Posts

Mercury Reader Removes the Clutter from Web Pages

Image
The Mercury Reader Chrome extension is a reader mode tool for cleaning off the clutter from web pages. It reformats the pages by removing distracting elements and leaving only text and images for a cleaner experience.

Mercury Reader is one of my must-have extensions and I use it daily.


It’s installed on all my Chrome OS devices and it’s available whenever I need it. I can fire it up when visiting sites with tiny or illegible fonts, uncomfortable color combinations, pop-ups, excessively wide text margins, pages encrusted with ads, or with designs that interfere with reading. I don’t use a permanent ad-blocker, so Mercury Reader doubles as an on-demand ad blocker.

The extension removes distracting features such as navigation elements, sidebars, headers, and ads. Besides the images, it leaves only the text and sets it with clean fonts and attributes that make reading more pleasing.

Although it does a good job in most cases, some pages are so cluttered or have such intricate designs, that…

How to Copy to the Clipboard and Use Images on Chrome OS

Image
When saving an image on Chrome OS devices such as Chromebooks there’s a quick way of copying it to the clipboard for direct use.

In the notification that appears when saving the image, click the button for copying to the clipboard. This way you can immediately use the image without reloading it from the local storage. For example, pasting the image into Gmail’s message composition window, in the post editor of an online discussion board, in a conversation of a messaging app, or in the content editor of nearly any platform that supports attaching images.



Chrome OS issues these notifications every time an app or extension saves an image. For example when saving images from the browser or a photo editor, or capturing and annotating screenshots.

If you copy an image to the clipboard, the image file is still saved to the local storage in the Downloads folder. So be sure to review the folder from time to time to decide whether you still need to keep the files around.

Ideas for Python Authors

Image
One reason I’m learning Python is its ecosystem. A culture of documentation and the countless learning and training resources create opportunities of growing as a developer.


There are all sorts of free and paid tutorials, books, videos, courses, and other materials on all aspects of the language, the tools, and the libraries. For example, I maintain a list of free Python books.

Still, some important intermediate to advanced topics receive little or no attention.

So, I’d like to offer some suggestions and feedback to Python authors and instructors on what may interest a hobbyist like me. Here are some ideas for topics to cover. Although I found something relevant, the material I’ve seen is still missing something.

If you know of any such resources, please let me know. Not being a visual learner I’m more interested in text-based content than videos. I also prefer books to the more structured approach of courses.

System design Some Python books present examples longer than the typical sh…

Don't Tell Your Friends You Published a Book

Image
The day I self-published my book Space Apps for Android I sent free coupons to 16 close friends.


All of them share my interests and the topics the book covers. But none of the friends downloaded their free copy. Not a single one. Over the following days I sent free coupons to a few more friends who, again, didn’t download the book.

It’s nothing personal. Aside from life and other distractions getting in the way, it’s just that my friends are likely not typical readers who actively seek content like my book.

If you publish a book, don’t bother telling your friends and family.

Aside from the lack of interest, there are other reasons not to have your friends download the book. If you publish on Amazon, your friend’s purchasing history may have a negative impact on the algorithmic recommendations and reduce the book’s visibility. Also, the feedback you can get from complete strangers is more candid than what friends or family will say not to sound negative.

Capturing and Annotating Images with Nimbus Screenshot

Image
The Nimbus Screenshot & Screen Video Recorder Chrome extension is my favorite screenshot capture and editing tool.


I love the extension for its variety of capture options and annotation tools. I use Nimbus Screenshot on Chrome OS and it integrates well with the Google cloud as it lets me save to Google Drive.

I use it for all the Chromebox and Chromebook screenshots I post to my blog and elsewhere. I live in the browser and the Google cloud, so It’s a good fit for my workflow. Although the extension can also do screen recording, I don’t take advantage of these features.

Nimbus Screenshot is so handy I often fire it up for quickly annotating arbitrary images other than screenshots. I can add arrows, text, and other editable vector shapes such as ellipses and rectangles. In a pinch it doubles as a basic drawing app, often faster than opening a dedicated app.

To annotate an image, select the Blank Screen capture option, click the folder icon to open the image, and add annotations. Dr…

Pixlr X: An Image Editor in the Cloud

Image
Now that Android and Linux apps run on Chrome OS you can use pretty much any bitmap image editor, including the venerable GIMP. But, in the early days, the Pixlr cloud editor was the default recommendation — and the only practical choice.


The original Pixlr and its related apps, such as the Pixlr Express lightweight editor, will be discontinued along with Flash on which they’re based. But the new Pixlr owner, the 123RF media company, rebuilt the toolset and developed Pixlr X as the heir of the Pixlr family of editors. Pixlr X has more robust foundations grounded in contemporary web technologies.

I use Pixlr X on my Chrome OS devices and I like it for three reasons. The first is the app is fast and doesn’t get in the way of the work I want to do.

Next, Pixlr X has a clean and modern design.

The site is ad-supported but the few ads it serves blend with the site tastefully. Unlike the original Pixlr, Pixlr X provides a selection of the most common image editing and drawing tools. Less is…

Explore Planetary Systems with Eyes on Exoplanets

Image
Eyes on Exoplanets is a NASA web app for visualizing extrasolar planet systems. This simple app packs and organizes a lot of data on planetary systems of other stars in a series of clear visualizations.


The app is actually a website, so to open it visit exoplanets.nasa.gov/eyes-on-exoplanets from your browser. This responsive site works very well also on mobile devices. It runs smoothly in Chrome on my Android devices, a Pixel 2 XL phone and a Lenovo Tab E7 tablet..

Eyes on Exoplanets provides an interactive 3D model of the distribution of the known exoplanets, as well as the ability of viewing the systems on a sky map from a location on the Earth. Either way, you can select a stellar system and zoom into another visualization showing the orbits of its known exoplanets, along with the highlighted habitable zone. You can further zoom in on individual planets or their star to view artist depictions of what the bodies might look like.

The app provides a wealth of information and data on …