Because I forget stuff. Part of

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October 2004

Posts made in October 2004

Make a Wish

I happened to be shopping today and was reminded of a sad little observation I’d made a few weeks ago. A sign of growing up—I’d now have to buy more than one pack of candles to have enough for my birthday cake.

Recalling Revenge

Reading through today I noticed it’s eight years to the day since Newcastle United stuffed Manchester United five-nil. Happy days. I remember that game quite well, or at least the watching of it. It was a Sunday match covered by Sky. I recall sitting in my parent’s living room watching it. Manchester had beaten us in the Charity Shield (as a think it still was then) earlier in the year, 4-0. That led to a certain sense of needle already, helped by the fact we were much closer rivals back in those days. It started off well and just got better. At four we were happy enough but then Phillipe Albert took the ball and strode majestically forward from central defence without a care in the world to chip the ball over the great Peter Schmeichel. A younger version of this author may or may not have leapt from sofa, somehow avoided coffee table and slid on his knees towards TV in absolute delight :-)


After a bit of testing I’ve made a couple of changes to the blog setup. First the TypeKey signin bit has been removed from the comments area as I don’t really see much point to keeping it. Comments are free and open anyway (except when they’re not). Second whilst looking through error logs for a completely unrelated purpose I remembered I was supposed to have an plugin (DateTags) which flagged up notable (to me) dates in the blog. That wasn’t working, now it is. So if I post on my birthday it’ll say it’s my birthday. Woo.

Next up when I get the energy, semantic markup and a cleaning of the (for legacy design reasons) rather convoluted stylesheets.

Mozilla Profile Reproduction

Recently I upgraded my Mozilla installation (from 1.8 alpha 2 to 1.8 alpha 4). In doing so I created a completly blank profile. I decided that I wanted to move across my bookmarks, saved passwords, etc. from the old profile to this new one. While Mozilla Backup offers some functionality for achieving this in general, it suffers some failings, not least the fact it will copy all general preferences, which wasn’t what I wanted in this case. So I did everything “by hand”. This details the process as a resource and future reference for myself. Feel free to add useful comments. Note that this was upgrading Mozilla on a Windows XP box. This should apply to other windows versions, though the exact location of profiles will vary. It probably also applies to linux, and maybe mac, but I haven’t verified that in anyway. Also note this is the Mozilla suite (seamonkey) not Firefox, which is a bit different (though some of this might apply—but be very careful). I also recommend backing up the old profile, and anything else important come to that, just in case.

Profile locations: On XP the profiles are in C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Mozilla\Profiles by default. Here username is the login name you use for XP. Within the profiles directory each profile is stored in a directory with that profile’s name. We’ll refer to these as OldProfile and NewProfile. Inside each of those is a directory randomly named xxxxxxxx.slt where xxxxxxxx is a random sequence of characters. We’ll call these oooooooo.slt and nnnnnnnn.slt for OldProfile and NewProfile (see how this works ;-) ). Ok, now a list of how to transfer bookmarks, etc, from OldProfile to NewProfile. Note: Do this with Mozilla completely shut down (File->Exit).

Starting easy. Simply copy bookmarks.html from oooooooo.slt to nnnnnnnn.slt (overwrite the file that’s there)
Again, simple. Just copy across cookie.txt and cookieperm.txt
That would be the history.dat file to copy
Junk Mail
You probably want to copy across the Junk Mail training file, training.dat
This one is trickier. In the profile directory will be a file named zzzzzzzz.s where zzzzzzzz are 8 random numbers. Copy this to the new profile directory and make a note of the filename. Now, in a text editor openup prefs.js. Search for SignnnFileName. There should be a line like user_pref(“signon.SignonFileName”, “filename”); If there isn’t you’ll need to add it. Replace filename with the zzzzzzzz.s noted above.
Tricky one this. I’ve found the following works quite well for recovering mail account information and local mail (Mozilla offers a method of importing mail from other mail clients such as Outlook, but apparently not from itself). Copy the folders Mail and ImapMail from the old profile directory (oooooooos.slt) to the new (nnnnnnnn.slt). Now open the old profile prefs.js file and the new profile prefs.js file. Copy any line beginning user_pref(“mail. from the old to the new. Unfortunatly the path to the mail folders is given in absolute form. So replace any instance of OldProfile\oooooooo.slt with NewProfile\nnnnnnnn.slt. Copy panacea.dat and go change those absolute references. Also, get the address books all sorted by copying across abook*.mab and impab*.mab and history.mab.
Actually another easy one, though I don’t normally bother. Copy across downloads.rdf
Sidebar Panels
Copy panels.rdf
If you have the calendar installed then copy the calendar directory from one profile to the other. Again, calendar.rdf in this directory must be edited to change the absolute paths to reflect the new profile
Final Things
Don’t forget to copy across userchrome.css and usercontent.css for all those personal styles

There’s probably other stuff that could be copied across that I don’t bother with. Used file information is available for Mozilla 1.8a4, which may be of use.


Finally got around to upgrading my Mozilla and Firebird. So now have the much touted Firefox 1.0 Preview Release and Mozilla 1.8 Alpha 4 (cutting edge stuff there). Firefox seems slick as promised (I’m trying to use it more but I think I’m just too much of an original Mozilla geek to give up the UI fest which is the suite), whilst the latest version of the suite offers a couple of enhancements and lots of bug fixes. Particularly interesting in 1.8a4 is the introduction (actually in the previous alpha but I skipped that one) of site specific css selections, which works a little like the @media rule. This sort of functionallity was already provided by the URIid extension and users of Firefox may still like to check that out as the new stuff hasn’t landed on the aviary branch (it plays around with some hefty code so is a bit too risky for that). The new fix is described in bug 238099. Hopefully they’ll put up some better documentation than reading through the comments to that bug, but basically it introduces a new “@ rule” @-moz-document which can then select by a url or domain.

@-moz-document url( {css rules}
Applies rules only to the page
@-moz-document url-prefix( {css rules}
Applies the rules to addresses beginning with (so will apply to,,, etc.)
@-moz-document domain( {css rules}
Applies rules to the domain

The upgrade went smooth as you like for Firefox, and the update alert has already kicked in for a couple of extensions and to remind me to install the DOM inspector. Pretty slick. The upgrade of the suite was more interesting as I seemed to break my profile so decided to start off with a completly fresh profile. However, it quickly became apparent that I couldn’t live like that but would need things like bookmarks, passwords, etc, so I had to figure out how to get everything across. Mozilla really could do with some sort of profile migration tool. I’m actually quite a fan of Mozilla Backup, but while it will pretty much get one profile to another, there isn’t a way to avoid transferring all the general preferences as well, which isn’t what I want. So it was back to hand hacking. In a future post I’m going to detail how to get things like saved passwords from one profile to the other, if for no other reason than it will be a handy reference if I want to do it again. It seems pretty sorted now though.

Not many extensions additional to the usual bunch but I did note one or two. I’m becoming a fan of the web develepor toolbar (and menu etc). When it first arrived I wasn’t that impressed, thinking that most of the functionality I already had in one way or another, but it is actually quite nice. There’s also clock, which, erm, adds a clock to the menu bar, which can be toggled with a click to show the date. So useful. I don’t think I’ve mentioned keyconfig before either. That really is useful for redefining the keyboard shortcut to a variety of features.

The only problem I have is I can’t remember how to get the Spellchecker working in textareas. I did it with the last install, but I can’t find the instructions or recall how. Spellbound does it for Firefox but hasn’t quite got support for the suite yet (coming soon apparently). I suppose I’ll just have to wait until then, unless things come flooding back to me.

Genesis of Crash

A while back I posted about the crash of the Genesis mission which had been collecting particles streaming from the sun. The probe returned to Earth was supposed to be plucked from the sky in a daring helicopter manouver, but it’s parachute failed to open. Now New Scientist reports that the cause of the chute’s failure may have been found. Seems the decelaration detector, which should have triggered the whole thing, was somehow designed backwards (note: not installed backwards, designed backwards!) The smallest things. Questions will undoubtedly be asked as to how that one slipped through. The good news is that it looks like Stardust, which has a lot of design similarities to Genesis, isn’t actually effected.

Serial No. 1984

Interesting Register article detailing how the UK’s Home Secretary (read control freak) David Blunkett sneaked out the fact that new “biometric” passports will come complete with a nice shiny ID card, which he will of course charge you for (the information is in the middle of his party conference speech, the text of which has only just become available):

To protect our country, our identity – to avoid fraudulent misuse of our identity, of our public services, the undermining of our jobs and our conditions, the use of multiple identity for terrorism and organised crime, we need to use the new unique identifiers – what are called biometrics. To match the steps that are now occurring on visas, on passports and ID cards, on entry travel arrangements across the world. That is why we will legislate this winter to upgrade our secure passport system, to create a new, clean database on which we will understand and know who is in or country, who is entitled to work, to services, to the something for something society which we value. As people renew their passports, they will receive their new identity card. The cost of biometrics and the card will be added to the total of passports. We will have, for the first time, an opportunity to use the card not simply in terms of protection, but to promote our citizenship, to value the fact that being a citizen, taking on citizenship is a tremendous step as part of a our mutuality, as communities and a nation. These are difficult areas but community and citizenship can even play its part in the criminal justice system.
Party Conference Speech

This is a bad thing. ID cards won’t do what it says on the tin, by any means. Another register article, linked at the bottom of the first, is good reading. So why are we supposed to get them? Well, the government would have you believe that the ID card will help with illegal immigration (that thing which is under control according to Blunkett about three paragraphs previous to his ID card statement). Or to combat terrorism—how exactly? It’s not going to stop a determined terrorist (and there isn’t really any other kind). If it’s so effective why weren’t they introduced when the IRA were posing a much more clear and present danger? It is only since the UScentric version of terrorism has came about. And remember, they got hit and they have ID cards.

Lobby your MP, or whatever. Make them see that this scheme (and it’s not voluntary unless you’re playing with the semantics—you won’t have to get one in the first wave, unless of course you want to leave the country) is ill advised, badly thought out, overly costly and an infringement of their innocent (it used to be till proven guilty but that’s pretty much gone) citizen’s rights. When you do, remember to include your unique PIN so they can look you up in the database.

Semantic Time

Just thinking aloud here really. I found myself earlier today writing a web page which included various time periods (in this case a range of years but I’m thinking in more general terms than that). Now I wanted to style the time differently to the surrounding content, so needed a hook for my styles. Of course I immediatly began wondering what would be the best hook to use; what would be semantically correct in this case (surely the fact that this is a date is semantic information). And I couldn’t come up with anything. There isn’t really a semantic tag in HTML to deal with time in anyway. Which is a pity. In the end its surrounded in a span with class=”period” but I wasn’t very happy at putting what I felt to be semantic information into the styling. I’m a little too tired, it seems, to construct a good Google search to investigate this properly to see what if others have come up with some thoughts about this. I recall seeing some discussion in various places about marking up a calendar using a table or sequence of ordered lists but I don’t want a whole calendar. I know Tantek has noted there’s no XHTML markup for time. There’s TimeML, a Markup Language for Temporal and Event Expressions but that’s much too complex for what I want. What I really wish is that there were a date tag which took something like a format attribute so I could define how the date or period was formated. Ah well. End of thinking aloud.

Gmail Improvements

Just noticed that Gmail has added some new features. There’s now an official Windows notifier (come on, add official web browser integration too!) and a much improved (and searchable) contacts section. They’ve also introduced the ability to forward email on to another address. The wording of that announcement is kind of interesting though.

We’re testing a new feature that lets you forward new incoming messages to any email account you want. It’s free during the test…

Could that be the great free, ad revenue reliant Google hinting that something might end up not so free?

The final feature is the one I’m most pleased about—it’s now possible to save drafts. I filed a request for that almost as soon as I got the account (way back shortly after Gmail’s launch) but all I ever got back was a standard email. It’s a feature I’ve sincerely wished for several times. Good to see it introduced, at last.

SpaceShipOne Number One

SpaceShipOne just touched down after its second flight to claim the Ansari X-prize. Wooo!


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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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