Goodbye BitTorrent Sync. Hello Syncthing.

I first started using BitTorrent Sync back during its Alpha release in early 2013 as an alternative to Dropbox for syncing large quantities of files across my work computers. I needed an easy way to automatically transfer data from my collection computer to the lab server for storage and to my office computer for post-processing. While I have much more free storage than your average non-paying Dropbox user, I needed to regularly transfer tens of gigabytes of files without any need of uploading to the Internet/cloud. BitTorrent Sync seemed to fulfill that need almost perfectly and was vastly easier than constantly running rsync commands.

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Facebook Photo Compression

A couple weeks ago there was a Reddit post on /r/Android recommending Facebook users upload photos via the mobile website rather than the official Android Facebook app. The app reportedly compressed an original 8MP (4.5MB) photo to only 0.6MP (100kB) whereas the mobile website uploaded at 3MP (440kB). For a typical 4:3 ratio photograph, 0.6MP works out to neither dimension having more than 1000 pixels! Viewers on almost all current smartphones and tablets would be looking at an image smaller than their screen size. For a social network so heavily driven by photographs, you would think Facebook would do a better job maintaining some modicum of image quality. Most users probably have no idea their images are being so heavily degraded by uploading via the app. This blog examines the varying quality of Facebook image uploads in an attempt to identify the best option if you must upload to Facebook.

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SXSW 2015

Another year, another South By, another week of extensive walking and partaking in free parties and concerts. SXSW 2015 has truly turned Austin into a spring break for mid 20-year-olds. As usual, I always go in with zero expectations and just tried to have a good time.

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Hackintosh Benchmark 2.0

Since I am obsessed with quantifying things, I absolutely had to benchmark my new Hackintosh rig to see what my new purchases had afforded cost me. I ran a handful of different benchmarks under both OS X and Windows boots to see what the Intel Core i5-4690K, EVGA GeForce GTX 970 SC, and Samsung 850 Pro could do. So without further ado, here are the results of my benchmarks!

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Oscar Party 8.0

Another year, another Oscar Party. The eighth installment of Peter Voyvodic’s celebration of the nominees for Academy Award for Best Picture was just as crazy and just as much fun as ever. There’s something exhilarating about cramming 50+ people into a tiny studio apartment and preparing an 8-dish offering. The menu and dishes are pictured below.

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Hackintosh 2.0

It’s been roughly two years since I built my original Hackintosh desktop computer and I decided earlier this year that the time was ripe for an upgrade. After considerable waffling on the exact components to get, I finally settled on an relatively high-end build largely based on the December CustoMac Buyer’s Guide that reused a few components from my original Hackintosh (case, power supply, and memory).

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Google Scholar Visualization

One of the most common images I see during science presentations is the frequency of publications within a particular field over time. It’s a great way to show the growth of the field while attempting to validate the worthiness of the research that follows. As far as I can tell, most people manually assemble this data with sequential searches on Google Scholar or Web of Science. This seemed like a straightforward opportunity for automation, so I made a little website that does just that. It takes a Google Scholar search query and a range of years and plots the number of results over time.

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Full Page Background Image with CSS3

Several of the websites I’ve created use a background image as part of the design. It turns out that making the image stay centered, maintain the same aspect ratio, scale with the browser, and always fill the entire page is a difficult task. After several infuriating hours of trial and error, I finally figured out how to make all the above occur in a modern browser using only CSS3. Check out this JSFiddle for an example of it in action or read on for an explanation.

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Taylor Swifting

I had a really random idea the other day for a simple coding project using the LastFM API: When was the last time you listened to Taylor Swift? This is obviously an extremely important statistic to know for the Taylor Swift obsessed. I already made a tool to lookup the first time you listened to an artist using your LastFM profile, so this was a relatively straighforward adaptation. I also wanted to take this opportunity to leverage the power of jQuery to asynchronously load the information rather than simply waiting for a static page. Check out The Last Swifting here or continue reading for more information.

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Half a Year with Dash

I’ve been using Dash in my car for almost six months now to track my driving habits and monitor my car’s status. The app interfaces over Bluetooth with an OBD device to read engine codes and access metrics such as speed, fuel efficiency, and engine status. The app tracks every trip and assigns a “Driving Score” based on driving behavior to encourage “better” driving habits. Currently the only way to access the data is via an IFTTT channel that logs each trip to a line of a Google Spreadsheet. The developer is working on an API (aptly named Chassis) that will hopefully make access to the data even easier in the coming future. In the meantime, I just used the IFTTT spreadsheet output to assemble some stats and charts.

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