April 1, 2009

This morning, Mozilla officially renamed “add-ons” to “change-arounds”. Apparently the move is intended to capitalize on Barack Obama’s campaign for President, which centered around the word “change”.

Add-ons never added to my hard drive’s available space, and the extensions I’ve authored never added to my bottom line. So, though I find the new name a bit awkward, I’m thrilled that Mozilla is finally listening to the more pedantic parts of their user base for once. I just Twittered a Mozilla official, who wished to either remain anonymous or place me under an NDA. He assured me – off the record – that the Internet Explorer team plans to make the same change to their browser interface, possibly as soon as the next Patch Tuesday come-arounds.

Mozilla had planned to rename the feature “Take-outs” – reflecting the subtractive nature of many extensions and themes – and had already commissioned a series of cute Chinese take-out box icons. However, the nearby Lucky Wok restaurant stepped in at the last minute, threatening legal action. “Developers need Chinese take-out for late-night coding sessions,” explained the official, again off the record. “You wouldn’t believe how many bugs we’ve traced back to the presence of pizza or TV dinners in the building. You just don’t get that with moo goo gai pan.”

I’ve just updated AVIM’s website and its listing at Firefox Change-arounds to reflect the change. The Mozilla official fully expects other change-around developers to follow suit. But you didn’t hear it from him.

[Update] After much outcry from such Facebook groups as “I miss OLD Firefox Add-ons!!!11!!”, Mozilla has changed the name back. The fact that it’s now April 2nd must’ve factored into the decision, too.

July 5, 2008

Vietnamese computing is a very fragmented experience. Not only are there several character encodings for Vietnamese, but Vietnamese computer users must also choose between several popular input methods. As you’ll recall from November, an input method is a procedure for typing in a complex, often non-alphabetic writing system. An input method editor (IME) is software that intercepts your keystrokes and translates them into more complex characters, such as Chinese characters, on the fly. Today’s major operating systems provide IME for most complex writing systems, notably Chinese and Japanese.

Vietnamese is alphabetic, unlike Chinese, but because of its large set of letter–diacritical mark combinations, it’s impractical to simply assign each key to a letter or accented letter, as with French or Spanish. Making matters worse, operating systems have historically provided poor support for Vietnamese input. Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X (until 10.5 Leopard) don’t include an IME for Vietnamese, so each Vietnamese-language website is expected to embed one using JavaScript. Webpages, ordinarily the least powerful of computing technologies, thus end up implementing one of the operating system’s core responsibilities: text input. Predictably, there are at least a dozen such IMEs, and each site uses a different one.

It’s a situation no one likes, but it’s not easy to convince operating system vendors to ship good support for Vietnamese, since the market for it is still relatively small. As a stop-gap solution, three of these IME’s authors have released Firefox extensions that provide Vietnamese typing support on any webpage within the browser. Since the Web browser is pretty much the application that users keep open all day, it’s not an entirely bad solution.

Back in November, I released a keyboard layout for Vietnamese, to improve the Vietnamese typing situation on the Mac. Although the keyboard layout provided support for every application on the system, it was far from ideal, because very few Vietnamese speakers use Mac OS X. Now I finally have a way to show non-Mac users some input method love too.

In 2006, I made a number of modifications to one of the IME extensions, Hiếu Đặng’s AVIM extension. However, because the original extension was a kludge and I didn’t yet consider my version to be of release quality, I hung onto the modifications for nearly two years. Recently, I briefly encountered a curious phenomenon known as free time and began shaping AVIM into a much more presentable extension.

AVIM for Firefox

Since it was introduced to the Vietnamese Wikipedia in 2005, AVIM has turned a very poor editing experience into a pleasant one. My productivity at the site increased dramatically, as I could begin to write and edit articles from directly within the site, rather than copy-pasting my composed text from another program. I hope that this extension will give you the same dramatic increase in productivity, no matter what site you frequent.

June 5, 2008

Any serious computer user lives by Firefox extensions. My copy of Firefox has around 30 installed, and I wouldn’t part with more than five of them. It’s bad enough that I employ the Nightly Tester Tools extension to shove out-of-date extensions down Firefox’s figurative throat and Menu Editor to keep my sprawling Tools menu (the product of 30 extensions) tidy.

I know most of this blog’s readers don’t write in Vietnamese, but for the few who do, I spent a bit of last weekend writing an extension for Firefox and its companion e-mail program, Thunderbird, that checks your Vietnamese spelling as you type. Unlike the last piece of software I released, this one requires hardly any explanation. You know if you need it.

Continue reading "Vietnamese Dictionary 1.0 for Firefox" »

  1. AVIM extension is now AVIM change-around
  2. AVIM for Firefox
  3. Vietnamese Dictionary 1.0 for Firefox
  4. Ngựa thành Troy
  5. Firefox 2.0
  6. Firefox 1.5
  7. Catching up
  8. Making the switch
  9. New vectors
  10. Duplication of effort
  11. Catching up on technology
  12. Going Out: Breaking the rules
  13. One of those early-adopter urges
  14. Portable everything
  15. Lastest news
  16. Yum…