Image of cupcakes with unusual toppings

Despite previous posts advocating the indieweb, sadly I need to trim down my WordPress plugin experience.  This is mainly to seeing a lot more traffic on my site recently, and not having the time or resources to optimise the plugin code running on my virtual server.  I found that the number of plugins in my site (around 48) was really starting to hamper performance.

So it’s with regret that I step out of the indieweb sharing platform, by removing all associated plugins from my WordPress.  Despite being in full agreement with the indieweb mantra, of owning one’s own data, I do find some satisfaction and convenience of using WordPress.com‘s own tools to do the same job now.  To some extent, they have embraced providing a richer, more social experience through WordPress sites – whether hosted by them, or by “us”.

My only regret is that I couldn’t contribute to the project, the principles of which I wholly believe in and support – if only on an intellectual level.

Good luck Indieweb!

Padlock and code image

Some time back, I wrote a post listing the steps required to migrate passwords stored in Chrome to Firefox

That post was a bit convoluted, so this post is hopefully an improvement!  My intention is to make this process as simple, and reliable, as possible.  To succeed, you will need:

There are five main steps.  Let’s get started!

  1. In Chrome’s address bar, paste:
    chrome://flags/#password-import-export

    …then hit enter.

    Chrome flag screenshot
    The option in Chrome should appear like this. Enable it!

    In the option that is highlighted, Select Enabled and then Relaunch.

  2. Now, in Chrome, navigate to chrome://settings-frame/passwords, scroll down and click Export.  Save the file with a .csv extension.
  3. Locate the CSV file and right click > Open With > LibreOffice Calc (Alternatively, start LibreOffice Calc and open the CSV file).
  4. Using LibreOffice Calc, you will need to modify the CSV file to import it into Firefox.  Do the following:
    1. Right-click on row 1 and select ‘Insert Rows Above’.  This should insert a single row at the top of the sheet.
    2. Copy the following and paste into cell A1, using Shift-Ctrl-V (to ensure you paste as plain text):
      # Generated by Password Exporter; Export format 1.0.4; Encrypted: false
    3. You need to move one column, B, to where column D is – but we don’t want to overwrite your data!
      • At the top of column B, right-click and select Cut.
      • Then right-click again and select Delete Columns – this should remove the now-empty column, and shift-left columns C and D, to positions B and C.
      • Now, on column D, select Paste.  Your url data should now live in column D.
    4. Paste the following into cell A2, using Shift-Ctrl-V:
      hostnameusernamepasswordformSubmitURLhttpRealmusernameFieldpasswordField

      When pasting, you may be prompted to select the data format.  Select “Unformatted Text” in the list and click OK.  We are ok with overwriting other cell contents, so “OK” that.

    5. Finally, we’re ready to export this data!  Go to the File menu, select Save As…In the Save As requester that appears, at the bottom check ‘Edit Filter’ and select ‘Text CSV (.csv)’ in the format drop-down:
      Select these options to correctly export your data!
      Select these options to correctly export your data!
    6. Before we get too excited, there’s just one more step to perform – some textual clean-up!Open up the exported CSV file in your favourite plain-text editor.  In the first row, you may see this:
      "# Generated by Password Exporter; Export format 1.0.4; Encrypted: false",,,,,,

      Delete the leading ” and trailing “,,,,,, from that line.

      Secondly, do a Find/Replace on double-commas (,,) making them ,””,  (with two quotes inserted) instead.  You may need to perform this Find/Replace twice.  Now save the file again.

  5. In Firefox, click on the burger menu and select Add-ons (or just go to about:addons).  Find Password Exporter and click Preferences.  In the Preferences window, click Import Passwords.  Now locate your saved CSV file and load it.You should finally see something like this:
    Importing saved passwords into Firefox. Not easy, but definitely rewarding!
    Importing saved passwords into Firefox. Not easy, but definitely rewarding!

 

Ravensbourne campus entrance
The campus venue where the magic happens.

MozFest

Let’s be clear from the outset: there’s no word that adequately defines MozFest.  The Mozilla Festival is, simply, crazy. Perhaps it’s more kindly described as chaotic? Possibly. A loosely-coupled set of talks, discussion groups, workshops and hackathons, roughly organised into allocated floors, feed the strangely-complimenting hemispheres of work and relaxation.

Internal cross-section of Ravensbourne's floors
Nothing can prepare you for the 9 floors of intensity.

How MozFest works

Starting from the seeming calm of Ravensbourne’s smart entrance, you stroll in, unaware of the soon-experienced confusion. A bewildering and befuddling set of expectations and realisations come and go in rapid succession. From the very first thought – “ok, I’m signed in – what now?”, to the second – “perhaps I need to go upstairs?”, third – “or do I? there’s no obvious signage, just a load of small notices”…. and so on, descending quickly but briefly into self-doubt before emerging victorious from the uneasy, childlike dependency you have on others’ goodwill.

Volunteers in #MozHelp t-shirts, I’m looking at you. Thanks.

The opening evening started this year with the Science Fair, which featured – in my experience – a set of exciting hardware and software projects which were all in some way web-enabled, or web-connected, or web-controlled. Think Internet of Things, but built by enthusiasts, tinkerers and hackers – the way it should be.

“Open Hardware” projects, interactive story-telling, video games and robots being controlled by the orientation of the smartphone (by virtue of its gyroscopic capability).. the demonstration of genius and creativity is not even limited by the hardware available. If it didn’t already exist, it got designed and built.

An Open Web, for Free Society

Seminar on fixing corruption in public services
A multitude of social and policy-driven themes permeated MozFest

As made clear from the opening keynotes on Saturday morning, MozFest is not a place for debate. Don’t think this as a bad thing. The intention is simply to help communicate ideas, as opposed to getting bogged down in the mire of detail. “Free” vs “Open”? Not here. The advice given was to use one’s ears much more than one’s mouth, and it’s sound advice – no pun intended. I have generally been considered a good listener, so I felt at home not having to “prove” anything by making a point. There was no point. 😉

Several themes were introduced in the keynote speeches which really resonated with the attendees – sorry, the participants of MozFest. That of online security and surveillance, more than two years after Edward Snowden’s revelations, was as prominent as ever. Participation was another key theme, and to me one of the most poignant ideas of the whole weekend. Participation was not encouraged or expected; it was simply threaded into the very fabric of one’s presence. You participated, to a lesser of greater degree. This was one of the most socially inclusive experiences I have ever known.

Stories by the Fireside

I cannot overstate how social inclusion at all levels permeated MozFest. From the smallest of teams – 2 individuals, to the largest groups I saw, people were constantly engaged in conversation, development – personal, social and technical, and – perhaps surprisingly – quiet reflection, too.

Image of cupcakes with unusual toppings
Creativity and individuality – there’s a lot of it

Quiet zones were available for those needing a little downtime. The cerebral intensity of the weekend is clearly felt.

The concept of the fire-side story appeared several times, reminding us that the web isn’t just a resource in and of itself, but rather a medium to convey information.  Storytelling, one of the oldest methods of such conveyance, was a prescient theme. Represented through journalism, community and leadership, the scale of recognition (and a reminder) that the web is, primarily, a means to convey stories, took me somewhat aback. It’s inescpable logic, almost lost amidst the omnipresent noise of today’s social media.

Looking to the Future

Not only was MozFest a means to appreciate, understand and build upon the means to share information, it was also firmly invested in its future. Science and education were extremely well represented by group talks, workshops and forums.

Code visualising MozFest pathways on GitHub
Pathways were a means for guiding participants through the plethora of activities.

In fact, the sheer number of topics on offer, and guaranteed clashing of events sure to interest you, simply went to prove one thing: the web is not just big, it’s bigger than you can imagine. How the event planners and coordinators of MozFest actually found a way to combine the multitude of themes and interests into “Spaces” and “Pathways” is a huge credit to the thought-leadership behind this event. By encouraging leadership, the Mozilla Foundaiton has shown itself to be a more-than-capable leader in as diverse a field as there can be.

What I learned at MozFest

On arrival, I didn’t know what to expect. First-timers don’t.  I had a vague incling that I would face a learning curve, adapting to the culture and activities of the event. Like a wandering spirit, I probably stared starry-eyed at the overwhelming number of quickly-scribbled “adverts”, pinned, taped and hung up everywhere, telling me about “this event” or “that workshop”.  Even now, in reflection, I feel that the above post barely scratches the surface of the experience.

It’s sensory-overload, pure and simple. 🙂

MozFest is a journey. Physically, many people made long journeys to attend and participate. To those people, I am grateful – you have made my life richer by your efforts. But psychologically, emotionally and intellectually MozFest is so much more than the sum of its multitudinous parts: It’s an idea, a belief that together we can build something better for much time to come; build something to last that has intrinsic “goodness”. And we are not actually talking about the web. The conversation has evolved. The web might be the medium, but the story is now about us.

The question is, how do we nurture our most sublime nature, and be all we can?

In every day life, I come across a number of things that I find extremely useful.  Instead of clogging up my browser’s bookmarks, I’ll list there here for my reference.

I hope they might be of use to you too!

Programming

  • PHP
  • Flex
  • 3 Nov 2009
    I have recently been conducting a little research into hosting companies/ISPs/data centres to understand more about their speed.

    One hosting provider in the UK, UKFast, has recently been marketing the advantages of speed as a prime factor.  Consequently, they have allegedly invested 25% of their profits year on year into improving their internet connectivity while at the same time ensuring that they never exceed [by that I infer “sell more than”] 40% of total bandwidth available*.  Fair play – we all like stuff to be faster.  I was also pointed to a 3rd party web site who provide speed measuring of UK-based web hosting providers – WebCop.
    * I was told this by a UKFast sales representative.

    I was interested by WebCop’s claims, namely that by distributing their testing servers across UK-based hosting centres, they eliminate bias of one or another datacentre and concentrate instead of the actual, average throughput delivered by them.  It’s a fair claim, but there could be issues.  Today, I sent them this message:

    Hi,

    I’m interested by your web hosting speed statistics, for two main reasons.

     Firstly, there isn’t much info on your site about how you conduct tests – e.g. which web sites are used to measure the hosting companies relative speed.  This concerns me, as hosting companies can easily make the most prominent web sites the fastest, putting them on the front line of the data centre, while allocating less bandwidth to smaller web sites.

    Secondly, you don’t mention from where you test each hosting company’s sites/servers.  So, for example, you could be testing a London-based server using servers in Manchester and Leeds, but the contention in one direction may be significantly higher than in the other direction.  Therefore, you could have skewed results.  In addition to this, if one hosting provider/ISP has a faster network, how can you prove this by testing on their competitors’ slower networks?

    I’m looking forward to hearing back from them.  Currently UKFast appears to have leapt ahead in terms of the speed ratings, according to WebCop.

    Whois WebCop?

    Good question.  I ran a #whois on webcop.co.uk and found that the domain is registered by a company in the Netherlands who has a POBox address in Gibraltar!  Because whois output is subject to Nominet copyright, I cannot redistribute it here.  But if you want to see it, try www.123-reg.co.uk.

    I have tried to dig a little deeper; the web is very unrevealing of a company that seemingly wants to stay hidden. I did find out that UKFast’s sister brand, GraphiteRack.com, registered their domain name through ENom, the same registrar that WebCop used, but nothing more.

    The public-facing WebCop server seems to be hosted by Tagadab.com, a Clara.net Group company. Interesting that a company (WebCop) with testing servers distributed across the UK, use a London-based ISP with only 6 IP addresses allocated from IANA and some very “comptetitive” prices.  Perhaps they want to keep their web traffic well away from testing servers…

    Stay tuned…

     5 Nov 2009
    Not heard anything from WebCop yet…

     9 Nov 2009
    I got a reply from WebCop:

    Our testing servers are located on many different networks and effort has been taken to ensure that they are also geographically evenly located throughout the country. This means that if we test a server located in London it will be tested from all over the country and the average result given. This allows us to display results that are averaged not only across different provider’s networks but also  across different geographical locations.

    As for your first point, we are currently addressing this and looking to find the best way to ensure that providers don’t cheat in the same way we know they do for Webperf testing. Currently for the larger providers we test a server located in the standard customer space and not their main website, and for smaller providers we test their company website server. We are looking for a way to make this fairer and are working with some of the larger providers to do this.

    On the surface this is a fair strategy. However, it’s very, very easy for a data centre to prioritise traffic to/from a particular machine.  My feeling is that this could be happening already although, of course, I can prove nothing.

    My gut instinct tells me that if the majority of datacentres in the UK felt they could increase sales by claiming the fastest network connectivity, they would.

    However, every UK datacentre (apart from one) seems to hover around the same speed of connectivity, which suggests that either the system of tests is not respected amongst the datacentre community (in other words, it isn’t perceived as being particularly accurate), or the service provided by one is much faster than the bigger ISPs with which it peers… which seems rather unlikely.

    I respect the WebCop team for this endeavour, but strongly feel that until the testing methodology is properly published for the networking and datacentre community, there can be little value in its findings.

    I have recently spent a considerable amount of time updating my blogs. This is my personal, “daily diary” style blog and I contribute to another blog for work (One Cool).

    Why, you may ask, did I decide to use two different systems? Well, not knowing the strengths or weaknesses of one in comparison to the other means I cannot exploit them. One strength of Blogger, for example, is how quick the non-WYSISYG editor is. The speed of it means it’s a joy to type into as opposed to WordPress‘s more advanced, touchy-feely editor.

    But it’s all relative – there’s still the need to complete commercial work and get dinner on the table. And apart from that, there’s an outstanding Fedora 9 blog article or two that I still need to sort out.. 😉