Fixing Web Sites with GreaseMonkey
Here's a strange thing: hacking open source isn't done only at midnight, in the spare room, hunched over the protocol analyser, the breadboard, source code control and some helpless device. No, sometimes it's done inside a different crucible entirely: a public world of shameless posturing and self-promotion. A lurid and neon habitation of signs, shops, styles and stuff populated by the babble of conversations both informed and banal. It's a place of great joy and great angst; a place of towering conservatism and the last bastion of the radical voice. Within it, a good hairdo or a radically cut legline can get you as far as a symbolic debugger, possibly even further. Devices they may be, but of a different cut entirely from those of hardware. Its denizens slip hyperactively in and out of view like character actors with coffee addictions and inspired agents. Of course, I refer to the World Wide Web.
In this article, you learn how to code in a new way, a way that's about changing media, not about changing programs. To enter this nightclub and experience the beat, you need the right gear, and the right gear is Mozilla Firefox and GreaseMonkey. Alfred Bester and William Gibson are waiting, so ready your Mojo and prepare for cyberspace insertion. But first, a bit of background.
We tend to forget that the Web is open source, in a way. Some of the Web's infrastructure, browsers and servers, is traditional open-source software, but the idea also applies to Web page content. Appropriation of code is an everyday occurrence. Everyday, Web developers and designers use the View Source browser feature to appropriate (industry term: steal) code and design from other people's pages. It was ever thus, and it remains so. Ideas and code are shared freely and often; it's an art design sensibility.
For all Firefox extensions, you must restart Firefox completely to finish the install. Use File→Exit to do that safely.
Bucket-loads of pre-existing GreaseMonkey scripts are available (see Resources). Before you get too excited though, note that such scripts are tied to one Firefox installation and have no effect on any server. On a Linux or UNIX box, such scripts might affect a large user population, but they're primarily a personal thing. For those readers switched on to people problems, the broader implications should be obvious.
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- A Code Boot Camp for Underprivileged Kids
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