Useful User Agents

Rather than depend on end users to accurately report the browser used, I look for the user-agent in the web server logs. (Yes, I know it can be spoofed. Power users would be trying different things to resolve their own issues not coming to us.)

Followers of this blog may recall I changed the Weblogic config.xml to record user agents to the webserver.log.

One trick I use is the double quotes in awk to identify just the user agent. This information is then sorting by name to count (uniq -c) how many of each is present. Finally, I sort again by number with the largest at the top to see which are the most common.

grep <term> webserver.log | awk -F\” ‘{print $2}’ | sort | uniq -c | sort -n -r

This is what I will use looking for a specific user. If I am looking at a wider range, such as the user age for hits on a page, then I probably will use the head command to look at the top 20.

A “feature” of this is getting the build (Firefox 3.011) rather than just the version (Firefox 3). For getting the version, I tend to use something more like this to count the found version out of the log.

grep <term> webserver.log | awk -F\” ‘{print $2}’ | grep -c ‘<version>’

I have yet to see many CE/Vista URIs with the names of web browsers. So these are the most common versions one would likely find (what to grep – name – notes):

  1. MSIE # – Microsoft Internet Explorer – I’ve seen 5 through 8 in the last few months.
  2. Firefox # – Mozilla Firefox – I’ve seen 2 through 3.5. There is enough difference between 3 and 3.5 (also 2 and 2.5) I would count them separately.
  3. Safari – Apple/WebKit – In searching for this one, I would add to the search a ‘grep -v Chrome’ or to eliminate Google Chrome user agents.
  4. Chrome # – Google Chrome – Only versions 1 and 2.

Naturally there many, many others. It surprised me to see iPhone and Android on the list.

Georgia Theatre

All over Athens, people have been mourning over the Georgia Theatre fire today.

When I got home, I found a weird voice mail: “Hi, Mr. Greene. My name is <removed name>. I would like to discuss with you the property at 215 North Lumpkin. Call me at <removed number>.” I listened to it a second time. It hit me. Isn’t the Georgia Theatre on Lumpkin? I put the address in Google and found it is indeed the address. Wilmont Greene is the owner.

How weird?

Endings

George R. R. Martin ranting about bad endings seems odd. “C’mon. Writing 101.”

One of my bigger terrors is his end to A Song of Ice and Fire will be bad. A slightly bigger one is 3 years between books means the end is possibly a decade away and a sedentary lifestyle will prevent us from getting to read it.

Maybe writing 101 really means never put it down on paper?

reCAPTCHA and Chrome

Was using this RSVP form with Google Chrome and found the reCAPTCHA was telling me I repeatedly failed the Turing test. After the sixth time, I decided it might be my browser, so I tried it in Firefox which worked fine.

Curious, I went looking for a possible problem between reCAPTCHA and Chrome. According to a post there, the Transitional XHTML DOCTYPE is the cause. Changing that DOCTYPE to Strict ought to fix the issue. Given the audience, I doubt there is anyone else using Chrome to fill it. So fixing it probably isn’t worth it to them.

Interesting. I’ll have to look into issues with Chrome and the XHTML Transitional DOCTYPE.

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Firefox 3 and SSL Certificates

Apparently LinkedIn.com let their SSL certificate expire this morning. Assuming they really let it expire, this is a big oops. Hopefully, someone in their Production Operations Group has been alerted to the problem and is working on getting a new one.

The screenshot is from Firefox 3. In the old days, Firefox or Netscape used a frustrating pop-up for the user to choose how to handle security certificates which were not properly signed or expired. My first time, it took three readings to make sure I was doing the right thing. Even on my hundredth time, I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing.

It’s a new day, I guess. Now, a page similar to the handling of HTTP error codes is shown. Useful facts? Good. Plain language? Excellent.

Firefox 3

The generic globe logo used when Firefox is compiled without the official branding
Image via Wikipedia

Apparently the official launch of Firefox 3 is tomorrow. So we get to look forward to 4+ months of students and faculty members asking why Blackboard Vista doesn’t recognize Fx 3 as supported. Every week’s call with Blackboard will have the conversation:

Us: Is it supported yet?
Bb: Not yet. We are working on it.
Us: When will it be supported?
Bb: We can’t tell you yet, but we will let you know when it is.

I bet Mozilla starts pushing it through auto-updates either tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. So it will be everywhere soon enough. Ugh.

Personally, I look forward to the upgrade as it will hopefully resolve a major issue for me: Firefox 2 regularly consumes in excess of 250 MB of RAM and becomes sluggish.

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Upgrade, Upgrade, Upgrade

Be more secure! Upgrade today.

Want better functionality? Upgrade today.

Save a developer! Upgrade today.

The save a developer thing is the impetus for this post.

The upgrade today mantra annoys me.

  1. Software rarely spends enough time in alpha and beta cycles to to identify all the issues.
  2. People have been so burned by using software in alpha and beta cycles, they are hesitant to try upgrades and help determine the issues.
  3. This lack of attention to the problems ensure, versions 1.0, 2.0, n.0 typically have a ton of unknown problems or are even less secure at times.

Unfortunately, the vendor who makes the application platform we run, Blackboard, has a philosophy to look at new web browsers while they are in beta but not actually work towards fixes for the new browsers until after the products are released. With most releases of Java or supported web browsers (Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox), Blackboard heard the complaints by the early adopters and released within a couple months an update which resolved the reported issues.

The students and faculty members fail to understand the issue. I think I do. Blackboard (like WebCT prior) understands there are differences between beta and final. Some of us argue these differences are usually minor. However, this is all asking someone to predict the future which we know is haphazard at best.

Long alpha and beta cycles allow more users to get involved, give those back to the developers, have them fixed before the version release. Burning users with buggy software ensures their lack of faith.

Firefox Weirdness

Our Systems folks upgraded the code running Stats web site they let us use. This morning, was the first time I looked at it since the upgrade.

Naturally, it was not working for me. Figuring it was my Mozilla Firefox’s fault, I tried the same web page in Flock. (Firefox with some other apps but none of Add-Ons, formerly the Extensions really plug-ins, I use in Firefox.) Flock showed it fine, so I “knew” one of three Add-Ons Extensions had to be the culprit: Greasemonkey, NoScript, or FasterFox. I disabled all three and found the site worked as it should. So I enabled each in turn. The site still works.

Enabling one of the three should have rebroken the web site. That this failed to happen could mean:

  1. Add-Ons Extensions did not break it. Something out of my control did.
  2. Add-Ons Extensions did not break it. Something I don’t remember changing did.
  3. Disabling and enabling Add-Ons Extensions changes their configuration and their impact on pages.

Annoying.

Mozilla Prism Self-Signed SSL Issue

I have been looking to use Prism. A gotcha I hit was it balked at any site using a self-signed SSL certificate. A recommendation was to copy the cert8.db file from a Firefox  profile to a Prism profile. This actually worked.

Locating it is a bit of a pain in the ass on Windows. It is in what would be a hidden folder, so some layers have to be opened up just to get to it. Copy from <user>/Application Data/Mozilla/profiles/default  to <user>/Application Data/Prism/default.

Excellent. Now it is a fair evaluation.

Artificial !Always= Better

I fit the criteria of obese. My weight is not an obsession. I lost a good 20 pounds in a few months by making sure to walk 1.5-2 miles 4-5 times a week and not eating many calories. Thing is…. I am lazy. So I put that weight right back on after not maintaining the habit. Working in a sedentary job doesn’t help.

I keep being told I need to drink Diet Pepsi. My thought to that is, I’ll kill myself first. That artificial sweeteners are linked to weight gain gives me a new salvo in return fire. Everyone I know who uses the “Diet” soft drinks as part of their weight loss plan don’t seem to do very well. Only those who cut out all soft drink all together did well.