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Reading XBee RSSI with Arduino

Last year I spent quite a lot of time trying to read the Recieved Signal Strength Indicator from an XBee for a project I was working on. I had planned to blog about the process, but never got round to writing any more than two posts. However, I had a look at the nascent blog for the first time in a while, and it surprised me that it was getting a respectable number of views, especially for something that wasn't particularly informative and hadn't been updated in so long. Having a look at the analytics, I realised that like I been doing, there are still a lot of people trying to figure out how to read RSSI from an XBee to an Arduino. So here's a tutorial and some pointers for getting XBees set up for signal strength reading.

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Installing Tiny Tiny RSS from scratch

Considering that a couple of times now I've been a proponent of using an RSS reader, I figured it was time I wrote a tutorial on how to install Tiny Tiny RSS, using Nginx as the server and PostgreSQL for the database. While as with any piece of software there are a number of tutorials and guides already out there, I've found that none of them provided a complete instruction set that didn't have me running into and searching for solutions to multiple errors. To that end, this tutorial aims to both provide as complete a set of fool-proof instructions as I can make, both for newbies to self-hosting, and simply as a reference for my future self should I need to do this again.

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Typography: New Style and Fonts

I've spent a few hours over the last few days reading Butterick's Practical Typography, which I felt might be a good idea considering that I enjoyed his rant about Web Design that I posted a while back. I feel that in some ways I damn myself as the worst (or best, depending on how twisted your perceptions are) type of geek for being interested in and recommending a book on the intricacies of typography. Though really, much as there is on the site, it's still only a primer, and I don't think I'm going to go much farther down the rabbit hole than this.

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Using Node Modules with Meteor

After playing with Meteor for the past week or so, which overall I really enjoyed, the one thing that really bugged me was how to use node.js modules in a Meteor app. There are plenty of instructions out there that sort of tell you what to do, but I found all of them to be variously confusing and unclear. Of course, this isn't helped by the fact that at the time of writing Meteor is only version, so things are still in flux. The aim of this post is therefore to provide a comprehensive and clear guide to how I was able to get Meteor to work with Node modules.

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Web Design: A good rant

A really interesting talk by Matthew Butterick about the state of Web Design.

It’s now or nev­er for the web. The web is a medi­um for cre­ators, in­clud­ing de­sign­ers. But af­ter 20 years, the web still has no cul­ture of de­sign ex­cel­lence. Why is that? Because de­sign ex­cel­lence is in­hib­it­ed by two struc­tur­al flaws in the web. First flaw: the web is good at mak­ing in­for­ma­tion free, but ter­ri­ble at mak­ing it ex­pen­sive. So the web has had to rely large­ly on an ad­ver­tis­ing econ­o­my, which is weak­en­ing un­der the strain. Second flaw: the process of adopt­ing and en­forc­ing web stan­dards, as led by the W3C, is hope­less­ly bro­ken. Evidence of both these flaws can be seen in a) the low de­sign qual­i­ty across the web, and b) the speed with which pub­lish­ers, de­vel­op­ers, and read­ers are mi­grat­ing away from the web, and to­ward app plat­forms and me­dia plat­forms. This ev­i­dence strong­ly sug­gests that the web is on its way to be­com­ing a sec­ond-class plat­form. To ad­dress these flaws, I pro­pose that the W3C be dis­band­ed, and that the lead­er­ship of the web be re­or­ga­nized around open-source soft­ware prin­ci­ples. I also en­cour­age de­sign­ers to ad­vo­cate for a bet­ter web, lest they find them­selves confined to a shrink­ing ter­ri­to­ry of possibilities.

I really sympathise with his views on this. The design of most major websites is crap. Unfortunately, he's correct in his assertion that this is largely to do with the fact that advertising drives most of the web. It's going to take a lot of work to find ways around this.

As I'm currently working on plans for my new idea for a useful site, so this kind of thing is something that I'm doing a lot of thinking about lately. It's so easy to just copy the base format that most sites use without thinking about whether that design is the best for your current situation.

A Failure of Ideology

There's an article in the New Zealand Herald today, highlighting the ridiculousness of the current government's intervention in the broadband market. Feel free to skip the rest of this post if you wish, but I recommend you at least read the article. It does a good job of going over the issues from a technical, legal, and governmental angle, but there is one area it doesn't cover, which journalists mostly seem to shy away from, and that is the ideological angle.

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A New Blog

So, I guess it's time I started to write a blog. I've always read that it's recommended in IT to write a blog, or maybe in any industry these days, in order to have some sort of recognisable professional presence. Or, at the very least, to keep your rants off Facebook.

At any rate, there are plenty of things I could talk about, and I will. I tend mostly to have strong opinions on Politics, Information Technology, Economics, the Environment, and any intersection between the bunch, though not necessarily in that order. I think I'll start off properly with a politics post next.

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