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Curtains for Theater Listings

21 Jul

no_popcornThis morning I received a call from a gent with a Boston accent. He indicated that he represents a firm that is displeased with some data I’m using on According to the caller, my theater listings page is using his client’s intellectual property and I’m not properly licensed to do so. The lawyer seemed nice enough. Perhaps I should have kept him on the phone longer so he could tick up some more billable hours…

Like some other things I’ve developed, theater listings was a simple service I wrote for myself to clean up an otherwise cluttered interface and make the data available in my favorite feed reader. Over the years, many people have written with questions and thanks regarding the page. Thank you to everyone who used the service. I hope you might find some of my other tools just as useful.

As of now, the theater listings page is closed. If you still want this information in your web browser, check out Google’s movie listings service. For you feed reader junkies, Yahoo Pipes is widely known as a useful service for turning any web page into an RSS feed.

I’ll investigate the possibility of re-sourcing the data, but don’t get your hopes up. Also, for those who are already firing up their email clients to ask me for the source code, hold your horses. I’ve been working up a post on ethical screen scraping and now I can finally share it without being hypocritical. I won’t share the source, but look forward to an interesting and useful guide to capturing and reusing data on the web, including some advice that should help prevent you from getting your own C&D.


A New Home for Package Tracking:

25 Nov

My Google maps making, RSS feed slinging, universal package tracker has moved to greener pastures. is your new go-to place for tracking UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL, and Airborne packages.

Backstory: In 2006, I posted a handy new utility I’d cobbled together which was a mashup between package tracking for for multiple services. It quickly became by far the most popular page on this site, with more than 1.4 million tracking requests last month. It gets more than three times the traffic of my movie theater RSS generator and four times the traffic of another spinoff site, FeedSifter, a simple RSS/Atom feed filter.

If you are familiar with MediaTemple’s GridServer service, you’ll know that using up all 1000 GPUs (server work units) for the past several months is not a good thing. Those cycles weren’t just going to waste on poorly written scripts, either. Each hit to the tracker consumed an average of 0.0002 GPU (WordPress uses 8 to 16 times that with each hit). It wasn’t always this way, though. Check back soon for an upcoming post on how I managed to cut down the CPU usage of the package tracker by 90% with some intelligent code analysis and a creative caching solution. is now hosted on a screaming VPS server with plenty of spare power. I’m taking full advantage of APC caching and several other behind-the-scenes tweaks one can only get a grip on when they are running a dedicated server.

Thanks to all of the people who have made the service so popular!

Also, thanks to Juplex for a fast and friendly site design!

The Science of Luck

2 Jun

I’ve heard a lot of people claim not to believe in luck. Allow me to demonstrate that this belief, while psychologically satisfying to some, is tantamount to disbelief in Pi or milkshakes.

Luck is not some sort of ethereal faith-based system of wish-granting priority. Luck is the result of a simple calculation and luckiness is the sum of a series of luck calculations.

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SuperScrub Your CSS

18 Jan

After just one or two revisions, your site’s CSS can get pretty cluttered with redundant content and inconsistent formatting. I’ve written a simple tool called the CSS SuperScrub┬áthat programmatically rewrites your CSS, removing all superfluous elements and reformatting it in an attractive manner.

The CSS SuperScrub is capable of streamlining already highly optimized CSS. It attempts to detect whitespace-stripped code and, if necessary to shrink file size, it will do the same.

Check out the CSS SuperScrub

Protect Your Bandwidth From Leeches

26 Mar

For those with concerns about limited bandwidth and images that others might frequently link to, you will benefit from my anti-leech script generator.

This easy to use page will quickly generate a mod_rewrite script that you store in an .htaccess file in the root of your website or the directory you wish to protect. I’ve added to the allowed domains by default so you don’t block innocent searchers.

Gmail Invite Spooler Post-Mortem

23 Mar

Nine months after closing down the Gmail Invite Spooler, the page remains one of the most popular landing pages on my site. Over the past several months, this page has averaged around 2,500 unique visitors a day. I’ll explain the arc of this wonderful service, but first I’d like to make one thing very clear:

Sorry, I do not have any Gmail invites. Please don’t ask me for Gmail invites. I am truly sorry that I cannot provide you with any. Please go to Google Mail for more information on how you may get your own account.

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