How about a personalised Firefox 3 Download Day Certificate?

Hopefully, by now you’ve grabbed your copy of Firefox 3 and consequently played an active role in helping our favourite browser set a new Guinness World Record. Here’s an added perk for being such an avid follower of Firefox – a personalised Firefox 3 Download Day Certificate stating your role in helping Firefox achieve the world record. I got mine just now and here’s what it looks like…

Firefox 3 Download Day Certificate

Getting the certificate is as easy as filling up this form (with just your name) and grabbing the generated PDF File.

Incidentally, I managed to grab my copy of Firefox 3 only today morning – almost 12 hours after the official release. Last night it was literally impossible to access any of the Firefox download sites due to the initial download rush.

Installation went smoothly and all my earlier settings & bookmarks were preserved – though a couple of extensions failed to work (Fasterfox, FEBE and TabMixPlus). None that I will sorely miss, (for the time being) except  for FEBE.  On the good side, FF3 DOES take a shorter time to fire-up. How about you? How was your initial experience with FF3?

Your last chance to help Firefox set a new Guiness World Record

Firefox 3For those who didn’t know, the guys at Mozilla are reaching out for a new Guinness World Record for the most downloaded software in a span of 24 hours – with the support of it’s million plus fan base.

The software which will strive for this record is the all new Firefox 3 (with more than 15,000 improvements), which is being launched on the 17th of June, 2008, i.e. tomorrow. This day has been named the Download Day and the guys at Mozilla want to see the download counter shooting through the roof, far surpassing the 2 million plus downloads of Firefox 2.

In the wake of this launch, quite a few authors have updated their extensions to work smoothly with this new release (for example, Google Toolbar). That’ll ensure that you aren’t left stranded with just the browser minus all the enhanced functionality.

If you’re a fanatical Firefox follower (like me), make sure you drop by the Firefox 3 Headquarters and pledge yourself for the download. They’ve got this cool interactive flash-based World Map there, displaying the number of pledges on a per country basis.

Cooliris: Get a full-page preview of links with this cool Firefox extension

Cooliris LogoThere are plenty of preview tools sprawled around the vastness of web – Snap Shots, GooglePreview etc. to name a few. Each come with its own set of features and modus operandi. For example, Snap Shots provides small thumbnail previews of a site when you hover your mouse over the link on the site. GooglePreview, which is an extension for Firefox provides automated snap shots of each site listed in a Search Results Page. But such tools have a big limitation. The previews offered are really tiny and are meant to give you a glimpse of the overall look/layout of the site. They don’t provide any real “previews” as such.

You may tend to think that Cooliris is just another preview tool – but that’s where you’ll go wrong. Cooliris has been designed ground up to overcome the limitations found in all such preview tools. Installation is as easy as any other Firefox extension and operation is seamless. Whenever you encounter a link on a page, hover your mouse on it and a small preview icon appears beside the link. Pointing your mouse on the preview icon pops open a small embedded window in the same page with a full-sized preview of the site.

Cooliris Preview Window Screen-shot

Here are some of the noteworthy features:

  • Preview web links, images, and videos without even clicking.

  • The ability to “Stack” previewed items into temporary bookmarks to review.

    Now this is one cool feature. Supposing you’re searching for details on a vacation trip to Hawaii. A standard search result would return you 1000s of pages on this topic. You can easily preview the sites without ever leaving the Search Results page, weed out the seedy looking ones and bookmark all of those which looked good. You can always come back to the bookmarked pile later on and review them.

  • In case you like a site, you’ve the ability to instantly send the link to friends and family with just a single mouse-click.

  • Perform sub-searches in Google, Wikipedia etc. by right-clicking on any selected phrase.

Best of all is that apart from Firefox, Cooliris supports many of the common browsers, e.g. IE, Safari and Flock. This is one tool that really complements your search results and makes you a far more efficient web-surfer.

To sum it all, Cooliris “gives you the power to browse and share the web faster than ever.

Get Cooliris today…

Firefox: If you can’t beat it, block it !

Firefox Blocked on SitesFor all the ardent Firefox users out there this might come as a bit of a shock – but did you know that for quite sometime Firefox is being silently blocked across thousands of sites !! This is an act of direct retaliation by a group of site owners, developers & webmasters who’s main objection is that Firefox actively endorses Adblock Plus, a plug-in that enables users to filter out any form of advertisements from a site.

Apparently most of these sites offer free quality content and in turn earn revenue by displaying advertisements. Since with Adblock Plus active, you get to see only the content (minus the ads), you’re “stealing” the content and stripping the site owners of their rightful income ! Ha ! They’ve even erected a site named Why FireFox is Blocked, where they’ve gone to the extent of saying …

While blanket ad blocking in general is still theft, the real problem is Ad Block Plus’s unwillingness to allow individual site owners the freedom to block people using their plug-in. Blocking FireFox is the only alternative. Demographics have shown that not only are FireFox users a somewhat small percentage of the internet, they actually are even smaller in terms of online spending, therefore blocking FireFox seems to have only minimal financial drawbacks, whereas ending resource theft has tremendous financial rewards for honest, hard-working website owners and developers.

Various BrowsersThis brings us to the big question – why Firefox ? As Abhijit Nadgouda at iface thoughts has pointed out, every major browser has some sort of “mechanism, extension, plugin or other ways for blocking advertisements.” Apart from that there are also the text-based browsers like Lynx and Elinks which filter out any sort of graphics on a site and show you pure text. If we follow their reasoning, then browsers in themselves should be banished out of existence. No browsers, no visitors, no need for websites. Kind of self-defeating, isn’t it ?

Their reasoning seems to have risen out of a declaration made by Judge Posner, elucidating the holdings of WGN v. United Video (1982) among others that goes like …

[Commercial-skipping] amounted to creating an unauthorized derivative work, namely a commercial-free copy that would reduce the copyright owner’s income from his original program, since “free” television programs are financed by the purchase of commercials by advertisers.

If we can apply the same line of thought to the remote controls of televisions which allow us to flick channels and avoid commercials any time, they should be banned too ! Eh ?

The need for advertisements is understandable but not the desperation behind forcing visitors to view / click ads. Most of the better sites serve ads in an unobtrusive way (e.g. contextual ads) – where visitors experience a rich mix of the best of both the content and advertisement worlds.

Moreover, it’s not that Adblock isn’t configurable. All it takes is a single mouse-click to disable it for a particular site. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve seen users turning off Adblock on sites which deliver truly great content as a way of supporting the site. In fact, tools like Adblock Plus wouldn’t have been necessary at all, hadn’t it been for the badly-coded advertisement-laden sites where the only block of information is stuck between a pageful of advertisements on free iPods and generic Viagra !

Care for a laugh? The blockage mechanism that the “Block Firefox Group” is employing relies solely on User Agent (UA) reporting services of a browser. The code that they’re integrating into their pages denies requests to any browser that identifies itself as “Firefox”. I don’t see this posing as a big problem for the computer savvy users though. There are ‘n’ number of ways to curb this. For example, there exists a Firefox plug-in called User Agent Switcher, which once again with a single mouse-click enables you to make your copy of Firefox identify itself as any other standard browser in the market. So much for their brilliant idea !

As a conclusion, I’ll say that this doesn’t seem to me anything more than a banal & lame attempt by a group of Firefox haters to spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) regarding this widely-loved browser. Or perhaps its a late retaliation against IE blocking mechanisms that have been in existence for ages. What I’m sure of is that the blockage of advertisements is not the main issue here. If there’s any concrete issue behind this, it’s the gradual but steady increase in Firefox’s market share.

What say you ?

Source(s):

  1. Guardian Unlimited, Ad blocking is theft, so block Firefox instead
  2. iface thoughts, How Firefox Is The Culprit

Firefox: If you can’t beat it, block it !

Firefox Blocked on SitesFor all the ardent Firefox users out there this might come as a bit of a shock – but did you know that for quite sometime Firefox is being silently blocked across thousands of sites !! This is an act of direct retaliation by a group of site owners, developers & webmasters who’s main objection is that Firefox actively endorses Adblock Plus, a plug-in that enables users to filter out any form of advertisements from a site.

Apparently most of these sites offer free quality content and in turn earn revenue by displaying advertisements. Since with Adblock Plus active, you get to see only the content (minus the ads), you’re “stealing” the content and stripping the site owners of their rightful income ! Ha ! They’ve even erected a site named Why FireFox is Blocked, where they’ve gone to the extent of saying …

While blanket ad blocking in general is still theft, the real problem is Ad Block Plus’s unwillingness to allow individual site owners the freedom to block people using their plug-in. Blocking FireFox is the only alternative. Demographics have shown that not only are FireFox users a somewhat small percentage of the internet, they actually are even smaller in terms of online spending, therefore blocking FireFox seems to have only minimal financial drawbacks, whereas ending resource theft has tremendous financial rewards for honest, hard-working website owners and developers.

Various BrowsersThis brings us to the big question – why Firefox ? As Abhijit Nadgouda at iface thoughts has pointed out, every major browser has some sort of “mechanism, extension, plugin or other ways for blocking advertisements.” Apart from that there are also the text-based browsers like Lynx and Elinks which filter out any sort of graphics on a site and show you pure text. If we follow their reasoning, then browsers in themselves should be banished out of existence. No browsers, no visitors, no need for websites. Kind of self-defeating, isn’t it ?

Their reasoning seems to have risen out of a declaration made by Judge Posner, elucidating the holdings of WGN v. United Video (1982) among others that goes like …

[Commercial-skipping] amounted to creating an unauthorized derivative work, namely a commercial-free copy that would reduce the copyright owner’s income from his original program, since “free” television programs are financed by the purchase of commercials by advertisers.

If we can apply the same line of thought to the remote controls of televisions which allow us to flick channels and avoid commercials any time, they should be banned too ! Eh ?

The need for advertisements is understandable but not the desperation behind forcing visitors to view / click ads. Most of the better sites serve ads in an unobtrusive way (e.g. contextual ads) – where visitors experience a rich mix of the best of both the content and advertisement worlds.

Moreover, it’s not that Adblock isn’t configurable. All it takes is a single mouse-click to disable it for a particular site. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve seen users turning off Adblock on sites which deliver truly great content as a way of supporting the site. In fact, tools like Adblock Plus wouldn’t have been necessary at all, hadn’t it been for the badly-coded advertisement-laden sites where the only block of information is stuck between a pageful of advertisements on free iPods and generic Viagra !

Care for a laugh? The blockage mechanism that the “Block Firefox Group” is employing relies solely on User Agent (UA) reporting services of a browser. The code that they’re integrating into their pages denies requests to any browser that identifies itself as “Firefox”. I don’t see this posing as a big problem for the computer savvy users though. There are ‘n’ number of ways to curb this. For example, there exists a Firefox plug-in called User Agent Switcher, which once again with a single mouse-click enables you to make your copy of Firefox identify itself as any other standard browser in the market. So much for their brilliant idea !

As a conclusion, I’ll say that this doesn’t seem to me anything more than a banal & lame attempt by a group of Firefox haters to spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) regarding this widely-loved browser. Or perhaps its a late retaliation against IE blocking mechanisms that have been in existence for ages. What I’m sure of is that the blockage of advertisements is not the main issue here. If there’s any concrete issue behind this, it’s the gradual but steady increase in Firefox’s market share.

What say you ?

Source(s):

  1. Guardian Unlimited, Ad blocking is theft, so block Firefox instead
  2. iface thoughts, How Firefox Is The Culprit

OpenSearchFox: A Firefox extension to create OpenSearch Plug-ins in a single click

OpenSearchFox LogoHere’s a short but sweet one. If you’re daunted by the task of creating OpenSearch plug-ins for your site or any of your favourite sites, fear no more. OpenSearchFox is a cool new Firefox extension that can create such plug-ins for you with a single click.

Is it really that simple?

Absolutely so. All you need to do is install the extension and then browse to the site you want to create the search plug-in for. Once you’re at the site, locate the Search Box and right-click on it. You’ll notice a new item named “Add OpenSearch plugin” in your menu. The item is accompanied by a blue magnifying glass icon to help you easily spot it. Just click on that and you’re done.

Only intermediary step involves a single dialog box which asks you to name the plugin whatever you feel like. The plug-in is created and added to your search engine list directly along with the fav-icon for the site. If the site lacks a fav-icon, you can always use one of your own through the same dialog box where you name the plugin.

Give it a try and see for yourself…

Those who still want to learn the inner workings of OpenSearch plug-ins and create one programmatically, here are a couple of resources for you:

Firefox OpenSearch Plug-in Samples for a wide variety of sites

OpenSearch LogoFollowing the tutorial(s) I posted on creating OpenSearch plug-ins for Firefox that can search Invision Power Board based forums & WordPress blogs, I received quite a few requests for help in creating such plug-ins for a wide variety of blogs/CMS/sites.

To make the job easier for all of you, I decided to create a couple of sample plug-ins, which I’ll list here as zip files. The zip will contain…

  • An XML file – which contains the actual plug-in code
  • A sample HTML file, which shows how to display a plug-in installation link on your site, as well as how to enable auto-discovery of the same by Firefox & IE7

Simply go through those files and replace the appropriate fields. In most cases, all you’ll need to modify is the actual URL to your site and the Author details. While setting up the plug-in at your site, feel free to put your name as the author’s name in it. No credits are required 🙂

I’ll try to cover as much ground as possible and update this list frequently. At the moment, the list isn’t so “wide” as I claimed in the title 😀 and if you don’t find a suitable plug-in here, check back at a later point of time, or just drop me a line at:

My email address

To start with, I’ll list the plug-ins I’ve received the maximum number of requests for…

Plug-ins List

Content Management Systems

  1. Mambo CMS based Sites
  2. Joomla CMS based Sites

Bulletin Board Systems

  1. Invision Power Board based Forums

Blog Softwares

  1. WordPress based Blogs

Miscellaneous Sites

  1. iPodNova Torrent Search
  2. BlogSpot based Blogs
  3. PsyDB – Psychedelic Trance Database

Render Firefox 2 Tabs according to your installed OS Theme

An article at CyberNet shows you a cool trick to make Firefox 2 render the Tabs according to the installed theme of your OS. Normally Firefox tabs are rendered same across all OS-es, be it Windows, Linux or Mac and are kind of bland if you consider the visual aspect. Those who like fancy graphics / themes might find this particularly unappealing…

Firefox Tabs Rendered by the browser

Say for instance, in Windows Vista when you hover the mouse cursor over buttons & other objects, they acquire a glassy appearance with a faint blue glow. This trick will make Firefox to render the tabs exactly like your OS does for other applications.

This involves a simple 2 step process…

  1. Install the Stylish extension, which allows you to use custom stylesheets to render the XUL components of Firefox as well as do a self-customised complete make-over of any website you’re visiting.
  2. Next use the style sheet found here along with Stylish and enable the style (simply copy & paste the code in the style sheet into Stylish, give the new style a name & enable it).Creating a new style in Stylish

That’s it !! Your tabs will now look like this (I’m using XP) …

Firefox Tabs Rendered by the OS

Anytime you feel like switching back to the Firefox’s original style, simply open the Style Manager of Stylish and disable the style.

Incidentally, you should check out the styles gallery at UserStyles.Org – they’ve got hundreds of thousands of cool styles listed there with which you can do a complete makeover of most of the popular websites (e.g. Gmail, Orkut, Hotmail, Yahoo, MySpace etc.)

On Creating an OpenSearch Plug-in for WordPress (for Firefox & IE7)

In my earlier tutorial titled Creating OpenSearch Plugins for Firefox (adds to the QuickSearch bar) I taught you how to write a basic OpenSearch XML format plug-in that can be used with both Firefox 2.x and IE7. The demonstrated example consisted of creating a plug-in that searches through Invision Power Boards.

As an afterthought, I felt like coming up with another quick tutorial on creating the same for WordPress. I won’t spend any time on explaining the components of the plug-in and hence you’re advised to go through the tutorial first before continuing with this. This post is merely an example of how-to modify the code shown earlier on to perform searches on WordPress.

If you ever notice the URL in the address bar when you perform searches using the internal search engine of WordPress, you’ll find the the index.php page is being called along with a variable called “s“, which contains the keywords. Say for instance, you are searching for the term “Firefox” .. the syntax will be …

http://www.domain.com/index.php?s=Firefox

If you refer to the tutorial you’ll see that we can pass on variable-value combinations to a URL using the Param tags. That’s the only parameter you need to pass for WordPress searches. I’ll cite the XML code of my site’s plug-in as an example. It should be self-explanatory.


	ChaosLab
	Chaos Laboratory: Blog Search
	miCRoSCoPiC^eaRthLinG
	microscopic.earthling@gmail.com
	open
	false
	en-us
	UTF-8
	UTF-8
	
	http://www.chaos-laboratory.com/favicon.ico
	
		
	
	http://www.chaos-laboratory.com/index.php

Notice, how I’m passing the keywords in the form of the dynamic variable {searchTerms}.

Any questions ??

Tutorial: Creating OpenSearch Plugins for Firefox (adds to the QuickSearch bar)

A brief introduction

This tutorial will attempt to explain in a simple manner how to create an OpenSearch plug-in for Firefox. These plug-ins appear in a drop-down menu in the Firefox Quick-Search bar (located right of the URL/Address bar) and help you perform quick searches across various search engines without having to visit the search page first. Pretty neat, eh?

These search plug-ins were in existence (for Firefox) for a long time. But only with the introduction of Firefox 2.0, the OpenSearch standards have been adopted.

OpenSearch is a collection of simple formats for the sharing of search results.

The OpenSearch description document format can be used to describe a search engine so that it can be used by search client applications.

The OpenSearch response elements can be used to extend existing syndication formats, such as RSS and Atom, with the extra metadata needed to return search results.

The example I’m going to demonstrate searches Invision Power Board (Bulletin Board System). You can make this plug-in perform searches on virtually any other Blogs / Bulletin Board / Content Management System / Search Engine with just some minor modifications in the way the search URL (along with keywords) is sent to the search engine. Here’s a screen-shot of two such plug-ins I’ve created for Astahost & Trap17 forums powered by IPB (Invision Power Board).

OpenSearch Plug-ins Dropdown List

Advantages

There are quite a few advantages of shifting to the new OpenSearch format for these plug-ins, namely …

  • OpenSearch plug-ins are universally supported across many browsers & search clients. Specially worth a mention here are Firefox and IE7 !!
  • OpenSearch supports Autodiscovery of the plug-in, which means you don’t really have to instruct the user to click on a link on your site to install the plug-in. The search client can auto-discover the plug-in script based on a link provided between the HEAD tags of the page.If you wish to, the old-school click & install method can still be implemented.
  • A lot of recent Blogs / CMS / BBS etc. softwares have started supporting the OpenSearch API, which provides a flexible common standard for XML based searches. A list of such software can be found here.

Without further ado, lets get down to business …

The actual plug-in

The OpenSearch plug-ins consist of a single XML file called the OpenSearch Description File. It follows a very simple syntax as shown below:


	engineName
	engineDescription
	inputEncoding
	outputEncoding
	
	
		
		
	
	searchFormURL

Most of the tags here need to be customised according to the Search Engine you’re going to use with the plug-in. Here’s what you need to modify here.

engineName

engineName enclosed within the ShortName tags specifies the name of the Search Engine as it’ll show up in the dropdown list. Replace this with the name of your Search Engine.

engineDescription

engineDescription enclosed within the Description tags shows up as a brief description of the Search Engine. Replace this with a suitable description.

inputEncoding

inputEncoding enclosed within the InputEncoding tags declares the encoding to use for search string / keywords you provide for a search. The search string is encoded in this format prior to sending to the Search Engine. Your best best is to use UTF-8 here to declare it as Unicoded text that’ll cover the whole Unicode Character Set.

outputEncoding

outputEncoding, enclosed within the OutputEncoding tags acts similar to InputEncoding and declares the character set to be used for producing the search results output. Even here the best used option is UTF-8.

Image

Enclosed within the Image tags, this specifies the image / icon to be used for the Search Engine. This icon turns up next to the search engine name in the dropdown list and also shows up to the left of the quick-search bar. The image is usually in a 16 x 16 pixels format.

The image data can be provided in two formats:

  1. As a direct URL link to the location of the image file (gif/jpg/png etc.)
  2. As base64 encoded data which can be embedded in the plug-in directly. This I believe, is a more elegant way of doing it. However, I couldn’t make it work properly for me. The image simply refused to turn up and hence I’d to resort to method 1.There’s a very good tool at URI Kitchen that encodes any uploaded image in base64 format. The encoded data can then be directly embedded in the plug-in.

Url

Enclosed within the Url tags, this provides the actual location of the Search Engine page. The method attribute defines whether to use GET or POST for fetching the data, while the template attribute points to the location of the search query page. NOTE, that IE7 doesn’t support the POST method and hence to make your plug-in compatible with both IE7 and Firefox, you should ideally use GET here.

Param

Further nested within the Url tags lie a series of Param tags which have two attributes – a name and a value. These act as parameters which are passed to the search engine while performing a query. This too, isn’t supported in IE7. However, you can use a dynamic variable called {searchTerms} to pass on keywords.

Say for instance, I’m searching Invision Power Board based forums. The standard search string in IP takes the format,

http://www.domain.com/index.php?act=Search&CODE=show&searchid=xxx&search_in=posts&result_type=topics&highlite=keywords

If you study the URL carefully, you’ll notice that there are a couple of variables like act, CODE etc. which appear every time along with same values. You can use Param tags to define key-value pairs for these variables, which will then be passed onto the Search Engine during a query.

The actual search keywords (as mentioned before) are available through a variable called {searchTerms}. IPB supports a variable called keywords in the search string and hence you can define a key-value pair like…


… to pass the keywords. Here’s a full working example of the plug-in I created for Astahost forums…


	AstaHost
	AstaHost: Search the Forums
	miCRoSCoPiC^eaRthLinG
	microscopic.earthling@gmail.com
	open
	false
	en-us
	UTF-8


UTF-8 

	http://plugins.astahost.com/splugins/astahost.gif
	





 
	
http://www.astahost.com/index.php

Here you’ll notice several other tags like Developer, Contact, SyndicationRight, AdultContent etc. which I haven’t discussed in this article. A detailed outline of all the OpenSearch tags can be found at: OpenSearch Description Elements.

Autodiscovery

If you recall I’d discussed a feature called Autodiscovery earlier on. This helps search clients automatically discover a plug-in embedded in your page. The process is quite simple. All you’ve to do is include a special LINK statement in the HEAD part of your page.

  

You simply need to modify the title and the href link to the actual plug-in file.When you visit a site with the plug-ins set to be auto-discovered, here’s how the drop-down menu in the quick-search box will look like…

OpenSearch Plug-in Autodiscovery Screenshot

Adding the plug-in Programmatically

You can also include the plug-in on your page in a click-and-install manner. The process has been simplified. All you need to do is provide a link to install the plug-in on your page and in the link, add the window.external.AddSearchProvider() JavaScript statement. Example is shown below.


	Link Text

Clicking on this link will cause Firefox to pop-up a dialog box asking the visitor for a confirmation of plug-in installation. Example of the dialog box …

OpenSearch Plug-in Click & Install Screenshot

Working examples can be found at the Astahost Plug-ins Page.

Any questions / confusions ?? Feel free to leave a comment and I’ll make sure to get back to you.