Archive for November, 2005

Wednesday, November 30th 2005

Star Wreck

Just read about this free, downloadable Star Trek parody named Star Wreck. Haven’t seen it yet, but my Azureus is working hard to get it for me as we speak. I’ll post an update with a short review later.

Tuesday, November 29th 2005

Firefox 1.5 goes live, website changes

Firefox 1.5 has just gone live over at mozilla.com. Go and get it while it’s hot – take those servers done once and for all. 😉

Yes, that’s mozilla dot com – not org. The new website has been set up to better display/promote the mozilla products, without having all the projects and foundation stuff getting in the way. It’s looking pretty sleek if you ask me:

Screen shot of mozilla.com, 2005-11-30

The mozilla addons website has also had a nice refresh:

Screen shot of addons.mozilla.org, 2005-11-30

A search engine plugins section has been added too, even if the selection available still isn’t very large. (Maybe 30 odd search engines are listed, with a pointer to mycroft for a larger selection.)

Now I’m just waiting to see what they are conjuring up at spreadfirefox.com:

Screen shot of spreadfirefox.com, 2005-11-30

Edit: Added a Firefox 1.5 graphic to the left column.

Saturday, November 26th 2005

Check your CD/DVD backups for errors

I found a great (freeware) program which lets you check your CD or DVD backups for errors – CDCheck. I was having a bit of trouble with my DVD writer, so this was just what I needed to be able to check that my burns were fully readable.

Friday, November 25th 2005

Colourful Sony Commercial

Sony have a new tv commercial out now which is really cool. They poor ~200,000 coloured super balls down some streets in San Francisco. There are great behind the scenes shots and a photo gallery.

Edit: Found a flickr set of photos from the shoot.

Thursday, November 24th 2005

Firefox 1.5 Release Date

Judging from the ironic tone in this post by Tritan Nitot of Mozilla Europe, Firefox 1.5 will preusumably be released on 29 November. That’s tuesday next week – nice.

Tuesday, November 22nd 2005

Address Bar Colours In IE7

Rob Franco has written about the plans for IE7’s secure/insecure website user interface over at IEBlog.

The current suggestion is to have three different background colours for the address bar indicating different statuses for the current website. Red – the website is blocked by the phishing filter and an informative message is displayed instead. Yellow – a suspicious website, showing signs of being a phishing scam but not confirmed by the list of known phishing websites. Green – sites that meet future guidelines for better identity validation.

So here’s the problem: Firefox and Opera today both use the yellow background colour, together with the lock icon, to identify secure (https) websites:

Firefox in secure (https) mode.

Opera in secure (https) mode.

If Microsoft were to implement their three colour system it might cause major confusion, at least for the digitally impaired.

Thankfully (and surprisingly!) Microsoft’s IE developers have sat down together with devs from Opera, Mozilla and KDE and talked the matter over. Hopefully this will lead to some kind of mutual agreement on this issue. (Although I believe they were mostly discussing ways of selecting and identifying properly identified websites.)

Two possible solutions to the colour problem popped up in the comments:

  1. Microsoft makes their yellow some shade of orange instead to minimize the confusion.
  2. The browser UI developers together agree on some standard colour system and apply it in all browsers. Either the system proposed by Microsoft, or some variation of the system used today in Firefox and Opera.

The latter would obviously be better for the user, but the question is – can these big browser players really reach an agreement here?

I still can’t quite grasp that they actually sat down together and talked about this, like we were moving towards some kind of… er… I don’t know – Web 2.0?

Monday, November 21st 2005

Fixed problems with Atom Feed

I noticed my blog feed wasn’t working properly since I moved it to davidnaylor.org/blog. Anyway, now it seems to be working again. Let me know if there are any problems.

Saturday, November 19th 2005

Does Safari Support Soft Hyphens?

Does anyone reading this know if Safari now has real support for soft hyphens, i.e. ­?

Saturday, November 19th 2005

Alternative Stylesheets

I have created a few alternative colour themes/style sheets. Just for fun really. (Choose your colour at the top of the page.) Your browser should remember which one you had selected on your last visit.

I’ve also moved all the CSS out into sepearate stylesheets to reduce the amount of space used on my webspace, as well as to make design tweaks simpler in the future.

Friday, November 18th 2005

New Blog Location

Since I have gotten myself a shiny domain name and webspace I will be moving this blog over there, to davidnaylor.org/blog. So unless anything unexpected happens, this will be the last post here at naylog.blogspot.com.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Tuesday, November 15th 2005

Quick 8-bit PNG Transparency Tutorial

As any returning reader may have noticed, I like making PNGs with transparent backgrounds.

I have been thinking for some time that I should write a short guide to making these images. I will do this using the GIMP, but I’m sure this basic method works in Photoshop too.

Sadly, though, there is no one perfect way of removing a background from a photo, not even if it is single-coloured as in this case. The following method is what I have concluded to be the best after testing numerous different variations. The resulting images work fine on both light and dark backgrounds, but the edges become a little jagged on darker backgrounds. Maybe I’ll work out an even better method in the future…

As an example I thought I’d use a product photo of the Slim Devices Squeezebox 2, which I think is a beatiful piece of HiFi/WiFi equipment. Check it out if you haven’t already. Anyway, here’s the original photo that I’ll be working on:

Squeezbox 2

The first thing to do is to select the area which is to become transparent. This is easily done using the wand tool. You may have to adjust the threshold value a bit to make it include any gray (shadow) areas too. For this photo I had it set to 50. (You’ll find the threshold in the tool options window – Ctrl+Shift+T.) Here’s what we’re aiming to get:

Making a transparent PNG, step 1

The next step is to increase the size of the selection very slightly to include the whole border area around the object. In my experience, increasing the selection by 1 pixel is usually best. (If you have a very large photo you could always try 2 or maybe 3 pixels.) Click [Select] > [Grow…] and choose the amount you want. (I’m not sure of the English wording of the commands, I’m just guessing based on my Swedish version.)

Making a transparent PNG, step 2

Then we create a layer mask by clicking [Layer] > [Mask] > [Add new mask…]. In the dialogue that pops up, select [Grayscale copy of layer], and tick the [Invert mask] option. That should give us something like this:

Making a transparent PNG, step 3

As you can see, this makes all light parts of the image transparent, including any highlights on the object we want to be fully opaque. To fix this, invert the selection (Ctrl+I) and bring up the layers window (Ctrl+L). Here, select the inverted miniature on the right, representing the layer mask:

Making a transparent PNG, step 4

Then choose the fill tool (Shift+B) and set the foreground colour to white. Bring up the tool options (Ctrl+Shift+T) and check the option to [Fill whole selection]. Then simply click inside the selected area, and your object should magically become opaque:

Making a transparent PNG, step 5

After that, invert the selection again (Ctrl+I) and select the miniature on the left in the layer window, i.e. the layer itself. Now change the foreground colour to black and use the fill tool in the current selection, to make the shadows visible:

Making a transparent PNG, step 6

That’s pretty much it. Now just remove the selection (Ctrl+Shift+A) and apply the layer mask by clicking [Layer] > [Mask] > [Apply layer mask]. Save the photo as something.png, put it on your favourite background colour and enjoy looking at it:

Making a transparent PNG, the final result

Oh. And you’ll need to tell your website visitors to get Firefox. 🙂

Tuesday, November 15th 2005

Problem Downloading Large Files with Azureus

I was trying to download the two Debian DVD images using Azureus, but it kept saying my hard disk was full, or sometimes just error. Since I had over 80 GB free, I knew this wasn’t the case.

Googling for people with the same problem didn’t really give very much at first. After a few tries though I found out that FAT32 can’t cope with files larger than 4GB. Apparently Azureus can’t tell the difference between having the wrong type of file system and having too little space left on the disk. I guess windows returns the same error code.

I solved the problem by creating a 20 GB NTFS partition for my larger downloads, using Partition Magic.

Tuesday, November 15th 2005

Kubuntu – Take 5 (Or So)

After having tried to install Kubuntu a load of times, I tried one more time. This time I actually got it installed, without the installer hanging and without errors on the DVD+RW.

All seemed fine. I was trying to work out how to get Firefox 1.5 RC2 to install, and where to install it. Then all of a sudden it decided that I wasn’t allowed to enter Administrator Mode, which is necessary if you want to make any changes to the system settings. It asked for the password, but ignored it blankly on every try. And rebooting didn’t help either. I have tried reinstalling kcontrol as recommended in this thread at ubuntuforms.org, but to no use. I’ll maybe just wait to the next release and try again then. All this is (sadly) making me realize that even if Windows seems pretty unstable at times, the fact that it at least works most of the time isn’t such a bad thing.

Monday, November 14th 2005

Quote of the Day

From Google’s Quote of the Day:

Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.

-Ellen Goodman

Friday, November 11th 2005

Interesting Thoughts About Differing Levels of Firefox Adoption

Tristan Nitot has an interesting blog post about various factors which could explain the widely differing Firefox percentages throughout Europe.

Thursday, November 10th 2005

Happy Birthday Firefox!

Well… better late than never, i’n’it? Anyway, now’s a good time to look back:

  • Here’s what CNN Technology looked like on 2004-11-09.
  • Here’s what Google News looked like on 2004-11-10.
  • Here’s what Blake Ross said about Phoenix’s (one of Firefox’s previous names) possibilities of becoming a major piece of software.

It’s been great to see how Firefox really has spread throughout the world during it’s first year. For the second year, lets hope Firefox ends up on many many more computers. Maybe with a little help from Google… Can’t wait to see Firefox reach 25%, which I’d say is the next magical number. Feels good to know we’ve got Google on our side anyway. That can’t be a bad thing.

Hopefully the many improvements for Firefox 1.5 will make it even more attractive and spreadable.

I also can’t wait to see what they’ll conjure up at SpreadFirefox.com for us to do. Hopefully it’ll be something a little more useful than just taking a picture and uploading it… I want to be used! Let us pay for a TV-commercial, or collect money for some really wild and media-attractingly crazy event! The NYT ad was paid for by 10,000 people. SpreadFirefox now has more than 100,000 members. I do hope they don’t let the 1.5 launch just slip by, but I’ve got a hunch they have something up their sleve.

Thursday, November 3rd 2005

Installing Kubuntu Is No Fun

I had once again summoned up the energy and courage to try to install Linux on a second partition of my C drive. Having tried this about six months ago, I had the basic routine fairly fresh in my mind. (My previous, and first ever, try, failed because I couldn’t get the network to work. This time I seem to have that bit covered anyway.) So, I downloaded Kubuntu 5.10 for AMD 64, did all my backups and created a nice shiny 25 GB partition on my C drive as well as a 512 MB Linux Swap partition.

So far everything had gone fine. I activated the new empty partition, slipped the Kubuntu DVD into the drive, rebooted and hoped for the best.

All went well until I got to the partition manager of the installer. Even though I had specifically created an empty Ext3 partition as well as a swap disc, the installation’s first suggestion was to wipe the whole 200 GB drive. How intelligent is that? Well, anyway. I chose the Configure boot table manually option and tried to get some kind of confirmation of that it would install on the new partition and leave my Windows partition alone. There was none. But there was a little flash symbol next to the partition I wanted to use, so I guessed that must indicate the active partition (which I knew it was) and also that it would use that partition for installing. Only, while I was dodging back and forth between the screens, not knowing what to do, the big fat excuse of an installer hung on me.

After having booted up Windows, checking the download wasn’t corrupted (using md5sum) and remade the DVD – I tried again. Still the installer kept hanging on me, at one stage or another. The furthest I’ve got so far is to Configuring apt – Testing network repository…. Even if I get through all the prior steps, it always hangs there. I must have tried the whole procedure six or seven times now, and I’m pretty much getting fed up. If anyone knows how I can bypass this step, or make it not hang I would be very happy for any ideas or suggestions.

If all Linux distros have this bad installers (which I doubt they do) then it’s no wonder that Linux is a geek thing and a geek thing only.

Thursday, November 3rd 2005

Sony: Oh The Irony

Sony CD Walkman D-NE700

Found some gold material. The following is a translation of a paragraph in the manual for my Sony CD Walkman (D-NE700):

Audio CDs with Digital Rights Management Technology

This product has been manufactured for playback of discs which adhere to the Compact Disc (CD) standard. Recently, some record companies have started selling Audio CDs with digital rights management. Please note that these discs do not adhere to the CD standard, and therefore may not be playable on this product.

Does that mean I won’t be able to play back Sony’s own CDs on my Sony CD Walkman? Heh. Sony are so way off track they’ll need a fleet of GPS satellites to find their way back. Over the years they have made many good CD Walkmans (Walkmen?), and the one I’ve got now is actually superb. I can play mp3s until my ears bleed if I’d like to. (As long as I’ve got the AVLS turned off…) But now they’re just loosing touch with reality completely. My next portable player will be a DAP, and I can already promise you it will not be a Sony. As it is I can see no reason for anyone to get a Sony DAP. They are totally overpriced and – more importantly – they are limited in all kinds of ways. (And I doubt they’ll be adding Ogg anytime soon, too…)

No. I’d say that with time, Sony will realize that you don’t get any business if you keep trying to control your customers’ every move. The customers will go to the company that gives them what they want. At the moment Sony is giving them the exact opposite.

Thursday, November 3rd 2005

The Inquirer’s Take On Microsoft and Firefox

Haha. This is so funny and, unfortunately for Microsoft, so true.

Tuesday, November 1st 2005

Favourite Firefox Bugs

While we’re on the subject of Firefox bugs I thought I would post a list of my favourites. Well, calling them favourites is maybe a bit off, since I can’t wait to see them nuked off the face of bugzilla:

  • Bug 9101: Break lines at soft hyphens (­) and display hyphens if line broken.
  • Bug 98971: Prettier image resizing & scaling (Bilinear, Bicubic, anything better than Nearest Neighbor).

The above two are what I would call the most important Gecko bugs right now. They both do their part for preventing truly scalable website design. For instance, if the latter one was fixed, website designers would be much more inclined to specify image sizes in em units and the images would resize beautifully with the rest of the content.

Then there are a few other bugs which also would be nice to have fixed. These are definately lower prioroty though, IMO:

  • Bug 16380: Need anti-aliasing for -moz-border-radius style property.
  • Bug 75077: Interlaced PNGs should be displayed with bicubic interpolation.

Then of course, there is the Acid 2 bug, which is being worked on as we speak – and may well be fixed for Firefox 2.0.