Firefox Search Bar tricks, changing the default Firefox search from US to UK

I’m a bit of a Firefox fan, despite the fact the browser seems to render colours with less saturation. One of the very nice things I like is the search bar at the top right, which contains links through to some of the most frequently used search engines. You can customise the list easily enough, but you can’t customise the default search locations… or can you?

Normally, I like to search UK domains first, particularly when looking for a price or simply heading towards eBay or Amazon. I don’t mind the US versions, but I don’t head there by default. Until today I have been stuck with using ‘UK’ in every search term. Today, however, I decided to investigate it further.

Using a Mac, go to the Firefox application, control+click on it and select ‘Show Package Contents’ . Next, navigate to ‘MacOS/searchplugins’. In there you’ll find some simple XML files which are readily editable. I opened the Google, Amazon and eBay files and changed the settings manually from ‘.com’ to ‘’. You can also change the title so that in the search bar it tells you where you are looking, too! A quick restart of Firefox and the new settings are in place.


Each time I search Google now, I default to the ‘’ version and get the option of looking at the entire web, or simply pages from the UK. I’m happy with that! Similarly, Amazon now defaults to the UK site, as does eBay. Oh Joy 🙂

Of course, I fully expect an update will wipe out those changes, so a quick save of the files for later use is also necessary…

Nikon Camera Control Pro Software

Having written in glowing terms about Scott Kelby, who recommended the use of Nikon’s Camera Control Pro software, I now find I am going to speak less favourably about it.

OK, first, it almost works well and certainly I was able to shoot images and see them on my laptop screen, writing direct to hard drive. I could control the camera settings from the laptop and generally not have to touch the camera at all – good if you want to keep things still, certainly.

However, I have some gripes. Chief amongst them is that this software costs money, and it really isn’t all that good as an application on a Mac. In fact, it probably works better on a PC, since the layout of it was pretty counter intuitive. For example, when you use mac software you generally get a very logical experience. So when you take a photo and send it to your computer you’d expect it to appear on screen right away (or as soon as it ‘lands’), right? Well, no… you have to set a preference so that the image can be viewed. This just isn’t right, in my opinion.

Then you get the issue with speed. Resizing the window takes an age, whether you are viewing a RAW file of 15Mb or a JPEG of around 4Mb. There are only two size options pre-set – 100% (way too big for a laptop screen) and 50% – usable, but not great. At 100% you get scroll bars, which do not move. Where is the ability to set the scale exactly as you want it? Or do we rely on the infinitely slow resize the window and click the button that fits to the size you create?

Moving back and forth between images… ? Be prepared for a wait. A long, long wait.

It was excruciatingly slow and I thought there must be an update. There was – I had downloaded and installed version 1.3, and there was a version 2 ‘Pro’ application as a trial, too. The change og didn’t look impressive – basically added some functions for the D300 and D3 cameras. Fair enough, but I wanted to try it all the same. I downloaded it and ran the installer, which kindly informed me that it had to remove the earlier version before it could continue.

And that’s where it all stopped.

Version 2 wouldn’t even install on my system (OSX 10.5 ‘Leopard’) and just sat there eating resources as it did very little of any use. OK – it could be that it isn’t keen on the current flavour of OSX, and to be fair there is a suggestion on Nikon’s web site that hints this might be the case, but again – if it doesn’t work on Leopard, don’t let it start the installer (there’s plenty of apps that check the system before they install)!

So I am left with a great urge to shoot ‘tethered’ and no ability to do so. And the price for this is around $70, so I shan’t be parting with that money just yet, then.

This software really ought to be free. I can’t imagine anyone using this and thinking it was a good experience, and yet the potential for it is simply massive. As a free download I might live with it (and wouldn’t use it much). As a paid download I would feel absolutely cheated. Its a good job there is a trial period!

So come on Nikon – get your act together on this one. Give us the right functionality, get it working in an intuitive way, and get ALL of the features running at the right speed, please! I’d be happy to help you do this if you need someone to act as part of a focus group of testers – but until then I won’t be giving you any more money (well, for software at least).

Asus EeePC review

Not a review as such, more of a report about day to day use, really.. I’ve had my EeePC since Christmas day, so not so much of a well worn user test as a first impressions kind of thing.

And first impressions are very very good indeed! OK, so the screen is a bit small, but it is bright and clear and very usable. The keyboard is the toughest thing to use, IMO as the keys are soooo small, and one or two seem a little out of place – the right hand shift key, backspace and one or two others. However, these are small issues, and really not worth dwelling on.

I have a 2Gb SD card pretty much permanently in the slot so as to have that little bit more storage, but with the price of USB sticks falling so fast it won’t be long until I slot in a 16Gb one internally, I think. Thiswil, of course, require some internal surgery, but others have already done similar by mounting a USB port in some space inside the machine. This *will* invalidate the warranty, but could be a useful addition and make the EeePC even more usable for day-to-day stuff.

Just tonight I installed ‘Fire FTP’ as an add on to Firefox and it is lovely – I can now get in to the servers I need to get in to without having a new app taking up space.

Battery life when asleep isn’t tremendous, so don’t leave it a day or two and then think it will work without power… it won’t, but all in all the power is pretty good. Remember to charge it up!

You absolutely really *must* enable the advanced mode to get a standard desktop type experience. For those not sure, you need to delve a little into the terminal, use ‘apt-get’ to download two things and hey ho, you’re away. The advanced layout is very familiar to anyone who has used a windows machine but is somehow… nicer. The EeePC will revert to standard (easy) mode if you re-start, so I need to find a way to prevent that happening.

I know that there are plenty of mods around, and even though he has had it but a few days, my colleague Nick has added a touch screen which looks and behaves perfectly. I may have to do that to this one… although not yet. I can’t help thinking a touch screen would be easier to use, mind you.

This entire entry has been typed on the EeePC and there may be some errors in what I am typing. Sorry… I am sitting in a small hotel room in Bayswater, London, getting ready for the BETT show tomorrow. It’s late, but not late enough to prevent me turning the Asus on one more time! There you go… I’m hooked on this lovely little device… 🙂

Voice over IP, VoIP, Sipgate

sipgate logoA little while ago I wrote about the joys of using VoIP for our office communication, and you can read that here. By way of an update I want to explain how we have got four office phones working on one Sipgate line, and why we even tried.

First off, it should be noted that the good folks at Sipgate were the ones who pointed the way – all I did was take their information and advice and apply it, although there was still some working out to do… I couldn’t have got close without their support, which has been excellent.

The issue is that small businesses pay through the nose for a telephone system when really they don’t need half of the stuff they are buying in to. In our office, we need a phone system that rings, allows a call to be transfered to another phone on the network, allows an outgoing call at the same time as an incoming call, and allows multiple incoming calls. All of this is possible without having to use a VoIP system any more complicated than a number from Sipgate. To get the system running we bought four entry level Grandstream Budgetone 101 phones which have a very basic level of features. In fact, Grandstream class these as consumer level phones.

The way it works is that the Sipgate connection acts a little like a trunk. You can pass data along it up to the capacity of your internet connection and that data can flow either way. A full duplex (two way) VoIP call will use approximately 100Kbps of data per direction and therefore on a standard 8Mb ADSL line, with 835Kbps upstream you can get about 8 full conversations running if you are not using the line for anything else. That is fine – we only need a maximum of 4 or 5, hence four phones were bought.

The next piece of the jigsaw is in the way you configure the phones and your router. You *must* be able to set up port forwarding on your router or else this won’t work – each phone uses two ports, one for SIP and one for RTP, and these need to point to an individual IP address on your network… more on these later. You also need to be able to configure each phone to use a different port.

So, assuming all is well, you plug in your first phone and let the router assign an IP address to it. Check your router to see the new device that is attached and note the IP address that is assigned (or use the menu on the phone to see it there). You then log in to that phone using a web browser by typing the IP number into the address bar. If your network is like ours, the router will assign an IP similar to When you type that in you should get a log in screen. The BT101 has two level of log in. a restricted access account would use the password ‘123’ whilst a full access account would be ‘admin’. You can change these once logged in.

BT101 configurationGo in as ‘admin’, go to the advanced settings tab and fill in all of the fields. If you, like us, have a sipgate account then you can log into that in a different browser window, go to help and support and get all of the settings you need displayed in a page that replicates the phone admin screen. This is superbly useful! Simply copy and paste between the two. You don’t need to change any other settings in the page (but obviously, if you know what you are doing then you can play to your heart’s content), although you must remember to put in your Sipgate username and pass code. When you do the phone can connect to Sipgate and register on the system. Note the settings about halfway down for SIP and RTP ports – these will be at the default.

sip phone config 2All being well, the phone will be live immediately and you can make and receive calls. Now for the second phone. Plug it in as before, let the router do it’s thing and then dial in to the new IP address using a web browser. It will probably be one more than the last time:, for example. Enter all of the settings as before, except this time change the SIP and RTP values to be 5160 and 5104 respectively… all else stays the same. You are not done yet, mind you – now you need to get into your router.

Log in as you would normally (in my example, it would be probably) and go to where you set up new services. Add a new service, and call it ‘phone2’. Set it to be TCP/UDP and set the port as 5160. Now go to the ‘firewall rules’ or wherever you set up port forwarding. In there, select your new service from the list and map it to the IP address of the phone. You may also need to use the phone’s ‘MAC’ address. This is a sequence of pairs of characters separated by colons. You can find it by going to the router’s page for ‘attached devices’ usually. You now have one port set up to go to the phone directly… you have to also set up the other. Go back to the services list and create a new one, call it ‘phone 2a’ or whatever you want. set it to TCP/UDP and make the port 5104. Now, back to the firewall rules and do as before – map that port to the same IP as before.

Back in the phone configuration under the ‘basic settings’ you should allow the phone to get is’s IP through DHCP. What happens is that the router will detect the ‘MAC’ address of the connected device and use the list of reserved IP’s that you have created by setting up the rules. It will assign the phone the same IP address each time you connect it to any network port. Additionally, any information coming on an any of the ports you have requested will be forwarded to that same IP… in other words, that phone will ring.

If you now go back to your Sipgate account you will see there is a list of registered devices, and each has a different port number assigned to the same sipgate telephone number. In our case there are four devices, as we set up four phones and made firewall rules for each, and set up port forwarding (two ports per phone) for each. In the example above, there would be two devices listed, with two ports each.

What happens now is that when a caller rings you on your sipgate number all of the phones will start to signal the call. If you pick up any one of them (the others may ring on a second or so, but then stop) you will answer the call as you would expect to. However, if a second call arrives at the same time then the remaining phones will ring, leaving the original call on the line. This will continue until all of your phones (or all of your bandwidth) are being used. You can also have someone ringing out whilst others are answering incoming calls.

From here on, the other features you need, such as call transfer, are probably features of the phones you are using. Most IP phones will have a ‘Transfer’ button which works by you answering a call, pressing ‘Transfer’ and dialling the IP extension number. Note that the IP number is important – you have to dial it in full, as four sets of three digits. So, if you want to reach the phone on you actually dial ‘192168000021’. of course, if you spend a bit more money than we did, you could get a phone which allows you to store numbers in it and use those to stop having to dial such long numbers each time.

At the moment, Sipgate don’t support call transfers in the traditional sense, but some phones will still work nonetheless.

The upshot of this incredibly long post is that you really *don’t* need a complex and expensive VoIP system if you only want a few phones in your office. You may want to use ‘Asterisk’ as an open sourc IP PBX system, and that’s great – but you don’t need to if you want to keep things simple. of course, in a busy call centre you’d be mad not to invest in something a bit more sophisticated! For us, this simple set up is working well, and today we had two simultaneous incoming calls and one outgoing call with no perceived loss of quality, internet access of slowdown of data transfer over a single ADSL 8Mb line.

Once again – thanks to the support team at Sipgate for pointing the way… it isn’t a job for the feint hearted or those not familiar with the inner workings of their router. Note that our router is a pretty standard Netgear model… nothing fancy, and definitely the sort of thing a lot of folk would have in their home set up these days.

Telephony on the cheap? You betcha!

File size limit Fat32, NTFS

For some unknown reason I was caught trying to transfer a 4.2Gb file from a WInXP laptop to a WinXP desktop. I went via my trusty Mac, since I needed a machine with a DVD burner to create a backup of the file.

Creating the DVD was, naturally, a piece of cake. Getting it onto the desktop of the PC was not.

Why, oh why, oh why….

It wouldn’t go, no matter what. Every time I tried I got a ‘not enough space’ warning. Even when I opened the DVD it showed the file size as 2Gb and not the full 4+GB it was showing as on the Mac.


The XP laptop was installed on a NTFS partition. On the desktop it was on a FAT32 partition.

’nuff said.