Very cool MythTV script

Myth2Ipod lets you set your recorded TV programs to be transcoded for viewing on the iPod. The best part is that it also builds a php page which you can point iTunes at, and it treats your TV shows like a Video RSS feed. So, iTunes goes off, downloads new ones, keeps them labeled properly, etc. – just like a regular podcast. That way you can just drop your iPod in, download all of the shows you’ve recorded since you last sync’d, and go.

Right now it’s not making use of MythTV’s commercial flags, so your recordings still have commercials, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was in the works. Very cool. Also good if you’re about to get on a long plane ride (as I am) and have a bunch of recordings sitting on your PVR that you hadn’t gotten around to watching.

Ruby on Rails – What server to use?

With Ruby on Rails there are a number of options on what server to use. Supposedly Lighttpd is “fast as lightning” but FastCGI on Apache is the “standard” method for production use.

Out of curiosity, I went to a site which I knew ran Ruby on Rails and gets a lot of traffic, and inspected the HTTP headers.

Unsurprisingly, the response when requesting the main page included this header:
Server: Apache/1.3.33 (Unix) mod_deflate/1.0.21 mod_fastcgi/2.4.2

However, as the browser started requesting images, they came back with this header:
Server: WEBrick/1.3.1 (Ruby/1.8.2/2004-12-25)

It seems like they’re using the so-called not-for-production webserver to serve up static content. That’s interesting, given that some have described the usage of that server to be reserved for cases when you have low concurrent users and mostly dynamic content. This qualifies as neither.

FogBugz – missing what I'd consider a 'critical' feature

If you’re a software nerd, chances are you’ve heard of FogBugz and probably read the Joel on Software blog. I’ve never used FogBugz, but I’ve used a number of bug tracking systems and have learned a lot of lessons about how bug tracking “should” work in a large organization. I walked through the FogBugz tutorial, assuming I’d see some of my common troubles solved. Since Joel is an outspoken expert in the software community, I presumed that the bug tracking software would be very well thought out. It certainly was appealing to look at.

But, one of the first questions I had, and couldn’t figure out from the documentation and tutorial is – how do you handle a bug that spans multiple releases? It’s a pretty simple question. If you have a bug, and it exists in release 3.0 of your product and onward, how do you mark it? Let’s say you decide to fix it in release 4.2 and 5.0 of your product, but you’re not going to fix it in 3.x or 4.0. How do you indicate that?

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How to ruin Valentine's Day

Being all clever, as I thought I was, I arranged for MS and I to go to a “Murder Mystery” train ride last night. I didn’t even tell her where we were going… it was all supposed to be a surprise (or a “mystery” as it were). I read about it online and it seemed like a cool idea. Sweet. I ordered tickets in advance and made sure to alert them to her food allergy so everything would be taken care of. It was filled up closer to Valentine’s Day, so we had to settle for a train a few days earlier.

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Cool image of the possible next-gen iPod

There are a few images circling around, I think this one is the best.

It will be interesting to see if they actually come out with a touchscreen-based device; how well the input will actually work. I’ve used some touchscreen remote controls, and although they’re cool because they’re completely configurable (and in some cases sexy looking) I’ve never liked the usability on them, because you can’t feel around for the buttons. You have to look at the remote to do most things, because you can’t feel for the shapes/positions of the buttons.

An mp3 player poses additional challenges over a remote control, because you actually carry it places with you. So, you have to worry more about damage…. that’s a lot of exposed glass. It will be interesting to see what they do about a cover.

If Apple can successfully release a portable, touchscreen-based device, I can see this type of technology rolling into cellphones in short order. Having the full face available to play videos is awesome.

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Articles like this make me ill

Verizon Executive Calls for End to Google’s ‘Free Lunch’. There is so much wrong with this argument that taking about it makes me want to hit someone. A few bullet points instead:

  • Hearing a corporation begrudge another for earning money is so hypocritical and anti-capitalist that it makes me ill
  • There’s nothing “free” about the infrastructure. Google pays some backbone for connectivity to the Internet. Verizon’s customers pay Verizon for connectivity from their homes to that backbone.
  • Verizon and Google, near as I can tell, have no legal relationship, no contract, and even from a strictly technical perspective are hardly related.
  • Google is just one website. When is Verizon going to send a bill to (insert sarcastic remark here)
  • If Verizon built a billion dollar infrastructure with no plans on how to profit from it, aside from crying to congress, then they’re idiots.
  • It’s nonsense like this that’s probably causing Google to look into, effectively building their own internet. In general, I hate when companies go to congress. It usually means something bad. In this case, I hope it’s the first step in Verizon’s road to irrelevancy.

2 simple NFL changes

The NFL playoffs featured some miserable calls this year. I wouldn’t say the officiating in the Superbowl was that bad, but there were a few really close, hotly contested calls that I think exemplify what’s wrong with officiating right now. I think two changes would go a long way:

1) Allow coaches to challenge penalties.
Currently these aren’t reviewable. In the Superbowl there was a pretty light push-off that was flagged as offensive pass interference. I don’t think it would have been overturned, because you can’t push off a guy (even lightly) to get to the ball, but I would like to have seen the coach at least have an opportunity to challenge that call. There are a lot of game-changing penalties that happen throughout the course of the year. Challenging an interference call can be every bit as important as challenging a catch or an interception ruling.

2) Get more cameras in the stadium/on the field.
I’m tired of watching calls, like the Roethlesburger touchdown, that get challenged, reviewed, and there isn’t enough “visual evidence” to decide if they’re right or not (so they stand). Let’s get some more visual evidence! 5 years ago at the Superbowl they used the CMU-developed EyeVision technology, which gave us some pretty amazing perspectives via 30 cameras mounted around the field. What ever happened to that? It’s been 5 years now – I’d imagine it’s even improved, if they wanted to put it to use. I watched Champ Bailey fumble at the 1 yard line against the Patriots in the playoffs, and they couldn’t even tell if he fumbled out of bounds or out the side of the endzone. That’s the difference between 1st-and-goal at the 1 Broncos to 1st down Patriots at the 20… but no visual evidence was there to help out.

I don’t want us to go back to the days when everyone was review-crazy, but I’d sure like to make the reviews more effective. It’s impossible to make all the right calls, so there should be a functional process in place to make sure the wrong calls can get corrected.

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37signals site – is it even usable?

Here’s an experiment:
1) Sign up for a basecamp account at 37 signals.
2) Close your browser
3) Start over at, and try to figure out how to log into the account you created.

I tried this – I can’t.

From what I can tell, the only way you can ever get to the account you created is to save the e-mail they send you when you sign up, and bookmark the link. The link, amazingly, isn’t even on the domain! These guys write so much about usability, but this incredibly simple task can’t even be done on their website.