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Scott's Column
New Look Backfire, FireFox 1.5, Visual Basic 2005

March 1, 2006
By Scott Lewis

I have been way too busy with my boys. One had a birthday, and both are getting ready to cross over to a new level in Cub/Boy Scouts. In fact, the Pinewood Derby is this weekend, and I have been busy building, and ruining my own car. It's fun.

At the last minute I downloaded the latest "build" of Microsoft's Windows Vista. I did get it running, but that will have to wait for next month. This month I have a little on FireFox and Visual Basic 2005.

Gaming

I had a couple of left over Best Buy gift certificates. I needed to pick up Turbo Tax, so I looked around and saw Myst 10th Anniversary Collection. This is a re-release of the first three Myst games (Myst, Riven, Exile). You can think of them as Myst I, II & III. The Exile disc even says Myst III on it. Each game is on a DVD disc. I vaguely remember trying out the original Myst when a friend lent it to me. That was a long time ago, and I believe it was before Windows 95. I thought the game was good looking, but it ran a bit slow on my system at the time. I never got around to checking it out after that.

Since the three games together only cost $20, and I was using a gift certificate, I thought I could check it out. The games are rated E for Everyone, so maybe I can get my kids into them. I haven't played them yet, but I expect to soon.

I did get back into Indigo Prophecy. I picked up where it left off. I can firmly say this... don't buy it. Although it is the closest thing to an interactive movie I have seen, it is still too restrictive. Although some things can be effected by earlier actions (or inactions), overall you must do to many worthless tasks to advance the story. And the story will not change much even if you do leave out some things. I don't know if I will even finish it.

New Look Backfire

I was having trouble with flash on my computer at work. I think I made the mistake of letting Macromedia upgrade to Flash Player 8. Now all flash content flickers like crazy. CNet's videos flicker back and forth with the still image that displays when the video is not running. 

Because of this I tried installing FireFox 1.5. I was not thrilled with FireFox 1.0/1.1. I found it took about three times longer to launch than Internet Explorer. Granted, once you were in FireFox is was fast enough. I just couldn't make it my default browser with such a slow startup time. Especially at work when I will only run the browser for a minute or two at a time to check something quickly. I could literally launch IE and check a bookmarked web page and exit in the time it took to launch FireFox alone.

Anyway, I loaded FireFox 1.5 and sure enough it does not have the same problem with Flash that IE is having. The big problem is that FireFox does not like the new look of my own web site (what you are read now). Most of the pages look reasonable, but there is a major issue with the left edge of the page. It seems that FireFox is not recognizing some of my CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and letting text and my sidebar run off to the right outside of the page into the graphic border.

I will have to spend some time trying to fix this. If I can't I may have to come up with yet another look. We'll see. Maybe I will have this fixed next month. If you are using FireFox I highly recommend you get the IE Tab extension for FireFox. It will let FireFox use the IE engine to display pages. You can even set it to always use IE for certain sites.

I'll keep you posted on this topic.

FireFox 1.5

As long as I mentioned FireFox I might as well tell you what I think. I like it. It is still slower to load than IE. Slow enough I won't use it as my default browser. But I am hoping version 2.0 due this summer will load faster. I have not looked at everything that is an issue, but the slow load time is currently my only real complaint.

The tabbed browsing is working very well, and I really like being able to open a series of links in tabs right away. However, there is still nothing I can find in FireFox equivalent to Internet Explorer's "Personalized Favorites Menu." With this enabled IE only shows you sites in your favorites you have looked at recently. Of course, it displays the little double arrow so you can expand the view to show all your favorites. I use this feature extensively. I love it. FireFox developers, you need to add this one feature to 2.0. Even with the slow load I would make the switch.

Visual Basic 2005

My first VB 2005 application is coming along very nicely. I have all the communication working with NetBase and our HP mainframe. I can find orders, delete them, and insert the appropriate new records. All that is left to do is determine the general flow of how I want to process records. As it is now I have it run from clicking a button and it goes through a special queue, processing all the records in the queue. We have 9 of these queues. I will need to test the application to see if it is fast enough that it can process all the data at once, essentially removing the need for queues in the data.

I will also need to write error handling code. This is different in VB 2005, so I need to learn the Try/Catch method as opposed to the On Error I have been using in VB6. Part of the error handling code will be to make copies of records that won't process. What if an order won't update because there is a lock on it. I don't want to move on. I want to save enough information that the record can be properly processed when the lock is gone.

Other projects have kept me from finishing this one, but I expect it to be finished soon.

Web Development

My director implied I could get a raise if I learn the web development of .Net. I will need to start learning that soon. I have decided I want to try that IT Request form online project I mentioned last month. I'll keep you post on that as well.

Conclusion

That's about it this month. I have been up to my ears in Cub Scouts. Both my sons are in the Scouts. My oldest almost wanted to quit, but became revitalized and we had a lot to do to get him ready to cross over into Boy Scouts. The youngest just happened to miss a few meeting and was in the same boat, needing to finish a lot of requirements for advancement.

Of course, we have the Pinewood Derby in March. The three of us each have a car and are scrambling to get them ready for the race.

Oh yea, and the last minute install of Vista... I will definitely report on that next month.

Until next time...

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