On occasion I am asked what it takes to move to the United States if you are not a US citizen. Coincidentally, I was recently pointed to a 2008 issue of The Reason, which has a flow chart illustrating just how complicated legal immigration to the US is:

(click the image for a full-size PDF version)

Now, the flow chart somewhat presumptuously implies that every immigrant to any country wants to become a citizen of that very country, which I have found to be untrue -- some of my family's best friends have lived in Germany for decades and have no intention to give up the citizenship they were born with. But the chart still gives a helpful overview of just how hard it is to indeed go down that road if you wanted to. What might surprise some people is that US immigration law is among the strictest in the western world -- somewhat ironic, given its traditional status as an immigrant country.

Another thing that has caused confusion before: Just because you marry a US citizen, you don't automatically earn a residence permit (let alone citizenship) without any further ado. It makes it easier to achieve both of these things, but a US citizen's spouse still has to file a bunch of paperwork (and bring time and patience) to receive the necessary papers to enter the country.

Thanks for the link, Jabba!

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Last week, I secretly released version 1.2 of my Copy ShortURL add-on. It contains a lot of improvements based on your feedback! Here's the 411 on the new features and how to use them:

is.gd is the new default I switched to is.gd (from tinyurl) as the default shortening service. I am affiliated with neither of them, but I though the point of short URLs is, well, being short. So is.gd wins on that front. If you don't like that, don't fret, because...:

You can pick your own short URL service now If you have a short URL service that you like more than the default, you can pick your own now. Instructions are in the README file on github (towards the bottom). By setting the preference extensions.copyshorturl.serviceURL in about:config, you can for example use tinyurl, bit.ly (requires an API key) and lots of other URL shorteners. If you have additional service URLs to share with the class, please leave a comment!

Notifications Initially, there was no way to tell if the add-on had already done its job, except for checking your clipboard contents (hint, if in doubt, yes, it worked). So I added unobtrusive Growl notifications for platforms that support it. For example:

If you don't have Growl, a Firefox notification bar is shown instead:

Finally, Copy ShortURL is now compatible with Firefox versions 3.6 to 4.0b5pre.

Hope you like it, and feel free to leave a comment here or file issues on github if anything is not working as expected.

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Since I last blogged about the Copy Short URL add-on, I stumbled across another, very popular example of automatically exposed short URLs:

Wordpress.com as well as self-hosted Wordpress instances have automatic short URLs now, starting with Wordpress version 3.0.

For example, this blog post on wordpress.com about a possible proof for P != NP has the shiny short URL http://wp.me/pr9Ir-1lN.

A recent blog post on my blog, in turn, has: http://fredericiana.com/?p=2921.

Of course, it's a little sad that the auto-generated short URLs on self-hosted Wordpress instances are so ugly, and they are not really short enough to use them easily on twitter or with other character-sensitive applications. But considering how long your average blog post URL is in the first place, it seems like a great win nonetheless.

An unrelated side note: I filed a bug to expose bugzil.la URLs on Mozilla's bugzilla instance. It's not picked up or resolved yet, so if you want to see the support as much as I, feel free to comment on or CC yourself on the bug!

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Noah's Ark The fail pet collection is glad to welcome a new member! bit.ly, the URL shortening service used by default on twitter, hosts a family of pufferfish in their logo, and consequently, a really big one of them is also responsible for guarding their 404 page:

Let's hope all the sea creatures in my giant fail pet aquarium get along well...

Thanks for the link, dolske!

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Look what last.fm has in their robots.txt file:

User-Agent: *

Disallow: /harming/humans
Disallow: /ignoring/human/orders
Disallow: /harm/to/self

Allow: /

Oh, who wouldn't like geek humor :)

Thanks for pointing this out, jsocol!

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Greenstorm Film is an independent production company from Moscow, Idaho. They make great short films, such as this one, called "The Package":

I find this really funny :). There's another one, more grotesque but no less amusing: The Great Couch Caper.

I like how creative these guys are, and how well they put everything in scene. Another example of their talent is this music video of a cover version of "Airplanes" by B.o.B. (which, by the way, also features some really good musicians!)

And now that I've hooked you up on their filmmaking, you'll be pleased to know they are working on a feature-length film named "The Protagonist" (trailer), due to be released in the fall. I, for one, can't wait to see it.

Thanks, Jenny, for pointing out Greenstorm, and thanks, Noah, for the cool performance in the video :)

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As it turns out, Blizzard Entertainment's game service battle.net has a fail pet!

Well, "fail pet" might be the wrong word for this, but who expected battle.net to have a cutesy kitten on their error pages anyway. Instead, they have a fellow who somewhat looks like the alien cousin of Lennie from "Of Mice and Men".

"Oops", indeed!

Update: Deb says, it's a Murloc. Thanks!

Thanks for the screen shot, clouserw!

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The Copy ShortURL Add-on has been on AMO for a week now and was recently approved to be public, so now I have a user base to please ;)

I am inclined to drop the code onto github, where I'd get a proper version history along with a bug tracker. Update: It's on github now!

For now though, here are a few ideas I have for the add-on, in no particular order and with no promise that I'm about to implement any of this right away:

  • Allow other URL shortening services. tinyURL is all fun and games, and I chose it over bit.ly because it does not require an API key -- but if you have one at hand, you should be able to use any service you like. Even if only by setting an about:config preference.
  • Incorporate selected sites that support short URLs but do not publish them as a header. Zappos (zapp.me), for example. Others seem to have a short URL available (such as: NY Times (nyti.ms), Amazon (amzn.to), ESPN (es.pn)) but only use them on their twitter account and not on every webpage, so there might be nothing we can do :(.
  • When shortening, need to make sure not to use the current URL but the canonical URL if such a header exists. (Fixed!)

Let me know what you think! I'd like to know if any other things come to your minds, or which of the above you'd find especially useful.

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Update: The add-on is now on AMO! Check it out! Also, feedback is greatly appreciated!

This week during the Mozilla Summit in Whistler, British Columbia, there was a "Rocket Your Firefox" Jetpack contest: The idea, make a new add-on using the Jetpack SDK, submit it, win a prize.

So I went ahead and made a jetpack called "Copy Short URL" and it does what it sounds like:

On any webpage, you get a new item in the right click menu called "copy short URL". When you click it, the add-on looks for a canonical short URL exposed in the page header. Currently, a number of major websites expose their own short URLs for any entry on their webpages, among these: youtube ("youtu.be/..."), flickr ("flic.kr/..."), Arstechnica, Techcrunch, and many more. If, however, the site does not name its own short URL, the add-on automatically falls back to making a short URL using tinyurl.com. Either way, after a fraction of a second, you end up with a short URL in your clipboard, ready to be used in forum posts, tweets, or wherever else you please.

My add-on won the contest in the "most useful" category. The prize was an awesome jetpack sweatshirt:

If you want to check out the add-on, it is currently available (open source, of course) on the add-ons builder website. I also uploaded the add-on to AMO.

Hope you find it useful!

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A week ago, Tara and I took a trip to Lyon, France, and spent a few days basically eating the most delicious food in the universe all day (did I mention the Lyonnaise are the undisputed masters of cooking with shameless amounts of bacon?).

While we were there, I also took a bunch of pictures, such as this HDR image of the Basilica of Fourvière:

(larger size)

Another experiment I made is this wide-screen panorama of the city of Lyon that I later stitched together with Hugin.

(you must see this one in the original size.)

Also, this one is really funny:

If you want, check out the whole photo set. Hope you like it!

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