Open Up the Platform!

News is now spreading across blogs that Apple has finally approved Opera Mini for the iPhone. (Need it? Get it for free in the iTunes store.)

So what does this hold for the future? In the short term, I hope this means Firefox for the iPhone. I like Firefox, and I’ve been hoping to see an iPhone version for some time. For the long term, does this mean that Apple is changing its stance on apps?

For those who don’t know, Apple has officially been opposed to apps that duplicate core iPhone functionality. That has been interpreted to mean that since the iPhone has a built-in e-mail client, you can’t make another one for it. Since the iPhone has a built-in telephone application, you can’t make another one for it. Since the iPhone has a built-in web browser . . . well . . . you get the picture.

Given all that history, the fact that the Opera Mini web browser is now available for the iPhone, could be huge. Or it could be nothing. At the very least, it could be a sign of Apple opening the door for some changes. However, as many developers have experienced, Apple can slam doors just as quickly as it opens them.

I’ve played around with Opera Mini, and I’m not impressed yet even though I like the tabs. Opera Mini actually seems a little slower than Safari on my phone, although others are experiencing better results. Faster or slower though, I hope that Opera’s approval by the App Store reviewers bodes well for things to come.

So Why Bye-Bye?

I just posted a few quick instructions for removing the “Smart Location Bar” that was introduced in Firefox 3. Why? Because it annoyed me. But as I was typing up the post, it occurred to me that this could have some unintentional benefits for library patrons.

Libraries are sometimes in the position of having to protect patrons from themselves. Take privacy for example. Truthfully, many patrons probably don’t care who knows what they read. However, there are some that might care very much. Likewise, there are some patrons who probably don’t care who knows what they read or view on the Internet.

In the interest of protecting patrons’, libraries usually take a number of steps to safeguard their privacy. For example, all of the web browsers on our public computers, are set to keep histories for zero days. Additionally, our public computer security software erases browsing histories (among other things) at a specified time each day.

The new Smart Location Bar is big and obvious. Suppose a patron is trying to research a medical condition. Imagine how that patron might feel if each web address visited popped up in this big, gaudy bar for all the world to see! If the patron does not clear the web browser after a research session, the information will still be there if anyone cared to view the browser history. But at least it’s not in-your-face like the Smart Location Bar.

Bye-Bye Smart Location Bar

I like Firefox. I’ve used it for years, and it is my browser of choice on all computers that I regularly use. Unfortunately, Firefox 3 introduced a new “feature,” the Smart Location Bar, that I don’t like. I dislike it so much, that on the first computer I upgraded, this was a work-stopping issue until I found a way to get rid of it. For me, it was primarily an annoyance that cluttered my screen, and its behavior was in some ways similar to those annoying pop-ups that we all try to hard to avoid.


When I first encountered the Smart Location Bar, I quickly found several Google hits that pointed me to step-by-step instructions for disabling it. (I also found at least one video tutorial which, strangely enough, was incomplete in its instructions.) As I Googled around, I also quickly came to the realization that this was a major annoyance for many, many people. The Mozilla folks have since added their own instructions for disabling the Smart Location Bar. They provided a set of clear, step-by-step instructions that should get most people where they need to go. However, knowing that some people benefit from visuals, I thought I would provide some instructions with a few graphics.

1. Launch Firefox.
Type “about:config” (without the quotation marks) into the address bar.
Press the <ENTER> key or click the Go To Page icon beside the address bar.


2. This brings up a not-so-scary warranty that you might void your warranty. Click the button indicating that you’ll promise to be careful to move on to the next step.


3. In the filter box, type “browser.urlbar.maxRichResults” (again, without the quotation marks). As you type this in, Firefox will automatically search for it and display the correct string.


4. Double-click this preference, and enter the value -1. Then close Firefox and re-launch it.


5. Close Firefox and re-launch it. The Smart Location Bar should now be gone.