Monthly archive for May 2008

Speed Dial for Firefox

I recently tried the Opera web browser for the first time primarily because I read about the touted Dragonfly tool for web developers. Well in general I was underwhelmed. Despite the fact that Firefox has been unstable on my machine recently, I think it does a better job at rendering web pages than the Opera browser. No surprises there. What’s the point?

Opera does have a very cool feature called Speed Dial which displays a preview and quick link to your favorite nine sites anytime you open a new window or tab. I probably spend 30% of my time online on the same nine sites, so it becomes very useful to have them displayed prominently when I open new tab.

Luckily for us Firefox users, Josep del Rio has created a Speed Dial plugin for Firefox. It is essentially the same as Opera’s version, maybe a bit better because you can scroll through the preview to see the entire cached web page.


As for Dragonfly, Opera’s web development toolkit, I have found that Firebug for Firefox is a much richer solution for debugging javascript and CSS. Though that is really an entirely separate long and involved story.

link: Speed Dial for Firefox

Tag Galaxy – Explore Photostreams

Tag Galaxy provide a rich interface to Flickr photostreams. Type a photo attribute such as “beach” and Tag Galaxy returns all photos from Flickr tagged with the word “beach” along with frequently related tags such as “island”, “water”, and “sunset”. The results are represented as planets orbiting in a microcosm of outer space. Planet sizes are relative to each other based on the number of photos returned.


A mouse click on a planet will zoom to the surface terrain which is composed of previews of Flickr photos.


Now if they only allowed searching by Creative Commons licensing, this could be even more practical for web and print designers.

Tag Galaxy

Mr Fish on Reverend Wright

This recent Mr. Fish cartoon is from Harper’s Magazine. I assume that they granted me implicit permission to publish it on MugMud because Harper’s is a great publication and Mr. Fish is a nice guy.

click to enlarge


A Walk in the Woods

The city of Prague ends abruptly on a wooden hillside about a mile north of here. Strangely, in this city without suburban sprawl, it is the same distance to the edge of town as it is to the center. The storied center of Prague is where the tourist herd snakes its way though the narrow cobblestone streets and waits in droves for the hourly toll of the Astronomical Clock.

Compared to the bustle of Old Prague, the maze of dusty trails that wind through the woods is a welcome retreat. Gurgling streams descend the canyons as they make their connection to the river bed in the valley below. The leaved canopy echos the hullabaloo of a thousand birds. The sunlight plays in golden patches along the ground and illuminates the path ahead.


prague-dusty-road_sm.jpg Occasionally one may chance upon a cabin tucked away behind the brush. A man is chopping wood in his garden while nearby a group of friends sit at a table enjoying a midday conversation over a bottle of wine. Those who venture into the woods forget that they are on a hillside above a capital city and come to believe that they have entered the pages of a fable.



Of course your storybook walk might seem all the more outlandish when a twenty-foot-tall giant iron sheep is gazing at you from a clearing. You have interrupted his meal and iron sheep are know to be fairly territorial. A word of advice: proceed slowly with caution, trying not to make eye contact.

Eventually the beast will return to grazing and forget all about your presence.

The hills above Prague have as much mystique to offer as the city itself. The fact that the forrest is so accessible and also lightly traveled, makes it the hidden gem of the city – an escape from tour groups and trinket peddlers. I will have to make sure that this secluded garden remains a local secret.

Illustration Friday: Worry


He may look worried. Though these days it’s hard to tell by phone. I know that I am worried.

artist: Jeremy Taylor
media: digital

Hang Drum Redux: Hank Drum

This is an update to my earlier post about the amazing hang drum. Apparently the widespread interest in the innovative musical instrument coupled with the lack of availability has driven a resourceful instrument maker to fashion an alternate version of the hang drum from a common propane tank.

DIY instrument pioneer Dennis Havlena has published his plans for the “Hank Drum” (read Hang + Tank) that can be crafted from a propane tank and a few common power tools. has an illustrated tutorial on hank drum construction here.

Below is a short video of Dennis Havlena himself, demonstrating his creation. Dennis is no Manu Delago, but the hank drum has a warm and bright tone which can be heard in the video.


ZZ32F308E6.jpg His name is Yeondoo Jung, and among many other works, he creates vibrant photo recreations of children’s drawings. His online gallery has several whimsical examples worth exploring. My second favorite photo in the series depicts a wizard flying on a broomstick next to a display case of cupcakes and a over-sized flower in the foreground.

via DRAWN!

Mustache Champions

beard-champions.jpg The World Beard and Mustache Championships will be held May 23, 2009 in Anchorage, Alaska. The 2007 competition saw “…upstart Beard Team USA [mounting] a serious challenge to the always dominant Germans, taking first in five categories.”

btusalogowotext.jpgI do not consider myself a zealous patriot, but I think I’m going to be rooting for Beard Team USA in 2009. Here is our official logo:

Among the perineal favorites is Franz Mitterhauser, of Austria, taking top honors for his formidable Imperial Mustache (bottom left). Hailing from Istanbul, Turkey, Memili Rüstüoglu is a strong contender in the Freestyle Mustache category with the world’s longest mustache. (second from bottom)

link: World Beard Chapionships


In other beardly news, beard enthusiast Jon Dyer is on a quest to grow each type of beard in the catalog of known beard types. Jon grows a beard each Fall and shaves it in Spring after the harsh Winter has passed.

He offers some advice to would-be beard growers. From his FAQ:

When I grow a beard, it looks like crap.

“You know your favorite shirt that you keep inexplicably finding in or near the trash? That makes you look like crap, too. But you wear it, don’t you? Do you know why? Because in some instances feeling good should supersede looking good… When are you going to stop worrying about how you look and start worrying about how you feel?”

balbo-beard 1.jpg
Jon Dyer and his Balbo beard.

Beards make you look old.

“I agree. People misjudge my age by 10 years when I grow one. What they also seem to do is assume that I know what I’m talking about or that I’m qualified to give them advice. In these situations, I find that pensively tugging on your beard and waiting for them to answer their own questions works best.”

Prague: City of Bridges

In my ongoing series of Prague photos, I offer this view of the Vltava River with the many bridges that cross from the old city center (Staro Mestska) to Minor Town (Mala Strana). The most famous is Charles Bridge (Karlov Most) pictured center which is a carnival of tourists, souvenir merchants, portrait artists, and musicians. Charles Bridge dates back to 1357 during the reign of King Charles, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. The stone construction has been rebuilt from the original due to damage by flood waters and the statues are replicas with the originals housed in the National Museum. Today tourists flood Charles Bridge with their digital cameras held high above their heads as they make their way toward the Prague Castle perched above the north bank of the river.


Mac OSX: Why You Need ImageWell

imagewell.jpgI frequently edit images for the web and presentations. Often I am using a screen grab or modifying a photo from a website and I need to make some quick adjustments. Using Photoshop to make simple changes such as cropping, resizing, saving for web, or adding shadows and rounded edges is very time consuming and the same tasks came be done in ImageWell in under 60 seconds.

ImageWell is a very lightweight image application that allows you to drag and drog images to make adjustments and then drag and drop the edited image onto your desktop or into another application for use. For example I can drag an iPhoto image directly into ImageWell, add borders, resize for web, and then drag the finished image into my blog software for publication. Scaling the image and setting the file quality are a snap and ImageWell will even generate a random file name to shave seconds off your workflow.

You can save an image as a template to easily apply the same process to a batch of images. Most of my photos that I publish on this site with borders and shadows are done using this technique.

Here is a screen grab of the ImageWell interface that I have summarized using ImageWell.


And here is the Edit Screen.


ImageWell does not do everything and will not replace Pixelmator, VectorDesigner, or Photoshop, but it does a few things very well. For $20 it will quickly pay for itself in time saved.

[UPDATE] I recently checked the memory usage for ImageWell using the Activity Monitor, and this program is a beast for memory usage. Upon launch, the ImageWell consumes 129 MB of system memory, compared to 150 for Adobe Illustrator, and a paltry 22 MB for Vector Designer.

Link: ImageWell