Monday, June 2, 2014

Wordpress vs Ghost

I've used Wordpress a bit but as a bit of a nerd I was really excited to hear about the Ghost blogging platform, which is new and shiny and uses node.js which I really like.

Wordpress is php based, which can be okay if tuned correctly and all but I personally found it rather slow.   Also the plugin scheme is all php based, which I am not crazy about.  Again it's not bad, but it's a server side, web 1.0 style of plugging in.

On the plus side, Wordpress is really mature, and there are gobs of themes, plugins, etc for it.

Ghost uses node.js which I like for several reasons:
1) It seems much lighter on resources - even when fronted with nginx
2) I already have node.js on my servers
3) Node.js has a huge and very enthusiastic eco-system
4) JavaScript everywhere - makes programming easier (at least for me!)

What I like about Ghost in particular, is that it's very Web 2.0 - clean UI, uses client side templating, has REST APIs built in.

But as of this writing, there are a few things that make it a non-starter for my needs (your needs may vary, this just my perspective):

1) The editor has no real UI for formatting - I was expecting at least a few basic controls for bold, italic, insert link, etc. - but right now it's all text based (Markdown).  I personally don't mind Markdown, but I can't expect everyone that goes to my site to know Markdown.  It's a barrier to entry I can't afford.  I know, once you learn it it's great, and it's pretty easy to learn, but it still won't work.

2) The multi-user admin support isn't in place yet.  This is key for my needs.  As I understand the underlying code is all setup to be muti-user, there just hasn't been time to develop admin UI for it yet. Per the roadmap, this is coming in version 0.5 in the July 2014 time frame.

3) There aren't any plugins yet.  If I understand correctly, the plugin API is pretty much done now, but it might be a little while before plugins start showing up. There are at least themes now  in the Ghost Open Marketplace, and eventually that will have plugins too.

I think all of these are surmountable, and I'm fairly certain the multi-user admin and plugin repository will evolve.  They do seem fairly opposed to having UI controls for editing, but I'm guessing either there will be a 3rd party plugin for that or they will add something in Ghost itself - I think it will have to have that for widespread adoption personally.

If it's for yourself and you are comfortable with Markdown though, it's worth a look for sure.  But if you want to install a blogging platform for multiple users, you may want to wait for the multi-user support and for the plugins to start coming on line.

Anyway, that's my take on it!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Quest for a tall stool

UPDATE: turns out it's really hard to get the desk and chair the exact right height for both sitting and standing, so I went with a tall stool:

And coupled it with a keyboard/mouse tray:

The two together were roughly $300, and I really like being able to adjust the keyboard height - just mixing it up a big seems to help with RSI since you can change the muscles a bit.

Original discussion

So I was about to raise my desk up to try a standing desk configuration, when it occurred to me I should first get a chair or stool that high so I can work either way (I do *not* want to be raising/lowering my desk).

I'm fairly tall (6-2), and did the simple math that to raise my desk from sitting elbow height now (29") to standing elbow height (47") would mean raising everything 18".

What does that mean for my stool? Well it is currently at 22", so it would mean raising it to 40". But despite all I've been reading about standing desks for a few years, I can't find a stool that high anywhere so far.

In case anyone else is going through the same thing, here are a few that get pretty close:

Amazon sells this one that goes to 36" - the highest I've found so far, and only $120:

Global Industrial has this one that goes to 34.5 inches, fancier and runs $250:

Sit Better has this one that goes to 34", runs $205 and looks pretty nice:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

You too can learn to make web pages

There are some really great resources for learning web development these days, and some of the best are freely available.

In a nutshell there are three basic things to learn:
  1. HTML for your basic page structure
  2. CSS for making the page look good
  3. JavaScript to bring that page to life

How you go about learning these depends a little bit on your past experience, and also on how you like to learn.  You can always get a book (and there are many), but I think it's better to learn a little, try a little, lather, rinse, repeat.  More of the usual course style of learning.  But do you like video instruction, or do you prefer to read it?

Video for HTML/CSS

People all over have been raving about this series on Tuts+ that goes through both HTML and CSS:

I also looked over the course index myself, and I think it looks great.

Interactive for HTML/CSS

Another way to learn is the online interactive format used by Codecademy.  If you think you might like that style better, try their excellent web track here:

Video for JavaScript

I've read mixed reviews on the JavaScript videos on Tuts+, but have heard good things about Treehouse (  It's a paid service, but you get 2 months free and it's not terribly expensive after that ($25/mo).

Another option is YouTube - this fellow has a really nice series of introductory tutorials that are friendly and approachable:

Interactive for JavaScript

Again the interactive format on Codecademy is really nice and you can find their JavaScript course here:

In summary ...

Find something you like, stick with it, and grit it out until the end.  If nothing here looks good, hit Google and see if you can find something that you do like!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fun with an Entourage Pocket Edge

I got an Entourage Pocket Edge off of and updated it to make it more useful (and fun), so I thought I would jot down a few notes on how to do that for other folks that might be in the same boat.

Update the Android OS

This is key. The 1.6 version of Android isn't nearly as nice, and you'll need to update to 2.2 to get access to apps and things. It's a fairly easy update though.
  1. Download the Android 2.2 software for the Pocket Edge (do this on your PC, not the Edge)
    (Alternatively you can get it via torrent:
  2. Get a USB thumbdrive and format it with FAT32
    They usually are FAT or FAT32 anyway, and might work without this step. But the Edge is really picky about USB drives when it's in update mode.
    On Windows, you can do this by going to Computer and right-clicking on the thumbdrive - you should get a "Format" option. Un-check "quick format" just to make sure.
  3. Copy the 2.2 update to the thumbdrive
    I recommend doing this from a command prompt to make sure the filename is correct. It must be copied to [drive]:\ - and windows explorer tries to hide file extensions so that lots of folks have inadvertently made a file called
  4. With the Edge off, plug in the thumbdrive
  5. Hold down the Menu and Rotate buttons together and keep holding them
  6. Power on the Edge and keep holding those buttons!
  7. You should see four dots on the screen, with the first one glowing. The screen might go blank for a sec, then you should see the second dot start glowing - and hopefully a blinking cursor appears in the upper right hand corner of the screen. You can let go of the buttons at this point.
  8. Now you should see the thumbdrive light blinking like crazy for a while, and then the screen change to "Updating software"
  9. If you don't, here are a couple of things to try:
    • Try a different thumbdrive. I know this sounds fishy, but it happened to me - the Edge just didn't like the first one I tried (and I tried it about 10 times at least). Also try an older thumbdrive if you have one, so long as it's at least 256MB - a couple of folks (like me) had luck with older models.
    • Try updating the 1.6 software first - I did that, and some say it's required but I'm not really sure. Anyway, go into Settings->Entourage Edge->Device and click on Update. It should download an update file (takes a while) - see if there's an Arrow with a number in the upper left corner of the screen - the number is the % complete. When done, click and hold by the arrow and drag down the status window to reveal the downloaded file. Click and hold in it - you should get an option to run it.
    • Make double extra sure the file is really called "" and is in the root of the thumbdrive.
Load some apps!

So apparently there's a way to get the Google Android Market working on a Pocket Edge, but I haven't got that far and I'm not sure it's really worth it anyway.

Why? Because there are other app stores out there now that are easy to use.

Most notably, the Amazon app store. You can get their app at (or something like that).

The selection of apps isn't as good, but it's a place to start anyway.  If you really want an app, and it's a free app, you can search for the .apk file and usually find it (although they seem to be hosted on annoying file sharing sites that try their best to extract a subscription fee from you).

Get some books

There's a Kindle app that's actually quite nice, but then you do have to read the book on the LCD side since the Kindle app doesn't know about the other screen. Downloading Kindle books on your computer and converting them to epub seems like a better route to go - there's a program called Calibre ( that will convert them to epub if you:
  1. Install an older version of the Kindle for PC app, like 1.4:
  2. Install the clibre drm removal plugin - info available here:
Google books also seems to a good way to go, I've been playing with that and it seems to work well and the downloaded books can be viewed using the Edge reader on the ink screen.

I tried downloading some PDFs on my laptop to read later on the Edge, but PDF viewing seems less than optimal.

Have fun!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Eggs from the backyard

It's hard to explain how much better fresh free-range eggs are than what you normally find in the store, but I think this picture says a thousand words (store bought is on the left).

The darker color is from the chlorophyll the chickens get from being outside and eating grass and weeds and whatever else they eat.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Young little kiwis

I wish the kiwis would flower just a little bit longer - the flowers are off-white and about the size of a fifty cent piece. But the good news is that now that the flowers are gone, the fruit is growing. You can see (hopefully) in the picture the little marble-sized kiwis. By late fall they will be full size and ready for harvesting.