Archive for May 2006

History Destruction Fixed

Published on May 29, 2006

Bug 242207 was recently fixed on the Firefox branch, which means it’ll make it into Firefox 2.0. This is great news, especially since I run into this problem all the time. The issue is that removing an entry from your address bar using Shift+Delete occasionally nukes your browser history. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into this and then wondered what was causing my history to get lost. It’s nice to see that someone has found the problem.

Control Issues

Published on May 29, 2006

In preparation of this Thursday’s launch of Half-Life 2: Episode 1, I fired up a little Lost Coast this weekend to reacquaint myself with the Half-Life world. Unfortunately, all those nights of playing Oblivion have taken their toll. I found myself repeatedly trying to use the Oblivion key mappings in Half-Life 2: pressing ‘E’ to jump, ‘F’ to sheathe my weapon, etc. It took quite a while for me to adjust keyboard schemes, but I finally got back into the groove.

I find it interesting that game developers have accepted a ‘standard’ WASD control scheme for player movement, but don’t agree on any other controls. Quick-save and quick-load always seem to vary (although they are almost always between F5 and F12), jumping is always different (some games use the space bar, some use shift, others use something else entirely), and the ubiquitous ‘Use’ functionality is never what you expect (I prefer using my middle mouse button for that particular action, but Oblivion makes use of the space bar). Switching among games becomes a bit of a challenge in and of itself, much like switching between programming languages can be (the old ‘else if’ statement comes to mind: variations include else if, elseif, elsif, and elif).

Anyways, I’m glad to be spending time with Half-Life 2 again. Unfortunately, my video card conked out while I was playing through Lost Coast. Hopefully, this won’t be the case throughout Episode 1. It’s high time that I built a new machine…

Bon Echo Alpha 3

Published on May 27, 2006

I’ve just installed the latest alpha build of Firefox 2.0, and things are looking real good. The Burning Edge has a change log for this latest release, displaying what’s new between these alpha builds and the current 1.5.0.x line of Firefox browsers. Alpha 3 adds session saver support, anti-phishing support, search suggestions in the default search box, and more. If it proves stable enough, I might just switch to this alpha build for my main browsing platform. The inline spell checking feature is great!

Questioning Episodic Content

Published on May 24, 2006

Half-Life 2: Episode One has gone gold! I finally pre-ordered the other day, and I’m looking forward to playing it on June 1. But enough about my excitement…

Will the episodic content model work in the long run? While no one really knows for sure, I’m remaining fairly skeptical. Gamers are used to paying their $40, $50, or even $60 for a complete game (although the term complete is fairly ambiguous, especially since game lengths differ so drastically). Forking over $20 for a game snippet is something new. Something that, to some people, is fairly frightening. Whether sales are strong enough to warrant doing it again remains to be seen. Valve has apparently announced that there will be three episodes, the last of which should be available around Christmas of 2007. That means that they are at least willing to take the risk. And I salute that boldness.

It’s my hope that the quality of this episode will match that of the original game. But can a 4 to 6 hour game hold up against its 40 to 50 hour parent? I don’t think we’ll really know until after June 1. The strength of the Half-Life world lies in the powerful story telling. With any luck, it will be just as strong as it always has been.

Choking on Java

Published on May 22, 2006

It’s rare that I have a problem with Firefox. But I can consistently make it fail when loading up a Java applet. I use the official Java distribution from Sun (version 5 with fix pack 6) to no avail. One particular applet that resides locally on my machine causes my browser to lock up instantly, every time. Perhaps the problem is with the applet itself. Or perhaps it’s “just Java.” But the applet works in (yuck) IE. Shouldn’t Firefox yield the same results?

I have yet to poke around in Bugzilla to see if there are any bugs filed on this problem. I can’t believe that I’m the only person who runs into this on a semi-regular basis. Granted, I do my best to avoid Java at all times. But every so often, I have to make use of this technology, regardless of my level of disdain.

Just Plain Wrong

Published on May 21, 2006

I don’t follow horse racing at all, nor do I have any interest in the Kentucky Derby. But I wasn’t surprised when I heard that the Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro broke its leg in the Preakness. Not too long ago, I watched a 60-Minutes episode on ESPN Classic (from way back in 1979) that discussed horse doping, and its surprisingly legal status in the world of horse racing. Apparently, horse owners drug their horses with pain-killing “medication,” allowing them to run a race even when they really shouldn’t. It’s a shame that this kind of thing goes on, especially since horses can’t tell people how they feel. Hopefully this tragic turn with Barbaro will be the wake-up call the horse racing world needs.

Weekend Reprieve

Published on May 19, 2006

I’ve been incredibly busy at work over the past week, due to the fact that I had a due date today for one of my projects. Thankfully, everything has wrapped up (for the time being, that is) and I can rest a little this weekend.

Only a few more days until Half-Life 2: Episode One is released. I still haven’t preordered, but I’m hoping to do so soon. It’s neat that you can preload the game before you preorder, and it didn’t take too long to do (although I already have Half-Life 2 installed). Whether or not episodic content will be a winner is still up in the air. All I know is that I really enjoyed HL2 and I’m really looking forward to this next chapter in the Half-Life universe.

Bon Echo Alpha 2

Published on May 17, 2006

I’m making this post from the Bon Echo Alpha 2 build of Firefox. The greatest new feature by far is the inline spell checking feature for textarea elements. It works exactly like the spell check feature in Thunderbird, and it makes blog posting that much easier.

The new tab UI is nice, but I haven’t yet opened a ton of tabs to see how they handle overflow and the like. I also like the new “Addons” window, which is essentially the marriage of the “Themes” and “Extensions” windows from current Firefox releases. Other cool features include an improved default search box (although Googlebar Lite is still the greatest one around … 😉 ), session saver (in case of a browser crash), greatly improved feed discovery capabilities (I really like this), and more. All in all, Firefox 2 is starting to look really good. I can’t wait to get my hands on a more mature release; I will definitely make the switch once the public betas arrive.

The only gripe I have is that the few extensions I have tried to install all fail (the maxVersion isn’t set high enough), so I’m currently extension-less. 🙁

On an entirely unrelated note, I have added a new Extensions category here to this blog, and I have placed all Firefox extension related discussions under that category.

Into the Wardrobe

Published on May 14, 2006

I’m not much of a movie person, but tonight, thanks to a storm-related cable outage, I watched The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe for the first time. What a great movie! I’ve always been a giant fan of the Chronicles of Narnia, and this movie was particularly well done. A few key details were left out, however. Aslan didn’t mention the deeper magic when the Stone Table was broken in two, He simply explained that the witch didn’t fully understand what would happen. Also, the professor never hints that he too has been to Narnia. Take, for instance, this passage from the book:

And the professor, who was a very remarkable man, didn’t tell them not to be silly or not to tell lies, but believed the whole story. “No,” he said, “I don’t think it will be any good trying to go back through the wardrobe door to get the coats. You won’t get into Narnia again by that route. Nor would the coats be much use by now if you did! Eh? What’s that? Yes, of course you’ll get back to Narnia again some day. Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia.”

Nowhere in the movie does the professor make such a statement (the last sentence in particular). That omission really took some of the surprise out of it (although anyone who’s read the books already knows the story). There were some interesting additions to the movie as well. Aslan says to the witch that he was present when the deep magic was written, a statement that isn’t in the book (I checked). It will be interesting to see what other movies they decide to make. I really enjoyed this one; hopefully they will stick to the books, and not alter the stories too much.

All hail the Highest of High Kings!

Attack of the Killer Bug

Published on May 9, 2006

Beginning with Googlebar Lite 4.0, an interesting problem has cropped up with the search history edit box. Take a look at this screenshot sent in by a Googlebar Lite user:

Googlebar Lite Bug

See how the drop-down marker is all the way to the left of the search box? The actual edit control has been resized to 0, while the popup element (which should be invisible) has been resized. I can get this problem to occur on demand using the Charamel theme. What’s most frustrating is that I cannot make it go away. I’ve tried forcing the edit control’s style via CSS, but the rules get ignored. I’ve built a bare bones toolbar from scratch to try to isolate the problem, to no avail. This is apparently a problem with the autocomplete textbox itself. A Firefox bug? Perhaps. If you happen to run into this problem, there are three courses of action you can take, none of which are very appealing:

  1. Use the default theme (if you already aren’t). I have yet to see this using the default theme, although my dad has run into it using the default (he uses large fonts in Windows, however, so that might be the difference).
  2. Disable search history.
  3. Use Googlebar Lite 3.3.

Again, none of these solutions are ideal.

Do you know what’s going on here? Know of an existing bug in Bugzilla that references a similar problem? Found a workaround or a fix? Please let me know! I will continue to investigate this issue, but I don’t see a fix at this time. If only everything would just work as it is intended to …

The Greatest Show on Earth

Published on May 5, 2006

The Simpsons is the greatest television show of all time, regardless of what the clowns at TV Guide say. I mean, how can you go wrong with quotes like this?

Skinner: And, in a gutless act of political correctness, pizza day will now be known as Italian-American sauce bread day.
Italian Chef: Ah, now that’s a-sensitivity. Right Giuseppe? [the monkey claps…] Giuseppe is such a happy monkey!

Homer: I’m not looking for fame or glory. I’m just trying to buy that stairway to heaven Jesus sang of.
Flanders: That was Led Zeppelin.
Homer: Psh. Get back to your bong hippie.

Homer: So, a graduate student, huh? How come you guys can go to the moon but you can’t make my shoes smell good?

That kind of writing is simply classic. The greatest episode of all time? Quite possibly, Homer: Bad Man. It just doesn’t get much funnier than that.

Online Software Distribution

Published on May 2, 2006

Half-Life 2: Episode 1 began preloading today yesterday and I’m seriously considering pre-ordering it over the Steam network. There’s something rather appealing to purchasing software online: no traveling to a store and no waiting for a package in the mail. It’s instant gratification, pure and simple. Lots of people seem to dislike the fact that the game is “locked” until June 1 (the official release date), but that doesn’t bother me too much.

One thing that I dislike is the fact that I don’t get a game box. I know that may sound silly, but I have quite a collection of boxes (I have nearly as many as I have computer games). Having a game box provides a tangible token of ownership for something that is intangible. My collection is unfortunately still packed away in boxes from our move; otherwise, I would post some pictures.

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