New Firefox and Other Browser Update Weirdness

I’m settling in to get some things done and notice a blurb.

There’s going to be a rollout of the next Firefox over the next few weeks.  I pay close attention to that because I use Firefox extensively.  I’d be lost without it. 

I’m so tightly trained to use Firefox that I have to step back and actually “think” how to use any other browser.  Since I use Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Mac OSX Mavericks, and Debian Linux on a daily basis as well as Android and an occasional toe dipped into Apple’s iOS, I have to remain as flexible as possible and Firefox is on all of those computers. 

Except the iPhone but I hardly ever use them.

I will eventually install Firefox on the Windows machines when it tells me that it is available.  I’m not in a rush.  The last time they changed the way it looks, the User Interface or UI, it borked it for me.  I ended up installing things to make it look the way it did before I updated the browser while growling at Firefox in general.  Keystrokes and mouse clicks and all that moved.  They removed the status bar. The bookmark strip got lost, or rather hid, and that stores some of your bookmarks.  They removed the title bar.

Why?  Never heard a reason, but I installed Classic Theme Restorer and it brought it all back.  Immediately after that I installed Adblock Edge to get rid of the blasted adverts and other nasties that hitch a ride onto your computer as a result.  More Privacy means for a faster experience as well as fewer viruses and spyware pushed onto your local computer.  Nobody actually “Likes” ads anyway, we accept their presence and usually are annoyed or distracted by them, but “Like”?  I doubt it.

Rule Number One of Software User Experience (UX) is if you change the way something looks, you will break the way people work.  I learned that back in the days of the Mainframe and College. 

Rule Number Two of Software User Experience is that if you do change it there will be unintended consequences.

In My Case:

I have a computer that has what they call a “Clickpad“.  It’s also running Debian Linux.  I know Linux in general fairly well, but Debian Linux doesn’t manage Clickpads well.  Clickpads are those weird trackpads that are flush with the case.  You click on the pad instead of having normal buttons like every other Synaptic trackpad. 

I do know that is fixed in the next version of Debian, and I do know how to fix it now, but it is an annoyance that I have to deal with.  It basically forgets that it has a physical button in Debian Stable/Wheezy, and you’re stuck with whatever you touch on the trackpad.  I only get a Right Click when I tap.  I have since configured a two fingered tap to be a Left Click.

What that all did change did is to break the way Firefox works.  You see, on that particular computer, I can’t Right Click.  I can’t get the pop up context menu.  They changed the UI right away from it. 

Since that machine is Debian Linux, I have to wait for the next version anyway.  It isn’t even using Firefox, but something rebranded as “IceWeasel“.  To put it short, and sarcastic, Debian had a spat with Firefox over the branding.  Since Firefox/Mozilla doesn’t want anything proprietary at all on their default install, someone in the Debian Project grabbed the source code, recompiled it, created the graphics, and renamed everything to IceWeasel.  It works like Firefox but is Older.  About a version back. 

If you’re running Stable, or Wheezy, you could be quite a few versions back.  Jessie has a more current Firefox, but it also has a lot more annoying bugs in it because it is “Testing”.

But Windows?  Yeah, you’ll get it soon.  Just remember Classic Theme Restorer and Adblock Edge, and you’ll be fine.

As for the Mac?  When it is available, you’ll get a blip on the bottom of the screen telling you you’re ready for an upgrade.  You can also go back to the old theme if you want, but I do recommend Adblock Edge as well.

Why the harping on the ads?  It’s a much faster browsing experience when you surf a page without the ads.  No blinky pictures, crawling things, or text ads.  If you don’t download them, you use less data.  Things pop faster.

Trust me on that one.  You can always turn it off later.

Monster.com, Are You Kidding? Fancybox? Really?

In business, there is a phrase.

“Eat Your Own Dog Food.”

Monster.com doesn’t seem to realize this in their roll out of new “features”.

You see, Eat Your Own Dog Food really means that you’re going to use your own product to make sure that it suits what you intend it to do, and that you aren’t giving the competitors an unfair advantage.

In web development and Project Management, this means finding someone who becomes the “Subject Matter Expert” and “Product Owner” and takes on a very special role.   When I worked at the university, and in every position I have held back into the beginning days of my career, I’ve assumed this role.  It means that you are going to step back, listen to what the “Main User” of the system says about it, and champion that role within “Development” so that the Main User’s need are best served.

It means that you have to anticipate how any person will use the system and make sure that problems do not occur, and that when they do, problems are dealt with gently and “Gracefully”.

It also means that unintended consequences sometimes occur like in this picture above.

It is one of my least favorite features, the “Fancybox” or the “Lightbox”.

It is also very very rarely used correctly.

This is an example of how badly monster.com used the fancybox.

I did this under “my signon” and on another browser with no signon and it repeats itself.

Simply put, go onto Monster.com and do a search for any position you like in what ever zipcode you prefer.  Monster will return a list of positions.  It may even give you more than one page.  When you go from page 1 to page 2, it will put a “fancybox” up on your browser asking you “Let These Jobs Come To You”.

No, you blistering idiot, that is not what I wanted.

You see it will do that for this page, and any future page I want to look at. 

Every Blistering Page.

Ok, so I’m quoting the TV Sliders and Dr. Arturo with his wonderful rants and insults, but the point is still valid – Fancyboxes rarely serve a useful purpose For The User.

I went in immediately to my browser, clicked “Adblock Plus” and found a script.  I blocked it, and refreshed the page, and now I’m back to the old Fancybox Free behavior.

If I wanted an RSS Feed of the search parameters, it would not work because since I live in a major metropolitan area, Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, there are thousands of jobs.  I have given up on RSS Feeds for this because they “max out” at 50.  I typically would need around 500 to be able to see the last two days worth of positions on this given search.

I have many searches, and have saved each individual page to save me a LOT of time that would be otherwise wasted clicking on “Next Page” buttons.   If I were not able to do the search the way I do, then I probably would have stopped using Monster.com a long time ago.

So all you need to do is go into your adblock plus and block the script called:

http://media.newjobs.com/nmy/usen/iperceptions506.js

It is badly written code, your QA, Development Department, and Project Managers have made a mistake.

It simply does not belong in a professional product like we have come to expect in Monster.com.  It only can have come from someone who has sat in too many Marketing Meetings and thought they could get more “buy-in” from their users.

Web Annoyances – Websites Where Keyboards Don’t Work

This one gets me a lot.  
It’s so basic that I have to wonder who on earth is making these web pages? 
Worse, who on earth is approving and testing them?

Oh, that’s right, you can’t do Proper QA any more since everything is written overseas on the cheap.

You get what you pay for.

Rant aside…

For the most part, even now, the place most people are doing their “heavy duty” web surfing is on a browser.  I’m basing that on this blog’s statistics, and I feel confident that that feeling is backed up by most web services.

The proportion is roughly evenly split between Internet Explorer, Firefox (and its variants), and Chrome.

I personally have noticed this on Firefox and on Internet Explorer, on Windows, Linux, and on Mac OSX.

It just doesn’t happen on a tablet or a phone since the way you use a webpage is different there.  You only have a mouse (touchscreen), you rarely have a keyboard.

I notice this on a daily basis on Monster.com, but it also shows up with many other oddball sites.

Here’s how to find the problem on Monster:

  • Surf Monster and do a search.  Doesn’t really matter what kind of job you search for, your own zip code will be fine.
  • You will be presented with a list.  Pick one from the list.   It doesn’t really matter which.
  • Now that you are looking at a page, a job really, use your Page Up or Page Down keys.

They don’t work.

You actually have to click inside the body of the page to get the page to move.   You can tab around, cursor around, whatever you choose, but it just doesn’t work until you click inside the page.

If you are a web developer and call this done, you are bad and you should feel bad.

Zoidberg doesn’t like you and neither do I.

This also works with the Windows or Linux alternate page down, the space bar.  

Navigation is simply locked down until you click inside the page.

My best guess is that it’s a function of working with the software behind the scenes (Ajax) and having reworked your browser so that all the keys are forced to do a certain special task.  Don’t know but it’s still wrong.

Now go back and fix your web page.  That’s a rookie mistake.  If you’re good, Robot Santa may leave you a gift.

Web Annoyance – The Fancybox or Lightbox rant

Welcome to my own personal rant… er annoyance.

Since this is my own personal blog, I’ll keep it “constructive”.  You see, I don’t like it either when people get shouty.  However, whenever I encounter this sort of thing, I want to find the person or people responsible, grasp them by the shirt collars and start screaming at them.

Usually from six inches away from their nose.

Loudly and repeatedly.

What is this thing?  It’s a “Fancybox”.  It’s also called a “Lightbox”.

Yes, seriously, that is what they’re called.  I’m not making this up.

It looks like this picture below.

Don’t think I’m “Hating On” yugster.com, they aren’t the only ones out there with this kind of laziness.  The idea in this case, and many others is to get the person to sign in to their website.

Ok, sure, for a couple pennies off the inflated price of whatever you’re hawking, I’ll sign in.

In the specific case of Yugster, their marketing is a “Deal A Day” site that grew a bit to include a few limited items.  Great!  They’re usually at a good price, and I do check them out every day.

BUT…

I do it VERY quickly.   It doesn’t take long to scan a page and see that “nope, not today” and close and move on …

What this site, and very many others, are doing is getting you to log in.   They then leave a cookie on your machine saying Hey!  Here’s Bill again, lets change what’s going on just for him and then present the page without the fancybox next time.

In one word:  Nope.

Why?  Cookies are a security problem.  One of the first things I do when I set up a computer for myself or others is to explain this, then go into custom settings.   Turn off third party cookies.  Immediately.  Then I set the browser up to delete all cookies when I close the browser.

The second one is important.   Sure, it’s convenient to have your browser remember you and your signon, but what about your banks for example.  Most banks do not do this, although Chase does seem to depend on cookies for some strange reason.

Here’s the deal.  You sign on to their website, it places a cookie on your laptop.  You go on about your business blissful in knowing that These People Remember Me!  Yay, I’m warm and loved in happy cyber land!

Now I go out to The Mall.  I want my laptop since my partner intends to go shoe shopping and I already bought all the shoes I need on deep discount via the web months ago and they’re taking up space in my closet behind the dog crate.

Go, Me!

I’m sitting in the food court with my shiny laptop and get hungry.  Getting up, I walk over to the Chinese place and decide that I need some Gung Po Chicken and a large diet iced tea.   Turn around and a shadow passes through my peripheral vision.

Going back to the table, I notice my laptop is gone.

*Poof*

Now, some people don’t have a laptop with a password, or are so dumb that they made the password “1234” or “qwerty” or some such simple crap.

That nefarious character has your laptop, got in, and is now snooping around your favorites.  Finds your bank and bang, he’s in.

All because of a fancybox.

Yes, It’s a flight of fancy, but it illustrates a point.  The idea that you can expect to keep those cookies intact is a truly bad one.  It doesn’t have to be a laptop, your big beefy dinosaur of a desktop machine will be one of the first things to go when your house gets broken into.

Still feeling good about that warm plate of cookies and your fancyboxes?

It isn’t so much that these websites believe that everyone must stop and log into their sites, its that once you do that, they expect you to want instant access to their site, always.

Bad idea folks.

So if you don’t want to be lined up against a wall and told how nasty your website is, leave the fancyboxes and lightboxes off.   They’re a bad idea.

No More Desktop Computer? Same Here!

I moved down to South Florida, Lock Stock And Barrel as the saying goes, in 2006.

Shortly after moving here, Florida Power and Light “decided” I didn’t need that desktop computer that I built.  There was a power spike and Poof! It was gone.

I was “That Guy”.  The one everyone leans on to fix their computer after their 10 year old discovered this cool website sitting on a server somewhere in Russia… that infected it with a virus.  The guy who built computers since Back In The Days of the 486. 

Remember those?

I would say it’s fair to put the number of Desktop PCs I’ve built in the area of 200, perhaps more.  It was never my job to do so, but it was always something that I found fun enough to do that I kept up with the trends.

Until I moved here.

Here is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1200 square foot house.   Down from a 3 and 1 1/2 1900 square foot in Philly.

I kept my skills up, but there were some things that I found I really didn’t care for about a desktop computer.

The main reason why I stopped using a desktop computer was space.   My desk is in The Florida Room, and that room is the warmest one in the house.  The Redundantly named Florida Room would be between 5 and 10 degrees warmer depending on the time of year, and since I keep the house at 78 … I migrated to the living room.

The thing is that it required that I keep a desk out there.   That desk got used less and less and became a thorn in my side that illustrated what was said about Possessions Enslaving You.

While I was migrating off of that old desktop computer, I kept the desk there to do computer repairs when I needed to, but I realized that I was using the laptop more and more.   They got cheaper to the point where the laptop I use now costs less than some of the motherboards that I bought in the past.

Unless you were playing a game, you really didn’t need a cutting edge desktop computer in the home. 

I noticed that many of my friends and clients were doing the same thing.   Why keep a boat anchor next to a desk in a house cluttered with “goodies” when you really wanted to be in the comfy chair in a living room or media room with your feet up?

A cutting edge desktop computer got less expensive as a result.  You can get a good desktop computer from many vendors for less than $500 these days, but when you can get similar laptops for the nearly the same price it led me to ask why.

I still have parts laying around the house.   A spare power supply here, a fan there.   For the most part, that Hardware Closet I used to keep in Philly is reduced down to a box of odd junk and a computer case.   I haven’t been asked to repair a desktop computer in over a year – fix a Virus problem, yes, upgrade a laptop, yes, but fix a desktop?  Nope!

Besides, you’d be shocked how much benefit you’d get out of a couple gigs more memory, and a really hard look at what you have installed on the computer.  If you don’t need it, uninstall it!

It seems that a casual glance in a big box electronics store will prove my point.   Rows of Laptops being hovered over by people, curious folks tapping at a tablet to try to wrap their head around what it is, but the desktop computer aisle is empty.   It’s even hard to get someone to tell you about a desktop computer in a computer store these days. 

There used to be a great amount of strategy that you’d have to employ to get just the right computer.  Now, you pick your price point, buy a laptop, and within two years you start looking to see what’s out there again.

Which is great for me, since I have a nice stack of Hand-Me-Down laptops from people who know I’ll pass them onto someone who needs them.  Your computer “slowing down” is usually because something installed itself on your browser that needs to be banished – toolbars, for example are useless.

For the vast majority of us out there, those home users of the world, you do not need the high end computer that the salesmen of the world push you toward.  In fact, I’d wager if you really look at what you need, a 3 or a 4 on a scale of 10 would be more like it. 

Yes, I’m being deliberately vague there, this isn’t intended to be a specific discussion of what to get now, since many of these articles are re-read in the future.

So if the salesperson is trying to sell you a computer for the home that is a laptop, at least these days, if you’re paying more than around $500 or so, step back and think about it.  You may be happy with the ego side of the purchase, but you probably do not need the extra expense.  The one I’m using to write this on, I paid $225 for in September 2012, and I’ll probably get another 2 years out of it.

But the Desktop?  Stick a fork in them – in the home, they’re done.

New Firefox and Turn Off The Smoothscrolling

I love Firefox.

Well no, Pee Wee I don’t want to marry it.

On the other hand, I’m so very used to the way it works and its quirks that I can’t conceive of using anything else.

It works on all the computers I use – Linux, Windows, and Mac.   It does things well.  It can be extended so that I block advertisements and “nasty” websites.  It does not spy on me (Hear that Chrome?).  It’s not Bloated (I’m talking to you Internet Explorer).  It isn’t forced on me (I don’t want to go on a Safari to check into a website).

So yesterday I updated my Firefox.  If you click on the link, it will tell you if you are up to date.

After loading up my normal 150 web pages and muddling through most of the routine, I see only one problem.

Smoothscroll was turned on “accidentally” by the upgrade to Firefox 13.

I’m not the kind of person who likes Smoothscroll.   It reminds me of when I was a kid sitting on a swivel chair and spinning around faster and faster so that when I stopped the world kept moving.

On this particular laptop (2 year old Core2Duo with Windows 7 and 8 Gigs of Memory), Smoothscroll doesn’t smoothly scroll it fidgets to the next page.   In a spastic wretching and lurching forward, you get the next page of data instead of a quick “Snap!” to the next page.

I know Smoothscrolling is supposed to look like you are skimming down a written page but to me it is annoying.   Not nausea inducing, just annoys me while I sit there thinking why isn’t it there yet?

I don’t want to be that kid in the back seat saying “Are We There Yet” when I’m looking at pictures of cats or puppies, nor do I want to be wondering why it’s taking so long to scan to the bottom of a page of 100 jobs in a job search website.

Do the job.  Do it quickly, efficiently, and with a minimum of that eye candy nonsense.  You’re just slowing me down.

Ok, enough of the rant.  If you want to turn on or turn off Firefox’s “feature” of smooth scrolling down your pages – which doesn’t work, here are the basic instructions.

  1. Launch Firefox.
  2. Click on Tools.
  3. Click on Options.
  4. Click on the Advanced icon that looks like a gear.
  5. Click on the General Tab (No, not the one that looks like a light switch, the tab below that.  I’ll wait.  Good.)
  6. Look down to the middle of the panel in the browsing section and click the box to the left of “Use Smooth Scrolling”.
  7. Enjoy.

Now that you have finished, here’s your treat.  A short video about an adorable little girl being taught by a friendly Boxer dog how to drink from the hose.

Repeat after me… Awwwww.

UI and UX – Get Out Of My Facebook!

User Experience and User Interface is a term in web development these days.  Basically the idea is that you should take a look at your website and think of it from the stand point of someone from outside.  How is that person sitting in a random apartment somewhere removed from you going to look at your page and use it?  Will that person say “Nope, you’re ugly and your web developer dresses you funny and I’m leaving”?

And that’s about as technical as this article gets today, you can relax.

You are looking at what really gets me these days.  If I see a banner here asking me to like them on Facebook, I’m thinking of the socially awkward kid in elementary school who tagged along whining at you to take them with you when you do some cool stuff.  How about the “Extra Needy Girlfriend or Boyfriend” who is begging for you to come over and spend some time when you’re out fighting fires or some such?

This is the modern web equivalent of me saying “Stuff it” I don’t need you. 

Yes, I meant “STFU” and since I keep my blog G Rated, I will allow you to define that acronym however you like.

You see, if I like this page and every page that I stumble across in the course of doing my daily research/entertainment/job hunting/shopping/ and so on, my Facebook page becomes a mire of inconsequential crap.  I depend on my Facebook News Feed to be pertinent.  It saves me from having to go to some of those websites and surf every single article to stay informed.  I know I’m not alone here, many folks have started to use Facebook the same way.  So why add all this junk?

My first impression of the page is now “Oh for crying out loud, not again”.   Or something stronger if it is the 43rd time I’ve been greeted by this kind of needy uselessness.

A Web Page, just like a blog, is what the owner wants it to be, and not the reader.  You are the product, you are not the customer.  You are typically being sold for your information.  So being slapped in the face by a Facebook “Like me” whine is their way of roping you in for a little extra advertising face time on Facebook.

That’s how it works. 

My Second impression is to click on Adblock Plus and see if I can find the script to defeat it.  Sometimes I can, other times I can’t.

Usually I hit about 50 of these useless needy girlfriends (I’m A Guy, Ladies, Don’t Get TOO Bent Out Of Shape, Just Mentally Remap it to Boyfriends or Lost Puppies, MmmKay?) in the course of a morning.  I do a LOT of research on technology and software/web development in the course of a day.   Getting slapped by http://www.pleaselikemeorIwillwhine.crap doesn’t make me like you any more than finding another flaming bag of web garbage sitting on my virtual doorstep would.

A Facebook Like button is fine, completely repainting your page with a “lightbox” like you see above is a great way to get people to move on like I did.  It’s the modern equivalent of a web pop-under window now that everyone has that little box clicked in their setting of their favorite browser to stop pop-up and pop-under windows as a default.   This one will be the next default, give it time.

So if you want to experience this stupidity for yourself, it was at this link on www.upworthy.com.  I closed the page, I don’t even know what viral information was there.  Maybe after I switch to decaf… Nah, I just closed the window and I won’t bother watching this supposedly important video as a result. 

I Know I Am Not The Only One Out There Annoyed By This Garbage.   

So folks, its a terrible idea to annoy your customers.  It doesn’t work in the real world.  If that grocery store changed their piped in music to, say, Death Metal, a small percentage would love it and their sales would generally drop from all the sweet grannies who can’t understand why they’re playing growling in the frozen food aisle.