Saturday, January 29, 2011

Duck Duck Go is the best thing since Google. Literally.

I am a Google man. I have used Google ever since I moved away from Netscape on dial-up. But to say that I've been disappointed in Google's searching capabilities is putting it lightly. It's mostly two problems: (1) the results, and (2) the 'features.'
  1. It will pull up results that are "kind of" related, like searches for your search terms.
  2. Instead of bringing up pages that are about all words, it will bring up a page with any of the words of your search. Also, it will bring up "close" words. And by "close", I mean, "not." A word that is one letter off is not close. It's a whole other word.
Honestly, the lack of good results should be extremely evident. Google used to be so seamless that I would almost forget how much I used it; I searched, and the result I want is on the first page. Now, I'm lucky if I find the answer, 20+ pages of crap. Not possible answers, crap.


ANYWAY, I stumbled across Duck Duck Go a while ago, and to sum it up, here are the reasons I think you should use Duck Duck Go.
  1. It's open source. You've got to love that. The guy who runs it is very, very open with exactly how DDG works, even down to the how many servers/hard drives it uses.
  2. It doesn't track you. Google really kind of sucks when it comes to this regard. The sites track you, and Google keeps track of your searches. DDG does not. Still not convinced? Read this.
  3. Zero-click. When you search, a box shows up before your results that contains a good summary of that term, even if it's something bizarre like "age of Craig Ferguson" (down to the DAY, mind you). Sound lame? Shut up. It's actually really cool, but if you don't like it, it's only optional meaning you can turn it off.
  4. Good stuff + !Bang. The good stuff that Google has like math operations and conversions, and much, much more. But in addition to that, it's also got it's own useful too called "bang" (because of the '!'). So what if I wanted to search amazon for a new pair of gloves? All I have to do is type in "!amazon gloves" -or even just "!a gloves"- and it will take me straight to the amazon search results. Overall, I'm really impressed with Bang. Is it necessary? No. Do you have to use it? No. But it is there.
  5. Extreme customization. To be honest, I'm not really fond of the way DDG starts out looking, but the fact is, you can change just about anything about DDG. You can add favicons to results, toggle auto-loading results, and adjusting the look and feel like changing the header, the font size, the width, the placement (left or middle), and even the font.
  6. Keyboard Shortcuts. I haven't used them much yet, but I think that this could definitely speed up my search abilities. I mean, they have one for selecting the "Did you mean ____?" misspelling suggestion.
  7. Still short URL. DuckDuckGo.com might seem really long, so you can also use Dukgo.com, which is actually less characters than Google.

Duck Duck Go really breaks through when it comes to features. If you want, you can essentially make it look exactly like Google (sans Instant [thank god]), or, if you feel more adventurous, you can customize it to something that suites your fancy more.

There are only two areas that I'm not so sure about when it comes to DDG.
  1. Speed. Google is flipping fast. DDG is pretty dang fast, but I don't think it's as fast as Google. I'm talking maybe a very small fraction of a second, so really not significant at all. But some people may notice it. Others may not. You might not have noticed any difference, had I not mentioned it.
  2. Search Results. I haven't used DDG enough, but I'm pretty sure that, if anything, DDG will miss results instead of Google, who gets all the results, but gets so much other crap that it's almost impossible to find the good.
    This will mostly take time, and as much as I hate to say it, dedication. Find a result with DDG, then !Bang it and see if the same result appears near Google (or Bing, for those of you with no souls).
If you want it to be very, very much like Google, switch the settings as follows:
  • Turn 0 click Off (if you really don't like it)
  • Turn Favicons Off
  • Turn Color to White
  • Turn Size to Medium
  • Turn Width to Wide
  • Turn Placement to Left
  • Turn Underline to On
  • Turn Header to On & scrolling (or On & floating, which is AWESOME)
  • Turn Highlighting to Off (Awesome feature, though)
  • Turn Feedback to Off
  • Turn Top Links to Off
  • Turn Dropdown to Off
Of course, but turning off maybe of these features, you are turning off many of the features that make DDG great. But maybe you're hesitant to switch over, and I understand that; start with a very Google-like DDG, then maybe you can switch over to some of the awesome features it offers.


I feel I've given an accurate estimation of what I think of Duck Duck Go so far. I leave it to you to try.
Duck Duck Go. Duck it.
-Bry

Sunday, January 23, 2011

FOSS equivalent of Flash

This thought has been bubbling for a long, long time, at least since February of last year, if not sooner. Why is there no Open Source alternative to Flash? Flash is, no doubt, one of the most essential parts of the internet, hence why Apple takes so much flack for claiming that it is outdated.

I know that already you might be thinking of HTML5. I don't think HTML5 was around back in February, and it could be said that it's not even around now. I mean, it's around, but not in a way that you can just pull up any website and see HTML5 at work, and certainly not in a way that you can see it replacing Flash across the web. As Greensock.com put it,
HTML5 is an evolving standard that promises some exciting capabilities, but it is most definitely NOT a Flash killer.
Now basically, I see several different uses for Flash -some have alternatives, some don't. Also, I realize that they all kind of mesh together here and there, but duh, they are all made from the same source.
  1. Videos.
    Oh come on, you had to see this coming. Everyone loves their flash videos. When complaining that iOS doesn't have flash, watching videos outside of the Youtube app is almost always the driving reason. But the fact is, this isn't even necessarily Flash itself, it just uses Flash to embed a video file (usually FLV) onto the web page. HTML5 is actually a decent replacement for that, as far as I know.
  2. Website Navigation.
    I myself have mixed feelings about this, but it's still a valid use for Flash. Most sites that tend to use this tend to go overkill on the flash (like "zing" or "look-at-me"), so I find it annoying most of the times, but it can be used to subtly add a navigation to your site. I think that HTML5 might also be good for this, but I really haven't looked into it.
  3. Animations/Games.
    Perfect example of Animation: Homestarrunner. Perfect example of Games: Super Smash Flash. Honestly, most Flash games tend to suck something fierce, but there are many, many decent ones out there that can be played right in your browser. Plus, you can download many of them as SWF files and play them on your desktop. This is where I don't think that are any alternatives at all.
 I'm really getting offtrack, since I didn't want to do a complete breakdown of Flash vs. HTML5. But I wanted to clarify where I was coming from: I'm not talking about embedding videos or even website navigation, I'm talking more on the sides of animations and games.Why is there no open source application that can be used to create Strong Bad e-mails, or create games like Super Smash Flash? A while ago, I thought that maybe it could even use flash files, or be able to compile to SWF, but I realize now that it's probably impossible just because Flash is so proprietary (not that I'm knocking it....Adobe's a good company). But even so, any alternative would be good, and I'm somewhat confused as to why there is none.

-Bry

Monday, January 10, 2011

Video Vednesday : Bite me

Bite me is a video series about zombies and nerds who play zombie video games. It's actually really well shot with good dialog and acting. I was extremely impressed, and hey: zombies.



-Bry

Saturday, January 8, 2011

PROJECT: Tabletbook

Ok, I know that recently I said I wanted to find a new case for my EEE 901, and I hate to switch plans, but I am. I thought alot about it, especially the dimensions, and just how a 12" x 9" x 1" is actually more the size of a laptop than anything which is rather pointless, especially since with school starting soon, I definitely am going to need a computing device, one that has a screen.

A good while ago, I saw some sweet mods floating around the eeeuser forums, and the one that struck me as being not only awesome but easy is "Just Another Tablet" by McG. He essentially took a 701 and turned it into a tablet, touch screen and everything. And I want to do the same with my 901.

Stage 0: Taking it apart
I had almost completely taken it apart earlier with the exception of the wifi cables. They were trapped underneath the foil and I didn't know the ramifications of removing them. After reading McG's thread, I realized it would be fine. So I ripped off not only the wires but also the foil as well. Now everything that can come off my EEE....well, can come off. The mic, webcam, everything.

I needed to test it and make sure that it worked (the "DO NOT TOUCH" tape really freaks me out), so I hooked it up and tried a good ol' booterup. For some reason, I installed some weird version of WinXP and it had had trouble booting up in the past, but this time, I left the room and came back to find a familiar Windows XP setting on the screen. After figuring out several new pieces of information -like why the wifi wasn't working (it was turned off) and that you can rotate the screen 90/270 degrees, making it vertical- I got excited: this might work.

Stage 1: Acquiring the tools
Thankfully, I'm not going to have to solder anything or hopefully spend a ton of money. But by the guide, I think I do need the following:
  • High temperature double sided tape
  • Kapton
  • Fabric tape
  • Epoxy
  • Xacto knife
I need to promise myself that I will try to power it on while closed before getting these tools, because if I try to squeeze things together without them, I could end out scrapping the whole project. Hopefully I can score all this stuff for ~$25.

Stage 2: Get it to close
For some reason, his 701 looks like it has alot more room than my 901, I guess just from how things are placed. I figure the best approach to take at this is to divide it up into two: bottom and top. Now the bottom and top bevel fit fine together without the mobo and screen, so if I can just keep the mobo level with the bottom bevel and the screen level with the top bevel, I'll be solid. This might just take some manuevering.
The Top:
    • Basically just sanding down whatever plastic gets in the way. I also need to figure out what I'm going to use to do that.
    • He doesn't show it, but the screen has a metal frame around it and since it will be upside down, the frame might end out getting in the way, so I might just cut it off, especially since I don't think there will be any holes for screws to go in after sanding them all down.
  • Overall, the screen itself is 5mm, and I estimate the top bevel to be around 8mm. I think it's definitely possible, hopefully with some room to spare.
The Bottom:
    • I need to move the bluetooth, or at least remove the foam underneath it. The cord is hella short though, so it might be tricky.
    • I might need to move the mobo battery. Shouldn't be that hard.
    • I might need to move the speakers. At this point they look like they'll be out of the way and I hope I don't have to, but I guess I could hack them up and move them.
    • I might need to lose the pads on top of the USB and Ethernet ports. They're there to elevate the heatsink, but I need that extra space. But I don't want to cause a short somehow.
    • And lastly, I might need to snap off these prongs on the heatsink. As far as I know, the shape of the heatsink doesn't matter, and those dumb prongs just stick up and get in the way.
  • The bottom is more tricky because you're not dealing with plastic, you're dealing with components, and you can't sand those down. It will probably be the deal breaker.
This is going to be the tricky part. If I can nail this, I'm in. Of course, I'll need to get it closed, but without powering it on, because there's no point in taping things up when I'm going to....

Stage 3: Install the touch screen
What would a tablet be without one? Actually, this seems like it will be the easiest part. There's a reasonably priced one at DealExtreme for $52.70 and I found a guide on how to install it. The only reason I save this for last is because it's $50, and it's 1mm thick. That doesn't sound like alot, but it bumps the screen from 5mm up to 6mm, so if I get it all together and it just barely fits, I might not have enough room for the touch screen.

I might end out just buying it beforehand. I don't want to cut into the bevel until I'm sure what I'm dealing with, and I need to cut into the bevel to get an idea of if everything will fit.


Anyway, that's it. I'm pretty excited about it. Hopefully I can get this done before school kicks my butt.
-Bry
PS - Why has no one thought of Tabletbook? It flows, it contains all but one letter of both words....I dunno. Why keep calling them "hybrids" or using a slash? Just call them Tabletbooks.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I know what I did last Summer

The punny title aside, I actually did make a list after my last semester of things I was going to try to do. Granted, not all of these things are really productive, but I at least wanted a list so I could look back and see I had done something. So here they are, in absolutely no order whatsoever.

Completed:
  • Bought a car: Unfortunately, it was because my last car died on me...or I murdered it....in any case, I did end out buying my second car, a laser red '96 Ford Mustang. 
  • Rip DVDs: I ripped all DVDs I had, bought a few more, and ripped those too. Unfortunately, I somehow lost the files in the process of switching to Windows 7. So, yeah....
  • Switched to Windows 7: As I remain Microsoft's slave, I did end out 
  • Sorted my files, start menu, and bookmarks: I sorted a ton of files -mostly funny pictures- my start menu, and my bookmarks, multiple times. [post 1] [post 2] [post 3]
  • Find an OS for my netbook: I almost over did this. [post]
  • Jailbroke my iPod Touch: My first iDevice jailbreak! Woohoo! [post]
  • Randomizer: I wrote a program called Randomizer, which spun off of a script I wrote to pick a random TV episode. You can download it, or see the source on [FreewareWire]. (Also, I wrote it in Python too. [post]
  • CheckSwagRandom and InChromeNito: Two programs that kind of suck. But whatever. [post]
  • I bought an iPhone: Yeah, not really all that impressive, but I did buy an iPhone 3GS. It was already jailbroken. [post]
  • I bought a Clip+: Again, not impressive, and now it's my brothers (my bro's Christmas gift, since I didn't use it). [post]
  • A second monitor: Woohoo! Probably should have saved the money though. [post]
  • Got a new case: The HAF X. Such an upgrade, it's amazing. [post]
  • Bumper Stickers: I got bumper stickers, which I've always wanted to do. Woohoo for The Office, Firefly, and Switchfoot.
  • Haircut: This is actually a big deal. It was getting very long and crazy.
  • Watched movies: At least 70+ new movies, and a ton of several rewatches.
  • Video Games: I re-played Luigi's Mansion, Portal, Half Life 2, Twilight Princess, Super Mario 64, and played Darksiders
  • Made a hatrack: Not so much a rack, but still, it's cool. And it cost like $1 per hat.
  • Helped my bro build a computer: Woohoo!

Started:
  • Go: I wrote a small program called Go! Kind of obsolete at this point, but it sure was fun writing! [post]
  • MIT Lectures: I really wanted to watch it all, I'm so bad at sticking to things that require me sitting still. [post]
  • BestInstaller: A software that came from rage from an installer doing a bunch of stuff I never asked. Worked fairly well, but looked horrid. [post]
  • Zombie Farm wiki: "Started" is putting it lightly. Go ahead and look [there] if you want, I 'contributed' 95% of what you see. The only reason it's not finished is because it's missing a few pages. [post]
  • Video Games: I started Overlord, Stalker, Dead Space, and Mass Effect, and bought Crysis, STALKER, and Section 8 next.

Incomplete:
  • Linux From Scratch: I got about 50% of the way to compile a Linux distro, but then lost track. I would have finished if it didn't require booting into...ya know, Linux. [post]
  • Project vOmniMachine: It just didn't take off. I was really into OSes for a while, and it kinda wore off. [post] 
  • PEM C++: This never even get off the ground, mostly because nobody offered. [post]


Did not do: 
  • Buy Glasses: A long time ago, I got glasses for reading, and I think I still need them, probably a higher prescription. 
  • Steam deal program: I wanted to write a program to find what the best deals on Steam are, but there's already site out there that do that.
  • Pop-tops: This is going to sound weird...but I've collected pop-tops (AKA pop-tabs, pull-tabs, etc) since I was a kid, and I have 15,000, and at the beginning of my summer, I wanted to put them all on one string, and it would end out being like 100 yards long. But I never disciplined myself, so I have probably like 2,000 strung.

Peace out.
-Bry

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Resolution: CarPC / EEE case mod

I'm really not one for making New Years Resolutions, or rather, every time I've made them, they haven't lasted past January. But this year, I'm going to try to keep one: making a CarPC. I've always been extremely intrigued by it. The thing is, I don't really see that many advantages to it, but it sounds so interesting and exciting. Plus, my in-dash nav system is so terrible, making something else would be wonderful.

It's just unfamilar territory. There's specific hardware and ARM processors and all that jazz. But it sounds like so much fun, I really want to try. Maybe this summer or something, but I really need an in-depth guide like a book, or maybe eve just mp3car.com, which is a good resource for that kind of thing.


Secondly, and this is less of a resolution since I'm hoping to start and finish it ASAP, I'm trying to find a new case for my EEE 901. I kind of took it apart and can't get it back together, plus it was boring me. (For those curious, I mostly couldn't get the damn touchpad connected and working, and I think I might have even ruined the tiny cord for it.) So I want to put it in a new case. Here's what I'm thinking.

It's not going to be a netbook anymore. I'm going to trash the keyboard and mouse, and probably the screen. It's basically going to be an uber small box. I've always wanted to use a toaster, but I'd rather save that for mini-ITX or something more powerful/feature filled. But anyway, it's still going to be more or less the same features. Pretty much nothing is going to connect straight to the board, but rather through extensions.
  • USB will be just a squid/hub, like [this] - $5
  • The SD will also be an extension (which I did not know existed), like [these] - $8
  • VGA will hopefully be a very small extension, if I can find one like [this] - $15 (pricy?)
  • The audio (mic and headphones) will both be short extensions like [this] - $4
  • The Ethernet will be a short extension like [this] - $10 (pricy?)
  • Things like the speakers, mic, and fan will probably all be inside the case, or ditched. The webcam will probably have to be ditched.
  • The power Cord (see this) will be completely inside the PC, with the edge of the box sticking out.
  • The Battery will probably still be attached, but will be inside of whatever the case is.

The only things I haven't figured out are the monitor and the power switch. Well, the monitor's cord is extremely short so if I were to want to keep this a mobile device, the screen would need to be within like 2 inches of the board, unless I could find an extender, but I can't. The closest I've got is people mentioning it on the mp3car forums.
As for the power switch, instead of a traditional mobo that has pins and can be extended, the "switch" on the EEE is actually a button, so to extend it at all, I think I might have to create a clever lever mechanism. But I can't really figure that out until I decide on a case.

For the specs of the case, it needs to be somewhat open, meaning airflow is possible, and at least the following size.
  • Length: 9" for just the board, probably more like 12" because cords will be coming out both sides.
  • Width: 6" for just the board, 7" including the battery.
  • Depth: 1" because of the power box; the board is only 1.5mm though, but then it does need a little space anyway.
  • SUMMARY: 12" x 7" x 1"
As for case ideas, I really can't think of any; things like a DVD case popped into my head, but it's far too small. The best thing I've thought of is buying an iPad dummy like [this], and putting it inside. True, the screen wouldn't work, but I still think it would be hilarious. There are two problems I've run into. First, there aren't enough places to leave the ports; I think I'd end out needing an SD, VGA, two 3.5MM, an ethernet, and whatever number of USB I need, so 6+. But the iPad looks like it only has like 2 holes. Secondly and more importantly, it's too skinny. It's only 1.2mm, which the mobo itself might fit in, but I know for a fact that things like the VGA and power brick wouldn't. If the dummy was $5, I might get it just to see if I could, but at $20, I could stand to put that money toward something that will actually work.

Another idea is putting it inside a keyboard, which has already been done and is incredibly cool. But I have no idea where the Russian dude found that huge keyboard, plus he's done it first and I kind of want to do something original.

The only other idea I have is to stick it in an old video game system. I have a Sega Saturn I was thinking about getting rid of, but that this is the size of an Xbox.

It's frustrating....the things I think of are either too large or too small. I need to find one that's just right. The goldilocks of the nerd world.

-Bry