Archives for September 2008

Sergey starts a blog!

I’ve checked with folks at Google and they confirmed that http://too.blogspot.com/ is Sergey Brin’s blog. The name “too” reflects Sergey’s additional life outside work. One of his first posts is about the fact that he might be more likely to develop Parkinson’s Disease when he’s older. That’s based on data from 23andMe, the personal genetics company co-founded by Sergey’s wife Anne Wojcicki. It’s a serious reminder that healthiness is one of the top issues for anyone.

I’m sure that lots of people will flood Sergey with advice like “Add Google Analytics to that blog!” or suggest how to tweak his blog template or offer him free SEO tips. Personally, I’m just glad that Sergey is blogging. I think it’s a great idea and I hope that he keeps doing it. Sergey, welcome to the blogosphere. 🙂

Update: I didn’t even think to check before posting, but Sergey already has Google Analytics installed on his blog. He’s ahead of the game. 🙂

Shiny Chrome bits, plus a fresh tip

A few neat Chrome things that I’ve seen recently:

CrossOver ported the open-source Chromium browser over to Mac and Linux using Wine. Bear in mind that this is more of a proof-of-concept and not the official version, but you can still download the binaries and play with it.

If you like the look and feel of Chrome but can’t leave your Firefox 3 extensions behind, someone made a Chrome lookalike extension so that Firefox looks like Chrome.

Or if you want to go the other direction, you can make Chrome look like Firefox3:

Chrome with a Firefox 3 theme

Lots of different places, including ChromeSpot, talk about how to do other themes, from “Galaxy” to the Boston Red Sox.

Currently Chrome doesn’t have support for extensions such as Greasemonkey that lets users do client-side modifications of web pages. But Kazuho Oku has written a neat way to get Greasemonkey-like functionality out of Chrome. Oku calls it Greasemetal. How does it work, when Chrome doesn’t support extensions yet? I’ll let the author tell you:

1. setup a local web server that sends userscripts to Google Chrome
2. launch Google Chrome specifying the browser to connect its AutomationProxy (an interprocess communication channel of the web browser implemented for automated UI tests) to Greasemetal
3. periodically execute JavaScript in each browser tab that inserts

(hat tip to Mashable on Greasemetal)

As you might imagine, all of this stuff might break in various weird and wild ways, but that’s part of the fun of tinkering. If you want to play it safer, you can read great Chrome tips from Lifehacker, Google OS, or Google Blogoscoped.

And since you’ve read all the way to the bottom, let me mention a tip that I haven’t seen widely mentioned. In Chrome, Control-V will paste from your clipboard and preserve formatting. If you use Control-Shift-V, only the text will be pasted.

Let me show you what I mean. There’s a site called Sphinn that lets you comment on search news, but the comment box allows rich formatting. In this image, I’ve highlighted a comment about Chrome and pasted the whole thing into the comment box with Control-V:

Paste of rich clipboard

Now if I only wanted to paste the raw text that I highlighted, here’s what happens when I use Control-Shift-V:

Paste of just clipboard text

This can be handy for some programs such as Google Docs that let you paste rich objects like images and formatting–but sometimes you want to paste only the text.

Best Yogurt in Silicon Valley?

Hi, my name is Matt, and I have a yogurt problem. It started last month when I discovered the joys of Pinkberry yogurt on my trip down to Los Angeles for SIGGRAPH.

Pinkberry is different from “normal” yogurt like TCBY because it has a tart (or slightly sour) taste. If you’re living in middle America with no access to fancy-pants yogurt, the closest taste I would compare it to is DanActive yogurt. Except that I didn’t like DanActive at first, but Pinkberry had me hooked before I finished my first bowl.

Besides the tart taste, Pinkberry is different because they have a wide variety of toppings from fresh fruit (kiwi, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry) to granola to Fruity Pebbles. Pinkberry also offers a secret ingredient not on the menu: mochi. Mochi is pronounced “MO-chee” and has almost the size and consistency of jelly beans, but not as sweet. It’s made by soaking rice overnight and then pounding it into a firm rice cake, which is then sliced up. I know it sounds gross, but on tart yogurt with some blueberries, it’s heavenly:

This is red mango yogurt with mochi and blueberries

Here’s the problem. As soon as I got back to Silicon Valley, I looked up nearby Pinkberry locations. The closest one is in Valencia, California, nearly four hours to the south. I’m an optimistic man, so I wrote to Pinkberry and asked if they’d be opening up any locations a little closer. They wrote back to say they have expansion plans, but not currently in Northern California.

So how was I supposed to get my sour yogurt fix? I searched on the net to find similar yogurt places. First I tried Fraiche Yogurt, a small yogurt cafe in Palo Alto. The yogurt was high-quality, but it didn’t taste exactly like Pinkberry and their mochi was a little soft. Next I tried Yogurt Fantasy on Castro Street in Mountain View. The mochi was good, but the yogurt wasn’t quite as savory as Pinkberry. I also tried Willow Glen Frozen Yogurt Company in the (surprise) Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose. Of the local companies, they had the closest to Pinkberry-flavor yogurt, and they put toppings in the middle of the yogurt, not just on top, which is a neat trick.

But I finally found a place that tastes almost exactly like Pinkberry. It’s called Red Mango and it’s in Palo Alto. In fact, the store was opened by Yul Kwon, who won $1 million dollars in 2006 on Survivor: Cook Islands in 2006.

So if you want to know what this whole “sour yogurt” craze is about, try Red Mango or Pinkberry. I recommend the small original with mochi and blueberries. Get it in a medium cup so none of the delicious toppings drops on the ground. 🙂

If you’re hooked on this whole yogurt craze, there’s a ton of backstory behind it. Red Mango opened first in Korea in 2002, and there is bad blood between Pinkberry and Red Mango. Pinkberry faced a class-action lawsuit for not disclosing all the ingredients in its yogurt at first. Meanwhile, Red Mango has emphasized the healthiness of its yogurt, such as no artificial flavors or colors.

San Francisco could have had Red Mango but Palo Alto got it instead. The reason why is amazing:

Mark Young, one of Kwon’s partners, says that when they applied for a permit there were only four Red Mango dealerships in the United States. That was acceptable, because the formula retail ordinance, passed by voters in November of 2006, says the franchise must have fewer than 11 in the country or it is considered a chain. … However, Marsha Garland, founder and executive director of the North Beach Chamber of Commerce, was suspicious. …

Garland found that Red Mango had continued to add franchises in the time since Kwon’s group was granted a building permit. So by now – and even Young admits this – there are more than 11 locations across the country. Case closed, said the North Beach watchdogs.

That’s right: San Francisco granted a permit, then pulled the permit after work had begun because Red Mango had become a “chain.” That decision seems pretty unfriendly to me. But because of that move, I get to eat delicious Red Mango yogurt, so I should be thankful. 🙂

One thing is certain: this sour yogurt craze will only get hotter. It sounds like Yogurberry is opening a store on Castro Street in Mountain View soon, which means I’ll visit soon after the store opens. Happy yogurting!

How to delete “nobody” files from a directory I own in FreeBSD?

Lazyweb, here’s a quick question for you. On a FreeBSD system, suppose I own a directory called “foo”. Inside that “foo” directory are some files (file1, file2, file3) owned by the “nobody” user. How do I delete those files? When I type the command “rm file1” I get the response “rm: file1: Permission denied” even though I own the parent foo directory.

Any suggestions? It’s on a machine where I don’t have root access.

Update: Problem solved, but in an annoying way. The files were created by a PHP script, so I wrote a new PHP script to remove the files in question. It looked something like

<?php
unlink(“./advanced-cache.php”);
unlink(“./wp-cache-config.php”);
unlink(“./cache/meta/wp-cache-33c58158f712bca22c3414a8df924c46.meta”);
unlink(“./cache/meta/wp-cache-8f9198130973778a72a378ce93042c4b.meta”);

unlink(“./cache/meta/wp-cache-a9e95ca4074fc06d9672d81133751b8e.meta”);
rmdir(“./cache/meta”);
?>

This forum thread from 2001 describes the idea (thanks to Mark and the people that commented).

In case you’re wondering, pair Networks’ FreeBSD systems really don’t work well with the WordPress “WP Cache” or “WP Super Cache” plug-ins, because both plugins make files owned by the “nobody” user which appear to be impossible to delete from the SSH command-line.

Arrrrr you prepared for Talk Like a Pirate Day with pirate fonts?

Are you ready for Talk Like a Pirate Day? It’s September 19th (same date every year), so it’s coming up fast. I recently stumbled across some really nice pirate fonts online. This one is called Windlass, for example:

Windlass font

Hat-tip to KPAO! which is a fun blog.

Every time I start looking at fonts, I always surface 3-4 hours later realizing that I would have a serious font problem once I started. For example, did you know that you can make a font online for free? Watch the screencast to learn more.

Or you can make a font out of your handwriting for free. You print out a page of letters, write each letter in the predefined box, scan the page, and upload it. According to this page you can use a coupon code of “YourFont2008” to make sure that it’s free. I’ve printed out the pages but haven’t written/scanned my handwriting yet.

Fun stuff, but it’s amazing how you can start with one website with free fonts and quickly burn an entire afternoon. 🙂

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