// Internet Duct Tape

I Can Has Ruby?

Posted in Asides, Ruby, Technology by engtech on February 26, 2008

I seem to have finagled my way into getting to program in Ruby almost full time at work. One day you’re just reading raganwald, labnotes and gilesbowkett and then the next day you’re doing guerrilla adoption of a new language. Obviously, the internet is a gateway drug. I tried out Ruby mainly as a way of increasing my own job satisfaction after I had heard so many good things about it.

So far it’s working.

Because I’m using Ruby for several hours a day, I’ve decided to start up a tumblr account as a link dump for all the things I’m finding out as I’m learning Ruby.


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V-Day Alert

Posted in Asides, Lifehacks, Technology by engtech on February 07, 2008

This is your friendly neighbourhood geek reminder that Valentine’s Day is only a week away and that now is the time to make restaurant reservations and/or go gift shopping.

Some links from this time last year that might help:

When is it time to get a new iPod?

Posted in Asides, Contests, Music, MP3s and Internet Radio by engtech on September 28, 2007

Death Clocks use statistical information to let you know when you are going to die based on your habits (with smoking and obesity being the worst factors). The iPod Death Clock (via) is an interesting little web app that figures out how much longer your iPod has to live based on the serial number (how old it is) and how you use it (while running, on the bus). Needless to say my 3rd generation iPod is getting on in years.

I happened upon a blog called Contester the other day that tracks Internet freebies being given away by other bloggers. Blog contests are a great grassroots way to advertise your blog (if you aren’t too spammy about it — some of them are). They’re usually worth entering because you have a 1:20 to 1:50 to 1:200 chance in winning depending on how popular the blog running it is. A few people are giving away iPods, and hope I win one as my iPod is on it’s last legs.

One of the downsides to owning an iPod is the iTunes music store. The music has DRM copying protection measures that are a huge pain in the ass. Enter the new Amazon MP3 store that sells music for cheaper than iTunes without any copying protection — you’re free to do whatever you want with the music you own. Luckily there are also quite few blogs giving away Amazon gift certificates or straight up PayPal.

Becoming a Better Blogger

There’s also a couple of sites offering books for bloggers that I want to read.

There’s also a contests for professional logo design

It’s crazy how this idea of promoting your blog via holding a contest has taken off like hot cakes. It makes me a little sad though that it seems like some people are losing their focus and writing/participating in contests all the time instead of writing blog posts that share information, help people, or at the very least entertain.

And on a slightly different note, someone is finally doing one of these contests for a real cause instead of personal gain:

Ultra-runner Tim Borland is running 63 marathons in 63 days in order to raise funds and awareness for the A-T Children’s Project in their quest for a cure or life-improving therapies for ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T). A-T is a rare, neurodegenerative disease that affects children, giving them the combined symptoms of cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and cancer. Children with A-T — born seemingly healthy — are usually dependent upon wheelchairs by the age of 10 and often do not survive their teens.

To run with Tim, join a tailgate party, or make a donation, please visit the A-T CureTour website. There, you can also view the daily video blog produced by filmmakers who are making an independent documentary on the A-T CureTour and enter a contest to Win a Nintendo Wii.

Hard not to participate for something like that.

Only Two Days Left to Win Graphic Design Services for Your Blog

Posted in Asides, Contests, Group Writing Projects, Technology by engtech on September 24, 2007

In 3 Surefire Ways to Advertise Your Blog on a Shoestring I recommended running a blog contest as a great way to create buzz, build links, and get the attention of potential new readers. It sounds like David Airey Graphic Design was listening because he is running what has to be the biggest blog giveaway contest I’ve ever seen (click to see rules). The prize pool is large enough that I thought it was a Problogger contest at first glance.

Running through the contest sponsors is a good list of blogs I already subscribe to: David himself, DoshDosh, I Love Typography, ProBlogger, Daily Blog Tips, InstigatorBlog, Business Blogwire, Andy Beard Niche Marketing, Make It Great! and Lorelle on WordPress (where I am sometimes a guest blogger).

This is a great idea and I’m very impressed with how he has managed to rally a community around him to provide prizes. If you run a blog yourself then you should enter the contest in the next two days.

You could be a winner. I got my new logo from a contest on Daily Blog Tips.

Stumbling through //engtech at random (or any wordpress.com blog)

Posted in Asides, Technology, WordPress.com Tips by engtech on April 24, 2007

Click here to view a random post from //engtech.

Thanks to Matt and the suggestion from TechCrunch it is now possible to surf through any wordpress.com blog at random.

If you look at my sidebar there is a new link called “Random Post“. Keep clicking it to go to any other post I’ve written at random. You might be surprised at what you find!

All wordpress.com bloggers can do the same thing for their blog by adding “?random” to the URL of their main site.

Joost Invite Giveaway to RSS Subscribers

Posted in Asides, Technology by engtech on April 20, 2007

I’ve given away my first three Joost invites to three of my RSS/email subscribers:


Tag Cloud Generator – Final?

Posted in Asides, IDT Labs Software Development, Technology by engtech on February 27, 2007

Another version of the Tag Cloud Generator has been released.

  • Fixed a bug where it only worked if your user profile was set to English
    • I only tested Spanish directly.
  • Fixed a bug with categories with non-alphanumeric/accented characters
    • I may be missing some accented characters
  • Supports any WordPress Multi-user site that’s running the same version of WordPress-MU as WordPress.com
    • It should support edublogs.org, uniblogs.org, eslblogs.org — learnerblogs.org looks like it’s running an older version of WordPress-MU and there might be issues.
    • I only tested edublogs.org directly.
  • Can edit advanced options from within the program.
    • Makes switching sorting from alphabetical/size easier.

I was looking into making a version of it for Macs and/or making an easier install version for Linux but so far no luck.

Tag Cloud Generator Update

Posted in Asides, IDT Labs Software Development, Technology by engtech on February 23, 2007

Less than 24 hrs and 40 downloads later… I have my first update based on user feedback.


  • Lesser categories are the smallest size (drmike)
  • Default sort order changed from alphabetical to biggest first, like the wordpress.com tag pages (fracas)
  • Blog url has “http://” prefilled the first time the program is run (urban semiotic)
  • tagcloud_css.html comments corrected (urban semiotic)
  • When the advanced “display count” is used, it is no longer part of the link
  • Added “line-height” to CSS styles so the cloud isn’t as messy

Known Issues

  • There may be a problem with categories that have accent characters (entomoagricola)
  • Add support for *any* WordPress MU site (edublogs/uniblogs) (mpb)

5 Reasons Why Blogging Is Better Than Sex (With Me)

Posted in Asides, Becoming a Better Blogger, Humor, Technology by engtech on February 16, 2007

NYC condom sexOr “Please Don’t Call the SPCA”.

  1. Reason Number One
    • Blogging: I can connect anonymously with thousands of strangers a day.
    • Sex: I can connect anonymously with thousands of strangers a day *IF* I move to New York City.
  2. Reason Number Two
    • Blogging: Technorati will show all the people who are linked to me and it doesn’t make me look like a big slut.
    • Sex: Six degrees of Paris Hilton.
  3. Reason Number Three
    • Blogging: I can get the cat involved without the horribly judging eyes of friends and strangers.
    • Sex: Fur is hard to clean.
  4. Reason Number Four
    • Blogging: Increased visibility means more page views and a larger audience.
    • Sex: Increased visibility means someone is going to call the cops.
  5. Reason Number Five
    • Blogging: Googlebot will crawl your pages quite often and share them with the world.
    • Sex: Googlebot never calls you back.

This would have been a great entry to my 5 Things contest.

Robert Scoble attacks the cat blogs… but what about MyCatBlogLog?

Posted in Asides, Technology, We Welcome Our Feline Overlord by engtech on February 13, 2007

Robert has been on the rampage lately with posts against the gadget blogs and TechMeme.

No cat cow is too sacred and now he has taken on the cat bloggers with “signs blog is boring: cute cat photos?

Of course, the contraversy is all in the title and he’s actually recanting his former opinion that one of the top ten signs a tech blog is boring is if you posted photos of your cat.

Perhaps it cuts like a knife only because it is so true?

My mascot is not pleased.

I wonder what webomatica will have to say about this?

UPDATE: Webomatica has this to say about it… long live MyCatBlogLog. :)

(Of course, this is all jokes. Robert was the first person to link to me.)

WordPress.com Group Writing Project Deadline

Posted in Asides, Contests, Technology by engtech on February 13, 2007

This is a reminder that my group blogging project / contest deadline is on February 15th. One of the participants will win 15 wordpress.com upgrade credits (enough for a custom domain name or for CSS theme customization).

More information and instructions are here.

Thank you to the people who have participated so far: neomeme, ahouseholdkate, sulz, mhmazidi, nita, lifeofrobert, vernonia, kristin, jordsta, monomaniac, djjoja, jayesh, ventureskills, raincoaster, agentkhb, adorablay, qphayes

In defense of 2000 bloggers

Posted in Asides, Technology, Technorati by engtech on February 06, 2007

A conversation has been brewing about the 2000 Bloggers project. It has been called a link farm and an attempt to game Technorati. I won’t speak for the intentions of the guy who created it, but I thought it was a pretty cool idea to see a montage of all the various faces of blogging.

That’s one of the things I really like about the WordPress.com user avatars, MyBlogLog and tools like this one that let me see the last 130 avatars of people who visited my blog. A few months ago someone put together the “Public Face of 9 Rules” montage in a response to a debate that was going on in the community. It looked really good.


//engtech now has asides

Posted in Asides, Internet Duct Tape News, Technology by engtech on January 19, 2007

I’ve joined the 21st century and now with a clever CSS hack from Andy I have asides (just like Matt). I love the CSS upgrade so much, it isn’t possible without it. The way I am doing it is automatically publishing my del.icio.us links of the day at 7pm EST to the ‘asides’ category. You can see what it looks like here.

I’ve changed my FeedBurner feed so that the asides category is not put in the feed and only appears on the blog. Every now and then I’ll be posting a “Best of Feeds” amalgamation that includes all the asides since the last time I posted it.

If you are subscribed using the http://internetducttape.com/feed I recommend switching to the FeedBurner feed instead so that you don’t get overly spammed with my asides. You’ll notice if it starts happening.

Subscribe to feed Subscribe to feed

And I think that was a record 4 posts in one day. I’ll be returning to your regularly scheduled 1 post a day. :)

If anyone is interested in a how-to guide for doing asides on WordPress.com blogs with the CSS upgrade, drop a comment.

ScheduleWorld now has AJAX offline contact editing

Posted in Asides, Technology, Web 2.0 and Social Media by engtech on January 19, 2007

If you aren’t familiar with ScheduleWorld they are a web startup that I first posted about last August. ScheduleWorld allows you to easily synchronize your calendar/schedule and contacts/address book using your Internet connection. What set them apart is that you can use their service to synchronize your Google Calendar to Microsoft Outlook.

They updated their Contact Manager today with several useful features:

  • Works offline — essential for anyone who organizes their contacts on a laptop while traveling.
  • Extremely fast and efficient synchronization.
  • Works like a desktop application but in your web browser (thanks to CSS, DHTML and AJAX).
  • Google Maps integration.
  • No network slowdown for most operations.

The interface is simple (a good thing). There is a toolbar on the top with the minimum necessary operations. All of the contacts are listed down the left pane and as a big information cloud in the center (not shown in a preview because I can’t be bothered to censor all those names). This is an intuitive layout that let’s you quickly browse all your contact info with minimal scrolling and clicking.

ScheduleWorld toolbar and left paneScheduleWorld view menu

ScheduleWorld edit menuScheduleWorld tools menu

Clicking on a name shows an edit button that brings up the contact editor. I have 300 contacts in the system, and I found it very fast. It will take over as my contact editor (before I was editing in Outlook and then synching to ScheduleWorld).

ScheduleWorld contact editor

Good job, Mark.

(note to other bloggers: you are free to use these screenshots provided you link back to this post)

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It’s All About Me — Or Is It?

Posted in Asides, Becoming a Better Blogger, Technology by engtech on January 19, 2007

Shirley posted a question that I thought was worthy of a post all to itself to answer.

“Hello, Eng.

I was reading your post concerning “How not to be a successful blogger“.

My question: If you consider yourself a less than “good” blogger, how do you explain your receiving 3,000 to 6,000 page views each day, and how did you arrive at having a spot in the top 4000 at Technorati?”

This image has absolutely nothing to do with this post.The “How not to be a successful blogger” was partially satire of common blogging advice, but also a recognition of why I will never be in the Technorati Top 100. In that post I listed the “things I got right”:

  • Always using informative headlines.
  • Writing with search engines in mind.
  • Using mixed media by incorporating images and video.
  • Breaking up text into paragraphs, headings and bullets.
  • Honing my skills at writing viral/linkbait content.
  • Harnessing social bookmarking.
  • Linking back to older posts.

This accounts for the level of success I have had even though I’m not a great writer by any means. The large number of hits mostly come from writing several “how to guides” that feature prominently in search engines, and from trying to write posts that a) help people and b) people will be interested in linking to.

What’s more important than “hits per day” is the number of regular readers. My 2007 blogging goal is to increase the number of people who find value in the site and interact with it. My recent reader poll indicated that I have around 110 readers who are “engaged” (to the level that they would actively respond to a questionnaire — pretty pie charts forthcoming). That’s the only metric that makes any sense.

One step towards my goal for 2007 is interacting / having more of a dialog with my readers. Instead of participating in memes I’ll be hosting a monthly blogging contest where I ask questions, and people answer them on their own blog. It’s partially a mechanism for generating traffic to //engtech, but it’s also a way to connect with the people who invest time reading what I write.

Name that script

Posted in Asides, IDT Labs Software Development, Technology by engtech on January 14, 2007

Rooster so rightly pointed out that my script for “making sure you didn’t break your blog template in Internet Explorer 6 when posting new images” doesn’t have a name.

So if you can think of a good name for it, leave a comment here. :)

Harold Is a Robot – Concept #1

Posted in Asides, Technology by engtech on January 07, 2007

Five Things You Don’t Know About Me meme

Posted in Asides, Technology by engtech on December 15, 2006

aka the It’s Almost Christmas and I Don’t Feel Like Working meme. I got the idea from Matthew Ingram (although I wasn’t tagged).


Ottawa’s Sexiest Blogger

Posted in Asides, Technology by engtech on December 14, 2006

Lorelle’s current blogging challenge:

Who do you think would be on your favorite sexy blogger list this year?

Now, there are some guidelines. A sexy blogger can be sexy because, well, they are a sexy person. They can be sexy because they talk about sex, but I think a sexy blogger is one who makes their blogging subject sexy. A sexy blogger is one who is exciting to read, a thrill to communicate with, and one who ignites your “flame”, no matter the subject.

If they happen to meet whatever criteria you find physically pleasing, then that’s okay, too.

So, who is on your favorite sexy blogger list?


Switching back to real full feeds

Posted in Asides, Internet Duct Tape News, Technology by engtech on December 09, 2006

There’s always been a huge debate in blogging about whether to use full feeds or partial feeds. I *hate* partial feeds. They only display a fixed amount of text before the cut-off, and it is so unsatisfying to click more only to find out that you were missing two sentances. As a feed reader, I find I stop subscribing to partial feed sites unless I really like them. Currently I only read three partial feed sites:

and in all of those cases I don’t read them in my feed reader. I go visit the site, usually after I’ve read all my other feeds.

Where the hypocracy comes in: I realize that I’ve been using the READ MORE break too often. I wanted to only show one post per page on the main site to keep things manageable for readers to skim, but unfortunately it also impacts the feed readers.

So what I’ll be doing is leaving the full post up for a week, and then chopping it with the READ MORE break. (Unless the post is ridiculously long like some of the recent gift suggestion posts.)

And if you aren’t yet a subscriber, you can subscribe to my blog by click on this link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/engtech

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