Monthly Archives: June 2008

Firefox 3 Keyword Tag Search with OpenDNS Not Working

Using keyword tag searching in Firefox 3 is broken and not working with OpenDNS.  Keyword tag searching, i.e. typing the letter G for Google in the address bar, then typing the search words or terms, then hitting enter, should do a google search.  If you’re using OpenDNS, Firefox 3’s keyword tag searching in the address bar gets hijacked by OpenDNS, returning OpenDNS results instead of Google search results.

To fix this, go into Firefox’s hidden configuration page by typing into the address bar “about:config”.

A warning will come up.  Just click “I’ll be careful, I promise”.

Then filter the items you’re shown by typing “keyword”.

Double click on the Value for Keyword.URL and replace the value with the following (without quotes) “http://www.google.com/search?q=”

Click OK.

Try doing a keyword tag address bar search in Firefox: “g peanut butter”. Hopefully you’ll get something like this:

You may have to quit and restart Firefox to have this change take effect.

Firefox 3 Home page keyboard shortcut

With FireFox 3 some users have noticed that setting up custom keyboard shortcuts with Keyboard preferences pan no longer works.  Most noticeably, you can’t create a keyboard shortcut for going to your Home page in Firefox 3.

A remedy, although not a solution, is to use the built-in Home page keyboard shortcut for Firefox: alt + home or Option + home for Mac users.

Macbook users need to use the function key (fn) + option (alt) + left arrow key to get the “home” key normally found on full size keyboards, to apply the homepage keyboard shortcut.

Firefox 3 for Speed

It’s early in the honeymoon phase with Firefox 3 or more accurately infatuation “I just met you” phase, but FF3 appears as fast (or faster) than both Safari and Camino.  That’s fast.  Ridiculously fast when you consider that it has the power of the largest Add-Ons base, plus the best overall standards support of any web browser.

I performed a quick pseudo-scientific speed test among Camino 1.6.1, Firefox 3, and Safari 3.04, emptying caches and restarting each browser before loading the test site for each run and here are the results:

TripAdvisor.com

  • Firefox 3 – 4.09 seconds
  • Camino – 4.29 seconds
  • Safari – 4.33 seconds

Cnn.com

  • Firefox 3 – 4.98 seconds
  • Safari – 5.15 seconds
  • Camino – 5.3 seconds

Gmail.com

  • Safari – 3.82 seconds
  • Camino – 4.67 seconds
  • Firefox 3 – 4.60 seconds

These are load times of the following home pages for my location (France), and my account, where applicable (i.e. Gmail).  The timer was stopped when the loading bar disappeared from the browsers.

Interestingly, Safari is still consistently fastest for Gmail.

The single biggest reason for my switching to Camino from Firefox was Firefox 2’s abysmal speed.  The other nice features of Camino included Flashblock/adblock, inline search+navigation (forward slash key, start typing, if inline search result is a link then hit enter to open the link), are now fully integrated into Firefox 3… plus FF3 is slightly faster.  I think this could spell the end of Camino for me… (for now).

SMF forum permissions problems

Just finished an install and setup of SMF forum software and I have to complain: its file permission handling is horrible. SMF’s solution to make it easier (or more accurately: less impossible) to handle file permission changes and to install Mods (Packages) is to use a built in (php) FTP script to make file permission changes for you. I feel pretty uncomfortable with giving out administration credentials on software I just installed, maybe that’s just me.

I spent a good two hours trying to install reCaptcha for SMF and ended up failing. Why? File permissions for one. Without setting the entire SMF directory to full file permissions for everyone (777), I could not get an SMF Mod to install. Next, after getting the reCaptcha mod installed, I couldn’t enable it. The instructions on the Mod page at SMF is either far out of date or simply wrong (Admin => Registration => Settings doesn’t exist).

And to top it all off, the look and feel of SMF is not user friendly. It’s as if the only people to have contributed to the user interface design of SMF are programmers, rather than designers. For instance, finding the New Topic button requires effort and searching. Whomever created the style sheet for the default theme of SMF, spent all their time blending all page elements together rather than making important features stand out and capture attention. For forum software, used by all skill levels of computer users, user-friendly design should be the most important feature. If people cannot use the most basic functionality of the software, the rest of the features are completely wasted.

The golden rule of user-interface design: “Don’t make me think“. In order to use SMF Forum, you have to do some serious searching to perform even the most basic function: posting a new message.

In my estimation, SMF is going to be losing ground to phpBB steadily over the next few years and will slip into obscurity unless they fix their UI and setup/permissions issues.

Wireless Encryption Protocols for Apple AirPort

Part of the reason why maintaining a solid AirPort wireless connection is so difficult is the different number of wireless encryption protocols available today.

WiFI Encryption Methods available on Leopard

Play ISO Videos in Front Row

To have Apple Front Row show and play videos inside of an iso file, first mount the iso file then make links to the video files inside of the iso, within your Movies folder. This can be useful for example when you have a season of television episodes of House MD in a single ISO disc image somewhere on your Mac.

step 1: mount iso file

First mount the iso file by double clicking on it (within Finder, on your desktop, wherever it may be). The ISO file will be mounted like a drive and will show up within Finder under Devices and look like this:

In my case the iso file disc image was named 20071107_170514 when it was created. Your mounted iso volume will be named differently.

step 2: link to video files in iso

Create symbolic links to the video files within your Movies folder using the Terminal. Afterwards the videos will show up in Front Row like any other video or movie and you don’t have to copy the files out, saving disk space.

Before that, I’m going to create a folder within ~/Movies with a descriptive name (since 20071107_170514 is meaningless to me). In the Terminal window I would enter:
mkdir ~/Movies/HouseSeason4

Now create symbolic links to the videos with the the “ln” program:
ln -s /Volumes/20071107_170514/*.avi ~/Movies/HouseSeason4

ln is the link program
-s tells the link program to make symbolic links (like detour signs to real files)
/Volumes/20071107_170514 is the mounted iso volume. Change 20071107_170514 to whatever your iso volume is named.
*.avi In my case the video files were AVI files and I wanted all of them (*) to be linked. Change this to whatever format the videos happen to be for you, for example: *.mpg *.mkv
~/Movies/HouseSeason4 is the directory where the videos will appear in Front Row. Since Apple Front Row automatically searches through your Movies folder for videos, making a subdirectory underneath Movies is an ideal spot. These symbolic links will appear like any other video file and Front Row will browse and play these files as if they were actually located in your Movies folder.

step 3: Watch iso videos in Front Row

Start Front Row by hitting ⌘+⎋ (Command Key and Escape) or hitting the Menu button on your Apple remote.

Go into the Movies folder and you should see the folder you created in Step 2. Go into that folder and you should see the video files that were inside the iso disc image file. From here you should be able to play the video files that are inside the iso, without having to copy the files out to your Movies folder and taking up twice the disk space.

Notes

Any volumes that you mount will be unmounted automatically when you reboot. Since the symbolic links within your Movies folder aren’t the actual video files themselves, they need the mounted iso volume to work. After rebooting, remember to remount your iso disc image by double clicking on it before looking for videos inside it within Front Row.

Deleting Locked Files in Leopard OS X

Can’t empty the trash bin because some files are locked? “Operation not permitted” when moving files? Try unlocking the files first in Finder.

Open Finder. Highlight the files in question. Right click on the files and select Get Info. Uncheck the Locked checkbox.

Continue deleting or moving the files as you please.

Use MacBook Pro Lid Closed

MacBook Pro One Inch Tall

MacBook Pro’s are able to run with their lid closed (clamshell mode) when connected to an external display as long as you’ve connected a usb keyboard and mouse (likely either/or) to the laptop before closing the lid.

Closing the lid after connecting the external keyboard/mouse, will put the MacBook Pro to sleep, but clicking/moving the mouse or pressing keys on the keyboard will wake your Mac from sleep.

Make sure you’ve connected the external monitor before closing the lid, else the MacBook won’t display the desktop in clamshell mode.

Here are the full original instructions from Apple on how to use MacBook Pro / PowerBook G4’s with lid closed.

Wait to Install Apple Software Updates

Here’s an example of why you should to wait to install updates from Apple: MacBook Pro EFI firmware update version 1.5.1 replaced version 1.5.0 very shortly after its release as probably thousands of complaints rolled in about blank screen on wakeup problems with 1.5.0.Apple Software Update

As much testing as any software/hardware team can do in house, nothing compares to millions of users in real world situations.

Good things come to those who wait, no? Or at least, less update bugs.

AirPort wireless connection Drops on Leopard 10.5.2

Apple AirPort Wireless Logo

Symptoms

  • AirPort wireless connection randomly stops working, even though signal strength to base station is good.
  • Wireless connection strength drops, clicking on AirPort starts scanning, wireless strength returns to full, but Internet connection is lost.
  • Can’t create wireless connection to DLink DIR-625 wireless router after upgrading to 10.5.2.

Possible Causes

  • AirPort attempts to connect to stronger “Recent networks” listed in preferences file /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.airport.preferences.plist
  • Apple has updated its AirPort wireless connectivity to a more recent draft of the “wireless n” proposed standard. This is a faster version of wifi than the previous 802.11 wireless g, b, and a standards. (References: Wikipedia 802.11, Discussions at Apple.com).
  • [Added 080618]: AirPort is finding neighboring wireless router base stations on the current wifi channel and is attempting to connect to them. (References: Gedblog, TUAW.com)
  • [Added 080824]: AirPort attempts to connect to based stations listed in “Preferred networks”, listed in System Preferences => Network => Advanced => AirPort => Preferred Networks. See the fix for AirPort Preferred Networks problem.
  • [Added 090105]: Real Player Downloader.  Mechanics of problem unknown. See comment below by Jerry Zakariasen.

Diagnostics

Fixes/Solutions/Workarounds

Please, before implementing any of these fixes, try them one at a time and wait to see if there is any improvement in the situation before trying the next. Keep track of which fixes you have tried and report back when one of them (or none of them) in particular solved your problem so that we know which solutions are useful and which are less likely to help, thus moving forward in our knowledge of how to diagnose and fix wireless dropouts on Apple AirPort connections. Many thanks. ~ Ben.

  • Backup /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.airport.preferences.plist file, then delete it. Reboot. Leopard will create a new AirPort preferences file with a single entry with your current wireless base station.
  • For D-Link DIR-625 wireless router (from discussions.apple.com):
    1. Within Setup => Advanced => Advanced Wireless, change RTS Threshold to 2306
    2. Change Fragmentation Threshold to 2306
    3. Use “Mixed 802.11n, 802.11g, and 802.11b” within Setup => Wireless Settings
  • [Added 080618]: Change wireless channel on your wifi router (e.g. AirPort Extreme base station, NetGear, Linksys) from 6 (the default) to anything from 1-4 or 8 to 11. Please refer to your router’s instruction manual on how to do this. The reason for avoiding channels 5 and 7 is that wifi routers by design will automatically switch to one channel above or below their current channel when wifi signal noise passes a certain value. Thus, if you were having problems on channel 6, your router and AirPort have already tried channels 5 and 7 and you’re still experiencing problems.
  • [Added 080618]: If possible, use the 5Ghz transmission frequency/band for your wireless router. Most wireless devices (nearly all wireless routers and cordless telephones) in homes use the 2.4Ghz transmission band. Avoiding this band will result in much less radio noise. Again, this is a setting on your wireless access point rather than on your Mac. Please refer to your wireless base station’s instructions on how to change radio frequency (if possible).
  • [Added 080618]: Keychain Access is an Apple program that saves passwords to websites, to your Mac itself, to wireless base stations, etc. The keychain entries related to wireless base stations is a potential cause of wireless drops in Leopard 10.5.2 with the theory being that Keychain Access was modified in this release, breaking (somewhat) keychain items created in older versions (10.5.1 and prior). Deleting and recreating the keys in 10.5.2 and beyond may resolve this issue if you are affected.Launch Keychain Access within Finder: Applications => Utilities => Keychain Access. On the top left, select System, underneath login. Find the name of your wireless base station or router, often called an SSID in networking terms. For me it’s WANADOO-D310. Under the Kind column it should read AirPort network password. You may find multiple keychain entries for wireless base stations you’ve used in the past. We want to delete them all, but before doing that, save their passwords. You do this by right clicking on the item, for me WANADOO-D310, and choosing Copy Password to Clipboard. If you are asked to allow access to this item by kcproxy, click Allow.
    Then create a new text file somewhere on your mac and paste the password that’s been copied to your clipboard. This will make it easier when you have to reconnect to this base station. You might want to note which base station/wireless router this password is related to while doing this. I did this by simply writing the name of the wireless router beside the password. After backing up the passwords, delete all the keychain items of kind AirPort network password. Now turn off the AirPort connection by clicking on the AirPort menu bar icon (looks like the image at the top of this post) and selecting Turn AirPort Off. Open System Preferences => Network. You’ll notice that Network Name select list will no longer have your base station listed. Click Turn AirPort On. AirPort will search for wireless networks (takes about 30 seconds) and will eventually pop up with a window saying None of your preferred networks are available, but you should see your wireless base station listed as one of the networks.
    Select your network and click Join. You’ll be asked for your password. Hopefully you remembered to save that password somewhere and can simply copy and paste it back in. (Use right click => Paste rather than Apple Key + V, which won’t work for this password field). After this you should be reconnected to your wifi base station. If you return to your Keychain Access window, you should once again see your base station listed with the System Keychains. You can close the Keychain Access and Network preferences pane windows. If you have multiple wireless networks that you use often, you’ll have to search and reconnect to them with the passwords you’ve saved. Hopefully the recreated keychain items will keep you connected.
  • [Added 080624]: Remove Preferred Networks. From within System Preferences => Network => Advanced => AirPort, using the minus button, remove all preferred networks except for the current wireless access point you’re connected to.
  • [Added 090105]: Remove Real Player Downloader. Jerry Zakariasen mentions in the comments below that uninstalling Real Player Downloader for Mac has fixed wireless network drops on his mac.  See his comment below for more details. Thanks Jerry.

Background

Just after upgrading to 10.5.2 I noticed that once in a while my AirPort wireless connection would drop to 2 or 3 bars, then return to full signal strength, but I couldn’t access the Internet after that. There didn’t seem to be any pattern to these dropouts of wireless connection. No interference from neighboring base stations either. Yet everything was ultra stable with 10.5 and the only change I made was upgrading (finally) to 10.5.2.

After doing some research, I had a theory that AirPort was searching through old wireless connections within /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.airport.preferences.plist constantly looking for a better signal. And whenever the current wireless connection suffered from minor transient interference (say cordless telephones), it would immediately try to connect to another base station or try to switch to a different channel. Have a look at your version of the airport preferences file by navigating to it in Finder, starting with Macintosh HD, then Library, Preferences, and finally within the SystemConfiguration folder. You can simply hit enter with the file highlighted to use Quick Look. You can also use Terminal to quickly print the file to the screen with the following command: cat /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.airport.preferences.plist

Once the AirPort control software in 10.5.2 set about trying to find a better wireless connection, it would never successfully get back your original wireless connection which was really fine. Hence, from time to time, you would see a slight drop in wireless signal strength, then after clicking on the AirPort wireless icon, it would scan for networks for a few seconds, then return to full strength, yet you would have already lost Internet access.

The fix is simple:

  1. Drag the /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.airport.preferences.plist file to your desktop (as a backup),
  2. Delete the file within SystemConfiguration,
  3. Reboot and let Leopard create a new airport preferences file with only your current wireless connection listed within it.

With only one base station listed in “Recent Networks” within the file, AirPort won’t try scanning for other stronger networks and you’ll stay connected.

That’s the theory anyways. It’s worked for me so far. Hope it helps you too.

Leave a comment if you have questions or have tried the fix with success/failure.