Finally! A *Good* Interface for Amazon!

I’ve just discovered uncluttr, a clean and simple user interface for Amazon.com.

So lets say you want to buy a book about Ruby on Rails. Start by entering the term in the search field:

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If you see something you’re interested in, just click on it.

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You can also get reviews…

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… and related items.

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If you like it, just drag it over to your cart.

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When you’re done, click “Checkout” and it will redirect you to Amazon proper.

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I’ve always thought that Amazon has one of the ugliest interfaces in the industry, so this website is a breath of fresh air.

These are Asides

If you’re looking at this on my main home page, this post looks a lot different than the rest of my posts. It’s called an “aside,” and it’s a way for me to write a quick post, on the order of two or there sentences, without taking up all the space that a full-sized post would take. It appears that Matthew Mullenweg at Photo Matt Jason Kottke at kottke.org was the one who pioneered this concept, and I think it’s just brilliant.

Secret Project: Ceruleus Theme

The Sandbox Theme is a very well marked-up framework designed for building your own themes for WordPress blogs. Essentially, it has all of the HTML built for you, and you customize it with with your own CSS and images.

The designers of the Sandbox Theme held a design contest, which just ended tonight, offering readers the chance to customize their theme for a chance at some money. So, over the past several weeks I have been working on a contest entry for the Sandbox Design Contest, transforming this:

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into this:

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If you want to try it out, you can download it as well as the Sandbox Theme that it works with.

Software Review: SftpDrive

One of the first obstacles to running a website is getting files from your computer to your web host. In the past, I used a program called FileZilla, a free and open source FTP client.

FileZilla

FTP Clients work like this: You connect to your web site, navigate to a folder on your computer in the left pane, navigate to the folder on the web host in the right pane, and then drag files pane to pane.

While this is simple enough, when you’re working on a file that needs to be changed a lot, this can be a pain. When you want to save your changes you have to save the version on your computer, switch to the FTP client, drag the file from one side to the other, and wait for it to upload. It’s a slow process.

Worse, FTP is an insecure process. The data that you are sending back and forth are not encrypted in any way, which could lead to your server username and password being stolen and granting an attacker full access to your website.


SftpDrive Logo

SftpDrive solves both of these problems. SftpDrive lets you connect to a web server and mount it as a hard drive. Then you just treat it like any other hard drive. Upload files with Windows Explorer; edit them by opening them as if they were on your own computer. There’s no more drag and drop.

SftpDrive Screenshot

It’s also secure, since it uses the encrypted SFTP protocol. You give it the location and port number of your web host’s SSH server (instead of the FTP server), and it sends and receives files over that secure channel.

Navigating between folders is a little on the slow side, and it does make saving your files take a little longer (since it has to save and upload the file to the server). But it takes all the work out of the uploading process, so you don’t have to think about it any more.

It comes with a six week free trial. If you like it as much as I do, you can buy it from sftpdrive.com for $39.

(I have no affiliation with SftpDrive and am not being paid for this review; I just love the product.)

ACLU Defends Christian Student’s Religious Expression

For too long Christian organizations have condemned the American Civil Liberties Union as anti-Christian and anti-religious freedom, accusing them of wanting “to remove any vestige of Christianity from public life.” This accusation is false.

What the ACLU actually opposes is the promotion of any particular religion by the government or by government-run organizations. In fact, their position on religion in public schools is quite balanced, and a position that Christians should be able to stand behind (my emphasis):

The ACLU defends students’ free speech rights in the public schools and defends students’ rights to pray in the schools. Additionally, whenever a teacher allows children to choose their own topics for an assignment (such as which book to read, which song to sing, or which topic to study for a presentation), students may choose religious themes – and the ACLU has protected their right to do so. Schools may also offer courses about religion or about the Bible or other religious works.

Public schools themselves should not, however, be in the business of promoting particular religious beliefs or religious activities. While it is permissible for public schools to teach about religion, it is not permissible to promote particular religious beliefs. While public schools should not be leading children in prayers or religious ceremonies, they should be respectful of the religious beliefs of students. Further, public schools should protect children from being coerced by others to accept religious (or anti-religious) beliefs. Public schools should seek to create an environment conducive to learning by all students and not act as vehicles proselytizing for religious or anti-religious beliefs.

The ACLU believes that the religious education of children should be directed primarily by parents, families, and religious communities – and not the public schools.

This isn’t just rhetoric. For example, in 2004, the ACLU sued a school for censoring a student’s yearbook entry which contained bible verse.

But you’ll never hear a pastor talk about how the ACLU defended religious liberty, will you?

Right now, the front page of the ACLU web site prominently displays a Bible verse.

But of course, the ACLU is an evil organization bent on destroying America’s Christian culture, right?

Enough already.

The ACLU says that the government and the schools shouldn’t be trying to influence your kid’s–or your–religious beliefs. That’s what the separation of church and state is all about. Why would you want the government telling you what to believe?

Christians: Stop attacking the ACLU. You’re only hurting people trying to protect your religious liberty.

UPDATE: Further investigation turns up “The ACLU Fights for Christians,” a collection of news links demonstrating that the ACLU fights for–and not against–Christians. For example: The ACLU defends a girl who wants to sing “Awesome God” at a school talent show, ACLU demands that a county put up a Christmas tree, and the ACLU helps free a street preacher from prison.

Where I’ve Been Lately

Sorry for the exceptionally low post volume lately; I’ve been busily spending more time than was probably prudent on a Secret Project.

But that should be done in the next day or two, and I’ll be ready to reveal this project to my loyal fanbase of almost a dozen people on Monday.

Cross your fingers….

New Version of Flock

Well, I’m trying out Flock again. Flock is a new browser that’s based on Firefox, but which has a lot of other neat features as well. Its biggest selling point is that it integrates with online services like del.icio.us, Flickr, YouTube, and most blogging services.

I had tried Flock in the past, but found certain elements of it to be sort of a pain. For example, it only supported bookmarking to del.icio.us, rather than allowing for local private bookmarks as well. (There was a workaround, but it was unpleasant and hard to find.) They’ve fixed that–along with a lot of their other interface issues–in this new version .9 of the browser.

Flock does make it really easy to publish and discuss media from around the internet. One of its key features is the Media Bar where you can look at your Flickr photostream or your YouTube uploads. So, if I want to publish a photo of my dog, all I have to do is open the media bar, locate the picture in the photostream, and drag it into the blog editor.

You can even right-click on the photo and click “Copy HTML for Large Photo,” then paste that into any other blog editor that you might prefer.

So far, I’m finding Flock to be quick and stable. Now to see if it publishes to my blog properly!

Blogged with Flock

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