Tag Archives: firefox

On Google Chrome (Mac, Linux, and nightly builds)

On Google Chrome

As you may have heard, Google is work­ing on a web browser called Chrome. There have been beta ver­sions out for Windows and Linux for some time. The Mac ver­sion is still play­ing catch-up. Because Firefox, the browser I now use, has appeared to get more slow and clunky over time, I fig­ured I would give Chrome a try. My main gripes with Firefox (on the Mac) are the speed, the startup/shutdown time, and the way it keeps eat­ing up mem­ory such that I have to restart it once a day (and con­se­quently wait for it to shut down, then start up again).

I started look­ing at the Mac ver­sion, but (at the time) it was a joke. There were no add-ons and no way to man­age your book­marks. You could book­mark all you wanted, and those links would show up in the menus, but if you ever wanted to edit, move, or remove book­marks, there was no way to do so. Because I had sim­i­lar per­for­mance issues with my Linux com­puter at work, I tried forc­ing myself to use it full-time there, first, because the Linux ver­sion was much more feature-complete.

Honestly, I have not looked back. In Linux (and pre­sum­ably Windows), it’s solid enough and fast enough that I find it a bet­ter expe­ri­ence than Firefox. It took me a lit­tle while to get the right mix of exten­sions, but this is what I’ve added to my Chrome instal­la­tion:

  • AdSweep for ad block­ing. I’m not con­vinced that this is the best ad blocker out there, as I have not looked at any oth­ers yet. All I know is that this was one of the first ad block­ers for Chrome and that it per­forms well enough that I have not needed to look for alter­na­tives.
  • FlashBlock is a click-to-play Flash blocker sim­i­lar to the one I use under Firefox. This pre­vents, for instance, YouTube videos and embed­ded music from auto-starting until I click on them.
  • Google Mail Checker for show­ing how many email mes­sages I have wait­ing in my inbox. I only use this under Linux. On the Mac, I have Google Notifier, which bet­ter inte­grates with the oper­at­ing sys­tem (com­plete with Growl noti­fi­ca­tion).
  • Google Reader Notifier is the same as above, but for Google Reader instead of Gmail.
  • Xmarks Bookmark Sync ensures that all of my book­marks across all of my com­put­ers are syn­chro­nized: the Linux box at work, the Mac lap­top I shut­tle between home and work, the Mac server at home, and the iPhone.  The exten­sion itself is a lit­tle bit prone to crash­ing on Chrome, but does not lose or man­gle data, and oth­er­wise works fine.
  • Amazon2Powells adds a link to pages on Amazon to the cor­re­spond­ing prod­uct at Powell’s. It lets me browse Amazon, hop on the bus, then buy locally.
  • A mod­i­fi­ca­tion of Google Reader Minimalistic (based on the orig­i­nal at UserScripts) that tweaks the fonts and lay­out on Google Reader a lit­tle more to my lik­ing than the orig­i­nal ver­sion.

I have been happy with Chrome on Linux for about three weeks now. I have been using a nightly Chrome build on the Mac for about two weeks and have been happy with that. In the inter­ven­ing time, Google release a new devel­oper pre­view of the Mac (adding exten­sion sup­port), but I am stick­ing with the nightly build for the fol­low­ing rea­sons:

  • Although exten­sions are in both the devel­oper pre­view and nightly snap­shot, book­mark edit­ing is not. Only the nightly has the Bookmark Manager menu item enabled.
  • The tab-to-search auto­matic locat­ing and using of search forms is unavail­able in the devel­oper pre­view, but works in the nightly. In Firefox, I had a spe­cial book­mark set up (basi­cally the Amazon search URL with “%s” in place of the search string, with the key­word “ama”) that let me type in “ama cheese” to find cheese on Amazon. With Chrome, after I have searched Amazon once, it remem­bers. All I need to do is type in “ama[TAB]cheese” to do the same thing with no pre­vi­ous spe­cial setup.

Oddly enough, one thing I’m miss­ing on Mac Chrome (and I feel weird for even say­ing this) is Java. In Firefox, I dis­able Java. I greatly dis­like Java-in-the-browser. As I men­tioned before, I use a light­weight note-taking appli­ca­tion called TiddlyWiki. It is, effec­tively, a self-modifying HTML file. In Firefox, it uses some fancy JavaScript (after ask­ing the user for per­mis­sion, of course) to write the file back to disk after mod­i­fi­ca­tions. Under other browsers (Safari, Opera, and Chrome), it uses some Java Applet trick­ery to do the same thing, since those browsers do not have the option to bust out of the JavaScript “sand­box” and write to disk with­out a bit of Java-assist. The prac­ti­cal upshot is that I can­not cur­rently use TiddlyWiki on the Mac ver­sion of Chrome because it blocks JavaScript file writes and doesn’t sup­port Java Applet file writes. This isn’t a huge deal-breaker at present — I open Firefox to edit notes — but is an annoy­ance that I hope will be fixed before I’d con­sider Chrome a com­plete prod­uct. And it works under Linux, so I doubt it is an inten­tional over­sight.

Overall, I would score Chrome as such:

  • Chrome under Linux: A–
  • Chrome developer-preview on Mac: D+
  • Chrome nightly (, 35604) on Mac: B
Posted in: Code Software

Bookmark Material

I started to write a com­ment to the post Fear of (book­mark) com­mit­ment? Try I Need to Read This over on Silicon Florist, but what I found myself writ­ing started get­ting longer and longer and I real­ized I might be bet­ter off shar­ing as a fully hyper­linked blog post.

Rick talks about tem­porar­ily book­mark­ing arti­cles for return­ing to later. You prob­a­bly know the sort of thing: a long, but inter­est­ing look­ing arti­cle on Digg’s home­page that you do not cur­rently have time for, some cool video that a friend Twitters, a link to a pos­si­bly NSFW pic­ture via IM that you’d rather not chance look­ing at now. They are all links you want to get back to (after work, when the boss isn’t around, or on a higher band­width con­nec­tion), but they are not nec­es­sar­ily links you want to keep for­ever and ever.

He goes on to intro­duce a Portland-based ser­vice (yeay, Portland!) called I Need To Read This that fits that sit­u­a­tion.

One par­tic­u­lar quote in the arti­cle jumps out at me:

In short, you can’t com­mit to sav­ing it to your book­marks because you’re not sure if it’s book­mark mate­r­ial, yet.

I am not sure I agree with this state­ment. It sounds like I Need To Read This is a great ser­vice and I do not want to be the neg­a­tive get-offa-my-lawn guy, but I have been doing this tem­po­rary link sav­ing for years with noth­ing more than book­marks and a plu­g­ins I already use. Here’s my secret: every­thing is book­mark mate­r­ial. Or, at the very least, every­thing has book­mark poten­tial.

I have one spe­cial book­mark folder in my Firefox tool­bar called To Review. Anything that looks inter­est­ing, but I do not have the time to read (or oth­er­wise am not in a sit­u­a­tion in which read­ing is advised), I add as a book­mark in the To Review folder. All of the other book­marks and book­mark fold­ers are, as Rick says, “book­mark mate­r­ial.” This one folder is the wild­card anything-goes folder. To look at it like email, this is my inbox. Bookmarks can be deleted, Dugg, archived into other book­mark fold­ers, and what­not. I even try to use the Inbox Zero method­ol­ogy against this folder so that its size does not get out of con­trol.

The To Review folder is only half of the equa­tion. If you are the sort of per­son who only uses one browser on one com­puter (i.e. you carry your lap­top every­where or only do com­puter work in a home office), you’re done. You can stop read­ing here because every­thing you need is cov­ered.

I hap­pen to be in a sit­u­a­tion where I have a Linux box at work, a Mac lap­top, and a Mac desk­top. I end up hav­ing to syn­chro­nize my book­marks because of this. I want my quick-search book­marks to always be around (i.e. “pow harry pot­ter” in the URL bar searches Powell’s for Harry Potter books.) I want links to research required by my cur­rent work and per­sonal projects at hand. For me, syn­chro­niz­ing is a given. I guess I could be using Delicious — and do use it for really-really long-term book­marks — but I don’t use it for daily or secure stuff. Personally, I use Foxmarks (soon to be Xmarks) because I’m a Firefox guy that has to go across oper­at­ing sys­tems. Foxmarks makes sure that my To Review folder (as well as all other book­marks) stays in sync between all machines. With this method, any­thing that shows up on an RSS feed at work that looks inter­est­ing but too in-depth to cover in a cof­fee break gets book­marked and synced for when I get home. This is the syn­chro­nizer I hap­pen to use, but there are plenty out there.

A recent added bonus to Foxmarks/Xmarks is the new Safari plu­gin. This syn­chro­nizes Foxmarks with Safari — and more impor­tantly, the iPhone. It used to be that I had to go to a spe­cial myfox­marks web­site on the iPhone to get to these links, but now they sync as local book­marks. It is also nice to still have the option to go to myfox­marks if I have not synced in a lit­tle while.

So that is my method of mark­ing things to read for later. I can­not say “it doesn’t require a spe­cial plu­gin or book­marklet” because it does. It just doesn’t require a spe­cial plu­gin beyond those that I already need to use for other pur­poses. And get off my lawn!

Posted in: Dear Diary Portland

Gmail & Firefox & the Mac keyboard?

question blockDear LazyWeb,

Do any of you fine Mac folks know how to get the Command-Left-Arrow and Command-Right-Arrow key­board short­cuts work­ing when edit­ing a mes­sage in Gmail? In every other appli­ca­tion, and in fact in every other web­site under Firefox, they do the reg­u­lar sys­tem “begin­ning of line” and “end of line” posi­tion­ing. For some rea­son, with Gmail’s email edi­tor, they do noth­ing at all. I assume it has some­thing to do with it being a RichText edit­ing box. Google searches for help don’t turn up much of any­thing use­ful.

The key­board incon­sis­tency is one of those things that isn’t a total deal-breaker because I can use the happy Unix ctrl-a and ctrl-e key­strokes to do the same thing, but it’s been bug­ging me for months.

Posted in: Dear Diary Questions

My Firefox Plugins

This is mainly for my own ref­er­ence, although I fig­ured the list could be ben­e­fi­cial to oth­ers. These are the plu­g­ins and Greasemonkey scripts I am using under Firefox. They’re also doc­u­mented (and updated) at http://stackoverflow.org/wiki/My_Firefox_Plugin_Setup

Posted in: Dear Diary


Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2007/02/

For quite some time, I have been using KMail to talk to our IMAP mail server at work. This has worked fairly well, but it is kind of large and clunky. After see­ing all of the talk of The Mozilla Foundation’s Thunderbird email client over the past year, and since switch­ing from Safari to Firefox last July (on the Mac), I fig­ured I would give Thunderbird a try.

Initial impres­sions: Very nice and very fast. The email noti­fi­ca­tion method leaves a bit to be desired, though, as does the ubiq­uity of the win­dow. Two things I really like about KMail is that it min­i­mizes to a tiny 16x16 icon in the sys­tem tray rather than the task bar (so that it does not show up in Alt-Tab and does not take up task bar real estate) and that it gives me a visual indi­ca­tion that I have email in the appli­ca­tion icon. Visual indi­ca­tion is the only thing that works for me. My speak­ers are dis­abled and pop-up win­dows always seem to get in the way of typ­ing, even when they are designed not to take focus. Fortunately I was able to fix this.

KDocker is a nice appli­ca­tion that lets you take any run­ning program’s win­dow and flag it to min­i­mize to/from the sys­tem tray. I have to remem­ber to run it once every time I ini­tially launch Thunderbird, but it is a very rare occa­sion that I have to restart, so it is no big deal.

The noti­fi­ca­tions took a bit more work, but I finally came up with a really ele­gant solu­tion that lets me know whether I have mail, even if the screen­saver is on or the screen goes into energy effi­cient power-down. Using the Mailbox Alert exten­sion, I can have Thunderbird run any appli­ca­tion when there is a new email. I sim­ply con­fig­ure it to run an app to light up the Scroll Lock button’s LED when I have a new mes­sage. Nothing uses the Scroll Lock or its light, so this solu­tion works out nicely.

To clear this noti­fi­ca­tion, I have a KDE quick launch icon con­fig­ured to clear the Scroll Lock LED.

So far, things are work­ing beau­ti­fully — much bet­ter than KMail.

Posted in: Code

Firefox 2.0 Annoyances

Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2007/01/

One of the things about Firefox 2.0 for the Mac that bugs me (and only the Mac version–the Linux ver­sion is not afflicted by this) is that when you attempt to drag and drop a link from the URL bar to the book­mark bar, a tooltip say­ing “Drag and drop this icon to cre­ate a link to this page” pops up that actu­ally gets in the way of being able to drop the link. An arti­cle at LifeHacker points out a way to fix the problem–by dis­abling browser.chrome.toolbar_tips in about:config, but this pretty much using a tac­ti­cal nuke to kill a mos­quito. It dis­ables ALL tooltips, EVERYWHERE, includ­ing the use­ful ones. I use CookieSafe and Adblock Plus, which have use­ful tooltips to tell you about the page. Other peo­ple use a weather plu­gin that shows details in a tooltip. Those crafty peo­ple who put title= attrib­utes in links are unseen.

I have found a bet­ter way, but it involves some shell com­mands, so isn’t for every­one. First quit Firefox and run the fol­low­ing com­mands.
fibonacci:~ brian$ cd /Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/chrome/
fibonacci:/Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/chrome brian$ mkdir tmp
fibonacci:/Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/chrome brian$ cd tmp
fibonacci:/Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/chrome/tmp brian$ unzip -q ../en-US.jar
fibonacci:/Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/chrome/tmp brian$ vim locale/browser/browser.dtd

You don’t have to use vi or vim to edit the file. Any text edi­tor will do. You just have to find this line:
<!ENTITY proxyIcon.tooltip "Drag and drop this icon to create a link to this page">
...and change it to this:
<!ENTITY proxyIcon.tooltip "">

Then fol­low it up with these com­mands (to back up the chrome file, then store your changes):
fibonacci:/Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/chrome/tmp brian$ cp ../en-US.jar ../en-US.jar.BACKUP
fibonacci:/Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/chrome/tmp brian$ zip -r -0 ../en-US.jar *

And that’s it. It works like a charm.

Posted in: Code Software

Firefox 2, Electric Boogaloo

Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2006/07/

Okay, so I am slowly try­ing to migrate myself to Firefox 2.0 on the Mac. I have been using it at work and fig­ured it was about time to force myself to use it at home so that I can get a really good feel for how it works in com­par­i­son to Safari. Previously, I did the “30 sec­ond try­out” wherein I imme­di­ately declared that it sucks com­pared to Safari and left it at that. Now that it runs fast (and/or I have more mem­ory) and it has built-in spellcheck (the lack of which was pretty much a deal­breaker with Firefox 1.5 vs. Safari), I’m will­ing to give it a try.

I real­ize that plenty of peo­ple have been using mod­ern ver­sions of Firefox longer than I. I ask the fol­low­ing ques­tions with the hope that some­one can help answer them.

1. Is there a way to eas­ily “clone” (or bet­ter yet, syn­chro­nize) my exten­sions and/or Greasemonkey scripts between two machines? When I freshly install Firefox, it would be super-nice to auto­mat­i­cally have my exten­sions there (Adblock, Flashblock, etc.) When I install an exten­sion at home (or add an Adblock rule, even), it would be great to have that appear at work with­out hav­ing to think much about it.

2. Is there an exten­sion that works with Firefox 2.0 that lets me define hotkeys for “next tab” and “pre­vi­ous tab?” Previously, I was using either Keyconfig or some­thing sim­i­lar that let me do this with 1.5. There is a great lit­tle exten­sion called Nightly Tester Tools, which allows you to load “older” exten­sions into a “newer” Firefox ver­sion, which helped for some exten­sions, but not for this par­tic­u­lar one. They prob­a­bly changed an API or object model dras­ti­cally enough in 2.0 that a sim­ple ver­sion num­ber bump isn’t suf­fi­cient.

3. Is there a good place to browse pop­u­lar Greasemonkey scripts? I’ve seen userscripts.org, but it really only seems to be geared toward “I know what I’m look­ing for, let me search for it” as opposed to “I don’t yet know what I’m look­ing for, I just want to see what other peo­ple find use­ful.” I have a YouTube down­loader and a MySpace cus­tom theme killer, but won­der what other peo­ple find use­ful. (And no, I don’t need the “kill the LiveJournal navbar” thinger–contrary to pop­u­lar opin­ion, I rather like that thing.)

4. What exten­sions and Greasemonkey scripts do YOU find use­ful? I’ve been using:

  • Adblock — blocks ads by pat­tern match­ing; lets you right-click images/iframes to add new pat­terns
  • BugMeNot — gives you throw­away names+passwords for “reg­is­tra­tion required” sites
  • Distrust — The same thing as Safari’s “pri­vacy mode” — when enabled, sites don’t go into the his­tory or cache
  • Flashblock — Displays a place­holder where Flash would be dis­played on a page; click­ing the place­holder loads the Flash (good for ads and/or annoy­ing sites.)
  • Google Notebook — Lets you save text snip­pets and web pages in your Google note­book. Strangely, I’ve never used this beyond ini­tially test­ing it out; I tend to use my own Wiki for the same pur­pose.
  • Greasemonkey — Allows page tweak­ing
  • JavaScript Options — Lets you alter JavaScript behav­ior. Specifically, I use it to pre­vent pages from open­ing non-resizable win­dows. That bugs the crap out of me because they can never get the size right for my display/window-trimmings.
  • Nightly Tester Tools — Lets you install exten­sions that are not nec­es­sar­ily for the ver­sion of Firefox you are using.
  • Stumbleupon — Lets you “chan­nel surf” web pages. I’m about to delete this, as its use­ful­ness is pretty low.
Posted in: Code Software