Tag Archives: hack

3 ways to use Google as a dictionary

Use these quick hacks to use Google as a dictionary.

1. If you only want a quick word definition, prepend your Google search with define:

For instance, https://encrypted.google.com/search?q=define:animal will give you a quick dictionary definition, followed by normal search results.

Use define:search-term to get a quick dictionary definitionDefine animal  Google Search

2. If you want a more complete definition (encyclopedic, almost), you need to enable Google’s dictionary mode using one of these methods:

a. Use the following URL to access Google:


and enter the word you’re looking for into the search box.

You can also add your search term directly to the URL, thus:


adding &q=search-term to your URL.

b. Add the following search engine to Google Chrome (there are similar ways to add it to Firefox):

Open the Chrome Preferences | Manage Search Engines page at: chrome://settings/searchEngines

(or right click inside the Google search box and select Add as Search Engine…)

and use the following values:

Name: Google Dictionary

Keyword: d

URL: http://www.google.com/search?tbs=dfn:1&q=%s

Add a custom search engine to your browser to quickly get dictionary definitionsAdd Dictionary Search Engine

Now, whenever you want to search for a word, simply type d in your address bar, press tab and enter the word you’re looking for.

Google is chuck full of information, if you know how to ask.Animal  Google Search

3. If you’re using Chrome, you may also install the Google Dictionary extension, available from the Chrome Web Store. Once installed, you can simply double-click any word on a web page and you’ll get a pop-up with the definition.

Double-click any word to get its definition.NewImage
Or click the toolbar for any other word.NewImage

So there you go, three cool ways to expand your vocabulary. What about you? Do you have any tips on using Google? Leave your comment below and share this article with your friends.


Creating a Shortcode for the Organize Series WordPress Plugin

Insert this code into your WordPress functions.php file (or custom_functions.php if you’re using Thesis like I am) to enable a quick way to display a series of articles created with the Organize Series plugin.

function get_thumb_series( $atts ) {
	extract( shortcode_atts( array(
		'ser_id' => false
	), $atts ) );
	if ('ser_id' == false){
		return false;
 	global $post, $orgseries;
	$series_post = array();
	$posts_in_series = array();
	$settings = $orgseries->settings;
	$ser = $atts['ser_id'];
	$result = '<div class="episode-list">';
		$series_post = get_objects_in_term($ser, 'series'); 
		$posts_in_series = get_series_order($series_post, 0, $ser, FALSE);
		foreach($posts_in_series as $seriespost) { 
				$result .= token_replace(stripslashes($settings['series_post_list_post_template']), 'other', $seriespost['id'], $ser_ID);
		$result .= '</div>';
		return $result;
add_shortcode( 'get-ts', 'get_thumb_series' );


On any post or page (and possibly anywhere else) where you want to list a particular series, enter the following shortcode:

[get-ts ser_id='n']

where n is the ID of the series you want to display (you can find this in the Manage Series admin page).

So, for instance, if you want to display a list of posts contained in a series with ID=10, you’d enter the following in the text of the post or page:

[get-ts ser_id='10']

Why and How did I do this

I’m using the wonderful Organize Series plugin on a site I’m working on to display hundreds of TV episodes together in a logical arrangement. As part of my CMS strategy, I needed a way to display the content of a series on a page that is not a part of the series.

Suppose you have all the episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” organized in a series so that you can jump from one to the next in a logical order and not be constrained by a blog’s chronological ordering system. If you want to create a page with additional info about the show, there’s no clear way to add the episode list to the page. This Shortcode will allow you to do just that.

The Organize Series plugin includes a file filled with useful functions (orgSeries-template-tags.php in the plugin’s folder). Figuring out how to put all that info to good use was a bit harder, since Organize Series now keeps all their support forums behind a pay-wall. The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine solved that by letting me look at some older pages from back when the support forums where open.

Further help came from Aaron Jorbin’s post on WordPress Shortcodes – A how to by example.

The nice thing about this Shortcode is that you can edit the output to suit your needs. The reason I called the function get_thumb_series is that I originally wanted to generate a list of episodes with a thumbnail next to each one. I still haven’t done that, but there’s nothing keeping you from changing the function to return whatever it is you need. I’m currently using the default functions within orgSeries-template-tags.php (and the function itself is an abridged version of get_series_posts()), but will eventually add my own to return just the information I need about every episode (thumbnails, air dates, duration, etc).

I’ll add links to example pages once the site goes live. In the meantime, let me know if this article was helpful to you and feel free to post any fixes or updates.

The Real Reason Apple Slashed the iPhone’s Price

The moment Apple announced a $200 price cut on the 8GB iPhone, the blogosphere lit up. The early adopters, feeling betrayed by Apple for slashing the iPhone’s price just two months after it’s debut, raised enough of a racket to get Steve Jobs to issue them $100 Apple gift certificates. The financial analysts took Apple to task, reading the price cuts as a sign of weak iPhone sales, sending the stock down more than 5%.

Missed by all was the real reason Apple slashed the iPhone’s price.

Let’s face it. Any moment now Already, users will be able to can unlock their iPhones with a simple software tool (click here to see a video of the iPhone unlock process from start to finish). Apple intends to capitalize on it… and a cheaper iPhone is precisely the way to do it.

Apple could engage in an arms race against the unlockers, but that would simply create ill will against the company. Relocking the iPhones through software updates would simply create hordes of angry users. Suing the unlockers is another possibility, but the law seems to be on the side of the phone owners (so far).

Apple has simply decided to join the party and lower the iPhone’s price so that, once the software hack is out, everyone can and will buy an iPhone.

How AT&T takes this is another story. They do, after all, have an exclusive arrangement with Apple for two years. They’re still the only ones able to offer Visual Voicemail and iTunes activation. Whether that’s enough for users to prefer AT&T remains to be seen.

What do you think?

New Look

Well, finally… the blog has a new look. Everything seems to be working, but do let me know if you find any gremlins. The original theme (Subtle, with Subvert style) comes from Glued Ideas, but needed a lot of customizing to get some things working. I installed a local copy of WordPress on my MBP and replicated my blog with the help of several articles I found online and lots of elbow grease. Upgraded the server to PHP5 and WordPress 2.05. Some minor cosmetic details will be taken care of shortly, but meanwhile I hope you enjoy the new look and functionality.

Hacking at Apple Stores

Data security is one of my favorite subjects… and I’m always amazed at how careless some people (and major corporations) are with their digital identities.

I recently did a simple, non-scientific study at the local Apple Store. No elite hacking skills are needed (that’s L337 for you H4X0R5). Walk to any computer and pretend to be familiarizing yourself with the user interface. Load the Safari browser and check the History menu. You’ll immediately find a list of recently accessed websites. Usually this list is full of webmail visits: every computer at an Apple Store is internet enabled and people love to take advantage of Apple’s friendly, air-conditioned stores to check their email, blogs, bank accounts and even iWeb profiles.

Most of them forget to logout or clear the browser’s cache. Simply select any address from the history list and Safari will take you there. Most of the times you’ll still have access to a user’s account. On my last visit to the Apple Store I was able to access a webmail account on one iMac, a Hotmail account on another and a complete iWeb profile on a third one (this one even included an easy to click desktop icon to access the user’s account).

But the most shocking was the one that prompted this article in the first place: a security company’s confidential PDF document. Right there on the Mac’s desktop, below the hard drive icon, stood a lonely Adobe PDF file. Out of curiosity I clicked on it and found a one-page document addressed to a high-level executive at a very high profile international security firm from a market leading auditing firm. I’d hate to have this firm in charge of my personal security.

It’s been said that the definition of privacy is a situation in which we’re able to spy on our peers but refrain from doing so. I agree, but I certainly don’t live my life as if that Utopian statement is true. It’s most certainly a great starting point to begin discussing privacy issues and policy, but don’t go around believing it’s the way the world works.

Unfortunately, common sense is not at all common. If you feel the need to check your webmail, work mail, bank account or whatever on a public computer (which I highly discourage), at least make sure you logout, clear the browser’s history cache and delete any temporary files after you’re done. It’s really the least you can do.

What do you think? Have any careless-user stories to share? Leave a comment, let me know.

5 Reasons I Hate iTunes

Just bought an 80GB Video iPod! Awesome gadget and a nice way to get into the whole podcast/vidcast mindset. Unfortunately, I have to deal with Apple’s iTunes software to manage it.

I’m currently on an IBM T42p laptop (waiting for Apple to wake up and upgrade the MacBook Pros to Core 2 Duo), so this applies to the Windows version of iTunes.

1. Photos? What Photos?

I downloaded iTunes (yes, it’s not included in the package), installed it and plugged in my new iPod. iTunes began looking for media on my computer and converting it to Apple’s format. A dialog box appeared telling me iTunes was “optimizing my photos,” whatever that means. Meanwhile, iTunes becomes unusable, locked by the weird dialog. And to make matters worse, although iTunes tells me it transferred a couple thousand photos to my iPod, I can’t see them or find them anywhere.

UPDATE: I went to the local Apple Store and requested help with this at the Genius Bar. Though very polite, the dudes at the Genius Bar were unable to solve my problem, claiming to be unfamiliar with the Windows version of iTunes and having never heard of a similar problem. They suggested I call Apple Support. I decided to reinstall iTunes from scratch, but the problem was still there. The Apple Support website shows no mention of this particular problem, even though a simple Google search shows this has been around since at least February of 2006, if not earlier. Further troubleshooting with my system yielded the following answer:

There was apparently a photo file that was giving iTunes/iPod trouble, so I looked at how many photos were transferring to the iPod and manually selected folders until the total shown was higher than the number of photos on the iPod. I then deselected that last folder (which turned out to be my Picasa Exported Pictures folder) and the problem went away. I’ll eventually look through that folder to see which picture in particular was causing the error, but for the time being I’m fine.

2. Movies? What Movies?

I downloaded some video podcasts from Revision3 which turned out to be in a format too large for the iPod too handle. iTunes shows the movies in the Movie section but fails to inform you that they will not play on the iPod. You can take a guess and right-click on a movie and select “Convert Selection for iPod” if you want (the option will show for both iPod compatible and non-compatible videos). While you’re converting a video (takes ages), you can’t click on another video and add it to the conversion queue.

UPDATE: Even some video podcasts downloaded directly from iTunes appear to be incompatible with my iPod.

3. Artwork? What Artwork?

iTunes is supposedly capable of downloading album covers to display while a song is playing. Good Luck. iTunes was unable to find any artwork for most of my records, even though they are available in the iTunes store. Microsoft’s Windows Media Player lets you select the album you’re looking for and also let’s you cut-and-paste artwork.

UPDATE: I found a hack for this: Go to Amazon.com, search for your album, right-click and copy the album artwork image, go back to iTunes, select all the album files, right-click and Get Info, click on the Artwork box and paste the image.

4. Library? What Library?

iTunes will not monitor a folder for newly added files. Instead, they must be added manually via Add Folder or Import. iTunes also can’t tell when it has already added a song, resulting in multiple copies of each file. Attempting to ctrl-click these files to select and delete them caused iTunes to become unresponsive around the third ctrl-click.

5. Speed? What Speed?

iTunes feels mostly sluggish (so does Windows Media Player) and everything takes a few more milliseconds that it should. It just feels like it’s on slow motion.

So, what do you think? Does iTunes run better on a Mac? Do you have any suggestions? Let me know via the comments.