Freebie of the week

One of my favorite cross-platform apps (web, iOS, Android), Instapaper, has been honored as “App of the Week” by Apple. Congratulations, Marco!

How to get it:

What this means to you: this week, it’s free.

What it is: it’s an application and a service which allows you to save web content, including multiple pages, with all the ‘extras’ stripped out, for reading later. Similar functionality can be found in the Safari ‘reading list’ and the ‘Pocket‘ app…but Instapaper was an early player, and has a web presence, and download to Kindle, and all kinds of pleasant surprises.  Terrific for saving news to read later, or a fast ‘I need this for something I’m researching and I don’t want to put it into a notebook app.’

Recommended. If you have an iOS device, it’s free this week. If not, or you miss the free week, it’s still worth supporting the app, it’s worth it.  Please support authors of things you like!

Advertisements

SubVersion (SVN) for fun and profit

Lifehacker had a reference to a really excellent posting on “Using SubVersion for Writers.”

This is a really good overview, with examples, of how to use SubVersion for writing, web projects, etc. Continue reading “SubVersion (SVN) for fun and profit”

Now absolute for Toronto, but perhaps useful elsewhere: Keep raccoons out of your green recycling bin

In use.
Installed and closed.

Toronto uses a ‘green bin’ system to recycle and compost organic waste. Toronto also has a highly active raccoon population, which quickly tips, opens, scatters, and eats the leftovers in the green bin. This is risky from a health perspective, as raccoons are carriers of roundworms, can be rabid, and will escalate once they establish your home as a source of food.

There are many solutions to this problem. Toronto FINALLY implemented a proper anti-raccoon lock with an all-new bin solution. It’s not perfect, but it does render the below obsolete.

ELSEWHERE, feel free to use this. Cheap, cheerful, works-ish.

Without further ado, here is mine, and a bit of description of the design space.

The requirement: keep the raccoons out of the recycling.
The solution space: cheap, people-friendly, and does not require locking the bin in an enclosure, since many people do not have a convenient place for the enclosure.

Typical solutions involve locking straps, multiple screws, and some sort of buckling mechanism. These work well.

Mine is one loop of Velcro One-Wrap, and a screw. Tools needed, a screwdriver, a sharp knife point, and a drill or small flat screwdriver bit suitable for making a pilot hole in the body of the green bin. (A Leatherman tool will frequently have all of these. I favor the ‘Juice S2‘ for everyday use.)

  1. Take the roll of One-Wrap. Hold the end of the Velcro in your hand. Wrap it around your hand until it completely overlaps on your palm.
  2. With a sharp penknife or utility blade, cut a 5mm slit in the velcro so that you can pass a screw through it, just below the overlap region. You will use this hole to securing the loop to the body of the green bin with a screw, below.
  3. Push the screw through the velcro, so that the head is inside the loop
  4. Place the velcro loop on the bale of the green bin, and close it. Use the sharp end of the screw to mark the body of the green bin.
  5. Using your drill or small screwdriver bit, make a pilot hole for the screw
  6. Drive the screw into the body of the green bin

Notes on using this device:

  • The velcro must be firmly and fully coupled on the overlapping part to keep the raccoons out
  • When you take the bin out on the morning of recycling/garbage day, remember to undo the velcro.  Toronto Garbage will not open it (nor any other strap that I can find on the market).
  • In practice, the loop lasts for about a year due to weathering. I recommend replacing it each Spring.
  • The largest failure (in three five years of practice) is human error: someone dropping a recycling bag into the bin, and forgetting to re-close it.

Feedback, requests for clarification, commentary, kudos and complaints are all welcome.

HOWEVER, I make no warranty or claim of suitability, as I’m NOT selling this to you. It does work for me. It won’t work for you. Seriously, you’ll lose a load or two of recycling to the raccoons because you’ll forget to close it properly, or the loop will become stiff with age and need to be replaced, but it’s radically better than nothing, and very inexpensive.

As a helpful commenter notes, below, there’s also a good commercial solution (http://www.raccoonsolutions.com/). If this doesn’t work for you, upgrade to that.

Regards,
Dak

Tieing it all together [tips, opinions, musings]

So, what, on earth, do all these postings have to do with each other?

Like you, I am a “person in the loop” system. I observe, tune myself to what’s going on, act, observe what happens, and repeat. What I’m sharing with you is what I’m currently observing, that’s “on the fringe” that is my “reading outside of my area.”

I personally view reading outside of my area as being critical to success. We have to be able to bring all kinds of ideas into play when we are looking for creating consulting and management solutions, and bring them up in a heartbeat.

The challenge is maintaining focus while doing this. One solution is setting a limited time budget, and a low energy time, when other, more critical things need to be done, so that it adds value rather than rationalizing distraction. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun, which is all the more reason to put it as a ‘time reward’ or ‘play period’ with limits.

Best,
Dak

High-speed digital camera

David Pogue just reviewed the new Exlim EX-F1.  This is another interesting data point for the ‘cheap and fast’ versus ‘high-end cutting edge.’

In my opinion, it’s both:  the cheapest digital high-speed camera, but high-end for a ‘digital camera’.

But what’s really interesting about this camera is that it changes what’s possible for analysis (product development, amateur and professional athletics, fault diagnosis).

Have a look, and weigh in!

Best,

Dak

Application extensibility

Today I’m fiddling with the concept of application extensibility; going back to my roots, as it were

This application, “Delicious Library” is an *amazing* book scanner, that uses the built-in iSight camera in many Macs to scan bar codes, look it up in Amazon, and add it to a catalogue of your library.

The ergonomics are excellent. This is an excellent product.

It has one thing that I’d really love to see added to it: a way of programmatically sharing the bar-code scan data that it has found (or NOT found), so that other sources of codes could be checked…for example, the wine product list of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

Dak

Announcing Dakworks, and doing today’s "idea warmup"

Dakworks is an information technology, software development, editing, and management consultancy. As the principal consultant, I believe that systems and software must be built to make great things possible, to generate new possibilities, and to liberate people from onerous and repetitive tasks.

At present, the purpose of this blog will be occasional commentary, opinion, and links to “things that I found interesting” in the spirit of the new, trendspotting, and nifty uses of leading and trailing edge technologies.

Today’s cool toy spotting (Thanks to Malcolm Stanley at Strategic Thinking and Execution for pointing it out):

This uses the Arduino controller and an add-on sensor package to monitor plant status and post the results on Twitter.

http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/02/how_to_make_plants_talk_t.html

The application itself is silly, but think about the implications: Twitter can serve as a personal mash-up dashboard for your home, your car, your pets, your pre-writing kids, and not just your blogosphere and mobile device friends.

For example, imagine an outdoor motion sensor and camera *as a Twitter feed*. Outdoor motion sensor goes off, not worth an alarm…but if you get a call from your alarm company, AND the outdoor motion sensor went off, you’d check your camera and confirm that it’s likely NOT a false alarm. Twitter’s ongoing ‘low quality’ information stream is a great way to moderate and present this data, since it’s redundant, and truly a ‘value add’ rather than a primary source of data.

The key here is to put people in the loop when interpretation is required. This is exactly what Dakworks is all about.

Thanks for reading,
Dak