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Widget-ized web browser E-mail
Sunday, 17 October 2010 11:59

For a long time I've been looking for a web browser that works inside a widget (or Windows desktop gadget).  Finally I came across one, Minibrowser.  It's perfect for when you need to click a button inside a web browser windows without needing to take up too much screen space.  Personally I use it for my time-tracking application.

minibrowser

Here's what it looks like on my desktop.  You can specify two custom sizes which you can switch between with one click.

 
My PHP and Rails development environments E-mail
Sunday, 12 September 2010 19:44

Update

Since I wrote this I have added two more Ruby on Rails environments:

  • Aptana RadRails on Mandriva Linux
  • ActiveState Komodo IDE on Xubuntu

If I get around to it I'll write a comparison between the three environments for Rails development.

 


I run VirtualBox on a Windows 7 Professional 64-bit host installation.  The following are my VirtualBox virtual machines that I use for web development.

 

Programming language

PHP

Ruby on Rails

Operating system (64-bit)

Linux

Microsoft Windows

Linux

Distribution/version

Xubuntu

Windows 7 Professional

Arch Linux

Web server

Lighttpd

Apache via WampServer 2

WEBrick (built into NetBeans)

Database

MySQL

MySQL via WampServer 2

  • SQLite
  • MySQL

Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

NetBeans 6.9.1 (PHP edition)

  • Microsoft Expression Web 4
  • Notepad++
  • phpDesigner 7 (trial)

NetBeans 6.9.1 (Ruby edition)

Database administration

  • phpMyAdmin
  • NetBeans MySQL integration

phpMyAdmin

  • MySQL Workbench 5.2
  • NetBeans MySQL integration

Version control

Mercurial

  • command line
  • NetBeans plugin

Mercurial via TortoiseHg

Mercurial

  • command line
  • NetBeans plugin

File sharing (Linux -> Windows)

Samba

n/a

Samba

File sharing (Windows -> Windows/Linux)

  • smbnetfs
  • VirtualBox shared folders

Windows 7 Homegroup

  • smbnetfs
  • VirtualBox shared folders

Cloud storage and backup (running in host Windows installation)

n/a

  • Dropbox
  • Windows Live Mesh
  • Macrium Reflect Free edition (64-bit)
  • Cobian Backup 10

n/a

Web browsers

  • Mozilla Firefox w/ Firebug
  • Chromium
  • Internet Explorer 8
  • Mozilla Firefox w/ Firebug
  • SRWare Iron
  • Mozilla Firefox w/ Firebug
  • SRWare Iron

Other design- and development-related software

 

  • Adobe Photoshop CS5 64-bit (trial)
  • Paint.NET
  • Microsoft Expression Design 4
  • WinMerge
 
Adding a "Feedback" button: A brief comparison E-mail
Wednesday, 04 August 2010 10:09

I've seen the "Feedback" tabs on several websites, tethered to either the left or right edge of the browser window, and I think it's a nice unobtrusive way to offer your visitors a chance to quickly interact with you and offer their input on how you can improve your website.

I wanted to add such a button to my websites.  The most popular of the offerings seems to be Get Satisfaction.  I searched on AlternativeTo.net (a very useful service) and found several other similar services:

It came down to choosing one, possibly two, to check out, and I decided to go with UserEcho for now (deployed on this site and at p()thesis) and later check out VoxPopuli.  My reasons why are outlined in the table below:

  GetSatisfaction Uservoice UserEcho CrowdSound VoxPopuli
Free account Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes - self-hosted PHP/MySQL script
Unobtrusive "Feedback" button Yes Yes Yes No - the demo on the frontpage shows a widget (and not a button) that embeds on your site Not sure - but I'm thinking not because there is no mention of it anywhere
User doesn't need to leave my website to use the service Yes - everything is done in the GetSatisfaction widget No - users can view current ideas but need to visit the site page to add new ones Yes and no - can type new idea inside widget but submitting redirects to the forum on UserEcho site Yes - everything is done inside the widget Yes - from the demo it looks like everything is handled by the widget
Observations
  • The widget didn't open in Internet Explorer at Write.fm
  • They don't emphasize that they offer a free account, which makes me think it has very limited functionality.
  It could be considered a bit deceptive, but since there is an input box in the widget and no notification that "Submit" will redirect them to a new page, the user is more likely to use the service than if there weren't an input field in the widget at all.  
  • Project is open source
  • I haven't looked at the script yet but you can probably customize it to a great degree if you know your way around PHP.
 
Useful websites and tools - 5/12 E-mail
Wednesday, 12 May 2010 02:00

Other

  • PDF-Xchange Viewer - Need to comment and annotate a PDF document?  Adobe Reader can do it but it's a 30+ MB download, and makes you download Adobe Download Manager.  Foxit Reader's free version adds a red stamp to the top of your document.  PDF-Xchange viewer is a free download that doesn't install extra crap and doesn't mark up your document.
 
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