Tool of the Week

Welcome to Dewey's "Tool of the week".

I'm going to try, each week, to post about a tool I've found useful. Some of these will be user level tool, some development level tools, some utilities, whatever. Maybe eventually I'll split this out into different categories. Right now, if you're not interested in a tool, just wait until next week ;)

I'll try to spread it around so it's not entirely in one area.

On recommendations: yes, I will accept recommendations from others on cool tools, and I'll post with appropriate credit (i.e. you get the blame). Of course, if I use the tool, too, I'll put my own name behind it.

However, I want to keep this to things that are "useful tools to keep in the toolbox" -- things that stand the test of time in their usefulness, not just cool tech that I've found.

A good counter example to a "Tool of the Week" might be the Firefox GreaseMonkey add-on. I grabbed it and thought "wow, how cool". A few months later I disabled it due to a temporary security problem. I never felt the need to re-enable it. It might be the perfect for someone else, and it's indeed a cool idea but it's not a tool I require.

Tool of the Week: FireFox ScrapBook extension

Category: totw (last updated 2007-04-30 16:53 GMT )

Tool of the Week: FireFox ScrapBook extension

This week's tool: the Scrap Book extension for FireFox .

Scrap Book is a combination of "save this web page" and an organizer for saved web pages. It captures exactly the state of the web page as currently displayed to a disk cache and provides a FireFox side-bar to browse or search your saved pages.

To view a page again you can click on it and you'll see it exactly as you did the first time and with no further server interaction. (Of course, there's no guarantee that links to your shopping cart will still be valid -- that's entirely up to the server.)

It organizes your saved pages in a standard tree view, allows you many different kinds of search (including regular expression) and is generally just very useful.

My most common use is to save order or recept pages (you know, the kind that say "print this out for your records? Yeah, right, like I'm going to print it out...)

I also use the folders to track what I've got on order vs. what I've received, reimbursible expenses, agreements and licenses, etc, etc.

(last updated 2007-04-30 16:53 GMT )

Tool of the Week: Quintensential Media Player (QMP)

Category: totw (last updated 2007-04-13 14:50 GMT )

Tool of the Week: Quintensential Media Player (QMP)

This week's tool: QMP, the Quintessential Media Player

Don't blame me for the name -- it's not mine. Evidently the author has some attachment to cleverness around "Quin", perhaps because his name is "Paul Quinn" and the web/skin developer is "Mat Quinn".

Anyway, for many years Paul had been writing a pretty cool program and releasing it for free. It's not Open Source and it's not multi-platform. Windows only, thanks, but it's good and free.

I started using this back in the days when he was releasing "QCD" and I was playing CDs and I just wanted something that showed me my track info without me typing. Then I started the mp3 thing. Then I found QCD's media management plug-in for MP3s. Then Paul started making it fundamental to the program rather than a plug in. Maybe Microsoft's player does this stuff now -- I've been using QCD way too long to care.

These days we're talking about a media player which rips music from CDs (mp3 with an encoder plug in, Ogg Vorbis or whatever), talks to the Gracenote CDDB to snarf track info so you don't have to type that in, catalogs and tracks your music, works with MusicID to identify tracks that might not be properly identified, works with "Intellimix" to create mixes from your music selection based on a song you select (e.g. kinda a "more like this"), plays great 5.1 surround sound...

It also can play (and rip) Shoutcast streams and it does something with video (I don't use it as a video player) and many other things that I haven't explored. I use it for listening to good tunes while I'm hacking on something and for assembling the tracks I'm going to burn onto a CD.

Also, for those of you who like eye candy it does the skin thing and evidently quite prolifically.

If you go to the site directly, is still the "current version". The tool I use, is actually a "development release". It's been in development release status for several years now.

(last updated 2007-04-13 14:50 GMT )

Tool of the Week: RXVT

Category: totw (last updated 2007-04-06 16:39 GMT )

This week's tool: RXVT

RXvt is an X-Windows alternative to XTerm. However, that's not where or why I use it. RXvt is my prefereed shell window on Windows systems. I get it from the Cygwin Unix compatability distribution. (It's not part of the default install set.)

(Incidentally, I've come to the point where I always do a full installation of Cygwin. To quote Rick B: "Hey man, disk space is free".)

Useful features:

  • mouse only highlight-is-copy a la X-Windows
  • Shift-click to paste
  • completely resizable in both width and height
  • Reads your ~/.Xdefaults for customizations (the appropriate section from mine is included at the bottom)
  • can copy/paste long lines


  • It's a Cygwin tool, so acts kinda cygwin like. However, you can use Windows command shell inside it and still see the features I listed above
  • Depends on the cygwin installation, which is large and awkward.
  • has some refresh oddities dealing with editing lines which wrap that I haven't figured out yet.

Here's the relevant lines from my ~/.Xdefaults file. (I like green on black, somewhat small font.)

      * How about rxvt?
     /* rxvt*font:		-misc-fixed-medium-r-*-*-*-*-75-75-*-*-*-* */
     rxvt*jumpScroll:	true
     rxvt*saveLines:	1024
     rxvt*scrollBar:	on
     rxvt*scrollKey:	true
     rxvt*background:	black
     rxvt*cursorColor:	red
     rxvt*borderColor:	gold
     rxvt*foreground:	dark sea green
     rxvt*pointerColor:	white
     rxvt*backspacekey:     ^?

(last updated 2007-04-16 18:47 GMT )