Big Floppy Donkey Disk

Friday, August 22, 2014

Khan Academy Visualisations Are Pretty Khool

Back in early 2011, when I first started full-time work as a developer, I was working at an investment bank. Funnily enough, I knew absolutely nothing about Finance at the time, having never been interested in business or commerce at school or, frankly, anywhere else. However, my manager suggested it'd be good to get up to speed with all the lingo and whatnot to "speak our clients' language". He gave me a 900 page tome called "Securities & Financial Instruments" that made about as much sense to me as the first time I tried to read Assembly code.

Then, I was fortunate enough to stumble across this video on TED about an education platform called Khan Academy and this quirky but engaging guy named Sal Khan. Not only did I learn about Finance from Sal's videos, I realised I actually liked it!

Fast forward three and a half years, I'm not working at the bank anymore but I love investing and I love tracking my finances; so much so I even developed a web app called Savvy for it. And Khan Academy has gone from being a hundred Youtube videos of Sal drawing on blackboards to a really impressive education platform covering everything from Prehistoric Art to Cryptography. I've learnt a ton, not only about Finance & Economics, but also about early 19th century history, WWI, probability & statistics, even some things about programming I didn't already know.

One of the really cool things they've implemented is the Computer Science platform, which allows anyone from beginner to expert programmer to create games, simulations and any other funky visual project they can think of. It was created by the jQuery man John Resig & his team, using his ProcessingJS library, and involves a really responsive online editing environment inspired by Bret Victor's talk on instant feedback & inventing on principle.

I managed to create this interactive visualisation of plasma fractals... although it's still a work in progress! I highly encourage you to check out John's blog post about the platform, or simply to get stuck in creating something cool.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hang With Me: An App Built With Meteor JS Framework

This is the first app that I built using the incredibly excellent Meteor Javascript framework.

Basically it is a browser-based, multiplayer version of Hang Man, where players race against one another to guess a randomly-generated word. You can play with friends, randoms or even solo.

I have it hosted on Meteor's own free hosting here.

You can fork it on Github here.

Or check out other cool projects written using Meteor at Made With Meteor.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Two Dropbox Accounts on One Computer

In a previous post, I showed how you can get two maxed-out Dropbox accounts for $5. As one of my readers pointed out though, this raises the question: how do I run them both on my machine at the same time?

Now that you have two Dropbox accounts, you might ask "Sure, but how do I use them both on the same machine??"

Read on to find out...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How To Paste Without Formatting, on OSX and Windows

One thing that used to really grind my gears was having to paste into Notepad or Text Wrangler every time I wanted to remove formatting from copied text. It's such a tedious and seemingly unnecessary process.

So... how do I avoid this now?

In Windows

There's a simple and excellent program that one of my work colleagues got me onto named PureText. 
  1. Download PureText.
  2. Set it to load on startup (or don't, this will simply save you the effort)
  3. Copy text as per usual with CTRL + C (or right click etc.)
  4. To paste without formatting you simply press Windows Key + V, instead of CTRL + V.

In Mac OS X

OS X has a built-in shortcut, albeit not that short: 

Command + Shift + Option + V

This performs a command called Paste and Match Style which doesn't so much remove formatting as matches the formatting of your destination. 

You can re-map this to a simpler shortcut following the instructions on this Lifehacker post. For your purposes you'll want to select All Applications in the shortcut menu, Menu Title = "Paste and Match Style" (no quotes) and choose whatever shortcut you want.

I hope that helps you save a few seconds, a few hundred times!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Recursively chmod only files or directories

Hi Floppers,

I wrote a little script a while back that allows you to recursively change permissions on a directory tree in unix, specifying permissions for either directories or files or both.

From the documentation:
# Takes a path to recurse through and options for specifying directory and/or 
# file permissions.
# Outputs a list of affected directories and files.
# If no options are specified, it recursively resets all directory and file
# permissions to the default for most OSs (dirs: 755, files: 644).

Check out from Gist and feel free to tinker, comment or just use as you wish.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Plasma Fractal Generator Using Meteor Javascript Framework

Hey Floppers,

A while back I created a couple of neat apps using the Meteor Javascript framework and I thought it might be nice to share them with you all.

The first is a plasma fractal generator... you know, that thing you did for a project at university and then never looked at again for the rest of your life?

Check it out:

If you haven't checked out, do so immediately! I suppose saying that it is a framework is a bit of an understatement; it is more of a platform consisting of a number of proven frameworks like node.js and handlebars.

There are a few totally awesome features on top of these though, such as live page updates when you edit source code, which is really nice for development, and latency compensation, which is great for online games. You can watch the screencast on their site for more details; it's pretty mind-blowing!

Even better news, they recently secured an $11.2 million development budget, so the developers can work on Meteor full-time. This means we're sure to see consistent, quality improvements on this burgeoning platform in the weeks and months to come.

Seriously, have a play around with it and if you make something cool post it on their Made With Meteor site (I got first post on their with my hangwithme app, no biggie, whatevs; I'll post that up soon too).

xoxo Gossip Girl

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Simple In-Site Search Using Google Chrome

Okay, I don't know about you, but as soon as I placed my grubby little mitts on that beautiful little thing called Google Chrome, there wasn't a ActiveX site or Firefox plug-in alive that would tempt me back to those other dinosaurs.

Now that I've pissed off any non-Chrome users around, I'll share with you a neat little tip I stumbled upon this morning by accident...

In the Chrome url/search bar, if you type in a popular website, then press Space, then enter a search term, it will perform an in-site search for you.

In fact, if you start typing the name of a popular website, then press Tab, it will complete the site AND allow you to perform an in-site search.

Detailed instructions below...