DIY 6 device USB charging rack with MODO and LEGOs

There’s really no good charging solution for those of us who test phones for a living, so here’s something I hacked together.

Very clean from the front. Top rack is a MODO modular desk organizer that I backed on Kickstarter, and the bottom is a $15 cup of bulk LEGOS.

Messy in the back, but whatevs.

The cables don’t stick out all that much.

Top slides off for easy access to the inside. I totally designed it like this on purpose.

Powered by one 3-outlet power strip [Amazon], three 2-port USB plugs [Amazon], and six retractable USB cables [Amazon]. The USB plugs are only 750mA, but slow charging isn’t a problem since this is designed to have phones plugged in most of the day. (Not pictured, I’m also using this retractable Lightning cable with good results.)

Pick a phone and the cable comes with. You can either use plugged in or unplug and let the cable dangle. When you’re done, plug back in and extend the cable all the way to retract it, then set the phone back in the slot.

Tray is perfectly sized for SIM and SD cards, and I just now came up with the idea to put the full cards in the elastic band that comes with the MODO. JUST NOW. GENIUS.

Total cost: about $90. Not cheap, but in the same ballpark as many less functional “charging valet” stations.

Facebook Platform floundered because they didn’t have an app review manager

Say what you will about PandoDaily, but their tale of Facebook’s disappointing Platform is honest, fair, and perfectly contextualized:

Facebook’s inconstant behavior on Platform, however, has never been malicious. Rather, it is a result of an engineering-led culture. Facebook’s platform team started off small, and it was led by programmers. Whenever possible, they wanted to find solutions that didn’t require human intervention. That way the operation could stay lean and move fast.

That approach left Platform without a clear set of policies that would have provided the stability and sense of security that is so crucial to a development environment. It also meant that humans had a minimal role in the quality control process. Unlike Apple, which requires that all apps intended for distribution in its App Store be approved by actual people, Facebook relied on changes to its algorithms to combat things like spam and over-exposure for certain apps.

“What we should have realized is we should have hired someone to go and make a judgment call,” says a former Facebook executive, who doesn’t want to be named because he retains close ties to the company. He says the app store, or lack thereof, was one of the Platform’s single biggest points of failure. “The team that was driving the platform was the engineering team and the technical product team. We knew how to develop products, but we didn’t know how to build a payment system or build an organization of human judges.”

I can understand why Facebook went that direction. They wanted a robotically, algorithmically equal playing field, and if the rules required a human judgement call then they weren’t the right rules in the first place. This is an honorable goal to ensure that the rules are enforced consistently, but there’s still a human on the other side of that API, and humans are nuanced. Circumstances matter. Motivation matters.

Say what you will about the US judicial system, but it was also designed to take nuance into consideration, with judges who explain the law and how it applies to the many complex situations we humans get ourselves into.

In the months before Pando’s article went up, I’d heard that Facebook posted several job openings for “Platform Integrity Risk” managers. These roles are filled (or canceled) now, so I’d like to think that Facebook has learned from their failures and is already taking corrective action. As stated in the article, they’ve clearly still got momentum despite the shortcomings with Platform.

If you have developer policies, take Facebook’s story as a warning and make sure you have a high court in place — whether it be a community manager or dedicated policy review team — who can stand up to internal politicians, balance the shifting sands of a growing product, and earn developer trust.

HOWTO: Redirect WordPress with .htaccess

I’ve just switched from to…which may or may not have been the best idea SEO-wise, but I couldn’t help myself.

Anyway, here’s a regex recipe that might be useful for someone else who wants to redirect a domain while still being able to access the old wordpress admin area. If your url structure is the same for both sites, links that point to posts on the old site should automagically redirect to the new.

Just put this in the .htaccess file for your old domain:

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !/(wp-login\.php|wp-admin/|wp-content/|wp-includes/).*
RewriteRule (.*)$1 [R=301,L]

No, Brad Paisley. No.

Watch this, and do try to take it seriously:

I get what he’s trying to do with this. See, race in the South is still a much more confrontational issue than in the rest of the US. I’m going to speak plainly about perception and stereotypes here…the perception is that black folks are lazy and don’t wanna work, and with food stamps and all their welfare babies they can take advantage of the system so they don’t have to. Which is why so many white Southerners are Republicans, because all they see is abuse of the welfare system and they’re sick of paying for LaTonya’s Section 9 housing while she drives a newer car than they do (my family maintains low-end rental housing, sadly I have seen this). And since small Southern towns are small and everybody shops at the same Wal-Mart, the racial divide is very prominent.

And for a specific personal example, the first time I encountered racism was in middle school, must have been the early 90’s? My new best friend was a black girl, which I didn’t think had any significance whatsoever, because kids never do until they’re taught so. I asked my mother if my friend could come spend the night, and my mother — my dear mother, who I love — said no, because “it just wasn’t right.” It was completely unfathomable.

So he’s trying to start the conversation where white Southerners are today, which is very far back, to bring race issues to common ground. Which is honorable. But to do this, he also includes immature thinking about how his generation didn’t cause slavery, or fight to protect the institution of slavery, but is still blamed for these horrible abuses. He just wants to fly his rebel flag, because Southern pride! Brad Paisley, do you realize that even though the current generation of African Americans weren’t personally enslaved, that they’re still suffering the social and economic consequences? It’s not directly your fault, but that doesn’t mean it’s an accident.

And, omg, LL Cool J. Cool J, no. Don’t advocate for erasing your OWN historical context. In his own words:

I wasn’t there when Sherman’s March turned the south into firewood
I want you to get paid but be a slave I never could

If you don’t judge my do-rag
I won’t judge your red flag

Quite frankly I’m a black Yankee but I’ve been thinkin’ about this lately
The past is the past, you feel me
Let bygones be bygones
RIP Robert E. Lee but I’ve gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean

Do you, really, know what he means?

I’m going to monitor my Facebook feed (99% Southerners) to see what kind of conversation this song stirs up, if any. Who knows, maybe it’ll actually do some good. It’s not the song about prejudice Southerners need, but it’s the song we deserve.


Hell, even people who look at web apps all damn day for work are impressed. Here’s our friend Lisa Brewster, who used to fight for better web apps at Palm and now reviews web apps and web app standards for Mozilla’s upcoming Firefox OS:

Now THIS is a web app:
Lisa Brewster (@Adora) March 27, 2013


How I choose to remember Palm

Touchpad fire sale

Today is my last day at Palm. I say this with regret, both for what could have been and missing out on what is yet to be, but also with relief for being able to begin a new chapter in my career.

The image above was taken at the Palm campus store during the first hours of the infamous TouchPad fire sale, where the device suddenly became a hot commodity and eager buyers lined up across campus every day for weeks just to get one, and for a brief, shining moment, the TouchPad was the #2 tablet on the market. This is how I choose to remember Palm, being stunned and a little high with the unexpected excitement, minus the knowledge that we were trying to make the best of an unwinnable situation. Continue reading

How to buy a Polaroid Land 100 camera


A couple months ago, I found a beautiful vintage camera at a thrift store. I had no idea how to even open it, or if film was still available…and the $50 price tag was just outside of my impulse buy zone. I copied down all the info I could and went home to research, and by research I mean that I asked twitter for permission.

Dieter has seen this play out before, so of course he immediately told me to buy the damn thing and get it over with, but I wanted to make a rational decision here. Yes, I could get film, but the price was a little high, especially for something that may or may not even work. But once dear friend and smart gadget nerd Greg told me to go for it, I apparently bolted out the door immediately to go snag it. Continue reading

To buy or not to buy a Lytro

Not a real Lytro, but a scale model made of solid freaking metal.

I have a one-week opportunity to pre-order a Lytro light-field camera. It’s a revolutionary way of thinking about focus, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions, and I haven’t decided yet if I’m willing to bet $400 on Lytro having the right answers.

They’re pitching their product as a solution for the focus problem, framing the technology to make the camera seem more accessible to the everyman. This is all wrong. Auto-focus is smarter than the everyman, and there is no focus problem. Fortunately for Lytro’s marketing team, this product has landed squarely in the sights of the hardcore photography enthusiast (and based on comments on Lytro’s blog today, looks like they weren’t prepared for that). Hardcore enthusiasts understand that the point of this technology is to create a new photographic genre, to use interactive focus to tell a story. Continue reading

On the TechCrunch debacle: There’s no approved messaging for that

TechCrunch is on the precipice. As soon as tomorrow, Mike may be thrown out of the company he founded. Or he may not. No one knows. And if he is, he will be replaced by — well, again, no one knows. No one knows much of anything. Certainly no one at TechCrunch. This site is about to change forever and we’re in the total fucking dark.

Don’t you hate it when that happens?

I still too freshly remember the anxiety of waiting for news to unfold while the house you’ve poured your heart into suddenly comes crashing down, the frustration of wanting to take matters in your own hands, to DO something, say something, reach out to the people who care and ask for their help to make your story known, to say how much you MATTER…

Unfortunately, companies rarely have approved messaging ready for this kind of situation.

Emotions are high over at TechCrunch right now, and the team clearly isn’t going for the standard radio silence PR play and waiting for the situation to play out. Because politics and bad decisions aside, for the people on the front lines, the world they know is fucking solid. I respect the hell out of them for standing up to their critics and saying that, raw emotions and all. Especially so.

My sage advice for TechCrunch? Focus. They will never break you if you stick together and keep telling your story.

Edited to add a comment from Scoble:

Several years ago Arrington and I were headed to some conference and I asked him about how he sees himself. Did he consider himself a blogger or a journalist, I asked. His answer stuck with me all this time: “I’m an entertainer.”

After finishing this post, I was sitting here in the dark of my office thinking the same thing (but without the real life story to back it up). The web responds well to showmanship. Not that anyone should be over dramatic or start shit just for attention — Internet showmanship is a realistic balance of emotional highs and lows, and few are able to take their readers on a journey quite like Michael Arrington. I leave the discussion of whether journalism is an appropriate environment for that kind of theatrics as an exercise for the reader.


Openly admitting on her website that she is “passionate about recording and sharing life’s little details,” Lisa Brewster proves her dedication with the microflashes of her life that spill out via Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, and her personal wiki. Now she has to convince those making apps to become passionate about webOS, as HP and Palm try to jumpstart the platform. With the tech world impatiently awaiting webOS tablets and a wave of new smart phones to compete against iOS and Android, Brewster’s goal of making developers “feel like they’re part of something awesome” will be key.