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May
16th
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Apr
11th
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May
2nd
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"Import from Clipboard" for Zotero

I spent a half day recently learning the necessary XUL and Javascript to add an “import from clipboard” function to Zotero. This is a big improvement on my my old process for adding entries with BibTex embedded in a web page. Previously I had to:

  1. Copy the BibTex to the clipboard
  2. Paste it into a temporary file
  3. Choose the import from file function

This got frustrating very quickly. Now I can just:

  1. Copy the BibTex to the clipboard
  2. Choose the import from clipboard function

Apparently there has been talk of having Zotero automatically detect the presence of BibTex on a web page and offer to import it. That would be great.

For the mean time, here is my patch. The diff is against the current 1.0 SVN version, but the last I checked it applied okay against the trunk too. I’ve only tested with BibTex on Mac and Linux, but, possible encoding issues aside, I expect it will work with the other supported import formats.

Zotero’s dev/svn and trac access page explains how to switch to an SVN version from a packaged version.

Disclaimer: I’m not associated with the Zotero project and this is not release quality code. Your mileage may vary.

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Apr
10th
Fri
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rsdl.py: command-line downloads from rapidshare.com

I’ve been using rapidshare.com a lot lately (don’t ask). When you’re downloading a lot of files it gets to be a real pain clicking through manually and waiting for the “you freeloader” countdown. This afternoon’s fun with Python was a quick script to batch downloads from the command line. Use it as follows:

% ./rsdl.py http://rapidshare.com/files/12341234/blah.blah

or

% ./rsdl.py < urls.txt

Where urls.txt contains rapidshare URLs to be found via a regular expression. In this mode files that already exist in the current directory are skipped.

Adding a -v argument gives some detail about what is going on.

rsdl.py needs mechanize and urlgrabber. It makes all sorts of assumptions about rapidshare’s HTML and URL structure so it will break any time they change things.

Enjoy.

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Nov
11th
Tue
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In your face 15 year old self!

High score of 112,699,495 on the Steel Wheel table in Pinball Dreams.

Now if I can just finish Monkey Island I need never play games again.

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Jul
22nd
Tue
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In the past ten days, a Ukrainian and a German ship have been freed after paying ransoms to Somali pirates thought to be $800,000 and $750,000 respectively.
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Jul
17th
Thu
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a language-neutral, platform-neutral, extensible way of serializing structured data for use in communications protocols, data storage, and more.
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Jul
4th
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Jun
25th
Wed
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Personal Databases

My Mac does a great job of providing me with the tools I need to make data management efficient. Mail.app, Eclipse, Address Book, iCal, iPhoto, iTunes etc take care of their respective data types with style. I normally use my text editor to keep track of arbitrary structured data that isn’t covered by a tool I like. I’ve got backup records, financial data, minutes and notes from various types of meetings, lists of books/movies/CDs, passwords (encrypted and plaintext) and more. What I’ve realised I want when dealing with these, but don’t get from the combination of my filesystem and the text editor, is:

  • Input cues. I want forms to fill in, rather than a blank page that I’ll mess up or have to think about laying out.
  • Data validation. I want the system to tell me when I forget data or input something insane.
  • Derived data fields. I want summary statistics to be displayed as I enter data and search for it.
  • Structured search. Spotlight (or even CTRL+F) is great, but it’s not the most convenient way to list action items from project meetings last month or check when I last backed up my iPhoto library. It certainly won’t let me pipe the results into another tool.
  • Versioning. I want change metadata to let me search and backtrack. 
  • Synchronisation to my ipod/phone. Some data needs to be with me at all times. I should be able to mark it for synchronisation to my mobile devices.

Since “personal database” seemed a reasonable description of what I had in mind, downloading the Bento trial was my first attempt to give myself and TextMate a rest and satisfy my urge to systematise. Unfortunately Bento only made me more aware of what I was lacking. Only simple type-based validation is possible, calculated fields have very limited functonality, there is no programmatic interface to the data, and the forms interface is restrictive and surprisingly unattractive.

Other personal database applications I tried were evidently built by people trying to solve different problems. Instead I’ve adopted Django as a flexible solution that gives me interface richness and complete control over my data-models at the cost of some programming time. Django’s “admin” tool automatically provides nice CRUD forms for my models. Fortunately I like programming and consider learning a new web framework a worthwhile time investment, though I’ll probably prefer to wait for someone else to solve the mobile device synchronisation problem. I still think there’s a niche for an application to help structure-focussed folks who aren’t necessarily programmers. Maybe Filemaker will get closer with the next version of Bento.

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Jun
13th
Fri
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Today, we announced a non-exclusive advertising agreement that will provide Yahoo! with access to our AdSense for search and AdSense for content advertising programs on their U.S. and Canadian web properties. In addition, we will work to enable interoperability between our respective instant messaging services allowing users better, broader communication online.
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