Wild About Widgets

I cleaned out my desk today and found a basic calculator. Not a fancy scientific calculator or one with a graphing function, just a regular calculator. I gave it away. Why? Well, I just don’t need one anymore.

There is one on my dashboard. A “dashboard” on a Mac is found in the “dock.” The dock is the bar usually found at the bottom of the screen that launches various applications. The dashboard is represented by a round, black gauge icon. Click it and it darkens the screen and reveals a display of all kinds of useful devices known as widgets.

The standard configuration is an analog clock, a calendar, a 5-day weather report for the city of your choice, and a calculator. To the lower left is a plus sign (+) that allows you to choose from several more widgets, for example, a dictionary/thesaurus, flight tracker, address book, a unit converter and a game or two.

On a PC, you can access a calculator by going under the file menu and locating it under applications. On a Mac, you can customize the tools (widgets) of your choice and have them ready for use in one click. It’s very convenient. It’s kind of like pulling an opaque shade down over your screen so you don?t lose track of what you?re working on and are able to reference something quickly.

If you are writing a report and are looking for the perfect word, simply click on the dashboard icon and your thesaurus is ready at hand. Widgets are useful and, evidently, collectable. A search of Mac.com reveals a library of well over a thousand of these widgets from which to choose. There are restaurant locators – just enter a zip code, recipe of the day widgets, stock reports, sports team reports, anything you could desire.

A friend of mine told me he has a Maxim Magazine model of the day widget. There is a widget for everyone indeed. While I haven’t downloaded any additional widgets from the website, I did add a new one to my dashboard today.

Curious about my other widget options, I clicked the plus sign and it revealed a widget labeled “translation.” As many of the sources I use to catalog images at work are in foreign languages, the translation widget is a great helper. I can type in text in a foreign language (German, Dutch, French, Spanish, etc) and it will give me a translation in English (or a language of my choice). It’s fast, much faster than looking each word up in a foreign language dictionary or even going to a translation website. It is like altavista.com’s Babel Fish, except it is ready at hand and doesn’t require a trip to a separate website.

The one caveat of using widgets such as weather reports, stock reports, flight trackers and any of the other widgets that require an up-to-the-minute reading is that you must be connected to the Internet. This does not pose a major problem to most, but if you happen to be out of wireless range or disconnected from the Internet, you will not be able to get a reading on these particular widgets.

It is fun to be able to select from a vast library of widgets to customize your dashboard. I’ve discovered that you can learn quite a bit about a person by their choice in widgets. In fact, widgets are, in this way, a lot like iTunes library lists – a topic to be explored in the near future.

Y Zero K

Translated from Latin scroll dated 2BC —

Dear Cassius: Are you still working on the Y zero K problem? This change from BC to AD is giving us a lot of headaches and we haven’t much time left. I don’t know how people will cope with working the wrong way around. Having been working happily downwards forever, now we have to start thinking upwards.You would think that someone would have thought of it earlier and not left it to us to sort it all out at this last minute.

I spoke to Caesar the other evening. He was livid that Julius hadn’t done something about it when he was sorting out the calendar. He said he could see why Brutus turned nasty. We called in Consultus, but he simply said that continuing downwards using minus BC won’t work and as usual charged a fortune for doing nothing useful.

Surely we will not have to throw out all our hardware and start again? MACROHARD will make yet another fortune out of this I suppose. The money lenders are paranoid of course! They have been told that all usery rates will invert and they will have to pay their clients to take out loans. Its an ill wind …… As for myself, I just can’t see the sand in an hourglass flowing upwards.

We have heard that there are three wise men in the East who have been working on the problem, but unfortunately they won’t arrive until it’s all over. I have heard that there are plans to stable all horses at midnight at the turn of the year as there are fears that they will stop and try to run backwards, causing immense damage to chariots and possible loss of life. Some say the world will cease to exist at the moment of transition.

Anyway, we are still continuing to work on this blasted Y zero K problem. I will send a parchment to you if anything further develops. If you have any ideas please let me know, Plutonius

Adding a Link to a Web Page

How do you place a link between your web site and another web site?

Placing a link that points to another location on your web site can be either simple or difficult depending on your tools and experience. I will explain one way of doing this by using a plain text editor. In other words you will not need any specialized software to accomplish this.

First let’s go back to the basics. HTML, which stands for hypertext mark-up language was designed, as many other mark-up languages to make the elements on a page appear visually distinguished. With the exception of a few tags all have the same basic formula:


<b>some bold text</b>
<center>centered content</center>

The <tag> starts the definition, and the </tag> ends the definition.

A web link, hyper link, anchor link, etc. can be rendered on a browser by the special pair of tags <a></a>.

On an HTML editor such as Front Page, Dreamweaver, HoTMetaL, that is WYSIWYG all you would have to do is place your cursor where you want the link invoke the link editor and fill in the blanks. Once you supply all the parameters a hyper-link takes. The link is magically inserted in the page.

OK. Now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for: inserting a link into your web page. Start by opening your favorite TEXT editor (Avoid WYSIWYG programs like Word.) I suggest Notepad. A full web page will look ominous and if large enough will be almost unmanageable in Notepad. But, for this example it’s perfect.

Let us begin with a snippet of content: “Click here to see my other page.” Type it into your notepad and save it as “webpage.htm” use the quotes otherwise your document will be saved as webpage.htm.txt by default. We want the htm extension the document will behave as a web page when you double click on it.

Minimize your notepad, and double click on your new webpage.htm to test it. Your default browser should open with the page and all you should see is “Click here to see my other page.” Now go back to the notepad document and edit it to look like this:

Click <a href=” http://askjuan.net/quandan/ ”>here</a> to see my other page.

Save your document. Switch over to the web browser and refresh.

Now you should see: “Click here to see my other page.” The word “here” has become the link to the other page. If you click on it, it will take you to the page specified by the quotes after href=. That is all it takes. Use this method to insert links into your web pages.

A Better Internet Browser

header-firefoxBrowsing the Internet? You probably already know this but you need a program called a browser to do just that. Browse. What you probably did not know is that there are many flavors of browsers out there. And some are better at browsing than others. In this issue, I would like to tell you about my new favorite browser: Firefox.

Firefox is very versatile. It’s fast and you can get some great add-ons that will enhance it to be even better. Why am I talking about this now? There are just too many things I want to say about this program. I am so excited that I don’t know where to begin. Please bear with me as I babble a little.

I was a purist with Microsoft. Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE) was my training ground into the Internet world. When I started building web pages, I chose an MS product, Front Page. Why not? Microsoft seems to be everywhere. Plus IE is free. But, then, I found something better, Firefox. Also free. I do not want to get into the software politics at all; I just want to spread a little praise to an underdog (for now.) Firefox’ slogan is “Spread Firefox” – so I am.

For starters, Firefox has better security features that IE. Firefox will not allow auto installers to take over your computer. Firefox is great at suppressing pop-ups. Firefox can help you handle your cookies better. You can even see what is in the cookies before you decide to delete or keep them. When you are browsing in a secure area, the address bar turns yellow and a lock clearly shows you are being protected by encryption.

Another cool thing about Firefox is the skins you can apply to it. Some may call them themes; I call them awesome. Download a few themes and personalize your browser. How excellent is that? Not only is a personalized theme pretty to look at, your browsing is optimal. Firefox is one browser that complies better with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) standards than IE. In fact IE is being developed with known deficiencies in CSS.

Apparently no browser complies fully with CSS standards but Firefox does a better job any way. I found this out while trying to develop some websites that required some CSS tricks. Side by side, the same instructions did not work for IE as well as they worked for Firefox. I am sold.