Fixing a Blank Default Web Browser Setting in OS X El Capitan

I don’t know what causes this problem but recently I discovered that the “Default web browser” setting in the General preferences tab was blank. Clicking on the drop-down showed no browser names so I could not change the use of Safari as the default browser.

The fix was relatively simple. I opened Chrome and via settings within Chrome I set it to be the default web browser. After completing this action I then had the names of the installed browsers in the “Default web browser” drop-down.

This fix may work using any browser that allows you to set it as the default from within the browser settings itself.

The Forgotten Role of Technology: One Step Away from Magic

I’ve noticed an increasingly more prevalent theme this year. The core theme is the concept of technology that is so ubiquitous and elegant that it appears to work like magic. For most of us that is rarely our experience. Often technology, whether we’re using an electronic tool that performs some physical work, or a piece of software that executes a virtual action, rarely seems like magic.

Some of this is simply due to the fact that most of us have developed a specific level of expectation over time through gradual changes that occur across the span of decades. There are certainly many things that might be perceived as magical to someone from an earlier time, whether it was someone from five hundred years ago or only a decade ago.  Perhaps magic, in this context, might be defined as something that is done for you that you didn’t even think about when you made it happen. Like turning on a light switch or opening a door, except the level of interaction is subtler.

Earlier this year I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join a college at a conference where Josh Clark, a user interface design expert, presented along with several other experts. While there we also had the opportunity to speak with him directly at one of the lunches, where he joined our table. Much of our discussion was on this very subject as was his presentation. His topic, of technology functioning like magic, was engaging and, in my opinion, a change heading toward us rather quickly.

I love technology. I enjoy learning about new innovations and gadgets and I have spent several late nights and weekends just tinkering with devices and software, sometimes without a defined goal. Some of those projects were dead ends. Others were successes. I learned from each one.

Yet, over the years, I continue to notice one problem with much of the technology that we have at our disposal.

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Adobe Acrobat Pro (CS6) Stops Opening in Windows

I recently ran into an odd little problem while working with a copy of Adobe Acrobat Pro (installed as part of a CS6 suite) in Windows. In this case both the problem and the solution were specific to when I had installed Acrobat and the platform that I was using at the time. This particular instance of Windows 8.1 wasn’t very old – all of the data had recently been transferred from a Windows 7 system.

Sometime last week, while attempting to view a PDF file from within Outlook, the installed copy of Acrobat X simply quit working. It didn’t fail with an error. It simply didn’t launch. My other Adobe CS6 applications continued to work just fine. This sudden change in behavior was a bit alarming at first but it didn’t take me very long to identify the problem.

It seems that, for whatever reason, Acrobat encountered a problem when it had passed the initial 30-day trial period. This is even more of an oddity considering that I had never set it up to act as a trial – the product key was correctly entered when I originally installed the software.

While searching for a solution I stumbled upon an Adobe support document (possibly linked from a forum post somewhere) that describes the problem I was having and it also offers a file to fix the problem. In my case Solution 1 worked perfectly. Acrobat Pro now opens once again. The link to the support document is included below:

Acrobat Help / Doesn’t launch after 30 days | Installed as part of a CS6 suite

 

Using TextWrangler to Generate HTML Form Option Values from a Text List

While working on a project I needed to find a way to take a text-based list of values and convert them to drop-down options for an HTML form.

For example, I a have list in a text file like this:

One
Two
Three
Four

I need to convert them to this:

<option value="One">One</option>
<option value="Two">Two</option>
<option value="Three">Three</option>
<option value="Four">Four</option>

The items above would then be enclosed within a SELECT tag.

For a list this short I would just code it by hand but when you start hitting lists of 25 or more options it quickly becomes time-consuming. I attempted to use a Find and Replace operation in Dreamweaver using RegEx but ran into a problem.

Eventually, I moved over to TextWrangler for Mac. I’m not a RegEx guru but after doing some reading I came up with a method that works well.

In TextWrangler I opened the file and then went to the Search menu option and clicked Find.

Here’s what I’m using:

Find: ^(.*)$
Replace: <option value="\1">\1</option>

Also, and this is critical, I checked the option to use “Grep” under Matching. This enables the use of Regular Expressions.

The find pattern captures anything between the beginning and end of the line. In the replace section it takes whatever matches and then inserts it into the surrounding text (\1 instructs the software to insert the contents of the match).

Here’s a screenshot of the dialog:

Firefox Settings: Always Get Newest Page, Open Tab At Far Right

I’m adding this information here mostly so I won’t have to search for these configuration options again. Every time I install a major version of Firefox I have to go back into about:config and change these settings. I know these work in Firefox 3 and 6. They should work in most other versions. To access these options just type about:config into the address bar, press enter, accept the warning, and then type the name in the search field to filter down to the individual parameter.

Always Get Newest Page

browser.cache.check_doc_frequency: 1

Open New Tab At Far Right

browser.tabs.insertRelatedAfterCurrent: false

Updated 11/03/2011: I added a few more items for loading pages faster, which I found in an external article titled 18 Firefox Tweaks to Improve Speed and Performance, in addition to various other Firefox tip articles, etc.

Increase Page Load Speed

network.http.pipelining: true
network.http.proxy.pipelining: true
network.http.pipelining.maxrequests: 10
nglayout.initialpaint.delay: 0 (must be added by creating a new setting of the Integer type)

How to Backup WordPress.com Blog Images Using SiteSucker (OS X)

In the past, when I moved blogs to different platforms, I lost blog photos because I didn’t make an effort to back them up or transfer them. Today, I decided to establish a process for grabbing all of the images that I use in this blog, just in case I ever need to have a copy.

I frequently backup the blog itself as an XML file using the built-in export tool. However, this only backs up the written content and architecture – it doesn’t backup the media files.

There are several different programs that could be used and probably various methods  as well. In my case, I’m using a WordPress.com blog with a custom domain. In addition, the backup process is done using a Mac.

To scrape the blog content I chose to use SiteSucker, which is a donationware software program for OS X. To reduce the data that is backed up down to a minimal set that includes the images, I changed some of the default settings.

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Removing Exif Data with SmallImage (OS X)

This evening I started browsing the Web in search of a simple image tool that could be used to quickly remove exif data from JPEGs. A few links later I came across SmallImage. It’s a nice batch JPEG processing tool and can indeed remove exif data very easily. Note that it is capable of doing much more, but so far I’ve only used it for this one task.

SmallImage is donationware and available for OS X (a Snow Leopard version is available).

SmallImage (OS X – Donationware)