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Showing posts from October, 2011

Getting Growl-like notifications on Ubuntu 11.10 in Rails 3.1

I'm doing Michael Hartl's Rails Tutorial book this weekend and I wanted to get the notifications right. Took me a while to get it to work. Since this is a fresh install of Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot I'm running into a few issues. I'm running ruby 1.9.2 using rvm since Ubuntu only included 1.9.1. I'm also using the Gnome 3 Shell as I prefer it to Unity.

1) The first issue was that the execjs gem that is installed by default by Rails 3.1 requires the Spider Monkey Javascript engine to be installed in Ubuntu. (sudo apt-get install libmozjs185 libmozjs185-dev or use Synaptic and search for "spidermonkey" which is what I did). Or you can comment it out of your Gemfile as it doesn't seem to affect anything in the tutorial.

2) The second issue was that I wanted the nice Growl-like notifications for autotest. The instructions on the automate everything website got me there but don't install the gem 'redgreen' it's buggy. Here is the process I…

Awesome Command-line Tools

I've just re-installed my Ubuntu Linux partition and I'm loving the Gnome 3 Shell (way better than Unity) but that will be a later post. This post is about command line utilities that I install right away on my Ubuntu box. You'll notice something right away about them.


1. htop -- System Monitor


Htop is the more easy on the eyes version of top. A incredible valuable utility is like a system monitor for the command line. Perfect for figuring out what process crashed your X-session, and killing that process.


2. mc (aka midnight commander) -- File Manager


Midnight commander is a file manager that is aware of the mouse, so you can navigate the file structure. It's the easiest way to manage files from the command line or see how a folder structure is laid out.

3. jed -- Text Editor


In the Unix world there are two kinds of people: vi people and emacs people. These are the two main text editors for the terminal from the days of old. Vi now vim (vi - improved) is light and fast…

Setting up the Marble Mouse for Ubuntu

I have a Logitech trackball which I love. I bought it when my wrists started hurting after hours of long Photoshop sessions. The switch to the trackball fixed all that. It allows me to hold my hand in the perfect position and it's great for most browsing with one exception:

It lacks a middle-click wheel.


This presents a bigger problem than it seems, as design seems to be removing the scroll bars at the edges of windows in favor of small slits. So to get around this you can emulate a scroll wheel or use the middle click to activate a scroll motion on various programs. Logitech has a utility that sets this up in Windows but in Ubuntu you have a better (if more hard-work required) option. The Ubuntu option is better because unlike in Windows you can emulate the wheel with the track-ball by holding down a button. This is the option I like to use.

In Ubuntu you write a configuration file to set up the trackball to work the way you want it. I have to re-create this configuration file eve…

Next Ruby Project -- Rails Project -- Ephemeris

This is going to be my first rails web app, but I'm going to build the heart or the mechanics of it in Ruby first. This is my next big personal project. I'm putting it ahead of all other ones because this one has major usability.

What is Ephemeris?

Ephemeris is a program that calculates the phases of the moon and the time for sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset for any location on the planet. There's a lot of math I don't have a clue how to do involved.

So here are the end goals

By supplying your location (say Los Angeles) and a date you can get:


MoonPhase in a neat little graphic of the daySunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonsetAbility to create a moon calendar for the month(s) supplied.Ability to create a sunrise/set moonrise/set table for month(s) supplied.Give the exact time of full moon and new moon. The all the times should be accurate to the timezone of your location. 
First step is finding the math to calculate this and code it in Ruby. Then I'll create a ra…

Things I will buy when I get a job.

There are things that I'm postponing until I land a job. So these are the things I'll get myself as a present as soon as I'm employed.

1. Become a subscriber to KPCC and KCRW. Total cost $60.00 ($30 e/a)
    I listen to these stations an awful lot, though less lately as most news seem to be depressing. I absolutely  adore their mission of bringing information in an clear, clean effective way. I want to support them! They totally deserve it.

2. Buy clothing at Patagonia. Total cost average $65.00 each piece or more.
    I may do this without the job anyway, I like the store, it's ecological and repair policy and the clothing is made to be used like I use it: Till it falls fucking apart. I've got my eye on a pair of Duck pants and Duck shorts. I'd rather wear those than khakis and they seem way more comfortable than jeans. I have to try the on next time I'm there.

3. A Flash with battery pack and remote trigger. Cost $200.00 for flash + $100 for remote trigge…

How to speed up your Windows Boot after iTunes upgrade.

A new version of iTunes 10.5 came out for Windows with compatibility for iOS 5. After upgrading my boot time jumped a huge amount of time. Here is how to tame the Windows Boot back into shape when you have installed iTunes.



1. First install Soluto (mentioned in my Windows utilities post). Then go to chop boot and look for these processes

Apple Application SupportBonjour -- this one is optionalMobile Devices (Apple Mobile Devices Support)
And set all three to "Delay." Unless you only use your computer for iTunes/iOS support from the minute you start the computer, there is no real reason for those to hold up the start-up of your computer.




2. Then open Run... and type 'msconfig' and go to the start up tab. On Windows 7 you can just type it on the Start search bar and it will fire right away. Don't ask me why but when things are set up here sometimes they conflict with Soluto.





Go to the Startup tab and look for any processes that shouldn't be a start up. A typical…

Master Class

Hewlett Packard woes

I am marveled at how incredibly blind to the consequences of actions CEOs can be. I know it's impossible to predict certain things (Qwickster's spin off backlash was to be expected but the size surprised me) but some things are really easy to see coming.

When Hewlett Packard decided to spin off it's PC business (see post here) and kill it's webOS tablet, it seems it somehow failed to realized that the PC business is synergistic with it's printer business. This strikes of such obviousness that even Homer Simpson would get it. When people buy a computer from HP they are more likely to buy a printer form HP than say Canon which makes excellent printers but not PCs. Then of course the retailers that sell HP computer are more likely to want to sell HP printers too. So with no HP PCs to sell would they give the same priority to HP printers? Of course not.

Now HP realizes this consequence. And are rethinking dropping the PC division. Honestly this feels like amateur hour …

Windows Utilities 2

Here are more utilities that make life on Windows easier.
(If you didn't catch my previous utility post, it's here.)


9. PDF XChange Viewer

This PDF viewer is way quicker than Adobe's Acrobat. I've tried many Acrobat substitutes and none came close to the original from Adobe. After using the ultra quick Preview on the Mac, I wanted something with more speed for my Windows and I found it here. It works with browsers too so that's what makes it a great Acrobat substitute.


10. Launchy

Launchy is like the Gnome-Do program in Ubuntu, or the Quicksilver on the Mac. Basically it works by launching a window where you type the program you want by hitting a keyboard shortcut. (I like Alt+Space.) It's really useful, because instead of wasting time navigating through the Start menu to look for a program or having a shortcut in your desktop you can type it directly (and dynamically) and get it to launch.

11. f.lux

F.lux allows you to change the colors of your monitor to fo…

Great iPhone Apps

As a companion to my blog on Windows utilities, here are two paid apps on the iPhone that I consider so fantastic that are must buys in my opinion.

-Easy Calendar ($1.99)
The iPhone Calendar is one of its weakest features in my opinion. I miss the clear Black Berry calendar on my pearl whenever I had to use it. This app makes the calendar not only easy to use but way more useful, I see my week laid out for me with an easy ability to push things to other days (rather than having to re-enter the appointment). This app has completely re-made the way I organize things. I'm way more organized and rarely miss appointment now. This app is a steal at it's prize. No other app adds such simple functionality to the iPhone like this one does. It's like my secret organizer helper.

-Sleep Cycle ($.99)
I tried out this app because it was recommended on Tim Ferriss's books. I had seen this app before when it came out and thought it was intriguing, but it was way expensive. Now at less…

Real Artists Ship

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday. A true visionary, he will be missed by people who not only used his product but got inspiration from him. His vision allowed him to defer credit to the team that build the company and create a fierce loyalty in his costumers. Along with his many inspirational words in Standford's Commencement Speech we have dictum about art: Real Artists Ship and Real Artists get paid. Both of which are really good ones I think.

Steve Jobs was not perfect, but he did have the courage of his convictions and dared take one the hyper conservative world of running a corporation with an attitude of running a start-up. Like the apt writer from Ars Tecnica,, summed up "In a post-Steve-Jobs world, there is no longer an excuse for large corporations to be less bold than start-ups."

He will be missed by me, because in a world where people can seem to sit and look for opportunities to discourage you, it is great to see one daring and succeeding monume…

Hewlett Packard's New CEO & the purpose of a business

This is an interesting time for Silicone Valley CEOs. Yahoo fired their CEO, and now HP after the fall out of the previous CEO's decision to quit Hardware (read my previous post here) they've hired Meg Whitman as CEO.

HP has gone through many CEO's in this fashion: Carly Fiorina, Mark Hurd, and the last one, Apotheker. he total cost of ousting these CEOs has been around $80 million. Man, I wish I'd be getting anywhere near that money to get fired. Wow.

Now with Meg Whitman, I have even lower hopes for the company. While Whitman will probably turn the company around back to profitability, she is no visionary. With the amount of money she poured into her campaign, she would've won if she'd had any coherent vision.

Every now and then I hear someone say that the purpose of a business is to generate income or to put it bluntly "make money." Otherwise they say "you don't have a business." Well that's like saying that the purpose of the hum…