Monday, December 21, 2009

King of the Hill: Firefox 3.5

According to one web-stat site, Firefox 3.5 has surpassed Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7 and IE 8 as the most widely-used browser by version. However, Firefox use as a whole still has a long way to go versus IE use as a whole. So why all the fuss?

Some web apps and such have long been developed and maintained for IE exclusively. However, supporting IE at this point really means supporting three browsers: IE 8, IE 7, and IE 6. They are different enough to need individual tweaking and testing. If Firefox 3.5 has surpassed all three, even briefly, it has become very hard to argue that anyone involved in web development in any capacity can reasonably ignore Firefox any longer.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

First Things First

The primary author of First Things First is Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which I completed earlier in the year. The book is co-authored by husband and wife A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill.

This book does have a lot in common with 7 Habits, but it focuses and elaborates on different points. One focus is on four human needs: to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy. Another major focus is how we can use our four special human endowments: self-awareness, creative imagination, conscience, and independent will. Also elaborated on is weekly planning with a "Quadrant II" mentality, that is making sure we make time for the things that are not pressing and urgent, but are important none-the-less.

The four interdependent needs are required for continuing growth. "To live" is about the needs of our body, exercise, eating right and all that. "To love" is about our need for relationships with friends and family. "To learn" is about our need for keeping our mind active. "To leave a legacy" is about our need to connect with a higher power, and the deeper meaning of life.

The four endowments differentiate us as human. Self-awareness is the ability to step back and look at what we're doing. Creative imagination allows us to see many possibilities, other courses of action. Conscience is our connection to the deep principles and truths of this world. Independent will gives us the ability to act on the course of action we choose.

Quadrant II activities are those that are important, but not urgent. Consider preventative maintenance on a vehicle, so that it doesn't break down catastrophically later (requiring important AND urgent repairs). The same concept applies to all our life roles (spouse, parent, employee, etc.). A major aspect of Quadrant II planning is looking at the week ahead a setting aside times for quadrant II activities in each of our roles within that week. As an aside, someone has recreated the weekly planning form described in the book, in the form of a zip'd PDF.

While many of the pieces of this book are similar to those in 7 Habits, they have been put together into a rather different book. This is a worthwhile book, either by itself, or in addition to 7 Habits. Applying even a portion of this material could greatly increase one's effectiveness.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Who Moved My Cheese?"

I was getting behind on my book-reading goal, so I decided to read a shorter book a few days ago. I read all of Spencer Johnson's "Who Moved My Cheese?" in a single day. A lot better than the last book I finished, that I had been reading on and off since 2006!

It is essentially a parable about two mice and two 'little people' in a big maze looking for cheese. The people became too accustomed to finding cheese in one place, until it disappeared. While the mice head off immediately in search of new cheese, the little people just sulk. One finally gets over it and starts looking for new cheese, and makes several important revelations along the way. This parable is couched within the story of a class reunion where the parable is discussed.

I would say the main moral of the story is 'change happens, go with it.' There are some other related lessons, though some of them feel a little 'psych-up', that attitude is everything. It emphasizes that change is good, but only gives lip service to the thought that some things really should not change. For instance, change away from a foundation of sound principles is something that should be resisted. I admit, the intended audience of this book is someone paralysed by the fear of change in employment or job description, not someone looking for their moral compass. For the intended audience, it is probably a good read, and is short enough to not be too intimidating.

While the author is no Aesop, it is fairly well written. Thankfully this book only cost me $1 at a book sale. The list price of $20 seems a little much, but the market price of $12 is perhaps fair.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Finding & Keeping Good Friends

I have often lamented at how hard it is to find and keep lasting friends. A few months ago, I read one book in hopes that it would help. But Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends & Influence People" was really not what I was searching for. It was more a manual of tools and tactics, which could be used "for good or for evil." While I did learn a few things from it, I was looking for something deeper.

I believe I have found what I wanted in the book I just completed. Stephen R. Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" really hits to the heart of the matter. The section between habits 3 & 4 especially hit home with me:
We can often live for years with the chronic pain of our lack of vision, leadership or management in our personal lives.
Covey also speaks to those who would rely solely on tools such as Dale Carnegie's book:
That's when we try to treat the symptoms with quick fixes and techniques — the band-aids of the Personality Ethic.
While it is something far easier said than done, I will work on implementing the seven habits in my own life, to be come better independent and interdependent.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wacom Tablet

A co-worker was getting rid of some older computer items. I picked up a Wacom tablet. Plugged it in and it immediately started acting like another mouse input. That's nice but I at least want to get pressure sensitivity.


In GIMP I found out that Edit -> Preferences -> Input Devices -> Configure Extended Input Devices showed me a "Wacom Graphire2 4x5" device. I switched the Mode for the device from Disabled to Screen. That got pressure sensitivity working, and the stylus can select drawing options distinct from the mouse.

In getting to this point, I discovered some people had the 'eraser' end working, so more work. I added to my xorg.conf, most of the code from comment #15 on Restarted X, configured the additional devices in GIMP, and things work as expected.


So I am now using a Wacom tablet with presure sensitivity, and an 'eraser'. It would be nice if I hadn't needed to edit the Xorg config file to get the latter. But as far as I can tell, this device is now fully functional in Linux. Oh, and the kids all approve.