Fix multi-process Firefox “Disabled by accessibility tools” issue

As of Firefox v54.0, multi-process support (also known as Electrolysis) is enabled by default in Firefox.

I had it working through various config tweaks for a few releases before that, but just noticed that at some point it had been disabled.

about:support reported it was disabled, with the issue:

0/1 (Disabled by accessibility tools)

This was a little weird as I didn’t recall having any accessibility tools enabled. I checked the Options and sure enough the option “Show a touch keyboard when necessary” (under Advanced->General) was enabled.

Disabling this option and restarting did not fix it, but then I found this page which carries this note:

accessibility.lastLoadDate – time of the last load. Electrolysis will be disabled for seven days post this time.

I edited this value in about:config – simply winding it back by some random amount (I used 1491307811 but basically anything more than seven days before whatever time it is should do the trick – and restarted Firefox. accessibility.lastLoadDate had vanished from about:config but multi-process mode was enabled again.

Comparing Vision APIs

I spent a few hours this weekend tinkering with cloud-based computer vision APIs as part of a personal project to better classify my photos. I tested the Microsoft Computer Vision API and Google’s Cloud Vision API.

Both were reasonably easy to set up, although the Google one requires a bit more effort and fussing around to navigate their API control panel. Microsoft’s took probably less than 10 minutes from signup to having working code – their process is much simpler; basically register and get an API key and you’re ready. Google requires that you signup, submit payment details, download their SDK, authenticate your account through the SDK via OAuth, and then you can finally try it out.

I had somewhat lower expectations from the Microsoft one based solely on the first thing that I saw when I checked out their home page – one of the examples that is displayed by default includes errors in their OCR:

Microsoft’s API still performs fairly well, although from a quick experimentation it seems that the Google one produces more reasonable results.

Here are some examples:

Microsoft

Landmarks
	Tower of London
Labels:
	sky
	outdoor
	tree
	building
	tall
	roof
	

Google

Landmark: 
	Tower of London
	Tower of London, Jewel House
Labels:
	sky
	building
	landmark
	historic site
	medieval architecture

Google’s tags are a bit more specific than Microsoft’s, but there’s some overlap. Google correctly identifies it as the Tower of London, but incorrectly decides it is Jewel House (it is the White Tower).

Winner: Google

Microsoft

Labels:
	water
	outdoor
	sky
	building
	river
	bridge

Google

Landmark:
        Tower Bridge
Labels:
        bridge
        reflection
        body of water
        waterway
        landmark

Google correctly flags this as the Tower Bridge but almost amazingly (considering how iconic it is), Microsoft does not. Perhaps the colours or darkness are causing issues here. However, the tagging in both is pretty good.

Winner: Google

Microsoft

Labels:
	tree
	outdoor
	sky
	building
	government building
	tower

Google

Landmark:
        St. Paul's Cathedral
Labels:
        sky
        landmark
        tree
        urban area
        woody plant

Again, Google is correctly able to identify the landmark while Microsoft falls short.

Winner: Google

Microsoft

Labels:
	outdoor
	water
	sky
	night

Google

Labels:
        night
        reflection
        landmark
        cityscape
        waterway

Neither of them pick up that this is Big Ben and/or Westminster. The tags are pretty good although I feel Google has a slight advantage for calling it a cityscape.

Microsoft

Labels:
	table
	sky
	wine
	tree
	outdoor
	glass
	beverage
	drink
	alcohol

Google

Labels:
        water
        drink
        beer
        alcoholic beverage
        wine glass	

Both pick up on the alcohol theme, but Google correctly identifies it as beer – although it picks it as a wine glass, perhaps because it’s a slightly unusual shape for a beer glass. Microsoft’s tags however are much more complete.

Winner: Google

Microsoft

Labels:
	manhole cover

Google

Labels:
	circle
	manhole
	manhole cover
	black and white
	stone carving

I have a lot of photos of manhole covers and I am keen to find a way to tag them automatically. Both Google & MS correctly tag this. Google has a bunch of extra detail, although the photo is not actually black and white.

Microsoft

Labels:
	sky
	outdoor
	grass
	mountain
	person
	standing
	nature
	posing
	day
	highland

Google

Labels:
	mountainous landforms
	sky
	mountain
	nature
	cloud

Microsoft has a lot of detail here and importantly correctly identifies it as a “highland” photo. But both are pretty good.

Winner: Microsoft

Microsoft

Labels:
	fence
	tree
	outdoor
	parrot
	animal
	bird
	white

Google

Labels:
        bird
        vertebrate
        purple
        flora
        tree

This is not a parrot, Microsoft. Vertebrate is a bit generic, although it is indeed a bird. Bit of a draw but the tags are still generally useful.

Microsoft

Labels:
	sky
	outdoor
	mountain
	grass
	nature
	hill
	field
	background
	overlooking
	grassy
	hillside
	cloudy
	clouds
	highland
	land
	distance

Google

Labels:
        highland
        sky
        loch
        cloud
        wilderness

Well, Microsoft really throw the kitchen sink at this one, but they’re all accurate. Both correctly tag it with “highland” which is great, but bonus points to Google for “loch”.

Microsoft

Labels:
	person
	outdoor
	man
	standing

Google

Labels:
        photograph
        statue
        monument
        photography
        religion

I was curious to see what it would think about a statue; Google’s tags are clearly more useful than Microsoft’s here.

Winner: Google

Microsoft

Labels:
	grass
	outdoor
	sky
	tree
	building
	field
	farm
	old
	grassy
	pasture
	garden
	lush

Google

Labels:
        grass
        cemetery
        tree
        wall
        historic site	

Microsoft again throwing down as many as possible. Both pretty useful although again Google is the clear winner for picking it as a cemetery.

Winner: Google

Microsoft

Labels:
	building
	outdoor
	tower
	old
	stone

Google

Landmark:
        Broadway Tower
Labels:
        castle
        building
        sky
        tower
        fortification

Google again nail the location and also tag it as a ‘castle’, which is certainly what I would have done. Microsoft’s are OK but again a bit too general.

Microsoft

Labels:
	blurry
	rain

Google

Labels:
        insect
        bee
        honey bee
        macro photography
        membrane winged insect		

Microsoft have no idea what is going on here. Google smashes it.

Winner: Google

Microsoft

Labels:
	sky
	outdoor
	grass
	tree
	cloudy
	clouds
	day
	lush

Google

Landmark:
        Queen's House
Labels:
        cloud
        sky
        city
        daytime
        urban area	

More generally correct stuff from Microsoft, but Google nail it with Queen’s House (although if it had also picked Canary Wharf I would have been doubly impressed).

Winner: Google

On regulating encryption

I wrote a few quick thoughts about the latest aimless flailing around of the politicians of Australia and the United Kingdom as they desperately attempt to appear like they’re doing something about national security by talking about what a scary place the Internet has become.

I make no claim about being a crypto expert but I don’t believe it’s possible to accomplish what they want without either massively compromising the security of everyone by forcing companies to comply and use weaker encryption or fundamentally altering the nature of the Internet and personal computing (perhaps as described in Vernor Vinge’s Huge award-winning science fiction novel, Rainbow’s End).

Anyway, here is a short list of actions required to regulate encryption. Good luck.

Listening to the 2016 Hottest 100 without Flash

Unfortunately a combination of travel and time difference meant that for Australia Day this year I missed out on one of favourite yearly events – listening to Triple J’s Hottest 100.

Fortunately, they know that there are many Australians around the world that can’t listen to it real time, and make a full replay of the whole thing available for streaming on their [massive spoiler warning!] Hottest 100 sitelet.

Unfortunately, it seems to have a hard dependency on Flash, something which I gave up on about a year ago and don’t want to try.

Fortunately, the streams are listed fairly obviously in the HTML of the page, and they are perfectly compatible with VLC. If you have VLC (and why wouldn’t you), you can use the following stream URLs and simply paste them into the box that appears when you go to Media->Open Network Stream:

PART 1 (#100 – #76)
PART 2 (#75 – #51)
PART 3 (#50 – #24)
PART 4 (#23 – #1)

The Startup Adventure of the Ghostbusters

A while back, while rewatching Ghostbusters for the millionth time, I was struck by several interesting startup parallels. I wrote down a few notes with the intention of preparing a presentation about it and then promptly forgot about it until recently.

Of course I made the classic startup mistake of not performing a cursory web search to see if people had already noticed this – which of course they had. So much has been written by others on this topic already, and it has probably gone through a lot more interesting analysis.

In any case, I still found it hilariously entertaining to continue to expanded on some of my notes, adding some screengrabs and clips; the result has been thrown up on Medium in an article titled Finding Product/Market Fit with the Ghostbuters: A Startup Success Story.

wpgpg – WordPress Encryption using GPG

I’ve been looking for an excuse to tinker with KeyBase.io’s kbpgp, a JavaScript implementation of PGP. As a fun experiment in masochism I thought it would be an interesting learning exercise to build GPG encryption of page output into WordPress and then decrypt it using kbpgp.

I have a working proof-of-concept now done; it is a little fiddly to get going and most definitely does not adhere to best practices regarding storage and use of private keys and passphrases. But it works! WordPress output is encrypted with a simple plugin that calls GPG, and can then be decrypted with a simple Chrome plugin.

It is currently dubbed wpgpg. Here is a super boring video of what it looks like in action.

The UK Settlement Visa Application Process

I have relocated to the UK under a “family of a settled person” visa (my partner is a British Citizen). The process was… interesting. There are many forum and blog posts about it but ultimately I’d say that (outside of the UK government’s excellent website) there’s a dearth of high quality information, so I thought I’d try to summarise the process from my side.

What follows is as terse a summary of events as I could make of a process that took a significant amount of time and effort, spread out over several months. Hopefully it makes sense!

Read More…

My Firefox Tweaks

Despite everything I’m still a Firefox user and can’t see myself changing any time soon.

I have been making more and more changes to my standard Firefox configuration (outside of extensions) and keep forgetting to document them, so here they are (at least, a few of the ones I can remember – I assume I’ll find/remember for).

dom.event.clipboardevents.enabled = false

Overrides the ability of sites to handle clipboard events. This stops bad websites from preventing you from being able to paste your secure passwords into their password fields. (Docs)

network.http.speculative-parallel-limit = 0

Disable the completely rude speculative pre-connections feature which will open connections to sites based on several hints without you actually clicking on them. (Docs)

browser.pocket.enabled = false

Gets rid of that Pocket stuff which was stupidly added by Mozilla in v38.0.5. (Docs)

browser.urlbar.unifiedcomplete = false

Disables the annoying “visit” thing that pops up in the address bar as of v43:

visit-firefox

(Docs)

app.update.auto = false

Disables auto download and install of updates. (Docs)

browser.newtabpage.enhanced = false

Disable the ad tiles that turned up in v34.

browser.altClickSave = true

ALT-clicking a link to save it to disk worked happily until Firefox v13, when it was disabled by default.

browser.urlbar.trimURLs = false

Stops removing the ‘http’ part of URLs in the address bar. (Docs)

browser.display.background_color = #CCCCCC

I likes me a grey background.

privacy.trackingprotection.enabled = true

Enables Firefox’s tracking protection, blocking several trackers which allegedly enhances privacy. I typically have this set to false, because it can break a few things (some video players seem to rely on these trackers), but it’s good to know about. (Docs)

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