Nov 30

Men and Women differ on the perfect TV experience

Personal 24 Comments »

I learn new things everyday, and today I got to learn about the different TV experiences of the sexes.

<gratuitous generalization>
The male likes to watch TV in the basement. The darker the better. The larger the TV the better. Having pizza with it is nice, as is a beer.

The female likes to be upside in her bedroom. Watching Sex and the City in her pajamas, maybe with some ice cream. The size of the TV matters not.
</gratuitous generalization>

Nov 30

One Desktop: Syncing in 2006

Tech No Comments »

Many years ago I worked at the University of Minnesota. Back then I could go into any office or lab, login, and have my desktop in front of me. fvwm may not be as nice as my current OS X interface, but man do I miss that feature.

Now, if you have more than one machine (e.g. more than a laptop) how do you deal with managing that world?

Online Apps

You can do as much as possible with online apps. Gmail not Reader/Bloglines not NetNewsWire.

Unfortunately I like my desktop applications. I am sorry, many have features that I need. Simple is great, but not allowing power users to do what they need isn’t simple, it is restrictive.

How I wish that there were single services. Address Book has my address book. I want that kept in one service. I do not want to do what I do know, which is run applescript that exports it so I can import into GMail. Ergh that is ugly. I want to be able to add a contact from any application, and have it stored in one central service (no vcard???).

This is just the tip of the iceberg. What about applications? I want to install my apps once, set them up, and have them work the same on each machine.

With some services you can have your docs magically sync’ing between, or you can write some scripts to rsync and co.

Add a podcast feed? Let it show up everywhere. iTunes does know who I am.

When all is said and done, I want to have a great experience that works everywhere. I don’t want to have to use apps via my web browser.

I want xwindows????? :)

Nov 29

UnSpun un-spun?

Ruby, Tech 3 Comments »


Could someone call James Duncan Davidson and get him to drive up to Seattle from Portland?

All joking aside, with the great progress on the deployment side, we still have room to improve.

It is still fantastic to see Amazon in the game and I am sure this is temporary.

Nov 27

Why did my MySQL connections suddently take 30 seconds?

Tech 2 Comments »

After a MySQL upgrade, connections to our DB from our Web tier were taking ~30 seconds. It was infuriating.

We weren’t the first to see this:

After three years of running flawlessly, out MySQL database started experiencing problems handling connections. We soon discovered that MySQL by default does a reverse DNS lookup as part of its security process. We discovered that the reverse DNS lookups performed by MySQL were either timing out or were taking a very long time (5-10 seconds). We also discovered that another peice of software- a socket service listening on port 211 began to fail as well. This was a third party product so we are not sure, but the presumption is that it must also use reverse DNS lookups.

We added valid reverses via /etc/hosts and the connections happened immediately again.

Thanks to Contegix on this one. If your company has its servers hanging out in the office, please call contegix right away and get serious (Yes, I am talking to you :).

Nov 27

A good travel tale? Thanks Avis.

Travel 6 Comments »

I normally post bad travel tales, so thought I should say something when a good thing happens.

I pulled up to the Avis rental car return with my family. They saw that a baby was on board, so one of the agents jumped in the car, took us to departures (bypassing having to get everything out, waiting for the shuttle bus, etc) and helped us with the luggage.

This alone will make me think of Avis next time around.

The good news didn’t last though, as we landed minus a bad (hopefully it will show up at our home later today).

Nov 27

Google Video Ads: My first one

Google, Tech 27 Comments »

I vaguely remember hearing that AdSense was going to be shelling out video ads, but forgot about this until I saw my first in the wild today:


What is funny about this is that the play button really is compelling. I clicked on it. I never ever click on ads. I have no idea if I will ever click on one again, but it was interesting to catch myself hitting play.

Nov 25

If you all think it is spam…

Tech 5 Comments »

I use for most of my email, but I also keep gmail around as a nice web view, and some email just goes there.’s native spam filtering doesn’t seem to work well for me, so I have to jump up to use Spam Sieve, which does a decent job (considering I am getting many thousands of spam emails a day).

Gmail seems to do an ok job, but not as well as I hoped. I like the feeling when I click on a button called “Report Spam” versus “Send to Junk”. The name makes me feel like I can actually help. I hope that Google is watching and not just training its filters, but uses this for more.

For example, I would like to think that if lots of people were marking the same spam email as spam, that it would get taken out of my inbox automatically. Even if the mail first came through the filters, and 2 hours later gmail could work out it was spam, I would be more than happy for it to do this deed.

I have no clue if that happens, but it doesn’t feel like it.

But, then that system would be gamed by the spammer too. Ah, the arms race.

Nov 24

Revenge of the speed dial social network

Tech 2 Comments »

One of the first social networks was the speed dial. Your way of friending someone was to put them on the speed dial list.

It was lots of closed networks, that is for sure.

Seinfeld had an episode on the importance of it.

This all went away with the advent of the addressbook. I thought it had died forever until I realised that it reared its head with the advent of the qwerty keyboard on a phone.

Instead of numbers, I now have speed dials for letters. H for home, etc.

If you have two friends with first names of J (Jim and Jon) what do you do? You can friend only one.

Why does it matter? It is still a nicer interface to hold down one character to call someone than to use the addressbook feature.

Nov 24

To page reload, or not?

Tech 1 Comment »


Would you expect clicking on F to get Farenheight, C for Celsius would cause a full page refresh?

Not me. Surely it would be easier to do the simple math inline in JS?

Or maybe you want to store the fact that this session likes water to boil at 100 and freeze at 0. Then send back an Ajax request to simply say “default to Celsius”

Nov 24

Last-Updated: How to hit the DB as much as possible

Tech No Comments »

While debugging an application, MySQL was crashing and the log was sent over to me. There were hundreds of the same SELECT query (that wasn’t tuned too).

After hunting it down, this query was run for every RSS query, calculating the last time the event was updated.

We changed this value to be cached (in-memory speed for lookup on each request) and the issue died.