From:         Patrick Crispen 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 04 JAN 2005 - Firefox / JWalk


The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

Howdy, y'all, and happy new year from deep behind the orange curtain in beautiful Irvine, California, the national beverage of Denmark.

An estimated 15 million people have downloaded Mozilla Firefox since November 9th of last year. And since most of the 100,000+ passengers on our little bus of Internet happiness are among that 15 million person hoard, I thought I'd share with you some Firefox tips and tricks from time to time. Before we do that, though, let's do a quick Firefox update.


Patching Firefox

To make sure you have the absolute latest Firefox security patches, open Firefox and then go to Tools > Options. On the left side of the options window, click on Advanced [look for the silver gear icon.] Scroll all the way down and then click on the Check Now button under Software Update.

Firefox automatically calls home for updates, but like Windows Update and Norton LiveUpdate, it's always best to do a check by hand every now and then. Keep checking for updates until Firefox tells you to stop ["Firefox was not able to find any available updates"], then close the options window.

Adding Searches

In the upper right corner of every Firefox window is a bar that, by default, lets you search Google. To find the bar:

1. Point your index finger at Firefox's address bar, the box you
use to type in web page addresses. [And notice that I said your INDEX finger. This is a family-friendly newsletter and, besides, you're pointing at Firefox not Internet Explorer.] :P

2. Slide your finger horizontally to the far right of your
browser window.

That's Firefox's search bar. Type in a keyword or keyphrase and Firefox searches for that word or phrase at Google. But what if you recently suffered a blunt force head trauma and now believe that Google, Snuggle the fabric softener bear, and the BBC's Michael Parkinson are all instruments of evil? Well, first, stop pointing at your screen. We're past that part. Then, click your mouse on the "G" icon in your search bar. This opens a drop-down list of other search engines you can use. By default, Firefox can search:

  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • Creative Commons
  • eBay
  • Just choose the search engine you want from the pull-down list. Remember, though, your choice of search engine is "sticky": Firefox keeps using that search engine until you change it in the pull-down list.

    How can you add additional search engines to Firefox's list? Just hop on over to

    and then either browse or search for the search engine you'd like to add. For example, I am a HUGE fan of, Barbara and David Mikkelson's urban legend debunking site. To be able to search from within Firefox, just

    1. Go to

    2. Search for Snopes

    3. Click on the link.

    Clicking on a search engine's link at just adds that link to Firefox's drop-down list. Once you've added a search engine, all you need to do is choose it in Firefox's pull down list, key in your search terms, and then press the enter key on your keyboard. That's it.

    Spend some time browsing through and you'll be pleasantly surprised how many different search engines can be added to Firefox. Oh, and how do you remove search engines that you don't want to use? That's a little more complicated, but you can find step-by-step instructions at

    J-Walk Blog Audience: Everyone

    This next stop has absolutely nothing to do with Firefox other than it belongs on EVERYONE'S Firefox bookmarks list.

    There are several reasons why I don't have my own web log [or "blog"] and most of those reasons involve some form of sloth [the sin, not the hairy things that hang from trees.] Heck, I only have to write ONE Tourbus post a week and look at how well I maintain THAT grueling schedule. :P

    Fortunately, my laziness doesn't keep me from visiting other people's blogs on a regular basis. And my favorite personal blog, hands down, is John Walkenbach's J-Walk Blog at

    Chances are you learned how to use Microsoft Excel by reading one of Walkenbach's books or his monthly Excel columns in PC World magazine. When Walkenbach isn't creating array formula calculators or writing book pages at a pace that would make even Gibbon self-conscious [the Decline and Fall guy, not the ape], he spends about three hours a day surfing the net looking for new, interesting, or just plain silly stuff. For example, where else but the J-Walk blog are you going to learn how to make your own underwear, buy a stroboscopic guitar tuner, or find out that you shouldn't eat your Kensington computer mouse? :P

    Because of both the quality and the variety of stuff that Walkenbach is able to dig up in his daily travels around the internet, I tend to read the J-Walk blog a couple times a day. And you should too.

    But don't just take my word for it. Check out the J-Walk blog and then hop on over to the "Voices from the back of the bus" section of the Tourbus forums [ ]and let me know what YOU think.

    Two quick apologies

    In my last post [16 December 2004] I reprinted a running joke from The Daily Show on Comedy Central without properly citing the source. I apologize. Some were also offended by the joke's content. Again, I apologize.

    The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
    Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

    That's it for today. Have a safe and happy week, and we'll talk again soon.

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