Category Archives: Tech

Improving the VrtuCar reservation page

The VrtuCar reservation page sort of sucks. It works, but it’s ugly:
It’s also hard to use, as it:

mixes available cars with unavailable cars,
gives tables varying widths,
places the reservation buttons inconsistently.

My greasmonkey script makes the site look a little better:

If you’d like to improve the look of your VrtuCar reservation page, grab the script from the GitHub repo.

Flattr

The Web 2.0 dream is to be able to give something away while still making a living on it. That may work for Cory Doctorow, but for most of us, it’s untenable. The only mechanism I’ve seen for paying open source peeps for consumer-grade projects is donations. Paypal and Amazon both provide an ability to donate to a project, as does Pledgie, but I haven’t seen anything that makes donating easy.

Then I found Flattr. It allows donors to give micropayment-style donations to anyone with a web page (and a Flattr account). It makes life easier for donors because they choose how much they will give a month, and that amount is divided amongst their donees.

It isn’t perfect. The Flattr community is pretty sparse, and there’s no way to set a recurring Flattr, but they’re 90% of the way there. It’d be great if Canonical, vim, Parcellite, Google Chrome, kdenlive, and Guake accepted Flattrs.

If you’re looking for an invitation, hit me up with the contact form and I’ll hook you up.

Blogs are about conversation

It might seem obvious, but it’s worth saying: blogs are about communication. Communication isn’t the same thing as dissemination/syndication, as it implies that readers can participate in a post with critiques, questions, and additional information. Reader participation makes a blog more than simple announcements, it elevates a blog from a simple homepage1 to being a bazaar of ideas.

Participation can take many forms: comments being the most immediate (since the reader can easily browse them when reading the article); but automatic backlinking works too (see pingbacks). The irony is that adding that kind of a system to a blog makes it intrinsically more interesting, both to the reader and the writer.

Rant trigger: some guy presents an idea without any mechanism of receiving feedback. Honourable mention: dmo asks for tips on his blog, without providing a mechanism for readers to comment..

QuickTax(Web) isn’t worth your money

or the past few years I’ve been trying to use Intuit’s QuickTaxWeb to do my taxes. I say trying because it hasn’t worked for the last 2/3 years. In 2005, I noticed that they weren’t calculating tax properly on research grants that I’d been awarded. This year, their crappy web interface didn’t provide me with anywhere to enter my political contributions (thereby raising my income by about $200). Their help told me I could go back to the start of their wizardy interface and put myself into “advanced mode,” but 30 minutes of searching still hadn’t revealed that shortcut to me.

When I was using their help tool, the search stopped working due to server errors. (NullPointerExceptions – the Java equivalent of not doing a NULL check before dereferencing a pointer)

Foolishly, I decided to buy their desktop edition, on the assumption that a $19.99 desktop app would have the same functionality as a $19.99 web app. Nope – it doesn’t handle RRSPs, or other “advanced” tax issues, without using the “forms view” which is basically a glorified paper and pencil view.

Can anyone recommend a decent Canadian tax package?
6 comments Sunday, April 27, 2008

Paying to give stuff away

I really like the idea of a community WIFI project. The idea is pretty simple: people who already have internet connections set up WIFI hotspots and allow others to use their bandwidth for free (or a minor charge). I like this idea because I dislike my ISP, and I barely use my connection.

I wasn’t aware of a community WIFI project in Ottawa until yesterday, when CBC did a story on ogWifi. It’s a quasi-community group that is giving away free access to other people’s bandwidth. The only catch is that they are charging the hotspot owner $50/year. That’s on top of the $80 for the router.

C’mon ogWifi! I’m a private residence. I don’t want to pay to give away something I’m already paying for. If you want to charge for-profit agencies who stand to make money on their connections, fine. But I’m not a for-profit entity. By signing up with your service I would have to do a lot of work. And you want me to pay on top of that? Good luck.

On the other side of the coin, I just got my FON router. The thing is tiny (about the size of a pack of cards), and, most importantly, free. You hear that ogWifi? FREE!