Google bike hack, quick and dirty

Many of the projects we post are so well thought out and engineered, they could hardly be called “hacks”.  This one, however, falls neatly into the hack category. [Dave] wanted his very own exercise bike hooked to Google maps. Instead of setting up a control system and writing software to control Google maps, he simply hacked a USB game controller. He wired a magnetic switch directly into the board, where the “up” button is. Then he mounted the switch so that it would be triggered each time he rotated the pedal.  Though he only has the forward movement done right now, it would be pretty easy to set up a couple more switches at the base of the handle bar for left and right.

While the experience may not be quite as nice as the more complicated one, aside from head tracking, it isn’t that far off.

Biking through Google street view

[Aki] wanted to do some stationary cycling to get in shape. Unfortunately, his stationary cycle is located in his garage which doesn’t supply much inspiration or amusement. His solution was to build a VR rig so that he could ride around inside google street view. He has rigged a simple sensor to his wheel to determine his speed and he’s using a vuzix VR 920 as a display and orientation sensor. While he notes that it isn’t perfect, or even reliable, we think it is pretty cool. He can go sight-seeing, while getting in shape from his own garage. We have to wonder if he gets a headache after a while though.

Trim the fat from Gmail

minimal gmail

Google’s Gmail is a highly viable option for email. With numerous features and options like widgets, a task list, labels, and chat, Gmail has a slight tendency to get overwhelming and might force us to loose focus on what it is really all about: email.

What can make Gmail better? For starters, how about no ads; they are cluttering and distracting. What about getting rid of the widgets and unnecessary features like labels and chat that we think are supposed to make us more productive but really only make us lose our focus to send, read and reply to email? Nobody knows Zen better than [Leo] at Zen Habits. We weren’t surprised that he and his friends (with Firefox and Greasemonkey) have found a way to trim all the unnecessary elements from Gmail and make it into an email powerhouse that focuses on a basic productive email client. The minimalist inbox for Gmail consists of Greasemonkey scripts for:

  • Removing gadgets
  • Hiding labels, chat and footer
  • Removing ads
  • Removing stars
  • Getting rid of the Gmail logo and searchbar
  • Removing menu navigation bar
  • Cleaning up and removing unnecessary buttons

To get started focusing on email, and only email, head on over to ZenHabits for a list of associated scripts and what exactly they can do to help you on your road to the minimalist Gmail.

Build your own browser extensions for Google Chrome

google-chrome-logo

[Ryan] posted a writeup on developing extensions for Google Chrome. The extension system utilizes HTML with a JavaScript API which is still sparsely documented. After taking us through his twitter bar extension project, he concludes that the Chrome extensions are not nearly as versatile as what we’re used to seeing with Firefox. That being said, this is a move in the right direction for the young browser.

[related: Google Chrome roundup]

Gmail without the cloud: tips for next time

gmail_outage_tips

Yesterday’s Gmail service outage is a hot topic on just about every news site right now. For so many of us that have always taken the reliability of Gmail for granted it was a real shock to lose all of the functionality of the web based system. Now that we’ve learned our lesson, here’s a couple of tips to help you out the next time there’s an outage.

[Read more...]

Real Time searching

reallivesearch (Custom)

With the fresh competition of Bing, we are reminded that search engines haven’t changed much since Google came along. Bing has made some nice advancements, like video previews, but still has a way to go to be truly different than Google. [Long]put together this prototype of a real time search system based off of Bings API. He was inspired by Google Wave which we hope to see soon. Wave is primarily for communication, redefining how email and messaging would work. We can’t help but think that Google probably has some cool stuff in the secret vaults for searching too.  [Long]‘s project seems like a decent start, but like the goodtimes.searchengine, we think it needs some work. What happened to the cool video previews? More importantly, why can’t we turn off the parental filter?

Experimental search engine display

gtse

goodTimes.searchEngine is an experimental set up to display search engine results. Be sure you’re using Firefox or IE, because it isn’t working with chrome right now.  [Gordon] pointed us to it and asked for our feedback. We had a pretty quick list of improvements we would like to see, such as the category changes not popping up in new windows, or the new windows appearing on top for that matter. Or most importantly, a way to transition from the fancy preview window to a new tab or window. We are curious to hear your thoughts on this. What would make it better? Is it even needed? Is he building a tool to fix a problem that isn’t there? With Bing showing some nice new features over google, would something like this be of more use?