Nicolas Alpi, Web developer

A blog about productivity, startups and me.

Tweetcetera Is Live Today!


\o/ \o/ Tweetcetera is now live! After several development weeks, it’s finally out!.

h2. What’s Tweetcetera

Tweetcetera is meant to look similar to Twitter web interface, so that you don’t need to learn how to use a new website. But we have added some nice features, which we felt were missing from the original product.
You won’t find any big revolutionary feature but we believe that big changes can come from small differences. To see what we mean by ‘small differences’, have a look at the details below. And if you’re still not convinced, try it and we promise you’ll never go back to using Twitter web interface (or so we hope!).

h2. .. In 3 words?

Twitter stupidly easy!

h2. Give it a try

To really release Tweetcetera power, you have to use it, for 1 hour, and you’ll be convince. Please feel free to add any comment or feedbacks to develop it on the right direction.

Caffeine for Linux, Now Available in Version 1.0

After Shutter, the Skitch like for Linux, I would like to spot the light to a very useful Linux app called Caffeine.

Why is it use for?

Caffeine stop your computer for going to sleep, or just to switch your back light off.
Really useful when watching a video, or during a meting.

You can also add process, that will automaticaly enable Caffeine. (Like VLC, OpenOffice, what ever ..).

How to get it?

On the Caffeine developer blog, you can find a good introduction to the software.

To install it, just follow the instructions for the Caffeine Wiki.

Shutter, a Skitch for Linux

Yesterday, during a meeting I saw one of a mac addict using Skitch. Like every time I saw someone using a good proper Mac Os only tool, I try to find a proper Linux alternative.

Shutter is the Skitch Linux alternative:

Then I found Shutter. Shutter is the Skitch Linux alternative.
To install it on Ubuntu, just download the last version or add the Shutter PPA repository to your sources.


As far as I’ve tested, Shutter is full of goodness. It makes screenshots on Linux easy.

You’ll be able to capture a entire window, or a portion of you desktop. Multiple capture history is supported.
Then you be able to basically edit this image with the built in image editor.
And finally you’ll be able save or upload your screenshot to image sharing website.

I you want to upload your image from Shutter to Flickr, you’ll need to install Postr. Just read Shutter upload to flickr about page to see how easy it is.

I really like when developers come with good solutions for every day problem like this. And definitely Shutter is one of them.

In Web We Trust, but How Much?

Since September, I’ve been developing tweetcetera on my spare time. And I’m on the point to release a beta soon (end of the month or earlier)..

What is tweetcetera?

Tweetcetera is a web application I’m working on the spare time. Basically, you login in with you Twitter account, and it reproduce the Twitter web interface with smarter options.

Once the beta out, I want the development to be user centred, so a uservoice will be open and everyone will be welcome to ask for new features.

What is the problem?

I had a conversation with Matt Aimonetii where I asked him to test the current version of tweetcetera.

Even if I use Twitter Oauth for the authentication (ie: I don’t store you password, you login on twitter and then are redirected to the application), there was a confidentiality problem.

His first thoughts were:
bq. How do I know that you’re not going to use my personal informations?
How do I know that you’re not going to post analyse informations like DM or protected statuses?

I must admit that, as a fair developer, I wasn’t expecting these kind of questions. I didn’t even think about it when using another third party application to connect to Twitter.

But the question is legitimate. You don’t want to be spammed, or analyse without your contentment right?

What can I do?

As a lot of developer, I’m fair. And so are my applications. I’m not going to use informations for post analyse. But how can I transmit the message?

I don’t want to write a big warning on the landing page saying “Trust us, we are not evil!”, that would scare more people than reassure the others.

If you are using web third party app (like Seesmic for example), what makes you trust a this application? (Brand reputation? Website design? … )

My Tools of the Trade

Rubyflow blog started yesterday a thread called Tools of the Trade, so to reply here is my main tools, I use everyday.



As described in a previous post I now use a netbook as main development machine until September this year.

Machine1: Medion E1312,11.6",Athlon 1.6 Ghz single core, 2 Gig Ram . For all task, it’s really responsive, but when you run tests, the single core is as slow as a dead cow unfortunately. The screen can sometime be a bit small, but it’s ok most of the time.

Machine2: At home, an old P4 is used to backup everything on 1,5 TB hard drive. (Ubuntu server)

Screen: At home I’ve got a second monitor, 19" from HP.

Headphones: Sennheiser HD215

External mini western digital HD: 360 Gig in a small pocket size.


Ubuntu, because it’s efficient and easy. If you want to learn more about my setup you can see my Rubyists guide to Linux development environment.

Gedit combined with Gmate makes my editor of choice under Linux. One day, I’ll learn to master Vim …

Gnome-do, a Quicksilver like.

Banshee media player, really good at managing music collection and screencast/podcast feeds.

Firefox 3.5, with web developer extension, bugzilla, Yslow, Delicious.

Tweetcetera is now my twitter client of choice. Normal you would as I’m the developer ;). Should be released in beta soon.

Liferea is my main RSS reader. Needed to do some tricks to make it quick in Ubuntu.

Gnome-evolution for all my different emails accounts.

Gnome terminal.

Gitg, a git desktop app, better than the old gitk.

The Gimp, I’m not a designer, so, that fit my needs.

Inkscape, same as The Gimp. Fits my needs.


Bike: I use an old Raleigh racer bike, transformed into a single speed after an accident.

Bag: Targus messenger bag that can all my life, and carrying it around the city.

5 Web Resources to Master Git

Git is a free distributed revision control, or software source code management project with an emphasis on being fast. Git was initially designed and developed by Linus Torvalds for Linux kernel development.
Every Git working directory is a full-fledged repository with complete history and full revision tracking capabilities, not dependent on network access or a central server.

Despite its austere design, this website is a must read to start learning Git. There are a lot of really usefull screencast and documentation.
The github team say the work is in progress, I hope they will find the time to extend it.


Another very good website, listing free screencast to learn Git. To complement your knowlege from

Peepcode git screencast

Clear and consise this is THE screencast for git beginners.
For only $9, buy it if you’re starting with git.

Git cheat sheet

Really clear visual cheat sheet for every day use reminder.

Git links

Tons of links and usefull resources for them who wants to extend their git knowlege.


Please, share in comments if you have some links that can be interesting for Git beginners / intermediates.


I know that this video is everywhere on the web, but, I just find it so cute!

Netbook for Webdevelopers

I leaved HP 2 days ago, and in the same time I had to give back my laptop. This laptop was nice, powerful, but a bit heavy for my use (nearly 3 Kg).

I’m now moving into a full time freelancing position, for the first month I’ll start with a contract where I’ll work in the Jiva office. So I’ll need to carry my laptop everyday on my bike. But I also like to have a beer outside in the evening, so I’ll again carry my laptop everywhere with me. When I said carrying I mean on my bike, as it’s now becoming my principal mode of transportation.

I also like to have my 2.5" external hard drive with me, and sometime an external mouse.

At home and office, I’ll always have a second monitor + keyboard + mouse.

Looking for something to start with, for less than £ 400, I had 2 options :

  1. A cheap laptop, with a dual core processor, 15.4" display (1280×800) and would weight around 3Kg
  2. Looking around these crazy netbooks, with a weight less than 1.5 Kg, but will have a cheap ATOM processor

What do I REALLY need

Yes, that would be lovely to have a spaceship controller computer, but if I don’t need the its power, why would I spend a fortune.
So my question was, why do I really need?

First this is a secret for nobody, I’m a Linux guy, and would not consider having an Apple laptop. So all the Mac range is out.
Secondly, even if I spend all day on my computer, it’s for doing the same thing, web development!
So what to I do everyday, what software I use with my laptop

  1. Web development, conding on Gedit or Vim, services open apache/mysql/postgresql/passenger …
  2. Email (Gnome Evolution), Internet (Firefox, Opera, Chromium)
  3. While I code, I love listening to music in my headphones (using Banshee)
  4. Bluetooth / Wifi

I’ll sometime look at some videos, doing a bit of design with the GIMP, using Skype. Rarely play any games.
I never do any videos montage, music montage or anything like that.

So basically, I just need a text editor, 3 terminals, a music player and an internet browser. Playing time to time a Battle for Wesnoth.

I started looking during holidays for laptop/netbook benchmarks, and I already have an ACER ASPIRE ONE, with an ATOM N270 processor and a 8.9" screen. So I did reinstall it from scratch and installed everything I need for developing. The poor ATOM processor wasn’t able to cope with GEDIT + Banshee + Firefox all in one time, and was really struggling to give a smooth experience. So the ATOM processor was out for me.

The rare pearl

e1312 medion akoya


I found it in ALDI (I know it’s strange, but in the UK they are the only MEDION resellers). Medion, is a German brand, quite known in France. They sell cheap electronic stuff, usually good value.

So I found the Medion Akoya E1312 for £339 in ALDI with very good specs :

  • AMD Sempron U 210 (1.5 GHz) processor
  • 1 Go ram
  • 11.6" screen (1366×768)
  • ATI Radeon XPRESS 1250 3D card
  • Wifi n
  • External HDMI and VGA
  • 1.4 Kg with battery
  • 3 Years warranty
  • 30 Days money back
  • Windows licence
  • Full size keyboard, with real Home/PgUp/PgDown/End touch (not the FN + combination)

Was really promising, so I decided to give it a try, and using it from a few days, test it during the 48 Hours of the Rails Rumble competition to see how it can cope with an extensive use. If it doesn’t pass the test, I’ll use the 30 days money back to return it.

My Verdict

The pros
This netbook is just awesome. While it was on windows I tried the 3D card with trackmania nation, and the game just run smoothly. 720P HD video are perfect in full screen.
The keyboard is ok for little bit of work on the move, touch are quite big, so that’s good for my fingers, real Home / End and PgUp/PgDn touches are a plus.
The 1368×768 resolution is a really plus on this screen, the colour rendering is very good.

I had some problem for the Ubuntu Linux installation (see bellow) but now it’s all ok. Before the Rails Rumble I upgraded it to 2 Gig ram, and the computer did the 2 days without any restart, even if, in the average I had, 6 used workspaces, 2 Firefox instances, each with more than 10 tabs, 2 Gedit instances, 3 terminals, the GIMP, banshee + streaming radio music, all open at the same time, everything was running smoothly, and the heat generated by the processor was ok.
The suspend and hibernate are working out of the box under Linux.
The power cable has a little on/off button, really smart when you switch off for the night.
No paper inside the machine, so you can open it without breaking the warranty!.

The cons

I had to change the Wifi card for one with better drivers under Linux (but should be fixed soon in future kernel).
The 6 cells battery will give you (Wifi + Internet/Dev) a max of 2H45 under linux. But an optional 9 cells battery cost less than £ 70. The eco and the plane button help you to find the best option to keep the battery running.

So ?

I used this laptop for the Rails Rumble, without external monitor! I wanted to give it a heavy try, and give it back if any problems appears.
Finally the 48 Hours went really good, no headache, no particular problem with the machine.
So, my verdict is, if you are looking a machine to use on the go, or as a cheap development station, go for this machine, at £339, it’s really a bargain.
The screen resolution made it really usable, the Sempron processor is powerful enough when it’s it’s time to multitasking, and the 1,4 Kg (with battery) are wonderful in a laptop bag.

I’ve found a video with a test (under windows XP) with HD videos and 3D games. But it’s in German.

Linux tricks for the Medion E1312

1. 3D drivers

My trick would be to WAIT!. ATI dropped support for this range of 3D card, and they stopped working with the current version of Xorg. But they open the specifications so the open source driver developers are working on an open source implementation of it.
I tried multiple thing to install the 3D drivers, one was to downgrade Xorg to a previous version. Was working quite well, and the 3D drivers made every single game I tested working smoothly. But I had multiple problems regarding the downgrade to, my trick, would be waiting for Karmic and the new Radeon HD drivers with full 3D support (Available in the lastet git branch).

2. Wifi

Hum, I had to use Ndiswrapper to have my card working. But was unable to connect to a WPA2 network. I just changed the card for another Half size mini pci one. Works now like a charm.

More About the Railsrumble and

This week was the Rails Rumble week end.

For them who don’t know, the Rails Rumble is a 48H ruby web development competition. In this period of time your team (up to 4 people) has to create the best web application possible.

As last year, I went solo this year, and came up with Planet Toaster.

What is Planet Toaster? Why?

Planet Toaster is a planet creator, and RSS feed combinator. So you can easily create a new planet, and use the RSS feed of that into your favorite RSS reader. For each planet you subscribe on, a personal token is generated.

I came with this idea because I use multiple computer, all under Linux, and I wanted to use Liferea as an RSS reader. But, beeing already on Google Reader, I like the facility of managing the web feed online, and I don’t want to add my new feed on every computer each time.

So that’s it, now I can create my planet on Planet Toaster and add my RSS feed to my readers on every computer (* well nearly see bellow) and each time I’ll add a new feed, it will be synchronized to all my readers.

What is working, not working …

At the moment, you can register, create your planet, subscribe to a feed into the website that part work. A logged user will be able to suggest you some link to add to your planet. The feeds are grabbed fine from the different sources every hours, so that part is fine.

Now the dark side. I realized after the competition that I removed the code part saying “You should be able to access your RSS feed not logged in” … FUCK! This is why the token was made for. So at this time, you not be able to add your feed to your RSS reader … that’s bad. But this will be corrected after the Rails Rumble competition.

A feature I wanted to add, but I didn’t have the time was the search. This is also going to be in on next release.

What will be next

I really believe that Planet Toaster can be a good application, I’ll just have to improve it from this alpha stage (Please if you have some queries, just comment this post of email me). I want the user to be able to generate an .opml file with is current planet feeds in order to save datas, I want to improve the user interface, I want to add restricted access, DNS capabilities … well I already have a lot of ideas, so let see.

About the Rails Rumble competition

This year the competition was really intense. I had 7 hours sleep in 72 hours (I was working on Friday!), I had tons of Red Bulls, some annoying coding problems to resolve, but it was an amazing time!.
A was really lucky as I was able to share an office with other Rumblers (from Jiva Technology in Bristol). These are the guys I’ll work with in my new job, and they came with a really nice idea, a table football score/league manager called Wuzlr. They did an amazing job, congrat to Jamie, Theo and Peter.

Now you can help!

First, if you have some features request for Planet Toaster, please just let me know. And if you think that it deserve it, you’ll be able (later this week) to vote/leave comments for this app at my rails rumble team profile.

I wish good luck to every contestant, once again a big thanks to the Rails Rumble and the sponsors who did an amazing work.