New Projects - Fresh from the Labs

Flinks—Speed-Reading Web Browser (mbays.freeshell.org/flinks)

I'm always on the lookout for original projects, and this particular application really took me by surprise. According to its Web site, “Flinks is a text-mode flashing word Web browser. It is intended for speed reading and/or skimming Web pages and text.”

Martin Bays, the author of the project, was first inspired by a mobile-phone program that rapidly flashed words one after the other on screen, which promised reading speeds of 600–700 words per minute (WPM) after a few days of practice. Intrigued by the idea and put off by the thought that such a technically simple program cost $20, Martin set about making Flinks.

Although I can't really demonstrate the effect on printed page, Flinks rapidly flashes individual words of a Web page one after the other in rapid succession to help train your brain for speed reading.

Installation

Getting Flinks up and running is very easy, because no real installation is necessary, and its dependencies are very minimal. All you need is Python, version 2.4 or later, along with a working version of Lynx.

Download the latest tarball from the Web site, extract it, and open a terminal in the new folder. At the command line, enter:

$ ./flinks

Usage

Given the simple design, Flinks is best used with Web sites consisting of mostly text and easy navigation. A good example of this is Wikipedia, and as a result, Martin has chosen it as the default Web site upon opening Flinks.

To get going, press the g key to enter a URL (you don't have to enter in the “http://”, something like “metallica.com” is fine). Once the page loads for a few seconds in the browser, press the spacebar to “play” the Web page. Pressing the spacebar again will pause the browser. At this point, a great deal of words starts flying at you, one after the other at a rapid speed. The effect is kind of startling at first but pretty darn cool.

Flinks is set to a default speed of 450 WPM, but if you want to speed up or slow down the word rate, the up and down arrow keys adjust it accordingly. The left and right arrow keys allow you to skip through sentences, and the / or ? keys let you search forward or backward within the text. Other basic navigation includes b to go back, u to go “unback” and q to quit the program.

In the end, this program is a great trip. Put on some Speed Garage (or conversely some Stoner/Prog rock for a time-warp effect) in the background while you try reading at 700 WPM, and you'll be in hyperspeed geek heaven. And, to quote Martin himself:

But perhaps the most important plus of using Flinks is that having this almost direct jack from the computer to my brain makes me feel like I'm living in the future. And the future is in text mode, just as I always dreamed it would be.

Sounds good to me.

RedNotebook—Advanced Diary Keeping (digitaldump.wordpress.com/projects/rednotebook)

Finally, this month, we have RedNotebook, a nifty little diary application. According to its Web site:

RedNotebook is a graphical diary and journal helping you keep track of notes and thoughts. It includes calendar navigation, customizable templates, export functionality and word clouds. You also can format, tag and search your entries.

RedNotebook's many features include the ability to add text, images or links to any day within the excellent calendar navigation; backup utilities; HTML exportation—the list goes on.

RedNotebook lets you keep a daily journal with organizational categories, multimedia attachments and more.

RedNotebook has some unique organizational structures and search functions, such as its unique cloud interface.

Installation

Installing RedNotebook from source is quite easy, but there also are a number of different binaries available, so you might want to check those first on the Downloads page. In terms of library requirements, you'll need Python (2.5/2.6), PyYaml (>=3.05) and PyGTK (>=2.13). Depending on your distro, package names will be something along the lines of python, python-yaml and python-devel.

If you're going with the source, download the latest tarball from the Web site, extract it, and open a terminal in the new folder.

If your distro uses sudo, enter:

$ sudo python setup.py install

If not:

$ su
# python setup.py install

If Lady Luck is smiling, an entry for RedNotebook may appear in your main menu in the Office section.

Usage

When RedNotebook starts, you should be at today's date on the calendar automatically. You can attach journal entries to each day on the calendar, and you can have text along with pictures, links and so on. Near the top right is the New Entry button. Click that, and you'll be presented with a small window with two fields. The first is to select or create a category (such as Todo, Cool Stuff and so on), and the second is for naming your entry.

Once this is done, the big pane in the center of the window is where you enter text and other material. Write the text for today, and in the top row of buttons is Insert. Use this to add any images, links, formatting or for numerous other options. During the editing process, you'll see each attachment only as bracketed text, but if you click Preview, you can see your work in progress. When you're done, click Save under the Journal menu, and you can create or browse any other journal entries on the calendar and come back to your entry at any time.

Also, well worth looking at are the Search and Clouds sections, which make navigating through your old entries easy and may save you some headaches in the future. There are many more features that are worth covering (especially the ability to encrypt journals), but I'm afraid I'm well out of space for this month!

Overall, this is an intuitive program with an easy installation that should appeal to someone looking for a good journal program that's both well designed and easy to use.

______________________

John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.

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