hacks

Can YOU Be a Hero?

I put together a short video to explain a way you could be a hero and help save a life.  Will you spare 5 minutes of your time to check it out?

Now that you’ve seen my plea, will you take the first step to becoming a hero?  And if you aren’t eligible or have already signed up, would you please consider sending this post to friends and family to help convince them to sign up, too?

Note: If you are not a US resident, you can still register with a Cooperative Registry. Over half of all transplants involve either a U.S. patient receiving cells from an international donor or an international patient receiving cells from a U.S. donor. Go to http://marrowdrives.org/bone_marrow_donor_programs.html and look for the “International Bone Marrow Donor Organizations” to see if there is a participating organization in your country.

Thanks to Ross MacLachlan for permission to use his tune “Obama Vitality Rag” in this video. Download the full track for free, and check out the rest of his work at http://www.notjustragtime.com/


The Trouble with Toilets (or Ruminations on Restrooms)

Occasionally, I’ll find myself mulling over a topic that I haven’t ever spent a lot of time on before.  Often, it’ll be something esoteric and of trivial value (such as my previous post on the design and usability of yogurt cups), but every once in a while I stumble onto a topic of real value.  I would submit that today’s post is one such topic, assuming you can bear with me until the bitter end.   Perservere, oh brave reader (but if you need to, you can hold your nose while doing so.)

There are places we visit almost every day, but most people loathe them.  There are more rules governing etiquette and usage there than anywhere else I can think of, but very seldom are these rules actually communicated verbally to others at any point in our lives.  Yes, I’m speaking of public restrooms.

Now there are plenty of posts out there about proper bathroom etiquette.  I’m sure I don’t need to go into the details of how to select a sink/urinal/stall based on the current occupancy configuration of the restroom.  If you need such a tutorial, this little flash game is an EXCELLENT guide to such unspoken rules of the restroom.

But where should you choose to go when there’s absolutely nobody in your public restroom, upon your arrival into said meditation chamber?  Obviously, the only way to truly make an informed decision is to scope out your bathroom in advance, and know all the intricacies of the layout to help you make your call.  Confused?  Allow me to offer my workplace’s bathroom as an example to get you started on the kinds of things you should consider when selecting a specific spot to answer the call of Mother Nature.

Upon entering a restroom, you should be able to almost immediately picture the entire floor plan in your head.  Here’s my workplace’s restroom as an example:

Now of course, the little details may escape your attention at first (such as the half-height urinal intended for all those coworkers under 5 feet tall, the extra-spacious handicapped stall whose toilet often leaves normal peoples’ toes not touching the ground, and the creepy deodorizer unit mounted on the wall that maliciously waits until utter silence has fallen to let loose with a ratchet-clank noise not unlike that of Robocop cocking a twelve-gauge shotgun, if said shotgun subsequently shot a spritz of overpoweringly fragrant deodorizing molecules out of an atomizing nozzle).  The first time in a new place, it’s normal to fail to observe these things until it’s too late – just take note of as many of these as you can and prepare yourself properly for future visits (drawing a diagram such as I have above is optional, unless your short-term memory is as bad as mine!)

Some suggested things to consider (besides the obvious cleanliness check):

Stalls (for both men and women)

  1. How many “shared walls” you will have with your temporary “neighbors”
  2. Height/size of toilets (including any abnormal ones)
  3. Typical TP availability (and direction of installed rolls, if you’re particularly anal about such things)
  4. Working latch mechanisms
  5. Ridiculously large gaps between door and frame where people might accidentally glimpse what’s going on (alternately, where you may be able to hold surveillance on the rest of the room)
  6. Width of stall / chance of feet-under-wall scares
  7. Whether people will naturally choose that stall first (i.e. try to open the door when you’re locked inside, giving you a mini heart attack)
  8. Chances of being “surrounded” by people on either side

Urinals (for men, and exceptionally talented women)

  1. Walls/dividers that provide “natural shielding” so you can easily avoid accidental/intentional glance-overs
  2. Height/size of urinals (including any abnormal ones)
  3. How many people you will have to walk past / how many people will walk past you
  4. Chances of being “surrounded” by people on either side

Once you’ve done the physical reconnaissance, it’s time to evaluate the results, and make an informed and rational decision to maximize your comfort and minimize distress while visiting said public restroom.  Here’s an example of a pro/con chart I made for my workplace bathroom:

Whatever you do, avoid that splash-back!

Reviewing the above, it becomes quickly apparent to me that Urinal C should always be my first choice, and although the decision is tougher when it comes to the stalls, I’ll probably take my chances and pick stall #2 rather than worry about the door rattling or latching mechanism woes that tend to come with stalls #1 and #3, respectively.

Obviously, you don’t have to go all-out and make your own chart for each and every restroom you tend to occasion – once you think through the things that are important to you, you’ll know where you stand on almost any public bathroom you visit in the future.

Or you know, you could just try winging it and see what happens, but don’t come to me when you get squicked out because you chose the wrong urinal/stall – yes, I’ll empathize with you, but then I’ll probably point you right back here to this post…


Tumblr Reblog Bookmarklet (Including a Means to Reblog Your Own Posts)

Setup:

1) Drag this link up to your browser’s bookmark toolbar: Tumblr Reblog

To Reblog:

1) Go to the permalink of the individual post you want to reblog (e.g. this)  NOTE: Bookmarklet will NOT work on the Tumblr dashboard.  If you can’t figure out how to navigate to the permalink post on a Tumblr blog, click on the top-right corner of the post on your dashboard to get to the permalink URL.

2) Click the “Tumblr Reblog” bookmarklet you set up – it should then process and bring you to a compose screen with the post ready to reblog (even your own posts!)


Caveats – I cobbled this together from some existing bookmarklets, so if something doesn’t work properly, let me know.  May not work for all types of posts (e.g. ones where reblogging is not supported, etc).  Hope this works for you!


Postpone the OAuthcalypse – Basic Authentication and Command Line Tools for Twitter

A little while ago, Twitter decided to get rid of “basic authentication” for all third party tools (i.e. login and passwords) and force them to use OAuth as a more secure and user-friendly means of using their service.  This event, affectionately known as the OAuthcalypse among the tech community, caused many people to throw their hands up in disgust as they realized that many of their scripts and tools would now be obsolete – that is, unless they spent time and effort revamping them to use OAuth.

Luckily, there’s a simpler solution for all those folks out there – using a website that handles the OAuth handshake for you lets you essentially proxy your Twitter calls through an authorized site, meaning you can hang on to your scripts and tools with minimal modifications.

The easiest solution I’ve found out there is SuperTweet.net.  Designed to transparently replace direct calls to Twitter, SimpleTweet does all the heavy lifting and has quite an extensive API to utilize.  Setup is relatively quick and painless (see details below) and for the most simple one-line tweeting solutions, just requires you replacing your Twitter password with your SuperTweet password, and changing the URL you hit to the SimpleTweet gateway URL.

An alternate solution, and one I’ve had only partial success with, is Elliot Kember’s Simple Auth Twitter.  Although it boasts an easier setup (basically, click one link and you’ve got everything set up for you), it appears to be more limited in what you can do on Twitter via the proxy, and requires you to change your format of your scripts to hit a custom URL for each status tweet.  Although it worked for me on unix-based systems, I could not get it to work via curl for Windows.

My recommendation, if you like to tweet from the command line or have a script/tool that needs to do so, is use SimpleTweet.net to replace your old basic authentication calls to Twitter.  It took me about 2 minutes to set up and edit my scripts to use this, and they’ve worked flawlessly since then.  Sure, there’s a third party in the loop now, but if the alternative is learning OAuth or giving up on my scripts entirely, I’ll happily take the quick & dirty solution and go about the rest of my day doing something more fun.


How to Set Up SuperTweet.net – Step by Step instructions

1) If you’re not already signed in, login into Twitter via the Twitter homepage with the account you want to use with SuperTweet’s API Proxy

2) Go to the SuperTweet.net homepage and click the “Sign in With Twitter” button to get to the Twitter authorization page

1signin 3) Click the “Allow” button to allow “MyAuth API Proxy by supertweet.net” access to your Twitter account.  This is the step where they’re setting up the OAuth handshake for you so you can use SuperTweet as a proxy without having to do OAuth yourself.

2allow 4) You’ll be returned to the SuperTweet site, with a page that shows the credentials that are set up for your account.  Right now, the account is Inactive because you have not set up a password.  Click the “Activate” link to set up a password.

3activate 4) On the next screen, enter the password you want to use with your command-line tools.  Note: They recommend NOT using your Twitter password here to add a little extra safety to your account.  Most command line tools are going to transmit this password in the clear, so it’s probably a good idea to use an alternate password.

4password 5) You should now be returned to the credentials page, with a note next to your status saying your account is active.  Congratulations, you can now use SuperTweet as a proxy for your Twitter calls!

Here’s an example to get you started – if you want to tweet your status from the command line, use the following one-liner:

curl -u your_twitter_username_here:your_SuperTweet_password_here -d status="Status you want tweeted goes here" http://api.supertweet.net/1/statuses/update.xml

(Curl for Windows uses arguments slightly differently, but it’s similar enough that I think you can figure it out.)

The full list of API calls is available here. Lots of possibilities out there if you want to get more complex, but I think most people just want their script/tool to be able to tweet status info based on the outcome of their script, which is what I’ve listed above.

Hope this helps you out, letting you continue to use those scripts/tools you wrote and Twitter broke with their OAuthcalypse!


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