Monday, December 6, 2010

Unsubscribing from Your Essential Shopper

Take it back, take it back, take that thing right outta here.
Right away, far away, take that thing right outta here.
-- Take It Back (Cream)

I've been trying to permanently remove all junk mail coming to my apartment (as well as previous residences). CatalogChoice, as I've previously posted, has been great for this. However, I still get weekly junk mail from "yes! Your Essential Shopper," part of the Bay Area News Group. I couldn't find anything in my web searches for 'unsubscribe "your essential shopper"' so I'm writing this post.

Inside the all-ad newspaper, I managed to find a phone number (1-800-598-4637) and called it asking to unsubscribe [1]. They were helpful and took me off the list. Now (presumably) they will stop sending me this direct-to-recycling-bin publication every Sunday.

[1] It's possible that the number might be different for you if you're in a different area. In this case, the best I can say is that the newspaper should include a phone number at the bottom of the second page.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Three things for improving Facebook privacy

We're not gonna take it
Never did and never will
We're not gonna take it
Gonna break it, gonna shake it,
Let's forget it better still
-- We're Not Gonna Take It (The Who)
  1. ReclaimPrivacy: everyone should be using this and scan periodically. This is an extremely easy way of detecting which privacy leaks you haven't plugged.
  2. Remove Facebook Like buttons: a Greasemonkey script to rid you of these from non-Facebook pages. These buttons are nasty and let Facebook track you as you surf around the web.
  3. Facebook Link Rewriter: another Greasemonkey script to stop Facebook from tracking which links you click on.
Sure would be great if I could stop doing these types of posts, eh?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Steal this idea: Off-hold notification

Woke up this morning I was all alone
Saw your picture by the telephone
I was missing you oh so bad
Wish I had you here to hold
All I've got is this touch-tone phone
So I guess I'll give you a call
-- Telephone Song (Stevie Ray Vaughan)

Here's another app idea for smart phone software developers. When I'm put on hold and I don't have a headset, I'd like to put the phone down until I am taken off of hold. I'd like it so that when the phone "hears" a loud signal over the line (it may need to do some noise cancellation in case there is noise on my end) the phone will vibrate or (optionally) switch to speakerphone.

This would mostly be for talking to people but a harder problem is handling customer service centers. (Ideally, customer service telephone systems would take your phone number and have an agent give you a call when they're free rather than wasting time on phone calls, but few companies do this currently) In these cases, it might be able to use a voice/music detector and check for repeated messages. Many of things you hear while you're on hold alternate between music and voice, so this might end up notifying you too much. With luck, it could be trained that some pieces were recordings (by memorizing sound "fingerprints" or something like that like) for use in later phone calls.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quick hacks: webnumbr for fast scraping (of a single number)

Like the previous quick hack, I had little to do with this -- just demonstrating a tool. In this case, the goal was to graph the national average for certificate of deposit interest rates over time (you can find this information at At SHDH37, Drew told me about webnumbr which does exactly this (and was possibly developed at a previous SHDH) -- you pick a webpage and then select a single element from that page. webnumbr will scrape the webpage at an interval of your choosing and graph the data. I'm not wild about their graphing (prefer something interactive like this or Google Charts) but it looks like you can get the raw data in various formats (CSV, etc.) which would let you use other graphing methods, overlay charts, etc.

If you're interested, here are graphs for the average 1-year and 2-year CD rates.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Quick hacks: Yahoo Pipes for RSS feed filtering

In my Copious Free Time(tm), I've been working on some very quick projects. I'm writing them up since, while many of them are quite simple, they highlight some interesting tools.

I used to read the "Marmaduke Explained" blog at this website. It has since moved here but the RSS feed includes other entries as well. Using Yahoo Pipes, I was quickly able to create a new RSS feed which only includes entries that include Marmaduke in the title. See the pipe I made here (output available as RSS, JSON, email, etc.). Yahoo Pipes is, like the name implies, a series of tubes -- nodes in the graph feed perform operations and feed into other nodes. So, my point is that Yahoo Pipes is a cool piece of software and probably underutilized -- the basic filtering that I do is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for what it can do (for example, there are "translate" and "location extractor" nodes). If they added basic scraping abilities, I'd likely use it even more (but see upcoming posts for different ways to do scraping...).