Jon Aquino's Mental Garden

Engineering beautiful software jon aquino labs | personal blog

Monday, May 22, 2006

Spice up your feedreading with FeedCloud

Today for the heck of it I whipped up a little web service called FeedCloud that takes any feed and emphasizes interesting words in it (by making them larger).

Simply specify your RSS or Atom feed here:

When you view the resulting feed in your feedreader you'll see something like this:


It adds a bit of flair to any feed; plus it works great for skimming long posts.

Source code

I call it a feedcloud because the result looks kinda like a tag cloud.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Using the Google Sidebar's Photo Widget without the sidebar

I use Google Desktop, but not in Sidebar Mode which takes up a chunk of real estate; rather I keep it in the taskbar ("Deskbar mode").

But recently I wanted to use the Photo Widget from the sidebar, and thought, "Wouldn't it be nice if I could just drag this widget from the sidebar so I could use it on its own?". Well it turns out you can:

Now I have a nifty way to keep up to date with my contacts' photos (and it makes for a nice little distraction :-)

Listing the things you like to do

In The Introvert Advantage, Dr. Marti Olsen Laney writes that introverts "can forget what we like to do" because they tend to store information in their long-term memories rather than their short-term. They just need a way to jog their memories.

For the 30% of the population that are innies like myself (and for outies too), here's a web app for recording things you like to do: To kick things off I've added "visiting the places of my youth" and "browsing used bookstores".

It's fun to see what others enjoy doing!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Voice recognition establishing a kind of bond with the computer

As I say, I've recently been using voice commands to launch programs, run macros, and start mp3s ("Computer, play Danger Zone please") and am realizing that even though these commands may take longer to say than to type or click, interacting verbally with the computer is giving me a new level of consciousness as I work. It's the consciousness of a surgeon who says "scalpel", "scissors", except in my case as my left hand holds down keys and right hand drags the mouse I'm saying "Computer, calipers please", "Firefox please", "Close window please". Some others:
  • Copy window please (Snag-It)
  • iTunes please
  • Page down please
  • jEdit please
  • Toggle Firebug please
  • View Source please (Ctrl+U)
I'd originally added "please" to the commands to distinguish them from background noise, but am finding that it does add something a bit human (or at least sentient) to the machine. And the ability to make verbal requests for programs and actions allows me to maintain focus on whatever I'm working on (as opposed to hunting through menus to find the tools I need; even working the keyboard to get some tool can degrade concentration).

"Computer, Blogger please."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Oh my - Freeware voice recognition with Voice Flux Pro

"Computer, shut down."

You can do that and much more with the freeware program Voice Flux Pro. (Note that you may need to install Microsoft Speech API).

I'm using an el-cheapo $10 computer mic, and it works fine. Surprisingly no voice training was required. Note that this program isn't for dictating text but for running commands and programs.

I'm having too much fun with this thing. Here are some commands I've made:

Useful settings:
  • Start Listening On Program Startup
  • Play Sound On All Commands (I use C:\WINDOWS\Media\ding.wav)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Operating the mouse with your foot

Yes ladies and gentlemen, I am now operating my mouse with my foot. I'm using a freeware program called MouseTool (mentioned in my previous post) to automatically click whenever the mouse stops moving (it also has a way to let you drag, and there are buttons for making the next click a right-click or double-click). Now I never have to take my hands off the keyboard. MWA HA HA HA.

The Firefox Mouse Gestures extension is handy for opening a link in a new tab when you drag up (or in a new window when you drag down).

Note that you'll need to crank down your mouse sensitivity for this to be comfortable.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


I'm trying out a new freeware program called MouseTool that will automatically click the mouse button for you when you stop moving it. There's also an advanced mode that lets you do dragging. I'm hoping this will help me to prevent RSI and other injuries.

It's actually quite fun. We'll see if it can stand up to the rigours of computer programming :-)


I've made a little site called SoftwareThatMakesMeHappy. Enter the names of software that makes your life soooo much easier!

To kick things off I've entered: Google Desktop, Firebug, and MS Script Debugger.