Optimizing Page Load

An awesome article on Optimizing Page Load Time from Aaron Hopkins (who works for Google). While his suggestions aren’t quite revolutionary he’s got a lot of data and experience to back up his statements, which is really great when your looking to improve performance. To summarize the best point: high object counts hurt performance regardless of size and broadband connectivity.

Installer Mess

Benjamin Smedberg has an interesting post on Ubuntu and it’s effort to be a provider of not only the OS, but the software around it. I think the ‘solution’ Ubuntu choose is really a workaround for a fundamental flaw in Linux. Getting software to run quickly and easily without intimate knowledge of the OS is tough at best.

By far the best out there, though not without it’s faults is Apple. Not only are many installs just drag/drop (though that is rather cool), but ones that do require an installer typically use Apple’s installer functionality, providing a very simple interface for the user. Most importantly when Apple switched to x86, they realized users don’t know/care what’s inside their computer, or about the differences in x86 and PPC architecture. The solution they came up with was “Universal Binaries” (similar to how FAT versions of applications were used when moving from 68k to PPC). At the end of the day, the user knows nothing. The software does the work. As good as Apple’s effort is, there is a flaw, uninstalling is not always the best. In most cases it’s just drag it to the trash, but there’s no undo for installed stuff like drivers.

Ubuntu would be best off pushing for the Linux community to follow a model similar to Apple with a few changes:

  • Encourage applications to ship in the same package, and encourage distributions to use the same package installation system. Just like Apple, the user will have a familiar and obvious way of adding applications to their computer.
  • This is the tough part: 1 download for most popular Linux distributions. So it doesn’t matter what version of ____ your running, you can just install and let the installer figure it out similar to Universal Binaries.
  • One up Apple by providing a “roll back” or uninstaller that will remove and restore to what the system was before the installation was done.

Installing software on Linux stinks. Ubuntu is much better than the rest, but I don’t like how you have to rely on Ubuntu in order for that to be the case. There’s a market for someone who can solve the problem. It’s a barrier between Linux and the general user. Until someone solves it, Linux will likely remain a niche product in the desktop market.

What Happened To Sony?

Remember when Sony was the gold standard of electronics? Well, those days are obviously gone. Earnings are down 94%. Wow. Part of that stems from the laptop battery problems, but an under-rated portion of that is the lack of clear innovation at Sony for the past several years. Sony still doesn’t seem to think the Walkman is threatened by the iPod.

When will Sony learn to innovate and return to the days of old? Hopefully soon. 94% drop in earnings can’t go on forever, so something must happen.

Firefox 2.0 is out

Firefox 2.0 is out. If you haven’t already, go download, and while your at it, check out the new design (I love how the color scheme matches the logo, and still manages to look really great). If you already have it, then check here for more things to do regarding celebrating 2.0. Even Microsoft got in on the party (raising the question browser wars? Or the rebirth of browser innovation?).

There are some great things for end users, and a few things for webmasters looking to enhance their site experience for Firefox users (Live Titles for example).

In the hustle of thanking the developers, don’t forget the sysadmins and the build team, whose work often goes unnoticed unless things go wrong.

Norton “Internet Worm Protection”

Norton AntiVirus has this strange omission I just can’t figure out. For some reason “Internet Worm Protection” won’t allow for creating a connection to a PPTP VPN. Not very helpful if you have to connect to one of the many VPN’s out there that use this protocol.

First a little primer on making a PPTP connection . You essentially need two ports open, 1723/TCP, and IP Protocol 47 (GRE). Ok, this is pretty basic stuff. We can do that ;). Well in the little wizard Norton provides, to create a rule you have the following choices for protocol: TCP, UDP, TCP/UDP, ICMP, ICMPv6, All (pointless). No way to select GRE.

So the only way I’ve found to connect to a PPTP VPN thus far is simply to disable either just Internet Worm Protection, or disable Norton AV.

It’s rather odd that something like this is not supported. A search on Google didn’t turn up an answer. Symantec’s tech support database didn’t turn up anything helpful either.

I would have expected something like this to function without a hitch. I’m very surprised to see this requires any intervention, and even more surprised to see that even with intervention there’s still no way to get it working.

A Few Ways To Celebrate Firefox 2.0

Just a quick little list for anyone interested. Feel free to add to it by leaving a comment below:

  1. Blog about it – Mention the release on your blog. Even if you don’t have much traffic, the sheer volume of Firefox related posts will make it clear it’s a big topic. Services like Technorati make note of popular topics.
  2. Join SpreadFirefox – Visit spreadfirefox.com and sign up. The site itself has some buttons, and other information for helping to promote Firefox.
  3. Push for it – If you work in a company, or attend a school that doesn’t include or allow Firefox on workstations, bring it up with IT. It’s the perfect time to do so. With the release happening, and tech news sources picking it up, it could be the thing to give it an extra boost.
  4. Party like it’s Oct 24, 2006 – If you have the time (that’s a big if sometimes), visit FirefoxParty.com and find a party near you. Extra points if you find one in a place with free bandwidth so everyone can update together!
  5. Firefox Gear – if you have Firefox gear around, and work in a place where it doesn’t violate the dress code… do I need to say any more?
  6. Get friends to update – Email/IM/Visit your friends and get them updated to Firefox 2.0. It’s small enough to save the installer to a USB Key drive to speed things up even more. Or just send them to getfirefox.com
  7. Digg/del.icio.us it – Visit your favorite site and support news of the release. Don’t get spammy (nobody wants 500 duplicates of the same story), and wait until it’s officially released but make sure to support it.
  8. Keep an eye open for more good stuff – Keep an eye on spreadfirefox.com as well as digg/slashdot and planet mozilla. There’s bound to be more ideas and events happening as the launch happens.

2.0, here we come.

Edit [2006-10-22T03:03:05+00:00]: Clarified to wait until actual release before digging/slashdotting the servers.

Tuesday Releases

Tuesday is the scheduled release of Firefox 2.0.

1.0 Tuesday November 9, 2004
1.5 Tuesday November 29, 2005
2.0 Tuesday October 24, 2006

First interesting to see how major releases really do line up about a year apart (hard to tell when the industry is so rapidly evolving). Secondly it’s interesting to see the consistent use Tuesdays, similar to that of Apple, who almost always does releases on a Tuesday.

raccettura’s Picks

I use a few extensions on a routine basis, so I thought I’d spend a moment just listing what I use, briefly explain them for anyone curious. I do quite a bit of web related work (hence the developer slant) as well as some Firefox/Thunderbird and extension hacking. For now I’ll just stick with Firefox extensions, and save Thunderbird Extensions for another post.

These are taken from my Addon Manager (formerly Extension Manager) window and ordered in a way I thought made most sense. No bribes were taken (though welcome ;-)). This is literally the stuff I personally use and recommend.

Web Development

Web Developer

If you don’t know this one yet and do web development, you should be ashamed of yourself. I’ve yet to see a developer not go crazy over this. The Web Developer extension doesn’t do anything, it does everything. By that I mean it has a whole bunch of small tools to make a web developers life easier. From fine control over cookies, to outlining block level elements, to submitting a page (even local) to the W3C validator to disabling JavaScript. No function on it’s own is truly groundbreaking but the extension as a whole is. If you do web development you need it. I couldn’t imagine developing without it. [Get it]

Firebug

Imagine viewing behind the scenes of a webpage. No, not the source code, but how javascript really executes. Debug, view XMLHttpRequests, add breakpoints, and view more DOM info. Again an absolute must have. This extension also has saved me hours of debugging time. One thing noteworthy is the design of the tool is really fantastic, it’s well organized and implemented to make it rather easy to use, despite the overwhelming amount of info it can provide. [Get it]

LiveHTTPHeaders

Viewing HTTP Headers is insanely useful when debugging web applications. Of course you can use telnet on port 80 and be a geek, but that’s way to much effort. WebDeveloper has similar functionality, but I like how this is integrated into the Page Info window, rather than opening into a new tab. I just find it easier to read, hence more usable. It’s been a staple for me for a few years now. [Get it]

Dom Inspector

As it says on the homepage: “DOM Inspector is a tool that can be used to inspect and edit the live DOM of any web document or XUL application.” This little gem is must have for any JavaScript, Firefox, or Firefox Extension development. It’s saved my butt a few times. It’s interface isn’t the best, but it does have it’s perks. [Get it]

IE Tab

This extension lets you view pages in IE’s rendering engine, but in a Firefox tab. I use this for checking how a page loads in IE (much quicker to right click then to open IE and copy/paste the URL). Again simplicity rules! [Get it]

Small Screen Renderer

Glazou thou art my hero for this one. Simply put it takes your webpage and smushes it up so you can see what it would look like on a small screen device like a handheld. With things like MiniMo, this is very worthwhile. He’s done to many cool things (Composer, CaScadeS) to mention here. [Get it]

ColorZilla

Being that I’m not graphically inclined I don’t need this much, but every so often it’s very useful. This extension lets you see exactly what the color is, pretty much anywhere on the site your viewing. Yea, that is awesome. A big timesaver, and pretty clever design.[Get it]

Everyday Browsing

downTHEMall

Every so often you run across something where you want to download everything in site. Either a series of zip files, images, or something else. You can click on each one… or you can use this awesome extension which will find them and download them all for you. [Get it]

ReloadEvery

This is just a cool way to reload a page on an interval. Great for monitoring a page. When not working on my computer I sometimes use this to just keep refreshing a page so I can glance at my display and see what’s going on. Simple and helpful. [Reload Every]

Resizeable Textarea

Asa pointed this one out. Resizing textareas is a must. If it were up to me, this would be included in Firefox 3.0. It’s awesome and infinitely useful. I personally think it qualifies as a killer feature. [Get it]

Screen Grab

I don’t use this one every day, but sometimes you don’t want to print a webpage, but want to save it. This is especially true because printing, or making a PDF sometimes distorts the page from it’s original appearance. Well the solution is to save a screenshot (another thing IMHO should be an option in Firefox as an alternative “type” in the “Save Page As” option. [Get it

GeoLocateFox

Yes, I eat my own dogfood. Seeing where websites are located is fun. Nuff said. [Get it]

User Agent Switcher

Sometimes sites kick you out because you don’t use IE. That’s not cool (go to the help menu and select “Report Broken Website” if you encounter that). A workaround is to fake being IE. This extension allows you to do just that. Though if you do that, remember to change it back to Firefox. Partially for compatibility reasons on sites that serve specific code, and so that webmasters realize how many Firefox users actually visit their site. [Get it]

Mozilla Development

TinderStatus

Tinderstatus is simple but cool. Just lets me know if the tree is one fire. [Tinderstatus]

Obviously DOM Inspector is some help here as well.

I was debating if I should throw some screenshots in here, but I decided against it since most screenshots of extensions stink (at best) since they don’t capture the value of it.

So there you have it, the extensions I use the most. Check them out.