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Why is your recovery email address

5 Feb

gmail.pngEach year I receive angry or confused messages from a person who  found as the recovery email address in their Google account.  This post is intended to explain why. Continue reading


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.

What’s in store for Google Voice?

21 Apr

Google Cellular ProviderGoogle Voice is a very interesting service. If you were one of the people (like myself) that got an account on before they were bought out by Google, you are now eligible to be part of the Google Voice beta.

It offers a lot of interesting services such as visual voicemail, speech to text, VOIP, free long distance, and many others. However, in order use most of these, you need to use the phone number Google assigns you. Google can’t be your voicemail provider unless all of your calls are routed through them first.

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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!

Google Just Killed Zillow

19 Sep

Search Google for real estate. As of a recent Google update, you should see Google’s newest search integration feature. (If not, try refreshing. This appears to be in a testing phase right now.)

This new feature seems to go head-to-head with the most basic of features (mapping properties for sale) offered by real estate mapping guru site and to a lesser degree

Update: Breathe easy, Zillow.  It would appear the giant lost interest in this toy.  For now.

Hey, I Said Don’t Click My Ads!

8 Aug

Once again, I have irritated the giant that is Google. It seems that I just can’t get on their good side. I just got this email from Scott in Google’s AdSense team:

Hello Ian,

While reviewing your account, we noticed that you are currently displaying Google ads in a manner that is not compliant with our policies. For instance, we found violations of AdSense policies on pages such as

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