Being as healthy as my business

I’m lazy. Really lazy. I’d rather sit at my desk in pajamas and watch Hulu than go for a run. Unfortunately, that isn’t a very healthy lifestyle, and I realize I need to start exercising or I’m going to have to start asking my wife to open jars for me.

My solution to this issue is to tie my exercises to the health of my business. I’m still thinking through all the rules, but I’ve got one figured out already. For every $10 I make, I have to do a push up. So if I earn $100 in a day, I have to do 10 push ups. If I earn $500, I have to do 50 push ups. If I earn $10,000, I have to do 1,000 push ups change the rule.

I’m not always going to be able to do all the pushups in a row (hey, I’m just getting started..), but I’m going to commit to doing as many as I can in a row, and repeating as many times as I need to in order to make my commitment.

I’d like to find something to motivate me to do some other exercises, like crunches and short runs/jogs. Analytics metrics (like unique visitors, pageviews, or time on site) don’t seem like a good idea because they can fluctuate so much based on things outside of my control, like getting Stumbled.

Any suggestions?

Read More

Spinning down external USB drives with TomatoUSB

My most recent power bill was 30% higher than usual. Yikes! So how to save some money?

If you are using TomatoUSB and have a USB hard drive connected to it, then you can save some money — and extend the life of the drive — by having it spin down when idle. For some crazy reason this doesn’t happen automatically.

Luckily, some kind individual wrote a small program that can easily be run on TomatoUSB. The instructions are pretty easy to follow, but here are the basics:

  1. Download sd-idle-2.6.
  2. Uncompress the binary and put in a safe place on your USB hard drive.
  3. Create a file called mount.autorun so the program will run automatically.

That’s it! You’ll need to either reboot your router, unmount/mount your hard drive, or manually start the program for the first time. By default it will spin your drive down after 15 minutes.

Read More

Opt out of annoying surveys

I’ve recently been bombarded by annoying “take our survey” in-page pop-ups on dozens of pages. I hate these things.

If you hate them, too, then you can opt out of many of them by going to these URLs:

Update: Sadly, ForeSee is the leader in this field, and they don’t have an opt-out option that works across all sites. If you have AdBlock Plus, you can add a custom filter for */foresee-trigger.js

Read More

My first iPod Touch

Last week I got my very first iPod Touch. I had a surge of traffic to my sites from iOS devices, and wanted to test to make sure my websites worked well on them (i.e., I wanted to make sure there were plenty of ads and that they showed up correctly).

My current phone is an Android. It works okay. Most, if not all, of its problems come from me being cheap and buying the least expensive Android phone I could. I don’t fault Android for this. I got what I paid for. However, I frequently hear that iOS is sooo much better and more intuitive and it just works and things like that, and that iPhone/iPod Touch is sooo much faster, etc. Well now that I have one I can finally compare the two side by side.

Note: For a more coherent review of iOS that states many of the points I list below, try this article. I especially liked this statement: “But I disagree that the Apple App Store is substantially better organized than the Android Market. Both are disasters.”

The first thing I noticed is that the physical buttons suck. The power button is meant to be pushed at an angle, so pushing down from the top or forward from the back doesn’t work well. If you aren’t used to this, it requires sort of an awkward whole-hand-gripping-the-iPod sort of thing. Even worse are the volume up/down buttons. I can’t find any angle of pushing on them that makes them easy to push. Surely I’m not the only one that finds the buttons hard to press.

The syncing process is, for the most part, pretty nice. I wasn’t thrilled about installing iTunes (last time I did, iTunes decided that installing Safari was an “update” that didn’t require my permission), but I really like that it will sync over WiFi without me having to plug in the device. What I don’t like is that if I install an app on my iPod, then delete it from my iPod, it somehow magically gets reinstalled the next time I sync. This is probably some configuration issue, but it is super annoying and doesn’t seem like a good default setting.

My real phone, a Samsung Intercept, has a physical qwerty keyboard. Sometimes I use the on-screen keyboard, and it isn’t too awful. The keyboard on the iPod Touch is pretty much the worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with. Aside from there being apparently 3 or 4 different keyboard layouts depending on what app you are in and what type of field you are typing into, it doesn’t have any modern input options that don’t require you to peck each and every letter. Maybe there are replacements out there that make it better, but my Android just works… I didn’t have to find/install a new keyboard app.

The ability to integrate pretty much any email/calendar service with the iPod is pretty awesome. I got my Gmail and Google Calendar set up in about 2 minutes without any issues.

The App Store, like Google’s Android Market, sucks. It is virtually unusable on the iPod unless you know exactly what you want. For example, lets say you are browsing the top 25 free apps. You get to the end of 25 so you click the “show 25 more” button. You then click one of those to read the description, then click the back “Search” button. Bam. You are back at #1. You have to scroll all the way down, click “show 25 more” again, then find where you were at. But only sometimes. Sometimes it works like I feel it should where it remembers where you are at. I’m pretty sure inconsistent button behavior is against the rules of good UX.

The LDS apps on the iPod Touch are awesome. Overall I like them much better than the Android equivalents. I especially like how the Gospel Library app, like Safari, can have multiple windows open so you can flip back and forth. Very very cool.

However, I often find myself missing the context button that Android has. In most Android apps, you can press the context button to bring up an expanded menu that shows icons with text. Apple, and many app developers, seems to think that everyone can decipher what their little text-free icons mean. For example, the Kindle app has a button that looks like “Refresh” but is actually “Sync”. Never would have known if I didn’t click it. It also means that sometimes you have to do weird round-about things to do simple tasks. For example, to delete bookmarks in Safari you have to either swipe the bookmark then click delete, or you have to click edit then select the items you want to delete. Why can’t I just long-hold on them to get a list of options? Maybe if I started on iOS I’d see the long-hold as being the awkward way of doing it, but I don’t think so.

The iPod Touch is super fast. Except when it isn’t. Like my Android, it is sometimes blazing fast and sometimes molasses slow. I haven’t found any way of closing apps on the iPod Touch, and I’ve already had to do a reboot to fix an issue with a core app (the Music app wouldn’t acknowledge me touching the screen, but every other app would). I’ve also had several brand name apps crash on me already. I can’t remember the last time an app on my cheapo Android crashed. I think app crashes and slow downs are just a fact of life. Apple doesn’t have it any more figured out than any of the other device manufacturers.

The iPod Touch is super skinny. It looks really nice and fits well in my pocket. I’d prefer a plastic back though. The metal looks gross most of the time because of finger prints.

Hey Apple, 2007 is calling, they want their proprietary ports back. Put a micro USB port on this thing!

And oh my gosh, if it makes me type in my password one more time I swear I’m going to shoot somebody. Why in the world should I need to type my password to “buy” a free app? No money is changing hands. I have plenty of storage space. Just install the dang thing and let me use it already. I ended up having to change my password to something shorter and easier just so I could actually use my iPod.

Overall, I’m not super impressed with iOS or the iPod Touch. It has pros and cons just like any other device. Its core apps and OS has bugs and slow downs just like Android (or any other mobile platform). The UI has weird inconsistencies here and there, and generally requires me to click more buttons to get things done. I can’t get rid of or hide core apps that I don’t want. The only thing it really has going for it is that it is pretty and probably works well with its expensive cousins (like the iPad and MacBook).

I probably ought to throw this in the “rant” category, too…

Read More

2011 Goal Update (December)

This is my twelfth monthly report on how I’m doing with my goals for 2011:

  • Build a dining room table. Build a piano keyboard desk. Build something. I know what I want to build. I have the plans. I have the shopping list. But, sadly, I didn’t have/take the time to do this.
  • Launch twelve new websites. I failed. My December website was bigger than I could finish in a month. Okay that isn’t true, I just got lazy. But I did redesign Corban Works from scratch, so that is practically an entirely new site. And I redesigned the Fake Name Generator mobile site. So I kept busy at least.

I’ve also been working on a few goals that I didn’t originally blog about:

  • Start an email newsletter. Didn’t happen.
  • Create a game for mobile phones. Didn’t happen.

Goals I’ve accomplished this year:

  • Earn as much from my side business as I was earning from my day job. I hit this goal in October. December earnings were absurdly high. I hit my 2012 goal, but I don’t think it’ll happen again in January.
  • Go back to college. I’ve enrolled in a distance learning program with BYU-Idaho. I got A’s in both of my classes. Yay!
  • Max out my 401k and Roth IRA contributions. The 401k and Roth IRAs are maxed out. Yay!
  • Quit my day job. I’m basically retired. I play with my daughter, work on hobbies, and sleep all day. Its a pretty good life.
  • Become a dad. I’m a dad! Yay! My daughter Anna was born in late May.
  • Publish my first book. I’ve published my first book (paperback, Kindle, and Nook). Took me a couple years, and I already found 2 typos (grr!) fixed the typos, but at least it is finally in print.
  • Paid my taxes. I make money from a lot of places which makes my taxes really complicated, so getting this finished was awesome. I also started paying quarterly taxes because my self-employed income has gotten pretty high. It is uber painful to write a big check every couple months to the IRS, but oh well, that is the cost of making money..
  • Get out of debt. We’ve paid off the last of Becca’s student loans which means we are now debt free! Yay!
Read More