Getting started with Ruby on Rails

These are some of the tutorials and guides I’ve found most helpful while picking up Ruby on Rails 3.

Ruby language:

Installing Rails on Windows:

Best “my first app” walk-through:

Using “remote” to ajaxify links and forms:

“Unobtrusive JS” library that ships with Rails 3:

Use Twitter Bootstrap with Rails:

iCatcher! podcatcher app for iOS – mini review

I recently found a new favorite podcatching app called iCatcher! (the exclamation is theirs, but I share their enthusiasm).  The selling points for me are:

  • over-the-air downloads aren’t subject to the 50MB iTunes Store OTA download limit
  • 30 second skip button for video (not just audio), and a 30 second rewind button
  • plays video in portrait orientation
  • a sleep timer
  • if you’re playing a video and you lock the device, the video’s audio will continue to play
  • play video files back at 2x speed (a feature that iTunes Mobile supports only for audio files)

I can’t express how excited I am about that last feature.  The app has been working as advertised so far – no crashes or bugs.  iCatcher is $2 in the App Store.

Get Chrome “Side Tabs” back (kind of)

Thousands of people, including myself, cried out in terror when Google removed the “Side Tabs” from Chrome. I tried for one month to settle into Firefox + Firebug + Tree Style Tabs as my main browser, but that combination is nowhere near is snappy as Chrome for my workload.

My workaround has been to use the most recent build of Chromium (Chrome’s open-source alter ego) that still contained the Side Tabs feature. Because there are no security updates available for this version, I use NoScript and whitelist scripting on sites as needed.

Chromium 15.0.862.0 – Windows: chrome-win32.zip, Mac: chrome-mac.zip

A major advantage of using Chromium instead of an old version of Chrome that has Side Tabs is that Chromium can be run side-by-side with the latest version of Chrome.

The best method to download YouTube videos


I like to download lectures and presentations from YouTube so that I can play them back using VLC at 2x playback speed.

My favorite option for downloading is this YouTube video download GreaseMonkey script that adds a download button to the YouTube video page. It works in Chrome, and in Firefox with GreaseMonkey. This is vastly superior to the more-popular YouTube video save sites that require to you execute a sketchy Java applet.

Understanding WebKit composite layers and iOS Safari performance

I’ve made a video showing how Webkit handles animating of CSS3 transforms very differently from animating of CSS position (left, top) or margin. The are several different conditions that will trigger the browser to use a “composite layer” which minimizes repaints and allows for hardware-accelerated composting. The benefits are especially dramatic in iOS Safari.


This Chromium document explaining composite layers says that the following conditions all trigger a separate composite layer:

  • Layer has 3D or perspective transform CSS properties
  • Layer is used by video element using accelerated video decoding
  • Layer is used by a canvas element with a 3D context
  • Layer uses a CSS animation for its opacity or uses an animated webkit transform
  • Layer has a descendant that has a compositing layer
  • Layer has a sibling with a lower z-index which has a compositing layer (in other words the layer is rendered on top of a composited layer)

See Rich Bradshaw’s awesome CSS3/Transforms page for some great examples.

Best time to end an eBay auction

I recently created an auction on eBay and needed to choose the most effective ending date and time for the auction.  Although I didn’t find any research that took into account the closing price, this post drew conclusions based on eBay site traffic stats.

  • Daily peak visitorship is between 8:00 PM eastern time and 10:00 PM pacific time.
  • Weekly peak visitorship is on Sunday evening. To match your listing to the weekly peak in order to maximize bidding, list so that your auction will close on a Sunday evening between 8:00 PM eastern time and 10:00 PM pacific time.

HTML5 DOM and CSS3 performance

I ran across an awesome presentation by Paul Irish discussing DOM and CSS3 performance issues:

The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_O9_C2ZjoA
The slides: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/39519/talks/gperf/index.html
The blog post: http://paulirish.com/2011/dom-html5-css3-performance/

The top tips that were new to me:

New Firebug feature: console.timeStamp

Firebug recently added an awesome new API; console.timeStamp lets you to create named “events” in the Net panel:

This technique requires manual instrumentation and isn’t as detailed as the Timeline panel in Chrome/Safari or a heavy-weight tool like dynaTrace, but it’s a nice, simple, uncluttered view compared to those other tools.

I used it today on a machine where I couldn’t install dynaTrace, I’ll surely be using it again. Unfortunately it isn’t supported in Firefox 3.6 and older.