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

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:


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:


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 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

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.

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

you find this bug:

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 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


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.

Too Many Life Events

The other day I logged into IBM’s benefits system and received the message “You have too many life events.” I knew what the problem was – it couldn’t process both next year’s enrollment and my return from leave of absence (more on that later), but those words really stuck with me.

I’m currently reading the book “When Organizing Isn’t Enough: SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life” by Julie Morgenstern. One of the concepts that she talks about in the book is that people can have trouble moving on to new things in their life because the tendency is to hold on to the old and be dragged down by it. It’s not just about stuff – it’s about time, activities, projects and habits.

The internet has really perpetuated this problem. If you were to search for me on Google, you would find references to Microformats, Firefox in the Enterprise, various Firefox Add-Ons like Operator and Activities, OS/2 and more. Because of the internet, I am forever tied to these various projects. What I’ve discovered about myself is that I have a tendency to hold on to everything I’ve ever done and feel guilty that I’m not participating in some of the activities that I started. As a result, I have trouble starting and focusing on new things because I feel like I should be maintaining the old. My hope is to use this post to give a life status and quantify what I’m really working on. First lets start with IBM.

As of November 15, I am officially an IBM employee again. I ended my leave of absence two months early. What basically happened is that IBM found a browser related position for me and the economy tanked. In the interest of my family and my future, I thought it was prudent to return to IBM and get a steady paycheck. I’m continuing some of my work on the side, particularly with Brand Thunder and Minggl as long as it continues to not conflict with my work at IBM. I don’t consider my try at consulting a failure – I learned quite a bit about myself and how I work. I think part of the problem in the beginning was that I had expectations that I could find a way to get paid to continue the work I did before as opposed to creating new work. In the end what I realized is that I need to spend some time learning how to market myself and getting a VERY firm financial foundation before I try again. We’ll see how long that takes. Note that Kaply Consulting will continue, and I’ll be at the Add-on-Con in December not necessarily drumming up business but certainly networking.

Given that my job at IBM really has very little to do with what I’ve done before, I’ve realized that it’s time to SHED some of the old things that I’ve been working on. I have enough going on outside of IBM to keep me busy and I will have very little time inside of IBM to maintain those projects. So without further adieu, the list:

Firefox in the Enterprise – I had always believed that I could help to build some momentum behind creating a better story for using Firefox in the enterprise, but I no longer believe that is the case. While I hope that other people take up this banner, without the support of Mozilla in this effort, I’m not sure anything will ever really come of this. Every year or so there seems to be a slight resurgence, but it never goes anywhere. I know there are some companies out there doing work around this like FrontMotion and Novell, but I really believe that someone needs to come behind this effort and really work to increase Firefox enterprise adoption. I’m just not that person. Obviously I’ve created a lot of information and technology around this subject and I will answer questions, but I have no interest in leading this effort anymore.

CCK Wizard – The CCK Wizard was really my first effort in extension development. When IBM was evaluating what was missing for Firefox enterprise adoption this one came up and I did it. Even though there have been a lot of downloads and people are using it, I’ve always been surprised at how many people simply don’t know about it. It’s a great tool if you need to deploy a customized browser for your organization. The greatest thing about the CCK Wizard is that it started me on a road of learning a great deal about customizing Firefox which helped me in future efforts. That being said, within the next week, I will update the CCK Wizard for Firefox 3 on amo and then I will cease work on it. As it relates closely to the enterprise work, it really doesn’t fit in the scope of what I’m working on. I might at least test it with Firefox 3.1, but I’m not making any commitments to that.

Group Policy Support – One of the other areas that was perceived as lacking in Enteprise Firefox was Group Policy support. I was working with Cesar Oliveira from Seneca College on putting something together, but honestly I just didn’t have the time to put into it. I hope he at least got a good grade from the work he did. This effort gave me even more expertise on tweaking and customizing the browser, but in the end its simply not something that I can invest more time into, so I’m not going to be working on it. This is a really interesting concept, though, and hopefully someone in the future will pick it up.

Rebrand – Most people probably don’t even know about this extension, but it was an interesting side project that still gets downloads. I had a request when I was working on the CCK Wizard to remove Firefox branding so I created a wizard that does this. Note this works without modifying the base Firefox install. I’ve since discovered in my work on the Starpulse Browser and the Huffington Post Browser for Brand Thunder that rebranding is more complicated than just an extension, especially on Mac. However, it is possible to completely rebrand Firefox without rebuilding the source and even get your updates from Mozilla. If this is something you want to do, I recommend you contact Brand Thunder or me. We’ll help you make it happen. I’ll be removing the Rebrand extension from amo in a week or so.

Firefox Microformats – Even though I’ve worked in the Mozilla/Firefox space for quite a while, microformats was really my first substantial contribution outside of my OS/2 work. I was excited to be able to do it, and it branched nicely from my work on Operator. I know it’s being used by the Ubiquity folks and that’s pretty cool. Hopefully other extensions will see it as a way to easily integrate microformats with their extension. What I discovered working on microformats is that I had really gotten away from what it means to work on a project with schedules and deadlines. The support in Firefox 3 was good, but it would have been better if I’d paid more attention to the product side of things. From a future perspective, I will continue to own the microformats code and fix bugs as necessary, but I have no plans to enhance the code.

Operator – Deciding what to do with Operator is difficult. It holds a special place for me because it was the first extension I did that kind of became “mainstream.” It has almost 100,000 downloads and still quite a few users. Microsoft even mentions it being inspirational for their microformats work. That being said, I’m going to do a few fixes for Operator, call it 1.0 and then stop development. My primary motivation for ceasing work on Operator is that I simply reached what feels like a dead end to me. Looking at things like openService and Ubiquity commands, I realize that I kind of architected myself in a corner with regards to adding custom functionality. In addition, Operator was really intended to just be an experiment as to how a microformats UI would work in the browser. Hopefully some day a decision will be made on how to do that and Operator type functionality will simply be a part of the browser. I know people still like Operator and what it represents. And I know it has been used recently by some big companies for some interesting things. I plan to integrate at least some of the key functionality with Activities so my microformats work will certainly not go away completely.

Activities for Firefox – In looking at the stats from amo, this one surprised me. While Operator has been downloaded more, Activities has more daily users and more downloads per week. Originally I had done this extension just to show how easily Microsoft’s new Activities functionality could be done in Firefox. What I’ve learned since then is that this extension combined with extensions to openService creates a much better platform for the future than Operator. As such, this extension will be the one extension that I continue to work on. Hopefully the microformats work in Activities will be enough to satisfy folks. Note that Microsoft has renamed this technology to Accelerators – I’m not sure if I will rename the extension.

OS/2 – I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get rid of this one. I’ll continue to do builds as I can, and once I’m in my new office, I’ll setup the build machine to do nightly build again. If there is someone out there that wants to step up and takeover doing official builds, I’d be more than happy to give them the machine to do it with. But I will continue to do this in the foreseeable future.

Dave Ramsey Facebook App – This was basically a learning experience for writing a Facebook application. Enough people have installed it and care about it that this one is staying around.

Everything I’ve worked on (except for the Facebook app) is open source, so if any of this technology interests you, let me know and I’ll show you where the code is.

Look for updates on my SHED progress in the near future, as well as more information about my new job at IBM.