Create a personal link-shortening service with Droplr

March 22, 2011

At least a couple of times a week I'm asked how I set up to manage short links (which I use mostly on Twitter), and so I thought I'd expound a bit on that here. The truth though is that it's dead simple, and is handled almost entirely (and for free) by Droplr.

If you're unfamiliar with Droplr, see this from their about page:

Droplr Desktop allows you to upload things to Droplr by either drag+drop on the menubar icon, drag+drop on the dock icon or using a system-wide keyboard key combination. Once uploaded, Droplr returns a URL in which a user can share with anyone.

The service is an absolute joy to use, and I recommend it highly even if you don't plan on using a custom domain. (When it comes to short links, you really can't do much better than Moreover, their requisite iPhone app is great; I use it and the desktop client every day.

OK, so, to set up a custom domain for the links and files you want to share, you have to do just two things: 1) make sure your domain's A record points to; and 2) go into your account settings, click "Custom" and enter the domain you want to use (see below).

Droplr Short URL settings

That's it. Note that Droplr will redirect any root-level traffic to a domain of your choice, and I, of course, point mine to

Now, when I want to share a file or link, I simply drop it onto the menubar icon, wait for it to upload to Droplr (after which a link is copied to my clipboard), and paste the resultant link into a tweet, an email, whatever.

The stoner arms dealers#

Packouz was baffled, stoned and way out of his league. "It was surreal," he recalls. "Here I was dealing with matters of international security, and I was half-baked. I didn't know anything about the situation in that part of the world. But I was a central player in the Afghan war -- and if our delivery didn't make it to Kabul, the entire strategy of building up the Afghanistan army was going to fail. It was totally killing my buzz. There were all these shadowy forces, and I didn't know what their motives were. But I had to get my shit together and put my best arms-dealer face on."

Only in America. I couldn't stop reading this one.

A day in the life of a liveblogger#

A great overview of what the process is like. To each is own, but this, predictably, sounds terrible.

I've never quite understood the whole liveblogging deal; 100 people competing to parrot tech specs the fastest? I get why certain companies (most notably Apple) like this sort of thing (mainly because it drums up curiosity, hype, etc.), but why any blogger would want to participate is kind of beyond me (and there are very few "professional" bloggers who are bigger gadget geeks than me).

Can the LHC be used as a time machine?#

[The Higgs singlet] may have a unique ability to jump out of the normal three dimensions of space and one dimension of time that we inhabit, and into a hidden dimension theorized to exist by some advanced physics models. By traveling through the hidden dimension, Higgs singlets could re-enter our dimensions at a point forward or backward in time from when they exited.

"One of the attractive things about this approach to time travel is that it avoids all the big paradoxes," Weiler said. "Because time travel is limited to these special particles, it is not possible for a man to travel back in time and murder one of his parents before he himself is born, for example. However, if scientists could control the production of Higgs singlets, they might be able to send messages to the past or future."


This site is a repository of the best [TextExpander] snippets we could find all over the Internet.

If you don't use TextExpander (or similar), you're nuts. (I submitted my Footnotes and TextExpander post from 2005.)

James White's Help Japan poster#

Help Japan poster

[A]ll proceeds generated from sales of this poster will be donated to Japanese disaster relief following the 8.9 earthquake and tsunami of March 11.

I'm sure Japan appreciates your prayers (it's a kind gesture to be sure), but money will actually make a difference.

A typical buyer/seller exchange on Craigslist

March 16, 2011

As some of you know, I recently sold my 11" MacBook Air on Craigslist (I'll maybe discuss why in a subsequent post), and the following is an actual exchange I had last week with a potential buyer, which exchange is typical of the kind you often have to deal with when selling stuff on Craigslist. (For those curious, there were 39 total emails, 24 of which were from him.) I'm guessing most people probably would have just stopped replying to this guy near the beginning of the conversation, but, well, I have a hard time doing that when they seem so eager and honest.

Before you watch it, understand that the ad made clear that I wasn't interested in trades, and that the price was firm.

(For what it's worth, this potential buyer was Asian-American, but Xtranormal doesn't offer that voice as an option. Because all of the foreign voices it has are nearly unintelligible (they're so bad that I wonder why they're offered at all), I went with an "American English" man voice for me, and an "American English" boy voice for him.)

A third staffer leaves The Daily#

Yesterday, Adweek reported on a second defection from The Daily, Rupert Murdoch's tablet newspaper. Well, three makes a trend, and that's at least how many staffers The Daily has lost since it launched last month.

If I had a nickel…

Thorsten Overgaard on the Leica M9#

This is, without question, the most comprehensive and engaging Leica M9 review I've read. It's truly epic. If you're on the fence about one of these bad boys, but are scared to spend the money, you'd do well to not read this review, because it likely will push you over the edge.

(As some of you know from Twitter, late last week I took delivery of my very own Leica M9! I haven't yet been able to shoot with it too much because the weather has been a bit dodgy, but already I can say with confidence that it's a dream to hold and use. More in a future post.)

You are NOT a photographer#

Have you noticed how 50 girls you went to school with have set up shop as a "professional" photographer? Having a DSLR does not make you a professional photographer. We're outing these no-talents with daily pictures from the worst of the web.

(Via Dave Caolo.)

Reeder for iPhone's new "Slide left to" feature (iTunes link)#

Yesterday Reeder for iPhone was updated with a feature I've long wanted, namely the ability to assign a specific action to the gesture of sliding an article title to the left in the article list view.

I've set mine to "Send to Instapaper," which means that when an article's title has enough information for me to know I want to read the article later, I simply slide the title to the left, and can immediately continue scrolling. The action itself is so fast and fluid, and collapses what was four touches (i.e., Title > Services > Instapaper > Back) into just one.

I know I've said it a million times, but this app is untouchable. Silvio, I love you.

Update: I'm told that this feature has been in Reeder for iPhone for a while, and that this latest update just added Readability support to the mix. (Thanks MacMacken.) How did I miss this the first time around?!

Quicksilver rises from the ashes#

I like to think I was one of the first people to really explore the capabilities of Quicksilver and champion its virtues, which were legion. As many of you know, core development kind of fell off when Nicholas Jitkoff ("Alcor") headed to Google to develop its Quick Search Box (and Quicksilver was open sourced).

Well, it seems the once-venerable project is gaining some real steam, and while I couldn't be more excited for Quicksilver and its many fans, I'm happily wedded to LaunchBar at this point (which Jitkoff himself encouraged users to try in lieu of Quicksilver).

Why and how I use both Instapaper and Read It Later

March 10, 2011

The goal here, as ever, is to reduce friction.

Like everyone else on the planet, I use the hell out of Instapaper, and have for a very long time. (That said, I really don't use it as much these days because I send damn near everything straight to my Kindle as I come across it.)

I've created various folders within Instapaper, including one I call "media," that I use to hold, well, links to various media I come across each day. These mostly are videos related to science, technology, (non-)religion and politics, but also include a ton of pop-culture stuff.

A while ago Marco made it possible to target particular Instapaper folders with folder-specific bookmarklets. This was a feature I had been asking for, and it was implemented well. The problem though is that this sort of targeting is available only via the browser proper, and not via the various tools I use to blaze through my feeds each day, namely Reeder for Mac and iPhone. (I get through the vast majority of my ~400 feeds with the iPhone app. I just haven't found anything that's nearly as fast or as fun to use. I love it.)

As you can imagine then, if I add videos to Instapaper within those apps, I'm compelled, when I visit my Instapaper queue, to manually move each one to my "media" folder (if I'm not going to watch it as I come across it in Instapaper). This is just the kind of thing that drives me crazy, and so I set out to find a simple way around it.

After giving it some thought and coming up with some wildly complicated workarounds, it dawned on me that Reeder lets you add various and multiple services to its "Services" menu, and it just so happens it supports both Instapaper and Read It Later (which I had heard was very similar to Instapaper, but had never used).

So, I created a Read It Later account and added it to Reeder's "Services" menu on both the Mac and the iPhone. Now, whenever I come across a "media" link, I just send it to Read It Later; everything else goes to Instapaper.

Relatedly, whenever I'm in front of my Mac and doing general browsing/feed-reading, I usually have my screen divided into two sections: the left one-third of the screen is devoted to a first browser window for consuming the various queued media; the right two-thirds is devoted to either Reeder or a second browser window for reading the various articles I currently have open. (I use Divvy for this sort of thing. It's awesome.)

I use Chrome, and so I pin my Read It Later queue to the first tab in the left browser window, and my Instapaper queue to the first tab in the right browser window.

The whole setup works remarkably well, and I can't imagine there being any less friction.

Kottke throws Stellar into public beta#

For the past several months, I've been working on a new web app/site called Stellar. Stellar helps you discover and keep track of your favorite things online, and currently supports Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Vimeo. If you like playing around on Twitter or Flickr, you'll probably enjoy Stellar.

I've been using the site for the past few weeks and have really enjoyed it, especially the in-line pics and videos. It's the kind of site I like to browse through at the end of each day.

As I told Jason when he sent me the invite, I don't "favorite" anything, on any service. The most I do is retweet on Twitter. My lack of "participation" had me feeling a bit guilty, because really, I don't contribute anything to the site. Jason said he was totally OK with that, and so I continue to lurk.  ;)

Though it may be some time before you receive an invite, you may want to go ahead and reserve your preferred username.

GarageBand for iPad knows how hard you tap the screen#

Apple has also added mock-pressure support into the app using the iPad's accelerometers. GarageBand uses these sensors to determine the amount of force with which each finger taps, much like a piano's mechanical keyboard does in real life, producing softer or louder sounds in response.

Wow, this is kind of blowing my mind. You can see it in action 39 seconds into this video at the GarageBand site, and at 49m51s in the video of the iPad 2 event. (I never watch the iLife/GarageBand demos at the Mac OS X events, and readily dismiss articles discussing these sorts of things because they rarely interest me. It seems I did the same thing when watching the iPad 2 event last week and reading about it in the interim, and missed this little gem of a feature.)

Lukas Mathis on the (non-)fiction of multitasking#

[T]he argument that multitasking on computers is bad because humans can't multitask is flawed. It uses the word "multitasking" in two different ways, but implies that the two kinds of multitasking are somehow the same thing. They're not: a task (or an app) on a computer, and a task performed by a human don't map to each other one-to-one. In fact, a single task performed by a human can easily make use of several applications running concurrently on a computer. […]

The fact that the iPad only lets me see one app at a time often does not help me focus. Instead, it forces me to switch between apps constantly, thus preventing me from focusing on my task. Every time I have to deal with the iPad's task switching, I'm interrupted.

I couldn't have made these points any more succinctly.