Thursday, June 30, 2005

Sightseeing with Google Satellite Maps

Seen a while ago on the Unofficial Google weblog, Sightseeing with Google Satellite Maps. One of my favorites is an airplane taking off from Atlanta that can be seen three or four times as you scroll the maps

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Monday, June 27, 2005

700 pounds of Penguin Classics -- portable?

Bork posted a link to Amazon's sale of The Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection, an impressive (and expensive) collection of 1,082 titles weighing over 700 pounds. Interestingly, the top three titles browsed by people also shopping for this are (emphasis added):
  • The Portable Beat Reader by Various
  • The Portable Mark Twain (Penguin Classics) by Mark Twain
  • The Portable Sixties Reader (Penguin Classics) by Ann Charters
People shopping for "portable" books are looking at a 700 lb. monster collection? But wait, maybe this could be portable. Wikipedia says "A megabyte stores roughly one book." 1,082 books averaging one megabyte each is 1,082 MB or approximately 1.06 GB. That still leaves lots of room for my music collection on my iPod.

Double-checking that book size rule of thumb, I visited Project Gutenberg for ASCII (plain text) files, MemoWare for various PalmOS e-book formats, and browsed further on Amazon for Adobe Reader and Microsoft Reader formats. Here's some sample data on Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers (848 pages in the Penguin Edition)

Format File
Size (MB)
ASCII 1.72 2.1
Palm Reader 0.85 0.49
iSilo (Palm) 0.78 0.45
Adobe Reader 3.17 3.83
Microsoft Reader 0.72 0.87

In summary: compressed formats for the Palm and Microsoft reader are much smaller than straight ASCII and Adobe Reader's format is huge. [How did Microsoft manage to add in the DRM and compress at the same time while Adobe exploded the file?] Multiplying this per page size by the "nearly half a million pages" in the Penguin collection (rounding up to exactly a half million pages), we get total collection size between 0.45 GB - 1.51 GB.

That is portable.

The tricky part now is getting a small device with a sufficiently high resolution screen. I'm watching for the "insanely crisp and clear" e-ink technology used in the Sony Librie to move further into the market.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

Geeky Friday: Conkeror, aka Firefox for emacs weenies

As my co-workers know, I'm an incorrigible emacs weenie and since I started using it in 1990 before it supported basic mouse features common in modern editors, my fingers are very used to getting around emacs quickly.

So, a couple weeks ago, my fingers were aching from the awkward stretch to alt-left arrow to go back a web page and I knew that if the more industrious emacs users of the world had been working diligently that there would likely be an extension for Firefox to map keys from the main part of the keyboard to do this and other simple things. A google search for "emacs firefox" led me to the conkeror project. "Conkeror is a mozilla based web browser designed to be completely keyboard driven, no compromises. It also strives to behave as much like Emacs as possible."

There is indeed is a simple keystroke for moving back to the previous page and all links on the page show a number for quick navigation. The trouble with the tool is that more and more sites try to do more for you --'s editor steals C-b (control-B) to put text in bold when my fingers want C-b to move back one character. Gmail's standard mode doesn't seem to respond to the numbered link requests. Gmail does have a basic HTML mode which works fine under conkereror.

I may play with it on and off, but I don't think it'll become my standard browser yet and it's definitely not for anybody unfamiliar with emacs. And people more serious about emacs than I am may end up doing their browsing from within emacs using w3

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Instant Computerized bookshelf

Danny Gregory writes about a nifty mac tool called Delicious Library that displays your book, movie, music, etc collection. You only need scan the bar code with a "quicktime-supported digital video camera" (e.g. iSight). I will say no more, because the screen shots on Gregory's blog or the product's page say more than I could.

(Save as reference for when I have my own mac)