Archive for the ‘Geekery’ Category

Shenanigans at Grow Conference in Vancouver

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Last week I attended the Grow conference in Vancouver, where I had an amazing time meeting smart and talented entrepreneurs from across Canada. There are some truly groundbreaking things happening up here in the great white North.

During the second day of the conference, a small group of us got together and rented a boat to do a tour of the Harbour. Those people are:

Scott Annan is the founder of Network Hippo in Ottawa, which is “a powerful and unique network relationship management tool that helps you build stronger relationships with people that matter. [They] help you stay in touch, reach out, and build stronger relationships.”.

Scott Lake and Craig Silverman founded SWIX aka “Social Web Index” (also in Ottawa) which is “a social media analytics application that monitors all of your social media properties (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, +20 others). Each day, SWIX gathers visitor and usage data for your sites, graphs it over time and puts everything in one convenient place for you.”

Leila Boujnane founded Idée Inc. in Toronto, which is “develops advanced image identification and visual search software.” They do all kinds of cool stuff, and if you are a designer, you should check this out, and definitely check this out.

The five of us got up to no good while out there. My flickr pictures from the trip are here, and we also have this video entitled “Bye Bye Mark O’Sullivan”:

Bye Bye Mark O’Sullivan


Thursday, May 14th, 2009


I’m in the midst of a switch to Mac from PC (thanks go out to vmware for making this transition slightly less painful). As a result I’ve been very slowly learning about all of the nuances of working on a mac, and trying to find solutions to problems I’ve already solved on Windows (what IDE to use; what email app; what chatting tool; what browser(s); etc).

Probably the hardest part so far has been getting used to this keyboard. Answer me this, mac-addicts: why is there no forward-delete key, but there are there two enter keys? Luckily I found this neat little app called DoubleCommand that allowed me to turn my small enter key (the one next to the arrows) into forward-delete. For a programmer, this was an absolute essential. But now I hear that the new mbpro keyboards have turned that key into a second option key instead (yikes). I digress.

What does this mean for my long-term love-affair with billg? Not much. I’m not throwing away those years of relationship building with Windows out of anger or frustration. I just wanted to try on a different pair of shoes for a while, and for the first time in a long time I won’t need to use Windows-specific applications for a few months. I can almost guarantee that I’ll be giving Windows 7 a shot when she finally graces us with her presence.

So, this is an open call to anyone who cares to recommend your favourite “killer app” on Mac. My eyes and ears are awaiting your input (ewww).

jQuery 1.3

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Two days ago jQuery 1.3 was released, and today I finally had some time to take a look at the features and enhancements. A big fat kudos goes out to everyone involved. I am a huge fan of jQuery, and that love just seems to grow with time.

Just a few weeks ago I was looking for a way of accessing the selector from within the method, and now you can do it. Nice!

That being said, there is one feature addition that doesn’t do it for me: .live();

If you haven’t read the documentation yet, you can do so here. The long and short of it is that they’ve made it so that bound events live on in a page after the page has finished loading and new page elements have been added. In other words, after a page has loaded, you can load new page contents (say, with ajax), and elements within the newly added xhtml will have event bindings applied even though the javascript on the page has been parsed already.

This is a very useful idea that was accomplished in the past with a jquery plugin: livequery. The shortcoming of the new core live event binding is that (as far as I can tell) there is no way to simply apply the live method to page load.

For example, if I have a bit of jquery code that highlights all “strong” tags in a page and colors them red:

$('strong').css('color', 'red');

Now, with livequery, I can make sure that this bit of code gets applied to xhtml loaded via ajax after page load by doing this:

$('strong').livequery(function() {
    $(this).css('color', 'red');

However, the core .live() method doesn’t have this ability. Why? Is that really difficult to accomplish in the core?

Have I overlooked something? Am I wrong? I hope I’m wrong, because it seems silly to have to include the livequery plugin on every page load just for this one feature.

jQuery Expression Reference

Thursday, November 27th, 2008


Does anyone know if there is a way to get the expression that returned an object in jQuery from within it’s handler?


$('body > a').click(function() {
   // Is there any way I can alert 'body > a' in here?
   // Perhaps something like: alert($(this).expression); ?

Monthly Bandwidth Monitoring/Tracking

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008


Does anyone out there have any experience with bandwidth tracking / monitoring?

Imagine a web server that is allotted a certain amount of bandwidth per month. That server hosts a number of different web sites (aka apache virtual servers), and needs to keep track of how much bandwidth each web site uses so it can either (a) charge individual websites for going over their monthly limit or (b) shut down their website when it goes over a certain limit.

I’ve been looking into a number of different solutions for this situation, and most of the information I can find through Google is … absurd. People suggest everything from installing bloated administrative control panels that do way more than I need, to upgrading to the Zeus web server (not free).

The two ideas I’ve come across that I thought might work are:

1. Custom Apache Module: I found this module that creates it’s own byte-log and shuts down apache service when it goes over a daily limit. This could be modified to work on a monthly basis and update some other external source that could be checked by a web-interface – and customers could be warned *before* problems arise.

2. Apache Log Parsing: I could write a program that works like webalizer, and simply parses apache access logs to determine bandwidth usage. It could run on a cron every night/hour/whatever and update a database with the results.

Does anyone else have any experience with this type of thing. Suggestions?

Funny Games

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Funny Games

Being in the Halloween spirit, I recently decided to sit down and watch a “scary movie”. I’m not a big fan of scary movies, so this is a rarity for me – and I’ve been waiting for the right time to watch Funny Games – a U.S. remake of the original French Version which I had read a lot about in recent months.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, please stop reading (SPOILER ALERT).

This movie was really not what I was expecting in the least, and I can’t stop thinking about it. My wife sat, terrified, through out the entire movie; while I sat watching it in contemplation – feeling the strange sensation that I’d somehow been through these motions before. Who were these “sociopaths”, and why did they seem to care so little about the lives of those they are hurting? Why don’t they ever sleep? How can one be eating while another shoots a child in the head?

It wasn’t until the scene where the woman gets a hold of the gun and kills one of the two sociopaths that it all came together for me. Shortly after she shoots him, the other sociopath digs around for a remote control and, upon finding it, rewinds the movie back to before she reached for the gun. Then, when she reaches for it, he grabs it away from her. They were in total control over what was happening the entire time! Twice even turning to the camera and addressing the audience directly.

As soon as he pressed the rewind button and took control of the “game”, I was reminded of a moment I experienced while playing Grand Theft Auto IV (Liberty City). I had picked up an M16 and was wandering through central park. I saw a group of three girls jogging, and I was following them in my sights. They saw that I was following them and they all screamed and started to run away. I aimed down at the left leg of the middle girl and pulled the trigger. The bullet tore through her leg, blood spraying on the ground, and she fell down screaming, “No. I’ve worked too hard on this body!”. I slowly walked up to her writhing on the ground and I aimed the gun at her head. She screamed, “Please! No!!”. Utterly impressed with the game’s engine, I pulled the trigger and watched her head explode all over the sidewalk.

This, in my opinion, is the core of the movie Funny Games. The two “sociopaths” aren’t actually sociopaths at all; they are game players. They don’t care about what the people feel or think because the people aren’t real. They are pushing the people’s buttons in these horrible ways because they are curious about how the people will react; how the game works; And speaking of the people, they couldn’t have been more cardboard-cutout. Perfect, happy, rich families with boring predictable lives – these are the archetypes of video game characters.

So, scary movie? Not really. What scares me is the thought that someday a video game could be that real. So real that the players and the in-game characters are indiscernable from one another. I didn’t feel any shame for killing a chunky, pixelated blip in GTA4 – but what if she looked and acted just like a real person. What if it was as real as me walking outside and doing it to someone jogging past my house? What would that do to my psyche?

I guess we’ll see when it happens…

Domain Pain

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

I’ve literally spent days trying to come up with good domain names that are short, catchy, and available. Anyone who has spent even an hour on this sort of task knows that ANY tool that can help you in this regard is much appreciated. Today I found

Domain name search engine Domainr suggests web site addresses that make clever use of top level domains, subdomains, and folders, like,, or

[ via lifehacker]

Craigslist Robbery

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Watery Getaway

In case you didn’t hear about it already:

A brazen crook apparently used a Craigslist ad to hire a dozen unsuspecting decoys to help him make his getaway following a robbery outside a bank on Tuesday.

Nobody was seriously harmed in the robbery. He escaped on an inner-tube in a nearby river. Of course the authorities are hoping to track the guy down through his use of Craigslist. But having tried to track down hackers in the past, I can say that it is absurdly easy for this guy to cover his tracks. Time will tell if he was clever enough to have done it.

Full Story Here

Nice Furry Undies

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

big foot

The infamous Patterson-Gimlin bigfoot film has been stabilized frame-by-frame to give you a better view of the lumbering woodland beast

Stabilized Bigfoot Film via Boing Boing

Is it just me, or can you totally see the separation between his waist, undies, and legs?

Kind of makes me sad: this film was an inspiration for all things unbelievable when I was a child.

Cuil vs Google

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Cuil vs Google

I’m sure that most of you have heard about Cuil (pronounced “cool”) by now. But if you haven’t, Cuil is a new search engine that has been developed by Anna Patterson (an ex-Google employee) that boasts three times as many indexed pages as Google. Backed by over 33 million investment dollars, it seems that they are attempting to David the Google Goliath.

Now, I’m all for progress and change; but two things struck me about Cuil that bother me:

1. Cuil? It is an old Irish word for “Knowledge”. I can’t help it, though. Much like most of the Gaelic words I know, it reads similar to another (more vulgar) word I know.

2. Three times as many pages indexed? Granted, they got the most important search right. But is the number of pages indexed really what makes a good search? Or is relevance more important? Do they manage to find a balance between the two? Google results always seem very relevant to me.

What are your thoughts on Cuil?