Build this: Visual TiVo for my computer

I spend hours everyday on my main desktop computer, and I come across bugs in my own code and others' code often. Today as I was trying to help a friend move a blog off, I swear I saw a status screen change an important value when an unrelated setting was changed. It was a showstopper bug but I could not reproduce it. I couldn't switch Firefox into offline mode to see it, since it already reloaded the page to show the new value on the status screen.

At that point I wished for something similar to Time Machine, but for not only what URLs I had previously loaded (already in browser history), but what the pages I'd viewed actually looked like. Even if I was crazy and the values didn't change, it would have been nice to look back and make sure some other action changed the setting. I realized it's not just websites that this might come handy for, but for any application running on my desktop.

So here is my idea: Build an app that takes a screenshot of my entire desktop every 5 seconds silently in the background. At any point I want to look back and figure out how I caused a bug in my application, I'd launch this automatic screenshotting background app and it would assemble a quicktime movie of every desktop screenshot taken in the last hour. That's exactly 720 total images, so playback at 24 frames per second would give you a 30 second movie of your last hour of using a computer in a tidy little movie.

As a programmer and designer myself, I know finding bugs is hard enough in my own stuff, but reproducing them for other programmers is much harder. Something like this kind of application could really come in handy — if you couldn't figure out how exactly to reproduce the bug, at least you'd have a nice little video of the bug in action to show a developer and visual proof of the results.

Greener airline loyalty plans

I just returned from NYC, where I spent the week enjoying a vibrant city and a couple days of the GEL conference. The conference was great, a ton of fun and great experience overall though I have to admit there wasn't a lot of stuff I could take away and use to build web projects even though I came away inspired. One of the many informative talks was given by Graham Hill of Treehugger and he talked about cutting carbon for Americans by making a few small changes. One of them was eating less meat ("weekday vegetarian") and the other was flying less often (non-stop, stay for at least a week, group trips into one).

I got to thinking about how seldom I fly these days, on the order of maybe 3-4 flights a year, where a few years ago I averaged about once a month or more. Ever since I cut back on flights, my award travel from various airline loyalty programs has basically dried up. Some stored miles have expired to zero, while the one airline I use most often seems to add miles so slowly that I'll be lucky to take one free trip after six years of saving miles up.

While listening to Graham Hill, I thought about all the ways that frequent flyer miles are the exact opposite of the advice he was giving. They encourage regular travel by plane. They encourage many short flights (Graham mentioned going non-stop over multi-stop since take-offs create the most pollution). They encourage long trips to rack up the miles. I understand why they do all these things — they want to fill seats and sell tickets, but eventually all this plane travel is going to bite us in the ass and the current CO2 levels just might be one result.

I'd love to see an airline (someone ballsy like Virgin or JetBlue) take the lead and reward travellers that stick with the same airline, but consciously reduce their short flights, reduce their total miles, and reduce their frequency. They wouldn't even need to offer free flights or upgrades for loyalty — maybe plant a tree in my honor every time I fly only 4 times or less a year.

It'd be nice to see something other than rewarding people for frequently using the one of the most polluted forms of travel.

Resubscribe to my RSS?

A bunch of readers have reported various bugs to me over the past couple months since I switched over to Typepad for this blog's host. I used to have numerous RSS feeds from various systems at a bunch of different URLs. Since I used to host the site myself, I could redirect them all to the newest actual feed. Once I moved, those old feeds died and a few people have asked me why I haven't made a post since last summer. A few have also reported weirdness with my baked-in delicious links. Something about them showing up as new items constantly even though they aren't new.

The new forever feed for this site should continue to be:

If you're having any troubles, try unsubscribing to my feed, then resubscribe using that URL. Hopefully that fixes things right up.