10 02/05

if total == null print null

blockbuster_sleeve.JPGWe’ve had a Blockbuster Online
account for a few weeks now. For the most part I’m pretty happy
with it and we’ve watched a lot of movies I’d probably not rent
otherwise. Anyway, every now and then I get DVD sleeve that looks
like this and I have to laugh (most say 1 of 1). As a developer,
I find this pretty entertaining but I’m sure it’s just all the time I
spend looking for null values myself.

p.s. “Shaun of the Dead” was good.

08 02/05

Firefox Tweaks

I’ve been using Firefox
on and off since before it was called Firefox (or even before it was
called whatever it was before Firefox). I’ve always found
something that did not work quite like I expected and went
back to IE/MyIE2/Maxthon. I
never really spent the time to tweak it to fit my usage
requirements. My usage of a web browser is a bit different than
most people I know so it might be worth explaining so you can see if
these extensions are right for you.

I often find things that I feel
like reading but don’t really feel like dedicating time to right now.
Generally, my browser becomes my “inbox” for pages I want to read. I’ll
open things in background tabs and leave them open till I feel like
reading a bunch of pages. It’s not uncommon for me to have 10-20 tabs
(16 right now) with most of them staying open for days until I feel
like checking them out. Once I check it out, if it’s worth looking at
again, I Spurl it, if not the tab gets closed. I developed this style
while using Maxthon, but it works even better with a few tweaks in

Aside from getting a setup I like,
I’ve had two frustrations with Firefox. One is the slowness of it
going from a minimized state to a usable state (see my fix
below). And the other has been the instability caused by Tabbrowser Extensions.
TBE is a great extension for those who want more than just basic tab
functionality. I really like it, but it’s unfortunately not the most
stable (that’s even stated on the author’s site). I set out to get
basically the same setup but without TBE. I’m sure others have
experienced similar problems and might be interested in replacing TBE
with a few less obtrusive extensions.

Slowness from minimized state:

This problem is discussed in Mozilla bug 76831

The solution is to add a new
boolean (config.trim_on_minimize) in about::config and set it to
false. This causes Firefox to not give up it’s memory when it’s
minimized and therefore it does not take any time to become

Replacing Tabbrowser Extensions

It took seven plugins to replace
the things I used in Tabbrowser Extensions, but in the end it’s a more
configurable system that seems to run much better. I hope that
eventually the problems with TBE are cleaned up and I can get by with
only installing one extension for tabs, but for now I’m ok with the
seven. Some of these extensions are somewhat hard to find because
they are not listed on the standard Firefox Extensions page. I
have included the URL’s from the extensions dialog, but I know for a
fact some of these links don’t work. You may end up having to
Google a few. I know I’ve had trouble duplicating my setup on
other computers because it’s difficult to find some of these.

Tabbrowser Preferences
you to set some of the tab preferences that you can’t change in the
standard Firefox UI. Things to change in here are setting Firefox
to single window mode and to select how you want links to behave with
respect to tabs.

Open link in…
Allows you to turn on “Open link in background tab” or “Open link in foreground tab” context menu items.

Last Selected Tab. Just like it sounds. When you close a
tab, focus goes back to the last selected tab rather than the one to
the left.

Undo Close Tab
straight forward one. When a tab is closed, you can reopen
it. It keeps all the history and everything of the closed tab.

Session Saver
important extension. This keeps all your information between
sessions. If you close your browser with certain tabs open, those
tabs will be open next time you open your browser. It even
handles recovery when Firefox crashes.

Tab Clicking Options
Allows you to set various events for when you click on a tab. I use it to set double clicking a tab to close it.

Menu editor
you to edit the context menu. I trim out a couple things added by
“Open link in…” and some other stuff I’ll never use.

Other Important Extensions
These are a few other random extensions I use to add a little extra functionality to Firefox.

I use Spurl for all my online bookmarks. This plugin adds the SpurlBar and a Spurl button to Firefox.

of my favorite features in the Google toolbar is it’s creation of
clickable entries for all your search terms to find them on the
page. This adds the same functionality for Firefox’s built-in
searchbox. It creates a dynamic toolbar of your search
terms. It also adds a highlight button so you can highlight the
terms on the page.

Searchbox Autoupdater
other favorite feature in the Google Toolbar is it’s ability to update
it’s terms based on what you might have changed in the web page.
If you search for a term using the toolbar, and then tweak the search
on the Google page, the Google Toolbar would update your terms (and
allow for one click searching using the above trick). This
extension adds that functionlity. One warning, though. The
current version (and older versions) of the Autoupdater has a random
crash issue. I’ve had it crash on my 4-5 times since I’ve been
using it. Personally, I think it’s still worth it (especially
since Session Saver can recover my current state).

little toolbar item that lets you drag the searchbar to make it larger
or smaller. I don’t use it very often, but it’s handy when I need

keeps a list of usernames & passwords for many sites that require
you to sign up to read articles (or other things). This plugin
allows you to right click on a page to fill in username/password boxes
on those sites. It works some of the time and has saved me from
signing up for numerous sites I’d probably never go back to. I
don’t mind signing up for some sites, but sometimes it’s just

So that’s the list.
Hopefully it’ll give some other people pointers to allow them to
fine-tune their own browsing experience. It’ll at least let me
recreate my setup on other machines, if need be. There are lots
of other tweaks out there to improve browsing performance. I’ve
tried a few tweaks with mixed results. I’m currently quite happy
with the performance I’m getting from Firefox right now so I’ve not
done many performance tweaks.

01 02/05

MediaMan media catalog

mediaman-screenshot-2-l.jpgThere’s a pretty good program for MCE
for keeping a catalog of your DVD’s, but I was looking for something I
could run on my laptop and easily see what DVD’s we had. And,
most importantly, I wanted to be able to print out a complete list of
our DVD’s I could keep in the car that I can consult when I happen to
be at a store with a cheap movie. So I a couple really bad
programs but then I came across MediaMan. It does exactly what I
want and does it very well. And best of all, it’s free.

It’s very easy to add DVD’s to your collection using MediaMan.
You just put in the title and it uses Amazon’s web services to let you
select the exact movie you have (or multiple disks if you have multiple
ones in a series) and then it downloads the album art and all the
information about the movie into your collection. In version 2
you can even hook up a webcam and use it to can UPC codes for a quick
import of a very large DVD (or book, games, cd’s) library.

Once you get your media collection setup, there’s a bunch of stuff
you can do in MediaMan. There are plenty of nice views to view
your data. And there are some great export methods to export to
CSV files for printing. There are a bunch of other features you
can see on their features page.

I could list a few of the other things I like about this
application, but either you are the type of person that thinks
cataloging your DVD’s, books, and CD’s is a good idea, or you think I’m
crazy. If you don’t think I’m crazy, go download it: http://www.imediaman.com/

Update: About 5 minutes after I finished writing this I read this post over on 43 Folders about an OS X app called Delicious Library that
does almost the exact same thing as MediaMan except on OS X. It
looks pretty slick, but costs $40. But I guess you Mac guys are
probably used to spending money by now ;)