Jun 302013

Dealing with hoards of e-mail is a challenge a lot of us face. Sometimes, I think we slog through without taking a moment to consider improvements. Making yourself more efficient can be worth it, though:

Chart to determine if an optimization effort is worth the time.

I’m not really discussing SPAM filtering. At this point, I think the big guys are already doing a good job taking care of that nuisance. Google Apps with GMail serves me well.

However, people get a lot of “bacon” – e-mail you did technically subscribe to, but may not read regularly. This will be companies you’ve purchased from, LinkedIn updates, professional association newsletters & journals, etc. Not things you’d like to delete, but also not items that should demand your immediate attention.

I was able to clear most of my inbox using a single word:


Because we’re assuming these are legitimate senders (not spammers), they will adhere to standards by including a link to unsubscribe from the mailings. If you’re feeling obsessive, you might also include “Opt Out” in your filter.

This one change has made me quite happy at work.

Apr 302013

I’ve mentioned to a few people in passing (and some can tell just by looking): this site switched from Drupal version 6 to WordPress version 3 in December 2012. I’d been on Drupal since November 2010; on ANHosting since December 2010. I didn’t rush to a decision. There had been months of consideration and several factors which led to the switch.

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Nov 202011

I have read rumors that certain shared web hosting providers assign more than 1,000 users to each of their servers. This implies that the servers will be grossly overworked and the service will be slow. However, you never really know what you’re going to get with a new host, because such numbers are never published. You won’t see the sales pages for Godaddy and Dreamhost list service descriptions as One 8-core Opteron processor, 16GB memory and one 2TB hard drive with 2,000 user accounts per server. Unfortunately you won’t find anything like that on AN Hosting’s pages either, but I did a little sleuthing and have more details for you.

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Aug 272011

The idea of bookmarklets is so simple that I suspect many people use them without realizing it. A bookmarklet is basically just a specially-crafted bookmark for your browser which performs special tasks. This can mean performing custom actions on the current page or generally improving your web browsing experience.

Technically, bookmarklets are short snippets of Javascript code which can do just about anything. They’ve been around for a long time, but I’ve only been using them a few years. With the increasing prevalence of cloud products and services, I expect their usage will only increase. Bookmarklets make it easier for you to do everything you need to with just a web browser. As such, I’m keeping a list of the most useful.

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Aug 142011

AN Hosting recently relocated to a Seattle datacenter. As part of this process, my site is now running on a much more modern server (AMD Opteron 6100-series Magny Cours vs. Intel Xeon 5400-series Harpertown).

Unfortunately, a new server and new install can mean software changes. AN Hosting has tightened up the security settings on PHP. Better security is always a good thing, but it means the Drupal command line utility drush no longer works out of the box. (For those that don’t know drush – please give it a chance. It provides near foolproof Drupal core/module/theme upgrades as well as command-line control of your Drupal sites.)

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Jun 272011

For administrators and power users, it’s often useful to log in as multiple users on the same web site. However, you can’t normally do this from one web browser – sites keep track of your whole session. Logging in as one user logs you out as the other user.

An obvious, but bulky, solution is to use one web browser for each log in (e.g. Firefox and Chrome). However, I’ve found that Google Chrome’s “incognito” feature works much better.

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May 282011

Web browsers have had bookmark bars for years, but I never used them until I switched to Google Chrome. I’ve always felt that the amount of screen real estate they consume is too great compared to the number of bookmarks that will fit (and I dislike having all my bookmarks in folders).

Screenshot of Google Chrome Bookmark Bar

What made me change my mind was icon-only bookmarks. When adding a new bookmark in Chrome, delete the Name field – leaving it empty. Chrome will insert the bookmark using the favicon provided by the website. As long as these icons are distinct, you end up with a compact bookmark bar.

Apr 232011

I’ve been curious about QR codes for quite a while. They certainly seem like an interesting method for distributing data, but are also simple enough for people to do creative things with them. You’ll see them popping up more and more – on ads, in videos, random t-shirts, etc. I fear I’ve spent too much time brainstorming unique QR codes…

I don’t know that animated QR codes will ever be particularly practical, but it seemed like an interesting experiment. One of the simplest examples is a simple QR code clock which updates once a second.

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Mar 272011

Google, Eyebeam and Fast Company are hosting a data visualization challenge:

Every year, Americans fill out income tax forms and make a payment to the IRS. It’s an important civic duty, but it is also a lot of money. Where does it all go? Using data provided by WhatWePayFor.com, we challenge you to create a data visualization that will make it easier for U.S. citizens to understand how the government spends our tax money.

When I learned about the visualization challenge, I’ll admit I didn’t actually know many hard facts about government spending. I knew the military and national defense were huge expenditures, but wouldn’t have been able to accurately place them in relation to other large expenses, such as social security.

I decided my level of knowledge would likely be similar to that of potential visitors, so I used that as a strength. Building a tool which helps me better understand the budget should be equally useful to others.

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Jan 222011

I’ve been enjoying Pandora Radio for several years. It has been a great way to discover new artists and even new genres of music. I doubt I’d ever have learned of the existence of Dubsteb without Pandora – see my Music, Movie and Book Recommendations page to hear samples of my latest discoveries.

However, the web client was built on Adobe Flash, which makes it a bit of a CPU hog. I’ve long known that playing Pandora used up a lot more CPU time than playing other music (roughly 50% of the CPU for Pandora vs ~1% of the CPU for an MP3 or OGG). Thankfully, I have found a way to reduce the CPU load considerably.

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