Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Demise of Paisley and Netscape

So Ian Paisley is stepping down as First Minister. I'm actually not sure what to make of this. Once I would have been cock-a-hoop about it, since I've always hated the man. But recently I've grudgingly started to if not respect him then at least appreciate the work he's done and the U-turns he's made to enter into power sharing with Sinn Fein. Whether he's done this for the good of the people of the Province, or for personal power is debatable, and maybe even irrelevant, but he and Martin McGuinness have worked hard together to make the devolved administration work. Indeed, they appear to have such a good personal relationship that they've earned the nickname of the "Chuckle Brothers". I worry about Paisley's successor now. If it's someone who's going to be very hardline, playing up to the DUP's hard core, then I think we'll be in trouble. I think we'll just have to watch this one and wait.

Another recent demise is that of the veteran web browser Netscape. I have many fond memories of Netscape, as its version 2 was my first window on the web, in the last months of my school career. I then used versions 3 and 4.x at University and stuck with it during the Dark Days when IE overtook it in terms of usability and features. Netscape 6, when it finally emerged, was a disaster. In fact, everything after Netscape was acquired by AOL was a bit of a disaster. However, the mess of NS6 did lead me to the Mozilla project, and after I got over my fear of the big banners saying that it was beta software, I downloaded Mozilla 0.7 (Netscape 6 was based on Mozilla 0.6 – that tells you how unready it was) and haven't looked back since. Although Mozilla itself has now abandoned the integrated suite that characterised Netscape 4 in favour of the standalone Firefox, the idea continues in the community maintained SeaMonkey project. So rest in peace Netscape, your legacy lives on.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Goals for 2008

Geek goals, mind. I'm not going all existential on you :-)

While I was at home, without Internet access, I had time to think of things I wanted to do this year. Here's what I came up with.

  1. Compile SeaMonkey. I've used a Mozilla-based browser for years now, and for a long part of that time, I've used nightly builds. These are the result of taking the state of the codebase every night and creating a build out of that. As a result, you're on the bleeding edge, but things often break. This satisfied me for a long time, but you can be even more up to date – pull a copy of the source code, compile and build it yourself. This is the ultimate in currentness!
  2. Build an AJAX "Web 2.0" website. I've had an idea for another geek website for a while now (yes, I know, GBusMaps isn't finished and I've had another idea). I battered this around my head for a bit (and even came up with a database schema which I scribbled down on paper while I was at home), and thought it would be fairly easy. And I thought about doing it the AJAX way (all wooshy, where things happen without having to reload the page). So the idea turned more into an excuse to learn how to make a cross-browser client-side application that could talk to server side web services using XML.
  3. (Maybe) learn a new language. I'm considering Perl, or maybe Python, since it seems to be the new language de jour.

And not two weeks into the year, and I'm already one third the way through my goals. Compiling SeaMonkey from the CVS trunk was actually very straightforward, and I'm typing this entry from my new build. I've even written some scripts to automate the whole procedure and leave me with a normal Windows installer that I can then invoke as usual.

Unfortunately, as I hinted above, things will break on these builds, and not only am I using pre-alpha software but am pulling it at a random time when there's no guarantee that someone won't have checked in something that broke the tree (e.g. in this build, if I middle-click to open a link in a new tab, I just get a bunch of errors thrown at me). But that's not the point. The point is that it's so cool. And also, although I'm unlikely to hack on SeaMonkey myself, it does mean that I can apply patches that haven't made it into the main codebase yet, for testing.

Okay, so maybe I should be thinking about loftier matters at this time of year, but I've never really been one for new year's resolutions, and these projects are all interesting, useful (in a limited way, I admit) and fun.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Presenting WikiSearch

In an attempt to penetrate the mysterious insides of Mozilla and its descendants, I've written a simple extension for SeaMonkey and Firefox which lets you highlight some text on a webpage and search for it using the context menu.

Edit: Fixed incompatibility with ContextSearch extension and bumped version number to 0.3.

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