Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

My final project for Stanford’s online course Statup Engineering is an itinerary planning web app. I call it Itinerated, a little play on words based on the concept of how the app let’s you enter itineraries and then other users rate it. You get “Your Itinerary Rated by the Crowd.”

The idea came from seeing how many times the same itinerary questions were asked on the travel forums I visit. Annoying as the repeat questions are, it’s easy to see why the same questions keep getting asked. It’s because there is rarely any useful feedback and often a lot of trolling and spamming. Since I frequent a couple of different forums I see the same exact question asked, presumably by the same person, across the different forums, which similar results. It seems to me that an app specifically for getting itinerary feedback would be useful. Hence, Itinerated.

The Stanford Startup Engineering course provided an excellent framework for developing and deploying a startup. We covered both technical and business aspects of the startup process that is being successfully used in Silicon Valley. On the technical side, I am using Nodejs+Express+MongoDB+Bootstrap for implementation. I am also using Jade for templating but I am thinking I might move to Angular for further development.

The Itinerated web app is still in rough prototype form. We put together something they call a “bitstarter” which is a Kickstarter-like funding page but asks for bitcoin. That’s what you see when you go to www.itinerated.com. You can try out the prototype of the app by clicking the “Try It!” link at the top. A fair amount of effort and some costs for servers is going to be needed to bring it to full production status.

In near term the class is holding a competition to see which startup can garner the most bitcoin and tweets. You can watch the leader board and check out some of the interesting startups here http://startupmooc.org/.

Enjoying Coursera

Posted: July 3, 2013 in Technology
Tags: , , ,

I started taking some MOOC‘s (massively open online courses) and have really enjoyed the offerings from Coursera.org. I recently completed the Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python course from Rice which concluded with a project that involved coding a version of the old arcade game Asteroids, but with fancier graphics than the original. Although a lot of the content was provided, like all the graphics and sound effects, the coding portion was still fun and interesting.

Currently I am taking Coursera’s Startup Engineering course from Standford. The syllabus is awesome – we pull together a bunch of software tools needed to code and deploy a web startup, including Linux command line, Git, AWS, Heroku and more. There is a final project that involves coding our app in node.js and trying to get it crowd funded. The course also includes a philisophocial portion with inputs from a number of sucessful Silicon Valley startup founders plus some great background reading. Many of the tools are new to me so it is going to be a challenge but I am really enjoying it so far and hope to get my idea working and deployed.

This trend of Tuscan style buildings in the Khao Yai area of Thailand is going full bore. First there was Primo Post which is just a little place but became instantly a hit with visitors to the area. Then the owner got together with Juldis and they built Palio which is really booming. Around the same time a luxury housing project set on a golf course went up that was called Toscana Valley. Now right next to Toscana Valley is this big development called Eyrie – The Perch of Tuscany.

Eyrie The Perch of Tuscany in Khao Yai

They are constructing a big Italian village looking project covering the side of the hill just past the entrance to Toscana. I don’t know what the prices are going to be but I did go into Toscana a few weeks ago and looked around. Very nice. Prices start at 20 million baht for a smallish villa on a small plot. Looks like Eyrie is a different style and not detached buildings.

Tuscan style in Khao Yai

These developments will definitely drive up land prices in the area. I saw quite a few plots being cleared, filled and leveled along the road that passes these two projects. A couple kilometers past that I saw some undeveloped land in an area called Wang Katha is going for a little over one million baht per rai. That actually seems pretty cheap compared to the prices just a few kilometers in closer which are over three million baht per rai. Somebody with money to speculate on land is going to make a killing.

Of course Twitter is the most well known microblogging platform. I even have a Twitter account. Hey, follow me at http://twitter.com/markdgeorge ! I tweet solid gold pearls of wisdom (uh, wut?), at least when I’m in the mood. Not many followers – I just haven’t been discovered yet, that’s it.

The real reason for me and microblogging isn’t about being popular. The real reason is (keep this a secret so the big G doesn’t slap me) getting pages indexed in the search engines. I’ve heard the big G likes to scrape Twitter timelines and follow all those nofollow links to spammy pages high quality content that SEMs put up, not that I would do that. Trouble is, a lot of my tweets don’t seem to get my advertising loaded very informative pages indexed. So I started to dabble a little with another microblog – identi.ca.

I don’t actually have an account there yet (jeez, am I so lazy that I can’t even sign up and put up a few of posts) but found a few timelines that don’t seem to be indexed. Lots of timelines are indexed so I’m wondering why some are not. Maybe all it takes is a link from a blog like this one to an identi.ca timeline. Now let’s give that a little time and see what happens.

Update some web properties

Posted: October 31, 2010 in Technology

With a vast inventory of web properties such as I have (heh) it’s easy to lose track of a few of them. I took a look at a couple today and they really need updating. They aren’t money sites; I use them for other purposes, but they just scream “Welcome to the last century”. Like my old site that I was once using for selling my website design services. Even if that business is still on hiatus I think I need something a little nicer and more modern looking over there. So I’ll add that to the queue of projects I hope to someday complete.

I am happy that I did complete another little project of mine that has been on the back burner for a while and got it online this week. It’s a little play on words that is an attempt to capture traffic from the fact that so many people use the name Thai Airlines when they should be using Thai Airways. I couldn’t get the precise domain name I wanted (damn domain squatters) but the one I did get should be good enough for my experiment.

Small web page indexing test case

Posted: September 24, 2010 in Technology

Nothing very interesting here. Just want to see how fast this web page will get indexed if I link to it from my blog. Start the timer now.

Update 1 Oct: Well, this post has finally been indexed, a full week after it was published. But Google didn’t index the page that I linked. I wonder when that will happen.

I’m not so interested in all the fanboy versus fandroid back and forth. But Michael Arrington at TechCrunch made a valid point today when he said that you shouldn’t buy something that needs duct tape to work. That is in reference to the Consumer Reports test of the iPhone4 in which they found that if you cover the phone’s antenna with duct tape the signal strength problem seems to go away.

On the other hand, as a commenter pointed out, real men can fix anything with duct tape. So the iPhone4 is for real men. That’s a compelling argument, but slightly misguided. You see, real men can fix anything that’s broken using duct tape, but they wouldn’t buy a product with an inherent design flaw just to have to fix it with duct tape. Only fanboys do that and fanboys are not real men.

LOL at Web Hosting TOS

Posted: May 31, 2010 in Technology

I was doing a little research today on secondary webhosting services for the purpose of expanding my vast network of websites and blogs. I keep my main websites on a very reliable host – DowntownHost.com, great service by great people over there, can’t say enough good things about them. But I regularly throw up “supporting” sites and throw-away domains on other hosts to spread linking across multiple C-blocks, you know how that goes (please don’t tell Google). Well, I had a chuckle at the terms of service of a couple of web hosting services today.

JustHost was looking like a reasonable second tier hosting company to add to the stable, until I got to this line in their terms of service:

“Safe lists” and “double opt-in” will be treated as spam. Any user who sends out spam will have their account terminated with or without notice.

LOL, you know of course that double opt-in is the antithesis of spam. It’s the only 100% sure way of proving that you are not spamming because someone must signup for you to send them email and then confirm that they signed up by clicking a link in a confirmation email. So you have a clear record of them doubly opting in that they can’t really dispute and claim you are spamming. I was kind enough to email JustHost to point at that either their TOS contained a glaring error or that they don’t know what they are talking about. Well, maybe I wasn’t so kind in my email after all, but the lulz were good.

So I moved to the next candidate, WebHostingPad, and they were looking ok, too. Then I got to this section of their TOS:

Credit Card Disputes/Chargebacks
WebHostingPad has a zero tolerance policy for chargebacks. Any customer who disputes a credit card payment is subject to a fine, suspension and account termination at WebHostingPad discretion. A charge of $25.00 per chargeback will be assessed to all accounts that receive a chargeback.

Ok, don’t get caught in a recursive loop there just because they seem to be. If I read that right they are going to charge you if you do a chargeback. Which means they would charge the same credit card that you just did a chargeback on? Well, then you would chargeback that charge, right? And then they would charge you again for the second chargeback? Infinite loop it seems, at least until the credit card company decides they are complete fools and does a Ctrl-C on their merchant account. This must be one of the funniest terms I have seen. I didn’t bother mailing them to let them know that I thought their terms were too funny to take them serious as a hosting provider.

Maybe I’m bottom feeding and need to move up the food chain a little for secondary hosting providers.

And an update: JustHost emailed me back and said no, that is not a mistake, they really do consider double opt-in spam. I think that is double lulz.

A few posts ago I wrote about how I implemented a Drupal newsletter archive that is based on using Mailchimp but keeps the archive on my own domain. It works fine and is easy to use – I feel like it is even a bit elegant in its simplicity. However, I feel it perhaps a bit awkward in one sense because if you decide you need to make some adjustments to your campaign you must jump over to your Mailchimp account instead of being able to control everything within you Drupal site.

Now some bright individual has kicked off development of a new Drupal module called Mailchimp Campaign to do just that, allow you to create campaigns within your Drupal site. I am just hoping that this means that newsletters will be created and archived on your Drupal site, like the way I set up my newsletter archive solution, along with giving you full control of campaigns without ever leaving your site.

Whitehouse.gov might be one of the more famous Drupal based websites, certainly one of the high profile ones. I’ve just started looking around over there, think I’ll study it a bit to see what I can learn. I saw a blog post that described some Drupal modules they developed and will contribute to the Durpal community.

Being a heavily visited website they need to handle high traffic so developed a couple of modules to address scalability. Something they call “context http headers” adds meta data to content to tell servers how to handle specific pages. Hmm, sounds interesting, not clear on the details however. Another they simply call “akamai”, you know, the big content delivery network that a lot of the really big players use. So this one helps Drupal sites integrate with Akamai.

There is another module they are contributing that is designed to “enable more dynamic emails tailored to users’ preferences”. I don’t know what that means. Maybe I can experience it by joining the whitehouse.gov mailing list.

And finally there is a module for accessibility that makes sure all images can be read by screen reading software. Good stuff.

I have heard a few criticisms of Drupal along the lines of “Drupal is outdated” and wondered where that was coming from since it has become very popular only relatively recently and there are so many contributions being made all the time, like these from whitehouse.gov. Seems to me there must be hidden agendas there.