Thursday, December 21, 2006

PPD 60

I'm really not sure why I like this picture, but I do. I think it's just the odd visual effect of the snow and the narrowness of the walkway that makes it look a lot longer than it is. Then again, it might be that I slogged across an entire parking lot of the knee deep snow to get the picture.

Edits: Cropped, saturation up, contrast up
Taken: Thursday, December 21st

Frosty the Roofer

As probably every single one of you poor souls reading this knows already, Denver has been hit with a major blizzard. It's the worst blizzard since 2003. During that blizzard I was trapped in a one bedroom apartment with two out-of-state guests. This time I'm all by myself.

Of course when you're trapped at home by yourself, entertainment can be a problem. You can only spend so much time watching TV and playing with the cats. When that happens there's only one thing to do. Build a snowman on the roof. More pictures involving snow can be found here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I've got just five things to say to you

Apparently I've just been blog-tagged. I'm not familiar with the concept myself, although it bears a disturbing resemblance to a chain letter. At least this one didn't come with some threat about me falling down the stairs or something. Although given that I'm probably going to spend the next 48 hours snowed in at home with no company except two cats and a full liquor cabinet, that is a distinct possibility. :)

Of course this does have one advantage over a chain letter -- it's a great way to play the blogger version of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon". Except this is on a blog, so it needs to have an annoying name involving a non-word. Perhaps "Six Blogrees of Jeff Pulver"? Regardless of the name, I'm at least 11 degrees from Jeff Pulver. I was tagged by Greg, who was tagged by Nick, tagged by Mark Fletcher, by Dave McClure, Oilman, Todd Malicoat, Ben Wills, Andy Beal, Avinash Kaushik, and ending with Dave Gale. Dave Gale didn't say who tagged him, so the trail drops there, but Dave isn't on Jeff Pulver's list, so there must be at least one more person in there. It might be kinda interested to see the tree of all those links. In fact, we probably even have the link data in the Newsgator database. I'm too lazy to do it right now, but maybe if I'm bored enough and sober enough tomorrow I'll give it a shot. Although writing neat little apps that'll probably destroy our database is really Nick Harris' specialty.

Anyway, enough digressing. This post was supposed to be about five things that relatively few people know about me. So here we go (in no particular order)

1) I'm incredibly annoyed by bad grammar and/or spelling. Maybe I've spent too long writing code, which doesn't tolerate such things, or maybe it's because my Dad was an English major. No matter why, it bugs me. A great example is using "your" instead of "you're". For instance, look at the last two words of Jeff Pulver's post that started all this. Argh!

2) Much like Scott Adams (and apparently half of America), I sometimes think about how blown away a caveman would be by modern technology. Usually I only think about such things when I'm alone in the car though. Usually. (I bet they'd think computers are lame thought.)

3) I'm a bit of a sci-fi junkie. Before I graduated high school I had read every single book by Robert Heinlein and Larry Niven. Which was actually kind of tough, some of Heinlein's books are out of print (and rightly so in many cases...) Coincidentally, I'm in the middle of a Niven book right now, Building Harlequin's Moon. I also watched every episode of Star Trek The Next Generation -- but I'm not enough of a trekkie to call it ST:TNG.

4) Despite growing up in Wisconsin, I AM NOT A PACKERS FAN. Actually, I'm not really a sports fan in general, but I actively dislike the Packers. Not because of anything they did, because I'm so damn tired of seeing Packers blankets, jerseys, paper, shoes, car flags, and so on during my childhood. Stupid packers.

5) I used to be a houseplant nut. At one point I had 45 houseplants -- in a two-bedroom apartment. It took about 30 minutes just to water them all. For some reason I don't really do that anymore. I've still got a few plants, but only the ones hardy enough to withstand my waning interest in taking care of them. But I still feel guilty when one of them dies.

So, I guess it's my turn. Tags go out to Timmy B, Nick Harris, Gordon Weakliem, and Cash (who mostly posts over at Urban Monarch these days). That's only four -- I'm emailing one other person to ask permission first, since I don't really know him all that well (ok, not at all). Update later.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Picture Rotator (and, Blogger Sucks)

UPDATE 3/14/2007: I've changed the picture rotator to a different implementation than the one I'm talking about here. So none of this really applies anymore, but read it if you want to.

If you're reading this on my website, instead of through an RSS aggregator, you might notice a new feature. In the upper right there's a rotating image pulled from my SmugMug account.

This is actually something I've been meaning to do for a while - namely add a feature on my site based off of what I'm doing at work. What finally got me to do it? Well, for one thing Karyn did it. Then earlier today John stopped by to ask about a bit of picture rotator code he just added. I took a look at John's implementation, and it's nice and all, but it has some problems. For instance, the names of the pictures are hardcoded into the page, so he needs to go edit that every time he adds or removes a photo. Even worse than that, it in now way uses RSS or Private Label!

So I whipped up a quick replacement, based on SmugMug's built in RSS feeds and the Buzz framework. Basically his pictures are published as RSS feed based on SmugMug photo tags. Newsgator picks that up and makes it available using the Buzz framework. Then a couple lines of Javascript grab the enclosures from those posts and render out his rotator. It only takes about 5 lines of HTML and Javascript.

At this point I was going to post those 5 lines of code. Why not? Well, it turns out that Blogger is UNBELIEVABLY PAINFUL to deal with for scripting. It took me about 10 minutes to write and debug the code in a dummy HTML page. I then spent about 90 minutes trying to make it work in my blog template, most of it dealing with Blogger's wonderful habit of silently mangling whatever markup I put into the page.
It turns out the same great editing abilities apply to my posts, and at this point I may just demolish my laptop if I have to try it. No, at this point what I need is not more HTML, but rather a nice glass of bourbon.

And with that, I bid you good night.

UPDATE 12/20/06: It's been pointed out to me that the rotator doesn't work in IE. I'm not that surprised, as I always develop in Firefox because I love me some Firebug. I was planning on validating it in IE, but after wrestling with Blogger I was in no mood. I'll try to get to it tomorrow, since I will likely be sitting in the airport all day.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Insult to Injury

Last weekend during a trip to Barnes & Noble, I happened to spot a book from the well known "... For Dummies" series. Normally I'm a fan of the series, in fact I've got several on my shelf. But this one I thought a bit inappropriate, for you see it was entitled "Depression For Dummies." And I couldn't help thinking to myself that the poor people reading it are already depressed, do they really need a book calling them dumb on top of it? Is that really going to help?

But then I thought about it a bit more, and decided that maybe it's a good tactic to encourage the depressed to get help (and possibly sell a few more copies). After all, they probably already think they're dumb, and hence the book is practically calling out to them.

Friday, December 08, 2006

What I Learned Today

Today's tidbit of new knowledge, which will doubtless be of interest only to the truly, truly geeky among us: you can put an apostrophe into a URL. For instance, this is a valid URL:'d.xml.

I guess that's sort neat, in a way that's sure to annoy every Javascript developer in the world.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Firebug 1.0

Since I started working at Newsgator I've been doing a lot of Javascript development, as well as increasing amounts of HTML and CSS debugging. I quite frankly could not have done a lot of it without the help of the wonderful Firebug extension for Firefox. The combination of DOM inspector, Javascript error handling and debugging is simply unbeatable. I've since become so addicted to it that I've made our testers and support staff install it, because it's too painful debugging problems on their computers without it.

If Firebug was incredibly helpful before, the new 1.0 version makes it indispensible. Joe Hewitt and team have added great features like Javascript profiling, network traffic profiling, CSS profiling and more.

If you're a serious web developer and you're not using Firebug, I won't call you crazy. But I'll be thinking it.