Archives For Matt’s Grand Ideas


In the summer of 2013 a TED talk started making its way around the Internet discussing how to apply agile project management practices to the family. Then a Des Moines local agile coach, Kristin Runyan put the idea into action and blogged about it. This December, a coworker reported how he had seen benefits of this idea.

The timing of the December talk coincided nicely with some thoughts I had. For one, my wife and I have been frustrated with our 12 year old son’s lack of interest in doing the things he was supposed to do. Secondly, at work we completed a team member “work style evaluation,” essentially a personality test, and it caused me to realize that I think my son has a different personality and work style than either me or my wife.

We felt that this “agile family” method may work for us. Continue Reading…

The word processor I wish existed (maybe it does?)

When writing fiction and longer non-fiction I wish I had a distraction-free word processor like WriteRoom or IA Writer (both of which I own), but with a “quick reference” feature, easily accessible in some way. For examples of some references I’d like to access, a list of places mentioned previously, a list of people, biographic information about one of the characters (yes, I write biographies for all my main characters) and possibly a way to search for factual information without turning to my web browser. I’d love for it to export simple HTML that could be pasted into a blog. I’m checking out Scrivener, but it hardly qualifies as distraction-free, so not not sure if that’s the right path or not. Any ideas?

Swimming In The iPool

I’ve told a few other people my “amazing” trick for providing my pre-teen son a nice smart phone without paying much money. As a matter of fact, I’ve told enough people about it that it makes more sense for me to write it down so that I don’t have to repeat myself.

I did quite a bit of research when looking for a cell-phone. At first I used this technique for the whole family, but as I started doing mobile development a few years ago my needs changed and I put myself and my wife on a typical family plan. However, it does kind of pain me to pay $30 a month for my son when really he only uses his cell phone for reference and entertainment and to ask his friends to log onto the XBox. We love being able to get in contact with him when he’s out and it’s good to know he can call us or 911 in an emergency. And, lets face it, he likes to have a nice phone.

I’ll put my disclaimer on this note. I’m able to keep my costs so low because we don’t use many minutes or send many text messages. You can adapt my technique if your usage scenario is different than mine, it’s not hard. Continue Reading…


I help out a popular clothing retailer,, sometimes when they need some after-hours help. Last night at dinner I got an urgent text from the lead developer who is based in Europe saying the website was melting due to being mentioned in a highly popular Reddit post. It seems that one of the Boston bombing suspects was spotted wearing a hoodie from Kuhl.

The first problem was that there weren’t enough database connections available, the second was that, of the M1.extra-large’s 15G of RAM, only 4G was being used, and the third problem was that the disk i/o and cpu usage was close to nil. We solved all of these problems, and they all helped, but ultimately could only handle the load by serving a static copy of the popular page. But here’s the process I took to get there and how each step impacted performance. Continue Reading…

The Marching Band

I’ve decided to start monthly blogging about the links and stories I favorited in March. You’ll find an eclectic mix of web development, open source, usability/ux and whatever trips my fancy.

This month we have news about Firefox OS app payments, how to get Netflix running in Ubuntu, indestructible cell phones and some WordPress tips.

Continue Reading…


Whenever I read Hebrews 7 I wonder how the author comes up with a connection between Jesus and Melchizedek. I don’t doubt the connection, but it strikes me as an obscure reference. When the recipients of the letter read this, did they suddenly say, “A ha!” and understand the comparison, or did they scratch their head wondering who on earth Melchizedek was? (like I did) Continue Reading…


My team at John Deere ISG, as well as some teams I worked with at Canonical, practiced continuous deployment of software projects. This is a process that reduces the work needed to deploy software updates so that changes can be deployed frequently. In most ways this is a huge improvement that initially takes some work and discipline, but in the long run reduces the burden on your tech staff and increases users’ satisfaction because it enables fixes to be deployed quickly.

A common alternative is to do regular release cycles where you decide on a stack of features and fixes that will go out at regular intervals. For example, you may have 8 week or quarterly releases. In this scenario you dread show-stopper bugs because it means doing a hot-fix release out of cycle. If you release once or twice weekly this is close enough for most people to consider it continues deployment.

Despite the benefits of continuous deployment I think it’s important to also do regular feature releases. This gives you a point of communication with your users and enables you to keep them interested and excited in the product. Continue Reading…


Like many I am saddened that my favorite newsreader will go away. I use the app Reeder and the web service IFTTT to hook into Google Reader to keep up to date on my feeds so now I’ll need to find something new. Reeder has said it will continue to work after the change and Feedly looks like it may also be something to consider.

Maybe we should untether our selves from a service we don’t control. I did some experimenting and it looks like with a tiny bit of effort we can make our own Google Reader app right in WordPress. And it will take you less time to do than it takes me to write this blog post! You’ll get the ability to star posts and you’ll have categories and a single central feed of all the sites you keep up on that you can read in any reader app. Continue Reading…

Mario Land

I’m considering going to Google I/O 2013 so was checking out the website. I noticed you could click on the letters when a friend pointed out that it was making 8bit codes at the bottom. I tried entering the values for 2013 and a few other common numbers but didn’t get anything. I browsed the source but I don’t like reading minified code so gave up.

Today I’m sick and can’t go to work, so I thought I’d play with it a little bit more. There are patterns you can enter to get to some hidden games and other novelties. Here’s what I found:

So far I’ve identified 12 different patterns. I’m wondering if there are actually 13 (for 2013) but so far I’ve been unable to find another. If you find one, I’d love to know it. Continue Reading…

Memory Lapse

During my hands on lab teaching Git I mentioned that I have instructions on how to set up your own Git server using Gitlab. This is an awesome tool that gives you some of the best features of Github along with the ability to privately host it on a server in your own private network.

You get a git server accessible via git:// ssh and http/https, a slick web interface where you can manage projects, your team, create tasks (i.e. bug reports and etc), do pull requests and run a wiki for project documentation. I particularly like the ability to manage user’s SSH keys via the web interface. I’d like to explore it’s ability to authenticate against Active Directory, Google or other providers as well. Continue Reading…