Category Archives: Browsers

Volunteer Your Computer to Keep Privacy Possible

The good folks over at Wild Bee have an excellent article about how you can use your computer to help the world while you sleep. Lotsa people run SETI@home – I think it is because of the screensaver. Instead of a looking for aliens, you could help political dissidents in repressive regimes, protect anonymous whistleblowers, and even protect our intelligence agents overseas. Install TOR and volunteer your computer for global privacy.

Better Berkeley Webcasts even better

Nate Whitten wrote in with a suggestion for Better Berkeley Webcasts.  He wants to save all of the files to check them out later.  He’s using a download manager like Down Them All 1, but Berkeley’s files are named poorly, so he doesn’t know which one to watch first.

Even better, he sent in the fix for it – he’s numbered the download links.

You should download it from me, or over on the UserScripts.Org page.  As always, you’ll need Firefox and Greasemonkey.

  1. my favorite, you should check it out  (back)

Professor Robb Willer and the Golden Apple

Robb WillerThe group of misfits I grew up with has turned out pretty well.
One of them, Robb Willer was my debate partner for a while. He’s gone on to be a professor at Berkeley. Robb won the Golden Apple award for being an awesome teacher. How awesome? Robb’s got intellectual groupies!

Berkeley put up Robb’s lectures under a Creative Commons license, so you can download them if you want and distribute them. Of course, Berkeley hasn’t given people any links to download the lectures. A bit lame if you ask me. Also, the way they’ve presented the lectures is terrible. Clicking anywhere on the page during playback makes the video close! That won’t do. I whipped up a quick fix.

  1. Install the excellent greasemonkey firefox addon.
  2. Install my Better Berkely script to fix  the webcast page.

Done.  Now the video is fixed.  When I get a free moment I’ll update the script to provide download links to all of the lectures, because what use is a creative commons license when you can’t get the media‽ Now the videos are available for download as well.

Congrats Robb!

Making Context Free Art

If you are reading this post in your feed reader, you’ll want to click through to my actual website. Trust me on this one.

I was really impressed with Aza Raskin’s ContextFree.js experiment. I like how the simple rules of a context free art piece generate complex forms. See below, that text will turn into something I can’t exactly predict.
I’ve added a few comments to help you understand what’s going on there.

//all context free art starts with a single rule.  Ours will start with a rule named face.
startshape FACE
//and here is the rule FACE
rule FACE{
//a FACE rule means that we should draw the rules EYE MOUTH and HEAD.
 // flip an eye over to the other side of the face.
 EYE{flip 90}

//OH NO! We have two rules named HEAD.  Context free will randomly pick one
rule HEAD{ CIRCLE{}}
rule HEAD{  SQUARE{}}

rule EYE{CIRCLE { s .1 b .5 y .12 x .3}}
rule EYE {SQUARE { s .1 b .5 y .12 x .3}}
rule EYE {SQUARE { s .1 b .5 y .12 x .3 r 45}}
rule EYE {TRIANGLE { s .1 b .5 y .12 x .3}}
rule EYE {TRIANGLE { s .1 b .5 y .12 x .3 r 60}}

rule MOUTH {SQUARE{ s .8 .1 y -.12  b .5}}

And here is a randomly generated face, all made up of squares, circles, and triangles:

Want more faces? Go mess about with my face generator on Aza’s demo site.

update: in the comments Chris came up with a bunch of great mouths for an even better face generator!
The art is context free because any rule can be executed without knowing the context of the other rules – they are side-effect free. (these are the kind of problems that work well on lots of processors)
It gets much better. If you are using a modern browser, you’ll see that the heading of my website now is using this to generate random art up there in that previously wasted space.
Reload the website, you’ll see different art generated according to a handful of tiny algorithms. If you can see this, you might want to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox or Safari. They both support the cool stuff that I’m doing, but you can’t see right now.

It’s all details

They say the devil is in the details. Sometimes subtle details are a place to shine.

I was reading notes on a lecture by the great Joshua Schachter, developer of, when I was thunderstruck by a detail.

You have to speak the user’s language. “Bookmarks” are what you call them if
you use Netscape of Firefox – most users these days know the term “favourite”
instead. Half of his population (? users) didn’t know what a bookmark was.

It is true:
The small details matter

Turn Ads into Art with AddArt

What if fox news could just be more blatantAnother great idea from the folks at Eyebeam.  Take the idea of one of the most popular extensions for Firefox, AdBlock, but remix it to display art placeholders instead of blank space.

Instead of crappy banners, Fox news gets an eagle flying with an American Flag!

Now, this isn’t a final product – it’s still being worked on.  I’ve sent them a mail offering development help if they need it.  I love this idea.