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Benjamin Oakes

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Hi, I'm Ben Oakes and this is my geek blog. Currently, I'm a Ruby/JavaScript Developer at Liaison. Previously, I was a Developer at Continuity and Hedgeye, a Research Assistant in the Early Social Cognition Lab at Yale University and a student at the University of Iowa. I also organize, ICRuby, OpenHack Iowa City, and previously organized NewHaven.rb. I have an amazing wife named Danielle Oakes.

Filtering for the month October, 2014. Clear

On Asm.js

by Ben

On Asm.js —

A great perspective on the role of JavaScript in the future of the web. I don’t agree with all of it, but it’s certainly true that asm.js still feels like a clever hack, perhaps taken too far.

The ASCII/UTF-8 comparison to JavaScript/asm.js is something I hadn’t considered. That’s even more telling when you realize that ASCII has its roots in telegrams… Where will JavaScript be 100 years from now?

Tim Cook Speaks Up

by Ben

Tim Cook: “I’m Proud to be Gay” – Businessweek.

Tim Cook is the CEO of Apple.  From his article:

For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. […] While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now.


I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.

It’s great to have a well written piece from a well-known executive (and role model).  That’s a pretty brave thing to do, especially when you consider he’s the only openly-gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company.  The only unfortunate thing is that he almost seems to think his work is done… I have a feeling this isn’t the last time he speaks about this topic.

Native Skype for Chromebooks Just Got a Step Closer

by Ben

Native Skype for Chromebooks Just Got a Step Closer – OMG! Chrome!.

With the Chrome runtime for Android and a possible ORTC implementation of Skype, it seems that Skype on Chrome OS is inevitable.

iFixit’s 2014 Mac Mini teardown shows a sealed, less-upgradeable redesign

by Ben

iFixit’s 2014 Mac Mini teardown shows a sealed, less-upgradeable redesign | Ars Technica.

It’s funny, I was just thinking about how it was nice that Apple was still offering a lower-priced computer with components designed to be upgraded, in contrast with their other offerings.

While considering a replacement for an older Mac mini, the non-upgradable RAM and storage in the 2014 model are a letdown. Also the small performance improvement to the 2012 model (and actually a performance decrease if comparing the high-end models) is also less than I was expecting. The only real benefit is the low-end model runs $100 cheaper than in 2012 — though it isn’t a better deal.

In the end, I expect the 2012 model to retain its value for some time.

Self-hosted URL shortener: YOURLS

by Ben

YOURLS: Your Own URL Shortener.

As Piwik is to Google Analytics, YOURLS is to Bitly.

I haven’t tried this out yet, but it seems nice from the screenshots.  Written in PHP.

WP to Twitter WordPress Plugin

by Ben

WordPress › WP to Twitter « WordPress Plugins.

I’ve been considering blogging more and tweeting less.  This WordPress plugin automatically tweets new posts, which seems handy for anyone who’d rather use Twitter instead of RSS.

Iowa City has the largest toothbrush plant in the world

by Ben

Manual Toothbrush Built In the USA | Oral B.

Oral-B’s Iowa City plant is the largest toothbrush plant in the world. Approximately 1 million Oral-B manual toothbrushes are built at the plant by nearly 500 hardworking, committed people, including U.S. Veterans.

Makes sense, but I didn’t know it was the biggest.

Facebook’s new app harkens back to the AOL chatroom

by Ben

Facebook’s new app harkens back to the AOL chatroom | Ars Technica.

This just furthers my theory that Facebook is just a modern version of AOL. (Facebook Pages smack of AOL keywords as well.)

Tesla Model S Owners Unite To Offer Law-Skirting Test Drives In Iowa

by Ben

Tesla Model S Owners Unite To Offer Law-Skirting Test Drives In Iowa.

This plus the new EVIowa group means there’s growing interest in driving electric in Iowa.

InsideEVs is on the scene for a law-skirting event where Model S owners (mostly from Minnesota) trekked to Iowa to hold a private test-drive event where potential Tesla-owning Iowans can drive the Model S to get a feel for the electric car.

There’s always a way to work around existing laws, right?

Paul Steier, director of the Iowa DOT’s Bureau of Investigation and Identity Protection, says that this test-drive event is perfectly legal since the Model S owners don’t work for Tesla and have no direct association with the automaker.

Calculating Your CO2 Footprint

by Ben

Op-Ed: Calculating Your CO2 Footprint | Inside EVs

I’ve found myself returning to the above post every so often. It doesn’t have much to do with EVs (electric vehicles) — although they are one way to reduce your carbon footprint.

The thing I like about the post is that it lays out the clear goal of 1.6 tons of annual carbon emissions per capita and shows that the author — a self described “mister green” — has a little more than twice that amount of carbon emissions today. He has a low emission car, solar on his roof, etc. His example goes a long way towards showing how far we all have to go, considering the average American has 17 tons of carbon emissions per year.

Compared to many carbon estimation services out there, actually looking at your electric,  gasoline, and natural gas usage gives a much more accurate result. (I’m actually really surprised I can’t find an app to do that with our personal energy usage! Leave a comment if you know of one.) Most carbon estimators, take so much liberty with their assumptions that there no possible way to get an estimate that even approaches the 1.6 ton goal.

So here’s to the journey; we’ll all have to change, but everything we need to solve the problem is here today.