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Want Firefox 3.6?

October31

I have been using beta builds of future Firefox versions for ages. They have always been stable enough to use as my primary browser. The problem is, there are some downsides to using non-release versions of Firefox. One of those is add-ons not working, another is some new features that you may not like, and sometimes there are new features that you cannot access in an early beta because they have been disabled. Well here is some information, and tips and tricks for if you want to use Firefox 3.6 beta 1.

This is a minor upgrade from 3.5 so you shouldn’t expect too many changes. I’m sure there are many changes underneath the hood and hidden from the user. There are 3 major differences that may be experienced by the user. The first is Personas, which once was accessible through an extension but is now built in. This is a lightweight theming system. To try it, go to the Personas section of the Firefox add-ons site and hover over one to preview it on your browser and click “Wear It” to install it. The next change is currently disabled by default but will probably be enabled in a later beta. This is the new ctrl-tab previews. When you press ctrl-tab, it will show you full screenshot previews of some of the tabs you have open. You can also press ctrl-shift-tab to view a windows inside the browser that shows you all your currently loaded tabs. The last change is the way Firefox manages tabs opened through another page. When you click a link on a web page which launches it in another tab, this new tab will launch beside the current tab, and not at the end of the tab bar as the very last tab. As I said, there are not many new features in this version.

One of the problems with using a beta is that there will be extensions that will not function. A few of the popular extensions like Adblock Plus and Gmail Notifier will function in the latest beta but if you’re anything like me, there will be extensions that you need that just don’t work. Well luckily there’s an extension for that. Nightly Tester Tools has a great feature that allows you to overwrite compatibility to get the add-on to install on your current version of Firefox. For a lot of extensions, this is all that is needed to get it to work. For those, it’s great. Unfortunately, sometimes there are extensions that this won’t work exactly right for and may cause the browser to become unstable and/or crash. This may be a little risky but it’s worth a try. If you find you have something that doesn’t work with this fix and you must have the extension, then you’ll have to wait until the developer updates it for compatibility, which may not be until the final release. If that is your case, then beta software is definitely not for you.

So now you’ve installed Firefox 3.6 beta 1, had a quick play around with personas but you’d also like to check out the new ctrl-tab feature that’s disabled. To enabled that feature, go to about:config, accept the prompt then search for browser.ctrlTab.previews, right click and select toggle (to true) to enable. Now you can ctrl-tab to switch between you tabs with previews and also ctrl-shift-tab to access the window that shows all your tab previews. Now I wasn’t to happy with the new way Firefox handled the opening on new tabs from links in other tabs. I prefer it to open them as the last tab on my tab bar. To disable this new feature, in about:config, search for browser.tabs.insertRelatedAfterCurrent, right click and select toggle (to false). Now it handles these tabs just like it does in earlier versions of Firefox.

Now this last set of tips is for Mac owners with a MacBook (Pro) with one of the multitouch trackpads. The first one can be done in Firefox 3.5 and 3.6. To enable rotate gestures to switch between the tabs, in the about:config page, search for browser.gestures. Here you will find 2 gestures without a value, twist.left and twist.right. Right click on them and type in the field Browser:PrevTab for twist.left and Browser:NextTab for twist.right to enable these gestures for navigating through tabs on your browser window. It may seem a bit weird for the start but eventually it will become second nature. One more thing that I also found was a way to make the new ctrl-shift-tab window to come up with a gesture. To set that, right click on a gesture and in the field type Browser:ShowAllTabs. You can set it for any one of the gestures in browser.gestures. I set it for swipe.down to make it more like the 4-finger swipe down for Exposé so to access my tab previews, it’s just a simple 3-finger swipe down.

Now that you know what’s new in Firefox 3.6, go out an give this thing a run. You now have enough knowledge to get this thing working and to enable and disable new features added in this version. The extensions tip can be applied to pretty much any alpha and beta version of Firefox out there in the wild and the multitouch for the MacBooks can be applied to any version after 3.5 (excluding the tab preview one since it doesn’t exist prior to 3.6.) Here is the link for Firefox 3.6 Beta so now you have no excuse for trying it out.

posted under Software | No Comments »

Upgrading To Snow Leopard

September5

I have only been a Mac User for just over half a year. I have never been through a Mac OS upgrade before, although I knew from the moment before I purchased my MacBook, I would take the jump to Snow Leopard as soon as it comes out. Previous to that, I had only been through one OS transition and that was from Windows XP to Windows Vista. If I had a Windows machine, I would have upgraded from Vista to Windows 7. As soon as Snow Leopard was available to preorder on the Apple Store website, I immediately bought it. Launch day came, no Snow Leopard for me. After the weekend, Snow Leopard was go.

Before my disc arrived, I set up my machine for the upgrade. I arranged all the clutter into directories. I deleted or moved any files that weren’t necessary to have on the hard drive. All this was for a smaller amount of data to backup in case anything went horribly wrong. I had never been through a big upgrade like this so I didn’t know what to expect so I took all the precautions. After all that was done, I set up Time Machine on my old 500GB External HDD. After all the cleaning, I only had 100GB to be backed up which only took a couple of hours.

A quick note here. First, I picked Time Machine because the tools were already built in. I had heard around the Internet that Time Machine isn’t that great, but I hadn’t heard any bad experiences from the OS X users I know. I don’t know how reliable this software is because I most likely, well at least I hope I’d never use it. For this upgrade, it was a precaution and wasn’t expecting to have to use it, it was there just in case and also ave me piece of mind.

All that was going well until a disc got stuck in my drive. This was one of the worst things that could happen because that component, the least used one on many notebooks or computer, is required to upgrade the OS. I tried all the tricks in the book from all the help sites. Nothing worked. I pretty much gave up and decided it was going to have to go get repaired. In desperation, I shut it down and shook it around a few times. Maybe something in the drive got stuck or the disc was doing something weird and needed to be nudged. Lucky for me, this actually worked. When I booted it up and ejected the disc from in OS X, the disc came flying out. Saved by the shake.

When the disc arrived the following morning, I put it in. By this stage, the rest of the world had got their copies and there were a few complains about software not working in Snow Leopard but that was basically it. The software I use was either supported by Snow Leopard before launch, or an update came out over the weekend to fix incompatibility issues. I was willing to take the leap of faith. As you know, I have always been an early adopter of alpha and beta software. I popped the disc in, launched the installer from within Leopard and then left it for an hour to do its thing.

Upon return, there it was, Leopard… I mean Snow Leopard. I didn’t have any compatibility issues with any of my software. All software ran as it did before. Everything seemed fine. Over the past week, the only issues I’ve had are with a small glitch in the OS and one program that crashed once out of the blue. This has been a pretty smooth OS upgrade. Of course there are going to be a few small issues but none have really effected me. I’m more than happy with the upgrade process.

In contrast with my last OS upgrade with Windows, it resulted in me getting a new machine. For a lot of Windows users, that is when they upgrade their OS, they don’t buy and install it on their old hardware. Also switching from XP SP2 to Windows Vista RTM was a nightmare in comparison. System crashes and software not working for weeks, if not months after the OS release. And then, it wasn’t really until SP1 came out 12 months later that Vista was really stable.

Upgrading is going to be less problematic going from XP or Vista to 7. Windows 7 is a pretty solid OS, well at least from the limited early usage I had with it and from the experiences friends that have used the Beta and Release Candidate versions. But that will never be enough to put it on par with simple and seamless experience of an OS X upgrade. The many different versions of Windows makes it difficult to do an “upgrade” but instead requires a fresh new install and then you migrate your data over. A lot more steps and a lot more work than the simple Mac upgrade. Just another aspect of Macs that “just work.” :)

posted under Computer | 1 Comment »

My Firefox Extensions

July26

I have been a Firefox user for many years, ever since 1.0 in fact. I have had my fair share of different extensions over the years as time went on, that number increased and decreased as I installed extensions I had come across or ones that others had recommended and as I uninstalled ones that were no longer of any use to me. Well now I have a few extensions and these are some of the only reasons I wouldn’t switch to another browser. Here are my must have Firefox extensions.

Faviconize Tab – I have so many tabs open at one time. When I open my browser, the same 16 tabs open up for me. That would take up a lot of room on the tab bar. Fortunately Faviconize Tab shrinks the size of selected tabs to the size of their favicon. I go to the site so frequently I am able to recognize the website by that small icon they have. I don’t need a big title wasting space so that extra room is able to be used on other links I open.

Net Usage Item (with New Zealand ISP Definitions) – It’s been forever since I actually have Internet allowance but even with unlimited, I still find it interesting to see how much data I’ve used (and slow down if I need to.) This extension is probably one of the most useful ones I’ve ever used. It displays your current usage from your ISP and displays it in the Firefox window with a nice graphical bar showing your progress. This is a must have for all Firefox users, assuming your ISP is supported.

Nighty Tester Tools – I have always been an early adopter of the alpha and beta builds of future versions of Firefox. I enjoy using and playing around with new features before most “normal” users get their hands on them. Unfortunately one of the problems with doing so is you lose add-on support. For a lot of people, this is enough to hold out people from jumping on the latest beta. Well thankfully for me, this extension can overwrite compatibility constraints and force extensions to install on these pre-Firefox builds. The extension can do a lot more than that, but the force capability feature is the best and most useful one for me. It gives me the best of both worlds, pre-Firefox builds and my 2 great extensions.

Wow, wasn’t that a short list. I remember when I use to have over a dozen extensions and now I only have 3 (4 if you count the extra definitions pack.) These few extensions give me the functionality I want and need from my browser and that is one of the reasons that Firefox is so awesome. You can add on bit and pieces to enhance your browsing experience. If you haven’t got these extensions already, go get them if the sound like something you could do with. I live by these extensions and recommend them greatly!

WWDC 2009

June17

It wasn’t until Sunday night that I finally got around to watching the WWDC 2009 keynote. Apple keynotes are always interesting, no matter what they announce, whether it affects me in anyway or now, regardless of if they announce something huge or just show off a few things that they’ve got. Apple keynotes are the best. This keynote covered 4 main bits, MacBook Pros, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, iPhone Software 3.0 and the iPhone 3Gs.

When I first found out about the MacBook updates, I was a little annoyed. My MacBook is only 6 months old and they update it already. The only changes to it from my one are the FireWire 800 port, SD Card Slot, theoretical 2 more hours of battery life, slight CPU bump, double the RAM and the Pro on then end of the name. After an hour or so i was over it though, I love my MacBook and the features it adds wouldn’t affect the way I use my computer, although the RAM and Battery upgrades would be nice.

Snow Leopard really amazes me. It is a better Leopard. I love Leopard how it is and couldn’t have imagined it any other way. This is a perfect operating system (I come from a Windows background so what do you expect.) Well Apple blew my mind and showed some really cool stuff that they’re including in Snow Leopard. I find the current OS to be blazing fast and the new OS will see increases in speed. I can’t imagine how fast it will be but if it really is as fast as they say, I’m going to be blown away. Maybe Leopard isn’t really that fast, it’s just that I came from Windows. But that wasn’t all, Apple once again blew my mind with Snow Leopard by releasing it for a small $29 USD. Wow, I’m buying this day 1! Amazing price.

iPhone 3.0 stuff had been out in the while for some time so the stuff showed off was really no surprise, it was nice to see them on screen though. The thing that was interesting were the demos of apps utilizing some of the new features available to developers. I’m not a huge fan of in-app purchasing, I could go into more detail but I’d need another post for that. The GPS app that Tomtom showed looked pretty awesome. I would buy it, and the stand if I had my own car and needed a GPS unit. I am really looking forward to seeing apps developed especially for 3.0.

The last thing announce was a new iPhone, the 3Gs. This seems more like a spec bump, similar to that seen by the MacBook rather than a new model. Basically it adds a better camera with video support, a compass and voice control. Someone with a current iPhone 3G would get little out of the 3Gs. Someone new to the platform or someone upgrading from the original iPhone on the other hand, this would be a great next phone. For me, having fast data over the cellular network, the 3.0 megapixel camera and the 32GB of storage is enough reason for me to upgrade to it from the original iPhone model. The only thing I’m worried about is that I’m going to wish I had waited a year longer when the new big revision gets announce next year.

Overall this was a get keynote for me. I didn’t particularly care for new MacBook but it is nice to see progress for when i do eventually upgrade my 13″ MacBook to a 15″ MacBook Pro probably when I finish University. I am really excited for Snow Leopard and will definitely be purchasing it in-store on the day of release. 3.0 seems like a huge improvement over 2.0 adding features people have been wanting since version 1.0 so that will be nice to have. Finally, I think I am going to be getting an iPhone 3Gs. It is about time to upgrade to a model made for current generation mobile technology. WWDC 2009 was better than expected. I can’t wait to see what they have to top this one next year.

Wireless Printing

April19

When I got my MacBook, one thing that got thrown in the package was a Apple Airport Express. At first I didn’t know what I was going to do with it so I had a quick play around with it and then put it back. It wasn’t till the family decided to put the printer (also included with the Mac) upstairs. I decided that I could utilize both products and setting up wireless printing on the network.

The setting up of the Airport is very simple. A few steps and you’re away. I set it up so that the Airport connects the the wireless network that we already have. From there, just connect a printer to the USB port on the airport. That is the hardware all setup. For Macs, you just need to install the printer software and you’re good to go. For Windows machines, you need to install the Airport software which is included with the device. Then just install the printer software/drivers and everything is good to go there.

And there you have it, wireless printing. It is so much better than the old setup. The old setup consisted of a PC on the network with a shared printer connected to it. No longer do I have to turn on the computer and wait 2-4 minutes for it to fully boot up and print. Now I just have to turn on the printer and in a minute the job will be done. If you are living in a place with multiple computers in a household, especially laptops, wireless printing is a godsend.

iminlikewithyou too

February18

Last month, I rediscovered a website I had been on quite a while ago called iminlikewithyou. This website has a bunch of little multiplayer flash games such. A lot of these resemble other games you made have seen or played before, for example Bomberman. These games are a lot of fun to play together with friends but you can also play them with random strangers. I find it to be much more fun with friends because there are not people to ruin some games, like draw my thing.

I can’t describe the games well enough so you have to check them all out for yourself. My favourite games on the site are Dinglepop, Draw My Thing and Balloono. The library is slowly increasing but ever game they release is of a very high standard. I strongly recommend you try out this site, it is loads of fun. Hit me up if you ever wanna play together, especially if it is one of my favourites. :D

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The MacBook Review

February12

I’d been waiting a while to finally get my hands on a Mac. I had decided that a MacBook would be my next laptop shortly after I got my last one. I was really considering getting one at the end of 2008 or start of 2009. Then as that time approached Apple came along and updated them with nice new models. This was a great time to pick one up. Finally the day came at the end of 2008 when I finally acquired my very own Aluminium MacBook.

To start off, the packaging is pretty small. When I was looking at the box, I was thinking to myself that maybe getting a 13″ notebook wasn’t such a good idea since it’s really small. The box width was a similar size to my current laptop which did worry me. But when opening it for the first time, the size of the thing wasn’t an issue. The computer fills most of the box right up to the edges. Most other computers have about a good 10-20cm from the edge of the box but this left only a few centimeters. The rest of the the parts like the power adapter and cord as well as a few booklets and discs took up the rest of the box but the packaging itself is pretty amazing.

When you first pick up the it’s quite light compared to other laptops and also remarkably thin, especially compared to my old 14″, which is about twice the size and weight of my beautiful MacBook. The unibody aluminium design makes it look really clean and polished. It also makes it seem more durable and stronger than most plastic notebooks. They also make it easy to get into this thing with a simple latch to open the door to access the hard drive and battery. The whole thing looks quite nice, even the base of the thing.

One of the complaints people had with this model was that it was no available in matte. This didn’t impact my decision at all to get this thing. My last computer had a glossy screen and I never had any issues with it. It was usable in all conditions, even outside. It wasn’t as easy to see but it was never bad enough that it wasn’t usable. The glass screen on this is another really nice finishing touch on this laptop which fill up the edges of the case making it really clean like the rest of this thing. The screen was a little bit smaller than my old 14″ (obviously) but I got use to the small size difference pretty quick and it is a non issue now. I am pretty happy which the size and if it makes this thing smaller, lighter and more portable, that is an easy compromise.

Probably the BEST thing about this laptop is the multitouch trackpad. It is much larger than most traditional trackpads, probably twice as big as most, but that gives you a lot of room to work with, which is more than welcome for the gestures. There are no buttons on the trackpad, instead it is one big button. I personally think its horrible, it take a bit of force to push it down and it makes quite a sound when you press it. Luckily the software has touch to click, something which I have been using on trackpads since I started using them, which makes the button problem a non issue. The trackpad also comes with a variety of gestures which make using the software so much easier to interact with. It doesn’t take long to learn either. I myself got it pretty much figured out with a few hours of playing, and now these have become second nature for me. Whenever using another laptop, I do miss the big touchpad and the multitouch. It really does add to the Mac experience.

One of the reasons that I decided to get the higher end model was for the backlit keyboard. The keyboard on it is great. The keys are nicely spaced out which makes it harder for my sloppy fingers to accidentally catch the edge of another key, something that I am thankful for. The backlight is amazing too. It makes the keyboard so much easier to see and use in the dark. Not having to use the light from the screen is great. Also the ambient light sensor automatically adjusts the screen brightness and keyboard backlight brightness to levels that suit the conditions of the lighting in the room. That is a great feature in a computer and not having to worry about the levels myself is great.

Now just to mention some of the other things. The system does seem to get pretty hot for me. That is because I run a lot of applications at one time and a few CPU intensive ones. My friends MacBook of the same model gets no where near as hot as mine and he has a couple of apps open so depending on how you use it will definitely impact how hot this computer gets. One of the things the MacBook’s have had for a while at the Magsafe adaptors. I love these things. Not having it physically plugged onto the system makes it easier to use and also give you that added security if someone trips over the cord as it’s not going to send your laptop flying. It comes with 2 heads in the box, one with a long cord and one that plugs straight into the power brick. On the subject of power, the battery life in this thing is really good. I get about 3 hours of normal use “for me” but I can also push that to 4 to 4.5 hours with light use. That is a huge improvement from the 45 to 60 minutes of my last laptop.

I’ve been using the smaller one as I don’t need the added length which is something I’ve come to appreciate about the power adapter. The lack of firewire doesn’t really bother me as I’ve never had firewire to begin with. Maybe if I had used it and had firewire peripherals would have been an issue. The lack of USB ports hasn’t been a big issue yet but I can see how it can be a problem. I would certainly welcome another USB port or two. I haven’t had a chance to use the Mini DisplayPort, mostly because of the huge price just to get an adapter for the thing. Hopefully this standard becomes more widely adopted so prices go down. I think it would have been nice if they actually included an adapter with the thing but Apple being Apple, that would never happen.

The MacBook I got was the 2.4Ghz model which was a bit extra but I think it was worth it for the little extras it includes. It will also mean it won’t need upgrades for quite a while and will also last a long time. I’ve only really used one other laptop but this is far the best laptop I’ve ever used. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a laptop computer that doesn’t need to be Windows. Yes, I’m sure it does make a great Windows computer but for the premium price point of this hardware, I couldn’t justify to anyone getting it since for the same price you could get a much better Windows based PC. Now, for my next laptop… I’m thinking maybe a 15″ MacBook Pro. :-P

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