Weird Text Shadows on Google Reader in Firefox 3.1/3.5 Betas

firefox-beta-google-reader-text-shadow

Does any­body else get these? When you nav­i­gate to your labels or sub­scrip­tions using key­board short­cuts, the high­light­ed item in this modal win­dow thing has a text “shad­ow” or dupli­cate sit­ting ten pix­els over to the left. It’s been both­er­ing me for a while now and I can’t find any­body else talk­ing about it. I guess I’m sup­posed to file a bug?

Firefox 3 Rendering Improvements

Fire­fox 3 is sched­uled to be released lat­er this fall; I haven’t real­ly been fol­low­ing its devel­op­ment, but one thing I have heard about and am excit­ed about is its (or, more accu­rate­ly, Gecko’s) new graph­ics library, Cairo.

Cairo Image Resizing

First I heard that it would resam­ple rather than sim­ply rescale images, as demon­strat­ed in the image above (via Acts of Voli­tion).

Lat­er I learned that it will also ren­der fonts more smooth­ly. I enjoy the soft way pages look in Safari for Win­dows, the result of a dif­fer­ent ren­der­ing engine, WebKit, so this is some­thing I’m real­ly look­ing for­ward to. Here’s an exam­ple of Cairo’s font ren­der­ing, as seen in Camino 1.2+ for Mac, via hicks­de­sign:

Cairo Font Rendering

There are very spe­cif­ic rea­sons for the inten­tion­al dif­fer­ences in these approach­es to font ren­der­ing. It’s a mat­ter of per­son­al pref­er­ence, and I think my pref­er­ence will be for Cairo. Some are floored by the supe­ri­or­i­ty of WebKit, and design­er Jef­frey Zeld­man makes a sol­id, objec­tive case for it; oth­ers are hor­ri­fied.

Final­ly, Gecko’s non-stan­dard CSS attribute -moz-bor­der-radius, a pre­cur­sor to CSS3’s bor­der-radius attribute, will make image-less round­ed div cor­ners easy and pret­ty (via Acts of Voli­tion):

Cario Border Radius

I would have post­ed screen­shots of my own, but I don’t trust these alpha builds not to eff things up.

Data Lust

I love Mozil­la Thun­der­bird, not least of all because it’s a Mozil­la-brand­ed prod­uct, but also large­ly because of its adap­tive junk mail fil­ter. What this means is that for every email you get, you’re able to mark it as “junk” or as “not junk,” and from both of these prac­tices, Thun­der­bird begins to learn (through Bayesian fil­ter­ing) how to iden­ti­fy spam.

If you’re any­thing like me you’ve noticed that spam­mers are get­ting a lot crafti­er in recent months; I’ve even had a few spam emails slip into my Gmail inbox, when Gmail has in my expe­ri­ence been noth­ing short of astound­ing in its abil­i­ty to iden­ti­fy spam. Which is to say, Thun­der­bird isn’t catch­ing every­thing for me, at least not yet. I mark every spam I get as such, but the fil­ter­ing relies on your mark­ing the non-spam as well.

Any­way, it’s not hard work to mark all these emails (espe­cial­ly if you can high­light a bunch from a num­ber of trust­ed senders and mark “not spam”), but it’s still work, and I’d hate to see it all go to waste if my hard dri­ve crashed, or even if Thunderbird’s devel­op­ment sud­den­ly halt­ed — the data could prove use­ful else­where. And the idea of even hav­ing that data acces­si­ble to me out­side of a prac­ti­cal imple­men­ta­tion with­in a sin­gle pro­gram — in raw, brows­able form — is real­ly, real­ly appeal­ing.

Through very lit­tle Googling I found out that Thun­der­bird keeps all this train­ing data in a sin­gle file, named, apt­ly, training.dat. It’s in your “Doc­u­ments and Set­tings\Jay\Appli­ca­tion Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\2e8vm8m0.default” fold­er. And appar­ent­ly, sim­ply putting it in anoth­er pro­file fold­er migrates all the train­ing you’ve done to that oth­er pro­file. Amaz­ing­ly sim­ple.

Here’s what the first ten lines of mine look like:

þíúÎ
jus­ti­fies,
mean­ing­ful
sub­li­cense
pro­pelling direct
fly­er-ing,
herbalis­er­att
aggres­sion
(sur­prise,
inflat­able

I don’t get it either, and it just goes on like that, with no imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­niz­able struc­ture or indi­ca­tion of what sig­nif­i­cance these words have, save for some seem­ing­ly ran­dom para­graph breaks.

BUT, when I Googled what I now knew to be the file­name of the train­ing data, I found that Mozil­la cre­at­ed a lit­tle Java pro­gram called the Bayes Junk Tool, which makes this data sur­pris­ing­ly leg­i­ble, AND exportable as XML, AND allows you to edit this data arbi­trar­i­ly!! I couldn’t have asked for more.

Truth­ful­ly, I’m a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ed in the rel­a­tive­ly rudi­men­ta­ry Bayesian approach. I thought for sure this training.dat file would be rid­dled with reg­u­lar expres­sions, teach­ing Thun­der­bird that “v1agar” is the same thing as “\/|a gra.” Although that’s prob­a­bly too sub­tle even for reg­u­lar expres­sions. I can dream can’t I.

None of this is to under­cut the invalu­a­bil­i­ty of MozBack­up, which keeps set­tings, cook­ies, exten­sions, cached files, and more with­in a sin­gle back­up file.

Firefox “Phrase Not Found” Noise

Praise Jesus.

One of the hand­i­est fea­tures in Fire­fox, and one that I use fre­quent­ly and absent-mind­ed­ly, is the “find as you type” short­cut. Press for­ward slash, and Fire­fox will jump to the next text that match­es what you type; press sin­gle-quote, and Fire­fox will jump to the next link text that match­es what you type. So fast and invalu­able.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, if the string you type turns up no results, Fire­fox alerts you with what sounds like “a hoarse dog bark­ing.” Not just once, but for every sub­se­quent char­ac­ter that con­firms your search fail­ure: a curse for fast typ­ists.

This annoy­ance was not even solved by Flash­Mute [via], a tiny and amaz­ing pro­gram that mutes all sounds orig­i­nat­ing from your brows­er, or just those from embed­ded flash objects.

After not try­ing very hard to find a solu­tion via Google, I thought “what the hell” and went to about:config. Searched for “sound,” and voilà. “accessibility.typeaheadfind.enablesound”. Dou­ble-click once, restart Fire­fox, and no longer will you be plagued by the hoarse dog.

Firefox, video, MST3K

Joel

I still don’t get why Fire­fox is bet­ter and more pop­u­lar than Mozil­la ever was, but okay, I’ll play along. Espe­cial­ly giv­en these enhance­ments:

  • Cook­ie But­ton: one of the best fea­tures of Mozil­la that inex­plic­a­bly didn’t make it to Fire­fox.
  • Flash­block: Only see Flash when you want to! This is a mir­a­cle.

Final­ly found a video play­er to be hap­py with: Media Play­er Clas­sic. It’s also bun­dled with Real Alter­na­tive, which allows you to play Real for­mat files with­out rely­ing on the night­mar­ish RealOne play­er. This week I also dis­cov­ered Net Trans­port, which does the best (i.e., quick­est, eas­i­est, and most free) job of sav­ing stream­ing video I’ve seen so far. And final­ly, MST3K is still kick­ing: there’s this gigan­tic ref­er­ence site, the still-exis­tent info club, and a legal­ly ambigu­ous Shout­Cast video stream. Shh­h­h­h­h­hh.