Hackaday links: August 22, 2010

EL back-lit keyboard

A couple bucks worth of EL wire gives a nice green glow to [Mark Shasha’s] T400 Elite. Hopefully [Jeri Ellsworth] has some time to pull those how-to videos together so that we can make our own EL wire to replicate this hack.

Mini kaboom

This tiny cannon is right out of Night at the Museum. It works just like its much bigger brothers would; fill with powder, insert cannon ball, and light with a fuse. Both the introduction and the follow-up videos document the destruction of various objects using the diminutive weapon. [Thanks Thorsten]

Don’t close that browser

We use Google Chrome quite a bit because it tends to be more responsive when opening massive numbers of tabs while researching featured hacks. But there’s some things we don’t like about it. Lack of built-in PDF support under Ubuntu comes to mind, but a smaller thorn in our side is that closing the last tab will also close the browser window. [Ted Schaefer] got tired of the same thing so he wrote an extension called Last Tab Standing to trap that last browser tab, opening the default window instead of closing the browser.

Amiga demo winner

This 4K demo for the Amiga AGA is the top ranked submission from Breakpoint 2010. [Osgeld] tipped us off about this and made the point that although it’s four times the size of those 1K JavaScript demos, the Amiga code doesn’t get to take advantage a pre-existing framework like Java does enjoy the benefits of running inside of a browser . Is this doing more with less?

Transformers balloon sculptures

If you’re having trouble finding that art piece to fill up your dining room you should consider building transformers out of balloons. The sculpture above is a free-standing Optimus Prime but the artist has also turned out Megatron, Grimlock, and others. [Thanks W01F]

Digikey sort by price script

Does anyone else find it a little ironic the electronic retailer SparkFun is advocating scripts to help Digikey have a Sort By Price function? Regardless, to reiterate now Firefox (and we hear Google Chrome too) users with the Greasemonkey plugin can sort Digikey items. Personally, some of us here are just Mouser fans at heart.

[Thanks Charper and Mohonri and Satiagraha, image credit Make]

Build your own browser extensions for Google Chrome


[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]

Distributed computing in JavaScript


We’ve heard about the idea of using browsers as distributed computing nodes for a couple years now. It’s only recently, with the race towards faster JavaScript engines in browsers like Chrome that this idea seems useful. [Antimatter15] did a proof of concept JavaScript implementation for reversing hashes. Plura Processing uses a Java applet to do distributed processing. Today, [Ilya Grigorik] posted an example using MapReduce in JavaScript. Google’s MapReduce is designed to support large dataset processing across computing clusters. It’s well suited for situations where computing nodes could go offline randomly (i.e. a browser navigates away from your site). He included a JavaScript snippet and a job server in Ruby. It will be interesting to see if someone comes up with a good use for this; you still need to convince people to keep your page open in the browser though. We’re just saying: try to act surprised when you realize Hack a Day is inexplicably making your processor spike…

[via Slashdot]

Chrome and Firefox showing JavaScript improvements

With new betas for both Firefox and Chrome being released, CNET decided to find out how good their JavaScript performance was. Both browsers got a performance boost with Firefox slightly edging out Chrome. You have to turn on TraceMonkey, Firefox’s new Javascript engine in 3.1b1, to get the improvement. We never thought Google was that serious about building a new browser. They just want wanted Firefox to get their act together and suck less. It seems to be working.

[via Lifehacker]

Google Chrome roundup

Google Chrome made a huge splash in the past week, but will it really change the way you browse, and convince you to switch from your current browser? For those who want to play with it but don’t want Google to completely take over their lives, Chromium is the open source project behind Google Chrome. Linux and OS X users can also run Chrome using WINE, although success is not guaranteed. To make an educated choice, read Scott McCloud’s comic which explains the underpinnings. Make sure you’re aware of Chrome’s security vulnerabilities, and take advantage of Lifehacker’s guide to make your browsing experience as convenient and useful as possible. There are some great features, including the ability to log into multiple Google accounts using its much-lauded Incognito mode, which prevents Google Chrome from logging information on your browsing and downloading habits (websites you browse can still track your information). For convenience, you can also install Chrome on a USB drive, and take it anywhere with you. Explore the many Google Chrome blogs that have popped up to provide advice on hacking and tweaking the browser. Or you could just get all your information from 4chan.