Another Reason to Register on Wikipedia

Posted in programming at 1:06 am by danvk

The reasons that are typically mentioned for getting an account on Wikipedia are: 1) Your edits appear more reputable, 2) You can send/receive messages to/from other Wikipedians, and 3) You get a watchlist, which shows all recent edits to articles that interest you.

All of these reasons are geared towards writers, not readers. But there’s another reason for readers to register that I’ve never heard mentioned: registered users can add their own custom Javascript to Wikipedia pages. Why would anyone want to do this?

Reason #1: Navigation Popups Wikipedia encourages random browsing like no other site can. With Navigation Popups, you hover over a link and it shows a little preview of the article. Perfect for answering the “what on earth does that article look like?” question without disrupting your reading.


Once you start using Navigation Popups, there’s no going back. I often wish the rest of the web had these. For installation instructions, see Lupin’s instructions. The installation involves adding a single line to your User:/monobook.js page.

Reason #2: ISBNs When you click an ISBN on Wikipedia without an account, it takes you to a god-awful page listing every conceivable site you might be interested in. This is Wikipedia’s way of not picking sides. But I just want it to take me directly to Amazon. A user Javascript can do it. See this page for details.

Reason #3: Hacking! There’s nothing like being able to fix your annoyances on a site. One of my annoyances: while it’s obvious how to diff two specific edits with this interface:


It’s not at all obvious with this interface:


I know that clicking “7 Changes” will show me the diff of all those edits to the page, but I have no idea what the cur/last links do. So I hacked up a script to make it look like this:


Now it’s clear how to do the diff. To install this script, check out my monobook.js.


Documentaries galore

Posted in personal at 4:07 pm by danvk

I’ve always loved documentaries, but in the past month I’ve begun to discover just how many good ones are freely available online. It all started with a reddit post linking to del.icio.us. Here’s the sources I’ve found so far:

My favorites so far:

Possibly the coolest thing about YouTube and Google Video is that playback in them Just Works. If you’re not using Windows, you’ll have some trouble with the PBS website. I had to use Flip4Mac WMV to view the Frontline episodes. I checked its “open in QuickTime Player” option, since I much prefer viewing in an application designed for that purpose than on a web page.


This is incredible

Posted in politics at 2:53 am by danvk

I shouldn’t have been so pessimistic. The Dems have gained at least thirty seats in the House and will have a comfortable majority. My old little league coach, Joe Donnelly, won his election by 8%. I’m happy. What has me ecstatic, though, is that the Dems are going to take the Senate, 51-49.

It looked like a lost cause earlier in the evening, when Harold Ford, Jr. was trailing big in Tennessee and George Webb was trailing by 30,000 votes in Virginia. Losing both of those races would have meant 50-50 at best. But then, with around 80% of the precincts reporting, Webb started closing the gap. Every time I hit Cmd-R, it would be slightly narrower. And then, suddenly, he was up by 3,000! That was the moment when I realized this could happen.

It’s all down to Montana and Virginia. Virginia official polls have Webb up by more than 8,000 votes, w/ 99.75% reporting. For some reason, CNN reported this as an 11,000 vote difference earlier in the night, when Webb was only up by 6,000. They just took 5,000 votes from Allen. Don’t know what was up with that. Depending on provisional ballots, there will probably be a recount, but I’d be shocked if it changed anything. Al Gore was only down 500 votes in Florida in 2000. Eight thousand is impossible.

In Montana, CNN is showing a 4,000 vote Tester lead with 84% of precincts reporting. I believe that almost all of the remaining 16% are from Yellowstone county, where Tester is leading by 1,273 votes. Whoever designed CNN’s county-by-county listings should be shot. Why can’t CNN show all the Montana counties on one page? And even worse, why can’t it show me just the counties which haven’t fully reported? In any event, the 84% number can’t go any higher until tomorrow morning, when Yellowstone county has a recount. Assuming no huge changes, Tester will win by 1% and the Democrats will take control of the Senate.

In non-political news, everyone should watch the Mercury Transit tomorrow morning. It lasts from 11:12 AM to 4:10 PM in Mountain View, so it should be visible on the east coast as well.


Election Day!

Posted in politics at 12:00 am by danvk

I’d encourage everyone to watch HBO’s Hacking Documentary special free on Google Video. It’s 81 minutes long and follows Bev Harris, the woman who found the Diebold source code a few years ago and sent it to CS professors. It’s absolutely absurd that electronic voting software isn’t required to be open source. Possibly even more absurd is that Diebold tallies votes using Microsoft Access!

Some places to follow the election live tomorrow:

The general consensus seems to be that the Democrats will gain 20-30 seats and retake the House, but come up just a bit short in the Senate. I’m really nervous about all this. If that’s what happens tomorrow, I’ll be happy. The Dems need to pick up about 15 or 16 seats to take it, and my guess is that they’ll do it by less than people are expecting. Maybe 20, maybe less.

Senate.. I think the Dems take Montana and Virginia, and the Republicans take Tennessee. That leaves Rhode Island and Missouri. The people on CNN predicted that Rhode Island would go Republican and Missouri would go Dem. That’d mean a 50/50 Senate, which is a Republic majority. I’d believe that. I’m worried about Missouri and Montana, though.

Update: I looked over all the house races at electoral-vote and I counted 16 or so that were almost guaranteed democratic pickups. There’s another 15 really close races on top of that, so I can see the 20-30 pickup number.


Four things

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:56 am by danvk

Anselm Kiefer's Sternenfall

Is Computer Science really science? Interesting discussion here and here and here, kind of. I’m not sure what to think on this one. It obviously depends on you mean by “science,” but Theoretical CS has always struck me as far more similar to Math than Science.

If your Macbook Pro mysteriously stopped sleeping when you closed it, try downloading the combined 10.4.8 update from Apple.

I really like Anselm Kiefer. I would have linked directly to the San Francisco MOMA page on him, but they just had to make it all Flash. Jerks.

I also really like C++, particularly after reading about Boost.Lambda. Just like most other languages, it’s all about introducing useful abstractions. Unlike any other programming language I know of, it usually does this with zero performance degradation over C. More specifics when I start writing about Boggle…

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