Firefox Zealotry: An assortment

We haven’t done Firefox zealotry for a while.

Lets start with getting rid of the download window by using the Download Statusbar by Devon Jensen

The Download Statusbar Firefox extension gives you a small visual representation of your downloads at the bottom of your browser window, forgoing Firefox’s (occasionally annoying) default download window. It gives you a discrete view of your recent downloads, hides when you’re not using it, and lets you easily manage opening, clearing, renaming, or deleting downloaded files without ever leaving your main browser window. You will love this one

Next up lets have a look at the Tiny Menu by Anthony Lieuallen
The Tiny Menu Firefox extension compresses all the menu items into one pulldown, a great place to store those “less frequently used items”.

After you install Tiny Menu and restart Firefox. It will compress the menu bar down to one item called “Menu”, this now contains all the normal menus as sub-menus. Right-click on a toolbar and select “Customize.”
Next drag all of the items from the navigation bar up to the menu bar, one a time. (Yes I know it will be a tad tedious). What you are doing is combining the menu bar and the navigation toolbar. Click on DONE when you are finished and then right-click on a toolbar and un-select the navigation toolbar.

It’s amazing how quicly you notice it missing when you use “normal” browser.

MediaCoder an open-source audio/video transcoder

Ever received a snippet of video from a friend with a MAC and not had it play? I wont go into the PC/Mac dichotomy other than to say that the PC world seems to have more solutions to Mac created problems than the other way around. So, converting video files from one format to another is one of the more frustrating tasks you can have to do as you are confronted with the arcane language of codecs, acronyms and incompatible file formats.

Enter stage right MediaCoder

Here is the hype …

MediaCoder is an open source universal audio/video batch transcoder (converter), which puts together lots of excellent audio/video codecs and tools from the open source community into an all-in-one solution, capable of transcoding among different audio/video formats. With many extra features and a expandable architecture, MediaCoder is more than a GUI of a bunch of command line tools.

  • Convert to and from many audio and video compression formats and re-multiplex into various container formats, on the fly, in batch
  • Give you the control over the transcoding process and all the parameters of the transcoded files, so you can learn about, compare among and play with various codecs
  • Specific user interfaces for specific devices with device plug-ins and extensions
  • Fully standalone, no dependent on any media player, filter or codec, no registration of any components into system
  • Multilingual user interface

MediaCoder is a free open-source utility that was developed to help users move their video around easily, for example to iPods or PSPs. While Microsoft has the very useful Windows Media Encoder and Mac has Quicktime and they are arguably very good formats, this does not allow you to move video files from almost any format to almost any other format.

Now if you have played with video you know two things already
A: It’s not fast and
B: See A

MediaCoder is not extremely fast when doing complicated transcodings. This isn’t really the programs fault though; it has to decode the file from the old format and then recode it the new format you have chosen.

About now I should also point out it’s a spiffy little audio converter as well.

Oh yeah, it comes in colours. MediaCoder offers skins as well.

Highly recommended.

Password Exporter

Oh Dear… More Firefox zealotry.

Following up on I sent you WHAT!!, today lets look at the reverse, How do you move your passwords, to a different PC.

The answer (assuming you are using Firefox… and of course you all are) is a Firefox extension called Password Exporter. This nifty little extension allows you to export and import your saved passwords and rejected sites between computers.

You can find your passwords in Firefox under Tools -> Options -> Privacy tab -> Passwords tab -> View Saved Passwords button -> Import/Export Passwords tab

The extension allows you to create either an XML or CSV text file of your password information and if you are paranoid ( remember “trust no-one”) you can encrypt it. If you are like me and are moving from computer to computer it is incredibly handy. The Password Exporter is also great for anyone who’s using Thunderbird, too. The Password Exporter extension is a free download, works everywhere Firefox does. And as a bonus you can save the exported file using Kee Pass.

So What is KeePass?
OK how many passwords do you have? There’s a password for the Windows network logon, your e-mail account, your other email account, the Gmail account, your home-page’s ftp password, online passwords for just about every second website you visit, etc. etc. etc. It’s a mind bogglingly large list. And because you are using different passwords for each account (because if you use the same password everywhere and someone gets this password you are going to have a major problem).

KeePass is a free/open-source password manager or safe which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way. You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key-disk. So you only have to remember one single master password or insert the key-disk to unlock the whole database. The databases are encrypted using serious encryption I taleked about this last year

Welcome to the 21st century, it turns out George Orwell may have been an optimist.

Web Developer Extension

(Even More) FireFox Goodness.

There I was last Friday, explaining to a client about how a quick hack I wrote for their website worked and using the Web Developer Extension to show them how the CSS worked and what the bits were called, when I realised that I have only ever mentioned this extension in passing ( and seeing as how I spent more time showing the client how Web Developer worked than the hack) I thought it might be worth having a quick look at today.

Lets start with some hype…

Website Developer Extension

Web Developer Extension for FireFox is an extremely useful add-on for FireFox that allows web developers to analyze the compete structure of the page, including elements like CSS style sheets, forms, cookie data, ID and Class details, Java Scripts, images and much more. It also allows you to edit the current style sheet of the page and see the effects in real-time, load a user defined style sheet, or disable styles altogether. The extensive outlining options allow you to visualize the CSS and HTML elements of the page by outlining tables, DIVs, frames or any other element that you define. You can also view form input data along with field names and values and manipulate forms for testing. Other features include links to online code validations, browser window resizing, source viewer with syntax highlighting and more.

So from a quick scan of all that we can see

  • A: It is a “swiss army knife” type of tool
  • B: It doesn’t make coffee

What I really love about this extension is that it doesn’t force you to use it “their” way. In fullscreen mode? No problem. The Web Developer extension adds a menu as well as a toolbar to the browser in full screen mode you just have to right click and there is the Web Developer menu.

This is one of those can’t live without extensions, along with Scrapbook and Performancing. I use it for checking how other websites solve problems, achieve certain effects, how a site looks at different screen sizes, you name it.Notice something not quite right in the layout, there are rulers, an on the fly CSS editor so you can make the adjustments live and then copy the CSS file back to the server when you get it right.

If you haven’t loaded up a copy of FireFox and you have a cursory interest in webpage design you need to , get Firefox and download this extension. Then head over to say Digital Grin for a quick tutorial.

Go on do it now. We’ll wait.

If you use a MAC have a look at Xyle scope (it costs about US$20) and comes highly recommended.

Overview : Xyle scope : Cultured Code or
mezzoblue § Xyle scope

For me I’ll just pop a few bucks in Chris’ Pay-pal account.

Update: Firebug by Joe Hewitt is another extension that offers similar great tools. Haven’t had a crack at it as yet, but it gets good press. Caveat Emptor.

Ubuntu LAMP Server

More Ubuntu Goodness.
Over at Howto Forge Chris L Fay has wriiten a liller post on LAMP Installation On Ubuntu 6.06 For Linux Noobs.

Not exactly up there with say “War and Peace” as a title but bear with me it gets better.

Oh! The LAMP doesn’t refer to the light bulb thing that goes off in cartoons when the Coyote has another “brilliant” idea. It stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP (or Perl). These are the componnets that a good (as opposed to say a M$ webserver) needs to do it’s work. (This site like about 70% of the webservers in the world use this stuff).
Linux is the operating system, this time it’s Ubuntu flavour. (it’s free)
Apache is the webserver (it’s free)
MySQL is the database (it’s free)
PHP is the programming language and so is Perl (it’s free but you had guessed that hadn’t you?)

Here is some of the hype…

I, like many others, made the decision to attempt an install of Ubuntu 6.06 server with the preconfigured LAMP option without having ever attempted using Linux before. My goal was to build a setup that I could host my personal web site from. Embarking on this journey I had no idea how much knowledge I lacked and in turn would learn in my quest to host. I floundered around on forums and clung helplessly to Google for aid in all the places I fell short. I found that a really good resource for building a LAMP configuration for complete Linux noobs was either not available, or stuffed neatly in some Google Bermutan triangle which my browser was afraid to go.

Hence, I am writing this as a partial documentation of my trials and tribulations with hopes of aiding all Linux noobs on the steps necessary to create a basic Linux, Apache2, MySQL5 and PHP5 system with FTP. Again, this document is tailored to complete Linux beginners and is in no way a complete guide to attacking such a setup. It will get you up and running but will need security hardening like no other.

Now the odds are infinitesimally tiny that this is something that you are likely to want to do but I have to tell you reading the post that it all sounds so …. so plausible (yes that’s the word I was looking for) that by the time you are halfway down the page you are looking around the room for a spare PC to have a bash.

So now for the grubby bit. WHY?

Why would you want to do this?

Well obviously because YOU CAN.

Next because webservers are great things to have lying around the house, they can be big filing cabinets for your music and documents that you have scanned.

They can be educational… this web thing isn’t going to go away you know.

They find all sorts of silly uses that you didn’t even know you needed until you have one.

But mainly because you can and you don’t need a better reason.
Have a read, get a spare box and have a go.

Software KVM Switches

I have a bunch of computers scattered around my workspace. One for the business stuff, one for recording, and the test bed (Ubuntu today, WIndows tomorrow, Centos last week). When the current one is busy out with rendering stats from the servers, burning backup DVDs or finding messages from the gods in pi, then I just move along to the next one and work on something else rather than just stare at the hourglass thing. Of course I don’t actually want to move somewhere else to control that next machine, I use a hardware KVM switch but this limits you by the number of ports and cable reach and ANNOYINGLY you cant swap BOTH monitors. I have used a virtual client such as UltraVNC or Windows remote desktop (didn’t like it), but running these programs loads the remote system’s screen into your current one, losing precious screen real estate.

So here are a couple of thoughts to play with

lets you easily share a single mouse and keyboard between multiple computers with different operating systems, each with its own display, without special hardware. It’s intended for users with multiple computers on their desk since each system uses its own monitor(s).

and this great article over at called A guide to building a software KVM switch

Here is some of the hype….

This guide, or tutorial, explains how I’ve used VNC to simulate the effect of using a regular hardware KVM-Switch to control my Ubuntu Linux server PC with my Windows XP main desktop PC.
However, this can be applied to any two sets of operating systems.

Now this looks like it could be fun. I will let you know how I go.