Sunday, November 05, 2006

COMPUTERS: Firefox 2.0 is good, really, REALLY GOOD!

Flush with victory over getting that extra third of an inch of depth in my Firefox browser window, I decided to tempt fate and upgrade to Firefox 2.0 on the main machines. I had been running on the test machine Ollie and, a few quirks aside, I was okay with it.

The upgrade process was quick, but not painless. It left my old Firefox installation alive and kicking in a sub-folder called Firefox 1.5. That caused some confusion. And it took a few starts and restarts before the old extensions got themselves worked out. (as an aside, the person responsible for changing the name extension to add-in must be the son of the keyboard designer for the original IBM keyboard, the one that was NOT based on the top-selling keyboard of the time, the IBM Selectric Typewriter. Change for change's sake is dumb).

My first reaction was to panic over some of the extensions I had lost. All-in-One Sidebar was working a little wonky, but the only one of my must-have list missing was Copy Image. That seemed replaced by a built-in version. So, no harm there. Bookmark Backup was also missing in action and that concerned me. As was Diggler. ColourfulTabs and WellRounded made me wistful for my old version. But the REAL problem, interface-wise, was the missing close tab button on the far right of the tab header row. I could live with the tab headers scrolling rather than showing a gazillion mini headers. But I needed that button back. Sure, each tab had it's own close button, but I used middle-click for that when I was in the vicinity. But when I just wanted to scan through a bunch of sites quickly, I needed the one-stop action of the right-hand-side close button.

I went looking for new “add-ins” and found some delightful ones. More of that later. What I didn't find was an add-in that would give me back the close tab button. Off to google for “firefox restore close button” and found instructions to do this.

Into the url field, type in About:config and hit enter. That takes you to the arcane Firefox configuration file. Scroll down until you find: browser.tabs.closeButtons and right click. Choose to modify and change the value from 0 or 1 to 3. Voila! You and I are happy again. If you want to get a more complete explanation, go to

Diggler's ability to go back up a site tree has been replaced by ParentFolder. Not quite as all-knowing as Diggler, but it'll do. I also miss the left-hand-side NewFolder on the tab header bar, but I simply customized the menu to put it on the top row where I have the word menu plus the navigation toolbar.

Now for the new goodies. The ColorfulTabs are now a thing of the past. Replaced with AgingTabs. After loading this one, I changed the custom tab colour to Bright yellow with an aging target of dull yellow. The Highlight slected tab became light lime green and I told it to age every 60 seconds. I slid the aging amount slider to the middle. Perfect!

The other REALLY NEAT thing was TabsOpenRelative. This one meant any links I clicked on would open RIGHT after the tab I was currently on, rather than the far right. THIS, is a wonderful thing. Remember, I have folders of links I open with a single middle click. That gets my sports links, entertainment links and computer links up there already loaded as I go through them site by site. It was not unusual to be going through the sports stuff, see a link I wanted to load and do so. But it would load AFTER all of my other already-loaded links. So I was faced with the decision to read all of sports, then entertainment, then computers and finally go back to the sports link, or pop to the end and then come back. TabsOpenRelative solves that utterly and completely.

Firefox 2.0 is now VERY friendly with the wheel on your mouse or trackball. In the tab header area, the scroller will move the tab headers right and left. On a page, it scrolls as you expect and if you hold the control key down while using it, it moves the size of type up and down. Very nifty. And when you add the return of being able to use the space bar to page down, which I suspect TabBrowserPreferences ate a year ago, I can unequivocally say, UPGRADE!

Some goodies you MIGHT want to investigate include the GmailSpace and Check4Change add-ins which I have loaded but haven't used. BookmarkDuplicateDetector does what it says. PDFDownload and SourgeforgeDirectDownload help me with saving files to my drive in a quicker, smarter, less error-prone manner. And UndoClosedTabsButton will come in handy eventually. Probably.

Yep, the upgrade is the smart thing to do.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

NATURE: Even Hippos can be cute

I love the zoo. I've come to that conclusion late in life, but I look forward to the (usually) yearly visit to the Toronto Zoo. In fact, I like it enough to actually drive myself and bring the movie mob with me, rather than wait until I can hitch a ride with one of the mob's actual parents.

When I was a wee heffer in the making, I had a bad experience somewhere that made me leary of zoos. Can't remember it all that well, but it involved a cow barn, lots of excrement and a weak stomach. Took me almost 30 years and getting old enough to forget the childhood experience to go back.

Hardly the odiferous place I feared, it was a place of delights. I can watch the gorillas and lesser apes for hours. The otters and the meerkats are watchable for just as long. Polar bears have their moments and so do the warthogs. Giraffes are the ultimate in languid grace and elephants are fascinating in size alone. In groups, all the better.

And, now, I have found a site that will let you see behind-the-scenes stuff from the zoo. Not MY favourite zoo, but a good one nonetheless. The San Francisco Zoo is a pretty good one and they have a bi-weekly video blog (known as a podcast) available at . Worth taking a look. The first of the two penguin broadcasts was best. The koala episode was first rate. The hippo show for Stomp and Chomp wasn't as good as others I have seen, but not bad. Check out the jowls on that hippo.

At any rate, I wonder what a fall visit to the Zoo would be like?

COMPUTERS: Neat Firefox Stuff

I have a BIGGGG monitor (several, in fact). But the main point is that even with the big monitor, I find myself JUSTTHISCLOSE to having enough depth to see the Next buttons when doing a google search. I get the ten default items and you can usually see a bit of the google travel buttons at the bottom. So, I have to scroll down and then click. Oh, Bother! as Winnie the Pooh would say.

I read about a neat extension at Shell Extension City, one of my daily blog stops, called Compact. It was meant to make the word menu, you know, the File-Edit-View menu bar, collapse into a button on the button bar, the one with the back and forward buttons. EXACTLY what I needed.

Didn't work. Had to uninstall it.

But it got me thinking. I tried the effect of pushing the buttons up to the right-hand side of the word menu bar. And you know, it works!!!! I then made the button bar non-viewed and I have EXACTLY the space now to see the google buttons without having to scroll. It's a small thing, but it turns a crappy day into a semi-victory.

So, let's walk through the steps into getting that much appreciated extra depth. First, right click on your button bar. You SHOULD get a menu to checkmark on or off your various toolbars. Select the customize option. Up will come a window that will allow you to drag buttons TO the bar or buttons OFF the bar. Anddddd, unbeknownst to me until today, you can drag buttons FROM bar TO bar. Drag ALL of your buttons from the toolbar and plop them down at the end of the menu bar. Even the URL type-in field. When completed and the button bar is empty of icons, click DONE in the customize toolbar window. The final step? Right click on the menu bar and turn off the navigation toolbar (That's the REAL name of the button bar).

Bob's your uncle.

Extensions I have known and loved

Speaking of extensions, I'm REALLY happy with my current set of extensions. Here's a run-down of what I am using.

Adblock Plus with the Adblock Filterset.G Updater keeps most of the annoying ads at bay and lets me kick others out of sight on an as-encountered basis. All-In-One sidebar is a godsend for allowing easy viewing/switching between bookmarks, download manager and the extension manager. Bookmark backup does what it says it does. BugMeNot was huge at one time, but with the NY Times having caught up, not as good anymore. BMN is there more out of tradition than use. Clear Cache Button gives me a quick way to clear the cache before and after visiting a site I will be giving personal info too. Colorful Tabs is nice, cuz it helps separate the see of grey into more discreet tabs. Context Highlight lets me decide to highlight a word or group of words. Think Find All at Once. Copy Image lets me right-click on a picture and save it to disk. And copy plain text lets me hightlight and copy, without bringing formatting info along for the ride.

Dictionary Search is handy for those words I don't know. Not a frequent need, but it does happen. Diggler lets me back up the url tree to someplace higher on the chain. DownThemAll! lets me get all the links (usually pictures) on a page all at once. A great saver. Fasterfox measures how fast pages take to load and optimizes things a little but. Saves microseconds, if that. Flashblock makes all flash animations require a click (or two) from me to play. Sites can be given cartblanche to show animations. Otherwise, all you web-design morons who use flash are getting nothing from me, in terms of attention. Scorn maybe, but attention, no! GMail Manager, lets me quickly check my GMail account. And Grease Monkey is a programming environment for Firefox. I am still new to it, but already, I have a page or two of usually microscopic text starting up at the right size.

Image Zoom allows me to right click and enlarge or make smaller images on the page. InFormEnter is a program that attaches blue arrows to the end of input fields and lets me select from a bunch of previously entered in answers. NoScript stops click-by web infections by javascript dead cold. You have to allow or allow permanently a web-site to execute scripts on your computer. And you can mix and match. Let Sportsnet run ITS scripts, but disallow the adsense links to do so. NukeAnythingEnhanced lets me get rid of objects on the page, usually before printing the page. And PrintPreview gives me a button to do that job quickly. SaveImageInFolder lets me save selected graphics, TV/Movie Posters or Cast shots, for example, into a separate folder (called unoriginally Posters). TabBrowser Preferences is the king of tab extensions, allowing you to middle click to add and delete, amongst other goodies. VideoDownloader speeds up the task of saving YouTube videos to the hard drive as flash animations. I know, I know! I ragged on flash just a paragraph ago. The difference here is choosing to save and watch, rather than having the decision made for me by an attention-deficit affected designer. And finally, for cosmetic reasons, I like my URL field to have rounded corners, and WellRounded does that for me.

Which of the above would make the absolute MUST HAVE list? NoScript, Tabbrowser Preferences, All-in-One Sidebar, Adblock Plus, Clear Cache Button, Image Zoom, Copy Image and InFormEnter, nmaybe in that order. Nuke Anthing Enhanced and VideoDownloader are the other two that get used a lot. The rest are either cosmetic or once in a blue moon tools.