An Unfinished Symphony

It's about the internet and stuff.

Great Ormond Street Hospital's charity Dr Who auction.

I received this from a friend a few days ago, and with my usual sense of urgency have decided to post it up here. For those of you who don't know, Great Ormond Street is a major children's hospital located in London, and the GOSH Children's Charity aims to supplement the funding provided by the NHS. Anyway, here's Marty's notice:

Over the past few months I've played a very tiny part in a VERY special auction which is now live. Some facts that might bore a few of you but:-

"In 2005 Lancasters armourie were contracted by the BBC to build a number of prop swords for the Christmas special episode of the hit revival of Doctor Who.

Used by Doctor Who actor David Tennant and the leader of the Sycorax race the swords were seen by 10 million viewers.

Now Lancasters are auctioning the prototype of the sword (above) in aid of London's Great Ormond Street Hospital.

And, as if owning this unique piece of television history wasn't enough Lancasters have been aided in their fundraising effort by the generosity BBC Wales and actors David Tennant and Sean Gilder who have provided their signatures for engraving on the blade.

The sword will be auctioned via ebay. Clive Lankford of Lancasters tell us they "are not shy about the fact that we want this to make as much money for GOSHCC as possible".

More information is available at Martin's "MayorWatch" website, and the charity auction can be found on Ebay. The auction is set to end on June 19, so if you want to get a bid in you still have a few days to do so.

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Firefox window resize bug and other annoyances.

A few months ago I asked if anyone had noticed a bug in Firefox that caused the vertical scrollbar to vanish when resizing the browser window to 800 pixels wide. I never received any answers to the question – and I never thought much more about it as it didn't affect my browsing and I could still test sites at that width, just without a scrollbar. However, after updating to Firefox 1.5.0.4 on Friday the bug mysteriously reappeared, and this time it seemed more severe. This time it was affecting my ability to test sites, and so this time I did a little more than just ask about it on here.

A screenshot of Firefox's window resize bug in action
Thumbnail view of Firefox's window resize bug in action.
Rather than just losing the vertical scrollbar I now lost the horizontal one too, when one should be there – which would be every time for content that wasn't fixed to fit in under 800 pixels wide as liquid layouts, such as the one on this blog, failed to resize too.

I did a search on bugzilla to see if there were any previously filed reports and found one dating back to 2003 which has identical symptoms to this one (as in it's the same bug, 3 years and several browser versions later). It turns out that the problem is a result of the browser incorrectly tying viewport width in with the status bar width, so if your status bar contains a large number of icons, or a series of longer ones, you are likely to encounter this issue. In order to temporarily fix it I've had to disable the status bar icons for a number of my browser extensions so that they all fit at an 800 pixel wide resolution. This is far from ideal and diminishes the usefulness of my browser as a development tool, not to mention affecting the single biggest factor (in my opinion) in Firefox's commercial success – it's extensibility.

How a bug with such severe outcomes as this can survive for three years and across multiple updates and upgrades I don't know – perhaps it's down to its severity being stupidly marked as minor?

On a different note, I also think that the absence of an installation rollback feature for Firefox is a major omission that should be rectified ASAP. At this moment in time the only viable (yet risky) option for repairing a failed install/update, including automatic updates, is to overwrite the existing installation. For example if the install fails due to a corrupt installer package you need to overwrite it with a different copy, or less desirably, a previous version. How come? As mentioned, there's no rollback feature and system restore often fails to correct the problem – I know, I tried it myself on Friday when the first update attempt left me with nothing more than an empty title bar:

Firefox 1.5.0.4 following automatic update using a corrupt installer package.
Firefox 1.5.0.4 after automatic update used a corrupt installer package.
My less than functional copy of Firefox, consisting of an empty title bar and a non-working close window button.

Fortunately overwriting with a different installer worked, if it didn't I'd have needed some way of getting hold of an earlier version – not too easy when the Firefox download page only contains links to the latest version and Evolt's latest archive version is 0.7.1 – the average user wouldn't think to change the version number in the download URL at Mozilla. Also, I think the idea is for Firefox to not only be a first choice browser, but eventually to become the only choice for the average user? Like Internet Explorer is currently for millions of people – so what would have happened if that was the case? I'd have been left completely browserless and unable to find a way back to Mozilla to download a different copy of the installer package.

These are the kind of issues that Mozilla need to urgently address if they want to see their market share continue to rise, failure to do so could well lead to them losing it. The world is a fickle place and in my opinion the main factor keeping Firefox ahead of Opera at the moment is its extensibility, but even that has lingering flaws as is mentioned above.

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