"Keep Clear" doormat idea

Keep Clear doormat idea

Keep Clear doormat idea

When I was talking to my wife on the phone today she said that we might not get any trick-or-treat’ers tonight because we don’t have any Halloween decorations up, and that in fact there’s no sign that anyone lives in our apartment because there’s no doormat, nameplate etc.

That got me thinking about what kind of doormat I would be willing to have.  There aren’t many, I guess I’m not a doormat kinda guy.

I had an interesting idea – I’ve always liked the “Keep Clear” sign on Korben Dallas’ wall in The Fifth Element, so… how about a “Keep Clear” doormat?

Keep Clear (The Fifth Element)

Keep Clear (The Fifth Element)

While I was looking for a screencap of the movie I ran into a tumblr of “keep clear” pictures and a wallpaper someone made:

Keep Clear wallpaper

Keep Clear wallpaper

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Goodbye Plurk

Plurk logo

Plurk logo

I’ve been using Plurk since I found out about it five months ago, but I think I’m going to stop.

I don’t have anything against the site or the service – it’s feature rich and easy to use.

The problem is that fewer and fewer people seem to be using it – most days I’m the only person (among my contacts) who posts anything.  The posts that do happen tend to just be re-posted tweets.  I found myself posting just to keep up my karma, which quickly starts to feel futile.

I suspect that people flocked to Plurk when it was new because it was new, but then got bored and returned to the services they were using before.  I think I’ll do the same thing – I joined Twitter a year and a half ago, but never really used it.

Plurk is much more usable than Twitter, but Twitter is winning out of sheer popularity.  Companies are even monitoring Twitter for product mentions – it’s a lot closer to mainstream.

GetSatisfaction‘s Overheard feature even shows recent mentions of Plurk on Twitter.

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Pingdom

Pingdom logo

Pingdom logo

I found out about a website called Pingdom from a blog post about WordPress optimization.  It was a pretty good post actually, because it also pointed me to the WP-DBManager plugin which lets you optimize and backup MySQL (and is very cool). 

Anyway, in the context of the post what got me interested in Pingdom was the website report that shows the load time of all the components of the page.  You can see the report for the main page of my blog here.

It has a quick website information display summary:

Pingdom website information

Pingdom website information

And a graph of load time that shows how each component (picture, css etc.) contributed to the total load time of the page:

Pingdom website graph

Pingdom website graph

Although this is very cool, the website test tool doesn’t seem to be the main point of Pingdom – it’s website monitoring.  I’m currently having some issues with my Easily web hosting, so I’ve signed up for the 30 day trial of Pingdom.  I don’t know whether I’ll end up signing up for it – it’s useful but in the current economic client I’m trying to save money.

Basically Pingdom has servers all over the world, and you can set it up so that they ping your website.  You get graphs of response time and uptime, and it notifies you if your site goes down.

Pingdom response time report

Pingdom response time report

You can see how frequently my hosting has been going down recently in the uptime report:

Pingdom uptime report

Pingdom uptime report

I’ve made the report public so you can see it here.

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Outbrain plugin for WordPress

Image representing Outbrain as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Today I saw an announcement that a WordPress plugin called Outbrain had added support for Disqus, so the two plugins can automatically cooperate if they’re both installed.

I’ve installed it and so far it seems pretty cool – Outbrain lets visitors to my blog rate my posts, we’ll see whether any visitors make use of it and what they think.  It also gives stats on the ratings.

I did have some problems installing it – you get a claim code from their website and enter it into the plugin.  This proves that you own your blog and lets you begin using the plugin.  My claim process kept timing out and then suddenly it worked – it may have been a server-side problem, or because I initially just used my domain name instead of the path to my blog.

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Tricky – Council Estate

There was a cool song in today’s episode of Chuck – Council Estate by Tricky.

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Chicago Water Tower

Yesterday I was watching an episode of Due South and I saw the Chicago Water Tower for the first time.

Chicago Water Tower, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Image via Wikipedia

I have a thing for water towers – I used to love seeing them in England.  English water towers tend to be square and made out of brick or concrete, for example the Kimberley Water Tower in Nottinghamshire:

Kimberley Water Tower, Nottinghamshire

Kimberley Water Tower, Nottinghamshire

North American water towers however tend to be raised big metal spheres, which are aesthetically less interesting, for example the water tower in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada:

Red Deer Water Tower

Red Deer Water Tower

The Chicago Water Tower seems different in that instead of just being designed to fullfill a purpose, it seems to have been designed aesthetically as well – it’s as ornate as a church.

Chicago Water Tower

Image by webbmb via Flickr

My wife wanted to know what I wanted to see while we were in the US, and I couldn’t really come up with anything. They don’t really have any history here, and natural wonders like the grand canyon seem like a lot of effort for a hole in the ground. I guess the Chicago Water Tower is the first thing to go on the list, but on its own is still not worth a trip.

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Jace Everett – Bad Things

I really like the music from the intro to True Blood – Bad Things by Jace Everett.

I usually hate country music, but this is more like Johnny Cash than the whiny country stuff.

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PingPressFM plugin for WordPress

Image representing WordPress as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

When you write a blog post it’s nice to be able to publicize it a bit to increase its chances of being read.

One easy way of doing this is to post a link to your blog entry on social networking sites like Twitter.

The cross-posting process could be easier because it’s still a lot of effort to post to multiple social networking sites for every blog post.

Ping.fm simplifies this (because that’s its whole purpose), but it still requires you to remember to use ping.fm each time you write a blog post.

The PingPressFM plugin for WordPress solves this problem by automatically sending your blog post to ping.fm.  You set up triggers to use – for example you can have ping.fm forward the whole blog post to a blogging service like Tumblr, send an extract to a microblogging service like Twitter or set your status on a service like Facebook.

In the first post that I used PingPressFM with, I used the trigger that forwards the whole blog post.  The problem with this is that since v2.6, WordPress has added captions to images, and they use a non-HTML tag.  Neither PingPressFM, ping.fm nor the end recipient service seem to be able to strip or correctly process this tag.  So your blog post in the recipient service ends up with tag garbage in it.  I’ve reported the problem to PingPressFM support, ping.fm support and WordPress support, but so far there’s been no resolution.

In the second post that I used PingPressFM with, I used the trigger that sends an extract to microblogging services – that seemed to work fine.

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Amazon S3 plugin for WordPress

 Amazon S3 WordPress plugin Amazon S3 WordPress plugin

I’ve been using Amazon S3 for a while – I originally signed up in order to use JungleDisk, which uses S3 as its storage back end.

I only have good things to say about the service – you get unlimited storage, the pricing scheme is very reasonable and it has ridiculously good uptime.

I recently found the Amazon S3 plugin for WordPress, and tried it out for the first time in my last post.

The plugin has two ways for you to upload files.  There’s a button which just uploads the file and puts it directly into your post.  Intead of that, you can use the classic WordPress Add Image etc. buttons which have been modified by the plugin to store the files on S3 instead of your server.

I prefer using the classic buttons, because WordPress creates thumbnails for them and you can set a caption.

So far it seems to work perfectly and I’m considering going back through all my old posts and moving the media to S3.

One of the really cool things you can do with Amazon S3 (and you can take advantage of with the plugin) is use a CNAME DNS entry to use a subdomain to point to your S3 bucket.  This means that links to the uploaded files will be accessible using http://my.bucketname.com/ instead of http://bucketname.s3.amazonaws.com/.  Setting it up is a bit technical, but there are instructions.

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Norton Internet Security 2009 – I think they finally get it

Logo Symantec

Image by tchuntfr via Flickr

I have used Norton products since the MS-DOS days.

Although they started off lightweight and nimble, over the years they got more and more bloated.  Just installing Norton AntiVirus slowed any computer down by at least 10%, but in the worsening computer security climate it was unthinkable to not have antivirus software installed.

Over the years there were plenty of competitors to Norton AntiVirus, but either they had the same performance issues or they were from small companies that I couldn’t bring myself to trust with my security.

Upgrading year after year became a kind of reverse Christmas – every year I hoped so hard that maybe this version would somehow be faster, and it never was.

Every computer upgrade was the same – the new hardware was breathtakingly fast, and then I installed the anti-virus software and it was back to the same old grind.

Now with Norton Internet Security 2009, I think they finally get it.  They seem to have actually put a lot of effort into improving performance.

The main screen now has little displays of the current CPU usage of your computer and what percentage of that is Norton.  This feature doesn’t actually reduce the CPU usage, but it makes you more aware of whether Norton is the problem or not.

Norton Internet Security 2009 main screen

Norton Internet Security 2009 main screen

You can also bring up a graph of the historical CPU and memory usage and how much of that Norton was responsible for.

Norton Internet Security 2009 CPU Usage display

Norton Internet Security 2009 CPU Usage display

The features that actually make a difference are:

  1. Idle Time Scan – instead of scheduling a weekly scan of the whole computer, it only performs the scan if the computer is idle.  At one point I was (effectively) computer support for a small company and I had sales people complaining about the anti-virus scan happening when they were in the middle of demonstrating software, so this is an excellent feature.  About time.
  2. Pulse Updates – instead of checking for anti-virus definition updates daily or weekly, it now checks pretty much constantly.  This means you definitions will be even more up-to-date than before, and the updates take less bandwidth and CPU.
  3. Norton Insight – instead of scanning all files every time, Norton now has some intelligence about what the files are and how often you access them, to avoid scanning files that it knows are safe or that you access very frequently.  This means scans can take less time because it’s checking less files, and it avoids scanning frequently accessed files every time they’re accessed, giving a big performance saving.

I haven’t been using Norton Internet Security 2009 for very long, but so far it seems pretty quick.  I’m just glad they’re finally putting some thought into performance.

P.S. At this point someone will say “switch to a Mac/Linux – no viruses!” and I will reply that:

  1. None of my programs would work.  A safe computer that doesn’t do what I need it to do is a useless computer.
  2. The only reason those platforms have less viruses/exploits is because they represent such a small percentage of computers out there.  That’s security through obscurity – as soon as they were a big enough target they would be attacked more, exploits would be found, viruses would be written and they would be in the same boat as Windows.  So shut up.
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