Where’s that lat/long? Ask Google Maps!

This morning there was a sizeable earthquake in the Gulf of California, or more precisely near 24.9N 109.0W according to the first tsunami bulletin issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. When I first saw that text bulletin, without an accompanying graphic, my first thought was: “so where is that point exactly?” Enter Google Maps to answer that one.

A nifty feature of Google maps is the ability to enter any lat/long point in the search box, either in decimal or degrees/minutes/seconds. Doing so will give you a marker on the map listing both types of co-ordinates, for example:

Note that to get the pop-up you’ll need to click the green marker.

As well as using the four compass points N/S/E/W for the lat/long values, you can also enter negative values for S and W, eg. “24.9 -109.0” gives the same result as “24.9N 109.0W”. And if your point of interest is in degrees, minutes and seconds instead, then use the following format: “41 17 22S 174 46 59E” or “-41 17 22, 174 46 59” for example (with or without the comma separating lat/long is ok either way).


Keyword Search for Firefox users

To make map lookup even faster, grab your Firefox (you do use Firefox right?!) and add a search bookmark with a keyword. Doing so will let you type something as simple as “map 40S 175E” in the location/address bar to jump straight to a map search result.

To set up a keyword search bookmark, visit Google Maps, right click the search box, then select “Add a Keyword for this Search…”.

In the New Bookmark window that pops up, give your bookmark a name (eg “Search Google Maps”) and a keyword (eg “map”).

And voilà! It doesn’t work! But don’t fret, we can fix the bookmark easily. Normally this technique does work well and I frequently use keyword searches for several sites directly from the address bar (eg IMDB, Twitter, Wikipedia to name a few).

To fix your bookmark, right click it in your bookmarks list, select “Properties” and change the location to “http://maps.google.co.nz/maps?q=%s”.

Note that the “%s” in the link above is replaced with the search term you enter after “map “.

Now you’re good to go! For example, to search Google Maps for Timbuktu simply enter “map timbuktu” in the address bar and hit enter. Voilà! Now it works, and now you know where Timbuktu is. 🙂

My Firefox Add-ons

A sneak peek at the add-ons I use in my default Firefox setup at home,

My Firefox add-ons

I also run another profile for website management that uses a slightly different set. Combined, you can find all my fav add-ons in my Add-ons Collection over at mozilla.org.

Firefox 3.5 – likes and tweaks

Gotta say I’m loving Firefox 3.5 – it’s stable, fast, not IE(!) and simply works.

Here’s my top five favourite new features,

  1. Clickable links in view > page source (ctrl+u)
    This is great for anyone who frequently dives into a page’s code. Want to know how that site you’re viewing implemented it’s style sheet? No problem. View the page source, look for the style sheet link, click it and you’re viewing the CSS in source view. Nice.
  2. Tab tearing
    Previously I’ve used add-ons to enable something like this, but no more with tab tearing built-in. This feature lets you drag a tab out of your current window to have that tab spawn a new window. Great if you want to quickly refer to two open tabs/pages at once side by side.
  3. Smarter “AwesomeBar”
    Firefox’s already super useful location bar, aka the “AwesomeBar”, just got even more awesome. You can now search smarter via new operators. Use ^ to search only history, * to search your bookmarks only, and + to search your tags.
  4. Private Browsing
    Also dubbed “porn mode”, Private Browsing is just that – a mode you can enter which keeps your session private – meaning no data for the session will be cached or saved to disk (eg cookies, history, search, passwords). Great if you share a computer and want to do some secret shopping for your significant other… (or yourself!)
  5. Under-the-hood: Speed and Standards
    A new engine called Tracemonkey makes rendering Javascript faster and changes to database querying make for speedier access to your history and bookmarks. Other changes behind the scenes include more standards support including native audio and video as defined in the HTML5 spec. Anything that improves speed and standards support get a big thumbs up from me.

And the Mozilla Links blog details some more new features in their All about Firefox 3.5 post.

Of course Firefox isn’t perfect for my needs, but with my set of add-ons it almost is! Beyond those add-ons, read on for some other tweaks I make to fresh installs of Firefox…

Read more of this post

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, google.co.nz.

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 “browser.search.openintab” 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 Google.co.nz

If you use google.co.nz 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 google.com 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="http://www.google.com/search">

Change the template address to “http://www.google.co.nz/search&#8221; 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 google.co.nz thus allowing you to re-search pages from New Zealand easily.


Today you’ll make history with Firefox

This arrived in my inbox this morning,

Download Day is now on with an attempt on a Guinness World Record for the most software downloads in 24 hours. Unfortunately there was a bit of a false start this morning as the Mozilla sites have been plagued by outages, presumably due to the insane amount of traffic they are getting. To make matters worse, the download site carried the old v2.0.0.14 for a while, but as I type this it has finally been fixed and the download link is working!

If you’re keen to grab a slick new version of Firefox, click through to download Firefox 3.0 – you have until 6:16am NZST on Thursday to download and be counted in the record attempt.

For a sneak peek at new features check out Mozilla’s Firefox Features page.



With just one hour left to go in Download Day, I think Mozilla will see it as nothing short of a spectacular response to their fine work. What were they hoping for? This from the FAQ at spreadfirefox.com,

Do we have to reach a specific number of downloads in order to set the record?
This is the first record attempt of its kind so there is no set number. We’d really like to outdo the number of Firefox 2 downloads on its launch day, which was 1.6 million. Let’s shoot for 5 million–the sky is the limit!

Five million – an ambitious target perhaps. Until you see the live download counter that is (load and wait a minute or so) which currently shows in excess of 7.8 million downloads,

and earlier I saw that download rate (the figure in red) push over 11,000/minute! If you downloaded Firefox 3, you’re also being encouraged to “flaunt it” by grabbing yourself a certificate here. The Mozilla folks certainly know how to have fun!

Kudos Mozilla. You guys rock.

ImagePref Add-on for Firefox 3.0


Update – Nov 21, 2008: I’ve updated ImagePref for v3.1 compatibility and given it a homepage at: noble.gen.nz/imagepref


As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been playing with RC1 (release candidate 1) of Firefox version 3.0 in anticipation of the upcoming release – possibly later this month. So far I’ve had no problems or crashes with the only annoyance being that some of my favourite add-ons haven’t been updated to work with v3. Of the few add-ons I use regularly that are not compatible, most I’m willing to do without until they are updated and in some cases I can probably live without a few permanently. One however, is indispensable for me and I haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement. That being,


This is possibly one of the most useful add-ons for power surfers, especially those who want to scan and read a lot of different news sites quickly. So what does it do? ImagePref simply places a little check box in your status bar allowing you to toggle the display of images off and on,

As you might guess, removing images from a webpage makes it look ugly and unusable in some cases, but for heavily text-based content (like news sites) it removes all the distracting and unnecessary images and makes browsing multiple sites much faster.

Sadly, this add-on is no longer available on the Mozilla Add-ons website, and my attempt to contact the creator has drawn a blank. There was also no license info with the previous version I was using, so given all of the above, I’ve modified it myself to work with v3. Furthermore, since I couldn’t find anyone else offering an updated version, I’m providing mine for others to use,

ImagePref-2008.06.03 (for versions 1.5 – 3.0.*)

For disclosure, the edits I made changed the “maxVersion” to “3.0.*”, added myself as a contributor, tweaked the description, commented out the homepage URL (since it isn’t valid anymore) and updated the add-on version number and filename. Please note, I am not an add-on developer and this most certainly isn’t the best method(!) for updating an add-on to be compatible with a new major app version. Also, I am not claiming any credit for this add-on and will not be supporting it. If you find this add-on useful, please use it but note that you do so at your own risk (ie don’t blame me if it breaks something!). I’ve tested it with RC1 and it’s working fine for me with exactly the same behavior as under v2.



UPDATE: I have just received an email from the creator Omar Khan who is no longer supporting imagepref. Thankfully, he has given me permission to use and modify the code. Cheers Omar!

Update – Nov 21, 2008: I’ve updated ImagePref for v3.1 compatibility and given it a homepage at: noble.gen.nz/imagepref