Glad to be back on Firefox 2.0

I upgraded to Firefox 3.0 RC1 last weekend. That lasted about 36 hours… I didn’t really care for the new UI enhancements, and there’s no way to disable many of them.

* Who’s idea was it to fundamentally alter the location bar’s behavior? Instead of working like an address bar “auto-complete” it searches all of the meta-data related to the URL: address, page title, keywords, etc. This is totally worthless to me, a bit distracting, and a major shift in the way I’m used to working. Here’s someone else with the same complaint: Awesome bar still a piece of junk!

* What happened to the “forward history” pull-down menu? I never realized I used that feature until it went missing in Firefox 3.

* What’s with the RSS feed and glowing star icon in the location bar? Who cares? Get rid of it!

* I don’t like the design of the new downloads window. Yes, it’s more compact but no where near as aesthetically pleasing.

* I don’t like the highlight delay when mousing over tabs. I want instantaneous feedback, and the 0.5s delay in there when mousing over a tab is distracting when your eye isn’t immediately over it. Again, it’s one of these things I never realized I did with Firefox, but I’ll frequently switch tabs using the mouse without even looking directly at the tab, and that slight delay impedes my ability to do that.

In the end, the location bar alteration was the deal breaker, I don’t have the patience to adjust to it at the moment. It seems like the kind of thing that needs to pop-up when you hit ctrl-space, or at the very least you need to be able to disable it and get the old behavior back.

I was impressed by one feature of Firefox 3 however: You can upgrade to 3.0, uninstall completely, reinstall 2.0 and retain your bookmarks and settings! Woo-hoo! That’s quality software.

Why not tax oil imports?

Clinton and McCain have proposed temporary gas tax relief for this summer. Obama is talking about a windfall tax on oil profits, which seems appropriate given Exxon’s record profits this year. Somehow through all of this the candidates are saying these plans will 1) give some financial relief to driving Americans 2) reduce our dependence on foreign oil and 3) reduce our oil consumption.

How, exactly?

I fail to see how reducing the gas tax would accomplish any of these three goals. The market is clearly able to withstand $3.75/gal+ gas prices, as is demonstrated by only a 1.1% decline in gasoline consumption this last year. Until consumption drops another 1-2% I doubt demand will have any influence on price. A federal tax cut of $0.18/gal would likely go into the pockets of gasoline distributors, not consumers. Even if the savings were passed on to consumers, the benefits to the individual would be negligible, and would only further increase demand. Failure on goals 1 & 3. No progress on 2.

I completely fail to see how a windfall tax on oil profits would help anyone. The pocket-lining standards have been set at the oil companies this year, and they probably won’t want to give that up, so they’ll just end up passing the new expenses onto the consumer and their exploration budgets. They’ll cut exploration which will dry up supply even more, bringing oil prices up yet again and, if we can stand $4.50/gal gas (which I believe we could) then they’ll be right back to their Spring-2008 profit levels again.

I can think of a simple way we could accomplish all three goals: nationalize the oil companies. We have nationalized electricity generating facilities, why not oil?

Short of nationalizing oil companies, I can’t see a quick solution for goal #1: providing financial relief for American drivers. The bar has been set with $3.75/gal gas. If we didn’t want to pay that much for gas we shouldn’t have bought it. Now that we have, it’s too late, the hook has been set.

A long-term play for fixing #1 would be to substantially increase the value of the US Dollar relative to the OPEC member countries’ currencies. However this isn’t something the government has much control over anyways, and would only increase oil demand and consumption in the long run.

The simple solution for #3 is to throw #1 out of the window. If you want people to use less gas, make gas more expensive. When I think about what price gas would need to be before I would seriously consider not driving as much, it’s probably in the $5-6/gal range. If gas were $6/gal today I would likely ride my bike everywhere, even in bad weather. But it’s not, I live 7 miles from work, and the temp has been around 40 degrees in the morning lately.

I was thinking this evening about reducing our dependence on foreign oil while simultaneously reducing our oil consumption, and I started to wonder: what about an oil import tax? A google search for oil import tax returns surprisingly few results, the only relevant hit being an article about a 1987 Harvard study proposing a $5/barrel tax. Most other articles are from the 80’s. So are we doing this currently, or was this an idea that was long since abandoned?

Hydrogen fuel cells generated from nuclear reactor power. Send nuclear waste up space elevator and rocket at sun. Problem solved. 🙂

I’m disappointed in my MacBook Pro

Preface: This entry was hard for me to write. I’m not an Apple die-hard, but I do recommend Macs all the time to family and friends. In the past, Apple hardware has been reason alone to buy a Mac. I don’t believe that’s the case anymore. Something happened to Apple, they lost their edge…

I got a new MacBook Pro about a month ago, and although I think I’d be even less happy with an equivalent PC laptop had I gotten one, there are a number of things about this laptop that either irritate me, frustrate me or disappoint me. Although it’s bigger/faster in the ram/cpu department compared to my previous Mac laptop, a PowerBook G4 12″, in many ways it feels like a huge downgrade.

* Irritation: The keyboard sucks. The keyboard on this thing is so bad I’m tempted to go “youtube” on it and make a video demonstrating how bad it is. There are places on some of the keys where you can press them down but it won’t register a key press. I think the root cause is they replaced the mechanical lever/spring action of the previous keyboards with a cheap flexible rubber. The arrow keys still use the mechanical lever/spring configuration–they’re the only decent keys on the whole keyboard. Because of the poor keyboard I find myself “punching” the keys and gritting my teeth unconsciously.. and then my wrists start to get sore.

* Frustration: The headphone output is simply unusable. There’s no other way to put it folks; the headphone output is not usable, and I’m not the only one with this complaint. There’s a ton of high-pitched noise that is impossible to ignore at lower volumes, it drives me crazy. Forget doing any audio work on the MacBook Pro. I was looking forward to getting intel versions of my favorite production tools, I guess that won’t happen now.

* Disappointment: The display doesn’t tilt back far enough. I used to use my PowerBook G4 on the kitchen counter standing up–I’d tilt the screen way back so I could see it easily. I can’t do that with this laptop, I have to either sit down or bend over.

There’s more:

* The light detector they use to control the keyboard brightness doesn’t work in pitch-black. If I try to use the back lit keyboard with the light out it doesn’t work. It picks up it’s own light and turns off. Then it thinks its dark again and turns on. It oscillates on/off endlessly until I just disable it. I put a video of the illumination problems online here.

* This is likely a software issue, but it has problems going to sleep. Let me rephrase that–it won’t sleep unless I tell it too by closing the lid.

* When I first got it the wireless didn’t work after I upgraded to 10.5.2.

What the hell happened Apple? I’m so disappointed. Did Steve lose his fanaticism?

Did I mention that I sent the laptop back for repair once already? The first keyboard I received was even worse than the one that’s on it currently. The replacement is *slightly* better, but still no where near as good as the one on the PowerBook G4. Going back to type on the PowerBook G4 is like night and day. I did an informal survey at work asking people to decide which keyboard they liked better, and 8 out of 8 people prefered the PowerBook G4 keyboard to the MBP keyboard.