Doesn't Not Compute

My log of experiences with GNU/Linux and computers in general.

Category Archives: Firefox Tweaks

Funky Fonts Flocking, Free From … Foundry Fog? Eh, I Give Up

Or: So, You Installed NoScript, and Now You’re Getting Boxes with Numbers In Them

Or: I’m Not Even Using NoScript! These Kids’ Unicode Emojis Just Have Garbage Characters In Them!

Yeah, kinda hard to find a good Alliterative Appeal-ing title for this one. 😛 Do note that this post is GNU/Linux-specific. Maybe you’ll find something that gives you an insight into doing the same on Mac OS X or Windows, maybe you won’t.

Today, I reinstalled Arch Linux.  Judging from the date on a Deus Ex savefile, I had been successfully upgrading the same installation since February, 2013!  Really, I could’ve just rsync’d the existing data straight to my shiny new 1TB/32MB-cache drive and continued using it, but I was bored. >:D

What Are Those Boxes With Letters and Numbers In Them, Anyway?

This gives me the opportunity to hunt down and document what font packages I need if I want to avoid seeing boxes with numbers in them everywhere — ones like this:


That’s U+F105, and it’s not in the more commonly-installed fonts of my systems.

That’s a code point from one of Unicode’s Private Use Areas (PUA), and as such, doesn’t have a standard glyph like ‘A’ or ┳ do.  Anybody can just slobber whatever characters they want all over the place, and no font can cover every variation, meaning that whatever character from the range you use isn’t necessarily — or even likely — what some random person viewing the file on their own computer is going to see.

So, How Come These Worked Without NoScript?

Enter @font-face and font libraries like TypeKit, Font Squirrel, and Google Web Fonts. These allow web developers to make webpages even more heavyweight by needing to contact and then load more data from a third-party server and not worry so much about whether the end-user has the perfect font for their perfectly elegant site installed on their system already. Great, huh? Yes, as long as you’re using a CSS3-compatible browser — and more specifically, on such as

  • Firefox 3.6+
  • Chrome/Chromium 4+
  • Safari 3+
  • Opera 10
  • Internet Explorer 9+

So, to support the obsolete browsers that took forever to get their act together (*cough*Internet Explorer*cough*), developers use Javascript and Adobe Flash(!) to make sure the external font gets loaded and used. This works well enough…as long as the browser is capable or allowed to run it.

NoScript to the Antirescue

Problem with these methods is that Firefox’s NoScript addon blocks @font-face embedding by default — for some pretty good reasons, assuming the concerns discussed in that link are still valid 5 years later — and thus prevents the fonts from being used. The result: sites that use fonts covering these Unicode Private Use Area datapoints, such as to have display resolution-independent symbols, become a sea of boxes with letters and numbers in them.

A Probably Bad Idea™ Solution

If you don’t want to shuffle through NoScript’s list, trying to figure out which linked site’s Javascripting is supposed to load a missing @font-face, you can simply determine what font family is being called for by the page’s style sheet.

In Firefox, for example, simply right-click the offending numberbox and choose “Inspect Element”. Then use the Inspector to view the page’s rules, and search for “font-family”. An example is below:

Inspector mode, then on the right side scrolling area under "Rules".
Screenshot taken of

Now, you cant search your distro’s software repositories for the font. If you’re lucky, you’ll find it already packaged. In this case, I found it in Arch Linux’s User Repositories under the name aur/ttf-font-awesome
. Install it as usual, and enjoy having your browser load actual characters instead of numberboxes!

Whoa, Wait a Minute, What Do You Mean By “Bad Idea”?

Let’s re-read the last part of Why NoScript Blocks Web Fonts, specifically the excerpt quoting from Mike Perry of Torbutton fame, shall we? Go on, I’ll wait — I’d just print it here, but I can’t find a copyright license anywhere.

Think about it for a moment. Now, instead of loading an untrusted font from whatever remote server, you have it locally, on your own machine. It’s still being interpreted by the font libraries, and can still be crafted to trigger some known/unknown bug for malicious purposes.  The differences are only that:

  • Hopefully, the package maintainer reviewed it first and is familiar with the current security status of the font and font library,  Not exactly guaranteed in the Arch User Repository (AUR). There’s a reason you get a flashing message saying, “( Unsupported package: Potentially dangerous ! )”.
  • You can analyze it before installing and using it, assuming you know what you’re doing.

Security always involves tradeoffs, and is a much more complex topic than I am qualified to discuss in any detail.  Do your own research!

What About Those Unicode-Character Emojis?

Ah yes, those. (May not all be SFW). I doubt I’ve seen every one on the Internet, but that link has a wide enough variety for testing purposes. 🙂

What Fonts Do I Need Installed?

I currently have the following font packages installed, and don’t have any missing characters appearing yet. Some are just my desktop usage fonts (such as ttf-dejavu) or terminal font (like ttf-anonymous-pro), but they are included for completeness.


I’ll try to update this list as I find more site with missing characters.

Tweaking Firefox for Netbooks

Let’s face it, Firefox’s default interface wastes a horrid amount of screen space. Three toolbars, a tab bar, and an information bar that occaisionally pops up on the top AND a status bar at the bottom.  My netbook can display 1366×768 resolution, sure — but that’s still only on an 11″ screen! Considering that desktop environments often have at least one taskbar, and the window manager has a title bar, this doesn’t leave much space at ALL to view what’s important — your email, your news, whatever.

And then there’s the other downside to netbooks: a low-performance CPU. Modern website designers seem to have this misconception that Flash is a good thing. The reality is that even if it’s the right tool for the job, it uses an obscene number of CPU cycles — which translates to CPU load, which translates to reduced battery life.

So, in this sequel/continuation of my “Less Browser, More Web” article, I’m going to demonstrate how to gain the most screen estate possible. Additionally, I will mention a couple add-ons  that can reduce the load websites will put on your computer. Note that if you like using multiple profiles, you will have to apply these changes to each profile individually.

Warning to dial-up users: this post is image-heavy. Seriously. I doubt you’d be viewing this entry on a netbook, considering netbooks don’t have modems anymore, but if someone comes along viewing this at home with dial-up to learn how to set up the netbook they only use wirelessly on-the-go… well, I’d feel cruel not to warn them. 😀

Read more of this post

Acer Aspire One A0751h: Part One

Acer Aspire One 751hI recently purchased a netbook, brand and model number is there in the title. 😉 Handy thing — small, portable, relatively cheap. (US$315 with sales tax.) Standard battery is rated at 2.5 hours, although I’ve gotten three or more out of it, and (in Vista, with Power Save mode and the screen brightness at minimal) have had “time remaining” estimates of four hours. 😯

It has the largest screen I know of a netbook having:- 11.9 inches, 1366×768 max resolution — but that still doesn’t give much vertical screenspace, which can be annoying with Firefox and a toolbar. So, today’s segment is about gaining more screen space in Windows Vista.

Yes, I said Vista — this model, despite having only a 1.33GHz Atom processor, is loaded down with Windows 6(66). As I plan it, this mini-series will mostly be about Linux and FOSS software, but this thing is still under its 15-day warranty, and I’ve already come perilously close to violating that. :mrgreen: So, this begins with the simplest things of making Vista more netbook-friendly. (Yes, I start with the miracles first. 😛 )

First thing, unless you simply cannot stand not having the default theme — change it. Right-click the Desktop, select “Personalize”, and then click “Theme”.  Change the Theme to “Windows Classic” and click “Ok”. Wait a moment, and the theme will change to the “old”-style, Windows-2000esque appearance. This has far less to render, so it’s faster.

Now for a little more screen space. (Close the Personalize window. 😉 ) With the faster rendering, we have more than enough power available for a little animation. Right-click ye old taskbar, click properties, check the box by “Auto-hide the taskbar”, and click “Ok”. This tweak also works in earlier versions of Windows — I don’t remember for certain in Windows 95, but I do recall doing this in Windows 98, so it should work in every operating system since.

Note: below superseded by my “Tweaking Firefox for Netbooks” entry, which is much better written. The information is still accurate, but is easier to read. It’s image-heavy, however.

Also, to gain some screen space in Firefox (I’ve only tested this with 3.5.3),  the Compact Menu plugin is a boon — it replaces your menus with a menu of menus. 😯 This menu is represented by a blue icon with a down-arrow on it.

Continue this by right-clicking on the area left of the new menu button, click Customize from the drop-down menu, and start rearranging things. Personally, since I almost never use anything besides keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl-Tab to switch tabs, Alt-Left arrow to go back, etc.), I throw out everything but the address bar, which I drag into the Menubar. I then close the Customize box, right-click the menubar again, and deselect every toolbar except for the Menubar.

If the only reason you don’t disable the status bar, at the bottom of the browser, is because you want to know how far the page has loaded, the Fission plugin will move that into the address bar. (Thank you, Firefox Mastery!) The plugin’s homepage, as well as my personal experience, both say this doesn’t work well with some themes, but it works fine with the Windows Classic theme we selected earlier. Now you can disable the status bar. (File -> View -> Status Bar).

You can also hide the tab bar in Firefox by going to Tools -> Options -> Tabs and deselcting “Always show the tab bar”, but this only does anything when you only have one page open. 😕

That’s all for today!