TheJoyOfHack

For people who like to make things


Firefox Search Shortcut

Wow.  This cool Firefox feature has been around since 2005, but I just found out about it a few months ago!  I swear I haven’t been living in a cave all this time.  So if you’re like me and don’t know about this yet, listen up:  In Firefox, you can bookmark a search with a keyword, and then use that keyword in your URL entry field.  As this article shows, you right-click on the input field and select “Add a Keyword for this Search.”  This will allow you to bookmark the search and add a keyword.  I usually use two letter keywords like ‘we’ for weather.com and ‘im’ for imdb.com. more ...



Communicating During A Crisis

A few day ago the data center where I used to host my name servers lost its connection to the Internet for a very long time (almost 36 hours).   Whatever the cause, the web, mail and application servers of customers big and small were dead in the water.  There was no way to reach them via the Internet.  The data center’s owner, who’s a friend of mine, was on the phone with his service providers, getting the issue sorted out.  In the first 24 hours I sent him around five text messages and was able to speak with him a couple of times. However, many of his other clients couldn’t reach him, and some of them even called me asking if I knew what was going on. more ...


The Performance Cost of Using WordPress

Happy with my experience with a custom WordPress installation for this blog, I decided to try using the blogging platform for the TaskForest website.  The two main reasons were the ease of creating RSS feeds and the ability for users to comment on posts or articles.  After a few days of tinkering around, I’ve come to the conclusion that, at least for TaskForest, WordPress would cause more problems than it would solve. Here’s how I came to that conclusion: more ...


Sometimes Text Files Are Better Than Databases

A File
A File

I remember in my first Computer Programming class in college, the instructors wanted to make sure we understood the concept of persistence by saving application data to disk.  To keep things simple we would serialize data and save it to text files.  Once we learned advanced concepts we migrated to using relational databases.  As a professional, most of the apps I see use an RDBMS like DB2, PostgreSQL, Sybase or Oracle.  Text files have been relegated to the simple homework assignments of Programming 101.

There are, however, many classes of applications for which text files are the preferred means of storing data.  One of the main reasons is that when data is stored in a relational database, editing it is not a trivial task.  A well-normalized database is not easily updated via an SQL command line.  More often than not, a dedicated, graphical editor is needed to model the complex relationships. more ...


Adding A Grid To Your Websites

190 S. La Salle St. - Downtown Chicago
190 S. La Salle St. - Downtown Chicago

The #grid website has a great tool for web designers -it “inserts a layout grid in web pages, allows you to hold it in place, and toggle between displaying it in the foreground or background.”  Go to their website and have a look.  It’s pretty impressive. Simple, but impressive.  I think I’m gonna give this a shot for the next web site I design.  I think it would be really useful in development, not as much in a production environment.

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The Most Dangerous Programming Errors

Streams at the Great Smoky Mountains
Streams at the Great Smoky Mountains

The Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) has released their list of Top 25 Most Dangerous Programming Errors. This list and the explanations of the errors are very instructive and should help both novice and expert programmers.  If you’re a developer, I strongly urge you to read this document and make sure you understand the concepts it covers.

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Navigating the Directory Stack in ‘bash’

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time jumping from project to project in a Linux shell.  I find that I have to switch back and forth between directories.  The bash shell has commands to maintain a stack of directories.  I’ve written some functions that use these utilities to make directory navigation easier. I’ve found these functions very useful, and perhaps you will too. Let’s see them in action first with some examples, and then look at the code: more ...


Follow up: Google Admits Buzz Was Only Tested Internally

In yesterday’s article about Google Buzz, I guessed that “the problem was that the population for whom the system was designed wasn’t necessarily the only population actually using the system.”  I gave Google the benefit of the doubt:

I am certain Google tested their application thoroughly.  They’ve been known to do extensive usability tests for the seemingly tiniest of changes to their web site.  But even the most well-implemented tests are incomplete if they’re not performed on a statistically representative sample of the audience.

But today, the BBC reported that Google has admitted that they only tested Buzz internally, and bypassed their regular rigorous testing procedures — possibly in an attempt to get it out the door as soon as possible. I’ll let the pundits decide if it did more harm than good to the firm, but it’s a warning to other software developers: skipping testing can lead to embarrassing failures.

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