running and writing

It’s been ten months since my last post here, which is probably the longest I’ve ever gone without updating my blog since I started well over a decade ago. There’s lots of reasons for it, most of which revolve around how the social tools I use make it so easy to share stuff.

That stuff, however, is pretty limited. A quip, a picture, a linked article, a comment, a snipe, or a “fave” of some kind; not something that exercises the mind and exorcises whatever happens to be sitting on my chest, but something trite that fits in a space 140 characters long into places I don’t control… which leads me to running.

Running takes time to build up. It relies on your own damn self, it requires commitment, and the only way to get better is to run, dammit. No one else is going to make you run and there’s rarely any competition with anyone other than yourself. I’ve been running the past couple months, and have progressed from feeling like I’m dying after thirty seconds to running four times a week and feeling pretty damn good after knocking off 6km. It’s awesome.

I want control back. I want to push myself. I want to put more than two sentences together to push a point and give some context on why I think something’s important. It doesn’t matter if anyone other than me ever reads it, it’s cathartic and helps me improve my thought process. I’ve missed it, just like I’ve missed running.

So, I’m gonna write about beer, about some of the things I see in the tech space I find myself in, and about some of the random stuff that comes across my desk every day and makes me smile or frown.

I’m going to run with it.

things that interest me this week – 29 oct 2014

Quick Update: A couple of people mentioned there’s no Mozilla items in here. They’re right, and it’s primarily because the original audience of this type of thing was Mozilla. I’ll make sure I add them where relevant, moving forward.

Every week I put together a bunch of news items I think are interesting to the people I work with, and that’s usually limited to a couple wiki pages a handful of people read. I figured I may as well put it in a couple other places, like here, and see if people are interested. Topics focus on the web, the technologies that power it, and the platforms that make use of it. I work for Mozilla, but these are my own opinions and takes on things.

I try to have three sections:

  • Something to Think About – Something I’m seeing a company doing that I think is important, why I think it’s important, and sometimes what I think should be done about it. Some weeks these won’t be around, because they tend to not show their faces much.
  • Worth a Read – Things I think are worth the time to read if you’re interested in the space as a whole. Limited to three items max, but usually two. If you don’t like what’s in here, tell me why.
  • Notes – Bits and bobs people may or may not be interested in, but that I think are significant, bear watching, or are of general interest.

I’ll throw these out every Wednesday, and standard disclaimers apply – this is what’s in my brain, and isn’t representative of what’s in anyone else’s brain, especially the folks I work with at Mozilla. I’ll also throw a mailing list together if there’s interest, and feedback is always welcome (your comment may get stuck in a spam-catcher, don’t worry, I’ll dig it out).

– k

Something to Think About

Lifehacker posted an article this morning around all the things you can do from within Chrome’s address bar. Firefox can do a number of the same things, but it’s interesting to see the continual improvements the Chrome team has made around search (and service) integration, and also the productivity hacks (like searching your Google drive without actually going there) that people come up with to make a feature more useful than it’s intended design.

Why I think people should care: Chrome’s modifications to the address bar aren’t ground-breaking, nor are they changes that came about overnight. They are a series of iterative changes to a core function that work well with Google’s external services, and focus on increasing utility which, not coincidentally, increases the value and stickiness of the Google experience as a whole. Continued improvements to existing features (and watching how people are riffing on those features) is a good thing, and is something to consider as part of our general product upkeep, particularly around the opportunity to do more with services (both ours, and others) that promote the open web as a platform.

Worth a Read

  • Benedict Evans updated his popular “Mobile Is Eating the World” presentation, and posits that mobile effectively ”is” everything technology today. I think it needs a “Now” at the end, because what he’s describing has happened before, and will happen again. Mobile is a little different currently, mainly because of the gigantic leaps in hardware for fewer dollars that continue to be made as well as carrier subsidies fueling 2-year upgrade cycles. Mobile itself is also not just phones, it’s things other than desktops and laptops that have a network connection. Everything connected is everything. He’s also put together a post on Tablets, PCs and Office that goes a little bit into technology cycles and how things like tablets are evolving to fill more than just media consumption needs, but the important piece he pushes in both places is the concept of network connected screens being the window to your stuff, and the platform under the screen being a commodity (e.g. processing power is improving on every platform to the point the hardware platform is mattering less) that is really simply the interface that better fits the task at hand.
  • Ars Technica has an overview of some of the more interesting changes in Lollipop which focus on unbundling apps and APIs to mitigate fragmentation risk, an enhanced setup process focusing on user experience, and the shift in the Nexus brand from a market-share builder to a premium offering.
  • Google’s Sundar Pichai was promoted last week in a move that solidifies Google’s movement towards a unified, backend-anchored, multi-screen experience. Pichai is a long time Google product person, and has been fronting the Android and Chrome OS (and a couple other related services) teams, and now takes on Google’s most important web properties as well, including Gmail, Search, AdSense, and the infrastructure that runs it. This gives those business units inside Google better alignment around company goals, and shows the confidence Google has in Pichai. Expect further alignment in Google’s unified experience movement through products like Lollipop, Chrome OS, Inbox and moving more Google Account data (and related experiences like notifications and Web Intents) into the cloud, where it doesn’t rely on a specific client and can be shared/used on any connected screen.

Notes

Mozilla Firefox – Reset Your Profile, Recharge Your Browser

One of the best features in Firefox is one of its least-known. Many, many people complain of Firefox feeling slow and bloated over time, and in a number of cases, they’re not wrong. They just don’t know that surfing the web can be analogous to playing Katamari Damacy, where simply browsing can accumulate cruft until you have this big ball of metadata that slows you down.

If you find your Firefox experience is sub-par and a little more pokey than you’d like, you should try resetting your profile before moving over to another product. You should know that your preferences, extensions, and themes will be reset/removed, but since you’re planning on installing Chrome or another browser, I’m willing to bet that’s ok (and you should back your profile up before you do this, just in case). Your browsing history, bookmarks, and form info will be saved, and that’s the important thing.

To reset your profile, open up Help->Troubleshooting Information from the Help menu, and click the reset button. This simple procedure will cure most things that ail you performance-wise with Firefox. You should also read our support article on Resetting Your Firefox Profile, which will give you the the full scoop on what happens when you click.

There, doesn’t that feel better?

hero

teacher by ibekev
teacher, a photo by ibekev on Flickr.

I spent the last two weekends in a classroom. nine hours each day, learning about things I’m interested in.

it’s been a hard year so far. I’m averaging about 65 hours a week at work, and I’m not even screwing around. it’s busy, and I’m exhausted, and I could use a break in a huge way.

instead of catching up on a little sleep, I get up on Saturday and Sunday at 5am to do my homework. I get to class at 8am. I listen. I learn. I participate. I’m still tired.

I’m also happy, because learning is what drives me.

my dad is a teacher. always has been, always will be. one of the most important lessons he’s passed on to me is that I should never, ever stop learning, because we can always, always better ourselves and pass that on to others to make things better for them.

he practices what he preaches. I can only hope I can do half of what he’s done to help people in the life I have left.

thanks, dad. you may not know of all the gifts you’ve given me, but this is one of them, and I cherish it.

Decelerating Deadsquid

deadsquid.com turns 14 this month, and there are some changes afoot. I’ve been running a bunch of ISP-ish services – everything from dialup access to mail and web hosting – since 1995, and am tired of it. I like having my own server to do my own thing, and have been happy to help friends and family out by hosting their content, but the services I offer aren’t comparable to what can be had commercially at a very (very!) reasonable cost. So, to that end, I’m shuttering the dedicated server everything runs off of by the end of April.

Thanks to everyone who has used deadsquid.com over the years to vent about Ingenia, keep in touch with friends, play Expert CTF, check your mail, and post your thoughts and photos. I’ve enjoyed it, but I’m not paying anywhere near as much attention to it as I should, and it’s hard to justify the $1200-1500/year it costs to maintain. If you have a website still hosted here, I’ll be in touch shortly, and will help however I can to move it over to a provider who will take much better care of you.

k

Mozilla Firefox Extended Support Release

Just a quick note that the Mozilla Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) is now available. The ESR is based on Mozilla Firefox 10, and is intended to be used by organizations that deploy Firefox in a managed desktop environment. You can read more about the Windows, Mac, and Linux installers from the Mozilla website, and additional information can be found in the Firefox ESR FAQ. Organizations who use the Firefox ESR are also strongly encouraged to join the Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group; a discussion group focused on sharing information related to Firefox deployments.

white chicken chili

…because the other day got up to 36-ish, it seemed like the best way to celebrate was to make chili at 11pm. it’s a staple recipe I got from lee when I was living in NYC, and it’s worth sharing. probably not in 36-degree weather, but I’ll leave that up to you.

NOTE: if your herbs/spices aren’t fresh, you are missing out.

you’ll need:

  • 2 tbsp butter. yes, butter.
  • 2 tsp diced garlic
  • 1 large white onion, sliced thin (or sweet vidalia)
  • 2 celery stalks, ends trimmed, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs skinless boneless chicken breast, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes (can also mix 50/50 with thighs for a richer flavour)
  • 3 cups chicken stock – bonus points for using fresh, but they’re a pain in the ass if you don’t plan in advance
  • 1 can white kidney beans
  • 2-3 fresh jalapeño peppers
  • 1/2 cup fresh, chopped cilantro

Chicken seasoning

  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp (good) chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground thyme
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper

Garnish

  • 1/2 lb old cheddar cheese (aged 2yrs or more)
  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips (we prefer the blue corn chips)
  • sliced baguette, to wipe up the leftover goodness

In a large (4qt) casserole pot (you can use a sautée pan, too, it just means more clean up), melt butter over medium-high heat. Sautée diced garlic for 2-3 minutes; reduce heat to medium, add celery and onion, and sautée until tender (abt 5 min). Reduce heat to low, add white kidney beans (pro-tip, turn can upside-down and shake vigorously for 10s or so before opening to loosen the settled and sticking to the bottom beans) and chicken stock. Stir occasionally, ensuring mixture doesn’t boil strongly (slow boil/simmer is what you’re aiming for). The mixture will look watery. Don’t worry.

In a large mixing bowl (I prefer a large ziploc bag, as it simplifies things), combine chicken seasoning ingredients and mix well. Add cubed chicken to mixture and mix, ensuring chicken is well-coated.

Heat skillet/large fry pan on medium-high (about 300F). Add olive oil to skillet, and allow to heat (but not to smoking). Add coated chicken mixture to skillet and cook until done, turning often and breaking up clumped pieces often. Add cooked chicken to simmering stock mix.

Bring stock and chicken mixture to a slow boil (don’t go above medium heat, you’ve got time), and cook for approximately one hour, stirring often to help reduce the liquid. While the stock is cooking, broil or grill the jalapeño peppers until the skin is well-charred. Remove the charred skin, cut the peppers lengthwise, remove the seeds, and dice (note that you may want to use gloves for this, and you do not want to rub your eyes.) Set aside.

After the hour is up, reduce chili to a simmer, and add diced jalapeños to mixture (this is an optional step). Add the diced chilis to taste in small increments; you can increase the heat pretty quickly, and don’t want to add it all in one shot and potentially ruin things.

Simmer for an additional half-hour, and add diced cilantro to mixture. Simmer for an additional 15-30 minutes, and the mixture should thicken up nicely.

Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and grated white cheddar. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro. Crunchy baguettes on the side are also recommended.

Done. Serves four-six.