Archive for the 'Technology' Category

I Want Wifi
Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Where is my Wifi?

Where is the nice Wifi cafe I so desperately want near the Lorimer L stop?

Williamsburger HQ is near the Lorimer L, so it’d be ideal to spend time writing at a cafe rather than the not so inspirational home office. Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be a good option without hiking back towards the Bedford stop, and that’s no fun in the winter.

I would have sworn Gimme Coffee used to have Wifi, judging by the number of Macbooks that used to be open on all their tables, but the place is tiny and crowded, so it’s understandable why they would have dropped Wifi from their plate.

L Train Cafe on Union had Wifi under the previous few managements (it used to be Crest Cafe), but the guy behind the counter says “sorry, maybe next week”.

And going a little further from the Lorimer stop, you find Oslo Coffee on Roebling. They also don’t offer Wifi.

On the moderately good side, there is one cafe with Wifi sort of close to the second L stop. Roebling Tea Room offers free Wifi during the day, although they encourage you to pack it up as the dinner crowd starts to appear around 5. Bring a fully charged battery, too, as some friendly person taped over the electric outlets.

A ray of hope lies in Second Stop Cafe (on Lorimer & Ainslie). They haven’t opened yet, and there’s no Wifi sign anywhere, but one can dream. Hopefully they’ll set it up when they open in January ’09, and become the kind of place people can spend a little bit of unhurried time.

Are there other options in the neighborhood to sit with a coffee and type away on a laptop?

Etsy Shopping Spree
Monday, August 20th, 2007

Scarf For Two (The Black Apple)

After months of favorites-list marking and bemoaning the empty spaces on our white(ish) walls in our new(ish) high-ceilinged if not alll that large apartment, we spent most of this rainy Sunday shopping away on Etsy.

I’ve bought a few things there before, a print and some jewelry, but mostly I’ve just clicked around, saving copies of prints to put in my computer desktop background rotation, where they would lie in wait for the eventual day I’d give in and drop some money on the ones I really liked a lot. And putting painting after print after t-shirt into my favorites list (represented by a cute little heart).

Just in the interface, you can tell the people behind Etsy really care about getting their artists’ goods out to the public, including some very nice shopping features like interviews with artists, galleries (public lists by users), and the innovative if eventually unhelpful color-based shopping path. They have some performance issues at times (we seemed to have abnormally slow page load times around 6-7pm), but considering their relative newness as a tech company and image-content-heaviness, this isn’t all that shocking. If Etsy can figure out how to do Amazon-style recommendations with their content, they could have something truly amazing as opposed to just a great place to buy art.

After hours of deliberation (there’s a ton of stuff on Etsy!), we narrowed it down to a bunch of pieces that really struck us as befitting our styles. A not insignificant but fortunately also not ridiculous amount of money later, we walked off with (technically, sat around and waited for) a nice big pile of art to brighten up those sterile walls.

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Podcast Commute
Thursday, February 15th, 2007

When my walking-only commute began in London about a year ago, I rediscovered the joy of using my iPod. More specifically, I finally got on board with the podcast phenomenon. After a period of oversubscription to many podcasts, I’ve winnowed through the mess, and come up with the ones I’ve followed for a while and look forward to every week.

The Sound Of Young America

The first podcast I recommend to people if they ask, and often even if they don’t. Other people have told me this show is like NPR, but I’ve never been able to make it through more than a few minutes of anything on NPR without becoming bored to tears. Instead, TSOYA’s Jesse Thorn has the gravitas of an old-time radio interviewer, but the youthful energy of an idealistic recent college grad. Produced from his living room, this show has that honest indie feel while simultaneously maintaining highly professional quality. There’s a very good companion blog as well.

Never Not Funny

This is the most consistently funny podcast out there for my tastes. Never Not Funny is the first thing I listen to on Monday’s commute (new episodes come over the wire on Friday evening).

Air Out My Shorts

Sophomoric humor with a contagious manic drunken energy. The two hosts — “Preston Buttons & The Word Whore” — read listener-submitted short stories while progressively getting drunker and drunker. There have been some disappointingly frequent stumbles lately with scheduling, and the show suffers greatly when they’re not co-located and instead record over the phone (using skype, judging by the sound quality?). The “let’s call a friend” sketches are hit or miss, but I did find myself missing them when they stopped for a while.

AST Radio

The production quality and focus of this conversational podcast have skyrocketed since its stumbling debut a year or two back. AST Radio is the only source I’ve encountered where you get to delve deep into the motivations and opinions of a slew of (usually west coast) comedians. Unfortunately, new episodes are few and far between.

The Sound Of Young America: The College Years

With the format of a morning show (regardless of actual time of day of original broadcast), TSOYA: The College Years is an exceptionally entertaining broadcast done by intelligent college students. It’s intriguing to see the origins of the current incarnation, with sketches and banter which often entertain me more than the new episodes.

Jordan, Jesse, Go!

Pretty much the same as TSOYA: The College Years, although down to two hosts from the original trio, and recorded now instead of years ago. This also has comedy-celebrity guests like Judge John Hodgman.

PopSci Podcasts

Eight to nine minutes of Jonathan Coulton interviewing people involved with stories in Popular Science. A framing device claiming that he’s doing all the interviews in an empty office on the moon provides an excuse for the low quality of the audio (it’s recorded via Skype)

Escape Pod

When commutes and local travel cause me to burn through all of the new episodes of the above, it’s time to hit the well of Escape Pod, the best short-story podcast I’ve found. Focusing on science fiction short stories, this usually runs in the 20-30 minute range. They actually pay their authors as well, which is excellent.

Public Transportation Badge
Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

From comes this neat little toy for transit geeks like me to make a list of the public transportation systems they’ve ridden.

Make your own at

It’s low on features, in that there’s no concept of stored state, user accounts, or Google Map integration, but it’s a fun toy nonetheless. I’d love if it covered other rail options like MetroNorth and the Shinkansen, but without some sort of easily-managed public submission process (or even a Wiki-style public management process), it’d be nigh impossible for a site to accurately cover the world’s public transport options.

Friday, March 10th, 2006

TableFilter is a lightweight JavaScript enhancement to standard DHTML tables, allowing a filtered view of the data by column values. It has no external JavaScript dependencies, and a very quick, unobtrusive installation procedure.

When viewing large tables of data via a web interface, it’s often desirable to limit the visible rows to a single column’s value. This can be done very efficiently through backend coding, but can require knowledge of programming languages and more access to a server environment than many users have or want.

In the case where the data set is large enough to be unwieldy, but not so large or business-critical to need a multi-tiered system to manage this filtering, it may be good enough to just do all filtering on the client side.

I began writing this after using Stuart Langridge’s excellent sorttable in a number of quick & dirty admin tools. I wanted something that satisfied the principles of unobtrusive DHTML, and which allowed me to add functionality without much effort.

TableFilter is in its initial version, so if anyone finds any bugs, or has any suggestions, I’d love to hear about them.