). They'll send you e-mail and an SMS message letting you know what's going on. I saw it, and thought "well, I should sign up for it...but chances are, if there's an emergency, I'll hear about it somewhere else first."

Boy was I wrong.

A few days ago we noticed a drop in water pressure. It turns out there was a massive water main break in the county. How did I learn about it? By first just ignoring the problem, and then calling a neighbor and finally by googling around. Had I been on Arlington Alert, I would have gotten an SMS message immediately. So I signed up.

And I was rewarded today with another SMS alert:

GW Parkway northbound is closed until further notice 
from Rt. 233 bridge to 395 due to police activity. SH

This is incredibly valuable information to know. I'm now totally sold on this whole alert via SMS thing.

One of the key questions is, can they manage to send out information with the right level of urgency? The above note is good because a major road was closed. But I certainly don't need to know about every traffic problem in the city.

Still, I think there's a valuable lesson in here. Give people the right data when they need it, and you've got a customer for life.

Tivo Adventure - Getting on the network

To continue our Tivo saga, our Verizon fiber line to the house made it so our Tivo couldn't phone home.

Tonight I installed a Tivo specific network card, cut a hole in my case, plugged it into the network, and set my dialing prefix to be ",#401".

And poof, my Tivo now grabs its data off the network! Problem solved. Wife pleased.

The next step is to make the Tivo accessible over telnet, so I can actuall play around with the box. But that can wait till another night.

Whoo!

--Ben

Scheme Pet Store -- Update

Tonight I updated the Scheme Pet Store to work with the latest version of SISC.

Why should you care? The Scheme Pet Store demonstrates the very powerful capabilities of Scheme (thanks to the SISCweb package) as a web application language.

Want to learn more? Follow the links below.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Purim Celebration

Tonight began the holiday of Purim. This is a fun one. The usually serious sancturay and service were turned into a laugh-out-loud telling of the book of Esther. Kids and adults were in costume, and there was plenty of joy to go around.

What are we so happy about? That the underdog won and that evil met its doom.

--Ben

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Me and <insert_name_here>

A bunch of photos with me and the kids, and of course one with Shira.

--Ben

Tivo news

The good news is that we got fiber to the house and a nice and zippy internet connection.

The bad news is that our Series 1 Tivo can no longer use it's dial up modem to get service data, because it doesn't work with fiber. Rendering the device almost useless.

The good news is that there's a hack to have it get this data by using the web.

The bad news is that our Tivo has no internet access.

The good news is that Shira just bought me an ethernet adapter as a gift, which should give us said access.

How's that for a bunch of news?

This week's project? Hack tivo to have it see the web.

--Ben

On top of the world (or at least Ben)

Photo-0028.jpg Originally uploaded by blumenth.

Fun with the fam

We played this morning while uncle Josh cooked breakfast. Check out the super picture of the cast of Purim characters.

--Ben

Kids tip: Coloring Books

Coloring Book - Colorings

With the kids in town, this site has turned out to be very useful. This site gives you access to tons of coloring book pictures that you can easily print off.

I also found it was quite easy to import the images into Photoshop and then just fill in the sections of the image with the pain bucket. This is more convienient than printing the image, and a fun twist on coloring time.

Via: ParentHacks.

The gang's here

We have a big chunk of the family here for the weekend. Boy, are we looking forward to lots of fun play time (with some geek time in between).

--Ben

Friday, March 10, 2006

Perfectionism

I have this book on tape which is the biography of Michael Jordon. I just re-found it again as it was in the car I just cleaned out.

I had it in there for a specific purpose, I wanted a backup book on tape to listen to if I ever needed one. The scenario in my head was that I might find myself on a long drive with nothing to entertain me, and I could reach back and grab this book. It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time.

The only flaw? I've never actually listened to the book. Not once. Shira saw the book and remarked that she had listened to it 6 (yes, six) years ago.

Now I have a new car that doesn't have a tape deck. So listening to this book just became a lot trickier.

See, I was waiting for this perfect scenario to happen, and it never did. As a result, I missed out on enjoying what is probably a fine book.

I didn't get the pleasure of hearing the book, but I did get a good life lesson. Don't wait for perfection, or all you'll get is waiting.

--Ben

Thursday, March 09, 2006

FishTagger

FishTagger

I came across this site when I did a google search for base html tag (it was a paid listing). And frankly, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

The idea is that when you catch a fish, you tag it and add it to their website. You can then monitor the site to see who else has caught your fish.

Questions come to mind...

Do people do this? Does it work? What kind of person takes the time to attach a tag to a fish, and write down the ID, and visit this paritcular website? Could this approach be useful for tracking other things, besides fish?

No offense dad, but fishermen are strange.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Fun and games

Here's a fun game to play with your unsuspecting husband. First, have him follow you into Ann Taylor. Then insist that he walk next to you suggesting things to try on.

When he's switched his focus from reading his e-mail and blogging to finding you clothes, you wait for just the right moment. Then, when he's standing in the discount section, holding a tan blazer, walk away. You heard me, sneek off somewhere.

Just disappear.

That's when the fun begins. First, your husband will be confused. Then, within minutes, a store clerk will start eyeing him, suggesting that he is some sort of sick slimeball who likes to hang out in the petite ladies section fondling the merchandise.

Then take your time rescuing him.

Finally when you make an appearence, get annoyed at him for blogging the entire incident (real time of course).

Yeah, it's a good time.

--Ben

Big Time

I know I've finally hit the big time at work when I get a package addressed to me, and me alone (other folks get packages shipped to them all the time).

Of course, the actual contents of the package isn't that exciting - a single yellow pages book.

But still, I had that moment of glory when I arrived at my desk to find a box that could contain almost anything.

Where do I go from here?

--Ben

Publishing Made (Very) Easy

shortText.com - Post information. Share it.

Using short text, anyone, and I mean anyone, can publish on the web. Sure, they aren't going to have much more than what you would get out of say notepad, but it's a start.

Short text is another one of these mini utility sites that I like so much. This one seems to be a kind of Post-it-note attached to a URL.

I'm not sure of the best use for the site yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if I thought of something.

Via: LifeHacker

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Thread dump - Tips

Thread dump - ResinWiki

One of the most valuable features the Java Virtual Machine has is that you can get a stack dump of what it's doing at any particular moment.

This means that if your server appears to be hung, or is taking forever to process something, you can figure out exactly what it's doing.

This feature alone means that you don't need to spend your time logging your progress, as you can quickly get a snapshot of what's going on.

The only problem with getting a stacktrace is that it's a highly OS depdendent activity. The above link is nice because it shows you a bunch of different ways to get this information.

I'm pleased because I can now get a stack trace out of a cygwin based JVM. This is no simple task.

If you don't use stack traces, and you program in Java, you are really missing out. Learn how to generate them, and learn how to read them. I promise you that the time you spend will be repaid many times over.

Squidoo Homepage

Squidoo Homepage

Squidoo is a very clever site -- essentially they are collections of organized links and blurbs written by people who are experts on a subject (or maybe they think they are experts?).

The site appears to be lots of fun, as it includes everything from Setting up a podcast in 10 days to Composting with worms and rocks. Naturally, you can make your own.

If I had freetime, I'd spend a good part of it playing with this site.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Coming out of the closet

Tonight we had a fellow come by from The More Space Place to check out our closet and help scope out what we do to improve it.

The answer is, quite a bit.

He scribbled down notes and talked to us about 3/4 hanging sections, gobs of shelves, enough shoe cubbies to hold most of Shira's collection, and of course the built in tie rack. It was most entertaining.

And all I wanted to know was if the materials are indestructable. He said yes. I was sold.

On Wednesday we stop by their store and will check out their computer mockup of our future closet. What fun.

I wonder if there's any closet wisdom I should know about?

--Ben

JSP/Servlet Hosting

JSP/Servlet Hosting

Need some advice on choosing a place to host a java web app? Look no further than this thread. Seems like some useful pointers.

Anybody have any personal recommendations? It seems like a Virtual Private Server is the way to go. Gotta have root.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

BBC NEWS | South Asia | The amazing DIY village FM radio station

BBC NEWS | South Asia | The amazing DIY village FM radio station

Ahh, a nice feel good story about some geek making a difference, and all by building a $1.00 FM transmitter.

Getting Real: The smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application

Getting Real: The smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application

This is an interesting e-book on the Getting Real philosophy of development. I have yet to buy the book, but they certainly got me interested in the first paragraph:

Getting Real is about skipping all the stuff that represents real (charts, graphs, boxes, arrows, schematics, wireframes, etc.) and actually building the real thing.

I couldn't have put it better myself. Why spend time writing pseudo code, when you can write actual code? Why spend time writing the spec, when you can write the program itself?

They have me interested, now I just have to decide if it's worth the $20.00 price of admission.

DIY: Light Box / Light Tent

Light Box / Light Tent Photo Gallery by Bill Huber at pbase.com

I'm adding this project to my list of things to hack. Whenever I need to take eBay photos I always struggle with finding the right lighting and background. It seems like a little bit of effort, and little bit of time, and you could have a pretty professional setup.

Now, if only I could hack my list of things to hack, so that I could get to the items on there...

Via: make

Feel the need...the need for speed

Wasn't there a time when entire college campuses were run off of a single T1? Get your own speed report here.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Our new setup


Our new setup
Originally uploaded by blumenth.
Our latest fiber optic setup. It's almost all working. Shira's heard that one before.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Just Bite

So this is my kind of dentist appointment!

(1) stick new tooth in mouth with cement (2) start biting (3) blog (4) stop biting (5) go home

I'm on step (3) and still a bit sceptical. But it looks like it might be that painless.

Note - we didn't even take the covers off the tools!

--Ben

Back in the chair

Time for more blogging from the dentist chair....

It's time to replace my temporary tooth (I think they called it a goober or something) with a real crown.

How much you want to bet they find another, bigger problem?

--Ben

How's your company doing?

Guy Kawasaki's Bozofication Aptitude Test

How's your company doing? Guy gives you a quick an easy test to tell how low your company has sunk. It's both funny, and remarkably accurate. He gets straight to the point with the first question:

1. The two most popular words in your company are “partner” and “strategic.” In addition, “partner” has become a verb, and “strategic” is used to describe decisions and activities that don't make sense.

You can even take the test online here.

This is good stuff. I suggest brining this along on your next interview as questions to ask the interviewer.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Sis is Engaged!

A big Mazel Tov to Elana and Shmuel! Here is a picture of the happy bride-to-be sporting her engagement ring. Follow the adventure here...

Why you should go on travel with your wife

Why should you go on travel with your wife? Not just for the breathtaking snow-covered mountain views. Not just for the amazing nature in Yellowstone National Park. But because she can sweet talk herself into getting a Hummer (H3) as a rental car!

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