14 October 2007

#41. Just For Fun

Everyone likes a little levity, and your Tool Bar & Grill chef is no different. So after the doom-and-gloom scaremongering of the last few posts, let’s take some time out for the lighter side of the computing world. In future posts, we’ll get back to more sober advice about backing up, maintaining your computer, and other serious matters.

For Web Sites You Love To Hate

The Internet doesn’t usually provide the satisfaction of paper. For example, when you read an editorial in the newspaper that ticks you off, you can crumple it, tear it up, throw it down, or all three. But what can you do with a Web site that arouses your ire? If you punch your computer, you’ll be sorry (though haven’t we all been tempted?).

The happy-go-lucky folks at NetDisaster have the solution. Specify a Web site and the disaster you want to befall it (nukes, graffiti, spilled coffee, meteors, floods, and many more), and then watch havoc wreaked on the screen. A tool bar at the top enables you to change the hazard and other parameters.

Try it out, perhaps, on http://www.president.ir/en or http://www.almanar.com.lb (a couple of my favorites). It’s all in good fun, of course, and does not affect the actual Web site (dadgumit!). Still not as satisfying as the paper, but better than just clicking away.

Mama, That Icon’s Staring At Me

In your browser, each Web site is represented by a tiny icon, called a favicon. Occasionally the icons get confused and have no connection to the site at all, which disturbs classic anal-retentive cases like me. And if you have your own site, you might have struggled with creating and applying a favicon of your own.

Favicon rides to the rescue. You can upload images to the Favicon site, or draw your own on screen (a color picker is provided). In just seconds, Favicon converts the image or drawing to a 16x16-pixel icon that you then download to your computer.

Fly For Free

Flight simulators are among the most popular game programs. They are not just for people who want to be pilots but get airsick. (In fact, on a strong computer the best flight simulators also can make you airsick.) Now there are two new ways to fly at your desk, and they are both free.

The open-source movement is not only about serious computing. Those geeks know how to have fun, too. That’s how FlightGear came to be. I have not tried it yet, but this simulator has earned very favorable reviews, even among the dedicated wonks at www.flightsim.com. FlightGear cuts back slightly on graphic realism, but also does not require a supercomputer to run. (It also works on Linux and Mac OSX.)

The fun-loving eggheads at Google were not to be denied their kicks, either. They embedded a hidden flight simulator in the latest version of Google Earth. Press Alt+Ctrl+A to open the simulator in Google Earth. The experience does not compare to commercial flight simulator games, but it’s pretty good for its price.

Well, that’s just about all the laughs I can handle in one sitting. I hope you’ll make my Tool Bar & Grill a regular part of your weekly Web surfing – and if you like it, please tell the world about it through Digg, Del.icio.us, Stumble Upon, Technorati, and other services. I'll be grateful! Do feel free to comment below or write to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com.

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