Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fisher Space Pen Hacking

Last year the Fisher Space Pens were all the rage. An amazing pen, that writes in the cold, in heat, upside down, even under water. Only problem: it's $20...

Seeing as how my favorite batch of pens were purchased 20 for $2.50, paying $20 for a pen is quite a stretch for me. On top of that, I had heard some people grumble that it isn't really all it's cracked up to be, as far as being a pen is concerned.

So I head over to the local UC Davis bookstore and buy not the pen, but the $5 ink replacement for said $20 pen. One empty 13 cent pen, a bit of scotch tape, and some exacto knife-fo later, I have a $5.13 pen which writes the same as the $20 Fisher Space Pen.

My feeling:
I'm glad I didn't spend $20 on it. It is a rather nice pen, but even after getting the ink cartridge warmed up after a few days, it doesn't write as dark as I like. I'm just too much of a fan of the heavy black gel ink pens to like something this sophisticated. It is not worth $20, but was a very entertaining way to spend 20 minutes and $5 is acceptable. Supposedly, since the ink is pressurized, it does do well writing on surfaces other than paper, which I have yet to try out.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sunnyvale's Finest

So it sure seems like our family can't go a whole year without talking to the city police about something. Last year it was a stolen license plate, year before a drunk driver, year before that some guy getting chased by three others with baseball bats.

Tonight on the way home from Fry's, we were driving by my high school and on the left side of the street we spotted a column of smoke. At first I thought it was just someone putting out their fireplace with water, but once we got the chimney in view, we were able to see three feet of flames coming out of it. Kristina whips out the cell phone, calls Sunnyvale's seven digit 911 number (408-730-7100), and hands it to my dad.

The dispatcher authorized us to run the left turn red light to get over into the townhouse complex to find the house on fire. We speed over to it, and circle around the block, and can't find it. It couldn't have been ten minutes from when we called to when we had a full fire response and at least two police cruisers. Unfortunately, (actually, very fortunately) we just couldn't find the fire. The chimney had flared up, burned out, and died.

And so resets the timer until the next time we get to call the Sunnyvale Police and Fire (which are actually both in the same department, Public Safety). Let's hope we might actually make it to a year for once...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wikipedia Gears Cache Script

The concept:
Combine Google Gears, Greasemonkey, and Wikipedia to make something very cool. It adds a box to the side of every Wikipedia page with a link to cache it, so you can then revisit it when you're not connected to the internet.

Google Gears:
Google Gears is a toolbox Google made to let you access websites offline. The first use I know of was the Google RSS reader, where you download all the news, then read it offline and sync back up the next time you're connected.

Greasemonkey:
This is a firefox plugin which lets you install scripts to change how web pages look. You can install one script that censors words, or changes the color of some outline of a website, or inserts extra useful links into websites (which is what this script does)


So all of this together comes together into the dream of every wikipedia junky like myself. Unfortunately there is one problem with the script. It lists every page you have cached, which is no good. I want to be caching like a fiend, without putting a huge ugly box on the side of every en.wikipedia.com page I visit. Thus, I edited it.

I think it's very impressive work, since I've never done anything with javascript before, and I did all of this sitting in a motel room near Fresno with no internet or reference material. There is still one problem:
  • The [ Cache Page ] and [ Show Cache ] links render next to each other. This problem isn't there when it's [ Page Cached ] and [ Show Cache ]
So to get started:
Get Firefox
Install Greasemonkey
Install Google Gears
Install WikipediaOffline script
Read the original project page
Apply my patch. There is a program to do it in unix, but most people will need to do it manually. If you're really interested, just email me and I'll send it to you.

My patch:
(edit: looks like blogger mangles all the whitespace, sorry guys. Just ask me to email it to you.)

[Code patch deleted by Kenneth]
I'm not going to claim any copyright on this since it's just moving stuff around. If you do want to repost it or use it in any way, just let me know in a comment, and link back here if appropriate.

Mad props to Ben Lisbakken for a great script to start with.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Tip of the Day - November 1, 2007

Write down all your credit card numbers.

My girlfriend just lost her Visa card a few days ago. If she had had her card number written down somewhere, it would have been that much easier to call and cancel her card. Don't write it down on a piece of paper and leave it in your wallet, it'll probably end up getting stolen with your cards. Put it somewhere useful, like in your desk or in your cell phone.

If you want to be very clever, when you write it down, use an offset. Then you're not exposing yourself to any more risk. ie 2345 6789 could be written down as 4567 8901. When you lose your card and need to get it back, just subtract 2 from each digit, wrapping around, and you're good to go.