Context Menu

Almost everyone using a computer to access the Internet uses the left click on a link to go to its location. Exceptions might be left handers who switch the buttons on a mouse, those using screen readers, or similar small niche users of the Internet.

I tend to multi-task, so I will scan a page and open all potential links I want to check in a new tab. The  way I accomplish this is the browser’s context menu with a right click on the link. In both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, the open in new tab (or window) are the first options.

Since my exactly what I wanted to check does not persist in memory, opening them all up in their own tab, lets me not have to remember. I can just circle back through the tabs.

So any time a web designer changes the context menu so it is not there, my blood pressure rises.

A decade ago, web designers were terrified of people stealing photos and source code, so they would disable the context menu. Back then, I would turn off JavaScript from running, go to the page, download their images and source code, then email it to them as a proof of concept that all they did was annoy people.

Today, it seems my nemesis is a support portal where the right click on a link operates the exact same as a left click. At least Ctrl+Click still opens the item in a new tab, which is what I want. I did not name the company in hopes it takes them longer to not break my workaround too.

P.S. It appears that they keep track of the last page visited, but updating a ticket does not make it the last one visited. So I end up somewhere else.

Odd Mozilla Spellcheck

We maintain a wiki page with which DBA will do which maintenance. By convention, the months are the first three characters of the month’s name. In doing updates, I noticed only month marked as misspelled was Sep for September. So Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Oct, Nov, Dec were all okay spellings but Sep was not? Changing it to Sept made it okay.


Browser Checker Inconsistent With Bb Wiki

The below text is from a ticket I opened with Blackboard this morning.

I used this unix command to dump a list of all supported browsers from the browserchecker.xml.

grep -A 1 ‘supported=”true”‘ serverconfs/browserchecker.xml | grep descript | awk -F\> ‘{print $2}’ | awk -F\< ‘{print $1}’

The list of supported browsers does not match the list of supported browsers at Supported Technologies Vista 8.0 SP4+Re-Release which means users of unsupported browsers are not getting alerted to the fact they are using an unsupported browser.

This specifically arose because I’ve been depending on the wiki to describe which browsers are supported in my work for [ticket number]. Several recent cases I’ve reviewed were IE7 which the wiki says is unsupported on Vista 8.0.4. The browser checker says it is supported.

Here is the full list of supported browsers according to the browserchecker.xml file. Those in bold are supported according to the supported technologies wiki entry in the above link. By my count that is 6 supported out of the 22 listed. (Actually it is 46 listed but I consolidated those in the same version.) My favorite on the list is Netscape Navigator 5 which was never actually released for the general public.

Netscape Navigator 5.x

Netscape Navigator 7.x

Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.1 (Mac OS)

Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.2 (Mac OS)

Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5

Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0

Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 (only on Windows Vista)

Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.0

AOL Version 5.x(MAC)

AOL Version 9.x

AOL for Mac OS X

Safari Version 1.2

Safari Version 1.3.x

Safari Version 2.x

Safari Version 3.x

Safari Version 4.x

Mozilla Version 1.7

Firefox Version 1.0

Firefox Version 2.0

Firefox Version 3.0

Firefox Version 3.5

Firefox Version 3.6

When To Upgrade

After Firefox just upgraded, I noticed it did a check to on the compatibility of the Add-Ons I have. Should any be incompatible, then the add-on gets disabled. The rationale being, “Add-Ons which do not work under the current version should not be enabled.”

Seems like I as the user of the software really ought to have a choice:

  1. (Current) Immediately upgrade the browser and disable any incompatible add-ons.
  2. Check add-on compatibility first and delay the browser upgrade until add-ons are all compatible.
  3. Check add-on compatibility first and prompt the user to choose when to upgrade. (Whether #1 or #2 is desirable.)
  4. Allow the user to choose which add-ons are too important to be disabled and delay the browser upgrade until an add-on version is available which is compatible. Then offer to upgrade both.

Maybe not enough people care Mozilla takes away their functionality?

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.

Odd Tracking File Recording

Every time a Vista 3 node is shut down without going through the initiated shut down process, there is a chance of incorrect data written to the tracking files (in NodeA/tracking/). Normally it leaves strange characters or partial lines at the end of the file. This is the first time I have seen it write the contents of another log instead of the tracking data.

click – 1.0 – 1244228052889 – 1135588340001 – “” – SSTU – discussion – “compiled-message-viewed” – “page name” – 558711383 –

click – 1.0 – 1244228052891 – 15.0; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)”

2009-04-23      20:58:35        0.0030    JxH1zg4fZT1LTGcpmyNW    200     GET     /webct/libraryjs.dowebct        locale=en_US    0       “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.0; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)”

Even better. The node went down on June 5th at around 3pm. The lines from the other log were from April 23rd at 8:58pm.

Why am I surprised to see new incorrect behavior? Especially when the node was really confused?

Monopoly Fears

Something brought up my abandoned Friendster blog, which had a link to fiftymillimeter which used to be my favorite photography site by people in Athens prior to me even moving here. Why “used to be”? Well over a year ago, they stopped posting to the site. Sad, I know. Still, I was curious, Where are they now? I ran across Twitter-Free Fridays looking for Toby Joe Boudroux.

What I found interesting about this post was his approach to whether or not Twitter is or is not a monopoly. I agree with the first part. The last sentence surprised me.

Being at the top of an emerging market segment does not constitute a monopoly. Unfair practices, abuses of that dominance to limit fair access to resources and outlets – those are monopolistic. If Twitter struck a deal with Mozilla that blacklisted other microblogging services, we’d have something to talk about. Opening APIs freely and allowing supplemental markets to emerge hardly seems consistent with railroad barons.

Supplemental markets would be the equivalent of a railroad baron allowing new train stations or business to sell to the customers using the trains. Open APIs allow other corporations to find a niche. However, they are not a direct competitor. For example, with Twitter, the API is not used by Pownce or Jaiku. Friendfeed who fits in both the lifestream market and the micro-blog markets does use the API. More commonly, the Twitter API is used by companies like Summize or Twitpic in searching or posting content.

If economists or lawyers determining whether a company with a large market share is monopolistic are influenced by open APIs creating supplemental markets, then this could be a strategy to avoiding DOJ further scrutiny? At Bbworld / DevCon, a frequent point of pride from the Blackboard folks was the anticipation of Bb9 to have a more open, accessible, and useful API. This API will be able to do everything the current one in the Classic line can currently do. The anticipated additions to this API could benefit many supplemental markets. (Let’s just forget at the same time, they are saying API for the CE/Vista products is a dead-end development path.)

Scoring points with the DOJ (and more importantly the court of public opinion) could never hurt while trying to sue a much smaller competitor like Desire2Learn. Some characterize Bb as not likely to stop until D2L no longer exists. Who knows? I doubt even Chasen knows. Still, it would far fetched to characterize just this as making Blackboard a monopoly.

There are pleny of alternative LMS products to the Blackboard Learning System: Moodle, Sakai, ANGEL, eCollege, and many, many more. Heck, the rumor mill would indicate more and more higher education institutions are considering and even changing to the alternatives. Blackboard acknowleges institutions likely run multiple products. With Bb 9, they encourage people to use the Learning Environment Connector to single sign-on to into the other products. With the Bb9 frame remaining so they know who got them there, of course.  Don’t forget about a Personal Learning Environment,

Certainly I dislike that Blackboard hears my objections and continues to act in ways contrary to them. However, that happens within my own team. Neither group are criminal for ignoring me.

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.

Zemanta Pixie


Information is only valuable when found. It is great someone took notes during the conference call, but four months later, when I do not recall the date of the meeting or who sent the notes, I’ll rely on my computer searching for it.

Thunderbird returns pretty quickly when it searches subjects only. So I will start there. I will try a few terms. Probably it will yield a few results without what I seek or too many results to browse through because people rarely use descriptive subjects.

Next, I will turn to searching the bodies of emails. As long as the notes were taken by someone technical, they will be text in the body of the email. So I will find them easily. Non-technical folks send the notes inside Word or Excel documents. So I won’t find the notes.

Not finding information because notes are inside attachments has burned me lately, so I have taken to copying out the text and sending it to myself as regular text.