Blog Archive for July 2006

My FireFox Plugin Essentials

I just told Jeremy that someday I might list off my current FireFox plugins, and I guess today is just as good as any other. So here they are:

  • Gmail Notifier - If you have Gmail and your own Windows account, it automatically checks how much Gmail you have. I have mine set so that when I click on the Gmail icon in my FireFox statusbar, it opens my Gmail (already logged in) in another tab.
  • FoxyTunes - If you listen to music on your computer, like I do during every minute I'm on my computer, then you need FoxyTunes. It'll take the song information and give you player controls for your favorite music player right in your statusbar. I usually have my iTunes minimized to the Windows Taskbar, so the player controls are there, but it's great to have a display of what song is playing scrolling right above the controls while browsing.
  • IE Tab - That's right, don't open that pesky Internet Explorer ever again. While browsing with this plugin, you can right-click on any link and it select to "Open in IE Tab" which is a FireFox tab running Internet Explorer. Also, at any time, click the FireFox logo to toggle the current page to IE vieweing. Great for seeing how your website will look in the competitor's browser.
  • Web Developer Toolbar - If you work on websites at all (like I do), then you definitely need this one. It gives you a whole toolbar to debug websites with. You can easily disable JavaScript, disable CSS, and much, much more. Some of my favorites are the CSS it uses to display the class and ID names or the outlines of every block-level element. It's a lifesaver for figuring out the pesky CSS spacing problems (and much more).
  • HTML Validator - If you make websites (again), you need this. It validates your page and shows you if it passed or not right on your statusbar. It also gives the validation errors right in the "View Source" window too. Great stuff.
  • ColorZilla - Need a color palette but don't want to open PhotoShop? Want to get that color right off the page? No more need to take a screenshot, this little utility in the bottom left corner of your FireFox window is a full-featured color picker. Click on it and then anywhere on the webpage to pull the color. Double-click on it to get a full, PhotoShop-style picker.
  • MeasureIt - This one may not be needed because the Web Developer Toolbar (mentioned above) has a ruler built in the latest version, but this one is more handy. That is, it sits in the bottom-left of your browser window and is activated with just one click. Select a square of web page real estate and find find out how many pixels it occupies.

So there you have it. Use these powers well and use them wisely. And if you have some extension you think I really need to check out, put it in the comments.


God and Open Source

Many would say that the worldwide Open Source movement creates a lot of community. And it's true. Hundreds of people working closely together (even over long distances) towards one goal has brought a lot of community. After every Open Source-oriented conference, everybody says it's great to meet all those working on common projects and building a tighter-knit community.

People have also been noticing that Open Source, despite the fact that nobody owns or recieves royalties from the code, can be good for business. This is for many reasons, not the least of which are these:

  • Open Source gives you a large base of code to work off of. There's no need to reinvent the wheel.
  • Although much has been made, there will always be companies who want to make something else custom to their business
  • Even if something new is not needed, there are many people who do not know how to set it up and need people to set it up for them.

Ten LogoA group of friends of mine from Christian community People of Praise have noticed thaat Open Source systems work a lot like our Christian community does. In this community, we share our money and much more in a very similar way to how Open Source software is changed. So they started One:Ten Communications.

As is stated on their website, they hope to "unite all things in Christ" through three things: websites, experiments, and open source. Some of them are at the OSCON this weekend in Portland too. I'm excited to see the fruits of the open source research and the experiments, as well as the exciting websites this talented, young team will produce.


Stretched-Out, Four-Door

About a month ago we had a "fun day" at work and spent the morning doing anything but work in this amazing car. I just had to post a couple pictures of this thing (thanks to Joelle and Paul for the photos):

The Unveiling
We were all trying to figure out why this was at our work.

The Land Yacht
Well, I guess this "Land Yacht" is for us...

The Inside
Hangin' out inside with an Anberlin T-shirt on.

The Front
There's the front in all its glory.


MetroTransit and The Future of Fare Payment

So this evening I had a bit of a disappointment with MetroTransit and their test run of the GoTo Card. So here's the e-mail letter I sent to them.

Dear MetroTransit,

I was really excited when I saw the flyer last week saying that the GoTo Card was going to be test run and that I could join. After work at the 28th St. Station in Bloomington, I went up to the people enrolling us in the test. I've heard a lot about the GoTo Card and would love to try it out.

But when I showed the volunteers that I was currently using a Monthly Mobility Pass (the $21 version), they said, "That might be cheaper," and urged me to stick with that. I left shortly thereafter because the train was coming. For the record, I hope that is not the long-term solution, because we need the convenience of the GoTo Card too.

I suspect, though, that it was the fact that the volunteers did not know all the details. I know for a fact that I could get .50 per ride, at least on the light rail, because I've played around with the buttons on the GoTo Card Reader machine.

So could I enroll in the test? If so, is there a place to sign up? Please, if possible, get back to me soon so that I don't start a new monthly pass on the 26th.


Dan Ficker

I'll update this post if I recieve a reply or any new information.

UPDATE: I just talked to somebody at the Mall of America Transit Station that seemed to know a bunch more than the volunteers yesterday. He said that right now the GoTo Cards only support the functionality of the SuperSaver Stored Value cards. Right now, the GoTo Cards will not do a monthly pass thing. Since that's currently what I use, I opted to stick with the SuperSavers. He did say they'd be running a monthly pass test group in November or December.

He also made it sound like you'd have to get a separate card to do the monthly pass. I'd originally heard that you could have a monthly pass and some stored value on the same card, for example if you're paying for yourself and a friend. So who knows.


The Bedtime Story Movie

Lady In The Water PosterLast night we caught the late showing of Lady In The Water. Most people seemed to think it was the worst and/or funniest movie they've seen in a long time. By no means did I think it a perfect cinematic masterpiece, but I thought it was much more interesting and thought-provoking than they did.

The early previews said it was a "bedtime story". And it definitely is. Don't go in expecting to see something scary like The Sixth Sense or like those stupid previews. (Why do they always have to make M. Night Shymalan movies look like horror films in the previews?) It really is a modern day enactment of a bedtime story.

As usual in his movies, each character has to confront his/her past and be pushed beyond their self-proclaimed boundaries. And, as often happens, there is a brief exploration of faith for these characters. There is even one scene that seems almost like the laying on of hands. As always, every single character is unique and that made the film pretty hilarious. M. Night himself had the biggest role he's ever had in one of his films.

If you're willing to think like a child in the movie theater, you will find this adult bedtime story intriguing. Otherwise, you may find youself very bored.


Drupal and a Lazy Sunday

I had big plans for today. I was going to recreate a static site in Drupal. Then, my clients at White Rock Coffee wouldn't have to wait for me to change their site. It was going to be glorious.

But no. The worst days of Minnesota summer had to be yesterday and today. Yesterday it was humid and got up to 100. Today it was much more humid but it got to 93 and was more unbearable. Every moment I've spent at my computer was me sweating profusely. It was hard to concentrate on anything. It was no fun at all.

Hopefully the next couple days will allow me to finish up my little Drupal project, but we'll see. I'll give a report when the project is done.

To keep cool, I read through probably half of Relentless, the book I talked about earlier. I'm not sure what to say about a review, but it's a very enjoyable read.


Enough With Patience!


After three or four weeks of agony, is back! Yes, I lost my domain name to some neglegence and shady hosting, but I have managed to buy it back. I have learned the hard way, though, to make sure that you have absolute control over your domain names. Using a missin-critical domain that you have not registered yourself is a bad idea, because if you don't have complete control, it can slip away.

Hopefully soon I'll fill you in on all the fun stuff recently. We'll see.