Droopy sun

January 28, 2006

These pictures were actually taken from the same dock as the sunset photo I put up about a month ago, though weeks later. I was experimenting with opening the new 50mm lens all the way up and bringing the setting sun completely out of focus. I'm really happy with the way these turned out; for whatever reason, the movie Lost in Translation always springs to mind when I look at them. As always, please let me know what you think (either through e-mail or comments on Flickr).

Droopy sun (1)
Droopy sun (2)

What podcasts aren't

January 26, 2006

I decided to put this together because I was kind of tired of all of the questions I was getting from friends and family regarding podcasts and figured I should just sum everything up at once.

Podcasts are not the progeny of Apple
The name, admittedly, seems to imply an association with the company, but that's simply not true. What is true is that Apple realized the "power" of podcasts and decided to capitalize on the correlation that end-users would no doubt make between iPods and this not-so-new content-delivery system. Apple saw the opportunity to be the first "big" name to get behind podcasts and made a smart move — the rest is history.
Podcasts are not limited to the iPod (or iTunes)
Because podcasts have nothing to do with iPods or iTunes, there is no technical reason why podcasts can't work with other devices and aggregators (iTunes' role in all of this).
Podcasts are not required to use a specific codec
A podcast can use any format. For the most part, [unprotected] MP3 is the codec of choice, but other formats work just as well (ATRAC, AAC, etc.) Also keep in mind that podcasts are not limited to just audio; there are plenty of video podcasts (or "vidcasts" or whatever you want to call them) floating around out there.
Podcasts do not require an aggregator
Podcasts are simply RSS feeds that link to a file that contains "new" content. As long as you have the link you can download the file. Granted, without the RSS enclosure pointing to the content it's not really a "podcast," but rather just another file on the Internet.

Smart Archives has been localized

January 24, 2006

Thanks to Santi Regueiro, Smart Archives has now been localized. He localized it for himself and then e-mailed me his modifications. Localization was probably the most requested feature and has been in the queue for a while. I kept putting it off because I thought that it would require a decent amount of time, but after looking at his changes I quickly realized that it's rather elementary and something I should have taken care of sooner.

After exchanging a few e-mails and making a few tweaks, the changes have been incorporated into the latest version, which should localize automagically. Please let me know if you run into any trouble.

Are 5G iPods killing earphones?

January 22, 2006

This thread on iLounge is blowing up. Apparently, a lot of people are reporting that their 5G (and some 4G) iPods are killing their earphones (usually the right one). It seems that the buds just start to crackle and then just die altogether.

This worries me because I just bought a 5G iPod [video] yesterday and use some fairly expensive in-ear headphones (Shure E3cs). Though most of the complaints have been limited to the Apple-supplied buds (*puke*), there are scattered reports of third-party headphones dying as well, including some high-end models.

Despite this issue, I'll likely take my chances because I've never experienced anything like this and the 5G model is my fifth iPod. Though, to be fair, I never owned a 4G model (2G, mini, shuffle, nano, and 5G) and so I might be in for a rude awakening, the sentiment to be returned to Apple in spades if that turns out to be the case.

Reset Windows Mobile 5.0 EDGE connection

January 22, 2006

Anyone know of a way to 'reset' an EDGE connection in Windows Mobile 5.0 without rebooting? EDGE connectivity on my i-mate SP5 has been a little flaky and I'm fairly certain it has nothing to do with Cingular, which leaves me with either the phone or the OS to blame, and experience obviously wants to point the finger at Windows.

In a nutshell, the problem usually goes something like this: use EDGE for something; don't use it for a while (let's say an hour); try to use it again for anything. When I say anything I mean POP, SSH, FTP, WWW, etc. IE will simply tell you that the page can't be found, Opera Mini (which is great by the way) will tell you that a communication error has occurred, and an FTP attempt through Total Commander will say that it can't resolve the address (probably the most correct and informative error message of the three).

The only workaround I've found is to reset the device, which never fails to make my blood boil and always seems to cause me to scream obscenities about how MS sucks and blah blah blah. If you've got a better solution please let me know about it before I completely lose my voice.

UPDATE: Quite a few people have e-mailed me about this and the solution seems to be to hit (or, in some cases, hold down for a few seconds) the phone "hangup" key, which immediately drops the connection. This has worked pretty well for me and so I now make it a habit to hit the hangup key each time I stop actively using the connection.

Disconnect between Bloglines and del.icio.us

January 22, 2006

Why does it take so long for Bloglines to update my del.icio.us feed? Until about a month ago it was working fine, but now it sometimes takes days for my del.icio.us entries to show up in the web-based aggregator. For example, Bloglines updated the feed today and is showing entries all the way back to Jan. 17 — for the first time! Ugh. Anyone else experiencing this (I tend to notice only when my feed has been delayed)?

Shortening individual archive URIs

January 17, 2006

For a long while I've wanted to make my archive URIs a bit shorter, a bit less crufty. As most of you are very well aware, I take this whole archiving thing very seriously and have put a lot of thought and effort into coming up with the best long-term solution, while trying to not break past efforts along the way.

A little background

A few years ago I put together a post titled, Future-proof your URIs, where I explained how to do just that using Movable Type. A couple of years later, when I moved to WordPress, I obviously wanted the same thing and wrote up a little piece called, Maintaining URIs between Movable Type and WordPress. The purpose of that post was to give users a way (after figuring it out for myself) to make the [now future-proofed] MT URIs play nice with WordPress's permalink structure, which uses hyphens, instead of underscores, in the post slug. Because mod_rewrite limits you to nine back-references, it can't be used for posts with "longer" titles (i.e., no post where there are more than nine words in the title; the actual number is likely much smaller when you take into account the fact that you need to reference other parts of the URI like year, date, etc). My method created individual rewrite conditions and rules for each post; I suspect that the only other way to get around the back-reference limitation is to write some backend code to modify the address each time one of the older URIs is accessed.

Removing some of the cruft

When I speak of "cruft," I'm referring to superfluous delimiters that simply aren't needed to uniquely identify a post. For example, until a few days ago, my individual archive URIs looked like this:

/archives/year/month/day/post-name

It's obvious that "archives" and the day reference are not needed. Depending on how you title your posts, you might think that the month is too much as well, but if there is any chance that you'll give two posts from the same year the same title, then you should probably leave the month in there (I also like it there because it adds a bit more granularity to the URI and lets you, or whoever, get a better idea of when the post was actually published).1 So, with these two elements removed, the new URIs would look like this:

/year/month/post-name

To get the URIs into this format I had to pay special attention to past schemes so as not to break them — I needed all past links to resolve to the new structure — no one who links to me using a now-defunct, but once active URI scheme, should ever receive a 404 error. After spending some time in the lab, I came up with the following .htaccess condition and rule:

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} archives/([0-9]{4}/[0-9]{2})/[0-9]{2}/?([_0-9a-z-]+)?
RewriteRule .* %1/%2 [R=301,L]

As you may or may not be able to see, that code removes "archives" and the day reference from the link and the user sees the modified link in their address bar. Because I put this rule below the rules I created to maintain the URIs between MT and WP, even the older links correctly map to the shorter URI.

Lastly, I changed the permalink structure within WP to comport with the new, less-crufty URIs.


  1. Keep in mind that WordPress will automatically rename the post slug (to something like post-name-2) if there are identical titles within the weblog.   

egoSurf

January 15, 2006
My egoSurf rank

I have to say that I'm pretty pleased with my results (see above picture). What's your egoSurf rank?

As far as I can tell, I think all it does is look at the first 50 Google (or whichever search engine you choose) results for the name you put in the first box and determines how many of those results actually link back to the address you put in the second box. Kinda neat.

Headshots of Eric

January 13, 2006

Eric asked me to take some headshots of him for his acting "portfolio" thing, and, well, I really wanted to try out my new EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens — these are actually some of the very first shots taken with the new glass. Enjoy.

Headshot of Eric (1)
Headshot of Eric (2)

Revamped photos page

January 10, 2006

Well, after much thought and experimentation, I've decided to take a different approach to my photos page. For the past few months I've been using flickrRSS (which I've written about before) to serve up the last 10 pictures uploaded to my Flickr account (it builds the image list from the RSS feed linked to my account).

Though this plugin is great for what it was designed for, I realized pretty quickly that it wasn't what I wanted, mostly because of the fact that I didn't necessarily want all of the pictures I uploaded to Flickr to be on the photo page I keep here — I wanted on this page only those pictures I thought were my best work (users could then click through to my Flickr account and look at everything else).

While searching for plugins to accomplish this I came across FAlbum, which pretty much did what I wanted, namely, dynamically create thumbnails of a single Flickr album (in my case, my "Best" album). The problem though, is that it did a lot more — the idea of the plugin is to integrate a list of your Flickr albums (and their respective pictures) into your WordPress "theme." I didn't want any of that and ended up turning ~1500 lines of code into ~300, dropping all of the superfluous (in my case) stuff along the way. I had to change a few things, including the way the function was called and the URIs generated for the thumbnails (I wanted the thumbnails to link to their respective Flickr pages, not to single-image pages within my site).

When I can find the time, I'll likely package these modifications and additions into a WordPress plugin and release it here; something tells me that this is going to be very popular.

MacBook Pro

January 10, 2006

It's out!!! I can't believe it's actually out! I'm going to have to make some tough purchasing decisions pretty soon — not sure I can do without this new notebook.

Anyone want to buy a mint-condition 15" aluminum PowerBook G4 (1.25GHz; 1.25GB RAM; 80GB HD)?  :P

Top ten of 2005

January 08, 2006

You knew it was coming.

Albums

I also thoroughly enjoyed the following this year: Sufjan Stevens' Illinoise, Ladytron's Witching Hour, Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine, the soundtrack to The Constant Gardener, DangerDoom's The Mouse and the Mask, Boards of Canada's The Campfire Headphase, Wolf Parade's Apologies to the Queen Mary, The Decembrists' Picaresque, New Pornographers' Twin Cinema, Stereophonics' Language. Sex. Violence. Other?, Broken Social Scene's Broken Social Scene, M.I.A.'s Arular, The Avalanches' Since I Left You, and Kaiser Chiefs' Employment.

Films

  • Hustle & Flow
  • The Weatherman
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • The Constant Gardener
  • Crash
  • Batman Begins
  • Layer Cake
  • Good Night, and Good Luck
  • King Kong
  • A History of Violence
  • Cinderalla Man (yes, this makes 11, sue me!)

There are quite a few movies from 2005 that I still haven't seen, including Munich, The Squid and the Whale, Broken Flowers, Junebug, Caché, Downfall, Brokeback Mountain, Nine Lives, Capote, and Syriana. All in due time.

New ideas for this site

January 06, 2006

I've got a slew of new ideas I want to implemenent here, but I'm not sure I'll ever find the time to bring them to fruition. Isn't it always the case that as soon as I think I'm all caught up with changing things around I end up turning the whole mess on its head and putting the pieces back together from scratch? At some point I'm going to have to learn to leave well enough alone. Fat chance!  :\

Layout

One thing I'd really like to do is move back to a single-column layout (Jason Zada was one of the first I saw pull it off really well; more recently, Binary Bonsai has been coming together quite nicely). As you guys well know, I love the guise of simplicity and I think the single-column layout goes far to accomplish that. The problem though, is that I now offer a decent amount of stuff in the side column relative to the content in the main column, and while I could put all of this at the bottom, I'm not sure it would work well there, and random passersby would surely miss it.

Tour

I've been wanting to do a "tour" page for a long time (after first being inspired by kottke's), but have just never gotten around to it. The basic premise is to let those who know nothing about me and what I like to write about here get a quick idea of who I am and what this site is all about. Look for this sometime soon.

Projects and How-Tos

I'm currently working on ways to organize, and more importantly, present, the various projects I've released and "how-to" posts I've authored. The projects are easy because [usually] each of them has its own dedicated page; it's the "how-tos" that are a bit more difficult because I have to go through and "tag" those posts as such, which is going to be both time-consuming and boring.

Photographs

I really want to come up with a default naming scheme for the pictures I post here because I hate having to come up with titles for them. Were I just posting them to Flickr I would simply leave the title as the number of the picture (as defined by the camera), but for likeIy obvious reasons I feel a need to give them somewhat descriptive titles when I put them on the weblog, and, like I said, I'm tired of that.

I almost want to do something as boring as "Canon 20D [# of picture]" — simple, mindless, and future-proof.

If anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears, or eyes, or whatever.

Smart Archives v1.12

January 06, 2006

A couple of people have written to me about a second "Dec" showing up on some lines in the first Smart Archives block. Because I see nothing like this in my implementation, I struck up the first e-mail to a beginner's ignorance, but after I got the second I realized that something was off (kind of like the problem a small minority of people were having with v1.01; again, something I wasn't seeing in my implementation).

The good news is that I've fixed the problem and v1.12 can now be downloaded from the project page. The bad news is that I'm still not sure why it's occurring. If/when I finally nail down the reason I'll likely release another version that's more than just a band-aid solution.

If your v1.1 implementation is working fine (99% are), then there is no reason to download this fix, however, if you insist on running the latest and greatest, this new version shouldn't hurt anything (I'm currently running it myself).

Now is the time to move to DreamHost

January 04, 2006

If you aren't already using DreamHost for webhosting, now is certainly the time to switch over because they've just QUADRUPLED disk space and octupled monthly bandwidth allotments, for a "limited time only."

The best part is that they've made these changes retroactive (they usually do), which means that for $20/mo. I now have 64GB of space and 1.75TB of bandwidth/mo. Keep in mind that just a little over a year ago my $20/mo. plan gave me only 2.5GB of space and 64GB of bandwidth/mo. (both a steal at the time) — talk about an insane growth rate.

Boodrow

January 03, 2006
Boodrow

My brother's new puppy.

Smart Archives v1.1

January 01, 2006

There are two major changes to Smart Archives in this version:

Functional

Some users had reported to me that their new posts weren't being immediately processed by Smart Archives and sometimes took a few hours to show up. Given the very limited number of people that e-mailed me about this, I know that the problem wasn't very widespread and seemed to affect only a very specific server setup, but either way, I think I've come up with a solution.

Aesthetic

The major aesthetic change I made was to have the top block completely filled in, which you can now see on my archives page (where you'll notice that some of the months are grey and not hyperlinked). I made this change because of the fact that months on the bottom row were not lining up with those on the row above it (unless, of course, your very first weblog post was in January and you haven't missed a month since).

Obviously, this can be "undone" by removing a single line from the plugin code or by masking the text with CSS. If you'd like to go the code route, simply change this:

else {echo('<span class="emptymonth">'.$sm.'</span> '."\n");}

to this:

// else {echo('<span class="emptymonth">'.$sm.'</span> '."\n");}

i-mate SP5 redux

January 01, 2006

First things first: the i-mate SP5 is awesome. I'm really impressed.

I told myself I wasn't going to write anything up due to time constraints, but I've received a fairly steady stream of e-mail asking for my thoughts and now I feel compelled to say something. I'm just going to do a quick run-through of some of the things I've noticed after using it for a week.

Build quality

It feels as solid, if not more so, than the i-mate SP3i, which, at that time, was the most well-built phone I'd ever used. It feels slightly larger than the SP3i, but not much.

The joystick now has a little rubber piece in the middle of it which makes it a bit easier to control — it (and the OS) are very responsive.

Screen

The screen is breathtaking. It's got a very large DPI due to the fact that it's squeezing 320x240 pixels into a 2.2 inch space. It's almost impossible to make out individual pixels (and I tried really, really hard). While obviously great for looking at photos, the screen really shines when browsing websites — tiny type is infinitely more readable than on past devices I've had (and, incidentally, Gmail Mobile is perfect on it; more on that in another post).

WiFi

Getting the WiFi setup was mindless and it works really, really well; I've used it on three separate networks and have had no trouble at all. Much to my delight (and surprise quite frankly), data connections default to WiFi first and then fall back on EDGE if that fails (assuming you set it up that way). Very nice. This is obviously how it should work, but I wasn't holding my breath. There's also a feature that will alert you to the fact that a WiFi network has been found, which could come in pretty handy.

I recommend getting a copy of Total Commander and really pushing the WiFi with its FTP client — I think you'll be amazed at the data rates it can sustain.

T9

Like the SP3i, the T9 implementation is fantastic and has actually been improved a bit. The keypad is a dream to type on (probably the best I've ever used actually) and the fact that I can control the delay between key taps when I'm not using T9 is great (you can set it as low as half a second).

Camera

To be honest, I haven't used this very much, but the results of the pictures I have taken are about what you'd expect from a 1.3MP sensor, though they are a world away from the pics I could get with the Sony Ericsson K750i.

Complaints

To be perfectly honest, I think my only real gripe with the phone itself (separate from Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone Edition) is that it's a bit "slippery"; I think that if the plastic was a little more rough, the phone would stick to your hand better. It's a minor complaint and likely something that won't affect most people.

I'm a little disappointed with the Bluetooth implementation. I can't send to the phone from my PowerBook (though I can send from the phone) — I'll likely be able to hack up a solution to this, but I haven't yet had a chance to try.

Conclusion

In summation, if you have the money and want a phone at the top of its class, then you need look no further than SP5. Like I said before, I don't see myself flipping this until the Nokia E61 comes out (and maybe not even then).

I really like Mint

December 29, 2005

A couple of months ago I finally decided to bite the bullet and pay for Mint, a statistics package for websites. What? Yah, I couldn't believe it either, but you know I loves the numbers. $30, to be sure, is a lot to pay for what amounts to nothing more than a somewhat simplified stats program, but I love it. I love everything about it.

I'm not going to go into detail about the product, lord knows the blogosphere had its way with it when it was first released (mostly with regard to its admittedly high price), but I will say that I'm more than pleased, even if a bit miffed that I actually paid for it. It actually reminds me a lot of the old Reinvigorate system (which was *cough* free).

It's not Analog or Urchin (now available for free from Google Analytics), but it shows me the information that I want to see, and beautifully I might add.

I think my absolute favorite feature is the RSS feed for new referrers. No need to follow anything else; Technorati, PubSub, and all the other ways I used to track incoming links have been obviated. Shaun gets around the referral spam problem by "validating" every hit with JavaScript, which really seems to do the trick.

One other really nice feature regarding referrers is that it can usually deduce that different URIs are the same site (e.g., www.foo.com, foo.com, foo.com/foo.html) and record/present them as such.

Pepper

The "Pepper" plugin interface is fantastic and as soon as I think of something I need that hasn't already been created, I'll be sure to release my own addition to Mint.

I currently use the following Peppers:

Mild complaints

There is no way to filter the RSS feed. In other words, there is no way to remove from it things that come up often, but in slightly different contexts (e.g., I get a ton of referrals from Google Images which I couldn't care less about). Yes, I know of the Referrer Filter Pepper, but it only filters the page view pane, not the RSS feed.

Another thing I would like to see is the ability to switch between various color schemes. Sure, I could whip up a custom CSS file, but, well, I'm a busy man, and for $30 I would expect at least one alternative color combination.

All in all though, it's a great piece of software and something I see myself using for years to come.