Categories: "computer/tech"

Prius mileage

Toyota Prius monitor showing 54.2 MPG

For the first 10,000 miles my fuel economy on the Prius was around 39 mpg. Since then it's gone up steadily until it hit about 45 mpg. I reset the counter and paid a bit more attention to how I was driving for 2 tanks of gas and this is where it ended up. 54 mpg is pretty good, considering the fact that it was mostly on the highway and the EPA rating for this car is 51 mpg on the highway (60 in the city, 55 combined).

With gas at this price, the investment in a hybrid is paying for itself more quickly than I expected.

Adrian Journal 2.0

This week we launched the redesign of AdrianJournal.com. The site is now powered by Drupal and features a modern look, online classifieds, more interactive features and larger photos (click on the thumbnails). It's much easier to update than the old PostNuke version was, and the pages load faster, too. While b2evolution is still my blogging tool of choice, Drupal is a very nice, flexible web app for making online community sites.

Fake company names

I needed to come up with a list of fake company names for a demo site at work. I started making up company names, but then I realized that there are plenty of company names in popular works of fiction. I found a few lists online and compiled my favorites into this list of 123 fake company names. Feel free to use it if you need something similar. And if you're really bored, look through my list and see how many you can identify.

GMaps feature request

Google, I'm going to give you an idea. I won't even charge you the normal consulting fee you pay when you ask me for ideas. This one's on the house. I like how I can get directions from one point to another and I like how I can search an area of the map or a zip code for businesses, but sometimes I want to use those two together. Sometimes I want to see all the places to eat that are on the way from point A to point B. I don't want to wander very far from my route. Businesses that are just off of the highway are ideal. My route might take me through several zip codes, so the normal business search doesn't narrow the results down enough. I think Mapquest used to try to show hotels that were along a route. Anyway, Google, I'm giving you permission to use this idea for free.

Camino and Firefox tip

I was already planning on posting this tip, but it's also relevant to Dave's question. He's right, Firefox's method for searching within a page is very nice. You type cmd+F (or ctrl+F on Windows) and a little bar appears at the bottom of the page. In Camino, as in most browsers, the search window appears on top of the page, sometimes getting in the way.

But instead of using cmd+F, try tapping the / key. They just start typing your search term. It will be found as you type. If the highlighted word is not what you want, push cmd+G to find the next instance. Even more useful: Tap the ' (single quote key) and you can find as you type, only this way your search is limited to links on the page. As soon as the link you want is highlighted, just press enter and you follow the link. Both of these tips work on Firefox and Camino.

This provides another way to keep my hands on the keyboard, which I can operate more quickly and comfortably than a mouse. It would be even better if I could use cmd+Enter to open the link in a new tab. That works in Firefox but not Camino.

Update: This bug was first reported for Camino in 2002. Holy crap, can it be that hard to fix?

Kinesis Keyboard

I like it: Kinesis Advantage Ergonomic Keyboard
It's better than: Normal keyboards
Why the change?
I started having numbness and pain in my wrist, elbow and fingers about a year and a half ago. I've been to the doctor, tried better posture, an ergonomic mouse, stretching, a splint, HandEze gloves, dictation software, using the computer less, taking breaks, taking pain-killers, massage and going to a chiropractor. A few months ago, I decided to get a better keyboard. I shopped around a bit and found some fairly cheep ergonomic keyboards, but many of the reviews I read raved about the Kinesis. It looked strange, but I liked the idea of using my thumb more. This review was a big part of why I went for it. He also talks about switching to the Dvorak keyboard layout, which I considered. But he said it took longer and made less of a difference than just switching to a Kinesis with QWERTY. It did take me a few days to get back up to speed, but I love my keyboard now. If I try using a normal keyboard, it's slow and painful.

I still have to deal with some pain, but I'm learning my limits and I can get through a day at work now. I stopped wearing the gloves and cut my stretching way back. I think I was overdoing it and it was becoming counterproductive. I'm also using AntiRSI, a little Mac program that reminds me to take breaks. This problem sucks and I may always have to deal with it, but I feel like I've got it under control now. My keyboard has been a big part of that.

Google Reader

I like it: Google Reader
It's better than: Bloglines
Why the change?
RSS readers are programs or web apps that let you subscribe to rss feeds, so you can keep up with dozens or hundreds of web sites without visiting each one. I described this two years ago and recommended Bloglines as a feed reader. When Google came out with their own feed reader I tried it and wasn't impressed. As they improved it, more and more people were switching, but I still didn't like it as well as Bloglines. The biggest feature I was missing was the ability to manually order my feeds and folders. I wanted my must-reads at the top and the feeds I rarely look at on the bottom. Google Reader still doesn't have this feature, but I finally switched after going through one too many Bloglines outages.

I've been very happy with the switch. Google Reader is so well designed that you don't have as much trouble keeping up with your reading. And I can hide feeds and folders with no new items, so the stuff I need to see sort of naturally floats to the top. The lack of arbitrary ordering hasn't really bothered me at all. A big advantage over Bloglines, is that Reader lets me look at a few items in a feed without marking the whole feed as read. It also has some great keyboard shortcuts, which make navigation much faster than mouse-driven sites.

Camino

I like it: Camino
It's better than: Firefox on OS X
Why the change?
It's been two years since I switched to Macs and I absolutely love them. But there's a dirty little secret about Macs: Firefox, my favorite web browser, tends to run very slowly on OS X. A Firefox developer recently asked for gripes from Mac Firefox users on his blog. There was a long list. The biggest problem for me has been performance. After Firefox has run for a few hours, it will often be using up 20-80% of my CPU and over 400 MB of RAM (not to mention over a GB of virtual memory). Reports of memory leaks are common, but they're often blamed on extensions. I've tried running with fewer extensions, but it didn't seem to help much.

So, at the suggestion of a co-worker I switched to Camino. It's based on the Firefox project, but it's built to run on OS X. It fits in better with the Mac style and most importantly, it performs much better. I can run Camino for days and days and it will rarely use more than 100 MB or RAM. It seems to know how to give up RAM when it's finished with it, a trick that Firefox rudely fails to do on OS X. The one huge downside is that Firefox extensions don't work on Camino. It does have built in ad-blocking, so there's no need for the otherwise must-have extension, AdBlock Plus. There is a website with some add-ons for Camino: Pimp My Camino. But it's a pretty weak offering compared to Firefox's add-ons. There's nothing equivalent to FireBug, so I still use Firefox when I need that tool.

If you use the normal download, you'll be getting version 1.0.4. I recommend that you get a development snapshop using a tool like CaminoKnight. That will give you some of the newer features, such as built-in spell checking.

I've been very happy with this switch. If Firefox 3 works better on OS X, as has been promised, then I may switch back, but for now, Camino is the snappiest option for me.

Happy birthday, DBC

It was four years ago today that I was presumptuous enough to think the internet needed one more web site of personal yammerings. Danny's Blog Cabin was born on LiveJournal on May 30, 2003. Eight months later I moved to Brendoman.com at the generous invitation of Brendan. It would be appropriate to stop and reflect on what we've all learned in the last four years, how much things and people have changed and what the fifth year and beyond might hold in store for this safe haven of personal expression and exploration. But instead of any of that crap, I'll post this picture of monkeys riding bicycles.

Starcraft 2

Blizzard has announced that they are working on a sequel to their classic sci-fi strategy game, Starcraft. They began development after the release of Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne, which was in January 2003. So, they've been working on it for four years! There's no release date yet, but it will be out for both Macs and PCs at the same time. You can watch trailers, see screenshots and read about some of the new units at the Starcraft 2 site. Starcraft is still my favorite video game. After their success with World of Warcraft, it's great to see Blizzard revisiting this game.

Penny Arcade has a theory about how Blizzard was able to keep this project under wraps for so long.

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