— issue #16 {November 2015} —


Hello, and welcome to the sixteenth issue of Equilibrium.

It was not my intention to take a break from publishing Equilibrium, but taking a long vacation combined with working on some urgent tasks while travelling and a lot of work piled up waiting for me back in base, plus some writer's block on top of that, and before I knew it I missed a few issues. It feels good to be back though!

I recently launched a new web app called PriceAlert, which is a service that provides price tracking and price history charts for some of the most popular e-commerce stores operating in Greece.

Its UI is written in Greek, so I believe that unfortunately most of you won’t be able to navigate through it. Therefore, here's a direct link to a product I chose randomly so you can see how a product page looks like. At the bottom of it, you can find the price history chart.


Around two and a half years ago, I needed to buy something from Greece. Being a camelcamelcamel (a price tracker for Amazon) user for years, I searched for a similar service focused on Greek e-shops, but I didn't manage to find one. So, as an interesting side-project, I decided to build an automated system which would track the price of specified products and it would notify me when they reached a certain threshold.

I quickly decided that I wanted to share it with other people, so I created a basic UI, bought the domain, installed the system to a server, and decided that after some changes that wouldn't take more than a few days I would release it.

Those few days quickly became weeks, then months, and eventually years. I never considered it as one of these projects that I would let go though, so it might have taken a while, but a few months ago I decided to spend some time on it so it could be released to the public, which happened on November 1st.


Moving to the technical side, the back-end code that powers everything related to the user’s interaction with the site is still part of the original code built in mid-2013 using CodeIgniter. As a login system, it uses my own PasswordLessLogin library.

The system which automatically handles -among other tasks- the product updates, price changes, and email notifications though, is a Laravel 5.1 application. All transactional emails are sent through Mandrill.

Most of the front-end code is dated, since it was built using Bootstrap 2.3.2 (yeap, that was the most recent stable version back then), and the Flat UI and Font Awesome versions that it supported. The price history charts are generated using Highcharts; I also used Responsive-Lightbox in a few places.

Finally, PriceAlert is deployed on a DigitalOcean server, managed by Laravel Forge. The CodeIgniter and Laravel apps are deployed as different domains, which share the same database.

As always, enjoy the issue!

.blogs (interesting reads from around the web)

How I Reverse Engineered Google Docs To Play Back Any Document’s Keystrokes — jsomers.net, 2014

"This is possible because every document written in Google Docs since about May 2010 has a revision history that tracks every change, by every user, with timestamps accurate to the microsecond; these histories are available to anyone with "Edit" permissions; and I have written a piece of software that can find, decode, and rebuild the history for any given document."

Dress code and start-up culture — georgestefanis.com, 2015

"P.S Don't wear a tie."

The Passport Payment — doublewide.net, 2000

While I was reading an article about a guy being able to purchase google.com for a few minutes, I stumbled upon a story about Microsoft forgetting to renew their hotmail.co.uk domain, which led me to the story of Michael Chaney, who in December 1999 paid the $35 fee for Passport.com, a domain that Microsoft forgot to renew and rendered its Hotmail service partially crippled.

Musicians Wage War Against Evil Robots — smithsonianmag.com, 2012

The robot playing nurse to the audience of the future (September 15, 1930 Capital Times)

"When synchronized sound ended the era of silent films, live musicians were no longer hired to play in movie theaters. They fought back with an ad campaign against soulless machines."

How Amazon Tricks You Into Thinking It Always Has the Lowest Prices
— recode.net, 2015

"Amazon doesn’t have the lowest prices across the board. (...) Instead, according to Boomerang’s analysis, Amazon identifies the most popular products on its site and consistently prices them under the competition."

Response to an Inquiry for $500 Website — medium.com, 2015

If you have the courage to try and educate a client that wants a $500 website, you should read this article.

.images (worth a thousand words)

What people in 1900 thought the year 2000 would look like
— washingtonpost.com, 2015

Aerial Firemen

"The series of paintings, made by Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910, shows artist depictions of what life might look like in the year 2000. The first series of images were printed and enclosed in cigarette and cigar boxes around the time of the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, according to the Public Domain Review, then later turned into postcards."

.open source ("show me your license")

Remodal — github.com

Remodal is a "responsive, lightweight, fast, synchronized with CSS animations, fully customizable modal window plugin with declarative configuration and hash tracking". I have used it on a few projects lately and I had a very good experience with it.

.videos (for education or entertainment)

The Expert — youtube.com, 2014

What do you mean you cannot draw 7 red lines using green and invisible ink?! Aren't you an expert?

.books (physical or electronic)

The Martian — wikipedia.org

The Martian book cover

For those of you who haven't heard about it, The Martian is a 2011 science fiction novel by Andy Weir; its story follows an astronaut who becomes stranded alone on Mars and must improvise in order to survive.

It's been on in my "to read" list for years, but I only decided to read it a month ago, when I realised that its movie adaptation was about to be released and I didn't want to watch it without having read the book first.

In the first few pages I caught myself thinking that it could easily become boring due to the fact that the guy was alone in space, but thankfully that wasn't the case. I personally found the book generally fast paced, with some excellent pieces of (sometimes black-ish) humor, a very interesting concept, and overall a very enjoyable read.

.non-profits (for a good cause)

Save the Children — savethechildren.org.uk

Save the Children works in 120 countries. They save children’s lives, fight for their rights, and help them fulfil their potential. They helped 17.4 million children through their work in 2014, and they run world-class programmes to save children’s lives and challenge world leaders to keep to their promises to give children a brighter future.


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