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Un-hide the ‘http://’ in Firefox 7

The recent release of Firefox 7 has brought with it several changes. One of these, is that Firefox hides the ‘http://’ prefix in the URL bar by default.

For many people this is fine and probably a positive changes, but geeks like myself may wish to restore the prefix. (I found it especially annoying when I copied a URL from the bar and the text pasted did include the ‘http://’, when the text I copied did not! I don’t like that kind of inconsistency!)

To restore the prefix, browse to about:config. Accept the warning, then search for browser.urlbar.trimURLs. When you find the setting, double-click on it to toggle it to false. The changes should take effect immediately.

Screenshot showing about:config in Firefox, with the browser.urlbar.trimURLs key shown

That’s better!

Initial Thoughts on the Windows 8 Developer Preview

Windows 8 'Headlines', showing RSS feed headlines for my blog

I was interested to take a look at the new publicly-available developer preview of Windows 8 that was released today. I have a few (poorly organised and still unrefined) initial thoughts.

After an initial hiccup running the developer preview in VMware, I switched over to a machine with VirtualBox and got up and running. The installation process was impressively speedy, even under the virtualised conditions, and asked few questions. A good start.

Initially, it is a little disconcerting not to have the desktop right in front of you after logging in, but I suspect that with a little retraining, the new ‘Start’ screen might prove a more convenient starting interface. The Windows Phone-style ‘tiles’ interface is genuinely innovative (praise I rarely would find myself directing at Microsoft) and seems to work in a fairly intuitive way.

I should mention at this point that my virtual machine setup and ‘traditional’ hardware combination mean that only a mouse and keyboard were available, making it impossible for me to evaluate the touch features of the OS (and making some of the ‘Metro’ apps and UI a little difficult to use). This is, of course, a limitation of my configuration, but it also raises an important point — if this new Metro UI will be the default even for computers with no touch capabilities, the whole thing needs to be smooth, optimised and not at all frustrating for this category of users too. It doesn’t feel this way yet — having to perform awkward drag gestures with a mouse isn’t a good experience at all. The viability of having a single operating system, with shared UI concepts, on very different types of computing devices is something that is yet to be proven.

Internet Explorer 10's 'Metro' interface, showing this website

These issues aside, I find myself quite impressed at how well the combination of the new ‘Metro’ apps themselves work alongside the traditional desktop. The disparity between the two types of apps was something I thought might make the system feel clunky and ‘part-baked’, but I find myself likening it to the Mission Control view in Mac OS X Lion — the Metro apps are like your Lion apps in Full-Screen Mode, and you still have access to the traditional desktop over to the left. In short, I actually think it works.

There are certainly some minor oddities at this stage — and obviously this is far from a finished, polished product. But there is promise in this hybrid-UI design that I hadn’t expected to find. I certainly need to spend a bit more than a short hour playing with the system before I’ll really understand what I think of its potential.

The biggest challenge will be how well a single operating system will work on very different types of computing devices — and indeed whether the hardware and software on the new generation of Windows tablet devices will be up to the task.

DfontSplitter for Windows 0.3.1

DfontSplitter logo

“What? I thought you updated this yesterday?”

Well, I did. 😛

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s auto-update-capable release, is DfontSplitter for Windows 0.3.1. This version includes a single fix, introducing a new method of avoiding the dreaded ‘corrupt font file’ error. For some unknown reason, sometimes Windows simply will refuse to work with the original fondu output file, but if simply DfontSplitter makes a duplicate of the file, it will happily see it as a TrueType font! It is very odd behaviour, and this fix only works in some cases, but it should reduce the incidence of ‘corrupt font files’ being output from DfontSplitter for Windows. This means users will less frequently have to go through a secondary hoop to get Windows to play nicely with DfontSplitter’s outputs.

Here are the official release notes:

New Features and Bugfixes

  • Uses a new method to decrease the incidence of ‘invalid font file’ errors on Windows. More fonts should now convert correctly without requiring further intervention.

Known Issues

  • Some fonts still require further conversion after DfontSplitter has created the TrueType font file. FontForge is one option for this.

As always, you can always get the latest and greatest version of DfontSplitter by downloading it from the the DfontSplitter project page.

DfontSplitter for Windows 0.3

DfontSplitter logo

I have just released a new version of DfontSplitter for Windows, version 0.3. The main change here is a brand new automatic update notification system. Like the Mac version, which uses the excellent Sparkle Framework, users of DfontSplitter for Windows can now keep the application up-to-date without having to manually check the website. This makes my development of the software easier, as I can release smaller feature releases more frequently, rather than large releases that must have a longer lifespan.

Unfortunately, because the automatic update feature is new, previous users of DfontSplitter 0.2 are not going to be notified automatically about this new release. 🙁

If you know any other users of DfontSplitter for Windows, please let them know this update is available so they might have the opportunity to keep up-to-date with this new feature too.

Here are the official release notes for this version:

New Features and Bugfixes

  • New automatic update facility, similar to that of DfontSplitter for Mac. Users can now be notified of new releases in the future, which may include new features.

Known Issues

As always, you can always get the latest and greatest version of DfontSplitter by downloading it from the the DfontSplitter project page.

SRWare Iron — A Google Chrome Alternative

SRWare Iron Icon

UPDATE 2010-06-30: At the time of writing, the Mac version of Iron is not up-to-date and is probably insecure. I have stopped using it for now. Hopefully it can be kept up-to-date and patched to a schedule close to the normal Chromium releases in the future.

Google has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1997 and now offer a huge array of online services. One of the criticisms often aimed at the company is centred around privacy. From searches you make on the search engine, to the contents of your email if you are a Gmail user — they have the ability to build up quite a detailed picture of what you do online.

Apparently, the Google Chrome browser itself also does various things which may impact privacy. The browser creates a unique client ID which is sent to Google when you do things such as type terms into the combined address and search bar, for example, and if the browser crashes, the technical information relating to that crash is sent to Google.

If you are someone concerned by the implications of this and maybe don’t trust Google very much, you may want to give SRWare Iron a try.

Iron is a browser based on the open source Chromium project which also powers Google Chrome, but with many of the potentially unwanted features that may impact privacy disabled.

This is a great example of open source code working well — it allows you to enjoy the benefits of the Chrome browser (the speed, interface and unique tab-as-process architectre) while side-stepping things you don’t want.

Screenshot of SRWare iron running on Mac OS X

Personally, I am not enormously bothered by the privacy issues and at the moment I’m pretty happy with a Safari/Firefox combination for my browsers of choice, but if you are looking for Google Chrome, without so much Google, this is worth a try.

You can download the browser from the SRWare website.

UPDATE: The Mac version can be downloaded from this forum post on the SRWare site.

My Rant on the ‘Ribbon’

I’m not a fan of the new ‘Ribbon’ interface that debuted in Office 2007. I have been playing around with the new beta of Office 2010, where the Ribbon is now the standard user interface across the suite.

In this short screencast rant, I explain why I just don’t like this new user interface and how I don’t think it actually solves the issue it was designed to solve.

Apologies for the poor resolution and audio quality of this screencast; in future screencasts done using this method I’ll be sure to optimise things better.

Comments here or over on YouTube are welcome. I realise many people are happy with, or even passionate about the new Ribbon for good reasons too. I just can’t see how it does any good, yet requires extensive retraining of users!

DfontSplitter 0.2 for Windows

I’ve been sitting on this new version of DfontSplitter 0.2 for Windows until I had a solution to the corrupt font error. With a solution found, I feel ready to offer this improved version of the Windows product.

New DfontSplitter 0.2 for Windows interface

The new release has been rewritten from the ground up in C#, rather than Visual Basic and the interface completely redesigned in Visual Studio 2008. Compared to the previous 0.1 revision, this release has:

  • The ability to convert more than one .dfont at once (batch converting), using a similar interface to the Mac version
  • Runs fondu in a background thread so the user interface does not lock up during a convert operation with lots of files
  • Rudimentary drag and drop support — in most cases you can drag and drop .dfont files from an Explorer window on top of the list box to add them, as well as using the Add Files button.

It’s cleaner, hopefully more stable and brings the Windows feature set roughly in line with that of the Macintosh version. Remember, if you have issues with the TTF files being reported as corrupted, the FontForge workaround will help in almost all cases.

You can download this release from the DfontSplitter project page.

Let me know what you think and feel free to spread the word about this new version to people still using 0.1.

DfontSplitter — Solution to Windows Corrupt Font Error

UPDATE 2011-05-09: While some particularly stubborn fonts do require this process, users who have previously experienced difficulty with older versions of DfontSplitter should first try with DfontSplitter 0.3.1 or later, which include a possible fix for this issue.

I think I’ve finally found a solution to this annoying error message that Windows gives when you use DfontSplitter to convert some fonts and then try and use those converted fonts in Windows.

“The requested font was not a valid font file” error message

It involves using a third-party open source application called FontForge to convert the TTFs that DfontSplitter gives you from a Mac-specific TTF format into ‘regular’ TTF format.

A full tutorial on using this method is included as a YouTube video screencast below.

If you can’t or don’t want to watch the video, essentially the process is:

  • Use DfontSplitter on the .dfont file as normal
  • Open the resulting TTF files you want in FontForge
  • Export each TTF file from FontForge with File > Generate Fonts. Make sure TrueType format is selected.
  • Import the resulting TTF files into Windows fonts folder.

Please do let me know if this process works for you and give any feedback — especially if you’d previously had problems using a .dfont you had wanted to use on Windows.

I Love the Little Details…

Need for Speed Most Wanted Box Story

I love tiny little details, even if they’re not ever intended to be seen by the public.

The screenshot above is one I took in Need for Speed: Most Wanted (while looking backwards). What I find interesting in this is the detail written on the cardboard box texture on the left.

» Read the rest of this post…

Solution for Graphical Corruption on Vista with SiS 661FX AGP

Ever since installing Windows Vista on my desktop PC, I’ve had issues running games. I have a semi-self-built PC running on a Foxconn motherboard that uses the SiS 661FX chipset and a GeForce 6600 GT.

The issue I had was graphical corruption under pretty much any game I ran. Random polygons would appear in scenes, making it very difficult to actually play games properly. An example of this corruption in Halo 2 is below.

Halo 2 corruption

Note that these problems did not occur under Windows XP on the same hardware.

After quite a lot of searching, I stumbled across this forum thread, where I found a solution which works for me.

Specifically in this posting, the author details a link to an older Windows 2000 driver for the SiS AGP slot itself.

Here’s my Spec’s:

Operating Systems: Dual Boot – Vista Ultimate & Win XP Pro
Pentium 4: 3.4GHZ
2GB of 400MHZ Memory
8 Hard Drives, 4 Internal & 4 External (I download a lot of Music & Appz)
Gigabyte Motherboard ( 8S661FXMP-RZ )
Pioneer DVD Writer 16X
19″ LCD Monitor
Operating Systems: Dual Boot – Vista Ultimate & Win XP Pro

Hi Kenmu,

I was having the same problems as you with artifacts (Graphic Corruption) on my brand new XFX Geforce 7800GS AGP with Vista Ultimate, My motherboard is a Gigabyte 8S661FXMP-RZ, So it’s using the S661FX Chipset,

So I know Gigabyte don’t have any Vista drivers, but I tried an older driver from there site

Here’s the link —> http://asia.giga-byte.com/FileList/Driver/motherboard_driver_chipset_sis_agp_661fx_651c.exe

Download and install it, I couldn’t believe that driver worked for me, Everything is back to it’s normal self, no Graphic Corruption and the speed is way up to normal levels when playing games

I installed this driver and I now no longer get polygon corruption as above, and I can play Halo 2 (and the other games) in Windows Vista just fine.

It did introduce a new problem with playing videos in games, but I’m not really bothered about that for the time being, as I can now actually play the game.

If you have a motherboard with this AGP chipset on it (even if, as the author of the post said, your mobo is not from Gigabyte), this solution is definitely worth a try.

If for some reason the link to the driver mentioned there fails to work, get in contact and I can send you a copy of the relevant driver file.