Metrocards and Math

I work from home, mostly, so I don’t usually need an unlimited metrocard. Every time the MTA changes the prices on evertyhing I have to go through and write another stupid spreadsheet to figure out what costs what. And I hate the fact that when you buy a 10$ or 20$ or 8$ metrocard, you get a number of rides and some stupid amount of money left over. I was actually juggling 5 different metrocards a few weeks back, each with slightly different amounts on them. Just stupid.

So I finally gave in and made a Web site about Metrocard Math. It has a thing where you can experiment with what-if scenarios about fare hikes and stuff (it’s kinda like a javascript spreadsheet). The interesting thing I found was this: $9.78. Buy a metrocard for that much and you will have exactly 5 rides, with no money left over. Of course, if you’re buying your metrocard via Credit Card, they won’t let you use an amount less than 10$, so you have to use the next magic number: $11.74.

I was thinking I might put in something about the proposed ‘cap’ that the MTA is talking about doing for their unlimiteds, I just don’t know what to do with it. I guess “maximal theoretical value” I can do? Or you can just look at the number and compare to ‘rides needed to beat pay-per-ride’…

As an aside, the site looks like absolute shit. I still am the worst web designer in the known universe. But I don’t mind much, the only thing I do mind is that it is hard to read on an iPhone. And that’s usually when I want the damned site – when I’m trying to get on the N train, my metrocard has run out, and I forgot the Magic Number. Anyways, I experimented with keeping the presentation, content, and behavior all separate (and yet all inline on the page). If I ever get to styling it, it’ll be interesting to see how I can do that. For instance, especially on the iPhone, the disabled fields don’t look very different from the enabled ones. I don’t remember if in CSS3 though you can specify a style of a disabled field – but I would have to imagine that you can, right? Well, when I next feel like poking at it, maybe if I add in ‘swipe-cap’ support like the MTA is proposing, I might try and throw some iphone-specific styling on there to make it useful for me (the only time I actually use it, in fact).

Blogspot and Tumblr

Well, for those of you sick of hearing the trivial minutiae about how nifty LightDesktop is, never fear! Your prayers have been answered. I made a Tumblr Blog thingee just for LightDesktop stuff, so I can yammer on endlessly about file system optimizations and other such crap.

So now when I talk about LD here – it will hopefully be coming from a more personal perspective. In that vein, a few things to mention – one is that LightDesktop got mentioned on DistroWatch. It was just a little teensy one-sentence blurb, but I wasn’t quite ready for this. Whoops! I did send an email to the distrowatch people saying, “Hey guys, probably a bit early to mention me anywhere on your site or anything, but just wanted to let you know I’m around…” and I expected they might ask me a question, send some generic message that was like, “Hey, sounds good, good luck, let us know when you’re ready” or anything like that.

And I was troubleshooting something the next day or two and tailing the server logs…strangely enough I kept finding new people hitting the informational web site. I looked into the referer tags, and lo and behold, they’re clicking over from the DW article. Awesome!

So I went from getting one hit a day, up to 60, up to 800 the next day. So I’ve had to go run around and make sure my Google Analytics tags and such are working, and I realized the worst thing – actual downloads weren’t being tracked at all. So I had to build a little downloader script so I could track that, too. Hopefully, I got it. We’ll see.

And there have been a couple of little tiny things I wanted to mention here or there about LD, but I felt like I might be spamming to put them here. So, the Tumblr thing. First off, I have to say – man, coming back here to Blogger feels like going back in time 10 years. Tumblr has their shit together. It has nice, big pretty fields, beautiful stuff everywhere, insanely easy. It feels a little sluggish here and there, and feels all railsey all over the place – even though it may or may not be built on that. So I pop back in here to my old Blogger thing to check out what’s up – and wow. It feels old.

So within half an hour of setting up on Tumblr, I found a theme just makes me happy every time I look at it. Gotta have it. Knocks it out of the park (well, for me). Gotta get comments going, so I’m signing up for a Disqus account and trying to hook that in. Generally it’s working pretty well. One thing I didn’t like was when you look at a list of posts, it didn’t show anything about comments – and I wanted a comment-count to be listed there – I’m hoping to have people comment all the time. So now I have to customize my theme. And I’ve gotta say, not all that hard. A little poking around, a little documentation, and I’m done.

I can definitely say that if I were starting up a new Blog or whatever, I would, 100%, do it on Tumblr. This Blogger thing has been pretty good to me, but it’s definitely got its problems. And they’ve been the same problems for years and years and years. If I could find a nice way of exporting/importing articles…who knows, I might do it?

Food. I have made a really concerted effort to make sure to eat my full three meals a day today – I’ve been busy lately so I’ve been skipping quite a few meals. And I’m embarassed at the improvement to my mood and my energy levels from this relatively simple source. I’ve been plowing through feeling hungry, and smashing over actually feeling down and slightly depressed from not having eaten enough. Man, if I just ate normally, imagine what I could accomplish? I’m going to make a real concerted effort.

Lightdesktop now self-hosting (ish!)

So my nifty LightDesktop project has (almost, kinda, sorta) hit a new milestone – I’m writing you this blog post from it right now!

I have officially transferred all the development files into the filesystem (in Rackspace Cloud Files), and should be able to develop it…from it. I will be getting a ‘dev’ version vs. a ‘prod’ version distinction going so I don’t destroy the filesystem for everyone when I botch something (usually the CREST-fs filesystem) and post it up. Considering my development environment is it, itself – that makes sense.

So no more CentOS box (or VM, actually) for a while. And, man, does dogfooding pop all kinds of bugs that I want fixed ASAP. Window management is pretty horrible.

I am REALLY impressed with the browser. It has been able to handle nasty Javascript-heavy sites with relative ease. AOL – not usually a company I associate with doing things right – has some kind of insane Web 2.0 AIM client hooked in to their webmail that works suprisingly well. I’m shocked they made it so well, and even more shocked that it runs in my slightly janky browser. But that’s all due to the WebKit people, and, indirectly at least, Apple.

One thing that I’ve really enjoyed is how lightning-quick everything is. When you make something as super minimalistic as this thing is, there’s not a lot of stuff going on to slow things down. I have done enough testing (though not quite ‘living’) in the new system that when I get back to using my Mac normally, it feels sluggish. And that thing has 4 gigs of RAM and a core 2 duo and whatnot! This thing has – crap, I don’t even know (poking through /proc…)…a 2.2GHz Celeron, single core. 2 Gigs of RAM though. And I bought it at Best Buy for $300 or $400 dollars! They of course didn’t want to sell it to me – I had to go to a second Best Buy to find one where they would. Must’ve been set up as a bait-n-switch or something. Or maybe they were legitimately out of stock, who knows.

Oh, another fun anecdote – I have Windows (Vista, ugh) installed on here too. And at one point I inadvertently let it reboot into Windows. I figured, well, let me grab all my software updates and stuff….nope! Didn’t work. The wireless had mysteriously stopped working for no discernable reason. I wondered if the hardware was broken. Rebooted into Lightdesktop, and the wireless came right up. Love it!

A new LightDesktop Release

So my evil ploy of tricking myself into playing with LightDesktop a few weeks back worked like magic. I’ve been hard at work since then and I think I’ve got some good stuff –

  • Lots of optimization work in the CREST-fs filesystem. It’s getting faster and faster. It’s still much slower than a raw hard drive though, but there are quite a few optimizations yet to be done.
  • New Signup and Server side architecture (based on Rackspace Cloud and Cloud Files. Infinite Storage! So awesome.)
  • A GUI logger-inner-thing. Feels more ‘pro’ to me, for some reason.
  • I’ve yanked the old DAV-fs fallback – it just sucked too much, and made things complicated. And I like things uncomplicated. If someone were dying for this I could put it back. I think 99.999% of the users of this thing will use the server-based storage.


The system, when full installed, boots in 15 seconds on my eeePC. No joke.

The install CD is around 26MB in size.

As a test, I timed myself doing a real-world install – I downloaded the ISO, created a VM in virtualBox, had it boot up, logged in as me – and had my files sitting in my home directory in 3 minutes 48.5 seconds.

Again, the premise here is: all your data lives in the cloud, the OS does too (or is hosted from it) so you get automatic updates and everything. There’s no such thing as ‘installing’ an application, you should just be able to use one. It’s alpha, blah blah blah, will delete your data, will destroy your computers, drink your beer, and insult your mother. Caveat Download-or.

The Files

USB disk image