Lojic Technologies

Posts Tagged ‘web2.0

Gospel Software, LLC

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Gospel Software LogoAlmost a year ago, I formed Gospel Software, LLC with two friends from my church. Our mission for the company is to develop web applications to help churches administratively.

It’s been a joy to work with Jordan and Scott over the last year and we’re now to the point of beginning to heavily promote our three web applications to churches. These are two men I can learn a lot from – both technically and spiritually. I would be hard pressed to find better business partners.

Gospel Software currently has three web applications.

Directory:

I just released a new version of the Gospel Software Directory a few minutes ago – there are some new screen shots to show some of the features. I had wanted a nice online photo directory for our church for quite a while. I finally wrote a simple bare bones version a few years ago and ended up using it all the time, so I thought there might be a market for the product.

Over the last year, I wrote a completely new version, and now each church member can edit their own information, upload new photos, etc., so the information is more current and the church administrative staff has less work to do. I still think one of the best features is simply being able to match the faces of people I’ve met with their names. It’s now available for churches to try out and purchase.

This new version is just the beginning. I have a long list of enhancements I’ll begin rolling out over the next few months.

GuestView:

Scott’s GuestView program is something I use regularly as I follow up with visitors to our church. It’s so handy and easy to use. I get an email when I need to call a visitor, then I can enter notes about our conversation, and if they’d like information from another leader in the church, I can notify the appropriate people.

SongBook:

I had thought about developing a program to manage worship songs back in the mid-eighties, but I was never motivated enough to do anything about it. When Jordan showed me his SongBook application, I was blown away – it did everything I had thought of and much more. And of course it was web based since the internet had been invented since I began thinking of a similar program 🙂

I’m excited about seeing what will be happening with Gospel Software, LLC this coming year.

We do have an affiliate program that rewards both the affiliate and any church they refer. Contact me for details if you’re interested.

The technical experiences we’ve had over the last year should provide for some interesting and informative blog posts in the future. When we came together to form the company, we had three products written in three different languages / frameworks. Integrating the three products together with a common infrastructure has been very educational 🙂

We now have a robust infrastructure that will support any future applications very well.

  • Server configuration, backup & light disaster recovery
  • Ecommerce – credit card processing, subscription management, invoicing, etc.
  • Auditing and event logging
  • Easy deployment of new releases
  • User management, authentication, authorization & accounting
  • And more…

As I mentioned, there are three languages / frameworks involved, but there is quite a bit of Ruby and Rails, and there will likely be more in the future. Each of the three languages / frameworks have their pros & cons, but I do feel that Ruby and Rails does very well in the evaluation.

The following are some things that I have been particularly pleased with:

  • My Macbook Pro with OSX and Emacs as a development environment
  • Ruby & Rails
  • nginx web server
  • mongrel application server
  • Postgres relational database
  • Trac issue tracker & wiki
  • Subversion source code control (possibly moving to git in the future, but for our purposes, svn has worked out very well)
  • Slicehost.com – being able to restart a VM on another server if hardware fails is awesome
  • Ubuntu Linux
  • istockphoto.com and fotolia.com for inexpensive stock photos
  • jQuery – it might not satisfy comp.lang.javascript, but it’s been great
  • Did I mention Emacs? 🙂

Written by Brian Adkins

February 11, 2009 at 2:50 am

Posted in business

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Twitter in Plain English

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Here’s a great introduction to Twitter. You can follow me on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/lojic

Written by Brian Adkins

January 5, 2009 at 10:20 am

Posted in communication, internet, video

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del.icio.us Tag Bundling

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I’ve written about del.icio.us several times before (use the search box to find the articles). I’ve been using the service for quite a while and still consider it to be one of the most valuable web services I use.

I just discovered the tag bundling feature from this article and tried it out. Tag bundling, as you might expect, allows you to group your tags. For example, my first bundle was “people”, so now I can see all my people tags in one group. I’ll be adding more bundles soon.

If you’re not using del.icio.us, you should really check it out. And if you, are and don’t know about tag bundling, give it a shot.

del.icio.us makes it easy to share tags – for example, here’s a link for my bookmarks on the Ruby programming language. I haven’t discovered a similar way for sharing bundles, so if you know, please leave a comment.

Written by Brian Adkins

November 3, 2007 at 8:47 pm

Posted in internet

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Social Bookmarking

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Here’s a video that explains why using a site such as del.icio.us can be useful. I think they may have failed to mention that you can mark bookmarks as private on del.icio.us, so it’s not necessary to expose your bookmarks to the world. However, in my case, I only mark a small fraction as private.

I’ve been using del.icio.us for quite some time. After I had been using it for a while, I realized that it had been a long time since I bookmarked something in my browser because I had developed a habit of bookmarking in del.icio.us. Most browsers force you into placing a bookmark into a hierarchical, or directory, structure, but on del.icio.us you can assign as many “tags” as you like to a particular bookmark so you can search for things more easily. del.icio.us also allows you to export your bookmarks so you aren’t at the mercy of a proprietary service.

Another thing that is handy is to subscribe to the del.icio.us feeds of your friends to be automatically notified when they bookmark something that may be of interest.

Written by Brian Adkins

August 7, 2007 at 8:34 pm

Posted in internet, video

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Google Reader

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I hate to promote Google given their trajectory to take over the world, but I just switched over to Google Reader for reading RSS feeds. I had accumulated over 60 RSS feeds, and it was becoming difficult for me to determine which feeds I should keep and which I should delete.

I was hoping for an automated tool that would keep track of which feeds are beneficial and Google Reader has exactly what I was looking for!

The trends feature will keep track of which articles I read from each feed and report on the total number and the percent. So, over time, I’ll be able to easily delete the feeds that have a low number and/or low percentage of read articles. If you decide to use Google Reader, you should be aware of some idiosyncrasies. When viewing in “Expanded view”, the default is to mark articles as read when you scroll past them which totally defeats the trends feature. You can turn that off in the settings.

settings | preferences | scroll tracking

I like using the “list view” instead which allows me to quickly view the titles. After I’ve read the articles I want to from a feed, I click “mark all as read” and Google Reader is smart enough to not count those in the “read” statistics.

If you’re already using a different RSS reader, you can easily import all your feeds via an opml file. I was using Liferea and had folders of feeds, and I had also renamed the feeds – the import to Google Reader kept track of all of that – nice.

Google Reader has a lot of other nice features such as keyboard shortcuts, tags, folders, etc., but once I discovered the trends feature, that was all I needed to see 🙂

I suppose the trends feature can be “unfair” though. Consider the following scenario:

  1. You have two feeds A and B
  2. Each day each feed publishes 10 articles
  3. The feeds overlap on 5 articles that are worth reading
  4. Feed A has 1 unique article that you read
  5. Feed B has 3 unique articles that you read

If the feeds are read in alphabetical order, then you’ll read the 5 overlapped articles from Feed A along with the 1 unique article -> total = 6, or 60%. Then you’ll read the 3 unique articles from Feed B -> total = 3, or 30%. The stats will show Feed A as being twice as valuable when clearly Feed B is more valuable. I suppose to get good stats, I should read the feeds in random order, but that seems difficult to manage.

UPDATE: ah, never mind. Simply view the folder that contains A & B and you’ll see the union of their articles in chronological order – whoever gets the overlapped story first wins 🙂

Written by Brian Adkins

July 30, 2007 at 11:41 pm

Posted in internet

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Half star ratings on Netflix

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I noticed a friend of mine (Jordan L.) who had half-star ratings (2.5, 3.5, etc.) on Netflix. When I asked him about it, he said to just “hover over the left side of the star” to get a half-star rating. This didn’t work for me, so I thought it might be a Linux vs. Windows thing and asked another friend (Mike F.) to try it out. Same result – didn’t work in IE or Firefox on Windows. Then Mike found a JavaScript file that could be installed with greasemonkey and that worked fine for him.

I’ve yet to install greasemonkey, and I don’t like the idea of installing JavaScript on my system unless I’ve thoroughly analyzed it, so I thought of another way.

I installed wireshark on my Ubuntu Linux box and sniffed the network traffic to Netflix when I rated a movie. After some experimenting and removal of extraneous info, I came up with the following URL to rate a movie with half stars. This specific URL will rate the movie “The Incredibles” with a 4.5 star rating (probably a bad example since The Incredibles clearly deserves a 5 star rating):

http://www.netflix.com/SetRating?widgetid=M70001989&value=4.5

To rate other movies, simply replace 70001989 with the id of the movie which you can find by hovering over the movie. I believe you’ll need to be logged in to Netflix already for this to work.

Now as to why Jordan can rate half-stars without the aid of a greasemonkey script, that’s still a mystery.

Update: got an email from Jordan explaining that his Netflix pages include the following two JavaScript source files:

src=”http://www.netflix.com/layout/jscript/dom_starbar_v2.js?v=126505″
src=”http://www.netflix.com/layout/jscript/dom_starbar_halfstars.js?v=126505″

I only have the first one, and from the name of the second one, I presume that’s the one that gives him the special half star rating capability. I guess Netflix favors Jordan over me 😦

Update 2: mystery solved! My curiosity got the best of me so I contacted Netflix. The rep said they’re running a test and Jordan just happened to get picked (I didn’t mention Jordan, but I suppose they looked through my ‘friend’ list)! They do that periodically to test features to see if they’ll give them to the unwashed masses. I asked if they could run the test on me, and he said it didn’t work that way 🙂 So I guess it’s the greasemonkey script or the inconvenient URL hack for the rest of us.

Written by Brian Adkins

May 2, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Pandora.com

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Had lunch with Mike F. on Friday and he mentioned a site called Pandora.com. It’s a great free site for streaming audio. Did I mention it’s free? You can create a bunch of channels for different styles of music that you “seed” with a song or an artist. Then you can give a thumbs up or thumbs down to songs as they play, and it will learn about your likes and dislikes and attempt to play songs you like. It doesn’t learn quite as well as I would like, but for being free, it’s pretty handy, and it has already shown me a few songs that I really like that I probably wouldn’t have found without it.

Get started here

Written by Brian Adkins

April 22, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Posted in entertainment

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LibraryThing.com

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About five years ago, in an effort to organize my library and be able to share titles of interest with other people, I created a simple XML file to catalog my books. Using an XML file allowed me to easily transform the data to be displayed on a web page, but it was time consuming since I had to type everything in by hand, and over the years it stagnated and I stopped updating it. I recently thought I’d update the file, but before I got around to doing it, a friend of mine (Chip H.), mentioned LibraryThing.com, so I checked it out.

It was incredibly easy to use – just type in the ISBN (or other info such as title), and LibraryThing will grab the rest of the data from Amazon or the Library of Congress. Alternatively, you can buy an inexpensive bar code scanner and scan the bar code on a book to save a little typing. The price is free for 200 books or less, but I found it so useful, I signed up for a lifetime membership for $19. They say the lifetime membership is $25, but when you go to pay you’re given a choice of amounts, so I naturally picked the lowest one.

You can see a partial tag cloud of my books below. I haven’t spent much time tagging, but it will give you somewhat of an idea of the type of books I have. Click on one of the tags to see a list of my books with that tag:

The full tag cloud is: here

You can also rate & review books. I found it fascinating to see which of my books were most/least in common with other people on the site. They have over 170,000 users and 11 million books in the system, so you can get some pretty good statistics. I have 48 titles that no one else on the site has (or possibly wants 🙂 ).

They provide an export capability so you can obtain a tab-delimited text file or csv file, and there are a lot of other features that I haven’t tried out, but just the ability to import book data by typing an ISBN number was enough to get me hooked.

UPDATE: the site is listed as ‘beta’, but I haven’t experienced any issues until today. Andrea just gave me a list of 130 ISBN numbers, so I used the import facility to import them all. It worked fine, and Andrea was able to tag most of the imported books, but I just discovered that the public can’t view any of the imported books. I emailed LT; I’ll be interested in seeing how long it takes them to fix this bug.

As I was typing this update, I was notified of an email response from Tim (the owner) who stated he’d take a look at it tomorrow 🙂

UPDATE: Tim has fixed the problem I had with imported books not being visible. Now there is a minor problem with tags containing & characters. I expect that will be fixed shortly.

Written by Brian Adkins

April 19, 2007 at 11:39 am

Posted in books

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Twitter is built with Ruby on Rails

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I didn’t realize that Twitter was a Ruby on Rails app when I started researching it recently. This post on DHH’s blog informed me of that. The entry references an interview with a Twitter developer about their scaling issues.

By various metrics Twitter is the biggest Rails site on the net right now.

And from DHH’s blog:

Twitter is an amazing success story in terms of rapid user uptake and flattering press. I had a chance to speak with the team a while back about the wild ride they’ve been on. At that time they were fielding spikes of up to 11,000 requests per second across some 16 cores with very little caching thrown into the mix to mitigate. No wonder their site had been feeling slow.

Since I’m currently developing a Ruby on Rails app that has some significant performance requirements, it’s good to see that they’ve been able to handle 11,000 requests per second even if they’re struggling with scaling issues.

Written by Brian Adkins

April 12, 2007 at 9:34 pm

Posted in communication

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twitter, jaiku or neither?

with one comment

I don’t know if you’ve caught the buzz, or even heard of, Twitter or Jaiku, but a few hundred thousand people seem to be addicted to it. I think I first heard about it from Robert Scoble. I guess Leo Laporte of TWiT fame talked it up and boosted the subscribership. Then Leo thought the Twitter name was too similar to his TWiT (“this week in tech”) and was worried about trademark issues, so he made a big deal about leaving Twitter for Jaiku and a bunch of folks followed him (and brought the jaiku servers to their knees).

My initial assessment is that there is a lot of over-hype, but I do think they can provide some value in ways that email, IM and blogging can’t. In some ways, Twitter/Jaiku is to blogging as IM is to email – with some overlap.

It reminds me a little of the LinkedIn buzz a few years ago. I tried it out and got bored, so I thought I’d see how big I could grow my network for the fun of it. I linked up with a few networkers who had huge networks and I soon had over a million people in my network which basically defeated the whole purpose of LinkedIn, although I have to admit it was fun getting the reactions from people with tiny networks who linked to me and suddenly got an incredible boost. Likewise, Robert Scoble has 2,700+ “friends” on Twitter with pages of updates scrolling by at a ridiculous rate.

On the other hand, if you use LinkedIn as it’s intended and only link to people you know well, it can be really useful. I do use it that way by dealing with referrals from trusted sources and ignoring the ones from strangers. Unlike twitter/jaiku, LinkedIn doesn’t (or at least didn’t) make it easy to delete folks from your networks, so I’m stuck with the strangers. Similarly, if you only add people you actually know and interact with regularly to your twitter/jaiku account (unlike Scoble), it might have some use.

On the other hand (?), Kathy Sierra has some really good points on the matter 🙂

I can’t tell if twitter or jaiku will take the lead, or if they’ll both flop. I’ll post both of my accounts and see what happens.

My twitter account

My jaiku account

Feel free to add me on either one. I should warn you that everyone’s first impression of twitter and/or jaiku seems to be that they’re lame; for some that impression changes. I’m still on the fence.

UPDATE forgot a few twitter related sites:

Twittervision

Twitterific

TwitterCamp

Twitterholic

Granted, these may not be that useful, but I do think it’s cool that Twitter has published an API that allows the development of applications to produce and consume “tweets”.

Update 2: I just added a twitter badge to this blog page – you can check it out in the sidebar to the right. Is that cool, or what? I’m referring to the technology, not the content of my updates which by nature will be boring 🙂

Written by Brian Adkins

April 11, 2007 at 9:37 pm

Posted in internet

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