Open Source Software

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.

Mozilla Software

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]


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]


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]


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


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]


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


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 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.


Parallels Workstation

Today I decided to give Parallels Workstation for Windows a try, they have a 15 day trial on their site, so I gave it a go. I’ve heard so many good things about it on Mac OS X for Intel (I don’t have an Intel Mac, so never used it), I figured it was worth a try. I figured it had to be better than Virtual PC (which died when Microsoft bought it, and now free, but ancient and worthless), but could it beat VMWare?

Well, I installed Ubuntu without any incident, and it runs extremely fast. As in, “I don’t care that it’s virtual” fast. The fact that even sound worked was also rather impressive, and unlike VMWare Server (free BTW) there aren’t 15 services running in the background. The only thing I totally didn’t get was the “visually stunning user interface”. I must have missed it. Don’t get me wrong, the interface is minimal, as it should be (since it’s hosting an OS with it’s own massive interface), but it’s still not “stunning”, it’s barely “visual”! Maybe I missed something, I don’t know.

I think I may have to purchase a license at some point. It’s really impressive software. VMWare better figure out a plan, or they may be in trouble.

Hardware Software

MIB Repository

If you occasionally need to work with SNMP but don’t really find reading or locating MIB files to enjoyable, checkout this MIB Repository. I found it fantastic for reading quickly through MIB’s. Still doesn’t make SNMP suck less… but hopefully there will eventually be a cure for that.


Electronic D-Day

Looking at this map, it’s clear November 9, 2004 was D-Day for the open source movement. We can’t stop until Steve Balmer is in a hiding in a bunker under Redmond Washington.

Battle Map

Map by Steven Hilton copied per license in image to ensure availability.

Mozilla Software

Windows Live OneCare

I’m curious if anyone has tried Windows Live OneCare (via Amazon note: affiliate link used) with Firefox, and especially with Thunderbird. I personally haven’t tried it. A quick Google search doesn’t turn up to much info. Is it detecting viruses in emails correctly and problem free? Or is it causing chaos? I’d love to hear from someone who has used it.

As a reminder, just because you don’t use Outlook doesn’t mean your immune from viruses. You still need a virus scanner.

Funny Software

Waiting for Duke Nukem Forever

Found here and mirrored below the break since things like this tend to disappear or move over time. This list is pretty good, haven’t verified all the facts, but they seem to be pretty accurate.


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.


Get The Installer you hate

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


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:



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.


Milestone Tracking

Does anyone know of a way to get Bugzilla to give output similar to how Trac can report on milestones?

That is a really great way of viewing things. It lets you know where the release stands really easily.

In The News Mozilla

The end of Internet Explorer 5 for Mac

Microsoft Says:

In June 2003, the Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit announced that Internet Explorer for Mac would undergo no further development, and support would cease in 2005. In accordance with published support lifecycle policies, Microsoft will end support for Internet Explorer for Mac on December 31st, 2005, and will provide no further security or performance updates.

Additionally, as of January 31st, 2006, Internet Explorer for the Mac will no longer be available for download from Mactopia. It is recommended that Macintosh users migrate to more recent web browsing technologies such as Apple’s Safari.

We all knew that was coming, they haven’t updated the thing in ages… I wonder why they didn’t mention Firefox or Camino (which is sometimes unfortunately forgotten with all the Firefox marketing). It seems a lot of Mac users still use IE on the Mac, despite it’s age. Simply because they think it’s the same as IE for windows (when in fact they don’t share any more than the name). Hopefully they will begin to migrate to something more modern. IE5/Mac had some advanced rendering for the time, but by today’s standards, it doesn’t do much.

[Via Slashdot]