Posts in Category "Cool Tools"

Stop Using “rm” on the Command Line (Before It’s Too Late)

True story…

While writing a Python script one day to do a little screen scraping and reporting, the topic of data loss came up between a friend and myself. I was bragging that I had never in my life accidentally lost a single file or piece of data that I wasn’t able to recover. Literally seconds later, while intending to rename my script using “mv”, I accidentally typed “rm” instead and deleted it.

That was just about the last time I used “rm”. I now use a script which, for no particular reason, I call “rr”. Rather than deleting files and/or directories, it moves them to the trash where they can be easily recovered if necessary. Here’s the script itself (configured to work on OS X):


if test $1
    mv $1 ~/.Trash/

Just make the script executable (chmod 755 rr), drop it in your path, and forget “rm” ever existed.

As always, there are several other ways of doing this (remapping “rm”, making an alias, using the Finder, etc.), so pick the way that works best for you. The important thing is to keep yourself from losing hours of work on the command line like I did.

Google Launches an RSS Aggregator

Just in time for Cool Tool Friday, Google has launched an RSS aggregator. It looks like Google is really starting to realize the value of Flash, as well. After moving Google Video over to Flash, they are now using Flash in their new RSS aggregator to play podcasts. Very cool stuff.

What are you using to aggregate? I’m using Bloglines now so I can switch between computers easily, but I might give the new Google Reader a try.

Update: Like Gmail, Google Reader even supports Vi keys. Nice!

From Vim to Eclipse

I used to do almost all my coding (and editing in general) in vim. I actually think vim is one of the most brilliant pieces of software ever created — obviously not because it’s particularly feature rich, but because it is simple and elegant. I can use vim for editing almost any type of document, on any platform, and it can be used remotely through ssh just as easily as it can be used locally.

But I’ve actually been using Eclipse more and more lately in an attempt to modernize. I find the editor itself slower to use (not because of performance, but because vim was designed from the start to make navigation and editing as fast as possible), but in general, all of the features of Eclipse have actually made me more productive. In an attempt to get the best of both worlds, however, I’m now experimenting with a Vi plugin for Eclipse. It seems to work pretty well, though not exactly as I would expect in all circumstances, so I’m debating whether to stick with it, or just give up and surrender myself entirely to Eclipse. Whenever possible, I always try to stick with as much of the default functionality of an application as possible so that I can move from one machine to another and feel like I’m in the same environment. Ironically, that’s precisely one of the things I like best about vim, and might be what prevents me from trying to integrate it into Eclipse.

Cool Tool Friday: Google Launches Mobile Search

Being able to search with Google over your mobile device is nothing new, but being able to search Google for mobile results is. Google’s new mobile search engine allows you to search for results that are specifically designed to work on your mobile device. That makes much more sense than searching a mobile version of Google for sites designed for your PC. Just go to on your mobile device, and look for the "Mobile Web (Beta)" option in the list below the text box. My Cingular data service is sketchy today, so I can’t give a thorough going over, but I grabbed a friend’s phone long enough to do a couple of searches, and so far, so good.

So how many people out there actually use their phones for browsing? What kinds of data services do you use on your phone, and how often do you use them? Frankly, I seldom do more than IM, SMS, a little email here and there, and check the occasional weather report, but I’m always looking for ways to get more out of my phone.

Cool Tool Friday: Google Homepage

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen Google’s new ability to create your own custom homepage. Just wanted to gather some thoughts. What do you think? I think it’s pretty slick. I like the drag and drop functionality. Unfortunately everything they offer is information I pretty much already get elsewhere through aggregators or widgets of one type or another, but I’ll see how having them all in one place on my browser’s homepage works out for me.

Anyway, how many of you have switched the Google homepage? If you haven’t, why? What do you have set as your homepage instead?

Cool Tool Friday: Flash-based Email with Goowy

If you haven’t done so already, you might want to check out the Goowy
Mail beta
for a very
different web-based email experience. Goowy Mail is almost completely Flash-based,
and offers a pretty comprehensive set of features like skins, POP integration,
spell checking, junk filters, contacts, and more. Free accounts get you 100MB
of storage, but Goowy Mail Plus and Platinum are coming soon, and will offer
more space as well as additional features.

It’s a pretty impressive app, and definitely worth looking in to. If you want
to send some test emails to get a feel for it, my Goowy email address is

Cool Tool Friday 2: Google Suggest

Check out the latest project from Google labs: Google Suggest. As you type search terms, it will offer keyword suggestions in real time.

Cool Tool Friday: MSN Direct Watches

I’ve gotten a few emails asking me what ever happened to Cool Tool Friday. Sorry I’ve been remiss. It’s not due to a lack of cool tools so much as a lack of time. Anyway, enough excuses. On to my newest toy.

If you’re a regular reader, you know how much I love watches. I’ve loved them all my life. All kinds of watches, too, from Timex to Rolex. I like traditional mechanical and automatic analog watches, as well as the bleeding edge digitals. So when I first came across Microsoft’s SPOT watches, I was dying to try one, but there weren’t any models available yet that I really liked, or that were cheap enough to buy as an experiment. Then Swatch introduced the Swatch Paparazzi and I made the leap.

The Swatch Paparazzi is a fantastic watch in and of itself even without the MSN Direct service. It has just about every time-related feature you could ask for in a watch from support for multiple time zones to a countdown timer to two programmable alarms (meaning you can set the date as well as just the time) to a full calendar interface. The backlight is every effective, the buttons have a perfect feel, and at $150, the price is right.

Then add on the MSN Direct service, and you have a very powerful tool. In addition to all the features I just named, I now have news headlines, news alerts, stock quotes, customizable watch faces, movie information, and weather. And there are several other “channels” I could add, as well (like sports and horoscopes) if I were interested.

What are the downsides? Well, you pay yearly for the MSN Direct service. I got the $40 plan (which doesn’t include Outlook synchronization) which I personally think is fairly reasonable. And the other downside is the size of the watch. Since it has a built-in antenna, it’s not exactly subtle, and doesn’t quite say the same thing as a Seiko, Citizen, Omega, or a Tag Heuer. But it’s a fun watch, nonetheless, and definitely a good addition to my collection.

For more information on the Swatch Paparazzi, you can read a review here. Also, anyone else out there wearing an MSN Direct watch right now? If so, what do you think?

Cool Tool Friday: Community Vision 2.0

If you were hanging around the blogging scene last year around this time, you might remember Community Vision. Community Vision is an application that lets anyone publish images to a kind of public picture weblog. We launched it just before MAX last year, and collected a ton of cool pictures of all the goings on in Salt Lake City.

I just installed a new version of Community Vision, and I need your help testing it. The biggest changes I made were in the code that processes the emails and attachments. It should be significantly more robust now, and it should handle emails sent from all different types of devices. To help test, simply:

  1. Take any of type of digital picture with any type of device.
  2. Attach it to an email (using any type of device — all phones and PDAs should work) and send it to (the -at- should be ‘@’ — we had a massive spam problem last year).
  3. The subject of your email will be the image’s title, and the body will be the caption.
  4. Wait no more than five minutes, then check out your picture online.

Before participating, please check out the official rules and instructions by clicking on the “About Community Vision” link on the main Community Vision page. Also be aware that since this is a test, things may not go complete as planned, so if you notice that something has gone awry, let me know, and I’ll get it fixed.

Cool Tool Friday: The Danger (T-Mobile) Sidekick 2

I usually stay away from hardware on Cool Tool Fridays, but this week, I can’t resist. After having my Sony Ericsson T616 quit on me about two weeks ago, I’ve been madly searching for a new phone/PIM device. The timing was all wrong because the new Treo 650s are due out sometime next month (as is the Sony Ericsson P910), both of which I had my eye on. I’ve never owned a “smart phone” before (combination PDA and mobile phone), so I thought it was time I gave it a try.

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