Essential Everyday Software

June 9th, 2008

I just got a new machine for my development work and moved my old files and settings from the retired machine. Now that I’m going through the re-install of my favorite and most useful software, I’ll make a list of the applications here. I’d be interested how this lines up with other readers’ tooling choices. Already installed on the machine are: MS Office, IE 6, Acrobat Reader, plus an anti-virus package.

Essential software, used every day:

Less frequently used:

Need a new middle name?

March 5th, 2008

I can’t decide whether this is a joke or an inspired political maneuver.

Crowd-Sourcing for Business Ownership

March 2nd, 2008

I’ve heard of crowd-sourcing for content, but this is more like crowd-founding. nvohk will be a surf clothing company if and when 5,000 “members” chip in 50 USD to get the ball rolling. The membership will be capped at 40,000 and 35% of profits will be distributed back to the members as some sort of credit.

Think of it as open-source business development.

On the one hand it seems like a great new way to start up a business. On the other hand it seems like a lame way to excuse yourself from actually having to start a business. It remains to be seen how responsibly and diligently 40,000 low-investment members can steer a clothing company. My suspicion is that, when things get difficult, the “crowd” won’t be able to respond effectively and the project will fail.

But I do wish them luck.

The future of navigation on the web

February 21st, 2008

For a glimpse of the future, check out this unbelievable showcase website. Sure, the projects and work shown in the site are excellent, but the navigation system so clean and easy to understand and beautiful that I wonder how anything else will be possible. I recommend using fullscreen.

Commuter, Rewarded

December 3rd, 2007

I had posted previously about an excellent commute database for the Atlanta metro community. As a fringe benefit, and to encourage logging, users have the chance to get small VISA gift cards at random. Either they are really good at fundraising or nobody else is logging their commute, because I got my second $25 gift card in the mail just a few days ago. I was randomly selected for the gift card reward; but my chances for selection were apparently increased because I was actually logging my commute fairly regularly (15 out of 31 days in October).

Here is the October summary of legs of my five-mile commute, broken down into mode of transportation:

Mode Count
Bicycle 4
Carpool 15
Drive Alone 10
Motorcycle 0
Telework 0
Transit 0
Vanpool 0
Walk 1

Better judgement would have me keep this quiet to increase my chances of winning again, but I actually think that the process of logging your commute style gets you to consider your alternatives more frequently — and that’s a good thing.

OptiFlag: Great Command Line Parser for Ruby

December 2nd, 2007

I find myself writing a few simple Ruby scripts which need the flexibility of command line arguments. Having no more experience with the command line than ARGV[0], I thought the good old interweb could help me find a better way. Although I’m sure there are many command line parsing libraries and schemes out there for the Ruby community, I did not want to have to wade through loads of documentation and dozens of example scripts just to get a couple of flags in my program. Parsing is subtle, I know, and I don’t want to have to deal with all of the details on my own.

Luckily I came across OptiFlag, an extremely lightweight and unobtrusive command line parser written by (I guess) Daniel Eklund. All one needs to do is extend his OptiFlagSet module at the top of your script using a very simply DSL and voilá, your command line arguments are available within the script as ARGV.flags.my_option. By default, all flags are required, but that’s easily changed. Validation of the parameters is also possible using regular expressions.

The author does not claim that this parser will replace all others (I like modesty) but instead is meant to meet the needs of very simple use cases. In my short experience today, it does its job perfectly.

What if Gmail had been designed by Microsoft?

November 28th, 2007

This thought experiment would be funny if it weren’t so true.

Shiira Browser

November 28th, 2007

Shiira Browser
I found a delightful little browser from Japan called Shiira. Although it feels a little unfinished, it has two noteworthy features I’d like Camino or Firefox to implement:

  1. Tab exposé - if you do tabbed browsing (you know who you are) and you can’t remember which tab had that screaming deal on a new pair of shoes, just hit the Tab exposé button in the lower right corner and all the hidden pages fly into view. Point and click at your shoes and the page comes back into view. (Bug: Flash items don’t show up in the exposé view)
  2. Page Info - an unbelievably cool view of page data which allows you to brows the HTML source, the stylesheets, the JavaScript files, the images, and to view all links in tabular form. Why doesn’t every browser have this info view?

On the downside, Shiira tends to render pages a little poorly with unnecessarily small font. Gmail, for example, renders very strangely and is missing obvious buttons (I suppose Gmail doesn’t attempt support all browsers so it serves a slimmed-down page instead of nothing at all). I’ve been unable to set preferences which mitigate the problems. Let’s hope for future enhancements.

Now Hosted on HostingRails

November 6th, 2007

The good folks at HostingRails seem dedicated to hosting small Rails sites of all skill levels, which makes me all the more comfortable given that I’m just getting started with one of my own. On top of that, multi-user svn and trac, along with shell access were the right kind of features for my modest needs. Good-bye, GoDaddy.

Congressional Medal to the XIV Dalai Lama

October 18th, 2007

I’m usually unimpressed with the actions of my federal government, but yesterday they did something right. In an historic ceremony, Congress conferred their Gold Medal to His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. Even our dear president had a few positive words to say. The award was co-sponsored by Senator Feinstein, who noted:

The Dalai Lama is a worthy recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal. He is one of the world’s greatest religious leaders and has used human compassion, courage and conviction as his tools in carving a path for peace. For half a century, he has struggled to better the lives of the Tibetan people. In doing so, he has been a shining light to all those fighting for freedom around the world.

I’m particularly excited that His Holiness has chosen to come to Atlanta this weekend for some special events. My wife and I, along with my parents who will join us for the weekend, are planning to hear his teachings on Sunday and his public talk on Monday.