Link shortening using your own domain

Short links; they’re all the rage, amiright? There are a ton of services out there; and just to name a couple popular ones. Not only do they provide the link shortening, but they also give you some analytics so you can see how many clicks you got on your short url and where they came from. The only problem with using a service, though, is you don’t have much control. You’re also sharing links that everyone else using that same service is sharing.

I came across the open-source YOURLS site. It pretty much consists of a few PHP scripts that allow you to run your own link shortening service on your domain. I played around with it on one of my test servers to see what was involved and was impressed with the simplicity. It took me about 20 minutes to get everything setup and functioning.

Alright, let’s get to it.


Backup photos and videos on your phone using Google Photos and Amazon Photos

Keeping a backup of the photos and videos you take from your mobile device is an important thing to think about, but something most normally don’t think about until after it’s too late. Sadly, I admit, I’m in this statistic as well.

A few years ago I wrote up a post about using Dropbox to backup photos on an Android phone. But now there are a few more players in the game to help you backup photos on your mobile device. Here’s a couple more options.

NOTE: This post focuses on Android but the apps are also available on iPhone.

Google Photos (Apple version) and Amazon Photos (Apple version) both offer automatic backup options to backup photos and videos from your mobile device. Here are some examples setting up these apps.


Custom searches for your browser

Let’s say you have some websites that you frequent on a regular basis. Let’s also say you have some websites that you frequent but also send custom information in the URL to – say, a specific commit to your git repository. Wouldn’t it be neat if you could get to those websites faster and with less keyboard mashing  typing? Enter custom searches for your browser!

Alright, let’s add some custom searches to your browser

First off, this will definitely work for Chrome and Firefox. I’m not certain if it works for others.

Adding custom searches to Chrome

edit search engines screenshotRight-click on the address bar and select the Edit Search engines… option. This should open a new tab and bring you to “chrome://settings/searchEngines” (Alternatively, you could just enter that to the address bar). On this page you’ll find the default search engines like Google and Yahoo but below that list you’ll see a list of search engines labelled “other”. This is where the magic is.

add search engine form

  1. Click the input box for Add a new search engine and add a name. For example: My Repo.
  2. In the input box for Keyword add the keyword you want to use to activate this new search. For example: autourl.
  3. In the input box for URL with %s in place of query add the URL you want to head to when entering the keyword in step 2. For example:

Now, when you enter autourl in the address bar, you’ll be taken right to

Pretty good magic, right? Want even more magic? Check this out: say you wanted to see a specific commit on the repo above. Follow these steps to add a custom keyword that also takes a parameter.

  1. In the input box for Add a new search engine and add a name. For example: My repo commit.
  2. In the input box for Keyword add the keyword you want to use to activate this new search. For example: autocommit.
  3. In the input box for URL with %s in place of query add the URL you want to head to when entering the keyword but this time you’ll want to add a %s for the query. For example, to see a specific commit from the repository, I would add the following to the URL input box:

Now, when you enter autocommit in the address bar and press the space bar, the address bar will show the name of your search engine and prompt you for the parameter. Paste in the commit hash into the address bar and hit enter and you’ll be looking at that specific commit on your repository!

screenshot of repocommit


Adding custom searches to Firefox

Adding custom searches to Firefox is a little more involved. Here are the steps:

  1. First, you have to save the URL to your favorites.
  2. After saving the URL to your favorites, you’ll need to go to the bookmark library
    1. You can get there by clicking the Show All Bookmarks or pressing Ctrl+Shift+B
  3. Locate your saved bookmark and select it.
  4. Once it’s selected, you should see a More button on the bottom of the page.
  5. Clicking the More button shows some extra information about this bookmark, one of them being Keyword. Enter your desired keyword here.
  6. If you want to be able to add a parameter to the query, throw in the same %s where you want to add the parameter to and it’ll perform just like the Chrome search.

Hover event in Selenium

Hover using Selenium webdriver’s ActionChains

I was recently trying to figure out how to perform a hover event using Selenium’s webdriver. The team I had previously worked on wrote a nifty function using execute_script invoking jQuery. It looked something like this:

self.driver.execute_script("jQuery('%s').mouseover()" % (hover_selector))

This didn’t always work the way I expected so I did some research and came across webdriver’s ActionChains. From Selenium-Python’s ReadTheDocs:

ActionChains are a way to automate low level interactions such as mouse movements, mouse button actions, key press, and context menu interactions. This is useful for doing more complex actions like hover over and drag and drop.

I whipped open my terminal, fired up webdriver and headed over to the trusty the-internet to give it a whirl.

The page I ran this test on was

Here’s the code:

from selenium import webdriver
from selenium.webdriver.common.action_chains import ActionChains
driver = webdriver.Firefox()
image = driver.find_element_by_css_selector("div.figure:nth-child(3)")
link = driver.find_element_by_css_selector("div.figure:nth-child(3) a")
# Now comes the magic

When I ran this in my console, the browser hovered over the image then clicked on the View Profile link that appears after the hover.



Install Selenium for fun (and profit!)

So you want to install Selenium?


There are a couple ways to install Selenium on your system. If you already have PIP installed, it’s as easy as running the following from your command line:

pip install -U selenium

This will check to see if you already have selenium installed and, if you do, upgrade it if there is one available. If you don’t, it’ll install the python bindings for Selenium.

Python bindings?! Yep, Selenium comes in several flavors. Head over to the download page for Selenium to check them out and find the programming language you’re most familiar with.

Another way to install Selenium is to download the source distribution from PyPi, unarchive it, and install it using the following Python command:

python install

This will run the via the Python version that’s installed on your system.


The commands above should be system-independent meaning you can run them on Windows, Linux, Mac, etc.selenium logo

Searching old Facebook posts

I came across a need the other day to find an old post I made on Facebook. I knew I posted it a few years ago but that was about it. I started messing around with Facebook’s search bar and realized how quickly you could perform advanced searches by just typing.

Let’s start searching some Facebook:

To start off, search for something you posted with certain words:

Install pip on Windows

pip is a package manager for Python. It makes it easy to install and upgrade Python packages using the command line. Installing a Python package using pip is as easy as opening the command line and typing:

pip install -U requests

  1. “requests” is the package you want to install
  2. “install” tells pip you want to install a package. If you want to uninstall a package simply type “uninstall”.
  3. The “-U” flag tells pip that if the package is already installed, then upgrade it.


jenkins logo

What is Jenkins doing?

I wrote some automation tests using Selenium as I build a framework for the project I’m currently working on. Since I’m probably going to go with Jenkins to run them, I got him setup on my Windows 7 machine as I run through the tests. I ran into one problem: The tests would run fine if I ran them via the command line but they were failing when Jenkins ran them. I couldn’t figure out why.

What is that Jenkins guy doing?

After some investigating, I accidentally discovered a nifty setting in Windows (more…)

YOU’RE DOING IT RIGHT; Santa’s Village

tl;dr: Santa’s Village – you’re doing it right. If you have young kid(s)  this is a good place to bring them to let them burn through some energy.

This past weekend, my family and I took a small mini-vacation to North Conway New Hampshire. We drove up on Friday afternoon and back on Sunday evening. We booked a 2-night package at the Fox Ridge resort that included a visit to Santa’s Village, a children’s theme park.