Tweak Google Search in Firefox – NZ edition!

Here’s three tweaks to Firefox for the search box – a couple for everyone and one for kiwis or anyone else wanting to use the regional New Zealand site,

Open results in a new tab

This is one of the first changes I make to every Firefox install. By default, if you search from Firefox’s search box near the top right of the browser the results open in the current tab – potentially killing something you might have been working on. To have results always open in a new tab enter “about:config” in the address bar and hit return. Read and acknowledge the warning and then enter “” in the filter box. Double click this entry to toggle the value to “true”.

Now search safe in the knowledge you won’t lose your current tab.

Update the search box icon for Google

The blog Mozilla Links has a nice little post detailing how to update the search box to use the new Google favicon. It involves downloading and replacing a small file in your Firefox install directory.

Awww, isn’t it pretty!

Change the search box to use

If you use for your internet searches, you will probably have noticed the option below the search box to search “the web” or “pages from New Zealand”.

By default the search box in Firefox uses so those search options are not available on the results page. To change this you’ll need to make a small change to the file that got replaced in the above tweak – google.xml, which for Windows users normally lives at,

C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins\google.xml

Open that file in a text editor (like Notepad) and look for the line that contains,

<Url type="text/html" method="GET" template="">

Change the template address to “; and save the file. Now (re)start Firefox and you’re done. Search results will come from “the web” by default, but using the NZ regional site thus allowing you to re-search pages from New Zealand easily.


My first Desktop Computer

With the Apple Macintosh turning 25 in the last week, I’ve been pondering my personal computing history over the last few days. This is something I plan on writing up one day (hopefully with the help of Dad), but as a taste, here’s some brief comments…

I was lucky during my high school years in the late 80’s and very early 90’s in that both my school and our home had Apple computers. Following the likes of the Macintosh, IIe and IIGS, I had a crash course in using UNIX based systems when I headed off to Canterbury University in 1993. During my MSc years (1996-97) I purchased my first computer from a friend – a Toshiba laptop running Windows 95 – which I still own today and which still runs!

And so to my first desktop. As I approached the end of my MSc Thesis in ’97, I purchased a customised rig from Lowes Technology Services in Christchurch. As a quick aside, I thankfully received delivery of my system shortly before Lowes went bust along with around 8 or 9 other Chch retailers at the end of ’97 and early ’98.

The customisation options I settled on are detailed in this quotation – dated 5 September 1997,

Click for a large image and note the hefty prices in there! (also available as a PDF via my SkyDrive)

That $2478 price tag (adding in an extra parallel port) doesn’t include a monitor – I paid $1000+ separately for a Viewsonic 17GA, which only made it to the scrap heap (in still working condition) last year!

The core system specs as noted in the quote were,

– Intel Pentium 200 MMX
– Pentium PCI mainboard with Intel Triton TX chipset
– 32MB 10ns DRAM
– 4MB S3 ViRGE DX 3D PCI video card
– 3200MB (3.2GB) Quantum Fireball ST UltraDMA/33 IDE HDD
– 24X Samsung CD-ROM drive
– Creative Labs Sound Blaster16 sound card, with FM radio tuner!

That PC got me through my thesis write-up and then moved with me to Wellington in early 1998. It served me very well through to 2001 when I replaced it with a PIII-866 – my second desktop and first DIY assembled PC, but I’ll save that story for another day.

Fine and sunny in NZ

Unless you’re in Fiordland I suppose…

Here’s the view of New Zealand from space early this afternoon (Sat 24 Jan),

Almost cloud free – and warm too, with most places pushing into the high 20’s early afternoon and some spots already topping 30C (see the NZ temperature map at

The image above is from NOAA’s website, where you can get hourly visible and infrared satellite images for NZ. Or, visit my satellite imagery links page for other sites.

Mustang over Wellington

As publicity for the Wings over Wairarapa airshow in Masterton this weekend, Wellington got treated to a flypast by a North American P51-D Mustang and a Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk early this afternoon.

Here’s an ambitious attempt to capture the Mustang on my new Canon IXUS 80IS from the roof of the MetService building in Kelburn.

The fighters were a fair distance away over the city. I stuck the camera in full auto mode at full optical zoom and clicked. One chance. One shot.

The full image,

And a crop at full size,

Needless to say the 8Mpx resolution helped at that range. I’m actually amazed it worked that well!

Thank You Captain Obvious

One for the “duh!” category…

While researching wireless router+modem “all-in-one” units I emailed a question to a retailer regarding the NetGear DG834G. In short, I wanted to know what version it was to be sure that it would be the latest and greatest in the event I ordered it. Here’s my question and the less than stellar response,

Me: “I’m interested in the DG834G but would like to know which version I’d be getting if I order one. Can you please advise if it is the latest v5 with both the power and wifi power switches.

Them: “Our supplier has had a look at the box and it doesn’t mention what version it is, but they said it does have “WiFi” written on the box.

OMG! Really?! You mean to say that a wireless router has “WiFi” written on the box? Thank you very much! Sheesh.

Sometimes you just gotta laugh. 😀

Hello Windows 7

Windows 7 is the next Microsoft Operating System (scheduled for release later this year) and is now available for testing as a public beta. I grabbed it yesterday and now have it running in a virtual machine on my Vista PC.

So far, I like what I see. The most noticeable change from Vista right away is the behaviour of the taskbar and quick launch toolbar which have been combined into one. In default mode, the buttons next to the Start Menu can now represent both shortcuts and running programs, which is kind of what macs do and not something I’m fond of. I think this will confuse a lot of people, but it can be changed easily if you don’t like it.

So, what does it look like? Pretty much like Vista really, with some changes to the UI in places (for the better). Here’s some little screenshots as a teaser – although not quite as fancy as they could be as the glassy aero user interface isn’t available inside a VM.

Default desktop:

Click through for the rest of the set…

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Thumbs down Canon and Philips

Time to dish some shame – although maybe it should be LV Martin & Son and not Philips on the receiving end in one case…

Two Christmas presents to ourselves have brought about this rant, not because they don’t work (now, anyway) but because they weren’t up to scratch at purchase time.

First up, our Philips 160GB HDD DVD player and recorder (model # DVDR3455H/75). The unit we grabbed was the last display model at LV Martin & Son in Paraparaumu and as a result we scored a nice little discount in the post-Christmas sale madness. Out of the box it worked fine for the most part, but we quickly discovered it (a) didn’t have a manual, and (b) the right arrow button jumped two DVD menu items at a time. Both problems were solved – by finding and downloading a PDF manual and updating the firmware – although I can’t help thinking that this would be outside the skill set of many non-geeks out there. The reason I reckon Philips or LV Martin need to be shamed is that the firmware update was released on 15 May 2007 – yes a full year and a half ago! In my opinion, there is no excuse for selling a unit with an annoying functional flaw that should/could have been remedied long ago.

Secondly, we also purchased a new Canon Digital Camera (an IXUS 80IS) in the Christmas sales – this time from Noel Leeming. Again, we got a nice little discount and I honestly can’t fault the camera and its functions (I love Canon gear). However, shipping a pitifully small 32MB SD card with an 8 megapixel camera is just plain ridiculous – and is actually bordering on being “not fit for purpose” under the Consumer Guarantees Act. Afterall, that size memory card can’t even hold a 20 second video and is only good for ~15 photos! Given how cheap flash-based memory cards are these days there is no excuse for digital camera manufacturers to not bundle a 1GB, 2GB or even 4GB card in the box. This is akin to buying a car and then having to pay to upgrade the fuel tank to a capacity that is actually usable! Would you buy a car with a one litre fuel tank?!

As a useful tip (so you actually get something out of reading this post!), if you want to buy extra memory cards or camera batteries, DO NOT purchase them from the big electronic retailers (eg Noel Leeming etc). You WILL get ripped off – eg the cheapest listed 2GB SD card at Noel Leeming is $39.99 whereas Ascent have one listed at $16.09! Instead check out to find the best prices in the country, or visit my favourite local retailer for memory cards and for digital camera batteries.

So yeah, thumbs down to Philips and/or LV Martin & Son along with Canon. Our Christmas presents from you guys needed “fixing” when they shouldn’t have.