The Biggest Problem with WordPress, in One Image

Today I tried to make a new post on this blog, and this is the page with which I was presented:

This page is entirely about writing a post.  Yet the part of the page in which I can compose the post is only 6.12% of the total page area!  The other 93.88% of the page is devoted to blank space,  useless links, website nav, and generally anything but what I need.   This is like writing an essay through the mail slot in my front door.  Am I the only one with this complaint?


It appears the text box is resizable, and I am an idiot.  However, I still think it’s bad web design to have it so small by default.  If I didn’t realize, a lot of less technical people definitely won’t.


The Best Tech Ad I’ve Seen Lately

A few days ago, I got a copy of TIME Magazine in the mail with an advertisement that really struck me as near-perfect.  I thought I’d write a quick post about it since I haven’t heard mention of it on any of my usual tech blogs (or Hacker News).

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My Ultimate Mobile Setup

I do 90% of my work on my Macbook Pro. It’s the 2011 model with the 15″ 1680×1050 antiglare screen, Core i7 processor, and 8GB of RAM. It’s an amazing machine and I wouldn’t want to use anything else at home. However, I also spend 4-6 hours a day in class and another 2+ just generally “out”, and it became a bit cumbersome to always carry a 6+lb laptop that gets <4hrs of battery life (this figure used to be higher). So I decided I would get some better mobile gear. The obvious choice would be a MacBook Pro (or any ultrabook) however I didn’t want to spend all that money. I made a list of what I want in a mobile device:

  1. Lightweight
  2. All day or multi-day battery
  3. Relatively cheap (<$600)
  4. Effortless sync with my other devices
  5. Ability to take notes, browse the internet, and code

This is not an easy task. At first, it seemed like such a device would have to wait a few years. But over the last few months, I figured out a setup that works for me.

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The Hacker News Toolbar

After making Hacker News Inline Reply I wanted to make a more complicated Chrome Extension.   I have always liked the Reddit Toolbar, so I decided to replicate the experience for Hacker News.  

Hacker News Toolbar

Clicking the link above will get you the Chrome Extension for the HN Toolbar!  The HN Toolbar is a combination of a Chrome Extension and a Sinatra app running on Heroku.   The Chrome Extension redirects external links on the HN home page to the HN Toolbar website.  The website then loads and styles the comments alongside an iframe of the content page.    To get around iframing restrictions, the Sinatra app actually proxies all linked content on the framed page, which was most of the challenge in building this.

You can see all of the code for the toolbar and the extension on my Github under the hntoolbar repo. 

Why Facebook (and everyone else) should sell your data.

In today’s age of free apps and an open web, many of the products essential to the daily life of a connected citizen are supported by advertisements.   The meaning of an ad supported website has changed a lot over the past 10 years.  In 2000, most websites would throw 3-4 popup ads and a banner ad at each customer, hoping to get a click by accident, frustration, or luck.  Today, most ad supported websites and apps will instead show a single, targeted ad.   This improvement was facilitated by the aggregation of user data that allows advertisers to target customers by demographic.

When signing up for any free service today, it is par for the course to click “Accept” on a 10+ page EULA or TOS that gives the company the right to collect and/or distribute your personal data.   Most people are fine with simple data collection, but the sale of personal data from one company to another makes many uncomfortable or angry.   However, one must look at the information market from a more rational perspective in order to understand why any web service with your data would be wise to sell it as fast as possible.

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SHPM – Simple Haskell Project Manager

Over the weekend I was playing with Haskell (by reading through Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!) and I got to the chapter on IO.  I saw that the author made a todo list manager similar to the famous “todo.txt” with just a single, short Haskell script.  I wanted to extend the example but make something with simpler code, more features, and something I would actually use.  The result?

Simple Haskell Product Manager (shpm)

It’s my first ever Haskell program more than a few lines long, and I am using it every day.  I am really loving Haskell as a language.   SHPM is mostly IO based so it’s not a great example of Haskell’s functional awesomeness, but it still shows how powerful the language is and how little boilerplate it has compared to my other favorite (Java).

SHPM manages a file called shpm.txt and keeps your todo list up to date with just a few simple commands:

shpm list -> list all tasks by project (in color)
shpm list -nc -> list all tasks by project (no color)
shpm add "Some Task" -> add "Some Task" to project "Other"
shpm add "Some Project" "Some Task" -> add "Some Task" to the project "Some Project", creating the project if necessary
shpm remove -> list all tasks and choose one to remove
shpm remove n -> remove task #n from the list

And here are some action shots: