Recently I got a Chromebook, which has forced me to step up my search for a good web-based IDE. I only looked at the free-level capabilities, looking for something that would handle multiple projects and maximum flexibility. Here are my top three recommendations:

Koding provides a clean interface with a lot of flexibility. In particular, I like that they provide a full AWS virtual machine. This is particularly nice for those who want to do more than just code, but to design or experiment with an entire software stack. However, their interface is a little bit less like an IDE and more of just a terminal and editor connected to that virtual machine.

Cloud9 works more like a good IDE where you can set up a build and run tasks. But the build and run environments seem to work outside of your particular terminal environment, which makes their workflow different than it might be on other platforms.

Codeanywhere maybe be a good mix. For code editing it provides a little more than a text editor, and doesn’t want to control or own your project. You can actually keep your code external, and access it through (S)FTP, Google Drive, or Dropbox, and simply access it through code anywhere. But the still also give you a “DevBox” which is something like a VM.  Additionally, Codeanywhere provides mobile apps (which I haven’t tried).

I looked at other solutions (Codio, Codebox, Codenvy, PythonAnywhere, Nitrous) but excluded most of them because they didn’t allow me full control over my software stack.

The problem with all of these is that they can’t access code that you don’t have on the Internet, for example, code in your private Intranet only. For that I found that I could quickly install the open source Codebox IDE on my private Intranet server.

This is why USPS struggles

Posted in Businesson Nov 8, 2014

Here is a screen capture from my USPS package tracking:

snapshot2

Notice that “Postal Product” indicates “2-Day” mail. Which means that it should have been delivered on October 2, which is two days after my ship date of September 30.

But somehow this package is:

  • On Time (for delivery on October 2)
  • Expected Delivery on October 4
  • Delivered on October 3

If there has been one reliable trend for the stock and bond markets, it is that over long periods of time, things generally go up.  For someone who doesn’t know much about investing, this one, reliable trend can be utilized by these three rules:

  1. Invest regularly and periodically.  The rule, “buy low sell high” is a dumb rule, because how do you know when stocks are low or high?  Instead of trying to time the market, add additional money into your investment accounts as regular intervals, like once per month.  Sometimes you will invest when the stocks are higher, and sometimes you will invest when the stocks are lower.  Overall, that averages out and you avoid the risk of buying high.
  2. Invest in everything.  Trying to pick just a handful of stocks to invest in in risky.  The chance of picking a stock that will crash is too great.  So instead, invest in lots of different stocks.  Stocks that do great will offset stocks that do poorly.  Overall, things average and you avoid the risk of buying a bad stock.  Mutual funds (or ETFs) are a great way to invest in lots  and lots of stocks, but many funds focus too much on a single market segment.  Choose a handful of different funds that cover different market segments: different sizes of companies, domestic and international, different ages of companies.
  3. Choose a stock/bond ratio for your timespan of investing.  Stocks are more volatile.  They have more potential of going up, but they can also go way down.  Over a long long term, they generally go up.  Bonds are more stable.  Funds containing bonds still go up and down, but not as much as stocks.  Generally, bond funds go up over shorter periods of time.  If you want bigger gains over longer periods of time, you should invest in stocks.  If you are ok with smaller gains because you need to withdraw sooner, then you should invest in bonds.

I know of a couple of good platforms that can get you started investing quickly and without a lot of money.  But I don’t want to discredit this post as a shill for a particular service.  If you are interested, leave a comment and I’ll email you directly.

Politicians these days

Posted in Funny, Politicson Oct 28, 2014

Is Costco a good fit for you?

Posted in Business, Reviewson Sep 12, 2014

With Costco coming to Northern Colorado, I thought I would share some thoughts on why you would or wouldn’t want to get a Costco membership.

Costco is a good place to buy quality products, in larger quantities, at good prices, but that doesn’t mean your grocery budget will shrink.

Why Costco might not be a good fit:

  • If you are the type of person who is ok buying lower quality products at bargain prices, then Costco probably isn’t a good fit for you.
  • If you wait to buy groceries until you have a coupons to match with a sale, then Costco probably isn’t a good fit for you.
  • If you only buy groceries for the next few days, then buying groceries at Costco would require changes to you shopping methods.
  • If you only buy groceries for a couple of people, then the quantities purchased at Costco might be too much for you.
  • If you want things delivered to your home.
  • If you like asking store associates for help.

Why Costco might be a good fit:

  • If you buy a lot of organics, you might find Costco’s prices pretty competitive.
  • If you like to do a lot of dinner entertaining, Costco has great selections.
  • If you have a couple of hungry teenagers, Costco can sell you lots of food quickly.
  • If you normally buy the highest quality brands even when they are not on sale, Costco will sell you comparable brands at better prices.
  • If you don’t choosing between brands, Costco has already researched the best brands and will only sell you the brand they stand behind.
  • If you are looking to buy some big-ticket items (furnature, bikes, televisions), then buying it at Costco might save you more than your membership fee in a single purchase.
  • If you bake bread, Costco will sell yourflour and yeast in quantities you can’t get at King Soopers.
  • If you like shopping where employees are paid and treated well, you will find lots of happy employees at Costco.

If you still don’t know if Costco is a good fit for you, I suggest giving it a try. They have a satisfaction guarantee on your membership: if you try Costco but are unhappy with your membership, they will refund your membership fee. If you try products at Costco but are unhappy with them, you can easily return them (some electronics have a limited return window.)

Cheap cell phone plans

Posted in Business, Reviewson Sep 3, 2014

If you are spending hundreds of dollars on a cell phone plan that you don’t use very much, you are spending too much.  Here are a couple of different cell phone services for those people who only need a cell phone for talking a few minutes a day.

Ring Plus has plans starting at just $2/month for 50 minutes.  Apparently, you get to listen to advertisements instead of ringing. While there is no contract, this isn’t a strict pre-paid plan and you can incur (reasonable) overages. Operates on the Sprint Network.

Ptel provides a Pay As You Go with rates of 5 cents/minute.  You have to recharge your account with  minimum of $10 every 60 days.  They operate on the T-Mobile network, so you should be able to use any unlocked GSM phone.

FreedomPop operates on Sprint’s Data Networks.  From what I can tell, you use a FreedomPop VoIP client on the phone to make calls over a data connection.  Since calls go over data instead of voice, the reliability, coverage or call quality may not be as good in some areas.  However, they provide 200 minutes, 500 text messages, and 500 MB data for free every month.

H2O Wireless provides a Pay As You Go plan providing 5 cents/minute, with payments of $10 or more every 90 days.  They operate on AT&T’s network, and you can bring any unlocked GSM phone.

PagePlus is on Verizon’s network.  Their Pay As You Go rate is 10 cents/minute when you add $10 every 120 days.  They provide better rates when adding $25 or $50 to your account.

Because plans change all the time, you should take all this information as a general starting point and investigate your own plans.  I’ve only listed 5 services, but there are many more.  With all sorts of various plans including pre-paid, post-paid, pay-as-you-go and unlimited plans.

This table shows an average monthly cost for each service based on a set number of monthly minutes.  The rates do not consider text-messaging or data rates, do not include the cost of a phone, and may not be valid for variable month-to-month usage.

Monthly Minutes RingPlus Ptel FreedomPop H20 PagePlus Net 10
 10 min  $2  $5  Free  $3.33  $2.50 $15
 30 min  $2  $5  Free  $3.33  $3 $15
 50 min  $2  $5  Free  $3.33  $5 $15
 100 min  $3  $5  Free  $5  $6.25 $15
 150 min  $4  $7.50  Free  $7.50  $9 $15
 200 min  $5  $10  Free  $10  $12 $20
 250 min  $6  $12.50  $8  $12.50  $12.50 $20
 300 min  $7  $15  $8  $15  $15 $20

Want to know more?  Ask a question in the comments.

Cost of Washing Reusable Bags

Posted in Insightson Aug 20, 2014

According to this USA Today article, you should wash your reusable grocery bags once per week to avoid getting sick.  How much does it cost to wash your bags?

Suppose you wash all your bags in a separate load of laundry, once per week.  That load of laundry requires:

  • About 1.1 kWh of electricity to wash in a front-loader and 1.4 kWh to dry for just 20 minutes.
  • About 15 gallons of water for your front-loader washer
  • Laundry detergent.

In Fort Collins, water rates are $2.53 per 1000 gallons, sewage rates are $3.34 per 1000 gallons, and about $0.09 per kWh of electricity.  Member’s Mark liquid detergent from Sam’s Club costs $0.11 per load.

For an entire year of washing reusable bags every week, you would use:

  • 130 kWh of electricity
  • 780 gallons of water (and sewage)
  • 80 ounces of laundry detergent.

For a total cost of: about $22 to wash your reusable bags once per week.

Fort Collins recently passed an ordinance requiring stores to charge $0.05 per disposable bag.  For the $22 cost of washing bags, a person could instead “buy” 440 plastic bags.

Environmental Cost: The main motive for charging for disposable bags in Fort Collins was the environmental impact of those bags.  What is the environmental impact of washing the reusable bags?  What is the environmental impact of producing the reusable bags?  What is the environmental impact of reusable bags that are worn out and thrown away?

Categories