Category Archives: Software

Quick Tip: Get a Clipboard Manager

In an age of vast com­put­er mem­o­ry (well, rel­a­tive­ly speak­ing), it’s pret­ty arbi­trary at this point that our com­put­ers have a clip­board that only “holds” one item at a time.

Any­one else been burned by acci­den­tal­ly copy­ing over some­thing you were “sav­ing” in the clip­board? Or how many times have you opened a text edi­tor just to paste some text there­in while you were copy­ing mul­ti­ple things?

Enter the clip­board man­ag­er, which basi­cal­ly keeps a his­to­ry of things you’ve copied to pick at a lat­er date. Think of it, well, like a real clip­board: what you “clip” lat­er is sim­ply put on top of your pre­vi­ous clip­pings and you can eas­i­ly get back to all of them.

Here are some I rec­om­mend; pick accord­ing to your oper­at­ing sys­tem:


  1. I haven’t used this one, but it was the best of what I sur­veyed on the inter­net. If you know a bet­ter one, let me know! []
  2. I’ve been informed that Jump­cut is bet­ter than Clip­per, if only because Clip­per fea­tures no key­board short­cut. []

Cooper Journal: One free interaction

Coop­er Jour­nal: One free inter­ac­tion

I noticed two friends who use their mouse to repeat­ed­ly select and des­e­lect text in web browsers as they read pages online. This is absolute­ly crazy­mak­ing for onlook­ers, but real­ly sat­is­fy­ing for them.

De-Re-Select­ing from Chris No on Vimeo.

I do this all the time (my favorite way is to triple-click the para­graph) and, yes, it dri­ves peo­ple look­ing at my screen crazy.

Prob­a­bly the oth­er big one I do is to draw selec­tion rec­tan­gles on my desk­top or in a file man­ag­er win­dow.

It’s inex­plic­a­ble to me, but Chris men­tions some pos­si­ble rea­sons:

When I talk to each per­son about these behav­iors, there’s not a lot of con­scious deci­sion-mak­ing going on here. The web-page-high­lighters aren’t intend­ing any­thing when they do this, it’s just some­thing they enjoy doing. But even though these behav­iors don’t help move any tasks or goals along, they’re sat­is­fy­ing. And because they pro­vide a release for ner­vous ener­gy and/or let us be expres­sive, they become an exten­sion of our­selves to which we have some small emo­tion­al con­nec­tion.

Ulti­mate­ly, I don’t real­ly care why, but it’s an inter­est­ing thing of note. :)

Less stuff on my screen

Gnome Do quietly taking over
Do is qui­et­ly tak­ing over my desk­top

Here’s a cur­rent screen­shot of my com­put­er.

Ulti­mate­ly, both the pan­el and Do remain off-screen, so I have a full screen free of dis­trac­tions when I’m work­ing on some­thing.

Col­laps­ing my pan­el into just the upper-left cor­ner was sim­ple, but a few GConf tweaks made it hide more and faster:

  • /apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel_screen0/auto_hide_size 0 (Makes it hide com­plete­ly with no on-screen rem­nant while hid­den)
  • /apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel_screen0/enable_animations unchecked
  • /apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel_screen0/hide_delay 300
  • /apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel_screen0/unhide_delay 200

For those lat­ter three:I found these to be the best for mak­ing the pan­el feel respon­sive and get­ting it out of the way when I don’t want it; YMMV.

Ubiquitous search

So I’m a big fan of Ubiq­ui­ty. Eas­i­ly one of my favorite Fire­fox exten­sions. If you’ve not heard of it, it’s basi­cal­ly a set of com­mands exposed in Fire­fox, akin to Quick­sil­ver/GNOME Do/Launchy but, you know, for web stuff.

One of my favorite com­mands that I’ve found is sim­ply called Search, cour­tesy of Blair McBride. It enables any exist­ing search engines (OpenSearch) to be used with­in Ubiq­ui­ty, so rather than issu­ing “ama­zon real­ly neat stuff” or “google that thing I want­ed to look up” I can sim­ply issue “search pol­i­tics with Google News”. The sky’s the lim­it.

Cou­ple that with Add to Search Bar exten­sion and you have some real pow­er. Add to Search Bar allows you to right-click on a search field (on any web­site) and add it as a search engine in Fire­fox. Cer­tain­ly the heavy hit­ters will be auto-detect­ed as search engines, but this allows you to search what you want (e.g. Google Images, Box­oh uni­ver­sal pack­age track­ing, Snopes). Because a) I’ve col­lapsed my Search Engines bar and b) don’t use it direct­ly any­more, I’ve added a lot more search engines:

My list of search engines
My list of search engines

I’ve sug­gest­ed to the Ubiq­ui­ty team that OpenSearch engines be auto­mat­i­cal­ly added (and the com­mand syn­tax a bit less awk­ward), but the Search com­mand is cer­tain­ly a step in the right direc­tion.

Please stop pretending any operating system “just works”

Ubun­tu­cat » Blog Archive » Please stop pre­tend­ing Win­dows “just works”

As a mat­ter of fact, com­put­er prob­lems exist­ing has lit­tle to do with what OS you use. I’ve seen Mac own­ers com­plain about var­i­ous Mac prob­lems and Lin­ux users com­plain about var­i­ous Lin­ux prob­lems. There is no such thing as “just works.” Win­dows does not just work. Mac OS X does not just work. Lin­ux does not just work.

The only way around this I can see is a rede­f­i­n­i­tion of the phrase just works. Here’s my new work­ing def­i­n­i­tion:

Fill-in-the-blank oper­at­ing sys­tem has caused me per­son­al­ly (and no one else nec­es­sar­i­ly) few­er prob­lems than oth­er oper­at­ing sys­tems I have used, and when I do encounter prob­lems, they are ones I can tol­er­ate and not big enough for me to aban­don this plat­form for anoth­er one.

As some­one who works in tech sup­port, I can say that this is def­i­nite­ly true. It’s pret­ty much a lev­el play­ing field with regards to the prob­lems you will encounter.

For me, GNU/Linux is free, has a more con­sis­tent user expe­ri­ence, and has a great com­mu­ni­ty in which to play a part (e.g. seek­ing the inevitable sup­port, learn­ing more, con­tribut­ing your­self). That’s what gives it the advan­tage over Windows/OS X in my book.

Google’s Open Source Patches to Wine

Dar­ing Fire­ball Linked List: Google’s Open Source Patch­es to Wine

This idea deserves a full essay, but for now, con­sid­er: In the same way that Apple took Mac OS X and Cocoa and shrunk them to serve as a hand­held device OS, I think Google could take Android and grow it to serve as a PC OS. Wine would be to Android what Clas­sic was to Mac OS X.

The big win is say­ing “screw you” to KDE and Gnome and all those crap Lin­ux inter­faces and APIs. Start over with some­thing new, cohe­sive, bet­ter, and, most of all, which is not, con­cep­tu­al­ly, a watered down clone of Win­dows.

I’m real­ly not sure where Gru­ber is going with this. Google seems to like Wine for var­i­ous rea­sons (main­ly Picasa), but I don’t real­ly under­stand how it could vault Android into desk­top fame. It seems Wine is a “watered down clone” of Win­dows (its inter­nals, any­way) and I don’t real­ly see much future in it.

Obvi­ous­ly Gru­ber and I dis­agree on the var­i­ous suc­cess­es of the “open-source desk­top” mis­sion, but I don’t think Wine is the way to suc­cess.

John, I await your full essay; per­haps I mis­un­der­stand?

Tracking WordPress comments

Par­tic­i­pat­ing on a blog is infi­nite­ly more worth­while if you’re able to find out about new com­ments to any inter­est­ing posts.

To that end, here is my favorite tip for keep­ing up on com­ments: Co​.mments​.com, a great site to sub­scribe to com­ments on any blog. You sim­ply track a page and it will update you via email or RSS (your choice). It works on a major­i­ty of sites/blogs/forums, and there’s a handy book­marklet you can use in your brows­er that works on any page. Check it out and see what you think.

I pre­fer using this to oth­er meth­ods because it does­n’t require any­thing on the part of the blog author (and many don’t opt in to this kind of func­tion­al­i­ty). Also, I pre­fer see­ing com­ments in RSS to email, and co.mments gives me one RSS feed, so I don’t have to keep sub­scrib­ing to a new feed for every post — I sim­ply track new con­ver­sa­tions and the feed is updat­ed auto­mat­i­cal­ly.

Also, putting my prover­bial mon­ey where my prover­bial mouth is, here are a few things I’ve done on my blog to offer you some choic­es:

  • You’ll see the abil­i­ty to sub­scribe to com­ments via RSS below. (OK, I did­n’t actu­al­ly do this; it’s a Word­Press fea­ture.)
  • Since I like co​.mments​.com so much, I’ve also added the abil­i­ty to track a post’s com­ments via co​.mments​.com. (See under­neath the com­ment form.) The link is kludgy, but using Javascript in Word­Press is an obsta­cle I haven’t tack­led (yet).
  • Last­ly, you can also track com­ments via email, as per the Sub­scribe to Com­ments plu­g­in. (Also under­neath the com­ment form.)
  • If you’re some­one who wants all com­ments on all posts, you can sub­scribe to my blog’s com­ments feed. Word­Press does­n’t offer that to the brows­er as an avail­able feed, and I’m dis­in­clined to add it giv­en the oth­er choic­es above. (How­ev­er, if you want this, make the case; I’ll be pret­ty eas­i­ly con­vinced.)

Sor­ry I had­n’t done these soon­er. “Com­ment man­age­ment” is def­i­nite­ly a fea­ture I have want­ed to offer on my blog, I just had­n’t put in the time yet to imple­ment them. (Thanks for the kick in the pants, Steve!)

WordPress OpenID plugin: Now providing

I was very pleased to find out today that the Word­Press OpenID plu­g­in was updat­ed. Among some gen­er­al fix­es, the newest ver­sion sup­ports act­ing as an OpenID provider. In oth­er words, I can use my “andrews​ki​.net” domain to sign in to any OpenID-enabled web­sites, of which there are plen­ty. I can then man­age my authen­ti­ca­tions with­in my Word­Press set­tings. All very good stuff.

(One heads-up: the OpenID plu­g­in encour­ages you to install the XRDS-Sim­ple plu­g­in. The descrip­tion is there, but I missed it.)

My gen­er­al goal is to make my domain as use­ful as pos­si­ble, and this is def­i­nite­ly a big step.

Tumblr doesn’t play nice

They say hind­sight is 20/20, and often it’s vin­di­cat­ing.

I haven’t looked back since I switched from Tum­blr to Word­Press. Host­ing my own blog is much more sat­is­fy­ing and I have much more con­trol and flex­i­bil­i­ty over my con­tent and its appear­ance. It’s reas­sur­ing to see that oth­ers have found the same.

So I real­ized last week that Tum­blr does­n’t hon­or pingbacks/trackbacks; two friends linked to my blog and I got noth­ing. Word­Press does them auto­mat­i­cal­ly, and I’d think Tum­blr should (to fit the no-non­sense blog­ging plat­form that it is.) I guess it fits the some­what solip­sis­tic nature of Tum­blogs, but it cer­tain­ly does­n’t help build an online rep­u­ta­tion.