Squarespace has a URL formatting problem

I really like Squarespace. Their support of many of my favorite podcast (penaddict, ATP) helps. I have started to recommend and use Squarespace for many of my nonprofit websites (Fiske School PTO). Recently I started to convert some of my other blogs ( over. Immediately I run into a big problem. When Squarespace import (or create) a blog, it requires the blog entries to live under a suffix within the site's URL scheme. For example, the default suffix is "blog". This means all the blog entries will be of the form:
... etc ...

There is no way to not have the /blog/ or /anything/ suffix, for example the following URL is not possible:

Currently most blog based website removes the suffix and use some sort of date notation only in the URL. The site of Matt Mullenweg, founding developer of Wordpress, is a good example. Squarespace however cannot serves blog pages using this convention.

URL Mapping

Squarespace does have a URL mapping settings, where you can map one URL to another. However the mapping is a literal mapping. It does not support wildcard. i.e. you have to manually enter each page name. So you have to create a long list of URLs and issue permanent redirects for them one by one using this setting option. This is the only solution.

Customer Service

Squarespace always have great customer support. They respond to email or chat inquiries very quickly. This time is no different. I have to give kudos to the customer service reps that handle my inquiry regarding this bug. Stephanie D took my issue and spent a lot of time trying to get a definitive answer to whether this can be avoided with their tech team.


Why naming your child Hashtag is a bad idea

#FAILED By know you have read the news, some parent named their new born baby girl Hashtag. This is a really bad idea but not for what you think. It is not that the child may be teased, or confused, or her future cost of therapy. The reason that this is a bad idea is ironic:

If the parents named their child hashtag because they like social media, the name actually completely disadvantaged their child in social media. What do you the child can use as a name in her online identities? dashtag may well be a reserved word. How about her personal brand? I would suggest "". Because if I were to look for her, and perform a web search for "hashtag smith", do you think I will find her easily? Or would I get a thousand result pages talking hashtag the social media term instead?

Why I ditched Skitch and Evernote a long time ago

Today the internet is flooded with "we hate Skitch 2.o" sentiment. I hate to tell you, but I ditched both Skitch and Everynote a long time before today. Some background. I loved Skitch. But soon, Skitch gettings to be buggy and would crash on me often. It got to the point where I had to stop using it because I need a reliable way to share images at work. This was just around the time Evernote bought Skitch.

I was a very early Evernote adopter. I work on multiple machines and being able to automagically sync notes across them is priceless. But slowly I am annoyed by the subtle differences in the evernote clients across platforms. By all account Evernote is now a very mature platform but they still have problem deciding whether to support text formatting on all platforms. So I gave up.

I use Yojimbo for all my notes now. I am waiting for a read/write iPad and iPhone client, and that is a problem, but the Yojimbo guys know software and I trust them to get all the features right. Their notes organization support is very good which is what I need, and I use dropbox for general file syncing across platforms.

So why is Skitch and Evernote so bad? and Dropbox and Yojimbo so much better? Because fundamentally Dropbox and Yojimbo are run by techies -- programmers that put actual functionality first and business model second. They use their own products and will not make it not usable. My guess is product development team now drives Skitch and Evernote, and while "aligning their products with their strategic business model", short changing their actual user base.

Note: Yojimbo is an Apple platforms only product. If you use Windows, stick with Evernote.

My First CFL Bulb

I installed my very first CFL Bulb in the loft today. It is not that I am not energy conscious, it is that we have  ZWave controlled home lighting system in the Loft. Non of the CFL's, and most of the LED bulbs do not work with electronic dimmers. Only the bathrooms' lights are normal switched lights. So I installed my first 3.7+ years CFL there. Let's see if it last that long. Listening to OnPoint last week, the editor-in-chief Kimberly Kleman said we should keep the receipt and call the manufacturer on it if the bulb fails.

Itunes Music Match Resource Usage

My main  music library is on my 2011 Mac Mini, 2.3GHz 8G ram Core i5 CPU. Right now it is half way matching my 9000+ songs. Looking at the activity monitor, it is using up one entire CPU, with 35 threads and about 500 Meg of real memory. I assume the matching process is some sort of checksum computation and then a network query, which is why it is CPU intensive but not network intensive.

iPhone Day Light Savings Bug strikes again November 2011

If you have your phone's date and time settings set to "automatic", meaning it will automatically determine your time zone, you would be one hour early to your appointments today! For some reason, if you set your timezone yourself then the phone gets the day light savings change correctly. See the two screenshots I took flipping the automatic switch back and forth.

How to use siri and Reminder effectively

We all love Siri, and scheduling reminders verbally, right? But you are not getting the most out of it unless you do the following, if you are a iCloud user with other devices and macs:

  1. Delete your local Reminder list in Reminder, leaving the iCloud reminder list
  2. On your Mac(s) calendar program, go to View / Show Reminders
  3. (optionally) on your iPhone change Settings/Sound for reminders so that you know a reminder has gone off as oppose to other events.

Now when you schedule a reminder with siri, it will automatically synced to your macs and ipads, and it will show up on all devices!

siri is amazing

There, I said it. Siri really is amazing. People who think it is just voice recognition software need to try it before passing judgement. This is BETA according to Apple, learning a trick from Google. That just means they are going to tweak it with user data. Some of these things are not working (yet):

  1. It does not work with third party app. "Play Norah Jones" only work if you have her music on your music library. We need it to work with Rdio or Spotify, like Dragon Go does.
  2. It does not take multiple calendars into account. I have 25 appointments next week according to "check my schedule", what I really want is "check my work schedule"
  3. You would think you can send tweets from siri, with all the twitter integration, but you cannot. You can say "text twitter" if you have twitter setup as an account with code 40404, the standard twitter SMS interface. You will be using your SMS credits though.
  4. It will be nice if it interface with either the calculator app or something more streamlined for basic calculation, and then read back the result instead of showing me a wolfram alpha page.

How to Change Colors for ls command in xterm

I like to us a dark background on my ssh terminal. On WebFaction, their terminal environment is setup to output colors on commands like "ls". That is great except the default directory names ended up in blue, which is impossible to read on a black background.

There is a easy way to fix this:

  1. copy the system default color settings from /etc/DIR_COLORS into your home directory and name it .dir_colors
  2. edit your copy of .dir_colors file to change the colors.
  3. For example, I change it to white:


cp /etc/DIR_COLORS ~/.dir_colors

# than change this line from DIR 01;34    to: DIR 01;37       # directory


Original Screen:

WebFaction server down for almost a day

Do not get me wrong. I love webfaction. Half of our apps (including our clients) are running there. Over the last few years we have had small outages. But usually be back within the hour. This time, the web194 server has been down for almost a day now. I sincerely hope that:

  1. they tell us what happened
  2. and more importantly, why it took so long to recover
  3. why  they wouldn't just swap in a new machine, especially this is one of the newer server

We lucked out in that our site is still in alpha mode ( Boston Private School Search ), but some much larger site like the is on the same server. For us, it stopped our design process for a day as we use the alpha site for design testing and we run a virtual team with our designers.

Update 7/13/2011

Site is backup. Seems like the machine was restored from a backup that is more than one day old.

How to clean up your gmail account

I glanced down at the bottom on my gmail account. My mailbox is 30% full, almost 3G. While I have a very long way to go before the account become 100% full, the organized part of me just want to clean things up!

If you want to delete very old emails in GMail, use this search filter:

is:unread before:2011/01/01

This will return all mail that is unread and older than Jan 1st of 2011. I actually add in additional filter, as I organize most of my emails by label. So since I follow a large email list call "python", I can select and delete all the emails from that list by adding label:python to my search criteria. Noting that I created a automatic filter to label all emails from that mailing list with the label "python".

Day 5: Sorting out NPR and PBS on the iPad

There are too many apps for NPR and PBS, for iPhone and iPad. I spend half an hour cleaning up all the apps. There are two pair of apps that are useful:

  • The official PBS (tv) apps published by PBS, for iPhone or iPad
  • The official NPR (radio) apps published by PBS for iPhone or iPad

The NPR (radio) apps both let you do live streaming or catch up on old shows. The Video program has selected content for viewing, but obviously no life streaming. These apps are confusing because they use the same icon for both iPhone and iPad, but the apps are different. On first sync I have both versions on the iPad and I need to launch them to figure out what is what.

There are other apps out there, the Public Radio Tuner will stream radio, and WBUR has their own apps. But I am not sure if they are necessary if you have the official apps.

How to Find a iPad 2 using Python

I did not buy the version 1 iPad because an iPad without a front facing camera just does not seem right. At iPad 2 launch day, I was going to go stand in line (as I did for my iPhone 3GS) for one, as my office is about a mile away from the Boston Apple Store. However real work got in the way.

I did not anticipate the demand for this thing. I guess a lot of people were like me, skipping the iPad 1 and waited for the iPad 2. I did place an order order days after, which is of course too late.

Python to the rescue! Someone posted the links to check for stock on the Target mobile site. I threw together a quick python script, using BeautifulSoup (Don't you love BeautifulSoup ?) to scrape the site. Saturday night, I found a 32G black iPad 2 available in a Target close by ! I drove over almost first thing Sunday morning, only to find that the two that they had in stock was already purchased by someone who got there, waited for the store to open, at 8am.

Lesson here? Programming is easy. Actually getting up in the morning and driving over to wait in line is, well, a bit overkill. I think I will just wait for the online shipment.

Meanwhile, you can try out the python program here. Rename to .py for running.

Get the CSV QuickLook plugin for your Finder

I have been using Macs for three years now. Yet I did not know you can install additional plugins for QuickLook so that you can quickly view different types of file in the finder just by pressing the spacebar ! I work with CSV files a lot and it has always been a pain having to open them in numbers or openoffice to view them. Now come (free) CSV quicklook plugins. You can find a lot of different plugins at this site . This CSV plugin is the one that I installed.

How to Install

  1. Go to the download site, often it is something on
  2. click on the <whatever plugin name>.dmg to download the software
  3. Click on the downloaded DMG file and it should open in Finder
  4. copy the <whatever plugin name>.qlgenerator file into your quicklook plugin directory: Either at /Library/QuickLook/ or ~/Library/QuickLook/
  5. If you copy into ~/Library... it will only be available to your account. If the ~/Library/QuickLook directory is not there, create it first.
  6. either reboot, or start a terminal session and type: qlmanage -r

That is it!

New web design using blueprint

Christmas and last week of the year is traditionally clean-up and catch-up time for me. One project that I have been putting of again and again is to redesign my personal website. Here we are -- I spent the last two days learning blueprint, the grid based CSS framework, throw in a bit of CSS coding, and redesigned my personal site. I am also going to split up my larger "brands" into separate sites. I find that visitors to this site sometimes get lost in big mashup of information here. I am going to use the personal site for more personal and general writing. The Django, parenting, and CTO related materials will be moved off to other sites.

Love this new look?

Ian Ayres Carrots and Sticks talk at Quantified Self Boston 2010

Ian Ayres, author of "Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done" gave an informative and entertaining talk at the Boston Quantified Self meetup this week. We captured all of in on Video. It's rather long so I broke it into four parts. Enjoy: Part 1

quantified self carrot and stickk part 1 from PK Shiu on Vimeo.

Part 2

quantified self carrot and stickk part 2 from PK Shiu on Vimeo.

Part 3

Quantified Self Carrot and Stickk Part 3 from PK Shiu on Vimeo.

Part 4

quantified self carrot and stickk part 4 from PK Shiu on Vimeo.

And the Book:


WebEx Totally Blew the New Customer Experience for Me

I signed up for a new WebEx account today for a client. Got onto the WebEx website, clicked through the sign up forms, gave them my credit card for the $468 annual plan, thinking I can immediately scheduled a web conference with a new sales lead. But No... 11:21 am: The last screen in the sign-up process tells me that it will take up to 30 minutes for them to setup my account. In the age of 5 seconds attention span, "do it now" mentality, I am already unhappy. In this specific instance, I actually need to schedule a conference with a customer *now*. Not happy.

11:28 am: "Receipt for you WebEx order" email arrived. Which tells me please allow for 30 minutes for my account to be setup.

12:12 pm: "Welcome to WebEx" email arrived. (that's 34 minutes later) saying I can start using WebEx.

12:13 pm: Trying to log into WebEx using my email address as the user id, which was *repeatedly" mentioned in all the emails so far, no luck.

12:14 pm: Trying to reset / retrieve my password, no luck. At this point it is cleared that something else is wrong. Signed on to their online chat to ask for help.

12:15 pm: Oh you are an existing customer? Please call our 800 number.

12:16 pm: Called 800 number, someone picked up, determined that "something is wrong, your account is invalid", and transferred me to another department.

12:21 pm: after waiting for a few minutes, the call dropped. (We will *not* blame WebEx for this one, it could be just the cell service).

12:21 pm: Call back, since it was "something to do with my account", I navigated to billing and not tech support. Waited and waited.

12:29 pm: Agent picked up, "oh you need to talk to "service" and transferred me again. More waiting.

12:40 pm: Can't wait anymore. Hung up. Went to get lunch downstairs.

12:50 pm: Eating lunch at my desk, called back to 800 number, navigated to "tech support", and, yes you guessed it, waiting in the queue.

12:57 pm: Someone picked up. "Oh you don't have a user name" he says. "Funny I thought it was my email address" I replied. He asked me to pick a user name, (not in the form of an email address), created my "account" and away I go. I asked why did the system from the first sign-up screen keep telling me that my email address is my user name?

He couldn't explain. Seems like perhaps there is a truly manual step involved in the WebEx account setup process, and someone is suppose to type in a user name for me.

Wait -- this is not over !!!

10:35 am THE NEXT DAY: I got an email: "Your meeting center user name and password" is created. That is about 19 hours later. And that it seems is in response to the customer service rep's setting up of my user name when I was on the phone with them.


If I had simply waited, perhaps 19 hours later I would have received my actual user name? What is the actual rules for user name? Email? or username? What exactly is the sign-up process? I really would like to know.

By the way, I tweeted my dissatisfaction on twitter to @webex. Someone responded several times, but nothing actually happened.


The irony is that I was a very early user of WebEx back in 2000 when they were starting out. I have used it extensively in a global start-up. Everything was first rate. This experience makes me want to go run to dimdim or gotomeeting.

Scratch @ MIT 2010 Day 2 and 3

This is a picture of the the Event Space, the main presentation space. Besides the obviously very high ceiling, the room is laid out diagonally. It works. A simple idea. Brilliantly executed. The building really is designed (by Fumihiko Maki) with function in mind. Loneliness is failed Solitude

I find the most value at the conference not at the workshops and how-to sessions, but the more general education related sessions. Day 2 KeyNote by Sherry Turkle, Henry Jenkins and Marina Bers was great. Turkle presented her latest thought on the importance of Solitude. This frankly scares me. She has pointed out with our new constantly connected, constantly fed (with information) environment, would teens (and adults) know now to be alone? Not knowing the value of solitude, when one creates, and engage in deep self development, teens will be increasingly dependent on shallow casual interactions. Their phones become the center of their lives. They move from "I have a feeling; id' like to make a call" to "I want to have a feeling; I need to make a call."

Turkle ends with an encouraging note -- Do not use the word "Addiction" when talking about this connected world. Addiction implies that we want to get rid of the cause. We will not and cannot get rid of the Internet.  While many people falls into the fallacy that we are stuck with the current state, the Internet is actually very young. We can learn to live with it.

Referencing Thoreau, she encourages us to not live thickly - "Just because we have the net we do not have to live thickly".

Side Note: A funny moment at the start of her presentation, when Turkle says "you know when I say phone, I don't mean phone". Of course, she meant the smart phone/device that is used for texting, running apps connecting to facebooks, and seldom for realtime phone conversation.

2.0 is a Business Model, not a Pedagogy

Jenkins pointed out that the participatory culture is not new. Facebook is not the first social network. While Jenkin's studies often reference the fan fiction culture, there are many more examples. A "good" participatory community is not a pure consuming community. The "hanging around" group consume content, but also communicate with each other. The "Messing about" group contributes with self-expression and self-actualization. The "Geeking out" group tinkers and create for the community. A participatory community allows experts and beginners share a common interest and help each other.

"Not every member must contribute, but all must believe they are free to contribute when ready, and that what they contribute will be appropriately valued."

BYOB for No Ceiling Computer Science Education

Brian Harvey gave a short presentation on Day 2, and a long one on Day 3 on BYOB, the CMU developed variation of Scratch that has list of lists and "procedures" which turn Scratch into almost visual Scheme. Given these new first order data object, one can program much more advance concepts using BYOB.

Technically BYOB is brilliant and I can't wait to use it. Politically they are working hard with the core Scratch team to find a way to incorporate BYOB into Scratch. Harvey is extremely sensitive to no wanting to split the Scratch community into the beginners and the advanced users. I hope they find a way to do this as BYOB clearly is a good thing.

Useful Software Finds

By talking with different people in different disciplines, often from different parts of the world, I found a few new software and web projects that are of interest:

  • Animationish -- flipbook type of desktop app
  • mind42 - a free online mind mapping tool
  • prezi -- a web based and desktop presentation software with a twist

The New Cheaper Kindle, Well Played Mr. Bezos

[AMAZONPRODUCT=B003FSUDM4] I am an early adaptor and reader. Of course I have the original white, wedge, Kindle. In fact still prefer that design than the new slim design. Since the launch of the Kindle, to the point when Apple seemingly enters the race with the iPad and the iBook store, I bet a lot of people has prematurely declared the death of the Kindle. How they were wrong!

I admire Steve Jobs a great deal. I am a Apple Fanboy. But I also love Amazon. And lately I really started to appreciate Jeff Bezos. The phrase "slow and steady win the race" comes to mind. Of course the Amazon book pricing is going to end. Of course there will be competing devices to the Kindle. But Bezos hung in there, working up to the "mass market" Kindle event today slowly. This is the right move. And he took his time. Why not?

At the end it is about the reading experience. And you cannot beat the Kindle. Call me old school. When I read I don't want to be distracted. I don't want to flip over to check email or get ping on my twitter account on the iPad. I want to read. Lifehacker happen to run a story on the need to rebuild one's attention span and focus, referencing this How To Focus article. (While you are at it, skip over to the Onion for a laugh on this topic.)

I'll leave you with a little Jeff Bezos advice: