Firefox 2.0 Beta 2

I just installed the new Firefox 2.0 beta 2. There are a few nice improvements over 1.5:

  • The most visible change is the new theme. The changes are pretty subtle but seem to be aimed at improving usability.
  • One of my petpeeves: the lack of a search button in the toolbar has been fixed. The go button, which accompanies the url bar, has been there forever but until now the search box had to do without one.
  • Tabs now have their own close button instead of a global tab close button way on the left. This was a usability nightmare from the moment this ‘feature’ was introduced a few years ago. People have been complaining about it ever since. It’s a good example of how long it can take to convince software engineers of something when they have digged themselves into the sand :-).
  • The themes and extensions window have been merged into an addons window. This is probably a good change but it doesn’t go far enough for me: it should be integrated with the options window. I frequently confuse the two and open one when I intended to do something in the other.
  • There’s a ‘recently closed tabs’ option in the history menu. Nice! Also there’s a ‘undo close tab’ option in the context menu on the tab bar. I used to have an extension that did more or less the same. Nice to see good features being picked up by the developer theme.
  • Spell checking. This is a nice feature except for two things: it has no (permanent) disable function. You can toggle ‘spellcheck this field’ in the context menu but the setting does not persist so it comes back on the next time you edit a textfield. Also there is no configuration userinterface for the spellchecker. For example installing a dutch dictionary requires some configuration that requires a number of steps which are probably documented somewhere but not obvious from the present userinterface. So if I go to a dutch site with the us version of firefox (I prefer the english userinterface), basically every word I type will be highlighted as misspelled. Hidden in the context menu of a spellchecked field is an option add dictionaries which takes you to the addons site. The url ends with /dictionaries but there is nothing on the page related to dictionaries. So this needs some work. Suggestions: add a dictionaries tab to the addons window and a disable spellchecking option to the content options tab. BTW. the spellcheck feature is already annoying me. I guess I’ll be looking for an extension to get rid of it. Amazing how many non dictionary listed words can sneak into a post like this.
  • The subscribe to RSS feeds feature has been improved and you can now subscribe using an external feedreader or using several websites, such as Bloglines, which I have been using since a few weeks.
  • Apparently there’s a new phishing/malware detection tool. This might prevent people like my mother from installing spyware. I’ve depended on common sense for years now to prevent me from getting into trouble with worms, viruses, etc. That strategy seems to work fine but having some kind of advanced warning before clicking somewhere is of course nice.

I don’t see much negative stuff anymore so I think I’m going to use this build until the release candidates start appearing. I’ve blogged previously about the version number. Given that the half finished spellchecker + rss fixes are the biggest changes and the rest is merely minor cosmetic work, I still don’t think this counts as worthy of a major version number bumb. However, this seems to be another ‘heels digged into sand’ kind of thing. Everybody has been pointing this out for months and all the 2.0 reviews I’ve read so far seem to point out that there isn’t that much new in Firefox 2.0 as well (I predicted that this would happen on Ben Goodger’s blog a few months ago, seems I was right). For example, ars technica, which usually does a decent job of reviews, says this about the version number:

Is the new release really deserving of the 2.0 moniker? It’s hard to say, given the fact that it looks and feels very much like 1.x. Is it a better browser than 1.x? Definitely.

I think I agree with this assessment 100% It’s definitely a nice incremental improvement and who cares about version numbers anyway :-).

Nice extension

I used to be able to try out most new extensions. But during the last half year the number has skyrocketed so each time I look there’s dozens of new ones. This particular extension jumped straight into the top ten of popular extensions. And for good reason because Reveal adds a really nice innovative feature. When you hit F2 you get this nice overlay of minature renderings of all tabs you have open. A Firefox session can easily escalate into having 20 or so tabs open. At that point keeping track of all of them becomes hard. This extension brings some light into the darkness.

A nice added gimmick is that you can view the history of individual tabs by hitting insert. Also you can close tabs by middle clicking the miniatures or simply navigate to them by clicking them. Really nice. Easily the best extension I’ve seen lately.

New icon

I use this nice browser extension called forecastfox that notifies you of the weather outside. Today it came up with an icon I had never seen before and that people in most parts of the world will never see. It’s really cold outside (-22) and forecastfox has an icon for that :-).

Testing performancing

Well, this seems to work. The performancing firefox extension adds a nice blog post editor to firefox. I’ve just installed it, using this excellent howto for dummies, and I’m now testing if it works. If this post ever appears on my blog, it probably worked :-).

Music

I was thinking about buying an mp3 player lately. I knew I wanted one. Not a shitty 512MB samsung but the real deal. Nor some shitty wannabe ipod from Philips with crappy software but the real thing. Inevitably this drew to the conclusion that I just had to buy me an ipod with 60 GB 🙂 and a nice color screen. Yes they are expensive but I don’t care.

Right now it is charging. Except from a minor conflict with my usb extension cable, the installation went fine. The installer barfed out with an ‘assertion failed error’ that should never be displayed to users. After I connected the ipod directly to the pc the installation completed without further errors.

Right now it is charging and copying my mp3s and a few thousand photos to its disk. In a few hours it will be done and then I can enjoy some music :-).

iTunes on the other hand will take some getting used to. I’ll give it a try but I’ll likely go back to winamp unless it is really neat.

Explorerer menu option to generate m3u file for directory

If you are like me, you probably ‘receive’ mp3s occasionally. Unfortunately, most mp3s do not have proper filenames and generally have incomplete metainformation tags attached. I’m one of these guys who likes the songs on an album played in the order they were put on the album. So, I rename the songs with the track number listed first with leading zeros if appropriate (for sorting) and then use this small windows shell extension to right click on the folder and automatically create a play.m3u file. On win2k or winnt you can just rightclick on the reg file and choose install. On win 9x you need to open the file and replace cmd with command and then right click and install. One limitation is that the windows commandline does not handle some characters correctly (e.g. scandinavian characters, like a few of my favorite bob hund songs).

Update 26 Aug 2002, it seems Bill Gates can’t even get the dir command right.

Update. GRR, on some machines the /s parameter was working correctly while on others it wasn’t (used the ancient 8+3 format for files, even on ntfs). I’ve removed it for the moment so the command does not work recursively.