• Favorite Reads of 2023

    In 2023 I focused a little less on books, allowing myself more time for podcasts, lectures, talks, etc. I read 33 books across a variety of genres.

  • Favorite Reads of 2022

    I took something meaningful from almost all of the 36 new books I read in 2022. For that, I am grateful.

  • Favorite Reads of 2021

    This year my reading skewed more towards non-fiction for whatever reason.

  • Favorite Reads of 2020

    In 2020 I read 36 books. I enjoyed most of them with a few standing out.

  • Favorite Reads of 2019

    In 2019 I read a lot of great books. I improved my understanding of business, management, technology, history, and myself. Below are my favorites.

  • Favorite Reads of 2018

    Below are my favorite reads from 2018. In 2018 my reading focused a lot on improving myself in order to make me a better husband, father, manager, and all-around person.

  • Favorite Reads of 2017

    Below are my favorite reads from 2017.

  • Favorite Reads of 2016

    Below are my favorite reads from 2016.

  • Favorite Reads of 2015

    Different books give me different things, so it’s hard to rank them. But here are a few books that stand out from this year’s reading list.

  • Favorite Reads of 2014


    With the winter break I was able to read quite a bit! The books were pleasurable though less brainy than previous months.

  • Announcing Swiftgive, free mobile fundraising and tipping

    I’m proud to present Swiftgive.com. Swiftgive provides free, mobile-friendly money transfer. By scanning a QR code you can easily give some money.

  • SXSW Interactive 2014 Review

    Toopher bought the devs SXSW Interactive badges this year, and we took advantage of the conference being so close. Overall, I’m glad I went. I’m grateful for a company that sponsors my conference-going–it was great to experience South By with my co-workers too. SXSW really is magical, and I’m glad to have it in my city.

  • Why Not Do it For All of Us?

    I created a repo in hopes of it becoming the most starred repo on GitHub. That’s a pretty audacious goal, I know. Bootstrap currently has over 64,000 stars, making it the most popular repository on GitHub.

  • Hugo Award Winners and Nominees - Fantasy

    I have been searching for good fantasy books and there’s no shortage of suggestions. One suggestion was to pick something from the Hugo Awards. The Hugo Awards recognize the best sci-fi and fantasy novels, which is a huge body of work. I was frustrated that I could not find a more granular categorization–where do you start with a list of 280+ critically acclaimed books? Knowing at least the genre would help a lot. Since I couldn’t find a categorized list of Hugo Award winners, so I decided to create it.

  • Favorite Reads of 2013

    I started tracking the books I read in early 2013; below is the ever-growing list.

  • Advice for a new manager

    Someone asked me for advice on becoming a manager. Caring enough to ask probably means the new manager will do well, but I offered some resources that might help too. Below is my reply.

  • Toopher Engineering Blog

    Can’t get enough of me? I’m writing posts on the Toopher Engineering Blog.

  • Brake lights exist--why not gas lights?

    Effective, safe driving is all about processing information and communicating with your driving peers. Brake lights let those behind you know that you’re slowing down–and they’re pretty good at that. Why don’t we have gas lights to know when people ahead of you are speeding up? For even more information, vehicles could indicate when neither the gas pedal or brake pedal is being pressed.

  • Be a Farmer, not a Firefighter

    Firefighters sprint from task to task with adrenaline pumping. They achieve great things in very little time. At the other end of the spectrum, farmers do a little bit each day. At the end of a season, the work has paid off and farmers have a load of crops; firefighters have a few glorious stories.

  • Chief Morale Officer in the trenches

    I previously blogged about the Chief Morale Officer (CMO) who would focus on employee happiness. This is important because happy employees produce more high quality work more quickly and they’ll work for you longer, which becomes a huge competitive advantage.

  • Analyzing recruiter emails

    I receive a fair amount of cold calls from recruiters. One night I responded to three emails and realized I could not distinguish between the three within seconds after reading them. Why not you ask? It’s not because I’m a weak reader or blew the people off, it’s because the emails are so generic!

  • Poem a Day

    Some creative types advocate a method to increase creativity by writing a poem a day forevermore. Here’s my effort to increase my creativity and avoid perfectionism.

  • Manage your online image with your own domain

    Is your facebook page your portal to the world? Don’t let it be. For pennies a day you can have your own domain and blog. Owning your own domain and sharing what you know is a low cost, high return idea. Stake your claim and buy some virtual space before it’s gone!

  • Spam comments are getting smarter

    Akismet does a good job of preventing most spam comments from showing up on my blog; however, a new style of comment is getting by the filter. Essentially, the comments will flatter the blog in a vague yet realistic manner. Below are some recent samples that I had to mark myself–they’re remarkably similar to some comments that I have not marked as spam.

    Hello there. Cool site!! Guy.. Stunning.. Terrific.. My goal is to bookmark your online site along with take the enters additionally…I am happy to find many useful information in this article within the post. I would like to show some gratitude to sharing…
    Hey there superb blog! Does running a blog such as this take a lot of work? I’ve absolutely no expertise in programming but I had been hoping to start my own blog in the near future. Anyhow, should you have any suggestions or tips for new blog owners please share. I understand this is off subject nevertheless I simply needed to ask. Thanks a lot!
    I just couldn’t depart your website prior to suggesting that I
  • Abstract for my PhD dissertation

    I completed my PhD in May 2011. My dissertation, Simplifying the Programming of Intelligent Environments, was basically about making home automation usable. Below is the abstract.

  • When to use the PhD suffix

    I struggle with when to include the PhD suffix. I try not to flaunt my degree, but I worked hard and want the PhD to be worth something–that means I can’t downplay it. Work is one place where degrees (might) matter. There are potential downsides to using the PhD at work though.

  • How's your rhythm?

    This weekend I wrote a simple webpage to measure the accuracy of my rhythm (the timing project on GitHub). Just load the page then start tapping any key(s) periodically; the page records and reports on the time between key-presses.

  • Thoughts on Learning Clojure

    In 2012 I discovered Rich Hickey and he blew my mind. I think Hickey is one of the most important computer scientists of our time–we will see this in the next five to years. See his amazing presentations and creations like Are We There Yet?, The Value of ValuesSimple Made Easy, Clojure, Datomic, and more. Fueled by several great videos, I started learning Clojure. Here are my notes from the experience.

  • Rewarding good behavior

    Rewarding good behavior is really hard! Hard, but worthwhile.

  • Media reviews from early 2010

    Yet another post that never got published…

  • Lord British Helped Legitimize Kickstarter

    I’ve heard a lot of cynical complaints that Kickstarter is being overrun by the big guys (as opposed to the little guys that “Kickstarter was supposed to help”). This is nonsense.

  • Exposing your life in a blog

    For years I maintained Internet anonymity. However, that ended whenever I decided to purchase sethholloway.com. The domain establishes the true Seth Holloway ;-) I get to do some web programming, store files, and provide a little information about myself at the same time.

  • Worldwide food crisis

    Food prices worldwide are rising. People are starving. People are protesting. With no end in sight, this issue seems incredibly important. A slew of journalists are discussing the complex issue involving food, fuel, natural disasters, politics, and more. Luckily, I have not been hit hard by rising food costs, but I know that others have been. A story on NPR  inspired my post.

  • The pursuit of perfection

    In grad school I met a lot of really impressive people, which forced to ponder the pursuit of perfection. This was particularly true after observing several interviews with faculty candidates. Based on its statue, UT attracts a ton of high-quality wannabe professors. Of the 600+ applicants for each tenure-track position, only the top three get an interview; these select few are the rock stars of their field. With resumes that put the average person to shame, these individuals are nearing perfection, at least by academic standards.

  • Supplements are unregulated and unproven

    Have you ever wondered how some people get so big? Rice flour!

  • Shipping isn't everything

    Stop bragging about how much you shipped!

  • Pleasing Customers - Do it!

    I’m not sure if it’s the economy or just bad luck, but my customer service experiences recently have been awful. Customer service reps have frustrated me and wasted my time without ever leaving me pleased. Based on my experiences I have extrapolated the modern customer service handbook:

  • Littermaid Plus + plastic bags = less work, less costs, less waste

    So, I wrote this almost four years ago and never got around to publishing it. Whoops! In the past four years, Austin passed a plastic bag ban, which reduced the feasibility of this idea, and we bought a Litter-Robot automated self-cleaning litter box, which we love. Without further ado, here’s my four-year-old idea for improving the Littermad Plus…

  • Hermit crab software

    I have spent incalculable amounts of time trying to set up software environments, and if you’ve done any programming, I’d guess that you have had similar experiences. As a way to save everyone time and frustration, I think we should push for hermit crab software–programming environments that carry their “home” around with them.

  • Earnings in the New World economy

    According to Frank Levy, the New World economy is not kind to anyone but the elite (economics start on page 4). This does not bode well for the future.

  • My Strengths

    The Clifton StrengthsFinder

  • Individuals create; committees critique

    “Individuals create; committees critique.” Years ago a mentor, Rick Scott, helped me get unstuck with these simple words. Rick solidified the lesson with a story: to create the Declaration of Independence, the Committee of Five had Thomas Jefferson write the first draft, which the group then edited and pushed through Congress. The founding fathers knew they would not make the necessary progress if they worked through every detail together.

  • Search has to solve versioning

    Search has been failing me frequently in the recent past, and the problem is only getting worse. Versions are everywhere and search is not keeping up. Here are a few examples:

  • RPG Character Builder Resume

    Over the years I have played with a few different resume styles. I had the LaTeX template, the timeline resume, the responsive resume (resize your browser or check it out on your phone), and the old school World of Warcraft character builder style resume. This post is meant to showcase the RPG character builder resume that I never publicized. Check it out:

  • Seth and Nick's Blog, 6blog

    My friend, Nick, and I started a blog to house our thoughts on technology. Seth and Nick’s blog said fast sounds kind of like six blog, thus 6blog.us. Check it out and let me know what you think!

  • Lisp and order of operations (PEMDAS)

    Somewhere around third grade I had the order of operations drilled into my head: parentheses, exponent, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction–abbreviated as PEMDAS and pronounced “pem doss.” PEMDAS allows you to succinctly communicate mathematical expressions.

  • Be a novice

    When I get good at something I tend to lose empathy for beginners. I’m not unique in that regard. Reflecting on negative experiences, it was often when a senior person made me feel dumb for being new. This happens at work, in life, even in school (how many college profs answer questions gracefully?).

  • TV should be more interactive

    TV is such a dinosaur! If I see something I want in a commercial, I have to use a second–maybe even third–device to find out more and buy it. Let’s say I see a movie trailer and I decide I want to see the movie; currently, the onus is on me to remember. Because we have poor memories, we are inundated with the same trailer as an artificial memory aid.

  • Right is the new uh

    I’ve been watching a lot of videos from conferences recently, and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend: speakers say “right” a lot. Like every sentence. The old stand-bys “like” and “uh” have been usurped by “right.” You’ve noticed this too, right? ;-)

  • Keeping up with Technology

    Keeping up with technology sometimes feels like a full-time job. Everyday there are new and interesting books, articles, projects, videos and more coming out! That’s on top of ton of history that is worth learning (and not repeating). And that just covers industry. Academia piles on even more to master.

  • Twiki Health Checker

    A few months ago I got tired of staring at pages of cruft while navigating the Twiki at work. My friend and peer, Otto, suggested that we try to filter those less-than-helpful posts. I couldn’t find any tools to help non-administrators, so I figured I’d need to write something myself. That night I wrote some JavaScript to quickly find posts in the Twiki WebIndex that were outdated or written by an unknown author. Once found, the entries are highlighted. The idea was that people would run the code against the Twiki, then delete the marked entries. After a couple code reviews (thanks Derek and Nick!), the script was packaged and put onto GitHub as the TwikiChecker a.k.a. Twiki Health Checker.

  • What's your average Likert scale response?

    Have you ever seen a question where you select an answer from a set list like Strongly disagree, Disagree, Neither agree nor disagree, Agree, and Strongly agree? that’s a Likert scale.

  • Summer of Learning and Teaching

    A grad school friend who I respect a lot once told me ‘If you’re good, it is your job to help others be good; if you’re not good, your job is to learn and get better.’ That stuck with me and shaped my worldview–I now expect that others feel the same.

  • Why are software tools so bad?

    I’ve been thinking about software development a lot recently, as I have for many years, and I keep wondering why our tools are so bad.

  • New Software Metrics

    I just completed the 2012 State of Clojure survey and it got me thinking about how to fairly judge languages like Clojure. We need new software metrics. Performance is easy to quantify: write a program, run it a lot, and measure the time it took. Do that across multiple languages, and you can find a winner (the one offering the most operations per time). For example, check Debian’s Language Shootout where Fortran and C rule. However, solely measuring performance misses a bigger (in my opinion) problem: development speed and ease-of-use. In my limited experience, Clojure is significantly shorter and easier to reason about that equivalent C projects. To be fair, it’s been a while since I wrote much in C, but Clojure has also been easier to understand and change than Java code. In addition, Clojure programs are (basically) concurrent out-of-the-box. I think concurrency is generally very difficult and error-prone; however, concurrency is increasingly necessary–making Clojure that much stronger. But none of that is captured in common metrics.

  • Online learning is taking off

    Education is changing–big time! I don’t think we’ll see many people leave or bypass universities for another 10 years, but we are getting back on track for the ‘Information Age’ (as social media and memes settle in to their new home).

  • Features I wish Netflix would add

    Preface: I like Netflix, and I’ve been happily using the service for years.

  • I don't want to install your app

    I am getting tired of sites pushing their iPhone app while I am browsing on my iPhone! I’m a minimalist, and I’d prefer to have a small subset of useful apps. Here’s a made up example that is very similar to what I’ve encountered multiple times recently: I’ll search for something simple like “native plants in central texas,” which will lead me to a site like Uncle Jim’s Country Nursery and Feed Store (just an example–this site did not exist at the time of writing); the page load is interrupted by a modal dialog asking me to install their iPhone app. No! I don’t want to install your app! I just want to see if this page has the information I’m seeking (often, it does not).

  • I want my old Google Reader back

    Google Plus has been out for a while now, and, after giving it a try, I feel it’s fair to say I preferred the Google Reader approach to social. Google Reader was central to my news consumption because I could keep track of hundreds of feeds and take advantage of social filtering (why subscribe to Lifehacker when a few people I follow share the stories I would have cared about?). In addition to excellent features as a news reader, I could kill endless amounts of time by commenting on others’ shared posts.

  • Two factor authentication made easy

    Passwords are simply not secure as evidenced by numerous password breaches and numerous hacks. Identity theft is increasingly common and increasingly harmful, so we need to evolve our security sooner rather than later. Multi factor authentication is a great way to improve security. In essence, we would augment our current password system with an additional factor (something the user possesses–like an RSA token or ATM card–or something unique to the user’s person–like a fingerprint or retina scan).

  • 10 ways of thinking

    There are 10 types of people in this world: those who understand binary and those who don’t. 10 in base 2 (binary) is 2 in base 10 (decimal–our standard number system) because 10 = 12^1 + 02^0 = 2, so the statement means there are 2 (base 10) types of people.

  • My experience with programming languages

    I was recently browsing a list of programming languages on Rosetta Code (there’s a larger list on Wikipedia) and realized I have played with a lot of languages over the years. I decided to make a list here:

  • Installing the Google Predictions API in R

    Note: This post got buried and I never posted it. I haven’t played with R in several months, so I’m not sure if this works anymore.

  • Observations from three months of vegetarianism

    Near the end of 2011 I decided to try a vegetarian diet for a few reasons, including the fact that I don’t really care for meat, red and processed meats may cause cancer, I generally wanted to eat healthier, and it’d be nice to lower my carbon footprint. Okay, technically it was not vegetarianism, rather my diet was pescatarianism, and more accurately, flexitarianism (I’ve been largely vegetarian, but chosen to eat meat a few times–mainly when I was really hungry).  After three months, here are some observations (in no particular order):

  • All Unicode characters printed to HTML via JavaScript

    Joel Spoelsky’s article on what developers should know motivated me to learn a bit about Unicode characters. To explore this awesome encoding I wrote a little JavaScript to print out all the Unicode characters. It is interesting to note where you have significant gaps of blank white blocks with black borders (this shows what character sets you lack–sorry, I have not noted which set is displayed in the page). Be patient: the page takes a few seconds to run.

  • Emails about link advertising

    In the past couple months I have received numerous emails to post a link on the site. I am confused by the emails and wonder if others have received similar inquiries. Based on the emails, it seems to be coming from a single person or company who will not reveal themselves–shady!

  • A note to spam bots

    I have received a ton of spam comments recently! These comments are almost always nonsense with a specific link. I can only think of two reasons for posting a spam link in a comment:

  • A brief JavaScript overview

    I presented a brief overview of JavaScript at work last week. In only 30 minutes I was not able to cover a lot, so I tried to hit the high points. While the presentation was meant to combine with my speech, others may find it useful too.

  • Dijkstra's View of Computer Science Education

    Edsger Dijkstra, one of the most influential figures in Computer Science and the most famous Computer Scientist to never own a computer, had very strong opinions on Computer Science education. He expressed his feelings in an essay titled “The Cruelty of Really Teaching Computer Science.” You can read Dijkstra’s original, hand-written note as PDF, or the transcription, or the Wikipedia page. The piece was also covered on Slashdot with lots of nice comments. Here’s an excerpt:

    Needless to say, this vision of what computing science is about is not universally applauded. On the contrary, it has met widespread --and sometimes even violent-- opposition from all sorts of directions. I mention as examples
  • JavaScript funkiness

    JavaScript is an awesome language! It is multi-paradigm and absolutely ubiquitous (available on almost every computer through the browser). As I explore JavaScript further, I find more and more oddities. While I’m thinking about it, I thought I’d write a few out. These gems are a combination of my experience and threads on StackOverflow.

  • Tell people how--not just what--to do

    Yesterday I sat through a meeting that had a lot of advice like, “learn about X” and “enjoy everyday!” These soundbites sound nice, but they’re not particularly helpful. One of my favorite examples is someone saying, “don’t be dumb!” If I am acting dumb, I may not know how to act smart! Telling a homeless person to “get a job, Al” won’t help if Al doesn’t know how to get a job in the first place.

  • Sustainable development: work no more than the hours you slept

    I’ve been mulling over an idea for sustainable development; it’s a simple idea that would help prevent burnout caused by working long hours several days in a row. The idea: work no more than the hours you slept the previous night. For example, if you slept 4 hours, only work 4 hours the next day. If you’ve worked with someone who is tired, you know how detrimental they can be to quality.

  • "What do you read?" An interview question I liked

    Last year I interviewed several places and saw several different styles.

  • A RESTful smart home

    (I found this in my drafts and thought, “have I really not posted about my PhD research before?” Well, here it is now. Feel free to ask if something is unclear.)

  • A few Java tricks to myself


  • Choosing the right library for your Java project

    Software libraries can tremendously help software development. At best, the libraries are well tested pieces of functionality that integrate easily into your project and prevent you from re-inventing the wheel. On the negative side, third-party libraries could add to your costs or prevent your company from being sold, they could be confusing and poorly documented, or they could work unexpectedly. I’ve used a number of libraries in the past (Ruby and Ruby on Rails push libraries heavily; in Java I like jsoup and log4j), but I was curious how pros chose so I asked around and searched a bit.

  • What I'd do if I managed Angry Birds

    Angry Birds is a great game, and it is hugely popular. I would venture to say it is a platform (and I don’t toss that term around lightly now that every startup is a “viral platform” :)). Platform elevates the status and allows–even forces–Rovio to change the way they approach Angry Birds. Here are a few things I’d look to do if I managed Angry Birds.

  • A few programming notes to myself

    In JavaScript, if on a non-boolean input will check existence. In Ruby, the same test will also check for existence with “” considered true; you receive a warning (warning: string literal in condition). Python performs like JavaScript. In Java, you receive a type error (Type mismatch: cannot convert from String to boolean). I show the output from JavaScript console, irb, python, and Java.

  • Numbers for Computer Scientists in various units

    These are the so-called Jeff Dean numbers that computer scientists should understand when tuning for performance (for example, you can see that pulling data from the L1 cache is much faster than retrieving it over the Internet). The nanosecond conversion slows me down, so here’s a chart in the spirit of “don’t make me think”

    L1 cache reference
              0.5 ns | 0.0005 us  | 0.0000005 ms | 0.0000000005 s
    Branch mispredict
                5 ns | 0.005 us   | 0.000005 ms  | 0.000000005 s
    L2 cache reference
                7 ns | 0.007 us   | 0.000007 ms  | 0.000000007 s
    Mutex lock/unlock
               25 ns | 0.025 us   | 0.000025 ms  | 0.000000025 s
    Main memory reference
              100 ns | 0.1 us     | 0.0001 ms    | 0.0000001 s
    Compress 1K bytes with Zippy
            3,000 ns | 3 us       | 0.003 ms     | 0.000003 s
    Send 2K bytes over 1 Gbps network
           20,000 ns | 30 us      | 0.03 ms      | 0.00003 s
    Read 1 MB sequentially from memory
          250,000 ns | 250 us     | 0.25 ms      | 0.00025 s
    Round trip within same datacenter
          500,000 ns | 500 us     | 0.5 ms       | 0.0005 s
    Disk seek
       10,000,000 ns | 10,000 us  | 10 ms        | 0.01 s
    Read 1 MB sequentially from disk
       20,000,000 ns | 20,000 us  | 20 ms        | 0.02 s
    Send packet CA->Netherlands->CA
      150,000,000 ns | 150,000 us | 150ms        | 0.15 s

    If the above table formatting does not work for you, maybe you’ll prefer this one:

    ACTION                                 ns   |   us    |   ms
    L1 cache reference                      0.5 |  0.0005 | 0.0000005
    Branch mispredict                         5 |   0.005 | 0.000005
    L2 cache reference                        7 |   0.007 | 0.000007
    Mutex lock/unlock                        25 |   0.025 | 0.000025
    Main memory reference                   100 |     0.1 | 0.0001
    Compress 1K bytes with Zippy          3,000 |       3 | 0.003
    Send 2K bytes over 1Gbps             20,000 |      30 | 0.03
    Read 1MB  from memory               250,000 |     250 | 0.25
    Roundtrip within same datacenter    500,000 |     500 | 0.5
    Disk seek                        10,000,000 |  10,000 | 10
    Read 1MB sequentially from disk  20,000,000 |  20,000 | 20
    Send packet CA->NL->CA          150,000,000 | 150,000 | 150
  • Gmail extensions

    A friend of mine mentioned that he didn’t like Gmail’s built-in tasks, which prompted me to share a couple Chrome extensions (they exist for Firefox too) that I have come to enjoy. Here they

  • Rhyme your way to better programs: cache, hash, and thrash

    There are myriad ways to optimize a program, but you can go a long way with three rhyming concepts:

  • Summer 2011 Resume Updates

    I received a lot of great feedback after putting my resume online and asking for help. Thanks for the help everyone! As Kevin Kelly might say, “the universe is conspiring to help us.” Below I outline what I did and why.

  • Summer 2011 Resume

    After a fantastic summer I’m starting the job hunt, excited for the stability, sociability, and focus. I’d like to stay in Austin and do something cool with software; if you know of any exciting opportunities, please let me know.

  • Advertising on LinkedIn (Sucks)

    As part of creating a business page for Oilfield Intelligence (a niche review site for oil and gas services and equipment), LinkedIn kindly provided $50 worth of credit for their ads. That was enough to entice me, so I set up the ads. Four pages: create your ads, choose your target audience, select pay for impressions or clicks, and input payment information.

  • CMO Initiatives

    A few days ago I wrote about the Chief Morale Officer, an important role that I think more companies should fill. The previous post is a bit high level, so I thought I’d be more concrete and enumerate a few ideas on how to improve morale.

  • Reflective glass: a way to keep cars cool... and more

    I have several ideas of how we could improve cars and driving; I imagine the subject is pretty common because we’re surrounded by and rely so heavily on vehicles. I previously talked about improving cars usability by allowing users to configure their displays and controls. With the recent heat wave I can’t help but think of ways to help keep cars cool. A lot of us use car shades to block a bit of the sun, but we could do better in terms of efficiency and ease-of-use. The idea I keep coming to: cars could automatically black-out the glass when the car is off. (The technology exists and is called smart glass.)

  • My summer reading list

    I’ve had a fantastic summer! I read a ton and learned a lot (I also implemented/coded/experimented a lot because I have to apply what I read in order to retain it). Here’s a list of what I remember:

  • Food trucks are restaurant's version of a lean startup

    Austin is boomtown for food trucks. They’re everywhere! For example, the trailer-food park on South 1st (http://www.yelp.com/biz/south-austin-trailer-park-and-eatery-austin). There are too many great food trucks around town to name, but a couple of my favorites are Sushi-A-Go-Go and Gourdough’s.

  • CMO - Chief Morale Officer

    Companies should create a Chief Morale Officer (CMO) whose sole job is to improve the situation for the company’s employees. I believe that morale is equally important as other C-level positions (accounting/finance, strategy/vision, or technology) so it should be treated with similar respect.

  • Learning HTML/CSS (web design)

    Note: I started writing this post and it got long, really fast. I’m going to publish what I have and worry about tuning it up later…

  • Oilfield Intelligence launches to help the industry find oil and gas service

    After hundreds of hours of development, I’m ready to share more of my entrepreneurial efforts.

  • Share from Google Reader to Google+

    I love Google Reader! I love the format for finding, reading, and sharing news. I also enjoy Google+, but I find that I’d like to discuss Google Reader items more on Google+. Until now, I could not find a way to do so. Frustrated, I decided I’d either find a way or write the extension myself. David Vielmetter has one solution, and you could probably grab the RSS feed of your shared items then push it to Google+, but that would be a series of hacks. I’m currently testing the RSS Share for Google Plus™ and Google Reader™ extension for Chrome, and I think it will do the trick.

  • Where is the line between Twitter, Facebook, Google+, GitHub, ... ?

    Humans have an innate need to communicate. We want to connect and bond and form tribes where we are comfortable. Today, there are more tools than ever to codify the ties that bind and services to let you connect with people you’ve never met. Yet these services pile on features and gain users without truly defining how they should be used.

  • Twitter bots

    I recently increased my activity on Twitter (meaning I started following a lot of people). After my flurry of activity I noticed something strange: for roughly every 10 people I followed, I had about 1 person follow me. Notice I did not say “follow me back.” In my case, these were some kind of bots that randomly follow people. I checked and they did not have people in common so it’s not like they just follow everyone that Guy Kawasaki follows, but there’s a definite spike in following based on twitter activity.

  • Best way to determine a statistical model?

    I’m looking for the best way to determine a statistical model. I have a lot of data that comprises some (not all) variables and the associated outputs. Now, I would like to solve for the weights for the variables.

  • Some fun stuff I've done recently

    Since graduating I’ve had an awesome time building things. I have learned a ton, and I’m excited to continue learning! You can find a sample of my recent work at PairSTREAM. Note: These are mostly proofs of concept or app in indefinite beta. The site highlights a number of apps:

  • User scripts in Chrome

    Back in the day I used Greasemonkey and Stylish for Firefox–even contributing something to userscripts.org (a huge repository of GreaseMonkey and Stylish scripts). Chrome is currently my browser of choice, and I thought of how nice it would be to tweak sites using a little homegrown JavaScript. Turns out, Chrome has Greasemonkey’s user script capability built-in.

  • We need an integrated front-back web programming language

    Modern web programming requires a lot of knowledge–too much, I’d say. To write a complete web application you need to work with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, a programming language (PHP, Python, Ruby, Java, etc), and a database. Even if you’re a head-down back-end programmer, you should know about the structure and style of the front-end; as a front-end designer, you would do well to understand the framework and database.

  • Highlighting the current page link in a navigation bar template

    I have not seen anything about how to properly highlight what page you’re currently on when using a templated navigation bar on a dynamic webpage… I couldn’t even google for a solution because I don’t know the correct terminology.

  • A few thoughts on Ruby

    This is not an exhaustive post, just a few thoughts in reaction to reading about and working with Ruby.

  • My LaTeX resume template

    Several years ago I started writing my resume in LaTeX. It was a great way to learn LaTeX and have fine-grained control over my resume. Overall, I’m pleased with it, but I must admit that updating and recompiling the file can be a chore.

  • Horray for Heroku, Git, and Rails!

    Last year I started playing with Heroku, and I’ve been very impressed so far. Heroku is a free (for basic service) Ruby on Rails hosting environment running in the cloud (Amazon EC2 in this case). Heroku is super simple to set up and use because you deploy with Git! The Git backing encourages version control and allows you to push bug fixes to your central repository as well as the productive server.

  • A couple quick Google search tricks

    I recently stumbled upon these tricks and thought others might find them interesting too; for example, I now know that I’m the top hit for people searching for Seth Holloway in France.

  • The merits of a PhD

    I just found this buried at the bottom of my drafts… whoops! Soon I will post updated thoughts now that I’ve completed the PhD…

    Whenever I tell people I am working on my PhD, I see two polarized opinions. One, my preferred response, is amazement. I do appreciate the approval.
  • Responding to questions

    Whenever someone asks you a question there are a range of responses, but in that universe of possibilities there are only three options:

  • Rockstars do more than sing

    There’s an idea of rockstar developers–lots of companies are looking for them (evidenced by this search).  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see these related posts: Google: rockstar developerTop 10 Traits of a Rockstar Software EngineerYou Don’t Really Want a Rock StarThe case against Rock Star developers.

  • The AdSense ban

    I had my Google Adsense account banned. As you can see below, it is completely unclear why I might have been banned… was it related to my two previous hacks? was it a bored Chinese hacker clicking all my links? was it the Russian Business Network testing their click fraud ring on my site? was it that I had unusual traffic or unusual content or unusual amounts of clicks? I think it is because I randomly blogged about mesothelioma then had a day where I made $11 from ads (beating my previous best day by $11). The email titled ”Google AdSense Account Disabled” only had this to say:

    This message was sent from a notification-only email address that does not accept incoming email. Please do not reply to this message. ---------------------------------------------------------------
  • Software certifications: good, bad, or ugly?

    If you asked me today, I’d say I am in favor of certifications and accreditation. If a professional organization offered a worthwhile broad certification, software may be a very different beast. I have seen the power of certifications through my friends in accounting and actuarial sciences; both professions are bolstered by their professional certification. I posit that software can be written by anyone, but maybe it shouldn’t be; with the proper certification we could increase code quality, security, safety, and base knowledge.

  • Java local variables

    I’m learning a ton this summer as I relearn old tricks and learn new tricks. Among other technologies, frameworks, languages, and techniques, I’m improving my Java skills. A friend recommended Joshua Block’s Effective Java Version 2 (affiliate link). The introduction succinctly states that the book aims to improve your usage of Java–something not usually taught in classes or discussed in book. Here are a few things I (re)learned:

  • Who knew there were so many nicknames?

    After meeting a III I got interested in nicknames and learned a thing or two. Here’s a quick list I compiled from people I’ve met and information I found on the intertubes and wikifacegoogles.

  • Scripting Heroku backups

    I was looking for a way to backup applications on Heroku and found a few options. There’s a Rails plugin that stores your backups on Amazon S3 (https://github.com/edavis10/heroku_s3_backup), but I am satisfied with local backups.

  • People selling their own vehicles

    I’ve become fascinated with the way that people signal they are selling their vehicles. Virtually everytime I drive somewhere, I see a car that is for sale by owner.

  • That's Dr. Holloway to you!

    This post is a few weeks overdue. On May 20, I officially completed my PhD from The University of Texas at Austin, making me Seth Holloway, PhD. Pretty neat, huh? I have more to say about my work, academia, working while going to school, but it’ll have to wait. For now, just a teaser :)

  • How IEEE could be more useful

    As I see it, few professional organizations are worth it. I think professional organizations should work hard to provide value to their members. At this point there’s not a lot that we need them for. Perhaps IEEE could increase their credibility by maintaining a list of up-to-date information written by industry leaders. That way, they may not have the industry leaders, but they at least acknowledge cutting-edge work and become a great central location. Maybe IEEE should be competing with Hacker News, Reddit, Digg, and Slashdot. Some other ideas for how they could add value: promotions (look at the App Store to learn how a big organization can help individuals flourish); local meetups; really solid job postings with matching and recommendations (and throw in career counseling available over the phone or chat); facilitate in finding funding for your tech work; “Ask an expert” chats. And my biggest wish as I embark on a journey into self-employment: group insurance. Why doesn’t IEEE leverage its membership base to provide competitive health insurance? Insurance companies cannot reject individuals who buy in to a group plan, and it keeps the premiums low for the group. Want to add value? Provide an entrepreneurship insurance. They could probably flex their muscles and help skilled foreigners with visas. I’m not a lawyer, but couldn’t IEEE provide a service that costs the price of a visa sponsorship? Join our group and you can be sponsored for a visa for $PRICE_OF_VISA.

  • Mesothelioma costs a lot to advertise

    Mesothelioma has really high costs for ad words. Like $50 per. That’s crazy. Maybe Google will plop a few of those class action ads on my page and give me a cut :)

  • A bit about music theory

    I wrote a bit about music theory with respect to guitars for my brother and decided it was worth sharing.

  • IEEE has lost its credibility

    IEEE, with slogans and taglines like “The world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology” and “Advancing Technology for Society” has lost its credibility. After being a member for 10 years, I can say I’ve seen no benefits. In fact, I’ve only encountered frustration like spam email, randomly assigned usernames that are hard to remember, and strictly enforced password policies that are less secure than my standards–making passwords impossible to remember. The website is ugly and hard to use. Want benefits like access to webinars? Sorry, that will cost extra. Doing research and trying to access an IEEE publication? Sorry, that will cost extra.

  • How is this a pop song?

    I heard “Dream on” by Christian Falk featuring Robyn on Pitchfork 500, and I think it’s a beautiful sonic experience–very poppy! makes me want to move–but listening to the lyrics makes me wonder, “how is this a pop song?” A sample:

  • Missing every shot in tryouts

    When I was about 13 years old, I tried out for a local basketball league. Everyone who wanted to play showed up at a school gym and ran the same route while coaches looked on. We were given the ball at the free throw line; we were then supposed to shoot a free throw, grab the rebound and take off down the court. At the other end we were supposed to shoot a lay-up, rebound, then dribble back.

  • The economic case for accessibility

    Blind and visually impaired people will never use the Internet like sighted people. It’s not fair, but it’s true. If it makes you feel better, visually impaired people have text read to them at 400+ words per minute (about three times faster than the rest of us). Making the web accessible is not easy, nor does it seem economically feasible when only 2.6% of the population is effected (that’s 161 million people worldwide). For those unconvinced that hundreds of extra hours of development and testing is worthwhile, consider the true economic value: search engine optimization (SEO). It turns out that simple accessibility changes also lead to higher PageRank, probably because web crawlers are blind. So dress up your images, links, and videos: you’ll make your site easier to find and easier to read.

  • Contentedness is a clear head

    People complain a lot about being under-appreciated. I think this is because good people do not necessarily stand out. It is often true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. After some pondering, I believe that it is actually the people that require the least thought from a boss that are the best workers. The best compliment you can give someone is then that you don’t have to worry about them. They allow your mind to be free so you can pursue more important or pleasurable thoughts. Take a moment to think about the people that you don’t have to think about–the friend you can call anytime, the customer that always pays on time, the boss that stays out of your hair–now, thank them.

  • How to route your Google Site correctly

    TL;DR: check CustomUrl and SitesMappings.

  • A better way to distribute aid worldwide?

    The United States provides billions of dollars of aid to foreign nations every year. It is questionable whether or not the aid is truly helping the people and if recipients are grateful for the assistance. For example, some say that giving food to agricultural nations actually reduces their ability to make money and improve themselves.

  • Getting hit by a car sucks

    Preface: I’m not hurt and the situation is now resolved. Earlier this semester I was hit by a car while riding my bike home, and it sucked.

  • Where's the innovation in elevators?

    I have to preface this by admitting that I live in a short city. Our skyscrapers now pass 50 stories, but for a long time we were around 30 stories and those buildings were rare. I cannot recall a time I rode an elevator above eight stories in Austin, so I’m not an elevator expert. With that in mind, I have to wonder where is the innovation in elevators? I rode an express elevator in Chicago that only stopped at the top floor or bottom floor. That’s a start, but what about the other 90 floors?

  • .svnignore Example for Java

    .svnignore is my attempt to create the equivalent of .gitignore. After creating the file I had to set the svn:ignore property before it worked: svn propset svn:ignore -F .svnignore .

  • Use loyalty rates instead of special introductory pricing

    Yesterday I heard a commercial for Time Warner Cable. They were advertising their cable/Internet bundles and named a price only to add a caveat that this price was for new subscribers only. This comes after I get a letter detailing Time Warner’s impending price hike. It would feel great to exclaim, “I like Time Warner! They’ve treated me right and kept my rates fair.” Instead, I say, “I chose Time Warner because I don’t have any other real options and their introductory rate was competitive.”

  • Idea: Configurable User Interfaces in Cars

    People spend a lot of time in their cars and we currently have to adapt to the car rather than have the car adapt to us. Why don’t cars move to configurable heads up displays? When I drive, I have to move my focus from the road to the speedometer, mirrors, and fuel gauge. This information could be made more usable, which would increase safety and improve the user experience.

  • Where's the research on altering bodily functions?

    Humans spend a lot of time in the bathroom. Not all the time is spent on bodily functions, but I think “poddying” is generally a waste of time–a human weakness! Is there any research on how to eliminate waste in the human body? For example, instead of creating urine you might be able burn up (metabolize) excess fluid. Urination expels waste, but sweat does too; that leads me to believe there are natural alternatives available (like a drug to route excess water to the skin instead of the bladder). Even solid wastes might be expelled in a more comfortable, scheduled way. If commercials are any indication, a large segment of the population regularly experiences discomfort associated with bodily functions, so this seems like a natural path for research: put people in control of their own body!

  • Idea: Bedding to keep you comfortable

    Ever woken up uncomfortably hot or cold? Maybe you wake up sweaty in the mornings? Why don’t we embed intelligence into bedding to keep people at an ideal sleep temperature? Using thermometers, moisture sensors, and/or light sensors (wet skin reflects differently) you could easily determine an occupant’s temperature and adjust accordingly. The adjustments are more tricky, I think. Perhaps you could raise the covers if people are too warm and tighten them if they’re too cold; or have heating and cooling elements in the bed; or control airflow over the bed.

  • Who is programming the birthday emails from facebook?

    I am signed up to receive emails about friends with birthdays in the next week. It’s a neat service that usually works as expected. This week, the email showed a bit of a bug… can you spot it?

  • Why don't we improve air travel?

    Everyday, millions of people fly. I’d guess most everyone hates the process. As with most things in life, happy people make everything better (they’re more productive, etc)–and it’s contagious!

  • Beware: Facebook Groups will sell you out

    This morning I received an email titled

    Lane added you to the group "Close Friends and Family."

    Followed shortly thereafter by this one:

    Lane Holloway changed the name of the group "Close Friends and Family" to "Friends and Family".

    Opening the emails reveals a link to Facebook. When I asked my brother, he said he had no idea it would email people. Good thing he did not make a group for people he does not like…

  • On the usability of my old Samsung cell phone

    For years, I lived without a smart phone. (Looking back, I’m not sure I was truly living, but it was something resembling life.) My little Samsung phone had great battery life, clear call quality, and it fit nicely in my pocket. The phone never failed me when calling or texting (although I don’t care for T9). Overall, great usability! For all its good, however, the alarm was really funky! I’m not sure how the interactions developed. Let me illustrate with a few examples:

  • Idea: Combine social media and AI to mitigate quarter-life crises

    Like all generations, my generation is unique. Broadly, we are digital natives who don’t want to waste our lives. Our generally delayed launch goes hand-in-hand with the fact that 20-somethings are experiencing quarter-life crises like none other. While previous generations were interested in independence and making it themselves, I think the current generation wants to move forward in the best way possible and they’re willing to wait for inspiration to strike.

  • Looking for new music or old favorites? Check the Pitchfork 500

    Dave DeAngelis, an awesome researcher and great friend, recently showed me the Pitchfork 500 playlist on everyone’s favorite Internet jukebox, Grooveshark. The Pitchfork 500 is actually a 500 song review from the music geniuses at Pitchfork.com; Grooveshark allows users to create and share playlists, so people have taken the review and created the accompanying playlist.

  • Phishers, the devil's in the details!

    Phishing is presumably big business (although maybe not). Because email is very cheap to send, phishing has a low barrier for entry. Usually, Gmail’s spam filter is so accurate that I don’t see the phishing emails, however, recently some Blizzard themed messages have gotten through. I get the impression that the emails are crafted by foreigners who lack the finesse necessary to deceive people–a good thing, no doubt. As with most pursuits, the devil is in the details. Let me illustrate with the most recent email to pierce Gmail’s phishing armor:

  • Rails 3 document.on error

    I’m working through Agile Web Development with Rails, 4th Edition. Overall, the book is well written–readable, nice depth and breadth, great example (ecommerce site)–and I would recommend it highly; however,  Chapter 11, adding Ajax support to the cart, has given me hell.

  • The World Cup shows the ubiquity of English

    I’ve been enjoying the World Cup for the past three weeks–while still getting all of my work done, of course. One thing that has been really neat is seeing the diverse cultures communicating. I imagine the players and referees could play without words (we’ll let them keep whistles and hand-signs), but very frequently players verbally plead for calls and the ref explicitly announces situations to players. The on-field interactions seem to be in English.

  • The Timeline Resume

    Over the weekend I published my resume as a timeline. With the standard text-based resume I found it hard to show my simultaneous jobs (for example, in Spring 2010 I was pursuing my PhD, working part-time at IBM, researching under Christine, teaching/grading Project Management, keeping up the lab’s computing infrastructure, supervising Michael Hanna, assisting a couple companies with their computing needs, and actively participating in two organizations). The timeline allows me to show these jobs at once rather than tacitly asking the reader to juggle all the “X - Present” entries under multiple headings.

  • Seth Holloway... Not Seth Halloway!

    I’ve long been in the habit of spelling my last name for people after I tell them. Some people reply almost indignantly, “How else would you spell it?!” Well, I set up my Google Webmaster tools and people are stumbling upon the site from the query “seth halloway.” Perhaps it’s time to publish all the common misspellings of my name:

  • Spinning plates

    One day I was enjoying a balmy afternoon at Mozart’s with my wife. While it was not my goal to eavesdrop, I overheard two women talking about finding jobs–a common topic these days. The profound bit that I picked up on was an analogy: finding jobs is like spinning plates. If you apply too much or too little force to a plate, the plate will fall. I think this simple idea applies to all facets of life; once again, moderation is a virtue.

  • Flash, you sneaky bastard!

    Flash, the popular multimedia platform that helps make websites more interactive, has cookies separate from your web browser’s cookies. They’re called local shared objects (LSO) and they may be a security hole–like all things Flash ;-)

  • Quotes from "You and Your Research" by Hamming

    My labmate suggested I read “You and Your Research,” a transcript from a speech given by Richard “Dick” Hamming. Hamming is famous for, amongst other things, Hamming Codes. The speech is meant for scientists, but I think the quotes generalize well to a large segment of the population. Below are the sections I found particularly interesting.

    I have to get you to drop your modesty and say to yourself, "Yes, I would like to do first-class work." Our society frowns on people who set out to do really good work.
  • Is the Dunning-Kruger Effect an explanation for why the ignorant are blissful?

    I recently stumbled upon the Dunning-Kruger effect on Wikipedia. Essentially, this is a cognitive bias where unskilled people rate themselves much higher than their ability and skilled people rate themselves lower than their ability. The ignorant are blissful and the informed are self-deprecating–how interesting! I’m not sure this cognitive bias explains “ignorance is bliss,” but it certainly helps me understand some people better and helps to remove self-doubt. Here’s a snippet from the Wikipedia article:

    It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. "Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others."[1]
  • Austin Software Mentorship --- Meeting this Thursday

    Last semester I received an energetic email about offering UT students one-on-one interaction with local software professionals. At first, I did not understand the vision (sorry Sukant!), but I felt it was worth pursuing so I replied. After a couple emails I was on-board and ready to help out with the noble vision. Basically, students graduate with a lot of skills, but they still have a lot left to learn before they’re truly effective in industry. Why don’t we augment the curriculum and arm students with the skills they need while they’re still in school? From this simple idea, Austin Software Mentorship was born. It’s a really cool group and I’m proud of where it’s going! I’ve met a lot of incredible local people and been humbled and impressed by their range of skills. I have a lot to learn :)

  • Scattergories style grading: a solution to obvious homework solutions

    This week I read an interesting article about homework and the Internet (shared by Lucas Wiman). The gist is that the Internet has trivialized homework  because students can find answers for virtually everything online. Rather than spend their time thinking about the solution, they Google for similar problems and copy the work. I found this to be largely true last semester when I TA’d a course on project management–note: I am not implying that the students cheated! Read on! Whenever students asked for help, I referred to the book then Googled for additional hints. In my searches, I inevitably found the answer or very helpful related information.

  • Cheer loudly when people accomplish big things

    My sister received her PhD last Spring. She completed the highest level of schooling in a difficult field at one of the top 10 best institutions in the world. Wow! That’s awesome by anyone’s metrics! Yet, at the terminal degree graduation ceremony (that packed a college basketball arena) attendees were completely civilized (quiet). As Allison strode across the stage I let out a loud whoop! of approval and felt eyes on me for my social outburst.

  • That's PhD Candidate Seth Holloway to You!

    Yesterday afternoon I proposed my work, “Simplifying the Programming of Intelligent Environments.” I passed with a few good suggestions but no major revisions required; I’m told the outcome is about as good as it gets, however, I hope this is not how “as good as it gets” feels. I’m officially ABD (all but dissertation), so the fun begins!

  • I'll be proposing "Simplifying the Programming of Intelligent Environments"

    I sent an email to the Students in Software Engineering, but I’d like to cover my bases and make the announcement public. It is rather unorthodox to invite everyone to a proposal, but I’m doing great work and I’m ready to spread the word!

  • Useful tool for academics: wikicfp.com

    Recently, my ever-helpful labmate, Dr. Drew Stovall, suggested the call for papers wiki, or wikicfp.com. The site is well done: easy to navigate, intuitive, open, and free. Basically, you subscribe to the conferences you’re interested in, then the site will email you approaching deadlines. They also offer an amazing calendar view so you can plan your vacation submissions.

  • Fixie: The Black Sheep of Bikes

    After I started riding my bike more often, I got interested in bike culture. I’ve talked to seasoned UT cyclists learning best routes, safety tips, how to maintain a bike, how to stay warm/cool, etc. One of my favorite topics has been the fixie. The fixie, or fixed-gear bicycle is something of an anomaly. Fixies do not have “speeds” like the ubiquitous childhood 10-speed; instead, fixies are single-speed bikes that directly tie pedal rotations to tire rotations. If your tires are moving, so are your pedals. So much for coasting!  Most fixies do not have brakes–not even coaster brakes like your old BMX bike! A fixie rider has to stop the bike by resisting the pedals. By avoiding modern technology, fixies are the black sheep of bikes.

  • Do you have something in your teeth?

    Chances are, you don’t know if you have something in your teeth because no one will tell you. It’s embarrassing. It’s intimate. It’s real.

  • Public Transport + Technology = Good

    Why don’t public transportation providers outfit their vehicles with GPS trackers and update the position in real time? This would effectively eliminate the need for time tables: just check the website/phone application to see when a bus will be near you. Traffic? No problem! The map still shows exactly where the bus is. Even the bus-drivers could use the map to coordinate with other bus-drivers on their route.

  • Smart Home User Study

    I am gathering data for my PhD work and I’d really appreciate if you’d take a survey on smart homes. Initial participants have completed in the survey in five to 30 minutes. The survey will be open until Friday August 14, 2009. Please take a few minutes for the survey now:

    Help me out and influence the future of aware homes! Not to overstate this project, but your participation is singly the most important thing you can do with your life so please do yourself a favor and take the survey! :)

  • Software Engineering Genealogy

    I recently discovered the Software Engineering Academic Genealogy. For those outside the ivory tower, this genealogy mirrors standard human breeding records. In the not-so-distant future I will be an indentation under Christine Julien, below Gruia-Catalin Roman. Standard genealogical terms apply in the academic version as well; for example, Christine is my academic parent.

  • One visual, all of America's energy

    As I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for effective visualizations. In this age of “energy independence” I was really taken aback by this visual: the energy generation, transmission, and consumption in the U.S. Given the complexity of the information and sheer volume of data to present, I think this visual does an excellent job. (Other interesting visuals are available on the Lawrence Livermore site here. Thanks to Drew for sharing this with me.)

  • Putting humans to good use

    I shared this on my Google Reader, but I’d like to more formally share Luis Von Ahn’s great talk on the recaptcha.

  • Working with LaTeX: See all your citations


  • When do you wet your toothbrush?

    “When do you wet your toothbrush?” an uncle once asked me. I don’t remember how it came up, but my reply was “before and after I put on the toothpaste.” He quickly replied, “Then you’re a freak!” I paused to think about my action and, after some rumination, I stated my case: “I wet the toothbrush first so the paste goes onto soft bristles. I wet the toothbrush again to soften the toothpaste.” Of course, doing this wetting ritual only once would achieve the same effect, but it’s my routine!

  • It is okay to be broad

    I’m a generalist. I love life. I love people. I love technology. I love sports. I love games. I love philosophy (religion, politics, physics, etc.). I love food. I love music. I love love. I love lists ;-)

  • Get notifications when concerts come?

    Does anyone know of a website or method to be notified when your favorite artist is coming to town?

  • The on-screen keyboard: A hint more security

    Keyloggers are rampant! They are the most prolific trojan horse and they can easily transmit your passwords to bad guys. They’re simple and effective.

  • The present is a gift

    The Past is history, the Future is a mystery, today is a gift that is why it's called, the Present -- Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda.

    Happy Friday to all. Enjoy the present!

  • I survived ICSE 2009

    Better late than never, right?

  • Designing Based on Data

    After my last Usability course this semester a designer/peer, Andrea Richeson, were chatting. She asked me if the course had changed the way I think about designers. I did not have a good answer at the time because I fancy myself a bit of a designer: I’ve created several websites (MPC, SE, SSE, SethHolloway.com) and I constantly build/tinker in both virtual and physical spaces. Beyond considering myself a programmer and designer, I found usability testing to be an amazingly practical part of creating something for people. The methods are similar to my favorite software development methodology: agile development–get the requirements, do a small piece, fix what is broken and ensure people like the effort so far, repeat. After some reflection I can say the course did not really change my view on design, it gave me a framework for evaluating and altering design based on user data.

  • Richard Stallman's Mistaken Thinking on Copyright

    Last Friday I had the honor of seeing Richard Stallman, or rms as he’s known in the computer underground, delivering a lecture about copyright in the digital age at UT.

  • I survived PerCom 2009!

    This week I attended the IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications in Galveston, TX. I was there to present my paper Opening Pervasive Computing to the Masses Using the SEAP Middleware. If you’re interested, here are the slides I presented at the PerWare workshop Monday morning: seap-sethholloway-perware2009.

  • The Top 100 (Modern) Books

    The BBC compiled a list of the 100 most loved books, as voted by Brits. There is a definite slant to modern books; more precisely, books that have been turned into movies. I also found it interested that England’s richest female, JK Rowling, is disproportionately listed (four of the seven Harry Potter series in the top 25). Notably absent from the list is iconic libertarian author Ayn Rand whose book, Atlas Shrugged, is seeing increased sales recently. Rand fled communist Russia and developed a philosophy that almost perfectly counters the opinions on those she feared; Karl Marx wrote plenty that opposes Rand. Marx and Rand are arguably two of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century (not that the 20th century will be known for philosophy), yet neither is represented.

  • Let Google do the heavy lifting!

    I love Google. They represent so many positive ideas about technology and offer an amazing suite of tools. Gmail is fantastic. I adore Google Calendar. Google Scholar is the only site I need for research. Google Reader is the best RSS feed reader on the market. Google Docs works a like a charm and is infinitely handy. I have entrusted my workflow to Google and had positive results. They’ve taken over the heavy lifting and ushered in an era of browser-based productivity that I agree with wholeheartedly. I’m excited today to use yet another Google server: I added Google Analytics to the site :)

  • Learning HTML/CSS?

    Are you new to HTML/CSS? Knowing the basics of HTML/CSS is extremely useful. Below are a couple options to get started in learning HTML/CSS. There are great resources freely available at http://htmldog.com/ and http://www.w3schools.com/htmL/.

  • Invest in restful sleep

    We spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping, so why not enjoy that time? Beyond being a large part of our life, sleep is essential to proper brain function. Sleep affects memory, mood, and physical performance to name a few. Modern scientists recommend 7-8 hours of sleep per night, although before the advent of lights, humans slept 10-12 hours per night.

  • Forget Ocean's 11, these heists are all digital

    Over the holidays Wired published an article, the Seven Best Capers of 2008, that ran down a list of crafty, entertaining schemes that ultimately resulted in the perpetrator getting caught. I encourage you to read the entire article; you’ll find that every story involves a digital component. Here’s the top rated heist:

    The Snohomish Smokescreen
  • Is the Ivory Tower crumbling?

    An article, Rejecting the Academic Fast Track, was posted January 15 on Inside Higher Ed. The article summarizes a study of over 8,300 graduate students in the University of California (UC) system; the study reveals that fewer graduate students are interested in pursuing tenure track positions at research universities. This is particularly interesting due to the large sample size and the strong academic performance of the UC schools (two schools in the top 25 and 8 in the top 100, Berkeley is top 5 in several engineering disciplines, and high rankings in law, medicine, and business).

  • Fundamentals matter in the end

    I am an experience junkie and a lifelong learner. I love trying new things and learning a variety of topics, so I have a very broad knowledge base. My self-taught methods are extremely effective in learning ~75% of a topic, however, I’ve now seen the value of fundamentals.

  • What's new? Ads!

    I hope my lovely, intelligent readers do not mind the two new ad panels (at the bottom of individual posts and in the sidebar); RSS readers should not notice any changes. This was a fun technical project that may make me a dollar over about twenty years :)

  • Why not make use of loading screens?

    I’ve seen a lot of loading screens recently: in video games, movies, TV shows, cable box resets, iPod power ons, etc. Most are effective yet bland–a logo and a progress bar. These brief moments break my attention, but do not offer enough time for me to switch context and do something else. Producers and developers could use this time to educate and inform users while simultaneously keeping people engaged. Watching Once? You’ll get to read a blurb about the star, Glen Hansard. Playing World of Warcraft? Read the storyline for the zone you’re entering while you wait!

  • Passively heated homes

    I love architecture and green building! I’m not as well-informed as I should be, but green homes are an area I would love to explore later in life. One of the best ideas I’ve seen is the passive house (Passivhaus). Passive homes seek to retain the home’s heat with little or no extra energy usage. They achieve the effect by combining several features, notably superinsulation, a special airflow system, and optimized floorplans.

  • Be important to your friends

    I was reluctant to post about this because it is depressing, but it is also very important. You should strive to be important to your friends, to be remembered favorably.

  • Tech Star: Seth Goldstein

    Technologists affect the world tremendously, but America does not value the contribution nearly as much as they do pop stars and athletes. We must change this! If technologists were more prominent, students would have a wider range of role models and education would be taken more seriously.

  • Leave it better than you found it

    I enjoy simple tasks that have big rewards–work smarter, not harder. For example, smile more :)

  • Do we need AV software?

    Do we need AV software? It is naive to think that safe practices will protect you–there are simply too many ways to get into a system. You need something to protect your computer, and good AV software won’t hurt.

  • Students in Software Engineering Successes

    As the semester draws to an end, I am pleased with the progress of the Students in Software Engineering.  Leading the group has been a very rewarding experience for me, and participating has been great! I enjoyed learning more about my peers’ research as well as hearing some of the professors’ thoughts.

  • Make cars like we make computers

    Automakers should make cars like we make computers.

  • America needs to harden its cyber security

    Business Week has a nice article on how the US is falling behind in cyber security. It’s remarkably apropos after a couple high profile security stories earlier this year: computers on the International Space Station and an Iranian IT worker was executed after being found out as a spy. Are there viruses on US government computers on land? Do we have spies working in our governmental IT department? The answer to both questions is likely yes, so what are we doing about it?

  • User Interface I'd Like

    It’s always exciting to read sci-fi novels and discover what the future could look like. Sci-fi movies show it even more vividly. Minority Report has a futuristic gesture-based user interface that looks cool, but I’m not sure I would use it well :)

  • Pleasing customers (DO IT)

    I’m not sure if it’s the economy or just bad luck, but my customer service experiences recently have been awful. Customer service should have pleasing customers as a general goal. I understand this may cost more, but the funny thing about customers is that you want them and you won’t get that when your representatives run all customers off.

  • Gamers are not so nerdy after all

    We’re mentally and physically fit, as well as social–and not evil! Let’s reexamine what it means to be a nerd, shall we? Even more important, who cares how people spend their free time as long as it does not hurt others? It’s all useless in the end…

  • Get Things Done: Related work... or Why don't tech sites use modern technology?

    As I perfect my PhD workflow I’m learning a lot. I’ve gotten much more efficient at finding related work and target conferences; I’ve improved my writing and organizational skills; I’ve found a number of tools that make my life easier (for example I use Google Docs to track references and write drafts so that I can view them from any Internet-connected computer). However, now I’m at the point where I know my topic and I need to stay current on the research. From what I can tell, most academics do this by reading the program from conferences related to their work. That’s fine as a backup, but there’s got to be an easier way! Why not automate the delivery of related articles or entire conference proceedings?

  • Keep up with what I'm keeping up with

    For anyone that is not my “friend” in Google Reader you can still see posts that I find interesting/useful: https://www.google.com/reader/shared/11451882993897049685

  • A smile is free

    Remember that a smile is free. It is universally recognized as a good-natured, feel-good expression that can be performed by people of all ages. Smile more; the world needs it :)

  • Obama CTO

    I came across a website that tallies votes on technological ideas that the Obama CTO will hopefully take to heart. I like the voting scheme employed; you’re given 10 votes and you can give up to three votes per idea–kind of like the Condorcet voting method I learned about during this presidential election.

  • Big day for Students in Software Engineering... and a few links

    Today is a very exciting day for the Students in Software Engineering (SSE)! Chairman Ambler will be presenting today. He is ostensibly the biggest name we have had yet and we expect a large turnout. I hope we got enough food!

  • Old dogs must learn new tricks!

    I feel like I should write about something more insightful because of the title, but instead I’m linking (hence a link) to 10 things you can learn to do with your body. My father in law can whistle like a New Yorker. Reading this article has given me insight into how to do the same–and nine other tricks. Some are lame or ill-explained, but we take the good with the bad.

  • Is scientific research all wrong?

    The Economist has an interesting article about the nature of scientific publications–namely that research is wrong. The author points out that overstating your research will increase the chances of it getting noticed and getting published. Scientific research has become big business: publish or perish! Two major points that I find to be true (unfortunately):

  • 4 minutes of inspiration

    This morning I was inspired by a speech from Dave Eggers, one of three 2008 TED prize ($100,000) winners. In this clip Dave talks about how we, the people, can help the educational system. The idea is simple:

  • What do redwoods, humans, and bacteria have in common?

    What do elephants, humans, and bacteria have in common? Probably a lot, but the answer I’m looking for is the amount of energy we use. Scientists have found that all living things use roughly the same amount of energy. It seems this study contradicts earlier research. I’m interested to find out more, especially after reporting on Tardigrade that can survive all kinds of crazy conditions. Even humans seem to burn different amount of energy (think of the skinny guy who can eat anything), although I doubt that’s an order of magnitude different among species.

  • Software Engineering is Official!

    This week we received wonderful news that Software Engineering is now an official graduate track with Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin!

  • Paper acceptance: Middleware 2008

    I’m proud to say that we got a demonstration into the Middleware 2008 conference! While I’d like to say I’m going to Belgium, I am sitting it out this time.

  • The time is right for novel input devices

    As I mentioned earlier, Rock Band 2 is out. Guitar Hero: World Tour (a.k.a. Guitar Hero IV) is not far behind. These games are doing extremely well, and I’m not surprised. I have fond memories of playing the original Power Pad for Nintendo. I’m glad to see a new generation of novel input devices for games because games have really stuck with standard controls for the last 15 years. Sure, there was a Zapper, Power Glove, Donkey Kong Bongos, and DDR, but games have not explored the space until recently. Think of the slew of games for the iPhone, the Wii, and instrument-driven games–we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg! Beyond that, research into augmented reality (it’s like virtual reality) has come a long way. This is an exciting time for gamers, indeed.

  • Do you have 10^100 good ideas? Let's start with 1

    I had an idea for a website that would cover one issue per day. Clean and simple; just one issue per day. The idea came after I got frustrated with the amount of clutter on various news sites, and while there is a lot of overlap, to really keep up with the world you have to visit a number of websites per day. Instead, why not have one thoughtful, easy to read post per day. Intellectuals could meet at the water cooler and discuss the topic. We’d gain exposure to important, interesting ideas all through a simple central location.

  • The future of mobile devices

    Google has a nice writeup on the future of mobile devices today. The article is aimed squarely at phones which may seem like an odd distinction. Despite the proliferation of mobile devices, phones are important because few handhelds can function as a phone. The Nintendo DS, for example, has WiFi capabilities, but no calling features. Also falling into this category are traditional PDAs, the iPod Touch, the Asus P735. Phones can add the ability to do many things (play games, stream media, chat, and cruise the web) easier than other devices can integrate calling.

  • Students in Software Engineering

    The Students in Software Engineering continue to go strong! Yesterday we had our third meeting where PhD candidate Chris Jones discussed his work on team formation in dynamic, contractless environments. The talk drew a crowd and inspired a great discussion. Personally, I’m proud and glad to have Chris at UT, and I look forward to following his progress.

  • Engineer Joke

    It’s not all gloom and doom! Here’s a great joke I picked up recently:

  • Country's "real" name

    I’ve been wondering why we do not call a country by the name that the country calls itself? For example, Japan would be “?? Nihon or Nippon”; Spain would be “España”; and Germany would be “Deutschland”.

  • The Students in Software Engineering

    Friday (September 5) marked the kickoff of the Students in Software Engineering (SSE), an organization that I started with my labmate and friend, Justin Enderle. The idea for the organization started in spring 2008 during Software Engineering faculty candidate interviews. As a newer student Justin did not know his peers sitting around the table. In a relatively small department like Software Engineering, the students should know one another.

  • Half Price Books

    It’s no doubt that I love Half Price Books as much as the next guy: they have a great selection, (relatively) clean store, friendly employees, and convenient locations. However, this wonderful store does not have an inventory system. When you ask the friendly employee in the clean, convenient location if they have the new Dora the Explorer Harry Potter Arnold Schwarzenegger book, they can only tell you where they think it would be located. There’s no definitive, “Oh, yes! We have that!”

  • Encrypt your Gmail

    I’m a big fan of the Google suite of products. I’ve been connecting via https for a while now, but Google has now made it easier. There’s a great article on Wired about encrypting your Gmail. Anyone using the Google services should do this immediately. Here’s a quick how-to:

  • This is the second notice that your car warranty is about to expire...

    Over the past six months I have been getting roughly one call per day from random 800 numbers from all over the country. The voice changes, but the message is always the same: ‘This is the second notice that your car warranty is about to expire.’

  • Fixing American Health Care

    After watching Sicko I have been more interested in the American health care situation. I don’t trust the government to provide high-quality health care coverage. Moore speaks highly of the English system, but a common perk for jobs in the UK (private health care coverage) suggests that the system is less than perfect. Benefits of America’s quasi-privatized system are a wash: a person can receive care, but insurance rarely covers the entire cost of operations and medicine. There are a number of other issues at work (governmental regulations, the patent system, market competition, a lack of care for mentally-ill, …); however, my intent for this post is not to cover any of these complex issues, nor is it to enrage people or debate over the advantages and disadvantages of private health care. Instead, I simply want to share a solution that I find very clever and achievable: Let Wal-Mart Fix American Health Care.

  • The resolution of human vision

    What is the resolution of unaltered human sight? Computers are slowly pushing their capability higher: from 800x600 to 1920x1200 and beyond. I’m left wondering “When will the screen resolution catch our innate capabilities?”

  • I still love technology

    A friend did not know about Find/Replace in document editors. Instead of replacing all occurrences of a word she was rereading an assignment. I showed her Find/Replace which not only found every occurrence, including some she had missed, the feature also saved her several minutes. As Kip says, “I still love technology! Always and forever.”

  • Annoying commercials

    I won’t validate the ads by pointing them out, but we can all think of a number of annoying commercials. I suppose the marketeers who generated these wretched pieces truly believe that “no press is bad press.” Don’t focus groups give feedback? I can’t imagine anyone seeing such choice pieces of advertising and saying, “YEAH! I want to buy X now!”

  • Spam bots... on blogs?

    Where’s there’s a will, there’s a way. And likely, if there’s a will, there’s money. We’ve all felt the effects of spam in our email, but some of you may have never seen the amount of spam posted to blogs. Once a day I have to moderate comments with content similar to that of spam email. While that may not sound like much, I am grossly understating the achievement of finding my blog. Try googling for “blog” and you will not find my site easily.

  • My experience taking time management advice from the web

    We’ve all felt the crunch of deadlines and work piling up, as we balance the working world and the life we’re meant to live. In this busy, always-on environment, I am a big fan of getting things done. I am also open to suggestions. In an effort to improve my productivity I went to the “experts” that I found online, namely lifehack–a website touting useful resources in personal productivity. However, the official lifehack blog fills with overblown, verbose posts like this one that took me minutes to read and essentially said… well, nothing.

  • (Re)Using common items

    I was just cleaning the apartment and I realized that my simple life is full of clutter–every week I pick up the same few items and throw them away. Among the offenders are

  • I'm Unbelievable!

    My father once told me that I should reply, “Unbelievable!” anytime someone queried about my mood. The logic behind this was simple: the definition of “unbelievable” can fit any situation and people interpret the response positively. In general, people like to be around fun, positive people, so your “unbelievable” reply starts you off on the right foot.

  • Driving laws

    The joke goes that 98% of people consider themselves good drivers. Driving is such a tangible effort: everyone over the age of 16 can drive. Because that captures such a large percentage of the population, there are a number of ideas about how to drive. As I see it, traffic laws should be obeyed in spirit rather than completely literally.

  • Applications that steal focus

    Are you an application developer? Do not do write applications that steal focus (i.e. if your email client pops up without you attempting to open the program). That was standard in 1998, but not in 2008. Like viral ads, applications that steal focus have no place in today’s world: they pollute the landscape and disrupt workflows.

  • An opportunity to improve life with technology

    Being a researcher and techie myself, I have seen my fair share of technologies that will change the world and innovation that will never leave the lab.

  • How to talk about an exciting life without bragging

    Am I or will I ever be, one of those people who ever so nonchalantly mentions their extravagant travels and exotic friends? Sitting at a coffee shop one day I overheard a woman discussing all the wonderful things she had seen. Her audience, apparently an old friend, was less than impressed as the old hen prattled on with a constant stream of auto-laudations. I’m fortunate: I’ve led a very interesting life and experienced amazing things, but I do not want to bore my friends with inane details and persistent bragging. Travel is not a unique topic here–I’ve heard people brag about experiences from guitar to shopping. I’m left wondering how to talk about an exciting life without coming off like a braggart.

  • Riding your bike to campus

    April 17, 2008 is the day that the world will remember something great: Seth Holloway’s first bike ride to campus. Despite living further from campus than ever before (and that’s saying something since I’ve been here for 7 years), I took the plunge and rode my bike today.

  • Cell phones in public

    Some people assert that cell phones are the rudest device ever unleashed on the world. While this may true, we cannot forget that all the people talking on cell phones are being more social while simultaneously being less social. Every sorority girl flapping her gums when she should have both hands on the wheel is communicating with another person. Every communication brings us closer to one another and closer to ourselves. In that regard, all these rude phone conversations that keep a person from interacting with the outside world are bringing the conversants closer to a select few. All in all I have felt the cold shoulder hefted upon me when someone chooses to speak on their cell phone instead of to me, but I have to think positively and credit them for interacting at all–unlike those iPod listeners…

  • I'm looking for Seth Holloway

    One of my goals in purchasing sethholloway.com is to carve out my own niche on the Internet superhighway–the series of tubes invented by a politician from Tin-uh-see. However, as I google myself (which is even dirtier than it sounds) I can’t help but feel that my job is not yet done. Many of my friends and peers have amazingly unique names, for example “Jason” or “Steve,” yet they are the top search results when you search for them!