Category Archives: Software

10 of My Favorite Firefox Add-ons

In my Firefox 3.6.6 browser, I currently have 24 add-ons. Yeah, that’s kind of a lot, but it’s fewer than I had in older versions of Firefox. Nevertheless, if I had to pick my top-10 must-have add-ons, they would be as follows, in alphabetical order:

  1. Adblock Plus – Pages load faster and are easier to read without all the ads. Adblock Plus not only filters the ads out, but it also automatically updates its filters from one of several rulesets that you can select from when you install the add-on.
  2. Add N Edit Cookies+ or Firecookie – There are many add-ons for managing cookies, but very few that enable you to edit the content of any cookie. Add N Edit Cookies was one of, if not the, first one, though it is no longer maintained. The ‘+’ version has been updated to install on the latest versions of Firefox. Alternatively, if you use Firebug, below, then Firecookie is a plugin for Firebug that adds cookie editing capability to the debugger. Even if you’re not a developer, being able to edit cookie values is very handy for various things such as making a short-lived session cookie stick around for as long as you want.
  3. Firebug – This is the ultimate debugging environment for Firefox. Whether you’re working on HTML/CSS or JavaScript/AJAX, Firebug enables you to see and tweak things on the live page in the browser. There are too many capabilities to list here. If you don’t already know about Firebug, check it out.
  4. Greasemonkey – Know a little JavaScript? Then you can write Greasemonkey scripts to add, remove or modify the contents of a web page when Firefox loads it. To see what’s possible, take a look at some of the scripts at as well as the online book “Dive into Greasemonkey”.
  5. Live HTTP Headers – If you need to see the actual conversation between your browser and the web server, this is the add-on for you. It’ll record and show you the header information for every file request and response as it happens. You can even modify the header information for a request and resend it.
  6. NoScript – Letting JavaScript code from any web site execute in your browser isn’t particularly safe. Some scripts can be downright annoying. NoScript enables you to decide which web sites are OK to run scripts and which aren’t.
  7. Session Manager – Although Firefox has a built-in session manager to restore your tabs when the browser crashes, this add-on goes much further. With Session Manager, you can save multiple sessions with their own sets of tabs and windows with their corresponding back button histories. Tame your myriad tabs by creating a session for work, one for social networks, another for your hobby, etc. In addition, you can set them to be auto-save sessions so you don’t have to remember to save the current one when you switch to another.
  8. Tab Mix Plus – Each version of Firefox makes tab functionality better, but Tab Mix Plus gives you more control over them, including the ability to duplicate tabs, control tab focus and lock tabs. Although it has its own session manager, it is aware of the Session Manager add-on and won’t interfere.
  9. Vacuum Places Improved – Do you find that Firefox’s address bar and form auto-complete start to get really slow after a while? It’s because the sqlite database containing all that information needs compacting and this is the add-on to do it easily. It makes a big difference.
  10. Web Developer – Too many useful features in this add-on to list here. Some of the ones I use most include resizing the browser to specific dimensions (e.g. 1024×768), outlining specific types of HTML elements on the page and extracting the actual HTML source from the current page (including dynamically-added content that Firefox’s View Source leaves out).

Bonus add-on #11: Adblock Plus: Element Hiding Helper – Although Adblock Plus does a good job of removing ads, sometimes there are other page elements that you want to get rid of. The Element Hiding Helper works with Adblock Plus to enable you to point at a block of content on a web page with your mouse and make it go away for that specific page or anywhere on a site.

Since I use Firefox for development as well as surfing, many of these add-ons are developer-oriented. Your most-useful add-ons will depend on your usage and may be quite different than mine. That’s the beauty of Firefox’s add-on community–so many enhancements to fit your needs.

What are your favorite Firefox add-ons?

Banshee Crash when Playing Video or Audio Files

For some reason, the Banshee media player on my Ubuntu installation stopped responding and, as a result, its database was damaged. The result? Whenever I tried to play a video podcast, Banshee would attempt to start playing and then crash.

Rebuilding Banshee’s database to fix the corruption is pretty easy.

  1. If you don’t already have sqlite3 installed, get it via the following command:
    sudo apt-get install sqlite3
  2. Go to Bashee’s config directory:
    cd ~/.config/banshee-1
  3. Dump out the database:
    sqlite3 banshee.db ".dump" > dump
  4. Make a backup of the original database file, in case the repair doesn’t work properly:
    mv banshee.db banshee.db.backup
  5. Reload the dumped data into a new database file:
    cat dump | sqlite3 banshee.db

Worked great for me. Thanks to boombox1387 for posting the info. I ended up putting these commands into a shell script called, so it’ll be even easier to take care of next time.

Is your Banshee crashing for a different reason? Got a fix for it? Post it in the comments.

PuTTY Displays Box Characters Instead of Hyphens in Man Pages

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about fixing the incorrect characters that appear in man pages when using PuTTY. If, however, you see a box or rectangle where a character should be, then here’s the solution for that.

Although PuTTY and Cygwin support UTF-8, some fonts have more character coverage than others. In the case of PuTTY on Windows, most of the fixed-width fonts are missing some of the characters that are used in manual pages. As a result, a hollow box will appear in their place.

DejaVu Sans Mono is one fixed-width font that includes the required characters. Switch to it and your man pages will look good once more.

What other fixed-width fonts have good UTF-8 coverage? Share your findings in the comments.

Ubuntu Popping Sound from Speakers

Are you experiencing an intermittent popping sound from your speakers when nothing is playing? I encountered it after upgrading a PC with an HDA Intel audio controller to Xubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala. It occurs 10 seconds after a sound stops playing because that’s when the audio chip is turned off to save power.

To prevent the popping noise, you just have to disable the power saving mode.

  1. With your favorite editor, open /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf as root (Important: Run the editor using sudo or gksudo to give it root permission. You can’t save the file otherwise.)
  2. Locate the line that reads, “# Power down HDA controllers after 10 idle seconds”
  3. Immediately following that comment is the offending option:
    options snd-hda-intel power_save=10 power_save_controller=N
  4. Insert a hash # character at the very beginning of the option line to turn it into a comment. It should look like the following:
    #options snd-hda-intel power_save=10 power_save_controller=N
  5. Save the file and restart Ubuntu

If you have a different sound controller and are experiencing this noise, look in the file for a similar-looking option (e.g., options snd-hda-something power_save…) and comment it out. Share your experience in the comments.

Cygwin 1.7 Has Funny Characters on Man Pages in PuTTY

Do you see strange characters on man pages in your Cygwin? After upgrading to Cygwin 1.7, I noticed that the soft hyphens in man pages were replaced with the “รข” character. Somehow, the character set wasn’t right. I remember having to deal with this problem several years ago, but couldn’t recall how I solved it. I found some old messages floating around the web going back at least a decade about setting environment variables, locales and whatnot to cure this. Fortunately, the solution turned out to be easy with the latest Cygwin and PuTTY.

As it turns out, Cygwin 1.7 now defaults to using the UTF-8 character set. PuTTY, at least on my system in the US, defaults to ISO-8859-1, a.k.a Latin-1. So, the fix is as follows:

  1. Open the PuTTY Configuration dialog
  2. Under the Window category, click on Translation
  3. In the “Character set translation on received data” section, select UTF-8 in the drop down list box
  4. Save the configuration

Now man pages look normal again. Of course, if you’ve changed the locale and/or character set in your Cygwin to something other than UTF-8, be sure to set PuTTY’s character set to match.

Are you using a different terminal/ssh program with Cygwin than PuTTY and encountering this? Share the corresponding steps to apply the cure for your terminal emulator in the comments.