In the early days of chrome extensions (january 2010) Jesse wrote an extension called Chromr. The general idea was simple and awesome — every time you open a new tab in chrome the page is a full-screen photo that comes from Flickr’s interestingness API.

I worked with him on it to improve style and the project was renamed More Interestingness and moved to our shared github organization.

I think More Interestingness is my alltime favorite chrome extension — it has led to many great conversations with coworkers and friends. Unfortunately on June 27 2014 Flickr made their API only support HTTPS/SSL encrtypted requests. This change silently broke the extension and I’ve spent the summer staring at blank newtab windows in chrome 🙁

Today it came up in conversation and I decided to take a look and fix things. Since the last updates in May of 2012 a lot of things have changed in the chrome extension environment, and after a few updates to the manifest.json file I was able to get things back in working condition.

more interestingness

You can download the More Interestingness chrome extension from the Chrome WebStore:

Over the last year I’ve grown quite fond of the idea of spot instances on EC2. The idea that you can spin up a relatively large cluster for almost no money to play around with new technology and tools is amazing.

I’ve been playing with CoreOS and the various cloud_config options for the last few hours, and I was getting sick of having to click through the EC2 console every time I wanted to spin a new cluster based on my new cloud_config. So I made a quick (read hacky/janky) script to spawn CoreOS clusters on EC2 as spot instances.
#!/usr/bin/env python

import argparse
import os
import sys
import time

from boto import ec2
from boto.ec2.blockdevicemapping import BlockDeviceMapping, BlockDeviceType

if not os.environ.get('AWS_SECRET_KEY'):
    err = 'No AWS credentials present in the environment, try again...'
    raise SystemExit(err)

INSTANCE_TYPE = 'c3.xlarge'

COREOS_AMI = 'ami-31222974'

AWS_ACCESS_KEY = os.environ.get('AWS_ACCESS_KEY')
AWS_SECRET_KEY = os.environ.get('AWS_SECRET_KEY')
EC2_KEY_NAME = 'jake'
SECURITY_GROUPS = ['sg-1234']

def parse_args():
    ap = argparse.ArgumentParser(description='Spawn a CoreOS cluster')
    ap.add_argument('-r', '--region', default='us-west-1')
    ap.add_argument('-n', '--node-count',
                    help='How many nodes should be in the cluster?')
    args = ap.parse_args()

    return args

def _get_cloudconfig():
    base_path = os.path.dirname(os.path.realpath(__file__))
    cloud_config = open(os.path.join(base_path, 'cloud_config.yml'))

def spawn_cluster(count, region):
    conn = ec2.connect_to_region(region,

    mapping = BlockDeviceMapping()
    eph0 = BlockDeviceType(ephemeral_name='ephemeral0')
    eph1 = BlockDeviceType(ephemeral_name='ephemeral1')
    mapping['/dev/xvdb'] = eph0
    mapping['/dev/xvdc'] = eph1

    instance_params = {
        'count': count,
        'key_name': EC2_KEY_NAME,
        'user_data': _get_cloudconfig(),
        'instance_type': INSTANCE_TYPE,
        'block_device_map': mapping,
        'security_group_ids': SECURITY_GROUPS

    spot_reqs = conn.request_spot_instances(INSTANCE_BID, COREOS_AMI, **instance_params)
    for req in spot_reqs:
        req.add_tags({'Name': 'coreos-cluster', 'coreos': True})
    spot_ids = [ for s in spot_reqs]

    for x in xrange(50):
        print 'Waiting for instances to spawn...'
        spot_reqs = conn.get_all_spot_instance_requests(request_ids=spot_ids)
        instance_ids = [s.instance_id for s in spot_reqs if s.instance_id != None]
        if len(instance_ids) == len(spot_reqs):
            print 'Instances all spawned'
            print '====================='
            for i in conn.get_only_instances(instance_ids=instance_ids):
                print 'CoreOS Node:'
                print '    - spot req id: %s' % i.spot_instance_request_id
                print '    - instance id: %s' %
                print '    - Public IP: %s' % i.ip_address
                print '    - Public DNS: %s' % i.public_dns_name


if __name__ == '__main__':
    args = parse_args()
    spawn_cluster(args.node_count, args.region)
    addr: $public_ipv4:4001
    peer-addr: $private_ipv4:7001
      public-ip: $public_ipv4
    - name: etcd.service
      command: start
    - name: fleet.service
      command: start

    - name: format-ephemeral.service
      command: start
      content: |
        Description=Stripes the ephemeral instance disks to one btrfs volume
        ExecStart=/usr/sbin/wipefs -f /dev/xvdb /dev/xvdc
        ExecStart=/usr/sbin/mkfs.btrfs -f -d raid0 /dev/xvdb /dev/xvdc

    - name: var-lib-docker.mount
      command: start
      content: |
        Description=Mount ephemeral to /var/lib/docker
➜  core  ./ -n 3
Waiting for instances to spawn...
Waiting for instances to spawn...

Instances all spawned
CoreOS Node:
    - spot req id: sir-03rt1m
    - instance id: i-ead754
    - Public IP:
    - Public DNS:
CoreOS Node:
    - spot req id: sir-03rw5q
    - instance id: i-cfd053
    - Public IP:
    - Public DNS:
CoreOS Node:
    - spot req id: sir-03rwp8
    - instance id: i-45d053
    - Public IP:
    - Public DNS:

I’ve posted everything as a gist here:

Earlier this year I made a trivial web application in ~15 minutes that uses Twillio to send me a text message every evening at 8pm that asks “How did you create value today?”

The goal of this was to have some sort of a diary to look back on in a few years. That’s always been my favorite aspect of writing/blogging – the ability to look back and see what past-jake was thinking/doing.

I found that the practice of answering this question had some interesting side-effects on how I think/work during the day. After about a month of responding daily I noticed that during the day my decisions and productivity where generally better because I started to ask “how much value does this add?” for everything I do throughout the day.

While this idea is vague, I think it is interesting and wanted to share.

Setting up an apt-cacher is easy, and so is injecting the apt_proxy attribute to cloudconfig so you can use it in instances: