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Experimenting with aggregation

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

In an effort to bring together the wonderful wide world of Sparky* I’m experimenting with Tumblr as an aggregation service. The hopes of my experimentation is to create a single point of contact for all my personal web content. Currently to get every last drop of Sparky goodness (and who doesn’t want that) visits to my blog, Flickr stream, Facebook profile, and Twitter are necessary. By providing this aggregate source of Sparky – henceforth referred to as Meta-Sparky – a single website can be visited to consume Sparky, Sparky, Sparky, and more Sparky.

Without further ado:

Update: Tumblr ended up being close to what I want, but not quite it. Tumblr will only allow short form content and won’t import long format blog posts. I also noticed it copies Flickr photos locally and re-compresses them which adds a slight color cast and loses the tack-sharpness that so much effort goes into on the front end.

Anyone know of a better aggregation service with similar features that I could check out? Leave a note in the comments with a link to it. If I don’t find anything readymade I guess I’ll have to roll up my sleeves and make something.

*wonder, wonderment, and wonderfulness not guaranteed. All Sparky all the time has been known to cause health complications in certain situations. If you experience a Sparky lasting more than 4 hours consult with a physician immediately.

A shiny new PS3

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

In the wake of the crushing demise of the HD-DVD format I’ve been ‘forced’ to get myself a Blu-ray player to keep myself comfortably on the cutting edge of media technologies. I decided to opt for a PS3 as it’s the only upgradeable Blu-ray player so far, and plays games to boot.

My first impressions are mostly positive. The PS3 obviously has a bit more horsepower under the hood than the Xbox 360 and sports a cleaner and more modern UI to boot. Unfortunately Sony seems to have made a few odd user experience choices, but overall I’m highly impressed. I have yet to toy with the PSP Remote Play functionality but I plan to dive deep into that in the coming weeks to see just what my new toy is capable of.

As far as games go I’ll likely still do the majority of my gaming on the Xbox 360 platform, but the Sony Store has a few interesting downloadable games – most notably is PixelJunk Monsters. Monsters is based on Element Tower Defense (which I’ve been addicted to before) but sports high def graphics, open gameplay levels, and even more addictive-like-crack gameplay. I lost a good 3 hours to it this afternoon and will likely spend much of the next few weeks trying to master each of its 20 levels – not too shabby for an under $10 purchase (console not included obviously).

Two Union Square by Aperture 2.0

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

I recently discovered Apple Aperture 2.0 and have simply fallen in love with it. It’s hands down the most performant and powerful photo management software out there. Coupled with Adobe Photoshop CS3 (technically the entire Creative Suite) my workflow has been entirely revolutionized. Aperture makes managing a set of 5 photos as easy as managing 10,000. By stacking and grouping photos it’s possible to quickly triage a shoot, find the good shots, and archive the bad shots all with GPU accelerated speed.

Unfortunately I’m come to realize just how unorganized my photos were in iPhoto and am being forced to go on a holy reorganization quest – luckily a not quite as monumental now that I have Aperture to help me out. As a bonus I’m finding lots of old photos that with a little tweaking come out great. It’s like finding rough jewels in a mine, only I don’t have to get all dirty and sweaty – I can just dig away at my desk.

Two Union
A new entry into my series of Two Union Square

AppleTV/Hairspray review

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Yesterday Apple released the AppleTV Take2 software update. Of course upon getting home I immediately installed it and started playing with some of the shiny gooey goodness and I have to say I’m impressed. I really liked the first version of the AppleTV and they really have knocked it out of the park this time.

The entire user experience is re-envisioned to be more flashy – much more fun to use. The fact that the AppleTV can now independently sync podcasts, buy music and TV shows on the iTunes media store, and rent movies makes for a most delectable icing on an already moist and delicious media cake.

For some strange reason I decided upon Hairspray as test of the new HD rental service. The rental experience was a breeze – two clicks of the remote (plus a one-time password entry) and the HD movie was playing with surprisingly good quality within two minutes.

I went into Hairspray with low expectations and came away impressed. The movie is fun, engaging, and oddly thought provoking. Don’t get me wrong – it’s completely campy and over the top, but really well executed. The music and choreography is well thought out and the cinematographer did a great job of showcasing some of the dance moves without distracting the viewer with too much camera movement.

Featuring fantastic performances by John Travolta, Christopher Walken (it had been so long since I’d seen the Weapon of Choice music video I’d almost forgot how good a dancer he is), and new to film actress Nikki Blonsky who leads the film with confidence and flair.

For the record: John Travola in drag is just plain wrong, but wrong in the kind of way that I can get behind. Travolta in drag for President 08!

The winds of change

Monday, February 4th, 2008

The last 7 days certainly have been packed with activity. Last week we had some production fire drills at work which resulted in a lot of hard work, 20 hour days, and general chaos-induced stress. To top it all off the end of the week also brought news that funding for my project has changed and come April my position is being eliminated.

This somewhat bittersweet news. Obviously being laid off is never a great thing, but in this case it may actually end up being the a good thing for me long term. Of late I’ve been rather frustrated with the speed and direction of my group so I guess this is the kick in the ass I needed to do something about it and find a position where I can exercise my passion for technology in a more direct fashion, and perhaps have a more direct impact on bringing about the coming technological singularity.

That being said – if you, my reader need a technologically passionate problem solver let me know!

Living the Traskpro life

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

I’ve been so busy and productive of late that sadly Futurist Now has suffered from it – barely a post a week on average. Aside from the normal work stuff I’ve been slammed with tons and tons of development work on Traskpro. I’m becoming extremely proud of Traskpro – it’s becoming a very robust solution and I’m all but running my life out of it now.

What makes Traskpro so great? What do I do with it?

Amazing ehh – give it a whirl or check out the Traskpro blog – you can do all these things and more! With Traskpro’s flexible design you can track almost any kind of information – all for free!

Now what would a big Traskpro advert like this be without a few power user tips? Traskpro uses the URL to determine what tag you are viewing – this means that you can bookmark frequently used tags for quick access. I am able to use this feature by setting my internet home page to my “work” tag at work, my “personal” tag at home, and the high priority view on my iPhone – whenever I open a browser I immediately see a highly contextual view of tasks related to my current environment.

Further to URL bookmarking when setting a sort preference the sort preference is added to the next page view URL. This allows you to bookmark not only a specific tag, but also to make it so whenever visiting the bookmark the sorting options can be left intact – useful for power users looking to really take control of a large list of tasks.

Twitter added to sidebar

Friday, January 4th, 2008

I’m again experimenting with adding my Twitter stream to Futurist Now. People detested the old post style integration so this time I’m trying a live feed view in the sidebar. Leave a comment if you love it or hate it.

I can configure the number of tweets to display – how many do readers find useful? If I just put a single one it shows real-time context without visually overpowering the main content column. On the other hand more gives a better context of what I’m doing, but adds a huge block of text to the sidebar.

Ringing in the new year

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

I sit here on the couch on this first glorious day of 2008, TNG blaring in the background, and Traskpro coding and MySQL queries swirling between my brain and laptop in the foreground. Taking a cue from my beloved father I’ve got a 6 shot Hazelnut latte slowly working its ay into my system.

What do I have planned for the rest of my day off? More of the same. Bliss!

Refactoring is fun

Friday, December 28th, 2007

During the last couple of days I’ve been toying with Traskpro development tasks while I’ve been home ill. Until today I didn’t actually implement any new functionality, but rather spent my time re-factoring ‘old’ code from the 0.1 and 0.2 versions. Re-factoring is a low strain on my brain and a great task for idly doing while drifting in and out of sickly sleep – once I got the new architectures and designs on paper implementation of the new pattern happened on a feature by feature basis.

Most notably I took a lot of hacky if loops to select SQL queries and moved them into a net-new function which builds the queries based in inputs so the code is both easier to read and easier to maintain long term. I also moved a lot of in-line functionality to within functions which has made long term maintainability and new feature development a breeze.

Not only does this re-factoring provide more readable code, but having everything generalized into functions made adding a few new features a breeze. For instance I just added a capture feature to Traskpro for capturing more than one task (and tag array) at once. This makes capturing action items in a meeting brain dead simple and removes the need for a round trip to the server between each individual addition. Because of the functions for adding/editings tasks, or adding tags to tasks this new feature was developed in a far more efficient fashion – rather than building from scratch I could re-use code.

Simple stuff I know, but not developing for a living really does give me appreciation for elegant, maintainable, and readable code.

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