Sunday, June 19, 2005


Well, I'm back from a nice holiday in the States, which explains the lull in postings. While there, I discovered Yubnub, which bills itself as "a (social) command line for the web". Basically what happens is that you go to the website, type in a command like (for example) "wikipedia callosum" and get the Wikipedia search page for the word "callosum". Cool, right? What makes it cooler is that you can transform your Firefox search bar into a command line, so you can type "wikipedia callosum" straight into the URL bar and get the same result! Coolest of all is that you can submit your own commands, which is what I've been playing around with for the last ten minutes.

Here are the commands I've created:

Translates a word from English to Arabic using the open source Qamoose dictionary.
Example: eng2ar anything
will give you the translation for the word 'anything'.

Searches for books in the Online Books Page ( by words in the title. If you wish to search by author, use the Yubnub command freebook-author.

Example: freebook beagle
Example: freebook voyage beagle

These searches return "The Voyage of the Beagle" by Charles Darwin.

Searches the Online Books Page ( by author name.

Example: freebook-author darwin
Example: freebook-author charles darwin

Searches the National Library of Singapore catalogue by keyword.

Example: nlb harry potter

I also tried (and failed) to create one for the National Library catalogue, nlb, but it does NOT work as advertised. It can only take in one search term at a time, and not two (like "harry potter"). nlb now works as advertised - thanks Jon! You can type in "nlb harry potter" to do a keyword search on the National Library (of Singapore)'s catalogue. (If you want to know why it didn't work before, scroll down to the bottom.)

Other EXTREMELY COOL commands (that I've come across so far) are:

g - searches Google.
gs - searches Google Scholar.
shrink - TinyURL, but I'll probably stick to my regular bookmarklet most of the time for this. You can find it on the TinyURL main page if you scroll down a little.
gmaps - Google Maps.
map - Multimap.
am - searches Amazon.
tr - Google Translate. Use it like this: tr en fr friend to translate 'friend' from English to French. Other languages: simplified Chinese zh-CN, German de, Italian it, Japanese ja, Korean ko, Portuguese pt, Spanish es.
thes - search
say - text-to-speech. (Cor blimey!)
acro - look up the definition of an acronym.
answer -

Three cheers for Yubnub. I think I'll be using it a lot.

nlb doesn't work:
Yubnub automatically inserts a + between two or more search terms. So "nlb harry potter" gets the URL <> which is incorrect. You want "_harry%20potter" at the end instead. The search will still return results, but it will think it's searching for the word "harry" only.

I've no idea how to fix this, but I emailed the site's creator, Jonathan Aquino, about it, to see if he can fix this. I suppose you could try using the catalogue available through elibraryhub, maybe that would work.

UPDATE: nlb does work. Jon specially implemented a new syntax that transforms spaces into, well, spaces (%20) rather than into plus signs. And the NLB catalogue is immortalised on the yubnub website as the exemplar for this syntax. Jon was also kind enough to credit me for "suggesting" this fix, but it was his idea, I just supplied the problem!


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