Month: June 2008

Firefox 3.0 + Flash on a protected Windows PC

Very often, your company doesn’t allow you to install a new software on your company computer. For this purpose, Portable Apps is a very interesting website: it contains a lot of free software ready to be used, without any installation process. Moreover, it releases latest version of software very quickly. For example, 1 or 2 days after the launch of Mozilla Firefox 3.0, it was already in Portable Apps.

Most Firefox plugins (“add-ons“) can be installed in the Portable apps version of Firefox, but not all of them. The Adobe Flash plugin is one of the few ones that you can’t install without administrator rights …

Unless your company installed Firefox 2.x on your computer with the Flash plug-in. If it’s the case, you have just to copy two files from the 2.x install to the 3.0 one :

Go to your “old” Firefox plugins directory, for example: C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\plugins\. Then copy these 2 files: NPSWF32.dll and NPSWF32_FlashUtil.exe to your Portable Firefox directory, like: FirefoxPortable\App\firefox\plugins\. Now re-start Firefox 3.0 … Voilà!


A few days ago, I was sad to see that the Association Electronique Libre (AEL) website was down and only replaced by two measly <html> tags. For those who didn’t know it:

The Association Electronique Libre is a belgian association protecting the fundamental rights in the information society.

The Association Electronique Libre supports the freedoms of speech, press, and association on the Internet and any electronical mediums, the right to use encryption software for private communication, the right to write software unimpeded by private monopolies, the right to access and preserve public domain and free digital information.
(from an old copy of the AEL website)

Although it was based in Belgium, the information it contained as well as the actions that were supported exceeded the small Belgian borders. The wiki was a very useful and valuable source of documents, links and comments about freedom in the electronic media. “Fortunately” we still have a 2007 version of the website on and some messages from the mailing-list were kepts on the mail-archive and open subscriber (and I will preciously keep my archives!).

Following a small exchange of e-mails with one of the main guy behind AEL, the machine hosting the AEL is simply dead (the fact the machine was dying was announced a long time ago, no one apparently reacted). I guess (or rather hope) that the data is still available on the hard disk(s).

Now what? Beside the fact we are all getting “older” with other priorities in life, how come we don’t feel more concerned about our freedom in the cyberspace? Internet liberties are still in danger [1], the Electronic Frontier Foundation website has more and more issues, a paper-media publishing house is printing comics to “educate teenage youth about an array of issues ranging from privacy, free software, security and the impact of politics on personal freedom as it relates to the use of technology”, … Are we too lazy to try to understand what’s behind Facebook, LinkedIn, Orkut, Ning and other “social networking websites“? Maybe the technological gap between these polished websites and what indivuals can do “in their garage” radically increased since the advent of so-called Web2.0, inhibiting our will to actively participate in it [2], to make it ours? Did most of us “surrender” in front of the razzle-dazzle aspects of new communication media?

The idea behind this post title (AEL – New Generation?) is simply that something should be done to bring back to life a central, hopefully community-driven website to gather information about our freedom in cyberspace …

[1] Ironically, in this post, this reference is written by the main person behind the AEL
[2] About the “creativity” of people in Web2.0 applications, we could read with interest this article from C. Jonckheere and F. Schreuer (unfortunately in French only)

Comment your code

QR codeIt doesn’t matter if you write proprietary or open source code, comments in your code are very important (somehow even more important than readability and functional correspondence to the client’s needs). This is especially true if someone else is supposed or will, one day, look at your code, re-use your code and/or build upon your code.

For example, despite the fact that this source code header explained what the whole source is doing, you can’t tell what processing is done in this paragraph:

                          IDTCLO-L2 OF ACXB01
                          IDTCLO-L3 OF ACXB01.
           @CLR1, "01", "**", IDTCLO OF ACXB01, "3", "Y", "Y", "N",, \
                  IDTCLO-V OF ACXB01-V.
           MOVE IDTCLO    OF CLR1   TO IDTCLO    OF ACXB01.
           INITIALIZE ACD0B-01.
           @READ, "1", ACD0B-01, XX.
           IF ACCESS-OK
              @ERREUR, IDTCLI-V OF ACXB01-V, "ACXX0001"

This code is definitely not readable. It first uses a standard nomenclature for variables, it uses macros with a good number of unknown variables, we don’t exactly know what can cause an error while accessing the table in the last lines, etc. This is only an example ; you can find this behaviour in many other programming languages.

That’s a reason why I really like tools to auto-generate comments and documentation (like Javadoc, pydoc, etc.). The documentation is in the code and it usually doesn’t block code reading while adequately describing what a section/paragraph/function does. And the tools can generate properly formatted documentation in a lightweight format (usually HTML+CSS, not heavy MS-Word documents). One nice thing: you don’t need to send the code and the documentation for review or upgrade: just send the code and your addressee will automatically get the documentation (s/he will be able to automatically generate it). And, in 2 years, people will still understand what you wrote and they won’t need a specialist to reverse-engineer your code.

By spending a little bit of your precious time to comment your code, others will get a better understanding of what you did and your project, as a whole, will save an impressive amount of time (time that you can spend on a terrace with a refreshing drinks).

Photo: “quote” by Bonnie Peirce (CC-by-nc)

I can’t read my blog

At least from my office. Sadly true 😉 since one of the rules of my company proxy server bans all URLs with the letters “blog” inside (no, blogspot, … websites either). Fortunately, there are a lot of web-based feed aggregators (which are not — not yet? — banned). It also blocks all URLs with the “exe” string so we are not able to visit the Belgian Post website (it uses an URL containing “outletlocator.exe”) ; I didn’t find any bypass yet.

Banned blog by ISA server

Btw, with their message, we know they use Microsoft ISA Server as a proxy …

Alt+e, g, a

This is the “shortcut” sequence of keys in order to get the list of changes in a text document in It works very nicely with MS-Word documents, a useful feature when you are obliged to exchange work with colleagues, mentors, etc. who only use the proprietary word processor.

Part of screenshot of the track list in OOoIMHO, the only problem is the way the list of changes is shown to the end-user in as in other word processor software, changes are underlined in a different color for each contributor and a small hint tells you what happened to the hovered block of text, who did it and when; unlike other word processors, you can’t accept/refuse any change by right-clicking on it (you have to do it from the separate window). I do not find this intuitive and, sometimes, annoying …

Although I really appreciate the list of all the changes (notably for bulk acceptance/refusal), I think the end-user should also have the opportunity to accept/reject a change, once at a time, with a right-click of the mouse or any other means (keyboard shortcut e.g.). This is, I think, especially important when you are not reviewing the last version of a document, when a reviewer ask questions in the text (you can’t neither accept neither reject, you have to manually edit the text) or when you still do some modifications to modified text.

Talking about modifications of modified text, doesn’t update the list of changes when you modify your text while this list is open. You have to close the list and then re-open it to see your new changes.

My “dream functionality” would be that, next to the actual list of changes, the end-user would be able to:

  • either right-click to obtain a pop-up menu showing the accept and reject options
  • either use two keyboard shortcuts: one for acceptance of the modification under the cursor

I already looked for such add-on on the web, without success. If anyone finds something interesting, let me know …