Archive for the 'Web' Category

Language Aid 1.1.3 is out!

June 14th, 2008
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Google Translate

The latest update to Language Aid includes a plugin that really shows off its power and utility. Version 1.1.3 includes a plugin for Google Translate which performs general language translation in a multitude of tongues. One of the great features of Google Translate is that it can auto-detect the source language on its own in many cases. What this means is that the next time you are surfing the web and see text that is in a language you don’t understand, you can immediately see the translation of it in your native language. This addition greatly widens the potential user base for Language Aid by significantly expanding the language capability from just Japanese and Chinese dictionary lookups. “Your” language is now supported.

Language Aid 1.1.2 is out!

March 1st, 2008
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

One of the things I hear most often while providing support for Langauge Aid is something along the lines of “I hovered my cursor over text in some program, hit the lookup trigger and it didn’t do anything/grabbed the wrong text.” This is sometimes because the application they want to grab text from does not support the Accessibility API or sometimes because what they were hovering over wasn’t really text. Thus I have added a feature in version 1.1.2 that should help alleviate confusion.


Now in Language Aid 1.1.2 if you hold down the lookup trigger for more than one second, a highlight bubble will appear containing the text that will be grabbed if you let up your lookup trigger. You can also move the cursor around while holding the lookup trigger to see the exact text that would be grabbed from any point that your mouse cursor can hover over. So now if you are unsure about what text will be sent to the plugin, simply hold down the lookup trigger and move the mouse cursor around until you find the text you want. The highlight bubble is also slightly translucent so you can see the text under it.

I have also slightly overhauled the main Language Aid website to focus more on the the three different ways that you can use Language Aid to grab text. I have added short videos that explain and demonstrate each way. Also, a quick side note on Quicktime video encoding…the “Prepare for Internet Streaming” setting is BAD. When run in my web browser I found that my videos would often play for a bit, then the video would freeze but the progress slider would keep moving. This would continue until the end of the video. If you scrubbed through the video it would seem to display fine. However, if you scrubbed to a section in the video and then pressed play, it would play for a bit and then freeze again. Strangely enough, when played through Quicktime Player this did not happen quite as much but still occasionally would occur. I found that when I turned off the internet streaming setting this behavior stopped. Also, setting my H.264 keyframes setting to “Automatic” from 24 seemed to cut my file sizes in half. I suppose the moral of the story is that it pays to deviate from the default video encoding settings.

My video editor of choice? Quicktime Player (Pro).

February 29th, 2008
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

I must say that over the years more than any other video editing program I have used Quicktime Player (editing functionality requires Quicktime Pro) to do quick, clean and simple edits of video when I have needed to. Despite having only limited editing functionality and its purpose isn’t primarily to edit video, I have found that it gets the jobs I want done without a lot of hassle and helps maintain my video file fidelity.

I havn’t had the time to learn Final Cut Pro and for most jobs that I want to accomplish it feels a little overqualified. iMovie tends to mush my video around in ways that I don’t like such as transcoding it into something else, messing with the video dimensions and framerate. There may be better alternatives closer to what I want but I am not aware of them and I havn’t hunted extensively.

What I like about Quicktime Player is that I can slice and dice, re-order things, make translucent overlays and muck with the soundtrack by simply adding in references (by copy/paste) to my source media and then play with them. This means that nothing has to re-render and everything stays quality (the big box editors of course do this too). Now there are some problems sometimes when you try to play things back. Often my edits would playback one frame off as it is trying to load the resource or something. Even when I save the movie as a self contained archive it seems to have this problem. However, I have found that when I am all done with my edits simply choosing to “Export->Movie to Quicktime Movie” seems to take care of that.

An example of using Quicktime Pro to add a translucent comment overlay onto a video:


  •  First I make a translucent png the same size as my video.
  •  The I open it with Quicktime Player
  •  Edit->Select All
  •  Edit->Copy
  •  Then I open my video and select the time that I want that overlay to be visible
  •  Edit->Add to Selection & Scale
  •  Window->Show Movie Properties
  •  I then change the new video track’s “Transparency” to “Straight Alpha”.
  •  Lastly I make sure to export so that the little transition jitters are removed.

It seems to have filled my little niche fairly well. Perhaps one day my needs will grow but until then Quicktime Player will be my quick and clean tool of choice.

Digital Quoteboard

August 18th, 2007
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

So one idea that I have had knocking around in my head for a while has been a digital quoteboard. I remember how in college I would go over to somebody’s apartment and there would be this quoteboard full of funny one-liners which if taken of context or more often, taken in the context of who said them, were hilarious. Of course they are usually only funny if you knew the people that said them. I thought about how there are a lot of online communities of tight knit people who could have a little bit of fun with a digital equivalent and so I whipped up this little example. I will probably refine it here and there over time and will probably release the source soon (it is not that much code). Other things I have thought of were live javascript based editing and WordPress permissions hook ins. It currently works by having a php page render a csv quote database into a jpg so you can have static links to the results, ensuring that it will work in every browser (the above image is the actual linked image and thus may change as the database changes). So far what I have found is that there is a great disparity in exact results or even basic functionality in using the same Truetype font on different operating systems and different versions of the graphics libraries that PHP hooks into. Also, it appears that some fonts do not fully define things like punctuation and formating such as tabs. Feel free to leave a quote by going here. Although I may decide to remove general access to it in the future 😉

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