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Amount of time between the 50 most recent posts to my blog: graph

Posts per month graph in the last two years, and per day graph in the last month.

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Unlimited PTO

Some companies have a new perk for employees in the form of "unlimited time off, as long as you get your work done" 1. While at first glance this would seem to be a really nice benefit, I would counter that instead, because of the "get your work done" caveat, it penalizes the busiest and possibly overworked employees. These employees are less able to take time without impacting/blocking others. I would suggest an alternative PTO policy that includes the previous "unlimited" PTO, but extends with a "required" PTO. This would be a set period each year that each employee is required to take PTO. This would insure busy teams/employees can take the time they need, force the company to better plan and properly staff each team.

1: I work for a company with this policy. This is not a rant against them, just an observation

Android Applications for 2013

Since it seems like the thing to do this year, here are my most used Android apps. for 2013.

Tools

  • Action Launcher - The Quickdrawer, Shutters and Shades make my home screen a tidy functional place
  • Firefox Beta - Still my browser of choice and fantastic on Android.
  • BitTorrent Sync - I moved all my cloud storage(Dropbox, U1) over this. I have more control over my data.
  • Pushbullet - Push content from/to your phone/browser and to other users.
  • PinDroid - Even with it's sync issues, still indispensable. I use it for long term bookmarks and "read it later".
  • RadarScope - When I want to go deep weather geek.
  • Solar - Slick UI(perhaps too slick), day to day weather app.

Social

  • Google+.
  • Twidere - Open source, nice to look at and more functional than most other Twitter clients in the market.
  • Untapped - Mmmmm beer.
  • Tiny Tiny RSS - During the great Google Reader apocalypse, I switched back to my own self hosted feed reader.

Productivity

  • Keep - For quick notes and lists.
  • Any.do - For getting things done.
  • Cal - This was a late in the year addition. A nice replacement for the stock Google Calendar app.
  • K-9 Mail - When I check my mail that isn't Gmail.

Communication

  • Yaaic - I funnel all my IM/Campfire/IRC/Twitter into ZNC. This is how I access it from Android. One of the better IRC clients in the market.
  • Hangouts - Still way from perfect, but at least it does SMS now.

Entertainment

  • Spotify - Still the largest catalog and best music discovery engine around.
  • Google Music - Mostly for my own local/cloud music. I am still a subscriber to "all access", but the selection of music is so poor I probably drop that soon.
  • Google Play Movies & TV - My usage of this has gone way up this year with the introduction of the Chromecast.
  • Ingress - I hardly play any games on Android, this is deep enough to keep me interested.
  • Readmill - My goto e-reader. I feed it using Calibre and DRM free books.

Remotes

Besides being able to control a few applications from Chromecast(Google Music, Netflix, Google Movies), I use my Android as a remote control quite a bit.

Hacker Chat Setup

I've used Gajim, a GUI chat client for a long time, but since I am stuck using Campfire for work and no real XMPP transports exists for it, it's been a clunky outlier from my normal chat workflow. I've also been looking for a way to have a persistent, cross platform, chat presence. After a bit of searching, I ended up with the following setup.

But first. where to set this up? Since I didn't want to run this on my main host, I spun up a new small instance on DigitalOcean. I figured this would be a good trial for the service. Next up, a persistent shell, Byobu with tmux for that. Then an IRC bouncer, ZNC. ZNC will be the gateway, via IRC, into the various chat services I want to connect to. For XMPP, Bitlbee. For Campfire, CamperVan and finally for old school IRC, ZNC will just talk to Freenode.

With all of that setup, I can now seamlessly connect and disconnect to conversations from any IRC client.

Some extras... Bitlebee supports Twitter and Identi.ca. I can now read and reply in a IRC window. I also added email notifications when I am away and mentioned in any conversation.

Galaxy Nexus 24 hours in

I had been thinking about upgrading my Nexus One to a Galaxy Nexus and the Amazon Wireless deal pushed me to do it. The devices were back-ordered for about a week and arrived yesterday, on the day Amazon promised. With the switch to the GN I will be moving to Verizon and marks my first time away from GSM, since I started with Bell South Mobility about 11 years ago.

First impressions....

  • It is big, but not as big as you would think for the size of the display.
  • It feels too light for it's size.
  • ICS is a significant update that brings more visual and functional consistency.
  • As promised, ICS, at least on the GN, is much smoother than previous releases.
  • Compared to the N1, it is fast!
  • Sadly, Verizon has only slightly better coverage than ATT in our house.
  • LTE is amazingly fast and coverage around Charleston has been solid.

What's good...

  • I could never type very quickly on the Gingerbread keyboard, but I can on the ICS keyboard. As good or nearly as good as, the iPhone.
  • The virtual navigation keys work well.
  • The web browser has improved, syncing with Chrome is welcomed.
  • Task switching is nearly effortless.
  • Overall the UI is very smooth. I've only had some lag and stutter with a few heavy tasks going on in the background.
  • Handles Video/Audio Hangouts from G+ and Gtalk very well.
  • With the brightness set to 40% or more the screen is beautiful.
  • Battery life appears to be about what I was getting with the N1.
  • The camera starts and takes pictures very fast. Panorama mode is cool.

What's not so good...

  • It's too big. Even with my large hands, it feels a bit unnatural to reach for the top of the screen.
  • PENTILE! I knew this might be an issue I would just have to get over and as I mentioned above, when the brightness of the display is 40% or more, beautiful, but let auto-brightness bring it down below that level and it looks like crap. Grainy and dull.
  • One glaring UX issue is the placement of the menu navigation button. It used to always be in the same place at the bottom of the screen, in the navigation button group. Now, it will be at the bottom or the top, depending on the app. You never know where it's going to be.
  • A couple of issue with Beaming. You can't currently beam pictures or files, the first two items I tried to beam. Since the phone is so thin, it is difficult to hold two of them together to cause the beam to activate. I feel like I am going to drop the phone every time.
  • Camera image quality is an upgrade from the N1 but lacking. The quality of the stitched panoramas could be a lot better.

Overall, it feels a bit more effortless to use the GN than the N1.

Why Check-in

A recent trip to WNC got me thinking about why/how I do checking in. The rambling post below is what fell out.

I was a early adopter of the "checking in" idea with Brightkite(so much promise lost there). With Brightkite's demise I looked to the next best thing which at the time was Gowalla. It allowed comments and picture posting, something foursquare still doesn't do very well, and allowed me to meet my "why check-in" goals of:

  1. Have a history of where I had been and places I liked.
  2. Leave a trail for future visitors, providing useful tips, pictures and comments.
  3. Seeing what my friends were doing and to interact with them.
  4. And a bonus of getting cool badges.

Enter Google....

Google took an unfocused shotgun approach to the check-in idea with Latitude, Hotpot and now Google+. It never felt right, so I mostly ignored it, but now Google seems to be merging ideas and coming up with something interesting. Hotpot is gone and has become part of Places(places.google.com and the Places Android app.). Latitude can now check-in to spots(manually and automatically), post ratings, reviews and pictures. Pictures, ratings and reviews show up in Places and in public Google search results(this is important to me, will come back to it). Check-ins(via Latitude) are not public and posted to your Google profile(not G+) with limited sharing(Private list? I assume this is your Latitude friends). This leaves the outlier of Google+ check-ins. Which do show up in G+ and obey your normal Circle sharing rules. I'm not sure how Google plans to consolidate the two(Latitude, G+) check-in concepts(if ever).

This leaves me with what I'm planning to do. Stop using Gowalla and foursquare. Instead I'm going to rely on some combination of Latitude and G+ check-ins. Why? Latitude and G+ allow me to meet my "why check-in" goals better(easier with automatic check-ins) and probably more long term(Gowalla is more likely to go the way of Brightkite than Google is).

How does Latitude meet my goals:

  1. It keeps a history of my check-ins down to the minute, something Gowalla doesn't do(or at least expose in the UI).
  2. Having my ratings, reviews and pictures from a spot show up in Places and Google search is huge for "leaving a trail for future visitors". This was invaluable during my trip to WNC and what really got me thinking about this.
  3. I can see what my Latitude and G+ friends are doing(not that they use it much).
  4. Badges are overrated, but maybe Google will eventually "gameify" this a bit.

Issues...

  • Latitude and G+'s spot database is, surprisingly, no where near as good as Gowalla or foursquare and doesn't have a way to add missing spots. Hopefully this will improve over time.
  • Cannot comment on check-ins in Latitude, but you can in G+.
  • I have less friends using Latitude and G+(for checking in).
  • Handing more data and services over to "the goog".
Moved to Ikiwiki

For a long time now I've been considering moving away from WordPress for my blog/site software. I so rarely post these days it just doesn't make sense to worry about all the moving parts WP exposes. I migrated posts from WP and have been very slowly tweaking Ikiwiki as my new blog/site host, but it never felt ready to pull the switch. A couple of days ago, with the 3.0.4 release of WP I decided I'd had enough and switched. The new site is still not ready(well actually some, well make that all, of it is horribly ugly), but it's done.

Birdhouse Snake

Was walking around the backyard this afternoon and was surprised by this guy. Couldn't see him very well, but based on the eyes and the coloring, not poisonous. A few more pictures in the Flickr stream. Snake in the bird house