Free alternative to BrowserCam

BrowserCam has long been the best tool for testing websites in a multitude of situations; however, it isn’t free, so its usefulness is limited for people who just want to test a new design quickly: enter BrowserShots.

This free website has most of the features developers will need to test their sites; however, unlike BrowserCam, there seem to be waits of up to 20 minutes for some OS/Browser combinations, so it is better for casual testing to ensure compatibility rather than live tweaking—it does have a detail page to show how long your wait will be. It has a few useful features: all screenshots are of the entire screen instead of a small part and requests are based on the website, so multiple people can view the results without sharing log-ons.

However, the most interesting part is that the software that runs it is freely distributed and you can, optionally, help the project by volunteering to run a screenshot “factory” from your computer that operates in the background while you go about your normal computing business; thus, combining the best things in life: free stuff and being nice to others. You can just feel the good karma coming.

Besides…it beats signing up for multiple 24-hour previews…

Can’t connect to local MySQL server through socket…error.

I recently moved my /home folder to its own partition, but in doing so, I broke MySQL. The full error I got was:
Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock' (2)

To fix this you need to create the file and make sure that MySQL has access to it. (All commands need to be run as root)

Create the directory (if it doesn’t already exist).

sudo mkdir /var/run/mysqld/

Create the file by “touching” it.

sudo touch /var/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock

Set the ownership of the mysqld.sock file and folder to mysql.

sudo chown -R mysql /var/run/mysqld/

You can then start MySQL and breath easier.

Songbird: Firefox-based Media Player

Please note that this review is based on a much older version of Songbird than the current one. Features and glitches may no longer be applicable.

The Songbird media player is a cross-platform media player that is based on the gecko browser engine. Songbird enables you to use add-ons and skins feathers just like you can in your Firefox web browser, and combines the the most useful parts of the browser into a fully-featured music player. This means that rather than having a web browser added into your music player, like in Amarok, the program natively includes the code, so it is exceptional at both, and allows the media program itself to download music and video files on a webpage automatically or load playlists with a click. These features make this the ultimate program for listening to podcasts at your computer.

How you can use SongBird.

Songbird looking at shoutcast Because you can load playlists with only a click, browsing to websites like Shoutcast allows you to automatically tune into radio stations just by clicking “play now” without having to open/download any files or opening second programs. This is also excellent for podcast websites or playlist-sharing websites.

Songbird automatically adding files. If you use the DownThemAll extension to download music or videos, Songbird will make this much easier and natively supports browsing to any page and automatically downloading files, so if you use google “hacks” like intitle:”Index Of” mozart to find music files this will make things much easier. If you use a company laptop or have a small drive, you can do the same thing as above, but instead of downloading the files, you can add them directly to your library without downloading, so anywhere you have an internet connection, you can find your music.

This is a little tangential, but if you have ever gotten the urge too look something random up while listening to music, the fully functional browser will come in handy.

Songbird web library This one is iffy, when browsing the web files are automatically added to a “web library” and are stored separately from your normal library. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but if you are normally on a fast connection, it can save you a lot of time, but at the same time, you might get some odd or embarrassing files added there.

Now there are a few things I don’t like

  1. The program is a little weighty (~40MB fully loaded.)
  2. When loading playlists from Shoutcast it adds ALL servers to your library as individual files.
  3. Currently Library information only works off of the ID3 tags without any filename parsing.
    Songbird stuck on a name
  4. The track editor can’t save changes to the ID3 tags (it can only save to the internal database).
    Songbird Track Editor
  5. Songbird showing duplicate files When listing files found in webpages, there is no way to filter them. For example, browsing to a Librivox page will show you three copies of each recording (one for each file type.) To play them, you have to manually remove the duplicate files. A quick solution would be to be able to arrange them by format, but this doesn’t exist yet.
  6. The default “mini” player isn’t so mini.
  7. The program isn’t as snappy as a standard media player or web browser, but this should be resolved as the project matures.
  8. When playing streams, the currently playing track isn’t updated.

Some lovely Video demonstrations

This video, produced by the guys from Songbird, is for a slightly older version:

This video highlights the collapsible UI.

And the playlists.

Final Thoughts

Songbird is extremely attractive, and it has the potential to replace Amarok as my favorite music player ever, and has the the ability to work across all platforms because I have to jump from OS to OS all the time. I don’t think it is ready for prime-time yet, but a couple more versions and it will be perfect.

Super-fast Wi-Fi in the works

Wi-Fi with speeds of 15 gigabits per second? Coming soon to a computer near you.

(AP) — With a wave of his hand over a homemade receiver, Georgia Tech professor Joy Laskar shows how easily – and quickly – large data files could someday be transferred from a portable media player to a TV. Poof! “You just moved a movie onto your device,” Laskar says.

While Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have emerged as efficient ways to zap small amounts of data between gadgets, neither is well suited for quickly transferring high-definition video, large audio libraries and other massive files.

Read the entire Story

Advanced image resizing software

The image resize software demonstrated in the video is meant to enable a web browser to resize images without removing context or quality. It does this by removing areas of the image deemed less important by using algorithms that detect curved lines instead of normal straight lines. I’m very impressed with the software and I think it will profoundly effect web design and even amateur photography: who hasn’t wanted to erase an ex from pictures?

hat tip:CL Design Blog

Now there was a response video to this that complained about how it will modify the context of photographs and art work, but I don’t think this is really an issue. Some browsers already scale large images if you try to view just the image and users are already used to clicking on thumbnails: both of which allow you to see their original size just by clicking on them. If these same techniques are applied to the images resized through this software, users will learn to click the images to see a full version. The only difference is the thumbnails and rescaled images will still show the elements of the picture: rather than just seeing a few blotches of color in a thumbnail, you will see the important details scaled down, but with the less important details removed.

Ubuntu 7.10 is shipping with xorg.conf gui

As of an update from a few days ago, users are now able to access a graphical user interface for editing xorg.conf, though only for graphic and display settings. This tool has support for dual monitors at the moment, and with the release of 7.3 it will be possible to add even more. You can turn on and off both (or one) of your monitor(s), change the available resolutions, orientations, and set mirror or exteneded desktops. Fosswire

Typical, I finally get to the point where I can edit the file without ending up at the terminal in panic mode, and they make it easy.