The personal website of Chris Coyier

Archive for August, 2010

Tracking a Twitter Hashtag Contest

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

We’re running an API contest over at Wufoo. We’re encouraging people who aren’t necessarily interested in participating in the contest to help us promote it over Twitter by tweeting a link to it with the “hashtag” #WufooAPIContest anywhere in the tweet. It seemed like a good idea to have way to track the entrants. It’s not a new idea at all of course, lots of Twitter-based contests do this.

So we started the contest, and the first day to pick a winner came up, and I realized I was a bit unprepared! How exactly was I going to pick a random winner? I don’t exactly have a list in front of me of all the valid tweets. Twitter search might be OK, but it only goes back 7 days. Our contest is in 7 day chunks, so that might work, but it’s still way clumsy way to try and do it.

Turns out there is an absolutely perfect way to do it, and that’s a web app called RowFeeder. RowFeeder hooks up to your Google Docs account and basically can track Twitter searches for you and dump the results as they happen into a spreadsheet. Doing it this way for a contest means that you’ll have exactly what you need to pick a winner, a spreadsheet of valid tweets, numbered and ready to go.

I just use my own random number generator to pick a winner!

StarCraft 2 Performance on a Mac Pro

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

I was eagerly anticipating StarCraft 2’s release. I had some good ol’ times playing the original and all the previews for the follow up looked amazing. I also happen to have a 8-core 2009 model Mac Pro with 10GB of RAM in it, which I assumed would run the game amazingly. Turns out I was wrong about that last part.

After asking around a bit, it turns out the RAM and processor of your computer, assuming you have decent specs in both areas, don’t have a ton to do with video game performance. It’s mostly about your graphics card. And even then, not so much about the VRAM (memory within the graphics card), but a lot to do with the GPU (processor inside the graphics card itself).

My Mac Pro came with the default NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 graphics card. I could literally have graphics settings inside the game cranked down all the way to “Low” across the board, and I’d still get screens like this:

The animation would be choppy and unplayably bad.

I took a trip to some local crappy computer store, and they claimed to have the perfect video card replacement. After 45 minutes of standing around, they didn’t have the card but they did tell me exactly what it was: the ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics card. Turns out Apple sells it right from Apple.com and it was in-stock at a (what I’d consider reasonable) $349.

It arrived just a few days later. It actually comes as an Apple Graphics Upgrade Kit. Basically, that means it comes in an Apple-branded box and has an Apple-written instruction booklet on how to install it in a Mac Pro. Excellent.

For comparisons sake:

The badass looking red one is the new ATI card, the little wimpy grey one is the old NVIDIA one.

After the upgrade, my dreams have come true and StarCraft 2 plays beautifully on my Mac Pro, even at the highest (“Ultra”) settings.

I don’t want to insinuate NVIDIA makes bad cards here. My default card is 100% even for pretty robust Photoshop work. It’s just not ready for gaming. NVIDIA makes super badass cards as well, just not in my price range.

Things I Never Cheap Out On

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

I saw this on Amy Mahon’s blog and thought it should become a meme.

Extending things a bit…

Things I DO Cheap Out On

That I feel guilty about:

That I do on purpose: