Hey Microsoft, Why the Southpaw Hate?

Disclaimer first: I’m not left handed, but this particular issue brought home how the default right-handedness of things must be seriously frustrating to left handed people.

I have one or two Windows 8.1 machines that have touch screens. They’re full windows machines, not tablets, but they have the feature. I actually use the touch very rarely – usually only on the MS Surface when I’m sitting somewhere away from my office and need to do a bit of a quick thing online and haven’t got a proper mouse with me (Or haven’t bothered to pull it out of my bag and plug it in) … I find the touch screen to be more useful for some tasks than the touch pad… but over all I rarely if ever use the feature.

Now, there’s this little design feature of tablet mode.. someone somewhere reasoned that if you’re right handed then the interactions you do with menu items like drop downs etc… well, using a mouse, there’s no hand to get in the way so they all drop down a certain way top left toward bottom right. It’s intuitive with a mouse, but when you’re using your finger to touch, it’s true that your hand kind of blocks the menus when they orient this way.

So, Microsoft helpfully has a tablet mode feature that changes how menus work .. so that they expand to the left to stay out of the way of your hand. When touching a screen this actually does make some sense.

However, there are two issues in this. First is that being on the Autism spectrum, I’m a bit prickly about when anyone changes my user interface in any way without my express buy-in. I am very fond of things working exactly as I expect them.. but the other is this: you can easily turn off that feature .. or more to to the point, go into the control panel under tablet options and tell it you want “left-hand” mode.

Essentially, this is the setting I would assume that many left-handed users would want to use so that the default tablet behavior of left hand menus can be flipped for their use.

PERFECT! I just turn that over as if I were left handed, and presto, my menus work the way I want them (I’ll deal with moving my hand out of the way just fine thanks)

And all is well with the world .. until the next windows update.


Every time Windows update updates my pc, it seems that one of the things it “helpfully” does is set that tablet mode back to right handed.

Now, this is a total “first world problem” I get it..nobody’s going to die because I have to go back and re-select left handed.

But it got me thinking/realizing.. if you’re a left handed person you’re likely really annoyed with how the world defaults to right handed for everything. In often subtle, but frequently annoying ways, things like scissors literally not working well, with notebooks having rings in the way etc.. little annoyances.

And so what bugs me so darn much here is that MS seems to feel the need to keep resetting the setting I’ve chosen. And this must be likewise annoying to left handed people who would also have to reset the setting every damn time it Windows updates.

So, I just want to say to my southpaw friends/family, I may not really know your pain, but I’ve touched a tiny corner of it and can empathize. It really sucks when the default excludes you.

I am well aware that this whole issue of “world just assumes X is the default and it really throws up a lot of annoying barriers for people with Y” applies to issues of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs etc…

In its own little way, this little annoyance illustrates that we should all be paying attention to the default assumptions we face every day and maybe just maybe, to question / push back against them.

Discovering Synthwave

I often think of myself as having a rather limited range of musical interest as a fan/listener. My wife teases me that “If it wasn’t written in the 80’s it doesn’t even exist for you”.. and I guess I’ve internalized that a bit.

I’m not nearly so narrow really… I’m a fan of Goth-Industrial (and a host of related subgenres), as well as 80’s New Wave (and subgenres springing from them such as synthpop etc..), and I also like a lot of EDM (Trance, Techno, Electronica, and yes I’ll admit it – even Dubstep)

When I step back a bit I realize “If it’s electronic or strongly synth-backed, I’ll probably like it”

So, in that vein it’s not at all surprising that I like Synthwave and Darksynth…. what is surprising to me is that I only just discovered the genres (as a named thing) recently thanks to a fascinating interview with Glitbiter over at spinditty.

Of course, I immediately found her on SoundCloud and had a listen. I want to share my favorite track of hers here. It’s called See You in the Trees. It’s got this kind of Tangerine Dream vibe to it at first, but then the beat comes in and she starts singing and it truly becomes something unique.

Having grown up in the 80s and having played keyboards/synth as well as having been an avid gamer in those early years of arcade and PC gaming, Synthwave and Darksynth truly speak to me. This is a genre I’ve been waiting for… how it took me this long to discover, I’m not sure.

Synthwave is what you get when you apply modern synths/music production and stylizing to a core 80’s aesthetic. Or maybe a better way to say it is it’s kind of a retro-80s vibe for modern electronic music?

There’s a strong element of “postcard from Los Angeles from the 80s” to the genre’s core though I’m more into it for the “Modern synths/electronic music calling back to the visions we had of the future of science and technology in the 80’s”

Eh Maybe I should let someone who knows it better say it:
I found a really good deep dive over at Iron Skullet.

More Server Migration Fun

Back in April of 2015, I underwent a server migration from a dedicated physical server to virtual servers. It marked an end to me hosting web sites for other folks. I’ve been running along smoothly with those, but recently I received a notice that a key part of my hosting environment was going end of life.

So, I went to update that and found out that I could not because the OS I was on was too out of date. Time for a new migration.

I’m still with Netsonic. They continue to provide excellent service and support. Their tech, Adam S. was very helpful. We got the new instance up and running within a day and I was able to migrate my domains and services by the end of the next day.

I’ve spent this weekend making some long-needed updates to my web sites (migration is well and done, but just updating security and updating to newer versions of various server components, and tweaking site design etc.. You might even notice a whole new look and feel for digitalsorceress.com.

I managed to get back into the groove of Linux administration fairly quickly – I will admit I felt a bit rusty, so it’s good to pull out those skills and use them again.

More stuff to tame FireFox…

In my previous note HOWTO: Tame FireFox Quantum so it Stops Trying to be Google Chrome … I missed some important things that also matter to me

Disabling Video Auto Play

I find automatic playing of video to be incredibly annoying. In my previous note I mentioned the add-on FlashBlock Plus. This does a great job of blocking Flash video.. my purpose for that add-on was not just video but other annoying and possibly dangerous Flash scripts. However, I was just browsing a story today and hit a Yahoo.News page and OMG ANNOYING AUTO PLAY VIDEO. I thought I had properly set up my browser to prevent this

  • Go to about:config
  • Search for: media.autoplay.enabled
  • Set it to false

However, for whatever reason this was not stopping this embedded video. So, I found this extension which did the trick:

Disable HTML5 Autoplay
by Afnan Khan

Preventing Search From the Address Bar

This is a real security issue. In older days, you searched by going to a search engine.. and then browsers started adding a search bar to the UI. I liked this … it was convenient to not have to go to a separate site. However, somewhere along the line, browsers started just searching from the URL bar directly (Chrome, I blame you for this trend).Why is it a security issue? because If I am searching I know to be “on guard” but with the way browsers do it they don’t just send the query to google .. they will first directly try to take you to THING_YOU_TYPED.com ad www dot THING_YOU_TYPED.com. Typoing in the address bar should lead you to a “server not found” for maximum safety – search is search, URL bar is URL bar – keep them separate… for me anyway. There are two things you need to do to properly prevent the URL bar from just taking you places / trying to interpret what you’re typing:

  • Go to about:config
  • search for: keyword.enabled
  • set it to false
  • now search for: browser.fixup.alternate.enabled
  • set this to false as well

You’re now no longer going to get search from the address bar… make sure you go to customize toolbar and drag your search bar.. or that you’re OK with going to google.com or your favorite search engine manually

Force Search Results Into New Tab

This is an update: I was applying my changes to a new instance of FireFox and was getting annoyed that when I’d type in the search box, it was overwriting my currently open tab with the results… The behavior I want is for the search to go into a new tab and not mess with what I already have. To enable this behavior:

  • go to about:config
  • search for browser.search.openintab
  • set this to true


Sorry I had forgotten these. The Autoplay surprised me when I went to that site .. thought I had it nailed down.. the searching.. I had fixed this so long ago I forgot I had done it.


HOWTO: Tame FireFox Quantum so it Stops Trying to be Google Chrome

I wrote in a previous note ( You’ve heard of “Browser Wars” this is my “Browser Woes” (An Aspie Brain Coping With Change for Change’s Sake) about my battle with change for change’s sake when it comes to browsers / FireFox specifically. I won’t rehash that here. But what I will do here is tell you the “must have” changes I need to make to tame that wild FireFox into a friendly companion.

Must-Have Extensions / Add-ons


For my main browser, I MUST have this.. I may dislike Chrome but it has its uses.. when I run into a site that needs a bunch of scripting that is too complex to sort out with NoScript, if I trust the site, I’ll use Chrome to open it. I also use Chrome to open YouTube and other places where I actually want video

The Internet is dangerous – so many web sites end up with malicious code .. sometimes embedded in ads (see uBlock Origin below for more on that) and sometimes you just accidentally click on a link to a deliberately bad site (or typo a link – do not go to micorsfot dot com for instance… )

NoScript disables all scripts on a page and lets you manually pick which to allow. This is pretty heady stuff.. it’s NOT EASY these days to see the 30+ script sources on a given page and determine which are OK to allow and which should stay blocked for maximum usability without ads or over aggressive tracking etc.

Usage note: the interface in Quantum is a bit unintuitive.. by default, all scripts are blocked. you visit a site and see all the script sources and you have a few choices. From left to right they are:

default (deny) | Temp: Trusted (this session Only) | Trusted (Always trust) | Untrusted (Always deny) | Custom When I’m testing out a site, I use temp trusted.. I only click trusted (always) if I have determined a particular script url is trustworthy

So, the process takes a bit of tweaking – most sites just don’t look/work right at the default level of untrusted. I will (if I trust the site) allow the site itself and then see if there are dependencies I can trust (jquery.com, GoogleTags, GoogleAssets, cloudflare instances etc) but I NEVER allow known advertisers (ads.anything, doubleclick.net, GoogleAdServices, etc..) and I am particularly suspicious of other stuff I have never seen before.

uBlock Origin (or AdBlock Plus)

Simply put, I need an Ad blocker. I used to use AdBlock Plus but they got kind of “sold out” ish in their behavior, taking money from advertisers who “met their standards” to not block… however, my whole point in blocking ads is that I don’t trust any advertisers. I’ve seen too many “legit” ad services get scammed into delivering ransomware and other malicious crap.. so NOPE.

uBlock Origin is my preferred Ad Blocker now. Do NOT confuse this with uBlock which was taken over by another dev and exploited for profit by the person who took it over.. the original uBlock author forked their pre-takeover version as uBlock Origin.

Disconnect for Facebook

It’s ironic that I moved to FireFox from PaleMoon in part because of PaleMoon not working correctly with Facebook.. and yet here I am using an add-on that disconnects one from Facebook. Let me tell you why I use this.

Facebook is “free” to use but like the axiom goes: when the product is free, the payment is often your privacy/data. Facebook is all about advertising, tracking and selling/curating your data. What a lot of users don’t realize is that part of how they do this is making sure that “partner websites” put bits of script in them pointing back to Facebook. The convenience can be that you log in to a site with your Facebook account and it knows you / links back. However I personally find the privacy implications to be .. horrific. I generally block facebook.net scripts on other (non Facebook) sites, but still, I just generally do not want the hassle of constantly having to log out of FB every time I want to browse without being connected back to my FB profile.

Enter “Disconnect for Facebook” this extension ensures that while I am directly using Facebook, it works as intended, but it stops Facebook and “partner sites” from exchanging data in ways I find unacceptable. Mostly, I just install this and forget about it. I’ve rarely if ever wanted/needed to disable it for a specific site, though it is possible if you have a site you’re explicitly using FB login to access.

FlashBlock (Plus)

I used to use this to block videos from playing. This is because before HTML5 video, there were only a few options for video on the web – MS Silverlight and Adobe (formerly Macromedia) Flash. With HTML5 video now, there’s a way for video to play that doesn’t use flash and this add-on does not block them (there are options for blocking all video, but my goal was more specifically flash-related.. read on).

Flash has (in my opinion) a lot of security concerns so I prefer to block it unless I EXPLICITLY trust the site in question. FlashBlock (Plus) does exactly what I want it to – blocks Flash from playing unless I explicitly allow it on a site. The extension has a low rating because folks seem to think it’s going to block all video… that’s not its purpose.

Features I Need / Used to get from Add-ons

So, I’ve got those add-ons but there are some things that I need that are either original FireFox features that are no longer present in Quantum or were from Add-ons which are not available for Quantum

TabMix Plus

TabMix Plus was an add-on which collected a lot of really useful features related to tabbed browsing into one. It had a “session manager” to also deal with restoring tabs when restarting but I always disabled that – I always like my browser to start fresh.

Sadly, when Quantum came out, it really broke this add-on in many many ways. The author seems to have gotten discouraged that so many API calls they relied upon were not available. It’s possible they’ll get it working and I’ll happily go back but in the meantime I found workarounds to my MUST HAVE items:

Open URLs Typed in Address Bar in a New Tab I don’t know about you, but when I type a new URL, I want it in a new tab. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be on a given site and need to look up something else and type in a new URL or search and realize I’d just left the site I was on. Yeah I can go back in history but.. COME ON this is literally one of the best things about tabbed browser interfaces. How to fix:

  • Go to the url about:config
  • Search for: browser.urlbar.openintab
  • set it to true

Open URLs From Bookmarks in a New Tab Similar to the address bar… sometimes I would be on a site and need to go to another to look something up.. I really HATE that the default behavior of FireFox is to just use the current tab when opening typed urls and bookmarks.. So to fix it so bookmarks always open in new tabs as well:

  • Go to the url about: config
  • Search for: browser.tabs.loadBookmarksInTabs
  • Set it to true

Use Blank Page for New Tabs / Home I hate the default “new tab” page – it’s got ads hidden as “suggested sites” and these don’t get blocked by my ad blockers. Also, I want empty/clean content till I am ready for it. TabMix Plus offered the ability to set new tabs and home page to blanks. It turns out this is actually now just a base setting in the browser. How to get this:

  • Go to the URL about:preferences#home
  • Find the setting homepage and new windows:
  • set it to blank page
  • Find the setting New Tabs:
  • set it to blank page

NOTE: in about:config there are ways to control the new tab page and maybe you’d prefer that – I like blank but you can search for browser.newtabpage.activity-stream and see the many options you have to really lock that down

Open Links in Tabs Instead of New Windows Another annoyance: I have a tabbed browser. This means I do NOT want new windows opening up .. use new tabs FFS. Luckily this is now a base app configuration.. which is not on by default. To fix it:

  • Go to the URL about:preferences
  • Under Tabs: Check the option for Open links in tabs instead of new windows

Prevent Closing of Last Tab from Closing FireFox Another small annoyance: when you close the last open tab, FireFox default behavior is to exit. I want to just go back to empty/blank browser. To fix this:

  • Go to the URL about:config
  • Search for: browser.tabs.closeWindowWithLastTab
  • Set it to false

Place Browser Tabs Underneath the Address Bar This is a small pet peeve but I really want the top-to-bottom order of my browser to be

  1. Menu bar
  2. Toolbar with Url bar and search bar, navigation tools and controls for extensions
  3. Favorites bar
  4. Tab bar (with multiple rows of tabs
  5. Main browser window
  6. Status bar

The old Firefox (pre v 28) and PaleMoon both have this.. there is no add-on that can do it that I’m aware of. However, there’s a really useful feature of FirefoxQuantum called “user chrome” and with the correct User Chrome settings, this is doable

  • Go to the url about:support
  • find the Profile Folder listing and click the Open Folder button
  • In that folder, look to see if there’s a folder named “chrome”
    • If not, Create it
    • Inside that folder, create a file named userChrome.css
  • Edit userChrome.css
  • Paste in the following CSS code
/* ************************************************************************** */
/* TABS BELOW BOOKMARKS   https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/1207891 */
/* ************************************************************************** */

/* Tab bar below Navigation & Bookmarks Toolbars
   For Firefox 57-64 -- No longer works in Firefox 65
   See https://www.userchrome.org/what-is-userchrome-css.html#movetabbar
#nav-bar { /* main toolbar */
  -moz-box-ordinal-group: 1 !important;
  box-shadow: none !important;
#PersonalToolbar { /* bookmarks toolbar */
  -moz-box-ordinal-group: 2 !important;
#TabsToolbar { /* tab bar */
  -moz-box-ordinal-group: 3 !important;
  padding-top: 0 !important;
/* Clean up spacing */
.titlebar-placeholder {
  display: none !important;
toolbarbutton.bookmark-item {
  padding-top: 2px !important;
  padding-bottom: 2px !important;

/* Vertical space for min/max/close buttons above the main toolbar */
/* On Mac, if not showing title bar, allow 20 pixels */
#main-window[tabsintitlebar="true"]:not([inFullscreen="true"]) #toolbar-menubar:not([accesskey]) ~  #nav-bar {
  margin-top: 20px !important;
/* On Windows, if not showing title bar or menu bar, allow 20 pixels */
#main-window[tabsintitlebar="true"] #toolbar-menubar[autohide="true"][inactive="true"] ~ #nav-bar {
  margin-top: 20px !important; /* More px may be better on Win10 */
/* Sorry, Linux users, I don't know the best approach for you! */

/* Background for Light and Dark themes */
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="bright"] #TabsToolbar,
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="dark"] #TabsToolbar {
  background-color: var(--chrome-secondary-background-color) !important;
  background-image: none !important;
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="dark"] .scrollbutton-up,
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="dark"] .scrollbutton-down,
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="dark"] .tabs-newtab-button,
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="dark"] #new-tab-button,
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="dark"] #alltabs-button {
  fill: var(--lwt-text-color) !important;
/* Left and right borders on Win 7 & 8, but not on 10 and later: */
@media (-moz-os-version: windows-win7), (-moz-os-version: windows-win8) {
  /* Vertical toolbar border */
  #main-window[sizemode=normal] #navigator-toolbox > toolbar#TabsToolbar {
    border-left: 1px solid hsla(240,5%,5%,0.3) !important;;
    border-right: 1px solid hsla(240,5%,5%,0.3) !important;;
    background-clip: padding-box;

/* Override vertical shifts when moving a tab (9 Jan 2018) */
#TabsToolbar[movingtab] {
  padding-bottom: 0 !important;
#TabsToolbar[movingtab] > .tabbrowser-tabs {
  padding-bottom: 0 !important;
  margin-bottom: 0 !important;
#TabsToolbar[movingtab] + #nav-bar {
  margin-top: 0 !important;
  • Save userChrome.css
  • Restart FireFox

This gets you the tab bar underneath the browser favorites bar

Tab Block Multiple Rows Another minor thing: the tab bar on FireFox by default is one row and any overflow kind of shuffles off to the right. I really do have a LOT of tabs open often …

This is how my browser currently looks with both tabs below bookmarks and multi rows – I told you I kept a lot of tabs open. This is just the tabs while I was editing this article.

This is another thing that is not possible currently with add-ons or built in settings, but can be accomplished through userChrome.css. So, here’s how:

  • Go to the url about:support
  • find the Profile Folder listing and click the Open Folder button
  • In that folder, look to see if there’s a folder named “chrome”
    • If not, Create it
    • Inside that folder, create a file named userChrome.css
  • Edit userChrome.css
  • Paste in the following CSS code
/* ************************************************************************** */
/* MULTIPLE ROWS OF TABS   https://wrw.is/multiple-tab-rows-in-firefox/       */
/* ************************************************************************** */
.tabbrowser-tab:not([pinned]) {min-width:35px;max-width:35px;}
.tabbrowser-tab,.tab-background {height:var(--tab-min-height);}
.tab-stack {width: 100%;}
#tabbrowser-tabs .scrollbox-innerbox {display: flex;flex-wrap: wrap;}
#tabbrowser-tabs .arrowscrollbox-scrollbox {overflow: visible;display: block;}
#titlebar,#titlebar-buttonbox{height:var(--tab-min-height) !important;}
#titlebar{margin-bottom:calc(var(--tab-min-height)*-1) !important;}
#main-window[sizemode="maximized"] #titlebar{margin-bottom:calc(6px + var(--tab-min-height)*-1) !important;}
#main-window[sizemode="maximized"] #TabsToolbar{margin-left:var(--tab-min-height);}
#titlebar:active{margin-bottom:0 !important;}
#titlebar:active #titlebar-content{margin-bottom:var(--tab-min-height) !important;}
#tabbrowser-tabs .scrollbutton-up,.tabbrowser-tabs .scrollbutton-down,#alltabs-but
  • Save userChrome.css
  • Restart FireFox

Now, your tabs will open in a big huge block with up to 3 rows as needed.

Close All Tabs Button Yet another thing TabMix Plus offered. In this case, we can get this from an add-on though.

  • Install Close All Tabs Button extension
  • (optional) I like mine to appear at the right of the tab bar. To do this right click on an empty space in the toolbar and choose customize. You can then drag/drop the button to where you want it


The extension Status-4-evar was needed after some random FireFox change removed the status bar at the bottom of the browser. The status bar is super useful – it’s where URLs preview when you mouse over them .. this is super helpful in sanity checking before you click a link.

This is another one that can be fixed using userChrome.css:

  • Go to the url about:support
  • find the Profile Folder listing and click the Open Folder button
  • In that folder, look to see if there’s a folder named “chrome”
    • If not, Create it
    • Inside that folder, create a file named userChrome.css
  • Edit userChrome.css
  • Paste in the following CSS code
/* ************************************************************************** */
/* STATUS BAR   http://www.optimiced.com/en/2018/02/11/restore-status-bar-in-firefox-quantum/ */
/* http://www.optimiced.com/wp-uploads/2018/06/userChromeLight61.css */
/* ************************************************************************** */

    Display the status bar in Firefox Quantum (version 61+)
    permanently at the bottom of the browser window.
    Code below works best for the Light Firefox theme and is based on:
    This userChrome.css file was last modified on: 28-Jun-2018.
    Tested to work with Firefox 61 on Windows.
    Related blog post: http://www.optimiced.com/en/?p=1727

#browser-bottombox { height: 20px; border-top: solid 1px #CCC; }

.browserContainer>#statuspanel { left: 4px !important; bottom: 0px; transition-duration: 0s !important; transition-delay: 0s !important; }
.browserContainer>#statuspanel>#statuspanel-inner>#statuspanel-label { margin-left: 0px !important; border: none !important; padding: 0px !important; }

window[inFullscreen="true"] #browser-bottombox { display:none !important; }
window[inFullscreen="true"] .browserContainer>#statuspanel[type="overLink"] #statuspanel-label { display:none !important; }
  • Save userChrome.css
  • Restart FireFox

This puts back a status bar


You may not be as resistant to change as I am.. or you may not be bothered by some of the behaviors I was bothered by, but I hope this has served as a useful guide to getting FireFox Quantum to behave for those of you who either liked the old original layout or who have become disappointed with PaleMoon


UPDATE 2019-01-23: fixed up link in opening graph and spelling
UPDATE 2019-03-31: de-facebooked the links (originally I posted this as a FB note.. )

You’ve heard of “Browser Wars” this is my “Browser Woes” (An Aspie Brain Coping With Change for Change’s Sake)

I was a FireFox user for a long time. For years, its layout and rich extension community meant I could get it to work exactly “just so” for my needs. I had it laid out with the standard Windows Menu bar at the top.. the toolbar with URL bar next down but searching from the URL bar was disabled and there was an explicit search bar next to it so I never accidentally searched when I meant to type in a direct URL. It had my script and ad-blocking tools there too… then below that a marvelous tab bar with up to 3 rows of tabs and buttons to Close all tabs and new tab right there then the main browser window and a status bar at the bottom so when I hovered over a link I could sanity check before clicking.

All was good from FireFox 4 to version 28.

Then, DISASTER: everything changed.

Firefox for whatever reason (I assume because Google Chrome was beating them numbers wise) they completely redesigned their UI to look/act more like Google Chrome. They ditched the separate search bar, they moved where the address bar was in relation to tabs, they ditched the status bar…

In short, they made it look/feel just like Chrome which I was EXPLICITLY NOT USING BECAUSE I DIDN’T LIKE IT!

I was able to dig around and found that there was an official FireFox branch meant for enterprise/extended support, called ESR (Extended Support Release) where they would keep around an older build (I think roughly v26 was the last pre-Chromification .. and continue to support it for a couple years. This was what I did.. because .. UGH CHANGE!

As that clock was ticking down a project called PaleMoon came to my attention. Apparently I was not the only person who thought that the change in direction to “be more like Google Chrome” was a bad idea. They “forked” Chrome at v28 and started building/maintaining their own (FireFox is Open Source so this is totally fine) Every time FF would come out with security updates, they’d port in the updates but leave out the changes that related to the updated interface.

This was great – FireFox kept making it more like Chrome and PaleMoon kept just making it work like it always did.

Then, on November 14m, 2017, FireFox upturned the apple cart.. they released “Quantum” which entirely killed NPAPI plugin architecture. This is a fairly involved, geeky subject I’ll not delve into except to say that even though I was happily on PaleMoon, this was a problem for me. You see, PaleMoon was able to just use the same plugins as FireFox. Even with PaleMoon forked nicely there were customizations I used certain Extensions for. Those extension authors never heard of PaleMoon but they didn’t need to .. it “just worked” for us PaleMoon types.

However, with Quantum, FireFox utterly changed everything and every plugin author needed to make new ones. Some just /RageQuit and others dutifully replaced their old extensions with the new ones.. but that left PaleMoon users stuck – because very few if any extension authors continued to make updates/fixes/security patches for PaleMoon. Soon, the whole architecture of PaleMoon needed to be redesigned as it could not use Mozilla plugins site anymore. PaleMoon had a few dedicated extension devs who did maintain their extensions for that fork.. but over time, it got fewer and fewer.

However, what really did me in: Facebook (surprise)

I’ve been used to dealing with little issues on and off in lots of sites as I use heavy script and ad blocking.. but I’ve always mostly been able to work out how to adjust settings so I get minimally annoyed, but usually, I can get things working.

Facebook though.. they seem to design their client-side code (JavaScript and the like) for the current Google Chrome, and other browsers are left playing a “watch and update” game in some respects. FireFox is pretty on top of it as it may not have Google’s market share, they are still able to be reactive enough. However, PaleMoon, my savior since v28 changes in FireFox? not so much. They’ve been falling afoul of multiple glitches in FB caused by FB tweaking code to be Chrome-centric and not worrying about niche browsers (I don’t blame them for this – I blame them for a lot but not this).

So, I am stuck with not being able to use PaleMoon on the social site I use to keep up with my friends… I finally got upset enough that I installed FireFox so I could use it to get around a couple of the nastier glitches.. like one where I can’t post new posts to my timeline (but can to groups and other feeds .. just my own timeline)

And then I set about seeing if extension devs had come up with enough extensions to force some of the more egregious Chrome-Isms in FireFox to behave.

I’ve been digging a while but I think I managed to find all of the things I need between Extensions that finally updated and some hidden about:config options and some (ironically named) tweaks to userChrome.css

I’ve made a new note ( HOWTO: Tame FireFox Quantum so it Stops Trying to be Google Chrome ) with the details of what I did / do so anyone interested in fixing some of the deficiencies I’ve seen in FireFox can play along.

Ultimately, I recognize that most of this is my own “Aspie Brain” not coping well with change. But honestly, I’m mostly OK with change when there’s a need for it.. I HATE “change for change’s sake” and certain UI design decisions really feel like that.. and it really throws me for a loop some days.


Goodbye Samsung, Hello Moto

It’s been a few years.. My Samsung Galaxy 6 was still quite functional, but my service provider (Sprint) was not. I got really tired of the spotty signal strength outside of major metropolitan areas.

I had been considering moving to T Mobile the next time I needed to change phones/carriers. I did the cost comparison and essentially, I’d have to pay about the same (around $60 per line for my phone and my wife’s). So it came down to just waiting till the time was right to switch…

I was at a camping event in Western PA with some friends and we got talking about cell phones and service providers. She had some seriously glowing reviews for Google FI. Enough so that I checked out their offerings, and decided to make the switch. There was a decent promotion with a “buy two phones, get full service credit for the price of one of them”, so we switched.

Cutting to the chase, going with Google FI has cut my monthly phone bill to less than half what it used to be, service quality is superior in several ways. The phones themselves are quite good… and I’ve only got some minor and highly technical (surprise on that one) complaints.

Over all I’m super happy with the move and with the Motorola Moto X4 phones.

Techie Minutia

Multiple Carriers / seamless handoffs

Google FI is a different carrier.. they have this really interesting model where they partnered with several different carriers so that instead of being “PCS” or “GSM” or “CDMA” carrier, they’re .. all three.

They have a partnership with Sprint, with T-Mobile, and with US Cellular. Their phone then looks at the three available carriers in a given area and picks the one with the best signal.. seamlessly. Actually they also will attempt to do WIFI calling using available open WIFI network, and unlike my experience with the Samsung under Sprint, they can seamlessly hand off between a WIFI call and a carrier so that you don’t lose connection.

Let me just kind of pause a moment and let that sink in.

I work from home so I’m very often on my home WIFI network. The Samsung Galaxy S6 under Sprint had WIFI calling and it worked quite well when I made or received calls from home. However, if I was on a call and stepped out of the house.. say to walk around the block while chatting with my mom. As soon as I lost the WIFI from my house, the call dropped. I could call back and pick up on cell, but it could never hand off.

Google FI however, handles this seamlessly.. and even more interestingly, because I have Xfinity, and there are a lot of Xfinity hot-spots in my neighborhood, the phone is switching from cellular carrier to neighbor WIFI and back multiple times over my 2 mile walk around the block and you’d never know the difference in terms of call quality.

It’s really the big selling point for me for Google FI

Not-Exactly-Unlimited Data

This one kind of scares some folks off Google FI. Unlike the other major US carriers who all offer “unlimited text, calling and data” plans, Google FI actually charges for data by the GiB.

However, they have this thing they call “bill protect” which kicks in to cap your bill.. so you pay about $20 for the phone connection and then $10 per GiB used for the month.. but they cap the fee at 10 GiB (For a 2 phone plan) ..

Our 2 phone plan is capped at $135/month .. and since I was paying about $120/month every month for the unlimited plans with Sprint.. the WORST CASE would be about the same.

However, I’ve been actually paying just about $60/month in actual bills. We use as much data as we need .. my wife uses more than me as the place where she works has crap WIFI, but we’re basically half the cost with all the service

About the Moto X4

Google FI’s unique setup means that not all phones are capable of using the type of SIM they use to achieve their multi-carrier hand-offs. At the time we were signing up, the two options for new phones were the Google Pixel 3 and the Moto X4.

The Pixel 3 was absolutely among the best / most modern phones available at the time. The Moto X4 was their “more budget conscious” offering. I’d have gone with the pixel, but that phone has no physical headphone jack, and I’m just not ready to fully embrace the wireless earbud thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had dorky Bluetooth earpieces for a long while.. I was using them before they were cool (oh hell they were never cool were they?) and while I liked them for calls, the batteries would die etc.

These new wireless earbuds.. I just can’t cope with them for 2 reasons:

  1. I have run countless wired earphones through the wash and ruined many – it sucks when you do that to a $30 pair of headphones.. I can’t imagine doing it to a $200 pair
  2. I listen to podcasts/ lectures when I’m going to sleep.. while my phone is charging. I have to use earphones because my wife can’t stand stuff playing when she’s trying to sleep.. with those wireless earphones, they’d be dying from lack of charge or if I used the little wired headphone jack dongles.. then the phone can’t charge

So, yeah, I know that the world is going this direction and sooner or later I will need to deal with phones without my beloved mini headphone jack.. but not today, Google, not today.

The Moto X4 has the jack and honestly, all the features we want. The camera is quite nice. I really like that it has a built in second lens which is super wide angle. The fingerprint reader is so much better than the Samsung (it’s way faster and fails to read way less often), and it has a micro SD card slot so I can make up for its rather anemic 32 GiB storage

One down side though: NOBODY sells accessories (cases, screen protectors, belt clips etc…) in local stores – you pretty much have to buy those online at Amazon.

Adobe Lightroom Tricks and Tips (pt 2)

I’ve been doing a massive push to get my digital photo archives up on my Smugmug site. In that process, I’ve had to somewhat relearn Lightroom and come to terms with some idiosyncrasies about Lightroom and also with Smugmug.

I started out with the idea that this would be one quick article with a few (maybe 10) quick tips.. but as I began to order my thoughts, I realized there’s actually a lot here.. so I will break this up into a few articles

Here then is the second section: Keywording in Lightroom

Will Publish

I was having this odd Smugmug experience where I *knew* for certain that I had applied a given keyword to an image / set of images.. but they simply were not showing up. I got so frustrated I even reached out to Smugmug support. They indicated that they did not see the keywords in question in the images and they were not removed either.

I was at a loss.. until I read an article elsewhere with some good tips/tricks and lo and behold the magic smoke I was looking for. “Will Publish”

If you go into your Library module then look in the right under Metadata till you find the Keywording section, you can see the default under keyword Tags: “Enter Keywords”. Change this to “Will Publish” and you will now see only keywords that are set up to actually export

So, what’s going on?

It turns out that when a given keyword was created, it may have been set to not actually export on publish. When this happens, you have a valid keyword that shows up and you can use in Lightroom, but the keyword won’t end up being put in the image you publish / export.

This seemed at first to be silly – after all, I wanted to export my darn keywords.. but it turns out it’s highly useful for more advanced Keywording techniques – hierarchical keywords.. see more below

The gist here though is that if you have a keyword that is not exporting, see if it’s missing from the Will Export view of the image.. if it is missing go to the Keyword list, find the keyword in question, right click and choose the Edit Keyword option and ensure that the “include on Export” option is checked.

Keyword Hierarchies

When I first started using Lightroom, I just used “flat keywords”… add a keyword for “MA”, and another for “Longmeadow” (my former hometown in MA), and then ensure that any images I want to tag for location in Longmeadow, MA I would select both keywords.

This is all well and good, but there’s a lot of magic that Lightroom can do here…

So, if you open up the Keyword list, you can try this… make a “parent” keyword such as a state name (“MA” for Massachusetts in my example), and then add a town in that state (“Longmeadow” in my example). Now, click on Longmeadow and drag/drop it onto MA.

You should now have a MA tag with Longmeadow as an indented sub tag.

Now, if you go and add “Longmeadow” to an image, it will bring “MA” along for the ride … maybe…

Why Maybe? because you need to ensure that the MA tag and the Longmeadow tag are both set up as Include on Export, and further, you must ensure that the Longmeadow tag has the “Export containing keywords” option set. If these are all true then you will be able to tag Longmeadow on a photo and the MA will get added automatically.

You can have many levels of parent/children/siblings…

For instance in my case, I have a tag I named “_world”. It’s a top level organizational tag (I also have “_years” for year of capture and “_meta” for keywords pertaining to meta info like “HDR”, “B&W” etc…). Inside, _world, I have _USA (another hidden tag), then each state where I have photos. so my tree looks like this:

				Windsor Locks

Now, I did not have to, but for matter of mnemonics, I chose to use an underscore to prefix a tag where I mean it to be “invisible” on export.. those tags are set to not include on export.. they’re merely Lightroom organizational tags.. so now when I type Longmeadow, it will tag the image with Longmeadow, MA. However, I don’t tag my USA photos with USA or US.. for now.. but if I ever wanted to change that I would just edit the tag to USA or US and change it to include on export and all my photos would update…

You may have noticed.. there are some dupes… I have Springfield in both MA and VA and Windsor in both ON and CT. Welcome to the real power of hierarchies… If I go to to add the keyword clicking on the link in the keyword list, it will add the appropriate one .. if I go to type it will give me the two options and I can select the right one.. and when used with a keyword that has multiple parents, it notates it using Parent>Child notation.


Using the Keyword List

This is another small tip.. the Keyword List once set up can be really useful for quickly finding all photos that have a given keyword.

In the list, if you notice there is a checkbox to the far left of a keyword. this may be blank, checked or a minus.

Blank means no currently selected photos have this keyword.

Minus (-) means some of the currently selected photos have this keyword
(or that some selected photos have children of this keyword selected)

Checked means that all currently selected photos have this keyword

There is also a white arrow to the far right. If you click this arrow while in the Library module, Lightroom will display all photos that have this keyword in the current library screen

Smugmug Limits on Keywords

While I was in contact with Smugmug support, I got one bit of clarification that you may find useful: Smugmug supports up to 100 distinct keywords per photo.

This is per photo and there’s not really a limit on length of a given keyword.. just that it will ignore any keywords beyond #100

The Digital Sorceress

Adobe Lightroom Tricks and Tips (pt1)

I’ve been doing a massive push to get my digital photo archives up on my Smugmug site. In that process, I’ve had to somewhat relearn Lightroom and come to terms with some idiosyncrasies about Lightroom and also with Smugmug.

I started out with the idea that this would be one quick article with a few (maybe 10) quick tips.. but as I began to order my thoughts, I realized there’s actually a lot here.. so I will break this up into a few articles

Here then is the first section: Lightroom general tips

Lightroom Flavors – Standalone vs Creative Cloud

Adobe has been pushing their “Creative Cloud” services for some time now. On the one hand, this may be a good deal for some – their current offering for photography is a bundle with Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99 a month or so

For those who never had Lightroom as a standalone app, there may well be good reasons to choose to use the Creative Cloud version. However, I started out with Lightroom 1, so I’m kind of married to my ways.. I wanted the standalone version… and it was surprisingly difficult to find the right option to purchase the upgrade and get the standalone version and installer.

If you just go to www.adobe.com, and follow links to Lightroom or products you inevitably get force to the Creative Cloud versions… the Buy now buttons only lead to Creative Cloud options. It’s like Adobe doesn’t want you to find the standalone versions… the trick is they call it “desktop”. As of this writing (October 13, 2017), the correct link for the US store where you can find the standalone versions is:

Lightroom UI – Second Second Screen

I can’t tell you how many times while editing, I’ve gotten the “second screen” up by accident and it’s covering up my web browser (which I use to edit /view / adjust my Smugmug site while working in Lightroom)

When it’s in full screen mode, it takes over the whole second monitor and provides no clickable buttons to close or minimize.

To get out of this mode either find the second monitor button on the bottom of the UI (screen cap to come) and click it, or use the F11 key to shut it down.

Lightroom UI – Getting Stuck in odd view

So you’re editing away … maybe typing in keywords or captions and suddenly the UI changes. The UI goes gray or black and all you see are your photos.

Congratulations! you’ve just entered “Lights Out” mode.

This mode exists to help you better examine your images without the User Interface (UI) “polluting” the view with light from itself. Personally, I find it annoying and the first time it happened it took me ages to figure out how to get out of it.

The secret.. is to press the L key. Each press toggles to “next lights out view”. There are 3 modes: Gray, Black and Oh gods, thank you for NORMAL. Just press L until the display returns to sanity

Lightroom Catalog – Network Share

Common wisdom (and any official Adobe support site) will tell you that no, you can not host your Lightroom catalog on a network Share.

From a technical perspective, this makes some sense – you really don’t want multiple people editing the same catalog at the same time – Lightroom wasn’t built for this (it’s extremely complex to code a system where multiple people may be editing the same things at the same times.. or to prevent such with check-outs / check-ins etc…). Also, almost any network share will be slower than almost any local hard drive, and performance may be hindered.. so it’s not really a good idea.

Despite all this, there is a kludge that allows you to work around it. I’ve been using it for nearly as long as I’ve been using Lightroom. I am not sharing my catalog with anyone else, I just wanted it to be on my home server where I have regular, religious backups running, etc…

This has served me well until now. However, I was noticing a serious slowness to my processing when I was dealing with massive bulk changes. In the past, my workstation had a spinning hard drive and the network drive was realistically just as fast for most operations for me. However, my workstation is a high end gaming laptop with SSD drives and it is screamingly fast.. and the catalog just can’t keep up.

So, in this case, I moved my catalog to my laptop, but kept the photos directory on a network share. This lets me still take advantage of my serious server storage and religious backups.. but lets the catalog work with its disk IO intensive operations screamingly fast.

OK, you’ve been warned and now, I’ll share the hack if you absolutely can’t live without your Lightroom catalog being on a network share.

The magic smoke is that you can’t just map a network drive through the Windows share.. if you do, Lightroom will detect that it’s a network drive and will not allow you to put a catalog there. Instead you must use the subst command:

		subst DRIVELETTER: \\servername\Sharename

So, in my case, I use drive L: (for Lightroom dontchyaknow) and so I would use

subst L: \\myServerName\LightroomShareName 

I had put this in a small batch script that I put in the startup folder for my login so it maps nearly as soon as I log in.

NOTE: The drive will show up in Windows explorer and always claim to be a “disconnected” drive.. but it works properly like a normal network drive and Lightroom absolutely does allow you to use it even though they’d rather you didn’t.

Renaming/Upgrading Catalogs

I know that when I upgrade Lightroom, it needs to upgrade my catalog. Furthermore, I know that when I do this, it automatically backs up the original, etc…

However, I am a control freak. I want to manually back up my own catalog and make a new one with the new name.

Start by using Windows Explorer to make a full copy of your catalog directory.. in my case, the original was L:\LRCatalogs\LightroomData-4 (for Lightroom 4). So now you have L:\LRCatalogs\LightroomData-4-Copy

		Rename LighroomData-4-Copy to LightroomData-6		
		Cd into LightroomData-6 and rename LightroomData-4.lrcat to LightroomData-6.lrcat
		Rename LightroomData-4 Previews.lrdata to LightroomData-6 Previews.lrdata

NOTE: I do all that then I point LR at the new catalog.. it will then proceed to make a BACKUP of the LR catalog named LightroomData-6-2.lrcat or similar… You can rename that if you choose… use the same basic process.

The Digital Sorceress

Five Things I’ve Learned While Telecommuting

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a job that has allowed me to telecommute for the past two years. It’s a long story, but the gist of it is that I was lucky enough to have had the following conversation with my boss:

ME: “Um, boss, what would the chances be that I could move 500 miles away and keep my job … you know – telecommute?”

BOSS: ~thoughtful look for a moment~ “I don’t see why not”

ME: “COOL! Thanks. Do we need anyone else’s approval?”

BOSS: “I’ll double check with ~general manager~. but he shouldn’t have a problem” … next day … “You’re good to go”

Two two years later, I do not regret it for a moment… and neither has my boss.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been work – a lot of work. What surprised me most was how much work I had to do on myself. You see, I’m a bit of a workaholic. I’m the type of gal who gets a great deal of my sense of personal satisfaction from feeling that I do a damn good job at what I do. This caused me to have to do a bit of mental adjustment and self-monitoring to avoid over-stressing… to strike a proper balance between work and life.

Anyone who works in a field where it is possible for folks to work remotely has probably had ~that co-worker~ the one who says they’re “Working from home” when they’re really “Working” (intentional use of quotes there) from home…. or to put it bluntly – fucking off.

Well, when you’re full-time telecommuting… even when you’re actually working your arse off, there will always be those who assume you’re not actually working. Either because they’re jealous, or because they would just use it as an excuse to goof off on the company’s dime.

So long as those with that attitude are not your boss and are not in your immediate chain of command, you’re generally ok … but surprisingly, there’s one person who you would never expect to feel that way about you … and that’s you.

Yep, because:

Telecommuting Makes You Feel That You Need to Constantly Prove Yourself

I spent the first 6 months of my telecommuting job never taking a lunch break, and never, ever actually logging off work “at quittin’ time” I would regularly end up “staying late” and checking up on work stuff at all hours because I felt I had to prove how much I was working.

I’ve always done that to some extent as it’s my nature as a Type-A personality – I worry, but I kind of went into hyper-self-critical mode thinking I wasn’t working hard enough that everyone was going to think I was screwing around.

It took my boss pretty much ordering me to take care of myself – to take lunch breaks and relax, to trust that she would tell me if she had an issue with me before I finally got the message and reached a good place in my head so that I stopped burning myself out.

That being said,

Staying “Part of the Team” Takes Active Effort

In a regular office environment, just showing up at the office every day – grabbing your coffee, taking a bathroom break – others see you (note to self: proximity of “bathroom break” and “others see you” may not be the best mental image); they know you’re there.

Also, it’s amazing how much input/feedback you get from simply passively hearing the office chatter and from seeing who is talking to whom or who has been in the bosses office with the door closed for the last 30 minutes.

That office gossip and the environment is full of useful information that we make use of… but being “out of sight” can mean “out of mind”… and if you’re not careful to actively participate, there’s a danger of being left out.

My coping mechanism for this was to use Google Hangouts to keep an active conference with my boss and the two other engineers on my team (another of whom was also a telecommuter) we basically made our own little virtual office, and that really made a huge difference. Even with the sound off, my co-workers and I could see when the others were on a phone call or were away from the desk – not in a big-brother kind of way, but in a way that mimics a traditional office.

When all you have is Email and IM, it’s hard to get a feel for someone’s presence and current state… if you IM them or email and they don’t respond right away – are they ignoring you? or are they on a call ? or are they on lunch? In a meeting? Having a chat with someone who is stopped by to ask them a question? abducted by aliens? Who knows?

With that video conference, my co-workers could see me talking on the phone, and I could see them having a conversation with one of the sales reps who stopped by to ask them a question – just kind of getting that visual feedback we take for granted when we are in the same office.

However, it goes beyond that – it means always making sure to keep an eye / ear out for an IM or email coming in and trying to give quick feedback (to the others in the office who may not be in the hangout) so that you don’t leave anyone sitting around waiting for you to get back to them.

There are some really big benefits to working remotely – for you and for your co-workers. one of the most surprising was

Telecommuting Reduces Sick Days

This happens both because you can “tough it out” without worrying about spreading the ick around (which means ~they~ don’t get sick… continuing the chain) and it also means that you are likely to miss out on the latest plague that everyone else who IS in the office trying to tough it out keeps passing around.

Your average office is a veritable Petri dish… because far too many folks are either afraid of getting yelled at or they’re saving their sick days for when it’s important (Monday morning hangovers) or for taking their sick kid to the doctor (after politely bringing the ick into the office)

Working remotely, you get to break that cycle and it’s amazing – Other than an occasional migraine attack, I’ve not needed any sick days… EXCEPT FOR THAT WEEK I ENDED UP IN THE HOSPITAL WITH A COLLAPSED LUNG AND PNEUMONIA BECAUSE I GOT THE OFFICE PLAGUE FROM A QUARTERLY TRIP INTO THE OFFICE yeah that was fun. I can legit say that my job “tried to kill me” that one time.

Still, that week of my life (Actually, I pretty much lost a month to that plague, but only missed about a week of work), I have gotten back more time because…

No Commute Means You Get WEEKS of Your Life Back

Personally, the longest commute I ever had was a 45 minute drive each way (no traffic) that would regularly turn into a 1.5 hour drive due to traffic… and the shortest commute (aside from my current Telecommute) was about 15 minutes each way which never had any traffic… On average, over my career, I’d guess that I spent about 7 hours a week commuting. That’s ~350 hours or 8.75 work weeks a year. That’s twice as much as my vacation accruals.

Okay, so I do drive 7 hours each way to visit the office once a quarter but that’s still 1/15 of the time I spend telecommuting – and since it’s a business trip, I get paid mileage and per-diems on my travel days – hell, I ~could~ fly, but I am the “fly only if it’s more than 8 hours driving” type – I kind of ~like~ road trips where I’m not stuck losing my mind in bumper to bumper traffic…

Oh yeah and that’s one down side:

You Lose Tolerance for Even Minor Traffic

Nobody really likes being stuck in traffic… well, I’m sure Rule 34 even applies to that , but ewww… but most normal people will understand that traffic sucks.

However, one of the things I though would happen when I started telecommuting was that I’d be less annoyed on those occasions when I did encounter it simply for the fact that “at least I don’t deal with this every day”…


It’s turned out to be exactly the opposite. I’ve gotten very very used to not dealing with traffic every day – you might even go so far as to say “spoiled’ because OMG! WHY IS SHE DRIVING SO SLOW!!!!

Yep I’m even less tolerant. I guess I should have seen it coming – I mean I’ve been a user of ad blocking browser add-ons for ages… so when I sit down at someone else’s PC (like doing tech support for my partner or my mom) ALL I SEE ARE THOSE GORRAM ADS! because I’m so used to NOT seeing them that I have lost the ability to mentally block them out.

Well, traffic is just like that to me – any little bit of it gets to me because I’m completely spoiled by not having to deal with it every frigging day.

On the whole, I think I’ve managed to find balance. I have been able prove my worth and to maintain the self-discipline needed to make telecommuting effective for both me and my employer. However, I never lose sight of just how damn lucky I am to have a boss as open to telecommuting as mine has been.

Here’s hoping my luck will continue.

The Digital Sorceress