Enable/disable flash

A few days ago Blogzilla mentioned the jTFlashManager tool that lets you enable or disable flash on the fly. Investigating how the tool works shows that it just renames the plug-in file. I’ve been renaming the plug-in to disable it for a long time, but never tried doing this while the browser was running. For some reason I thought it read the plug-ins at startup.

The tool requires a Java VM to be installed and I thought that was overkill for renaming a file. I was a bit rusty, but wrote a DOS batch file that works beautifully as a shortcut from my Windows desktop. Save the toggleflash.bat file and then run it passing the path of your Phoenix, Mozilla, or Netscape plugin directory. If you’re not currently viewing a page using the flash or shockwave plug-ins, it will toggle them on or off.

Here’s the file:

@echo off
if "%1"=="" goto usage
if exist %1.\\npswf32.dll goto disable
if exist %1.\\npswf32.dll.off goto enable
echo Couldn't find a flash plugin.
goto usage

ren %1.\\npswf32.dll npswf32.dll.off
if exist %1.\\np32dsw.dll ren %1.\\np32dsw.dll np32dsw.dll.off
echo Flash Disabled.
goto done

ren %1.\\npswf32.dll.off npswf32.dll
if exist %1.\\np32dsw.dll.off ren %1.\\np32dsw.dll.off np32dsw.dll
echo Flash Enabled.
goto done

echo You must specify the path to your browser's plugins directory.
echo Put the path in double quotes if it includes spaces.
echo For example, toggleflash.bat "c:\\Program Files\\Mozilla\\bin\\plugins"


Watch the tree grow

I was somewhat disappointed when Asa stopped updating the Build Bar over at MozillaZine. I enjoyed reading his summaries of the important bugs that had been fixed each day. This was especially helpful to me in testing nightly builds of Mozilla. Now with Mozilla 1.0 (and 1.1, and almost 1.2) shipped and the product generally quite stable, I’m not as concerned, but still miss the up to date news.

There are now a number of resources that help keep you equally or better informed about Mozilla development. The MozillaZine Mozilla Builds Forum and Phoenix Builds Forum provide a wealth of information.

Unfortunately, I most miss the short and to-the-point summaries that Asa provided, as well as his overall sense of the state of the project. One easy but verbose way to track Mozilla (and siblings) development is by watching CVS check-ins via Bonsai, which I’m sure it one of the tools Asa used. A day’s results from Bonsai provides more information than you’d probably want to wade through: it shows every file that was changed. Thankfully, several sites now condense the list of daily check-ins and cross-reference them with the relevant bugs. Bonsai Watch provided by MozillaNews gives the detailed bug information. I personally prefer the brief results provided by BonsaiBugs and BonsaiBugs for Phoenix from backprop.net.

Finally, there’s the weekly status update from Mozilla.org, the previously mentioned news sites, MozillaZine.org and MozillaNews.org, and an ever increasing number of developers’ blogs.

Blue is Better

book coverEven if I didn’t work for big blue, I’d want to read Lou Gerstner’s new book, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround. I’m sure it will be fascinating to read Gerserner’s thoughts as he directed and resurrected IBM. A New York Times article emphasizes how swiftly and decisively Gerstner impacted IBM:

Within the first 100 days, he made the important decisions to keep the company together, reduce costs sharply and change the way I.B.M. did business, overhauling sales, marketing, procurement and internal systems.

He writes that the choice to keep the company together, reversing the course set by his predecessor and endorsed by the board, was “the most important decision I ever made – not just at I.B.M., but in my entire career.” He based it on strategic analysis and instinct – and listening to customers….

By the mid-1990’s, I.B.M.’s technical leadership had noticed the Internet, and took the view that the coming “networked world” would lead the way to the post-PC era, undermining Microsoft’s grip on the industry. “Desktop leadership might have been nice to have,” Mr. Gerstner writes, “but it was no longer strategically vital.”

Always skip the flash intro

I’m of the opinion that almost 100% of the Flash I encounter on web sites is a waste of time. It’s bad enough that a good portion of it is merely gratuitous, but it is frequently abused by advertisers to create blinking ads that you can’t easily stop. I therefore have the flash plugin completely disabled. Imagine how the IMAX web site reinforced my opinion of flash when it opened as an empty page. Because Kovu had mentioned that Star Wars II was coming to IMAX theaters, I bothered to re-enable the plugin to be greeted by a dull flash intro and then the site launched in a popup window. Great! Why do people do this? Did they assume that the flash intro was so cool that I’d want to keep playing with it while I browsed their site? It’s truly a shame; the site works nicely if you skip directly to the real IMAX site. I just don’t get it.

Perhaps someday Mozilla or Phoenix will have the ability to block flash on a per site basis (Bug 94035).

News at your fingertips

On election day, I heard a talk radio host saying that he did not want higher turn out at the polls. He said that if people hadn’t been paying attention to the political scene and were debating whether they should go or just felt they should go because of some “duty” to vote, he didn’t want them there. “Stay home, put your feet up,” he encouraged. He has a good point. When I voted, several of the people there demonstrated an extreme lack of knowledge about what was on the ballot. They read the two Kentucky constitutional amendments for the first time at the polling place and said they didn’t know anything about them. (Aside: it’s not like Kentucky makes this information easily available. Since they have to publish the absentee ballots in advance, you’d think they could stick a copy of the ballots for each county on a website somewhere.)

I was talking to someone at work about this. We’d had an interesting debate about the merits of the amendments the day before and suffered similar experiences with uninformed voters. Our conversation turned to how much easier it is to be informed now than it was even 5 years ago. You can read a massive number of newspapers from around the state, nation, and the world as easily as clicking a link. Pre-web this would have required either large amounts of money or a trip to the library daily. Even then, many libraries would get only a few of the newspapers, and most likely few of the international papers. Now we can be overwhelmed by the wealth of information or we can just hit Google News for the daily snapshot. Wow.