Did you mean zone?

1 November, 2006

Gadgets aren’t exactly the main thrust of this blog, but I couldn’t help laughing at this one. If this is how important Microsoft’s Zune is to one of it’s major retailers, what hope does the upcoming “iPod-killer” player have in the consumer market?

Amazon.com: Did you mean zone?

Get a cool sliding menu bar in Firefox

30 October, 2006

Let’s face it, Firefox is way too greedy when it comes to screen real estate – in its default configuration anyway:

 Default Firefox interface (1024x145)

With the status bar and Windows task bar at the bottom of the screen, you don’t have a lot of screen space left for actually viewing web pages!

Bottom of your Windows screen (1024x52)

In fact, on a standard 1024 x 768 screen, all these bars take up a quarter of your screen height (197 pixels works out to 25.7%).

Consolidating the chrome

Last week, Gina Trapani over at Lifehacker gave out some great tips about consolidating the chrome (the control area or interface) of your Firefox browser. You should go and read that article now if you haven’t already. I’ll wait. Read Lifehacker article >>

If you’ve implemented some of Gina’s tips, your Firefox chrome might look something like this (now with 7.7% more browsing space).

Consolidated Firefox chrome (1024x86)

I also use the All-in-One Sidebar extension which collapses to a very thin gray bar and gives me quick access to my History, Bookmarks, and Scrapbook.

Sliding menu bar

The only menu I use on a semi-regular basis is Tools, but I still need access to the other menus once in a while, so I can’t get just rid of them (Gina at Lifehacker showed us how). But if you consider how little I use them, they’re still taking up too much space on my toolbar.

I could use the Tiny Menu extension, which I also discovered at Lifehacker. But then it would take two clicks to get to any menu, and the Menu text looks a bit strange on the toolbar.

Tiny Menu Firefox extension

I love my Firefox extensions, but I also love efficiency and I won’t install an extension if I can do the same thing in another way. In my search I found this really cool userChrome.css hack. The menus are replaced with a single icon …

Sliding menu bar - hidden

… but they are still easily accessible by simply hovering the cursor over the icon, which temporarily unhides the menus …

Sliding menu bar - visible

The code

This is the code that does the trick – but it’s not quite complete (see below).

/* Sliding menu bar - hidden until mouse hover
from [http://userstyles.org/style/show/993] */
#menubar-items {
background-image: url("ImageData") !important;
background-repeat: no-repeat !important;
background-position: 5px center !important;
padding-left: 24px !important;
}
#menubar-items > #main-menubar {
display: none !important;
}
#menubar-items:hover > #main-menubar {
display: -moz-box !important;
}

Add the above code to your userChrome.css file (what? how?), and then replace ImageData (line 4) this way:

  1. Click here (this text file is hosted elsewhere because .txt files cannot be uploaded to wordpress.com)
  2. Select the whole string in the text file – you can do this by pressing CTRL+A
  3. Press CTRL+C
  4. Go back to your userChrome.css file
  5. Select ImageData in line 4 (nothing more, nothing less)
  6. Press CTRL+V

Save your changes to userChrome.css and restart Firefox. You just replaced ImageData with a base-64 data string (containing 1600 characters) that basically encodes the icon for your new menu within your userChrome.css file.

If you don’t like the Firefox icon in your new chrome, you can upload your preferred icon to The data: URI kitchen (be sure to tick base64) and then insert the generated data string into your userChrome.css file in place of the current string.

The trade-off

Unfortunately, the menus are no longer available via keyboard shortcuts (e.g.. ALT+T for the Tools menu), but that shouldn’t be a great loss if you seldom use them anyway.

from Sliding Menubar by LouCypher [userstyles.org]

WordPress upload bug?

27 October, 2006

While writing my last blog post, Lifehacker search plugin for Firefox 2, I had several screenshots I wanted to upload, but WordPress continually rejected them. I was forced to upload them to another site, and link them all externally. This is the error message I received:

Wordpress upload error

In the last half-hour, I have been able to upload some images, but it is intermittent, and I have still received the error message several times.

Is anyone else having this problem?

UPDATE: I think I may have been trying to upload pictures that had spaces in the filename, so no wonder they didn’t work! This FAQ set me straight – though experiment reveals that dashes (-) and underscores (_) are OK as well, in addition to letters and numbers. Do’h!

Lifehacker search plugin for Firefox 2

26 October, 2006

Just like most of those in the know, Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 are both now installed on my computer.

A great new feature in IE7 is the built-in search box, unsettingly similar to the familiar box Firefox has had for some time. One of the favourites sites on my blogroll, Lifehacker, blogged about creating a custom search plugin using Google’s site search feature a few weeks ago. I didn’t think much of it at the time, because I prefer using Lifehacker’s native search rather than Google.

If you’ve added any extra search plugins to IE7, you may have noticed the feature they provide for creating your own search plugin from any site with a search feature. I experimented with Lifehacker and some other sites, and it seemed like a pretty cool feature. So I went looking for how I could do the same thing in Firefox 2. I discovered that FF2 and IE7 both support the OpenSearch description format for search plugins. Web standards are great when the two most popular browsers choose to support them!

Get the Lifehacker search plugin

Lifehacker search bar

There is a new repository of OpenSearch browser plugins building up at searchplugins.net.

I have added a Lifehacker search plugin to the database. Visit this page in either FF2 or IE7 and click on the I to the left of the first Lifehacker entry. To make sure it’s the right one, hover your mouse over the S link and check that there is an 862 in the link in the status bar – only this plugin will correctly install the LH icon with your plugin.

Plugin List - Search results

While you’re there click on the R next to the second Lifehacker entry (number 515 on S link).

If you want to know how I created the plugin, and how you can create a plugin for any search engine you like, then keep reading …

Read the rest of this entry »

Blog header design

7 October, 2006

I’m looking for suggestions for the design of the header of this blog

The picture isn’t necessarily permanent – it was just a nice Australian scenery I found flicking through our photos. I experimented with fading the picture, but thought it looked best as is (bright blue sky).

Colour? It was a dark yellow, but the tagline wasn’t very readable on the right. Is white better?

Let the comments begin!

Feed/news readers

7 October, 2006

There are many options for subscribing to your RSS/Atom feeds. So how do you choose? Most of the programs listed here are free, unless stated otherwise.

Online readers

  • These readers allow you to keep track of, and read, your feeds online in a web browser. This is great if you want to be able to access your feeds away from your main computer – it works just like webmail
  • Read the rest of this entry »

Technorati profile

6 October, 2006

Technorati Profile

Chain mail

4 October, 2006

I have often been the recipient of copious amounts of chain mail and service invitations from acquaintances and “friends”. My normal response is to hit the Delete button without even looking at the content. I know these chain mails often feature an emotional plea for some small child or other, but I have always held that such emails are a waste of everyone’s time and are a prime cause of unwanted and costly network congestion.

Today I received one such email, along with the 40 email addresses the last person had sent it to. But this one made me sit up. It had come, via a friend, from my sister! Well, I was not happy. She soon found herself being lectured about all the reasons why it was so terrible to forward chain mail.

Read the rest of this entry »