Abine has posted their own view of the events, which I would recommend as a follow up read to this post. I sort of agree with what they say there, but don’t take this as an endorsement.
The link is at the bottom of this post.
A few days ago my Firefox updated an extension that has been a useful favorite for quite a while, TACO. What I saw when it was finished surprised me and made me upset.
What The What?!
You see, TACO has always been a quiet, understated background application. It sits there, humming softly in the dark keeping my advertising opt-out cookies up to date. It has no UI, it has no configuration, it just works.
This new TACO though, was flashy, shiny and filled with buttons and features. It even had a built in app store!
I Kid You Not
I freaked out, I moved quickly and I removed TACO 3.0. I checked the page on Mozilla.org and found that others were not happy with the new TACO either. It had become a commercial affair by the folks at Abine. More on them later.
So what’s a geek to do? Why, fork it of course. I hopped online and grabbed TACO 2.0, unpacked it and took a look. This classic version didn’t have much to it, and what’s more it was licensed under the Apache 2.0 License. Fork’s Away!
I quickly set up my git repo, made some slight changes and let people know about my new Beef Taco in a review on the old TACO 2.0 page.
“Beef Taco”, Get It?
There, crisis averted. I have a new project to keep track of, but maybe this will help out anyone else who cringes at 3.0.
Later that evening I got an email from Rob Shavell, one of the founders of Abine. I expected an uncomfortable reply from Abine, if they noticed me at all, but Rob was totally cool. He even got my joke with the name of the new extension.
Hello. I have to compliment you on the beef taco name. I’m personally apologizing for our upgrade that you, judging by your actions, didn’t want / need. Even though we’re trying to offer the same type of downgrade, I’m sure a lot of users will appreciate your fork.
That’s pretty neat, and they are okay with my fork. I suppose maybe I can take some of the support load off of them, so that the paranoids like me will leave them alone.
But it gets better, we traded a few more emails talking about my fork, the new direction of 3.0 and the reaction in general, when he sent me this gem.
4. we’ll send you all new opt-outs we add so you can easily stay in sync..
Are you kidding me? You’re going to help my fork? That is awesome. At that moment Abine won my trust back, completely. These guys seem to really be trying to do something with their startup, but they also care about privacy in general.
Sure enough, I had a list of new opt-out cookies in about an hour. That is how you show you care about your users.
I went back and took another look at 3.0, and while it doesn’t appeal to me as a proficient user, there are a lot of features in there that are pretty cool, and you can tell they put a lot of work into it.
Stuff like telling me how many data breach incidents an advertiser has had, or the sort of “complete threat panel” thing. That’s some cool stuff.
Back Off Microsoft!
Detailed Privacy Panel – Pretty Cool
I think that TACO 3.0 is only going to get better, and is going to have real appeal to novice users.
Who knows, it may even be pressed back into service in my browser someday. Until then, I’ll maintain Beef Taco, with a little less beef now then before.
Some Links For You
So this is a new one. I left my laptop alone with two Gmail’s and Google Reader open in Firefox. When I came back they had locked up, as Firefox sometimes does.
I restarted Firefox (kill -9 ftw!) and when I did Google had a quick humanity test for me.
I assume that my Firefox was spamming them with requests while it was locked up, so this isn’t “weird” per-say, just new to me. Thought I’d share!
Need to get the exact time that you visited a page in Firefox? I couldn’t find an easy way to look this up in the History interface, or anywhere else for that matter. I did however know that Firefox stores this kind of thing in sqlite3 databases. Here’s how I got what I needed.
First you have to find the sqlite databases, I’m on Linux so that would be in my home directory. The database you want is places.sqlite. Crack that open in sqlite3. Your command will differ as this is based on your profile name, mine is “gmail” so I ended up with g69ap5lc.gmail.
$ sqlite3 ~/.mozilla/firefox/g69ap5lc.gmail/places.sqlite
Be aware you have to shut down the Firefox instance first, because it locks the file. Make sure your privacy settings won’t erase it all when you shut it down! I had to change mine to “Remember history” first.
Next you need to find and grab the timestamp. This can be a chore if you don’t have the full URL. I was looking for the one from spiffie.org below.
sqlite>select * from moz_places;
1366|http://spiffie.org/kits/usb7/driver_linux.shtml|Linux USB7 Driver|gro.eiffips.|1|0|0||100|1261169238197827
The column we are interested in is last_visit_date which is 1261169238197827 in our case. You can also list all the recent visits from the moz_historyvisits table with the id column.
sqlite> select * from moz_historyvisits where place_id = '1366';
Now we need to convert that timestamp into something we can read (unless you are a super UNIX geek and can read timestamps). This instance is too precise for the date command, so lop off the first 10 digits and use that, so in the example we use 1261169238.
$ date -d @1261169238
Fri Dec 18 14:47:18 CST 2009
Not short and sweet, but it works.
I’m a fan of portable applications. One of my professors used portable Firefox in class once, and now I’m hooked. It’s so handy to have every program I need right at my fingertips on any (windows) machine I use. So what apps are on my 1Gb disk’s right now?
This little system-tray launcher is the backbone of any good USB apps setup. Easy to configure and handy to have around.
Eclipse and JDK 1.5
Thats right, I’ve got a Java compiler wherever I go. I haven’t had any problems with this yet, and since it’s got the JRE in there too, Eclipse can run anywhere. This was a little more trouble to install than most, but really not all that bad. Instructions.
Nothing better than having all your extensions with you, and all you cache and history to yourself. Thats really all there is to say. If there is one app that I use the most on USB, it’s Firefox
This is the terminal application to use on Windows. It’s easy to use, small, portable, and reliable. I use it almost every day to get onto Vulcan or my home machines.
This falls into the same category as PuTTY. It’s a great all-around file transfer client with secure protocols built in. Great application.
For a long time I was looking for a simple text editor that had syntax highlighting, but was light and easy. I tried cream for a time then I found Notepad++. It works quite well.
For those times when you can’t get something done over SSH in the terminal, I use RealVNC to get to my desktop and take care of it.
Take an FTP server with you wherever you go. Not useful very often, but when it is, it’s great.
Keep It Simple, Keep It Safe. This is a good java password manager. It’s java, thus cross-platform, which is key for a password safe.
This one is a bit shady. I bet you didn’t know that Adobe made a portable Photoshop CS. They don’t.
Gaim is an instant message client, you can do AIM, MSN, Jabber, even IRC.
The best RSS reader I’ve ever found. Plus it’s java, so with some tweaked scripts this can run on linux and windows, all of the USB stick.
Foxit PDF Reader
I hate Acrobat Reader with a passion. Foxit is light and free.
In addition to my standard programs I have a few simple batch files I made to ease the use of my USB apps. These are simple one-liners, but they are handy to have around. First among them is my Explore_USB.bat. I got tired of all the effort involved in opening an explorer window on my drive. Since I have a my portable apps separated from the rest of the drive I used .. to jump to my drive root. This one comes into use most of all the batch files.
@start explorer ..
This one is another obvious one, launch a “dos” command window without getting the start panel involved. Like I said, these are really simple shortcut files.
This is a nice, full distribution that uses Knoppix to pack a ton of apps into a 50 meg disc. I use the “embedded” version which comes with qemu binaries for windows and linux. No matter where I am I have a linux machine. As long as its not on a mac I guess. This has it’s own 1 gig stick, lots of /home space.
I know, I know, it’s been done to death. Every tech blog on earth has a post with their favourite Firefox plugins. But I want to stick these out here, just so I feel like I’m part of the cool kids. So here are the best plugins I use, in no real order.
Web Developer Toolbar
If you do anything with web development this is the bar to have. It is an unstopable juggernaut of features. You honestly just have to install it and go through every menu playing with what it can do. Amazing.
It’s not often I say I’m jealous of something on a macintosh, but this time I think I’ll do it. The Safari browser has a really cool feature in that it’s address bar is also it’s progress bar. A big honkin progress bar. Fission is a nice copy of that functionality and one of my fave items, even though it breaks a few themes.
Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer
Can you say awesome? Because you’ll need that word to describe the coolness it feels with having the same, current bookmarks at home, work and on any machine you want. I even have it on my portable firefox so that I can take my bookmarks with me anywhere. Despite the mild security issue, it’s still a great extension.
Industrial stength ad-removal for free. You have to love it and I do. If you get one extension on your install, get this one. It makes the internet less annoying.
Adblock Filterset G. Updater
This is the perfect complement to Adblock, it arms and reloads Adblock with a great set of filters for smacking down ads.
This isn’t one you hear about usually, but it can be handy for tab junkies. I like having lots of tabs and this provides an easy way to get to the right one quickly. It creates little screenshots of each tab and lets you click on the one you want to go to. Very cool.
This is really a great extension. It lets you have a cross-platform fully functional FTP client with the same look and feel on any machine. Extremely useable, it’s replaced gFTP and FileZilla in my life. I still use WinSCP for SSH connections though.
This is a great plugin that adds a control bar for lots of players. I use it with Amarok and foobar2k. Very handy plugin, no more popping open another window just to change songs.
While this extension takes some getting used to, I find it really handy. You can widen, thin, clear, remove and more any element you want with a keypress. Very hip.
This color picker used to be one of my top tools, then it stopped working in Linux. I’ve tried the directions on the extension homepage, but to no avail. Still use this at work on my Windows machine though.
DownThemAll! is a great multi-part file downloader/accelerator that can scrape entire pages. Very intelligent and easy to use.
Google Notebook is one of Google Labs beta services. A handy notebook for saving interesting tidbits you find across the net, this plugin lets you note faster and easier.
New Tab Homepage
New Tab Homepage does exactly what it claims. When you open a new tab, it is set to your homepage, as opposed to the default empty page. Handy for those who keep a homepage of commonly used links.
This little extension will constantly check your gmail account(s) and keep you up to date on their status. Very handy.
Thats all I’ve got for now, though I’ll add to this list as I discover great new extensions.