Paul Roub

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It Almost Seems Like Christmas

The Short Version

That’s a new song, a Christmas song. Click the Buy link, and all the profits from your dollar (or more) will go to a wonderful organization called The Haven For Children.

The Long Version

I hadn’t written a Christmas song before, and hadn’t particularly planned to. Other people seem to do it very nicely, I’ll just play those if need be.1

Then I was invited to play in a Writers’ Night, in-the-round with other local songwriters (and also a benefit), a few weeks back. The advertising was Christmas-themed, I knew others would be bringing Christmas songs, and I was gently asked if, you know, maybe I might have one?

I didn’t, and decided to be OK with that. But a week before the show, the germ of an idea showed up. It bounced around as these things do, and the night before the show, I sat down and made myself write some verses. Normally I’ll be all “I have to wait for the muuuuuuse”, but what did it hurt? If they were terrible, I already didn’t have a song. No harm done.

They weren’t terrible. I liked them a lot. It was funny, but also wistful. My song, my rules. And I love me a power-pop melody and a big singalong chorus.

The day of the show, in lieu of lunch, I wrote the middle. I made myself a little demo, something to listen to in the background the rest of the day, so that I might remember it. I posted that demo to Facebook for a really small group of friends - mostly other writers - to hear; basically, I was surprisingly proud of the song. Here’s that demo:

The show went really well (although I think I seriously flubbed the middle — we’ll see when the DVD is available2).

The next day or so, my friend Pete sends me back my demo, but he’s added drums. Tricky, considering the demo’s rather flexible approach to timing.

But it sounded really cool. I sent Pete a new demo, this one with a click track, and a sample sequenced drum part which I hoped he’d ignore. A couple of passes later, and there were drums. Good ones, alongside my little guitar/vocal guide track.

I spent much of this weekend adding bass, guitars, and real vocals. I mixed, and mixed, and re-mixed, and basically learned a lot more than I’d known before about home recording.

For example, I learned that my closet makes a nice, dry vocal/acoustic booth.

recording in the closet

Monday night, up the song went to my music page, where you can buy it right now. It’s $1.00, but you can spend more. All profits (that is, every penny I actually see, after PayPal and Bandcamp fees) will go to charity.

I knew, when I decided to work in earnest on this track, that I wanted it to be for a cause. The choice for Pete and I was obvious: The Haven For Children. It’s a local charity, run by people I admire - and both my mom and Pete’s late mother have given countless hours volunteering and fundraising for them.

Why the Haven?

In their words:

We are licensed by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) of the State of Florida to provide therapeutic shelter care in a homelike environment for children from birth to age ten at admittance who have been removed from their homes because of neglect, abuse or abandonment. The Community Based Care of Brevard County and other community based care groups in Central Florida refer children to The Haven.

The Haven for Children, Inc. program’s goal is to nourish and protect the children in its care and guide them toward positive self-growth. Currently, we have three homes that serve an average of ten children each. Three shifts of trained staff provide 24/7 care 365 days per year. We also receive the services of a nurse practitioner from the Brevard Health Alliance who provides on site medical care to our children.

I’ve seen first-hand the dedication of these people, and the incredible change they make in the lives of children who desperately need that change. They’re superheroes, as far as I’m concerned. If we could help in some small way… no, it didn’t take a lot of thought.

If you like the song (I do!), please download it for a buck or two. If you don’t (I’ll be okay!), you can donate directly to the Haven at this page; or you can send a check to:

The Haven for Children, Inc.
P. O. Box 327
Melbourne, FL 32902-0327

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Have a joyous January 17th, if that’s when you read this. The Haven will still appreciate your help.

  1. Don’t think I can’t summon up any Jonathan Coulton Christmas song on demand.
  2. Watch this space.

Do Not Disturb, or “How to Use Your iPhone as an Alarm Clock and Remain Sane”

This is one of those things that us nerdy types already know about; but three times recently, I’ve explained it to normal human beings (you know, the ones whose actual lives get in the way of exploring every menu on their phones). They either didn’t know that “Do Not Disturb” existed, or weren’t sure it would work for them.

Spoiler: it will probably work very nicely.

  • The Goal: Use your iPhone as your alarm clock, at home or abroad.
  • The Annoyance: 3am dings and bright-as-the-sun screens when someone tags you in an adorable cat photo.
  • The Worry: If you could turn off that stuff, what if someone really needed to call you?

Enter “Do Not Disturb”, which is a not-that-new iOS feature that most likely does just what you want.

No noises, no midnight home screen lights — but your alarm will still work.

Where does Do Not Disturb live?

On iOS 7, it’s right there in the Settings menu:

settings

On iOS 6, it’s hiding under the Notifications menu.1

On iOS 5, it’s worth mentioning that your carrier probably offers an iPhone 4 as a free upgrade.

Manual vs. Scheduled

Do Not Disturb, disabled

“Manual” is for when you’re heading into a meeting, etc. and don’t want your phone vibrating, ringing, lighting up, etc. unless it’s actually urgent. Turn it off when you’re done.

“Scheduled” is the thing you’ll set once and never think of again. Click that to turn it on.

Do Not Disturb, scheduled

Here I have my phone set to shut up between midnight and 6am.

Want to change that? Click the times and do so.

Setting the Do-Not-Disturb schedule

I recommend leaving “Repeated Calls” on - if anyone calls you repeatedly, assume it’s urgent and let it through.

Also handy: silence “Only when iPhone is locked”. If you’re actually up and using your phone, go ahead and ring.

Repeated / Locked Settings

Those calls you always want to receive

No matter the time of day, or the urgency of the meeting, some calls you always want to take (or at least hear about).

Maybe it’s your kids. Maybe it’s your parents.

Maybe it’s Batman.

I'm Batman

Tell “Do Not Disturb” to always allow calls from your “Favorites” list (or another list, just for this purpose)

Allow Calls From… menu

Then open up those contacts and add them to that list:

"Add to Favorites" button on Batman's contact

Choose a phone number:

Choosing the number to add

“Voice Call” is the right answer in this case:

Use that number for voice calls

There you go. When Bats wants to call and complain about how hard it is to keep Robins around these days, you’ll be there for him.

But what about the Alarm? Will I still wake up?

Alarms still go through. That’s not someone else disturbing you - that’s you disturbing you, as is your right.

  1. Sorry, no iOS 6 screenshots, but they’d be largely the same.

    If you’re using a 4S or later, upgrade to 7. Seriously. When someone complains about how Apple “broke” iOS and everything’s different, I recommend hearing that as a toddler angry about having to eat Mac and Cheese out of the wrong bowl. A much better bowl, in fact.

    But, you know, toddlers, what can you do?

People: Gotta Love (Some of) ‘Em

Yesterday, I had the minor misfortune of witnessing a serious accident from far too close. A pickup, traveling very fast on a crowded highway, cut off the car in the adjacent lane, started rolling to one side, swerved back the other way, and flipped; he rolled twice before stopping sideways 20 feet from the road. I was the driver he cut off.

I say “minor” because I wasn’t in the truck; wasn’t harmed; saw what he was going to do, and the load of unsecured pipe and metal in the truck bed, and had slowed down enough to avoid the debris.

Somehow no one else was hit, and there was no pileup. The adults and small children in the car walked away from the crash, bloodied but surprisingly OK. (The wonderful thing about car seats and seat belts - they work even when you’re too young to appreciate them)

I’ll refrain from comment on the driver’s behavior before and afterwards. I’m immensely glad the kids are OK.

I pulled over immediately, and ran back to the truck. By the time I got there, several other drivers had already reached them and were helping everyone out of the truck.

Within two minutes, random passerby were already calming the children, pressing clothing to their cuts, because of course you’d do that.

A man stopped and brought water bottles from his trunk, for the kids, because it’s hot and shadeless and of course he would.

We all confirmed that one woman had called 911, and got out of her way as she checked the kids out per their instructions, because of course she would.

The rest of us decided at the same time to clear the worst of the shattered pipe, rebar, and sheet metal from the road. It needed to happen, we were there, so of course we did.

A nurse came running down the grass, from however far back she’d stopped. Because of course.

Fire Rescue, Sheriffs and Troopers arrived within 5 minutes, and we all gave our versions of events. Except for one man who couldn’t stick around, but left me his name and number to pass along. Of course.

Once we’d done that, and the professional and responsible folks had things in hand, we all got out of the way and left without further discussion.

Because we hadn’t done anything special; we were just the closest of many decent people in the area at that moment. That’s what choked me up, driving on afterwards - it was all so matter-of-fact. The awful exceptions make the news, and make better stories, but most people? When they see they can be of use?

Of course.

Sunday Morning Password Audit

We all know about the value of strong passwords, and the essential extra value of never reusing passwords, right?

Right. Of course we do.

And we all follow that wisdom, always, without fail, right?

Right?

I mean, except for that throwaway password. You know the one. The same one you’ve been using for random I’ll-probably-never-be-here-again sites (and apps) for years and years. The one you never use for important things. I mean, who cares if anyone cracks that one? That’s why it’s OK that it’s short, and crackable, and re-used so often.

For “fun” this morning, I opened up 1Password and created a Smart Folder like so:

1Password Main Menu - "New Smart Folder"

1Password Search - Items where password is like the throwaway

That blurry part there, is of course, my throwaway password of choice. That count is, indeed, 104 logins. 104 logins that were somehow trivial enough for a junk password, yet worthy of a “Save” click when I created them.

But hey, none of those are important sites, right? Nothing with financial implications or anything.

Oh, just:

I had planned to spend the rest of the morning doing my taxes; that sounds like more fun than what I ended up doing.

Changing 104 passwords takes a while, but at least I’m not doing it in a blind panic after one of those many sites had their database compromised.

Take a minute today to search your favorite password tool. You may be embarrassed by what you turn up, but console yourself this way: “At least I didn’t tell the whole internet about it like Paul did.”

You’re welcome.

TextExpander Snippet: Extract the Real URL From a Google Search Results Link

The Problem

You’re searching Google, looking for a link to email/blog/otherwise save. In this example, you’re looking for me, but you’re confused as to how my name is spelled.

Searching Google for "Paul Raub"

Great, let’s grab that first link:

Copy Link Address

Paste that into your text editor, and you see… oh.

Link surrounded with Google tracking data

You can, of course, actually visit the link in question, then copy the URL from your address bar. Or you could edit the URL, turning %2F into / as you go. I’ve done both, thousands of times. So have you. Neither is particularly entertaining.

The Solution

I searched in vain for a TextExpander snippet to take care of this, but I didn’t turn one up. (OK, I didn’t search that hard; writing one is more fun)

Now, after copying the link, I type

;ungoogle

into my editor, and all the tracking cruft is removed, leaving me with:

Plain Link

Getting the Snippet

You’ll need to download and install the Ungoogle TextExpander Snippet, it will be preassigned an ;ungoogle shortcut. Feel free to change the shortcut as you see fit.

One prerequisite: the snippet is actually a Perl script, and you’ll need the URI::Query module installed. sudo cpan URI::Query will do the trick from the Terminal.

You can also just create a new “Shell Script” snippet of your own, and paste in the Perl:

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#!/usr/bin/perl

use strict;
use warnings;

use URI;
use URI::Query;

my $googleUrl = `pbpaste`;

my $uri = URI->new($googleUrl);

if (($uri->authority =~ /google\.com/) && ($uri->path =~ /^\/url\b/) && ($uri->query =~ /\burl=/))
{
  my $q = URI::Query->new($uri->query);

  my %params = $q->hash();

  my $url = $params{'url'};

  print "$url\n";
}
else
{
  print $googleUrl;
}

Chris Coyier: Don’t Overthink It Grids ∞

Boiling (potentially responsive) grids down to their essence. Planning on stealing much of this, soon, for a music site near you.

If a more complex layout presents itself, people often reach for a grid framework. They assume grids are these super difficult things best left to super CSS nerds. That idea is perpetuated by the fact that a lot of the grid systems they reach for are very complicated.

I am a certified CSS nerd, but I’ve avoided rolling my own grids for just these reasons. To be fair, I reached that conclusion a few years ago when certain older browsers were still a non-fractional part of my sites’ visitors.

Life’s simpler in a post-IE7 world.

Chris Coyier: Don’t Overthink It Grids ∞

Matt Gemmell: Managing Email Realistically ∞

I could quote-mine this for days. I kept bouncing back and forth between “that’s hilarious”, “I should do that” and “I shouldn’t do that… should I?”

Take a lesson from quantum mechanics: an email isn’t definitively important until you see it. If you don’t see it, it’s not important. It remains in a dead-alive, important-unimportant superposition of states. And who cares about emails like that? Not me.

Matt Gemmell: Managing Email Realistically ∞

‘Full of Holes’ Reverse Kickstarter

“Full of Holes” Reverse Kickstarter

When I recorded Acrophobe, I funded it using Kickstarter. For my new digital single, “Full of Holes”, I’ve decided to go another route. A reverse Kickstarter.

Instead of paying in advance for something I plan to create, I went ahead and made the music. Now… and here’s where it gets weird… you get to buy it.

And? AND! Bonus Reward Levels! Also in reverse.

Here’s how it works.

  • The thing already exists. It’s done, and available in the present (and the past).
  • You pledge money, but that pledge is fulfilled right now.
  • You get the music immediately. The funding goal is reached.

The minimum pledge (which we’ll call “the price”) is $1.00. You can pledge (or “pay”) more.

At higher reward levels, you’ll be able to choose something you already have, so you know you’ll be happy.

Reward Levels

$1.00: “I love you, man”

Receive “Full of Holes” in your favorite download format, and I’ll throw in a bonus track, “What I Just Said”, for free.

$2.00: “Whoa! Thanks!”

Everything above, plus that spare key you can’t find. It’ll turn up, watch.

$5.00: “Starbucks cash!”

Everything above, and your most-beloved object within reach at the moment of purchase. Like that red stapler? You’re welcome.

$10.00: “For reals?”

Everything above, and one or more of your favorite, comfy, well-fitting T-shirts.1

$25.00: “Have you thought this through?”

Everything above, and… are you sure? You should perhaps consider spending less on this, and buying my CD. Oh, and tomorrow? Hit the snooze button one extra time, guilt-free. I know. I’m awesome.

$50.00: “Please don’t do this.”

Everything above, and – I presume – a refund, when you realize your mistake. Don’t drunk-pledge, kids!

Where do I sign up?

Glad you asked. Head right over to music.paulroub.com, choose your price, and download away.

You can also buy from the usual suspects (and the other usual suspects), but none of the bonus levels are available2, and the free bonus song isn’t free. Your call.

  1. Quantity will vary from closet to closet.
  2. Except in your miiiiiiind, maaaaannnn.

Just Released: ‘Full of Holes’

I’ve been visiting my friend Mark for a few days, and we’ve been making music.

This music. Please check it out; I’m really proud of this one. First time in forever I’ve done a “band” recording… “band” in quotes since it’s mostly me, but with Mark (thankfully) taking over the drums.

IE View Updated, Still Exists

Remember IE View? Little Firefox extension, lets you quickly open the the current page or link in IE, see how it looks on the wrong side of the tracks?

It’s still here, I’ve just forgotten to tell you about the last few updates. We’re at 1.5.1 now.

Nothing major has changed - mostly fixes to work in the latest Firefox pre-releases, as well as fixes to some minor bugs. If you’d disabled IE View because it didn’t work in far-flung pre-alpha releases, you should feel free to reinstall.

Grab the latest from addons-mozilla.org; your feedback is always appreciated - see the home page for details.