Giving up is hard to do

I don’t like to think of myself as a hoarder, but I am. Certainly not as bad as many people but you know stuff just builds up and it seems a shame to throw away perfectly good things. My hoarding is kept mostly under control by the fact that I haven’t lived in the same place for more than about 2 years since I left home. Moving is the perfect opportunity to ditch things you don’t need any longer, if you throw it away you don’t have to pack it and I hate packing.

My upcoming move to America (still some 3-4 months away) though will be something different. This time the amount of stuff I take is going to have a bigger impact on how hard and expensive the move will be so I’m going to have to really work on getting rid of even more than normal. To try to ease the stress I’ve been working at this already. A few weeks ago I got rid of 4 bin liners full of clothes that either didn’t fit me anymore or were falling apart. Today I have pruned out another 2 bin liners full and then started going through my closet.

My closet is filled mostly with empty boxes, mostly from gadgets I own that it is handy to keep the packing for for moving and warranty claims and such. Lots of these boxes I don’t even own the contents of anymore, easy pickings. Some of them I’ll never use again and they will soon make an appearance at a landfill or an eBay listing near you.

Then I get to the back of the closet. The boxes that are actually filled with stuff that has journeyed around with me as I’ve moved, most since before I left home. And I’m presented with the difficult decision, what do I do with this box of childhood memories? It has been at the back of a closet for close to the last 2 years and I have never looked at it. None of it is what anyone else might look twice at, a deck of cards we used to play with in college, a professional compass used in my graphics GCSE, my old field hockey stick and ball. All very normal items that are significant to me in some way. Part of me is saying that I’m never actually going to use or probably even look at these items again, except when I move, so what is the point in having them clutter the place up? But then there’s that other part that just doesn’t want to see them go into the bin. Some of it can potentially be given away and put to good use by friends, but some of it is just junk to anyone else.

Still I guess today’s haul is a step in the right direction, I hope the tip isn’t busy tomorrow…

Rubbish for the tip
Rubbish for the tip

Flipping the bird

I outed myself last night on IRC as a non-Thunderbird user and dmose asked me why. I only had some fairly vague hand gesturing things to say so I said I’d switch back to it a bit and see what things really hurt. This is that list, or at least one day’s worth:

  • Mail windows stay in the way when I send a mail (bug 126140). This bugs me, yes I can click back to the main window and carry on what I’m doing, but not only does the compose window not go away but another window opens to tell me the progress of the send. I don’t care. I only need to hear something if something goes wrong during the send, at which point bring me the window back with an error.
  • The quick search box only searches a single folder (bug 353564). This makes the rather strange assumption that I already know where a message I’m searching for is. Yes I know I can use the full search to do it, but I don’t want the added steps for something that should be automatic.
  • Ugly ugly fonts (bug 465633). This turned out to be one of the major things. Once I spent the time to configure the fonts to use some nicer ones (that are available by default in OSX) things really started to look up.
  • The message threading is oddly laid out. The author should be part of the expandable section, but the twister is by the subject, it is a bit weird, probably because it is different to how OSX Mail does it.
  • The header on the message reading pane is far too large and wasteful. What does it include? A set of buttons to reply, forward etc. which are already in my toolbar anyway. The subject and sender of the message which are listed in the message list anyway. And who it was sent to. Even if I wanted to see all these things it could be displayed in less than half the space I think. The same is true of the “remote images are blocked” notification. Both of these two together take up nearly a seventh of my screen height.
  • Tabs. I’m not sure I see the need for them in a mail app but fair enough if you do that’s fine. But don’t force me to lose more screen space when I don’t want to use them.
  • I have many contacts with multiple email addresses. I can’t seem to see a way to choose which email address to use other than manually copying and pasting it. The autocomplete only seems to offer the first from each address book. Using the physical address book doesn’t seem to help either. Even more fun my OSX address book has sometimes 3 or more email addresses for people, Thunderbird can only see two of them.
  • Please don’t bug me about saving a draft of a message that has no content, no subject and no filled in email addresses.
  • Had to manually ask Thunderbird to check for new mail in IMAP folders other than the inbox and as far as I can tell the new mail count in the dock doesn’t include anything other than the inbox, and even then it gets it wrong sometimes (bug 274688).
  • Over complicated identities (bug 476142). What I want from an identity is just to be able to send email from a second address. That is it. Other than that I want the same settings as the main identity.
  • Over complicated font selection (bug 382272). This is the same dialog as in Firefox (where I also think it is pretty nasty). I like that I can choose what font it defaults to for serif, sans-serif and mono-space. I don’t like that I have to make that choice for each language. It took me a while in Thunderbird before I figured out bug mail was classified as “Other Languages” (bug 91190) and that was why it wasn’t obeying my settings.

These last few are part of the main problem I feel Thunderbird suffers from right now. Too many options. I’m sure there are many people out there who love the fact they can have different composition settings per mail server and per identity, and different fonts per language, and have the option whether or not to check for email in individual folders. I don’t. I don’t have the time to spend trying to keep my settings the same in 20 different places. If we must offer this sort of customisability then have a global settings area and make everything default to using that, then let users choose to override those defaults in a particular place.

None of these things are really deal breakers (well maybe the lack of quick global search is), but I have to wonder what Thunderbird is offering me that OSX Mail doesn’t already do.

Updated Interface lists

I’ve generated a new database for my interface listing webapp so you can now see the current state of the 1.9.1b3pre and 1.9.2a1pre platforms. So for all you extension developers getting ready for the Firefox 3.1b3 release maybe you want to see what has changed since 3.1b2? Or since 3.0?

There are still more things I want to do with this web-app, but right now my time is being spent elsewhere so for now I’ll just keep it up to date with the beta releases. Once 3.1 final is released I’ll likely remove all the beta versions since they probably won’t be necessary then.

I have for the time being had to disable caching in the application, it was eating up literally gigabytes of disk space on my web server and not giving all that much of a speed-up.

I must be missing something in the clouds

For a long time now there have been web applications mirroring pretty much all the applications I use locally, email, calendar, spreadsheets, etc. I keep looking at these and feeling like I should jump on the bandwagon, after all lots of the people I work with use them and rave about them so they must be great right? The problem is I can’t figure out what I am actually missing, and most of the time I can spot immediately things I would miss by moving to them.

Obviously one clear benefit is that they are available anywhere in the world, you just need access to any computer with a modern web-browser. But you know what? Wherever I go in the world I take my laptop, or if I don’t it is because I really want to relax and be offline completely. About the only critical thing that I might need to get updates on is my mail, which I do have a webmail access to anyway.

The online services seem to fall down for me in a bunch of ways:

  • I like to be able to run applications separately from my browser. I’ll grant you that tools like Prism make this sort of thing possible so that failure is going away slowly.
  • No matter how good browsers become I don’t believe HTML will ever create as good a UI as a real application can. For the most part they are restricted to a single window interface, with pseudo windows hovering above looking nothing like platform native.
  • They need you to be online (let’s ignore gears and stuff for the moment, I haven’t found the technology to be quite there enough yet). As I said I take my laptop everywhere. I can look at all my mail and calendar without needing to pay for an internet connection in some random hotspot.
  • They simply don’t have the features that my local apps do. I expect this to change over the years but many of the online offerings are basic at best.
  • How do I back up my data? Seriously, if I want to back up my gmail or google calendar what do I do? If I want to back up my local mail and calendar I just plug in a hard disk and let OSX deal with it. Obviously the opposite to this is that if my machine goes down then the online service will still be there and I’ll only have a potentially stale backup, but my backup is never more than a week old, and I can tell you I’ve lost more data over the years due to online systems going down than local machines breaking.

So here I am, wondering (again) what to do about task management. I keep feeling drawn to things like Remember The Milk because they are all online and Web2.0ish, but I’m not sure quite why. I’m sure I must be missing something critical about using the online apps, but I just can’t figure out what it is.

Daylight robbery

It wasn’t long ago that I was responsible for developing and maintaining a large number of websites. Like everyone in this role I needed a domain registrar I could trust to be cheap, efficient and most of all keep me updated about upcoming renewals. At the time I had a lot of love for Freeparking. They didn’t (and still don’t) look like much, but at the time I started using them they were all these things. No surprise I carried on using them after I left my last job when registering some personal domains.

Imagine my horror today then when someone else emails me to notify my that the registration for had expired the day before. Freeparking hadn’t so much as whispered on the subject and would you look at that, I now have to pay a late registration fee.

To say I feel let down is an understatement. Not only have they over the years failed to even update their website beyond its only-just-working state but now they seem to be actively trying to rip people off. It’s a shame but I guess it is the push I need to move all my registrations to Dreamhost who have been nothing short of excellent when it comes to my hosting. Sadly of course I still have to renew the domain first, then wait 60 days before I can move it.

I particularly like how their support form has “I was not informed of an imminent renewal” as one of the options to choose from. Clearly this comes up quite a lot for them.

Zooming along, hopefully as fast as before

I’ve just landed a fix to a bug that has irritated me ever since page zoom started getting remembered for sites. It fixes a real problem you find if you both use zoom a fair bit, and load pages in background tabs. When you finally decide to look at that tab there is this little pause (or long pause if the page is large) and sometimes a visual jump as it re-zooms the content. It also changes where the page is scrolled to which is very irritating if you have just clicked a link to a specific line in some source code for example.

The fix was relatively simple, the problem is it causes a little extra time to be spent loading background tabs. About 3ms from the numbers I have. Normally this is small enough that you wouldn’t notice in comparison to how long a page takes to load. One concern though is how this impacts session restore where you have a lot of background tabs all trying to load at once. The tests I’ve run say pretty much what I’d expect, Firefox opens, all your previous tabs are displayed and start loading with no change due to this fix, the reason being that the additional time is spent later in the load cycle of the tabs.

Of course tests never quite mirror reality so I’d like all you nightly testers to keep an eye out to see if you notice a sudden change in the performance of the browser when you open it and session restore has a lot of tabs to restore. Obviously before filing a bug do the good thing and try it a few times both with nightlies with the fix (tomorrow’s should be the first) and nightlies without. If you do see definite issues then file a bug and CC me. Assuming there are no issues then I’ll be trying to get approval to land this for Firefox 3.1 in the near future.

Stupid rules

So let’s pretend I am in a bad place and looking to kill myself through an overdose of pills. Is the fact that the supermarkets refuse to sell more than two packets going to be a hindrance to me? I don’t think so. I’ll just go through a few times, soon have enough for my stupid attempt.

Now let’s pretend I’m really sick. Getting out of bed is quite an effort let alone leaving the house. Unfortunately I’ve run out of drugs so I have to make a run to the store. Clearly I want to get a few packs, not only can I get through a pack a day but a few different types covers me as the illness changes over time. Now the store refusing to sell more than two packets is actually a pain in the ass.

7 things I know about me…

That pesky JOEDREW! has tagged me so I guess I have to participate in this thing.

Here are the rules for this particular meme

  1. Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
  2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
  3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

My seven things:

  1. Working for Mozilla is my first real honest-to-goodness stint as an employee. Previously all I’ve had is summer jobs, contracting and being a company director, well that and a period getting paid cash in hand that I’m pretty sure was totally not above board.
  2. I earned my 15 minutes of fame by getting a small piece of code I wrote while in school published in a computer magazine. It was some assembly code to clear the Commodore 64 graphics memory in about the fastest time possible.
  3. I used to enjoy scuba diving. That isn’t to stay I might not any more but I gave it up because, seriously, have you seen the temperature in Britain? It’s damned cold out there. As a university student at the time, jetting to warmer climates was pretty much out of the question. Unfortunately having a real training in how to manage equipment and dive safely has left me very wary of the risks involved in the quick dive options you frequently find abroad.
  4. I currently live in South Wales and have done ever since I moved here to come to university. I originally chose here partly because they were about the only university doing the course I wanted, partly because the university was on the beach and partly because it was far enough away from my parents to not need to go home to visit all the time.
  5. I am moving to America, hopefully as soon as May. This probably isn’t that much of a surprising fact but I am very happy that it is happening and looking forward to actually being able to work out of an office with colleagues for a change.
  6. I once spent a number of months with a shaved head. It all started with a Halloween costume gone awry where it seemed like a good idea to shave “666” in the back of my head (throw in some red face paint and a dog collar and it was kind of weird). The strange looks I got the next day convinced me I probably should just get rid of it all. For people considering it, don’t do it just before winter, hail hurts.
  7. I don’t watch football (soccer for most of you). This sets me aside from the majority of the UK population. Sure I’ll watch the big internationals but don’t bother to ask what team I support. Sports that I do enjoy watching include rugby (like American football but more exciting and less padding) and F1 (fast cars, what more can I say?). Sports that I have enjoyed playing include hockey (field, not ice, not that I was ever all that good and nor have I played in years) and pool (8 ball, 9 ball, it’s all good so long as there is beer involved).

Now to tag people:

  1. Mike Beltzner who is my manager and always has something interesting to say.
  2. Madhava Enros who is the worlds repository of useful and useless information.
  3. Benjamin Smedberg who knows more than is sensible about building and embedding Mozilla.
  4. Ted Mielczarek who has the most awesome surname in the world, and is a great guy to boot.
  5. Tiffney Mortensen who apparently makes awesome waffles.
  6. Sam Sidler who throws awesome parties, I mostly deeply regret missing his last one
  7. Majken Connor to attempt (and fail) to even up the boy-girl ratio.

Sorry all of these people are fellow Mozillans, but none of the rest of the world that I know really blog so there you have it.

What happened in 2008?

In no particular order:

  • Celebrated the birth of friends’ children.
  • Helped some friends through sad times.
  • Moved past previous mistakes.
  • Experienced the sheer terror of minimoto bikes.
  • Met new friends who I now wouldn’t want to lose.
  • Bought a new car.
  • Went to the gym a lot.
  • Met someone very special, twice.
  • Saw a friend set himself free.
  • Grew a beard.
  • Earned responsibilities.
  • Started planning for the future.
  • Survived the dangers of Whistler.
  • Visited Toronto.
  • Saw my parents move away from my childhood home.
  • Took lots of flights.
  • Became a regular employee for the first time in 8 years.
  • Had a great holiday that I wish could have lasted longer.
  • Started the long road to moving to America.

What will 2009 bring?