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Posts by Patrick Filler:

SSL Changes and Your Harvest Account

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I don’t know about you, but I don’t spend much time thinking about that little green lock icon in my browser’s address bar. To me, it means my browser trusts the website I’m on and I can live without fearing that some internet baddie is going to steal my data. I leave it to much smarter people than myself to determine what defines that trustworthiness.

That little green lock means the site you are on is using SSL and that all data is encrypted before transfer. Encrypted data can only be read by someone with a specific key and, in the case of a website, this key is stored in something called an SSL Certificate. These certificates are the way browsers verify that the person you’re sending your data to is exactly who you expect it to be.

It might surprise you to learn that the encryption algorithm (called SHA-1) used to write many SSL certificates is no longer considered safe. SHA-1 has long been the encryption standard for SSL certificates, but the steady advances in computer power mean that it is no longer up to the challenge of keeping attackers at bay. Fortunately, a new standard (called SHA-2) is already available and compatible with all modern web browsers and operating systems.

Changes Coming to Harvest

In the coming weeks, Harvest is going to significantly improve our security by upgrading our SSL Certificate to use SHA-2. For most customers, this change will be completely transparent. That is, when Harvest switches certificates, you won’t even notice that it’s happened.

For a very small percentage of our customers, this change is going to render Harvest totally inaccessible. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to make this change in a way that works with very old software. For those customers, the only way to continue using Harvest will be to upgrade their browser or operating system.

What You Need to Do

Testing your browser for SHA-2 compatibility
If this message fails to change after a few seconds, this post may affect you.
If you’re using an RSS reader or reading this in email, try viewing it on the web.

If the box above is green, you’re using a modern web browser and don’t need to make any changes.

If the box above is gray or red, you’ll need to upgrade your software. If you need help, just contact our Harvest Experts and they’ll get you upgrade advice based on your platform.

We know that there are many customers whose companies require them to use specific software, and we always take this into consideration when deprecating support for certain browsers. In this case, we believe that the security of your account takes priority, and are making changes to ensure that Harvest continues to provide the safest experience. Let us know if you have any questions!

Harvest Chrome Extension Version 2.0

The Harvest Time Tracker extension for Chrome makes it even easier to track time right from your Chrome toolbar. A quick glance will tell you if you have a timer running and starting or stopping is just a click away. We’ve just released a major version change of the extension which includes significant reliability improvements. If you have tried the extension in the past and weren’t a fan, we hope you’ll consider trying it again.

Previous versions of the Harvest Chrome Extension haven’t gotten a ton of love. Here’s a review that really sums up what people have been saying:

Bad review. Let's do better.

It truly bums us out when we aren’t serving our customers to the best of our abilities so we decided to make some big changes. In recent weeks, we’ve rebuilt the Harvest Time Tracker for Chrome from the ground up. The end result is more responsive and reliable in almost every single way.

By far our biggest change was to move the time entry window out of the browser and into a Chrome extension popup. Now, the Harvest Time Tracker is available from any open tab (or the new tab screen) without impacting performance or wait times on the pages you’re loading. Just click the toolbar icon (or hit ALT + Shift + H) and your timer is a few pixels away.

Harvest Time Tracker

We really feel good about this latest version of the extension and we can’t wait to hear from you after you give it a shot. Please drop us a line or – even better – write a review on the Chrome Web Store and let us know how 2.0 is working for you. You better believe we’re listening.

Download Harvest Time Tracker for Chrome

Harvest Playback, February 10 Edition

Willkommen zum Harvest Playback!

Harvest gets a bit more international this week as we welcome our new development intern, Joschka, to the team. Joschka is from Lemgo, Germany and is spending 5 months in NYC learning the ins and outs of Harvest’s codebase while exploring our great city. The team wasted no time and has already taken him out for karaoke. Check out Joschka’s portfolio to see why we thought he’d be a great fit here.


Joschka’s adventure begins.

We rolled out phase one of our new user profile functions this week. In the coming weeks we’ll be adding the ability to manage a user’s profile right from their profile page — a big time saver when you’re adding a new co-worker like Joschka. We received a lot of positive feedback for this announcement and we’re excited to make it a reality.

The best part of writing the weekly playback for Harvest is looking back through a week of posts to Co-op, our virtual water cooler app. It really reinforces how we rely on Co-op to stay in touch with each other even when many of us are thousands of miles apart. Let’s have a look at some of this week’s highlights:

  • Harvesters had a lot to say about the Superbowl (and that crazy play), but I can’t get past the chicken-wing cupcakes that Christopher ate at a superbowl party.
  • Barry found us the perfect location for future Harvest summits (complete with private suspension bridge).
  • Jae shared a delicious vegetarian chili for a bonus Monday team lunch. For Wednesday’s lunch, Naama suggested we try mindful eating. Once we smelled the delicious indian food, however, we were off to the races. Maybe next week!
  • Doug introduced us to the blobfish and Kim was quick to point out that it looks a lot like somebody stuck Ziggy in the microwave.
  • We want you to be ready for Valentine’s Day next week, so we present two solid gift options: Pizza Hut (yes, Pizza Hut) has put together quite a proposal package which includes a ring and fireworks for a mere $10,000. Vermont Teddy Bear is offering a 4 1/2 foot tall teddy bear (check out their creepy commercial).
  • Barry shared this great photo of President Obama watching a marshmallow cannon at the White House Science Fair.

I Don’t Like the Taste of Gmail’s Icon Soup

Update (3/21/12): Google now offers a setting to change Gmail’s buttons to a text label. Icon buttons are still the Gmail default, but this is a welcome change for anyone who feels that the icons slow their flow down.

Recently, Google released an updated Gmail look which affected the interface pretty drastically. My gut reaction to the change was not good. People tend to be fairly averse to sudden, dramatic change and it’s very easy to have a knee-jerk reaction of “I hate this” whenever something you’re familiar with changes. With that in mind, I decided to use the new design for awhile before I gave up and ruled it a disaster. Sure enough, I’ve grown to appreciate many of the choices the Gmail team made and have found some of the changes to be quite an improvement.

There is one facet of the new design, however, that I cannot get past. Whenever I view an email, I am presented with these controls at the top of each message:


Gmail’s new message toolbar

Can you tell me with certainty what each of those buttons will do to the message? I can’t and I have to stop and think about what these icons mean every time I try to do something. Icons that aren’t instantly and naturally understood slow me down — and getting slowed down for no good reason makes me cranky.

In my opinion, these new button styles are a giant step back from the previous version of Gmail. Is there any doubt about what most of these buttons will do?


Gmail’s old message toolbar

When you see icons that aren’t intuitive, it’s often because the software team chose their convenience over making things easier for the user. Designers like icons because they are prettier than text and they more easily fit in a confined space (you don’t need to worry about text overflow on a 16×16 graphic). Programmers like icons because there’s no need to translate an extra label.

The best icons express crystal clear functionality with their simplicity and context. A trash can or an “x” next to an item in a list is a good indicator you’re about to delete or remove something. A lock graphic next to a disabled form element helps emphasize that an item is not editable. A partially shaded battery on an electronic device is a clear way to express remaining charge.

Icons in software can be a beautiful thing when executed properly. Given a choice between an ambiguous icon and a text label, however, text is the clear choice for conveying a buttons’s function quickly and clearly. Your users will never have to guess what that stop-sign exclamation looking icon means when they want to mark their 1000th viagra email as spam.


Gmail’s buttons when composing a message

Frustratingly, Google uses text labels when you’re composing a message. I wish they would be consistent and apply this style to all of their buttons in the new Gmail. How about you?

Harvest Ending Support for Internet Explorer 7

We’re announcing a change to our browser support policy. Starting January 2, Harvest will no longer support Internet Explorer 7. If you are still using IE7, please install a modern web browser to use with Harvest (such as Chrome or Firefox). You have a month and a half to upgrade, but we hope you’ll do it today (it’s free! it’s easy!).

We believe this change will benefit all of our customers. IE7 was released five years ago and is two major releases behind the latest version of Internet Explorer. IE7 offers limited (at best) support for many of the modern web browser features that applications like Harvest rely on. Right now, we’re employing hacks and crutches to make IE7 usable for only a small percentage of our customers, and removing these will improve the speed and performance of Harvest for everyone.

IE7 is a terrible browser for the modern web and it’s holding all of us back. Every hour spent hacking a fix is an hour that could have been spent building something awesome.

Will Broccoli and George W. Bush Play Key Roles in the 2011 World Series?

It’s late October, so that means that baseball’s World Series has begun. I, like many Harvesters, am an avid baseball fan, and I’m looking forward to watching the culmination of a long season. When the playoffs began, the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies were the odds-on favorites to make it to the Fall Classic, but both teams lost in the first round. After some exciting league championship series there are only two teams remaining, and I want to give you a quick World Series preview (Harvest-style).

National League Champion: St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals aren’t supposed to be here. Just to make the playoffs, they had to benefit from one of the worst collapses in baseball history. They beat the Phillies and the Brewers, even though they were supposed to lose. They’re supposed to lose in the World Series too, but these games rarely go the way they’re “supposed to.”

One thing to look for: People in St. Louis put provel on their pizza instead of the traditional mozzarella. What other odd substitutions do they make in the “Gateway to the West?” If they win it all, will they forgo the traditional champagne shower for a broccoli bath?

American League Champion: Texas Rangers

The Rangers lost last year’s World Series to the San Francisco Giants, but they are back for a second go around. Have you ever seen one of those movies where a lone warrior goes on an epic quest for revenge? How do you think a whole team of bat-wielding Texans will fare against a flock of birds?

One thing to look for: Former Rangers owner George W. Bush (our 43rd president) is a frequent attendee of Rangers’ home games. He once thought about joining in an all-out brawl against my beloved White Sox (though he ultimately exercised better judgement). If things don’t go his Rangers’ way, will he storm the field with his dukes up?

The winner?

The teams have already met for games 1 & 2 with each claiming a victory. Heading down to Texas, they’re tied 1-1 and it’s anyone’s guess as to who will pull this off. Anything can happen, but you can bet Harvesters will be keeping a close eye on the results.

Drawings in this post were done by Harvest’s own Kim Ku.

Chosen, a Select Box Enhancement Plug-in for jQuery and Prototype

In May, we released our improved detailed time reports, which included an improved interface for filtering the data included in your report. The filters are such a significant improvement over regular HTML select boxes that we’ve decided to share their code with the world. Today, we’re releasing them as a plug-in we’re calling Chosen (available for jQuery and Prototype).

When building an HTML form, select boxes are often used to present a long list of options because they don’t take up a lot of space. Once a select element includes more than a handful of options, however, they become difficult for a user to navigate. Typing into a field doesn’t always work in an expected way (and many users aren’t even aware of this option) and scrolling through dozens or hundreds of choices is slow and tedious. These problems are especially magnified when the order of options isn’t immediately clear.

Chosen aims to improve select boxes by adding search-based filtering. When a user clicks into a Chosen element, their cursor is placed in a search field. As the user types, options that don’t match the search terms are hidden, leaving only useful results behind. Users can select their choice just the same as a standard select element – highlight and click with the mouse or use the keyboard to navigate choices (up and down arrows change the highlight and enter selects).

Additionally, multiple select elements get an improved interface for displaying selected options. User-selected options are displayed as boxes at the top of the element and are always visible. They can be removed with a single click or using backspace.

Continue reading…

Dallis Bros. Teaches Harvest How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Yesterday, we were very lucky to have Teresa von Fuchs, coffee & espresso consultant for Dallis Bros. Coffee in Queens, NY, in the office to spend some time with us talking and tasting coffee. A big part of Teresa’s job involves going into the cafes and coffee shops carrying Dallis’s coffee to educate them on preparation, freshness and general coffee know-how. She doesn’t normally do presentations to internet companies, but we asked so nicely that she couldn’t say no.

Teresa started by talking to us about how much work goes into each pound of coffee before it even arrives at their facility for roasting. Farming coffee is a very labor intensive process and each bean goes through human hands more than once. She encouraged us to take our time when preparing coffee and to respect the efforts of the farmers who’ve done so much with the beans.

Next, Teresa brewed three of Dallis’s offerings via two different preparation methods – french press and pour over. Sampling the various methods side-by-side helped us understand the differences in flavor that result from different brewing methods. After an hour with Teresa, she had us considering switching our trusty office coffee maker to a giant french press.
Continue reading…

Unifying Buttons in Harvest

In December, we released Harvest HD, an update to Harvest which included a new, image-free button style. By eliminating the need for background images in our buttons, we’re able to deliver an improved button style with a faster load time for our users.

We’ve been including the new button style whenever we update a section of Harvest. This morning, we pushed out a release that removed all remaining instances of the old buttons, unifying button styles throughout Harvest.

While this change makes Harvest look nicer, we’ve also taken this opportunity to add some new functionality. For most forms in Harvest, you’ll now notice that when you click save or submit, the buttons will be disabled and a loading graphic will appear. This instant feedback lets you know that your form is processing and helps to ensure that there are no accidental double submits of your data.

This update reinforces consistent UI elements and behaviors throughout our app and helps us provide a seamless time tracking experience for all of our users.

How We Brew at Harvest HQ

When we’re at home (or tasting some special beans), Harvesters turn to enough coffee gadgets to stock a laboratory. We’ve tried everything from Chemex and Aeropress makers to the Clever Coffee Dripper and Bodum Santos. At the office, however, we need to rely on a coffee machine that can take care of a dozen or so cups without a daily trip to brewmethods.com.

Despite its long and uninspired name, our Cuisinart DGB-900BC Fully Automatic Burr Grind & Brew Thermal Coffeemaker has served the office like a champ. Getting a pot of coffee going is as easy as filling up the bean hopper, pouring some water in and changing the filter. It’s perfect for those mornings when you’ve arrived at the office half asleep.

Features:

  • Super simple to operate.
  • Uses freshly ground beans without a messy transfer from grinder to filter.
  • Thermal carafe keeps coffee warm without a hot plate (no burnt coffee for us).
  • Easy clean-up.

If you’re on the lookout for a coffee maker for your office, it’s hard to go wrong with the DGB-900BC. Just think of it as the Honda Civic of coffee makers — it’s not flashy, but you can count on it to start up and get you where you’re going with a smooth ride.

What we’ve been brewing lately:

In our previous coffee post (What’s Brewing at Harvest), we took a look at where we’re getting coffee for the office. Here’s an update on some of the beans we’ve been drinking at Harvest HQ.

  • Shawn took a trip to California and came back with coffees from Barefoot Coffee and Ritual Roasters. Both were delicious, but we were especially impressed with Ritual’s offerings and will be ordering some of those in the future.
  • John from The Abrite Organization (a Harvest customer) sent us coffee from Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz, CA. Verve’s Street Level Espresso is the real deal.
  • A little closer to home, we’ve been picking up beans from Kava Cafe in Manhattan. They’re currently carrying beans from Annapolis, Maryland-based Caffé Pronto and we’re very impressed with what we’ve tasted so far.

Do you have any coffee you’ve been brewing lately that you think we should check out?