2005.04.08

Awesome Firefox Extensions

Anthony Lieuallen of Arantius.com has a great page called Awesome Firefox Extensions. If you're new to Firefox or extensions, or are interested in finding some great new one, definitely head over there to check it out.

One extension not listed that I would personally recommend is Target Alert. This extension adds a small icon next to any links that aren't to standard web pages. For example, it inserts a small envelope icon next to any email links, and a small PDF icon next to any .pdf links. (The PDF alert is particularily useful, since loading a PDF is slow sluggish and I often want to avoid it all together!) It offers alerts for many file extension (you can turn on and off as needed), and also alerts to links that will open new windows. The new window alert is great, because I then know to press alt-shirt to force the load into a new tab instead of a new browser window.

Anyways, I've been meaning to publish my recommended list of extensions, but this will have to do for now.

Posted by Nate Koechley on April 8, 2005 at 04:31 PM in Accessibility, Internationalization, CSS Media Types, Browsers, HOWTO's and Tutorials, References, Software and Tools, Web Development | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

2005.03.30

Flickr Tips: Monitoring Comments and Configuring Alerts

Monitoring Comments and Conversations

After I used Flickr for a while, I started to pay more and more attention to the social and community aspects. I haven't ventured onto the message boards or chat yet, but I enjoy leaving comments on photos and having conversations there.

In several instances, I've asked for travel advice and questions about the locations and people in certain photos. Other times I've inquired about the techniques used to capture wonderful photographs or after-effects. In all these cases, it's easy to comment but it had always been hard for me to remember where I'd commented, and notice when a reply was posted.

Then I discovered the Photos you've commented on page. This page solves all those problems for me: in a clean way, it presents all the photos you've commented on. It's ordered by most recent activity, so you see photos you've recently commented on, as well as those that have been recently replied to. It works great, and has encouraged me to contribute and participate even more.

Notes and also Comments are shown in this nicely-integrated view.

Configuring Flickr Alerts

The Flickr mailbox is OK, but it doesn't' really fit into my personal online workflow. I prefer to receive my notifications in email. To set it up so Flickr sends you email instead of only adding to your Flickr mailbox, click My Account from the top of any page. From there click Notifications from Flickr (which you'll see on the right, under the Privacy Settings header) and adjust the settings. For the four choices on the page, I have "Yes", "Yes", "As soon as it happens" and "Yes please!".

To modify which email address these messages are sent to, click "Edit your email address" from back on the My Account page. (I set up an Address Guard on Yahoo Mail, which allows you to create a unique mail address, which I use to keep "alert" messages like this out of my main inbox.)

If you haven't played with Flickr for at least 10 hours, start now. You'll discover cooler and cooler features the more you use it. In fact, this "discoverability" aspect of Flickr is one of it's great strengths and attributes.

Posted by Nate Koechley on March 30, 2005 at 09:30 PM in HOWTO's and Tutorials, Idea, Knowledge & Content Management, Metadata, Photos, References, Social Networking and Community, Software and Tools | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

2005.02.08

Analyze HTTP Headers and Smart Keyword Search with Firefox

There are several good ways to check out a file's HTTP headers. Tonight I was using http://www.forret.com/projects/analyze/, which is just a simple web form that you enter your URL into.

I know there are more snazzy ways, including Firefox's great extension LiveHTTPHeaders, but sometimes an always-available web page is a fine solution. And, while I totally love the ability to extend and modify Firefox with the ever-growing supply of extensions, I've been trying to keep my browser as lean as possible by only installing ones I really need. For services that require a query to be submitted -- a map request, dictionary lookup, feed subscription or web search -- I've been opting lately to set up Keyword Search in Firefox (as I described several months ago).

(In addition to having less extensions, I find it's just significantly faster to trigger these actions form the keyboard.)

With a few keyword shortcut's set up, my hands are liberated from the mouse to the efficiency and speed of the keyboard. My browser begins to resemble a command line interface. In addition to my newest, headers http://www.yahoo.com, I use these others constantly:

sub http://natek.typepad.com
subscribed to a feed -- fastest possible way to subscribe to an rss feed with bloglines (please don't ruin bloglines Ask!)
ys northern california hiking trails
returns Yahoo Search results page -- 100s of times a day.
wiki Thomas Frank
returns Wikipedia encyclopedia entry -- lots of info types are best answered by an encyclopedia
map [[701 N First Ave, 94089]
returns a Yahoo Maps -- always need for a map
dic efficiency
returns dictionary.com definition
the excitement
returns thesaurus.com entry
by natek
returns my company's intranet (backyard) results -- for looking up coworkers
amaz Talib Kweli
returns Amazon search results -- to grab a book cover or album track listing
imdb War of the Worlds
returns an Internet Movie DataBase (IMDB) search
how to change your car's oil
returns detailed instructions from ehow.com
techno mobilemonday.com
returns blogosphere info on who's talking about http://www.mobilemonday.com/ right now?

Did you notice the ones for Bloglines (sub)? It's great. I am generally motivated to subscribe to some feed while in the midst of being excited or engaged by the content. This time of highest engagement is the time when you least want to interrupt the session to go subscribe -- this shortcut allows me to nearly-instantly subscribe in the heat on the moment.

(In case you're curious, I was looking at headers tonight to verify that the file expiration dates were distant, so that the files would be cached by the client until then.)

Posted by Nate Koechley on February 8, 2005 at 02:33 AM in Blogging, RSS, Browsers, HOWTO's and Tutorials, Idea, My life..., References, Search, Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Software and Tools, Web Development | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

2005.01.26

SMS Clipping with Yahoo! Local Search

Send search results to your phone from your desktop.

Yahoo! Local released a new search feature today, allowing you to quickly send clips of search results to you phone via a free SMS text message. You can do this directly from the search results page - no page reload necessary. It couldn't be easier:

Here's how:

From the front page of Yahoo!, click the "Local" tab to toggle the search box, and enter a local search. (Or use http://local.yahoo.com directly.) Search for anything you'd find in a yellow pages, or anything with an address. All your saved addressed from Y!Maps and other Y! sites should be available as locations to search around.

local-1

From the search results page (SRP), click "Send to Phone" to send the listing to your phone. It's sent via SMS I think.

local-2

The Send interface is straight forward, and let's you enter a phone number, or select a previously used or saved mobile number. (It seems to default to whatever number you've registered with http://mobile.yahoo.com, though that step isn't necessary.)

local-3

From the standard SRP view, you can click "View Results on Map" to see them graphically displayed around your search location. (Viewing results on a map is great, and also lets you quickly find nearby parking, ATMs, restaurants -- even nearby public restrooms.)

local-4

From this map view, click any of the numbered representations for more information, and the option to "Send to Phone".

local-5

Enter the recipient phone number in the same manner as from the SRP list view.

local-6

The resulting message looks something like this:

pt_localstp_silh_lg_2

Give it a shot, it's pretty good. (And if you haven't played with Local search, this is the perfect opportunity.)

Congrats to my friends Chris and Jason, who were both involved with the webdev work on this.

Update: Gary Price at Search Engine Watch has an entry on this now.

Posted by Nate Koechley on January 26, 2005 at 12:11 AM in Accessibility, Internationalization, CSS Media Types, Browsers, Gadgets, HOWTO's and Tutorials, Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Knowledge & Content Management, Search, Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Software and Tools, Web Development, Yahoo! | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

2005.01.18

Creating Personalized Feeds with Delicious

I have found this a useful way to use http://del.icio.us, the excellent social bookmarking site that is based on tagging.

Let's review quickly. I post all my bookmarks to delicious. They are all viewable by the public. Mine are here: http://del.icio.us/natekoechley. One great thing about delicious is that every page on the site - every node - has an RSS feed. If all my bookmarks are viewable on the web at /username, then the feed of that content is /rss/username.

Looks like this:
http://del.icio.us/natekoechley
http://del.icio.us/rss/natekoechley

The second thing that's great about delicious is that I can quickly and easily annotate my bookmarks with tags. For example, I have bookmarked Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian. In addition to storing the URL, I have tagged it with the following words: industrial, drawings, smithsonian, museum, design, art, history.

Each tag becomes a node.  When you are viewing my total collection of bookmarks, my username "natekoechley" is the node. It is likewise possible to view all my bookmarks for a particular tag, such as
http://del.icio.us/natekoechley/art
http://del.icio.us/rss/natekoechley/art

If you want to widen your view, you can view all "art" bookmarks for everybody on the network:
http://del.icio.us/tag/art
http://del.icio.us/rss/tag/art

There is no limit to the number of tags you can have, either in general or with a single URL.

As you can see, each node - tag - get's it's own RSS feed. This is the functionality that creates my personalized feeds.

Reduce Email with Personalized Feeds

If you're like me, there are a couple people in your life that you want to send links too. For me that's my girlfriend Aimee and my family. Email isn't perfect for this -- even with family, too many urls can quickly feel like spam. A blog isn't perfect either; links for family and close friends are often boring, in jokes, or off-topic to a wider blog audience. My solution is to use tags and RSS in http://del.icio.us, in conjunction with an RSS aggregator -- My Yahoo! works perfect for this.

Step one is to flag content that they'll like. Tagging makes this super easy, I just create person-specific tags with the format, "attn:aimee". (Use any convention you want; the colon isn't important either, a hyphen, prior or other mark will work fine.)

With sites tagged, the special tags will begin generating RSS feeds. Any aggregator will work of course, but for family I had success recommending My Yahoo!. Now, when every my family checks their My Yahoo! page, they'll see any new links that I flagged for their attention.... To me, this is ">100% Awesome.

While I don't think that RSS will replace email any time soon, this is a great way to remove some unnecessary noise from the inbox while still maintaining intimate and personal relationships.

Disclaimer: I saw the "attn:xxxx" syntax on another site, it is not my original idea. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to re-locate the source. Please send me and help me locate any prior work on this approach, so that I may give proper credit. Thanks!

Update: Here is an earlier mention of this technique, though this still isn't the place I saw the idea first. Thanks for pointing this out in the comments Brian. [2005.01.19 12:01:00]

Posted by Nate Koechley on January 18, 2005 at 01:58 AM in Blogging, RSS, HOWTO's and Tutorials, My life..., References, Social Networking and Community, Software and Tools, Web Development | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Great Firefox Resources

Here are two great sites reviewing tips, tricks and extensions for the Firefox browser from the Mozilla Foundation. (You are using Firefox, right?)

First is the thorough article from Scot's Newsletter. Well written, it includes Firefox Extension Recommendations and Firefox Customization Recommendations. The extensions are grouped by type, including "tab-browsing" and "UI-fixing", as well as broad groups for "tried 'em, like 'em" and others.

The second article is "Secret's of Firefox 1.0", from Windows Secrets Newsletter. This one is focused on tweaks available through Firefox's about:config interface. Check it out for many speed tweaks.

(both via)

Posted by Nate Koechley on January 18, 2005 at 12:57 AM in Blogging, RSS, HOWTO's and Tutorials, Software and Tools, Web Development | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

2005.01.05

Firefox Tip: Quick Complete URLs

Here is how I enter a new URL into the Firefox Address Bar. It is the fastest way to jump somewhere new (without linking), and it keeps my hands on the keyboard (not the mouse).

Step One ("Quick Complete" starts on Step Three, but this is a bonus tip, and will speeds things up too.):

Press "Alt-D" on the keyboard (hold down both keys at the same time). This will more the cursor to go to the Address Bar, and also select any URL that is already there. With all the text highlighted, the next thing you type will erase what's already there, saving you the step of manually erasing the current URL before typing a new one.

Step Two:

Type the base of the URL. In other words, if you want to go to http://www.yahoo.com, you'd only type "yahoo" at this point.

Step Three: Quick Complete

With just the base entered into the Address Bar, you now press "Control-Enter" to wrap the base with the full .com stuff. By pressing "Control-Enter", the base "yahoo" instantly becomes "http://www.yahoo.com. (You may use the 10-Key number pad's "Enter" key in addition to the primary "Enter/Return" key.)

If you want a .org address, press "Control-Shift-Enter" instead. This will turn "craigslist" into "http://www.craigslist.org".

With those three tiny steps, you'll be flying around in no time. Alt-D, "cnn", "Control-Enter" take no time at all.

Note: On Mac's, replace "Control" with the "Apple" key I think.

Posted by Nate Koechley on January 5, 2005 at 11:38 PM in Accessibility, Internationalization, CSS Media Types, Browsers, HOWTO's and Tutorials, References, Software and Tools, Yahoo! | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Finding and Removing Duplicates Songs with iTunes

Finally!

Over the past weekend I downloaded the update to Apple's iTunes software. It's up to version 4.7 now. Whenever an update to anything is released, the questions are 1) What has changed? and 2) Is it advisable to update now?

For the 4.7 update, the answers are 1) Not very much; and 2) Immediately!

According to the release notes, this was a pretty minor release, with just two new items. The first is support for copying photos to an iPod photo. This would be necessary if I had an iPod Photo, but I don't**. The second item is "the ability to show duplicate songs in your library".

I don't know about you, but I often end up with duplicate files in my iTunes library. Sometimes I'll import a CD twice by accident. Other times I'll add files from Limewire or some other source. Not too long ago, I merged external hard drive libraries with a buddy. In all these cases, and many others, it's possible to have an album (or just song) in your library twice.

It always seemed like purging duplicates should have been part of the base iTunes functionality. It doesn't seem like it should be that hard (the files have unique profiles -- name, length, etc.

There were always kludgey ways to do it, but all very time consuming and labor intensive. Now, it's a dedicated menu toggle (under Edit).

Thanks Apple, better late than never.

**I don't have an iPod photoApple Store in San Francisco It seemed nice enough, though I have a little difficultly seeing how it would fit into my life, especially considering how awesome Flickr is.

Posted by Nate Koechley on January 5, 2005 at 08:26 PM in Design, Gadgets, HOWTO's and Tutorials, Software and Tools | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

2005.01.04

Good Advice from Russell

To-do lists and blogging don't mesh. Just write it now.

His advice:

I tell people who are starting to blog to not make a list of things you want to write about, because the simple act of putting the topic down on a piece of paper negates that "blogging urge." Better to write it out quickly - even a paragraph or two - than jot down a list, because you'll *never* get back to writing about them.

Right now I have at least 15 posts in some stage of draft. So, I'm going to do my best to let his advice take hold. I hope the urge to blog is stronger than the urges to edit, ponder and rewrite.

Posted by Nate Koechley on January 4, 2005 at 06:07 PM in Blogging, RSS, HOWTO's and Tutorials | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

2004.12.11

BitTorrent, and BitTorrent Clients

I'm been investing a little time lately trying to learn more about BitTorrent. BitTorrent, a P2P distribution tool, is unique and potentially superior because it allows many people to download the same file without slowing down everyone else's download. (More: Wikipedia | Y!Search). This background and client review will be a precursor to an entry on BlogTorrent that I'm still working on.

Traditional P2P distribution (Napster, Gnutella, Kazaa) let you download an entire file from another person on the network. BitTorrent is different. With BT, you initially download only a small map of the file. This map describes the many tiny files that comprise the complete file. This map file is called a tracker.

Once you've downloaded the tracker, a BitTorrent client takes over. The client coordinates the separate but concurrent downloading of each small file. It always choosing the fastest source. This is a faster and more stable process, capable of handling feature-length movies and other multi-gigabyte files.

Another distinction between BT and more traditional P2P technologies is that with BT, things go faster when more people are on the network. This is the opposite of other technologies, that bogged down on popular files. By definition with BitTorrent, if you're downloading you're also potentially uploading. The more people that want a particular file, the more people that have the file. More requesters equals more providers. And more providers equals a faster experience for everybody.

If you're looking for a BitTorrent Client, I've posted personal research from my hours spent looking for the best one. I'm just sharing, I don't profess to be an expert.

BitTorrent

  • Current Version: 3.4.2 (Windows, plus python source code)
  • Release Date: April 4, 2004
  • Download: bittorrent-3.4.2.exe
  • File size: 2.71 MB
  • Homepage: Bram Cohen

Description and notes: Bram Cohen is the creator of BitTorrent, and made this client himself. It's open source python.

BitTornado (Windows, plus python source code)

Description and notes: According to Slyck's BT Guide, this is "[c]urrently the most popular and recommended modification to the [pure BitTorrent, above] source code." The noteworthy tweak is the "ability to control the upload bandwidth used".

Azureus Java BitTorrent Client (Cross-Platform, including Mac)

Description and notes: Azureus is a powerful, full-featured, cross-platform java BitTorrent client. It "offers multiple torrent downloads, queuing/priority systems (on torrents and files), start/stop seeding options and instant access to numerous pieces of information about your torrents" and is available in many many languages.

BitComet - a powerful C++ BitTorrent Client (Window)

Description and notes: "BitComet is a powerful, clean, fast, and easy-to-use bittorrent client. It supports simultaneous downloads, download queue, selected downloads in torrent package, fast-resume, chatting, disk cache, speed limits, port mapping, proxy, ip-filter, etc". I more or less accidentally downloaded this one after desiring more features and a more comfortable look-n-feel that the original BitTorrent Client (by Bram Cohen, above)

(Thanks again to Slyck for info on the first two reviews, as well as background and format of reviews.)

Summary

While a few others exist, and are reviewed elsewhere, I think the software above represents the big players, and a wide range of interfaces and features.

I currently use BitComet. I'll update you as/when that changes. Let me know your experiences and findings, and if you recommend any others.

Parting Note:

In my reading, I found this BitTorrent summary that caught my eye for it's succinctness:

Bittorrent in a nutshell: A) Get a client, and B) Click on a .torrent link.

Posted by Nate Koechley on December 11, 2004 at 05:05 PM in Blogging, RSS, Browsers, HOWTO's and Tutorials, References, Social Networking and Community, Software and Tools | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack