April

24

by Kaj Kandler

A few days ago I did become aware that mozilla.org was hit with a notification about spam content on its website. But the message was so generic that the webmaster could not make any sense of where to find the offending content and how to remove it.

Well, count me in the camp of puzzled webmasters, that see huge drops in Google search featuring my main website, http:://plan-b-for-openoffice.org/. I used to get large numbers of visitors, but two waves of Panda and Penguin updates to Google’s algorithm did cut that stream by ~90%. Well nothing gave me any indication as to why Google search feels now basically unable to match people that search with my web-site. And I found it utterly frustrating to have to experiment based on speculation as to what Google dislikes on my website and what I could do to help my audience find me on Google.

However, the discussion about this "Mozilla" incident on http://searchengineland.com/ did gave me some new ideas how to find out.

[Google's Jake] Hubert said that if people file a reconsideration request, they should “get a clear answer” about what’s wrong. There’s a bit of a Catch-22 there. How can you file a reconsideration request showing you’ve removed the bad stuff, if the only way you can get a clear answer about the bad stuff to remove is to file a reconsideration request?

The answer is that technically, you can request reconsideration without removing anything. The form doesn’t actually require you to remove bad stuff. That’s just the general advice you’ll often hear Google say, when it comes to making such a request. That’s also good advice if you do know what’s wrong.

But if you’re confused and need more advice, you can file the form asking for specifics about what needs to be removed. Then have patience. Officially, a response might take several weeks.

Well, technically this has been said in the context of a webmaster message triggered by manual penalties. I wonder if that also works with algorithmic penalties that are unknown. Stay tuned

April

23

by Kaj Kandler

Sure I’d like my phone to boot fast. So I checked the “Fast Boot” option in the settings without much thought.

But wait it says “Not recommended with some Market apps.” Well that is funny! How do I know which “Market apps” will not work well with this setting? And what are the effects of that? And why does it say “Market’, when Google did rename the “market” to “Play Store” a long while ago.

Well, I guess the best option is to wait a little longer for a boot and do:
* Go to your settings app
* Select Power
* Deselect the “Fast boot” check box

April

23

by Kaj Kandler

I’m having trouble with my HTC Sensation 4G (T-Mobile). It has been slow and bee getting slower. I was able to get back some speed by doing a factory reset and only installing, what I use absolutely daily. But still simple things like getting into settings from the notification shade took 1.5 seconds which is long if you are waiting for it and if ti shows you the home screen in between.

Now I pieced together some steps that help make this bearable:
* Turn off fast boot
* Disable ‘Window animation’ and ‘Transition Animation’
* Limit Background processing to max 2 processes

Voila, animated beauty is rather dispensable, when responsiveness is impeded. I’d rather work with my device day to day, then show it off to friends how cool it is.

March

29

by Kaj Kandler

Users of Plan-B-for-OpenOffice.org can enjoy faster page loads and more stability of the website.

I wanted to do improve performance and stability on http://plan-b-for-openoffice.org for a long time. But never seemed to be the moment or my projects stalled due to the underlying Apache Cocoon framework (Version 2.1) not being maintained anymore.

Several attempts to fix some of the excessive loading of dojo related java script files where doomed. I never got anywhere. When I heard that some good souls decided it is time to update the stable 2.1 branch of the cocoon framework, instead of chasing major re-architecting with maven/spring/hibernate w/o clear goals for improvement, I saw my chance coming.

And the team that put together the release cocoon-2.1.12 a few days ago, did a great job. I had usually struggled upgrading the framework underneath my application. In part I only do it so infrequently. Not so this time. The source actually built flawlessly, and the error messages guide my path to fix issue by issue.

Feel free to report any issues you discover as a comment below.

P.S.: We also had to change hosting companies recently. Our long time partner VPSFarm has closed its business. Now the site is hosted on a VPS fully backed by SSD drives.

March

01

by Kaj Kandler

The app is a great idea. Share with people you are about to meet your status in traffic, and that you are on time or late. Allowing the other party to make appropriate plans. You can use Twist to let your family know that you will arrive in a few minutes for dinner or you can let your buddies for the evening know you are already at location.

The basic functionality works alright. It sends e-mails or text messages to one or multiple parties. It starts the session, called a Twist) only once you appear to be moving.

However, the user experience needs polish everywhere.

The UI is unresponsive, it takes too long to load and to respond to any action. It is also cumbersome and not intuitive. case in point, I can’t figure out how to leave the app. I don’t see any quit button/menu item and the standard back button does not react on the main screen. It seems to wait for a GPS lock, which it will never get when I’m in a building.

Twists, the sessions that keep another party up to date, do not end on arrival. I’d expect them to end automatically and or to display a big “DONE” button. It takes three tabs (and the wait in between) to end a twist. Not funny.

Twist adds messages to the message screen about sending notifications. These messages stay forever in the notification screen, instead of self delete when one has arrived or ended the Twist.

The short cut feature (put a particular favorite Twist on the home screen) is of little help. It still requires to start the Twist (two taps) and loads slow.

Phone book search is sloooow and works marginally, when it should be fast and a good default hit.

On the other side, my counter parts find the number of messages the right amount and feel better informed.

February

07

by Kaj Kandler

Yesterday night I did attend a new Meetup group, “The Reverse Startup.org“, founded by Michael Bourque, of BostonPHP fame.

Michael wants to teach budding entrepreneurs and those with an entrepreneurial spirit to bootstrap their startup ideas by producing a perfect pitch first, a story backed by as good a mockup that one can produce and put it in front of the two audiences that matter. The pitch needs to be made to experts and investors, as well as to the potential buyers. If the pitch finds resonance there is motivation and help to build a prototype and to field test it with the audience that showed interest in the product/service.

Michael wants to build such pitches together in this Meetup group. He has >25 product/startup ideas and wants to use them as “material” to build pitches in an open group, so that everybody can learn in the process. I’m not quite sure what exactly Michael is expecting from the group members in terms of participation and commitment. I’d also like to know what he thinks will happen with the ideas that find some resonance?

I have to give credit to Michael Bourque and his main collaborators Lance Perry and Jonathan Baronville for pulling off an entertaining pitch for their idea in itself. They scripted a version of the TV show “Shark Tank” and called it “Spark Tank” to demonstrate the idea of pitches and presentations. Michael took a great risk to ask volunteers of the audience to play the roles of “Spark” investors.

I can emphasize with Michael for having lots of product/service ideas that seem great but it is not easy to find collaborators to realize. I like the idea of a focused process to develop the idea to a pitch that can be field tested with an audience and to find collaborators and investors. I look forward to Michael filling in the details of this new venture and how different folks play a role in it. I guess Michael does not know himself, the answers to many of the questions. But I give him credit for getting out there and trying to invent a new process to launch ideas into products and services.

If you live in the greater Boston area and have an entrepreneurial spark in you, you owe it to yourself to sign up and give it a try. Remember it is not about your idea, but about collaborating in a process how to turn ideas into startups. So bring your skills in product development, mockups, prototyping, marketing, etc. and join an exciting experiment in hands on learning! You have little to loose and all to win.

February

02

by Kaj Kandler

Alright, so I installed Twist on my HTC Sensation phone. Trying to set up my first twist, seemed more complicated than it need to be. When I tried to establish the party I wanted to notify, there was no search through my contacts. I found that odd, as it is one of the advertised features.

Well, it seemed to work anyway. I just had to enter the full phone number myself. Twist seems to send an initial SMS, when I start the twist and then get moving. The SMS contains the expected arrival time. It sends another SMS, when I arrive at my destination. In case I’m traveling slower than expected, because of traffic or a stop for gas, Twist sends an additional SMS with an updated arrival time. Neat, I wished, I could control a bit more how many SMS are sent and when.

Contacting support about the issue above, I was told “that is a known bug and will be resolved with today’s update.” Patiently waiting for the update to become available, I downloaded and installed. But my attempt to edit the existing twist in my favorites, did not do the trick. A couple of days later a second update did fix the issue and allows me to search my contacts. But it is rather slow.

January

17

by Kaj Kandler

I read today about an interesting service (in form of a phone app) called Twist that helps communicate to your friends, family or business partners, when you’ll arrive at a meeting/destination. It’s supposed to track your position on a map and update the expected arrival time.

As so often with Phone apps there is lots of marketing and little information of how it is supposed to work. it’s all exploring the abilities. I downloaded it and tried to understand it. After 15 min. here is my list of questions:
* How is it going to communicate with my other party? According to the support FAQ (one liners at best), the other party does not need the app, only an e-mail address or an SMS capable phone. Still how often does Twist update the other party?
* Does the app integrate with my contacts? According to the FAQ, yes! But when I create a Twist, then it can’t find my other party not by phone nor by name or e-mail address.
* How does it integrate with navigation? Does it integrate with Waze, my favorite navigation app. when I start a twist I’m shown a map, at it seems to integrate some directions too. But I don’t see any choice of navigation app. I have three different navigation apps on my phone and I don’t want to substitute my preferred app with the one the Twist does provide for me. And I don’t want to have to run both apps for battery drain reasons?

January

04

by Kaj Kandler

This confession on Google+ reminds me of my experience on Sept 11th 2001.

As my personal blog still struggles with the load caused by the not-expected #1 Hacker News promotion this morning, you might want to read on over at Gizmodo.

More then a decade ago I was huddled with my colleagues at work, around some computers to get the latest (shocking) news around highjacked airplanes flying into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. Besides the emotions I remember vividly, how the power houses of news, CNN.com, NY Times.com, Washington Post.com and Boston Globe.com were all unable to deliver their web pages before timeout. The solution was the Rhein-Zeitung a small town news-paper in Mainz, Germany.

How could this provincial news paper withstand the onslaught of requests, when the best financed news organizations of the world could not? The answer was mart performance degradation. Someone at the www.rhein-zeitung.de website had the smarts to switch off all non essential styling and deliver the raw text w/o images, masthead, or advertisement.

January

03

by Kaj Kandler

I run TracksApp on an older version of Ubuntu and upgrading from 2.1 to 2.1.1 failed at the bundle install step with:
Installing mysql (2.9.0) with native extensions
Gem::Installer::ExtensionBuildError: ERROR: Failed to build gem native extension.

/usr/bin/ruby1.8 extconf.rb
...
*** extconf.rb failed ***
Could not create Makefile due to some reason, probably lack of
necessary libraries and/or headers. Check the mkmf.log file for more
details. You may need configuration options.
...
Gem files will remain installed in /home/conficio/.bundler/tmp/2409/gems/mysql-2.9.0 for inspection.
Results logged to /home/conficio/.bundler/tmp/2409/gems/mysql-2.9.0/ext/mysql_api/gem_make.out
An error occurred while installing mysql (2.9.0), and Bundler cannot continue.
Make sure that `gem install mysql -v '2.9.0'` succeeds before bundling.

The cause is an added dependency on libmysqlclient-dev, which is easily solved by
$ sudo sudo apt-get install libmysqlclient-dev