you sick liiitle monkeeeey!

May 11, 2010

Please pardon our appearance…

Filed under: Geekery & Esoterica — zi @ 8:58 am

The sidebar on my old theme broke down for some odd reason, so here’s an ugly default one in the meantime.

February 20, 2010

How to gate off a Facebook app from the general public

Filed under: Geekery & Esoterica — zi @ 11:42 pm

If you want to restrict a Facebook app to only certain people, you can do so with the “if-is-group-member” tag. Say you are developing an app for your company, Dunder Mifflin, and you only want employees of the company to be able to use it.

First, create a group page for your company. Make it invite only or require the approval of the admin. Then have all the employees join the group and approve them. Find the group’s ID. Look for the gid. It should be displayed in the URL, like so:!/group.php?gid=326245025742&ref=ts

So, the gid for my group is 326245025742. Put this in your app’s code:

<fb:if-is-group-member gid="326245025742">

[ content of you app here & corresponding logic ]

<fb:else>Sorry, you must be an employee of Dunder Mifflin!</fb:else>


January 14, 2010

some MTV stuff

Filed under: Artwork & Designs — zi @ 11:48 am

Here’s some stuff I did while freelancing at MTV. They’re all public sites, so I think it’s OK.

For TCA 2010 (Television Critics Association)

TCA 2010

TCA 2010

TCA (twice a year in Los Angeles, CA) is where the networks announce their new shows for the upcoming season.

A desktop and iPhone version were developed. I used the same code base, but 2 different stylesheets and some devious CSS manipulation to control the different versions. This is a huge advantage because I don’t have to maintain separate code. It’s just 1 set of PHP files for 2 versions of the site.

TCA 2009

TCA 2009

MTV Networks Careers site

MTV Careers

This was a Squarespace-hosted site. I had to write some Javascript and CSS hacks to get the design to look right in order to get around Squarespace’s limited CMS controls. You don’t have complete flexibility when using WYSYWYG tools.

8 Foundation (NPO)

Filed under: Artwork & Designs — zi @ 11:38 am

This is for 8 Foundation, a non-profit org headquartered in Switzerland. The art director wanted a sliding panel, a deadline countdown timer, a Paypal donation account, social networking share widgets, and a Wordpress blog. I did all the development and integration. Some nice DOM content replacement Javascript in here too.

8 Foundation

November 10, 2009

Tropicana Trop50 orange juice is awful

Filed under: Food and Cooking — zi @ 7:11 pm

Normally, I only buy Tropicana 100% juice (the carton with the photo of an orange with a straw sticking out of it), but when I saw this new “Trop50″ on sale for $2, I figured I’d give it a try. 50% less sugar and calories than regular orange juice sounded intriguing. And as usual, whenever I see a sale, I get too excited and forget to read the side panel.

Well, after having tried it, I can say it’s really bad. It’s thinner than normal juice and just doesn’t taste right. After reading the ingredients, I find out that the first ingredient is “filtered water.” Then orange juice, and PureVia, a sweetener made from stevia extracts. This product achieves its 50% reduction in sugar and calories by being diluted with water, then having a sweetener added to it. So, I was tricked by clever marketing again.

PureVia’s got a weird aftertaste that lingers for several minutes. It’s hard to describe, but to me, it’s got that bad aspartame quality. I’m never buying Trop50 again. It’s really awful tasting.

October 13, 2009

Hands-on review of WD TV Live media player (aka WDTV 2)

Filed under: Geekery & Esoterica — zi @ 1:03 pm

This morning, I finally got the chance to unbox and test out the newly-released WD TV Live. The WDTV boards have been abuzz with rumors of a mid-October launch since at least May. In light of all the anticipation from WD fans, it’s really puzzling how WD bungled this golden PR opportunity. Many current WD owners and home theater fans have been looking forward to the WDTV 2’s release for months. Amazon had the product listed for pre-order for a few days, then it mysteriously disappeared.

The WDTV Live quietly sneaked into Best Buy over the weekend. Tipped off by forum posts, I ordered mine online on Sunday and went to pick it up yesterday. Visually, the box is almost identical to the original WDTV. It’d be hard to distinguish at a glance if the 2 boxes were put next to each other on the shelf. Inside, the contents are almost exactly the same, only with the additional of component cables. The remote and everything else is the same.

The WDTV2 is not light years ahead of the WDTV 1. It doesn’t add a host of new features. The core features and sleek interface are mostly the same, but it does offer what the WDTV user community has been asking for for a long time. The two major shortcomings of the WDTV have been addressed here, namely lack of network connectivity and lack of DTS downmixing.

I’m happy to report that both features work wonderfully, making the WDTV2 something to be excited about for those of us wanting to build a simple and inexpensive home theater network. The WDTV2 comes with an Ethernet port for wired connections, but most of us wanted built-in wireless (another commonly-requested feature). I am also very happy to report (and surprised) that wireless connectivity works using a WiFi dongle! I had a wireless N key (AirLink USB) sitting around from when I tried to hack the WDTV into a wireless device (and failed). I plugged it right in to the WDTV2, changed the network setting and it saw my share right away (DLINK DNS-321).

I streamed a few MKVs off, each encoded with various audio codec, including AAC, AC3, and DTS. DTS downmixing works flawlessly. 1080p videos now play, which the WDTV couldn’t do. With wireless connectivity out of the box and DTS downmixing, the WDTV2 is now truly portable. You are now free to put it anywhere in the house that has a WiFi signal. This is a major plus for me. With the WDTV, I had to constantly copy files to an external HDD, some of which were 6+ GB and take 20-30 minutes. Now I can stream these movies off my NAS from the living room without any cords cluttering up the TV stand.

Video previews are a new feature. If you pause over a filename for a second or two, a preview will start playing in the right column. The other view options are list view and thumbnail view.

YouTube videos played perfectly, without any noticeable buffer time. I didn’t try Pandora or Live365, since I’m not interested in listening to radio through my TV. One thing I would like to see is something like a WDTV Live Channels guide which would be a list of video sites divided by category. This may possibly be added with a future firmware upgrade. Currently, you can only go to YouTube, but there is a wealth of other video streaming sites available that could be opened up to the WDTV2 user. This would add a lot of value to the device. RMVB playback would also make the WDTV2 extremely attractive to users who download a lot of content from China/Singapore/Malaysia, as a lot of the videos from this region are encoded as RMVB. Hopefully this is something WD can include with a firmware update.

Overall, I am extremely happy with this device. It retains all the features that made the WDTV such a success and builds on them, but offered at the same price as the WDTV when it first came out ($119.99 from Best Buy) . Kudos to WD for making the device support wireless third-party dongles instead of a proprietary WD one.

Questions and comments welcomed.

EDIT: My blog commenting is currently broken. If you want to contact me, it’s zombiedoctor at gmail.

May 4, 2009

Most deceptive movie names ever!

Filed under: Geekery & Esoterica — zi @ 1:19 am

I love documentaries and came across what I thought would be a documentary about sleep. It is NOT.

  1. The Science of Sleep is not a science show. It is about dreams though.
  2. The Secret Life of Bees is not about bees at all.
  3. Birds of America.. now that surely sounds like something with Marty Stouffer’s name all over it, or at least the Audubon Society, right? No.. it’s not.

Well.. that’s all I can think of for now…

What to do if your Pay-per-ride Metrocard expires and consolidating remaining balances

Filed under: Geekery & Esoterica — zi @ 12:56 am

1. On the back of every pay-per-ride Metrocard is an expiration date, so pay attention to when it expires. If you have an expired card that still has money on it, don’t fret. You can take it to a subway agent and have the balance transfered to a new card. This happened to a card I had in my pocket and forgotten about.

2. What to do if you have $0.05 or $0.10 left on your card? Don’t throw it away either, like a lot of people do. This is how the MTA gets free money from riders. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

You can do either of 2 things: merge several cards together, or keep filling the card with more money. If you’re paying by cash, you’ll have to refill it until the balance becomes a whole number of rides again. But if you’re paying by credit or debit card, you can add any arbitrary amount to the card, not just whole dollar increments. E.g., you can add $3.17 or $0.18… To merge the balance of 2 of more cards, just take them to a ticket agent and ask.

The Metrocard is a very wasteful design and I see them littered all over the place. People just use them and throw them away, often on the floor. There’s no incentive to refill, so it’s more garbage going into the landfill. I refill until the card becomes faded.

on the N train

April 28, 2009

D-Link DNS-323 downgraded to firmware 1.05

Filed under: Geekery & Esoterica — zi @ 3:33 am

Today I downgraded by NAS from 1.06 to 1.05. I got fed up with 1.06’s bugs and non-functionality. Problems included:

  1. total admin lockout after 15-20 mins with second hard drive installed (see post below). This only seems to happen if you have 2 drives. With one drive, I never encountered this issue.
  2. unresponsive BT web controls. Uploading new torrents to the NAS took over a minute, and clicking any nav item caused a “host disconnected” message, forcing me to re-login.
  3. sometimes files get stuck with 16k or less left and the only way to resolve this is to restart. Then the NAS re-checks all your torrents, which can be a very time-consuming process if you have a lot of big downloads started.

Downgrading fixed the first 2 above problems, but now my fan is always on. I am not sure if problem #3 happened in 1.05 or is new to 1.06.

Before updating the firmware, you may wish to remove your drives, or do a backup. I was nervous about this since the last time I installed a new drive, the NAS lied to me and said all my data on the existing drive would not be touched. It went ahead and formated both drives! Needless to say, this caused much unhappiness.

April 18, 2009

Botany gone wrong

Filed under: Geekery & Esoterica — zi @ 11:20 am

I’ve always had an interest in plants since I could remember. Maybe I owe it to my public school teachers. Every year in elementary school, we got seed catalogs in the spring. We ordered our seeds and a month later, they arrived. One year, we all planted them in cut-open milk cartons and placed our pots on the classroom window sill.

Well, anyway, fast forward 20 years or so and I’m in Japan. I saw a plant growing on the side of a house, along the road, with beautiful, round red and orange fruits resembling cherry tomatoes. They looked so tasty, so I took one and popped it in my mouth. I took a bite and instantly knew something was wrong. It was not sweet and juicy like I expected. I don’t remember what it tasted like, but I knew right away something was wrong. I spat it out immediately and spat a few more times for good measure. Good thing too, because today, I learned the name for them: Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum). They are a member of the nightshade family and poisonous!

We have some of these plants around the house. I had forgotten this incident until today. I’ve been learning about different edible weeds and have been sampling a few plants.

What is the point of this whole story? There’s none really… just be careful about what you put in your mouth. A lot of plants look similar, so watch out.

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