Natalia Dudnik’s Russian Olivier Salad

My lovely wife, showing off her cooking skills. This is a great recipe for a vegetarian version of the Olivier salad. Now, I know there aren’t a lot of vegetarian Russian’s (blasphemy!), but it is quite a tasty substitute. If you want to do the regular meat version, just substitute cubed, pre-cooked ham for the mushrooms. Easy as that!

Secrets of Google Email

OK, it’s actually kinda hard to find this on the internet, even though it was public knowledge a while back

Feature #1: Periods in Emails

You can create an email and if you send an email to, it goes to the same user.  Usernames ignore periods.  Similarly, you can add extra periods, for example will still go to that same user.

Also to prove this, try and create a new Google account , type 5 letters and a dot (e.g. “cra.da”) – and it will say ” Please use between 6 and 30 characters.”

Why This is Cool: Give it away Twice!

By being able to vary your email address “” vs “”, you can sign up for emails twice on bargain sites.

Feature #2: Plus in Emails

You can add a plus at the end of your email, for example “” can add additional info that will be ignored.  For example, you could send an email to “” and “+1234” will be dropped off and it will be sent to “”

Why This is Cool:  Sorting!

Because of this feature, you can create sorting rules so that “” goes to one folder and “” goes to another.

Gmail’s Advanced Searching

While Gmail’s basic search works well enough, there are really fun advanced options that can help you find exactly what you are looking for.

For example, entering has:attachment filename:pdf will show you a list of e-mails with pdf files attached or after: 12/06/2014 before: 14/06/2014 will offer up a list of messages from that specific time period.

You can view the major search operators over at the Gmail support site — it’s well worth memorizing a few.

Why it’s Cool: Seriously?

OK, if you can’t figure out why this one is cool, I can’t help you.

Sad That This is All I Have?

It’s all I need, but if you want to become a Gmail Ninja, feel free to go here.

Why I’ll never use crowdfunding again, and why I suggest you don’t either.

How it is portrayed

Crowd funding sites are these fun sites.  They show a possible future.  They show all of these possible products that you could use.  If you just give $20-50, you get to make sure that this product gets made and you get something in return, right?

The Fine Print – You aren’t an investor.  You are donating.
The biggest problem with this beautiful vision is that you are giving money to a company that gives you nothing in return. There are the perks, but I’ll get to that later, since there are issues with that too. So essentially, you are donating money to someone who, a lot of the time, doesn’t need the money or does, but you would never give them that money if you were to meet them in real life.

If you were to compare it to the stock market, where if I were to invest $200 in a single company, i own $200 worth of a company. If the company is valued highly, this is not a large percentage, but for this example, let’s say it is 0.005% of the total company. If the company grows in value, you still own that much of the company and it worth more. If it shrinks in value, you still own that much of the company and it is worth less. Either way, you always own that much of the company.

In crowd funding, however, you don’t own any percentage of the company. For example, if you were to invest in a movie company, for every movie that makes money, so do you! In crowd funding world, this happened as well, but you know who got the profits? The projects themselves.

Point in reference, was the Veronica Mars movie. This isn’t the only movie out there, it’s just a really good example. This was put together as an idea to make another movie where there was a solid fan base. Sure, they couldn’t get studio funding, but maybe they could have tried elsewhere.  But, in the end they wanted to test out this crowd funding phenom.  After raising nearly $6 million to make the movie, the movie was made and eventually came out and grossed about $2 million – the first weekend!  If you were a Hollywood producer of some other film where you had invested $6 million, you’d be pretty happy, because you are going to make your money back in a matter of weeks, and then the rest is profit.  For the producers of this film… the fans donated the money.  So it’s ALL profit.  Yes, the people who put this project together made $2 million in profit the first weekend.

As long as you know, in this case, that you just donated to rich people, then you understand. Continue reading

Want to use Spotify, but Apple trying to force you to use iTunes?

OK, it’s not a secret that I’m not the biggest fan of the iTunes program. A flat layout for my hundreds of Gigabytes of mp3s… seems like a poor layout. Plus, I spend more time listening to music at work than at home, where my music collection is. Fortunately, I have access to a bunch of music through Spotify, which has a pretty large collection to draw from. I’m not going to argue with folks about the upsides and downsides to Spotify. I do understand that plenty of musicians get screwed and plenty of musicians make a mint. I also understand that the one making most of the profit is Spotify. But, being a consumer of music (at this point in my life) more than a producer, I definitely enjoy the freedom of being able to explore new music without dropping huge amounts of cash, or like many of the less fortunate, downloading illegally. So, bitch all you want, this is what the people want, so we’ll all figure out how to make money off of it. Oh, and please support local talent as much as you can.

That being said, I did research to disable the opening of iTunes and found a wonderful little script created by Farhan Ahmad (aka “thebitguru”) which disabled it. Even though this was nice, I wasn’t quite satisfied. I wanted Spotify to come up when I hit “Play”, because when I hit “Play,” I probably want to listen to music. So, I forked his code and modified the python script to change the default program that is opened whenever you hit the “Play” button on your keyboard. It’s not too complicated, and truthfully, you can adjust it to open any other program you want. You would rather use VLC? Just edit the string in the python script (very little editing using the Applescript language) and off you go! So, if you want to change the default behavior of apple, go over and follow the instructions on my github project, or if you just want to disable it, go on over to Farhan’s github project

Painfully Obvious – Synchronizing Git and SVN

So I was put into a funny position where we need to mirror our code to a customer’s Subversion (SVN) repository recently. Basically this is a customer requirement. We have been working in Git forever though, and the paradigm shift to move back to Subversion is just not acceptable once you get used to Git or any of the other DVCS options. It’s literally painful. Unfortunately, some customers dictate the rules. So, we were trying to figure out how to mirror the code in the best possible way. Let me walk you through my day and thought process. Please note, the end solution was not one that was perfect. Actually, the perfect solution doesn’t really exist, but this is the best we could do and hopefully it saves folks some time.

The scenario

Most of our changes were being kept in Git, with an occasional push to Subversion. But when in Subversion, we may have some integration issues and have to push back a couple of changes. If we can keep the history synchronized, awesome. If not, the merges just need to be reasonably painless. Continue reading

My experience with Daily Deal sites – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

There are a couple notable comparisons of daily deal sites.  Most people have been using them for a while.  Many are shifting to a more “on-demand” type service.  These include finding deals near me right now with my phone.  But, since you are purchasing through these daily deal sites, you essentially have a middle man.  This middle man can make or break you.  Now that I’ve gotten to experience the dark side of them all, here’s my experience with them.

Groupon (The Good)

The original.  Based in Chicago, they started sending out daily email deals in select areas (Chicago, NYC, LA, etc) and have since expanded to everywhere in the US of A.  Some people are concerned with their business model and whether it can scale.  Of course, this argument seems to hold true for all of the clones as well.  Unfortunately, you have to put feet on the ground in each city.  Internet startups don’t like that.  Human capitol is much more expensive.  They like to increase profitability by the only cost associated with growth being adding more computers.  But, since I’m speaking as a customer and not as a internet startup guru, I could care less how the business model will scale.  Only how it affects me.

Groupon has been the pinnacle of light for customers.  I have experienced restaurants/stores closing (or restaurants/stores where they aren’t even sure if they have closed cause it’s still there, but nobody can get in).  They refund everyone immediately without anyone having to call them.  I experienced moving, where I hadn’t used a deal.  I called the restaurant to try and use it, and they were booked.  Guess what?  No questions asked.  They refunded it at my request.  I didn’t even have to call.  Just a quick issue put in on the website and money back in my account.  Amazing.

Some have said to avoid Groupon for your business.  This is good information to know, for sure.  However, I disagree with them.  There are definitely good ways to make money on Groupon, but some folks don’t understand the overwhelming crowds or the preparation required for staff.  You just have to be prepared before using them. Continue reading

Another Microsoft Product Bites the Dust – At Least for Me

To anyone who has received an obvious hacked account email from me, sorry.  I am finally moving to GMail.  The reason – a better 2 factor authentication.

Such a simple thing that they could have implemented and I would have been happy for them to index my data, purchasing habits, and connections all day long.  I had never moved over to GMail (though I had an account) because (a) I don’t want to give Google everything.  They have to work for it a bit, (b) I actually like the interface, especially when they moved to, and (c) they were the incumbent.  I had a hotmail account before hotmail was bought up by Microsoft and I didn’t mind it.

But now that I’ve been hacked twice in 2 months, I’ve learned my lesson.  After the first attack, I moved all of my contacts out of hotmail.  They used the contact list to email everyone.  I figured if I could just keep that separated, there would be less problems.  I use an Android phone at home anyways, so most of my contacts were in Google already anyways, so I just left it there and would reference it occasionally.  After the first attack, though, I changed the password to something that would never be hacked.  I use a password generator that creates extremely hard to remember and use passwords.  After I got hacked the second time, I checked how secure my password really was.  It was pretty solid.  The password, based on this webapp would take approximately a century for a standard computer to crack.  That seems reasonable, right?  Apparently it’s not enough.

Truthfully, if you were to throw Amazon EC2 instances at it, I could see it taking a matter of hours to crack it instead of days, but that’s a lot of money for my insignificant emails.  But after the second one, I noticed something interesting – they weren’t originating from my server.  Someone had hacked into Microsoft’s system – somewhere in the middle.  Looking at the IP addresses that were sent from previous emails and the IP addresses that was used sending the bad emails, it looks like there is a disconnect somewhere in the Microsoft network.

Now, I could totally be wrong and they could be doing something totally different.  But you know what?  My 16 character password was hard enough to remember. Microsoft has finally implemented 2 factor authentication, but is it too little, too late?  Also, you can’t control it very well yet in their system, so it looks like if you want to revoke privileges, it is for every device you have or none at all.  Seems like something they should work on.

I implemented it anyways, just so I could feel safe about forward along to my Gmail account.  It was mostly me, but at least partially you.  Well, Microsoft… so long, and thanks for all the fish.