Blogging: Does frequency count?

Whenever I start a new blog or section of this blog, I tend to post a lot for the first few days and then slowly trail off. From what I’ve seen on the Internet, this is not uncommon. I feel lucky that I haven’t gone a whole year between blog posts (like a few friends I know), but I certainly understand how that happens.

But with the newness comes the worry of overloading the reader (Even as a published author, I sometimes doubt anyone reads my work – if you wish to prove me wrong, use the contact form and I will amend this post to show a real live person read it. But I digress…). This overload problem is why services like Buffer exist. I am beginning to wonder if it matters though – streakiness versus reliability. I follow streaky blogs and regular blogs daily, and while I revel in the reliability of fresh content, there is something special about a friend’s blog being updated periodically. I guess there are pros and cons to both publishing strategies!



Sentiment on Cats Not Influenced by Student Level or Time Of Year

Because I know everyone cares deeply on this issue, I’m happy to report that in a survey of 117 students, slightly less than half (46%) believe that they are “cute and cuddly and I lub them so much” while 53% feel “They’re antisocial and psychotic and I don’t trust them at all”. This difference is not significant (p = .4). Student level (100 versus 300 level class) and time of year (fall versus spring) also do not affect sentiment.

Conclusion: Half the population love little fur balls, fur balls that the other half of the population distrust deeply.

I apologize if this face causes evil flashbacks.  But you are on the Internet, what do you expect?
I apologize if this face causes evil flashbacks.
But you are on the Internet, what do you expect?

Oh, if you’re wondering why I have this data – I use Socrative to collect quiz data from my classes and as part of the first day of class stuff, I have them take a demo quiz. I ask the cat question there, just for fun. I analyze it because I’m a big freakin’ geek.

Get Off Your Lazy *** and Set up Google Reader!

I often talk with people who spend just as much time as me (or more) surfing various blogs and sites to keep up on news in a broad array of areas. One complaint is usually that people miss material, or material is posted so rapidly that they feel overwhelmed. A solution to this is to use an RSS reader, a favorite is Google Reader, to read your news. When I mention this, I often hear  “No, that’s too much work” – quite a funny statement since once it’s set up, the RSS reader will actually save hours and hours of time wasted surfing to pages and refreshing them.

And it isn’t even a lot of work in the first place – you can be up and running with Google Reader in under 10 minutes, and here’s how.

1. Get a Google account if you don’t already have one.

2. Log in to Google Reader

3. Once in, it will look pretty empty. However never fear – you’ll soon have your news and blog posts show up. Click the “Add Subscription” button and enter the web address of the page you want to add. Most blogs and news websites now have their RSS feed links set up so that Reader can automatically find it:



Once you hit “Add”, you’re done – the news items from that site will now appear. Occasionally you may need to track down a specific feed address (for example, some larger sites have feeds just for certain news items, like Science news or Entertainment news). If you need to find those, go to the site you’re reading and look for the RSS icon: image  – clicking on it should take you to the RSS link. You can then copy and paste it from your browser’s address bar to the Add a Subscription box in Reader.

Once you have reader set up, all you need to do to read your feeds is log into reader, and click All Items:


It will then display all items from all of your feeds in the right hand reading pane. You can spend more time reading and less time loading pages.


I estimate it would take a medium-to-heavy blog reader around 15 minutes to add all of their feeds to reader, and then most likely save them about 5 minutes per day in page load times, bookmark clicks, and such. So after 3 days, reader’s setup has paid for itself time wise, not to mention you’ll sound cool since you can actually tell everyone all of the cool things you’ve read – not have them say “Hey, didn’t you see that article on X blog about…”

Jon’s Linux Experiment – Part 4 – The PPTP VPN Snafu

Well, here is a new problem that I’ve solved, with a little help from a few websites!

Like many people who work on the internet, I need to connect to a VPN from time to time to work. My VPN, a PPTP Windows 2003 Server VPN, is a nice little setup that I use to remote into a variety of webservers. However VPN setups in Ubuntu have always been a bit strange to work with. Here’s what I had to do to get my PPTP VPN connection established:

I largely followed the guide here, first by running sudo apt-get install network-manager-pptp and then by setting up a VPN by using network manager in Ubuntu. I ran into a few problems, mostly because I used a domain name in the credentials box when i did not have to. Clearing that and enabling MPPE encryption (See the guide posted above) resolved a lot of the errors I had and let me successfully connect. Other problems I ran across but were not part of my issue were of firewall irregularities or of a “unique setup” nature. The best advice I can offer to anyone is to just keep searching. Eventually you’ll get your PPTP setup going, and it shall be sweet!

TinyUrl Oddities

OK, so I’m not the most normal person in the world, but today while surfing around I think I found some people who are weirder than I.

You see there’s this service called that will take insanely long URL addresses and create shortcut URLs that are easily transmitted. They also allow you to ‘pick’ your tinyURL shortcut (as long as it’s available), which results in the oddities I’ve found below. Admittedly, some of the words I tried are a bit adolescent in their use – but what others have linked them to is interesting, funny, and bizarre. Note: I did not make any of these up (Although I do have  set up to go to my contact page (I saved a whole 5 letters!)

So here are the interesting TinyURL addresses I’ve found today, and what they link to:

So there you have it, many odd TinyUrls!

Pandora Puts Personalized Music On Windows Mobile Devices

“Pandora provides a personalized, Internet-based radio service. Today, Pandora announced that it is extending its PC-based software to select Windows Mobile devices. The mobile version will have the same features as the online version, such as creating new stations, bookmarking songs, and rating songs with thumbs up or thumbs down. Pandora will initially support the Motorola Q9c and HTC XV6900 on Verizon’s network, and the Motorola Q9c and HTC Touch on Sprint’s network.”

Pandora provides a nice alternative when shuffle on your iPod/Zune/MP3 Player of choice is just being too repetitive. I’ve even found more than one new song that I like through it, and it’s nice to see that eventually we’ll all be able to play it on our WinMo devices, with initial support for a select few VZW & Sprint customers.

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Building Software Based Experiments: Techniques, Tools, and Tips

Welcome to Jon Westfall’s Software Based Experiment Resource site. This site will begin it’s life to serve as a supplement to my contribution to the SJDM Computing Symposium, and continue on as a resource to other social scientists that seek simple solutions to building software. (Whoa, Holy Alliteration Batman!) If you have any questions, feel free to contact me for more information.

SK3 : An example of using Microsoft Visual Studio, Microsoft Internet Information Server, and Microsoft Frontpage extensions to build rich web-delivered data collection software. SK3 is a multi-stage escalation of commiment / Sunk Cost problem that presents the user various pieces of information and tracks what they look at, how long they look, and in what order they look before making a decision to continue to the next part or terminate the project. The problem used in SK3 is adapted from Schmidt & Calantone, “Escalation of commitment during new product development”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 30(2), 103-118

The source code provided here is licensed under the GPL. You are free to modify the work, however I do ask that you let me know of any modifications or revisions

SK3 is written in VB.NET, Visual Studio 2005

Pebl: The Psychology Experiment Based Language


Microsoft Dreamspark Program (Provides free versions of Microsoft development tools to undergraduate and graduate students at colleges or universities around the world)

Happy SysAdmin Day Everyone

Today is the last Friday in July, which means it’s SysAdmin day. The 9th annual SysAdmin day to be specific. Check out for more information. The blurb on their frontpage pretty much says it all. Here it is, edited for length:
“A sysadmin unpacked the server for this website from its box, installed an operating system, patched it for security, made sure the power and air conditioning was working in the server room, monitored it for stability, set up the software, and kept backups in case anything went wrong. All to serve this webpage. A sysadmin installed the routers, laid the cables, configured the networks, set up the firewalls, and watched and guided the traffic for each hop of the network that runs over copper, fiber optic glass, and even the air itself to bring the Internet to your computer. All to make sure the webpage found its way from the server to your computer. When the email server goes down at 2 AM on a Sunday, your sysadmin is paged, wakes up, and goes to work.
A sysadmin is a professional, who plans, worries, hacks, fixes, pushes, advocates, protects and creates good computer
networks, to get you your data, to help you do work — to bring the potential of computing ever closer to reality. So if you can read this, thank your sysadmin — and know he or she is only one of dozens or possibly hundreds whose work brings you the email from your aunt on the West Coast, the instant message from your son at college, the free phone call from the friend in Australia, and this webpage. Friday, July 25th, 2008, is the 9th annual System Administrator Appreciation Day. On this special international day, give your System Administrator something that shows that you truly appreciate their hard work and dedication. Let’s face it, System Administrators get no respect 364 days a year. This is the day that all fellow System Administrators across the globe, will be showered with expensive sports cars and large piles of cash in appreciation of their diligent work. But seriously, we are asking for a nice token gift and some public acknowledgement. It’s the least you could do. ”
That being said, anyone want to know every SysAdmin’s favorite sight? The following, kudos if you know what generated it:

Take The Internet With You When You Go!

About a year ago, I switched from Direcway Broadband Satellite internet to a Sprint EVDO Rev A card for my home internet service. The choice was easy – the Sprint card was cheaper and had better speeds overall than the satellite. For awhile, I put my broadband card into a spare computer and had it share the connection via Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) in Windows XP. Then I found a router online (The WRT54G3G-ST) that would let me pop the card right into my router and avoid the ICS hassle. The best part about using a broadband card for your internet service is that when you leave, you can simply take the internet with you when you go. However unless you want to install the broadband card drivers on every laptop in the family, there is no easy way to share (Unless you think setting up an adhoc network in Vista and sharing the internet – reliably – is easy!). My Solution? A cheap and easy rig that will let you pack “The Internet” with you when you go!

Step 1 – Parts

You’ll probably want the following (At least my rig is set up like this). My rig allows for the internet to be powered through AC or DC, depending on if you’re in a car or hotel room. Here are the parts:

  • Broadband card (Duh…)
  • Broadband Router (The WRT45G3G-ST in my case)
  • Short power strip (Optional, I suppose)
  • Some sort of Power Inverter (DC to AC). Mine is 400W, however you may be able to get away with less!
  • Box (Either an actual project box from somewhere like Radio Snack, or in my case, two Avon box lids)


Step 2 – Construction

You’ll probably want to plan out your rig before actually constructing it. I did mine visually, however for the sake of easy explaining, I’ll do up a small diagram (Click on it to see it a bit clearer!):

Next you’ll probably want to cut holes for vents, ports for cords, the hole for the antenna to stick out, and the power strip access. I used a simple swiss army knife as it cuts through cardboard quite nicely (What doesn’t…) and used masking tape to secure each item to the base of the box (I do want to disassemble this when I get home to put everything back where it normally goes). Feel free to improvise here – you may want to add more power ports, etc..

My design was specifically made to allow for AC or DC powering, and it works like this. When using AC, the power strip’s cord runs straight out the port to the right of it, and into a wall outlet. When on DC, it loops around the inverter (and plugs into the outlets at the bottom of the inverter. The Inverter’s cord then comes out the port to the right of the power strip, and into a car cigarette lighter. I’m planning on bringing an extension cord for the DC cord, as it is shorter than the power strip’s.

Step 3 – Complete & Accessorize

Here are some pictures of my completed rig. Note the snazzy title I gave mine (The Internet, complete edition, in color!). Accessorize to your heart’s content, just don’t block the vents!

(Edited to remove SSID – I’m paranoid…)

That’s all folks. Feel free to register and post your comments or suggestions!

Jon Westfall is a research psychologist and confirmed techno-geek. He’s a contributing editor for Pocket PC Thoughts, as well as a Microsoft MVP for Windows Mobile. This blog is where most of his longer articles reside, however also has other goodies and more than you want to know about him.