Whiplash

This post was written by my good friend Jimmy Sawczuk. If you would like to write a guest post, let me know.

server

We ran into a problem at work last week that was, at the same time, a nightmare and exactly the kind of problem you want to have. The culprit was our latest Big Prize Giveaways promotion, and the problem was that our app had metaphorically gone from 0-60 in about two seconds, and it experienced the same thing your neck feels when it accelerates that fast: whiplash. This was my first experience with an app that was this big; even in my McJournal days, I rarely averaged more than 60,000 (well, take that number and divide by 10,000 and you have the real number) hits per day. So in the last week, I’ve learned a ton during our march to a million fans that I think can be useful to everyone, no matter how close your app is to that kind of scale.

  • This is the first rule in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so it’s the first rule here: don’t panic. My first (extremely narcissistic) thought was “what? Something broke? Our server sucks!”, and my second (seriously overdramatic) thought was “I tried my best when I was writing it, how am I supposed to improve it now?” Most scaling problems are definitely manageable, and even though (for me) they’re not much fun and can be stressful, there are worse problems to have.
  • Have a plan. These types of problems aren’t quick fixes, you’ll need to know what you want to do, how you intend to do it, and when. Keep in mind that unless you shut down your app completely, the slowdowns will continue to affect you as you work through the problem, so having a plan is crucial so you avoid wasting time thrashing.

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Computers, People, and the Fact That I’m Selfish

I want, I want, I want. Almost all anxiety and anger and relationship problems I have can be traced to me wanting something.

I want people to like me. I want to be stronger, tanner, taller. I want to be better at sports, a better writer, or a more prolific speaker. I want more Twitter followers, more Facebook friends, more blog readers and retweets. I want the new Silverstein cd. Oh, and while I’m at it, I’d like the Silverstein t-shirt that’s tempted me for the past 2 years (and for only $15, why am I not wearing it?!). I want to buy my girlfriend a Lakers jersey or shirt before the season starts. I want new basketball shoes before intramurals start. I want to own season 7 of Scrubs, season 1 of Arrested Development, and seasons 1-10 of Friends on DVD. I want new jeans, I want new socks. I want new posters, music, some nice cigars, ties, etc. I want stuff.

I want stuff ALL THE TIME. The only problem with all this stuff is that it is either impossible to acquire or it requires me to give up something that I rarely possess – money. And that’s the problem – sure, I can clutter my life with all the latest gadgets, cds, shirts and movies – but a few weeks later, I’ll just start the cycle all over again. The trick, I think, is focusing in on those things that you truly love. For me, the two most prevalent things in my life (and those things that are most likely to affect my future) are computers and people.

Computers have been a passion of mine for a long time. Currently, they occupy not only a majority of my time in school, but also much of my free time (though “much of” might be a stretch seeing as I don’t get enough free time to justify “much of” anything). I love just about everything dealing with computers, and I have since high school. I am much, much more likely to get sidetracked working on computers than playing video games, watching television, or even surfing the internet.

Take today for example. I had lots of Calculus II homework to do, and since I wasn’t in class, I decided that my TI-83 might help to move things along a little quicker. After a little searching, I dusted it off, put fresh batteries in and turned it on. Instantly my eyes were drawn to a button towards the middle of the keyboard: PRGM. Oh, the memories. Promising myself I would only be sidetracked for a moment, I pressed it to see a list of all the programs I had written on this little machine in high school.

Believe it or not, that little button changed my life. I knew that day that I wanted to make a career out of this kind of work. From that day on, I programmed games and applications every day – during class, at lunch, in study halls, at home and every spare second I could find. I was called everything from a nerd to obsessed, but I didn’t care – I LOVED IT. And what’s more, it was free!

You see, computers appeal to me in a maniacal way that people don’t – I can manipulate them, create an idea and mold them into what I want them to do. I can put as little or as much time into them and receive a directly proportionate amount of joy from the results. I can have a problem (even something as simple as boredom) and make something to solve it. And what’s best, the selfish part of me can come out saying, “I built that. I made it, you didn’t, I rock.” It might not be the best, it might not help anyone else in the world, but it’s mine and I’m proud of it.

I feel as if the most rare and important things in life are those that require your time. Let’s face it, we are not all equal when it comes to money. You cannot base the meaning of something by looking at its cost. However, when people put their time into something, you know it means something to them. That’s why putting time into relationships is so important. In fact, if you get one thing out of this post, I hope it’s simply that you need to cut back on all the stuff you want and focus on somebody – anybody else.

People are very important in my life as well. I like having friends – I like knowing that I have someone to lean on in tough times, people to love, and people who love me. I consider a select number of my Twitter followers to be good friends – they make me laugh, they get me through the day, and I enjoy chatting with them online about everything from graffiti to Laker basketball to fantasy football. Aside from my faith, friendships are the most important things in my life.

You naturally spend time on the things that you love. Like to blog? Then bust your butt to be the best writer you can. Way, way too often I’m locked up in all the things going on that I start to neglect friendships and do things half-heartedly. A lot of times it just comes down to figuring out what and who is really important in my life – prioritizing things, making time for those that I love and activities that I love. By all means, do what you love and enjoy it – but make sure you aren’t neglecting friendships along the way.

Goodbye Firefox, Hello Google Chrome

As a raving Firefox fan for years, I can’t believe I’m writing this post. My love for all Mozilla products has always been because they “just work”. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case for me.

Over the past week, Firefox has been acting up – mainly sluggish page loads and running processes, even after the browser has been closed. Basically, this just means that I can’t run Firefox again until I end the process in Task Manager.

Google Chrome has been my #2 browser for several months, so I decided to give it a try. Within a day of serious use, I’m sold. As I posted earlier, Google is planning an entire OS built on the Chrome idea – browser/desktop integration. Chrome makes a great start with my current favorite feature – application shortcuts.

Take any website you visit, add an application shortcut, and you’ve now got a shortcut right on your desktop. Clicking this will open your page in a special Chrome page that’s set apart from normal browsing. This way, you can essentially add shortcuts to your favorite sites, saving a few steps if you just want to check your Gmail, Facebook or Twitter (or your Joupes account!).

google chrome application shortcuts

JavaScript effects and plugins (like LightBox) are faster in Chrome than any other browser I’ve used. Page surfing is smooth and fast-loading. Despite it’s limited customization, Chrome looks good and the lack of buttons works to its advantage by freeing up lots of real estate. Other little design features like the downloads section, highlighted entry text boxes and “Most Visited” (much like the Fast Dial plugin for Firefox) links are icing on the cake.

google chrome downloads

Well done, Google. You’ve won me over. I look forward to you doing the same thing when Google Chrome OS comes out.

A Few Steps to Prevent Laptop Overheating

It’s clear that desktop users have a solid advantage over laptop users in the category of customization and personal repairs. It’s much, much harder to do a repair on or even build a laptop than it is to do so on a desktop. If something goes wrong, such as constant overheating in this case, laptop users don’t have much choice than working around the problem, whereas those with stationary PC’s can simply add a fan.

My Pavilion has been overheating a lot recently, leading to lots of frustration on my part.  I mean, you’d be frustrated too if you had a few tabs open, maybe iTunes and OpenOffice – and your computer just shut off.

Anyway, here’s a quick list of tips/things to use so your computer doesn’t overheat.

  • Download SystemExplorer and use it.  It’s much more comprehensive than the default Windows task explorer.  Use it to guage how much memory certain processes are using.  For me, the big killer is Firefox the majority of the time.
  • If you know you won’t be using them for a while, quite background programs like LogMeIn, media managers, etc.  Even consider stopping Google Desktop indexing if you’re computer is particularly bad – this program can eat up memory like a piece of fried chicken at a Baptist convention.
  • Clean your computer with compressed air.  This sounds weird, but I’ve heard that cleaning out all that dust can actually lower the temperature.
  • Allow ample room for ventilation.  Since most laptop fans are on the bottom, this can be difficult.  The best way is by purchasing a cooling pad.  There are basically two types of cooling pads – electric ones and just plain pads.  The pads usually work to prop up the computer and allow the fan to blow out hot air, while the electric pads plug into the USB port and add extra cooling.  You can usually pick up a good Belkin pad for around $20.

Getting to the Core of the Apple Problem

This is a rant that I had to write for an English class, but I thought it fit, so here it is.

I hate that guy.  You know exactly who i’m talking about.  Sipping his latte on a couch at Starbucks, Macbook propped on his lap, iPhone vibrating at his side, a $200 messy haircut, and an assortment of grungy, but not too grungy, clothes.  He turns to me, a smug look on his face.  Depending on which friend it is, he’ll describe some application he’s just discovered, a podcast he’s just recorded, or a website he’s just designed – all using his trusty Mac.  Without fail, in a somewhat sadistic, most definitely condescending tone, he’ll end with, “See, Apple stuff is just better.  Vista sucks.”

*SLAP*
“You idiot!”
*SLAP*
“I can do the same thing on my PC – running (oh my gosh!) VISTA!”
*SLAP*
“Audacity!  KompoZer!  OpenOffice!  Picasa!  And those are FREE!”
*SLAP*
“Don’t spill your latte!”

Ok, so I don’t actually do this.  But I want to.  My goodness do I want to.  You see, my problem isn’t even with Apple – I think they’re a fine company.  In fact, I think they understand marketing and design better than a lot of businesses – computer or otherwise.  Every year, Apple releases something so beautiful, so utterly sexy, that the whole world stops to praise them for the best invention ever made.  Bit by bit, though, Steve Jobs’ minions, either by using flashy, colorful advertising and hip young “Mac” people juxtaposed by older, plump “PC” guys or by creating Mac-praising magazines, podcasts, and websites, have created a cult.  You aren’t cool if you don’t have a Mac.  In fact, you’re somewhat of an ignorant, God-forsaken, lost puppy.  Don’t worry, kiddo, you’ll see the light – just give it time.

And guess what?  I’m not ok with that!  Why?  Because the fact of the matter is, Apple computers just AREN’T BETTER!  Numerous times I have been called technologically-ignorant, since I placed Mac on the same level (if not lower), than a PC.  Besides the fact that I am a dedicated blogger, Computer Information Systems major, and very passionate about computers, I am usually attacked relentlessly and without two-sided discussion.  Let’s look at the specs, shall we?

The basic MacBook comes with 2 gigs of memory, a 2.0GHz processor, and a 160 gigabyte hard drive – for $1,299.  The basic Sony Vaio comes with 4 gigs of memory, a 2.0GHz processor, and 320 gigabytes of space – for $839.  And it’s sexy, too.  For those who aren’t familiar with these specifications, it’s not golf – the higher the better.  So we can logically draw that, if Mrs. Floyd, my first grade teacher taught me correctly, 4 gigs is better than 2, and 320 gigs is better than 160.  So, technically, I’m paying $500 less for a more well-equipped computer.  Technically.

But Apple products just work, ya know?  Well, not mine.  I got an iPod on the assumption that their advertising was somewhat correct – spend $250 on an Apple product to insure ease of mind, usability, and so that it would “just work”.  Ever since I got it, I have had problem after problem syncing it with my iTunes in Windows.  First it won’t detect it, then the data is corrupt, then it’s working fine.  In less than a year, I have been forced to delete everything (that’s 50 gigabytes of music, videos, and games) from my iPod due to a fatal error.  Now, I don’t use third party applications and the iPod is branded to work in Vista.

When Apple released their new version of iTunes (8) several months ago, they forgot to check to see if it would work with Windows, and as a result, it crashed every Vista system.  But man, once I rebooted my computer, uninstalled it, emailed Apple, downloaded and installed the new 80mb installation file, it looked great!  Crashed my iPod two weeks later, but it looked fantastic!

To be fair, every computer has problems, and since I’m a geek, I love working on them.  With Windows, though, I can at least sound intelligent.  No talk of bouncing beach balls, jungle animals, or adding a pronoun before each application.  That’s “i” if you can’t figure it out.  iThis, iThat.  iCal, iPhoto, iPod, iTunes, iPhone.  Wanna talk about me, wanna talk about I, wanna talk about number one.  Oh my me my.

-Made On a PC-

Ubuntu Portable Review – @pubcrawlercom

In response to a tweet of mine yesterday, @pubcrawlercom sent me a live twitter review while he installed and ran Ubuntu Portable. With his permission, I’ve reposted his thoughts here.

From what he has said, I think I’ll try it – as soon as I boot up Vista again, that is. It might be a while (or at least until I need to sync my iPod next. For some reason, Banshee doesn’t work with the Classic and Wine won’t configure with iTunes 8 correctly).

read one tweet that it crashed for someone under XP. Extracting to disk now. this machine only has 512MB RAM 🙁 might be issue…

decompressed portable ubtun is around 2GB… moving it around and rebooting fresh XP loadup to test it.


my tweetreview of ubuntu portable starts now 🙂 as I go

bunch of random errors on bootup in text shell window ran from.

updates last ran 200+ days ago – 177 updates downloadable… 118.3 MB

screen video refreshes slow at times – like when asks for root pwd for updates. dreadfully slow

ubuntu update downloads seem slow to download – often can be 🙂 whos knows… not my bandwidth here.

network stuff works fine, but ping doesn’t for external IPs… unsure why…

firefox loads and runs much faster than in XP on same machine.

still downloading updates for ubuntu portable… computer paging memory to disk.. but that’s my fault.. tweetdeck pigging out on RAM

portable ubuntu finally finished downloading the updates. now the wait for them to install. always the 1st things I do in order 😉

ubuntu portable crashed during excessive paging on XP. trying again – that was my fault. all well after restarting it 🙂

running near out of RAM 🙂 but portable Ubuntu works on 512MB XP system.

Portable Ubuntu would be nicer say with Portable Crunchbang Ubuntu version less resource use

Loaded up Rythmbox and streaming music plays fine in Ubuntu Portable 🙂

Software sources in Ubuntu Portable set to Argentina. Change to your local country.

hey try Ubuntu Portable. worked well for me. Haven’t tested everything, but it looks good. certainly will need more polish 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Have a great one!

My Apologies

Please forgive the lack of posts throughout the last week.  With the semester drawing to a close, it’s becoming difficult to fit everything in.  I will, however, be out in a few days and blogging up a storm.

Until then, I leave you with a few non-technical related photos from the last few weeks.  Enjoy.

Desktop Customization

I have submitted my desktop to the “Lifehacker Desktop Show and Tell” group on Flickr.

I used Rainlendar and ObjectDock to create it. Follow the links below to learn more.

Lifehacker Show and Tell Flickr Group (with desktop pics)

Rainlendar 2

ObjectDock (I use the “Plus” version)

LG enV2

My friend’s LG enV2.  It’s a really neat phone – has a great 2.0 MPxl Camera, very easy to text message, large screen once opened, etc.

Picture0225.jpeg

Originally uploaded by ryanlbowen

T-Mobile