Tell Front Row to Stop Interrupting You

If you use a Mac, there is a high likelihood that you have, at least once when switching applications using ⌘-Tab, accidentally hit ⌘-Esc instead. This causes your computer to pause for a bit, interrupt what you’re doing, and enter Front Row.

I have never used nor do I really care about Front Row. I’ve even managed to kernel panic my laptop once by invoking it and then trying to get out of it too quickly.

After a conversation with Andrew at work mutually expressing our hatred for that little “feature,” I was bothered enough to try and find a way to stop it from happening. It turns out that it’s a pretty easy thing to do, really.

Fire up System Preferences. You can find it in the Apple menu, in your Dock in a default setup, or in the Applications folder.

Click on the Keyboard preferences panel. Click the tab marked Keyboard Shortcuts.

In the list of applications to the left, select Front Row. You’ll see a list of—or really, the only—keyboard shortcut in use by Front Row, and that’s the one that brings it up when you don’t want it. Untick the box for “Hide and show Front Row” and then close your way out of System Preferences.

Now, hammer that key combination a few times to prove to yourself that the demons have been exorcised. It’s OK, because nothing will happen.

Mildly annoying problem, super-simple fix.

Dead Space 2: First Impressions

Well, I wasn’t able to clear Bully in time, so I’m on my scheduled break from the backlog now to take in Dead Space 2, which I’ve been eagerly anticipating for some time.

The first game was a well-crafted piece of survival horror. It wasn’t anything new or groundbreaking, but it was a refinement of a lot of concepts in games that had come before. I found that it relied on cheap scares a bit too much, and near the end they designed just decided to toss a bunch of enemies at you just to slow down the pace of the game, but the story was enough to keep me interested and I thought the universe was well-planned and thought-out.

I’m about three hours in to Dead Space 2 and in game terms have just started Chapter 6, which means I’m past the first “what a twist” moment and also past the first truly irritating gameplay moment I’ve seen so far. Thankfully, the game is pretty amazing out of the gate. The images and sound are exactly right and create just enough tension to keep you going, and the pacing is just as masterful as the original. It’s 30 seconds of frenetic “save yourself” action followed by a minute or two of calm and relative safety.

The atmosphere so far has had plenty of the morbid and creepifying, especially reminiscent of the near-final areas of the first game. That’s an unnerving way to start out the sequel because it reminds you so much of the constant action towards the end of its predecessor. In some contrast to the earlier game, this one has wasted no time getting weapons into my hands, and the quick start was both fun and exciting.

The story so far has raised nothing but questions that I hope will be resolved by the end of the game. Truth be told, I had a hard time stopping to get some sleep, let alone type out my reactions, so this should tell you how interested I am. Dead Space had me leaning forward in my seat, palms slick from anxiety over the shadow on the wall or the sound coming from behind me. So far, this one’s got its hooks in me just as well.


Today marks the first anniversary of my joining Automattic full-time. It’s been one year of working alongside those who Matt calls “the best people in the world.” (You can read my thoughts on that first day here.) It’s amazing to me that it’s been that long—it feels like just yesterday I was going through training and learning the basics of how to work behind-the-scenes on I suppose time really does fly when you are having fun.

In the last year, I have travelled to the same location as and met my fellow Automatticians five times: once to San Francisco upon first starting, once to Austin for SXSW, a second time to SF for WordCamp San Francisco, once to Lisbon, Portugal to meet with my fellow Happiness Engineers, and once to Seaside, Florida for my first company-wide meetup. I’ve replied to support requests from users over 18,000 times. I’ve worked daily with a team of people dedicated to making the blogging experience of millions better—people I call colleagues and friends.

I love what I do, I love the way we work, and I love the people I get to share the experience with. It’s my belief that none of us could do this thing without the rest of us. I’m part of a team and a family and I hope to be working as part of that team for a long time to come. We work hard, we take what we do seriously, yet we also know how to have fun and enjoy the ride.

I may brag about it a bit too much, but I count myself as fortunate to have the opportunity to get paid for doing something I love to do.

To celebrate the occasion, Amanda made me this completely awesome cake, which I know was pictured above, but I love it so much I want to post the full picture again here:

I know it’s somewhat conceited, but I think this is one of the finest cakes my wife has yet made, and it made me feel pretty special. She’s been supportive of this venture of mine the whole way, from the first day I talked about applying, through my working two jobs while I learned the Automattic ropes, to today, and I couldn’t do what I do without her. Thanks, wife of mine!

Here’s to the next year.

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX

It’s general wisdom that you shouldn’t mess with a known classic, usually for one of the following reasons:

  • The game is so good that any attempts to improve upon it will merely fail.
  • The game is so bad that it was merely tolerated, even if people have fond memories of it. Don’t mess with nostalgia.

Thankfully, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (or PMCEDX for short—if you can call it short) isn’t a retread of old game mechanics, and it’s not the old Pac-Man game shoehorned into flashier graphics. It’s not even the previously-released and also-awesome Pac-Man Championship Edition in a new package.

PMCEDX is a whole new game, I love it, and you should too.

You can boil the basic gameplay of Pac-Man down to a few simple concepts:

  • Eat dots to clear the board.
  • Get chased by ghosts who try to reach your position at all times.
  • Eat power pellets to change ghosts and eat them to huge points.

What PMCEDX does, is take these gameplay concepts and crank them up using a little Geometry Wars-style sound and flashiness. As in Pac-Man Championship Edition, you are eating dots on each half of the board to clear it. When you clear one half of the board, a fruit appears in the other half. Eat the fruit, and the maze on the cleared side regenerates, with a new maze layout and refreshed dots and power pellets.

Easy enough, right?

In the basic Championship Mode, there are also “sleeping” ghosts (you can see them as green in the shot above). When you pass them, they wake up and then begin to follow you in a line that trails behind you and constantly tracks you. When you finally do grab a power pellet, you can turn around and immediately begin tearing into the ghosts behind you, creating very long chains of point values, up to 3200 points for each ghost you eat.

What makes it challenging is trying to find just the right path to take to maximize the ghost eating and improve your score. In the base game, you have only five minutes to score as many points as possible and end up on the leaderboards. You’re given lives, but the score you rack up will take care of that problem—and that’s if you get touched by a ghost when you play. You’re also given bombs that will get you out of a tight spot, like when a ghost has you cornered (because the four normal ghosts are out in addition to the conga line behind you). They’ll bounce the ghosts away, but the downside is that they will bounce the ghosts away, which stops your chain and makes you waste precious seconds not building the chain behind you or destroying the ghosts by turning the tables.

The time limit, the increasing speed of the game as you play, and the pumped house-style music all combine to create tension and provide pressure to do better each successive time you play the game.

There’s something really endearing about games where the only enemy is yourself. You know how the game plays, you know what a good score is thanks to the leaderboards, and you know each time you lose that if you’d shaved that one corner a little faster or you hadn’t had to juke out that one ghost, you could have scored just a bit higher.

And if you mess up, it’s no one’s fault but your own. Restart and try again.

Blogging at

To the best of my recollection, I have been blogging in some form or another since some time in 1999. When I started, I was manually updating a site using a very old version of Dreamweaver. Later, I burned through a series of “platforms,” if you could call them that at the time. I started by rolling my own using some rudimentary ASP knowledge. I built one by harvesting posts and replies from an installation of Snitz Forums. I used LiveJournal for a while. I played with WordPress in its original release and then decided to go Movable Type instead—then ended up going back to WordPress when MT changed their licensing.

I’ve been on WordPress ever since, except for a three-month stint with Drupal that is best left in the past.

In that time, I’ve blogged, made themes, blogged some more, learned how to make basic plugins, and watched WordPress grow into what it is today. Thought I’ve had a account since back in the golden ticket days of the service, I was always primarily a user of self-hosted WordPress until a little less than a year ago.

Not long after I began working at Automattic and on full-time as a Happiness Engineer, I was looking at my personal sites and trying to determine the best thing to do with them. Shared hosting can be slow, and I was running more than one site off it. I had a very custom theme that I was pretty unhappy with because I’d rushed it and didn’t have the time to fix what I didn’t like about it.

I eventually made the decision to move both of my personal sites to, for a few reasons:

  • It’s better and more reliable hosting than any host within my cost reach.
  • I wanted to work with the same tools and within the same restrictions as the rest of our users.
  • It allowed me to test new features using my own content and site so I can relate them more easily in support.

When thinking about topics to write on for the Post a Day challenge, the experience of having my sites on kept popping into my head. It’s a great place to host a site, but there are things you sometimes need to work around because of our code or embed restrictions, and sometimes I miss certain aspects of self-hosting my sites.

On the other hand, there are plenty of advantages to hosting at There are features here that are unique and either can’t be found (yet) or can’t be done easily on a self-hosted site without some serious systems mojo. I don’t have to worry about making sure everything is updated. I don’t have to worry about my host’s security track record (or lack thereof). I’ve had only a fraction of the downtime I experienced when I was self-hosting on a shared host.

So as part of my Post a Day ramblings, I want to talk about the experience of blogging on What’s awesome about it? What’s frustrating about it or needs some working around? I think I’ve got some neat tricks up my sleeve for working with, and I’m willing to bet you do, too. You can find this post and my others regarding by clicking on the link in my navigation menu at the top of this page.

I encourage you to write about this as part of your trek through posting once per day this year! Let’s get the discussion going by rocking some comments! What is:

  • One thing you love about, or maybe the one feature that sold you on moving or starting your site here?
  • One thing that you don’t like so much about, and maybe wish was a bit different?