best quarterly bonus ever

a friend’s company got bought out last week, and he got a new coffee mug from his new overlords. he was quite excited.

it reminded me of the time where, after spending three weeks out of four on the road at a bill-out rate seven times my salary, my company (Silicon Graphics) rewarded me handsomely for my efforts:

<bobo> did I mention that we got bought out last week?
<bobo> we are now owned by <redacted>
<kev> yup, you did
<kev> read abt it yesterday
<bobo> couldn't remember
<bobo> I got a new mug out of the deal. weeeeeee!
<kev> q1 bonus!
<kev> (one quarter at SGI I got a $25 gift certificate for a quarterly bonus. I spent it on a green mug and a purple mug, then it was all gone)
<kev> I still have the mugs, tho

I should mention the gift certificate was for the company store. so it was probably worth something like $10. this was one of the main driving factors of my moving on to Globix in NYC (before the RIFs began in earnest). the final straw was a two-part act: I) I got a new manager, and no one told me for over a month. II) my first meeting with my new manager was for my annual performance review, where he got me confused with another employee. good times, good times… pardon my rambles.

it still saddens me greatly that SGI couldn’t market itself out of a wet paper bag outside its walls. the swag was nice, tho.

build your own browser update

tonight we pushed the fruits of the byob team’s (les orchard, neil lee, and carsten book) labour from the last couple of months to the BYOB app. there’s a whole lot of changes and fixes under the covers, as well as some changes to the user-facing features.

those additional features allow distribution creators to hide their builds from public searches, add non-default search plugins, and define bookmark folders in the bookmarks menu and toolbar that can hold up to 10 items. we’ve also reorganized things a little in the config wizard so that all addons are in one section. david rolnitzky is also helping us out with getting messaging together, and as we roll closer to 1.0 we’ll be talking a little more about BYOB and why we’re doing it.

moving forward we’ll be focusing on streamlining the registration system, re-developing the site’s look and feel (and copy), adding support for some additional add-ons, and integrating the app and build components into a little more scalable infra. I’ll be bringing the project page up to date over the next week or so, and in the interim invite you to have a peek at the changes we’ve made.

if you have questions or comments, feel free to join us in IRC in the #byob channel at, or via the contact form on the BYOB site.

huge thanks again to les, neil, tomcat, and david for their work over the past several months. byob is an idea we’ve been kicking around for almost three years, and it’s nice to see it fast becoming a reality.

revisiting search

Mozilla Firefox has had a search bar since its initial release, and has helped to change the way our users look up information by giving them a single interface to a variety of search services. It’s also had search services in the location bar, but they’re not as accessible or (arguably) useful as what’s offered by the search bar. There have been minor tweaks along the way to how these work, but nothing fundamental has changed with respect to search features in Firefox since its original release. We need to change that. Starting now.

Search behaviours have changed, and there are a number of new – and sometimes even different – search service providers out there. Unfortunately, our users don’t always realize how many options are available to them through Firefox, the websites they visit, and search-related add-ons. Our users today are using search to find other people, stuff that’s close to them, what everyone’s talking about right now, and a host of other things, and we should be making that as easy as possible for them.

Aside from the great UI work being considered, like moving the search bar into the location bar, I think there’s considerably more we need to do across a number of domains. I’d like for us to start exploring how we improve the use and utility of search in Mozilla’s products and services, particularly:

1. What kind of information are our users searching for, and who is best-positioned to provide the most relevant information for those searches?

The web has matured in the last five years, and people are using different search services for specific tasks. We should categorize the search services that are available in Firefox, and ensure they’re relevant to the task at hand for the people who use them. The Fennec team has developed its search interface with this in mind, providing search services for different tasks that our user base performs on a regular basis, and I think this is something we should build on.

2. Are we doing a good job meeting the needs of the users in each locale we support?

Every locale we support starts with the default list of providers we offer in the US English version of Firefox. Our amazing localization teams have created these lists to add search services that are more relevant to their locales and the users in them, and they do a great job. I’d like to ensure we all have a better understanding of who those providers are, and what, if any, alternatives there are per locale. From there we can build on the categorization process, and provide a truly global list of search services for our users.

3. How can we help our users discover and use the options available to them?

There are several search features in the browser, along with search options other than what we provide by default in our search bar. We need to make it easy for users to add to the list of search engines to the list of defaults we provide, to discover that there are add-ons that enhance search utility, and that they can change things like the default search provider(s). The mechanics behind these features could be improved considerably, and we should make changes to both to make them more usable by our publishers and users alike.

4. What does our search wish list look like?

We should think hard about what we’d like to change in Firefox to make search better, as well as where we should incorporate search services and which services should be offered. We don’t need to constrain ourselves to how we’ve done things thus far, and should consider including anything and everything that will help. If we could get things just by asking, would they include things like:

  • add-on searches and discovery
  • suggestions on error pages
  • better user control of search preferences
  • context-sensitive searches by website
  • searches from within new tabs
  • insert your idea here (and in the comments!)

The net result of this process should be a list of new services and features we can incorporate into the Mozilla project and its individual products, and would encompass all of the information assembled. The idea is to get people thinking, and come up with a public plan for improving search across the board to keep our products relevant and useful.

None of these ideas are new, and have been considered at different times by individual groups or people. They touch the user, the product, our content providers, localization and add-on communities, and almost every functional organization at Mozilla, and requires the input of same. As such, they’ll always be considered individually unless we shift from a tactical mode of thinking to something a little more strategic. I’d like to kick things off so we can start driving towards that.

The sky should be the limit, and we shouldn’t constrain ourselves to any particular mindset.

So, how do you think search should work?

kick the tires and light the fires

It’s been a really, really long time since I’ve posted anything that was a result of thinking vs. problem solving, and I’m hoping that stops starting now. The past year has been one of the most challenging and gratifying of my life, but it has been 100% reactive, with precious little advance planning and a hell of a lot of treading water. I have a new family (I didn’t even have to add water), a new-to-me home in a town I never, ever expected to be living in (it’s great), and a job I enjoy (although it’s been a tough few months adjusting to a number of things).

I think things have settled to the point where I can sit, breathe, plan, and use something more than 140 characters to express thoughts and share info. To that end, I’ll be blogging a little more often, focusing on work, but with the odd life update thrown in. There’s a lot I want to talk about, and a lot of things I’m working on, but it’s been hard to find sixty minutes on a regular basis to get thoughts to paper. I think I’m past that now, and I’m looking forward to talking a little more about things I’m working on and thinking about, and ideally getting feedback on it.

We’ll see how it goes, but I’m going to try treating posting a little more as a required thing, and plan on using the time I normally use getting annoyed by blam and jesus diaz over at Gizmodo for something useful, instead. Wish me luck.

xbox 360 video stuttering on the panasonic pt-ae3000

I have a new PT-AE3000 projector from Panasonic, and to date I have loved everything about it except for a few games (most notably rock band 2) using the Xbox 360 with a progressive signal. The video (but not the audio) would stutter/jump at times, which could throw my timing off. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was annoying.

I had disabled the usual culprits, namely noise reduction and Panasonic’s “Frame Creation” (used to make moving images less after-imagy), but was still getting stutter. Searching various forums didn’t really help, so I went back to the manual, and eventually found the culprit.

The projector has a setting in the “Options” menu for “Frame Response”, which is described in the manual as “You can minimise the time delay of image displayed for the progressive signals.” This feature has two settings:

  • NORMAL Prioritise the image quality
  • FAST Prioritise the frame response

Setting it to “FAST” cleared up the problem, and I didn’t notice any discernible difference to image quality in-game.

PowerLinc 2412U PLM and Indigo/OSX

Just a really quick hit, because it took me a little while to find this post, which pointed me in the right direction.

If you’re trying to use the PowerLinc 2412U on OSX 10.5 with the latest beta (4.1) of the Indigo home-automation and control server, you’ll need to install USB serial drivers first. It would have been nice if this was a little more apparent with either the Indigo software or the PLM’s documentation, but it’s not (or, if it is, it’s buried).

Get the USB serial drivers from here, install them, and now you should be able to see the interface and the proper port in the preferences panel. Hopefully this will save you a bit of the aggravation I went through trying to figure out why the hell I couldn’t initialize the interface between Indigo and the PLM.

a stroll down memory lane

so… wow. it’s been an interesting last year.

– I met a nice girl
– who has nice kids
– and a dog
– who now pretty much lives with me (the dog. actually, the girl too)
– and likes to chase frisbees (just the dog)
– so I go to the park again
– I’ve been to the left coast ten times
– I’ve been to Toronto six times
– I missed going to NYC at Xmas for the first time in a decade
– I completed my 365
– I filed my first patch (very, very minor)
– I turned 41
– and I feel significantly younger
– so I’ve started running again
– and have dropped 15 lbs
– and it’ll keep on dropping
– I celebrated Canada Day with Walt and Lee and company
– who also brought a dog
– I also bought a house
– I move in less than two weeks
– to a place that is not Ottawa
– but is as close (time-wise) to YOW as I am now
– and is closer to a lot of other things, like my brother (now that he’s returned from Kirkland Lake)
– it’s been crazy
– I get overwhelmed every so often
– but it’s great,

That’s life in a nutshell. There’s a bunch more, but those are the more important bits.

See? I’m not dead, after all.

firefox 3.0.9 partner repacks

During the release process of Firefox 3.0.7, we added a section on Partner Repacks to the Releases page on The idea behind the addition was to make people involved with the release process aware of the repacks, which depend on, and are affected by, the general release process and schedule. The information presented was a summary only, and was never really intended to provide detail about the repacks themselves.

Partner Repacks are versions of Firefox that are customized for a specific distribution partner. These customizations can include modified preferences and/or bundled add-ons, and are used by both Mozilla and third-party distribution providers. We call them repacks because all of the customizations are made by adding files to the default installer we use in the general release. There are no changes to any of the original files included in the general release, and all changes are additive in nature.

With the inclusion of Partner Repacks page in the 3.0.7 release, there were a few questions from the community regarding the repacks, and we realized there should be more information about them available. To that end, starting with the release of Firefox 3.0.9, we’re publishing information about all of the partner repacks we release on the Mozilla wiki.

From the Status page you’ll be able to see what repacks we’re generating, the customizations we’ve made to them, and where in the release process they are. Repacks will also be tracked by release, with information that will include which repacks are generated for a specific release, along with tracking bugs, QA results, and any changes that are made to a repack between releases.

There’s still a fair bit of work to do to better document the process, and over the next few weeks I’ll be adding additional information about repacks, how they’re created, and the guidelines we apply to those customizations. I’ll post more later, but wanted people to be aware that we’ve started publishing this information, and we’ll continue to build on it.

If you have specific questions on the repacks, or are interested in finding out more about distributing customized versions of Firefox, please see the Partnerships section of Please note that distribution of a customized version of Firefox requires Mozilla approval, and additional information about distribution of the official installers as well as customized versions can be found in the Mozilla Trademarks Policy document.