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GUIDE to (mostly) Harmless Hacking: Fun with Firefox
Volume 3, Number 13

In this Guide you will discover:

The World of Mozilla
How to Find Fun, Semi-Hidden Things in Firefox
How to Modify Firefox if You Can't Program
How to Modify Firefox if You Can Program
How You Can Become a Mozilla Programmer

You can use this Guide to explore semi-secret features of the Firefox browser, or modify it in amazing ways or appalling ways, it's your choice. You can do this even if you don't know how to program, although I'm betting that you non-programmer types soon will discover that programming is so much fun that you'll wind up coding in your sleep. (Honest, many of us programmers figure out how to solve programming problems in our dreams.)

World of Mozilla

The Mozilla Foundation is a project of hundreds of volunteer programmers dedicated to writing free browsers and email programs. Their projects include the Firefox browser, perhaps the most secure and useful browser ever created . You can read all about Mozilla at http://www.mozilla.org/, and download programs there. The chairman of Mozilla is one of the leading pioneers of the computer revolution, Mitch Kapor (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitch_Kapor). The inventor of Firefox, Blake Ross, began programming it when he was only fifteen, and now at age twenty he's leading another project (that might change your life!), Parakey (see http://www.blakeross.com/2006/11/11/so-about-that-project/).

Just in case you aren't already using Firefox, you can download it for free from Mozilla.org. It comes in at least 36 languages (maybe more by the time you read this) and has versions for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.

The reason the Mozilla Foundation can offer such excellent software for free is that it has been written by unpaid volunteers. Furthermore, anyone is free to download the source code (programming commands) for any Mozilla software. One reason people volunteer to  write code and check existing code for bugs and security flaws is that this can become a passport to a high paying job as a programmer it's a way to prove that you are among the elite.

Anyone can become a Mozilla volunteer, no matter where you live, just so long as you know how to program (see our C programming tutorials at http://happyhacker.org/gtmhh/cstuff.shtml and http://happyhacker.org/gtmhh/cprogram.shtml) and can offer an improvement to their programs that the other volunteers agree is worthwhile.

Even if the other volunteers absolutely hate your modification (for example, you could make a version of Firefox that plays an audio clip praising Microsoft) and the Mozilla Foundation refuses to use it in the next release of their browser, you can use your own version and give away copies of your version to other people.

How to Find Fun, Semi-Hidden Things in Firefox

For starters, you can try putting unusual things into the URI (Universal Resource Identifier) window. Note that I'm calling it the URI window instead of the URL (Universal Resource Locator) window. This is an important point because your web browser can show you things besides sites on the World Wide Web. For example, type
"telnet:" into the URI window and it opens your telnet program. This cool trick doesn't work from IE. To learn why telnet is so beloved of serious hackers, see http://happyhacker.org/gtmhh/begin11.shtml

Next, here's a way to find the names of the people who helped to create Firefox. Simply type into the URI window:

About: credits

This command only works when you are online and the URI window hides the actual URI. (By putting in the same command when offline you get the URI http://www.mozilla.org/credits/ but this shows a blank page.)

More Fun with Firefox --->>


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