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Hack 70. The Search Engine Belt Buckle

Take the Web out for a night on the town.

It was a late August Saturday night in Seattle. We decided not only to hit the dance floor, but to boogie down in a whole new way. All the cats in town were wearing big belt buckles then, so we thought, hey, here's our chance to strut our latest hack: the Search Engine Belt Buckle.

5.13.1. What in Blazes Is a Search Engine Belt Buckle?

The Search Engine Belt Buckle is a repurposed PDA, shown in Figure 5-33, that displays a scrolling list of 24 hours' worth of all the bizarre and banal things that people are looking for on the Web—right there just above or below your navel, depending on local custom or personal preference.

Figure 5-33. The author, sporting the Search Engine Belt Buckle

Just to give you some idea of the sort of thing that you're in for, here is a smattering of queries scrolling across my belt buckle's screen at the time of this writing:

  • "olympic nude athletes"

  • "leaving the scene of an accident"

  • "night diaper bondage"

  • "food"

  • "used juicer"

  • "homeopathic sinus remedies"

The Search Engine Belt Buckle has enough battery power to last for about two to three hours, plenty of time for gettin' down and attracting (or warding off) the ladies (or the gents), as the case may be. If there's WiFi in the area, it'll stream live queries, but since that's always an unknown, we have a few hours of search queries on hand at all times.

5.13.2. Step 1: The Video

As our source, we used SearchSpy (, a groovy scrolling list of search terms submitted to the Dogpile ( meta-search engine. We captured a good 24 hours' worth to keep in the cache.

Capture SearchSpy results by pointing your browser at either for "family-friendly real-time searches" or for "unedited real-time Web searches. Consider yourself warned." Shoot the footage

Grab and install a copy of Windows Media Encoder 9 (; free). In the New Session wizard, shown in Figure 5-34, click "Capture screen" and the OK button.

Figure 5-34. Windows Media Encoder's Wizard walks you through screen capture setup

Yes, we could have grabbed the XML from the Flash SWF file (bear in mind that the XML would need to be updated every so often for the latest results, something that's not possible if you don't have an Internet connection in the disco) and built a custom app to do all the display work, but we wanted to make this approachable for the typical reader—an odd definition of typical, I grant you, given that we're making a search engine belt buckle. By using a garden-variety video file, we can display it on a broader spectrum of systems and mediums.

In the next menu choose "Region of the screen" and click the Next button.

Click the "Use selection button" and drag an outline around the scrolling search results, indicated by the rectangle in Figure 5-35.

Figure 5-35. Drag an outline around the scrolling search results

Pick a name for the file and click Next. Choose an encoding method; we picked Medium (Figure 5-36) because all we're displaying here is text on a belt buckle. Click the Next button to continue.

Figure 5-36. Medium encoding is good enough for scrolling text

Give the video a title, author, and so forth. Click the Finish button when you're done.

Windows Media Encoder is now recording all those scrolling searches in real time. Capture a good 24 hours' worth of scrolling search terms to keep in the cache, as it were. When you think you've got enough, click the Encoder's application icon on your Windows taskbar and stop the recording.

To give you some idea of the sort of thing you should expect to see scrolling across your belt buckle, take a gander at the 10-minute sample at (Windows Media). Encode for Pocket PC

Before you throw this video at your Pocket PC, you'll want to recode it to play full screen in the Pocket PC version of Windows Media Player.

Close the Windows Media Encoder and start it back up again. In the starting Wizard, click "Convert a file," click Browse, and choose the video file you just recorded. Click the Next button and choose Pocket PC.

In the Encoding Options window, select "Pocket PC widescreen video (CBR)" from the Video pull-down menu (see Figure 5-37); this will encode the video as 320240. Click Finish and go get a cup of coffee as it churns through the job of re-encoding.

Figure 5-37. Re-encode the video to fill the Pocket PC's screen

When the re-encoding is done, move that file over to the Pocket PC. While you can do so over the USB cable with Active Sync or even send it through the ether over Bluetooth, the simplest method is to put it onto an SD card (using a card reader plugged into your computer) and pop the card into your Pocket PC. Get the settings just right

Find the file in your Pocket PC's File Explorer, click it to start it playing (as shown in Figure 5-38, and click the Stop button.

Figure 5-38. Footage playing in the Pocket PC version of Windows Media Player

Tap ToolsSettingsAudio & Video. From the "While using another program" pull-down menu, choose "Continue playback" and select "Always" from the "Play video in full screen" menu. These settings are shown in Figure 5-39. Tap the OK circle at the top-right.

Figure 5-39. Setting Audio and Video play options

Tap ToolsRepeat to have the video play again and again, uninterrupted.

Now we need to turn off the Power Management nonsense—necessary for day-to-day Pocket PC usage, but not optimal for making sure our belt buckle is always on. Tap the Start MenuSettingsSystemPowerAdvanced tab. Uncheck the "Turn off device is not used for" checkbox, as shown in Figure 5-40.

Figure 5-40. Keep your belt buckle groovin'

Tap the "Adjust backlight settings to conserve power" link and uncheck the "Turn off backlight if device is not used for" checkbox (Figure 5-41). This will keep the device on (and you looking groovy) until you press the power button or run out of juice—the Pocket PC or your dancin' feet, whichever comes first.

Figure 5-41. Keep your belt buckle glowin'

Tap the OK circle at top-right to finish.

Tap the Start Menu, followed by the Windows Media Player icon. Tap Play and your search video will play as long as you want it to, rotated to the right for optimal belt buckle viewing (Figure 5-42).

Figure 5-42. Playback is oriented to the right for optimal viewing

If you want, you can also adjust the brightness (the Brightness tab in the Backlight settings window), depending on the vibe.

All of this works just as well with any other hip video you might like to strap on to your midriff. And you can always edit the video, alter color, add effects and transitions, and so forth. How about a collage of digital photos from the Google Images gallery [Hack #51] ?

5.13.3. Making the Belt Buckle

Now, of course, you can stop here. You don't really need to make this into a belt buckle. It's rather mesmerizing in and of itself and is an entertaining addition to your desk at the office (assuming you chose Filtered mode, that is).

That said, we just couldn't resist the temptation to make a big, bad belt buckle. So we grabbed a few supplies (belt, shiny beads, black electrical tape, Velcro, and a hot glue gun, shown in Figure 5-43) from around the house, and we were off.

Figure 5-43. You'll find all you need lying about the house or at your corner craft shop

First, we wrapped the Pocket PC in black electrical tape, leaving only the screen and useful buttons showing, as shown in Figure 5-44.

Figure 5-44. "Disappear" that Pocket PC with a roll of black electrical tape

For some flash, we hot-glued shiny beads (from here on out called studs) to the tape around the edges in Figure 5-45.

Figure 5-45. Glue on some flash

To attach the buckle to the belt, we stuck one side of a strip of adhesive Velcro to the back of the Pocket PC, the other side to the unadorned buckle of a simple black belt we had in our closet, as shown in Figure 5-46.

Figure 5-46. Velcro the buckle to the belt

Put on your dancin' shoes, disco shirt, some natty slacks, Search Engine Belt Buckle (Figure 5-47), and enjoy a night out on the town.

Figure 5-47. The finished product, a snazzy Search Engine Belt Buckle

Phillip Torrone

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