Archive for March 2008

WordPress 2.5

Published on March 29, 2008

The latest release of WordPress is now available. I’ve installed it in a sandbox, and I have to admit that I really like the new look of the admin area, courtesy of the folks at Happy Cog (Jeffrey Zeldman, Jason Santa Maria, and Liz Danzico specifically). Thankfully, my theme still works in the new version, as does Spam Karma and Official Comments.

I want to spend a little more time with the sandbox, but I’ll probably migrate this site to 2.5 in the next few days.

Disable Search Suggest at Google

Published on March 25, 2008

Google recently enabled “Search Suggest” at their official home page. I find this feature annoying, and I wanted a way to disable it. Thankfully, the solution was very simple:

  1. Visit the Search Preferences page
  2. Set the Query Suggestions option to “Do not provide query suggestions in the search box”
  3. Save your preferences

I wish Google had made disabling this a little clearer, rather than quietly adding the preference to the preferences page.

Rounded Corners in Firefox 3

Published on March 25, 2008

For some time now, Firefox has supported an experimental CSS technique for rounding border corners (-moz-border-radius). The rendering engine in Firefox 2 does a barely acceptable job with this, though the rounded corners don’t appear to be uniformly sized, nor are they anti-aliased. Cairo, which drives the rendering engine in Firefox 3, does a much better job at handling the rounded corners, and the results are quite nice.

As such, I’m offering some ‘eye-candy’ to those users who visit this site with either Minefield or a Firefox 3 beta build. Those users will now note that code blocks (pre elements), as well as comment blocks, have nicely rounded edges. The end result looks great, and I hope you agree.

How to Tell Windows Explorer Where to Open

Published on March 14, 2008

By default, Windows Explorer opens up in the “My Documents” folder, which is far from useful (assuming you don’t store all your documents there). Just today, I figured out how to get Windows Explorer to open in a folder that you specify. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Right click the Windows Explorer shortcut and select Properties.
  2. Make sure you are on the “Shortcut” tab.
  3. Clear the Start in: field. Contrary to what you might think, Windows Explorer seems to ignore whatever you type here (which seems stupid to me).
  4. Change the Target: field to the following:
    %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /n,/e,{Desired_Path}. For example: %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /n,/e,C:\. Note that the commas are required!
  5. Accept your changes.

Now, each time you open Windows Explorer, it will point to your desired location. This is an incredibly useful tip that will now save me two clicks for every explorer window that I open!

Playing in a Minefield

Published on March 13, 2008

For the most part, I haven’t spent much time with Minefield. Firefox 2 works well enough for me that I haven’t had much desire to play around with the new stuff, especially seeing as many portions are inevitably either incomplete or broken. However, the recent beta 4 release prompted me to take it for a spin around the web. Here are a few thoughts on the latest build I’ve tested as of this writing (2008031205):

New Look
The new skin is interesting, but portions of it will definitely take some getting used to. Surely it’s not final (these things never are until the thing is actually released), so I’m hopeful there will still be a few tweaks. When using large toolbar buttons, the back button appears round, while the forward button is much smaller and rectangular; an odd pairing which is reminiscent of Internet Explorer 7. I tend to use the small toolbar buttons, so this change doesn’t affect me too much. The forward and back history menus have been consolidated into one menu (again, like IE7), which I think is a nice improvement. The new URL bar looks nice and provides a lot more information than the previous one did. A little star icon at the far right of the bar provides a quick means of bookmarking the current page, which is handy.
Improved Memory Usage
I put the new build through its paces at Google Maps, dragging around, zooming in and out, and generally trying to run up memory consumption (which I did successfully). After closing the corresponding tab, I noted that memory usage dropped considerably, and continued to decrease over time. The new garbage collection and memory defragmentation that has been implemented is clearly a big improvement. Firefox is still a hog, but it’s heading in the right direction.
Faster JavaScript
The JavaScript improvements which I recently mentioned are immediately noticeable. GMail and Google Maps feel a lot faster than they typically do, which is super great.
URL Bar Autocompletion
Autocompletion in the URL bar is now handled in a new (and exciting) way. As you type, matches are offered based on all text associated with a link. The page title, the URL itself, and bookmark keywords are all searched. Matched text can appear anywhere in the string, which is really handy.
Password Manager Prompts
The password manager now slides down from the top (like the information bar), so it’s not quite as intrusive. However, the handy keyboard shortcuts are no longer the same. In order to quickly answer the ‘Not Now’ choice, you have to press Alt+N instead of just N. This will take some getting used to.
Page Zoom
The new page zoom feature works really well. Images are magnified, as is the text on the page. There’s even an option to only zoom the text, leaving images alone. Pretty neat!

There are plenty of other changes in Minefield, so I recommend checking it out. I am starting to work on adding FF3 support to CoLT and Googlebar Lite, but it’s turning out to be a little more difficult than I initially thought. A host of code changes are needed in Googlebar Lite, since I’m currently using interfaces that are now deprecated. Hopefully I can get things updated in the near future.

SlickEdit 2007 Rocks!

Published on March 7, 2008

My license for SlickEdit at work was renewed recently, so I upgraded to SlickEdit 2007, the latest release of this already amazing program. A boat-load of new features are included in this new release, but my absolute favorite is the new dynamic surround feature. Check out this demo of the feature in action (be sure to turn up your speakers; the sound is a little low). How super cool is that? I have actually wanted this particular feature for some time, so I’m very excited that it has actually been implemented. You can even unsurround things, should you choose to do so!

There are plenty of other great new features to be had:

  • Improved XML / HTML formatting
  • Export documents to HTML (preserving all syntax-highlighting … how great is this?!?)
  • Copy and paste in color
  • Drag and drop support in KDE and Gnome
  • Get live errors in Java as you type (similar to the corresponding functionality in Eclipse, I assume)
  • And more!

You can check out the complete list [PDF] of new features (all 5 pages worth) at the SlickEdit website. I’m seriously considering upgrading my license at home, though the $139 upgrade price is pretty steep. If you are in the market for a good code editor, I strongly recommend SlickEdit.

Professor Layton Review

Published on March 6, 2008
Professor Layton Screenshot Number 1

Never before I have felt so connected to a Penny Arcade comic. I recently picked up Professor Layton and the Curious Village, a puzzle-adventure game for the Nintendo DS. After roughly 10 hours of game play, I’ve completed the game, so I thought I’d post some thoughts on it. Before we get to that, however, I’d like to explain how this game works.

Professor Layton is one of those hybrid titles like Puzzle Quest. It is neither an adventure game, nor is it a puzzle game; it’s somewhere right in the middle. Layton himself is a private detective of sorts who is hired to figure out a puzzling will left behind by the late Baron Reinhold. Along with his assistant Luke, Layton quickly finds himself in an ever-increasing mysterious situation. There are twists and turns all over the place, and plenty of mysteries to be solved in the process.

Each person you meet will give you clues to the ever increasing list of mysteries you encounter, but only if you solve a puzzle for them. And by puzzle, I mostly mean ‘brain teaser.’ The puzzle difficulties are all over the place in this game. Some puzzles are easy to solve, while others will have you banging your head against a hard surface in frustration. There’s a hint system in the game that offers you three hints per puzzle, which is often enough to help you figure things out, but sometimes the hints are themselves quite cryptic. Getting a hint costs you a ‘hint coin,’ of which there are a limited amount (though plenty are hidden throughout the game world). When you solve a puzzle successfully, you are awarded a number of ‘picarats’ (essentially points). Each puzzle is worth so many of these picarats, with harder puzzles being worth more. Answer incorrectly and the value awarded goes down. I’m not sure what this point system is good for. At one point you learn that if you get enough of these picarats, something special happens. I never saw anything happen as a result of my score, so I must not have gotten enough. But enough about these details. Let’s jump into my review.

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Acid3 Has Been Released

Published on March 5, 2008

The Acid3 test for web browsers has been released. Drunken Fist has a number of screenshots that show the failure rate among the various top browsers. There are some really interesting results from the tests:

  • Safari 3: 39% success (latest nightlies are up to 87%)
  • Firefox 3: 59% success
  • Firefox 2: 50% success
  • Opera 9: 46% success
  • IE 7: 12% success
  • IE 6: 11% success

Safari is the surprising top dog in the list, but what I find most interesting is that Firefox 3 (which passes the Acid2 test) only hits 59% in the new test. I would have guessed that being Acid2 compliant would mean being nearly Acid3 compliant. Apparently, that isn’t the case. It looks like web browsers still have a long way to go in the standards race.

Be Careful With Foreach

Published on March 3, 2008

I ran into an interesting side-effect with the foreach loop in Perl today. I’m surprised that I haven’t hit this before, but it may be a subtle enough issue that it only pops up under the right circumstances. Here’s a sample program that we’ll use as an example:

use strict;
use warnings;

my @array = ("Test NUM", "Line NUM", "Part NUM");

for (my $i=0; $i < 3; $i++)
    foreach (@array)
        print "$_\n";
    print "------\n";

What should the output for this little script look like? Here’s what I assumed it would be:

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