Monthly Archives: February 2006

Google Toolbar SpellCheck

From my previous entry about the SpellBound Firefox extension, comments had suggested checking out Google Toolbar which now includes spell check, but be aware that it sends data back to Google servers.

This morning I played with the toolbar a bit to check out the latest features (I don’t generally use any of these search toolbars). When you run spell check for the first time, an information dialog appears, informing you that “SpellCheck uses Google servers. Please view the updated Toolbar Privacy Policy.” I like the plain language shown here and the fact that it comes up just when you’re about to use the feature (rather than relying on the privacy policy shown during install that no one reads). The language in the online privacy policy is a little more muddled, where I guess “processing the text on a web page” means “sent to Google servers” (my emphasis):

We process your requests in order to operate the Google Toolbar. For example, by knowing which web page you are viewing, the PageRank feature of Google Toolbar can show you Google’s ranking of that web page. Likewise, by processing the text on a web page, SpellCheck can offer spelling suggestions and AutoLink can provide useful links to information.

I confirmed that doing a spell check operation sends the data to a Google server, presumably where the spelling analysis takes place. The data is sent over SSL, so it’s not possible to observe the exchange. This design actually makes sense, leaving the processing for spelling or link suggestions on the server. But, the trade off is privacy and whether you want your data sent to Google servers.

If you’re doing something that will be public soon anyways (e.g. this blog entry), it may not be a concern. But, if you’re doing something sensitive or confidential (corporate bug database, for example), I’d recommend IESpell for Internet Explorer or SpellBound for Firefox.

SpellBound Extension for Firefox

I’ve really come to appreciate and rely on the SpellBound Firefox extension. Whether it’s creating a new blog entry, submitting bug reports and comments, or any other web-based content, having spell check only a right-click away is very handy.

Things were going swimmingly, until Firefox update came out. Unfortunately the SpellBound extension and the corresponding dictionaries both reported incompatibility with the newer version. A quick web search revealed one possible solution: editing the install.rdf file inside the XPI packages to raise the “maximum” version number supported.

After uninstalling my existing extensions, then installing these newly-modified ones, spell check was back again! Here are copies of my modified XPI files that could be installed directly into Firefox for Windows without any editing:

Update: In the comments, some people suggested using Google toolbar’s spellchecker. Nathan Sharp cautioned that this would send your data to remote Google servers which may be a concern. I followed up in an entry about Google Toolbar.

Update #2: Based on the number of comments and visitors, this post has become fairly popular. I’m glad people found it helpful. I also just updated my server so that these .xpi files are served with the correct MIME type so you should be able to install directly into Firefox by clicking the links above (and allowing as a trusted install site).

Stanford Tree Drunk?

I’ve been a big Stanford football fan and season ticket holder for quite a while now (I guess about 8 years). The whole “anti-establishment” band thing has been amusing at times, but especially when they get in trouble. From yesterday, it turns out that the tree was fired for drinking on the job (emphasis mine):

“She wasn’t doing anything offensive,” Urmy said. “She was just jumping and dancing. The tree’s movement is usually consistent with that of someone who’s had something to drink.”

Those in my family who are Notre Dame fans relish the fact that Stanford’s band is no longer welcome at Notre Dame. (Although I must admit the potato famine gag was pretty funny…)

(Via StickyC)

Yahoo! UI Library

I spent the whole afternoon in jury duty, coming home to learn about the new Yahoo! User Interface blog which coincides with the public launch of the Yahoo! UI Library and Design Patterns. It looks like all this stuff launched yesterday (Monday, February 13). Here’s the scoop from the new UI blog:

This blog is the companion blog for two libraries we’re proudly releasing today. The new Yahoo! Design Pattern Library offers our thinking on common interface design issues for traditional and rich Internet applications. The new Yahoo! User Interface Library is a collection of industrial-grade JavaScript utilities and widgets that enable you to efficiently get the most out of today’s powerful browsers. In both cases, these are the exact same things that power Yahoo! today.

Everything is provided under a really-open BSD license. I knew we had a couple such efforts for internal use, but had no idea we were working on a public release. Those public Yahoo! blogs are helpful even if you happen to work there :)

Yahoo! User Interface Blog

Screencast: Aardvark Firefox Extension

I recently discovered the Aardvark Firefox extension and have found it quite helpful for printing web sites that don’t already offer “printer friendly” versions. Aardvark lets you remove page elements like navigation bars or ads. Whether you’re printing out a longer article or just trying to read something online, this is really a helpful tool.

To demonstrate this extension, I’ve made my first screencast with Camtasia Studio. I’m still trying to figure out the best combination of image/sound quality versus file size. I’ve published a couple different combinations to try:

Update 2006-08-16: I re-created the Flash version to improve the audio. File size is up a little, now 20MB, but the screencast sounds much better now.