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A look at Mozilla Snowl 17 January, 2009

Posted by aronzak in Mozilla Firefox.
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Mozilla Snowl is a new experimental Firefox addon that acts as a more advanced feed reader. It can display RSS feeds and also Twitter messages. I’ve never gotten into microblogging, but it’s an interesting concept. Here’s how Snowl works as an RSS/ATOM aggregator.

Snowl has three modes; List, Stream and River.

River modes shows a list of messages in a page view. It shows the title and a small snippet of text, and the author.


List mode shows messages like an email client. It allows the a news article to be displayed in full by double clicking the message. There doesn’t seem, however, to be any way to open up links in a tab.



Stream mode displays a sidebar with the latest messages at the top, with nice icons.


Snowl has a lot of nice concepts, but it seems to be more intended to be used with Twitter than web feeds. The small amount of text in river mode, the small size of the frame for viewing articles in list mode and the ability to select people, rather than just feeds, all point to this. It would be good if Snowl was more customisable to better suit needs one way or another.

1. It would be good to be able to select how much text is displayed in river mode.

2. It would be even better to have a feature to expand the text, like in the old Isohunt.

3. It would also be good to be able to customise the number of messages that are kept. I’m not really interested in anything in a feed if I don’t read it after a day.It would be good to limit the time of messages, as well as the number that display in stream mode.

4. It would look nice if icons are displayed in river mode.

5. It would be good to be able to use something like greasemonkey to alter the way in which Google news appears.

6. It would be good if river mode could support the formatting in Google news, rather than just displaying it as text, which repeats the title.

Otherwise, Snowl is looking good.

Why Flock is no good. 3 November, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Cloud Computing, Linux, Social Networking, web, Windows.
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After selling out to the man and getting a wordpress and facebook account, I was reminded of Flock, a web browser focused on social networking. My conclustion is that it is no bloody good (NBG) after less than five minutes. Here’s why:

1. The flock website automatically prompts me to download a windows executable (.exe) unless I allow javascript. The installation instructions are for the windows one to. Linux users are just expected to know how to extract the program themselves and run it (and make their own links).

2. According to Wikipedia, Flock collects usage information, passed back to the company, but it is possible to turn this off during installation. I got no option, because I had no windows installer. I also couldn’t find any options in ‘preferences’. I don’t mind this, but as a matter of principle, the informed user should be able to choose.

3. The first thing after opening it up is you are confronted with buttons. Everywhere. It’s just like FF3, except that there are heaps of extra (useless?) buttons.

4. While the learning curve is high (for a browser), you get a constant stream of patently stupid notifications of the bleedingly obvious. Like, for example, if I didn’t notice that a big blue button turned orange after I clicked on it.

5. While it is good that many websites are supported, the browser is full of advertising, for the sites it supports, as well as some specifically. Stuck striaght into the main bar, in a place where it seems impossible to remove, is a bright orange link to digg.

Why is this elevated above an ordinary link? Who knows? There’s also a button to email a link to a friend. Just in case you weren’t on top of copy and paste.

As well as digg, there are plenty of links to the main Flock site. Also, the browser seems to choose to use Yahoo over Google as a default. This is annoying and counterintuitive to me given that the FF default is to use Google.

4. As well as the search bar, the web address bar by default incorporates searches from Yahoo. Great, you can’t even type a URL without it being passed to a third party. Clearly, this is a sensible default for idiots that cannot remember web addresses.

5. Flock guides you to their own extensions site, ignoring the main Mozilla addons site (many FF addons work). This is a good idea, except that there are 4 addons. Good one.

All of these annoyances are poorly justified by the features available. No, I haven’t subscribed to 26 social networking sites. While many of the features available are interesting, I didn’t find any particularly useful as essentially I don’t get control over them. And yes, I’d rather just rite up my blog posts in a browser window. That’s what google gears are for.

So, all in all, Flock undermines your privacy and irritates you for seemingly little benefit.

A look at Mozilla Fennec 19 October, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Uncategorized.
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Mozilla Fennec is a mobile web browser, intended to be used on devices such as the iphone and the Nokia N810. So, Mozilla is entering this juicy market too. I downloaded alpha 1 and gave it a spin. There’s a few bugs, and the interface is terrible on a big screen, but is probably good where screen space is limited, and you have a touch interface. Here’s some screenshots of the alpha.

Fennec has a strange interface, in which you slide around the page in order to access the side panels. The top can also be slid to hide it. This didn’t look that great to me, because the sides slid in and out when I tried to go up and down a page. This probably isn’t such a problem with a touchscreen. Also, I expected the scroll wheel to scroll the page up and down, but it zoomed in and out. Would make good sense on a phone.

At the top of the screen, there’s a loading animation / page icon / security info button, then a bar that shows the page title rather than the url, then a reload and history button.

On the right, there’s a panel with a bookmark star, forward and back buttons, and a button to bring up the settings. There are few settings options, to keep it simple.

There’s also addons.

On the left, is a panel with all of your tabs.

Finally, downloading seems to work fine, and downloads appear in the middle settings tab.

Mozilla Fennec is looking good. The only problems that I had were a result of it being a first alpha, and using it on a PC (the interface is really made for touchscreens).

Linux: Get Ready for World Domination 18 October, 2008

Posted by aronzak in Uncategorized.
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The Domino Effect is now in full swing and Linux is on the path to becoming the single world superpower. Indefatigable, she has already taken hold of Brazil and Russia, and is poised to seize new territory with the next wave of assault; low cost and donated PCs. But even now, aside from full Linux control, Open Source is crumbling the enemy’s resistance from the inside. Mozilla Firefox stands unchallenged as the world’s browser of choice for the liberated. OpenOffice makes inroads into the juicy government sector with fears of data being trapped in dead formats. No ultimatum has been issued, no prisoners will be taken. Now, the world waits for the inevitable and complete annihilation of the old empire. Carpe Diem!

The current world order.

The current world order.

By the way, this is only based on what I have heard. There are computers in Africa, I just haven’t heard that much. Also, I couldn’t be bothered with Mac. They;re probably just going to puff in silvery smoke anyway.

By way of explanation:

Russia: All schools running Linux, Open Source pulic sector by 2010

Brazil: Strong ISO protest against OOXML

China: Made Red Flag

France: Parliament, Police Force

US: Evil Microsoft holds schools to ransom

Australia: Tax department issues taxation pack that does not work under wine (NZ is just a bannana republic probably in the same boat)

More to come at a later point. I’m enjoying this! (Maybe a version with geolocation?)

NoScript preventing Clickjacking 12 October, 2008

Posted by aronzak in web.
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Clickjacking; where a user’s click is unknowingly redirected to another (hidden) object on the page, is something that has scared many security experts. It works on all major browsers, with the only possible exception of lynx (fight the power!). But NoScript has released a stream of new versions that include new code called ClearClick, that prevents clickjacking. I saw this in use here. THe video isn’t that funny.

First, click on the script to allow it.

Now, the video appears. Next I click on it.

And NoScript comes up with a warning.

And Voila, it’s a like to the ad at the bottom of the page.

So there we go, NoScript has succesfully defended me from an attempt to show me an ad.