Categories: "computer/tech"

Instant translation

Google announced their new AJAX Language API today. I thought a translator that worked as you type would be cool and I was able to put one together in just a few minutes:

Instant translation

Now I wonder how hard it would be to make an iPhone optimized version . . .

Lifelike robotic quadraped


Boston Dynamics, a small DARPA-funded robotics company is designing the robot in the video for the US military. The video shows the bot, called BigDog, maintaining balance while being kicked, slipping on ice, climbing over rubble and leaping. It can carry more than 300 pounds.

(via io9)

Personman for the iPhone

Last week Apple finally released the iPhone SDK so that developers can create programs that run natively on the iPhone. I downloaded the SDK and installed it. It would be fun to learn some Objective-C and try my hand at making iPhone apps, but web development is my main interest right now. While the iPhone has always been able to run web apps through the mobile version of Safari, the new SDK does include some tools for web developers. Dashcode, which used to just be a tool for making Dashboard widgets, now lets you make iPhone-optimized web applications. It includes most of the UI elements and animations that native apps have, but it's all done in XHTML, CSS and JavaScript.
I used the RSS template in Dashcode to make an iPhone version of my website: It runs off of my normal RSS feed, but it presents the data in an iPhone-friendly way. All I really had to do was plug my feed url in and then I added my header image and changed some fonts. And the SDK comes with an iPhone simulator, which I used for the screenshot.

The page works in Safari on a computer, too, but if you try to view it Firefox or IE it's going to break badly. The apps that Dashcode creates use some custom JavaScript functions that only work in Safari. Most of them are meant to improve performance or add eye candy. I don't have one yet, but I think the iPhone is a great device. I'm torn about this approach to development, though. It's incredible to have such a small device with these kinds of capabilities. The non-standard browser features like SVG, off-line data API and hardware accelerated animations make it possible to do so much with so little. But making a version of a site that only works in one browser and breaks terribly in all others feels a bit too much like using FrontPage to make a site that only works in IE. The fact that FrontPage sites are disgustingly ugly and iPhone sites are sexy and useful doesn't change the basic fact that it's flouting standards and causing problems down the road. Apple says that they're submitting these features to the web standards boards.

This was a fun experiment and I'll be learning more about it, especially if I finally break down and get an iPhone. Even though there are upsides and downsides to developing for the iPhone, the important fact remains that it has the best mobile browser that I've ever seen. It does a brilliant job of making regular web pages useful on a small screen.

Street view in KC

Street View in Google Maps now includes Kansas City.

Screencast: Install weather plugin for b2evolution

Here's a video showing how to install and use my Weather plugin for b2evolution.


Screencast: Install b2evolution

I made the video below to show how to install b2evolution in under 5 minutes.


If you have ideas for other video tutorials, please leave a comment.

MacHeist II

The Apple community/fanboys are abuzz about tomorrow's Steve Jobs keynote address. It's always fun to see what they come up with, but I'm not in the market for a sub-notebook or renting movies through iTunes, so it won't mean too much to me. If they announce a new iPhone with 3G, GPS and a huge price cut, then I might get seriously excited.

MacHeist is selling software bundles in conjunction with MacWorld Expo and giving 25% of the proceeds to charity. It's fun to watch because as the sales go up, they add more apps to the bundle. The price is $49 and the current list of apps retails for $368. I'm looking forward to making some stop motion animation, balancing my checkbook and maybe making some screencasts with the bundled apps. Pixelmator is the latest to be unlocked. It's a PhotoShop-type app with stunning Mac style. Check the list of apps and the causes that they're supporting. If you decide to buy, please use my referral link below:

MacHeist II

b2evolution version 2

Development releases of b2evolution version 2 have been coming out since September. I've watched the new features and waited for things to stabilize a bit before upgrading the install. Version 2.3.0 should be out in a day or two and it's being labeled a release candidate. I've upgraded most of my plugins to work with the 2.x series, so the main obstacle now is upgrading all of the skins. What's new in version 2?

In addition to all the bugfixes and subtle improvements that come with new versions of most software, this update has some notable features.

New admin interface

Francois was working on the new admin skin during his US trip this summer, so I got a sneak peak at it. I think it's really beautiful. One of the things that drew me to b2evolution originally was the very attractive admin interface, and the new version continues that tradition. Don't take my word for it, check out the demo.


While you're there, take a look at the new toolbar at the top of the page. There are links to the pages that you'll use the most, and this toolbar also displays when you're viewing the blog, too, provided you're logged in.


This may be the best feature of the new version and it will be totally unnoticeable to readers. In old versions, when a blog admin installed a new plugin, they would have to edit the php files that make up their skin in order to have the plugin display something. With widgets, you install the plugin, click a link to add the widget and it's on your site. No php knowledge required. This is great for any admin, but especially for multi-user sites like ours. Now when a user wants to change up their sidebar, they can do it themselves. And if they switch skins, their sidebar goes with them. It's also nice for plugin developers because we can trim a few steps off of our install instructions.


Here's one that may only matter to developers. b2evolution now ships with the jQuery javascript library (actually it has since 1.10). This will help us add features that make b2evolution faster and easier to use. The very small number of changes that I've made to the core were centered around this feature.

Improved urls

b2evolution has always had clean urls for posts, but this release adds them for categories, too. Instead of you can have There are more choices for post urls, including /post_title, /category_name/post_title and /2007/12/27/post_title (the old default).


This doesn't matter much to me, but if search engine placement is very important to you, you'll be happy to see that you can choose from among 5 SEO expert recommended settings or you can tweak the SEO settings yourself.


For several months now, Francois has been adding features to make it easier to post photographs. That now includes image resizing and skin dedicated to displaying photos.

I'm really looking forward to getting on this new version. Once I finish upgrading all the plugins, I'll have to deal with skins. The skinning api changed more than anything, so upgrading old skins will be time-consuming. If any of the hostees want to volunteer to switch to a skin that already works for version 2, that would speed up the process.

Congratulations to the developers on this new release. If you run your own b2evolution install, be sure to give it a look. You can find 2.x-ready plugins here and here.


After months of talking about it and mentally converting various sums of money to the equivalent number of Wiis (1 iMac = 6 Wiis), I finally broke down and bought a Nintendo Wii. I picked up Wii Play and Super Mario Galaxy. We set it up last night and had a lot of fun. Sara destroyed me in tennis and bowling. Emma and I made Miis that look like us and I added the Check Mii Out channel and downloaded a few celebrity Miis. Ever wondered who would win in a boxing match between Chuck Norris and Jesus? If you have a Wii and want to exchange Wii # so we can send each other Miis, email me.

Number one

Outstanding Achievement in the Field of ExcellenceA few months ago I mentioned that my site was the #2 result on Google when you search for Danny. Well, now I've moved up to the first result. Take that, other people named Danny! Seriously, this seems like a big mistake. Yahoo at least puts Danny Elfman ahead of me.

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