Giganews hosting the new Mozilla news server

On Friday, Gerv announced that Giganews would be hosting the new Mozilla news server. This is something that was five years in waiting. It will also be the first time user support forums will be on a server called “”. (I’ll post more info, when the groups go live.) While there have been mentions of the new server in recent staff meeting minutes, and various posts by members of the community, I want to tell the story of my small role in how this came about.

I am a very satisfied client of Giganews usenet services. I also subscribe to their internal giganews.* newsgroups, in which their support staff participate. Over the last year, I had noticed that many Giganews support personnel had started using Mozilla Thunderbird to post their messages. Assuming that many people at Giganews were fans of Mozilla products, I thought maybe one of their server administrators may be interested in helping out with their server.

After Gervase Markham posted his (what was beginning to look like annual) request for a news administrator, I decided to contact Giganews about it. The next morning, I got a reply from the vice president, with interest in helping Mozilla. I gave him Gerv’s address, and Gerv verified the contact with “He has indeed been in touch, and we’re in discussion.” A couple of weeks later, he informed me of their success, with “It will be happening very soon.

Moral of the story:
I felt it important to publicize how I was able to help, because I am neither a Mozilla employee, a Giganews employee, or an NNTP administrator. Yet there was a bug I really wanted fixed, and I was able to get it fixed (at least find someone willing and able to fix it). The lesson is for users of Mozilla products, who want certain bugs fixed. Even if you aren’t a coder, you can still help get bugs fixed, and play an integral part. Don’t be afraid to look for someone willing to fix the bugs that bug you. After all, it is open-source development. Everyone can contribute, no matter how small the contribution.

Smooth Scrolling in Thunderbird

[for Mozilla Thunderbird users]
Firefox users have an option to enable smooth scrolling in the options menu, but what about Thunderbird? Is that part of the back-end Mozilla code, that they share? Why yes it is! -)

To enable Smooth Scrolling in Mozilla Thunderbird, add the following line to your user.js:
user_pref(“general.smoothScroll”, true);

Or, if you have the AboutConfig extension, go to Tools -> about:config.
Right-click on any preference line, and select New -> Boolean.
Preference name: general.smoothScroll
Value: true

Removing entered data

[for Firefox users]
Here’s another frequently asked question about Firefox:
When I start entering text in to a search field (or any other text field, like name, address, etc.), I get a drop-down list of items I previously entered in the same field. How do I remove one of those entries?

Use the arrow keys (one your keyboard) to highlight the item in the list, you want to remove. Hold down the Shift button, and press Delete.

Guidelines, Rules, or Request?

Guidelines, Rules, or Request?

Two out of three isn’t bad. -)

Looks like there’s a discussion in the secnews Firefox newsgroup about bottom-posting versus top-posting. The most notable aspect of it are the references to the Posting Guidelines, sometimes referred to as “policy”, “rules”, “custom”, “preference”, “request”, “conventions”, etc.

It has always been rather confusing to the user, what the Guidelines are. And I don’t mean the specifics, but the Guidelines as a whole. If they are ‘rules’, why aren’t there any consequences for violating them? If the only consequence you see from a moderator is his/her refusal to help that poster, does that mean there is nothing more the moderator can do? Does that lack of moderator power mean the newsgroup is on usenet? If so, why should any other rule be adhered to? The whole thing turns into a series of wrong assumptions.

The first thing that needs to be understood is that the user support groups on are not on usenet. The server is owned by Netscape, a division of AOL. The Mozilla Champions are there to monitor and moderate the Mozilla user support newsgroups, and have the permission to do so from the news server owner. Mozilla Champions have the authority to close threads, and remove others’ posts from the server.

The next thing to do is to get a dictionary, and look up the word ‘guidelines’. Specifically, how the word is derived: Guide + lines. When was the last time you were punished for not following a guide to something? A tourist destination guidebook is just a book that says “To get the best possible experience from this place, do this.” A health guideline, simply says “For the best possible health, do this.” In the case of the secnews Posting Guidelines, it’s “for the best possible answers to your technical problems, do this.” It’s not a rule, it’s a recommendation.

Here’s where all the confusion begins:
Some of the Mozilla Champions request that people responding to them, follow the guidelines. These should be considered personal requests, and not rules. If a Champion tells you to follow the Posting Guidelines, they’re not trying to impose a newsgroup rule, but imposing a rule when interacting with that Champion. It should also be noted that not all Champs make that request. Some people may have noticed that I do some snipping (although I’m not a very liberal snipper).

If a Mozilla Champion requests that you follow the posting guidelines, when interacting with him/her, don’t argue it. Either follow the guidelines, or don’t interact with that Champion (and don’t expect to get help from that Champ). It is possible to respectfully disagree with someone.

Hopefully this document will make things clearer for those wishing to explain it to newcomers; so we don’t end up with more long threads, where a lot of misinformation is passed.

Cookie Warnings in Mozilla Firefox

[for Firefox users]
Some people prefer to be warned when a website wants to set a cookie. Even though the option does not appear in Firefox, this is another feature from the Mozilla Application Suite that is in the back-end code for Firefox.
To enable cookie warnings in Firefox:
Enter about:config in the location bar.
Right-click anywhere within the list of preferences and select New -> Boolean.

When you get asked to enter the preference name, enter:

Set the value to true.

Here’s a screenshot:

Live Bookmarks Refresh Rate

[For Firefox users]
Sometimes people ask how often Firefox refreshes live bookmarks.
The default is set to 30 minutes, but you can change that.
Enter about:config in the location bar.
Right-click anywhere within the list of preferences and select New -> Integer.

When you get asked to enter the preference name, enter:

You will then be asked to enter a value. Set the value to whatever refresh rate you’d like. The unit for the value is seconds, so if you wanted the refresh rate to be 5 minutes, the value would be 300 (as in 300 seconds).

A Plea to Google

It is common practise, and good net etiquette, in email and newsgroups to quote the text of a message you are replying to. Google Groups reiterates this on their Netiquette page. So why the heck does their 'Reply' button that appears below each post on Google Groups not quote the message being replied to? They even have the ability to automatically quote, because their other other ‘Reply’ button that appears in the ‘Show Options’ area does automatically quote. Since the new Google Groups system was implemented, around one third of the posts on usenet now do not contain any quoted text. Most Google Groups users do not know that is bad, because they’re novice internet users.
Why even have a button that does not automatically quote the message being replied to? Heck, even some people don’t want it, make it an option in the Settings area.
Send Google Groups your feedback.