Disable the Same Origin Policy in Firefox

Browser impose the Same origin policy on JavaScript running inside a web page. It means that your code cannot access a resource through XMLHttpRequest that belongs on another server, even when it's in the same domain. This is a good thing, and the way to get around it in production environments is to use some kind of proxy if you're trying to channel a trusted resource. I've done this on a couple of occasions so that my apps could access a web service that is physically located elsewhere.

When developing your code, however, this can be a real pain in the butt. You might want to access the production web service, or just want to play around and prove that what you want to do is possible. I've recently discovered a much easier solution than the others I've used before.

This little snippet of JavaScript causes a popup in the browser, but then allows you to make an XMLHttpRequest to any domain you like. Very handy for testing!

// This sneaky bit tries to disable the Same Origin Policy
if (navigator.userAgent.indexOf("Firefox") != -1) {
   try {
       catch (e) {
             alert("Permission UniversalBrowserRead denied -- not running Mozilla?");

Tip of the hat to miek on this Stack Overflow question.

De-obfuscate Omniture's JavaScript part 2

After my last post an anonymous email arrived with an even better mechanism to de-obfuscate Omniture's code, including the line-noise base s_code.

Handy way to decode Omniture's line noise

I currently have a real need to be able to understand how Omniture works for a particular implementation, and have requested a commented version. Apparently it's kept very tight and I might be able to "see" parts of it. Ridiculous when you can rather easily do this. I'll now probably blow half a day working out what all the single letter variables are.

Copy and paste the following into Firebug's console and run it.

//code to unobfuscate the s_code
var str = '<hr><pre>';
var strFunction;
var strFunctionName;
var i;
for(i in s) {
       x = s[i];
       if (typeof(x) == 'function')    {
               strFunctionName = i.toString();
               strFunction = x.toString();
               strFunction = strFunction.replace(/^function( ?anonymous)?/, 's_object_name.' + strFunctionName + ' = function');
               str += strFunction + '\r\n \r\n   // ------- ------- ------- ------- ------- -------  \r\n\r\n';

Thanks to our anonymous tipster!

Sneaky trick to de-obfuscate Omniture JavaScript plugins

My current job involves working extensively with Omniture products. The company has an annoying habit of secrecy, with documentation only available on request for many aspects of their products.

De-obfuscate Omniture JavaScript plugins

They also attempt to obfuscate their JavaScript, despite the fact that a determined viewer should be able to work it out eventually. I'm told this is so that people aren't tempted to play with the code. The obvious methods of deobfuscation are pretty tedious, and because Omniture don't use standard (minify et al) methods of obfuscation so it seems a little more difficult. Fortunately I lucked onto a better approach.

You'll need Firebug, and if you don't have that already you should anyway. Go to a page that already has the Omniture "plugin" (function) you want. Open the Firebug console and run alert(s.functionNameYouWant) and run it. You'll be shown a nicely-formatted anonymous function, which will be much easier to read than the line noise you'll see in the actual s_code.js file.

In my case I'm after Cross-Visit Participation, and that's used on the Omniture site itself (though an older version than the latest available from Omniture which has a very useful additional feature).

Update on 22nd March 2010

I discovered, while trying to reverse-engineer the s.Media() functions, that some plugins are loaded as "Modules" which presents a further layer to get through. But it's still pretty simple. Using this handy snippet you can decode the objects. So, for example, to get readable source for s.Media, do this in Firebug:


function concatObject(obj) {
  for(prop in obj)
    str+=prop + " value :"+ obj[prop]+"\n";
Another update
I received a better way to do this, detailed in this post.

Jeremy Champion of Connect Digital: welcome to the shitlist

It's no secret I'm no fan of recruitment consultants. They're up there with estate agents in being leeches on society that provide no value while scraping off their percentage. Their inability to understand social norms is infuriating. The way they don't seem to understand that talking about your career over the phone in an open plan office isn't really convenient is just bizarre, though as a class they seem unable to carry out a conversation by email.

Jeremy Champion takes the audacity and rudeness to new heights. My LinkedIn profile is very explicit:

Telemarketers for conferences do NOT have permission to contact me. Recruitment consultants do NOT have permission to contact me.

You can't get much clearer than that. Which is what makes the note I just received from Jeremy Champion of Connect Digital, a recruiter, so infuriating.

Hi Simon- I read the note at the bottom of you page :)

Sure I am a recruiter, although am after some help please if yuou don't mind. A client of mine is looing for a Web Analytics Manager to head up a new team within a leading Search Agency. Any chance you might be able to refer anyone to me please.

So not only does he go against my extremely simple, explicit request, he admits to reading it and just plowing on ahead anyway. Jeremy, welcome to my recruiter blacklist. This list is for those who go above and beyond even their shoddy class in terms of ethics and rude behaviour.

UI fail from Exetel


Work is providing me a mobile, so I went to cancel my phone with Exetel. Unfortunately this is the UI you see. So first of all, you can helpfully cancel it in the past. But then the button is labelled "Cancel". So does that means clicking it will cancel my service, or cancel the request to disconnect?


The resulting page is even more confusing. Does that mean my "Cancel" was successful? Or do I now need to "Submit" to make it happen? Terribly confused.

Josephine's Cheese: Terrible packaging

Josephine's Traditional Goats Cheese in Ash

Josephine's Cheese, given your site has no contact information, and doesn't even display the product I bought, I'll have to howl into the aether and assume you'll find it when I SEO your arse (given Google doesn't even see your image-only site, that won't be hard).

So I bought your "Traditional Goat's Cheese in Ash" last week. It was delicious. Unfortunately your packaging is abysmal. After very carefully peeling off the label, you're presented with this tube of squished cheese. If you take care from this point, and happen to have scissors or a sharp knife handy, you can just about get a single blob of cheese out ready to serve. More likely you'll end up with more like a tube of cheese toothpaste squirted out onto your serving location.

Great cheese. I won't buy it again in this packaging. Buy your competitors' products and learn.

Android, six months on

So I've been using the Google Android phone for about six months now, and it's about time I reflected on how it's gone. Here's a bit of a rambling review.

The hardware

The G1 hardware is pretty limited. There's not enough RAM, and the default Android way of storing apps on the phone rather than on the removable flash storage means you run out of space pretty quickly. The latter is fixed by using a custom image like Cyanogen, which is awesome.

The buttons on the phone are kinda dumb. There's green and red buttons for call management, just like most phones. Then there's a home and a "back" button, which are kinda superfluous as they could easily be replaced by some sort of touch gesture. The "Menu" is kind of a universal interupt button, and I suppose might be useful. And the trackball is completely useless yet seems to be mandatory for all designs. I never use it. On the sides are the camera and volume buttons, which I suppose are handy.

The buttons that would be really useful are missing. I'd love a pause/play button for when I'm using the thing to play music.

The G1 has a built-in keyboard. This is great, but has been dropped on later releases. Given a decent touchscreen interface, I think I could live without it. Not convinced that the on-screen keyboard is good enough, but it will make the device smaller, lighter and sexier. Though the keyboard rocks for answering emails or using ssh.

Multistasking: good and bad

Multitasking, the key difference between Android and the iPhone, is a double edged sword. It means you can run cool third-party apps that need to run all the time, like apps that show your calendar and weather forecast on the home screen. It also means that crap stays running all the time, meaning performance can be glacial if you've got something hogging the CPU in the background, and memory fills up very quickly.

Some allowance for the slowdown of background apps could be incorporated into the OS. It'd be nice to have apps not slow down core phone functions. I'd even be willing to completely pause background apps while something important is going on, like an incoming phone call. I kid you not, I've missed incoming calls because the phone's CPU has been busy on some other crap. Many is the time I've given up taking a photo because after pressing the camera button, whatever I wanted to snap has long finished before the camera app is up and ready to take a photo.

Shitty memory manglement

Android takes the same "automatic" approach to memory management as Symbian: if it runs out of memory, it kills something random that's running in the background to make some space. Apps tend to run in the background unless you explicitly exit, or use a power user tool to kill the process. That means while you might have something cool running in the background, it could randomly and without notice be killed at any time because you opened something else that wants more memory. The usual excuse for this kind of thing is you don't want to make users of consumer devices think about things like memory. Try telling that to some angry consumer whose fancy alarm clock app got killed to make space for another app meaning the user overslept and was late for work! How much sense does it make to kill the music player when I'm listening to music just to make space for something else? I'd much rather have to explicitly manage the memory and be asked what should get killed.

None of this is helped by the miserly allowance of RAM on the G1, 192MB. The Nexus One's 512MB should make this much more useful, though it's going to make running a G1 or any of the first generation Android phones somewhat suckier, given developers will now be targetting the new, faster, roomier Nexus One.

How about event-driven OS callbacks?

I think many of the problems with multitasking could be solved by introducing some OS-level event-driven triggers. What I'm thinking is instead of apps having to hang around in memory and periodically using the CPU, they could register with an OS service that they want to be woken on specific events: an SMS is received, the phone's power source changes, it's a specific time, the phone's location gets within x metres of a coordinate. That way you wouldn't need, for example, to keep your alarm clock app in memory all the time, wasting RAM and CPU cycles. The app would register the events its interested in, then explicitly exit.

No idea how practical this idea would be once implemented, and whether the overhead of loading up the app to handle the event would kill performance, but I think something different to the always-running-but-could-be-killed-any-time approach needs to be looked into.

Integrated apps

If you've taken a good slug of the GoogleJuice Kool Aid and moved your whole life into the cloud, Android is a really easy integration. I've got my email, calendar and instant messaging all in my Google Apps cloud, and have done for a while now. Starting with Android was as simple as logging in and waiting for it to all sync up. Brilliant. Everything Just Works™.

The apps are good too. Email is just like you'd expect, all your contacts are right there where you expect. A live calendar is life-changing, especially if you sync your work calendars into the cloud too.

One area that could do with some improvement is the way the GTalk app works. When I'm sitting at my desk and someone opens a chat session with me, I get three notifications that this has happened: inside my current browser Gmail session, the desktop GTalk app, and on my phone. Surely the server can work out which one I use to handle the session and close the others for me? Instead I have to go in and close those sessions myself, which is kinda clunky.

It'd also be nice if the instant messaging apps were a bit smarter. Let's say I want to contact someone, and the contact record shows the person has GTalk and a mobile phone. Surely I shouldn't have to work out which one to use, it can instead use the user's presence to work it out. If the remote user is on an Android phone, it could be really clever about it and switch to SMS if that user isn't online. All these contacts should show up in the same interface, regardless of underlying mechanism.

My favourite apps

SlideScreen integrates all your interactions

By far the finest app so far is SlideScreen, which replaces the default home screen. At the top are your "private" communications: phone calls, SMS, email, calendar. Below are your "public" comms: Google Reader, Twitter. In the middle you get some status info: date, time, network connection, current weather. You can slide the middle part up and down to give more space to one area at the expense of the other. You "throw" an item to the right to mark it as read and get rid of it.

It's a beautifully-designed app, and nearly completely suits my way of working. Unfortunately it's just too heavy for the poor little G1. It takes up pretty much the whole of the RAM, so if you run another app it gets killed, and you can't really run it and another app. Should be great on the Nexus One though!

Guardian Anywhere is the most intuitive interface for news

Ever since I lived in London, I've read the Guardian as my newspaper and news source of choice. I subscribed to the Guardian Weekly until recently. Part of the reason I stopped subscribing is this app, which downloads the whole paper overnight and presents it in an awesome UI that doesn't require network access. If you're writing a newspaper app, you should copy the design of this app.


The Android OS is excellent and improving all the time. Its openness means you can swap out much of the bits you don't like, which contasts well with Apple and Nokia's smartphone efforts, where you're stuck doing things the way the vendor tells you.

The app marketplace started off pretty poor, with lots of not very good apps, but is improving fast. People point out the high quality of the iPhone apps, but it's worth also pointing out that a popular app there can easily pay for multiple full-time developers. Android isn't there yet, but the marketplace is expanding incredibly fast. Some stand out apps are appearing (like SlideScreen) and you can expect more with the hundreds of Android handsets that will be available by the end of this year.

I'm looking forward to upgrading to the Nexus One, especially since I dropped the G1 and now have a lovely big crack across the LCD. Just have to keep working on the boss to release the funding. It'd be really good if a version appeared that handles the 850MHz UMTS band, since I'll probably be scoring a work SIM soon and Telstra's network uses this slightly-unusual frequency range.


  • Multitasking means you can have awesome apps running all the time. The iPhone just can't do this unless Apple makes the app.
  • Open platform makes for some very cool apps: custom home screens.
  • Integration with Google apps is very slick.
  • The app marketplace is awesome, and growing fast. Apps are getting slicker pretty quickly.


  • Hardware on the G1 is very limited. Nexus One appears to solve this.
  • Memory management is "automatic" which means "dumb and confusing".
  • Multitasking means a background app can make the device glacially slow.
  • Stock music app is awful.
  • Buttons are kind of pointless. Trackball even more so.
  • Integrated messaging is needed.
  • Connectivity lost when you switch from 802.11 to GSM/3G.

Who should get my Haiti donation?

I've got a bit of a dilemma. I want to give some money for disaster relief in Haiti following the terrible earthquake. Problem is, none of the relief organisations active in Haiti meet my criteria for donations.

My criteria are:

  • Not a religious charity or affiliated with a religion.
  • Respects my request not to be spammed (email, phone or mail).
  • Does not use chuggers.
  • Does not spend inordinate amounts on administration and fundraising.

Oxfam uses chuggers and failed on the second item after my donation from the Indian Ocean Tsunami appeal. They also ignored my complaint about same.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, Red Cross also use chuggers.

Water Aid, much to my dismay as I respect the charity enormously, use chuggers.

Some will defend charities using these techniques, because the cause is too important. That doesn't wash with me because I expect a code of ethics to be applied across the organisation. I once had an argument with a telemarketer who called to solicit donations for Police Citizens Youth Clubs, along the lines of the government Do Not Call list excludes charities, as if that somehow excuses ignoring my expressly-stated preference.

Chuggers really got me annoyed when I worked on New Oxford Street in London and every time I set foot on Tottenham Court Road I'd be accosted by some slimebag raising money for him or herself in the guise of charity.

So can anyone suggest a charity worthy of my cash?

Getting rid of my landline

I'm getting rid of my landline. And no, not just to avoid the Telstra tax, but because the people who call land lines have no social graces. The only people who call landlines are old people and telemarketers.

Telemarketers are scum and I don't want to talk with them, especially since our number is on the Do Not Call list and they're willing to ignore that (yes I know you're a charity, but that doesn't give you an excuse for rudeness).

Old people have no understanding of the social graces modern technology allows. They think the primary advantage of a mobile phone is that the caller can contact the callee anywhere, anytime. The real advantage of mobiles is the ability to switch it off and divert to voicemail, to deal with later. My Mum answers the phone during dinner, during her favourite (untimeshifted) TV shows, any time it rings. Hell, she's polite to telemarketing scum.

Old people don't get this. Yesterday I had one trying to call me while I'm at work. I rejected the call and diverted to voicemail. He hangs up without calling leaving a message. He calls the home phone, where Holly and Louis get woken up, massively improving everyone's mood. It goes to the answering machine. The caller doesn't leave a message. And redials the home phone. Then calls my mobile again.

Now granted, in a genuine emergency this might be reasonable, but if I pick up the phone in these circumstances and there's no emergency, don't get all offended when I tell you to stop being so rude and hang up.

But the oldies don't get it. They're PAYING to talk to you, so you should answer. They come from a time before texts, voicemail, answering machines. Hell my Mum's first home phone was a "party line" shared with half the street so they didn't even have privacy.

So I'm gonna reduce the options. I've had no luck getting the message through that serial dialling isn't on, so I'm dropping the home phone. I'll use voip for cheaper outbound calls. And no, if you're over 50 you don't get to have my work landline number either.

The future of the music industry?

Ten years ago I wrote this blog about how the music industry doesn't get it. It's interesting that also today Apple bought the subscription music site lala.

Subscription is definitely where it's all heading. It should be a record exec's wet dream: getting the price of one album from every household every month would be streets ahead of what they get now. I'd sign up if someone offered such a server, with enough breadth of catalogue, in Australia!