Best iPhone App

My vote for the best iPhone App so far is Flashlight, which costs $0.99. It’s not best for reasons of utility or value–there are said to be 4 or 5 other flashlight apps, at least one of them is free. It’s the best because it was probably ridiculously easy to code, and it was accepted by Apple for inclusion in the store, and the early adopters seem to be buying it.

For the uninitiated, a flashlight app puts up a blank white screen, and if you aim it around a dark room, your iPhone suffices as a really nice flashlight.

This app has a whopping 1 of 5 stars in the reviews section. There are 73 reviews thus far. Some choice quotes from the App Store reviews:

You could just take a picture of a sheet of looseleaf and bring it up in the dark for cheaper. That’s a pro tip.

0 MEGS!!!

A blank screen for $1?

You could open up Safari…and go to a blank web page and you got a free flashlight to use with less than 3 taps!

This app managed to crack the top 25 paid apps, so either 1. people need flashlights and found this one first or 2. longshot, but the app gamed its way onto the list (which would suck).

Sometimes though, you have to sit back and admire “Pet Rock” phenomena.

Posted in Tech | 3 Comments


I’ve got this trick to work out if something is ironic or not. I think I picked it up from a college professor. I recall it as thus:

Imagine that a driver dies in a car accident, and the driver’s seat has a seatbelt.

  • The person dying, despite the availability of a seatbelt which was not worn, is not irony.
  • The person dying, despite wearing the seatbelt, is not irony.
  • If the seatbelt turns out to be the cause of death, that’s irony.
Posted in Misc | 3 Comments

Amazing Firefox Search Engines Selection

A friend expressed his annoyance at not being able to search for YouTube videos in Firefox via the search box in the upper right. One can click “Manage Search Engines” at the bottom of the search box dropdown to add search engines that may be missing from the default list. To my friend’s chagrin, YouTube was not among them. I dug around a bit to try to help him.

I quickly found the Mycroft Project at Mozdev lists a bunch of custom search engines you can add to Firefox (including Firefox 3) to fill your needs, with one click.

I’m assuming people are hunting these down historically as they’re missing from the defaults. The latest Mycroft stats page from the end of March shows the popularity of Search Engine plugins as thus:

  • YouTube
  • isoHunt
  • The Pirate Bay
  • Mininova
  • IMDb
  • Google Images
  • Youtube + Google Video

Lo and behold, my friend’s need for YouTube search happens to match the top downloaded Search plugin. One click and he was happily searching YouTube from Firefox.

Didn’t find what you were looking for in the top 25? There’s a search interface to find a huge selection of search engine plugins.

It’s also interesting that those I listed conform to A9′s OpenSearch plugins specification, which is purported to work in both Firefox 2+ and Internet Explorer 7+ (going by the legend at the bottom of the stats page.)

If any particular plugin is missing from the search plugins dropdown in Firefox 3 and is a candidate for inclusion in the default, it’s probably at or near the top of the Mycroft downloads list.

Posted in Internet | 5 Comments

Google Street?

My header image shows a Google street sign. It’s real, but we don’t have a Google Street–it designates the driveway at Huff and Charleston as Google HQ to help people navigate, I suppose.

It’s not reflected in this StreetView image, but it’s roughly at the corner:

Update: Since I wrote this post, the lamppost has appeared, but without the signage. :)

View Larger Map

Posted in Google | 4 Comments Two Years In

Two years ago I threw a couple thousand dollars at as I thought the concept was cool. Over two months I loaned money to 16 different people. I didn’t have much of a strategy, but made micro-loans on gut-level intuition. After funding those loans, I felt like I was putting too much time into finding loans, and let the ones I funded ride without re-investing the proceeds.

Two years in, I have 75% of my money back, but half of my loans have defaulted or are in collections. :) I made a decent amount of interest before a few of these defaulted, as some had APRs of 25%. Judge me as lending at loan shark rates if you wish, but these people were doing things like getting out from under 100% APR “Payday Loans” schemes or trying to establish credit after an ex-spouse trashed their combined credit.

I estimate I’ll reach mid-2009 making about $100, which is better than losing money (which can still happen). But it has been a fun learning experience, and I’m just taking the proceeds out and not re-investing. It’s pretty risky, the lack of repayment makes me angry, and it takes too much time to do research.

I learned something interesting from one of the people at Prosper who I met along the way. Affinity credit cards, like a Stanford or Berkeley credit card (powered by Visa or Mastercard etc) tend to get paid promptly at a much higher percentage of people than a comparable “generic” card. The theory is that people feel like they’re disrespecting their alma mater when they miss a payment.

Posted in Internet | 1 Comment

Fixed WordPress Empty Feed Bug

For some reason, my Feedburner feed was empty as was the WordPress-generated one. I was bouncing back and forth between the two, looking for clues, and was thinking it was a chicken-and-egg problem. With the Feedburner plugin, it redirects some of your feed files to your ‘authoritative’ Feedburner URL. The one for my blog is I wasn’t sure where the problem was, but suspected it was the WordPress side, as wp-atom.php, wp-rss2.php etc. were all blank.

I found a solution searching for [wordpress feed empty], the result being Based on the info there, I added this code to wp-feed.php before do_feed();:


It’s a hack, but for now it works until the next update ;)

This bug tracking page was referenced in the aforementioned support topic, and the ‘milestone’ field says 2.5.2, so I expect that when I use the Subversion method for updating the blog, fixed versions will overwrite my hack.

It also appears that this happens on blogs like mine, where I publish at the root instead of in a /blog/ subdirectory.

Posted in Internet | 1 Comment