Thursday, October 30, 2008

Search engine plugin for Firefox.

Last night i was browsing through some recipes in The site has a massive database for all kinds of recipes. One thing that came to my mind was to write an extension for this site. But they did not have any API to query through their database. So i ended up writing a search plugin for the site.

Click on the images for the installation page.

Writing a search engine plugin is one of the easiest thing to do in Firefox. It was so easy that i just had to change the icons and search url for the other search engine plugins i wrote. I finally wrote search plugin for ToonDoo(which too has a massive collection of toons and no API yet!) and ZohoShare.

Here is a simple document on creating search engine plugin for your site. Here is a site for creating base64 enocoded string from your input file(icons for your search plugin should be a base64 encoded string of your actual icon file).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Calvin and Hobbes: Firefox Extension

Like most people out there, i am also a big fan of Calvin and Hobbes strips. I had earlier written a iGoogle gadget that displays Calvin and Hobbes strip of the day. I wanted to convert this gadget to a Firefox extension for a long time. Couple days back(10/24), i was struck in my office due to rains and crazy traffic. That is when i decided to finish off this extension.

Here is the addon link. This is my second Firefox extension. This is also under experimental addons currently. You will need an account to install your copy.

After installation, a small Calvin icon will be added in the status bar. When ever you are bored, you can click on it to see the Calvin and Hobbes strip of the day in a small pop-up in the same window. Links are provided in the top to view the previous strips too.

This is the first bare-bone version of the extension, so may have few bugs and usability issues. As always, report any bugs/issues here. Feature requests are always welcome!

Update 1:
1. New Icons for navigation added.
2. First Strip and Random Strip links added.

Update 2:
1. Date Chooser added.
2. Firefox 3.1beta2 supported.

Update 3:
1. Favorite button added.
2. Users can now choose either favorite mode or default mode to navigate through the strips.

Update 4[1.0.3]:
1. Firefox 3.1beta2 UI issues fixed.
2. Opening the image in new tab(instead of new window) is done.
3. Minor navigation and tooltip issues fixed.

Addon is now Public. Many thanks to the reviewer(Zadkiel M).
You dont need an account to install this addon anymore!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Long awaited due...

As usual, i left from my office around 7.30pm. It was just starting to drizzle. I convinced myself that the rain will not be heavy, and started for my house. I was not even a kilometer away from my office, it started to rain little heavily. My bikes battery gave up, so no honking or proper lights.

I still managed to drive in the pouring rain, hoping to get home and have some good dinner :). I was about four kilometers away from my office(still around 11 kms to reach home), not knowing that i would be getting my long awaited due, i took a left turn to catch the Guindy main road(as the road ahead was jammed as usual).

I would have traveled about few hundred meters, there came a dog, wanting to cross the road. Neither did the dog saw me coming, nor did i(due to low battery/light story). I spotted the dog only a few feet away from me. It was standing clueless right in front of me. I tried my best to avoid the dog, but the dog still did not miss my wheels, resulting in a skid, dragging myself for quite a distance.

The road i took is not jammed because of a reason. The reason being, it had no roads on most of the stretch!! Puzzled at what just happened, i stood up and searched for the dog that foiled this attack on me :). The poor dog was still under the bike! I lifted the bike to free the dog. It ran off the second i lifted the bike(luckily it did not bite me!). The moment i lifted the bike, few people started to gather. I never liked being in a spotlight, that too when am looking like an idiot!. So, i started the bike and sped away.

After going quite far from the scene, i checked on myself. My hands were bleeding, so as my knee. I checked on my mobile, luckily it was alright! My pant was torn near the kneecap, and i was all dirty! I had no other choice but to go home in this state. I still had about 11 kilometers to travel. I was little worried on how my parents would take it when i reach home.

At that point of time, i did not feel any pain of any great deal. So i started home again. After around a kilometer, i began to feel the pain and it was growing on me exponentially. I had to tell myself that it has not yet reached the unbearable stage and went on. I now spotted a medical shop. Suddenly a scene from Bourne Ultimatum, where the hero gets medicine from a medial shop to treat his injuries, came to my mind :). I stopped there and got a bottle of Savlon and cleaned the wounds in my hands. I could not reach the wounds in my legs, so left home that way.

I finally reached home after about 1hr of traveling after the accident. My parents looked a bit shocked. Took a good bath after cleaning the wounds. Sprayed Old Spice(my fav. for bleeding wounds) on the wounds. Was about to have dinner(after-all, all this started because of the good dinner!), there came my dad. He insisted me to go to a doctor to take a TT shot.

We went to the doctor, took the shot, bought the medicines she prescribed and headed home. Finally had the dinner with peace in my mind :).

Having been cruising the Chennai roads for 4 odd years, this is my first big accident. I never had a fall that resulted in bleeding joints! It sure is a long awaited due. Had it not been my helmet, this could have been even worse. My helmet bares 3 deep big scratches on the part covering my jaw. Its still spooky to think that my jaw had to take those scratches!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

India Times Shopping woes

I saw an almost attractive offer in Times of India paper. The offer was for a chord-less telephone with caller-id, which costs Rs. 1999+180 delivery charge. Without having any second thoughts, we called up and booked for the phone.

We received the phone after 10 days of booking. At first look, the phone looked alright. There is one rule about this "home delivered products", there is always some hidden damages! We checked again to see charger adapter broken and caller-id not working.

We placed a replacement order. Packing back the product is bit of a pain. We had to take a printout of complaint letter too to place it in the box(yeah, tele-shopping, atleast in India Times, is not for computer illiterates!). The product was collected from our house in a days time. The replaced product was received in next 10 days.

This time we were not able to spot any damages. It was almost perfect. But the caller-id was still not working! This was suppose to be a caller-id phone. And caller-id cannot be faulty in both the deliveries. Suspecting false product delivery, we called up the customer support again, and they were not able to solve the problem themselves. They inturn gave the vendor customer care number.

We called up the phones vendor and notified him about the issue. After hearing his reply, we were a bit shocked. All he said was, we need to purchase an extra equipment(which will burn another 300 bucks from our pocket) for the caller-id to work! This was suppose to be a caller-id phone and no where in the Times of India advertisement it is mentioned that we need to buy this device. Being pissed and cheated, we called up the India time support again and asked them to take back the product.

We had to place a refund order for this, which we did. The product was taken from our house the very next day and was promised the refund within 7 days of receipt of the product. Ten days passed, no refund was sent. We called up the support yet again and they promised(again) the refund will be dispatched within ten days.

After a long wait, i received the below mail from India times support. (Issues quoted in red)

Dear $order.userFirstName userLastName [suppose to be my name, instead its some variable name]

We wish to inform you that we have processed refund against
Order No.: $order.orderNumber sub order number
$suborder.subOrderNumber $suborder.itemName
[suppose to be my order and sub order numbers]


With Warm Regards
Customer Service

Seeing the pathetic condition of their support, i decided to shoot a mail back to them to tell these issues. I had to use their grievances page. I drafted the content and sent it. At first try, the session got expired! I did not loose hope, started a fresh session, and sent it again. This time, i got the following error!

Exception occured:

The jsp file for some validation was missing in their server!! Do they atleast care to test these things? I pretty much know they dont test the products they send to their customers. They could have atleast tested the products they and their customers use.

I would never buy any products again from India Times Shopping. A lesson well learnt, again!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A day without a honk..

As I had to give my bikes battery for recharging, i was left with no choice to travel a day in the bike without the battery in it. By saying that, there is no way i could use by bikes horn, till the battery is ready. Earlier i thought, its not a big deal driving in Chennai without hoking off. But now i realized its really a tough task.

With roads blessed with jay walkers, unruly drivers, right-in-the-middle-of-the-road cyclers, jump-out-as-you-like bus takers, its close to impossible to drive in Chennai without honking. Its almost like driving without breaks. But as i said, i was left with no other choice, i had to take my bike.

Earlier i tried to take a bus, and it took me around two and a half hour to reach my office(just around 15 kms and in the bike it takes around 45 mins in peak hours)! So these days taking bus is not even an option for me(either take the bike or stay home :) is the policy).

While driving to office, i had no big problems driving without hoking. Except for few cases, like bikers who travel at less than 20 kmph(generally with a mobile in their hand), auto drivers who turn their vehicle as they wish, drives who hate using indicators, people who dont honk in turnings(hey dont look at me, i did not have a choice) and children.

Children are the main issue in the above list. While auto drivers are more unpredictable than most children, we still have to be careful driving behind children. The up-sides of driving without honking is you cannot drive faster or do rash driving in this hectic Chennai traffic and ofcourse, you wont contribute to the noise pollution(at-least for that day).

All in all, it wasn't really a terrible experience. I feel its a good practice to have a no-horn day once in a month or fortnight.

Friday, October 3, 2008

ZohoCreator 3.0 Release Video

ZohoCreator rolled out their 3.0 version few days back. The highlight of the release was their release video. The Comic Video showcasing the features/power of ZohoCreator using cartoon characters was really awesome. Embedding the same below.

ZohoCreator fans can rate the video here.