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Command-line for the web

Facility helps to access a service with a customer-created short label


THIS WEEK NetSpeak profiles the features of a couple of services developed for helping netizens access the multitude of on-line resources/services with ease.

We regularly use a wide spectrum of web-based applications that include search engines, dictionary services, on-line radio and so on. Compared to a desktop application, an on-line application offers several advantages to its user. For instance, an application hosted on a server can be accessed from anywhere anytime; also, the user need not install any software to use the service. The widespread adoption of the Net coupled with the availability of faster links presents a suitable atmosphere for entrepreneurs to float new/versatile on-line applications.

However, frequent use of numerous on-line applications poses several challenges to users. Generally, a user should be well informed about the various features of a service if she intends to exploit its full potential. Even remembering the URL of each and every application may not be that easy.

YubNub

To remember a URL it is better to have a facility that helps you access a service with a customer-created short label. As an example, consider the case of the on-line service, Domain Dossier, which can be used to find registration details of a domain name. To access the service, you need to type in the URL: http://centralops.net/co/DomainDossier. aspx?dom_whois=1&net_ whois =1&dom_dns=1, which is rather long and difficult to remember. Instead of accessing the service with such a lengthy URL, if you can access it by just typing the word `dd' on the input box, it will make life easy. The on-line service, YubNub is an illustration of this idea.

YubNub (http://www.yubnub.org/) is a Net service that lets you create your own commands for exploring an on-line service of your choice.

This service, projected as a command line for the web, has already several tiny commands for accessing many web applications such as Gmail, Google and Yahoo.

For example, by entering the command `gnews' on YubNub input box, you can access the Google news. Besides helping you coin a short command for an on-line service's URL, YubNub allows you to add several parameters to the command so that you can develop better/useful short commands.

As already mentioned, a highlight of this service is that its command repository can be extended by anyone on the web. To create a shortcut for your favourite service, use the `create' option available on the YubNub site. Lots of useful commands can be found here: http://www.yubnub.org/kernel/golden_eggs.

Apart from being able to post your own commands, an additional feature of YubNub is that it allows you to share your commands with other netizens. Due to this command sharing feature, the application is also known as social web-command line service. A drawback of YubNub however is that it allows generating commands without any restriction, which may be misused to create useless commands.

Now, perhaps you would like to use YubNub without having to visit its site. For this, several browser plug-ins are available. The Firefox search plug-in (http://mycroft.mozdev.org/download.html?name=yubnub&submitform=Find+search+plugins) is one such product. Once this plug-in is installed, you will find the YubNub icon on the Firefox search bar. Whenever you need to access YubNub, select this icon on the search bar and enter the YubNub command according to your requirement. For more details on plug-ins check out: http://www.yubnub.org/documentation/describe_installation. You may also note that YubNub defaults to Google. That is, if you enter a command on YubNub, which is not available on its database, the service will invoke a Google search on this string automatically.

Ambedo

The search service Ambedo (http://www.ambedo.com/) that enables you to invoke a search on any search engine you choose from its interface is yet another search facilitator worth a mention. With Ambedo, you can invoke a specific search service by adding a search-engine specific tag before the string to be searched. That is, if you want to invoke a Yahoo search on the string `podcasting,' enter the text `Yahoo podcasting.' The service will immediately invoke a Yahoo search. Likewise, if you want to search on the search engine A9, enter the string as `A9 podcasting'. If you enter the search string without any search engine tag, the service will invoke a Google search. Ambedo provides built-in tags for almost all the available search services.

Another notable feature of this service is that it identifies patterns such as IP addresses, domain names and the like from the search string being entered and automatically offers the option to access special search services (like Whois).

AutoHotkey

We perform several tasks repeatedly (loading our favorite word processor, accessing search engines and the like). We can be a little more productive if we can perform these tasks by just pressing specific key-combinations. For instance, if we can access Google by pressing the key combination `Ctrl-g,' life can probably be much smoother. If you share this view, have a look at the free open-source program, AutoHotkey (http://www.autohotkey.com/), which can be used to assign keystrokes to invoke a program or a set of programs. The software allows you to write scripts for assigning keystrokes for automating a set of tasks. Before you start using the program, go through the tutorial (http://www.autohotkey.com/docs/Tutorial.htm) that lucidly explains the procedure to be followed for creating/running scripts.

Distance calculator

Need to calculate the distance between any two cities in the world or distance between any two countries in the world? Check out the on-line service, Distance Calculator at: http:// www.mapcrow.info/.

J. Murali

E-mail the author at:jmurali@gmail.com

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