Archives » June, 2004

June 29, 2004

Reasons I stopped using Firefox 0.9

The new version of Mozilla Firefox, 0.9, is a step backwards in many ways.

  • Links open in a new window, instead of an existing one.

    Now, I’m not talking about links from one web page to another. Tabbed browsing has been around since the first builds of Mozilla that I tried, and I love it. The lettering is getting rubbed off my Ctrl key, I use it so often.

    No, I’m talking about a desktop shortcut, or a link from inside an e-mail. In Firefox 0.8, these links would open into the currently selected tab of whichever Firefox window was active. No problem. Now each one opens a new Firefox window. Wasteful, hateful, horrible. Can’t stand it.

  • Downloads always ask where to be saved to

    There is an option in the Firefox options screen that lets you always save downloaded files to a particular place, such as the desktop. So, in Firefox 0.8, you would right-click on a file download, and choose “Save Link to Disk”. The file would be added to the Download Manager and start downloding without any further clicking. In Firefox 0.9, even if you have that option checked, it still pops up a dialog box asking where you want to save the file to. What a waste of time.

    Plus, most servers limit you to two simultaneous downloads. So if I was downloading multiple files from a site, Firefox 0.8 would stack them all in the Download Manager and handle everything for me. But now, with Firefox 0.9, the dialog box for the third file doesn’t even show up until the first two are done.

  • Winstripe theme isn’t that great.

    I know going after the theme seems like nitpicking, since it’s so easy to change. The new Winstripe theme is a work in progress, and right now it’s pretty ugly. I prefer the Qute theme that came with Firefox 0.8. But—and here’s the deal breaker for me—when you install Qute on 0.9, the icons are twice as big as they are in 0.8. So it’s really not even the same theme.

  • The extensions I use don’t always work.

    They must have changed something about extensions in 0.9. First of all, the link to find new extensions takes you to a different site, Mozilla Update instead of Texturizer. And the two sites have different extensions listed. Most notably, the Link Toolbar that I use hasn’t been updated for 0.9 yet. Neither has Chris Casciano’s PNH Toolbar. I try to install them on 0.9, and sometimes they work, but sometimes they don’t. This, I’ll admit, isn’t the browser’s fault, but the extension developers. But it’s still part of the overall experience, so it’s a minus for me.

    (Digging deeper, it looks like the Web Developer extension has the same functions as the PNH toolbar, plus it’s still being updated.)

So, sad to say, I’m going to have to skip Firefox 0.9 and stick with 0.8 for now. I’ve tried the new release, 0.9.1, as well as the latest nightly builds, and the Winstripe theme looks like it’s coming together a little more. But none of the other problems have been fixed. I’m not going to spend all this time fighting the browser just so I can claim to be using the latest and greatest. Firefox 0.8 does what I want, and 0.9 doesn’t. I’m just hoping that these things will be fixed by the time 1.0 rolls around.

June 15, 2004


The Cassini space probe is almost finished with its seven-year-long journey to Saturn. It’s already inside the orbits of a few of the outer moons, and it even did a close pass by one of them. On July 1st it will come this close to the planet itself, and go through a braking maneuver that will slow it down enough to get caught in Saturn’s gravity. After that, it will spend at least four years in a lazy orbit, visiting many of the moons and expanding what we know about Saturn by a factor of a thousand.

Personally, I have a special place for Cassini. It’s the only satellite I’ve actually seen—up close, at least. It was during the whirlwind days of the summer of 1997. Pathfinder had just landed on Mars, and Galileo was sending back some of its best pictures from Jupiter. There was definitely a giddy atmosphere around the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and a friend of a friend was doing a summer intership there in Pasadena. So we dropped by and got the grand tour. Mostly all we saw was building after building of offices, chock full of scientists and officials. But then we came around the corner to one large warehouse, with separate public and private entrances. This was Building 179, the Spacecraft Assembly Facility. Through the public entrance was a sealed viewing area where we could look out over the assembly bay. And in the bay that summer was Cassini, undergoing final preparations for launch. I had been following Galileo’s mission to Jupiter that year, and knowing this machine I was looking at would soon be doing the same thing around Saturn was thrilling. Too bad I would have to wait seven years.

Three months later Cassini launched amid much protest over the radioactive fuel it carried. Protesters were worried that the spacecraft would break apart either on launch, or during its gravity-assist flyby two years later, and shower Earth’s atmosphere with plutonium. NASA insisted the likelihood of that was very small, and indeed Cassini survived the launch and the flyby, as well as two flybys of Venus and one of Jupiter. It was well on its way to its target.

JPL is handling the mission and the spacecraft, but the Ciclops Imaging team are the ones in charge of Cassini’s cameras. They’ve been assembling some remarkable photos during Cassini’s voyage so far, including closeups of Earth’s moon as well as one of the best portraits of Jupiter ever taken. These pictures were taken as much to test Cassini’s systems as they were for their scientific and aesthetic value. It all was done to pass the time, and to prepare for the real target, Saturn.

The ringed planet was first spotted in late 2002, and ever since the cameras have just been snapping ever-bigger photos of the approach. November, February, March. There was some excitement last week when Cassini flew by the outer moon Phoebe. The mission is about to begin. In two weeks the spacecraft will swing through the rings, hit the brakes, and get to work. In January it will launch a probe that will drop into the atmosphere of, and hopefully land on the surface of, the moon Titan. And for the next four years, after seven of waiting, we’ll be seeing pictures of Saturn and its moons that we could never dream of.

It’s about time!

Standards Advocacy revisited

A few links on the web standards kick. First Sergio Villarreal builds two versions of the same site, one using tables with <font>, and the other one using CSS. He then compares the two methods. Guess which one comes out on top.

Then we’ve got two from D. Keith Robinson. First he expounds on how using old-style methods and markup can hurt the bottom line on your projects, then he actually presents some numbers showing his case.

And then he realized that all us standards advocates are just talking to each other, and not getting our message where it really counts, so he figures he should just save his breath. Can’t say as I blame him.

June 11, 2004

Reverse NDR

One nasty form of spamming that’s being used more and more is the Reverse NDR attack. This is where a spammer is able to use your e-mail server as a relay even though you’ve got all the relays closed. How it works is: The spammer sends a message to a bogus user at your domain. They spoof the From: line with the address of the actual recipient. Your server sees the bogus address, and sends an NDR back to the sender. But, in this case, the sender is the actual recipient, and they end up getting an NDR, from you, with the spammer’s message attached.

Through this forum thread I found an entry in GFI’s knowledge base that tells how to disable this kind of attack in Windows. You need to have Exchange 2003, and there’s a way to have the server only accept messages addressed to an existing user in the Active Directory. Any mail sent to a bogus address gets a 550 error and doesn’t generate an NDR. I’ll reprint the directions here:

Accepting emails only for valid email addresses in your domain can only be done if you are using Exchange 2003. Previous versions of Exchange server did not have this functionality.

Please follow this procedure to enable Exchange server 2003 to allow emails only for valid recipients:

A. Enable filtering for recipients which are not found in Active Directory.

  1. Open Exchange System Manager -> Global Settings -> right-click on Message Delivery and choose Properties.
  2. Change to the “Recipient Filtering” tab
  3. Enable the option “Filter recipients who are not in the Directory”
  4. Click OK to close the window and save your changes.

B. Enable the recipient filter on the SMTP Virtual Server. This will only need to be enabled on the SMTP virtual server that is receiving emails from the internet.

  1. Open Exchange System Manager -> Administrative Groups -> Administrative Group Name -> Servers -> Protocols -> SMTP.
  2. Right-click on the SMTP Virtual Server and select Properties
  3. On the “General” tab click the “Advanced…” button
  4. Choose the IP binding that that is listening on the Internet. Click the “Edit…” button.
  5. Enable the option “Apply Recipient Filter”
  6. Click OK through all the windows to save your changes.

When someone tries to send an email to a user that does not exist in your Active Directory domain, they will receive the error:
550 5.5.1 User unknown

The email is not received by Exchange server, since the error is given during the SMTP transmission.


  1. Enabling Exchange server to refuse connections for emails that are destined to not existing email addresses can allow spammers to build a list of valid email addresses in your domain.
  2. Recently spammers have been trying to send emails to invalid email address. These will result in an NDR, however since the FROM email address of the original email would be the spammers target, the NDR would be sent to the spammers target. Enabling the above setting will help decrease these emails.

This will save your Exchange Server from being used as a relay, at least until they come up with another new technique that needs to be worked around.

June 10, 2004

The Exciting World of Ormsby

It’s time for the Ormsby House update again. The work is coming faster and more furious now, so the updates are getting bigger. And, somehow, my procrastination is getting less. Last month I posted the update on the 17th. This time, the 10th. Go figure!

The May update is now online. Four pages (1234), 29 photos. A lot of exciting stuff this month, including a tentative opening date! Spoiler: February, 2005. Also now with an RSS feed of updates. Can you smell the future?

Go there. Live the excitement.

June 9, 2004

Firefox 0.9

Mozilla is planning on releasing Firefox 0.9 by this weekend. I’ve been looking at a few of the recent nightly builds, and it’s going to have a few new things, including a new theme. At first the new theme was a little jarring over the old one, Qute, but I’ll give it some time before I think about switching back.

But most exciting about 0.9 is that it means Firefox 1.0 is coming out next. The first few releases, back when it was still Phoenix, didn’t impress me much, but at some point in the last six months I stopped using regular Mozilla and didn’t look back. But I can’t tell if the 1.0 release will mark when their focus shifts from the Mozilla Suite over to Firefox/Thunderbird, like their roadmap says they will. If anything, the Mozilla organization has excelled at changing their mind, and often, so I never look more than a couple of weeks ahead with them.

Venus pictures

Check out these photos of the transit of Venus that happened earlier this week. Looks like some kind of sci-fi painting, but it’s the real thing.

Only a few spacecraft have returned pictures from the surface of Venus, all of them Soviet. In 1975 the twin Venera 9 and 10 spacecraft landed and sent back pictures. A good rundown on that mission can be found on this page. Then in 1982, Venera 13 and 14 both landed and sent back color photos of the surface before being destroyed by the high heat and pressure. This page here has good-quality versions of all the pictures that were sent back, from all four landers. On the Wikipedia is an overview of the entire Venera mission, emcompassing 16 spacecraft over 22 years.

Anything except pornography

The Nevada State prison system is putting out a call for book donations for their Spanish-speaking inmates. In the request they had to specify, “Anything except pornography and textbooks”. Is that a problem they’ve had in the past, folks donating Spanish-language pornography?

June 6, 2004

Frolic and Detour

I don’t know how I missed it, but my favorite TV critic, Miss Alli from Television Without Pity, redesigned her site and started back up her blog. She also finally put up a page listing all the MSNBC articles she’s written under her alter ego, Linda Holmes.

Actually, I do know how I missed it. I had her old blog (in a subdirectory) bookmarked, and she never put a pointer to the new one. So I’d check, see a blank page, and move on. I never occurred to me to click back to the home page and see what was up. What a dunce.

Anyway, speaking of TV, it’s now one month until the new Amazing Race starts. Which, by the way, is recapped by Miss Alli at TWoP. See how it’s all connected?

June 5, 2004

Virginia City

On Memorial Day we decided to stay away from the big cities and the large parades, and instead go up to see how they do things on the Comstock. We went up to Virginia City, the old mining town that was home to Nevada’s Gold Rush 140 years ago. These days Virginia City is mostly one big tourist area, full of casinos and gift shops and a few motels for those hardy enough to stay the night. All shoehorned into hundred year old buildings among steep, narrow streets. I plan to do a whole section of the site devoted to Virginia City one day. The town is decidedly not modern, but not really historic anymore. VC is perenially stuck between the past and the present.

But today, pictures of the Virginia City Memorial Day parade. The parade ran all of ten minutes, with only about thirty entires. Here are some highlights.

The Fourth Ward School, the start of the parade route. This school was built in 1875 when 30,000 people lived in this tiny town. The last class graduated in 1936.

Veterans of Foreign Wars

Merchant Marines

Camels! Surprisingly, Virginia City is well known for its camels.

…“Was 1983 Ford Escort. Look at me now.” Oh, I’m looking all right.


What parade would be complete without a washboard band?

Dune buggies!

The Virginia City high school band. This year the whole band won’t fit in the back of the pickup anymore, so the drummer has to sit in the trailer.

Pony wagons

The Virginia City Yaght (sic) Club

I don’t know what this was, but it had lots of crazy whistles attached, and it marked the end of the parade.

You know, any parade with dune buggies and camels is A-OK with me.