Neil's Place

November 29, 2004

2:01 PM Mozilla MySql Support

Jan and I just added MySQL support to Mozilla's database component. It isn't part of the default Mozilla build, but you can compile it yourself, or use one of the XPI's, although they haven't been updated yet and seem to be broken links anyway.

I plan on writing some documentation on the component, but basically, it allows you to connect directly to a database. The component also supports a datasource for displaying results in a template or tree. Currently, the sql component supports PostgreSQL, MySQL and SQLite.

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12:51 PM XUL Tutorial in French

The people at have just completed the French translation of the XUL tutorial.

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November 22, 2004

11:16 AM Firefox party

On Saturday I went to my local Firefox 1.0 party. There were some organizational issues, for instance, the party organizer never showed up, but we still managed to get about twelve people. Among them: one of the guys from the Firefox Visual Identity Team, someone who was trying to convince his company to switch to Firefox (he said that Mozilla's JavaScript debugging tools saved his life), and a few folks who had just come from Penguin Day. No pictures though, but a good time was had.

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November 17, 2004

Firefox fortune hunters
CNET's take on MozDev Group and similar companies

November 13, 2004

2:28 PM Minor XULPlanet Updates

Some minor XULPlanet updates today. Here are the changes to the tutorial and the element reference.

Also, the element reference is now available as a set of XML files.

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November 6, 2004

12:40 AM My first usage of Thunderbird

So today I decided to try Thunderbird 0.9 for Windows. I've never used Thunderbird before since it doesn't work on my Linux machine. Of course, Firefox doesn't work either except for version 0.7. Unfortunately, I've reached my limit of dealing with gtk dependencies.

The first thing I noticed after running Thunderbird is that it didn't migrate any Mozilla mail, although it did seem to be smart enough to retrieve some junk mail from my mail server. So I imported mail manually. The second thing I noticed is that I can now search the entire message right from the toolbar. To do this:

  • Select Find In Message from the search dropdown.
  • Type some search text and wonder why nothing is happening.
  • Relize that you should have selected the similarly named Entire Message instead.
  • Type some search text and smile that it actually worked.

The third thing I noticed was that the attachment pane has been moved to a spot along the bottom of the window. Nothing wrong with that.

The fourth thing I noticed was that I couldn't find any of Thunderbird's new features. No RSS support to be found. No message grouping to be found. I found them eventually by looking them up on some online help pages.

There's one feature that neither Mozilla Mail nor Thunderbird have which I need. After using a mail client all these years, I find that the biggest problem I have is trying to find a message I looked at recently. There are various search features, but unfortunately, they require that I know something about what I am looking for. For instance, I can find a message containing 'I have put the mockups of the UI on the web site.', by searching for 'mockups' or 'UI'. However, the way one searches in applications by using keywords and building expression-like syntax using a bunch of fields and dropdowns isn't how anybody's brain actually thinks. Instead of thinking 'search for the word mockups', I would think, 'that message that had the screenshots'.

How could this be improved? By making a view of the messages that Thunderbird thinks the user is most interested in. It can do this by knowing that 95% percent of messages that someone receives aren't very interesting. How would it know which messages are the 5% of the interesting ones? By watching the user read their mail.

Chances are that if I look at a message for three seconds, it isn't interesting. On the other hand, if I clicked a link in the message, it was probably an interesting message. A variety of factors can be used. Did I scroll the message in a manner that suggested I was reading it? Did I move the message to another folder? If I replied to it, it may have been interesting, but chances are that I have already finished with it. And so on.

Neither Thunderbird nor Mozilla Mail track how many times I viewed a message, or when. I'm not so interested in when I received a message, but when I looked at it, since I'm far more likely to remember that. If I've viewed a message several times, chances are it's interesting. Why not have a recently viewed list?

And what about a view which combines all messages into one? Trim out the less interesting messages, and trim out all the quoted text and signatures, and you've got a nice compact display of text that is easily searchable with type-ahead find. What about a summary of all links in all my messages? What about a page containing all images?

Ooo, I can see those extensions now...

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November 3, 2004

5:15 PM Mozilla Inline Spellchecking

Recently, Linspire released an update to their Mozilla product, which includes an inline spellchecking feature, among many other features.

The inline spellchecking feature adds the red underlines under mispelled words. It works in plaintext and HTML Mail composition, Composer and in multi-line HTML textareas. It will also work in anything in Mozilla that has an associated nsIEditor, which is actually anywhere where text can be edited, although it isn't initialized by default in single line textboxes, XUL <editor> tags and HTML pages with a designmode set. Here is a screenshot:

Since this feature is a much requested feature (it currently has 82 votes in the Mozilla bug), we have ported the patch to Mozilla 1.8, and posted it in bug 58612. Try it out if you like.

Some answers to questions that will be asked:

  • Will it be available in Firefox 1.0? No.
  • Will it be available as an extension? No.

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November 2, 2004

11:51 AM XUL Template Analysis

Seth examines an issue he was having with XUL templates. His analysis and conclusion are close, but not quite right. He determined:

All the rules in a multi-rule template must use the same variables, no matter what they're matching. You can't add new variables after the first rule.

Actually, only the container and member variables are required to be the same in all rules. The container variable is the one defined in <content uri="?blah"> and the member variable is the one used in the uri="?fred" in the action. They both need to be the same variables in all the rules due to the manner in which the template builder connects the rules for rebuilding. (when the rdf changes, the builder only examines the parts of the rules that might be affected.)

Other variables besides those two can be whatever you want and can be different in every rule.

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October 28, 2004

10:39 PM The Complete Guide to Spelling my Name

About half of the people who contact me don't know how to spell my name. This is a guide to how to spell my name properly.

The following is the correct way to spell my name: Neil. Here are some incorrect ways: Neal, Niel, Neel, Niels, Niall

I know of about fifteen other people who are called Neil. I don't know anybody named Neal. Nor anybody named Niel. Due to some unscientific evidence I have seen, I think that the Neils outnumber the Neals fifteen to one. No one is spelled Niel. If you are, you're probably wrong. Or your parents were wrong.

My first name is pronounced the same as the word kneel. My last name (Deakin) is often pronounced wrong. Some incorrect pronounciations are: Dee-con, De-ay-con, Die-con, De-ay-kin, Die-kin, Rash-brook. The correct pronounciation is: Dee-kin ['di:kIn]

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