Archive for the 'Software' Category

Firefox 3 vs. Safari 3

Apr 08, 2008 in Mac, Software

Daring Fireball:

And that’s just it. Firefox 3’s shortcomings as a Mac app are behavioral, too.

I’m giving Firefox for just reason that Gruber highlights later on in his piece — improved memory management. I’ve only got 1 GB of RAM on my PowerBook and my computer’s performance would noticeably drag when running Safari for extended periods. Conversely, I’ve noticed little-to-no slowdown with Firefox running.

That said, Gruber’s definitely right that Firefox isn’t a particularly good Mac app. In addition to his list of issues, there are two that I’m finding bothersome.

  • Doesn’t Respect RSS Reader Setting — Apps like Safari, NetNewsWire, and others are capable of registering as the default feed reader and Safari will happily pass feed URLs over to the selected reader. This makes it simple to subscribe to new feeds. Firefox, however, doesn’t honor this setting, instead displaying the feed contents in a new tab/window.

    Update: Turns out that while Firefox won’t respect the default system feed reader, you can configure Firefox to use NetNewsWire or your other feed reader of choice. The Applications panel in the preferences lets you (appropriately enough) configure external applications for different content types. I’d originally looked here for some sort of setting, but missed the Web Feed option among all the audio and video formats.

    Firefox Application Preferences

    Firefox doesn’t seem to auto-detect the feed readers installed on your system, but you can point it at NewNewsWire and it seems to work as expected. In addition to supporting external applications, Firefox goes one step further and allows you to specify web-based feed readers, like Google Reader or My Yahoo. So, as is often the case with Firefox, the desired functionality is present, but not necessarily Mac-like. (Thanks to John Gruber for pointing this out to me.)

  • Doesn’t Use System Keychain — Old news, I know, but I’ve been retyping a bunch of passwords lately and I’ve occasionally had trouble remembering which password is associated with which site. I have the choice between trying a number of passwords till I find the right one or firing up Keychain Access and looking for the appropriate record.

    On the plus side, the save password display in Firefox is quite nice. The display is similar to the new search bar in Safari and hangs around after the password-protected page has been loaded. If you’re not sure whether you’ve entered the right password, you can defer saving the password until after you’ve confirmed the validity of the password. Definitely an improvement of Safari’s ask, then process approach.

I’m not saying that Firefox isn’t a good web browser. However, it’s very likely that I’ll switch back to Safari once I get a computer with more resources.


Feb 18, 2007 in Mac, Software

Bandwagon, a service providing online backup of the music in your iTunes, is going live on February 22nd.

Bandwagon Logo

To help promote their launch, Bandwagon is offering free one-year accounts to anybody who blogs the upcoming release. What can I say, I’m a cheap date 🙂

Seriously, though, as somebody who’s shot out of bed thinking he’d lost all his iTunes purchases, this does sound useful.


Feb 18, 2007 in Software

Man, I wish I’d had Firebug installed when I’d been working on the MBAA web site. Or when I’d been doing web development last summer (though the horribly, horribly non-compliant HTML we had might’ve been a problem). I like the Web Inspector that’s in the nightly builds of WebKit, it’s being able to tweak the CSS from within the web browser and immediately see the results is nice.

I used to use the Firefox Web Developer Add-on, but I was never crazy about the UI. It was functional, but not particularly attractive. I also felt like the UI kept me from using the add-on to its fullest potential.

I installed Firebug yesterday just to have it and I used it for the first time today to fix a spacing issue with the smileys in my theme.

Excel, Sections, and Cell Sizing

May 07, 2006 in Software

Somebody has to have thought of this already…

Seriously, am I missing something here?

Why can’t I have variable height rows or variable width columns in Excel? Why can’t an Excel worksheet have multiple sections?

I’ve been doing a bunch of classwork in Excel lately and the limited cell-sizing options have really been driving me a bit crazy. What I want is the ability to say “Cells A1:C7 are a section and cells A8:C15 are another section.” Then, I want to set the width of columns in the section 1 independent of the columns in section 2 — make column A 75 pixels wide in the first section and only 40 pixels wide in the second section.

Heck, I’d settle for having vertical- or horizontal-only sections: “Rows 1:7 are section one and rows 8:15 are another section.”

I realize this breaks the whole “Spreadsheet-as-grid” paradigm, but there are times when it would be so flipping useful. I want to layout a spreadsheet with input, constraints, and output sections and not have the name column in the first and last sections filled with whitespace because I’ve got a really long constraint name.

This is sort of possible to accomplish with merged cells, but merging cells opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms — if you try to re-arrange stuff later, it seems like your workload is dramatically increased.

Actually, I believe somebody already thought of this like 10 years ago — it looks like Let’s KISS/Spreadsheet 2000 let you lay out your input and output cells on a blank sheet instead of constraining you to a rigid grid. I never had the pleasure of using this application, so I’m not sure if allowed you to do exactly what I wanted, but it seems likely, at least from the screenshots. (Oddly enough, I was thinking about Casady & Greene earlier in the weekend from a completely different reason. Funny how things work sometimes.)

Heh. A MacTech article on the design and writing Spreadsheet 2000. Amusingly, it also mentions the first incarnation Cocoa as an Apple development… thing.

I briefly poked around the Excel 12 development blog to see if something like this was mentioned anywhere, but nothing jumped out at me. I’d be happy if somebody could prove me wrong… or show me how to do this in the current version of Excel.

I mean, seriously. I can’t be the only person who’d find this useful, can I?