Weekly Digest, 2-15-09

Trevor’s Links

Canonical URL Tag

The announcement from Yahoo!, Live & Google that they will be supporting a new "canonical url tag" to help webmasters and site owners eliminate self-created duplicate content in the index is, in my opinion, the biggest change to SEO best practices since the emergence of Sitemaps.

Is the Relational Database Doomed? – ReadWriteWeb

Recently, a lot of new non-relational databases have cropped up both inside and outside the cloud. One key message this sends is, "if you want vast, on-demand scalability, you need a non-relational database". If that is true, then is this a sign that the once mighty relational database finally has a chink in its armor? Is this a sign that relational databases have had their day and will decline over time? In this post, we’ll look at the current trend of moving away from relational databases in certain situations and what this means for the future of the relational database.

git pull with rebase

Users of Git are hopefully aware that a git pull does a git fetch to pull down data from the specified remote, and then calls git merge to join the changes received with your current branch’s work. However, that may not always be the best case. You can also rebase the changes in, and that may end up being a lot cleaner. This can be done simply by tacking on the –rebase option when you pull

Dead simple task scheduling in Rails

Despite having only a one line mention near the bottom of the page, I decided to check out rufus-scheduler, and it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. There was no database table, queueing mechanism, or separate process to manage. Just a simple scheduler to call out to your existing ruby code.

What webhooks are and why you should care

While there’s a lot of value in webhooks today, it’s the future that really interests me. Webhooks are composable. You’ll point a webhook at a site that will call other webhooks. It might process the data, record it, fork it off to multiple webhooks or something stranger still. Yahoo Pipes tried to do this, but ultimately you were limited to what Yahoo Pipes was designed to do. Webhooks can be integrated and implemented everywhere. They piggyback the fundamental decentralized nature of the web.

The Russian Doll Pattern: Mountable apps in Rails 3

One of the hottest new features in Rails 3 is the ability to embed a Rails application in another Rails application. This allows the development of components that range from user authentication to a fully featured forum. These components can then be distributed as gems and fully integrated with another application. In fact, user private messaging could be a stand alone app, which is then mounted into a forum app, and finally mounted into your own custom app.

Receiving emails in Rails using Gmail & IMAP, while staying efficient and RESTful

For a recent project I had a need to receive emails (actually MMSs, but that’ll be the subject of a future post) in a Rails application. My requirements for the solution were: Shouldn’t require root access. Shouldn’t require firing up the Rails stack for every incoming email. Can be scheduled to run automatically.

Where data goes when it dies and other musings

The web is a fragile place it turns out, in spite of its redundancy and distributed design.

The Elephant in the Room: Google Monoculture

Now that Stack Overflow has been chugging right along for almost six months, allow me to share the last month of our own data. Currently, 83% of our total traffic is from search engines, or rather, one particular search engine: Google.

On fixtures and first-time testers

But what I’ve never understood is why fixtures are actually easier for a noob than just creating the model in Ruby.

The Lie

I do agree with Francis on about everything else though: Fixtures do suck, and testing is really fucking hard. By the time you realize you’re getting into Fixture Hell, moving your monstrosity of an application off fixtures is a daunting task. My solution (and currently the ENTP way): Machinist.

A Twitter Decision

When I look at Twitter, I see three early essential decisions about how Twitter allows you to craft a community. I believe much of Twitter’s continued success is due to definition and execution of these decisions.

Timothy’s Links

Moto Android-based eBook reference design

Boo-yeah: this is my shit, this is what I’m talking about. The Kindle isn’t a bad idea in and of itself, but closed software and tamper-proof OSes are the original bad idea and cancel out whatever promise that eBook might have held. Just wait until dudes get Android up and running on a Kindle-like device and watch the market for eReaders EXPLODE.

Firefox (In)Security Update Dynamics Exposed

Courtesy of Schneier, this is a (rather formal, white) paper that presents some research on just how up to date the majority of Firefox and Opera users are on any given day. If you’re like me, you’re running beta software (shit, probably alpha) when it comes to your browser, but you’re responsible for the care and feeding of users running stable builds who might or might not have authority to patch/update them. This piece adds useful data to the conversation about either fact.

Official Google Reader Blog: What we did on our winter break

If you live and die by Google Reader (like I do), you probably need to make some changes in your life–display some fucking adaptability, as the Bard advised–and stop being so utterly dependent upon a service that is entirely beyond your control. But until that happens, if you’re like me and you’re one of the thousands of people who subscribe to the RSS of the Reader team’s blog, then it will be old news to you that they’ve made substantial improvements in recent days. If you’re not like me, however, you might be interested in reading up on what they’ve done in recent times. Who knows–you might just ditch your current reader for the Good (or at least your mobile one).

1Cast Home

Apparently 1Cast (TV newsfeeds on your smartphone) is coming to Android. In a matter of moments. Can’t say I’m super-excited myself–I prefer the written to the moving image–but it’s nice to see the diff between iPhone apps and Android Marketplace get another line knocked off of it.

AndroidAnki – Anki Wiki

This is the page for the only project I know of that is attempting to "port" anki to Android. Doing a good job so far, IMO.

11 Embarrassing Server Meltdowns that Cost Companies Millions – Web Hosting Unleashed

This is a good one to read if you’ve recently broken the website and are feeling kind of shitty about having caused massive outages: there’s no way your fuck-ups could ever be as bad as these.

Source: Apple asked Google not to use multi-touch in Android, and Google complied » VentureBeat

More grist for the rumor mill. This idea, i.e. that Apple made some kind of political or corporate power play to keep multi-touch (i.e. "pinch") out of the Android OS, has been a scandal since before the release of the G1. I’m not sure if this makes me believe the conspiracy theories, but I think it’s clear at this point that there were definitely some shady, backroom dealings going on at some point.


So this is this utility that, after some software installation (mostly just some script copies) and an easy-peasy registration, adds a feature to your Google applications that records and indexes your command line usage. I’m trying it out for now–what could possibly go wrong with keeping an infinite bash history?–and it seems promising.

Google turns on Exchange for iPhone and Windows Mobile users – Ars Technica

There is officially no reason to use a Microsoft program any longer. Thanks Google!

In the Ad Wars, Apple Still Has Microsoft’s Number

This is a nice "status of forces" kind of report about how Apple and MS are still squaring off in the international marketing arena for the hearts and minds of people who don’t care about computers. It’s useful if, like me, you live in a bomb shelter of booze, Linux and uppers so deep beneath the surface of the Earth that not even the mighty Crispin Porter + Bogusky have developed a bunker-buster powerful enough to penetrate.

App Review: Useful Switchers

Useful Switchers creates shortcuts to some of the most frequently toggled system settings on the G1 (thus fixing the UI design failure of having to open the menu, press "Settings" and then navigate down two or more menus to find what you were looking for). Hot shit.

Debian Package of the Day » vnstat – a console-based network traffic monitor

These guys continue to provide a quality service: I’d say a full 50% of the "pacakges of the day" they describe are ones I’ve never heard of before and which I will one day use again. vnstat is a utility for long-term (i.e. survives reboots) bandwidth usage monitoring. It may even help you kick your DIY bandwidth monitoring to the curb.


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Trevor Turk

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