Happy New Year!

2007 was great. Ruby on Rails I think really came into its own last year. Cocoa got a big boost with Leopard and I’m still uncovering new APIs. Eclipse is still going strong. By the way, I happen to run the Eclipse-Mac Google Group, which is still going along. I should probably hand that over to someone who can publicize it and nurture it more. I’ve been trying to simplify my life recently and also try to get focused on my true goals. So instead of resolutions, I’m trying to write out specific goals.

Here’s to an even better 2008!

Reports of my demise have been grossly exaggerated

Long time no blog, eh?

Let’s see – what’s been going on in my life? I’ve been keeping busy. Ruby on Rails has been good to me and still having a lot of fun developing with it. But I’ve also been dealing with a bunch of house/car maintenance issues recently.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my wife and kids. We saw some the Perseid meteor shower recently on a trip to the Shenandoah mountains. That was pretty amazing – like going to a planetarium. We get so much light pollution in the city but out there you can see all the stars. It was even better since it was a new moon (as in you couldn’t see the moon at all.) My wife said it was the first time she saw the Milky Way. I guess it must have been my first time too.

pocket-side grid Moleskine notebook
Well stay tuned. I just started writing in my Moleskine notebook again and for some reason that always sparks my creativity which inevitably leads to blogging. Something about high quality pen on high quality paper. I just got a nice pocket grid one. I mean who knew growing up that you could one day get a leather-bound book of graph paper?

I’ve also been doing a really really slimmed down version of GTD (Getting Things Done.) I call it “making lists and crossing them out”. Maybe my life is really simple, but it seems to work for me. And it frees up time for doing things like blogging.

Creating a branch in Subversion from a specific older revision

Branches in Subversion are quite easy and really lightweight. I think the technical term for this is “cheap copy”, which doesn’t quite do it for me. I mean, I’d rather call it an elegant and efficient copy, but I didn’t create my own version control system.

To create a branch of your source base in Subversion, you usually just execute (if you’re using the file-based version and the repository is in /Users/yourName/svn):

svn copy file:///Users/yourName/svn/yourProject/trunk file:///Users/yourName/yourProject/branches/yourProject-1.0

Note that you need to have the branches directory added and committed to your repository. It won’t automatically add this for you.

This does it for working from the head of the trunk. But what if you wanted to branch from an older revision? It turns out to be quite easy:

svn copy -r specificRevisionNumber file:///Users/yourName/svn/yourProject/trunk file:///Users/yourName/yourProject/branches/yourProject-1.0

Sidelined with some hand problems

Sorry if I haven’t replied to your email and that I haven’t posted too much in the past two weeks. I’ve been having some problems with my hands and wrists. Probably just due to overuse, so I’ve been cutting back recently to give my hands a rest.

But while I’m here, how about a quick braindump?

Video iPods – awesome. I think they’re going to be huge especially this Christmas. I hope that the TV and movie selection will expand greatly. This might be the thing that pushes me to finally digitize my home movies. It’s one thing to show people your kid’s picture, but imagine showing them a little short movie clip of your kid.

Ward Cunningham joins Eclipse Foundation – Welcome back! We’ve missed the father of the wiki. Which reminds me… I wonder if I should update my page on WikiWikiWeb.

No Fluff Just Stuff – Reston, VA is just a week away. I think there are less than 25 seats left. It was great last year and I’ll be there again this year.

Google finally groks RSS

3. Google groks RSS: Instead of just being satisfied with hosting blogs via Blogger, Google realizes the true potential of blogs: as another way to spread its targeted advertising. Google offers Google RSS(tm), which puts targeted Google ads in RSS feeds as well as offering an updated-every-nanosecond search of all RSS, RDF, and Atom feed on the planet.

I made that prediction on January 1st of this year and today it came true. Google unveiled Adsense for Feeds a few months back. However, I haven’t really seen that many people take advantage of it. I myself have Adsense ads on my blog, but not in my feeds. It is in beta, but isn’t like 80% of Google in beta?

Today they unveiled their Google Blog Search. I think Technorati will be competitive, but I think they’ll need to focus more on the value-added features than just plain search. Then again, since Google only indexes the feed contents, while Technorati actually uses the link URL to index the actual web page that the feed entry points to, Technorati should allow for more complete indexing as Niall points out.

I think indexing the feed does put pressure on people to include their entire post in the feed. I myself prefer when sites do this, because I can basically read a ton of stuff within NetNewsWire quickly.

Note for bloggers who don’t find their blog in the search (from the Help):

If your blog publishes a site feed in any format and automatically pings an updating service (such as Weblogs.com), we should be able to find and list it. Also, we will soon be providing a form that you can use to manually add your blog to our index, in case we haven’t picked it up automatically. Stay tuned for more information on this.

Podcasting is good, but…

…it really is kind of inefficient. I wonder if there is any sort of speech-to-text web service which can turn podcasts into regular blog entries for when you just want to read.

I mean, its nice when you want to listen to something in the car or walking around, but if you’re actually at your computer, I’d rather just read. I’m pretty sure I can read much faster than I listen. Plus, it’s a lot harder to save a snippet of audio than it is to cut and paste a snippet of a blog entry.

Help Hurricane Katrina survivors

Today my family and I held a yard sale to raise money to help the Hurricane Katrina survivors. Watching the news coverage has really broken our hearts and we’ve been praying for them.

Turnout at the yard sale was probably the sparsest I’ve ever had out of all the yard sales we’ve conducted. I guess next time, I won’t have one on Labor Day weekend, but you can’t choose when disasters happen. We only made $76, but every little bit helps. Also we’re planning to make a bigger donation separately.

If you’re confused about where to make a donation, here’s an interesting site I found from the American Institute of Philanthropy that rates charities that are involved in providing relief to the hurricane survivors.

Any good online book forums out there?

So I’m reading Freakonomics, which is an addictive read and exposes the real world as to how it actually works, with actual data, not just theories. But I’d like to discuss it with others and there doesn’t seem to be any good places to have an discussion about a random book online. I’m looking for something like the IMDB message boards, but even easier.

Anyone know a place I can go to discuss books online?

Officer, I just saved a bunch of money by switching to… wait… where’d I put my insurance card?

I got this in an email today from my insurance company:

Effective July 16, 2005, District of Columbia police officers will begin issuing $300.00 fines for drivers who cannot provide proof of insurance when stopped. An individual pulled over by District police officers must be able to provide license, registration and a current insurance card or a citation will be issued.

DC also provides fines for eating ($100) or talking on your cell phone ($100) while driving. Meanwhile, in Virginia, where I live, we’ve just recently turned off our red light cameras ($50). Such a strange contrast especially since I only live 10 miles from DC.

Now if only we they would fine everyone who rubbernecks at accidents (shall we start the bidding at $500?). Then the revenue would really roll in! LOL

Moleskine full – what to do? Make a Gridster PDA

I’ve been using a Moleskine pocket notebook for the past few months. I got it after reading Getting Things Done, which inspired me to externalize and persist the ideas, goals, todos, etc out of my head and onto paper.

I had been using a Palm for quite a while. When I was in sales, the original Palm Professional was really important to keep me reminded of all the appointments my sales guy and I had (I was an SE), all the people I had to contact, etc.

But over the years, I realized that it was pretty hard to enter information quickly into the Palm. The last straw however was when Graffiti was changed and many of the single-stroke characters I was used to became two stroke. So I’ve been steadily entering more and more things onto paper, but never systematically and I had been using large form factors, which made my notebooks not too portable (except while at the office). And if your notebook isn’t portable, you’re going to lose thoughts.

Enter the Moleskine, which is great. The only problem: they only have 192 pages. And I took 59 pages of notes at WWDC 2005, leaving me with one blank page. So my Moleskine is effectively full!

What to do now?

Well, I remember having read about this invention called a Hipster PDA. When I first saw it, I chuckled. But after talking to Ryan, I realized that I had been under utilizing index cards. Index cards have a nice property that they can be filed in a card box, are relatively inexpensive, widely available, and can be spread out spatially to say see what many of your thoughts / sketches at once. So during a recent trip to Staples, I picked up a big pack of regular index cards, some grid index cards, and some binder clips. And I assembled my first Hipster PDA, made of index cards. However, I found that the ones with the grid pattern were much better, since you can write vertically quite easily and it gives me some guidelines for doing 2D sketches of UIs, workflows, etc. I like to visualize things.

I actually put together the Grid-based Hipster PDA (maybe it should be called a Gridster PDA) before WWDC just to try it out. I did find it better for sketching. And I found that I wrote more and sketched more. The reason is because the Moleskine is so svelte and swanky, you start to think before you write or sketch: “Is it Moleskine-worthy?” And I think this is a bad thing… You don’t want anything to come between your thoughts and persistence, because thoughts can be quite fleeting. But index cards are so cheap, even the grid-based ones, that you don’t mind messing up and throwing it away (optionally tearing it apart), but you would never think about tearing out a page from a Moleskine.

Epilogue: At the WWDC Blogger Dinner, I met the incomparable Merlin Mann, the one who started off my journey into GTD, who blogs 43Folders. I showed him my Gridster and mentioned that I liked the grid cards. He pulled out his and voila, he had a Hipster with grids too! He mentioned that he liked writing on the white side, with faint blue grids to guide him. I like to write on the grid side myself.