Monday, October 22, 2007

FreeRice and free new vocab

Someone pointed this site out to me, and it's quite fun. If you want to improve your vocabulary and at the same time donate some rice to those who need it, go here: FreeRice

It will give you a multiple-choice set of answers for a word's definition. The site sets a vocabulary level for you based on how you do with the first few words. The highest level is 50, but apparently anything above 48 is very rare.

I learnt a few new words that I had never even heard of before. Of course I can't give examples, because I've already forgotten them....but hey, it was fun and in a good cause :-)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Desktop Cinema, or the uncluttered desktop

I watch a lot of TV on my computer monitor. To date I have been using Windows Media Player (though I have VLC media player, which I mostly prefer), solely for the reason that it has a nice black frame around the viewing area. When I use VLC, I have to enlarge the actual video area (leading to pixellation!) if I wanted VLC to take up the entire screen.

Why do I want my whole screen taken up with the media player? Because of all that stuff on my desktop (icons, stickies, background picture) that otherwise shows up when my applications are minimised.

I have found a little (free of course!) application that will tidy it all up for me: it is called Clutter Cloak and will black out the entire desktop except for the current video/picture or current application (depending on which hotkeys you use).

This is great for watching movies, looking at photo galleries, and also when needing to take screenshots of a particular application, if you want to include parts of the (black) desktop.

The web site will tell you how to use it, give you screenshots and point you to the download - which is tiny. I found the default settings didn't work for me and I had to change the Ctrl+Alt+F11 keyboard shortcut for photos/video to Ctrl+Alt+F10 (and therefore changed the others too for the sake of consistency).

Now I can use VLC, press Ctrl+Alt+F10 and have a lovely black screen with the video in it. Fantastic! :-)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Do you speaka my langwich?

It may seem like the entire Internet is in English or little rectangles, but it really isn't.

For those occasions when you're wanting to translate a few words or even a whole web page, there are free translation services available at Google, Altavista, Yahoo Babelfish, FreeTranslation and others.

Of course, this being me, I looked to see if there are Firefox extensions available to help with translation.

foxlingo seems to be a fairly feature-rich translation extension, which would probably come in handy if you need to do a lot of translation.

Then there's ImTranslator, which seems to be more aimed at those who need to write in different languages:

With ImTranslator you can enter multilingual text, check it for correctness, adjust unreadable messages, translate in different languages, look up words, print results and send email.

But all I wanted is something that allows me to select some text, and like my right-click and search functionality in Firefox, allow me to right-click and receive a translation. Preferably without having to leave the page I'm reading.

I found it: gTranslate allow you to select some words, right-click and get a translation using Google translation services directly in your context menu. It decides which language to translate from and to based on the page you're browsing and your locale. If it doesn't know what to choose, you can tell it the language pair to choose and then right-click again to see the translation.

Neat and easy.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

So many bookmarks, so little time...

Up until recently, I had about 1600 Firefox bookmarks. I used them mainly for keeping up with my reading for sites where an RSS feed isn't suitable. I've been looking for the perfect bookmarks application for a long time (still haven't found it!) and finally settled on two online bookmarking services to replace my Firefox bookmarks completely.

After much testing of various services I settled on Google Bookmarks for my work/technology related bookmarks, and for my private bookmarks. I can't remember why I decided on these exactly (one of the reasons I now blog about these things), though multiple-tags per bookmark was one criterion, and which others I also tested (though Simpy was one of them), but this post isn't about that anyway.

This post is about searching my bookmarks.

Google Bookmarks isn't a terribly exciting thing, but they do allow one to search bookmarked sites for things - not just search the bookmark's details (url, title, comment etc), but the site it points to as well. (This confused me completely the first time I searched my bookmarks! I didn't know it did that!) This comes in handy if you know for a fact you bookmarked something but can't find it by searching the bookmark details.

But wait, you say, there's tags! Yes, but what if this is something you've only started tagging for recently and your older bookmarks weren't tagged for that concept?

So that's all great with my Google Bookmarks, but what about my private ones over at That bookmarked-site search facility would come in even more handy for the bookmarks I have there. I was contemplating importing those bookmarks into a separate account at Google Bookmarks just for this feature - which would've been a pain, having to swap logins all the time - when I came across an article about the deliGoo Firefox extension.

This little extension installs a button in your Firefox Toolbar which, when clicked on, opens a new tab/window where you enter the username, tag (optional) and search-string you want to find. The first time you run this, it takes a while to build your search engine. The next search promises to be a lot quicker.

The results are returned, looking exactly like the results of a Google search (it's a Google Custom Search, after all). Note that if you're searching your own bookmarks, it will also search your private bookmarks (not just your public/shared ones). The results also include hits from any pages in the domain, not just the particular page of the site that you've bookmarked. Now, if only those results would contain my tags...

This would almost do away with any need to tag my bookmarks,  if I didn't have such a thing for them. (Ooh! Look! I just found a site amongst my older bookmarks to tag with my new tag!)

deliGoo is available both as a Firefox extension and an Internet Explorer add-on.