Categories
Nerdliness

Better than nothing

While submitting my URLs to be crawled by Alexa for inclusion on web.archive.org today I saw this ad on my Alexa Related Info page for my blog. I should totally buy this shirt.

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Categories
Nerdliness

Three free random nerdy-ass thingies

Between my work-related exhaustion and my as-of-recent under-active imagination I haven’t been able to think up anything interesting to write about. Thus I bring to you the answer to the question no one asked – Brian, can you give me some totally random free crap?

Yes!!

The Arcade Ambience Project by Andy Holfe

Even though I was scant 5 years old at the time, I can still sit in the dark and see in my mind’s eye arcades of yore; the cacophony of bleeps and buzzes, the contrast of neon games in darkened dens, the wocka-wocka of PacMan munching away, the audacity of the exorbitant 50 cent fee for Dragon’s Lair…

If your memory of this scenario is as fond as mine you’ll absolutely relish The Arcade Ambience Project! TAAP features a series of 60-minute audio files comprised entirely of emulated era-specific arcade games (from 1981, 1983, and 1986 respectively) and various crowd noises.

What’s the point? Good question! Incredibly I’ve found more than one use for these electronic aural tapestries.

My first use, which sounds far less useful than it turned out to be, was for the sole purpose of making noise. I found this very helpful while toiling away on school projects ,sequestered away in my basement, feeling alone and… insufficiently distracted, let’s say. The illusion of a busy environment around me felt inexplicably comforting and motivating.

A few years ago I’d been reading about externally invoking lucidity in dreams and tried using these recordings on a loop to convince my dreaming self that I was in an arcade, and then realizing, still in-dream, that I was playing this CD in real life. While I never did get this to work, I still found it rather soothing having soft chaotic white noise in the background which helped lull me to sleep.

Finally, I’m determined to slap together a contiguous bleepy techno mix with arcade ambience in the background. It’d add some atmosphere to the sound, I think, and will make the quiet parts of songs a little more interesting. “Live at the Arcade,” perhaps I’ll call it.

Iconoid by SillySot

Perhaps a decade ago my dad bought me one of the first 3D accelerated video cards on the market, the Matrox Millennium. Whether the card really accelerated 3D is debatable, but the drivers included a very innovative and, for my friends, enviable feature of memorizing and restoring the positions of desktop icons. For those of us that meticulously align icons across the desktop, such a feature is greatly welcome as there are few non-critical computer errors more annoying than having one’s desktop besmirched.

Thus, it is with elation that I introduce to you one of my favourite free software programs, Iconoid!

Not only does this whiz kid remember where your icons belong absolutely or relative to desktop resolution, it has a bunch of other rather varied and ridiculous yet fascinating features. For instance, it can hide your desktop icons if your mouse cursor is idle, it can toggle shaded icon text or analyse your desktop wallpaper to find the mathematically perfect coloured background for the text, it can partially or completely fade a window when you rest the mouse cursor over the X button, and introduces the hypnotic and befuddling icon dance!

It’s important (well, not really) to note that although this program is free of charge, it is not classified as freeware. Actually, it is categorized as “sillyware”, for which the author asks those who enjoy his software to send him something silly in return! I’ve emailed him a picture or two of some wacky crap in penniless thanks for his tireless efforts to bring me original software that fills a huge void in Microsoft’s Windows desktop. Ain’t I a saint?

nLite by Dino Nuhagic

The last motherboard I used was one of the first to support Serial ATA hard drives. While it did support this standard just fine in Windows, I ran into a snag the next time I tried installing the OS – the blue PXE (pre-boot executable environment) phase of the WinXP install couldn’t see my SATA drive even though my BIOS could! Some research revealed that a floppy disk was required for the F6 SCSI detect phase of the install, but I had no floppy drive so I was, to quote yet another TLA (three letter acronym), SOL!

Thanks to an amazing bit of freeware called nLite my goose was not yet cooked! This application allows you to create customised Windows XP install disks based on legitimate Microsoft-original CDs! It took me less than 20 minutes to study how to slipstream the rare but requisite NVidia NForce 3 SATA driver right on the installation CD so that no floppy was required. My first attempt worked like a charm!

The “fun” only starts here, though. nLite allows you to add all your hardware drivers to an install disk so that no after-installation configuration is required – a MUST for any company who mass-produces identical systems. Additionally, other programs such as Mozilla Firefox and FoxIt PDF Reader can be added to the list of default programs appearing immediately after install. Plus, many features inherent to WinXP can be toggled which is great for power users who routinely enable file extension views in Explorer, reveal system directories, and other such noob-centric annoyances.

Stay tuned for future episodes of Demodulated Crap Theatre!

Categories
Nerdliness

Where does he get those wonderful toys?

As you can probably tell from my relatively graphic-free page layout I’m a proponent of minimalist, utilitarian web design. Those who visited my blog in the early days of my dedicated domain name know that I was quick to delete an attractive but superfluous flash animation from the gorgeous base theme. Toys for the sake of toys is hardly a sake at all.

On the other hand, I’ve broken down and included a couple of value-adds while attempting to maintain look and feel as well as, especially, fast load times. Here’s a summary of the features I’ve added, starting with the newest one about which I’m the most excited.

Snap Preview

I’m as guilty as the next blogger of haphazardly and excessively hyperlinking to numerous web sites within a paragraph or even a single sentence. I do my best to back up my claims with references, but indeed it appears rather selfish to presume that my readers are interested enough in my point of view that they will research every one of my sources. Maddox, the blogger that proved to me the validity of blogging, says it best:

The problem with this layout is that there’s too much shit to click on. Seriously, who’s ever going to click on all those links? The worst blogs are the ones that make every other word a hyperlink to another website so by the time you finish reading this sentence, you’ve forgotten what you were reading, or why you were reading it in the first place. Hey, this article is great but you know what would make it better? If I could read another article in the middle of it. Great design, morons.

You may have inadvertently discovered the feature I’m about to discuss! If not, hover your mouse cursor over any hyperlink in the body of this post. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. (if you use the NoScript extension for Firefox, and you really ought to, you’ll have to permit scripts from snap.com)

Done yet?

Just this morning by chance I was reading a website featuring Snap Preview and instantly knew that this would add value to my blog for the aforementioned reason. Installation took only 5 minutes and everything seems to work out of the box. The very intelligently crafted Snap Preview WordPress Plugin automatically injected the requisite code and even let me toggle off previews for internal links, so you won’t see graphical previews of demodulated.com hyperlinks.

Do you like this feature or is it one toke over the line? Please leave me a comment and let me know. Personally, I find this feature revolutionary and infinitely helpful – particularly for my format.

–edit–

It looks like secure links prefixed with “https”, such as the NoScript extension link above, are not thumbnailed. Smart!

Also, please note that anonymous info will be tracked by snap.com for distribution to advertisers. This happens every time you view a hyperlink preview. I read the EULA before adding this feature and it seems to protect you, my readers, and myself from being individually identified. Let me know if you don’t like this, or use NoScript with Firefox to selectively enable only trusted script hosts on all the web pages you view.

–edit 2–

I’ve since uninstalled Snap Preview. Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:

snap.gif

Cloudy

At the bottom of my right-hand sidebar can be found my word cloud – a list of my fifty most-used words, sans the “the”s and “and”s, etc., with the most frequent words appearing proportionately larger than the others. I dabbled with this concept last year but discarded it as a one-off sideshow. Cloudy does a rather nice job of displaying this information as it updates in real time and considers my entire prolific blog history while ignoring the headers and footers.

Okay, so this feature doesn’t really add a heck of a lot of value. I still like it. It’s simple, immediately recognizable, and doesn’t detract from the load times or compromise the layout. I’m looking forward to the plugin being updated so that the words hyperlink to search. Maybe I can figure it out myself.

Search Meter

When I started working for my current employer my job description was Technical Writer. I was asked to create a report about our website’s search engine visibility one day, yadda yadda yadda, now I’m the company’s enterprise search specialist. I’m obsessed with search now, as a recent post suggests, and am enthusiastic about making it as easy and intuitive as possible on this blog. It’s unfortunate that Google Free Site Search is so cripplingly ad-laden as Google is certainly more effective than WordPress’ built-in search capabilities. However, WordPress’ search is rather mod-friendly.

Enter Search Meter. Simple and obvious, it displays the five most frequently user-searched terms. Period. I like this feature so much that I’ve given it prime real estate at the top of my sidebar. Too bad nobody searches my blog but me, but at least you can see *MY* top 5 searches.

I’m very picky about the toys I add to websites, but the WordPress hacker community is strong and dedicated so I’m always on the lookout.