Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology


Abduction! (Save As Image) mod for SeaMonkey

This is the support page for my modified packages of Abduction! (the successor to Save As Image). These versions are simply modified to install and (hopefully) work under SeaMonkey. I'm afraid I can't provide much functional support, but if you find something which doesn't work, I'm happy to look at the latest official build from AMO and see about updating my meager modifications as time permits.


BetterPrivacy Mod for SeaMonkey

BetterPrivacyNettiCat has graciously granted me permission to modify (slightly) his BetterPrivacy extension to allow for installation and use under SeaMonkey. The current version (1.68.m, as of the date of this post) should install under SeaMonkey 2.0a1 and above.

For those not familiar with this extension, it goes beyond the built-in sanitizing functionality of Firefox and SeaMonkey to include clearing the Flash cookies, which may be stored for an otherwise indefinite period of time. For more on the actual feature set of BetterPrivacy, I would suggest reading the information available on the official home.


Adjusting the Lightword theme for WordPress

I got a report today from a long time friend and colleague about some difficulty he was having with my blog. It seems that his view of the pages were lacking the date "tabs" to the left of the content column. He quickly confirmed that when I sent him a snippet of a screenshot (quick shout out to M. Evans, the author of Abduction!, which is an absolutely fantastic tool for capturing all or portions of browser content).


Random thoughts on Thunderbird’s current state

Well, like the Mozilla Suite before it, Thunderbird seems to have been given the Boot by MSF. This is hardly surprising for a group which single-handedly (single-mindedly?) decided that "nobody wants an internet suite anymore; people only want separate web browsers and email clients." Right...


Warpstock 2012, Portland Oregon, USA

Embassy Suites Portland Airport

Well, after another round of considerations and deliberations, the Warpstock Board of Directors finally decided upon the Embassy Suites, Portland Airport for the site of this year's OS/2 & eComStation conference, August 17-19.

Full details are available on the Warpstock site, but meanwhile, here are a couple of highlights:


Egad! Why do people do their own web development?

WordPress 3.3 is now GA. Knowing better than to blindly upgrade without at least having a look at what may be not quite ready for prime time (though WP is quite good about reasonable beta cycles and such), I happened over to the WP fora to see what reports had been made (yes, I should have gone to the bugtracker, but I like to get a view from "on the ground," so to speak).


Three good ways to thwart tracking attempts on the net

There is a lot of malicious junk floating about the net.I know; that's not a real surprise. Under normal circumstances, a good (standalone) firewall will keep one reasonably safe from the worst of it. However for those of us who travel, it's a constant challenge to keep up with personal firewall tweaking and such, and still, unless one is really running the kinds of stuff typically found in a UTM (Unified Threat Management) solution, just tweaking some firewall rules just isn't going to cut it.

[Shameless plug: Rosenthal & Rosenthal is an Astaro consultancy. If you know of anyone with a need for a truly solid firewall, email filter/scanner, VPN concentrator, etc., referrals are welcome.]

So, what can one do while traveling? Trust the hotel firewall? I think not. Here are three quick tips to help keep your system clean from would-be spoofers and such:

HOSTS file

A quick edit of your hosts file to loop back known bad sites to localhost ( is a good start. To get started, have a look at the list compiled here. This will make some web pages look rather ugly, as the browser brings up the dreaded "cannot access..." in various iFrames and such, but it will speed browsing and keep that excess junk from cluttering the screen.

Squid proxy settings

Squid is great. You can do a lot of things with Squid, such as block entire IP ranges from getting in (or going out to them), which improves performance considerably. I'll post more on Squid configuration in a later article. For now, suffice it to say that Squid can be used as a pseudo-firewall (you just have to not defeat it by turning it off, but this is true of software firewalls, as well).


Another type of proxy is a privacy screen. Enter Privoxy to the scene. One of the annoying characteristics of most web surfing from modern browsers (and ancient ones) is that we tend to leave behind more than we take with us. To truly surf anonymously requires some type of anonymizer, and Privoxy is a good choice (this way, your travels don't follow you home, when you finally do get behind your warm and cozy hardware firewall). A couple interesting guides for chaining Squid to Privoxy (or vice-versa) may be found here and here. Again, I'll post more on this in a subsequent piece, but for now, suffice it to say that this is an excellent addition to your arsenal.

These are but three fairly quick and simple (well, they can be less complicated than others, at least) ways to browse more safely, and are of particular usefulness when away from home (or the office), where the bastion server is unknown and likely not to be trusted. In time, I'll flesh in more details and tips for configuring each of these solutioins.

Happy browsing.


Ramdom thoughts on the 2011 (and beyond?) Firefox release schedule

As I sit here at Panera Bread, catching up on some tech news, an article caught my eye concerning Mozilla's new approach to updates and, tangentially, the (revised) 2011 Firefox release schedule. This started my own wheels turning, as this has been a bit of an annoyance for me, so I thought I'd just jot down a few ideas...

Concerning Firefox's 2011 release schedule:


We (I say "we" because I do/have contribute(d) from time to time) have some bugs in Bugzilla which date back several years (some to the Netscape Communicator days, inherited by the Mozilla project - no kidding!). These have yet to be quashed, and all the while new "releases" just keep coming down the pike, bringing with them their own share of new insectoids. Wouldn't it make more sense to stay at a reasonable "release" level, and just fix it before adding new features (and after all, isn't the purpose of a new "release" to introduce new features)? We already have a mechanism in place for extending the functionality of the browser through plugins and extensions, anyway, so what's the point? (If Mozilla wants to emulate Redmond, then they should consider that under the hood, Windows 7 is NT 6.1, anyway, and Microsoft got a head start with NT growing out of OS/2 - NT started at version 3.)


Updating Firefox on Linux: the Dreaded “Couldn’t load XPCOM”

I bumped into this annoyance while updating my openSUSE 11.4 workstation tonight.

There are numerous mentions of this issue on the net, and numerous suggestions for addressing it. However, none of them (which I saw) really hits on the underlying problem, which is that somewhere, somehow, XPCOM can't start.

To understand what's going on, it's important to have a basic understanding of what XPCOM is, and how it is involved with Mozilla apps. XPCOM is an acronym for  "Cross Platform Component Object Model," which is Mozilla's equivalent technology to CORBA or Microsoft's COM. Like any other "object model," XPCOM's function is to provide a modular framework vs a monolithic one. This modularization allows XPCOM to be (mostly) platform-neutral, making it possible to run the Gecko rendering engine on a variety of platforms. So, as the Gecko engine is composed of XPCOM components, if XPCOM cannot start, Gecko cannot start. If Gecko cannot start, then there is no rendering engine for the application, essentially stopping whichever Mozilla-based app one might wish to run, before it even gets started.


Mozilla Hardware Acceleration and VNC sessions

I've been a Mozilla user since before Mozilla. I was a Netscape user back in the early days of Netscape for OS/2, when WebExplorer was kind of neat, but Netscape was much better.

Well, as an avid user and supporter of SeaMonkey, both personally and professionally, I was pleased to see us (the SeaMonkey community) stay on the same Gecko with 2.1+ as Firefox 4+. One of the nice things introduced in Gecko 2 is hardware acceleration. Unfortunately, I have suffered with some nasty screen corruption on my ThinkPad T43 (SXGA+ 1400x1050, ATI Mobility Radeon X300) with hardware acceleration enabled (as it is by default). Mainly, this corruption manifests itself as mouse artifacts (droppings?) in the browser window and particularly in expanded menus. However, as this seems to only be happening on my T43 under eComStation 1.2R (one of these days, I'm going to upgrade eCS on this notebook to 2.1), I don't give it much thought when upgrading Mozilla apps on other systems, and leave acceleration set to the default.

BTW, to disable (hardware) layer acceleration, simply toggle the user pref layers.acceleration.disabled to true. See more on this, below.