Ever since I heard Matt Cutts speak about 30-day goals at TED in 2012 my approach to goal-setting has changed. My 2013 and 2014 goals all consisted of a theme for the year, broken up into different monthly accomplishments.
Here’s 2014 in review. My goal was to do a “project” every month. I didn’t define “project”, but they consisted of a) things I had wanted to do for quite some time but had not done yet, b) anything that taught me something new, and c) something interesting that came along.
The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It’s capable of doing everything you’d expect a desktop computer to do, from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video, to making spreadsheets, word-processing, and playing games. The Raspberry Pi has the ability to interact with the outside world, and has been used in a wide array of digital maker projects, from music machines and parent detectors to weather stations and tweeting birdhouses with infra-red cameras.
I purchased a Raspberry Pi, flashed it with several different operating system images, played around with the coding functionality, and generally familiarized myself with it. This had been on my to-do list for quite some time.
The best Mac tool for flashing SD cards is the ApplePi-Baker. It’s much faster than using the command line.
Epic Winter Mountaineering Trip 2013-2014
I love mountain climbing, and have organized an annual January trip for several years. In January 2014 we went to Franconia Notch in New Hampshire and hiked to Lonesome Lake, North Kinsman Peak, and through the Cannonballs. The weather was perfect and we only needed microspikes for traction.
Generic business cards are boring. I wanted to design and print my own that were beautiful and interesting.
The design part of it was fun, the printing part was not so fun. The Vistaprint previews looked pixelated, so I printed with Zazzle, whose previews were more promising. When I got the finished product, however, the print quality was poor. The solid blue did not look solid. The text was not printed well. Zazzle gave me a full refund, but I would have much rather had well-printed cards. I may need to use a thicker font next time.
I had a kid and needed to get life insurance. It’s much more expensive when you’re a rock climber and mountain climber. Not much else to say here, except that I met with several people in person, which was very time-consuming, and ended up going with a quote I received over phone/email from Accuquote. I highly recommend using an “aggregator” like Accuquote rather than going to the individual insurance companies directly.
Broomstick Monkey Games
My friend Justin Call is a board game fanatic. In addition to his encyclopedic knowledge of games and game dynamics, he designs games of his own for his company Broomstick Monkey Games. I helped Justin get his Squarespace site up and running, set up backend email, migrate old emails to that account, and did other random tech support. My payment? A copy of Puerto Rico.
Accenture Electronics & High Tech Boston Hub Book Club
In March I started a book club at work and got funding for it. We’re averaging a book a quarter. So far we’ve read Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier, The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, and Predictive Analytics by Eric Siegel.
We got a GoPro Hero 3 Black on sale and started shooting videos. I ordered several additional mounts so we could put it on a tripod, attach it to bike handlebars, etc. Brooke is the videographer in the house, so she has gotten the most use out of it so far.
I’m a huge fan of Wealthfront. They have an affiliate program that gives you an additional $5,000 managed with no fees for every person you refer. I wanted to take their affiliate program to the next level, and registered the domains http://wealthfrontinvite.com, http://wealthfrontcouponcode.com, http://wealthfrontreferral.com, and http://wealthfrontpromocode.com. They all go to the same simple landing page with my referral code.
My goal is to never pay Wealthfront’s fees, ever. The results of my aggressive invite program have been okay but not amazing. 11 people have funded accounts in the past 6-7 months. There is a lot more work I could do in this space – A/B testing to optimize the site design for conversion, articles comparing Wealthfront to other services like Betterment and Personal Capital, etc. Perhaps in 2015?
My freelance web development site, MediaSpine, had been built on Drupal 6 and was in dire need of a facelift. I needed to get something up and running quickly, so I used WordPress, created a child theme, and did everything “by the book”. Unfortunately, when I upgraded the theme a month or two ago it overwrote some of the database settings (including font customization). That’s not supposed to happen during upgrades, but theme authors don’t always make their updates backwards compatible.
Brooke and I both looked at the site later and said “that’s really ugly”. So we need to fix it. 2015. It’s pretty low on the priority list. At least it works.
I convinced work to purchase two Makerbot Mini 3D printers for our Electronics and High-Tech Hub, which is a community to teach people new skills and get them interested in technology (the same group that sponsors the book club). I took one home, printed out a bunch of cool examples, prepared a presentation about 3D printing and where it is going, and presented it to a group during a Lunch & Learn.
Hub members can now reserve one of the Makerbots and take it home for a week to experiment with 3D printing. The program has been a big hit so far and there are quite a few people on the waiting list.
And yes, that’s a 3D scan of me that was taken at the Makerbot store on Newbury St in Boston.
Nerd Night: The Internet of Things
I was in charge of our quarterly live event for the Electronics and High-Tech Hub at work. Continuing the theme of cool technologies, we bought a bunch of Arduinos, Raspberry Pi’s, and LittleBits. We held the event at the Doubletree hotel, with drinks and apps. About 50 people came (which was above our target). I presented 35 minutes of content about the Internet of Things and the Maker movement, and then we had hands-on time to play with the technologies.
There was incredible energy in the room. It was fun to see so many of the more senior executives get their hands dirty and get excited. Most of them came from very technical backgrounds but hadn’t done anything similar for quite a while. At the end we raffled off the technology so people could take the momentum home and keep learning. The event was amazing.
Crashplan Headless on Synology NAS
I have a Synology DiskStation 2-Bay Network Attached Storage (DS213j) and wanted to run Crashplan on it directly (instead of running Crashplan on my laptop and having it connect to the NAS to back it up). There are instructions from Scott Hansleman that are very easy to follow to set up Crashplan headless. Here’s another good article comparing other Synology backup technologies.
The DS213j has an ARM processor, which initially concerned me, but I don’t use the NAS heavily and it has not been a problem. Time Machine backs up to it, Crashplan runs on it to back up my shared photo repository, family videos, important files, etc. Crashplan does not back up the Time Machine backups (I looked into it, that doesn’t work well). I occasionally watch movies off the NAS. I haven’t had any RAM issues, or issues with Crashplan headless stopping.
I’ve got an idea for a lifestyle business that I’m pursuing and building. It’s for an employee referral marketplace. More to come on this later. Be forewarned, the next paragraph has a bunch of affiliate links that earn me credit if you sign up.
I’m using DigitalOcean for hosting because it’s inexpensive and uses all solid state drives, making it very fast. I spent a lot of time at the command line getting things up and running the way I wanted, securing the server, etc. When I eventually decided on WordPress as a platform (I was originally going to use Python Django and potentially Mezzanine), I came across an amazing tool called ServerPilot. They integrate with DigitalOcean and take care of security and other backend tasks that I don’t really want to have to deal with, because I would much rather be focused on my app. The domain is registered through Hover and I’m also using CloudFlare for caching and some DNS tweaks.
WorkThere.co is still under development but I should have a minimum viable product (MVP) ready in early January 2015.