New to Owl Order? Click here for 2009's best posts! 00:00:00

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Klangites! Who is This?

For your info, both my parents are artists, having graduated from Singapore Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and some French university with a French name which pronunciation and spelling I can never be bothered to remember.

Some of their paintings now hang in my house. Some were given away to relatives. Another big portion were sold, a number of them for good prices. Well the others just lay somewhere at my parents' art centre (or at home), collecting dust over the years.

This coming Saturday, NAFA Alumni will be holding an exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. My mother painted a portrait and intents to present it to the person who officiates the opening ceremony.

Guess who that person is. Hint: portrait to be presented pictured below.

The assemblyman
Mum's painting of pastel on wood.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Sights of Singapore: Marina Bay

Been a while since I went that far south. And I have to say, things have changed.

Marina Bay
View of Marina Bay at night.

Some for the better, some for the worse.

Well time changes everything.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Sights of Mount Kinabalu -- Sneak Preview

That's right.Photos from the peak of South East Asia coming soon.

Checking In
Two of my friends enquiring at Kinabalu Park lodge counter before we started our hike to the top of Mount Kinabalu.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Customising Wikipedia -- Truly the Encyclopedia Anyone Can Edit

I have always loved Wikipedia. Having the world's knowledge in your hands is rarely a disadvantage. I always say this -- if I have access to Wikipedia in Who Wants to be A Millionaire I could probably go all the way easily.

Browsing is so addictive that I would frequently spend hours Wiki-hopping. However, reading large chunks of text for long periods of time on a computer screen is very tiring. If only Wikipedia is in black, I thought.

But few days ago I realised something -- that could easily be true.

In Wikipedia's preference menu (you need an account for this) you get to choose which skin to render Wikipedia in. I kept mine at the default (called 'Vector') because IMO the others just looked horrendous.

However, beside each skin, there are two buttons, one of which is labelled "custom CSS".

Well, well, well. This is where the fun begins.

To save you the trouble of having to read through all the CSS terms and my painful and repetitive testing phases, we'll just skip straight to the results I get two days after I started.

Tada! Wikipedia in Black. I even removed the (in my opinion) rather redundant sidebar to save more space in case I want to go Wiki-hopping on my phone instead.

Cool, eh!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Sights of Ipoh: Pee

P. The 16th alphabet. This letter is awesome. It stands for Power. And the all-yummy Pizza. Not to forget Pasta. There's P for Pass. Even better, P for Perfect. P for play. P for Pentium 4 (OK maybe this isn't so good) and P for er, prawn.

But there's also P for Piss. And of course Pee.

Found this in Ipoh, at an outdoor restaurant not far away from Kek Lok Cave.

But don't underestimate the power of passing water. Trying to wet that disgusting frog at the backyard, the so-cliché hand-in-warm-water prank. The guys enjoyed reading advertisements strategically placed above urinals in public toilets, and apparently the girls had fun engaging in cross-cubicle chats.

How many times have we used the ultimate I-really-have-to-go excuse without arousing any suspicion at all?

We owe that much childhood fun and laughter to it. So much that the word 'piss' became an integral part of the spoken English.

OK I really have a lot more to share about this but I really have to pee. Till next time then.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Sights of Ipoh: Kek Lok Cave

I spent the past Chinese New Year with my family in Cameron Highlands, which isn't new to me at all -- dad used to drive us up there a few times every year.

This time, however, before driving all the way back to Klang after the trip, we made a small detour and stopped by Ipoh for a half day.

Before you go bombarding me with questions like "Oooh, did you try the Ipoh xxx?" (replace xxx with one of the many famous delicacies in Ipoh) let me first tell you that we only ate one meal there, and it was just a simple fried rice, which in Malaysia is as common as salt in the sea.

Nope. But we spent our time in Kek Lok Cave, a Buddhist cave instead. I went around taking pictures while my parents set up their tools and started sketching.

Main entrance to the cave.

The place is genuinely interesting, even before entering the cave. There is a koi pond, and another tortoise pool. I'd never seen so many tortoises in such a small area before. Small man-made miniatures line up along the path into the cave. While I'm not a big fan of still life photography, I approached a few interesting looking ones and snapped a number of pictures anyway.

Miniature 1

Miniature 2

Everything gets darker once you step into the cave. It wasn't actually too hot inside, despite the blazing hot Malaysian sun, probably due to the high ceilings. Floors are fully man-made with cement to ease navigation.

Nature Up, Manmade Down
Staircase not far away from the main entrance.

Not being a regular visitor of Malaysian caves, I was impressed by the natural structure of the ceilings and the walls.


Most sections are artificially lit with lamps strategically positioned not just to illuminate the surroundings, but to increase contrast of the walls and ceilings to bring out their shapes. I personally prefer them to be naturally lit, though, as lamps usually introduce a yellow cast, which I don't really fancy. Check out this following picture of a naturally lit section of the cave.

From some angles, the texture and structure of the walls are simply astounding.

If you're lucky, like I was, you may be able to notice the internal layering of the walls.

Took me so many tries (and that much dust on my beloved camera) to get this shot.

Once you read the end of the cave, though, you'll reach another exit.

To A Brighter Day
The exit at the other end of the cave.

Beyond, you'll see a park with a huge lake, surrounded by hills. Breathtaking view.

Out of Kek Lok Cave
The scene that caused so many to suddenly stop in their tracks. A panorama -- click on the picture to see a bigger image.

Lazy Day By The Lake

Guess what this little building is? Hint: zoom in to see symbols of a man and a lady.

So next time, when you visit Ipoh, stop thinking about xxx (replace xxx with favourite Ipoh cuisine) and start looking around for things you may have missed.

Friday, 1 July 2011


As of 2300 hours (or the 'eleventh' hour), 1st July, my new blog is now live! That's really a lot sooner than I thought, but the crucial pieces seem to be in place to make the place functional. Please drop in for a quick visit at


With immediate effect, all developments on this very blog have now officially ceased (not that I've been developing this blog at all recently). I urge my visitors (if any, though I'm not hopeful) to switch their attentions to the new blog instead.

However, blogposts will be posted to both blogs for the time being, just in case.

Hope you like the new place!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


I've been free for four whole weeks now. However, I haven't blogged as much as I did some time ago. Sorry about that.

Actually that statement wasn't exactly true. I have been blogging, just not this blog.

Yes! I have been working on my new blog. It's not exactly functional yet, but here's some sneak preview.

The new blog header.

I've spent days redesigning it. It required the use of several markup and programming languages.

How tweets show up in the new blog. This is not finalised (as is much of the rest of the website) and will probably change in the coming weeks.

I've also tested it on multiple browsers, namely Firefox 5, Google Chrome, Safari 5, Opera 11.50, Internet Explorer 8 and Internet Explorer 9. And I can guarantee compatibility across all of them, with only minor features missing from the Microsoft browsers.

How Flickr photos show up in the new blog.

I didn't realise how draining all this work is until one day, when I shifted my laptop and out fell strands of my precious hair.

So stay tuned, because with any luck, you're in for a treat in a few weeks' time.

PS. These screenshots are taken off live webpages. In other words, parts of the blog are already accessible via the web. Link is provided er, somewhere in this blog. Happy digging.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Updating used to be fun

Just a few years ago, any internet user who cared about stability and performance of their rig would be excited by the release of browser updates.

Updates to your favourite browser was a huge thing. Backend changes aside (huh? JavaScript? Canvas?), various revamps were prominently visible to users the first time they see their new, updated browsers. Remember the joy of seeing tabs when you first went from IE6 to IE7? Or found out how awesome the AwesomeBar of Firefox 3 was?

The Updating-Hype back then was phenomenal. Firefox 3 garnered over 8 millions downloads the day it was released, even setting a Guinness World Record for most downloads in a single day. Requests were so frequent that at one point, Mozilla servers were unable to service all of them and were taken down temporarily.

Updating was just plain fun. The downloading, the installing, the exploring and the benchmarking. It's like a parent seeing a kid growing up.

All these changed in 2008 when a new browser was born.

Google Chrome led the way to many browser innovations, the same way Apple iPhone introduced the world to an intuitive touchscreen interface. Minimalistic user interface, lightning fast JavaScript performance and optimisation for multi-core machines are just three of the lot. These innovations then slowly found their way to other browsers, widening their reach, Chrome or not.

Chrome had a new update and version numbering system too. New "major" updates are released every two months or so, with the version number incremented. The rationale behind this is to push new features to end users quicker than usual. Updating is fully automatic -- the browser downloads and installs a new version behind the scene whenever it is available.

The cool automatic-update feature makes sure that every Chrome user uses the latest (and greatest, as Mozilla put it) version. However, with releases so frequent, each "major" release isn't so major anymore. Relatively few people can name 10 improvements Chrome 12 (the current stable release) has over Chrome 1. Heck, most people don't even know which version they're using.

Worst of all, they took the fun out of updating. Users don't update anymore -- the browser does. Updates present too few changes and come too frequent to garner press attention.

And guess what, Mozilla and Microsoft are adopting this update approach on their Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers respectively. In short, it will be soon before long when people start saying "Update? What update?" like a clueless llama.

Now, Mozilla Firefox 5 is getting released next week, on the 21st of June. But who cares?

Thank you, Google Chrome.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Thank You for the Years

Five years of tertiery education. 12 semesters. More assignments, courseworks, presentations and exams than I want to remember.

Farewell 1

All we've been through, we've been through together.

The ridiculous, no-you-can't-get-more-than-70% modules.

The karaoke sessions and the after exam parties.

Q and A sessions with insatiable lecturers.

The group study sessions which helped prepared us so much for the exams.

Farewell 3

It's been a good few years. I sincerely thank everyone from the University, including my friends and lecturers, many of which I do not have photos of, for making these years unforgettable.

Thank you, Sir!
My FYP supervisor and a few of his FYP students.

June has been my favourite month of the year since a few years ago. It marks the end of the tedious exam weeks and the long academic years as well as the beginning of the awesome three-month summer break. There's also the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, usually at the end of May or beginning of June, when I get to eat Chinese dumplings. The very second day of the month also happens to be my birthday.

But nothing beats June 2011. All the best to your future.

Farewell 2

Monday, 6 June 2011

Summer Project

I officially started on one of my two summer projects last Friday. I had those projects planned for months and was looking forward to the start of my summer break to get cracking.

Four days later, the project finally left its first trace of laymen-comprehensible interface at There's nothing much to see yet, but if you head over for just a second, you'll find an interface very similar to this very blog. That's because that website is intended as a complete rewrite of my blog.

So with a bit of luck, I'll get a new, feature-rich, next-gen blog to share with my pathetically few readers.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Happy Birthday To Me

OK. My birthday's coming in... 4 hours' time. Time to get the facts right.

In four hours, I get full rights as a Malaysian adult. I get to enter casinos. I can be declared bankrupt. I get to vote for the stupidest councilman ever and no one can say no about that. I can easily walk into a strip club worldwide, pay for a hooker in the dark streets of New York or even get myself starred in an adult film, and no one person on Earth has the legal rights to stop me.

The feeling of having raw power in your hands is awesome. Trust me.

I had wild dreams about this day. I'd rent a small, cosy apartment, hook it up with the best internet connection, procure a 42" LED television set in front of a smooth, glossy coffee table surrounded by couches with leather cushions. Hanging unobtrusively from the living room walls were surround speakers. Instead of connecting them to a DVD-player, I'd get them linked to a Blu-Ray- and internet-enabled computer for the best entertainment system ever. I could easily decorate the place with my best Chinese Calligraphy work, a couple in the living and another one in the bedroom.

Then I'd stare at my beautiful house for 200 minutes daily. My cool gadgets get their chance to collect dust for the rest of the day while I sleep, go for work or engage in (real-life) social activities.

But then again...

Finishing my studies also implies joblessness. Right now I'm still surviving on my parents' hard-earned cents and the amount I get could hardly pay for the electric bills, much less monthly rental and the cool gadgets I had in my mind.

As of right now I'm still sharing a house with my parents. Worse still, my bed is barely 3 metres away from theirs. That's kinda embarrassing for a 21-year-old man. I could hear the annoying guy from my class saying "Ha! You still sleep with your mama!"

Oh wait, I'm turning 22 tomorrow, not 21.


Saturday, 14 May 2011

I Miss This

Some of you may remember the huge stack of Pringles I ate back when I was in UK. Some of those people who saw the picture of the Pringles Pyramid exclaimed, "OMG, how much weight have you gained from those crisps?"

Yeah true, Pringles are some kind of unhealthy snack. Unseen from the photo of my messy room, however, I had another large stack of empty snack containers stowed inside my closet (literally).

Jordan's Muesli

At leas this snack is healthier.

I still remember the sheer joy when my friend told me about Co-Operative selling them at £1.50 each. I would store boxes whenever a there was a promotion, and finish them one by one, alternating between flavours.

I bought two boxes home to Malaysia last summer and had since finished them with my friends and family. Some of them appreciated them like I did, others found it rather bland or boring. Whatever.

Sadly, I haven't found any of these in Malaysia. If I do, expect me to stock up like a squirrel.

Ah, Jordan's Muesli. Just another reason for me to miss UK.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Top Questions to Ask A Graduating Student

Seriously, so many people have been asking me the same questions over and over again, I swear it would be easier if I just recorded my answers, put them on Youtube and advertise them on the local newspapers or something.

1. Are you going to work straight away?

No, not until at least September 2011. I have a few personal projects I need to work on to enhance my portfolio over the coming summer.

I may be getting a lighter job, though. Something that doesn't justify my hard-earned degree nor be so tiring I wouldn't call the coming summer a holiday.

2. Are you going to travel?

I love photography and I wouldn't say no to a chance to travel. However, I'm not making plans at the moment. I probably can't afford to do much travelling anyway.

I may spend a few odd weekends at tourist hotspots in Peninsula Malaysia though, like Penang and Malacca.

3. Where will you want to work? Have you got an offer letter yet?

No offer letter. Didn't even bother trying to look for a job yet. Right now my main priority is to graduate. Where I want to work and what I want to work as can come after that. Full stop.

4. Do you think you chose the right course to study?

Well, engineering turned out quite OK. There are other fields I'm more interested in, but I don't mind getting an engineering job. I don't think I'll do things differently if I were given a second chance.

5. Are you going to miss school?

Well, uh, yeah I guess.

I enjoyed attending classes with friends, how I get money to spend every week without having to earn any, having cheap lunches at the nearby village and especially jogging by the school lake. I'm glad I've gotten rid of my final year project once and for all, though. And if you don't stop asking me these silly questions, I think I'll be glad I don't have to see you after May.

OK what else do you want to know? How long will it take for me to get a beer belly? I think I'm getting one right now. When will you get a wedding invitation from me? Well, never, not because I'm not getting married, but I don't think I'll want you to attend it. When will I become the next Mark Zuckerberg/Bill Gates/Larry Page? I already have -- in my dreams.

Wishing all graduating students the best of luck in their future endeavours.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Thank You Badminton Club

Some people know me as the photographer of the University of Nottingham (UNMC) Badminton Club. I've been known to shoot with my camera while others do the same with their racquets, most notably over the few prominent events organised by the club over the past weeks.


Those who know me as "badminton club's photographer" may be surprised to hear that I joined the badminton club because I love badminton. The truth is, few people on campus have ever seen me holding a racquet before, while they're so familiar with the Nikon strap over my shoulders.


But yeah, it's true. I joined badminton club because I enjoy badminton.

But approximately half a year ago, when I received an email from the club's secretary about several vacant positions in the committee, I knew the UNMC Badminton Club could bring a different kind of opportunity to me.

Champion Serving

I looked at the vacant position labelled "photographer" and my mind started to wander.

I was really interested in that position. It would provide me with various opportunities to shoot and giving precious experience hard to come by. I'd been toying around with photography for the past two years. I'd learnt a lot, and looking back to my photos captured over my nine months in UK told me how much I'd improved.


However, there were various missing tiles in my portfolio. Most of my photos were mainly of landscapes and architecture (see here for proof). I had virtually zero experience in any fast-moving genres (which guarantee to provide skills for candid photography) save for some time chasing fat bees with my Coolpix, and worse still, I had virtually no human portraits that I'm happy of. The problem is, how do I know if I'm allowed to take pictures of the random people I meet on the street? Ask them? That's hardly candid. Take the risk anyway? Yeah, I've tried that and I vividly remember that lady shooing me away. How was I supposed to fill the shoes of the club's photographer when I lack important experience like those?


I hadn't seen any photos by previous photographers of the club, and I didn't know what they were expecting. I was also starting my final year in university and probably couldn't devote too much time to anything other than my Final Year Project. My photo-editing skills were limited, and made even more so by my refusal to install a pirated copy of Adobe Photoshop (thank you, GIMP). The real deal-breaker, however, was that I was still using my dad's then-6-year-old compact camera which struggled in indoor avenues, let alone in the sports arena.


For the next few days, the same question plagued my mind -- Do I nominate myself for the position?

The EGM (Emergency General Meeting) soon arrived, and they started to take nominations for the vacant positions. The photographer, being a relatively weak voice in the committee, was the last position to open for nominations.


I remember the scene extremely well, down to the cold seat I was sitting on, how I knew almost nobody in the lecture hall, the light-hearted nature of the meeting (obviously everybody else knew almost everybody else there), the (then-)president hosting the nominations, and the blank PowerPoint slide to put the names in. My heart was pounding furiously. Despite days of sleepless nights, I hadn't made up my mind yet. I had never volunteered myself for anything, unless you count answering questions in class or going for First-Aid duties as a St. John First Aider.


Someone else got nominated, and Ka Eng the president put his name on the PowerPoint slide. It's now or never.

I decided to let the public to decide for me.


I raised my hand and said, with much stuttering, "If it's OK, I'd like to nominate myself because I'm interested in this position."

There was a two-second pause, during which the light-heartedness of the meeting disappeared like a candle flame doused with ice cold water. Nobody said anything, and I could feel every single eye turning towards me in unison. I swallowed in nervousness.


Then, an applause broke out, echoing across the hall.

Not the sarcastic, sneering type of clapping you do when you find your best mate kissing a fat-assed girl. It's the type of applause you give someone when he managed to diffuse a bomb two seconds before it exploded.

"Your name?"

"Uh, Wenqi. W-E-N-Q-I." And I sank down on my seat, heart still thumping, blood pressure still through the roof. Now I only have to wait for them to vote for me, I thought. Oh wait, there's still the speech. Maybe I can show them my Flickr account...


But the nomination closed with two nominees. And since the other nominee was already a committee member, the photographer position defaulted to me.


I started panicking shortly after that. What if I made the wrong call? What the... I don't have the experience! I don't even have an SLR!


But things worked out well over the next few months. Mum bought a Nikon D90 just days after the EGM, and I told her I may want to use it at "certain events in school". (She never found out about my being in the committee until few months later.) I went to the badminton court a day before my first duty to test out certain camera settings I need (mainly how high an ISO I needed and what sort of shutter speed to freeze the players and shuttlecocks) so I wasn't totally unprepared during my first day. I even got myself a cheap prime lens which is 3 stops faster than the kit lens.

Got you!


Being the photographer wasn't too bad. All I had to do was to turn up during events and take some pictures. I wasn't really needed to make much preparations (except charging my camera battery), which is good because I needed all the time I could spare for my Final Year Project. My presence over meetings was even optional (though I attended every meeting I knew of).


I spent quite an amount of hours on duty, and I learnt a lot from them. Everything down to focusing, employing burst mode effectively, predicting good windows of opportunity in quick-action scenes, framing with a prime lens. I still have much to learn, but these experiences brought me closer to my goal. I easily averaged around 1000 clicks per night, which also showed me how power-efficient an SLR is -- the D90 easily lasted for 2000 shots before hitting 20% battery life. This large image count guaranteed at least dozens of satisfying photos per day.


And best of all, I made friends. The people never complained about having a huge lens barrel pointing their way. Most of them just ignored me. Some of them even posed for the camera. Wearing the label of the event photographer gave me power, the license to shoot, and I was more than happy to make full use of it. It takes time to hand-pick good photos out of the lot and edit them one by one, but once they're up on Facebook, the satisfaction I got from all the comments and likes was worth it. We joked and teased each other by posting even more comments on the photos, some of which were instantly made profile pictures.


I received over 500 emails from Facebook over a weekend, after uploading pictures of the UNMC Badminton Tournament.



The year is coming to an end, and I'll pass on my position as the club photographer as the 2011/2012 committee forms next week. Things have gone extremely well after I volunteered for Badminton Club, and I thank every member for all the laughter, experience and memories I'll cherish for the rest of my life.


I joined the Badminton Club because I love badminton. But combining it with something else I like made the experience unparallelled.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Life at Nottingham

There was this photography competition in school a couple of weeks ago. The theme was "Life at Nottingham". Or something like that.

I never thought of joining this competition out of the fear for pressure, until I went to this Charity Carnival, an event held on campus, and caught this picture.

Malaysian Disneyland
I call this picture "Malaysian Disneyland". My prime candidate for the competition.

I caught this picture the day before the deadline, but I needed more time to work on it (they need printed hardcopies of the photos we're submitting, which is a little hard to obtain in a short period of time). In the end, I missed the deadline and didn't participate in what would be my first photography competition ever.

Adrenaline-Aided Bliss
"Adrenaline-Aided Bliss". Second-in-line for the competition.

Ah well. At least I got a couple of pics I like.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Sights of Cameron Highlands: Botanical Gardens' English House

There's this English House in the Botanical Gardens, Cameron Highlands.

Went at the wrong time. How was I supposed to catch an HDR image while that many people was moving around?

Stood there for quite some time until my sister got kinda bored.

The result is this.

Botanical Garden
Note the light halo on the roof of the English House. Undesirable effect from HDR, but in this case I actually kinda dig it.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

New CBox coming soon

Due to recent visits by certain "blogwalkers", whom I highly suspected to be scripted bots, spamming links of their sites (usually URL shortened) on my CBox, I've decided to take matters into my own hands.

I've spent the past three hours coming up with my very own version of CBox -- the CBox that I have full control over, and we're not just talking about looks here. Everything including whether I should get an email whenever someone posts on the CBox (not implemented yet), whether I should allow anonymous messages, the rights to prevent users from posting empty messages, which IP addresses I allow to post, the use of asynchronous technology (to speed up response) and such.

Since the blogwalkers frequently use shortened URLs, this CBox I wrote (which I call Chirp Box) blocks two types of shortened URLs -- tinyurl and in the URL/Email field. If I need to expand my blocklist, I need only to spend a few extra seconds to add extra items into the blocklist and we're done.

So if you need to share (shortened) links with me, throw them into the message field.

Here it is. I'm not replacing it with my CBox yet -- it will be done some time later when I export all my CBox messages over to my server. In the meantime, you can start toying with it.

Blogwalkers, you have been warned.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Making Firefox 4 Your Own

The development cycle of the upcoming Mozilla Firefox 4 is coming to an end. Few days ago, a great number of bugs mysteriously disappeared from the blocking list. Does this mean that the new iteration of the world's favourite alternative browser is getting released soon?

Firefox 4 features many improvements, including better compliance to web standards, quicker startup, hardware acceleration and over 600% faster JavaScript speed. However, one change is attracting all the attention -- the User Interface (UI) overhaul.

The default User Interface of Mozilla Firefox 4 for Windows Vista and Windows 7. Much of its appearance can be modified.

While most people prefer the new, clean look to the clunky old Version 3.x interface, there's no satisfying everyone. If you find some of the changes rather annoying, it's fine -- Mozilla Firefox is the world's most customisable browser, and a lot of the changes can be (at least) partially reversed.

Firefox 4 is still not ready yet, but Mozilla have made good beta releases. Download the latest Release Candidate at

Restoring tab bar below navigation bar

Mozilla have decided to agree with the rest of the world by placing tabs on top of the navigation bar. If you don't like it that way, however, you can always undo it.

Place your cursor between the URL Bar and the Search Bar so that it turns into a two-way arrow. Right click, and click on "Tabs on Top". Voila! Now Firefox 4 looks THAT much like Firefox 3.6.

Firefox 4 with the tab bar below the navigation bar.

Restoring the menu bar and bookmarks bar

In Windows 7, Firefox 4 hides the menu bar and the bookmarks bar by default. To re-enable them, right click on the little space between the URL Bar and the Search Bar, and click on "Menu Bar" or "Bookmarks Toolbar".

Firefox 4 with both Menu Bar and Bookmarks Bar.

Restoring old-style Reload and Stop buttons

Two buttons you may struggle to locate in Firefox 4 are the Reload and Stop buttons. That's because they have been combined with the Go button and integrated into the URL Bar (AKA AwesomeBar), in addition to shrinking in size.

This means that the Reload button is missing when a page is still loading -- you'll need to stop the page first before reloading it, that's two clicks away.

To split the buttons apart again, right click on the little space between the URL Bar and Search Bar, and click "Customise...". The buttons will (temporarily) separate, and a window will popup. In the popup window, look for the "Separator" item and drag it to between the Stop and Reload buttons. Click "Done" on the popup window and tada! The buttons are no longer combined.

Firefox 4 with split Stop/Reload buttons.

You can use the same technique to move the buttons to the left of the URL Bar, a la Firefox 3.x. In addition, the Esc key acts as the stop button, and you can reload by hitting Ctrl + R on your keyboard.

Thanks to Jonathan for this tip.

Duplicating tabs by overriding Switch-to-Tab

One new feature of Firefox 4 is Switch-to-Tab, implemented in the URL Bar (AKA AwesomeBar). Should you need to switch to a tab, just go to the URL bar (Ctrl + L) and type in the name (or URL) of the tab, a "Switch-to-Tab" option will appear among the results. Choosing the results will bring you to that particular tab. This feature is particularly useful for those who have countless tabs open in multiple windows in any time.

But what if you want to duplicate that tab? Use your arrow keys to navigate to the results you want, and hold down the Shift key -- the Switch-to-Tab feature will be temporarily disabled. Hit the Enter key with the Shift key still down to duplicate that tab.

The "Switch-to-Tab" function is disabled even though the tab is opened (second tab) if the Shift button is held down.

Checking state of hardware acceleration

Hardware acceleration means the use of your GPU (the cool term for graphics card) to paint on your screen. With it turned on, HTML elements can be drawn much faster (depending on your GPU) while keeping CPU usage low.

To check if hardware acceleration is turned on for you, open a new tab, and type "about:support" without the quotation marks into the URL Bar and hit Enter. Scroll to the very end and look for the entries labelled "Direct2D Enabled", "DirectWrite Enabled" and "GPU Accelerated Windows". If all three are enabled, congratulations! I recommend you to enable smooth scrolling (click on the Firefox button, "Options", "Options", "Advanced" section, "General" tab). If it's not, well, you can try updating your GPU driver.

Firefox 4 with hardware acceleration (mainly) turned off.

What happened to the progress bar?

In Firefox 3.x, a progress bar was placed at the status bar. In the new Firefox, however, the status bar has been removed altogether, and the progress bar has not found a new home.

The progress bar was removed because it was never accurate -- there is currently no way of calculating the size of a webpage without loading it first, and hence the progress shown are just crude estimates. Opera displays progress as a fraction, with both the numerator and denominator changing constantly as the page is loaded -- this proves just the point.

Instead, the throbber (the small rotating icon of tabs) has been split to two -- a black one, rotating anti-clockwise, and a green one, rotating clockwise. The former shows that the browser is trying to connect to the server, while the latter means the browser has started receiving data.

Disabling taskbar preview

In Windows 7, you can now preview each of Firefox 4's tabs by clicking on the Firefox icon on the taskbar. Clicking on the preview of each tab will bring you to that particular tab.

However, this means switching from a non-Firefox window back to Firefox requires an extra click, which may be annoying to some people. To undo this, open a new tab, type in "about:config" without the quotation marks and hit enter. Agree to be careful, and a long list of configurations should appear. Type "taskbar" into the "Filter" field, and look for the entry called "browser.taskbar.previews.enable". If it is enabled, double-click it to disable it. The change is instantaneous -- clicking on the Firefox icon on your taskbar should now minimise or maximise the browser without asking you which tab you want.

Use the URL Bar as a Search Bar

The URL Bar is also called the AwesomeBar for many reasons. Not only does it search your bookmarks and history to complete your typing, it can also search using your favourite search engines, eliminating the need for a Search Bar.

How does it work? Well firstly, you have to do a bit of setup. Click on your search engine's icon in the search bar, and click "Manage Search Engines..." in the dropdown box that appears. There will be a popup. Choose a search engine, say, "Wikipedia (en)". Select it and click on "Edit Keyword...". Set "WK" as the keyword, omitting the quotation marks, and click OK all the way.

Now, open a new tab (Ctrl + T), and type in "WK firefox" (without quotation marks) and hit enter. The search result for the term "firefox" in Wikipedia appears, which happens to be the Firefox page.

Repeat this procedure with the rest of your search engines, make sure to use unique keywords for each of them. Once you're done, you'll probably never need to use the Search Bar again.

What happened to Back/Forward dropdown box?

In earlier Firefox versions, there's a little dropdown button beside the Back/Forward buttons. Clicking on it will bring up the history of the current tab. This little dropdown button, however, is missing in Firefox 4. Instead, try right clicking on either the Back or the Forward button.

Back/Forward dropdown menu on Firefox 3.6.

Back/Forward dropdown menu on Firefox 4, invoked through right-clicking on the Back or Forward buttons.

Also, there's a handy shortcut for Back/Forward -- try Alt + Left and Alt + Right.

By the way, right-clicking on the Back/Forward buttons in Firefox 3.6 will also bring up the dropdown menu. Didn't know that, huh?

What are App Tabs?

Right click on a tab, and click on "Pin as App Tab". This reduces the size of the tab and moves it to the far left. To undo this, Right click on the tab and hit "Unpin Tab".

App Tabs are meant for Ajax intensive webpages. These webpages are generally left open for long periods of time, with the URL Bar and the Back/Forward buttons unused. Examples are Facebook, GMail and Twitter pages. By moving App Tabs to the far left of the window, they are easy to locate, and with the close button missing, accidental closing of such tabs are rather improbable. The size reduction clears up more space for other tabs in the tab bar. Mozilla are also planning to remove the navigation bar altogether for App Tabs in the future, freeing up more space for the webpage.

This feature is here to stay -- if you don't like it, just don't use it. No harm done.

Firefox 4 doesn't ask me to save my tabs before quitting?

I'm not sure if this is a bug or a feature. I have long enjoyed the "Save and Quit" feature of Firefox, allowing me to save all my tabs and shut down my computer, but should the shut down be initiated without a user sitting by the computer, the "Save your tabs?" window may cause the shut down to pause for long periods of time.

Should the "Save and Quit" be missing from your Firefox 4, open a new tab (Ctrl + T) and type "about:config" into the URL Bar. Promise to be careful and type "quit" into the "Filter" field. Look for the entry called "browser.showQuitWarning", and if its value is "false", double-click on it to toggle it to "true". Firefox 4 should now ask you if you want to save your tabs when you quit with multiple tabs opened.

What happened to the RSS button?

In Firefox 3.6, whenever a website has live feeds available to be subscribed, an RSS icon will appear in the URL Bar. This is removed in Firefox 4. So how do you subscribe to live feeds?

First way is to click on the orange Firefox button, hover over the "Bookmarks" button and click on "Subscribe to This Page...".

A second way is to place a Subscribe button to your Navigation bar. Place your cursor on the space between the URL Bar and Search Bar so that it turns into a two-way arrow. Right click and hit "Customise...". Look for the "Subscribe" icon in the popup window, and drag it to anywhere in the navigation bar, say, to the right of the Search Bar. Hit "Done" to close and now you have a permanent "Subscribe" button that activates when the current tab has live feed available.

There you go! I hope you find these tips useful in making Firefox 4 a browser you can call your own. Also make sure you drop by to skin your browser (try some animated personas like this one!) and get some cool addons at

I hope you enjoy Mozilla's latest browser as much as I am. All the best.