A pedant that hangs out in the dark corner-cases of the web.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Underreported Firefox Features

Everyone knows about tabbed browsing, adware and popup blocking, extensions and themes, but are you familiar with Firefox's other distinguishing abilities?

  • Find Bar: just start typing to search a page, and there is no box in the way (be sure to try "Highlight").
  • Smart Keywords: turn the address bar into a veritable command-line.
    For example, you can set up bookmards with keywords to:
  • Live Bookmarks display RSS feeds as folders, each link a bookmark.
  • SmartFind bookmarks, which have no friendly user interface yet, but the examples can be copied and modified to suit your needs. Think of them as saved bookmark searches. Even LiveBookmark items are included, making this a nifty aggregation tool!

ListDLLs 2.25


cURL 7.12.3


Saxon 8.2


Adobe Reader 7


This version appears to be significantly faster to load, even without the "fastloader" it puts in your Startup folder.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Brian's Gift Ideas

Deserving Nonprofit, Open Source Software Projects

The Mozilla Project
Makers of the excellent Firefox web browser, Thunderbird email client, and more.
A massive infrastructure for programmers, providing resources for thousands of projects, including the individually deserving cURL, 7-zip, FileZilla, Programmer's Notepad, PopTray, GhostScript, jEdit, and PDFCreator.
The Apache Software Foundation
The source of many important software projects, such as ant, fop, SpamAssasin, and the Apache web server.
Another collaborative environment for programmers. Home of Subversion and TortoiseSVN.
The free image viewer. It can read and convert nearly any graphic file.
A language for automating typing and clicking. After all, the whole point of computers is to release humans from mindless tedium.
SpyBot Search & Destroy
The front lines on the war against spyware. SpyBot cleans up infections.
Prevents spyware from being installed in the first place.
The GNU Image Manipulation Program; a powerful graphics editor.
The GNOME Foundation
Home of the GNOME Free Software Desktop, including the Epiphany web browser (based on Mozilla), Evolution, and Dia.

Laudable Charities & Nonprofits

The Wikimedia Foundation
Support Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Electronic Frontier Foundation & DigitalConsumer.org
Movie companies and TV networks are making it illegal to skip commercials, fast forward past previews, and even record certain radio and TV shows. Recording industry companies want to control what kind of devices we can use to listen to music. Copyright law has been badly distorted in favor of exploitative companies that have wrested legal ownership away from artists. Help preserve what little rights we have left.
Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email
Can't we have one tiny corner of our lives that is not completely saturated by insipid, vacuous advertising and scams?
Electronic Privacy Information Center & Americans for Computer Privacy
Remember when 1984 sounded scary, but unlikely? Remember when Big Brother was a universally rejected concept?
BlackBoxVoting.org, The Center for Democracy and Technology & MoveOn.org
Accurate voting and an informed electorate are critical to our democracy.
American Civil Liberties Union
Help protect freedom!

Traditional Wish Lists

Where geeks get their gear.
Everyone has an Amazon wish list (or should).

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Disk Cleanup

To drastically speed up disk cleanup in Windows, delete the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Explorer\ VolumeCaches\ Compress old files\ key.

To configure and save a cleanup job, type cleanmgr /sageset:n (n is the job number); to execute a cleanup job, type cleanmgr /sagerun:n .

To delete the key, you can create use a .reg file containing the following:


[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\VolumeCaches\Compress old files]

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Anything fully baked must, logically, include a phase part-way between not being baked and bakedness. Therefore, just because something is half-baked does not mean it shall always be so.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Some (invalid) HTML to crash IE


<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"

<html><head><title>Crash IE</title></head><body>
<table style="table-layout:fixed">
<col style="width:20em" />
<tbody><font face="Arial" size=2><p></font>
<font face="Arial" size=2> </font>
<p> <font face="Arial" size=2> </font>


Handy Windows environment variables

%RANDOM%, %DATE%, %TIME% and others are documented in the system help. Type help set.

Date and time strings use the formats set via Regional and Language Options in the Control Panel; the default date format is MM/DD/YYYY in the US, which isn't good for scheduled archival file renaming, so change the format to ISO 8601-style YYYY-MM-DD for the user account you run your scheduled jobs under.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Fedora apt Repositories

  • Get apt and synaptic at FreshRPMs.net.
  • FedoraExtras: rpm http://download.fedora.us/fedora fedora/2/i386 os updates stable
  • FedoraExtras: rpm http://rpm.livna.org/ fedora/2/i386 stable unstable testing
  • rpm http://apt.sw.be fedora/2/en/i386 dag
  • rpm http://apt.atrpms.net fedora/2/en/i386 at-testing
  • rpm http://newrpms.sunsite.dk/apt/ redhat/en/i386/fc2 newrpms
  • rpm http://apt.sw.be dries/fedora/fc2/i386 dries
  • rpm http://ayo.freshrpms.net fedora/linux/2/i386 core updates freshrpms

Friday, September 17, 2004

lame options for grip

-h -V 0 --tt %n --ta %a --tl %d --ty %y --tn %t --tg %g --tc %i %w %m

Monday, September 13, 2004

How to convert your Windows Server 2003... to a Workstation!

In a nutshell:

  1. Add a user: control userpasswords2 (or rundll32 netplwiz.dll,UsersRunDll, lusrmgr.msc is more advanced); uncheck Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer to auto-logon
  2. Remove Internet Explorer Enhanced Security (useless mode) from Add or Remove Programs
  3. Install Sun Java
  4. Disable shutdown event tracker: gpedit.mscComputer ConfigurationAdministrative TemplatesSystemDisplay Shutdown Event TrackerDisabled
  5. Install drivers
  6. Display PropertiesSettingsAdvancedTroubleshootHardware AccelerationFull
  7. dxdiagDisplayEnable all
  8. services.mscWindows AudioAutomatic & Start
  9. dxdiagSoundFull
  10. System PropertiesAdvancedPerformanceAdvancedPrograms (both)
  11. Install DirectX
  12. Visit Windows Update

Saturday, September 11, 2004

More thoughts on the state of SF

Star Trek, as science fiction, died with Gene Roddenberry. Don't get me wrong, DS9 was powerful and my favorite series of the franchise, in terms of entertainment value. But, too often, the writers would simply insert [TECH] into the script where they required deus ex machina (this is true). There was almost no pursuit of where an idea would lead, or how a deeper understanding of the universe could improve (or imperil) our existence.

Excellent examples of contemporary genuine science fiction (GSF) include:

The state of Sci-Fi

Science fiction is a form of fiction which deals principally with the impact of imagined science and/or technology upon society or individuals.

The slashdot article and discussion Slashdot | Is Science Fiction About The Future Anymore? has touched on something that has bothered me for a few years now.

The job of SF is to ask "what if", and examine the effects. It's a way of auditioning scientific priorities socially. Remove the science and you just have fiction.

To too many, sci-fi is just a setting for a story: in the future, maybe traveling in space, lots of "computers". Sadly, this is the prevailing attitude for nearly all SF writers anymore (certainly all "mainstream" "entertainment", including Star Trek).

<rant>This attitude infuriates me for two reasons: First, it is anti-intellectual to regard the whole of science; all mathematics, physics, information theory, sociology, cosmology, ...; as a minor implementation detail. Second, it lulls the general populous into thinking that science is "indistinguishable from magic": utterly unknowable, unapproachable, fearsome, and cannot be trusted.</rant>

Monday, August 16, 2004

Never take Bob Costas and Katie Couric to a movie

After watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, I was left wishing for CSPAN-style coverage without all the ridiculous yammering.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Google's HTML

I've never looked at the HTML that Google produces before. What a mess! Why on earth would they still be doing this? Where is the WaSP?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Nothing is really something in VB.NET

In VBScript, there were Empty (no value, initial value of all variables), Null (a third logical state), and Nothing (a non-object). IsEmpty, IsNull, and IsNothing tested for these values.

In VB.NET, Nothing is a keyword that actually means "default", and IsNothing checks for object assignment:

Public dt as DateTime

dt= Nothing
Console.WriteLine(IsNothing(dt)) ' FALSE!
Console.WriteLine(dt = #00:00#) ' True

The .NET docs imply that Nothing replaces Empty, though this is clearly not the case.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Mozilla 1.7.1, Firefox 0.9.2, Thunderbird 0.7.2


Due to a Windows flaw, Mozilla has released updated versions of its product line.

All that has changed is the network.protocol-handler.external.shell setting to false.


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Is "web-based" misleading?

  • Should the FTC start prosecuting companies that advertise Internet Explorer-only products as "web-based"?
  • Should a legal definition for "web browser" require HTML and CSS support?

Opera 7.52


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Freedom vs. Security, part 2

If security is your biggest concern, you should really check out Singapore. You can chew gum there now!

Friday, June 18, 2004

Mozilla 1.7 released

Now Mozilla provides:

  • better granularity for popup blocking;
  • FTP upload;
  • multiple mail identities for the same account (also in Thunderbird 0.7);
  • and, as with every Mozilla release, this one is smaller and faster!

XMLMind XML Editor 2.6p1

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Nvu 0.30

Spellchecking is now available, and a Markup Cleaner has been added.

Thunderbird 0.7

  • New Extension and Theme Managers to match those in the new Firefox 0.9.
  • Color quoting is now part of Thunderbird, rather than an extension.
  • There is a new look for vCard attachments.
  • STILL no UI for birthdays and anniversaries, though the backend provides fields hungry for that data.

Firefox 0.9 is out

  • The new Extension and Theme Managers:
    • do away with the redundant confiration dialog box that showed after you had already clicked the Install button,
    • do not ask where you want the extension/theme to be installed,
    • support updating extensions/themes,
    • allow multiple extension installs before restart,
    • and look far more attractive.
  • Inline autocomplete is available by setting the browser.urlbar.autoFill hidden pref.
  • Text can now be dragged to the address bar or search bar.
  • Individual autocomplete results can now be deleted.
  • Right-click a text box to "Add keyword for this search".
  • The installer now imports data from nearly any other browser.
  • The progress bar is now more accurate.
  • Help is now included.
  • There is a new theme, which I consider much less attractive.

Monday, June 14, 2004


n. the right to use and enjoy the profits and advantages from property belonging to someone else provided that the property itself is not damaged or altered in any way

Friday, June 11, 2004

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Freedom vs. Security

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

— Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or a right. There is only an up or down: up to man's age-old dream—the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order—or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.

— Ronald Reagan, Address to the Republican National Convention, 1964

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Aside from the larger argument (whether ideas can and should be "owned"), the concept of patents seem predicated on an anachronistic assumption: that "inventions" are independant.

Current developments require so much infrastructure from previous inventions as to highlight the crippling effect that denying additional incremental improvements produces.

For example, the infamous Amazon one-click ordering patent relied on the existence of a the Internet infrastructure, the power grid, a web browser, an operating system, semiconductors, transistors, input devices, displays, plastics used in keyboards and other components, de facto standards for HTML and JavaScript, the DNS system, etc. When viewed as a whole system, their development was a small piece that leveraged a huge existing body of work. This "invention" would not have been possible if, say, JavaScript was unavailable (or unaffordable) due to patent restrictions.

php 4.3.7


Opera 7.51