Monthly Archives: May 2010

Unicode weather forecasts

Want your weather forecast in one or two unicode characters? Go to (for location detection by IP) or add the city name to the end, like,_TX or,_France. umbrella

Hello, m’am, I’m from the Phone Company

_DSC2454.JPG, originally uploaded by metrixcreate.

Duncan and I made tshirts with the “phone company” logo on them (no actual phone company has this logo, but it looks a lot like the logo of some random independent phone company in the 1970s.

They were screen printed, but with a plastic stencil instead of a photo-process “stencil”. I bought a book of polypropylene sheets from Dick Blick (“suitable for water color”, the cover says), and got the stencil cut on the laser cutter at Metrix. They can’t cut vinyl or other chlorine-containing compounds, as deadly chlorine gas will be produced (though in quantities that would probably be more damaging to the laser than to humans), but polypropylene works great.

DDR Design Porn: Plastilina

Varia Plastilina modeling clay

Instant document conversions

Want to squeeze a text file out of a Word document you found online, or need a CSV from an Excel file? Use! For example,

This will give you an HTML version. If you’d like a different output type, insert that type’s extension in front of the URL. For a plain-text version instead, for example,

PDF, HTML, text, CSV, XLS, and DOC output formats are supported on the relevant data types. I’ll soon be adding ImageMagick support to convert from zillions of image formats, and conversions to/from .SHP shapefiles, KML files and other geodata should also be supported soon.

Want to know what input document types are supported? Just try the link. If it works, then that document type is supported. If it doesn’t work, then that document type isn’t supported.

RFT Industrial Clock from East Germany

RFT Industrial Clock

RFT Industrial Clock

From the eBay UK auction: “Stunning large and sought after industrial clock from the East German electricals company RFT (Rundfunk- und Fernmelde-Technik). RFT was created when the Communist government seized control of all electrical manufacturers after the partition of Germany including parts of Siemens and AEG, and collectivised them into one entity. The tradition of quality carried through from AEG and other large German manufactures is evident in most of RFT’s output. This clock was made a time when the Soviet Bloc was desperate to prove to the West how modern and successful their production and consumer system was, and how advanced their technology.

Many German industrial clock designs are based upon the iconic Swiss Federal Railways clocks of the 1940′s designed by Hans Hilfiker (1901-93), featuring a simple pared down but graphically strong clock face, influenced by the teachings at the Bauhaus and the traditions of the Modernist Movement.”

More finger features

My finger gateway now supports much more of the Internet. It supports some sites specifically, like Facebook (try finger, but it also supports sites that have per-user RSS feeds linked to from the page at (e.g. finger It also supports queries on sites that have RSS feeds linked from their main page (e.g. finger

More finger feature suggestions are welcome!

man pages in Windows

At work, I’ve found myself SSHing into this Windows web server (thanks to Cygwin) often enough that I start to just think of it as another Linux server. And while Cygwin allows you to run Windows commands from a bash prompt, Windows commands don’t come with man pages (just /?). Microsoft has an A-Z List of Windows commands online, but sometimes I’d just prefer to stick to the command prompt. Conveniently, the documentation renders well in a text-based browser. To make these show up as man pages, you just need to have a text-based web browser installed, and have the html files named as the commands in a particular “chapter” of the manual. I picked chapter 9, as that’s not generally assigned.

apt-cyg install wget links # You probably don't have apt-cyg installed,
# so grab that or just use Cygwin's setup.exe instead
# to ensure wget and links are installed
ln -s /usr/bin/links /usr/bin/lynx # Man expects lynx for html pages
mkdir -p /usr/local/share/man/html9
cd /usr/local/share/man/html9
wget -O- '' |\
grep -Po 'ctl00_MTCS_main_ctl.+href="\K([^"]+)(:.+>)([^>]+)(?=)' index.html |\
sed -r 's/^([^"]+).+>([^>]+)$/\1 \2/' | \
while read url name
do name=`echo ${name// /-} | tr '[:upper:]' '[:lower:]'`
wget -O "$name.9.html" "$url"

That will get you man pages for all the commands in that A-Z list. For man pages on subcommands like “net computer”, type “man net-computer”. If you look at that list you’ll notice “net computer” but no “net use” or any of the other usual commands — of course, many of the net commands are well-documented through “net help”. If you really want to be unixy, you can dump those net help pages out to the manual too. Since they’re not formatted, you’ll want to put them in the cat9 directory instead of the html9 directory, and drop the .html extensions.

mkdir -p /usr/local/share/man/cat9
cd /usr/local/share/man/cat9
for cmd in `net 2>&1 | grep '|' | sed 's/^NET//;s/[^A-Z]/ /g' | tr '[:upper:]' '[:lower:]'` ; do net help $cmd > net-$cmd.9 ; done

I don’t know of any comprehensive list of commands besides the A-Z list and the net commands list. But to create individual man pages, you can do something like:

wget -O sqlcmd.9.html ''

This will give you a man page for sqlcmd, the command-line client for SQL Server. If you wanted to grab all the man pages for the net subcommands (instead of using the results from “net help”), do

for x in accounts computer continue file group help helpmsg localgroup name pause print sendshare session start statistics stop time use user view ; do wget -O net-$x.9.html "$x.mspx" ; done
wget -O net-config.9.html ''

If you’re looking for a little more Ubuntu/Debianism in Windows, try Richard’s apt-get update; apt-get dist-upgrade for Wndows. Got any more urls for man pages? Please post a comment and share!