Speed Dial failing with “XML Parsing Error” message

Some users have been contacting me about a severe issue; Speed Dial will show a yellow page with a nasty error message that reads:

XML Parsing Error: no element found
Location: chrome://speeddial/content/speeddial.xul
Line number 1, Column 1:

The cause of this error is a recent update to the SiteAdvisor Firefox extension by McAfee; even if you don’t recall installing it, it appears that the antivirus installation will add this extension.

The solution is easy: disable the extension. To do so, go to the Tools menu, then “Add-ons”, and in the resulting panel, select “Extensions”, locate the extension in the list, select it by clicking on it, and then hit the “Disable” button.

I would really like to attempt to fix this issue, but there are two things that stop me from doing so; first, the error happens before any Speed Dial code is executed, meaning that the SiteAdvisor extension is doing something intrusive in the page load mechanism; second, if I would like to install the extension, I would need to install a software package from McAfee, instead of just downloading the extension and analyzing it.

In any case, I contacted the SiteAdvisor team, and it appears they’re looking into it, so hopefully they’ll fix it in their end. If you are an actual user of that extension, and for some reason don’t like the built-in Google functionality, some users suggested the WOT addon as an alternative.

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Speed Dial and Firefox 4.0

After a while, I finally update my blog!

I first need to make two posts about two issues that people have been writing me quite a lot recently; the first is about Firefox 4.0 compatibility and Speed Dial.

Some people are contacting me about Speed Dial not being compatible; it is, the problem is that you’re probably using an “older” 0.9.5.9 version downloaded from the Speed Dial download website; I updated it, changing only the compatibility information (as no code change was necessary), but in retrospective it would have been better to update the version number.

So, if your Speed Dial is reported as non-compatible, just head to the download site again, and just reapply the version 0.9.5.9; this time it will work perfectly.

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Nibbo search engine

In a previous post I mentioned that I was to start working on Speed Dial 1.0; however, I decided to put some time in another project of mine, the Nibbo search engine.

I started working on this project more than a year ago, and I actually advertised it in Speed Dial home page; however, it has been a bit of a disappointment, as people doesn’t seem to like it enough to make it its primary search engine. Also, I wasn’t happy with it, as it needed some work in order to reflect the initial vision I had.

The idea was quite simple; a hybrid between a customized home page (like iGoogle or NetVibes) and a regular search engine. However, I’m afraid the main problem with the site is that it wasn’t obvious that people could actually configure things, and that those things would be remembered even without logging in.

So, I decided to invest some of my time on it; I added tabs, made sure to put elements that would help people “discover” the configuration capabilities, made both sidebars fully customizable from the search results screen, and polished it a lot.

I like the final result; I use it as my primary search engine. Go try it out and let me know what you think.

Could it be better? Of course, and I’ve a lot of ideas for it; but I should invest my time where it makes sense, so I decided to give the page a bit more advertising, and only put some additional time on it if people actually like it.

For the next week or so I’ll be quite busy, but after that I’ll start working on the next major release of Speed Dial. Keep an eye on this blog for updates!

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New Speed Dial version

First of all, the version I uploaded to AMO has a bug that makes the “Group dials” point to an incorrect tab; this is fixed in version 0.9.5.9, available here. If you don’t know what “group dials” is, or don’t use it, you don’t need to upgrade 🙂

Version 0.9.5.8 has minor improvements; crop selector will scale the selection along with the “scaling” factor, the color selector widget has been improved and, most importantly, the tabs are now independent from the theme.

The Speed Dial group tabs used the standard tab widget from Firefox; this has the advantage that it integrates perfectly with the OS and theme. The problem is that it wasn’t great for coloring, and it had serious problems when a lot of tabs were defined; to solve that, I tried to add some hacks here and there, but in the end I’ve decided to go for two modes: an enhanced tab widget fully skinned by Speed Dial (this is the default), and a “native” one. The option to toggle this is available in the Speed Dial settings panel, “Advanced” tab, “Use browser theme in group tabs” checkbox.

So, in a week I’ll start working on Speed Dial 1.0; I’ll be posting updates on its progress!

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New blog address

Wow, first post in more than 2 years! Talk about a dead blog.

Part of the reason why I didn’t update more frequently was because this blog was originally meant just for Firefox Showcase, so it “kinda” felt bad to write about other things. So, I just moved the blog to a new address, blog.uworks.net! The original address will redirect here for a while.

Although I haven’t updated this blog, I certainly have been updating Firefox Showcase and Speed Dial, although not in any “radical” way; I had my hands quite full between job, studies and life. A few months ago me and my coworkers got a voluntary severance package offer, and I decided to take it… so now I’m already back to Spain, and I plan to spend the next months completing my Master’s degree.

During the last couple of years, I’ve received quite a lot of feature requests for Speed Dial, specially things like password-protected groups and online synchronization; unfortunately, those things are not easy with the current architecture of the application, as there are quite a lot of things I didn’t foresee when I created it, plus Firefox now has a lot more features available. So, in a week or so I’ll release a minor revision of Speed Dial, with some bug fixes, and after that I’ll start working on Speed Dial 1.0 , which will be a major revision.

I expect this revision to take 1-2 months; it won’t be a rewrite, and the user interface won’t really change from the one people got used to, but it will be better; more reliable, faster, will handle a lot larger number of assigned websites with ease, and will have the features I mentioned before: password protected (encrypted) groups, and online synchronization, plus some things I’ve been thinking of that will make it simply better.

I’ll also try to finally update one of my other extensions: MultiSidebar. Although it never was a very popular extension, some users really loved it, so I’ll finally take it to the latest Firefox version 🙂

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Google Chrome impressions

Google Chrome has just been released, and I’ve been playing with it for a while. Well, I’m quite impressed with the browser’s speed! The UI has also quite a lot of things “made right”: the autocomplete works very well, the status bar is hidden most of the time, the search has highlightning on by default, there’s a “new tab” button at the end of the tab bar, their “new tab” default page is very useful…

However, it also has some annoyances:the most important, for me, is the lack of “auto scroll”, clicking the middle button and enter the browsers “scroll mode”.

Also, the search highlightning seems to apply with “alpha channel”; it works well if the background is white, but if it’s black it makes things difficult to see. In Firefox, the colors will show a lot better.

I took the time to examine the browser’s files to see how feasible it would be to make an extension. I could see that the front end of their “DOM Inspector” is made with HTML and JS (found those files inside the “Resources” folder), but other than that, I saw that most of their functionality is implemented through DLL libraries, meaning that it will probably not be easy to develop extensions for it, if at all.

In any case, I think they made a very nice job, there… but I believe that it’s more of a Opera clone more than Firefox’s. Of course, they’ve the brand and the hype to push it to a lot of users, so this one is here to stay (unlike Safari for Windows).

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So, what’s going on?

Well, I’ve been really busy, and I currently don’t have Internet connection at home… Fortunately, I expect to have a bit more time from now on (and Internet connection from June 6th), so my first priority is to make my extensions (Firefox Showcase, Speed Dial and MultiSidebar) 100% compatible with Firefox 3.

Also, I want to add something that quite a lot of Speed Dial users have been asking for: group reordering. If anyone is reading this, rest assured that I’m working on it, and should hopefully be available soon :)

Oh, and I enabled moderation on the comments of this blog, as it received some spam comments. This blog isn’t receiving a lot anyways!

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Speed Dial gets an upgrade

Well, my Christmas/New Year vacations are almost over. The last two weeks have been quite busy, although I decided to spend some quality time with Speed Dial. The result? I added 3 new major new features:

  • Dial Groups: basically, it’s a tab bar for Speed Dial, which will allow the organization of dials by category.
  • MultiKey:  Because that “dial groups” feature can substantially increase the number of dials, this feature allows to access any dial by using keyboard shortcuts. This is enabled by default, so when there are more than 9 dials, the behavior changes. For example, if you press “Ctrl+1″, and there are more than 9 dials, a window will appear, which will show the dial assigned at position “1″. Pressing another number will act like a TV remote control, so if you would press “2″, it would show the dial at “12″. Using backspace will remove the last introduced dial, and using the cursor keys (and the “+” and “-” keys) will cycle through the existing dials. Releasing the “Ctrl” key will select the specified dial.
  • Thumbnail cropping: I received quite a lot of complaints about people not being able to read the thumbnail properly. This feature will allow to select an interesting portion of the assigned website! This is complemented by the “Crop Selector”, a visual tool to select the desired area.

Other than that there are a lot of other features and improvements, like the ability to use an alternative URL for thumbnail generation, to choose between 4 types of scaling, options to increase the quality of the thumbnail, a reduced configuration dialog that will show when Speed Dial is installed (actually, it’s more like a one-page wizard), special treatment for images… I’m rather proud of this release :)

I already posted it in Speed Dial download mirror page. However, it will take a while until it’s available in AMO, as I would like to have it localized before that. I woul really like to get feedback on this new version, so feel free to comment about it or contact me by email.

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Life’s going on!

Well, this month I already posted updates for Firefox Showcase and Speed Dial. I’ve been quite busy, so the updates are relatively minor, but I really wanted to update the compatibility information to include Firefox 3 beta 2 (which should be released really soon), and Speed Dial 0.5.0.7 had some nice stability improvements.

Christmas is coming, and I’ll be going back home for a couple of weeks :) Good! It has been a while since I’ve had proper vacation, although I’m planning to work a bit on my extensions, and also on some other stuff.

The other day I learned that Mozilla is organizing a new edition of the Extend Firefox competition. Well, that certainly brings back good memories! I’ll be submitting my extensions, but since I’m not planning to invest the same amount of effort as the previous edition, I’m quite sure I won’t win anything this time. Anyways, I’m certainly not doing this for the fame or the money, but to build something people will use and enjoy.

I’m thinking on some good improvements for Speed Dial, and I’m sure that I’ll be able to make it better next year :) That will be one of my new year resolutions!

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Kind of busy…

Well, here I am, updating my blog again! I’ve been way too busy between my “real life” job and updating my extensions (not all of them, just Showcase and, specially, Speed Dial).

First of all, I was quite surprised to see a new extension that also tries to bring Opera’s Speed Dial functionality to Firefox. Nothing new there… I would be concerned otherwise :) If an idea is good, there’ll be at least a couple of extensions trying to do the same! In any case, I think competition is always good for users. During the last few weeks I’ve been updating Speed Dial, and although I had a serious issue (an incompatibility with IE Tab that rendered the location bar unusable), I could fix some long standing bugs, and improve most of the aspects of the extension.

However, in Firefox 2 people complained about the lack of quality in the new version… the last version (which I keep posting here in order not to upset Speed Dial’s users with constant updates) adds a configuration parameter to use the old method, but I’m not really happy with it. I’m considering adding a dialog when installing Speed Dial that will allow two sets of settings, depending of what the user wants: speed or quality.

Also, I’m considering of submitting Speed Dial to the Extend Firefox 2 contest :) I’m sure I’ll not be as lucky as the last time, but it will be fun.

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