Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back (again), Jaunty Jackalope, LTSP local apps, and a new way to set firefox preferences

Well it has been way too long since I posted an actual post here. Last year I had a lot to say as the Technology Teacher and School Techguy. Unfortunately the budget cuts to California's school system led to the outright elimination of my position at the school. Fortunately my administrator saw fit to offer me a position teaching 5th grade and even offered me a stipend to continue working a few hours each week solving various technology issues. Although I really miss participating in the overall edtec community as much as I was able to do last year, I have a lot to be thankful for with this new position and it has been a great experience. That being said, I still have some thoughts to share regarding the current state of technology in education and I thought I'd take some time to convey them (especially since I have little else to do while Xubuntu 9.04 loads on my student server).

Speaking of Xubuntu 9.04, if you haven't had time to read up on all the changes in Jaunty I suggest you do so. I think I agree with the consensus, which is basically that everything just works a little bit better. I'm glad to see they didn't adding any major changes like pulseaudio or compiz and instead seemed to focus more on making everything more reliable and faster.

9.04 has seen some significant improvements in LTSP as well, including something that has the potential to revolutionize (at least for me) how LTSP deployments are configured and used. That thing is support for local apps. You can read more about it in the release notes. If and when I get this feature working I'll be sure to post back about it.

Finally, I wanted to share something I discovered recently that relates to a popular former post of mine about setting firefox preferences. I've since found a better way to set these preferences. Instead of creating and editing a user.js file I now just edit the firefox.js file in etc/firefox/pref/

Things aside from the typical preferences that are included in Xubuntu by default that I decided to tic are:
setting the homepage
automatically clearing cookies and passwords after each session
not asking the user if they want to clear the cookies and passwords
not remembering any passwords by default

Here is my entire firefox.js file that I use at school:

// This is the Debian specific preferences file for Mozilla Firefox

// You can make any change in here, it is the purpose of this file.

// You can, with this file and all files present in the

// /etc/firefox/pref directory, override any preference that is

// present in /usr/lib/firefox/defaults/pref directory.

// While your changes will be kept on upgrade if you modify files in

// /etc/firefox/pref, please note that they won't be kept if you

// do them in /usr/lib/firefox/defaults/pref.

pref("extensions.update.enabled", true);

// Use LANG environment variable to choose locale

pref("intl.locale.matchOS", true);

// Disable default browser checking.

pref("browser.shell.checkDefaultBrowser", false);

// Prevent EULA dialog to popup on first run

pref("browser.EULA.override", true);

// Disable "safe browsing" feature that hogs CPU, HDD, etc. etc. in LTSP

pref("browser.safebrowsing.enabled", false);

pref("browser.safebrowsing.malware.enabled", false);

// Disable annoying location-bar suggestion "feature" that is sludgy with thin-clients

pref("browser.urlbar.maxRichResults", 0);

// Disable offline/disk caching of web pages

pref("browser.cache.offline.enable", false);

pref("browser.cache.disk.enable", false);

// Other preferences

pref("browser.startup.homepage", "http://www.aeacs.org");

pref("browser.startup.homepage_reset", "http://www.aeacs.org");

pref("privacy.item.passwords", true);

pref("privacy.item.offlineApps", true);

pref("privacy.item.cookies", true);

pref("privacy.sanitize.promptOnSanitize", false);

pref("privacy.sanitize.sanitizeOnShutdown", true);

pref("signon.rememberSignons", false);

Hope that helps some of you out. Good luck! -joe

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