Introducing a brand new CODING section at the Chaos Labs Blog

Colour PencilsFinally I managed to squeeze out some time and get a much needed job done – i.e. devote a separate section in my blog to Coding. I’m primarily a .NET & PHP coder and I intend to showcase little pieces of my work in there. The stuff will mostly consist of what I dabble around with in my free time.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been extremely busy designing a CMS (Content Management System) for one of my clients as a result of which, regular visitors may have noticed a sharp drop in my frequency of posting. I’ve more or less completed the work there – the outcome being a full-fledged CMS that leverages the AJAX technique to the maximum. One of the by-products was a AJAX based Currency Converter, which I’m going to use to roll off the new section.

Along with each code snippet that I publish in this section, I also intend to run a series of tutorials highlighting the various nuances of coding & related tips & tricks. It’s going to take a while to plan & organise this section properly. Till then … 🙂

Think you can live without your computer for a day?

We're ClosedYou think you can turn your back to what has come to be “man’s best friend” for 24 whole hours? If you are brave enough, do let Denis Bystrov and Michael Taylor know. These experimenters have proposed March 24th, 2007 as the World Shutdown Day in an attempt to figure out if we can really cope up with a life devoid of computers – even if it is for a single day.

Be a part of one of the biggest global experiments ever to take place on the internet. The idea behind the experiment is to find out how many people can go without a computer for one whole day, and what will happen if we all participate!

World Shutdown Day

So… if you think you’re one of them, head over to the Shutdown Day site and cast your vote.

Figure out your blog’s worth in dollars !!

Dollar CollageI just came across an interesting tool that calculates your blog’s worth in dollars. The applet is written by Dane Carlson who runs the Business Opportunities Weblog and can be accessed via this link.

The applet is powered by Technorati’s API with the help of which it computes and displays your blog’s worth based on the same link to dollar ratio as the AOL-Weblogs Inc. deal.

Simply enter your blog’s URL in the field provided and hit the Submit button. The applet will analyse all inbound links to your blog (as tracked by Technorati) and comes up with a small graphic that depicts how much your blog is worth. It even gives you the HTML code, which you can plug-into your blog’s template and display the worth dynamically. If the number of inbound links increase, so will your blog’s price.

 

Here’s an example…

My blog is worth $12,419.88. How much is your blog worth?

While the tool definitely gives you an idea about your blog’s approximate valuation, the results seem quite a bit unrealistic. For example, a starter blog with not a single post in it but with a single inbound link was estimated at ~ $1,200. Keep in mind that the results are merely mathematical projections and wouldn’t mean much in real-life were you trying to sell your blog. Still it’s a cool thing to display to your visitors.

Figure out your own blog’s worth today….

Tweak your Places Bar to reach frequently accessed drives & folders much faster

For people like me, who download a lot from the net and work with a wide-varitey of files spread over different drives, it’s an eternal headache to navigate between drives and folders every time I try to save some file. The common file dialog that is brought up by Windows (for saving & opening files) contains a Places Bar which is there to facilitate this task by providing you with links to some frequently accessed folders like the Desktop, My Documents etc. If you haven’t got a clue on what I’m talking about, here’s a picture that will help you recognise the so-called “Places Bar”.

Places Bar Screenshot

Personally, I hate it that there’s no mechanism in built into Windows that allows you to alter the links in the Places Bar to suit your needs. For example, I don’t save anything on the Desktop as such. So that link is totally useless for me. So is the My Network link. History doesn’t help me much either. For me a more convenient option would be if a couple of drives or folders to which I save files very frequently were listed there. That way I wouldn’t have to navigate up & down through several levels of folders or work my way down from My Computer. I’d always wondered if there was some registry tweak that’d tweak the Places Bar to suite my needs – but hadn’t managed to find any so far. That is, till I came upon this really light freeware utility called PlacesBar Tweakerâ„¢.

This cool-tool enables you to get rid of all the default icons in the Places Bar and replace them with any other System Folder icon or direct links to your most accessed folders. It even allows you to re-order the icons as you like. There aren’t much in the way of features in this software, except that it does exactly what it’s meant to do. Instead of trying to describe any further, I’ll show you the after effect of using this tool. As they say … a picture is worth a thousand words 😉

Modified Places Bar

There you go..You can grab this really useful utility for free from the ioIsland Site.

Gmail is now officially open for public sign-up

Gmail LogoYep ! At last it has really happened. Gmail is now officially open for public sign-up. No more invites and no more of haggling other’s for those invites either. This was long overdue though.

Past couple of months there’s been an incessant trail of rumours announcing the public release of Gmail – none of which could be verified. Apparently it was being rolled out in phases and for some weird reason Egypt was taken up as one of the first countries ever for the service.

Seems like now it’s been made a worldwide release in one swift stroke. The sign-up page has got this large dark bluish button you can’t miss. Funny thing is that it still shows as BETA. I wonder if any of Google’s services are ever going to get out of the beta phase !!

Those who still haven’t had the Gmail experience 😮 , head for the Gmail Sign-up Page and get yourself an account… today! To those who’re existing Gmail account holders, can you please confirm if the sign-up link is active in your country? I know for one that it’s working in both India & Thailand.

P.S. All thanks to good old Twitch for pointing out the link.

Intel to roll out a Teraflops Chip that’ll break all boundaries of desktop computing

Intel Terra XXLIntel, the world’s largest chip-manufacturer is all out to set a ground-breaking record that’ll far surpass all it’s prior achievements. The brand new introduction is going to be an 80-core chip that crunches numbers at the rate of 1 trillion floating-point operations/second. That too running at a 3.2-GHz clock speed with a total power consumption of 62 watts, to yield a record 16 Gflops/watt. If these figures don’t mean much to you, imagine a raw power of a large mainframe computer on a single chip or the “equivalent of 80 blade processors plugged into a high-speed backplane.” If you still can’t imagine the horsepower, think of 80 separate computers using a high-speed hardware interconnect – all on a single chip silently powering you desktop.

While all other big players like AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) and even startups like Ambric Inc. are cracking their brains over massively parallel multicore chips, Intel has managed to outsmart everyone by taking a giant leap in a completely different direction. Am sure you’ve heard of the concept called “routing” that makes the internet tick. Every single computer hooked to the internet manages to find each other through an intelligent process called routing or route mapping. If one particular route fails for some reason (intermediate servers go down, for example), alternate routes can always be discovered so as to not hamper the flow of data. The Teraflops Research Chip employs a similar technology that allows it to effectively bypass a core that has been damaged due to some reason and still continue processing smoothly without letting off an inkling to the software running on it.

 

Cyborg - Is this our future?The possibilities of such processing power are limitless. For example, artificial intelligence, instant video communications, photo-realistic games, multimedia data mining and real-time speech recognition – all of which, once deemed as far-fetched science fiction as portrayed in ‘Star Trek’ shows – could become everyday realities. Fields like realtime weather prediction & financial modelling – which are severely gagged by the lack of adequate processing power could gain tremendous benefits out of such a technology.

While the chip is just a prototype that is going to be demonstrated at the Integrated Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco and is far from being mass-produced, it definitely gives us a vivid glimpse into what the future has in store for us.

Source: InformationWeek

Cleared Recycle Bin and accidentally lost an important file? Here’s how to recover it

Recycle BinAm sure all of us have done it at some point of time i.e. just cleared out our Recycle Bins and then to our horror realised that some really important file has also taken a hike with it. Or maybe you were simply trying to act tech savvy on your friend’s computer and used Shift+Del to successfully wipe out a large chunk of his folders. Wooops !! 😀 There’s nothing one can do as such but to gawk at own stupidity under such circumstances. Well, not really !! As long as the file-system in use is NTFS, there is an east way out. NTFS Undelete is an excellent freeware tool that can recover almost any deleted file – whether it was deleted directly from the hard drive or from the Recycle Bin.

Is this some miracle tool that can recover any deleted file?

Well, almost! When a file is deleted, it’s contents still remain intact on the hard drive. However, the space it occupies is flagged as free and made available to any program requesting space to write a file. So the next file saved to the disk may actually overwrite the contents of the deleted file. Thus, if there’s no other disk write activity after you deleted your file there’s a 100% chance of getting it back.

Disk Write Activity! File Recovery! That sounds complicated…

Not at all. Recovering lost files using this software is as easy as working with Windows Explorer – which most of you are ultra-familiar with. In fact the software’s interface is almost identical to Windows Explorer and consists of a 2 pane view. When you select a particular drive / folder it takes a couple of seconds to scan through it and presents you with a list of files, just like Explorer except that in this case the deleted files are marked with a red cross.

NTFS Undelete Screenshot

The software is available for free download in the form of a Windows Installer (.msi) file as well as an ISO image that can be burnt on a CD and run directly.

Get NTFS Undelete

Make your online payments safer with PayPal’s hardware Security Key

PayPal LogoPayPal, the reknowned online payment service has recently rolled out a hardware key, that adds an extra layer of security to your online transactions.

How does the so-called “Security Key” work?

PayPal Security KeyThe key is actually a small hardware device that works in conjunction with your PayPal and/or eBay account. Everytime you try to login into your account, you’ll be asked for a 6 digit number along with your normal login information (username & password). This information is generated by the key on a random basis, about every 30 seconds. That means everytime you login, you’ve to enter a different 6 digit figure. The key is customised for your account making it impossible for two such keys to generate the same number at the same time.

So how does that make my account secure?

Supposing you’re the victim of a Phishing Scam and somehow managed to give up your PayPal login information to the Phishers. Under normal circumstances they’d be able to login into your account and make good use (read abuse) of your money and credit cards associated with that account. However, now with this key – even if you unknowingly divulge your login credentials (as well as the current key code), no third person will be able to login anymore. When someone attempts to login with your stolen credentials, he/she is prompted for that 6 digit key again – which is going to be different than what had you used last time. The only possible means for someone else gain access to your account is to somehow physically rob you of the hardware key.

 

The key is really small and portable and can fit smugly on your keychain. You’d require to carry it around with you all the time anyway, as you are going to need it everytime you login. It’s now available for purchase for a one-time non-refundable fee of $5 from the PayPal Stores. There are no recurring (monthly or yearly) usage charges after that.

OpenSearchFox: A Firefox extension to create OpenSearch Plug-ins in a single click

OpenSearchFox LogoHere’s a short but sweet one. If you’re daunted by the task of creating OpenSearch plug-ins for your site or any of your favourite sites, fear no more. OpenSearchFox is a cool new Firefox extension that can create such plug-ins for you with a single click.

Is it really that simple?

Absolutely so. All you need to do is install the extension and then browse to the site you want to create the search plug-in for. Once you’re at the site, locate the Search Box and right-click on it. You’ll notice a new item named “Add OpenSearch plugin” in your menu. The item is accompanied by a blue magnifying glass icon to help you easily spot it. Just click on that and you’re done.

Only intermediary step involves a single dialog box which asks you to name the plugin whatever you feel like. The plug-in is created and added to your search engine list directly along with the fav-icon for the site. If the site lacks a fav-icon, you can always use one of your own through the same dialog box where you name the plugin.

Give it a try and see for yourself…

Those who still want to learn the inner workings of OpenSearch plug-ins and create one programmatically, here are a couple of resources for you:

Google’s delivering the AdSense “Logo” more frequently now

This may seem like a very old topic. Rather it IS old. However, with quite a few sightings in hand over the past few days I couldn’t help but write-up a small report about it.

A couple of months back the whole blogosphere went up in an unanimous uproar against Google’s attempt to replace the “Ads by Google” text in AdSense advertisements – with their logo instead. There were objections / grumbling from a lot of quarters saying that this might lead to a decrease in the Click-Through-Rate of the ads. I’d made a post about it too where I’d reported sightings of the same. However, I was probably one of the first to notice that the logo seemed to follow the colour palette of my ads (black text on white background).

AdSense with Black Logo

My doubts were further confirmed when I came across repeated sightings of the same in a slightly different format – but once again adopting to my ad palette.

 

AdSense with Black Logo - 2nd sighting

This was way back around the end of December last year (2006). Then suddenly one fine day the logo stopped showing up – at least on my site. Seems like Google went into pensive phase to deliberate on the whole logo in ads issue. Even the reports stopped flooding in from everywhere. Gradually the whole issue died out and got replaced by bigger and better (more interesting) stuff out there on the net.

Now all of a sudden, once again I see the revival of the logo. Past few days – rather over this last one week, I’ve been sighting it more and more frequently, to the point that now I receive an impression with that logo at least once every day. Here are a couple of screenshots before & after I changed my theme.

Recent Sighting 1 Recent Sighting 2 Recent Sighting 3

That seems to justify my prior conclusion about adopting to your ad’s colour palette. Invariably on each occasion it has turned up in the colour the ad text is in.

Have you seen any more of these?