Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Collaborative Space and Javascript

There are more and more applications that online communities build together.

First, there is Wikipedia which is a collaborative space. Even when finding a certain piece of news, you search in Google which gives you a collection of new from various media, and you should also find it in Wikipedia because anybody can modify that site and incorporate updates into it.

I do not pay particular attention to online collaboration until I found there are thousands of amazing Firefox extensions and search plugins, where people volunteer to write codes to enhance the functionality of Firefox. Then, the Greasemonkey extension brought me to 2 million userscripts which can be imported into the extension to modify websites automatically. Alternatively, those javascripts can be implemented manually by bookmarklets. The Mouse Gestures extension further presented to me how to use javascripts to control Firefox and its extensions, and it has a Gesture Exchange site where people share the scripts they write. Recently, my sister introduced to me Messenger Plus! Live where scripts also extend its features.

The above javascript databases, together with the proliferation of AJAX sites like Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Google Reader, etc. (Google Maps, Virtual Earth...), it seems like javascript is taking over the world!

Also, online collaborative space is so powerful that free goodies are expanding and updating continually like Yahoo! Answers and Google Desktop Gadgets, just to name a few. I do have some contributions in Wikipedia, userscripts and Gesture Exchange. Get to learn more when there is time.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Split Firefox

Wants to write a Firefox extension to make reading Gmails even easier (now there are Gmail Conversation Preview, Gmail Macros and many more) by seeing emails and reply at the same time. This needs to split the view the tab so that one views the email received and another views the reply to that email currently being composed. Scrolling any view must not affect the position of another. This way, the questions in the email can be answered one by one easily.

The first splitting ability I came across was found in popTart, but it only works for Digg. Then, I noticed Tricky Frames and Split Pannel (deliberate typo?!). The most promising extension available is Content Holder from lots of extensions unlisted on the official Mozilla Add-ons.

They are not very suitable for the Gmail reading purpose and are not quite well developed. All but Split Pannel supports only up to FF1.5. They all load separate pages in each view, but maybe splitting only the view of the same page, like Word of Acrobat, is a better idea.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Music Search by Solfege Name

I sometimes hear wonderful music somewhere (TV, mobile phone ring, radio...) and wonder what is the title of the music. This is especially useful when it is hard to hear the lyrics or only the melody suddenly pops out of my mind, and most classical music does not have lyrics. Without words, the only input into such search would be the sound. However, it is hard to ask a computer to match the sound recorded from my singing to a music database, nor is it feasible to search through the database by listening.

After some thinking, I come up with a method to do this: searching the sol-fa names of part of the music in a database containing sol-fa names of many songs. Say inputting 'd r m d m d m' will give a search result containing the song "The Sound of Music". And then, the sheet music can be found for playing on the piano. A Google search does not suggest anybody is doing that yet, so this may be a business opportunity.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Truly Disposable Gmail Address

Disposable Yahoo! email address can be made on top of their original Yahoo! email. Gmail has similar thing by letting you receive emails sent to basename+keyword@gmail.com in the basename@gmail.com account, but sooner or later spammers will spam your original address because the prefixes are the same. To make a truly disposable Gmail address with alternative base name:

  1. Create a new Gmail (preferably with shorter name).
  2. Set auto forwarding from the new Gmail to primary Gmail.
  3. In the primary Gmail, create a filter having "basename OR basename+ -keyword" in the "To:" field, where basename+keyword@gmail.com are given out.
  4. In the next step, select whatever you want to do with the spams, say "delete".
To clarify, you get a new Gmail a@gmail.com, and give out a+b@gmail.com to a website, the "To:" field of the filter in your primary Gmail c@gmail.com should read "a OR a+ -b". In future, when more disposable address are made say a+d@gmail.com, just append " -d" to the filter.

Filters are not set up in the new Gmail (and hence step 2) so that no logout is needed to modify the filter. The "To:" field allows about 1400 characters, so many disposable addresses can be filtered (even if it is full, create up to 20 filters, or even get create in the new Gmail or at worst, get another new Gmail for more filters...).

Microsummary in Firefox 2.0

Live Titles: When a website offers a microsummary (a regularly updated summary of the most important information on a Web page), users can create a bookmark with a "Live Title". Compact enough to fit in the space available to a bookmark label, they provide more useful information about pages than static page titles, and are regularly updated with the latest information. There are several websites that can be bookmarked with Live Titles, and even more add-ons to generate Live Titles for other popular websites.
One significant innovation in FF2 is microsummary proposed by Myk Melez. Unlike email or RSS aggregator, it can track a specific thing and be displayed as a headline. The default update interval in 30 min, but just add "browser.microsummary.updateInterval" to be 1 in about:config and all live titles will refresh as soon as possible (still 1 min). can be specified for each generator's xml in the profile folder. Currently, there is no built in method to remove the generators, but to delete the xml in the profile.

Now, only some sites have microsummary embedded, so microsummary generators are needed for other sites. A good way is to use this Microsummary Generator Builder to "generate a microsummary generator", install it, and bookmark the live title to Bookmarks Toolbar.

With live title, the specific info like CNN headline will really be the "head line" in FF2. It is suitable when the past info is not as important (otherwise, use an aggregator). The missing piece may be sound notification once any of the live titles is updated.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

CZ-5 Model 1st Exposure in Zhuhai Space Exhibition


  • 1.5 stages
  • 4 boosters (3.35 m diameter)
  • 1 central rocket (5 m diameter)
  • 25 ton LEO
  • 14 ton GEO

Monday, October 30, 2006

Album on Honor System

Halloween Party

Success or failure? Let's see...
Reason: no sharing control yet

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Send your name to the asteroid belt on the Dawn spacecraft

Your name will be recorded onto a microchip that will be placed aboard the spacecraft accompanying it on its mission to the asteroid belt.
asteroid belt with spacecraft

Calgoo: Offline Google Calendar

It synchronizes with Google Calendar but not secure to give it my Google account password. Maybe one day Google will buy the company and there will be no such safety concern. Still trying it out... with my spare Google account :p.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Floating Desert Palms

This IKONOS satellite image was collected on July 16, 2004. The image shows this man-made island that lies off the coast of Dubai in the Persian Gulf. The island is being built from 80 million cubic meters of land dredged from the approach channel to the Emirate's Jebel Ali Port. When complete, this resort will have approximately 1,200 single-family and 600 multi-family residences, an aquatic theme park, shopping centers, cinemas and more. Photo credit "Space Imaging Middle East"

Space new image of the day

Google Map looks the best.

Ultimate Method to Make Gmail Default

Neither Gmail Notifier nor Google Talk nor Google Toolbar works consistently to make Gmail the default email client. GoogleCity » GMail Default Email Program / Start Menu looks promising, but than adding "Google Gmail" in the Internet options, it doesn't work.

Hack: Window Registry Edit to make Gmail the default mail handler should work but the file paths are not updated, so I have corrected and optimized it. Somehow it seems that a local file (dll / exe) is needed to direct email requests to a web mail and in this case gnotify.exe of Google Notifier is needed. If Google Notifier is installed, simply download this registry file and merge by opening it. Change the paths before merging if Firefox or Google Notifier are not in their default directories, or if Firefox is not used.

It should work for the default browser "send link", browser initiated email compose, mailto links and commands, plus change the email icon in Windows XP start menu to Gmail (this can be removed afterwards). "Google Gmail" is chosen in the Internet options, and emails are directed to the more secure https Gmail.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Deers and civets are commonly seen around campus, but this was the first time I watched a civet so closely, because it was dead. It was on the roadside near my home. It seemed not being hit by car though. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Pandora.com Comes to Campus

Meet Tim Westergren, founder and CEO of Pandora.com. Hear how he took his passion for music and "street" knowledge of business and made it his career. Presented by the Career Center and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
Yahoo! LAUNCHcast has been around for 6 years and ranks music by user ratings, while but Pandora, a start-up company, hires music experts to categorize music in the Music Genome Project. I haven't used the former but Pandora should be better, at least since the former cannot be opened in Firefox and the latter run on Flash. Zhu Min and I often let this free online music box open now.

Got 3 clothes from Tim too.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Built my 1st Space Ship

Star Wars Millennium Falcon Puzz3D (857 pieces) "donated" by my roommate since it was too challenging. He got it from another friend who obviously didn't build it too. Fun activity during the fall break!

There are hooking holes on the surface invisible here for hanging from the ceiling. Don't have wires yet.

See Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Han Solo (left to right) in the cabin? Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

My 2nd Userscript - Close Websites


Auto close tabs of unwanted sites. Simple one line script takes advantage of GM to automatically detect your given sites and close them. Just change the included pages to whatever you want to close.

Every time I connect to the Internet, I am redirected to a login page (https://wireless-gw.engin.umich.edu/login.pl) where Firefox fills in the password for me and AutoLogin (http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/750) press the login button, and then an unwanted page (http://www.bluesocket.com/) appears which is immediately closed by this script.

Thanks to http://www.interwebby.com/blog/2006/02/04/3/ and ‘zenith’.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

My 1st Userscript - Callto: Linkify (for Skype)

No more copying and pasting phone numbers to Skype. SkypeOut directly from your online contact list (say Gmail contacts) without any manual synchronization or addition to your Skype contact list.

Looks for phone numbers in pages and makes hyperlinks out of them. When clicking on the link, your Skype will ring and be dialing the number / link you clicked on. Works for all of these patterns:

800-555-1212, (800) 555-1212, (800)555-1212, 800-555-1212, 800-555-1212, 800 555 1212, 800.555.1212, 800/555/1212, 8005551212, +1 (number), + (international number)

Yes, when it works the above will become: 800-555-1212, (800) 555-1212, (800)555-1212, 800-555-1212, 800-555-1212, 800 555 1212, 800.555.1212, 800/555/1212, 8005551212...

Area code is needed and call to US and Canada by default. SkypeOut from US or Canada for free at least till the end of 2006. Skype to another country by changing defaultPrefix but it is not free.

Skype Web Toolbar (http://www.skype.com/download/skypewebtoolbar) has similar function but makes all websites load much slower. This script makes perceivable delays only when loading lengthy javascript pages, say Gmail all contacts list, but you can choose to disable it at that moment.