Keeping it Small and Simple

2008.04.06

Web Developer add-on for Firefox 3

Filed under: Software — Tags: , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 18:53

I finally got around to installing the Web Developer add-on. Last time I checked, which was a long time ago, it wasn’t yet updated for Firefox 3. Today I was browsing through the extensions site and realized that it has been updated.

If you are a web site designer and/or developer, you might want to have a look at the Web Developer add-on. It adds a toolbar that gives you a bunch of web development related functions. One that I find useful, is the ability to highlight elements, like DIVs. I use that to figure out where my (table-less) layouts go wrong.

On the downside, it adds a huge toolbar. I wish there was a key-binding to quickly hide/unhide it (maybe there is one, but I’m not aware of it).

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2008.04.03

Firefox 3 beta 5 is out

Filed under: Software — Tags: , , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 01:39

Announcement
Release Notes
Download

Get it. Now. You won’t regret it.

2008.03.12

Firefox 3: really good

Filed under: Software — Tags: , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 20:46

Just came across this which confirmed the feeling I’ve had for the last few days: Firefox 3 is fast and memory friendly.

The previous beta (b3) gave me quite a few problems. There were a few annoying bugs, the most annoying one being memory usage, though to be fair it was not as bad as Firefox 2. Yet, I was forced to restart the browser once every two days or so.

With beta4, Firefox has turned into a real speed demon. Also, it doesn’t eat nearly as much memory as it used to. It may not be as fast as Opera yet, but Opera (sadly, because I really like Opera) has psycho-fits when there’s a lot of flash content on a page (as is the case with YouTube). Those pages cause Opera to freeze for minutes. And I am not very patient..

I didn’t use Firefox 2 much, as I really didn’t get on well with it. Instead I used a combination of Galeon, Epiphany, Opera and even Konqueror. But ever since Firefox 3 beta 2 was released, Firefox has gone back to being my primary browser.

I cannot say much about how well various extensions work, because I’m not an extension groupie. The one that I really use, ScrapBook, works just fine.

2008.03.11

Upgraded to Firefox 3beta4

Filed under: Software — Tags: , , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 12:29

I had a little bit of time over so I was able to upgrade to the latest beta of Firefox 3. No issues so far. It hasn’t crashed yet, my ScrapBook extension seems to work and the flash, java and mplayer plug-ins as work fine.

But it *still* cannot keep my bookmarks sorted alphabetically. 😦

2008.02.24

Mozilla Messaging

Filed under: Software — Tags: , , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 13:12

So work on Thunderbird 3 is underway. Mozilla Messaging is a project to develop the next generation of Thunderbird and to integrate it with calendaring. This is good news. I have begun to really like Thunderbird 2, and have got to a point where I use it more than mutt.

Calendaring will be based on Mozilla Lightning, a plug-in version of Sunbird for Thunderbird. I am not really a fan of big applications. I would prefer that my MUA does email, and a separate application handles calendaring, as is the case today with Thunderbird/Sunbird. On the other hand, the masses seem to love bloatware these days.

There are probably benefits of having an integrated email/calendaring solution as well. Thunderbird provides a contact list (via the addressbook), and this information is used by the calendaring component as well (for meetings, for instance). I’ll try to keep an open mind about this, and I might even install Lightning again, just to see if I can get comfortable with the idea of my toaster being able to launch SCUD missiles.

It seems they are going to improve searches as well. That would be a good thing, since searching in Thunderbird currently er.. leaves a lot to be desired (although there are a few extensions that might help you out). While they’re at it, they should do some work on the contact list component as well, which I am not too fond of.

I hope that Thunderbird now gets the attention it deserves beside Firefox. It has always felt as Thunderbird development hasn’t been prioritized as much as the browser development. This is not fair, since Thunderbird also has a large user base. Also, we need a good alternative to the crap that the Gnome and KDE projects want to force upon us, otherwise those desktops will enslave us all one day.

2008.02.14

Interesting Thunderbird dialog

Filed under: Software — Tags: , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 12:06

Today when I quit Thunderbird the following dialog popped out of nowhere:

thunderbird-dia.png

I’m not sure that one came from. Probably some remnant of the old Netscape code base. The superior looking dialog does hint of a different era. (Yes, dialogs used to look this good once upon a time.) But Communicator? The last time I heard Netscape Communicator mentioned was… er… 1978, if memory serves me right. 😉

The conspiracy theorist in me is hard at work. Today is Valentine’s Day. Is this a Valentine’s Day egg? Is it a sign, an omen of things to come? Doesn’t the “future versions of Communicator” have a tone of fatalism to it? Perhaps it is my destiny to bring back Communicator to its former glory..

*sigh* I wish I were a Ron Paul supporter. I’m sure I could think of a colorful way to relate this dialog to rigged vote counts..

2008.01.29

Finally got Thunderbird2 to know about Firefox

Filed under: Software — Tags: , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 10:30

I have been using Thunderbird2 as my main MUA of late and must say that I’m beginning to like it a lot. Of course, I can always fall back on mutt if I need to.

One problem I’ve been having is getting Thunderbird to send HTML links that I click on to Firefox. I keep getting an error message about not being able to launch gconfd. Well, a bit of Googling around solved the problem.

  1. Close Thunderbird.
  2. % cd $HOME/.thunderbird/nnnnnnnn.default, where nnnnnnnn is a random sequence of alpha-numeric characters.
  3. % vi prefs.js
  4. Add the following lines to prefs.js:

    user_pref("network.protocol-handler.app.http", "firefox");
    user_pref("network.protocol-handler.app.https", "firefox");
  5. Restart Thunderbird (ALT+R, fbrun pops up, type ‘tb’
  6. )

I find it a bit strange that they didn’t do this by default. They are both Mozilla applications, why is all this required just to get them to work together? Anyways, no need to complain, I’ve solved my problem.

2008.01.26

ScrapBook, a Firefox extension

Filed under: Software — Tags: , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 20:50

ScrapBook is a Firefox extension that allows you to save web pages. This is really cool, especially if you happen to be somebody that does not always have on-line access. ScrapBook also works well with the Firefox 3.0 betas.

Actually ScrapBook does alot more than just save web pages. But already there it is useful for me. While I am on-line, I usually don’t have time to read all the pages that I find. So I need to store them locally. Later when I get home (where I’m not connected) I can read the documents that ScrapBook has saved for me. ScrapBook also allows me to categorize those pages into “folders”.

Opera, which is a wonderful browser, as well as Konqueror have the ability so save pages as “web archives” which contains not only the page itself, but also the CSS and images that are linked from the page. ScrapBook also gives me a sidebar that I can use to organize and browse through my saved pages.

I use ScrapBook for another thing as well. Very often I find pages that I may need access to for a limited period of time, say a few days or weeks. I don’t really like bookmarking such pages because I tend to bookmark sites, not individual pages. Also I don’t like messing up my bookmarks (I’ve spent a lot of time organizing and re-organizing them). I used to have a bookmark category called ‘tmp’ where I stored temporary bookmarks. I’ve done away with that since I discovered ScrapBook.

You can do a host of other things with ScrapBook as well. For instance, you have highlighters that you can use to mark important text. You can also add annotations to pages. I find the ability to add inline annotations quite useful from time to time, when I want to remind myself of something I need to get more information about.

If you don’t have Internet access 24/7 I would definitely recommend ScrapBook. But even if you do, I think this is an extension that you might want to try out.

2008.01.20

Trying Mozilla Thunderbird and Sunbird

Filed under: Software — Tags: , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 19:03

After having installed Firefox 3 beta 2, I thought I might as well give Thunderbird and Sunbird a go as well. A while ago I posted about Icedove, which is Debian’s Thunderbird package, complete with an ugly name. This time I wanted to grab the package directly from Mozilla instead.

I grabbed Thunderbird here and Sunbird here. If you want Sunbird to run as an extension to Thunderbird, you can get Mozilla Lightning from here. I am personally allergic to big applications that do too many things, so I prefer keeping Sunbird separate.

Thunderbird 2

Thunderbird is a mail client, just in case you didn’t know that already. I spent a few frustrating minutes with it a while ago, only to go back to the client I know and love: mutt. This time I’ve decided to be a bit more patient and really try to use Thunderbird for a while.

Quick instructions if you want to set it up:

First download the package. Then extract it to your preferred location. I chose /opt, where I keep large packages that come with everything in its own directory structure. As root,

# cd /opt
# tar zxf thunderbird-2.0.0.9.tar.gz

Next, create a symlink so that you can start the program by just typing ‘thunderbird’ instead of the full path.

# ln -s /opt/thunderbird/thunderbird

If you use SCIM (as I do), you thunderbird will segfault if you try to launch it. The solution is to disable SCIM for thunderbird. Edit /opt/thunderbird/thunderbird and add the following:

export GTK_IM_MODULE=scim_bridge

Make sure you add this *before* the thunderbird binary is launched. I added it right below that looks like this: # set -x (it should be around line 90).

Now you are ready to start thunderbird. Launch it with ‘thunderbird’. If you use Gmail, Thunderbird can set up Gmail with POP access for you. You can also use Thunderbird to access Gmail via IMAP, but then you have to set it up yourself.

Sunbird

Sunbird is Mozilla’s stand-alone calendar application. Gettting it up and running is very similar to Thunderbird.

First download the package. To install it (as above, I installed it to /opt), become root and:

# cd /opt
# tar zxf sunbird-0.7.en-US.linux-i686.tar.gz

Create a symlimk:

# ln -s /opt/sunbird/sunbird /usr/local/bin

Sunbird suffers from the same SCIM problem as Thunderbird, so again, edit /opt/sunbird/sunbird using your favorite vi clone, go to line 90 or so, find the line that contains:

# set -x

This should be line 92 or something like that. Open up a new line under it and add:

export GTK_IM_MODULE=scim-bridge

Save and close your text editor. Now sunbird should be ready to use. Start it with ‘sunbird’.

Conclusion

Thunderbird feels somewhat less annoying to work with this time around. Maybe I’m getting too old and dumb for mutt? 😉 Anyways, mutt is not going anywhere. I don’t trust any MUA enough to replace mutt. But, that being said, I will use Thunderbird for a month or so. So many people have told me so much about how good Thunderbird is, so I feel that at least I have to get to know it.

I noticed that Thunderbird can also be used to aggregate RSS. I’m going to try that out as well. Right now I use liferea and raggle. I don’t care much for liferea really, but raggle is brilliant. I’ll try out Thunderbird on a few blogs and news sites, just to see how well it works. If, by any chance, it Thunderbird turns out to be useful, it would be really nice if it could be good enough at handling RSS feeds that I can finally ditch liferea.

I haven’t really used a calendaring app much. I’ve played around with Evolution, Kontact/Korganizer, Zimbra, eGroupware, and maybe one or two others. The idea of calendars is probably a good one, but I’m hopeless at organizing myself. This time, I’m really going to try to use Sunbird, at least for a while. Who knows, maybe I will even find it useful..

I hope that it will be possible to use these two applications with SCIM soon, because I would need to at least be able to write Japanese e-mails. It’s a little odd that Firefox works fine with SCIM, but not Thunderbird and Sunbird.

Firefox 3 beta 2

Filed under: Software — Tags: , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 13:35

Last night I decided to finally try out the Firefox beta. I’ve been hearing some good stuff about it, and since my Internet link was a bit decent for a change I thought “Why not”? This is how I got it up and running on my Debian box.

Download and Install

Once downloaded, “installing” is actually just a matter of extracting the archive. My preferred location is /opt so I did (as root, of course):

# cd /opt
# tar jxf firefox-3.0b2.tar.bz2

But having to type /opt/firefox/firefox into fbrun each time you want to launch firefox is probably not much fun so:

# ln -s /opt/firefox/firefox /usr/local/bin

Now you can run firefox by just typing firefox, at least assuming that /usr/local/bin is in your path. If, for some strange reason, it is not, as your user:

% path=(/usr/local/bin $path)

..will do the trick. You will probably want to put that in your .zshenv as well, so that you don’t have to type it each time you log in.

If you still have firefox2/iceweasel installed on your system, then it will depend on the order of elements in $PATH, which firefox gets launched when you type ‘firefox’. There are several ways you can deal with this, depending on your own preferences.

You could aptitude remove iceweasel. That may be a little drastic. On, the other hand, I cannot stand the name iceweasel, so I was more than happy to get rid of it. If the Firefox 3 beta gives me any problems, I’m not too worried. I’ve got Opera.

If you aren’t ready to ditch Firefox 2, then you can either rename /usr/bin/firefox to something like /usr/bin/firefox2 or rename /usr/local/bin/firefox to /usr/local/bin/firefox3. It all depends on which browser you want to be launched when you type firefox.

Plug-ins

You probably already have some plug-ins running with your current Firefox, such as flash, mozilla-mplayer and the Java plug-in. To use them in Firefox 3, simply:

# cd /opt/firefox
# rm -rf plugins
# ln -s /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins /opt/firefox/plugins

And now you should have your plug-ins working in Firefox 3.

The verdict so far

I haven’t had a chance to discover all that much, but so far Firefox 3 hasn’t given me any worries. One of the biggest benefits of using Mozilla’s packages, from a Debian user’s point-of-view, is that you get rid of that brain-dead iceweasel name.

One thing I never liked about Firefox was bookmarks management. It has always felt very quirky to me. For instance, I always want to have my folders and bookmarks sorted alphabetically by name, automatically. Also, using folders to categorize bookmarks felt limiting. I’ve always liked the ideas behind Epiphany’s bookmarking system, even though it can get difficult to manage with a lot of bookmarks.

Firefox 3 now allows you to attach tags to bookmarks. You can still categorize them into folders as well. I haven’t had a chance to play around with this yet but I will be really happy if this helps me bring about some order among my bookmarks.

There is also a little icon in the address bar that you can click to bookmark a page. I don’t really know why they added that, since CTRL+D is far quicker. Also, they used a star icon. It got me confused at first. I’m having some difficulty associating the image of a star with the concept of a bookmark. Maybe I’m just awfully stupid and don’t get the obvious..

The address-bar has a new, more visual drop-down. It searches through not only your history but your bookmarks (and bookmark tags) as well. I haven’t used it long enough to say whether it is useful or annoying, but the default font size is *very* large..

Well, that’s about it for now. I will be using Firefox 3 as my browser for a while, to put it to the test. Then we’ll see whether I stay with it or crawl back to trusty old Opera. I’m sure I’ll keep you posted whatever I decide to do.

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