Hello Planet!

Tags: , , — Jeff @ 23:48

Whee! I’ve “just” been added to p.m.o now, so the peoples of the Mozilla worlds should now be getting my posts. Even better, for those of you who hate having to subscribe both to a planet and to a personal feed to read all their posts, fear not! Every glorious word I write is delivered in full to planet, so no need to waste time on duplicated entries. You’ll be reading my every word in raw, uncensored form. For everyone else, I recommend the “next” or “delete” key in your feed reader.

(Aside: I’ve idly wondered whether or if Atom includes a globally unique id field which could be used to consolidate duplicate entries; it seems like an obvious addition if it’s not there already.)

Long-term, I’ll be posting about lots of things: Mozilla, politics, economics, law, and whatever else happens to strike my fancy. In the short term, relatively speaking, I’ll primarily be posting about my progress along the Appalachian Trail. Since graduating MIT a few weeks ago, I’ve been thru-hiking the trail from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. I expect posts will, through October, primarily consist of trail updates as I pass through towns along the way. (This will also affect comments, which I currently moderate if you’ve not posted before.)

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough by way of an introductory post — we now return to your regularly-scheduled Mozilla postings.


Gmail Invites Available

Tags: — Jeff @ 11:43

I have about 50 Gmail invites to give away. If you want an account, leave a comment with your unobscured email address in the email address box in the comment form. Your email address won’t be displayed on the page, so don’t worry about getting spam.

Also, I’m still hoping to get a Mini Mac for Mozilla/Firefox/Thunderbird development work and testing. If you feel like it, sign up to get a free Mini Mac, complete an offer, and get some friends to do the same. It’s only five minutes, and the offers are pretty diverse. (Being a student, I found the Citibank credit card option to be most useful – it’s hassle-free, costs nothing, and takes about 5 minutes to complete. I’ve heard others have had good results from the Blockbuster and eFax offers as well.)

Update: the number of invites I have seems to replenish itself every day or so, so just keep posting if you want an invite, because it doesn’t look like I’ll be running out of them any time soon.

Update: I fall behind too easily on responding to invite requests, so I’m closing this down.  You can get invites pretty easily elsewhere as well, so it shouldn’t be too big a loss.  😉


The new Firefox Options window

Tags: — Jeff @ 21:31

The new Firefox Options window

Ben finally landed the Firefox Options window in mozilla.org CVS trunk today, after months of anticipation. For those with the know-how, the code was available in non-trunk CVS on the PREFERENCES_20050101_BRANCH branch. As I have sufficient know-how, this wasn’t a big problem for me, so I created a build from the branch a couple weeks back.

The build didn’t particularly impress me. The new options window looked nice, to a degree, but it was certainly rough around the edges. The concept seemed okay, but certain parts of it just irked me. I’m hardly a UI expert, but some things just seemed completely wrong. In particular I was concerned about the use of both tabs and scrolling lists to split up large categories of options. (Luckily, this was a known problem – when talking to one of the other Firefox developers on IRC, I learned that this was a problem that would have to be addressed before the new code would be merged back into the trunk.)

Now, finally, the code’s been merged into the trunk. This means that everyone will be getting this code when they build – nightly testers, optimized build distributors, Firefox developers, etc. I don’t remember what the schedule is, but you probably can download a nightly Firefox build as of right now to test out the new options window.

What are my opinions of the window now that it’s been submitted to trunk? I’m not sure it’s as clean as the old interface (just yet), but it does have its merits.

First, the options window exhibits a much greater sense of organization than the previous one did. (“Web Features”, anyone?) Ben’s moved around options, but the moves (for the most part) make sense. Tabbed browsing is its own top-level category now. The nebulous “Web Features” is gone, and its replacement, “Content”, is much more aptly named. The advanced settings for security have been rearranged, consolidating things in as logical a way as is possible given that PSM‘s UI is completely unowned (and therefore is entirely lacking in any real sense of cleanness). In my opinion, just getting a far more sensible arrangement of options out of this makes Ben’s work on this worthwhile.

Second, Ben fixed the tabs/scrolling list issue I had, so my main complaint against it (when I’d only seen screenshots) is gone. Inconsistent UI is one of the easier problems to fix, and I’m glad to see the Firefox developers didn’t let this one slip past the review barrier.

The new Firefox Options window

Third, he also reworded some of the options, and for the most part I like the changes he’s made. For example, there was an option for caret browsing, which you can test out by pressing F7. (You probably can’t find it if you’re using an old build or a milestone. The option was cleverly disguised as “Move system caret with focus/selection changes” – you didn’t know that was caret browsing either, did you?) The description text has been changed to, “Allow text to be selected with the keyboard” – a clear improvement.

Fourth, I like how it looks – the old options window interface certainly wasn’t standard Windows fare, and the new options window remains just as unique while retaining all the visual appeal. Firefox does a good job of remaining uniquely itself while still conforming to the expectations of the user within his operating system of choice.

Finally, it doesn’t produce the gut “I don’t like this” feeling that beta versions of the code did – I think my gut feelings are usually pretty close to accurate, and I trust them. Overall, I think the new options interface is an improvement.

The new interface isn’t all goodness, though. First, it’s moderately buggy, and there still remain tons of issues with the new window that need to be fixed, so it’s not quite there yet. Ben’s made an excellent start at it, though, so I have confidence it’ll turn out okay.

There’s actually only one other problem with the options window; right now, I’m really not liking the fact that Ben made any changes. Why? I now have to go and document this thing.


Get a Free Mini Mac!

Tags: — Jeff @ 16:30

Sign up to get a free Mini Mac!

It started with the iPod. Now, they’re giving away free Mini Macs. Do I believe it really works? I don’t know. I’ve heard from many people that the free iPods were legitimate. Logically I should believe this would make a free Mini Mac offer legitimate. Logically, however, how in the world can this scheme actually be profitable?

The Mini Mac

I had no real need for an iPod. However, I signed up for this promotion because I could actually use a Mini Mac (for Firefox/Thunderbird development and documentation work). Do I really expect to get anything? No, not really. Would I like to have one? Sure. I guess I’ll have to see whether this really works or not by soliciting people to sign up through me. After all, I only need 10 people to sign up through me and participate in an offer.

So, if you feel like helping me find out whether this is really legitimate or not, sign up to get your own free Mini Mac. I’ll let people know here whether it works or not (assuming I find enough people willing to sell their souls this way).


The Todo List

Tags: — Jeff @ 03:08

An ordered priority list:

  1. Fix my laptop (or rather, have Dell fix it for me) so that Windows works and so that I can use it without losing power any time I try something CPU– or hard disk-intensive, like building Firefox or Thunderbird
  2. Bug 253334 — Thunderbird needs a Help Viewer
  3. Bug 272841 — Accesskey mnemonics no longer working in help
  4. Bug 247595 — Use entities to describe menus and dialogs in help documentation
  5. Bug 251751 — Firefox Help window should not be alwaysRaised

Processes that can be run relatively concurrently with the aforementioned processes:

  • Really learn the building numbers and building layout at MIT
  • Explore as many halls, corridors, nooks, and crannies at MIT as possible
  • Participate in Mystery Hunt
  • Take a soccer referee recertification class
  • Teach myself the rest of the 8.012 book
  • Somehow catch up on sleep

Things that may interest me but may or may not get done, unordered:

But first:

  • Get through the rest of the fall semester
  • Study a lot, particularly for 5.112 and 18.022
  • Pass my classes

Edit: For the “will do” list, I also need to do a complete UI review of Thunderbird so that its UI can be improved. In particular I think the menus are rather heavy, although there are other parts that could be cleaned up as well. Firefox 1.0 was elegant – Thunderbird 1.0 is unfortunately not nearly as elegant.

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