8787
Top Emailers 2008, etc
As an update to last year’s post:

Toni Schneider — 1,052
Maya Desai — 826
Mom — 659
Raanan Bar-Cohen — 452
Donncha O Caoimh — 424
Barry Abrahamson — 386
Mark Riley — 222
Jane Wells — 218
Ryan Boren — 200
Andrew Ozz — 197
Matt Thomas — 193
Liz Danzico — 148
Mike Hirshland — 144
Heather Rasley — 139
Joseph Scott — 129

I’ve expanded the list to 15. A lot of the same folks at the very top, but new faces in Liz and Jane from 2.5 and 2.7 usability cycles. Also three people on the list have changed their domain in the past year, just like I did. It must have been a year for that.

Also for fun here are some yearly posting stats courtesy of Alex’s queries:

Posts
Avg. Words
Total Words
Avg. Comments
Total Comments

2002
360
139
50,190
1
390

2003
429
168
72,359
3
1,287

2004
990
54
54,257
6
6,236

2005
624
48
30,090
9
5,963

2006
313
70
22,010
11
3,503

2007
334
60
20,267
17
5,919

2008
302
50
15,206
21
6,493

As you can see I’m doing fewer posts with fewer words than ever, but getting more comments. At this rate I’ll be down to 40 words per post next year. Yay brevity.

Working on collating some travel / WordCamp stats.
from google
january 2009
Mint: A Fresh Look at your Site
Just setup Mint () on my site to see if it really is that much better than other packages.
from twitter
january 2009
Apple files for patent on winter-friendly iPhone gloves
Addressing the complaints of nearly every iPhone owner in a northern climate, Apple has filed for a patent that would cover a means of using a multi-touch device with gloves.
from google
january 2009
Getting Real and Design
I’ve only known one method for approaching a Design project. There are many variations out there, but it can essentially be broken down into 4 steps: Discover, Plan, Design/Develop, and Deploy. It didn’t matter where I worked—agency or internal design department—these were the steps, and I didn’t question them.

Then 37signals published Getting Real, and I wondered if this might be a better way of approaching a project. I’d like to share with you a few stories from past Design projects while reflecting on how Getting Real would have helped. I’ll also share some insight into how the process here at 37signals works.

More...
from google
december 2008
Terminal Tip: Enable half-star ratings in iTunes
Filed under: Terminal Tips Do you like giving ratings to songs in iTunes? If so, then you've probably noticed that you are only able to rate songs on a full-star basis, not enough granularity for some music fans... there's a longstanding AppleScript hack to enable half-stars, but now there's an easier way around this issue. Macworld's Rob Griffiths found a work around, involving a simple Terminal tip to enable half-star ratings. To enable half-star ratings, close iTunes, and open Terminal (/Applications/Utilities). Once you have Terminal opened, type the following command and press enter: defaults write com.apple.iTunes allow-half-stars -bool TRUE When you reopen iTunes and rate a song, you will be able to give half-stars. That simple. If you wish to make things normal again, open Terminal and type the same command, replacing "TRUE" with "FALSE."TUAWTerminal Tip: Enable half-star ratings in iTunes originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Wed, 31 Dec 2008 11:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds. Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments
from google
december 2008
Beyond Thinking Different to Doing Different
Electronically reprinting Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Change has become a New Year's tradition on Brand Autopsy. Enjoy all over again ...

Originally posted on December 31, 2004

Bruce Mau, a designer, thinker, articulator, and massive change provocateur, has a lot of ideas on a lot of things. His Incomplete Manifesto for Change is a list, an incomplete one at that, of 43 ideas to get you beyond thinking differently but doing differently. As 2008 turns to 2009, the message of doing differently is one we should all heed. Enjoy.

An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth Author: Bruce Mau (1998)

1. Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.

2. Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.

3. Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.

4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

5. Go deep. The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.

6. Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.

7. Study. A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.

8. Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.

9. Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

10. Everyone is a leader. Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.

11. Harvest ideas. Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.

12. Keep moving. The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.

13. Slow down. Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.

14. Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.

15. Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.

16. Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.

17. ——————————. Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.

18. Stay up late. Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.

19. Work the metaphor. Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.

20. Be careful to take risks. Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.

21. Repeat yourself. If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.

22. Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.

23. Stand on someone’s shoulders. You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.

24. Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.

25. Don’t clean your desk. You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.

26. Don’t enter awards competitions. Just don’t. It’s not good for you.

27. Read only left-hand pages. Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”

28. Make new words. Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.

29. Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.

30. Organization = Liberty. Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a 'charming artifact of the past.'

31. Don’t borrow money. Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.

32. Listen carefully. Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.

33. Take field trips. The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.

34. Make mistakes faster. This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.

35. Imitate. Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.

36. Scat. When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not words.

37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

38. Explore the other edge. Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.

39. Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.

40. Avoid fields. Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.

41. Laugh. People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.

42. Remember. Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.

43. Power to the people. Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.
from google
december 2008
Showing the difference between a 19" and 22" suitcase
What size rolling luggage to buy? Shopping at Amazon, it feels like a shot in the dark.



Lots of closeups of handles and wheels, but what’s the difference between a 19” or 22” bag? There’s no real guidance.

This is the kind of situation where a site that focuses on a specific niche can really shine.


Luggage Online offers a size chart (and Carry-On Luggage Regulations for each airline too).


eBags also offers a Rolling Luggage Size Guide.

Sometimes, a little context makes all the difference.
from google
december 2008
Big Guitar by Greg Merkle - Download Big Guitar on iTunes
My friend got his first album on iTunes -- it's really great. Get it here (iTMS link)
from twitter
december 2008
Nudge
I just finished reading Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein.

I like it for two reasons: first, it feels to me like a direct application of computer user interface design to life, and second, I think it has a lot of applications for ASU’s Web design and the ways that Web design can influence people to take advantage of what the University offers.

Simply put, the big idea in Nudge is the same as something my favorite band Rush used to say, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. It’s just that the choice you make is one that someone else has provided for you.

For example, road lines may be painted closer together as drivers approach a dangerous curve or potential safety hazard; by arranging the lines closer together, the driver is given the illusion that he/she is driving at a faster speed than he/she actually is, nudging the driver to hit the brakes and slow down.  Another example Thaler and Sunstein give is cafeteria design. By placing healthier food choices, like the salad bar, at the front of a cafeteria, a school might try to nudge students into making smarter diet choices. This idea is really familiar to user interface designers. Every time a dialog box pops up with OK and Cancel, one of them is highlighted, making it the default choice. Most of us have gotten used to clicking right past all of the Continues and OKs and Accepts that stand between us and getting our work done. In the process, we agree to terms and conditions, install useful pieces of software, and in general make all sorts of tacit and uninformed decisions that user interface designers have in essence made for us. It’s a lot of power to give over to someone else, but there’s no loss of freedom. You’re free to be as careful as you want and make every decision exactly the way you’d like. It’s just that most of us have long ago reached a decision saturation point and so tend to reserve our careful judgment for fewer and fewer things.

Which brings us to University design and the Web. By carefully crafting default positions, we could achieve all sorts of goals that might improve student success and retention. Say a University believed that having students stay in residence halls on campus was a major factor in improving student success and graduation rates. According to the Nudge philosophy, an effective way to dramatically increase the number of students choosing to stay on campus would be to, by default, assign them to a residence hall immediately upon acceptance of their application. There’s no loss of freedom since a student could easily change their residence hall assignment or even apply for an exception to live off-campus. But every student would start from a different place–by default they’re on campus instead of having to opt in to campus living. So those who don’t want to spend their decision energy on where they live in college will end up living on campus instead of the other way around.

Feels a little like Big Brother but given that everyone has a choice, I think it’s high time it fall into our Web design as a way of helping students and the University achieve its goals.

It’s an interesting read either way, with some serious implications for public policy.
from google
december 2008
The Gift Of Software
The holidays are upon us, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve put off buying gifts for your friends and loved ones until almost the last minute!

I hope you won’t overlook the possibility of sending the gift of software this year. Thanks to a new feature in the Red Sweater Store, it’s finally easy to order any of our applications as a gift license for somebody you care about.

Just make your purchase as usual, but when you get to the checkout page, fill in the lucky recipient’s name:

The license information will be sent to you by email, so you can package it up in your own charming way, before passing it on.

One of the “problems” of gifting software these days is that most of the best applications are sold as purely electronic downloads from the web. I have to admit that the old-fashioned boxes made it easier to stick something under the tree, but with a little creativity you can give software gifts that are thoughtful and also have an element of “hand assembled” uniqueness to them.

For the puzzle lover in your life, may I suggest Black Ink bundled with a crossword solving dictionary, and a nice pen?

Know somebody who has talked about blogging for years, but never manages to get started? Perhaps a copy of MarsEdit, a copy of Strunk & White, and some encouraging words will be just the nudge they need.

These ideas are the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps the person on your gift list isn’t suited to my products at all. There are hundreds of independent Mac developers whose excellent products could bring a smile to your loved ones this holiday season. Take a look around!

Enjoy the holiday season, and I hope you all have a very happy new year!
from google
december 2008
Perian 1.1.3 now available, provides lots of fixes
Filed under: Multimedia, Software, Freeware
On Monday, Perian 1.1.3 was released. Perian is a Preference Pane that provides QuickTime with a ton of extra codec support, including: AVI, DivX, and FLV. Version 1.1.3 updates the following aspects of Perian:

Enabled Indeo 2/3 decodecs
Added external idx/sub (VobSub) support
Added support for H.264 and H.263 in FLV containers
Apple's decoder now handles Baseline/Main Profile H.264
Fix inconsistent importing for multi-channel audio
Reduced memory usage for packed streams
Added sanity checks on all preferences
Enabled hack to show subtitles in Front Row
Fixed negative values in SSA \frz tag
Fixed VSFilter bug-compatibility for \an

You can learn more about Perian, and download the new update, by visiting the Perian.org website.TUAWPerian 1.1.3 now available, provides lots of fixes originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Tue, 16 Dec 2008 16:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments
from google
december 2008
Record a multi-participant podcast with GarageBand
Filed under: Multimedia, Podcasting
A few months ago, I started recording a podcast with some friends. At that time, our process was to gather everyone into one Skype call and record the session with WireTap Studio. That worked reasonably well, but there were a few problems.The quality of the end result was dependent on everyone's Skype connection. Throw in a bad rainstorm, a large download or an iffy wi-fi connection and quality suffered. The other issue was people talking over each other. Even the most disciplined podcasters do it occasionally. Since the raw audio was a single track, editing the overtalking out of the final show was difficult, if not impossible.A few episodes into it, we read Dan Benjamin's tips on recording a podcast with participants in multiple locations. He and John Gruber use a time-tested method called a "double-ender" when recording The Talk Show. As they talk via Skype, John and Dan record their own audio locally, and those two files are edited together as separate tracks. We've adopted a similar method using GarageBand, and it's been working wonderfully. Read on for details on our setup.Continue reading Record a multi-participant podcast with GarageBand
TUAWRecord a multi-participant podcast with GarageBand originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Tue, 16 Dec 2008 09:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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from google
december 2008
10.5.6 here snappieness ensues
10.5.6 is out, go grab it from Software update (377mb here!) or via the standalone installer.
december 2008
Chronochrome: [Almost] Resistor Color Code Time.
Pictured at left is the “Chronochrome“.

Cool idea; use colors to represent numbers, thus creating a neat colorful clock. Like binary clocks (of which I built one of these as one of my first kits ages ago), it is a pleasant bit of blinky art to the uninformed and those given the “secret” can tell the time, further baffling the uninformed.

At first, the pink band made me think the designers were dumb. That instead of going with the standard resistor color codes, they invented some random color mapping.

Not the case.

It is the standard set of colors, just with pink substituted for brown.

I would rather have the brown, but would imagine it is exceedingly difficult to create a “brown” light that doesn’t look black or otherwise odd.

Of course, I full expect to see an AVR based RGB LED implementation of this within about 3 days…
from google
december 2008
MacBook Pro tip: resetting SMC saved my day
Filed under: Hardware, Troubleshooting, Macbook Pro, MacBook, MacBook Air
Here's a timely tip if the battery on your Intel based Mac laptop seems to be operating at less than optimum performance.The other day I took my MacBook Pro off the charger and was surprised to see only an hour and 40 minutes of run time, even though the battery was fully charged and only a few months old. It didn't seem right, and I went immediately on the web to make a Genius appointment at our local Apple Store. Then I did a little digging around Apple support documents and found one that seemed promising. Was it possible I needed to reset the SMC (System Management Controller)? Well, dutifully following the instructions, I shut down my laptop, removed the power cord and unhooked the battery. I held down the power button for 5 seconds, put the power cord back on, and inserted the battery. Surprise surprise, my computer started up and showed about 4 hours of time left on the battery when I went back off the charger. Better still, it really did hold up for that amount of time, so things were back to normal. I canceled my Genius appointment and spent the day congratulating myself for finding the tip, and getting my battery back in shape.The SMC is a chip on the motherboard that can lose its way, and in my case it needed a little kick to get itself sorted out. This chip has been the focus of some controversy in the past, and Apple has updated the SMC firmware repeatedly. Anyway, this fix worked for me -- might work for you. Here's the link to the Apple Support Document. There are instructions for the Intel MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and the new MacBook Air. Be there or be square.TUAWMacBook Pro tip: resetting SMC saved my day originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Sun, 14 Dec 2008 13:45:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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from google
december 2008
Feedback on New Screenshots
Yeah, I think. Not good for Twitter response. I posted in GetSatisfaction.
from twitter
december 2008
Awesome Battery Charger (with Total Crap UI)
We have an absolutely ridiculous number of devices in the house that eat AA batteries (and a handful of AAA batteries). LED flashlights. Wii Controllers. The Canon macro ring flash. Various remotes. Toys. Etc…

As a result, we use a lot of batteries. Thus, I decided that I would pick up a bulk pack of rechargeable AA batteries and find a decent charger to go with.

After a bunch of research, every sign indicated that the La Crosse Technology BC-900 AlphaPower Battery Charger
(pictured at left) was the best of the bunch.

And it is. Which is sad, in a way.

The charger does a brilliant job of testing, refreshing and generally charging AA and AAA cells. It has multiple modes, including the ability to select the current level used to charge batteries (high current == fast charge, but lessens battery life) and does a great job of indicating the overall health of the cell.

The user interface, though, absolutely sucks. Horribly. It has four displays — one for each cell slot — and the contents are confusing at best. Definitely a device for which reading the manual at least twice and then looking up various online resources is required.

Hell, the damned display shows “null” for any slot without a battery in it. If that isn’t an indication of total lack of UI design, I don’t know what is!

But, the damned thing works. Really really well.

In fact, the first time I used it, I set it to refresh a set of batteries that I had been charging via some relatively cheap combo-pack charger. It basically returned them to about double the capacity that I was seeing.

Word of warning: Some really cheap battery chargers are, in fact, dangerous. If they are simply constant current charging sources, they can do damage to the cells unless you pull the cells right when they are done charging (too soon — incomplete charge, too late — bad for the cells). Seriously — at least invest in a “smart” charger that backs off when the cells are done!

Beyond the obvious green rah-rah-love-the-earth win of moving to rechargeable batteries, there are some additional benefits that I hadn’t entirely considered but am now happy to enjoy.

Most obviously, you don’t have to remember to buy batteries. Myself and everyone I know invariably has a remote or two that has no batteries in it. Why? Because the batteries were scavenged for use in a device that was higher in the pecking order whose cells have gone dead. With rechargeable batteries, though, the dead cells can be revived easily enough.

With ultra-low self discharge cells, you sacrifice a bit of overall capacity, but the cells hold their charge for much, much longer. Thus, the cells “stored” in the rarely used remote will still have a charge after many months.

Secondly — and this surprised me — rechargeable batteries seem to perform much better for longer in high current demand situations. For example, my ring flash recycles back to ready much faster across more cycles than it did with disposable AA batteries.

All in all, the move to rechargeables has been good in our house. Certainly, given the battery eating nature of the Canon flash and with several long trips where an iPod or iPhone needed power, the change has likely already paid for itself. Certainly close.
from google
december 2008
MintyBoost
At left is a “Minty Boost v2.0” that Roger and I put together over the course of a couple of evenings.

The Minty Boost is a tiny power supply designed to provide power or to charge most USB devices.

Including the iPhone 3G, which really wants somewhere around 500ma to charge. Normally, to achieve that level of current, the devices have to negotiate with each other.

The MintyBoost is a “dumb” USB power source in that it mimics the wall wart (very very tiny wall wart) style USB power supplies, providing enough bias on the data lines to make the device pull current without going into “negotiation” mode.

As a power supply, the Minty Boost is both smart and efficient. It is built around Linear Technology’s LT1302 Micropower High Output Current Step-Up Adjustable and Fixed 5V DC/DC Converter.

Combining the chip with a handful of discrete components creates a power supply that produces a steady 5 volts @ 600 milliamps. It is designed for use with 2x 1.5 volt cells and will continue to operate even until the combined voltage output by the in-series cells drops to 2 volts. When not in use, the chip draws extremely little current.

I’m using GreenBatteries.COM’s Ultra Low Self Discharge cells. These rechargeable batteries are specifically designed not to self-drain over time when not in use. Perfect for remote controls and camera flashes that don’t get used all the time (or are used rather intermittently when you think about it).

I’ll likely pick up a set of the high-capacity non-ULSD rechargeables.

The whole assembly is hot-glued into an Altoids tin (with a bit of electrical tape as insulation). Very convenient packaging and it is still quite easy to pop out the batteries.

It works quite well, though differently than other battery packs. Namely, the device actually charges the iPhone’s battery. That is, it isn’t an extender. As such, the iPhone will happily suck whatever current — 600ma, in this case — out of the device until either the iPhone’s battery is charged or the charger is drained.

The one caveat is that the device can actually drain the iPhone’s battery as the current falls. You need to keep an eye on things and pull the charger’s plug once the iPhone’s battery icon changes from “charging” to “powered”.

A small bit of inconvenience given that the device is around $20 and I don’t ever have to click “OK” on the “external device may be incompatible with your phone” dialog.

You can buy the kits from Lady Ada’s store. It is fairly straightforward to solder together, too.

Alternatively, you can try to grab the parts yourself. I had a hard time finding the LT1302 power supply chip at a reasonable price (including shipping). Turned out to be cheaper just to buy the kits.
from google
december 2008
Goodbye ZDNet
As of today, I have to say goodbye to ZDNet. After just over two years of writing this blog, I'm sad to say this is my last post here on the Social Web. I've been 'let go' as they say. Or perhaps more accurately, this blog is no more, making way for others. It's been an honor to write for ZDNet and, most of all, you my loyal and thoughtful readers.
from google
december 2008
Top 10 Records Of 2008
One of the big changes on this blog in the past year is the departure of music posts. I moved my music posts to my tumblog in late 2007, where I post a new song everyday. You can experience them here by clicking on the "radio" link in the upper nav links or by clicking on the black banner at the bottom of the page. I haven't stopped blogging about music, in fact I am doing it more than ever, but I have changed the way I do it. I like it better and I hope you do too.

Every year since I started this blog, I have listed my top 10 records of the year on this blog and this year will be no different. But I am not going to generate a new post every day for ten days like I've done in the past. I've actually been doing that on my tumblog for the past two weeks and if you are an active reader of that or an active listener of fredwilson.fm, then you already know what is on the list.

This year, I'll do a single blog post with all the selections in it. So without further ado, here's the list:

1) The Stand-Ins - Okkervil River. This record is the back end of a two part effort that started with The Stage Names last year. Many people feel they should have released them both as a double album. You might ask,"why is this your number one record this year and yet The Stage Names didn't even make your list last year?" Well like Kings Of Leon last year, this band snuck up on me and I got into them a bit late. I like both records equally but this is a 2008 release and so it gets on the list. Okkervil is the band of the year for me and this is the record of the year even though my personal favorite of everything they've done is the Golden Opportunities Mixtape that they've never really even released commercially. If you don't get this band, you are like I was until this year, you just aren't trying hard enough.

2). Oracular Spectacular - MGMT. From the opening of Time To Pretend to the line 15 seconds later about going to paris shooting heroin and fucking stars, you know this is going to be a fun ride. And it is. This record got more play in our family than any other this year. I am not sure who loves it most, but its likely to be my younger daughter or my son. Its not a family record by any means, its not even age appropriate for my son. But that has never gotten in the way of appreciating art in our family and this record is art, created by two young kids just out of Wesleyan. Listening to it makes me feel their age and that's a good thing.

3) Here's To Being Here - Jason Collett. The first of two solo projects on this list. Jason's from Broken Social Scene, a personal favorite of mine, but honestly this record is better than anything they've ever done. Jason's put out something that sounds like what a late 60s/early 70s folk-rock record would sound like if it was made today. I listened to this record non-stop this summer. Its not in heavy rotation anymore but when I do put it back on, I can sing along to the entire record and I probably always will be able to do that. Its a fun, easy, rocking record and its great.

4) For Emma Forever Ago - Bon Iver. If Jason Collett got me through the summer, Bon Iver got me through last winter. This record was made in a cabin in the northern woods the previous winter and it sounds like its still coming from there. Its getting cold again in NYC, and its time to make a hot cup of tea, curl up on the couch under a blanket, and put Bon Iver on.

5) We Brave Bee Stings And All - Thao. I discovered Thao as I was coming out of my Bon Iver phase and she literally pulled me out of it. Thao is a young asian woman with a wonderful voice and light quirky songs. The Gotham Gal bought into Thao bigtime and this record was a constant in our family room/kitchen for most of this year.

6) Little Joy - Little Joy. The second solo project on my top 10 list. This comes from Fabrizio Moretti, the Strokes' drummer. I haven't really loved anything the Strokes have done since their first record but I sure do love this record. It is a little joy. And its not as much a solo project as a collaboration between three friends. I can imagine them sitting around the porch playing these songs and deciding to record them. It reminds me a lot of Ry Cooder's Paradise and Lunch and David Lindley's El Rayo Ex, two other little joys of mine

7) Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend. I remember late last year my oldest daughter played me a few Vampire Weekend tracks she'd found on hype machine. She said 'this is my new favorite band'. And so it was and it became our family's favorite band for a good while. One of the musical highlights of the year was going with the whole family to see Vampire Weekend at an outdoor music festival in Paris this summer. We knew all the songs and could sing all the words. So did all the parisian kids too

8) Only By The Night - Kings Of Leon. Another musical highlight from our time in Paris was the KOL show we saw at Le Zenith. MGMT opened but I got everyone on the wrong metro train and we ended up only seeing KOL. Oh well. I think I've finally lived that down. They were playing a few songs from the new record this summer but I didn't hear it in its full incarnation until this fall. This record has been trashed by Pitchfork and others as a sellout. Its clearly an attempt to reach a mainstream audience and inherit U2's throne at the top of anthem rock. I don't like it as much as Aha Shake Heartbreak but then I don't think any record made this decade beats Aha Shake Heartbreak. Only By The Night features the best singing of Caleb's short but brilliant career and the songs are catchy and good. It may be mainstream but I still like it better than most of what I heard this year.

9) Volume One - She and Him. M Ward is one of my favorite musicians working today. When I heard he'd teamed up with the beautiful and sweet Zoe Deschanel to make a record, I was curious and a bit baffled. But the result came out great. The gruff Matt and the sweet Zoe made a perfect pairing and like Jack White did a few years back with Loretta Lynn, M Ward made sure the songs came out great. This one's a real gem.

10) Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust - Sigur Ros. This was a late bloomer for me. The record came out late summer but I didn't get into it until the past month. Sigur Ros is mood music and I guess I needed to get into the right mood. I did and this record delivered more Sigur Ros wonderfulness. If you like them, get this record.

There are six other records that I seriously considered for the top 10. So here's the Honorable Mention list:

Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst. Really tough call. Deserved to be on the top 10 list but couldn't figure out who to cut to get it there.

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes Will absolutely be on Gotham Gal's list. It would easily be on our "most listens in our family room/kitchen list". Great record.

Konk - Kooks. My son's favorite band. I am very partial to them too. This one has great songs but isn't as good as their debut. The lead singer Luke is one of the most talented songwriters out there right now.

Consolers Of The Lonely - Raconteurs. Three or four great songs. If it were more consistent, it would have made top 10. Jack White is a guitar god.

Hometowns - The Rural Alberta Advantage. This one was suggested to me by a fellow tumbler who saw I was putting a top 10 list together last week. I bought the record that very day (on emusic, not on Amazon yet) and have been obsessed with it since. If I had more time with it, it might have made the list. My oldest daughter describes them as Decemberists meet Neutral Milk Hotel. I describe them as awesome.

That's it. I hope you like the list and I also hope that you click on those links and buy some music. And if you'd like to listen first, go to fredwilson.fm. I've been posting nothing but songs from these records for the past week and a half and you can listen to this list there. I just did while I was posting this and it's great.
from google
december 2008
Apple: Over 300 million iPhone apps downloaded
Apple confirmed yesterday that over 300 million iPhone apps have been downloaded from the App Store, and also that the total number of available apps now tops 10,000. Rather than send out a press release, Apple chose to take out a pair of newspaper ads yesterday, one in the New York Times, the other in the Wall Street Journal.

This new milestone comes less than five months after the debut of the App Store on July 11, 2008, and less than two months after the October 21 announcement on the Q4 earnings call that 200 million apps had been downloaded. If this trend continues, we'll likely see app downloads reaching the 400 million mark by the time Steve takes the stage for the keynote at Macworld Expo.

It's time for a TUAW poll! When do you think Apple can hang out that "over 1 billion apps sold" sign?

View Poll
TUAWApple: Over 300 million iPhone apps downloaded originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Sun, 07 Dec 2008 17:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Permalink | Email this | Comments
from google
december 2008
MySQL Tuner
Having performance issues with MySQL but don’t know why? The kids over at RackerHacker have released a free, open source tool that might be able to help.


MySQLTuner is a script written in Perl that will assist you with your MySQL configuration and make recommendations for increased performance and stability. Within seconds, it will display statistics about your MySQL installation and the areas where it can be improved.



For kicks, I ran it on my local development box, and here’s its report:

-------- Recommendations -----------------------------------------------------
General recommendations:
Run OPTIMIZE TABLE to defragment tables for better performance
Enable the slow query log to troubleshoot bad queries
When making adjustments, make tmp_table_size/max_heap_table_size equal
Reduce your SELECT DISTINCT queries without LIMIT clauses
Set thread_cache_size to 4 as a starting value
Variables to adjust:
key_buffer_size (> 15.9M)
query_cache_size (>= 8M)
tmp_table_size (> 32M)
max_heap_table_size (> 16M)
thread_cache_size (start at 4)
innodb_buffer_pool_size (>= 376M)

As you can see, MySQLTuner actually had some pretty good advice. Of course it won’t replace your local neighborhood MySQL expert, but it’s probably a good starting point, and its results just might surprise you.

[permalink]
from google
december 2008
Show a Folder's Full Path in Finder's Title Bar [Mac Tip]
By default Mac OS X's Finder displays only the current folder name in its title bar, but if you'd like a little more detail, The Unofficial Apple Weblog details how to enable path view in Finder to...
from google
december 2008
App Store shoppers downloading 2.2 million apps per day
Though arguably still in its infancy, Apple's App Store has already reached a daily run rate that's seen iPhone and iPod touch users combine to download approximately 2.2 million applications every day.
from google
december 2008
Google Reader Simplifies Look, Adds Features [Google Reader]
The Official Google Reader Blog announces a handful of changes to Google Reader today, most notably in the form of a visual refresh designed to bring a more streamlined look and feel to Google's...
from google
december 2008
Square is the new round.
On the Reader team, we know that the old adage "change is good" isn't always true. Sometimes, change is just change. In this case, we hope that these decisions both improve your Reader experience today, and pave the way for additional improvements down the line. So...what's changing, you ask?

Updated look and feel

Google is all about speed, both under the hood as well as in the user experience. So, in order to make Reader act and feel more speedy and responsive, we've removed some visual clutter, simplified some features and given everything a bit more breathing room. Out with the old rounded corners, drop shadows and heavily saturated colors -- in with a softer palette, faster components and a fresh new look.

(old)

(new)

Collapsible navigation

Each section of the navigation pane now has its own options menu and minimize/maximize controls. You can collapse each major section of navigation down to one line and focus on only the things you choose to use.

Friends get promoted

Shared items have grown up and gotten their own section in the navigation pane. You can collapse this entire section and use the title to see everything your friends have shared, or leave it open to track friends with shared items. (Don't forget that you can add new friends in "Sharing settings".)

Hide unread counts

We've heard you loud and clear. For some of you (and some of us on the Reader team), unread counts are a source of anxiety and can feel more like a to-do list than the random awesomeness of the Internet. So to help you sleep better at night, we've added the ability to turn off unread counts for each section of navigation independently. Subscriptions with unread items will still appear as bold, and you can see the number of unread items if you hold your mouse over the subscription name. To really set yourself free, try turning them off for all sections. (Ahhhhhh, now doesn't that feel better?)

More feed bundles!

Feed bundles are small sets of feeds related to a topic that you can subscribe to all at once. Historically, these were done "by hand" by the Reader team, but this just wasn't working out. So we've written a program to make "bundles" for us – no more manual editing of bundles, and a much richer and interesting set of subscriptions for you to choose from. We've added a bunch of new topic-based bundles for easier feed discovery. Just find the "Browse for stuff" link in the main navigation pane and look for the "Browse all bundles" link on the bundles tab. Now, you can learn more than you ever wanted to about NASCAR, yoga or knitting.

Looking for something that's moved?

The "Refresh" button from the subscription list is now in the Subscriptions options menu or triggered by simply clicking on the word "Subscriptions"
The "Show all - updated" controls are now in the Subscriptions options menu.
The "Add subscription" button has moved to the top of the navigation pane.

As always, we love to get feedback in our discussion group, and we look for it in a number of other sources -- please keep it coming!
from google
december 2008
"Frost/Nixon" Review: "Talky, Weighty... Constantly Engaging"
"No holds barred," Richard Nixon urges to David Frost as the two prepare to sit down for a series of interviews in 1977.

As "Frost/Nixon" powerfully reveals, that statement contains equal parts promise and threat from both the disgraced figure on screen and the actor playing him.

Frank Langella is positively formidable as the former president, a skilled manipulator under optimal circumstances whose desperate desire for rehabilitation makes him extra dangerous.

Langella isn't doing a dead-on impression, which is preferable; Nixon's quirks have been imitated so frequently and poorly, such an approach risks lapsing into caricature. Rather, he has internalized a volatile combination of inferiority, awkwardness, quick wit and a hunger for power. He loses himself in the role with rumbles and growls, with a hunched carriage and the slightest lift of the eyebrows.

Langella and Michael Sheen, also excellent as the breezy British TV personality Frost, reprise the parts they originated in Peter Morgan's Tony Award-winning stage production. But you never feel like you're watching a play on film: The way Morgan has opened up the proceedings in his screenplay feels organic under the direction of Ron Howard, who's crafted his finest film yet, and one of the year's best.

"Frost/Nixon" is talky and weighty as it digs into the details of Vietnam and Watergate, but it moves along with a fluidity that keeps it constantly engaging. Morgan's script also contains a healthy amount of dark humor, mostly the result of something crass or inappropriate Nixon has said. Good thing, too, because the tension starts percolating early and only grows.

Upon seeing the image of Nixon smiling eerily as he boards a helicopter after resigning the presidency, Frost stands in front of a television transfixed. Hoping to lose the perception that he's a lightweight and gain some credibility -- or rather, achieve fame in America -- he approaches Nixon for an interview and promises money he doesn't have.

Sheen is doing something so subtle here, and as in his insightful work as Tony Blair in Morgan's "The Queen," he's likely to get upstaged, unfortunately. All his Frost wants is to be liked, but he strives for that with the slightest obsequiousness. Critics may mistake his playboy demeanor for arrogance, but it truly seems to spring from longing.

The former president, meanwhile, hopes to use the opportunity to return to public life among the East Coast elite: He's bored with retirement and feels humiliated droning on for banquet crowds for cash. He wants an interviewer with heft, but he'll take the $600,000 his agent, Swifty Lazar (Toby Jones), has secured by saying yes to Frost.

And so they face each other for four extended interviews, which comprise the film's second hour. Frost has gotten help cramming for this exam from British TV producer John Birt (Matthew Macfadyen), veteran journalist Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and author and Nixon critic James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell). Rebecca Hall provides moral support as the sultry socialite Frost picked up in first class while flying to the United States.

In Nixon's corner are loyalists including the fierce strategist Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon) and, amusingly, a young Diane Sawyer. Performances from the chief supporting players are uniformly excellent, especially from Platt and Rockwell, whose characters rib each other and share a disdain of Frost's celebrity.

But Zelnick puts it best when he calls Frost "the most unlikely white knight ... but a man who had one big advantage over all of us. He understood television." And television exposed both Frost and Nixon for their true natures -- for better and for worse.

"Frost/Nixon," a Universal Pictures release, is rated R for some language. Running time: 122 minutes. Four stars out of four.
from google
december 2008
Recovering Photos from a Corrupt Memory Card with PhotoRec
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/6400 sec, f/2.2, ISO 200 —
full exif & map — nearby photos
Almost Lost
Brilliant Orange at the Nanzenji Temple, Kyoto Japan

I accepted an invite the other day from my friend Shimada-san to visit the
Nanzen'in temple/gardens located in a sequestered back corner of the large
Nanzenji temple complex. It was my first visit to that sub-temple, and I'll
post more about it later, but suffice to say that it was
spectacular. I took a bazillion pictures, which I found totally
missing when I got home and tried to load them onto my PC. The card was
corrupt and Windows hung trying to read it. Yikes!

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 55 mm — 1/200 sec, f/6.3, ISO 2500 —
full exif & map — nearby photos
Enjoying the Nanzen'in Gardens
at the Nanzenji Temple, Kyoto Japan

It's the first time I've had a problem like this in the 10+ years I've
been shooting digital, so I finally had to pay attention to the
image-recovery talk that often comes up in online photography forums.

I recovered all the photos... the pictures on this post are from among
them.

In the hope that it might prove useful to someone, I'll recount how I
did it. Having run into the problem on my Windows XP box, I decided to try
the recovery on my Mac.

I used the most-excellent PhotoRec software to
recover the files. It's a command-line program that can run on many
different operating systems (DOS, Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD...), so
I did the recovery within a Mac Terminal window.

First, I mounted the damaged card, and used the df command to see its raw device name:

% df
Filesystem 512-blocks Used Avail Capacity Mounted on
/dev/disk0s2 155367520 148986336 5869184 96% /
devfs 208 208 0 100% /dev
<volfs> 1024 1024 0 100% /.vol
/dev/disk1s1 7536512 704 7535808 0% /Volumes/NIKON D700

The details of what you see would be different on your system, but the
important thing here is to be able to identify the line with the memory
card (in my example, the last line), and to then identify the “raw device
name” at the start of that line. The raw device name will always start with
“/dev/” and in my example, it's “/dev/disk1s1”.

(If there's a way to connect a memory card without OSX mounting it, I'd
like to know, because that would be safer.)

You then need to tell OS X to pretend that the memory card is no longer mounted while actually leaving it physically connected to the computer.
Thus, without disconnecting it, run the following (using the raw device name you find in the first step):

% sudo umount /dev/disk1s1

You'll have to be an administrator, and will have to enter your password.

Now, run photorec. The Mac version is in the “darwin” subfolder
of the download folder, so after changing directories to the download
folder, here's what I ran (again, you'll want to change the raw device name
to whatever you found):

% darwin/photorec /dev/disk1s1
PhotoRec 6.10, Data Recovery Utility, July 2008
Christophe GRENIER <grenier@cgsecurity.org>
http://www.cgsecurity.org

PhotoRec is free software, and comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.

Select a media (use Arrow keys, then press Enter):
Disk /dev/disk1s1 - 8152 MB / 7775 MiB (RO)

[Proceed ] [ Quit ]

Note: Some disks won't appear unless you're root user.
Disk capacity must be correctly detected for a successful recovery.
If a disk listed above has incorrect size, check HD jumper settings, BIOS
detection, and install the latest OS patches and disk drivers.

I made sure that the raw device name was highlighted, then pressed
enter. It'll progress through a few more screens where you tell it that the
card has an Intel/PC partition-table type, that you want to do the
“whole disk”, that the filesystem is “Other”, and where you
want to save whatever files it can recover. (I had just created a “found”
folder on my Desktop, and used that.)

Make sure, of course, that you have at least enough free space on the
disk as the size of the card.

PhotoRec took about two hours to process My Transcend 8GB “300×”
compact-flash card, and recovered all the pictures from the day, and
hundreds of random other shots going back more than a month. I reformat the
card each time I go out, but that just marks the disk's table of contents as
empty, without actually clearing out any data, so the data for random old
pictures remained on the card for PhotoRec to find.

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/200 sec, f/6.3, ISO 220 —
full exif & map — nearby photos

PhotoRec does not recover the original filename with a recovered file,
so whatever images it finds have names filled with apparently random
numbers, like “f1535616.jpg”. If your digital-photo workflow involves
renaming images based on, say, the image-capture date and time, you don't
care what the in-camera filename was, but my workflow keeps the
in-camera filename, so i wanted to rename the files to what they would have
been.

I used this magic incantation, which requires exiftool:

exiftool -q -p 'mv ${filename} JF7_00${filenumber}.NEF;' *.nef | sh

I don't know about other kinds of cameras, but Nikon SLRs include in the
image file a “FileNumber” bit of metadata that tells what number was used
in the in-camera filename. I use exiftool to reference that number,
insert it into the pattern for the kind of filename I want, then combine
that with a file-rename command.

Spiffy.

It's probably overkill, but I then used the built-in Mac “Disk Utility”
to zero-fill the entire memory card, then re-formatted it in my camera.
Good as new.

Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/250 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 —
full exif & map — nearby photos

The pictures I recovered are nice, but it's not like I couldn't have
just walked down there again today to take most of them. I'm happy to have
recovered them, but I'm most happy about having this experience under my
belt, so that these techniques will be at my disposal should I ever be
faced with the loss of important pictures.

In thanks for making this experience possible, I sent €25 to the guy who wrote
PhotoRec, Christophe Grenier. Thanks, Christophe!
from google
december 2008
Fine-tune Your RSS Subscriptions
According to a survey in 2005, only 12% of internet users know what RSS feeds are. Despite these low numbers, most of the netizens I know seem to be active subscribers.

While RSS feeds give us the latest news, blog posts, and site updates through a single interface, it’s not farfetched to think that they can also be a major time suck.  If you notice that this is happening, that you’re spending more time on your feed reader than you want to, then perhaps it’s time to quit your feed reader altogether.

Or you know, you can just fine-tune your subscription list

Do a review. Whether it’s every month or every quarter, you should review your feed subscriptions regularly.  Without a review, it’s easy to overlook “dead” blogs and sites that are no longer relevant to you.  If you don’t review your subscriptions once in a while, the best time to start is now.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to put it in your calendar or anything - just do it when you feel like it’s time.

What value does each feed give? When doing your review, it’s important to evaluate what makes each feed valuable.  Does it give you a daily dose of how to further your career?  Were you given ideas that allowed you to lessen your home expenses?  Does it make you laugh?

Also consider how frequent you get something valuable from a subscription.  Is every update valuable?  Is it valuable at least once a week?  Is it valuable every few months?  For some subscriptions, you might be saying to yourself “Well, it hasn’t been valuable yet…but it might be later on.”

For cases like these, I refer to an ancient Sumerian saying goes “Get it only when you need it.” Okay, maybe I made that one up, but it’s a rule that applies to kitchenware, packing, and yes, even RSS feeds.  If your reason for buying fondue forks is “You’ll never know when we’ll have a fondue party”, then odds are these forks will gather dust for several months until you need to use them - if ever that actually happens.

The same goes for RSS feeds.  “You’ll never know when they’ll post something I can use…” is a very flimsy reason for subscribing to something - and I know this from experience.  If there’s particular information you need, then that’s the time you go out and look for it, rather than hoarding useless feeds in the hopes that something useful might come up.

Remove blogs that seem to parrot each other. I used to subscribe to over 10 interior design and architecture blogs - until I realized that they just crossed-link to each other and posted the same pictures anyway.  Remember that in these cases, the Unsubscribe button is your friend.

For blogs with frequent updates within the day, subscribe to the weekly or monthly feed instead.  There are many blogs which post several times each day.  Included in that group is one of my all-time favorites, Lifehacker.  Listen, I love Lifehacker.  I believe it’s an invaluable resource to me. But if I subscribed to their regular feed, which has 8 to 12 new items on most days, that’s a lot of time taken away from my work, especially if I love a post and feel the need to file it somewhere.

The good news is that they offer a variety of feed options.  They offer a feed for top stories only, a monthly feed (which I subscribe to), and several tag-specific feeds as well.  If some of your favorite blogs have these options, take advantage of them.

I wish some of my other favorite blogs would have tag-specific feeds as well.  While there are many bloggers whose work I love reading regularly, I really don’t want to know what’s going on in their love life and what they had for dinner.  Other blogs, especially those which offer real-time news, should also consider these multiple feed options if they don’t want readers to get turned off by the massive amount of content they publish, no matter how great the content is.

I know that having a feed reader has made my online reading life much simpler, since I can go through my favorite blogs in one go.  But without the occasional review, I know I’ll be committing an extra couple of hours each day just going through new items that don’t give me anything back for the 10 minutes I spent reading them.

How many feed subscriptions do you have?  Do you review them once in a while to delete the ones you don’t really need or want?

Image by Svilen Mushkatov from Sxc.hu







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from google
december 2008
Announcing 37signals' new book deal
We're writing a new book that follows up on Getting Real and we're pleased to announce that we just signed a deal with Crown Publishing! Read all about it over at Signal vs. Noise.
december 2008
Using the EC2 environment for fewer moving parts
One highlight of Amazon’s EC2 is having a wide range of generally available services to help reduce moving parts.

We store part of our cluster configuration in S3. The server instances pull this configuration and bootstrap from there using a simple set of rake tasks and a server provisioning tool, Sprinkle. You could use SimpleDB for a similar purpose. One could serve as a backup of the other, given their similar APIs. Either way means fewer moving parts.

Another vital EC2 feature is passing arbitrary data to an instance. Many bundled images now automatically execute a blob of text you pass to the instance on boot as a shell script, like those supplied by Alestic. We use this to sync configuration scripts and packages from S3.

While reading Tim Dysinger’s article on using EC2 as a simple DNS, I thought this was a great way to remove the need for an internal DNS server on EC2 for smaller setups. We use a similar technique: specifying a single EC2 Security Group for a host as its identifier. Each server generates its hosts file every minute. Simple, effective and one fewer moving part.

Security groups are useful for describing roles and other identifying information about each host. We use this information to generate Nagios monitoring configuration files. For example, a security group named “role: app” will automatically enable HTTP checks and Passenger memory checks.

All this means less dependence on a centralized configuration server or pushing large sets of commands over SSH manually. While these techniques are effective, they require more moving parts and their own care and maintenance.

As your application’s complexity increases, you’ll thank yourself for the opportunity to reduce the complexity underneath it.
from google
december 2008
Business Journal Piece On Mobile Orchard
Kathy Grayson of the Business Journal interviewed me about Mobile Orchard a few weeks ago.

The article came out in this week’s issue. It’s a great article and features some kind words from Damon Allison and Tom O’Neill. Read it here.

Update: WCCO radio picked up the story for their “Business Brief” which you can hear here.
from google
december 2008
change.gov set free
Consistent with the values of any "open government," and with his strong leadership on "free debates" from the very start, the Obama team has modified the copyright notice on change.gov to embrace the freest CC license.

This is great news about a subject that's harder than it seems. One might well ask why is this an issue at all? The one thing copyright law is pretty good at is exempting works of the government from copyright protection. Why should the published work of a transition, or a President, be any different?

I don't think it should be, but I get why this is a hard issue. Whether or not one was free to republish works printed by the GPO, the freedom that digital technologies enables here is certainly enough to give one pause. I'm fine with the pause; I'd be happy to defend the freedom explicitly. But it is understandable that this is something that any administration would have to think through.

I'm glad the thought in this administration led to the right conclusion, so quickly, and in the midst of so much else going on.
from google
december 2008
See Rails request paths in 'top'
During our sale, we had one particular request that came in and wedged the application: every time it hit, the mongrel process size zoomed steadily up to 500Mb, so we had to kill it. But finding out which request was doing this was tricky. The log files didn't help—with the amount of traffic we were getting, it was a small needle and a large haystack.
Eventually, we found the culprit. But it would have been a lot easier if I'd thought of this hack on Friday, and not after the sale ended.If you put this into your application controller:before_filter :set_process_name_from_requestdef set_process_name_from_request  $0 = request.path[0,16] end   after_filter :unset_process_name_from_requestdef unset_process_name_from_request  $0 = request.path[0,15] + "*"end  then Ruby will set the cmd field in your process control block to the first 16 characters of the request path. You can then use top to see what request is being handled by each mongrel.
Once the request has been handled, an asterisk sign is appended, so you can see the last URL when a mongrel becomes idle. If your version of top doesn't show the short command by default, use the c keyboard command to see it.This is probably common knowledge, but I thought it was cool.
from google
december 2008
Minnesota Public Radio's Fitzgerald Theater: Upcoming Events
Any Minneapolis people have ideas of how to get 2 tickets to the sold-out New Standards Show at the Fitz? Hoping.
from twitter
november 2008
Big Green Egg Thanksgiving Turkey
BGE heated up to 350 degrees with platesetter legs UP and Pie Pan between the disposable drip pan and the platesetter (keeps from scorching the juice). Place turkey on a V-Rack. I used 36 ounces of chicken broth an onion, celery and carrots (broth for basting). After one hour, baste often...when temp hits remove.This was a 13.8 Lb. Bird and it took exactly 3 hours. Happy TurkeyDay!
from google
november 2008
Transmit 3.6.7 is available
Filed under: Software, Internet, Internet Tools
Earlier this week, one of the applications that I use every day, Panic's Transmit, was updated to version 3.6.7. Since the previous version was 3.6.6, this seems like a minor update, but it does bring some welcome bug fixes, including

Re-worked preview drawer to avoids possible transfer stalls
Fixed S3 uploads with files greater than 2 GB
Fixed a problem in which files may be deleted when moving them into a subfolder
Improved S3 copied URLs when connecting to the EU S3 server

There's more, of course, and you can read the full change log here. We've written about Transmit several times, but I'll briefly tell you why it's my choice for an FTP application. First, changing permissions is ridiculously simple. The droplets are great as well. If you're unfamiliar, Transmit will let you create shortcuts to often-used directories on your server and save them as "droplets" on your desktop.I also appreciate the tight integration with another Panic product, Coda. Simply right-click on a html or PHP file, for instance, and select "Edit with Coda."Finally, the UI is so friendly and Mac-like that even a person who has never used an FTP app before will feel comfortable.Thanks, Robert!
TUAWTransmit 3.6.7 is available originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Wed, 26 Nov 2008 07:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments
from google
november 2008
DRM-free ‘iTunes Plus’ tracks from Universal, Warner, SonyBMG appear in Apple’s iTunes Store
The long-standing duel between Apple and three major labels, Universal, Warners and Sony BMG...
from google
november 2008
Online Ad Revenue
IAB article reports: “that Q3 2008 online ad revenues were flat. The Q3 revenues of $5.9 billion were 2 percent higher than the Q2 2008 results.  For the first nine months of 2008, revenues totaled $17.3 billion, up from $15.2 billion in the same period a year ago and surpassing the record set in the first nine months of 2007 by nearly 14 percent.”
from google
november 2008
HandBrake 0.9.3 adds Universal Input
Filed under: Video, Open Source
The well known, open-source DVD ripping and video transcoding application HandBrake has been updated to version 0.9.3. Among the changes, perhaps the most exciting is universal input -- now you can use HandBrake to convert any kind of video file it recognizes, not just DVDs. This is particularly exciting given the recent demise of the much loved VisualHub (although the open-source reworking of VisualHub via the TranscoderRedux project is underway). In fact, the new HandBrake incorporates some of the same ffmpeg libraries that did the heavy lifting in VisualHub. Among the many changes are an updated interface as well as improvements to both audio handling and video quality. Interestingly, the HandBrake developers have removed its internal DVD decryption which means you'll need to have the free VLC on your machine to utilize HandBrake's classic DVD ripping functionality (though as long as you have VLC they promise it will work as before).HandBrake 0.9.3 is a free download from HandBrake.Thanks Will!TUAWHandBrake 0.9.3 adds Universal Input originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Mon, 24 Nov 2008 10:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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from google
november 2008
WordPress Plugin: WP-Tuner
We all love WordPress, but sometimes it can get just really, really slow. And no matter how we look for the cause, sometimes theres just no way to figure out whats been giving your WordPress installation the hiccups. Thank goodness somebody came up with WP-Tuner.

WP-Tuner for WordPress is a powerful and easy way to answer hard questions about why your blog is slow or cranky. Whats causing the slowdown? Is it a plugin? Is it your host? This plugin will help you find out. One problem, though, with this particular plugin is that its not for the novice. Advanced WP users will be able to understand what the plugin tells them, but it may not be that obvious for everyone.

WP-Tuner is recommended to be used by:

WordPress site administrators
WordPress plugin and theme designers
WordPress developers

WP-Tuner can also be used with a number of advanced ways, like hooking any WordPress action to it. You can even use it to time anything at all in WordPress.

Installing WP-Tuner is as easy as installing any other plugin: upload using your favorite FTP client, and activate via the plugins page. Be sure to read the plugins readme file and the associated help documents before using it.

Used with a bit of common sense, this powerful plugin will help blog administrators as well as software developers improve their WordPress blog performance.
november 2008
GitX - Home
GitX () is actually nice for seeing branching activity in your project. Also nice to see diff's very fast.
from twitter
november 2008
Automated PHP Deployment With Capistrano
Capistrano's power is in its remoting features. You tell it what to do on that other server, and it does it. Beauty. So, if your PHP deployment process requires an svn export combined with a few other repetitive steps you have to do every time, Capistrano is here to help you too.
november 2008
MacNN: Snow Leopard could ship 1Q 2009
Filed under: Macworld, Rumors, Snow Leopard Snow Leopard could ship as early as January, according to comments made by the director of Apple's Unix Technology Group. Jordan Hubbard said at the Large Installation System Administration conference last week that Mac OS X 10.6 will ship in the first quarter of 2009, according to MacNN. This primes the Macworld Expo rumor pump: Scheduled for January 5, Steve could debut new quad-core iMacs in addition to showing off this new version of the operating system. This is not to be confused with Mac OS X 10.5.6, a minor update, which could be available as soon as Friday. TUAWMacNN: Snow Leopard could ship 1Q 2009 originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Wed, 19 Nov 2008 12:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds. Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments
from google
november 2008
Giving MarsEdit A Voice
Peter Verkhovensky recently wished out loud on Twitter for a feature in MarsEdit. He wanted the application to play a sound when a post has been sent successfully to a blog, similar to how Mail can play a noise when sending a message.

Although MarsEdit doesn’t have built-in support for this, it turns out to be relatively easy to achieve if you take advantage of the built-in Growl support. Growl is best known for its ability to display small, floating notification windows when certain actions are performed in applications, but it also supports the ability to play a sound.

Peter describes the process of adding a successful post sound in this manner. Nice work, Peter, and thanks for sharing the details on how it was done.
from google
november 2008
Chip Cuccio
Artisan of web / network / computer systems, father, husband - from southern Minnesota, USA
november 2008
magicJack
Anyone using a Magic Jack?
from twitter
november 2008
Pinnacle TV for Mac: A Great Gift
In this down economy, people have been asking me (since I have a reputation as a gadget freak) what would be great gifts for this holiday season and would be ones with "a high geek factor and a low price."
The Flip Mino HD has been one I've recommended at $229 as has this Asus netbook at $329.
Usually I've rarely had good luck with low-end products that purport to do big things that more expensive gear performs, but the two above are exceptions to that rule.  So I was naturally skeptical when the box arrived for me to evaluate the $129 Pinnacle TV for Mac HD USB mini stick (more info on it here).
I opened it up, installed the software, and waited the 15 minutes or so that it took to seek out all the possible stations in my area the included antenna could pick up. To say that I was stunned, surprised and delighted when suddenly a gorgeous high definition TV station appeared on my Apple 24" Cinema display, would be doing this little product a disservice!
Every available over-the-air station worked flawlessly and it was easy to switch back-n-forth between channels. As I fooled around with it and viewed some content, I realized how much I would've loved having this device when the debates were going on (too often I had stuff to do at my desk and could've had live TV running watching them, instead of having to record the first half and watch it later).


After several days of using TitanTV (the online listing service) and trying out the personal video recording (PVR) functions, getting a signal became more problematic for some reason. Could be my location in the house (my home office is in front while most towers are located directionally behind my house) so I connected it to my in-attic antenna with the outlet in my office. Perfect once again (though I never did figure out why it was great and then intermittent).

A screengrab of a kids animated show on my local PBS affiliate and it was spectacular!
Next, I brought the Pinnacle TV upstairs along with my Macbook Pro and tried it out with the included antenna. NOW I had zero trouble with the included antenna signal since our second floor is up high and with perfect sightlines to where the broadcast towers would be. As such, I'm using it upstairs often.
This HD stick is certainly not a replacement for an HDTV or digital video recorder combination, but for traveling, in a home office, bedroom or spare room, it's a remarkably good solution, especially for the laughingly small $129 price point.
The Pinnacle TV for Mac HD USB mini stick is now on my strong recommendation list due to its "perfect high geek factor and low price."  That said, I'm also strongly recommending it for non-geeks since it's so simple to setup and use. Check it out for yourself and see.
from google
november 2008
Optoma's palm-sized video projector looks great
Filed under: Multimedia, Video, iPod classic
Optoma's tiny Pico projector has caught our attention. This small device (50mm x 103mm x 15mm) weighs four ounces and features up to 2 hours of battery life, an LED lamp with a lifespan of 20,000 hours and mini USB connectivity. The manufacturers claim that images can be viewed at 60" (measured diagonal from corner to corner) from a maximum distance of 2.6 meters. The AV Input combines stereo audio and composite video via a 1 x 2.5mm 4 pole jack socket.In the video above, it's connected to an iPod Classic and the image looks pretty good. Of course, our experience is only as good as the quality of the clip, but it definitley looks like a fun device. Videos, images and even slide presentations could be run off of your iPod and pocket projector, eliminating the need to bring a laptop, adaptor and full-sized projector to your meeting.The proof is in the pudding, and we'd like to get our hands on one of these. Optoma says they'll start selling sometime next year with a price point around $400US. TUAWOptoma's palm-sized video projector looks great originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Fri, 14 Nov 2008 10:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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from google
november 2008
Coda 1.6 released, offers plug-in support
Filed under: Internet Tools, Developer
A cheery little dialog box informed me just a few minutes ago that Coda 1.6 is available from the fine folks at Panic.

Coda is a one-window web-development and editing environment that is one of my favorite apps, and one that we've covered here before.

Coda 1.6 introduces a plug-in architecture that extends Coda's already pretty robust text-editing functionality. With Coda Plug-in Creator, even users who aren't familiar with Cocoa can create plugins, which follow a similar format to TextMate's command bundles. The plug-in functionality mirrors that of up-and-comer Espresso, with its Sugar plug-ins. Espresso is still in beta.

Also included in the update is the Open Quickly command: a Spotlight-like command that searches your sites for files to open. Hit Control+Q to show the Open Quickly window, type a few characters, and open one of the files listed to get to work.

On top of that, Coda improves spell checking support, and now includes an Objective-J syntax mode. Full release notes are available here.

Coda 1.6 is available from Panic's website, or from inside the app by selecting "Check for Updates" from the Coda menu.
TUAWCoda 1.6 released, offers plug-in support originally appeared on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on Tue, 11 Nov 2008 17:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
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from google
november 2008
IPhone 2.2 coming on November 21...just in time for Thanksgiving
iPhone Hellas (via Giz) is hella sure that the newest version of the iPhone OS 2.2 (including the Google Maps features, application scoring and direct download of podcasts) is going to be ready to go in time for you to show the whole family on Thanksgiving. Will it have Push notifications? No, but maybe for Christmas ...if you are good.
november 2008
Loferno Firepit
Very well built and cool looking metal firepit. Nice.
november 2008
Snow Leopard to see HFS+ compression, default gamma switch
Details of Apple's first Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard build for developers since WWDC have been published on the web, including confirmation of a Cocoa Finder and HFS+ compression.
october 2008
Apple's System Preference icon goes Green
Filed under: Apple Corporate, Odds and ends, Apple, Macbook Pro, MacBook With the introduction of EPEAT Gold rated MacBooks and MacBook Pros last week, Apple has definitely been warming up to the environmental movement lately. So, it was only fitting that they would change a small part of System Preferences to reflect the EPEAT rating. That's right, the Energy Saver icon has changed from an old incandescent bulb to a newer, more energy-efficient fluorescent bulb. Now you will only have to change the energy saver icon every 7 years, but be careful when you dispose of the old icons because they contain mercury (just kidding). This change has only shown up on the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros. Do you think Apple will eventually update their entire line to have this new icon (and, of course, be EPEAT Gold rated)? We definitely hope so! Thanks to everyone who sent this in! Read
october 2008
1TB hard drives dipping below $100 retail for the first time
Another milestone has been reached as hard drives keep getting bigger and bigger and cheaper and cheaper. The sub 10 cent Gigabyte era is upon us as a few retailers are selling 1TB hard drives for $100. Frequent 9to5mac.com advertisers, Other World Computing are offering Samsung Spinpoint P drives for $99.
october 2008
It's FOX News Channel vs. The Middle Class
Raw Numbers:
FNCMSNBCCNNACORN70667112AYERS525340279Economy8261032954"middle class"137170163
A special thanks to Beyond Media for loaning me an evaluation unit of a Snapstream Enterprise Server, which I used to generate these numbers.
october 2008
A Peek At Brightkite For the iPhone
Brightkite, a geo-aware social network from the TechStars class of 2007, has given us a peek at the site’s upcoming iPhone application, due to appear in the App Store in the next few weeks (pending Apple’s approval process).

Brightkite’s featureset will be familiar to users of similar applications like Loopt. The app allows users to syndicate their current location to their friends, meet nearby Brightkite users, and lifestream with the equivalent of geo-encoded Tweets. The application is tied to Yahoo’s Fire Eagle, which allows users to manage their location from a number of other services. The site also uses databases to automatically associate POI’s and cross streets with GPS locations, so user positions aren’t simply displayed as coordinates.

The application looks impressive, but it will have plenty of competition: there’s already at least six major geo-location networks vying to get some traction on the iPhone. Founder Martin May acknowledges that Brightkite shares many similarities with other geo-enabled social networks, but points out that Brightkite is available worldwide, while most of its competitors are not. He also says that Brightkite’s SMS integration and existing user base of 50,000 users through its website and other mobile platforms may also help give it a leg up, though some of its competitors have estbalished users bases and distributions on other platforms as well.

If you’d like to try Brightkite’s main website (you’ll have to wait a few more days for the iPhone app), you can sign up for the private beta through this special link.

Disclosure: Brightkite competitor Loopt should be considered a TechCrunch sponsor.

Crunch Network: CrunchBase the free database of technology companies, people, and investors
from google
october 2008
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