Just one geek's opinions and epiphanies

Movember meet OctoBeard!

For the uninitiated:

Movember (a portmanteau of the slang word "mo" for moustache and "November") is an annual, month-long event involving the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of prostate cancer and other male cancer initiatives.

Alright, they have a great cause, but let's be honest, mustaches are easy to grow. Anyone can do it. A real man grows a beard!
[caption id="attachment_872" align="alignright" width="333"]Jack Passion Jack Passion and his amazeballs beard![/caption] Today I am announcing the first ever OctoBeard! A month long tribute to beard growing starring my own famous beard! Ok, mine isn't famous, but it is going to be!

About two years ago I was gifted with the be

st book any man can own, Jack Passion's The Facial Hair Handbook. This book has changed my life. It

will change yours too! If you haven't already, and I can't imagine you haven't, purchase the book. It won't take long to read. Then grow a beard!Disclaimer: I am starting OctoBeard with a partial beard. Last night I trimmed my glorious rough beard into a nicely sculpted beard. Using my favorite beard trimmer it was cut down to a uniform length with my goatee and now all is one glorious length.

Men of this world, join me in support of beards everywhere! Grow a beard, prove you're a man!

Greenworks 20 Inch Reel Mower; how I spent the first 20 minutes of my evening

Let's play a little game of catch up for those just joining, or not in my little circle of people I actually talk to. I live in Daybreak, a great community in South Jordan, Utah. Daybreak is known for it's amazing master plan including a lake, parks and trails, and much more. It is also known locally for having notoriously small yards, if any at all. My house is the epitome of that, having a yard that is about 200sq.ft. total. I didn't want to waste a lot of time mowing grass each week, instead I wanted to get out and live it up on the lake, or poolside. Under 200 sq.ft. of grass is perfect.

I looked into having a lawn service, and they were just too expensive for such a small yard. Plan B was a mower. I didn't want to spend a lot of money on maintenance or gas and oil for a conventional mower, so I opted for a push (or reel) mower. A quick search on Amazon.com found a great deal on a Greenworks 20 inch Reel Mower. Snagged it up with Amazon Prime (so shipping was cheap).

It arrived yesterday, and I put it together today. Assembly probably took 20 minutes, simple assembling of the handle and then snapping it into place on the mower. The mower also comes with the grass catcher, so I had to put that on too, but it just hooks right on.

2 minutes later, my lawn was mowed (I am not kidding, less than 2 minutes to be honest). The reel mower was smooth, and whistled along as I went. It was amazing to think I was cutting grass for the first time in my 31 years without gas or oil in the mix. Me, nature, and the reel mower. It was blissful. When I was done I detached the catcher, and dumped the grass in my garbage can (I will probably get a compost turner soon).

Overall the Greenworks mower was perfect! I had a slight hiccup when the wheels jammed, still not sure why, but all seems to be ok now. With a 4 year warranty I am not really worried about the mower locking up just a little.

The only real complaint I have is that the grass catcher wasn't as effective as I would have liked, I bet it caught 50% of the grass I cut. Still it was a great experience and I would recommend the Greenworks 20" Reel Mower to anyone.

Proud Moment

I have achieved greatness:

In case you aren't getting it, I am "The most helpful critical review" for the book  Webbots, Spiders, and Screen Scrapers: A Guide to Developing Internet Agents with PHP/CURL.

A proud day indeed.

Book Review: Webbots, Spiders, and Screen Scrapers, 2nd Edition

Webbots, Spiders, and Screen Scraping

If you have been reading my reviews for any amount of time you know that I love tech books, and I usually give them pretty glowing reviews, especially No Starch books. They are informative, teach you things, make you think outside the box. I love No Starch books.

Alright, now that you know I love No Starch I am sad to report I have found the bad apple in the bunch. Webbots, Spiders, and Screen Scrapers. I didn't come to this point of view lightly, I really tried to find the good in this book, and there is some, however it is overshadowed by what I consider to be a pretty lame mistake on the authors part.

Webbots, Spiders, and Screen Scrapers is all about the what, how and why of webbots, spiders and screen scrapers. Basically a guide to why you need them, how to make them, and what they should be doing. It is a great reference as to what webbots are, and you can learn a thing or two while reading this book.

My gripe is pretty simple, and there is a work around for it, but here it is. The author, Michael Schrenk, didn't teach us all about writing webbots, spiders and screen scrapers. The book was meant to be an tool in teaching the PHP/cURL involved in writing these bots. Instead the author wrote a library of functions and tells you to include it, and then uses the book as an almost 400 page reference to his own library.

Sure you could open the library up and read though the code and get an idea of what is going on, but really that wasn't the point of the book. The point of the book was to show you how to use PHP and cURL to build your own bots, and spiders. What you get is a book that tells you how to build HIS bots and spiders. Furthermore the library comes with disclaimers about bugs in the code, instead of fixes to the code. So now you have a book that won't teach you to code PHP /cURL webbots, and it gives you code that may or may not work for what you are doing.

The silver lining in all of this is that the book did come with the library and if you are inclined to open it up and read through the code, then you can get a sense of what you really wanted to know in the first place. How to handle pages as files, how to parse for information, and how to store the information you pulled. I really would have liked the book to have been more about the building of the library than a reference to the library.

12 Web Apps in 12 Months

12 in '12

2012 is coming up quickly, and I am preparing for a busy year. One thing I think would be cool to accomplish is 12 web apps in 12 months. I am not thinking full amazing apps, but simple ( Proof of Concept (POC)) apps that can later be tuned into better and more complete apps. Here is a list of what I am thinking so far:

  • Ticket System
  • Invoice System
  • PingFM Replacement
  • Something with Twilio
  • Project Manager
  • Customer Relation Manager (CRM)
  • Linode Management Tools

That's only 7, so I need to work on some more app ideas, but as of this morning I am stuck, at least I have 7 months worth of POCs to build. I am sure in that time I will come up with 5 more.

Why only POCs

These apps are projected at the POC level only because I have a day job, a family I love and want to be with, and other responsibilities.  However, I think if I limit myself to POC level apps I can easily create 12 apps in 12 the months of 2012 and build a small portfolio of apps to work on in the coming years.

So Why Do It At All?

I strongly believe in learning through doing. I think that building things from scratch can give an appreciation for things that are already pre-built and can lend some insight into the way things are.

Extending the Challenge

Although I would be just as content to do this all alone, I think it would be cool to get a community together of people to push each other to 12 apps in 12 months, so here is the official start of the challenge. Get together your preliminary list of 12 apps to create in 2012. Don't worry about the details too much, and don't start on the actual apps until 2012! Leave me a comment with a link to your list of apps you want to create and I will create a page for all of the people participating.

Sidenote: If 167+ people sign up there would be over 2012 new apps in 2012... just saying.