How to prevent Firefox from lagging badly when dragging selected text

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

This past week I upgraded my system from Ubuntu 8.04 to Ubuntu 8.10. The upgrade was pretty smooth, with nothing much to report except that my system now boots without requiring the all_generic_ide kernel parameter, which is nice. One problem that I immediately started seeing, however, was that my system would freeze up terribly whenever I selected more than a few words in Mozilla Firefox and tried dragging them anywhere. Depending on how large the block of text was, my entire system could freeze up for minutes at a time as it spent several seconds drawing each frame of the text block moving.

Well, I’d had enough of it, and I went looking for a solution. Firefox didn’t always render the entire contents of the selection being dragged-and-dropped; it used to just display a little icon next to the cursor. Here’s how to restore that functionality and remove the lag from the fancy but ultimately unnecessary fully rendered dragging:

  1. Type about:config into Firefox’s location bar and hit Return.
  2. In the filter text edit box at the top of the window, type nglayout.
  3. Double-click on the nglayout.enable_drag_images row to change its value to false.
  4. That’s it! Firefox will no longer try to render the contents of the selection to the screen as you drag words around. For older systems or systems with poor graphical support (like mine, apparently), this is pretty much a mandatory change. Enjoy your new, faster Firefox!

How to fix images not displaying in Microsoft Word 2007

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Recently I’ve been hit by a bug (or what I thought was a bug) in Microsoft Word 2007: images embedded in the document did not display in any mode other than “Full Screen Reading”. And since the editing ribbons are not available in that mode, it’s hard to get work done. This all started when Word crashed on me one time; ever since then, images simply haven’t been displaying correctly. I get a border where the image should be and white space inside. But when I send the file to other people and they open it, they can view the images just fine. I can even add images to documents; I just can’t see them.

So I performed a Google search on this issue, but the only relevant “solution” was behind a paywall over at ExpertSexchange. After a few minutes of trying to figure it out on my own, I stumbled upon the solution, and to save everyone from the hell that is ExpertSexchange, here it is:

Click the Office Button (it’s in the upper left corner of Word), select “Word Options”, select “Advanced” in the left pane, scroll down to the “Show document content” subsection, and uncheck the “Show picture placeholders” option. Yes, it’s that simple. Somehow, when Word crashes, this option can get turned on all by itself. It’s really annoying because there’s no clue that Word is intentionally hiding images from you; it just feels like a bug. And the reason for this insane option?

Word 2007 Options dialog

That’s right, it’s for performance. And it improves performance only at the expense of severely crippling usability. You’d think this option should never be able to get turned on accidentally, yet there it is. At least you know the solution now.

Stumping for religion

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

My mom forwarded me an email that purported to show an amazing picture. It was accompanied by a spiritual message that wanted me to appreciate God’s work. My mom forwarded it only for the picture, of course (and told me to ignore the silly message). It is rather striking though. Here it is:

Purported sunset at the North Pole

A scene you will probably never get to see, so take a moment and enjoy God at work at the North Pole.This is the sunset at the North Pole with the moon at its closest point. And, you also see the sun below the moon. An amazing photo and not one easily duplicated. You may want to save this and pass on to others.

The Chinese have a saying that goes like this:

When someone shares with you something of value, you have an obligation to share it with others!

What an amazing picture. It would inspire me to believe in a higher power if it were real, because what it is showing is clearly fake. The Sun and the Moon are both half a degree of arc in angular diameter in the sky when viewed from the Earth (this is just a coincidence of orbits and relative sizes). However, the Moon in this picture is at least ten times as large as what they purport to be the Sun, which is of course impossible. Anyone who’s ever looked up into the sky should know the relative sizes of the Sun and Moon, and it’s pretty obvious that this “photograph” is totally impossible.

So what are we really looking at in this image? There’s two possibilities. It could be an outright fake, the kind of drawing done for a fantasy book cover. In other contexts it’d merely be a pleasing illustration, but in this context, as a purported real photograph used to exhibit God’s work, it’s simply fake. The other alternative is that it is a real picture, but the other light isn’t the Sun, just Venus brightened up with a long exposure time. It still doesn’t work, though, as the luminosity of the Moon is greater than Venus (as viewed from Earth), so if Venus appeared that bright, the Moon would totally be blowing out the image. So I’m leaning towards illustration. I just don’t see what else it could be.

I do find it rather funny, though, that a conversion email trying to get me to believe in God merely because some things in this world are beautiful fails even at that, because they couldn’t even find a real photograph to use. Sad. And what does it say about the intellects of the people who actually do fall for this evangelizing scam, those so gullible that they don’t even realize this image of “God’s work” doesn’t reconcile with their own decades of personal experience of what objects in the sky really do look like? Is it ethical to be evangelizing using a scam? What happens when the converted realize such?

Update: Looks like I should have checked Snopes first. This has been circulating the Internet since 2005 and is a CG image made with the software Terragen.