Jon Aquino's Mental Garden

Engineering beautiful software jon aquino labs | personal blog

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Customizable word game for building a domain-specific vocabulary

I wanted a fun way to become familiar with 75 words from the "needs vocabulary" of Nonviolent Communication (needs like "respect", "warmth", "purpose", etc.). There's a free customizable word game called Hangaroo that you can download for Windows. The kangaroo that you are trying to save is pretty snarky ("What are you, stupid or something?"), which is a perfect backdrop for the subject I am studying.

Here's a 75-word Nonviolent Communication Hangaroo file that you can load into the program.

Hangaroo screenshot

Constructing a personal photo history using Google Earth

Westin Hotel

Google Earth (the downloadable big brother of Google Maps) is breathtaking at times. I love how you can tilt the view down to street level - especially for the high-resolution maps, the effect is quite realistic.

I'm putting together a site with meaningful places I've been to at various times in my life. And because I don't have photos of these places, I'm using Google Earth to fill in the blanks. They look pretty good too (using tilt view).

When I have an hour to kill I think I shall travel to Paris, or to Rome, visit St. Peter's Basilica, or see what Tokyo looks like.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why the jEdit text editor rocks

To anyone who is a fan of the jEdit text editor: Help me put together a list of reasons why jEdit rocks.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Experimenting with ergonomic adjustments using Meccano

If you or your child has a spare Meccano kit lying around, don't throw it away. It can come in useful when you are playing with ergonomic adjustments to your workspace. In about an hour, I threw together this little "ramp" to incline my trackball from 0° to a more natural angle.

If you want a wrist support, try stacking a couple of cassette-tape holders.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Yak Long Distance

Trying to get our long-distance bill down. Friend recommended Yak (3.5¢/min) – I'd heard of it before.

Anyway, signed-up online and the neat thing about it is that it will transparently replace our long distance provider (Telus).

Monday, October 16, 2006

Proportional fonts for programming

SnagIt Capture

I'm trying out some proportional fonts (as opposed to monospaced) for coding. The one shown above is Franklin Gothic Demi – it's normally a serious font but the color livens it up a bit. The editor is the venerable jEdit.

Part of the reason I'm paying more attention to fonts this week is that I've almost finished reading Bringhurst's The Elements of Typographical Style. It comments on typography with an authority and grace comparable to that in Tufte's Visual Display of Quantitative Information (on figures and charts).

Sunday, October 08, 2006

What's next after Ruby on Rails? Seaside (Smalltalk)

Seaside--it's a webapp framework written in Smalltalk. Very smart stuff inside (continuation-based statefulness i.e. the code looks like that of a "normal" desktop app (thick-client)). And you get to use Smalltalk, which is a very beautiful (and very old) pure-OO language.

I'm playing with it now. First heard about it from this 1-hour video.

Speeding up Windows XP shutdown: Microsoft User Profile Hive Cleanup Service

My WinXP was taking 5 mins to shut down, and now it takes 5 seconds. Give it a whirl: Microsoft User Profile Hive Cleanup Service.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Quicken WillWriter 2007, and writing a will in general

I purchased and downloaded a program called Quicken WillWriter 2007 to help me write my will. It seems to have a lot of good reviews on the web. It has a ton of useful forms, and helpful tips to get you through them. Actually looks like it will be more work than I thought, but it's quite an interesting process.

Choosing a will--it's one of those "responsible" things to do that I certainly hadn't thought of doing--until I read Personal Finance For Canadians For Dummies, and The Wealthy Barber. These books describe other "responsible" things to do as well, like building up an emergency fund, saving for retirement, and choosing broad insurance coverage.

Good stuff--wish I'd learned about them earlier.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Descriptious: Popular links with descriptions included

I think is more relevant to me than Digg. For example, I learned about GTD through Digg seems to be more about interesting and unusual happenings, whereas I'm more interested in cool tools for tech and life.

Populicious is a great summary of popular links, with no repeats. The problem is that the Populicious feed does not have any descriptions, so you just have the title to go by, and this is often not helpful (e.g. "Articles").

So I've created a feed that takes the Populicious feed and adds descriptions, culled from the "user notes" from It's called Descriptious.

(Note that I had created a similar Descriptious feed in the past, but it fell into disuse and stopped working. So I rewrote it from scratch in PHP. Source code.)