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Goodbye lala, Hello iTunes in the Cloud?

I woke up this morning to a very upsetting email that my favorite music service in the cloud, lala, is closing its doors on May 31st.  As a member since the tail end of 2008 and an avid user of the service, I of course wish it weren’t so; but since Apple bought it earlier this year, it does raise some interesting questions.

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Facebook Photo Virus

Over the last couple of days, a Facebook virus has been going around, cropping up in user’s notifications that someone has, “commented on a photo of you” or “posted a photo of you.” Upon clicking the link, however, you’re taken to a blank 3rd party app page that is automatically installed on your profile.

From what I’ve gathered so far, there are 2 types of links (but could be more). The link includes “beta-dislike” or “photo-comments” in the URL. Simply mousing over the link in the notification will show the URL in the bottom left corner of your browser. If you see either one of those, DON”T CLICK ON IT. Photo links on Facebook are in this format: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=<ID>&subj=<ID>&id=<ID>. There could also be more info after the ?, but no other slashes in the URL. If you see any other slashes, err on the side of caution.

If You Have Been Duped:

Don’t fret. So far, I haven’t seen any password stealing, profile changing, or other malicious actions. However, I have read that some of the code found in the app may be storing information and sending it to a 3rd party website. This leads me to believe the writer of the app is probably storing the information to sell it to spammers. Here’s how you can fix it.

First, uninstall the application. Go to Applications->Edit Applications in the bottom left  of the chat bar. Make sure “Show: Recently Used” is selected in the drop down box in the top right on the Edit Applications page. Check those apps, look for an app called “Tagged?,” and uninstall it. If you don’t see “Tagged?,” check for other apps that you did not install and get rid of them. Next, it would be worthwhile to change your Facebook password for good measure.

Finally, report the link. In your Notifications, right click the link and copy it from  the notification in question. Go to this page, fill out the form, and submit.  If you have any more information on this little Facebook pandemic, make sure to leave them in the comments! I will post updates here as well (so if you’re reading this on Facebook, you might want to click through to my blog).

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My Favorite Android Apps

When I got my Droid, one of the first things I did was tap into Android’s vast app market  to check out apps and widgets (modules you can throw on one of your home screens for instant access to some app or information). I’ve had the device about a month now and there are a few apps that have proved themselves useful and/or awesome. Here is a list of my favorites. Read More “My Favorite Android Apps”

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The Difference Between Good, Fast, and Cheap

These are the three sides of the project triangle- Good, Fast, and Cheap- and these three sides are things that every client wants. But, there are trade-offs to each one, and many people outside the development world don’t see that. The catch is you can only pick two.

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7 WordPress Plugins that Make Your Client’s Life Easier


WordPress is becoming an increasingly popular content management system on top of it’s popularity as a blogging system. More developers are choosing it as a solution to enable clients to update their own websites. And while WordPress out of the box is an excellent system, it could use a few tweaks to give most clients the freedom they need. Here are 7 plugins that will make your client’s job of managing their own website easier.

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IE8 Bring Much Needed Improvements

Note: This was originally published in my school’s newspaper, the Aquinas.

Before you read this, there is something you should know about me. I am a web developer and a computer geek, so my bias might be palpable. To me, Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) is a much needed update. When I saw an email in my inbox from the University saying IE8 is not supported by all of the major systems here and subsequently how to disable getting IE8 in the next Windows Update, I was a little upset. I’m not saying this is completely the school’s fault, but it’s the closest thing to a standards compliant browser Microsoft has put out, so I want to make a case for it. Let’s talk about a few  important features in IE8.

This one is specifically for web developers, so excuse me while I go on a rant. IE8 now has developer tools (like both Firefox and Google Chrome), making it easier for web developers to debug websites in IE8. My prediction is that websites that were once a pain to fix for IE will become much easier to fix, which benefits everyone.

It’s also the most secure version of IE with pop-up blocks and a site scanner to protect the user from harmful sites. To put this in perspective, this scanner is an improvement on IE7’s scanner; IE6 doesn’t have a scanner or pop-up blocker, and is overall grossly outdated. I mention this because security is presented in theaforementioned email as a priority, yet by disabling the IE8 update users are left with a less secure browser.

I mentioned earlier that IE8 is the most standards compliant version of IE. What that means is a web developer needs to hack their sites less in order for it to work properly in IE8. I’ve seen this first hand, as many of my sites work without me making any additional fixes. This is not necessarily the University’s fault, but the fact that the tools we use on campus break in a better browser is unacceptable. If anything, support for arcane browsers like IE6 should be stopped. However, even if the site breaks in IE8 it has ‘compatibility mode’ which is essentially IE7, so the user should be able to run any site in compatibility mode and have it work. If it doesn’t, the site is substandard.

My point is this: there should really be no reason, whether you’re an institution or a developer, that the latest version of a browser like IE is not supported. Beta and early versions of IE8 came out in March 2008 and it went official last month. For the sake of their users, both parties should have check on support of IE8 a long time ago to make sure they were ready for its release.

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What I Learned in College

College Life

Over at Nettuts, they’ve posted an article titled, “Should You Attend University for Web Development”. Reading the article, I found it pretty interesting that a lot of people feel college isn’t necessary for web development and that their schools are behind the times when it comes to web development. I’m not going to defend my school and say it’s totally up-to-date, because it’s not. I do feel however, that that’s the nature of the beast when dealing with web development and computer science in general. As I wind down in the Masters program, set to graduate in May, I can tell you these two things after six year of college: the CS program should not be about the what but the how, and college is just as much a social thing as it is an academic thing.

First, let’s focus on the academics. Computing, no matter what your focus, is an ever changing field. It would be impossible for every school to stay on top of every technology is out there. I’m not being an apologist, I am speaking the truth. The idea should not be, “I’m learning C#,” or “I’m learning PHP.” It should be, “I’m learning how to program, using PHP.” I learned what Object Oriented Programming is and I can apply that to any language. I’ve learned the semantics of an imperative and a declarative language. I learned algorithms, and should be able to implement them as long as I know how certain language behaves, and I’ve learned how to teach myself that. Heck, my school doesn’t even have a web development major, and I consider myself a damn good web developer.

Beyond that, you learn the social skills you should have whether your profession be computer scientist, web developer, engineer, etc. There is a huge focus in our program on team building and communication. Human interaction isn’t something Google can teach you (yet). In our Masters program (in Software Engineering) we learn about process, eliciting requirements, etc. While you can learn some of this stuff with experience, hearing about it in a classroom certainly expedites the process.

But college isn’t just about academics. I will attribute a good amount of my social skills, professionalism, and 90% of my connections to going to college. I got involved in extracurriculars, networked, and made some amazing friends that challenged my way of thinking and got me to try new things. Again, that isn’t something you’re going to find on Google.

College should not just be about teaching you X. It should teach you how to learn. You should get some leassons in being social. It should give you some experiences you can’t get anywhere else. Those who say, “I don’t need to go to college to be X,”  aren’t looking at the big picture and will never be the best at what they do.

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The Basics of Twitter


Now that I’ve convinced you to join Twitter, I wanted to talk about the basics of how to use it- terminology, features, etc. Are you ready? Ok.

First of all, each time you add something to Twitter, it’s called an update or more commonly, a “tweet.” You tweet what you’re doing. Cute, I know. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at the more social aspects of tweeting.

  • Friend or Follow? You’re friends on Twitter are generally referred to as people that are either following you (getting your updates) or people you follow (you get their updates). Your followers will get your updates in their Friend Feed. Updates of people you follow will show up in yours. If you choose to make your updates private, only people that follow you (after being verified by you) will see your updates. Otherwise, they will also show up in the public timeline (or public feed), and they will be searchable.
  • @replies (recently renamed @mentions)- You can reply to someone’s tweet by starting a tweet with @username (at username). So, if you were to reply to me, it would be, “@jcasabona Great post about Twitter!” A mention is simply a tweet with at @reply somewhere else in the tweet. So, “Hanging out with @jcasabona” would be a mention. These specifically target a single user. That means even people that don’t follow you will see your @replies to them and vise versa.
  • DM– DM is short for “direct message” and it’s a way of privately messaging someone. Where @replies will show up in your updates, DMs do not.
  • RT– RT is short for retweet and it is when someone else reposts one of your tweets. So if I had a tweet that said, “Yankees Win!,” someone else could retweet it by writing, “RT @jcasabona Yankees Win!” It’s a way of giving credit where credit is due when you find something cool on Twitter.
  • #– This is a hash tag, and it  just might be my favorite part of Twitter. You would put the hash tag in front of terms you want to be easy to search for at search.twitter.com. For example, I could tweet, “Going to the game #yankees.” This would add my update to everyone else’s who  has added the hash tag for #yankees. By using hash tags, it’s easier to find trends and aggregate updates. Plus, most 3rd party Twitter apps automatically make hash tags links to Twitter’s search page. They are using for people tweeting about specific events or news items, or fun little games on Twitter. For example, every Friday is #followfriday and you add people you think others should follow.

So there you have it- the basics of using Twitter. If you have any questions, or feel I left something out, comments are open!

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Make Twitter Work for You


I’ve noticed lately a lot of my friends joining Twitter, the very popular micro blogging site. I feel like (and this is by all means non-scientific) interest peaked when Facebook rolled out it’s new design, people called it, “a lot like Twitter” and others got curious. The number one comment about Twitter I’m hearing/reading now is, “I don’t get it.” So to all my friends and those new to Twitter, here’s how you can make Twitter work for you.

The first thing you need to know is that Twitter is a communication tool. You can use it however you want. I describe it to people like this:

You know the status update feature in Facebook? It’s like that- but only that.

The people I describe it to have a hard time finding the use in just that, so here are a few suggestions:

  • Follow people in your profession. This might be easier for me because I am a web developer, but if you know big names in the business you happen to be in, see if  they are on Twitter. They usually post interesting links, thoughts, and tips that can be very helpful to you.
  • Stay on top of the news. I follow CNN News Breaks via Twitter, and have Twitter txt message me when CNN updates, so I get breaking news as soon as it happens. Here is a pretty good list of news organizations on Twitter. Chances are you’re favorite one is also on Twitter, even if it’s not listed there.
  • Stay in the loop with companies and organization you like. Twitter is quickly becoming a services companies are using to advertise and reach new markets. This is most apparent with Skittles, but can be seen by other companies too. Try a Google Search of your favorite companies to see what you can find.
  • Straw Polls. Ask a question, people are bound to answer you.
  • Celebs. I won’t hide the fact that I follow both Shaq and John Mayer on Twitter. They are entertaining, and it’s interesting to get a peek into the lives of people that seem like they are in a completely different world from yours. Here is a list of more celebrities on Twitter.
  • Third Party Services. Twitter was smart in making it so developers can access what they have to provide. This has spawned a number of 3rd Party services that extend what Twitter can do. Check out some of them here or simply google “Twitter Apps.”

And this is a short list- like I said, Twitter is a communication tool. People are coming up with more apps and ideas for Twitter everyday, and it’s being integrated into more and more well established websites and services.

If you’re interested, my Twitter username is @jcasabona. Feel free to follow.