Improving my coffee game with technology

Nothing makes me feel ready to take on the day like my NASA mug full of fresh coffee. 

The last few months have been pretty awesome for my coffee game. Between gifts from our wedding, Christmas presents, and my birthday, I’ve started to build up quite a collection of devices to help feed my caffeine addiction.

  • Chemex
  • Aeropress
  • Variable temp electric gooseneck kettle
  • Digital scale with timer

It’s been awesome and fun experimenting with different ways to make coffee and see how it affects some of my favorite types of beans.

One of the things that I’ve recently started doing is creating a crazy Google form to track all the different coffee preparation methods I’ve been using. It looks like this.

Coffee Tracking

What sorts of additional details am I missing that I should be recording here? It’s probably getting a little bit ridiculous, but hey!

This sort of thing appeals to my sense of experimentation and adventure. I should probably put one together for my Aeropress as well. File that one under #weekendprojects.

GIFtv – Turn any display into a GIF picture frame

Our office has an empty TV that isn’t being properly utilized at the moment. It’s definitely a #FirstWorldProblem, but it basically boils down to the fact that we have multiple displays that act as dashboards for our various services and properties.

Anyway, we had a spare television available to show whatever we wanted. THE ENTIRE INTERNET WAS OUR OYSTER and what better way to put it to use than to display a random assortment of animated GIFs.

Our troubles arose when we realized we had to manually change out the animated GIFs, as well as zoom in in via the attached machine’s web browser so that it would properly display images.

Annoying, right?

The Solution

Cue superhero music

Some Javascript, CSS, and PHP came the the rescue!

We’re using CSS to set a background image (based on one of our animated GIFs) that fills up the entire display. Depending on the settings of your viewport, the image has the possibility of being severly cropped, but hey, whatever!

We’re using some Javascript calls (thank you so much, Stackoverlow) to display a new animated GIF every 20 seconds or so (or really, whatever time you want, but I’m using 20 seconds), as well as build an array of animated GIFs from our images folder.

Which brings us to PHP. We’re using PHP to scan the contents of the folder and then using some Jquery calls to periodically call our PHP script to rescan and rebuild the image array — this means you can drop new animated gifs into the /images folder (or remove them, but why would you even) and it will automagically add them to the Javascript array for random consideration.

Yes? Yes!

How to use

Upload this script to your favorite web server that supports PHP. Drop images (of the animated GIF variety) into the /images folder. Open up this page in your favorite browser on your favorite device. Cool? Cool!

Demo time

So, what the heck does this thing look like? You can see it in action right here. (Make sure to set your browser to full screen presentation mode so you get the right effect).

GIFtv: http://dave.ly/stuff/giftv/

To-do’s

  • Better error handling
  • Figure out how to get Dropbox integration working so the whole company can get in on the fun

Soft ‘g’ or hard ‘g’?

Hard G, dudes. It’s JIFF! I’m not wrong. You’re wrong.

Special Thanks

Thanks to a few people who helped me try and figure this out.

  • Conrad Muan (@conradmuan)
  • Lydia Katsamberis (@llkats)
  • Jon Ursenbach (@jonursenbach)

You can download the source code for GIFtv on Github.

Quick email generator for contests and giveaways using PHP

tl;dr: Quickly generate multiple emails that you can send from your favorite mail client using mailto links and parsing data from various text files. (email addresses, email template, and optional redemption codes)

Background

Recently, I had to contact 50 readers by email for a giveaway that we were running on our site. We’ve run similar sorts of events before and it’s always a tedious experience. It involves something like this:

  1. Get email address from the list of winners.
  2. Write up some sort of email template.
  3. Go through and copy paste template into new email, and then copy and past the email address from list of winners.
  4. Oh, don’t forget to copy and paste the subject line: “Dude, you’ve won FOO! Nice work!”
  5. Oh, this particular giveaway features a unique code for each winner. Make sure you copy and paste that, too!
  6. After all this copy and pasting, send the email.
  7. Repeat this process until you’ve gone through the list of winners. Look at a clock and realize this has taken all afternoon.
  8. “Oh, man,” you think to yourself, “there’s got to be a better way.”

The Better Way

There is! Just download this project to your favorite PHP compatible server (or run an app like MAMP on your machine) and open up the “make_email.php” script.

There are a few required files:

  • emails.txt – This is the list of email addresses you wish to send emails to. Each email address should be on a new line. No commas or funny stuff separating them, please. I didn’t build in any sort of fancy error checking.
  • body.txt – This is the meat and potatoes. This is the message you’re going to want to send over and over and over and over. Sweet! One particularly important note: If there is some sort of unique redemption code or URL that winners will need to go to, you can add in ‘%code%’ (without quotes) to your email. The script will then automatically fill in unique codes when it generates the email (should you choose that options).
  • codes.txt – If you have a whole list of redemption codes or URLs, this is where you put them. Like emails, each code or URL needs to be on a separate line.
    That’s it! You might be wondering how you set the subject line of the email. Right now, it’s a variable at the top of the script. Just change that and you’ll be good to go!

Once you have these text files filled out, run the script, choose whether you’re generating emails with or without redemption codes and then fire away!

You can now click through the list and start firing off emails like you’re your own spambot. Except you’re giving people legitimately cool things. And you’ll still be able to enjoy your afternoon.

If you’re interested in checking it out, you can download the source code on Github.