Recommended Tech Podcasts

Microphone photo

Here’s what I’m currently listening to when I can. They’ve been piling up a little bit now that my commute is so short, but last week I had a round-trip drive from San Jose to Fresno so really got caught up :) See last year’s updates at
Best Technical Podcasts.

.NET Rocks! [rss]

Hosted by Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell, this is probably the podcast I’ve listened to the longest. As their site says, the shows “range from introductory information to hardcore geekiness.” In particular I really like their “geek out” episodes, most recently: Supersonic Aircraft Geek Out

Startups For the Rest of Us [rss]

Continues to be a favorite of mine with lots of discussion around bootstrapped startups, with updates from hosts Rob Walling and Mike Taber and occasional interviews.

Hanselminutes [rss]

Still one of my favorites. Scott is really a great interviewer and has a real variety of guests & topics. Recent interesting episode (with a sweet tag line): Failure – “What if you fake it and don’t make it?” with Kronda Adair

Giant Robots Smashing into other Giant Robots Podcast [rss]

Ben Orenstein and Chris Toomey talk about design, code and marketing decisions for a couple of thoughtbot SaaS products.

Bootstrapped Web [rss]

Brian Casel and Jordan Gal give weekly updates on their own “bootstrapped” web projects, with occasional guest interviews.

The Changelog [rss]

All open source, all the time. Recent (awesome!) episode: The Changelog #200: JavaScript and Robots with Raquel VĂ©lez (rockbot)

RunAs Radio [rss]

Hosted by Richard Campbell (also co-host .Net Rocks!), this podcast is more IT-focused rather than developer-focused. Recent interesting episode: The Infrastructure Release Pipeline with Steve Murawski and Michael Greene

Software Engineering Daily [rss]

I found this one when I heard that Tim Berglund would be talking about Cassandra and have stuck around for a nice variety of technical interviews.

Photo credit:
heil pr40 in studio ozdorp by Peet Sneekes (Flickr)

Tweetfave Growth Tops 240K Tweets

Ever since I launched Tweetfave in 2013, it’s been quietly working away and slowly growing. (For some more of the background, see Brief History of Tweetfave.)

An update on the numbers so far:

  • Over 200 users have tried the service, with over 100 still active
  • Over 240,000 favorite tweets have been marked and emailed

Here’s a growth chart which shows the tweet count growing at a steady rate ever since we went live. The rate of new users cooled off after that first year but is still growing by a few each month. The growth has basically been some word-of-mouth and people who stumble across it (I’m not doing anything active to reach out). I guess you could call it a “hockey stick” growth curve if you count those first 2 years with me as the only user :)

Graph showing total tweets growing to 240,000 and users to about 200
Tweetfave 5-Year Growth Chart

Twitter Favorites RSS Feeds

Twitter dropped RSS feeds in early 2013 (Mashable) and never had direct support for RSS feeds from favorites. I still use Twitter favorites as a bookmark or “read it later” service for myself and have been running the Tweetfave service for over 2 years now. Tying these ideas together, I’ve just rolled out Twitter favorites RSS feed support in Tweetfave.

How it Works

Tweetfave periodically scans your account (using the official API) and summarizes all favorited tweets in an email. Now the system will also update a feed which can be used with other systems that accept standard RSS feeds.

The RSS feed will be created with each tweet contained in an item element with the following fields set:

  • title – text version of the tweet
  • description – text version of the tweet, plus a link to the original tweet
  • content:encoded – HTML version of the tweet, plus a link to the original tweet
  • link – the first link mentioned in the tweet (see Notes below)
  • guid – same as link
  • pubDate – date/time of the original tweet

Here’s a screenshot of my favorites feed shown in Firefox:

Screenshot of favorites RSS feed in Firefox
Favorites Feed in Firefox

Setup Instructions

For existing Tweetfave users:

  1. Visit the Tweetfave login page
  2. Sign in to Twitter (if needed) and approve the Tweetfave App
  3. Copy the link for “Twitter favorites RSS feed”

For new Tweetfave users:

  1. Visit the Tweetfave login page
  2. Sign in to Twitter (if needed) and approve the Tweetfave App
  3. Enter your email and click Submit
  4. Mark a couple of tweets as favorite to get started
  5. Within a couple hours you should get your first email from Tweetfave
  6. Now return using the “existing users” steps above to grab your RSS feed link

What to Do

So what can be done now that you have an RSS feed of your Twitter favorites? I like to use IFTTT which is an awesome application for connecting different services together. (For a great overview, see their About IFTTT page).

I’ve set up my recipes where the source trigger is a new item in the RSS feed and the target is a service like Instapaper, Paper, or Evernote. You can configure the fields and formatting sent to various services, giving you lots of different options.

Screenshot of IFTTT example recipes
IFTTT Recipe Examples

Notes

Here are a few notes and caveats to keep in mind:

  • If you’re a new Tweetfave user, you need to favorite at least one tweet first, and wait for the first email before your feed link is created
  • Your RSS feed link is somewhat obfuscated so that people can’t guess it. It’s also only shown to you after login, so you can still keep your favorites stream private.
  • If a favorited tweet has multiple links, you will have multiple RSS items (because each one can only have one link). This seems like a good compromise even at the expense of some extra entries.
  • The time between favoriting a tweet and it appearing in your feed is not instant; Tweetfave currently scans everything at 2-hour intervals, then sends emails and updates the feeds.
  • If you disable your Tweetfave account, the RSS feed file will still be online but won’t be updated. If you’d like the file removed, just email me.

Feedback

I’d love to hear feedback from anyone trying this out, including any interesting use cases people come up with!

Nest for Sprinklers: OpenSprinkler

My friend Jeff Cable was one of the early adopters of the Nest thermostat. At the time we talked a lot about the obvious next step of supporting home sprinkler/irrigation controls. Especially here in California (where we are in a pretty serious drought), having better control over irrigation (not to mention the remote access) seems like the logical next step.

Rather than waiting around for Nest, I just bought and installed an OpenSprinkler. OpenSprinkler started out as a hobby kit for makers and they still sell it a variety of ways, from kits to completed units. The software is open source as well.

There is also the possibility that if OpenSprinkler can get certified by the EPA WaterSense program, that rebates from water agencies could be possible (similar to low-flow toilets, energy-saving water heaters, etc.). Getting certified is still on the to-do list according to this OpenSprinkler update from Feb 2015.

Hardware

Replacing my old Lawn Genie controller with the OpenSprinkler controller was really simple. All the cabling is compatible (assuming you have the standard 24 VAC controllers), so it’s just a matter of reconnecting everything to the OpenSprinkler. You’ll also need to connect to your home network with an Ethernet cable. (The OpenSprinkler itself does not have Wi-Fi.)

Here’s a comparison of the old Lawn Genie and the new OpenSprinkler:

Photo of Lawn Genie sprinkler controller
My original 20+ year old Lawn Genie controller
Photo of OpenSprinkler controller
My new OpenSprinkler installed

Software

The more interesting part is the software which is easy to set up from a web browser. You can give your zones nice names like “front lawn” or “back roses” so you don’t have to remember zone numbers. Programming the schedule is pretty straightforward as well. If you attach a rain sensor, the OpenSprinkler can also operate in a smart weather mode where it decreases the amount of watering based on local rain or weather forecasts from Weather Underground.

Once you have the software configured, I recommend downloading one of the OpenSprinkler mobile apps so you can control everything from around the house (via Wi-Fi). For me this was one of the best use cases: while I’m out adjusting sprinklers I can remotely turn each zone on or off. (I know, the exciting life of a homeowner!)

With all of the above you’ll have mobile access, but only on your home wireless network. You can also configure your home network to allow access externally from anywhere (depending on your comfort level for setting this up and exposing to the internet in general). Now you can have remote access just like you can for your Nest thermostat :)

Screenshot of OpenSprinkler mobile app
The mobile app interface, including local weather

Yahoo! Pipes Closing

Just A Pipe Dream

I was sad to see this week that Yahoo! Pipes will be closing soon. Pipes launched in early 2007, so it had a pretty good 8+ year run.

People created some pretty crazy mashups with Pipes. For me the simple ability to combine RSS feeds with some simple logic was very useful (for example: 2014 Tech Advent Calendars). I also recently created some Stack Overflow feed tools for work which will have to be recreated in Python or something similar.

The news was part of a broader product update from Yahoo: Q2 2015 Progress Report On Our Product Prioritization. Also included was the news that Yahoo! Maps will be closing down at the end of this month.

I worked at Yahoo for almost 7 years and the phrase “Product Prioritization” became kind of a good-news/bad-news thing towards the end. It always sounds good (it’s logical to focus resources on the most important products and sites), but if the closure affected the site that you work, that’s not as much fun. (In the end that was the final result for me and much of my team on the Yahoo Developer Network.)

Photo Credit: Just A Pipe Dream by Paul B (Flickr)