Alex Jerez is an artist, developer and musician from Huntington, New York. His most recent projects include Gfysound.com and Crosshatch.
Follow Alex on Twitter: @notalexjerez

Maximum Bandwidth via FedEx

I'm around a computer all the time, yet I realized that I had never really stopped to think about the limitations of data transfer and how it ends up transcending back into the analog world. The thought came up after reading this quote by MINIX author Andrew Tanenbaum:

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway. –Andrew Tanenbaum, 1981

How cool is that? despite the crazy-fast transfer rates that today's technology gives us, we're still technically able to move certain amounts of data quicker and more efficiently by simply putting it in a shoebox and shipping it out to it's new location. It makes total sense, but since I've never had to deal with such a large scale transfer of data, The thought had never occured to me.

XKCD has a great post on this where it goes into great detail on it, and it looks like the 'FedEx method' will be around for some time, at least until we see file transfer rates surpass the equivalent of a truckload of MicroSD cards.

(Photo Credit: N276FE - FedEx Boeing 727-200 By Andrew Cohen - Creative Commons )

The 'Secret' to a Hit Song Title

Last weekend, I came up with this idea as a result of pondering on the thought that the highest-grossing tier of the music industry is really just a concentration of a dozen or so artists. And the music is almost always formulaic and cliché. (But that's nothing we didn't know already...right?)

The Idea showed it's face when I heard two different songs on the radio, back-to-back that coincidentally had Nicki Minaj in both of them; One solo song and one song by another artist featuring her.

I realized that these artists are so commonplace that you could just mix and match any of them, throw a cliché buzzword here and there, and you'd have a realistic-sounding top-40 song. So I took this idea and turned it into a website: Hit Song Generator.com.

Basically, what it does is use a bit of javascript to randomly pick pair of artists, give them a catchy song title, and bam! There's the next radio hit. I found it amusing that the resulting song names ended up being more convincing than I had originally expected.

I used HTML5 Boilerplate and was pleased with the results. Check out that responsiveness!

Make sure you share your best song combinations!

If you traveled back in time to 1975 equipped with a modern laptop...

I was running errands this afternoon and came up with a very interesting hypothetical scenario. It could never happen in real life, but the way you respond to it can say alot about who you are as a coder and as a person in general. There's no right or wrong way to answer it.

I originally intended to post this question to HN, but I couldn't find the perfect way to ask in under 80 characters, so I figured I'd ask here on my blog instead:

If you traveled back in time to 1975 equipped with a modern laptop loaded with a development environment of your choice, what's the first thing you'd do?

discuss on HN, /r/programming

( picture credit goes to Charles P Daly )

Adding a red notification icon next to your menu button on Wordpress

A notification icon, remniscient of the facebook alert, right next to a menu button. There doesn't appear to be a plugin for this yet, unfortunately, and since I don't have the time to invest in making one, I'll do a quick runthrough of how you can do this to your wordpress site. All you have to do is add a bit of CSS to your page.

StackOverflow user Titus generously provided us with a good CSS snippet for this icon on this post, so I took that and made a slightly modified version so that it works best on newer browsers. You can add this CSS in several ways. One is through the 'Extra CSS' area on your Wordpress via a Theme Customization Option, but you can also achieve this with a simple plugin.

here's the CSS:

 #noti_Container {  
   position:relative;   /* This is crucial for the absolutely positioned element */  
 /*  border:1px solid blue; This is just to show you where the container ends */  
   width:16px;  
   height:16px;  
 }  
 .noti_bubble {  
   position:absolute;  /* This breaks the div from the normal HTML document. */  
   top: -6px;  
   right:-6px;  
   padding:1px 2px 1px 2px;  
   background-color:red; /* you could use a background image if you'd like as well */  
   color:white;  
   font-weight:bold;  
   font-size:0.55em;  
   line-height:180%;  
   /* The following is CSS3, but isn't crucial for this technique to work. */  
   /* Keep in mind that if a browser doesn't support CSS3, it's fine! They just won't have rounded borders and won't have a box shadow effect. */  
   /* You can always use a background image to produce the same effect if you want to, and you can use both together so browsers without CSS3 still have the rounded/shadow look. */  
   border-radius:30px;  
   box-shadow:1px 1px 1px gray;  
 }  

Once that's in place, go to the Appearance -> Menus section of your WP admin page and select the page you want to add the icon to. Drag it over to your Custom menu if you haven't done so yet, then under 'CSS Classes (Optional) ', put noti_Container. You have now set the stage for the icon. Now let's add it.

In that same Menu button editing window, append (don't replace) this code to your Navigation Label:

 <div class="noti_bubble">new</div>  

For example, if you want to highlight your Blog button, You'll put this:

Blog <div class="noti_bubble">new</div>  

Save your settings and refresh your page. Tada! enjoy your fancy alert icon.

If you ever want to remove it, you simply remove the <div class ...</div> from your Navigation Label field.

Not too bad, although a plugin would be nice. but hey, it's possible!

'Hacker News 2' App No Longer Loads Comments

You just need to update the app. From the release notes:

v2.1.6

hotfix for broken comments page due to some changes HN made. The reply functionality is temporarily disabled until it gets fixed. Other than that, let me know if you see any other problems. Also thanks to @pkillian the search page works again.

More info here.

Lion