I'm not dead, just hiding. My departmental seminar is fast approaching (just under four weeks to go). Anyway, I thought I'd share this tasty tidbit of time-saving usefulness that I figured out. Instead of studying. Because that's seriously killing me.
I look up papers using their DOI quite frequently, and generally think that DOIs are nerdy and awesome and really useful.
However, most of the journals I want to look at require a subscription, which I can only access courtesy of my school's big pockets.  Fortunately, when I'm off campus, the library provides a handy and useful proxy service, which I think is pretty standard as far as research institutions go. Proxies redirect internet traffic from my computer off-campus through a server, which makes it possible for me to read about the latest research on glowing bananas sitting in my underwear at 4 am.
To access the subscriber-only sites, I *used* to have to paste a snippet of text into the URL, to tell my browser to access my school's server. Looking up articles via DOI was 3 clicks too tedious; I had to copy the reference's DOI to look up (from a PDF of another article), load up the DOI lookup page, paste in the DOI, copy the proxy address, paste that into the journal site, and download the PDF. Which was kind of annoying after a while.
So, me and my good friend the Internet concocted a solution! A solution in the form of a search engine plugin, whereby you can look up DOIs quickly and efficiently through a proxy! Hurrah!
To use it, you'll need to be browsing with Firefox, and know the address of your school's proxy server. Mine is login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca, so sites that I want to access become http://mysitehere.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca.
So, go to this website (http://www.searchplugins.net/generate.aspx). You'll see a form that looks something like this:
Fill out the form like I have done, and insert your proxy address instead of mine, into the dx.doi.org URL. If you want to, you can make a little 16x16 jpg to use as the search engine logo. Click "Create Plugin", wait a few seconds while the script executes, and install that lean-mean-DOI-searching-machine.
Next, spend hours of entertainment looking up as many DOIs as possible. Pause only to explain to friends and family how much fun they're really missing out on.
Sadly, I spent about two hours too long trying to make a plugin myself before finding that website.
 A personal subscription to Nature: $199/year. And people wonder why the masses read USA Today instead.
 Um, let's just pretend that I don't do that at school already, to make the explanation work.
 All scientists and smart people in general use Firefox. And you are a smart person in general, no? No? Go download Firefox!
Friday, October 17, 2008