Scour Media Agent led to … wait for it

Anyone else remember music sharing circa 1998? I certainly do.

Right before Napster came out there was Scour Media Agent – It looked a bit like this:


It worked on Windows SMB because back then “Firewalls” were something only big businesses had and times were simple. Our office at the time had direct internet connections so every device had a directly addressable internet IP. Even NAT at the time was not fully baked.

Side note: Scour used to provide the IP of the machines you were downloading from so at least 50% of the time you could find an IP/dns in Scour, do a \\\c$ and see and usually edit the entire contents of some strangers PC. Boggles the mind in retrospect.

So who created Scour? Well, as part of a student team at UCLA the answer is Travis Kalanick aka Mr. Uber!

Parsing YouTube Durations in .NET

This took me longer than it should have to figure out.

First of all YouTube’s API is available via NuGet prerelease here: I tried just searching via the VS GUI but the “GData” ones are old and not supported anymore.

The documentation is decent but it took me a little while to wrap my head around how the queries work.

The length of the video. The tag value is an ISO 8601 duration in the format PT#M#S, in which the letters PT indicate that the value specifies a period of time, and the letters M and S refer to length in minutes and seconds, respectively. The # characters preceding the M and S letters are both integers that specify the number of minutes (or seconds) of the video. For example, a value of PT15M51S indicates that the video is 15 minutes and 51 seconds long.

If you try to do TimeSpan.Parse on that it doesn’t work. I to do XmlConvert.ToTimeSpan instead. Hattip to this Stack Overflow answer:


Achievement Unlocked – Watercooled.



For over a decade I’ve wanted to build a computer that featured water cooling. When I was first introduced to this technology it was considerably bleeding edge. You had to be mindful of leaks, tanks needed to be topped off, etc etc. Not so much anymore.

I went with the Corsair H60 (Amazon link) closed loop system for the CPU. It was actually cheaper than the last passive cooler I purchased.

It should be noted that case quality and value is at an all time high. I got a Corsair Carbide 200R (amz) for under $60 and it was a joy to work with.

Next up: overclock this thing and see what kind of results I get.


airport express does optical audio out (toslink)

Did you know that even “1st Generation” Airport Expresses can output TOSLINK digital audio via the same port as the analog jack? I didn’t either, but I’m glad I stumbled on that information.

Here’s my current setup: iPad in the kitchen -> Airplay -> Airport Express -> Mini-to-standard optical adapter -> Amazon basics fiber optic cable -> $20 optical to Coax SPDIF converter box -> ART D/IO DAC -> Preamp -> tube amp -> Yamaha SP-20 speakers

spotify ipad airport art dio



Cloud based firewall mgmt

dome9 interfaceOnce we started using CentOS for our Couchbase instances here at RecordSetter, I have been looking for a better system for managing the firewalls.

Rackspace, our cloud provider provides public NICs that are open to the Internet at large and obviously need to have a proper firewall. I managed to hack my way through iptables once, but my configuration got wiped by a “yum update” and I really didn’t want to go through that again.

Rackspace has this thing called the Cloud Tools Marketplace where services can register and integrate pretty easily. And that is where I found Dome9.

I found the service to be exactly what I hoped it would be. Installing the agent was extremely easy and was zero config from the console side. Using the web admin to write rules was super easy too. I would have probably preferred to write rules on a NIC by NIC basis, but their model right now is more about whitelisting IP addresses since that works better across a logical group of machines and I’m okay with that.




Windows 8 on big monitors – ModernMix

For those of us fortunate to have multiple and/or high PPI monitors, Windows 8’s tablet-focused UI design is, to put it mildly, not ideal.

I totally understand why Microsoft focused on creating a simple, focused experience for touch screens. If I were in charge, I would have made a similar decision. The new “Store” apps are generally a breath of fresh air. They install and uninstall incredibly quickly. Settings are usually synced across accounts, etc etc. You can tell it is early days, but more and more I look for and use the Store versions of apps that I’m used to on the classic desktop.

The problem here is that Store apps open full screen by default. You can set them to pin to the side and work on two Store apps at once, but this is only of limited value.

Anyway, the point of this post is that although I’ve heard MS is changing things up a little in the upcoming codename Blue release, there is a stop-gap option via Stardock called ModernMix for $4.99. The app lets you open Store apps in classic desktop windows.

My only complaint so far is the licensing built in, and I hope I’m wrong about this, is bound to cause problems at some point down the road.


Chapter VI: Vegas

Freemont East

Yes, it’s true. Emily, the kids and I are moving to Downtown Las Vegas. For those who haven’t been, Downtown is the “old” section of Vegas about a mile north of the strip.

I had never even been to Las Vegas until a few months ago and if you had asked me what the odds of me moving there were, I would have told you 0.0%. But here we are making final moving preparations.

See to get a glimpse of why we were so inspired to make this move happen. Vegas offers some very nice suburban housing that is a short drive, but we decided that we needed to be downtown. The plan is to make it a 100% walkable community and we have the same dream. You can take the New Yorker out of New York….

We’ll be making Las Vegas the HQ for RecordSetter and what better place to revive our live event series.

Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon

Not only am I excited to be coming in at the beginning of a massive urban/community development project, but I’m also looking forward to getting back to nature in ways that are very challenging to do from NYC.

The photo on the right is from Red Rock Canyon which is just minutes from downtown.

Believe it or not there is a ski area just 45 minutes from Vegas and big mountain skiing in Utah is within driving distance.


Urban Dad Bikes (NYC edition)

About a year ago now, I did a fair amount of research into bikes. In particular I wanted a bike that I could fit a rear child seat on and that would withstand all weather NYC commuting. Traditional hanging derailleurs are tried and true, but I really wanted an internal hub due to the durability. I also really wanted disc brakes for the same reason.

Here were the contenders: (solid choice, but no disc brakes) (They have this at Sid’s bikes in Chelsea) (not the Felt I have, but they stopped selling the model I use for some reason) (They have these at the bike store on 47th and 9th ave) (this one is at Toga bikes on 64th) (I liked this one a lot for the price, but the handle bars were too wide for me, the store said they could cut them down if I wanted)

1. A few of these bikes have bigger brothers that have upgraded components and upgraded prices.
2. I’m pretty sure these are all aluminum frames which is the happy medium between sturdy/heavy steel and lightweight/expensive carbon, but the forks vary from model to model. I have an aluminum fork and do sometimes wish I upgraded to a carbon fork because of the vibration through the handle bars.
3. Some of these come with the option for a belt drive instead of a chain. I really wanted to try this out because it helps lower the amount of maintenance required, but I couldn’t find one in my price range. I have to do regular chain maintenance on my bike now and it is a bit of a pain.
4. The two options for internal gear shifting setups are the Shimano Nexus (7 speed) vs the Alfine (8 speed). The Alfine costs more, but I’m not really sure what the benefits are other than a single extra gear.
5. Disc brakes come in cable or hydraulic models. The cables stretch out over time and need to be adjusted, the hydraulic ones avoid that problem.
6. If you get disc brakes, you need to be sure to buy the rack that will fit over them for the kid seat.
7. There is a topeak babyseat I and II and they are incompatible. The rack and the seat have to match.
8. The tire I upgraded to is called the “Marathon” made by Schwalbe
9. This lock seems to be the lock of choice these days:

My two favorite stores I visited and I went to nearly all of them in Manhattan were:

Hope that helps!


Living the Two Factor Life

One of the things I feel like I contribute to the world as a blogger is to test out tools and techniques that are still pretty new, but that I feel like everyone will be using in time. I suggest that two factor authentication is one of those things.

Quickly, the idea here is that in order to have a secure online life, there needs to be two separate keys: a thing you know – a password or passphrase, and a thing you have – a hardware token or, more recently, your phone.

I decided to go all in and turn on two-factor auth everywhere that offered it.

  • My bank and Paypal. These two send SMS messages to my phone with a code. Works pretty seamlessly except the other day I really needed access to Paypal and the message took over 30 minutes to arrive.
  • Gmail. I have a personal account and a business account. Jeff Atwood has instructions on how to set this up here: Google uses SMS codes for this too, but the catch is that it also means that every touch point to your account that doesn’t support two-factor directly needs to have a custom password generated via the pages. Once you wrap your head around the idea, it is pretty easy, but if you have multiple computers it will take a little while to get them all hooked up.
  • Lastpass. I’ve been a proponent of Lastpass for a long time and they even offer multiple methods of achieving two-factor auth. I opted for Google Authenticator which is an iphone app that spits out a 6 digit code every minute or so. This is similar to the RSA keys that you might have seen in the enterprise world. Of all the tools I use, I’ve found this to be the easiest to use.
  • Duo Security. I’m trying this out on my Windows laptop. It installs at a pretty low level and requires a code at login. They too offer multiple methods including a system that calls your phone and you have to hit #. I use the iphone app method called Duo Mobile. So far, this one has caused me the most headaches. My wife has an account on this same computer and she was unable to log in at all even with the app installed and configured. It also seems to require an internet connection, so in theory bypassing the check would just be as simple as flicking off the hardware wifi switch. But all that aside, this is the future and these guys seem like they are in the lead to make this happen. These troubles are just the price I pay for being an early adopter.

My advice would be to set up Lastpass (right now!), choose a good pass phrase and enable two factor auth using the Google Authenticator. Once you’ve done that you can change your passwords across the web using the Lastpass auto generator tool and that is going to get you 95% of the security anyone would need.


Setting expectations with design the bad way.

Wired has a nice article about Uber in this month’s issue and in it they mention GetAround which is a peer to peer car lending service. I’m looking to rent a car for the month of August and I thought to myself, “Hey, someone who goes on vacation for the month of August might leave their car behind and might want to rent it out” so I checkout the site.

I fire up the site and am greeted with a classic example of 2012 modern elegant web design. Every pixel is placed according to a designer’s eye and the whole thing exudes confidence in the product.

Which is bad.

Nowhere on the site does it say “this site is brand new and to be honest, we don’t really have a lot of cars available yet, but if you like this idea, join the site, give us feedback and be part of the community”. Which is what it should say.

Type in 10036 for New York, NY and you get zero cars. Okay, maybe Manhattan is too car hostile, let’s try a random town in New Jersey – the most densely populated state in the nation FWIW and you get zero cars. 

Crunchbase says Getaround raised $5.13M in seed funding and I understand they need to spend that money quickly if they are going to impress those investors and fend off competitors, but there is a fundamental disconnect at play here.

I’m not picking on these guys, I had the same reaction with Foodspotting.

I wanted to love Foodspotting and the design drew me in right away when they first launched. My last startup was focused on reviews and I am a little obsessed with the idea of doing per-dish reviews. The problem is that as soon as you set the expectation that the site is executed flawlessly and professionally, as soon as the user encounters a bug, something that hasn’t been thought through properly or just a lack of user traction there is a huge disconnect and I believe that is harmful to the site’s prospects.

It is easy to find counter examples. Take a look at Twitter in 2006:

source: How 20 popular websites looked when they launched

Imagine if Twitter launched instead with what they have now and featured language like “Twitter lends itself to cause and action. Every day, we are inspired by stories of people using Twitter to help make the world a better place in unexpected ways.” and you went on and it was just Ev and Biz talking about the weather in San Francisco.