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:, 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 so much, I’ve also added the ability to track a post’s comments via (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 “” 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.