published on 28.03.2009 19:46.

Ubiquity is the shit!

Ubiquity is a Mozilla Labs add-on for Firefox. It’s a new way of interacting with the browser and web content. Imagine Quicksilver, but for everything that can be reached from the browser. Common examples are controllign the browser, translating text on a web page in-place, looking up an Google maps address in-place, you imagine. It let’s you throw out half of the other add-ons. Oh, and on the Mac, it integrates with Growl.

And it’s super-easy to extend with JavaScript!

Example – using to shorten URLs

I hacked this together using the pretty good documentation. The code takes the text selection (an URL) and shortens it via


  name: "is-gd",

  description: "Replaces the selected URL with a short URL generated with",

  author: { name: "Phillip Oertel" },

  takes: {"url to shorten": noun_arb_text},

  execute: function(urlToShorten) {
    var baseUrl = "";
    var params  = {longurl: urlToShorten.text};
    jQuery.get( baseUrl, params, function( shortUrl ) {
      CmdUtils.setSelection( shortUrl );


I embedded the above script into this page—if you installed the Ubiquity add-on, Firefox will notify you. Install the script, then select an URL anywhere on the page or in the location bar, press Alt-Space and type “is-gd”. The selected text will be replaced with a shortended URL. Neat!

They really have easy administration and extension in mind—go to chrome://ubiquity/content/cmdlist.html to get an in-browser interface to Ubiquity. You can directly write the scripts in there. Oh, and did I mention it already ships with jquery ?

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published on 18.03.2009 06:10.

Mindmap for Software Craftsmanship Talk

I’m currently preparing a talk on Software Craftsmanship for Euruko 2009 in Barcelona. It’s the first time I try out a mind map for structuring everything related to a topic, and I really like it. By looking at the whole at once, you’re able to see new connections, redundancy, overlap, etc. And it’s more fund to draw stuff than putting everything in nested bullet lists.

I’ve also become a fan of Big Visible Charts, so I prefer creating it by hand instead of using a computerized tool, like MindMeister. Don’t get me wrong – MindMeister is very cool – it’s just that I don’t need it’s advantages of collaboration, change tracking etc. since I’m working on my own.

Two learnings already:

  • always start with a really big sheet of paper on a big wall. You never know in which direction you’re gonna need more space! I failed with that, and it’s probably limiting me currently.
  • use stickies to dump ideas that come to your mind when you’re not really working on the preparation. You don’t waste much time drawing and sorting, but you don’t forget and can pick up or discard the ideas later.

By the way, the Euruko conference artwork is the best I have ever seen. It’s a beautiful blend of Barcelona’s omnipresent Gaudi tiles and color tones and the Ruby logo.

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published on 14.03.2009 16:05.

Trying out zsh

Have you consciously decided to use bash as your shell? I haven’t.
How often do you use the shell? For me, it’s one of the tools I use most.

So while bash does the job, why not find out if there’s something better? I’ve heard zsh mentioned a couple of times, and it seems to be smarter and more modern, while maintaining good compatibility with bash. So I’ll give it a try.

zsh Features selection

  • tab completion is programmable and depends on the command it is used with. examples:
    • cd<TAB> shows a list containing only directories
    • tab completion for options: `ls -<TAB>` shows a menu of available options, selectable with cursor
    • cd -<TAB> shows you a list of recently visited directory, select with cursor where to go. instead of pressing <TAB>, you could also have typed cd -2 to go to the 2nd last dir.
    • ssh<TAB> shows a list of all known hosts
    • kill<TAB> gives you a list of processes. another example: kill memca finds the correct pid and inserts it
  • cd-less directory switching (just type name of directory)
  • all shell windows share one history, i.e you can access a command from window A’s history in a new window B
  • can shorten the path shown in the prompt (“Resources/Styles/Marble $” instead of ”/Applications/ $”)
  • more powerful globbing. example: ‘ls \\*/\_helper.rb’ lists all *_helper.rb files in the current tree
  • temporary aliases for directories, using ~dirname: ~ $ work=`pwd` ~ $ cd / / $ cd ~work ~ $ pwd /Users/phillip
  • bash-compatibility
  • optional prompt at the right top side

How to start using it on OS X

  • OS X already ships with zsh installed. Type zsh to try it out! It’s pretty dumb without proper configuration, so …
  • get a .zshrc config file, like from here for example. That page is also a good intro and contains more links to useful resources.
  • to use zsh permanently (OS X Leopard): go to System Preferences > User, click the lock and authenticate, right-click on your user and select “Advanced Options”, then select /bin/zsh. Open a Terminal. To check, type echo $SHELL.
  • if your like using Ctrl-A/Ctrl-E/Ctrl-K … to go to the start or end of your command or delete to the end of the line, you’ll need to add ‘bindkey -e’ to the .zshrc file.

A tip, independent of zsh, if you create a .hushlogin file in your home dir, the shell will not display the “Last login …” blah on startup.

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published on 01.03.2009 10:50.

Magnificent Life

by Hana S. on Flickr.

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