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Netbook users already know that their screens are tiny. Mozilla Firefox, while an outstanding web browser, has buttons, toolbars, and all kinds of other widgets out the wazoo. These use up more screen space than they need to, which may be irrelevant on your huge 22″ LCD on your desktop machine, but could be much better configured for your tiny 10″ netbook screen. Here are some tweaks I’ve implemented on my Dell Mini 10v that give as much space as possible to browse, without losing my taskbar to Firefox’s fullscreen mode.

Stock Firefox Install on Ubuntu 9.10

BEFORE

Firefox after all modifications, Ubuntu 9.10

AFTER

  • Switch to small navigation icons

You can make your nav icons (Home, Back/Forward, Stop, etc.) smaller. To switch, simply right-click the Home button, and click “Customize” in the context menu that comes up. This will open the Customize Toolbar window. Check the box next to “Use small icons”, and you’re all set.

  • Ditch the Bookmarks Toolbar

I don’t use the Bookmarks Toolbar. I use my personal start page (http://www.willamette.edu/~jgates) and the Address bar (where all the http:// stuff is) instead. If you have the Bookmarks Toolbar and you want to get rid of it, right-click the Home button and click “Bookmarks Toolbar” in the context menu that comes up.

SIDENOTE: Did you know that if you start typing into the Address bar, it progressively searches all your bookmarks and history for matching websites? For example, if you have NPR.org in your history or bookmarks, instead of typing “http://www.npr.org” or finding your bookmark, you can simply start typing “npr” in the address bar, and it’ll come right up. Try it sometime.

  • Turn off “Always show tab bar”

In Firefox 3.5, the tab bar is always showing by default, even if you have just one tab open. Wasted space. To make the tab bar disappear if you have only one tab open, go to Preferences (For Windows: Tools –> Preferences) (For Mac/Linux: Edit –> Preferences), click the button and little picture at the top labeled “Tabs”, and uncheck the box next to “Always show the tab bar”. Don’t worry, your tab bar will reappear as soon as more than one tab is open. (BTW, use Ctrl+Tab to open a new tab, Cmd+Tab on Macs)

  • Ditch the status bar and install URL Tooltip (Add-on)

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/12015
If you’re like me, you use the status bar (at the bottom of the Firefox window) for only one thing: seeing the URL of a link on a webpage. You do not need a bar permanently glued to the bottom of your window to do that. This add-on displays a tooltip (little bubble) with a link’s location when you put your pointer over a link. Go to the link above and follow the instructions to install. Once you’ve installed this add-on, go to the View menu and click “Status bar” to hide the status bar.

  • Consolidate your menus toolbar with Personal Menu (Add-on)

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3895
This add-on allows you to hide your Menus Toolbar (File, Edit, View, etc.) and change it into a single button drop-down menu on your Navigation Toolbar. Go to the link above and follow the instructions to install. Once you’ve installed this add-on, right-click the Home button and click “Menus Toolbar” in the context menu that comes up. You can customize what shows up in your drop-down menu by going to Tools –> Add-ons, and selecting Preferences next to the Personal Menu entry.

  • Block space- [and mind-]gobbling adverts with Adblock Plus (Add-on)

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1865
There are many good reasons to block adverts. They are annoying, can carry malware infections, and (you guessed it) often take up space that could instead be filled with whatever content you are browsing the web for. To install, click the link above and follow the instructions. Once you’ve installed Adblock Plus, you will get a screen prompting you to choose a content filter. If you’re in the United States, EasyList is a good bet. If you surf a lot of international websites, there are other region-specific options, choose the one that works best for your browsing habits.

SIDENOTE: Many perfectly good and legitimate websites utilize advertisements to get revenue. Lifehacker, one of my absolute favorite websites, is one example. Blocking ads on every single page may guarantee you a less distracting browsing experience. However, blocking everything won’t help the people working on these awesome websites put food on the table. So, to help support sites you love, I recommend unblocking ads on certain websites that you frequent. I do this because I like Lifehacker and 4ca.st more than I hate ads.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This article was inspired by a much more advanced (messing with CSS code and how Firefox is rendered) article on Lifehacker.

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Here are my classes. If you have one with me, let me know! =D

  • JAPN 242 Japanese Lit: Basho to Banana
  • SOC 121 Gender in Society
  • MATH 141-03 Calculus I
  • ENGL 116W Peculiar Intimacies
Credit: icanhascheezburger.com

Credit: icanhascheezburger.com

From the good folks at Lifehacker…

According to multiple topics on the Apple Support discussion boards, the problem can occur when a user logs into their Mac’s Guest account — whether by accident or on purpose — and then tries to log back into their regular account.

In some cases, users have reported finding their regular account empty of data, as though it were a brand new account.

Yikes. Avoid that guest account, Snow Leopard Users!

Lifehacker article

Image from Airliners.net

Image from Airliners.net

“Uh, roger, I’m going missed.”

“Going missed” is an aviation term. It describes when an aircraft is approaching an airport to land, but circumstances (approaching too fast, too high/low, unstable approach, insufficient visual contact with the airport in line with regulations, windshear/strong tailwinds) make it potentially unsafe to continue the approach and execute the landing.

Flying a missed approach is following predetermined route (different for each airport and runway) that aircraft are expected to fly in the event they must abandon their landing attempt, so that air traffic controllers and other pilots in the vicinity have a degree of predictibility in what pilots are doing. Generally, the missed approach route helps reposition aircraft so they can make another attempt at landing.

In today’s case, I think it is a nice metaphor for the events of this morning thus far. I was up quite late last night (2am-ish) between a hall event, prepping for Friday, and my omnipresent insomnia. Therefore, I woke up at around 9:30am. I had a class at 9:10am.

“Oops, going missed…”

I managed to collect myself and get out the door in time for my first work shift, which I did make it to (and I am sitting in right now)

“Circling around for another attempt.”

It is good to clarify that “going missed” is NOT a signifier of a bad pilot. Often it is safer and more prudent to “go missed” instead of continuing a potentially unsafe maneuver. This is not a metaphorical attempt to justify missing class, but rather a reevaluation that missing class is not a deal-breaker for the rest of the day/week/semester. It’s all about the perspective.

In conclusion, I am reminded of the old tired saw, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I find this rather problematic, so my modified chocolate chunk of wisdom reads, “If at first you don’t succeed, reevaluate your approach.”

Happy Friday!

3GB net quota screenshot

According to the Net Quota page (https://secure.willamette.edu/services/netquota/) it appears that WU has upped the net quota to 3072 MB (3 GB) for every 24 hour period! Exciting! Rejoice, hopefully this means less scary emails from John Balling for a lot of us…

The_Nightwatch_by_Rembrandt

The first part of Res Life training ended tonight. This past week-ish of training has been a flurry of activity, running the gamut of fire extinguisher practice (yes, we actually got to use them), learning how to plan effective hall events, practicing intervention and confrontation skills, and lots and lots of icebreakers. Training so far has definitely been interesting, challenging, hilarious, thought-provoking, fun, frustrating, tiring, and so much more. I’ve also gotten to know some of the most awesome people through Res Life staff. I could write more about the past week and a half, but I really don’t feel like it right now.

Anyway, I am on duty tonight in this corner of the Willamette universe. Duty (in a nutshell) means that I am available and obliged to respond to residential lock-outs, requests to access dorm storage, and any urgent situations until midnight. In addition, I need to conduct physical security checks to ensure that the residents are safe and happy, the buildings are secure, and that no flagrant policy violations are taking place. Between midnight and 8:00am, I am able to grab some sleep, but still need to respond should any incidents arise.

When I think about duty in the Res Life context, I am reminded of the famous Rembrandt painting “The Night Watch”. Now, the RA’s role is NOT that of the “dorm police”, and doing rounds/security checks are NOT equivalent to “walking the beat”. However, while on duty I feel very much like the guardian of Eastside, protecting its inhabitants from evildoers, high saturated fat content, and other sketchy types.

I’m pretty sure that if I share this (slightly overanimated) portrayal of duty with my Res Life peers, they will just shake their heads and say, “If it helps you get the job done…” It wouldn’t be the first time that someone said I have a weird sense of humor.

Anyway, the weather gizmo on my desktop says it’s finally a reasonable temperature outside. Maybe it’s time for a walk.

The collegiate life continues…

“You can’t pin yourself back together, with who you thought you were. Now you’re out there livin’… In the deep.”
–Bird York “In The Deep”

Tonight marks the last day of my summer. Tomorrow morning, I will be moving back to campus in preparation for Residence Life training. This summer has gone by so quickly, and has been truly one-of-a-kind. As some of you may know, this was the first summer that I did not return to Hawaii. This was due to personal and family reasons. I have always been an independent creature, but in a lot of ways, I had to be more independent than I knew how. The many experiences I had this summer made me grow in ways that I can’t clearly articulate. Although I did become much more independent, I certainly cannot say that I lived this summer in a vacuum. Without my friends, I would not have survived this summer. I cannot thank them enough for all the support they gave me, putting up with me on my rough days, and always being there to sharing a laugh. I feel so fortunate to have friends who support me, thank you so much.

“And now, for something completely different.”
–Monty Python and the Flying Circus

Well, it’s definitely been a long time since I’ve last posted. Lots going on, and I definitely will not bore my audience to tears giving the day-by-day account of the events of my life. I’ve been working at my part-time IT job, getting ready for Residence Life training in August, and spending lots of time thinking. It’s been good.

I find it really hard to believe that it’s almost the end of summer. It seems just like yesterday that I was just getting settled in for the long summer. Now it’s all gone, and training starts in less than two weeks. Amazing stuff. I’m really looking forward to being around lots of great folks in Res Life, and even more great folks when the student body returns to campus in September. Through this, I’ve come to realize how much I really value the people with which I share space. Relationships are a beautiful thing.

On the Linux front, I’m currently running Ubuntu 9.04, after encountering a weird phantom problem with Mint 7. It was progressively getting slower and less responsive, and it also would refuse to launch Firefox and Thunderbird, but keep the process running so I couldn’t simply whack it and try again. I think it was a fixable problem, but I just ran out of patience and installed Ubuntu. I’m quite happy with it at this point.

Did I mention that it’s currently 104 degrees here in Salem? One of my friends commented that “9/10 Oregonians agree on Facebook: it’s too damn hot.” Agreed. I’m definitely not used to this caliber of heat, and with any luck it’ll cool off a bit by the weekend. I’m not sure if I’m imagining this, but it feels like once the outside temperature reaches above body temperature, there’s a definite, palpable increase in the amount of felt heat. It just feels ten times hotter than it does at 90 degrees. Maybe it’s just me.

Coming up, I’m scheduled to work at my IT job all of next week (Glorious glorious air conditioning!), and the week after that I move into my dorm room and start RA training! Provided that I’m not totally exhausted at the end of the training day, I will post some updates about that, for those who might be interested in reading. Until then…

The collegiate life continues…

This week was atypical of summer so far, as I had steady work all week. I’m not complaining by any stretch, as it’ll help me pay rent and all, but it was still unusually hectic.I was working at my usual school-year job at a college help desk, and I had all manner of calls. I felt like there were unusually more email client-related calls, with people misconfiguring their authenticated SMTP and all that. Between those calls, I had a few walk-ins with the hard drive “click of death”. To cap it all off, I had TWO calls about people using dial-up to access the campus network.

Say again, people still have dial-up? In 2009? Really? Stand by…

Ah, the joys of user-end tech support. To be honest, I much prefer working with people, rather than being hunched over a computer all day with no human interaction at all. I’ve noticed on those days when I’m just staring into a solitary screen, at the end of the day I just want to go home and collapse. I guess I’m a people-person after all, even if I am a bit socially awkward.

Linux-wise, I made the jump and upgraded to Linux Mint 7! (sort of) As it always seems to be, the story of my latest Linux feat is not without excitement, frustration, the potential for disaster, and a happy ending. Sort of like a a geeky plotless romance movie, minus the actual romance. Anyway, after making a Clonezilla image of all my hard drive partitions (Windoze XP, swap, Linux Mint 6, space for testing distros, /home, Windoze Recovery), I tried the graphical update-in-place option outlined by Clement Lefebvre in the Linux Mint Blog (1). It was merrily rolling along…until the upgrader locked up after a package didn’t install correctly. I tried everything I could think of to get the installer going again, but to no avail.

In that same aforementioned blog post, Clem strongly advocates for a fresh install of Mint (or any distro) instead of upgrading in place. He notes that a fresh install is much less prone to errors and general havoc than upgrading in place. With a deep sigh, I double-checked my backups, and wiped out my Mint 6 partition with my Puppy Linux Live CD. On another machine, I downloaded the Mint 7 ISO and created a UNetbootin usb stick.

The clean install itself was not that difficult, as running the installer from a USB stick, rather than from a Live CD saved a lot of time. It turns out that the read speeds are so much faster from a USB stick, compared to CD media. The install didn’t take more than ten minutes, once it had all my options and preferences.

What took hours was copying back all my data and the countless tweaks to make Mint uniquely my own. There were themes, packages, and config files to install, drivers to upgrade, and tons of data and personal detritus to copy back over to my /home partition. Finally though, when the dust settled and I was done biting my nails over the unstable graphics drivers I had to install (to overcome a Mint 7/Ubuntu 9.04 known issue with my graphics hardware), I am pleased to report that Mint 7 is working extremely well. It is somewhat “snappier” and more responsive than Mint 6, and it has not shown the x.org freezes that were so prevalent in Jaunty bug reports with my model of graphics hardware.

In the more personal realm, I’ve found myself thinking about the idea of intentionality in relationships a lot this week. At one time, I recall my mother telling me “Being there for people doesn’t require effort, you just do it.” At least in my own experience, I believe that successful relationships require constant and very intentional effort and work. This is not to say that maintaining relationships need to be taxing or stressful. It means that it is potentially so easy to not be mindful and caring for other people, that we must be intentional with our efforts to express love. This is very much an idea in concept for me, so to be continued…

Next week, it’s looking pretty quiet. It doesn’t look like either of my jobs have anything for me to do, so I’ll most likely be taking it easy, and maybe heading up to Portland. I get paid on Tuesday, so that’s exciting too.

The collegiate life continues…

Below is a list of the Linux distributions I’ve tried to date, along with my two-or-so-sentence opinion/verdict/conclusion of each.

Verdicts

OpenSUSE: KDE version maddening because it’s KDE, GNOME version: “WTF is the difference between the Control Center and YaST?!?”

Ubuntu 8.04/8.10: Very brown, and why won’t my mp3s play? (This was early in my Linux explorations, and I had yet to understand the virtue of media codec packages)

Kubuntu 8.10: OMG it kernel panicked again (later traced to a bug between the kernel and my Intel wireless card), and where the hell is everything? KDE hating…

Xubuntu: Very clean design, but why won’t you mount my internal NTFS partition?

Arch: The end result may be exactly what you want in your configured system, but why oh why must you go through so much command-line-fu to get there. Glad I went through it, but I still couldn’t get X.org up and running.

Linux Mint 6: I ran into initial kernel panics (because Ubuntu/Kubuntu are upstream from Mint), but replacing gnome-network-manager with wicd seems to be a good workaround for my system. This is my “production” OS (what I rely on for getting actual work done). Very satisfied customer.

Knoppix: Couldn’t even get it to boot from CD. Next.

Puppy Linux: Saved my skin (and my data) on many occasions, I always keep a live CD of Puppy in my backpack.

Damn Small Linux: Seems roughly comparable to Puppy, but I prefer Puppy for its UI.

What’s Next

Foresight Linux 2.1.1 (having difficulty finding a suitable download)

Linux Mint 7 (waiting for a known issue specific to my graphics card to be worked out)

Simply MEPIS (heard about it on Linux Outlaws)