I’ve been sick for the last few days. Perfect time to put a bit of a dent in that ever-growing pile of unread books next to my bed! Which I began doing without hesitation, until I kept running into cross-references to other books in Dreaming In Code. Some of the books I know I’ve read, others I know I should definitely pick up, others I’m not sure about. Have I read them? Do I own them? As I scan my bookshelves looking for my copy of The Soul of a New Machine I re-realize that I’ve already cleared the unread book stack a few times. Now there’s a bunch of still-very-interesting unread stuff mixed in with the filed-away-for-reference stuff. Maybe it was because I was reading Dreaming In Code that I began suffering from delusions of adequacy, but I thought “I must organize this!”. Maybe it was just the Nyquil talking.
First thought was along the lines of “there must be some software out there that will do this for me already.” Lots of stuff for OS X, but I’m on a Linux system most of the time. And the the most promising of the Linux based cataloging software crashes immediately on window move or resize on my 64-bit desktop system. Maybe that’s not the way to go. I want something quick, easy, and hopefully composable into other usages.
How about something for Android? I’ve been fooling around with developing some Android stuff. And they have Zebra Crossing, a prepackaged lib for barcode scanning. I should be able to find something floating around out there that should make it easy to just scan a whole bunch of barcodes. I can use that to make a big list of ISBNs, and then feed the stuff into a combination of ISBNdb.com and Amazon lookups to make myself a database of my books.
In poking around looking for a simple barcode scanning notepad kind of app I saw the Oilcan app sitting on my Android desktop. Oilcan is a browser wrapper that lets you plugin Greasemonkey style extension scripts into the native Android browser. One of the examples that comes with Oilcan is an extension that allows you to scan barcodes directly into the input box on m.half.com.
It took about 5 minutes to turn that into something that would use a page on my own server to make me a database of scanned ISBN numbers. No native coding required, which I thought was pretty interesting. One thing to pay attention to is the supper aggro caching that the Android browser does, make sure you insert cache control headers and meta tags. Instead of ending up with a one time throw-away tool to create a list of ISBNs, I’ve ended up with an online service that I can use to toss other barcode based info up to my server.
And most importantly, I’ve found a way to use creative coding to procrastinate my way around actually getting done what I set out to accomplish. Happy 2009 everyone!