Favicons & UI aesthetics / real estate

This is a quick post to share a strategy I’ve long used to keep a lot of my favorite sites bookmarked in Firefox / Chrome while using minimal screen space.  It’s based on favicons, which are those tiny little icons to the left of the URL in your browser’s web address bar.  They’ve become pretty common these days, and typically they’re miniature versions of the logos of their respective sites–e.g., Amazon’s favicon is an a with their signature swoop; Gmail’s is an envelope.  When you bookmark a site in your web browser, it usually remembers the favicon associated with the site and attaches it along with the page title (sometimes you’ll need to reload the page from the bookmark for the favicon to show up).

42913-FaviconsThus, in my browser I have favicons for around 2 dozen sites in the bookmark toolbar, which allows me to quickly access the sites that I visit most often.  There’s even one for accessing my blog–the little hand holding a pen, just to the left of the ‘Games’ folder.

I also have bookmarklets for posting links to Facebook, Mendeley, or my Amazon universal wishlist–or even to save something as a draft to this blog, so I can use the link later on when I’m writing a post.  Unfortunately, bookmarklets often don’t load favicons themselves. Enter this addon for Firefox: Bookmark Favicon Changer. This addon lets you set your own custom favicons, or export the icons associated with existing bookmarks. That way you can export your Facebook icon and re-use it as the favicon for the ‘share to Facebook’ bookmarklet.

{Update: Recent changes to the Firefox API have broken Bookmark Favicon Changer, and I’ve yet to find a suitable replacement. The addon is still available for Chrome users: Bookmark Favicon Changer.  I’ve just installed another addon for Firefox that promises to create favicons for sites that don’t already have one; perhaps it will apply to bookmarklets as well?]

Another useful tool is the FavIcon Generator at Dynamic Drive, which lets you upload any image and convert it into a favicon for your own site, or an icon for use in Windows.  It works best with images that are already squared. Whenever I’d like to add a site to my bookmarks toolbar that doesn’t have its own favicon, I head over to this site and create one myself.  That way I can use the bookmark with the small amount of space required by a favicon (16 pixels), rather than taking up enough space for text spelling out the name of the site.

Finally, if you’re looking to add a favicon to your own website, it’s pretty easy–just create one at the site above, then upload the image to your website.  Originally, any image named favicon.ico located in the root folder would be picked up by your browser and identified as the favicon; these days, to be on the safe side it’s worth adding this tag inside the HEAD of your index page:

<link rel="shortcut icon" href="http://example.com/favicon.ico" />

For far more information about favicons–including some history and more details on proper formatting of code for maximum cross-browser support, head over to Syed Fazle Rahman’s discussion at Sitepoint– Favicon: A Changing Role


Hank Green explains human sexuality in 4 minutes

There are some topics that anthropologists are prone to delve into and emerge hours or dozens of pages later, having expertly destabilized and challenged the consensus definitions, et cetera, without necessarily offering a new definition that can be easily digested by others.  This can make it difficult for us when it’s time to introduce said topics to new students–say, in an introductory course.  In this short video from the vlogbrothers YouTube channel, the ever-brilliant Hank Green provides a concise and insightful overview of human sexuality– differentiating sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and gender roles– while even remaining aware of his own unique experience and the limited perspective that this has afforded him.  As with his excellent Crash Course video series, this one features helpful graphs and visual aids to help illustrate his points.  I really think that Hank and his brother John offer great examples of the potential for short, informative videos to enhance education.  While it’s no substitute for face-to-face discussions (e.g., seminar courses), it can be a powerful tool within lecture courses.

The overall goal of this video, as Hank explains, is to hopefully reduce hate–both between groups as well as self-hatred–by clearing up some of the confusion and lack of understanding of these issues.

“… when the world becomes one of infinite continuums and those false dichotomies break down and those two shiny boxes [masculine male/feminine female] break apart into 7 billion shiny boxes, that’s actually pretty beautiful.”

Quick tip: Fixing a slow Downloads folder in Windows

I recently had an issue with the Downloads folder on my Windows 7 desktop computer: although there were only about 50 files, it would sometimes take the folder several minutes to load in Windows explorer.  After some googling, I turned up the following solution: apparently at some point my OS had decided that the frequent presence of video files in the folder meant that it should treat it as a video folder.  This, in turn, must have triggered some kind of indexing of the files as if they were all videos, which is doubtlessly a very CPU-intensive, time-consuming process. Anyway, the fix is to tell Explorer to optimize the folder for “general items” instead. Navigate to your downloads folder, then go to the folder one level higher — e.g., if your folder is at C:\User\Downloads, then type C:\User in the navigation bar.  Then find Downloads in the folder list, right-click, and hit the Customization tab.  You should see options similar to the image below.  Just change the selection in ‘Optimize this folder for…’ to the appropriate content, i.e. general items, and from now on your folder should load and refresh normally.



Download folder ultra slow refresh – Microsoft Community.

anthropological musings on life, workflow, & academia