Operator First Run

One of the problems I've seen consistently with Operator is that people don't realize there are other ways to interact with it besides the toolbar. To solve that problem, I'm creating a first run page for Operator that shows the various interaction methods. Here's what it is going to look like:

Operator First Run
It will be dynamic - that is as you make changes in the dialog, they will happen live in the browser.

What do you think? Is this enough?

Back from the Dead

It's been way too long since I have blogged.

Most of my summer was spent on a cross country road trip which you can read about here. I worked as we traveled which went reasonably well, but didn't leave time for blogging.

The biggest news I have is that I have resumed work on Operator. In particular, I'm fixing bugs, adding a few usability enhancements and adding support for new microformat stuff like the value class/pattern for dates. I'm also considering completely removing the "Actions" toolbar and switching to interacting only with the data. I'm definitely looking for feedback on that one.

If you have anything you wish Operator did, please let me know and I'll see if I can get it in.

Note that Operator is a part of the AMO Contributions program and I'd appreciate any support you can provide. Right now I'm mixing it in with my paid work, but I'd like to spend more time on it.

The bulk of my paid work has been for Brand Thunder. We've been updating our extensions to work properly with Firefox 3.5. There's quite an eclectic mix there, so you'll probably find something that you like.

Going forward I'm going to try to start doing extension related posts, primarily to see if I can drum up some more business. So if by chance you have a question about anything I've done in the past with extensions, or should do in the future, please let me know.

UPDATE: Forgot that I've also proposed a panel for SXSW. Please vote:
Vote for my PanelPicker idea!Love AND Money: Can Fansites Pay the Bills?

Canvas from Brand Thunder

In the description for the Personas Add-on is the following statement:

The Artist in You Should Be Able to Treat the Browser as Your Canvas

With the introduction of Canvas (formerly PhotoFox) from Brand Thunder, you really can treat your Firefox browser as a canvas.

Canvas allows you to use any image from the web or any image on your computer as the background of your browser. It allows you to move it, pin it and tile it to give it exactly the look you want. It even allows a web designer to specify exactly how they want an image to appear in Canvas with a few HTML attributes.

Adding an image from the web to Canvas is as easy as right clicking on an image and selecting "Add Image to Canvas." The image is immediately available in your browser. Try it with the image below:

Seamless Photo Texture 01
Seamless texture provided by FreeSeamlessTextures.com

By default, the image is in the upper left and is not tiled. This image would look much better tiled so click the Manage button to tile it, move it around, or change the menu and background colors. You can also give it a memorable name.

We said that by default Canvas does not tile the image and it puts it in the upper left. You might have an image that you want to make available for use as a background, but you want to designate how it appears in the users browser. You can do this by adding custom attributes to the image that allow Canvas to set the defaults for the image. Here's an example:

Cliffs

If you right click on this image, you'll see "Add 'Cliffs' to Canvas" instead of "Add Image to Canvas." After the image is added, it is aligned to the right and has a background color. You'll also notice that the image that was added is bigger than the preview image. This is because you can specify the actual image you want to be used in the browser separate from the image the user clicks on. (Note this feature can be used to trick you into using possibly inappropriate images, so just be aware of that). Here's the HTML from the example above:


Cliffs

The attributes map directly to the CSS attributes for the image, so you just set them to those values. You can also specify "menuColor" if your image needs a custom color for the menus.

We know this is a very nonstandard way to accomplish this, but we wanted something simple that anyone could use on their website. We'll be improving on this process in the future.

Canvas also supports Personas. If you go to getpersonas.com and right click on any image, you can add the Persona to Canvas. Note we do things a little different: we do not use the status bar image and we use the background color as the color of the status bar. We automatically determine a color for the status bar that works on that color. We also don't change the title bar color on Macs.

You may wonder why we added that feature. We worked very hard to support coexistence with Personas and I think we did a pretty good job. You can switch back and forth between Personas and Canvas. In the end we determined that it would be better for the user if they had one place where they could go to access all of their browser customizations.

Now that you have all these images added to your browser, how do you switch between them? The My Pix button. Clicking My Pix will display a list of all the images you've added to Canvas so you can quickly switch between them.

We think that Canvas opens up a whole new way to customize your browser and we have lots more ideas that we're excited to bring to the table. Keep watching this space. And download it here.

Note: Canvas from Brand Thunder includes the Surf Canyon extension. It also changes the default search engine to Yahoo! and adds search to new tab windows. We do this so that we can keep our extensions free. Obviously we'd love for you to use Yahoo!, but if you don't want to, feel free to change it back. We also can give you info on removing the tab search. Just let us know at getsatisfaction.com.

Mozilla No Longer Allows Firefox Community Editions?

It looks like Mozilla has disallowed Firefox Community Editions. There has been no official announcement of this change (that I could find) or any new policy.

http://www.mozilla.org/foundation/trademarks/community-edition-policy.html

is now a 404. If you look at the document history:

http://bonsai-www.mozilla.org/cvslog.cgi?file=mozilla-org/html/foundation/trademarks/community-edition-policy.html&rev=&root=/www/

you find this bug:

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=474865

where Catherine Brady says:

"Community Editions are no longer authorized." She also states that a new policy would be available at the end of February. It's now the beginning of April.

Any details Mozilla?

I hope they've talked to folks like FrontMotion...

Life Update

Haven't posted in a while, thought I would give some updates.

I just finished updating my Firefox Activities extension to work with Firefox 3.1/3.5. It has the much requested feature of opening new links in tabs. It also has custom code in it to modify the ieaddons.com site to work with Firefox. You can hopefully get it here soon. You'll know it is the new version when it says 0.7.4.

Brand Thunder has been releasing quite a few Booms lately. You can check them out at the gallery or on amo. Lots of cool stuff and more stuff coming.

Minggl just released a new version of their tool for managing social networks. It works better than ever. If you want to integrate multiple social networks into Firefox, you should definitely grab it.

On a personal note, We're headed to Dallas this weekend for Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover Event. We're volunteering for the ninth time.

And if you want a different view of the economy, be sure to check out the Town Hall for Hope.

I Couldn't Stay Away From the CCK

So it just so happens that some of the work I'm doing before I leave IBM involves the CCK, so I ended up working on it and fixing some bugs. In addition, a company asked for a feature that was pretty easy to implement. So here for your testing pleasure is:

CCK Wizard version 1.2.5

Here's a summary of what's changed:

  • Dropped support for Firefox 2
  • Added support for specifying sites where cookies are always allowed
  • Added support for specifying sites to deny popups/installs/cookies
  • Rewrote CCKService XPCOM Component to be a little cleaner
  • Fixed problem where sometimes a created CCK wouldn't install (ZIP path problem)
  • Fixed problem where sometimes bookmarks weren't created on first load
  • Fixed problem where bookmarks weren't created in the same order as specified in the CCK Wizard
  • Made the additional help menu look better on Mac

Enjoy!

Brand Thunder Boom!

In my work with Brand Thunder, one of the things we've struggled with is bundling an extension and theme together as one package. To accomplish this, we had created an extension that installs a theme at startup. This worked, but created some confusion when trying to uninstall. We finally have a solution to this - it's called the Brand Thunder Boom!

Brand Thunder Booms are like Personas on steroids. Booms don't just change a background image; they provide lightweight theming that can change background images, colors, navigation buttons and even tabs. They can also add toolbars with custom navigation and widgets for a particular brand as well as sidebars for things like videos or news feeds.

Booms also support dynamic switching. So if you have five booms installed, you can move between them without restarting your browser.

We have four booms available right now in the gallery with more to come. And if you want to extend YOUR brand to the browser, contact Brand Thunder.

P.O.D. Boom Music Video

Seven Things

I never got tagged with the Seven Things meme, but it sounded like fun. Here goes:

  1. I'm a Dave Ramsey Certified Counselor. I facilitate Financial Peace University at my church and I've volunteered at seven Total Money Makeover Live Events (eight after this weekend).
  2. I'm a published author - IBM's Official OS/2 Warp FAQs. It was translated into Russian and Chinese.
  3. I played football in high school. OK, I practiced football. But I was on the team.
  4. I'm a big U2 fan. I used to have a huge collection but I've slimmed down over the years. I've seen them in concert 12 times, including seven just on the PopMart tour. Two of those were in Dublin, Ireland.
  5. I have been involved with web browsers since 1996 and the Mozilla project since its inception. I'm one of the few people that has been working on the Mozilla project since its inception and and has never been employed by Netscape or Mozilla.
  6. I went to Southern Methodist University. Their claim to fame is that they were one of the few colleges to suffer the NCAA Death Penalty. I went to a soccer homecoming game and I was there for their first win after fielding a team in 1989. I also had an apartment that was actually on sorority row. Unfortunately it's a parking garage now.
  7. I have been an employee of IBM (co-op, full time or leave of absence) since June of 1989. I didn't even interview with any other company out of college. That is until the end of February. When my layoff is final. Long live Kaply Consulting.

I got tagged for a similar meme on Facebook, so check there in a few days if you want to learn way too much about me.