May 26 2011

Dropbox likes Snickers

I just put Dropbox on my new laptop and started syncing files. Here’s the popup image to tell me how much time is left:

Dropbox Snickers

I love stuff like this. Almost nobody would ever see it (in fact, it now says there are 33 days left), but it’s little things like this that make software great. I hope we can work some fun stuff like this into our new checklist software.

Jan 30 2011

Start Atlanta Wrap Up

This weekend I went to StartAtlanta 2011 and participated in starting a new company. The premise is that you join a team and start a company Friday night and hopefully have something to launch and demo by Sunday night. Since Rocket Whale is already building my idea for a startup that you can feasibly launch in a weekend (Use the List), I went with the intention of participating on another team. And participate I did!

Our team was centered around the idea of one-question surveys. Everyone hates getting a link to a 10+ question survey. But send them one question with a choice of answers and they’ll likely answer. Overall I think our team did a pretty good job. I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get further and actually have a usable application up and running for the demo, but we got very close and I’m confident that the crew will have something working within a week or two. I did the design and HTML/CSS for the app and “threw it over the wall” to the developer guys to code up. You can see my design and sign up to be notified when the site goes live at the web site: I look forward to seeing where it all goes!

Here’s a rundown of some of my favorite ideas (most of these have completely different designs that I imagine will be unveiled on their live sites soon):

  • TripLingo was the crowd favorite of all of the participants. They had a slick site design and got very far along, including a web app and a mobile app. Cool idea whose value was much more evident once the app was demoed.
  • Connect Me is a facebook dating/matchmaking app that has the same fun feel of The app shows you pictures of 2 friends and you decide whether or not you think they’d be a good match. If you do, the app sends them both some type of introduction. I’m looking forward to seeing it live!
  • Reach Me Later is a fantastic idea that I found myself wanting during my drive home. Right now, it’s targeted towards teens and parents as it was inspired by the death of a teen who was texting while driving. It’s a mobile app that basically shuts your phone’s texting off and auto-replies with a message that says, “I’m driving, I’ll respond later.” Parents get a text when their kid turns the service on and there are analytics built in so parents can see if their kids are using it and if they’re texting while driving. If I had a bunch of money I would try to invest in them now!
  • Minglle had some technical difficulties during their demo and it didn’t really work, but the idea was interesting. Plus it was presented by a live, human version of Bill Gates’ mug shot. It’s a mobile app where you can say where you are and who you want to meet. If there are any matches at your location, the service sends you both a message to see if you actually want to meet. If you do, you can chat over their service to actually meet up. Sounds creepy for social events but would be a great app for networking.
  • Last, I want to give a shout-out to Karol’s team: Mark it 8 Dude. They were making a bowling app where you can take a picture of your score with your phone and it automatically tracks your scores (and how well you do vs. how many beers you’ve had). Karol got a big reaction from the crowd when he demoed his OCR (Optical Character Recognition) so congratulations to him!

I want to say thanks to the team at StartAtlanta for organizing everything. The food selection was awesome and the entire event was run very smoothly. I honestly can’t think of any big issues, so kudos to Jason Ardell and the rest of the StartAtlanta team. And also to ATDC for hosting it!

I think my only real disappointment was that it took so long for our developers to get on the same page and environment so that they could actually start writing code (Saturday evening). I think it was a factor of us having a larger team with guys from all different backgrounds (, django/python, ruby/rails, windows/mac/linux, etc.). Our team was probably too big and we would’ve done much better with 2-3 developers all in sync rather than the 6-7 that we had. We were also too ambitious with our use of HAML/SCSS, as not everyone knew it and it made the conversion of my static HTML/CSS to dynamic content even more intensive. Maybe next year the StartAtlanta organizers can figure out a way for team leaders to choose their technologies and for developers to be organized by similar skills.

Even with the difficulties, I’m proud of what we accomplished (and what I accomplished) and I know that given another couple hours to tighten things up, we would’ve been in contention for the crowd favorite!

Final thanks go to the One Question team, especially Jon for the One Question idea and to Sean for his plethora of design help!

Dec 3 2010

Chrome Bookmarks Bar Separator

I mainly use Google Chrome and yesterday I added a couple of bookmarks to my bookmarks bar. The bar hit the tipping point of dysfunction because I had too many links and no way to separate them other than putting them in folders. I wanted to avoid folders so that everything would retain one-click access. Since Google doesn’t give you a way to insert a separator, I had to come up with a workaround.

I used Photoshop to make a favicon and then made a web page that uses it. I added the page to my bookmarks bar and made the bookmark name blank.

If you want to use my solution on your browser (as long as your Chrome theme has a light-gray or silver background), go to the Google Chrome Bookmarks Bar Separator page and add it to your favorites. After you add it, you can right-click it and copy/paste the bookmark as many times as you want.

If you have your bookmarks shared across multiple devices this will add unnecessary bookmarks on them. But if you just use Chrome on the desktop like I do, it’s a great help!

Edit: If you want a horizontal separator, see Candido’s comment below. As he said, you can bookmark any URL and rename it “– – – – – – – – – – ”. I can’t think of a more simple solution for a horizontal separator. You can also go here for different styles of horizontal separators.

Dec 2 2010

Follow the Startup, Attempt 3

You may recall my first attempt to blog about what I was doing on a daily basis (relating to starting Rocket Whale) failed miserably. In fact you probably don’t even remember the first attempt because it was so short. You can even scroll down to read about the changes I was making for my second attempt at follow the startup. Well, we’re at our third and probably not final attempt. I’m switching my Rocket Whale tweets over to the official Rocket Whale Twitter Account and I’m even going to retweet (man I hate saying “tweet”) everything to get us up to date. I’m sure a company blog will come at some point but I’m gonna go ahead and decide that it’s more important that we start making something so we have a product to talk about. Oh, and in case you’re wondering why I’m doing this, it’s because twitter doesn’t track search history past a week or so. That means if you search on twitter for #rktwhl, you only get about 3 or 4 updates. Lame.

Nov 19 2010

Web App Technology List

I created a list of all of the technologies I’ve researched in the last two months regarding the building of web applications. I figured I’d put it on the old interwebs for anyone else out there that’s getting started with a web app and wants to see it all in one place. If you have an addition, put it in the comments and I’ll update the list!

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Oct 28 2010

Set up Linux (and more) for Ruby on Rails

I’ve decided that a great way for me to motivate myself to get my new business going will be to post regular updates about what I’m doing and accomplishing. One of the problems I’ve been encountering as a new business owner who is without an actual product (yet) is that I can easily give off the impression that I’m a crazy inventor guy with an idea that just needs a) your money or b) your time to develop my product for nothing. Since neither of those expectations are true, and since giving anyone the impression that I’m an inventor is a death sentence for a legitimate conversation, I will be designing and creating the front end of my product (a web application). Even more importantly, I can show it to potential customers for some oh-so-important market feedback.

Rather than coding normal HTML and CSS with Notepad++, I’ve decided to actually get into a real development environment. It will help me avoid rework in the future, and also give me more insight into how my developer is doing things. The more I know about the technical side, the better CEO I can be. Since Windows is a poor development environment for Ruby on Rails (which I discovered quickly), I had to set up some sort of Linux box to get moving. This is a problem because I haven’t used Unix in over 10 years (if you don’t count editing an htaccess file). The other problem is that my iTunes keeps playing every terrible song in my music library.

This is a tutorial for creating the development environment I’ve chosen. It consists of Ubuntu 10.4, RVM (Ruby Version Manager), RubyGems, Ruby 1.9.2 (and 1.8.7), Rails 3.0.1, git, github, haml/sass, sqlite (though I won’t be creating a database right now), java and finally RubyMine for text editing. I tried tons of different text editors, and RubyMine was the best, though technically it’s an IDE and not a text editor. It has built-in haml/sass/scss highlighting and more, and has a nice GUI that this Windows-user needs. I hope to explore Compass/Bluepoint for the CSS portion but that will be another time! Here’s the machine I’m setting it up on:

  • HP dv6t laptop with Windows 7 64-bit, Intel Core i7 and 4GB RAM
  • Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 4000 and Logitech diNovo wireless keyboard for notebooks
  • nVidia geForce GT 230M with a Dell ST2410b display attached via HDMI
  • I also have an HP LaserJet P1006 printer attached

As far as disclaimers go, I need to admit that I don’t particularly understand everything that is happening when I type the commands I describe below. As I said, I haven’t used UNIX in 10 years. If some of these things are explained wrong or anyone wants to enlighten me, please feel free to do so in the comments and I’ll update the tutorial!

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Jan 7 2010

It’s About Friggin’ Time

Well, I finally finished this thing. Only took 2 design overhauls and a few months, but I finally have something that I like! The first design was dark and grungy, which didn’t work because I’m not in a band and I don’t want to kill myself. The next one was better, but once I finally ditched the idea of using a cartoon image of me, I found a much better direction. I’m pretty happy with the result and hopefully will be for a while. It’s built on WordPress, so at least it’ll be easy to change down the road and I won’t lose all of my glorious content.

I suppose I should include a little bit of a life update seeing as how this is what this blog is for. I was begged to join the apprentice cast at Whole World Theatre after completing 12 months of classes and I’m pleased to say that I relented (they’re non-profit and I consider it charity) and started working with the group a few days ago.  I anticipate having a lot of fun and I should be appearing in shows sometime in February or March to great fanfare.

I’ve never been much of a “blog” person, mostly because I don’t really think anyone gives a crap about anything I would post.  Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, we’re either family or good enough friends where I would’ve already told you any information in person.  I think I’ll just pretend that people are reading this and post accordingly.  Isn’t that what blogging is all about?  A make-believe audience?  Sounds good to me.