Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It's About Time

Heads up - March 11th is coming! That's the new date for the daylight savings time switchover. The DST switchover is the new Y2K, only without the sexy acronym.

Seriously, if you want your boxes to behave right on March 11th you should probably do something about it.

If you happen to run Fedora Linux, you can probably get away with doing:

  # Check your system
  zdump -v EST5EDT | grep 2007

  # Patch it.
  yum update tzdata

  # Confirm it worked
  zdump -v EST5EDT | grep 2007

If you are running Java, you should check out Sun's recommendations. They even put together a tiny little app to fix the timezone data, found here.

Update: Nick pointed me to this useful site: http://www.dstpatch.com/. It's got all sorts of info about the DST switcharoo. Thanks Nick!

Accidental Wisdom

I just told Beamer:
Sometimes knowing what not do is just as important as knowing what to do.

Gosh that sounds deep. How much do you want to bet I read that on the Google quotes widget and just forgot that I did so?

--Ben

Bumperactive: Build your own bumper stickers

The other day I noticed the car next to me had a Ben at Work bumper sticker. Why, I have no idea.

But let's say a custom bumper sticker for your name or cause doesn't exist? What's a Ben to do? Well, build your own, of course! Check out bumperactive.com, a site where you can create your own authentic bumper stickers.

In fact, the one's they are currently featuring for Obama are pretty impressive. See what I mean?

I think sites like this one, and CafePress are really cool. They give you all the power of the web, yet produce actual goods at the end of the day.

It's interesting to note, that when faced with the challenge of making a profitable business in 30 days, Jennifer Laycock chose to leverage CafePress instead of a strictly online business. My guess is that you could leverage Bumperactive.com in the same way.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Debugging mysql stored procedures

The other day I needed to figure out why the heck my mysql stored procedure wasn't working. I poked around for a way to do the most fundamental debugging possible: print out a log message.

Postgres accomplishes this by using the RAISE keyword, but mysql didn't seem to have a comparable function.

After a bit of Googling around I came across this article where the author recommends a technique for doing just this kind of debugging.

The technique is embarrassingly simple, and I wish I had thought of it: simply create a debug_log table that contains a text field in it. Then write a debug function that inserts into that table.

Duh. Now, why didn't I think of that?

It's a simple and brilliant way to get around the fact that mysql doesn't seem to provide any other debugging facilities.

Get all the details here.

Indexing Reality

You know that old joke about how one day Google's search capability will be so advanced it can tell you where you left your missing keys? That is, this whole concept of the virtual and the physical will merge together.

Well, apparently a group at Wesleyan University has started down that path. They've labeled physical objects with call numbers that map back to content in the library. As Wesleying explains:

Ever wonder what those call numbers all over campus are from? It's Index.

Index is a large-scale temporary installation that examines the library’s role as an index to the world outside, focusing on the devise of the call number. The world outside the library is marked in the language of the library: vinyl call numbers are distributed everywhere, stuck onto buildings, automobiles, trees, objects, even people (clothing) throughout the campus, and even into the town of Middletown. The call numbers refer to specific books in the Wesleyan library collection that in some way refer to the site to which they are affixed. A passerby could literally take note of the call number, check the book on the on-line catalog system, and find the book, which would inform them about the site.

It's both cool and spooky. Mix in some RFID technology and it's only a matter of time before lost keys will be a thing of the past.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Webcam'ing First

OK, I'm about 5 years late (maybe 10?) on this technology - but still, I couldn't resist sharing my latest tech first.

Shira does enough traveling that I thought it would be a cool gift to get us a set of webcams for her birthday. Ya know, so I can wave good night to her as she's suffering in some crummy location.

Well, tonight, we got to field test the cameras for the first time. And I have to say, this whole webcam stuff is really cool! Sure, the quality stinks, but the whole idea that you can have a free audio and video feed from anywhere in the world is just amazing.

Our setup consisted of a pair of Logitch Quickcam for Notebook cameras and Skype on Windows.

The whole experience was painless to setup and really easy to use.

There are tons of cameras to choose from on Amazon, ranging from $15 up to hundreds. I settled on the Logitech Quickcam model because it was compact for traveling, conveniently clipped to our laptop screens and was cheap at only $30 a camera. I don't know how the quality compares to other devices in that price range, but my guess is that they are all the same.

If you don't do the webcam thing with family and friends, you really have no excuse. The devices are cheap, and setting them up is a total breeze.

5th and Proud Of It

Last night, Dave passed on some remarkable news to me: Tenspotting.com, the top 10 site site I helped create, is featured in the latest edition of Wired Magazine.

I was pretty much blown away. But sure enough, on page 133, under the heading Top 5 List Sites is tenspotting.com. See what I mean:

While I did the coding for the site (as part of an i2x project), the real brains behind the idea and the lists is Gavin Purcell, of TV in Japan fame.

If you haven't played with Tenspotting, you should really give it a try. From the Top 10 SNL sketches of all time to the Top Ten Candidates for the 2008 Presidential Race and lots in between, there's plenty to to check out and keep you entertained.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

USB Flash Drive Contents

I finally got around to loading up my USB flash drive with all sorts of utilities and such. Below is a list of tools that I've put on it. I tried to limit it to only tools I'd use on a regular basis. All told, this is about a 115MB worth of programs. But, considering it's a 1Gig thumb drive, that's almost nothing. That leaves plenty of room for music, podcasts and other content.

Netcat for Windows netcat is the swiss army knife of networking tools. No geek should ever be without a copy.
Logo Programming Language Turn any computer into a fun and educational environment. When people ask you what you do as a programer, you can show them, instead of telling them.
Putty ssh clientA lightweight ssh client that has become an essential tool for me. It just works.
Resize, image resizer A small utility to batch resize jpg files. This one is an essential tool when traveling. While cybercafes are an easy way to post your photos while on the go, I've learned first hand some of them have either bandwidth constraints or have just plain slow connections. If you can resize your images before posting them for the world to see, your upload speed will be that much faster, and your dollars will go a lot farther.
Thunderbird E-mail ClientThis one is just too cool. You can install Thunderbird on your thumb drive, configure your account once, and poof, just hit send and receive from any computer on the planet to get your e-mail. It simply writes the e-mail to your thumb drive. I'm really impressed with how seamlessly this all works.
Firefox Web BrowserSame as the portable Thunderbird version, but for Firefox. Most computers I come across these days have Firefox installed - but still, why take a chance?
Process ExplorerProcessExplorer is what the processes tab on the Windows Task Manager should be. This gives you lots of information about what's running your computer (or the computer you're trying to fix), even down to what each individual thread in a program is doing. This is a terrific my computer is slow, why is that? debugging tool.
Handle open file listerHandle is the equivalent of the unix tool lsof. It tells you which files a process has open. This is really important in the Windows world because an open file can totally lock you out of performing any number of operations. This tool does a great job of letting you see what's going on behind the scenes in your computer.
Gaim Instant MessengerA portable IM client. Just set up your contacts once, and be able to chat with them from any computer in the world.
7 Zip compression programThere's nothing more frustrating than not having a zip/unzip program on windows. Windows XP has fixed this by finally making the OS understand zip files completely. But, you never know when you'll run across an older Windows box that doesn't know how to handle this really basic format.
Notepad2Notepad2 is a notepad.exe replacement. It seems to provide many more features than the basic notepad (including regular expression searching and syntax highlighting) and is just an overall improvement.
Berkeley Unix ToolsThe Berkeley Unix Tools is a set of about 40 Unix commands ported to Windows that will run just fine in a cmd.exe shell. Next time you think, Gosh, if only I had something as simple as touch or awk, this problem would be easy to solve - well, now you have them. And you have them on any computer you happen to be at. Cygwin is still the choice to use for a fully comprehensive set of Unix tools, but at least this set will give you access to the most essential commands.
The GimpThe Gimp is an image editing program. It can be used for basic activities, like fixing red eye or cropping an image, or for doing really sophisticated image manipulation.

So, did I miss anything?

Winter Wonderland

It's winter again in D.C.! The snow is pretty and the roads are an absolute mess.

While out today trying to get my hair cut, I came across a couple fresh accidents, and even managed to see one more or less take place.

I've got to do a bit of googling around for advice about taking photos of snow. I know that all that white throws off the light meter, which explains why the photos are so gray. I just have to do a bit of research to remember what I should be doing to correct for that.

So far, only Sunday activities have been canceled. Though I'm sure school kids are praying that this storm carries over into tomorrow too.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Even Better Than Two Monitors

OK, dual monitors are nice. But I'm not sure it can fully compete with the office tool I got today - 6 packages of whiteboard markers!

I'm not sure that equates to 6x in productivity, but probably close.

I should really grab one or two for my car though. Why, just this morning I was solving the world's problems on my driver's side window while gas was pumping away. I could get even more done if I had multiple colors...

--Ben

Home Essential: Storm Light

One of the best house gifts we've gotten (I think from my Mom, thanks Ma!) was a Black and Decker Storm Light. It's really simple concept: the light is a rechargeable flashlight that stays plugged in to an outlet. When the power goes on out, the flashlight automagically kicks on.

This has a few key advantages. First, the flashlight is always charged. Second, the flashlight is on, so it's easy to find in an otherwise dark house.

Since this flashlight was such a hit, we've bought a bunch more - one for each floor in the house. I should probably get one for each room in the house. You never appreciate how dark it gets till the lights go out and you have to fumble for a light.

This is simply a must have item.

So, nu - why all this talk of Storm Lights?

Well, our power just went out. That means that I can't do work. So, while I sit around to see if the power comes back, I thought I'd blog what was on my mind.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Another Reason To Love The Library

I love the library. I mean the whole concept rocks - I can get access to thousands of books, CD's and movies. From an entertaining novel for my commute, to advice on how to repair my lawn to how to learn to draw is available to me. And, get this, it's all free. I mean really, it's incredible. I start drooling just thinking about it.

I just discovered that the Arlington library system is offering yet another cool feature: a downloadable eAudiobook Collection.

So, now, instead of going to the library and checking out CD's or tapes, you can simply go online and download them. It's pretty cool stuff and appears to work as promised. As part of it's functionality, the service takes advantage of the much kvetched about DRM security facility.

I'm no expert on this topic, but in this case I think the model works great. With DRM, the file you that you download can be set to expire - so while you may have the the file on your computer, after two weeks it won't play anymore. This seems to behave just like all the other library materials: you can access any resource for free, the catch is that there's a time limit attached to it.

I really think the program rocks. I haven't had any luck yet transferring the audio files to my mp3 player. Though I haven't played much with it yet. I'm even tempted to buy an mp3 player that's compatible with the DRM requirements just so I can get portable access to the files.

There are a few other lessons I think I've learned from this program...

The library is all about books, right? All about physical media and a building and librarians, right? Wrong. It's all about giving people access to information. The fact that the library folks see this and are adapting to the ever changing way people access information is down right impressive. There are plenty of business who aren't this agile and willing to rethink pretty much all the rules.

Second, the library is a shining example of government done right. It's actually a government facility that I feel like I get way more out of than I put in. If more programs were this useful, then I'm sure everyone would benefit. So please, politicians, remember the library.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Today, Phil one of our SAs, started installing second monitors for everyone on my team - they will all officially have dual head setups.

Previously, I was stuck in the mindset that the monitors would be too expensive and the video cards would be hard to come by to make this a worthwhile venture. But of course, that's just dated thinking. A flat panel 19" LCD is like $200, and the cards simply weren't a big deal. Even Windows XP comes through, offering multiple monitor support with its standard configuration.

Though I have to confess, I just asked to make the monitors happen and the IT guys came through with the goods. I still have no idea how they chose the video cards they did.

Hey, I'm a software guy.

If you aren't dual headed, you should really consider upgrading. It's just not that big a deal and should make for a much more efficient setup.

--Ben

The Secret Diary Of Steve Jobs

I'm not usually an Apple or Steve Jobs fan, but this site was too hilarious to pass up.

Finally, you can get the true scoop on Steve Jobs. Read all about how Bill Gates plans to buy up $100 laptops from developing countries in an effort to mess up the OLPC project, or how Steve fired the lead engineer on the iPhone project for not making the circuit board look prettier. You can get all this, and lots more fake (and really funny) information at the fake diary of Steve Jobs.

Here's a sample:

Well the engineers want to kill me but you know what, I know how to design products. And I'm sorry, this circuit board for the iPhone is just way too friggin ugly. There's no balance. You've got this long skinny piece on the left and then nothing on the right to balance it out.

...

One guy goes to the white board and starts trying to give me a lesson in how electric current flows through a circuit. I'm standing there, just shaking with rage, and I'm like, Excuse me, but please put down that marker and then go to your desk and fire yourself. Okay? Thank you. No, I'm serious.

It's kind of a version of The Onion for geeks. Terrific stuff.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A bris - a day you're glad you don't remember!

Today marked the first bris of a son of a friend of ours. We have non-Jewish friends who have had sons, but this was the first bris of our generation!

This baby was a real trooper! He cried a little during the main event (wouldn't you?), but as soon as it was over, he was a champ. Of course, the wine must not have hurt, either.

It was an exciting day, and we wish him all the best as he starts life's journey.

Web 2.0 Explained

Seth Godin linked to this cool video describing what Web 2.0 is all about.

The content of the video is nice - the presentation is really incredible.

It's kind of a screencast meets music video.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Comic Book Style Blogging

Guy Kawasaki has a nice little tutorial how to make a comic book style blog entry. This is handy, because the format can work really well when used right.

I've already mentioned to Shira that I plan to do my next resume in comic book form. And she's already told me that she absolutely, positively, won't let me.

So, as I said, I won't be doing my next resume in comic book form. But still, it's a handy format to know about.

Related: Comeeko, turn your images into a comic strip.

Just Playing Around

Some games I've played this weekend...

  • Apples To Apples: A word association game that's ridiculously easy to play. What a fun way to get a group of people talking and playing with almost no effort. Best of all, with no writing needed, it's an ideal game for Shabbat (at least, it is for me - YMMV).
  • Wedgits: Yes, I know this is a toy designed for 3 year olds. But this collection of geometric shapes is really impressive. At first glance this looks like nothing more than a pyramid stacking game. But it's so much more - it's actually a way to build sculptures from various basic shapes. Great for your kids, and a fun distraction for adults.
  • Jenga: Always a classic. Like Apples To Apples this is a super easy game to start and keep people involved in. Just stack 'em up, and start pulling out blocks. Sounds simple, but it gets tricky in no time.

Of course, I'm always a big fan of Trivial Pursuit, but it was fun to branch out too.

Have a recommended board game? Share it in the comments, please.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Countdown To 1/20/09

As long as I'm posting on the topic of politics, I can't resist mentioning this:

Need I say more?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Passover Preview

Tonight, while at the Kosher Mart, Shira and I got a reminder that Passover isn't *that* far off.

The Kosher Mart has stacked, from floor to ceiling and in every nook and cranny, supplies for that holiday.

Gosh that's a scary sight. I'll be cleaning for the holiday in no time...

--Ben

Barack Videos

So, It's official, Barack Obama has announced he's running for President. Of all the candidates out there, he's the one I'm currently most impressed with.

First, I have to admit I like the image he projects: smart, humble and a regular guy. He's also a terrific speaker, which doesn't hurt. But what I like the most is his background in grass roots politics. I like my democracy like I like my software - built from the bottom up.

So, in an attempt to learn more about Barack, I browsed through a few pages worth of videos on YouTube to see if I could find anything of interest.

Here's what I came up with. I tried to skip over the canned stuff that you'd expect to see. Watching them only made me want to vote for the guy more.

Barack on an issue that divides our country

Barack on Habeas Corpus

Barack talking to Conan O'Brien

Barack on the Audacity of Hope

Barack's first media controversy

Fox runs a report claiming Barack went to a fundamentalist Muslim school as a kid. Then CNN comes along and shows that those reports are completely wrong. Shame on you FOX for running this garbage. Everybody loses when you guys don't do your job.

Barack as the subject of a Mac vs. Windows parody

Barack on Katrina

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Take the hint

When you attempt to scrape the cars of ice and snow, and your ice scraper breaks - take the hint, go back to bed.

I didn't heed this advice, but, probably should have.

Right honey?

So far, this storm has been remarkably unimpressive. A bit of ice, a few inches of snow. Yet, the city is shutdown (at least a 2 hour delay on everything, if not canceled), the roads are treacherous from not being cleaned, and we managed to lose power for a few hours.

Apparently, the placebo effect also applies to weather and how well the city deals with it.

--Ben

Anti Valentine's Day

Shira has always despised Valentine's Day - this whole notion that you should show your love for a single day is just ridiculous. And it turns out, she's not alone.

This, of course presents a challenge for me - as I can't do the usual Valentine's Day stuff. So, I've done things like have flowers delivered to her the day before, or after Valentine's Day.

This year, I learned I can take these sentiments and send them digitally. I can just send her an Anti Valentine's Day E-Card (careful, there's some R-rated language on this page).

For a full rant against Valentine's Day, check out this blog post. Careful though, there's more R-rated language here too.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bad Commute in the Making

This dusting of snow may not look like anything serious. But with the current warning that it might all turn to ice, there's no doubt in my mind the commute home's going to be bad.

I could leave early? Work from home?

Boring.

--Ben

Ben vs. Shira's Acura

Recently, Shira noticed that her windshield wiper spritzer cleaner thingy stopped working. As a last resort, before taking it into the dealer, she asked me to look into the problem. Incidentally, once I started to investigate she realized this was a terrible idea and tried to get me to stop. Too bad, once I start on a task, I'm pretty hard to stop.

The first thing I did was to refill the windshield wiper fluid reservoir, figuring that would be the most obvious solution.

No luck. No matter how many times I pulled on the control in the driver's console area, no fluid shooteth forth. The windshield wipers worked fine, though, thankfully.

Plan B. was to pop the hood and check for some obvious problem. That went about as well as expected. I popped the hood, looked underneath, and there was nothing obvious wrong. Yeah, I have no idea what I planned to accomplish with Plan B.

Then it hit me - maybe it's a fuse?! In the last 9 years of owning a vehicles, to my knowledge the problem has never been as simple as a fuse. But, hey, there's a first time for everything.

Sure enough, after checking the manual to figure out where the fuses were, and figuring out which one is which, I found the one I needed to check. And sure enough, it was bad! What do you know, the $1.00 fuse blew instead of the motor? Huh, I'm impressed.

So, while I may not win the war against Shira's Acura, I think I can safely say I won this battle.

PMA Links

  • Turns out, just thinking you had a good workout is enough to causes you to lose weight (gosh, you gotta love the placebo effect). link

  • Some PMA, country music style. link

Monday, February 12, 2007

Review: How to Help Your Husband Make More Money So You Can Be a Stay-At-Home Mom

First, let me state the obvious. I don't want to be a stay-at-home mom. Neither does Shira. I just saw the self help book, How to Help Your Husband Make More Money So You Can Be a Stay-At-Home Mom by Joanne Watson, at the library and couldn't resist the title.

The book's premise isn't a bad one: husbands and wives should work as a team to be a success. This means that it's smart to have one partner at work, another at home. This is just good sense.

Unfortunately, the premise is about all I can say I enjoyed about the book.

The book is a sort of an advice guide for making more money. It includes tips like: get more training, ask for a raise and find a new job. It has, as its slant, suggestions for a wife on how she can get her husband to do this all. The reality is, while the advice in the book is mostly good - it's not the most complete source of information on any one topic.

The book was obviously written during the hay day of the Internet bubble. Programming, HTML and Oracle databases are all mentioned as easy skills to learn, master and make boatloads of money from. And, I kid you not, if you want to make the really big bucks, get involved in Internet Marketing. Why? I have no idea. Just take Joanne's word for it.

This message from the book has the same feel as a prospector bragging about his job during a gold rush. She just can't imagine why everyone isn't cashing on the same easy money she is. And, of course they assume the gold rush will last forever.

The reality is, there was a time when knowing a bit of HTML could be an in to a much better job. However, that time has since long gone.

And then there's this whole unsettling tone of the book. Not once in the whole book is it ever suggested that the man stay home and the wife work. It's simply not an option. And the book consistently talks about "your goal of being a stay at home Mom" as if the husband has no say in the matter. It's like a training manual to manipulate your husband into getting what you want. I'm pretty sure my wife doesn't need any more advice on this topic.

Look, If you want to be a stay at home mom, give it a listen. You might enjoy it, and find it inspirational. On the other hand, if you want to make more money, interview better, or do a host of other things, you can do way better than this book.

I give it a 1.4/10.

--Ben

Bloodwork Results

I just got back from the doctor - my bloodwork was given a passing grade. The doctor did warn me my good cholesterol was a bit low and my bad cholesterol was a bit high, but my overall score was fine.

She explained I should lay off the cheeseburgers every day and mix in some fish. I explained that won't be a problem. Consider them banished from my diet.

Overall, she has no idea why I am getting headaches. But the good news is, the fact that two Advil makes them go away is enough evidence for her that I've got nothing too serious wrong with me. That makes me a bit happy.

--Ben

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Web Design Thought

Repeat after me: users don't read. No matter what you do, no matter how clearly you think you are sending your message - users simply won't read it. If you're lucky, they might scan it for keywords. And that's a big might.

So, design accordingly.

Now He is a Man

It's hard to believe, but true - Caleb is officially a man (at least by Jewish Law)! He did an incredible job at his Bar Mitzvah this last Saturday, reading Torah, chanting the Haftorah and even giving a speech to the congregation.

This event also marks something special for Shira and myself - Caleb's Bar Mitzvah is the first time we've ever attended one our friend's kid's Bar Mitzvahs. Wow, does that make us feel old. It's hard to believe we've known Caleb since he was 5 (or 6?) and we were all living in Charlotte, NC. Wow, that's another world away.

Click on the photo below to see more shots from the kids party he had (sorry, no photos allowed during the ceremony). I think the kids had a great time, and seemed to be way more comfortable with being an awkward 13 year old than I was at their age.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Blogger Editing Tip

I just noticed this one, so I apologize if it's well known / obvious. When you submit a Blogger post and have an HTML error in the text you get a nice warning box describing the problem. This is a good thing.

And here's the cool part - the error that Blogger found will be highlighted, just as if you were selecting it to copy it. That means no more digging around trying to find out which tag they mean, you can simply scroll down till you see the block highlighted.

Cool. It's amazing what you notice when you take a second to pay attention.

Setting up Postgres -The Last Mile

Every time I have to setup PostgreSQL, I always get stumped with how to setup my first database. There's this sort of chicken and egg problem you run into. You can't create the first database till you have a database. Which you can't create, till you have a database.

This problem is trivial to solve, but I always forget how it's done. So, I'm writing it down here once and for all. I expect to visit this page again sometime in the distant future. I plan to thank myself then.

Here's how I installed Postgres a few days ago...

  1. Install the RPMS:
        postgresql-8.1.4-1PGDG.i686.rpm
        postgresql-contrib-8.1.4-1PGDG.i686.rpm
        postgresql-docs-8.1.4-1PGDG.i686.rpm
        postgresql-libs-8.1.4-1PGDG.i686.rpm
        postgresql-server-8.1.4-1PGDG.i686.rpm
    
  2. Become the postgres user
  3. Run /usr/bin/initdb
  4. Connect to the Postgres server and create a user and create a database
        /usr/bin/psql postgres
        CREATE USER whoever SUPERUSER ENCRYPTED PASSWORD 'whatever';
        CREATE DATABASE foo;
    
  5. Become my regular user again

This point, you can now connect to Postgres using the user you created and get to the database you made as well.

If you are going to be connecting to Postgres remotely you'll want to edit /var/lib/pgsql/data/pg_hba.conf to control which hosts can access the server.

You'll notice in a fresh pg_hba.conf file that there's the keyword trust on the open connection lines. It's that setting that allows you to get in to create your first database without knowing a password.

Russian Rock Radio

I asked Kostyantyn what music he was rocking out to, and he pointed me to nashe.ru. Browsing the site makes me feel like some sort of international spy. Though when I translated the title of the home page, НАШЕ Радио, it came out as Your Radio Our Radio. Hardly exotic.

So far, the music has been fun to listen to. And it's all about as understandable to me as an R.E.M. song.

Give it a listen here - you may be surprised with how much you like it.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Making it to the outside

Check it out - the outside of my building, in the middle of the day no less!

I ducked out to lunch with Shira and friends. I only felt minor pangs of guilt, knowing there's plenty on my todo list at the office.

But hey, if the wife is happy, work and me will be happy.

--Ben

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Web Apps In Scheme - An Introduction

Jens Axel Søgaard has put together a really cool and useful tutorial on how to write a web application in Scheme. It covers such useful topics as how to split up your code into meaningful modules, how to connect to an SQL database and how to write HTML as s-expressions.

So far the tutorial is split into part 1 and part 2.

It's interesting that he decided to develop a list oriented application, as I've recently launched tenspotting.com - a top 10 list website, completely written in Scheme. Trust me, Scheme isn't limited to developing list oriented web applications. That part is just a coincidence.

If you've been writing web applications in other languages, you might want to check this tutorial out just to get a flavor of how things can be done in a different universe.

If you want a more in depth example check out the Scheme Pet Store I wrote up. It's a complete implementation of the classic J2EE Pet Store app.

Update: Peter Bex pointed me to a tutorial he's working on here. Thanks Peter!

Another Image Search

Yotophoto.com is yet another image search site. Though it has one small difference: the images are all free to use (or at least that's what the site claims.).

This is good news - instead of searching Google Images and grabbing a photo for a site mockup or presentation, why not use Yotophoto and grab a legal one?

That way, when the mockup is approved, or the internal presentation made public, you won't be stuck using non-kosher photos.

Via: Red Ferret

Another Whiteboard Idea: Use a Mirror

Christian came up with another whiteboard idea: use a mirror as a whiteboard. Brilliant.

Finally, I can put that bathroom mirror to good use.

Don't be surprised if next time you're over to my house you find a whiteboard marker next to the sink. Feel free to put the mirror to good use.

Next, I'm going to work up the courage to use a whiteboard marker on my team members' CRT monitors. In theory, the glass surface should work just fine - right? Only one way to find out...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New Digs

I relocated to a new office today. The process was about as easy as it could be.

Shira's picture went right up to be in full OSHA compliance.

The only tricky part was mounting my rear view mirror (a must have when sitting with your back to the door). That required a few binder clips and the volleyball trophy the team won last year.

--Ben

Asked and Answered

Ben: Where can I find online family tree software?
Christian: Check out geni.com
Elizabeth: Where can I find free anti-virus software?
Ben: Check out Clam Win, it's free and well known*
*But I've never used it, so your mileage may vary

What questions have you had asked and answered today?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Mr. Fix It

From my attempt fix our upstairs toilet and it's tiny leak...

Before

After

The Extra Part

Yeah, pretty much went exactly as I expected. Thankfully the toilet works, and I only have one extra part.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

What a way to kick things off!

This one's for you Dave! Here's a photo of Devin Hester's 92 yard run for a touchdown on the kickoff of the Superbowl.

What a game it's been, between the fumbles and a missed extra point, this is really football at its most exciting.

As I post this, the Bears just scored their second touchdown.

I'm definitely not suggesting the Bears have it won easily as David would disown me for giving the Bears bad luck. But at least you know I'm watching the game.

Update: D'oh. Colts 29, Bears 17. Oh well, better luck next year - right? Check out some impressive photos of the game here.

101 Things To Do With A Mobile Phone In Healthcare

This one's for my brother Josh - here's a report that identifies 101 things to do with a mobile phone in healthcare. The report actually costs money to download and view, though you can get a hold of the table of contents.

The table of contents actually outlines all the topics. Some that seemed interesting to me were...

  • Allergy Alert Services For Asthmatics
  • Support For The Deaf
  • ePrescribing
  • Peer Support For Patients
  • Patient Location
  • Personalized Diagnosis

And lots more. The fact that most patients in a hospital are wandering around with a network connected computer in their pocket or purses, seems like a huge opportunity. While I'm sure some of the ideas need fancy schmancy phones to be implemented, others probably require nothing more than simple SMS.

So, Josh, what are you waiting for? We need more phones in the E.R.

Via: Textually

Never Forget

As seen on a run this morning through Crystal City.

A bunch of kids being kids? Or a bunch of serious adults being serious?

--Ben

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Another Bundle of Cuteness

Check out this adorable cutie-pie we got to have dinner with tonight. It's hard to believe she's already 7 months old. Her parents sure do make this child rearing stuff look easy (except for the 2 extra bags they carried into the restaurant!).

Turns out, they didn't even need the extra bag of toys, as this straw, the paper kid's menu and a sugar packet were more than enough to keep her occupied through dinner.

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