Category Archives: Tech

New Home – Digital Ocean

For the last several months I have been renting a VPS from Host Gator for $40 per month, and I’ve used it for my web hosting. Recently, a coworker introduced me to Digital Ocean. I was skeptical at first, because I was legitimately happy with the service I was getting from Host Gator. I know lately people have been having a lot of problems with their hosting since their parent company has changed, but none of my websites are very demanding, so I never noticed any type of performance hit from being on Host Gator.

The most basic plan offered by Digital Ocean gets you a cloud server (“droplet”) that has 512MB Memory, 1 Core, 20GB SSD Disk, and 1TB Transfer for $5 per month. This should be good for me for now, but it seems very easy to expand your droplet’s resources later.

You get to choose which operating system you use. That was by far the coolest part for me. I had most experience with Ubuntu leading up to acquiring my VPS through Host Gator, so I had some growing pains while getting accustomed to CentOS. With Digital Ocean being able to return to Ubuntu was a great plus for me.

Within seconds I had my very own droplet up and running through Digital Ocean. I was provided with the root password and was able to get everything set up. The documentation and community surrounding hosting with Digital Ocean is quite awesome. I have heard people at work talk about Nginx, but I had no experience with it. Using the documentation provided by Digital Ocean, I have my very own Nginx web server running forged by my hands! That was pretty fun.

I have since transitioned all of my domains to my Digital Ocean droplet, which I have named “megaman.” I grew up playing Mega Man on Nintendo; it just felt right to name a server after that famed blue hero! I’ve only been a customer for a little over a day, but I’ve greatly enjoyed the experience so far. If you are looking for a new home for your web hosting, I recommend you check out Digital Ocean and customize to your heart’s content.

Favorite Podcasts – Part 2

Building on my last post on the subject of podcasts, I’m going to briefly discuss my favorite podcasts that deal with programming, fitness, and positivity.

Programming

I’ve been trying to immerse myself in the world of programming since I have started working as a software developer. My work requires that I write code in Ruby. Keeping this in mind, I did some searching online and came across a couple Ruby-centric podcasts. The Ruby Rogues is one, and The Ruby Show is the other.

The Ruby Rogues is a weekly show where a panel of guests sit down and talk about a specific topic involving Ruby. There have been some amazing guests on the show, and I have learned a lot and been inspired by them. One of my favorite guests on the show was Sandi Metz. After hearing her, I went to Amazon and purchased her latest book. I am still working through it, but it has been an amazing read so far. I have been trying to apply what I have learned through the book at my work.

The Ruby Show is a weekly podcast where latest news in the Ruby community is discussed. It is significantly shorter than The Ruby Rogues, but I always find out about a new gem or way of learning online that is interesting.

Fitness

Robb Wolf’s podcast about fitness and eating paleo has become one of the podcasts I look forward to most on a weekly basis. Robb and his cohost answer health and fitness questions submitted by listeners. I have learned a great deal about fitness and nutrition through this podcast. Listening to it has given me ideas of new types of exercises to try, and new types of foods to try in the kitchen. For anyone interested in health and fitness, regardless if you are “doing paleo”, I highly recommend this podcast.

Positivity

I have been making strides to be a more positive person, and some of the podcasts in this playlist help me on my daily journey to be happier and more positive. There are two that are at the top: Zencast and AudioDharma. Regardless of your religious affiliation, I feel you can learn from the messages presented in these podcasts. The various speakers stress the importance of living in the moment and paying attention to the feelings you are having. There is something very powerful about being angry and having the ability to ask yourself, “why am I feeling upset?” These podcasts offer a weekly reminder to keep this mindset. I don’t always succeed in implementing the tactics discussed in these podcasts, but I feel I am becoming a better person, and hopefully my friends and family would agree.

Favorite Podcasts – Part 1

Over the past year I have become a big fan of listening to podcasts. I have gone from subscribing to a handful to being borderline obsessed with podcasts. I have been using Downcast as my preferred means of listening. I have tried other apps in the past, but Downcast has stood head and shoulders above the rest. I tried Apple’s podcast app, but found it to not be very well done. I was pretty disappointed in it, but I can save that rant for another day. If you are looking for a solid podcasting app for iOS, I highly recommend checking out Downcast. It is worth the money.

Downcast gives you the ability to add podcasts to playlist. I currently have the 33 podcasts split over the following 9 playlists:

  • Sports
  • News
  • Programming
  • Education
  • Fitness
  • Positivity
  • Rogan and Friends
  • Science
  • Tech

I’m going to go through each of these playlists and mention the podcasts that I find to be the most important and influential.

Sports

My favorite podcasts in this playlist would be The Dan Patrick Show, Pardon the Interruption, and Around the Horn. There are others in this playlist, but I find these three give me the best snapshot of what is happening in the world of sports on a daily basis.

I love the DPShow because it reminds me of how my friends and I sit around and talk about sports. There is a friendly atmosphere associated with the show. I love the interaction between the “Dan-ettes.” I really enjoy Fritzy’s mock headlines, especially when they are on the perverted-side (as they often are with him). I enjoy McLovin’s daily antics and how Dan and the other Dan-ettes react. He had one installment of his Against the Grain segment involving Fritzy’s miniature football helmets that was a complete disaster in the studio, but it was an amazing listen. Seton and Paulie also bring a lot to the show, but I’ve always been more of a fan of boys in the Back Row.

I’ve been watching PTI and ATH for years now, and don’t always have the time to sit down at 4:00 to watch both the shows on ESPN. Having the ability to listen to them via podcast is a welcomed treat.

News

I only have a single podcast in this playlist: NPR 7am News Summary. This podcast is only 5 minutes, but it gives me a good idea of what is going on across the world. I normally listen to this as I’m making breakfast in the morning, so I have a handle on what is happening in the world of news. Unfortunately the majority of what I hear involves violence and death, but that’s not NPR’s fault. That’s more a problem of human nature.

iA Writer Review

I received an iTunes gift card for Valentine’s Day, so I took to the App Store to see what wondrous new apps I could buy. Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve become very interested in what apps could make things easier. I saw that iA Writer was deemed one of the Mac Apps of the year for 2011, and was on sale for 50% off its normal price. Like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to iA Writer.

I’m using the application to write this blog post, and it has been very enjoyable. I’m using it in full-screen mode and have turned on “Focus Mode.” Focus Mode emphasizes the current sentence you are typing; everything else is slightly greyed out. I really like this feature and can see how this causes the user to focus more on the current sentence. Many times when I am writing, I find myself looking back, with a critical eye, at previous sentences. Focus mode minimizes this, and I feel it is easier to keep a steady flow of thoughts going.

The app is very minimal; the focus is solely on writing. This being said, when you take a pause from typing, simple stats are displayed along the bottom of the screen. The stats that are shown are words, characters, and reading time; nothing too earth-shattering, but certainly useful. There are additional features of the app that I have not used. I do not use iCloud, so I do not have much of a use for that aspect of iA Writer. All in all, I’m satisfied with my purchase and look forward to using iA Writer for future blog posts.

RSS for HPC Discussions

I find one of the best ways to learn about the weather is to read discussions put out by NOAA.  I’ve recently started using Reeder on my laptop and my iPhone; I really enjoy how easy it is to keep up with blog posts and other RSS feeds that I follow.  There are several RSS feeds that are available through NOAA, but I have noticed that the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center does not offer RSS feeds for its many discussions.

I’ve decided to start to work on a script that will run via a cronjob on my web server that will retrieve these discussions and place them in an RSS feed.  The RSS feeds will be available at the following URL:

NOAA Discussion RSS Feeds

The code that I’m using to generate the RSS feeds can be seen at noaa-discussions. Feel free to provide any feedback by forking the repo and submitting a pull request. I am always open to the input of others.

Happy trails!