Earlier this morning I uploaded a beta version of NAMFox that builds upon what I've already delivered in the 1.6.3 release. I'm trying out something new here by releasing beta versions every week (as long as there is some new feature or bug fix available) to see if it helps encourage you guys to give feedback on new features so I can make them as good as possible before releasing to the public.

Of course, any beta release is optional to download. But if you do download a beta, then Firefox will always let you know when there are beta updates available every week. You can provide feedback in the same way you can today--posting threads in the appropriate NAMFox forum to report bugs or make suggestions.

The first beta release is out now: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3995/versions/?page=1#version-1.6.3.75beta You can read the release notes at the link above. Enjoy!

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I've uploaded NAMFox 1.6.3 to the Mozilla Add-Ons site (not yet reviewed). Again, there are only a few bug fixes, including resolving the issues around Quick Edit that recent changes in Neoseeker caused. New features should be coming in the next version.

Also, this version supports Firefox 4.0 Beta 1. I know Beta 2 is now out, and if you want to disable Firefox's compatibility check and try it that's fine. However, I believe there are breaking changes which will cause it not to work. I'll keep working on this over the next couple of days.


Bug Fixes

  1. Quick edit doesn't interpret sup and sub tags correctly
  2. Memory leak in AutoComplete




Thanks,
Art

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I've uploaded NAMFox 1.6.2 to the Mozilla Add-Ons site. There's just a few bug fixes in this one—nothing too fancy.


Bug Fixes

  1. Quick reply double posts
  2. Signature disappears after quick edit
  3. Slow performance using Neoseeker when using NAMFox and your account name has a space in it.



Note that if your user name does have a space in it I would recommend you download this new version if you are currently using NAMFox today. Previous versions of NAMFox would cause a heavy load on the Neoseeker servers for those of you with spaces in your name, so you may have experienced some slowness or hiccups with your Internet connection. If that's the case you should see things speed up a bit with this new release.

Thanks,
Art

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With Christmas fast approaching it's time to create some of the classic Christmas dishes, including today's special—cranberry sauce.

Recipe

Ingredients (US Units)

  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 12 oz. cranberries

Steps

1. Wrap all of the cloves and the cinnamon stick in a cheesecloth. This was my first exposure to "cheesecloth"—we'll cook the cranberries with the spices in the cloth so they don't get lost in the sauce. Nothing worse than eating something only to discover you've taken a big bite of a cinnamon stick. :)
2. Next, combine the sugar, water, vinegar and spices in a saucepan and put on high heat until the mixture starts to boil; then bring down the mixture to medium heat and wait for the sugar to dissolve completely. This will take about 5 minutes.


3. Then pour the cranberries into the saucepan and cook them under medium-low heat until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens, about 15 to 20 minutes. Then remove the spice bag from the mixture.
I was really surprised how easy this recipe was. We spent more time looking for ingredients than actually preparing the dish. I haven't had a chance to try it yet since it's not Christmas, but I'll update this blog when I have! :)



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Most of what I know about cooking I learned by watching others prepare food and talking to them about their techniques. The problem with doing this is that when you want to recreate their dishes, you have to stitch together your memories of what you saw and what they said and pray that you end up with something that looks (and tastes!) halfway decent. So, in an endeavor to solve this problem, I've decided to write a blog post about each recipe that I see so I no longer have to keep these tucked away in my memory. As an added bonus, I can share the recipes with you guys and get some feedback about things I can do differently in future. So let's get started!



The first dish that my mom and I prepared tonight was rainbow trout. It was a pretty straightforward dish, but sometimes it can be a little intimidating to look at fish and think "what the hell do I do with this?".

Recipe

Ingredients

2 rainbow trout, organs removed (ours were about a foot long)
Olive oil
Small amounts of butter (1 oz. maximum)
1 shallot
White wine
Salt and pepper

Steps

1. The first thing to prep the fish is to scale it if the fish you buy still has its scales. To do this you can take a knife and start scraping from the caudal fin (i.e. the tail) and make your way to the head. Keeping the knife at a 45 degree angle (being careful not to slice into the fish) also helps scale the fish more quickly. We did this in the sink, so it was easy to keep water running to help remove all the scales that build up on the knife.
2. Afterwards, you'll need to wash the inside and outside of the trout (shown below). While you're working on the trout, add some olive oil and butter to a pan under low heat and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
3. You'll now have a wet fish :), so take a paper towel and dry the fish as much as you can.
Now we turned the stove up to medium heat and seared the trout in the pan. Although we had good intentions (reduce the overall cooking time), we shouldn't have done this because it ended up ripping the skin from the fish (see below). We cut our losses and moved the fish to a casserole dish before seasoning it with a bit of salt and pepper.


3. With the fish set aside we chopped up a shallot and threw it in the pan and waited for it to caramelize. I like shallots more than onions because the flavor they produce is not as intense as onions', so it doesn't overpower the main course.
4. When the shallots are done, we poured the remaining mixture from the pan over the trout.
5. The last step was to flesh out the sauce with some wine. We used a small amount of white wine and let that simmer for a bit before pouring that on the trout in the casserole dish.
We stuck it in the oven for 20 minutes and then had a delicious meal with it. I enjoyed the flavors, but they were a little plain, and the fish still had tons of bones in it. The presentation also could be a little better next time (don't rip the skin off).



There were actually more trout in the container than what we cooked tonight, so went through the first couple of steps of scaling, cleaning, and drying the fish before wrapping them in Saran wrap and aluminum foil to freeze. Then I suspect it will be simple enough to thaw them and try this again, perhaps with some different seasoning this time. Bon appetit!

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Hey guys, I wanted to let you all know that after a long and arduous journey, NAMFox has been approved as a public add-on to host on addons.mozilla.org! This is a big step in improving the visibility of NAMFox as well as the availability of the host. I hope this means there will be no more issues downloading NAMFox. :)

If you have NAMFox 1.6, you should be prompted to download 1.6.0.1 from the addons.mozilla.org site. There are no functionality changes in this version, just a couple of changes to make NAMFox play more nicely with other add-ons.

To all of you who took the time to write reviews for NAMFox, I really appreciate your help. I couldn't have gotten NAMFox approved without your help.


NAMFox at AMO


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is back from break
On Sabbatical

Our business in life is not to get ahead of others but to get ahead of ourselves—to break our own records, to outstrip our yesterdays by our today, to do our work with more force than ever before.

Stewart B. Johnson



A couple weeks ago I realized my efforts in "outdoing myself" were slack, not because of a lack of ideas, but because of a lack of time. There are so many things I know I can achieve, but they stay on the backburner until I have time to pursue them.

It wasn't until last week that I had the idea to take a sabbatical from Neoseeker to start attacking this long backlog of self-improvement efforts. As a result, I began talking with Redemption, a few supermoderators and my good friend bobbonew to see if we could come to sort of arrangement. Fortunately, we did. I recently released a new version of NAMFox alongside the new forum upgrades, both of which help facilitate the all-desired self-management of the bug forums that Redemption and I discussed only a couple months ago. The supermoderator team was very accommodating with my request; I especially appreciate Solitaire's willingness to talk through logistics with me. Finally, bobbonew has volunteered to moderate the bug forums and Web Coding while I am away, and for that I am very grateful.

So if you have any issues with those forums over the next few months, please talk with bobbonew instead of me. If, however, you encounter NAMFox issues that require immediate attention, shoot me an email, and I'll be sure to see it.

Thanks for your support! I'll see you in a couple months.

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Throughout middle school and high school I had four years of Spanish classes, and while I thought we were learning a lot of material, I remember now that we were not truly engaged in wanting to learn. I recently realized that I didn't want those years to go to waste, though, and so I started learning Spanish on my own. The best way that I found so far (within my budget) was to use the tools available at SpanishPod101.com.

If you haven't been to SpanishPod101.com and you're interested in learning Spanish, then I recommend that you take a look. Their premise is simple. Don't pay a cent and you get access to free podcasts, each of which usually involve some Spanish monologue or dialogue along with an audio translation. Pay a little bit to gain access to PDF transcripts of the lessons so you can examine grammar and spelling in more depth. Pay a lot more to access all of that in addition to online learning tools—vocabulary flash cards, lesson reviews, pronunciation practice—the list goes on.

In the beginning, I opted for the "pay a little bit" plan. Free is nice but not being able to synthesize audio with its written equivalent was frustrating for me as a language learner. Plus, without any concrete references I would need to listen to the entire lesson again just to recall the key points, which is not worth the time. In order to remember the words from the lesson I would take the vocabulary list in the PDF transcripts and add them to Anki, an excellent piece of flash card software that schedules cards you miss more often than those you get right. Check out the videos if you are interested in Anki.

This worked well over the course of several months, but I soon became tired of the process. In order to learn successfully, I had to spend a lot of time on "prep work": (1) downloading the podcasts and PDFs from their web site, (2) loading each podcast into iTunes, (3) opening the PDF in Adobe Reader, and (4) entering the vocabulary into Anki. That's a lot of context switching for my purposes, so I set out to change all that.

So in between NAMFox releases, I put a tool together that gets me most of the way there.



It's pretty minimalistic, with only a few buttons and knobs to mess around with. Clicking the green arrow in the top left takes me to the download manager, pictured below.



The *pod101.com web sites are blogs which each have multiple pages. On each page there are on average five posts, each of which contains some content to download. Each blog post has a section like this where you can download various resource material:



The major pain point I had is that it is painstakingly time-consuming to download each set of materials into their own folder; even with a fast computer, specifying save locations for every set of files is boring and error-prone. Consequently, I built the download manager to take care of it all for me: visiting the web pages, downloading the content, and saving it into my preferred folder location.





The next step is to take what we've downloaded and learn! As I mentioned before, I would normally use a combination of iTunes for the audio/video and Adobe reader for the PDF, but now I've found a much more viable alternative...



Choose a lesson and then start listening to the audio or watching the video along with reading the PDF:



(The image is a little squashed to fit the size constraints here—it looks much better maximized. =) )

This a good start for me, and I hope the effort pays off. The next feature I want to work on will take the vocabulary I find in the PDF and make flash cards in Anki automatically, but that will take some time to do correctly. Oh, and one more thing—if I ever have the urge to learn French, I can just turn the application to start looking at FrenchPod101.com instead. :)



Anyway, I just wanted to share with you guys what I've been working on. Cheers!

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I am strongly of the opinion that most bug report forums on Neoseeker don't need moderators. That might seem strange coming from someone who's moderated the Forum and Site Bug Reports forums for a year and a half, but I have learned a lot of things about the forums that suggest they can be run differently.

I believe that the typical moderating experience for a bug forum is very poor. The moderator has the onus of updating statuses for each and every thread that comes into the forum; this might be easier if the pre-established statuses were plain text, but as far as I can remember bug statuses have always involved fancy flags (, , , , , ...). As a result, moderators would have to remember statuses and their corresponding flag colors in order to set a status:
  • Status: Confirmed
  • Status: Resolved
  • Status: Unconfirmed
And yes, the status list does go on.

Another problem with moderating bug forums is that they really do require some technical savoir faire for some situations, especially bugs that concern security. For example, bugs that report security holes should be taken out of view to avoid being exploited by malicious users. Sometimes, these sorts of bugs are not obvious to the innocent bystander. Take the use of JavaScript in NeoHomes in the pre-2007 days—while it enables some really neat functionality, it is a gaping security hole that someone could take advantage to hack their way into someone else's account.


Double clicking any of the options shown changes the caption.
Being a technologist, I love to streamline processes where I can with software, and this was no exception. Part of the motivation behind NAMFox's Quick Caption feature was to greatly decrease the time necessary for moderators of caption-heavy forums to set and change thread captions. For those of you who are not familiar with the feature, it allows moderators to set captions directly from the forum page itself, not a thread management page. This way moderators can set captions for multiple threads all from the same page. Moderators with pre-defined captions (read: bug forum moderators) benefited even more because Quick Caption allows them to choose from a default set of captions.


Still, it could be better. One thing I noticed particularly in the Forum and Site Bug Reports forums was that once a bug was fixed, the bug report was deleted. This struck me as a little weird—what if a bug "comes alive" again? Wouldn't you want to know all the information that you painstakingly gathered the last time it happened? The reason for the deletion was that closed bugs cluttered the regular bug report forums; thus the Archived Forum Bug Reports and Archived Site Bug Reports forums were born. All closed bugs now end up there, waiting to be re-activated...
    Aside: I think these archived forums would be more useful if there were a way to search for bugs across both the original forum and the archived forum, but maybe that is something in the works. :)
Those forums have existed for about a year, and we (Redemption and I) haven't done much work on the forums since then.

At least, until I started becoming lazy again.

It became apparent that as soon as new bug reports were created they each entered a workflow where the system (e.g. Neoseeker itself) could handle a lot of manual work moderators previously did.

In this latest Neoseeker update you can see a couple of new features in the bug forums that help realize this workflow:
  1. Users can now mark bugs as confirmed. Previously moderators would have to look through threads for people's posts to say "Confirmed" and then mark the confirmed status themselves.
  2. Bug status is now an integrated part of the Neoseeker system. Moderators who have jurisdiction in the bug forums can set the status to one of a set of pre-defined bug statuses, and certain statuses will trigger certain actions. For example, setting "Bad Bugged" will auto-delete the thread in seven days, and setting "Resolved" will PM the thread creator to confirm the bug was fixed to their satisfaction.
This is only the first step, and we have a lot more to do. Ideas include automatically moving threads to the appropriate archived forum when the thread is closed, allowing members to re-activate bugs in the archived forums, and allowing thread creators to close bugs once they are resolved.

Then the last step to completely eradicate moderators would be to transition the responsibility of moderators to the Neo-staff themselves. There are some cases where bugs have been fixed but no one posted in the thread, so the thread stays open as an active bug. In actuality, staff can actually change the statuses better than moderators can, since they have intimate knowledge of the system itself. Looking at a very simple workflow reveals that there really isn't a good place for moderators:
  1. Users report bugs.
  2. Other users confirm bugs.
  3. Staff resolves the bugs.
  4. The original user then confirms the bug is fixed.
The moderator doesn't facilitate this ideal workflow.

I admit there are various administrative tasks that moderates can facilitate, such as marking bugs as duplicates. However, I personally believe that the product team themselves should be aware of the bugs that are being reported (especially those that are reported more frequently!) in order to gain a sense for prioritizing bug fixes. In my opinion, the moderator feels like an awkward middle man that actually stifles communication between bug reporters and bug fixers. Of course, I don't know the intimate inner workings of Neoseeker, so in this case having the moderator take care of these duties might outweigh the time cost staff would incur to review these bugs.

Of course, if you look at the bug forums now it seems like we are going in the wrong direction since bobbonew is also moderating them, but that's the topic of another post. :)

What do you think? Do you think there's a place for moderators in these forums?

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NAMFox 1.5.2 has a few bug fixes and adds supports for Firefox 3.5. I realize I am a bit delayed with this and I apologize for that. I was working on incorporating a few bits of feedback that the editors over at https://addons.mozilla.org had for NAMFox. This means we're getting close to having NAMFox accepted as a full-fledged add-on on https://addons.mozilla.org.

So for all of you who submitted reviews for NAMFox, I really appreciate it!

After this I have another side project that I need to finish, but I will be able to devote more time to bug fixes and suggestions afterwards. Enjoy!

Art






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Forgot I had this picture of me in the Cadillac Ranch just outside Amarillo, TX. You're encouraged to spray paint. :D



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