How to install software ‘by hand’

Installers suck for 1 key reason: you have no control. They put whatever they want on your computer. You may just want a driver, but your getting a whole package of garbage you don’t want. There is a workaround for this that works in most cases. It’s semi-technical.

Get Cygwin

You’ll need to install cygwin through the installer if you don’t already have it (yea installer, but it’s pretty handy stuff and a good installer since you select what you want)… In the “Archive” group select ‘cabextract’. I’d personally recommend you leave the rest alone, though you can slim stuff down if you want. Install.

cygwin

Get The Installer you hate

In my case I’ll use the Logitech QuickCam driver.

Extract

In the cygwin command prompt, navigate to the file, and use:

cabextract installer.exe

Where installer.exe is, replace with your installer. In a few seconds you should see something like this:

cabextract

Install

Now navigate to the driver or file you want.

In my case I want a driver, so I can right click on the INF and “Install”.

Install INF

Perfect. It now works, and I don’t have those “utilities”, “updaters”, or what ever garbage they think I actually would want.

No pain no gain, lots of little stuff

I’ve coded quite a bit the past few days on an old project I’ve had sitting in the vault for some time. I really want to get this thing done soon. In the process I’ve gotten to write things that I’ve never really done before. Nothing quite as fun as a problem you’ve never approached before. Lots of code, little time… so much I want to get done, and I want it done yesterday ;-). I really want to push this thing into production quality soon (because that’s when things really become fun).

Oh yea… my foot hurts. Here’s a tip for anyone doing yard work this spring (well summer soon). When using a shovel, don’t settle for an old pair of sneakers, use boots. Stepping down on the top of the shovel to dig it into the somewhat hard ground today, I hit a large-ish rock, shifting the shovel, and causing my foot to hit it about the inner part of my foot, right under arch as well as slightly up the side, not bad, but no fun. Now I’ve got some minor swelling, and has me limping slightly around the house.

I’m starting to get that addict-like urge to do some upgrading around here… thinking about another stick of RAM for my Thinkpad (T43), to max it out, and a 1GB upgrade for my Mac Mini.

Cleaning a Firefox Profile

I occasionally like to clean my Firefox profile. I test quite a few extensions, and play around a bit, so every once in a while, I just want to clean up. This method has worked rather well for me over the years. Essentially I imported my Netscape 4 profile into Netscape 7, then Mozilla App Suite, then split into Firefox and Thunderbird, so essentially I have data in there that’s several years old. I thought I’d share what I do, and why I do it, in hopes that perhaps someone else would benefit.

These directions were drafted with Firefox 1.5 as a reference point, for older or newer releases the directions may not work (for example if you use a Firefox build with “Places”).

A word of advice:

For the record, this is at your own risk, back up before you touch anything. Backup by copying The Firefox directory as mentioned in respective location below (a directory above Profiles). You’ve been warned.

Directions

You may want to start out by going to the Bookmarks menu and selecting “Manage Bookmarks”. Then cleaning out and organizing your bookmarks, if you want to keep them in your new profile. It’s a good habit to get into.

The first real step I do is visit my profiles directory:

Windows

C:\\Documents and Settings\\[Windows Username]\\Application Data\\Mozilla\\Firefox\\Profiles\\

Mac OS X

~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/xxxxxxxx.default/

Your profile will be a directory with a salted name. Something like xxxxxxxx.default. Those x’s are random characters.

Because I only have 1 real profile (and one for dev purposes of which I choose to preserve nothing), I like to rename mine to something else. As far as I’m concerned this one is dead to me. I’m going to also get rid of the profiles.cfg and pluginreg.dat files in the Firefox Folder (up above profiles), then run Firefox and create a new profile on prompt. If you have multiple profiles you wish to leave untouched you would be better off using firefox.exe -profilemanager in the command prompt and simply creating a new profile.

Ok, so now we have this really clean new profile, and that old crusty one with lots of junk. Well, I want some of my stuff in my new clean profile, but only certain things. So here’s a breakdown of what I do, pick and choose as you want. Obviously the less you bring over, the better.

Only perform the following when Firefox is not running.

Bookmarks
Simply copy the bookmarks.html file from the old profile into the new profile.

Cookies (stay logged in with all your sites)
I like to carry these over, since I like being logged into certain sites (forums and such). Just copy the cookies.txt file from the old profile into the new profile. If you open the file up in a text editor you can delete a line or two (get rid of those old cookies, or just to satisfy that tin-foil-hat feeling). Just be careful if you do.

Password
I also like to keep my stored passwords (nothing important, just those news sites, and other silliness that I don’t feel like entering each and every time). Password Manager is great for that. The files you want to copy over are: cert8.db, secmod.db, key3.db, signons.txt.

Extensions
My recommendation on Extensions is to visit addons.mozilla.org (Google for the ones you can’t find) and re-download. The reason I prefer to do that rather than move them over, is because some just seem to stubborn to use the update service, and that leaves me with some old extensions. Also, in this process I typically realize there are one or two that sounded like great ideas, but I just never really used them. Less extensions means less chances for a memory leak. That’s always a good thing.

Search
Just copy the search.rdf file and searchplugins directory over.

Final Notes

This process typically takes me about 5-10 minutes (mainly depending on if I cleanup my bookmarks and cookies). Overall not bad. Gets rid of the crud that tends to accumulate over time, and keeps things pretty lean. This is also pretty useful if you encounter some profile corruption or other ugliness, especially if your one of us trusting soles who occasionally run nightlies from the trunk.

If you do it all correctly, you get a nice clean profile, but still keep your important data. Cache and autocomplete list will rebuild pretty quickly as you use the profile. I’ve found this technique is great for reviving that profile that’s just littered with garbage from various things I’ve done, and extensions I’ve tried.

Hopefully this helps someone.

NSA… Can you hear me now?

Of course when the Federal Government uses the legal equivalent to the Atomic Bomb, you know (despite their insistence) that all of the alleged activity is true… otherwise they would defend it. They even went as far as stating:

The fact that the United States will assert the state secrets privilege should not be construed as a confirmation or denial of any of plaintiffs’ allegations, either about AT&T or the alleged surveillance activities.

Yea sure. You don’t invoke something like this when you have nothing to hide. It’s like how all those companies “settle” but don’t admit guilt or wrongdoing. You don’t pay for something you didn’t do.

By the way, if you traceroute to this website and see “att.com” anywhere in there, you can rest assured they know your reading this ;-).