Phoenix Improves

I’m sure that headline could be used daily. I’ve upgraded to the October 6 nightly of Phoenix and am happy to see several long awaited changes. My bookmark toolbar gained a chevron and drop-down menu (like IE) when it was sized too small to fit all the bookmarks in the window (perhaps fixed by bug 171604). Favicons are back in the bookmark menus for Phoenix. I’d forgotten how nice they were before they were yanked from Mozilla. Finally, after years of waiting, bug 28583 was fixed. Tabbing into text fields or focusing them (except with a click) now selects all the text as it should. This means JavaScript prompt with default text also works. This change affected both Mozilla and Phoenix.

Enabling the disabled

High-Tech Tools Lower Barriers for Disabled says an article in the October issue of HR Magazine. It makes the point that technology continues to improve the job possibilities for the disabled. As assistive technologies such as voice recognition and alternative input devices go mainstream, the cost of these products has dropped dramatically. The article explains:

“The more other companies move toward [the paperless office], the more it opens the workplace up to people with mobility impairments,” says Glenn Higgins, an insurance company vice president and medical director, who cannot manually operate a keyboard or a mouse. He uses a speech recognition system on his office PC as well as a breath-activated device to control his electric wheelchair.

“There are many wonderful assistive-technology gizmos now available that ease access and increase productivity,” Higgins adds, “but the first step is to be flexible and open enough to consider using these tools to expose the workplace to talent that has heretofore been untapped….”

“The disabled workforce represents the greatest opportunity for employers,” says Sears Recruitment Director Bill Donahue. “A large percentage of people with disabilities are unemployed, but no one will give them a chance.” That’s a mistake, because disabled workers are “loyal and committed to being there every day,” he says.

The article goes on to describe various assistive technologies and assess how much it really costs to employ workers with disablements. This was particularly fascinating to me because a co-worker was injured in a bicycle accident that yielded a serious, but thankfully temporary, disability. He was able to continue working effecively, even while recovering, with the help of various assistive technologies. He was thankful that the building and his work area had already been designed to accomodate those in a wheelchair. We should be careful to help those with disabilities; we may be one of them someday.

Phoenix 0.2 is out

It’s looking really, really good. The only changes I noticed from the previous build I commented on is that the sidebar now has a close button and the scripts and tabbed browsing preferences are now back. Go download it.

Mike Shaver writes what I’ve been thinking: “I guess it’s a little embarrassing that a handful of hackers can produce better autocomplete, better toolbar management, and much better performance than that found in the much more heavily attended Mozilla CVS tree. But we’ve always known that small, sharp teams are vastly more productive than those diluted with a few dozen mediocre-or-worse additions, so it’s certainly not surprising.”

I’ve switched from Mozilla to Phoenix as my primary browser (mostly to test it out) and miss a few things. Type ahead find which was working in previous Phoenix nightlies is now broken. Image blocking is also missing. Look for both in 0.3. I can’t wait to be able to add back some of the Mozilla extensions. I most miss having chatzilla a click of a bookmark away.

Phoenix is moving quickly

Wow! The latest Phoenix nightly builds have some terrific improvements (I played with 2002-09-29-15 windows):

  • Customize the toolbars by dragging and dropping the buttons directly on the toolbar (no dialog necessary)
  • Ability to add new toolbars (create a separate one for URL, for example)
  • History, bookmarks, and downloads can now be sidebars (and you can add toolbar buttons to toggle them on and off)
  • In-form field autocompletion as with IE (start typing in a field and it gives you suggestions from previous things you’ve typed)
  • An interesting search box to add to the toolbar (I think I’d rather have a Find button.)
  • Drag and drop bookmarks to the bookmarks menu (This may have been there for a while, but I just noticed it)
  • Did I mention that it’s fast?

Find a saint by name bookmarklet

Chris asked me for a bookmarklet that searches the OCA website for a saint by name. I wrote one and added it to my bookmarklets page. This returns much nicer results than the one Basil wrote. Looks like he didn’t find the search box on the OCA Feast and Saints of the Church Year page, which is more difficult to find than it should be. It appears that his just does an OCA site search, which may be more generally useful.

The Phoenix as Christian Symbol

I’ve enjoyed that the phoenix was chosen as the name for the new browser project. The phoenix myth and the whole “rising from the ashes” idea is fairly commonly used as a metaphor for bringing new life or rejuvenation. Did you know that the phoenix has been used as a Christian symbol of the resurrection since the first century?

In a typical version of the myth, the phoenix is said to have been an eagle-like bird with beautiful red and gold plummage that lived in Arabia. Only one phoenix existed at a time. Every 500 years, as it felt its life drawing to an end, the phoenix would build a nest of frankincense, myrrh, and other sweet smelling woods. When its time was completed, it would set its nest on fire (or the sun’s rays would ignite it) and the bird would be consumed in the flames. Three days later, the phoenix would rise again from the ashes, restored to youth to live out another 500 years.

In another version of the legend, a worm crawls from the ashes and matures into a phoenix. The phoenix’s first task is to embalm the bones of its parent in a ball of myrrh and then carry this to the temple in Heliopolis (the City of the Sun) in Egypt to be buried.

In ancient Egypt, the phoenix, or bennu, was associated with the daily cycle of the Sun and the annual flooding of the Nile. The Romans used the phoenix symbol on their coins to represent both rebirth and the imperishable existence of the empire.

Clement of Rome in the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians makes the earliest known connection of the tale of the phoenix to the fact of the resurrection. Clement writes:

Do we then think it great and remarkable for the Maker of all things to raise up again those that have piously served him in the assurance of a good faith, when even by a bird he shows us the mightiness of his promises? For he says in a certain place, “Thou shalt raise me up, and I shall confess unto Thee;” and again, “I laid me down, and slept; I awaked, because Thou art with me;” and again, Job says, “Thou shalt raise up this flesh of mine, which has suffered all these things.”

After Clement of Rome’s epistle, the phoenix story was widely applied in the church as a symbol of apotheosis. Think about the story as you hear the baptismal hymn:

Awake, awake O sleeper,
Arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you. (Ephesians 5:14)

Phoenix, Minotaur, and Mozilla

I’ve gotten some questions about how Phoenix relates to Mozilla. Here’s how I see things as an interested bystander that doesn’t have any inside knowledge about the project. (David Hyatt’s quiz may also help you understand the differences between Phoenix and Mozilla.)

The Phoenix Project’s goal is to build the best web browser for most people. The Phoenix readme says “the interface will not be ‛geeky’ nor will it have a ‛hacker-focus’. Nor will it be ‛minimal’.” The project was started and is run by some of the core Mozilla developers that were frustrated by the restrictions and pressures placed on the Mozilla browser. They didn’t like the compromises forced on Mozilla due to marketing and other pressures within Netscape/AOL. They also wanted to work more quickly and with fewer check-in restrictions. In some cases they wanted to experiment with optimizations that may also be applied to the Mozilla code.

Will Phoenix replace Mozilla? Well, I suppose that depends upon what Mozilla means to you. Phoenix currently builds on top of Mozilla and shares a bunch of the code. Most of the changes in Phoenix are related to the user interface (UI), which is the part of the browser that you see and interact with (menus, toolbars, buttons, dialogs, etc.) Phoenix is going to be just a browser, not an entire suite of applications (email, address book, news reader, irc client, HTML editor, slicer-dicer, julienne fry maker). Don’t let that disappoint you, though. The Minotaur Project is working on a standalone mail client. Other Mozilla components will likely be available as add-on extensions.

The developers hope that if they focus on a particular application they will be able to build it better and make better decisions. They recognize the importance of being able extend the application and are planning for it.

Saints and Feasts of the day

Basil asked me for some ideas about how to write a bookmarklet to find today’s saints and feasts on the Orthodox Church in America website. I gave him a few suggestions and then wrote a bookmarklet so he could “check his work”. I simplified and improved the Saints of a Day bookmarklet after he posted about it in his blog. The major change was to make it more robust. It does some minimal input checking and makes sure that the numbers the user entered are zero padded if necessary.

I also created what may be a more helpful bookmarklet: it gets Today’s Readings (also from the OCA website). This gives you the scripture readings and hymns for the day and conveniently provides a link to the synaxarion for the day.