Vertically Centering Text in a Fixed-Size Element With No Overflow

Most of the blog posts/tutorials on the web that show you how to center text vertically using either line-height (only works for a single line of text) or using display: table-cell which allows the text to exceed a fixed size (table cells are allowed to get taller than their height if the text is long). Here’s a version that clips the overflow by surrounding the display: table-cell element in a containing div.

Vertically centered text in fixed sized boxes

    /* Wrapper exists to prevent long text exceeding the bounding box. */
    .wrapper {
        /* height and width here act as a maximum for when the text is very long. */
        height: 100px;
        width: 100px;
        overflow: hidden;
        background: #eee; /* just so we can see what's going on in the demo */
    /* Cell does the work of allowing us to vertical-align: middle. */
    .cell {
        /* height and width here act as a minimum for when the text is not long. */
        height: 100px; /* subtract any padding on wrapper from height and width here */
        width: 100px;
        display: table-cell;
        text-align: center;
        vertical-align: middle;

<div class="wrapper">
        <div class="cell">
            This is a test.
<div class="wrapper">
        <div class="cell">
            This is a test with much longer text.  This is a test with much longer text.  This is a test with much longer text.  This is a test with much longer text.  This is a test with much longer text.

How to Get Reasonably Priced Pay As You Go Data (and Calls and Texts) on an Unlocked iPhone in the US

Here is a system that has worked for me in the USA on an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 5 in July 2012 and February 2013. Both phones were not locked to any particular carrier but they were not jailbroken.

  1. Visit an AT&T store or otherwise get a GoPhone SIM that fits your phone (micro sim or nano sim). Choose whatever rate plan suits your needs. I’m partial to the $25 for 30 days unlimited texts and 250 minutes. Note that the salesperson will almost certainly tell you that you won’t be able to get data on this plan – they are wrong just say ok!
  2. Connect your phone to wifi somewhere (Starbucks if all else fails!) Visit through your phone’s browser. This site is going to make twiddling your internet settings a lot easier – it doesn’t jailbreak or carrier-unlock your phone it just changes internet access settings in a simple way. Choose Create APN, “USA” and “GoPhone”. Press “Install” to install the settings.
  3. Set up a PIN for your account by getting it texted to the phone. You can choose “Forgot Password” from the GoPhone login page to set it up.
  4. Sign in to your GoPhone account and add a data package (200MB for 30 days for $15 for light usage or 1GB for 30 days for $25 for heavier usage). You’ll need a credit/debit card to do this entirely online or you can use a refill card you bought in a store.

And that’s it. You may need to remove the APN settings that you installed when/if you leave the US.

How to Create Movie Barcodes

How to make Movie Barcodes (OS X)

Inspired by the movie barcode tumblr I wanted to make some barcodes of my wife’s films.

Here’s one I made for her latest short:

Twinkle, Twinkle Barcode
Twinkle, Twinkle Barcode

I found some instructions on Mr. Reid’s site and with the help of the comments and some tinkering I came up with this final process on OSX.

You will need mplayer and ImageMagick installed, both of which can be found in MacPorts.

$ mkdir /tmp/barcode
$ cd /tmp/barcode
$ mplayer -framedrop -speed 100 -vf framestep=90 -nosound -vo jpeg [path/to/movie-file]
$ mogrify *.jpg -resize 1x288\! *.jpg
$ montage -geometry +0+0 -tile x1 *.jpg barcode.png

Deployment – If It Hurts, Do It Again

If deployment hurts, do it again.

Frequent painful deployments force you to automate and improve the process.

Your development environment may be wonderful. Your test coverage may be high. But your code has to go live. If that’s an infrequent process of giant merges and close-your-eyes-and-hope code pushes you risk bugs. “Little and often” reduces risk and decreases pain.

The logical conclusion: continuous deployment.

git add -p

I tell people to use git add -p not git add FILE or git add .

The benefits are huge:

  1. You decide exactly what’s in your commit. Any later inspection of your commit is improved — code review, git blame, git log, git bisect — everything. No more “Changed WidgetManager to use Widgets not Sprockets, corrected docs for SprocketManager, deleted four unnecessary files and added a new log image.”
  2. You review your changes before committing. Another chance to spot bugs or realize that your documentation doesn’t make sense or that you left in a TODO or a debug statement.
  3. You won’t accidentally commit work in progress.

You aren’t welcome on my project if you don’t use git add -p! And git add ., frankly, should be an error!

Recruitment Emails

Recruiter emails are getting better.

This was where we used to be:

I wanted to shoot you a quick note on hot new Silicon Valley startup
MonkeyLab. MonkeyLab is x months old, has y million dollars in funding
and is going to transform the home monkey-rearing market.

When can we talk on the phone?

Now the low bar is a mention of my linkedin profile and some skill I have that they need.

The high bar is an email that isn’t from the recruiter but from the hiring manager. Mentioning specific things that are only true about me. These get a response at least.


My name is Bob and I’m not a recruiter. I run the Advanced Something group
at MonkeyLabs.

I see from your LinkedIn profile that you are a ruby programmer and that you
have some experience of Erlang. We’re building an Erlang program with
ruby web app interface and we’d love to add you to the team.

I’m building for the future so even if you aren’t looking for an opportunity
now perhaps we can have a chat?

Does this represent a newfound earnestness on the part of those in charge of recruitment in Silicon Valley? Or is it just an arms race between my personal filter and the content of their emails? An arms race they can win because of the increasing amount of personal information available about me on the internet. In some sense it doesn’t matter. Forcing this kind of more sophisticated personal email that explains why I might be interested makes the initial interaction much more valuable either way.

Now I’m just waiting for this email:

Hi Tom,

My name is Paul Graham. I’m not a recruiter.

We’re looking for a tall developer with blue eyes who wants to
simultaneously build the next generation Magic: the Gathering app and do
something worthy-yet-technical like Kiva while being fabulously

The app is going to be written entirely in Haskell. You will work alongside
Simon Peyton-Jones, Steve Yegge and Aaron Swartz.

In your spacious private offices in London, San Francisco and Tokyo there
will be live music from the Decemberists and Amanda Palmer.

Here’s my personal cell number, call any time of day or night.



PS Spectrum BASIC > Lisp

Exactly What You Write Makes a Lot of Difference

I wrote a blog post in 2003 about a not-very-useful error message I got while working on a .NET SOAP web service*: Server did not recognize the value of HTTP Header SOAPAction.

I wrote at the end of the blog post: “If you’re having a similar problem but can’t work what I’m saying here, feel free to mail me on”.

Although this is an obscure blog post on an obscure blog over the nine years since I wrote it I’ve received 159 emails asking for help. I think I’ve received a total of about 2 emails about other blog posts of mine.

I suppose if I added my email address to the bottom of each of my posts and exhorted the reader to email me I’d have a lot more emails. This reminds me of Dustin Curtis’ article about following him on Twitter.

* = I’m not proud of this chapter in my programming history!

Painless Social Sign In with Oneall

I had a need for social sign in recently in a project that I needed to complete in a weekend. Rather than build something using Facebook/Google/Twitter/etc. APIs I used oneall. A small amount of javascript and a backend call later and I have pretty good social sign in integration with a bunch of providers. Your control over the look of the div they supply is limited (at least in the free version) but the integration is good. Recommended.

Move Fast and Break Things

I had lunch at the Facebook campus yesterday. They have transported all their motivational posters to their new(ish) location in Menlo Park (which is really, really nice). “Move Fast and Break Things”, “What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?”, etc.

This led to a short conversation about how, exactly, you move fast and still produce good code. Facebook don’t have QA instead they have systems designed to automatically catch errors before they hit production. D thought that if you had good tests you didn’t need documentation or QA or code review. I’m a bit more cynical about tests and I love code review for sharing knowledge and style as well as finding bugs.

Also saw two Facebookers with “Fix More, Whine Less” tshirts.  It’s the slogan of the Site Reliability team. They do seem to be scaling their startup-ish culture to a larger scale than most companies manage.