GUI/X11/Xfree86/Xorg Linux MacOS / OSX OS/Software Technology Usability Web

Bring back the Firefox (wait / busy) mouse (cursor / pointer) (hourglass / clock)

Old versions of Firefox used to indicate when you were waiting for the next page to load, by changing the cursor to one with an hourglass or clock. This provided immediate visual feedback at the screen position where you were already looking that the link click had succeeded and something was happening. This is simply good UI practice.

Some time ago, in version 3.5, this feature got removed, without fanfare. This meant that now, to see if the browser is doing something, the user must look away from where they were looking, either at the tab bar or the status bar. Neither of these have the immediacy of the pointer change, and not everyone has the luxury of having them.

Many people felt this was a bad idea, as did I, but at the time no option was provided to restore it.

However I recently revisited the page, and found that, soon after I reluctantly gave up on finding a solution, they did indeed add an option to restore it. Go to about:config, and set the value ui.use_activity_cursor to true

This is far from the only bad decision that Mozilla developers have made in recent years. Removing the status bar is probably the most ludicrous one (and the one that would have sent me running to another browser immediately had there not been an add-on to bring it back), amd I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that their current release schedule and version number policy is barmy. Overall, it’s still great, and for modern web development nothing else comes close to Firefox armed with a stack of extensions like Firebug, Web Developer, Tilt etc. But it seems to me that Mozilla have repeatedly forgotten or ignored the diverse needs of their users in a bid to follow idealistic policies like having a “zen” interface, or upping their version number every 2 seconds (slight exaggeration) whether anything significant has changed or not.

Edit: 12 Nov 2014:
Another about:config option I recently discovered is the ability to stop the backspace key from going back a page. I never, ever, ever want it to do that, and whoever decided that was a good keybinding better not meet me in a dark alley lest they have to pay for all the times it’s bitten me. Anyway, fortunately in Firefox you can switch it off easily. The setting is browser.backspace_action and the magic number to change it to is 2. (1 makes it behave like Page Up – less annoying than Back, but still, just why?)

Hardware Technology

How to reset Viewsonic VP181b EEPROM / DVI

I’ve long been searching for the method to reset the EEPROM on my Viewsonic VP-181b 18″ monitor. I bought this monitor second-hand and the DVI input has never worked since I got it. This didn’t matter when I was using it with my PC, but now I want to use it on a Raspberry Pi with an HDMI-to-DVI cable, I’d like to get it working.

Research suggested that doing a factory reset of the EEPROM can sometimes fix a recalcitrant DVI input. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have worked for my monitor, so it looks like the circuit is actually fried, but just in case it helps anyone else, here’s how you do it.
I got this info from the Service Manual which I was able to download from here (but only after disabling Adblock Plus).

NB: It seems you need the monitor connected to a VGA input which is displaying something, and have that input selected, because it won’t show the on-screen menus otherwise.

First, put the monitor into “burn-in” mode by holding down the “2” and “down” keys while you switch it on (you can use the front-panel power button, no need to resort to the switch)

Second, switch off again and then go into “factory” mode by holding down the “1” key while you switch on. Factory mode is only accessible once you are already in burn-in mode.

Now when you press the “1” key, you should see a different menu than normal. It looks like this:

Use the down button to select the “Initial EEPROM” option and press 2 to activate.

At this point the EEPROM should be reset, but you are still in burn-in mode – if you switch to the DVI input at this point, you will see a white screen and it will say that you’re in burn-in mode.

To exit burn-in mode, you need to power off, and then power on again while pressing the “down” and “up” keys.


Review: Kanger T2 and Vision Vivi Mini Nova clearomizers

Like many vapers, I started out with a 510-style cartomizer, but soon got bored of the continual refilling, and the fact that there’s no indication of how much is left. As soon as I discovered clearomizers I knew this was the way it should be. But finding a good one has taken a lot longer. The first clearos I tried were the Vision CE4 aka “Stardust”, and several other CE3- or CE4-style clearos from unknown manufacturers being sold by unscrupulous vendors. I was not impressed – compared to my old 510 bottom-coil carto, the clearos were practically flavourless. Sure, they were easier to refill, but they were also prone to leak. The genuine vision CE4 was the best of the bunch, but still very disappointing.

Fortunately, I’ve now found two clearomizers that I particularly recommend. They are both solidly built and “rebuildable” which means that (like the CE4) you can disassemble them for easier cleaning, and the atomizer head can be replaced when it dies without having to replace the whole clearo. The atomizer heads are also available in a range of different resistances.

Kanger T2

The Kanger T2 is an eGo-thread clearo. It has the best flavour by a mile; combined with good vapour and a smooth draw, this makes it hands down my favourite clearo. I’m using “version 2” – other than an “improved mouthpiece” I’m not sure what the difference is from version 1, but from what I’ve read, the v1 had problems which the v2 has fixed. That mouthpiece is lovely, by the way – it’s smooth, and narrows down more than most drip tips so it feels really comfortable in the mouth for someone like me coming from a background of smoking thin rollies. As with most clearos, the mouthpiece screws onto the tank and is specifically designed for it, so you can’t replace it with your own choice of drip tip.

Alas, nothing in this world is perfect, and the T2 does have a few flaws:

I found the draw a bit tight (not quite enough airflow), so I bored the air holes with a needlepoint file to make them a bit bigger. You may not need to do this, I suspect it depends on precisely how the holes sit relative to your battery’s thread.

As with all short-wicked atomizers, you need to tip it to keep the wicks wet; but even though I do this, I periodically get a burnt vape from it, and a couple of times this has become permanent and can only be fixed by dry-burning the ato (if you’re not sure how to do this, there are plenty of videos about it on Youtube. The principle is the same for all clearos).

If you fire it so much that it gets hot (say, several long bursts within 30 seconds) it leaks slightly at the battery end – this manifests as seeming to be “blocked” when you try to vape. If this happens you just unscrew the battery and clean up with a cotton bud, so it’s no big deal as long as you’re using a sealed (manual) battery. But I’ve never had a leak from it in normal use, unlike most other clearos I’ve tried; it’s only when I’m firing it a lot (eg testing a new flavour).

Despite these issues, it’s still my favourite tank because of the superb flavour, especially for fruity/sweet flavours. it’s also the easiest to fill – the ato tube extends above the top of the tank, so you can holding the tank at 45 degrees you can simply dropper the liquid around the tube and into the tank with no chance of flooding the ato. Possibly because of the narrow mouthpiece, and unlike every other clearo, it has *never* spat hot liquid into my mouth.

Because the ato tube goes up that much higher, the ato itself is right at the very top of the tank, which means you can fill it right up. Clearos work best when filled to just below where the wicks enter the ato, and on the Kanger this corresponds almost exactly with the top mark of the scale drawn on its side: 2.4ml. In practice it does bubble a bit if filled precisely to this line, so I’d say the effective capacity is more like 2.3ml.

Of the three resistances available, I like the standard 2.2ohm ato best on this one. It goes superbly with either a fixed or variable voltage eGo battery.

Vision Vivi Mini Nova

The Vision Mini Nova is a 510-threaded clearo. Its flavour is not in the same league as the Kanger, but where it scores is reliability. I’ve never had a single burnt vape from it; never had a leak. Its long wicks feed liquid continually to the atomizer without the need for tipping (though long wicks also mean it takes longer to pick up a change in the liquid, so it’s not so great for tweaking flavour mixtures).

I found the standard ato was almost completely bland and flavourless, even at high voltage on my eGo Twist. It’s a lot better with the lowest-resistance ato (1.8ohm nominal, but it measures much higher), especially at low-ish voltage on a VV battery.

It seems to prefer, and emphasise, throaty flavours like menthol and aniseed, and de-emphasise fruit and sweet flavours. It produces massive clouds of vapour (which means it drinks liquid at a hell of a rate) and a strong throat hit.

There’s a lot more airflow available than the Kanger, and for that reason I always go for the Mini Nova when driving (there’s something different about the way that I vape when driving than at other times; I’m not sure why, but I seem to need an easier / more airy draw).

Most tanks have screw-on drip tips that are specific to that design, but the Mini Nova comes with a standard 510 drip tip, so you can replace it with a funky one if you so desire.

If you tip it upwards past horizontal while vaping, it will drip liquid into your mouth, but otherwise it’s very well behaved.

It has a wide base with a 510 thread that sticks out – this means if you put it on an eGo battery it looks a bit silly (but works fine), unless you also fit a special metal “cuff” or “plinth” to fill the gap (which also reduces airflow). You also can’t stand it upright when it’s off the battery. Personally I wish it had an eGo rather than a 510 thread, it’s really too big for a 510 battery anyway so I don’t understand why they decided to do it that way – but I suspect this is the reason why it has so much more airflow than the Kanger.

Filling requires a fairly thin nozzle on your bottles, or a pipette, to get between the ato and the tank wall, and as with all clearos you only want to fill it to just below where the wicks go into the ato or it will bubble, which makes the effective capacity about 1.75ml rather than the 2ml marked on the tank.

OS/Software Technology Uncategorized Usability Web

How to revert Firefox 14 awesome bar auto-completion behaviour / switch off URL autofill

Firefox 14 introduced a change to how the “awesome bar” (aka location bar) works – it now auto-completes in place. A lot of other browsers do this, so I guess it’s consistent, but I don’t like it – I find it much faster to recall my most commonly visited sites by typing a few letters (usually 3 is enough) which often occur in the *middle* of the URL, while the auto-complete always works from the *beginning* of the URL, and I find it confusing to be offered a suggestion which isn’t what I’m looking for. I’d rather see only the letters I’ve typed in the field, and a list of suggestions below.

I eventually found out how to revert to the old behaviour, but it wasn’t easy and involved being sent round in circles a few times. So, for your benefit, here’s how:

1. Type about:config in the awesome bar / location bar.
2. Use the Search field to locate the preference browser.urlbar.autoFill
3. It is true by default in Firefox 14. Double-click to set to false.

Life Mammon/Babylon Philosophy Politics


Image by Frank Kunert

I am gross and perverted
I’m obsessed and deranged
I have existed for years
But very little has changed
I’m the tool of the government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you

I may be vile and pernicious
But you can’t look away
I make you think I’m delicious
With the stuff that I say
I am the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I am the slime oozing out
From your TV set

You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don’t need you
Don’t go for help…no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mould
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold

~ Frank Zappa “I’m The Slime”

Facebook Technology Uncategorized Usability Web

How to make sure you don’t miss posts by your favourite Facebook Pages

Make an Interest List and add it to your sidebar Favourites

You may have seen the following message circulating on Facebook:

Due to Facebook’s new policy, only about 10% of people that ‘like’ a fan page will see the status updates.

In order to see my posts and notifications just click/hover over the ‘Liked’ button (beneath the cover photo, to the right) and activate the ‘show in news feed’ option.

This will allow you to see all of the posts.

Unfortunately that information is WRONG.

You will probably find that your Show in News Feed option is already active for the pages you like, unless you specifically switched it off. It does not guarantee that you will see the page’s updates in your feed. If you click this option you may be inadvertently switching it off!

Facebook decides which posts to show in your News Feed based on how often you “interact” with a Page’s posts – basically how often you hit Like, Comment, or Share on them. But regardless of how much you do that, it now shows Page posts far less often than it used to, because FB wants Page owners to pay for the privilege of having their posts seen (by people who have already asked to see them!)

If you’re a big fan of a particular Page, there is something you can do to help ensure that you don’t miss its posts – put it in your sidebar Favourites (or Favorites for US spellers). It’s a bit complicated, but here goes:

When you hover over the Liked button for a Page, you’ll see an option in that menu to create a New List. This creates what’s called an “Interest List”. As well as the currently selected Page, you can then also add to it any other Pages that you want to follow (such as Quextal 😉 ) – but I suggest not putting too many pages into one list, or Facebook might again intervene to decide which posts it shows in the list. Or you could just have one page per list, and create a new list for each page that you want in your sidebar, but there may be a limit to how many lists you can have in there.

So, choose which pages you want on this list (you can always add or remove pages from the list later if you change your mind), and click Next. You then have to choose a name for this list, and decide whether to make it public – that’s up to you, and it largely depends on whether you think it might be useful for other people. Making a list public shouldn’t infringe your personal privacy in any way.

When you finish creating the list, FB will show you the list page, hopefully full of posts by the Pages you selected.

Now go back to the main FB homepage. Your new list should be in the sidebar under INTERESTS (you might have to click MORE at the bottom of the sidebar to see this. If you hover over the name of the list you just created, a pencil icon appears to the left of it[1]. Click that and select Add To Favourites (or Favorites if you’re using US English). This will (a) put it in your Favourites / Favorites section near the top of your sidebar, and (b) put a number next to it whenever there are new posts to read. To read them, just click on the name of the list.

  • [1] Users of Matt Kruse’s excellent Social Fixer plugin may have to disable it temporarily to do this step.

Note that this probably has no effect on how likely a Page’s stories are to appear in your main News Feed, which will continue to be driven by Facebook’s desire to extort money from the Page owners. But at least you’ll be able to see in your sidebar when there are new posts to read.

You can subscribe to other people’s public Interest Lists. For example, here is my list of selected psybreaks artists and labels (it’s not meant to be exhaustive, so apologies to anyone I’ve left off).

I hope this is useful. Please share this article, especially where you see people sharing the wrong information quoted above, and add a comment if you notice any errors or have additional information.