Monthly Archives: July 2007

Put the Fox in the Box

More goodies for MozRepl-equipped Firefoxes: T. V. Raman points me to a simple shell script to start and drive the browser on headless machines and to a module to drive Firefox from Emacspeak.

Quote of the day from the above post:

But in the fine UNIX tradition of Get out of my way or I’ll turn you into a shell script XVFB also turns out to be just what I needed in order to run Firefox as a headless application.


Why talking about “alternative” is shooting yourself (and others) in the foot

I’ve seen it happen time and again. Companies and individuals go out of their way to write great open source software, then, when the moment comes to let the world know about it, they (and/or their early adopters and proponents) present it as “an alternative to [proprietary solution] Foo”.

That’s bad when Foo is an established player:

But it borders on self-flogging nonsense when Foo is not even in the stores: Linux MPX Multi-touch Table May Become Alternative Microsoft Surface.

When you frame things like that, you’re giving positive (and free) advertising to the opposing party. At least for me and for those I asked, the following accurately portrays what the phrase “alternative to Foo” brings to mind:

Whether you’re the author of “Bar” or a passionate user advocating it, is that really the picture you want to suggest? (This, by the way, is why there’s no place for things like alternative to MSN/AIM/YahooIM/whatever on, despite much well-meant advice to the contrary.)

“Oh, that’s all good and well, but how am I supposed to advocate Firefox to someone who doesn’t even know what a browser is? How, if not contrasting it to something they know, such as Internet Explorer?”

If you’re advocating a product, and genuinely believe that it’s better (if not, why are you advocating it in the first place?), that is the idea you want to get across.

“Oh, you’re still using this to browse the ‘net? Haven’t you upgraded to Firefox yet?”

SamePlace 0.7

Version 0.7 of SamePlace, the instant messaging client for Firefox, Flock and Thunderbird, is available.

It’s late over here, and I’m still on the lookout for subtle transition issues (who said that writing code is the hard part? Release engineers get all my respect…), so I hope you’ll forgive me if I spend some more lines at the server’s console and fewer blogging.

Packages are in the download section. In a few hours I’ll flip the switches to enable automatic update for those who are running release candidate or old stable. Uploads to will follow shortly.

If you find any problems, post to the forum/mailing list or drop by the users’ chatroom (access it via Jabber or on the web). If you like SamePlace, consider supporting it; there’s no “Donate” button, but there are many equally precious things you can do: suggest features, report bugs, spread the word, tinker with the code.


Grep the web with Fresno: a command line for Firefox

Ben from Simile points me to Fresno, a tool that connects to a MozRepl-equipped Firefox and drives it from the command line.

Fresno can make a running Firefox navigate to URLs, load JavaScript files, and execute JavaScript commands. It keeps the browser as the execution context or changes it to the currently loaded web page or arbitrary objects. This example from the documentation retrieves links from a web page:

  % ./fresno -p -c \
    -j "document.getElementById('slideshow').innerHTML" \
    | grep href
            <div class="title"><a href="semantic-bank/">Semantic Bank</a></div>
            <div class="title"><a href="gadget/">Gadget</a></div>
            <div class="title"><a href="welkin/">Welkin</a></div>

            <div class="title"><a href="timeline/">Timeline</a></div>
            <div class="title"><a href="referee/">Referee</a></div>
            <div class="title"><a href="babel/">Babel</a></div>

            <div class="title"><a href="exhibit/">Exhibit</a></div>
            <div class="title"><a href="appalachian/">Appalachian</a></div>

I’m pleased to report that, despite being surrounded by nothing else than ink-black X terminals, the little red panda is starting to feel very much at home on my Unix desktop.

Update 2007-07-04: ZIGOROu also points me to his MozRepl Perl module!