24 March 2007

Synaptics Touchpad Options

After getting Synaptics virtual scrolling for Firefox, I fiddled with a few more settings. I slowed Coasting down to a minimum so that I can scan web pages and documents by swiping my finger down once the vertical scroll region. For drawing diagrams, I enabled Constrained Motion (the pointer would only move horizontally or vertically when I hold down the Left-Shift key) and Slow Motion (slow pointer to a minimum when I hold down the Left-Control key). These two two options are useful for drawing connection lines with elbows. Finally, I enabled Tap again and hold to drag and Locking Drags (try not to think too hard about the Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) so that I only need one finger to drag and drop objects. This gesture was the hardest to learn. I had to tap then press down on the touch pad for about a second before the Synaptics driver recognises the start of a drag event. If there is too long a delay between the tap and the press, the driver would generate two single click events. Another reason it's hard to learn is that Windows doesn't change the mouse pointer for a drag action until after the mouse pointer starts moving. Finally, if you're making a text selection, the selection action doesn't end until you tap the touchpad while the mouse pointer is within the selection area.

Firefox Find Link Shortcut

It's only when I started reading news articles again that I found Firefox's find as you type link keyboard shortcut (' or apostrophe) more useful than expected. News articles often span several pages and their links have a numeric label ("2" or "3") or "Next" label. If you use plain Find shortcut, your cursor would jump to the first, usually inappropriate, occurrence of that character in the page while find as you type link would move the cursor only to the required link.

18 March 2007

Firefox Adblock and Flashblock

Advertising on web sites is fair enough; media providers want some return on their effort. Sometimes the ads are amusing and they add sparkle to pages. But it becomes seriously, seriously, annoying when a video clip starts playing when a page is loaded. Adblock and Flashblock to the rescue!

Of the two extensions, Flashblock is the simpler to use. It just replaces an embedded Flash movie with a still image. You can still click on that image to play the movie. Adblock doesn't do anything when it's installed. You have to mark individual elements to block or specify a regular expression filter to identify these elements. In theory, Adblock can block all advertisements but have to configure or download your filters while Flashblock doesn't block all Flash movies (sometimes the references are tricked up), so it makes sense to combine the two extensions for control and convenience.

Asus Touchpad Firefox Scrolling

For whatever reason, I've never been able to use my Asus' touchpad to scroll pages in Firefox; when I try virtual scrolling in Firefox, only the mouse pointer changes to a scrollbar. It hadn't particularly annoyed me until I decided to use my touchpad more. The most recent driver from the Asus web site didn't support Firefox but the generic 8.3.4 driver from Synaptics worked.

I didn't realise until I enabled virtual scrolling for Firefox that the feature worked like turning the mouse wheel. For instance, if I hold down the Control key while scrolling vertically, the page's font size changes.

Firefox MAF / MHTML

Last year, I found the MAF extension which allowed us to send an HTML manual to a client. The official MAF extension hasn't been updated for Firefox 2.0 but there's a patch available.

Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG Constant Authentication

My wireless adaptor software now always prompts me for a password to connect to my router, even though I've already provided a valid password in my profile. Turns out that I had enabled the Cisco Compatible Extensions, probably when I was trying different options to get my wireless adaptor working. It's not obvious that this setting is enabled in the Intel PRO/Wireless client program. Try this:

  1. Start the Intel PRO/Wireless client.
  2. Examine your wireless profile. The client doesn't display the Cisco options if you the Personal Security radio button selected.
  3. Select the Enterprise Security radio button. Now the Enable 802.1x Authentication Type field and Cisco Options ... button appear.
  4. Press the Cisco Options ... button to display the Cisco Compatibility Extensions Options dialog.
  5. Uncheck the Enable Cisco Compatibility Extensions check box.

It would have been more obvious to the user if the extra field and button were always visible but only enabled when Enterprise Security was selected.

Later .... The problem persists, so it's nothing to do with the Cisco Compatibility Extensions. I let Windows manage the wireless adaptor and (ping!) it works. Tried Standby and Restart options for Windows and there's no problems connecting to the wireless router. Could this finally be the end of the wireless annoyances?

17 March 2007

Firefox Link Alert

Link Alert is a little extension that changes the mouse pointer to a different image depending on the link destination. For example, if the link refers to a PDF file, the Adobe PDF document image is shown, and if the link refers to some Javascript code, a little script image is shown. Link Alert doesn't change the pointer for links to other web pages. The extension doesn't seem particularly useful initially but as time wore on, I find that I'm no longer annoyed when I click on a link and some plug-in is started because now I have some advance notice. An application of the principle of least astonishment?

12 March 2007

Floating Floor Room 1

Started laying floating floors in the dining room. We'd removed the skirting boards last weekend because we wanted new ones anyway. The floor boards had click lock joins which didn't need glue and seemed less messy than the usual ones with straight tongue and grove. Fitting the floor boards together required a certain knack of holding the boards together at an angle and pushing them together until the joins met. I crushed some of the joins initially by whacking them with a piece of wood and hammer before getting the knack. Made a mistake of leaving the moulding around the doors and having to hack some of the floor boards around them, which left a ragged edge on the floor boards near the doors. We'll redo those boards next to the door next weekend. Another mistake was not extending the boards halfway through the door frame, so the expansion joint is in the room rather than in the door. Finally, have to be remember which way to cut the board at the end of a column; the boards only join in a one orientation and I wasted one board.

The kids love the new floor. No more splinters from the old floor or bits of filler sticking to the their soles. They skated on their socks all day and played crab ball in the evening.

11 March 2007

Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG versus Asus HControl.exe

I thought I had solved my wireless networking problems when I decided to let Windows manage my wireless network adaptor. When my Asus notebook computer starts, it establishes a connection. However, when I put Windows on Standby and then Resume my session, Windows still has the same connection problem.

Since there are no newer drivers from Asus, I tried the latest drivers from Intel. They're available from either the PRO/Wireless 2200BG support page or use the Intel support site and enter pro/wireless 2200bg in the search field. Download the PROSet/Wireless Network Connection Software (WIRELESS_TIC_131935_V10.5.2.0_XP32.EXE) which contains the drivers and Windows GUI. After installing it, my wireless adaptor driver was upgraded to version Now I can use my wireless connection after Standby and Resume.

As per course, I rebooted my laptop. Now the Asus HControl.exe could not start. On Asus laptops, users can use keyboard shortcuts to turn off and on features such as the DVD player, display output, speaker volume and (you guessed it) the wireless adaptor. I've fixed this problem previously for another Asus notebook simply by reinstalling the not-so-obvious ATK0100 ACPI Utility. This time, no luck with using the support software for my M6R model. Then I found another version but for the Asus A3 model. Installed it and it works!

10 March 2007

Firefox InfoLister Extension

Firefox InfoLister extension can print your current Firefox version, add-ins and plug-ins. For example, here's my current configuration. It also adds new command about:info which displays the same information. Useful for tracking different Firefox installations and reporting bugs.

22-Oct-2007: Fixed URL as per Ant's comment.

04 March 2007

Firefox and Windows Text-to-speech

Firefox has a Speak It extension which can read aloud web pages or highlighted text. One application is read aloud the news in the background, say from an RSS feed in one tab, and to continue browsing the web in another tab. However, with the limited options available in Speak It, it's too hard to do this in Firefox at the moment.

This extension works in Windows XP, which comes with a default voice for text-to-speech synthesis, known as Microsoft Sam. If you're tired of Sam, you can get two additional voices from Microsoft, Mike and Mary, from the Speech SDK 5.1 page. The SDK also includes a Sample TTS Voice but I can't get it to say more than, "Blah blah blah," in Speak It.

The hassle is that you have to download the 68 Mbyte SpeechSDK51.exe. That SDK page suggests downloading Sp5TTIntXP.exe but this file contains an MSM file that you can't install; developers include MSM files into a software distribution using a development tool such as Visual Studio. Once you've installed the SDK, you can select a different default voice for your computer in the Speech control panel applet.

03 March 2007

Firefox Restart Extension

If you're testing (or simply having fun with) different Firefox add-ins, then it's pretty useful to simply restart Firefox without losing all your tabs. The Restart Firefox extension adds a File / Restart menu item.