Thursday Jul 09, 2009

Google Notebook

Arrrhhhhh.

Google have decided to discontinue development for google notebook. I first started to realise something was wrong when I upgraded to firefox 3.5 and the plugin for google notebook was disabled (incompatible with this version of firefox). I waited a few days for the update to appear before going to the google notepad page to manually load the update where I found the following and a link to this. To be fair they are continuing to provide the web facing services to all existing users (no new users) but development seems to have stopped on the plugin which was the ONLY way that I ever accessed the service!

Imagine my disappointment. I have always found this an invaluable tool. When researching a particular topic you can grab URLs, add notes to it and arrange them in books around the topics that you are researching. Also since I work across multiple machines at multiple locations (Mecbook Air on the road, Mac Mini at home and Solaris Sun Ray at work) I can install the firefox plugin on all machines and access the same information without the need for remembering to do fiddly syncronisations - after all "the network is the computer".

Anyway unable to face the current and immediate future without the browser plugin access to notebook I decided to take matters into my own hands and fix the problem. Using a method well documented elsewhere on the web I managed to make a version of the plugin that claimed to be compatible with firefox 3.5 in the hope that it would work and so far it has, with no issues. The solution requires some command line skills but should be NO issue for even the most basic UNIX/linux user and easy enough for any windows or mac user that has ever used the command line. The instructions below are for using a bash shell on MAC OS X but will work fine on any UNIX based system (Solaris, Linux or MAC OS X). If you are using windows you will need to find the equivalent windows commands or UPGRADE your OS to Solaris, MAC OS X or Linux.

Take the google-notebook.xpi file and copy it to a clean empty directory then at command line type.

seanh$ unzip google-notebook.xpi

This extracts the various files that make up the plugin. The file that you need to edit is initially read only so you need to make it read/write.

seanh$ chmod u+w install.rdf

Now use your favorite text editor to edit the file install.rdf.

seanh$ vi install.rdf

Locate the following line:-

   <em:maxVersion>3.0.\*</em:maxVersion>

and edit it to read.


   <em:maxVersion>3.\*.\*</em:maxVersion>

Now change the file back to read only.

seanh$ chmod u-w install.rdf

Then delete the original google-notebook.xpi file and create a new one.

seanh$ rm google-notebook.xpi

seanh$ zip -r google-notebook.xpi ./??\*

Now go to firefox addons and uninstall google notepad, restart firefox and install the xpi file that you have created and bingo you are back in business.

I should add at this point that this is NOT supported by google and certainly NOT supported by me. I have tried it and it works on my environment let me know if it works on yours (via the comments). I guess that at some time in the future it will break but I am hopeful that I can get al least as far as version 4 of firefox and beyond before it breaks. Then it will be a case of looking at the code itself (assuming that google have made or make the source available).

Thursday Jun 21, 2007

Firefox 2.0.0.\* British English Dictionary

I have recently upgraded my laptop and with it came the latest 2.x versions of firefox and thunderbird. Upgrading to these latest versions had been something that I had delayed a) knowing that a new laptop was on it's way and b) hearing war stories from friends who had made the upgrade early and had issues with plug-ins. ie. I was following the policy of - if it ain't broke then don't fix it - a strategy that I occasionally follow but not often enough according to my wife and family.

Anyway virtually all of my plug-ins worked except the British English Dictionary, which bearing in mind my awful spelling and the current state of my eye sight is a major issue. After a short search on the web I found the solution to my issue and followed the directions to achieve a working result.



I have made available for download the results of what I did.

Monday Jun 18, 2007

Google Notebook

As I mentioned in an earlier post the way that I work is to use different devices to access the internet depending on where I am rather than lug around my access device with me. Unless data is therefore stored within the network rather than the client this mode of working is difficult therefore I am always looking for tools to help me. Some time ago I came across  Google Notebook and have been using it for the past 6-9 months in conjunction with the firefox plugin. This combination is a truely useful application for the network ready user. Once again the data is stored in the network (this time at google) and brought to the edge either through the browser plugin, the browser itself or the google portal.

When using the browser plugin it so easy to clip a URL together with comments and text you type in yourself. This makes it richer than simple bookmarking. I find it particularly useful when researching on the net a new subject. I can open a new notebooks and clip comments and URLs into that notebook as I gather information/learn.

Monday Dec 11, 2006

FoxMarks

One of the things that has bemused and frustrated me since I first started using the web in the early 90's was that your bookmarks were always stored in the client and there seemed to be no simple way to store them in the network. It is a problem that I have returned to periodically (every couple of years) since the early 90's. I have even tried at various times to implement solutions of my own such as storing bookmarks as an HTML file on a secure website of my own creation. These attempts were always doomed to failure since it required me to remember to make manual edits to an online file rather than simply click on a button in the browser.

 With the rise in popularity of social bookmarking sites I decided to revisit the problem recently and here are the results of my investigations. I was not really interested at this point in time in the aspects of social bookmarking other than the fact that it appeared to be a route to store my bookmarks in a central repository that could be accessed from anywhere. What I really wanted was a simple, secure online store that could be accessed from anywhere and updated (automatically) from anywhere. The problem was that in a Sun office I use a SunRay to access the network, at home I use my laptop or my desktop and on the the road I use my laptop. This is further complicated by the fact that my laptop and desktop multi-boot into different operating systems depending on the work that I am doing.

It appears that for MAC users there is the .Mac service that seems do what I was looking for but I assumed that it was for MAC users only and did not investigate further. Google offers google bookmarks. This provides an on line repository and there are a number of firefox plugins that allow you to access them from the control bar of the browser. These include GMarks, Firefox Google Bookmarks, Google Bookmarks Button and Deng Google bookmarks amongst others. The two main shortfalls of this were a) that the online repository does not offer a file/folder like structure, just tags and although some of the tools available use the tags to generate the look and feel of a directory structure it is only one folder deep and b) the plugins generate a new control panel for the google bookmarks that is separate from the "standard" bookmarks.

 Then I discovered FoxMarks. The answer to all my prayers. The plugin integrates seamlessly with the browser using the standard bookmarks menus. It even allowed me to merge the bookmark folders from the three browser instances I already had offering me the option to merge or overwrite (local or remote). The only limitation that I have been able to discover to date is that there appears to be no plugin for browsers other than firefox but since I use only firefox this is not a limitation that affects me.

 

Thursday Dec 07, 2006

FoxClocks

For anyone working internationally across timezones and using firefox or thunderbird the following is a MUST. It allows you to be able to specify a number of timezones that you are interested in and then have the current time in each timezone displayed at the bottom of the browser. If the timezone that you are interested in then take the nearest one and edit it. You may find this useful in finding the latitude and longitude. The XPI for the FoxClocks can be found here.
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