Firefox 6.0 Is My Default Browser Again    Posted:


I've just made Firefox my default browser again (after using Chrome/Chromium as my default for quite some time). FF6 renders things almost as fast as Chrome, even on our ridiculously complicated pages at work. This was my primary reason for not using FF for such a long time.

However, there are other things that I've decided are worth going back to FF at least for the time being. If any of you know of ways to accomplish this stuff with Chrome, please enlighten me!

  • Tab groups. I often have dozens and dozens of tabs open. Some I like to have open for my "night life." Some I like to have open for research. Some I like to have open for work. Tab groups let me organize these, and hide the ones I'm currently not interested in.
  • Vimperator. This was one thing I missed dearly when I decided to ditch FF for Chrome back in the day. Vimium just doesn't work as well. It's close, but still not as robust. For example, I can still use Vimperator shortcuts when viewing a raw file. Not so with Vimium.
  • Permanent exceptions for bad certificates. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal. You visit a site that has a bad certificate, your browser warns you that bad things could be happening and advises you to be careful. That's great! However, for work we all use several VMs for development (I often have 7 VMs running all the time just for my day-to-day routine). They all share the same certificate, which is bad. Chrome doesn't let me tell it to stop bothering me about the bad certificate. Firefox does.
  • Memory usage. Strangely enough, memory usage isn't something that most people say is awesome in FF these days. But I've personally discovered that it is better than Chrome on "poorly-endowed" systems. Both Chrome and FF are consume gobs of RAM on my regular 8GB+ RAM machines, but I have plenty to spare so it doesn't bother me much. I recently inherited my wife's old MacBook, which only has 1GB of RAM. Chrome is absolutely painful to use--it's slow and brings the rest of the system to a crawl. Firefox is noticeably more responsive on that machine.
  • Selenium. I don't do much UI testing these days, but I do still use Selenium to automate some mundane tasks for work. Haven't checked to see if this is available for Chrome for a while...

So far, the only regret I really have with my decision to move back to Firefox (again, for the time being) is the amount of chrome. Chrome does a good job of staying out of the way and letting me see the web page. Firefox just has just a bit more going on at the top and bottom of the window. Definitely not a deal-breaker on my 1920x1080 laptop though ;)

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2Ze.us Updates    Posted:


There has been quite a bit of recent activity in my 2ze.us project since I first released it nearly a year ago. My intent was not to become a competitor with bit.ly, is.gd, or anyone else in the URL-shortening arena. I created the site as a way for me to learn more about Google's AppEngine. It didn't take very long to get it up and running, and it seemed to work fairly well.

AppEngine and Extensions

I was able to basically leave the site alone on AppEngine for several months--through about September 2009. In that time, I came up with a Firefox extension to make its use more convenient.

The extension allows you to quickly get a shortened URL for the page you're currently looking at, and a couple of context menu items let you get a short URL for things like specific images on a page. Also included in the extension is a preview for 2ze.us links. The preview can tell you the title and domain of the link's target. It can tell you how much smaller the 2ze.us URL is compared to the full URL. Finally, it displays how many times that particular 2ze.us link has been clicked.

That as all fine and dandy. It was the second Firefox extension I had ever written, and it's still running strong. In June or July of 2009, I started working on a little program to make it easier for me to interact with Twitter the way I wanted to. This was a great opportunity for me to incorporate 2ze.us into the application so any URL I wanted to post to Twitter would automatically be shortened for me, using my own shortener.

Porting to WebFaction And PHP

Anyway, around the end of September 2009, I noticed that there were a lot of problems with 2ze.us. It was slow and sometimes completely unresponsive. Certain URLs would redirect to their full URLs, while others wouldn't. The Firefox extension stopped working nicely. Oh yeah, and AppEngine rolled back to a previous revision of the code without me telling it to. That's when everything just died. It didn't take long for me to decide to migrate my project from AppEngine onto my awesome WebFaction hosting.

At this point, I was faced with a small dilemma: keep the code in Python, or port it to PHP. I opted to port it over to PHP, because I didn't want all of the overhead of a full Django instance for a site that needed to be very zippy. And I was unacquainted with other Python options.

By early October 2009, I had managed to turn the project into a PHP beast, running on Apache. It was a lot more responsive than AppEngine ever let 2ze.us be. There were a few bumps along the road, what with the extension and Twitter client relying on various parts of the site. Eventually it got to a point where I could just let it sit and work.

Chromium Extension

Sometime around the end of December, I decided to write another extension for 2ze.us, only for Google Chrome and Chromium this time. This extension isn't quite as feature-packed as its Firefox brother, but it gets the job done.

Clip2Zeus

Shortly after "completing" the Chromium extension, I had what seemed like a pretty original idea. Who knows if it really is, but I still haven't seen another tool quite like the one that I made as a result of this idea. I thought, "Now, why should I need to install an extension in each Web browser I use on each computer I use? Is there a better way?"

The answer came quickly: a standalone, desktop application. Write one program that handles shortening URLs for you. My laziness told me to make a program that monitors your system clipboard for URLs. If a URL is detected, try to shorten it, and update the clipboard contents in place. Boom. Done. All extensions become useless beyond things like the URL preview (which is very useful, imo).

The next question I asked was, "Do I make it platform-dependent? Should I stick it to the majority of computer users and write my tool for Linux only? For OSX only? For, uh... Windows only?" Again, an easy question to answer. Support them all or don't even bother writing the application.

A week's worth of midnight hacking saw the birth of Clip2Zeus 1.0a. It's a cross-platform compatible desktop application that does exactly what I just mentioned. When it's running and detects a URL on your system clipboard, it will try to shorten it and update it in your clipboard. If you copy a block of text, the application will only modify the URLs in that block of text--meaning the block of text will still be in your clipboard, but it will have shorter URLs.

I use the program every day at work (on OSX). It's been very fun for me to see a short URL any time I copy a nasty URL to my clipboard. Imagine that; I'm a big fan of my own work...

Tornado

Lately, I've noticed that the site was getting kind of slow again. Sometimes it would take several seconds for Clip2Zeus to shorten URLs in my clipboard, when it was normally instantaneous. Every once in a while, Clip2Zeus would completely fail to connect to the website.

One of my friends has asked me a lot of questions about the Tornado framework in the past months. I had read a few things about Tornado when it was open-sourced last year, but I didn't really feel the need to dabble with it. These questions prompted me to tinker a little.

Last night I re-ported 2ze.us to Python, using the Tornado framework this time. So far I'm very impressed with its responsiveness. The framework offers a lot of neat little utilities, and it is very fast (as reported by dozens of other reputable sources).

On top of the speed increase that came with the transition to Tornado, my RAM usage on WebFaction has come down by nearly 100MB. Just by turning off the one Apache-backed website. Now I'm nowhere near my RAM cap! Wahoo!!

Enough rambling. Like I said at the beginning of this article, a lot has been happening with this project in the past year. I didn't even think about all of the time I put into projects related to my simple little side project. Looking back, I'm quite satisfied with how things have unfolded.

Statistics

Here are some simple statistics for 2ze.us. Since March 2009...

  • 5,252 URLs have been shortened using 2ze.us
  • 2ze.us links have been clicked 198,267 times
  • 315,951 URL characters have been turned into 11,532 characters

In April 2009...

  • 217 URLs were shortened
  • 2ze.us links were clicked 617 times

In February 2010...

  • 1,182 URLs were shortened
  • 2ze.us links were clicked 32,830 times

Not too shabby for a side project.

Comments

Announcing: Clip2Zeus    Posted:


Sometime last year, I embarked on a mission to create my own TinyURL or bit.ly. This project had no real purpose other than to help me learn how to use Google's AppEngine. All of the URL-shortening services I had tried up to that point were perfectly satisfactory for my needs, but I wanted to explore a little.

It didn't take long for me to come up with the site that is now 2ze.us. I learned some neat things about AppEngine, and the site worked well enough for my needs (just like the others). Eventually I wrote a Firefox extension to make it easier to use the site. It offers the ability to quickly shorten "any" URL, and it also has a preview utility. This allows you to hover your cursor over a 2ze.us link and learn various bits of information about it--target domain name, the target page's title, number of hits, etc.

Toward the end of 2009, I started writing the same sort of extension for Chrome/Chromium. It offers pretty much the same sort of functionality as its Firefox brother, minus keyboard shortcuts.

Before long, I found myself embarking on another 2zeus-related endeavor. This new project is one that I am actually quite proud of and satisfied with. I wrote a program that will run in the background on your computer. I call it "Clip2Zeus". This program will periodically poll your clipboard, looking for URLs in whatever text you currently have on it. If any URLs are found, the program will run out to 2ze.us and try to shorten them. Once a valid result comes back from 2ze.us, your clipboard is automatically updated with the original URLs replaced by the shortened version.

It doesn't stop there, though. You can control the program using a couple of interfaces. One interface is a Tk GUI, which allows you to set the polling interval or turn off polling altogether. Should you choose to do that, you can click a button in the GUI any time you explicitly want to shorten URLs in your clipboard. There is another command line interface that offers the same sort of functionality.

I've been using this program on several computers for a couple of weeks, and I haven't noticed any memory/performance problems at all. It works just as well on Windows as it does on Linux, and just as well on OSX as it does on Linux. It just sits there silently until you give it a URL. It works with any program that can access the standard clipboard mechanism for whatever OS you're using.

You can download and install it using easy_install or pip. Or you can download it and install it directly from http://pypi.python.org/pypi/Clip2Zeus/

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My VIM Adventures    Posted:


Along with my recent adventures with Fedora 11, I decided to force myself to become more proficient with VIM. For those of you who do not know, VIM is based on perhaps one of the oldest surviving text editors around today. There are often religious-grade battles between those who believe in VIM and those who believe in Emacs, another long-surviving text editor. I'm not trying to get into any debates about which is better, and I'm not interested in why I should not be using VIM. If you still feel like I need to be set straight, please use the contact me form instead of the comments section.

Anyway, most people who use these editors fall into 1 of 3 categories (there are probably more categories actually):

  1. They're familiar with it enough to get the job done, but they're not exactly proficient. Therefore, they don't care about evangelizing the editor.
  2. They're proficient with the editor, but they're afraid of the politics involved in religious wars relating to text editors, so they don't evangelize.
  3. They're proficient with the editor and feel that the whole world would be better off if everyone used their preferred text editor. As such, they cannot shut up about the dang thing and drive all of their friends, coworkers, and acquaintances mad.

A few of you will probably agree with what I'm about to say. I fear I have transitioned from stage 1 to stage 3 fairly rapidly. I can't stop talking about VIM all of the sudden! You'd think it's the next best thing after sliced bread the way I've been blabbering about it. And here I am, writing an article about it. Hah.

Ever since I first started using Linux, I have been using vi to handle most of my text editing when I was in a terminal. I knew enough to get around. Basic things like navigation and inserting text were pretty much all I knew how to do. I dabbled with a tutorial here and there, but it wasn't long before the things I learned were lost, since I usually preferred a graphical text editor over VIM.

My recent experimentation with VIM has proved to be very fruitful, if I do say so myself. I am no longer tied down to some editor that is slow and bulky, I don't have much to worry about when I switch computers (chances are that VIM is on any computer I use regularly), and I don't even need to be sitting at the computer I'm using VIM on! In fact, today I was doing most of my work over an SSH session to my netbook. I felt more productive today than I have in a very long time.

It's been a long time since I've enjoyed using a mouse to perform basic tasks on my computer. Using VIM allows me to rid myself of the mouse entirely for my text editing tasks, and I don't feel at all limited in my capabilities. Things that used to be quite sketchy operations using my favorite graphical editors end up being very simple with VIM.

I also love the obscurity favor of it all.

Examples

I wish I could just keep adding stuff to this list! There are so many neat things I want to share with everyone about VIM! I'm sure there are more efficient ways to do some of the things I have been learning with VIM, but this works very well for me.

Laziness

I do a lot of reStructuredText for various things. In fact, I'm writing this article using VIM right now. ReST is fantastic, but it's horrible to do using an editor that is not set up with a mono spaced font. I like to see things nicely lined up (I'm a Python developer, after all). I also like to have my section headings have an underline that is as long as the heading itself. For example, the heading just above this looks like this:

Examples
========

In this particular instance, it's not a big deal to hold down the equals key long enough to underline the word "Examples". However, sometimes I get some pretty lengthy section titles. The lazy side of me doesn't want my finger to hang around on the same key for very long (or tap it dozens of times, for that matter). Also, trying to figure out how many characters are in a section title without a mono spaced font is very annoying.

The/a solution? Say I have a section heading that is 50 characters long. To underline it, all I have to do is type 50i= and hit the escape key.

Cutting Text Mid-Line

Another neat thing is being able to cut text from the cursor to a particular character somewhere later on (or earlier on!) in the same line. Say I have a hyperlink whose address I wish to change:

<a href="http://www.somelong.com/that/I/want/to/change/">Link Text</a>

Instead of using the mouse to highlight the href attribute's value (or highlight it using shift on the keyboard), I just position my cursor on the h in http and type dt". VIM will lop that address right out of there (and you can paste it elsewhere if you'd like). I used this particular shortcut countless times today as I replaced things like {% url some-named-url with,some,parameters %} with {{ some_object.get_absolute_url }} in some Django templates.

Search & Replace

And I cannot neglect the classic search and replace functionality in VIM. You can use fancy regular expressions in VIM to replace some text with something else. I was trying to do a little refactoring today, and I came up with a command like this:

:s/something/lambda (a,b,c): \0(a,b,c)/g

That sort of command works great to replace all occurrences of "something" on the current line with "lambda (a,b,c): something(a,b,c)". Fantastic. What about a global search and replace, instead of just the current line? Stash a % at the front of the command (:%s/something/lambda (a,b,c): \0(a,b,c)/g) and you're in business.

Now what if you only wanted to perform that search and replace over a certain group of lines instead of a single line or the whole file? This is one I'm particularly thrilled about:

:.,.+9 s/something/lambda (a,b,c): \0(a,b,c)/g

That little beauty will perform the search and replace on the current line and the following 9 lines. How awesome is that?

Moving & Deleting Words

Sometimes as I am writing something, I decide I would like to reword a sentence as I near the end. Sometimes this involves simply deleting a word or two. Sometimes it means chopping a few words out of the beginning part of a sentence to put them back at the end somewhere. Whatever the case, VIM seems to handle my needs perfectly well.

Say I have this sentence (from the Vimperator Web site): "Writing efficient user interfaces is the main maxim, here at Vimperator labs." If I want to move the "here at Vimperator labs" to the beginning of the sentence, assuming I just finished typing it, I would place my cursor over the period at the end, type dT,, hit ( to go to the beginning of the sentence, hit P to insert what I just copied, and then handle the rest of the clean up (capitalization, fixing the comma, etc). I could have also done something like, 4db instead of dT,.

If I want to cut/delete an entire word, or to the end of whatever word my cursor is currently on, I could use dw. For more than one word, just put a number before the command. It's great stuff!

Taking It Too Far

I've gotten so carried away with all of this VIM business. I really have. I installed vimperator in Firefox. This extension gives Firefox a VIM-like interface. Now I can do pretty much all of my regular surfing without using the mouse. Some may argue that this is absolutely impractical because it would take much longer to get to the right link on a page using the keyboard than it would with the mouse. That may be true. I dunno, but I still think it's awesome that I really don't need my mouse to browse the Internet now.

As I was playing with vimperator tonight, one of my buddies pointed out another useful extension called It's All Text. This extension allows you to use your preferred text editing program in regular old text boxes in Firefox. It is this extension which has just made writing my blog articles 200x more efficient. Now I can quickly and easily write my articles right here in VIM without having to copy and paste all over the place. Pretty dang incredible.

Oh yes, I'd like to thank Chad Hansen and Jonathan Geddes for helping me out as I explore the depths of VIM. You guys rock!

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My Fedora 11 Adventures: Part V    Posted:


Fedora 11 has been treating me pretty well now that I don't have Firefox installed. I am considering the head of manually installing Firefox 3.0.11 in my home directory to see if that fares any better. Another goal I have for today is to change some of the settings for the login screen. So far I haven't been able to figure out how to access that one.

The Login Manager

Surfing a few sites this morning has suggested that I'm not the only one struggling to rid myself of the stock Fedora login manager preferences. One person did suggest a trick for changing the background image, though. I tried it out, but I'm not so sure it worked as planned--I got a ton of SELinux notifications, and I'm not prepared to log out and back in at this time.

Well that's cool. I was just playing around in the terminal looking for any commands that might help me change the settings for the login screen. One command, gdmflexiserver, seemed to lock my screen and show the login screen again. Sure enough, the background I had chosen before was there instead of the nasty default image. Logging in as myself at this screen unlocked my session, and I had everything just as I left it.

Installing Firefox

I tried to download the .tar.bz2 archive of Firefox straight from their website, but that is only i686. My computer didn't know how to execute the program. Time to look into alternatives.

After a while I decided to try to compile my own Firefox. That didn't go very well--nearly an hour into the compile, it farted out complaining about floats or something. I don't have the time to dedicate to making Firefox work.

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My Fedora 11 Adventures: Part IV    Posted:


Well, here I am in 64-bit Fedora 11. Only this time I'm using GNOME. I followed pretty much the same steps as before to make my computer conform to my preferences (background image, font sizes, etc). Things seem to be rolling much more smoothly with GNOME than they did with KDE 4. To top it all off, I haven't had to do a hard reset of my machine since I noticed that Firefox was the culprit that always seemed to be loading when my GUI became unresponsive.

Wireless Networking

I found a pretty good, straight-forward tutorial for getting my wireless adapter running in Fedora 11. You can find it here. I used b43-fwcutter to get hooked up. Very easy, but not quite as easy as recent versions of Ubuntu and several other distros (which detected and used my wireless adapter automatically).

Installing Software

I have learned that the Software Management tool I was trying to use before simply is not the way to install software in Fedora. It doesn't work worth beans for me. Instead, I've been dropping to a root terminal whenever I need to install something. The yum utility has been treating me pretty well. It's found every package I look for.

That is, until I tried to install vlc. When I went to the VLC website to grab a Fedora package, I learned about something that I've never heard of before: RPM Fusion.

I guess it is just another software repository with all of the goods that aren't in the stock Fedora repositories. VLC was easily installed after following this guide.

I really need to get some work done, so I will have to wait a little while longer before I post any further information about my adventures.

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My Fedora 11 Adventures: Part III    Posted:


Alrighty folks. Good night's rest? Check. Need to get work done? Check. Today's adventure will be about getting my computer set up for the regular development tasks that I need to do every day for my work and hobbies.

Getting Work Done

The first thing I noticed this morning when I turned on my computer was that it took exactly 1 minute from the time I hit the power button to the time I hit the enter key to log into my computer. Logging in took an additional 15-20 seconds. That was quite nice.

The next thing I noticed was that I was not connected to my network as I should be. Clicking the system tray menu item as I did last night did the trick, but I'm going to have to investigate how to make it connect automatically at boot.

Automatic Network Connectivity

It looks like I can have my Ethernet be activated automatically by right clicking on the network manager icon in my system tray, selecting "Edit Connections," selecting "System eth0," clicking the "Edit" button, and finally checking the "Connect automatically" option in the subsequent window. We'll see if this truly activates my connection next time I boot.

In an effort to get my wireless working, I poked around a little more in the "Edit Connections" screen, but I didn't see anything that seemed useful. I did find something that seemed a bit more interesting by selecting Applications > Administration > Network Configuration from the KDE menu. This utility suggested that my wireless adapter was actually wlan1 instead of the wlan0 that the tray icon seemed to think it was.

I tweaked a few settings about my wireless adapter, such as marking the "Activate device when computer starts" and "Allow all users to enable and disable the device." In the Hardware Device tab, I selected my actual Broadcom wireless adapter instead of the non-existant wlan0. I also hit the probe button next to the "Bind to MAC address" box.

My network manager tray icon still shows no wireless networks (of which there is no shortage around here), and running iwlist scan as root says "Network is down" next to wlan1. I think I will just mess with it later. Maybe it will "just work" when I reboot next time.

Installing/Configuring The Tools

As I previously mentioned, I prefer to use things that work well without getting in my way. When talking about text editors, VIM is just fine for me, and VIM 7.2.148 is already installed on my Fedora 11. One less thing to install.

Next up comes the installation of all of the goods for Firefox. It turns out that Fedora comes with Firefox 3.5 Beta 4--a bold move. I hope my extensions all work! The extensions I will be installing right now include:

  • AdBlock Plus: get rid of pesky ads that slow down my computer
  • Firebug: an amazing tool when debugging Web pages
  • Web Developer: has some niceties that Firebug doesn't come with
  • Screengrab: fantastic for taking screenshots of full Web pages
  • 2Zeus: my own little extension that allows me to quickly get short URLs a la tinyurl.com and is.gd

When I plugged in my external 1TB Seagate hard drive, I got a delicious Fatal Error message:

/images/fedora/p3/fatal_error.png

All appears to be in order, however, as I have access to all of the partitions on the external drive.

Next I want to install Opera. It appears that the place to look is Applications > System > Software Management in the KDE menu. Let's see what we have. Searching for Opera in the only obvious search box sent my computer into a crazy "let me do something without telling you" cycle. I have no idea what's really going on, but my processor has been maxed out for the past 3 minutes and my network has been working a little here and there. Can it really be that difficult to find a simple package? Oh! It finished! It took 6 minutes and 54 seconds to find nothing. Excellent. Let me look somewhere else.

Awesome. My computer is non-responsive. The hard drive is still working, but my GUI is doing nothing. I love it. Attempts to drop back to a trusty console using Control, Alt, and F1-F6 rendered no results. I wonder if I can SSH in from here... I sure can! Fantastic. Let's see what's happening.

It appears that X is taking up 90% of my processing power, but my computer is still not responding to any of my input. Dang it! Now my SSH session isn't working. Looks like the only option I have now is to do a hard reset. Joy of joys. Thank you for this opportunity, Fedora. Last time I did a hard reset, I was in Windows and it trashed my 1TB external.

So far rebooting seems to be going well. I wonder if my network will be setup properly still... Fantastic! It works! Wireless is still not available though. I can live without that for the time being.

Back in the Software Management utility, searching for Opera again proved to work much more quickly, but I didn't get any results. I suppose I'll just go download it from their site. The download for Opera 10 beta 1 is a mere 7.2MB, and it looks like it will open in the same Software Management utility that I've been dinking around in.

When I downloaded the Opera package, I asked it to open directly in the default program, KPackageKit. That doesn't seem to be working in the least, so I am going to try to just save it to my home directory and install it some other way. Sorry guys and gals, I ended up just dropping back to a terminal to run rpm -Uvh opera-10.00-b1.gcc4-shared-qt3.x86_64.rpm and that seemed to work fine. Opera appeared in my KDE menu, and it runs well now.

Next up is Pidgin. Pidgin 2.5.5 is installed by default, and getting it up and running was as trivial as ever.

Now to test Flash... YouTube, here I come!! Beh, Flash is not installed by default, and it's also not in the Software Management tool. What use is that thing?! Maybe if I apply all of the updates in the "Software Updates" section it will feel more useful... Here it goes.

Cool. System is unresponsive again. Let's see if I can reboot from here. Nope! Thank you, Fedora, for making me hard reset my system more in 2 hours than I have had to in YEARS. Yeah, thanks buddy.

10:50 AM So the software updates continue to not work. It appears that a ypbind package is the culprit which is causing everything to hang... I disabled it and tried to install the software updates again.

10:53 AM GUI is non-responsive again. Yay.

10:56 AM Third hard reset in 3 hours. Maybe I will have to modify my original parameters and try GNOME to see if that makes the computer usable for more than an hour at a time.

11:00 AM That's it! I'm getting rid of KDE 4... sorry folks, GNOME is my only hope of getting work done. Second clean shutdown out of 5 since the installation completed last night.

Comments

Firebug for !Firefox    Posted:


Pretty much anyone who's been doing any Web development in the last few years probably prefers to use Firefox because of the incredibly powerful extensions it offers. Among the extensions I hear most Web developers complain about not having in other browsers are Web Developer and Firebug. Several people feel that they could get by with another browser (such as Google Chrome) if it only had Firebug.

Well, my friends, the trusty folks who built Firebug actually offer their amazing product for other browsers! It goes by the name of "Firebug Lite." I'm not sure exactly how long this has been around, but the earliest date I can find suggests that it was released to the public in July of 2008.

I happened upon this utility while perusing Django Snippets the other day. A member by the username of jfw posted a middleware which injects the Firebug Lite utility into a response when you're not using Firefox and when your site is in debug mode. I've found it to be quite useful. I hope you all do too!!

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My First Firefox Extension    Posted:


Last November, a former co-worker and I began brainstorming for a particular site. This site was intended to give people a way to remember quotes that they heard/read/smelled/absorbed/etc without much effort. Soon thereafter, QuoteBoards.org was born.

The site has been pretty boring until recently, though it has been performing its purpose since its first launch. Up until a couple weeks ago, we only had one truly "faithful" member. This member, dirid51, added quotes to his QuoteBoard regularly. He held the site record of 52 quotes until one day another member (Puck) blew is 52 quotes out of the water with nearly 150 (genuine, I might add) quotes in one day.

I got in touch with Puck, and he shared some invaluable feedback with me concerning QuoteBoards.org. With this feedback, I was able to make several improvements that helped Puck along the way as he added his collection of quotes. Currently, he as 1,002 quotes. Most of these were added within a two or three day window. The reason he's stopped adding quotes is because he's tired of transcribing them from printed documents.

With that in mind, I decided it was finally time to begin working on the Firefox extension that I had originally planned to build for QuoteBoards.org when my co-worker and I were initially brainstorming. The purpose of this extension was to make adding quotes from the Web even easier. So, with a few minutes here and there between laundry and such, I was able to build my very first Firefox extension: Quote Grabber.

Right now, the extension is marked as "experimental" and requires people to log into the Mozilla Add-ons site in order to install and use it. However, if you're feeling adventurous, you can bypass that requirement by installing it directly from QuoteBoards.org. There are also directions for using it there.

I hope that those of you who are reading this find the extension to be beneficial and useful. I had a good time developing it nonetheless.

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SwiftFox Debian Repositories    Posted:


Since Debian is a distribution of Linux that tries to stay as "free" as possible, some of the software it is released with is not exactly useful all the time. Case in point: a site I recently visited complained that I didn't have an acceptable web browser. It said that I could use Firefox, but Debian packages "Iceweasel" instead of Firefox. They are basically the same program, only with different names (as far as I'm concerned). However, there is another program called "SwiftFox," which is a custom build of Firefox that is optimized for various CPU's. This browser is still accepted as Firefox, so this article will explain how to set your Debian system up to be capable of automatically installing and updating SwiftFox.

  1. The SwiftFox website does not currently offer a keyring, so you don't have to worry about that right now. Skipping this step will often give you warnings or error messages when you go to update your repositories or install something from the untrusted repository.

  2. Install the repositories using the following line:

    deb http://getswiftfox.com/builds/debian unstable non-free

    This line typically goes in the /etc/apt/sources.list file. Just put it on its own line. Some newer Debian systems prefer that you put this line in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/[repository].list (where [repository] would likely be swiftfox in this case).

  3. Run apt-get update as root to make sure the repositories are working properly. If they are, you should see no errors or warnings pertaining to swiftfox.com. If you see any such messages, try updating again.

  4. Install SwiftFox Since the builds are all optimized for various processors, check this list and this other list to figure out which package you should install. Since I'm running a 32-bit operating system on a Turion 64, I would run the following command as root:

    apt-get install swiftfox-athlon64-32bit

    You'll likely have to explicitly say "yes" when it asks if you really want to install the package.

Once that completes, you should be able to launch SwiftFox without a hitch!

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