My New RSS Diet: No News

Until last week, I had not touched an RSS reader. My Google Reader list had become completely unsustainable, I always seemed to have hundreds of unread items.

I’ve come to the realized that RSS is a crappy way to read news. I want my RSS reader to be a personalized daily magazine. Something I can pick up at the end of the day and browse through medium to long form articles of interest to me.

Last week I put myself on a new news-free RSS diet. I started a fresh list of RSS sources with one criteria, they need to post no more than 3 times per day or so. This rule excludes all traditional news sources, most “pro-bloggers” and link-bloggers, etc.

So far it’s been working out really well, I’ve got a manageable amount of content to digest every day and I’m finally able to keep up with web comics again, since they’re not being lost in a deluge of reposted stories.

As for real news, I keep up with that on Twitter and Reddit. Easy peasy livin’ greezy.

I still haven’t found a really great RSS reader though, but that’s another post.

Please don’t customize social media icons

When I put on my front-end developer hat, I’m often the last line of defence between the client and an unfortunate typo, bad idea or missed opportunity. I’m the last pair of eyes to examine a design before it hits the development environment. Designers probably hate me for it, but if I see a design choice that doesn’t make sense to me, I’ll mention it.

One of the most common design choice that irks me is customized social media icons. Web designers seem to have an inescapable need to redesign Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, whatever.app’s icons to match the overall look and feel of the site. One one hand, I can almost understand the appeal, these logos can stick out like a sore thumb. On the other hand, that’s the entire point!

Brands like Twitter and Facebook spend massive amounts of time and money tweaking their identity. They spend even more money marketing their brand, getting it in everybody’s face. Facebook’s white ‘F’, Twitter’s blue bird are immediately recognizable. In my humble opinion, if you actually want website’s visitor to notice and use those sharing features I’m supposed to implement, it’s probably a good idea to follow the social network’s brand guidelines. If you want people to share your content or follow the @account, it’s not a great idea to have the social media icons BLEND IN WITH THE REST OF THE SITE!

I’d love to do an A/B test to examine this theory.

Watching US Netflix in Canada, now easier than ever!

Update: I am sorry to report that Tunlr is no longer supporting Netflix. See their blog for more info. If you know of another FREE DNS service please leave a comment.

My friend Ron tipped me off to this free DNS service that allows you to watch Netflix (and other US geo-restricted content) outside of the USA! For free! (Did I mention that it’s free?)

These guys are calling themselves Tunlr.

I love these services. Unlike VPN services, with these DNS redirects your streams don’t get slowed down by being  proxied through a US server.

We set it up on our AppleTV and it works like a charm!

Here are the instructions for setting up ATV:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Open General
  3. Open Network
  4. Open Configure TCP/IP
  5. Select Manually (we assume you already have a fully functional network setup)
  6. Skip IP address by selecting Done (hit the left button on the remote and press OK)
  7. Skip Subnet Mask by selecting Done
  8. Skip Router Address by selecting Done
  9. Use 199.167.30.144 when asked for the DNS address and select Done
  10. Select Restart in the General menu

Instructions for other devices can be found on their site.

Edit: I should mention, that if you have a number of devices on your home network that you wish to use to access US services, you’re probably better off setting your router’s DNS to Tunlr.

Website Detective 102 or How To: Figure Out Who Made A Site

For one reason or another, it’s often interesting to find out who’s responsible for a website. For example, when I find sites a great website I like to dig around the designer’s portfolio and look at their other work for ideas and inspiration. Example 2, in pervious jobs I’ve had to track down content thieves. Maybe you’re part of a vigilante mob, and need to figure how where to send a bunch of pizza. Whatever.

Due to a whole slew of – perfectly legitimate reasons – it’s fairly uncommon for a website to post clearly identify the parties reasonable for design, development, hosting, support, etc. It can be a little difficult to figure out sometimes.

Typically when trying to figure out who made a website I take the following steps (in order):

  1. Google the domain name (in quotes). If the site is listed in the body of the portfolio, it’ll often show up in the first page of results. You could probably throw other keywords – like “portfolio” or “design” or something – into the search. I usually don’t bother.
  2. Take a look at the HTML, Javascript and CSS source. Sometimes the comments contain copyright notices, author names or other clues. companyname.js is always a good one.
  3. Do a whois lookup of the domain. Sometimes the designer will be listed as one of the contacts or the design company will actually run their own nameserver. But with domain privacy services this is becoming less fruitful.
  4. When that fails I load up robtex.com. Among a variety of other tools, the site has a utility (under the “shared” tab at the top) that lists domains sharing the same IP, sharing the same name server, sharing the same mail server. If you’re lucky, one of those domains will be designer.

Number 4 was my old pro-tip that made me feel smarter than everyone else online.

But…

Recently I’ve discovered Google Analytics ID databases.

A Google Analytics ID is the part of Google Analytics tracking code that identifies a website, it sits in the tracking javascript running on every website using Google Analytics. The look like “UA-#####-#”. Each site has a unique ID, except when you set up a website’s profile under a parent account, the first part of the ID is shared by all the child accounts. So, UA-12345-1 and UA-12345-2 are in the same account, probably controlled by the same person or company.

Evidently, there are a number of services that crawl the intertube recording which Google Analytics IDs are found on which sites. ReverseInternet.com seems to be a good one, but if that fails, you can always Google the ID (in quotes).

TL;DR: This is how I found out isitchristmas.com was run by @klondike, before he tweeted about it.

How To: Hack Into OS X Lion

Yesterday one of two things happened, either a) I completely an entirely forgot my OS X login password or b) OS X refused to accept my password. I have no way of knowing which was the case, but regardless, I was unable to access my computer.

I almost had a major meltdown, until Google informed me that OS X Lion is horribly insecure! Horribly, horribly insecure.

You can gain access to (almost) anyone’s Lion account in 3 simple steps.

  1. Restart the machine in recovery mode by holding down cmd+r on reboot.
  2. Open terminal in the utilities menu.
  3. Type `resetpassword`.
Voila.
Am I missing something? Is this not as bad as I think it is?