Weekly Digest, 11-23-08

I’ve very pleased to welcome our good friend Tim to the Weekly Digest. I’m sure you’ll enjoy his contributions. You can follow along with his delicious account, if you’re into that sort of thing. We’ve also managed to inspire another weekly collection of links that you may be interested in checking out. Nick will be posting links for creatives and creators over on his blog, greyscalegorilla.

So, without further ado, please join me in welcoming Tim’s links:


If you can stomach the idea of someone else storing your data on his computers and are running out of disc, tarsnap might be the solution for you. Basically, you set up your machine to dump your data to the remote site, it is encrypted and then snapshots are taken (presumably at the normal rsnapshot intervals) and you can get at them whenever you need the data. The key here is encryption: there are dozens of places to stick your data, but the fact that you dump via a secure tunnel and that the site’s proprietor never has any access to your data makes this solution a viable one. If I wasn’t an incurable tin-foil-hat about privacy, I would definitely consider tarsnap.

Pixelpipe – Free your media, upload and share anywhere

Like a lot of G1 applications that are either overt ports of iPhone software or obviously inspired by iPhone software, this one is still coming together. The big idea here is that this is a Web 2.0 labor-saver that automatically dumps your G1 pictures into your Facebook, Myspace, etc. account: I wouldn’t say it’s fully automatic yet, but it’s getting there. I tried to link it up to my picasa account on day one and, after some finagling, managed to get it working. Ideally, it would “just work” and you could download and set this up without your home/laptop computer on a moving train. And, as I say, Pixelpipe isn’t quite there yet, but it’s got potential.

Write or Die : Dr Wicked’s Writing Lab

This is a tool, designed with creatives in mind (i.e. not coders), to encourage copywriters to shake their tail-feathers. The basic idea is that you tell it how many words you want to write and how much time you want to allow yourself to write those words and then it gives /you/ a text input window and a ticking clock. As the clock runs down, the text you enter is deleted if you stop typing. This definitely works just like the essay writing portion of a standardized test: you don’t waste too much time tangentializing during the pre-writing/brain-storming processes and when you get down to it, you eyes don’t drift backward to check for continuity/grammar errors or typos.

Noodle Soup Oracle

The so-called “noodle soup oracle” was “created by Michele Humes and Joshua Sierles after a meal of shrimp roe noodles in miso, topped with spicy carnitas, shelled edamame and chopped scallions”; at the click of a button, it will randomly choose a noodle, two savory additional ingredients and a sauce. It is also capable of suggesting noodle dishes bereft of meat. Indispensible for anyone who enjoys a.) the consumption of noodles and b.) letting a little chaos into his life from time to time.


I haven’t had a chance to play this in an actual production environment, but it seems like a dream come true to anyone who has had to deploy workstations based on a common image: basically, in clonezilla you get a F/OSS alternative to Acronis/Norton Ghost that works a lot better than ghost4unix and has a some nice, time-saving user-friendliness features.


This is a handy little diagnostic tool that, while utterly useless if you’re not familiar with the details of your /etc/mysql/my.cnf, takes the guesswork out of gathering a number of important usage and performance statistics.

…and now the set from yours truly:

CouchDB is now officially Apache CouchDB

CouchDB has graduated from incubator to a top level project.

This Week in Edge Rails

…some pent-up code has been checked in, and some big changes are being made. It’s an exciting time, and edge is definitely worth checking out.

Delayed Gratification with Rails

Daniel Morrison, of Collective Idea, is the first and will be showing a few ways he has used delayed job to offload tasks to the background. Without any further ado, here is Dan.

Base for SQLite3

Base is an application for creating, designing, editing and browsing SQLite 3 database files. It’s a proper Mac OS X application. Fast to launch, quick to get in to and get the data you need.

A demo of some thoughtful UI on Ffffound.com

Keyboard shortcuts FTW.

Build a Killer Online Portfolio in 9 Easy Steps

Ask yourself: how well does my site answer the questions potential clients are likely to have?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet

How can carpal tunnel syndrome be prevented? …on-the-job conditioning, perform stretching exercises, take frequent rest breaks, wear splints to keep wrists straight, and use correct posture and wrist position. Wearing fingerless gloves can help keep hands warm and flexible. Workstations, tools and tool handles, and tasks can be redesigned to enable the worker’s wrist to maintain a natural position during work.

Kvetch! Let it out, baby.

A Kvetch is a funny complaint. This site randomly displays kvetches sent via Twitter.

Rails Rumble Observations

Trends in gem/plugin usage. Winners include JQuery, Bort, Mocha, Hoptoad, Thinking Sphinx, Paperclip, and Restful Authentication.

Why the Drudge Report is one of the best designed sites on the web

Your eye darts all over the place looking around for something that looks interesting. The design encourages wandering and random discovery. The site feels like a chaotic newsroom with the cutting room floor exposed.

The Fast, Good and Cheap Pricing Method

Have you ever heard of the Fast, Good, Cheap pricing method?
The idea is that clients should only be able to choose 2 of these 3 words, and you have to keep this in mind when pricing your next job.

Custom fields? We don’t need no stinking custom fields

I think most people underestimate the impact of personal communication and overestimate the value of technology. Bug trackers are a good thing, but only if they function with your team.

Ruby on Rack #1 – Hello Rack!

Rack was initially inspired from pythons’s wsgi and it quickly became the de-facto web application/server interface in the ruby community, thanks to it’s simplicity and preciseness.

Rails meets Sinatra #2 – Mix n’ Match

Put sinatra code in any of your regular Rails controllers. No need to mount at Sinatra at a specific URI. Have Sinatra work for any URI, gracefully fallback to Rails if no Sinatra method matches the path. Use your models/libraries etc. in both Rails and Sinatra.

Four Years of Ruby Development Notes

This talk is from Ezra Zygmuntowicz from Engine Yard. He’s going to go over his history working and deploying with Rails. Interesting notes on upcoming Engine Yard offerings. Comments on Passenger.

Shared memory and Ruby Enterprise Edition

A clarification of the way memory optimization works in the specialized version of Ruby developed for Phusion’s Passenger.

HappyMapper, Making XML Fun Again

A while back, you may remember, I posted about ROXML, a ruby object to xml mapping library. I liked the idea but not the implementation. Soon after, I started playing around with what I have named HappyMapper, a ruby object to xml mapping library.

Say Goodbye to BlackBerry? If Obama Has to, Yes He Can

Mr. Obama, however, seems intent on pulling the office at least partly into the 21st century on that score; aides said he hopes to have a laptop computer on his desk in the Oval Office, making him the first American president to do so.

Rails in the Cloud: AWS, Heroku, and Morph

It remains to be seen whether either Heroku or Morph remain good options for us as our application grows (the fact that neither support true background tasks or Memcached servers might become a limiting factor at some point), but if nothing else they’re an ideal way to get off the ground.

Concurrency is a Myth in Ruby

The implications of the GIL are surprising at first, but it turns out the solution to this problem is not all that complex: instead of thinking in threads, think how you could split the workload between different processes. Partition the work, or decompose your application. Add a communications / work queue. Fork, or run multiple instances of you application.

Net Neutrality Advocates In Charge Of Obama Team Review of FCC

Both are highly-regarded outside-the-Beltway experts in telecom policy, and they’ve both been pretty harsh critics of the Bush administration’s telecom policies in the past year.


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Trevor Turk

A chess-playing machine of the late 18th century, promoted as an automaton but later proved a hoax.

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