Monthly Archives: August 2015

Taming websites in your own browser

Keep Calm and Don't Blink (with Tardis)HTML lets Web designers annoy you with tags like embed, marquee, and blink, or with light green text against a blue-sky background. You can just curse or use a different site, but there’s a way to fight back: custom CSS in your browser. It can not only disable whole tags, but modify or get rid of unwanted elements in a site by setting rules for their classes.

You need to know CSS pretty well to venture into this; I’m assuming you’re comfortable with it. If you are, the tricky part is just to find out where it goes. For Firefox under OS X, under the “Help” menu, choose “Troubleshooting information.” In the window that comes up, look under “Application Basics” for “Profile Folder.” There’s a “Show in Finder” button next to it. Click on this, and you’ll see the directory which holds your profile.
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Update on JHOVE

JHOVE logoYesterday the Open Preservation Foundation held a webinar on JHOVE, presented by Carl Wilson. I was really impressed by the progress he’s made there, and any rumors of JHOVE’s death (including ones I may have contributed to) have been greatly exaggerated.

The big changes include reorganizing the code under Maven and making installation more straightforward. These are both badly needed changes. I never had the opportunity to do them at Harvard, and when I took the code over for a while after leaving there, I focused on fixing bugs rather than fixing the design.

In my comments during the webinar, I pointed out the importance of Stephen Abrams’ contribution, which a lot of people don’t remember. I didn’t create JHOVE; he did. The core application and design principles were already in place when I entered the project. OPF will, I’m sure, give him the credit he deserves.

Possible book on digital preservation tools

Update: It’s clear from the small response that the necessary level of interest isn’t there. Oh, well, that’s what testing the waters is for.

I’m getting the urge to write another book, going the crowdfunding route which has worked twice for me and my readers. My earlier Files that Last got good responses, though the “digital preservation for everygeek” audience proved not to be huge. Tomorrow’s Songs Today, a non-tech book, got more recognition and additional confirmation that book crowdfunding works. This time I’m aiming squarely at the institutions that engage in preservation — libraries, archives, and academic institutions — and proposing a reference on the software tools for preservation. The series I’ve been running on file identification tools was an initial exploration of the idea.

In the book, I’ll significantly expand these articles as well as covering a broader scope. Areas to cover will include:

  • File identification
  • Metadata formats
  • Detection of problems in files
  • Provenance management
  • The OAIS reference model
  • Repository creation and management
  • Keeping obsolescent formats usable

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The end of Flash?

There’s a growing call to dump Adobe Flash. With alternatives based on HTML5 becoming standardized, many tech experts think a plugin that has often been a source of security holes is a liability.

Security reporter Brian Krebs has written several articles on Flash:

Browser plugins are favorite targets for malware and miscreants because they are generally full of unpatched or undocumented security holes that cybercrooks can use to seize complete control over vulnerable systems. The Flash Player plugin is a stellar example of this: It is among the most widely used browser plugins, and it requires monthly patching (if not more frequently).

It’s also not uncommon for Adobe to release emergency fixes for the software to patch flaws that bad guys started exploiting before Adobe even knew about the bugs.

In 2010, Steve Jobs wrote an open letter explaining why Apple hasn’t supported Flash on iOS:

Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

Apple has many proprietary products too. Though the operating system for the iPhone, iPod and iPad is proprietary, we strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open. Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards. Apple’s mobile devices all ship with high performance, low power implementations of these open standards. HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others, lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash). HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member.

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