Finally! Streaming Netflix on my Mac

For the better part of this year I’ve been subscribing to and generally enjoying Netflix, but one feature I could never take full advantage of was the streaming on demand content.  That all changed today when I finally got the email from Netflix letting me know that I could now enjoy streaming on-demand video content from them using either Safari, or my preferred browser, Firefox.

For clarification purposes, I have successfully streamed video on my Macbook while running a copy of Windows XP installed via VMware Fusion, awesome software by the way.  While it does work, it requires Internet Explorer 7 along with just about every security install for it right form the Micro$oft website and is a bit of a hassle to do.  XP does run fast my my Macbook (Core2 Duo 2.16 with 2GB Ram), but it also caused the not-so-quiet fans to kick on, the ones that blow air up through the keyboard.  Because of this I never really went out of my way to watch any streaming content.  I also sold my Windows desktop computer this summer, leaving me only with a gutted Ubuntu box and my Macbook, which is fine by me.

Tonight I logged into my Netflix account in Firefox 2 (still haven’t upgraded to 3 yet) and went to the Watch Instantly tab where I was prompted to install Microsoft’s Silverlight technology.  The download and install was painless and quick, after that, movies automatically started to work.  I recall a very long delay between the time I would hit Play in Netflix and the time it would start in XP, so I did a little screen capture video.  This was taken on my Macbook, on the Wi-Fi network in my house connected to my Verizon FiOS internet connection which has been giving me a steady 10Mbps downstream since I had it installed.  I didn’t do a full screen grab or include sound because I wanted the video to load as fast as possible, plus in my opinion it wasn’t needed.

No editing was done to this, so you can see truly how fast the Netflix Watch Instantly movies load, play, skip to scenes and then go back to browsing.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKv0n3Qm38s[/youtube]

I’m very impressed.  After the holiday’s I plan on looking around for a used Mac Mini to hook up to my Plasma and stream Netflix, Hulu and run bittorrent off of, as a PVR in a sense.  Hopefully the price on the second hand market for the Core solo models drops a bit more as I’ll also need to buy a 500 or 750GB hard drive to install, but that’s another article next year sometime.

Any suggestions for movies or TV series I should add to my Instant queue?

Firefox security update 2.0.0.7

Seems it’s time to do another update to Firefox, another minor security update. If you don’t have Firefox set to auto install these updates, I strongly suggest you do, it takes the guesswork about the updates and most of them are security related. This one has to do with a Quicktime vulnerability, but that’s all it really says, read the release notes for what little more info they have.

If you aren’t already using , I’d highly suggest you at least give it a test run. The features, functions, add-ons, themes and extensions make this the best browser, period.

Firefox add-on OpenSearchFox to add any sites search engine

This Firefox add-on has me seriously giddy, it has to be one of the top add-ons I’ve ever used, helps solidify my passion for being a Firefox user. OpenSearchFox adds the ability to quickly and easily add the search engine feature of any site to the built in search bar in Firefox. The default install of Firefox includes Google, Amazon, Yahoo and a few others and allows you to add about a dozen more, including Wikipedia, but what about all the other sites that have content that you search often?

Once you install the add-on, simply right click inside any websites search box, like in the top right corner here at Randomn3ss, and click the Add OpenSearch plugin. You will be guided through a few customization steps and then asked to click finish. The site is now searchable right from Firefox. The only minor bug I’ve found thus far is that you need to wait until the page is fully loaded before starting, otherwise the favicon won’t transfer into the search options.

So besides using this add-on to search Randomn3ss, what else is this useful for? For me, I’ve added several torrent sites as well as support / development sites that I frequently search and Lifehacker.com, a true wealth of knowledge. Hell, you could even use this add-on for MySpace to get your stalker on.

Warning: I’m now a Mac user

As scheduled, the Macbook I ordered last week showed up today, I’ve officially bought my way into the cool club. With a bit of glee, I opened the box at work and plugged in the shiny white plastic covered notebook that so many swore would make me smile and love mac. After a few minutes, the laptop was configured and on the Wi-Fi at work and the mass downloads started for all the updates. Good thing I could let this run while I was doing other work, there was nearly a gig of data that had to come down.

With all the updates done and my lunch coming up soon, I looked forward to configuring the system and installing software. First thing I did was install Firefox, this proved to be a bit more of a hassle than I was anticipating. One of my first computers was a Mac Classic II back around 1990, about 5 years ago I had a G3 iBook for a while but got rid of it and I use Macs on occasion at work, but I’m not nearly as proficient in using software as I am with Windows. So I go on to download the .dmg file onto my desktop and double click it. I’m shown a funny screen that is the familiar Firefox icon and the Applications folder, a plus symbol between them. I click on the Firefox logo and it launches Firefox, but it’s still not installed. Not after some poking around did I come to figure out that I needed to now drag the mounted image into the Application folder in Finder. Great, first thing I do on a Mac and I feel like an idiot, and I’m a network admin. Now that I feel dumb, I move onto some other quirky things about the Mac that are, well they are quirky for a Windows users.

Now I’m not saying one is better than the other, but there are some really funky things to get used to. For me, I’m very dependent on the CTRL key in Windows for several things, the Command key in Mac does nearly the same things but is in a different physical location on the keyboard. While my touch typing hands are very used to striking the CTRL key with my left pinky, I now must figure out how to efficiently strike the Command key with my left hand, curling my thumb in seems to give me the best results thus far.

There is a lot of shit installed, nearly 18 gigs of data were installed upon first boot. Only two pieces of trial software, those are now ditched, tons of stuff that I’m still trying to figure out what exactly it does and what I’m supposed to do to work it into my daily routine. A co-worker tells me that he can clean a lot of this out, mostly the foreign languages and printer driver crap that I’ll never use

Turn the bloody screen brightness down! Holy shit, this is really bright, I feel like I need suntan lotion on my eyeballs from looking at the screen. I have every intention of doing a color calibration on the screen when I have some free time at work, until then I have some minor tweaking done and the brightness turned down to about 40%.

On a positive note, there is lots I’m very happy with.

  • The keyboard, although slightly off-center, is really a joy to type on
  • The mag-charger is such a stupidly simple design, works so well
  • Although bright, I’m very impressed with the resolution of the monitor
  • Software installs are fairly quick, once I figured out how to do it
  • I’ve only bogged down the system once, got to love Core-2 duo
  • After installing the CS3 suite, I opened it all at once, it all opened!
  • 1GB of RAM is actually very impressive
  • The hinge. I’ve loved the hinge design since the original iBook, it makes so much sense
  • Spell check built into everything by default
  • Bluetooth works great with my cell phone, although I haven’t tried to sync with iCal
  • Touchpad has right click! Granted it is not the traditional way of doing it, but it works. Two finger scrolling is also pretty dang nice

There are also a few things that I’m still scratching my temple about.

  • Dashboard. Yes there are a lot of cool applications, not sure how often I’m likely to use it though
  • TextEdit, the program I”m writing this in is nice, but I think I’m going to look into Open Office or another rich text editor
  • It’s so white. I’m almost afraid that I’ll have to carry hand wipes with me just to keep it clean
  • It’s so soft – the case that is. I’m very afraid that this thing is going to scratch, badly. My G3 did the first day I had it.
  • Is a remote really needed? Yes, very cool and seems to work well, but I doubt it will get any use outside of showing non Mac users what it does.
  • The Delete key really is a backspace key, there is no dedicated Delete key, which I often do use in the Windows world.

Overall, I have about 2 hours logged in actual time on this. I’m writing this article from my couch, in front of my TV with Bella, my dog, trying her best to snuggle on my lap under my arms between me and the Mac to sleep. Hopefully I can start to utilize some of the other features and functions that are in this laptop, I didn’t buy all this extra power just to surf the web. Until then, it will be sitting comfortably in the Crumpler Considerable Embarrassment messenger bag (full review coming soon) that I bought to transport it in.

Quick and easy screen captures in Firefox

In my daily job of network administration and IT hell, I have to report a lot of errors to outside vendors for web-based products. Usually this will include a screenshot of some sort to visually show them what I am talking about. Up until a few weeks ago, this usually meant hitting the Print Screen keyboard button (on Windows) and then opening up some sort of image editing program, usually Photoshop. This method works fine, however launching Photoshop can be somewhat slow on my work computer and I needed to crop out my computer’s taskbar and any other information I didn’t want to send to the vendor. Using the Print Screen function also limited to what was seen on the screen alone, even though I’m running 1280×1024, often times I need to capture an entire web page that might be two or three pages worth of scrolling, Print Screen won’t work here.

My solution is Pearl Crescent Page Saver, a Firefox add-on. This small add-on adds an icon to the Firefox toolbar that is not intrusive and can also be controlled by keyboard shortcuts that are 100% user defined. The two main options for screen shots are

  • Save image of viewable portion as…
  • Save image of entire page as…

These two options will fit just about any need you have for grabbing web-based content. It does not capture your browser, desktop, Windows taskbar, etc., and will save the output in nearly any format you choose, I prefer .png. This eliminates the need for launching Photoshop or other image editor, thus saving you time and making you more productive.

Currently there are two ways to install the add-on, the basic version, which I use, and a paid Pro version that adds the ability to live crop what you need from the web page. I have not yet found a need for this feature and belive that the free version will work for nearly everyone.

Keep in mind that this add-on will only capture what is in your Firefox browser, if you need screen captures of other items, like your desktop or programs running, this won’t help.

Safari Beta 3 released for Windows (and Mac)

Today Apple released a bunch of new things, mainly their operating system, and their website. Additionally, they released a beta of their popular browser, Safari for Windows and Mac. Way back when, I had a G3 iBook, the second generation white ones. It was nice for what it was, but only had it a short while before moving onto other things. Safari has always been a really nice, well built browser with some great functions built in and extremely easy to use.

As soon as I found out that there was a beta available for windows, I downloaded it for my XP box. This was about 8 hours ago when I was still at work; I needed to test it anyway to see if my company’s website would function properly in it.

First impressions, on Windows it looks and feels just like Safari on Mac. Third website I went to and it crashed though, like splat, asking if I wanted to send the error to Microsoft. After quitting the application, I re-launched it and started to surf again. One thing I noticed right away is that most of my favorite Firefox shortcuts work except for one. Ctrl + Enter to add the www. and the .com doesn’t work, major bummer.

It’s nice for what it is, but it is no where near as customizable as Firefox is. I have way too many add-ons right now in Firefox to switch to another browser; it does what I want and how I want. I will use it for web development, but that’s about it.

Randomn3ss readers prefer Firefox!

For more then two years now I have been using and enjoying on a daily basis. I made the switch not by choice, but because my job makes everyone use it. Fine, whatever. A month into really using it, I started to enjoy it a lot more, the tabs (tabs didn’t show up in Internet Explorer until v7), the ability to use add-ons and the ability to customize everything about it are the main reason. I’ve mentioned before some of the add-ons I use on a near daily basis now, these things are still not available for IE.

Polling through the stats for Randomn3ss, I was shocked to see that the majority of people who view this site are also Firefox users! 46.27% to be exact, as seen in the pie chart. My goal would be that everyone at least gives it a shot; it really is a much better browser. Hopefully we can swing that number up closer to 65-75%!

Related:

Firefox add-on: Sage

Over the last few months I’ve been looking into other ways to keep up on my ever-growing RSS feed list instead of the Google homepage I have come to love so much. One option I have been trying to become happy with is Sage, a Firefox extension. Like most Firefox extensions, this one installs in seconds and requires a restart, pretty much painless.

Once installed, you can access the toolbar, which loads into the left side of your browser the way your bookmarks would, three different ways.

  • ALT + Z is the keyboard shortcut
  • Tools > Sage is the menu way
  • Customize your navigation toolbar to add the Sage icon to it (right click anywhere in yoru navigation toolbar and choose customize)

The Sage extension acts in many ways like a bookmark sidebar does, loading in your browser from a stored set of RSS feeds, rather then on a webpage like the Google homepage. You will have the option to create folders for different feeds; defiantly a plus and you can drag and drop feeds to it. Simply grab the RSS icon from any web page and drag it over, it will grab the data for it.

Viewing the feeds with Sage is a pleasure, the colors are neutral and they appear to be downloaded and load locally, so I am presuming you could view them offline if you needed to. Not all feeds are full content, some are only partial; so don’t always expect to read something entirely with Sage.

I have two main problems with the extension, which is preventing it from becoming my permanent RSS reader though

  • Not dynamic. I have to install it on my work computer, home computers and laptop, none of it syncs. While there is an export / import option, I don’t want to have to do that on a daily basis.
  • No feed previews. Outside of the title, I get no other information about the article unless I click the title at which point it will load into the main portion of your browser.

As I mentioned before, the Google Homepage now has a + next to the feed which will show the first paragraph of the article, some cases the entire article depending how the author has set up their feeds.

The concept is there, however without it being dynamic, I can’t see myself using it on a daily basis.

My favorite Firefox shortcuts

Just over two years ago I started to use Firefox and couldn’t be happier. Back then, the main feature that made me excited was tabbed browsing, something that was not available in Internet Explorer at the time (it is now with IE7). Among the obvious tabs, the speed of it launching along with the ability to customize nearly everything is simply amazing. Now I’ll admit, I’m far from a power user and I don’t have my browser all

skinned out with some crazy looking graphics, but I do have a few shortcuts to make browsing a bit more enjoyable and faster.

  • Type in the website you want to without the www. or the .com, then hit CTRL + Enter and it will put in the www. and the .com. Shift + Enter will give you the .net extension while CTRL + Shift + Enter will give you the .org extension.
  • Press down on the scroll wheel of your mouse to open a link in a new tab. Who knew the scroll wheel could do more then scroll! This also works for any bookmarks you may have, including the bookmarks toolbar.
  • Press down on the scroll wheel of your mouse on an open tab to close it.
  • CTRL + T: opens a new tabbed window. Nothing magical there, but it works faster then going to File > New Tab
  • When your in your address bar, hit Tab to move the blinky over to the search menu. I use this a lot when writing articles for Randomn3ss.com or posting forum replies that I need to get a little more info for from the web. I’ll CTRL + T to get a new window then Tab to get to the search box, this is much faster then taking my hands off the keyboard to move the mouse.
  • With multiple tabs open, CTRL + Tab will scroll through them one by one.
  • If you use auto complete in Firefox for forms, you have more then likely typed in a username or street address or something wrong and now see a big list in there, which can be annoying. In any form, double click in it while empty and you should see everything show in a drop down menu, use the down arrow on your keyboard to highlight the word you do not want there and hit Shift + Delete. This will remove that term from the form. This trick alone saved me one hell of a headache.

The full list of Firefox shortcuts can be found here.

Firefox 3.0 right around the corner, is it needed?

Firefox 2.0 is barely a few months old at this point and the rumors are building about version 3.0 already. According to this article

When Firefox 3.0 is released later this year, the open-source browser is likely to contain a host of new features, including offline support for Web applications and new bookmark and search features. Mozilla released the second alpha version of Firefox 3.0 earlier this month.

Now I’m a huge Firefox fan, but I’m not into beta anything for software and 2.0, also known as chrome, is still a bit green for me, I much preferred version 1.5. That being said, I was even more taken back by the mention of

Firefox 3.0 will also contain elements for its 4.0 release and beyond

They are still defining what all 3.0 will do, why is there any talk of version 4.0? What is currently missing from version 2.0 that is so needed in a whole new release of the browser that a version 2.1 can’t handle? Sometimes software engineers need to learn to leave good enough alone.