29
Dec 08

Facebook Lexicon

Joshua showed me Facebook Lexicon today, which launched a few months ago but apparently I live under a rock. Lexicon is a feature that lets you see the relative frequencies of words that occur on Wall posts, and it’s really fun to play with.

For instance, comparing “blond” to “blonde”, it appears that the latter is far more popular:

Another interesting faceoff is “you” and “your” vs “u” and “ur”.   I predict some sort of apocalypse when “u” overtakes “you”.

Individual wall posts are basically throwaway messages, analogous to that whiteboard you had on the door of your dorm room.  Not terribly interesting, but being able to see this data in aggregate is much more interesting, especially since the throwaway nature of these posts means that people write in a way that is most natural to them.

I could imagine this being useful for SEO, creating online ad campaigns, or just general zeitgeist tracking.  For instance, looking at ‘obama’ and ‘mccain’ in Lexicon shows a real dropoff after the election, with McCain all but dying out and Obama maintaining a slow but steady trickle of wall posts.  I imagine we’ll see a spike as we approach the inauguration (yay!).


29
Sep 08

No on Prop 8

As the election looms, there’s a proposition on the California ballot that’s getting a lot of attention.  Prop 8 is a proposed amendment to the California constitution that strictly defines marriage as between a man and a woman.  Clearly, there’s a lot of hysteria about this proposition but I think I can break down my “no on prop 8”  position.
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03
Sep 08

Yayz!

We launched.  It’s also my birthday, which is also awesome.  More later, but you can check out my Raptr Card here:


20
Aug 08

The Audi (timing belt) Experience

The engine in all its glory...

The engine in all its glory... clicky for a set


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10
Aug 08

Garage door openers and Eichler sliders

Since we moved into our Eichler, we’ve had a love-hate relationship with the dual sliding garage doors.  Of course their unique design and style means that we’d never replace them, but getting out of the car during the rainy winter to pull a heavy door open meant that style had a cost.  Since the pine cones from our tree can dent cars, leaving things alone wasn’t an option.  Clearly, something had to be done.

We decided to do the garage door openers ourselves because no one wanted to attempt doing a job that would involve powering both doors.  There were a few obstacles endemic to all Eichlers, but nothing insurmountable.  The key is developing an attachment to the garage doors that takes the overlapping into account. This also means that you have to be extra careful to not operate the wrong door at the wrong time, as various parts will collide and possibly damage your setup.

The basic idea here is that we installed garage door openers in the front corners of our garage, with the rails and trolleys moving sideways and parallel to the path of the doors.  The rails themselves will be mounted to a piece of wood that spans the gap between beams.

We went with the cheapest garage door opener we could find, a Chamberlain from Lowes.  Because all we have to do is slide the door back and forth, a great deal of power isn’t needed.  If you’re feeling fancy, maybe a screw drive opener would be quieter, but there’s really no need to get anything more than the basics here.  The other you’ll need is a extension kit for your door.  A standard garage door opener is designed with 7 feet of travel.  Since the Eichler slider needs at least 7.5 feet to open fully, you’ll need this kit to ensure things open the entire way.  While you’re in the store, also pick up some hanger brackets for the garage door opener.  This resembles a long piece of flat steel, folded 90 degrees along its length and with lots of holes in it.

In addition to the garage door opener hardware, you will also need to measure the distance between the beams in the garage.  Get an 8×1 piece of pine that is high grade (without knots) and long enough to span the distance with a few inches to spare on both sides.  Mount this board with screws parallel to the door and centered on the beams, with the front edge about six inches away from the boards.  This distance doesn’t have to be exact, but we do need room for the garage door openers.  Here’s a picture of the board with both openers installed, so you can see what we did.

Buy four right angle brackets, Home Depot has some Strong-Tie A66 connectors which are the best I’ve seen so far.  Look in your lumber section near where the deck supplies are sold.  Also pick up some 1 inch lag screws with some washers, you’ll need 8 of them for the angle brackets and another 8 or so to mount the garage door opener hanger to the ceiling.  While you are picking up the angle brackets, get about 8 linear feet of 1×4 oak.

I’m going to assume that you or an electrician will install some grounded outlets on the ceiling boards within in the front corners of the garage.  This is a fairly straightforward job which shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.  You will want to ground your outlets- for us, the cold water pipe leading to the exterior hose faucet was an easy source of grounding.

The next step is to assemble the first garage door opener.  Start on the side of the garage with the outer door, which is the door that is closest to the front of the house.  This door should be on the side of the garage that has some space set back from the edge of the door.  This is important, because the bracket you will attach will require the garage door opener to sit back fairly far from the door.

Build a bracket like this, with the piece of oak attached to the angle brackets with lag screws.  I only used two lag screws even though there are holes for four, to allow for greater clearance for the bracket as it must pass above the other door when opening.  Also note that the bracket is attached just inboard of the hanging casters for the door.  This is critical as it will ensure that the bracket will not hit the other door’s casters as it opens.

Once this bracket is built and attached to the door, hang your garage door opener.  It should be fully assembled at this point so simply install the hang bracket in the ceiling of the garage and adjust it so that the opener is set back far enough to allow for the trolley to move back far enough to pull the door completely closed.  Attach the header bracket for your track to the pine board you attached between the beams.  The opener should be aligned so that the track is parallel to the door’s travel and as close as possible to the door itself.  Once the bracket is hung, assemble the arm and bracket for the trolley.

Connect the power and stand back as you enjoy seeing your garage door opener work.  If all goes well, the bracket you made should slide in the gap between the inner door and the track as the outer door moves open.  Of course, this also means that you should never try opening a door when the other door is open, as it may damage your door.   Be sure to set the force limiting settings to be as low as possible.  Also, the electric eye safety switch will not work, as the opener is set up in a ‘push to open, pull to close’ arrangement.  This means that when the door is closing, the opener ‘thinks’ it’s opening, and ignores the status of the electric eye.  I simply taped mine together.

The other door is much like the first, except we have to make a bracket that won’t interfere with the other door as it opens.  It looks like this:

You can see in this picture that the bracket is sightly different, and designed so that it will never interfere with the other door’s bracket.

Anyway, once you’re done you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the satisfication of doing your own Eicher garage door openers.  Here’s a video to give you a preview of what you’ll have when you’re done!

Enjoy- and check out my Garage Door set on Flickr for more pics!


05
Aug 08

Delicious = new hotness

Even though I’m no longer on the team, I’ll always be a big, big fan of Delicious (with or without dots) and the team.  Seeing that thing launch last week with maximum fanfare and minimum drama was great to see, as that was something that I worked on for most of the last 18 months of my life as a product manager on Delicious.  My friend and fellow ex-Yahoo wrote an excellent post on the topic.

While the new design does take some getting used to, I’m a big fan. Here are some of my favorite features:

  • Contextual search: you can now search any view on the site.  This is easier to do than describe- but as a quick example look at another person’s bookmarks.  Do a search, and you’ll see results from their bookmarks.  If you’re looking at one of their tags, then the results are from that tag on their bookmarks.  Same goes for their network page.  It’s incredibly flexible and great for finding bookmarks from your friends that were previously lost in the mists of the past.
  • Deeper integration with the extension:  With the new Delicious Bookmarks extension for Firefox, the website detects if you have the extension installed and integrates seamlessly with the import settings page.  Simply go to ‘import bookmarks’ on your Settings page and we’ll take care of sending the data along for you- no more creating bookmark files and manually uploading them!
  • Speed:  It’s just way faster than before.  I find myself browsing and searching Delicious a lot more because of the speed.  If you have the extension installed, you’ll notice that we added a handy search plugin for your Firefox and IE search bars.  Try it out!

Anyway, my heartfelt congratulations to the team, I’m pleased as punch that things turned out the way they did.


24
Jul 08

Ask me a question…

I got the PM gig at Yahoo! Answers because I was the top points-scorer during the internal alpha.  These days, my participation is limited, but I still want to answer your questions.  Email me a question at osunick@osunick.com and I’ll do my best to answer it!  Try to play to my strengths- questions about consumer electronics, cars, and home improvement are more likely to be answered satisfactorily than questions about table manners or ballroom dancing.


24
Jul 08

Why I love X10!

The ultimate irony for me is old technology that seems cutting edge.  Nothing epitomizes this more than X10, which was developed in the 1970’s as a way for people to remotely control lights and appliances in their homes.  Since then, the basics have remained the same.  There’s a wall module that can control up to 16 devices.  These devices are comprised of light switches and appliance modules.  The light switches simply replace your standard wall switch and have dimming capability.  The appliance modules plug between your appliance and the wall.  They come in a variety of capacities and designs.  These are controlled by a variety of remotes in all shapes and sizes- a wireless wall switch, a full remote with 16 buttons, and even a small key fob remote.

The big difference between today and the 1970’s is the availablity of programmable control modules.  You simply connect your computer to the control module and you can program macros and timers for any X10 device in your home.  For instance, I have a macro that lets me set all the living room lights to a level that is suitable for tv viewing, and another that turns off every light in the house (very handy for bedtime).  The timers are quite flexible too- not only can you set any device or macro to turn on or off at a set time- you can also program timers that are based on dusk/dawn settings.  For instance, I have a macro that turns on the front door light at dusk- and since there’s almanac data in the control module, the light turns on at a different time every day.

Finally, there are a variety of interesting add-ons like motion sensors that can turn devices on and off based on motion.  In my garage the openers are in the extreme corners of the garage.  This isn’t great for finding your way around the garage at night, so I have a motion sensor turning on the garage lights whenever there’s motion in the garage.  The openers are sufficient for triggering the sensors, so I always have light when I want it, and the sensor also takes care of turning off the lights after a couple of minutes.

Yes, replacing every switch in your house takes time, and X10 isn’t without issues.  Since the device signals travel through your house wiring, it may take some experimentation to find out which outlet in your house works best for the control module.  For instance, when we had the module in our bedroom, signals from the module wouldn’t reach the garage.  We found an inconspicuous outlet in the living room which works nicely.

The last issue is that the primary vendor of X10 devices is X10.com.  Visiting this site can make your eyes bleed- it is very well known as the purveyor of wireless cameras of dubious virtue… but rest assured that even non-voyeurs can find something of value here.  Any of the ActiveHome bundles will get you started- and if you have any questions feel free to ask!


23
Jun 08

Leaving Yahoo!- like graduating from college all over again

Leaving a familar place is always difficult, especially when you know it’s coming.  Three weeks ago, I received an offer I couldn’t refuse.  I accepted the offer and gave my notice- and Friday the 20th was my last day at Yahoo! as a Senior Product Manager on del.icio.us.

It didn’t really hit me that I was leaving until the end of my last week, when I started doing late nights to encode all of my arcane del.icio.us knowledge into product twikis – online documents – so that my successors can hit the ground running. It’s hard to walk away from something that you spent so much time and energy doing, with people that you genuinely care about and respect.  I took lots of pictures of my old office.

As I took these photos, I realized that I was really walking through these buildings for perhaps the very last time. It felt like graduating from school, and the feelings of saying goodbye to people and being hyperaware of my surroundings as I mentally recorded my experiences were reminiscent of those days. This all sounds crazy- it’s only a job, right? After all, instead of paying to be there, I got paid.

Nonetheless, I still learned more than I ever did in school and made friends that were just as good. Yahoo! deserves all the credit for really giving me the chance to refactor my career and become a product manager working on exciting and game changing products. I really wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my years there.

Now I’m at a new job, doing a new challenge with a combination of old friends and new colleagues, and I’m excited about my future.  I should be– I’ve left a lot behind, but just like a new college graduate, I feel like Yahoo! has imbued me with the experience to succeed.  So long Yahoo!, and thanks for all the fish.  I really hope for only the best for you, and I’ll be rooting for you from the outside.