Tag Archives: austin

Libraries for 30 days wrap-up

After trying to work from a new coffee shop I had never been to before, every day for 30 days, I loved the routine of getting out of the house so much that I set on another challenge: visiting 30 libraries. This proved to be more difficult, mostly because of the extra driving required, but I wrapped it up yesterday.

I’ve put together a web page of all the libraries, with photos and links to the microblog posts for each day. The posts are also tagged with #newlibraries.

After wrapping up libraries, I thought I’d make it a trilogy of 30-day endeavors, with a final 30 days of working from city parks. This was a suggestion from Daniel Hedrick, who had worked from parks before, tethering to his iPhone since there’s usually no wi-fi. I loved the idea right away because it fit so well with the goal of getting out of the house and discovering something new in my own city. I even spent a couple hours earlier in the month researching parks and planning out whether I could do it.

But now that it has come to it… I am really burned out on commuting. Finding new coffee shops and libraries has been a great experience. There are several wonderful places that I know I will return to again, and I never would have found them otherwise. I just need a little break from the forced routine of driving somewhere new each day. Maybe I’ll pick up the parks idea next year.

Is this even possible?

When I tell people that I’ve started going to a new coffee shop every day for a month — and importantly, one which I’ve never been to before after living my whole life in Austin, with no duplicates or separate locations from a coffee chain — they usually ask: are you going to run out of places to go? At the beginning I didn’t know. And that has made it a particularly fun challenge, because doing something that you know is possible is boring.

I’ve never been interested in building an iOS app that someone else has already done. I’ve never been excited to write a blog post that is just a rephrasing of someone else’s idea. Starting a new project with a unique twist, even a minor one, is what makes our job as developers and writers fun.

And it’s easy to take a simple idea and build it into a more advanced project. On the latest Core Intuition, Daniel continues to suggest ways to add layers to my coffee trips, from adding photos, to publishing future locations ahead of time so that anyone can stop by and join me for a coffee. (I’m going to be doing this.)

Now at day 10, I can more easily answer the original question, though. I have 16 suggested coffee shops in the queue, so if I visit all of those, I’ll only need 4 more places to hit 30 new coffee shops in 30 days. A few of these might seem like borderline cheats — a donut shop, or a food truck to pick up a Thai iced coffee — but being exposed to new places I would never otherwise go is the whole point.

Austin rain

I think it has finally stopped raining in Austin. Starting to look like summer again:

10 days

Contrast with this video we took on our street last week. We get our fair share of thunderstorms, but I had never seen anything quite like the rain we got last month.

Google Fiber in Austin

Google Fiber is coming to Austin next year, with crazy-fast 1 Gbps speeds. It was all over the local news in Austin yesterday.

Although I’ve been trying to slowly move off of Google services, this would probably be too good a deal to pass up. However, it seems very unlikely that my neighborhood — which is in the city limits, but pretty far away from central Austin — will get fiber anytime soon. Definitely not in the first year. From the Statesman’s FAQ:

“The coverage is limited to the city of Austin, although Google did not get specific about geographic boundaries. Representatives said they don’t have plans to add Round Rock, Kyle or San Antonio as part of this roll-out. In addition to homes, Google will also provide Gigabit to about 100 public organizations that the city of Austin has helped choose.”

We don’t even yet have Verizon FiOS in our neighborhood, and that has been rolling out in the Austin area for a while now. Time Warner Cable is still the dominant provider.

Another interesting angle to the announcement: each Google Fiber customer also gets 1 terabyte of Google Drive storage. This sounded like a fantastic deal until I checked the normal Google Drive plans. They already have a 1 TB plan at $50/month, with more expensive options all the way up to 16 TB. (Dropbox stops at 500 GB unless you jump to their business-level “teams” plan.)

Maybe that is the first killer app for fiber. Not syncing files, as Dropbox pioneered, but cloud storage that is fast enough to be more like an extension of your local hard drive than a mirror of it. Something like Apple’s Fusion Drive, but where the slow hard drive is the cloud, and the SSD is just a local cache.

360iDev Austin (in tweets)

On “episode 35 of Core Intuition”:http://www.coreint.org/2010/11/episode-35-wrap-it-up-in-cocoa/ I mentioned attending the 360iDev conference, and we brought it up again on the next show while plugging 360MacDev. I had a great time at the conference and hope to attend another one in the future.

The best part was meeting all the iPhone developers who I’ve never crossed paths with, and catching up with others I’d only met briefly before. iPhone developers come from a mix of places, from old Mac developers to web developers to traditional mobile or game developers. While there’s a risk that having so many small regional conferences will fragment the community, this concentrated group of mostly iPhone-only developers made for a great few days of sessions and discussion.

And my main concern leading into the conference — that the hotel location would make it difficult for people to head downtown or see other parts of Austin — turned out to be mostly a non-issue. I had a great time hanging out with everyone in the evening, and hope some of you will be back for SXSW.

I used Tweet Library to “collect about 120 tweets from attendees”:http://www.tweetlibrary.com/manton/360idevaustin at the conference: reaction to sessions, quotes, speaker slide URLs, dinner out, and more. Capturing an event like this is why I built the app. What you had for dinner isn’t interesting by itself, but in context it is powerful because it tells a story.

MacHeist, roofing, and making it up on volume

I wasn’t going to write about MacHeist this year, but after a hail storm damaged nearly every roof in our neighborhood, I noticed something kind of obvious: there are a lot of business that make it up on volume.

This is the new MacHeist promise, right? Not just exposure, although that’s part of it, but selling so many tens of thousands of copies that the developers do very well regardless of their tiny underpriced cut of the profits per sale.

We don’t get hail in Austin very often. I took the Flip out and “filmed a little bit of it”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/manton/3443213704, as golf-ball sized balls of ice blanketed the yard. Afterwards every roofing company in Texas descended on Austin offering steep discounts, in some cases even covering an insurance deductable of $2000 or more. Depending on who you ask, such practices may or may not be considered insurance fraud, but like MacHeist it does come with ethical considerations. The roofing companies knew that they could do so much business in the next 2 weeks that they will easily make up for reduced profits by the sheer volume of work.

There’s another kind of discount shared between roofing companies and MacHeist. Users promote the package they just purchased in exchange for further discounts. For MacHeist it’s spamming your Twitter followers (I get a free Delicious Library!). For roofers it’s spamming your neighbors with a yard sign (I get $250 off!).

I’ve learned a few things from all of this that I think will help me make “my own indie business”:http://www.riverfold.com/ stronger, or at least more consistent. I gladly give free licenses to reviewers, bloggers, and small Mac user groups. I also routinely do 10-20% off discounts that anyone who knows how to search Twitter or “RetailMeNot.com”:http://www.retailmenot.com/ can use.

But I’m just going to have a default “no thanks” answer for big promotions and mass giveaways. It’s consistent with what I believe about keeping prices fair to sustain a Mac business, and it takes the guess work out of which promotions harm the Mac ecosystem and which are a great deal for everyone.

STAPLE! in Austin today (year 4)

Like independent comics and art? “STAPLE! is in Austin today”:http://www.staple-austin.org/ at the Monarch Event Center, off I-35 and 2222. I’ve been on the STAPLE! planning committee for four years now and have enjoyed watching our little show grow from its humble beginnings, but it’s still a completely non-profit, volunteer-led endeavor and we need your support to make it a success. Come join us anytime between 11am and 7pm (or “check the schedule”:http://www.staple-austin.org/guests/ for our featured session times), and then come back downtown later tonight for the after-party and live-art show at Red’s Scoot Inn (“flyer”:http://www.staple-austin.org/promote/staple2008_afterparty.jpg).

TwitterConf 2007

It’s been over a week since SXSW Interactive wrapped up, and I can’t bring myself to post anything interesting about it. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time. But I missed more sessions than usual this year (I’m trying to ship software here!), skipped half the parties (Traci was sick all weekend), and I didn’t notice any big themes that unified the conference.

Except Twitter. Which just underscores that it is about the people, and what they are doing, and being inspired.

I had a great time meeting new folks and catching up with old acquaintances: talking independent Mac development with Buzz Andersen and Justin Miller; software pricing with John Gruber; Rails and cities with Jamie Stephens and Sergio Rabiela; bumping into old school Mac web guys Carl de Cordova, Raines Cohen, Bill Christensen, and Wes Felter; co-workers and former co-workers Damon Clinkscales and Ryan Irelan respectively; lunch in a pub as a storm came down with Austinites Ben and Sara Brumfield; seeing my old friend John Brauer from high school who needs to email me (hint!); and finally meeting Shaun Inman and a bunch of other people whose names I can’t recall at the moment and whose business cards are buried somewhere, but no one is quite sure where.

My only regret is that there were a few people I wanted to say hi to that I literally saw from a distance on the first day of the conference and then never saw again. Maybe they took the wrong escalator and are still trapped in the void of that 3rd floor.

Of all the kajillion SXSW posts that have come through my fresh not-even-a-beta copy of NetNewsWire, I liked “Peter Merholtz’s write-up”:http://www.peterme.com/?p=533 the best:

“What I realized, and what I need to do if I return to SXSW, is that in order to enjoy what SXSW Interactive has become (and boy, has it changed since 1999) I have to take a more Zen-like approach, ignoring all the Things I Could Be Doing, and focus on simply getting the most out of whatever I Am Doing.”

Seeya next year.

Austin on Rails

Rails meeting photo About 20 people met at the Frog Design building downtown a few months ago for the first Austin Ruby on Rails user group meeting, and by the third meeting that number had doubled. Founders Damon, Robert Rasmussen, and Rob Jones have done a great job getting the group off the ground and lining up interesting topics.

Last night was our fourth meeting. Bruce Tate gave a talk on his experience ramping up a Rails team and comparisons to the Java world. As a new experiment on the agenda, afterwards some of us stuck around to hack together a member directory for the web site. I didn’t actively participate in the coding efforts, but I had a good time meeting new people. As usual, it was all followed by drinks at Hickory Street Bar & Grill, where topics of discussion ranged from refactoring to Perl to C++ windowing toolkits to AppleGuide. You know there’s some real substance to Rails when it brings together such a diverse group.

Also just announced: the Rails Happy Hour at SXSW. Should be fun.

Bruce Tate photo
Bruce Tate answers questions after his presentation

Alison Krauss

Friday night we saw Alison Krauss & Union Station at The Backyard. At one time far outside Austin, suburbia has now claimed most of the land around this uniquely Austin venue. We parked outside what will shortly be a Bed Bath & Beyond, or maybe a Barnes & Noble, or another of the too familiar cookie cutter retail shops that spring up around new neighborhoods. Walking over the dust, wire, and new concrete of the construction site, we were thankful for a chance to see a show at The Backyard before the landscape changes entirely, invaded by 24-hour parking lot lights and noisy cars.

Inside none of that could be seen or mattered, though, and the stars came out midway through the set on a clear sky above the open-air venue. Alison’s voice was beautiful and effortless. Songs from the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, other great tracks like The Lucky One and Restless, and a bunch of incredible songs that were new to me. For the encore, her voice soared as if she hasn’t even really been trying before. The audience was moved and in the span of an hour I went from being a little familiar with a few songs, to a life-long fan.

Need some music? The Alison Krauss iTunes Essentials is a good place to start.