BitTorrent Sync

June 18, 2014

I’ve been thinking more and more about ways to keep my data private. I’m not sitting here with a tin foil hat or anything but you know, if I can replace a piece of software that I use daily with something as good that is private I’ll certainly try it out.

One of the first services I looked to either replace or enhance was Dropbox/OneDrive. It’s not that I have anything against either of these services (they both work great and I have lots of storage 30GB and 50GB respectively) it’s just that I store my most personal shit on there. I won’t lie, there’s a little part of me that doesn’t like the fact that it’s just sitting in the cloud.

Enter BitTorrent Sync. It is, as they describe it: “Secure, unlimited file-syncing. No cloud required.” and here’s the thing, it works like a dandy. I installed BT Sync on my home server, laptop, iPhone and iPad and within a minute had access to all of my files. It works perfectly. You can select which folders you want to sync (handy for a few folders that are large and you don’t want on your phone) and the iOS version doesn’t actually download everything unless you tell it to. I like this because I can still browse my folders, see what’s there but save the space until I need the file.

All of this with no space limits (your hard drive is the limit) and it’s free.

It sounds pretty sweet right? What’s missing then? Well, I suppose the lack of a not being in the cloud is the biggest drawback. Funny, right? If I was on the road and don’t have my iPhone or computer with me I am SOL. Because of this, I don’t think calling BT Sync a replacement for Dropbox or OneDrive is very fair. It’s not really designed to replace one of these service but rather in my opinion, augment them. BT Sync is awesome for sharing large files, keeping unlimited backups (say the photos from your phone) or backing up your computer to a local server on your network. These are things I appreciate being able to do but don’t necessarily want to put in the cloud. Plus, there’s nothing stopping you from having a folder you have in Dropbox also synced with BT Sync.

It’s a niche for sure but I think found the missing gap between ‘not wanting to store everything online’ and yet still being able ‘to have replicas of my data’ for easy access and backup purposes.

SMS Verification

December 9, 2013

The latest trend of companies asking us to provide our cell phone numbers so they can use it for verification is a little unnerving. It’s probably more secure no doubt but we’re sure putting a lot of trust in these companies to not do anything but malicious with these numbers.

For the record I’ve used recent services from Microsoft, Apple and MailChimp that all want a mobile number for security verification. For clarity, I’m not just talking about “provide your number so we can contact you in the event of an issue” but rather “provide your number and we’ll send you a code in order to verify you“.

OS X Mavericks Finder

November 27, 2013

I accidentally triggered Finder tabs for the first time since installing Mavericks a month ago and gotta be honest, I’m pretty sure I’ll never use them. On paper, it’s easy to think tabs would be the best thing ever but in reality, I dunno… kind of more of a pain in the ass than anything. Multiple windows in Finder still make perfect sense to me.

Now, you want to know something I think Apple should actually fix, how about the fact that it’s 2013 and OS X is still incapable of handling network shares properly. WTF.

23snaps

October 3, 2013

23snaps

My wife and I have been using 23snaps for the last 2 months as a way to share pictures and videos with our family. It’s been a treat to use. If you have ever wanted a private way of sharing pictures and video of your kids, I’d strongly recommend you checking this out.

Shaw Internet

September 13, 2013

I just wanted to say thanks for the decent Internet experience I’ve been getting for (going on) 5 years now from Shaw.

I work at home on the internet every single day. I have done this since 2009. For every one of those days (~950 and counting) I have been using Shaw’s internet service. For 8+ hours every single day the internet is in under heavy use. During this time, I can’t actually say a single bad thing about the service I have received. It’s always been up and fast. Full disclosure, I can only remember a single time when my internet was down and that was way back in 2010 or 2011. That ain’t bad. In fact, I’d say it’s really good.

TV Binging

August 23, 2013

I was reading this article about Kevin Spacey, Netflix and binge viewing and I was just wondering what is actually considered “binge viewing”. I wonder because my wife and I have been slowly getting through Orange is the New Black at a pace of about 3 episodes a week. So all in, it will have taken us about a month. Is that binging?

What I’m truly wondering is how many people watch a lot less than Netflix would let us believe. They’re unlikely to ever publish that information but I’m just throwing it out there. We’re still watching the series in 1/3 the time it would take on network TV. So what would a big traditional network consider as binging?

I didn’t know Rick Rubin looked like that. In any case, I love these types of behind the scenes. Based on the few samples playing throughout the video, the album sounds great.

iOS Kid’s Corner

June 15, 2013

Back in January I gave Windows Phone a try. My experiment last around 60 days and was lots of fun. I still have an absolutely mammoth blog post in draft that hopefully one day I’ll find the time to edit.

Anyways, one of my favourite parts about Windows Phone is the Kid’s Corner. For those of you not aware of what this is, it’s a separate home screen you can get to that essentially locks out the rest of your phone. It’s a perfect place to chuck all those kid apps and then let your kid go wild. Wild without deleting a bunch of your apps, messing with settings and closing or deleting important emails.

Microsoft’s implementation isn’t perfect though. Ads within apps will open Internet Explorer, for example. It’s also possible to lock the screen and then if your kid is smart or lucky enough, can unlock the phone like normal. Point being that it’s still better than nothing.

As I watched my 2 year daughter grab the iPad this morning and delete a few apps, empty my dock and and close all of my Safari tabs, I couldn’t help but think iOS needs a feature like this bad. Any of you reading this with a young kid should agree. It’s actually amazing the havoc they can do in such a short period of time.

I’m not convinced we will ever see something like this but it sure would be nice.

Building a community as large and active as TMDb can be very hard sometimes. One of the things I find hardest to do is making sure I follow my own gut when it comes to prioritizing requests. Always saying yes is never the right answer and I tend to think that since I got this far, I must be doing something right. Right?

Since I get feature requests on a daily basis the biggest problem is that I am often in the middle of something, like a new feature, so these requests come in and bombard my attention, distracting me from my task at hand. Since I’m not the kind of project leader that just chucks ideas into a drawer that never gets looked at, I always take the time to have a conversation. I can understand why a lot of people don’t do this though, to them it’s just noise. Noise that is annoying.

In a larger organization, the distance between the support team, the planning team and the actual engineers is at least a few people deep. For a one man shop like TMDb, that distance is completely non-existent. Most engineers on a team like this have a ticket they’re working on and a deadline. That’s it. So how do I try to stay on top of it all?

I have found the best way to handle this is via 2 primary means of communication. First, I’m a huge believer in giving users a place to have a real discussion. Sorry, but this is not Twitter or Facebook. I actually have a real hard time trying to support users on Twitter. 140 characters is rarely enough to say anything meaningful. Forums are, in my opinion one of the best places for this type of discussion. I built my own solution for TMDb so it’s perfectly catered for our type of users and requests. Email is viable but since it’s not publicly viewable by other users, there can be a lot of repetition. Plus, people are pretty smart and I love it when 3rd (or 4th) parties come in and contribute to a conversation.

Once I agree that the request is valid, I head off to create a ticket. For this I use Lighthouse. Lighthouse is a nice a simple place where I can create tickets and keep my roadmap relatively planned. I only have 3 types of tickets. Features, bugs and chores. From here, I’m sure my process looks pretty similar to what you’re doing. It’s heads down, make something new!

Took me a few paragraphs to zero in on what I am trying to say. I guess what I am trying to encourage you to do if you have a project of your own, is to make sure to take the time and listen to your users even when it can be a distraction. This certainly doesn’t mean saying yes to everything and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time either. I spend about 45-60 minutes a day going through our forums, email and Twitter and people are ecstatic that I even reply to them! The internet has set this bar really low which is why it’s so easy to shine. I hope some of you will take more time and just be friendly and have a real conversation. There’s more to talking with users than just feature requests. Trust me, your project will thank you.

I quite dislike how the 3 options for dealing with an appointment invite in Calendar.app are “Accept”, “Maybe” and “Decline”. About 80% of the time I want to simply “Ignore” the invite since it has nothing to do with me and was simply a broadcast to the whole company.

Choosing “Decline” sounds like I am spitefully giving someone the finger (screw YOU and YOUR meeting!), while choosing “Maybe” still sounds like I have intentions to be there. Obviously choosing “Accept” is not my plan either.

Maybe this is a sign of people using the tool incorrectly (probably is) but still, these alerts don’t disappear unless I acknowledge them. I never know which to choose.