How to Plan the Tech Architecture of a Startup

 17 / March / 2014 by Riley

Planning out the entire technology stack for a new web startup is a process wrought with errors. It’s way too easy to optimize everything too soon. Most startups make major changes along the way, and it’s going to make it even harder on everyone if the tech choices become a giant anchor. Startup founder Christian Heinzmann has some great advice for how to go about the process with as few regrets as possible. There’s no one path for every startup, but he provides a solid framework to follow.

He lays out these steps to success:

1. Product Discovery
2. Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
3. Beta Product
4. Version 1.0
5. Next Version

Read the full article



New Way To Build Custom Websites and Web Apps

 17 / February / 2014 by Greg

Simplpost is a Philly-based web startup that has a totally new take on building and managing websites. What Simplpost offers is basically an entire platform that includes a frontend and backend framework for responsive websites. One of the things that makes this service stand out is that the entire admin interface is mobile friendly and completely responsive as well. The focus on content driven design is aimed at creatives that don’t want to be bogged down in technical details and code, but there’s some really impressive technology that’s under the hood for those that are interested. There’s also a Technical Co-Founder as a Service option.

The sites created with the CMS are made of nicely formatted HTML5 and CSS3 code. The service and its sites run on NoSQL technology, so there’s no worrying about scaling issues or database bottlenecks. And there’s a built-in staging server, as well as easy deployment options to run sites on any server or CDN. So it definitely has a lot to offer compared to other competitors in this space like Weebly, Wix, Squarespace or even Wordpress.

The service they offer is a lot more than just a CMS or “website builder” though. Simplpost also provides free workshops so you can learn more about growing your business and web presence. They also offer professional marketing and design services, as well as social media and copy writing. It’s more of a total solution for small businesses, rather than just a single tool or prepackaged service. Custom plans and a customized strategy catered to the specific needs of every client is what makes Simplpost stand out. They are primarily focused on working with artists and small businesses in the Philadelphia area at this stage.

Continue reading New Way To Build Custom Websites and Web Apps >>



Reminder: You Need to Backup Your Data

 25 / July / 2013 by Riley

I do a lot of professional data recovery work for my clients. Sometimes data can be recovered from a failed drive, and sometimes it can’t. When I encounter a really horrible failure beyond my capabilities I will send it to Drive Savers. But there has been cases where even an industry leader like them can’t recover any of the data. It’s best to be prepared. So be sure to backup anything you would like to have. Because if you don’t, then it’s just a matter of time before you lose it forever.

There’s a lot of backup services out there. It’s hard to choose just one because everyone has different needs.

Here’s a list of backup solutions I have found to be useful:

Carbonite

Time Machine (Mac)

Rsync.net (Linux)

NT Backup (Windows)

Dropbox

Just remember to actually use the backup method you choose, and check to make sure it’s actually working every once in a while.



The Future of Media Players?

 23 / September / 2008 by Riley

The concept of a computer in the living room for home entertainment (or HTPC) has been developing for many years, but it’s never really taken off. There’s lots of set-top boxes, but no complete solution has materialized. There’s a few simple ways to organize the media viewing experience, and there’s always room for improvement. Current media players only allow simple linear or random playback, and lack a significant advantage over established media sources like cable TV and satellite.

For the last several years, I’ve had PCs hooked up to my television and stereo in various ways. And over time I’ve accumulated an extensive media collection. One of the unexpected problems with a large media collection is how frustrating it can be to find and switch between all the content. It can take the fun out of things when it take as long as picking a movie at the local video store. Unless random play meets your needs, there’s not a simple solution to this problem.

It can be easier to just flip through the cable TV channels, or check out the latest DVD from Netflix, rather than searching through some folders or menus. I finally got fed up with the monotony of my cable company and the Netflix issues, and canceled both accounts. Since then I’ve focused on creating my own ultimate home entertainment system. The hardware is easy, but I’ve found media player software to be the biggest limitation. Why do you have to open a menu every time you want to watch something different?

Channels have been a standard fixture in home entertainment for so long, and yet this concept has never been applied to media players in a compelling way. Why not turn a media collection into the equivalent of an À la Carte cable TV package? Easily creating and switching between custom media channels at the touch of a button would be a nice enhancement. Playlists are great, but some small improvements could make a big difference.

Some needed improvements in playlist functionality:

  • quickly switch between playlists (one button)
  • save and return to the last file played (in multiple playlists after reboot)
  • save playback options independently to each playlist
  • simple interface to bring it all together
  • Here’s a quick UI mockup for editing these features:

    Playlist Switching Settings
    name playlist save place
    1
    2
    3
    4
    5
    6
    7
    8
    9
    10


    Add hotkey assignments for “channel up” and “channel down”, and hotkeys for switching to each channel directly. Also, have the OSD show the channel number and name every time it’s changed. A grid menu, like a Channel Guide, for viewing and switching would be a nice addition as well. The ability to return to the last file played in multiple playlists (even after closing the application or reboot) should be a requirement for every media player. This would allow for seamless playback and content switching with little setup time.

    Channel Guide
    Simpsons 1×01 Simpsons 1×02 Simpsons 1×03 Simpsons 1×04 Simpsons 1×05
    Star Trek TNG 5×01 Star Trek TNG 5×02 Star Trek
    Batman Begins (2005) The Dark
    Zoe (1994) Pulp Fiction (1994)
    Futurama 2×03 Futurama 2×04 Futurama 2×05 Futurama 2×06 Futurama 2×07
    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
    Family Guy 3×5 Family Guy 3×6 Family Guy 3×7 Family Guy 3×8 Family Guy 3×9
    Dark City (1998) The Matrix (1999)


    The addition of saving playlist state data could be incorporated with other enhancements, like play counts and ratings. Playlist editors have been improving, but it would be great to see more advanced features and better tools for playlist creation and sorting. Intelligent random play algorithms are nice, but not a complete solution. Also, having the option to save unique video (aspect ratio, color, subtitles) and audio (volume, EQ, outputs) settings to a playlist would allow many more possibilities for power users.

    These features could be integrated with other non-local sources to create a more comprehensive media portal. Assigning online media sources (live streams, podcasts, etc…) to channels would be the next step. Many media players interact with various APIs, but there’s definitely room for improvement in the ease of use and flexibility. Most media players barely think in two dimensions. A unified matrix interface for media sources would allow more control with a simple front-end.

    Of course this will require more than just the user interface, but it’s all well within the capability of a competent programmer. Why hasn’t this been implemented yet?

    Continue reading The Future of Media Players? >>



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