This grouping is ok

This type of social grouping is a good thing!

Life for me was so simple long ago on the web when the concept of tabs hadn’t been invented. One window, one website was the norm.

Then comes along the ability to have tabs in the browser and I jumped at the opportunity. And, if two tabs are good, then twenty must be better. Before long, it was like my elementary school principal used to call “a dog’s breakfast”. I never understood the concept then because we only fed our dog once a day, after supper.

I came to understand it as meaning a mess and it does truly describe the top of my screen at times.

My primary window right now…

On the other monitor, I have even more as I work on my Friday “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” post.

With tab development, we kind of got a break when we could pin tabs but even then, it gets difficult and it can be hard to tell tabs apart – especially when you have so many the browser shrinks the tab to fit them into the space on your monitor. Thank goodness for favicons. Things that I use all the time get pinned and the rest just sort of evolves until I can’t find anything and I’m forced to close some or use the OneTab extension to tuck them away.

With the release of Google Chrome 81 comes another formal option – creating tab groups. So, for example, I have a number of email accounts that I monitor – I could group them all together into one group called email.

The process is relatively simple. To get started, click on a tab and “Add to new group” or “Add to existing group”.

You can give it a colour and a name if you wish…

In addition to my email group, I’ll have a group especially for the reading sites that I use.

I could see, perhaps, grouping popular tabs by subject area. I guess you’re only limited by imagination.

I’m going to give it a shot for a while on Chrome and see what happens. Maybe it will make me more efficient or productive. Or maybe I’ll get confused as to where things are. Who knows?

Look for this feature to be replicated in other browsers if it catches on.

New .new stuff

I mentioned last week about attending the session delivered by Nicole Batte and Leslie Boerkamp dealing with extensions for Google Chrome. In particular, one extension was of interest to me – Google Docs Quick Create.

It seems like a very powerful extension and I did explore it a bit. The reviews are mixed though. But, the internet can be kind of troll-ish and besides, things are constantly changing and issues will undoubtedly be addressed. The author offers you to fork his code on GitHub so that could help the cause as well.

I didn’t keep the extension though. I’m cognisant of the performance hits that can be taken on your computer and browser with too many extensions or, even worse, too many tabs open.

Besides, I already had that functionality.

I can’t believe that it was over a year ago when I first started playing around with Google’s .new site and functionality. I remember specifically because I was doing a presentation about Hyperdocs. At one point, I had demonstrated to the group how to repurpose a Webquest into a Hyperdoc and I had used the command to create and open a new Google document for that purpose. The crowd gasped.

At least in my mind.

There was actually a pause in the presentation while I had to explain what I had done. Of course, a Google Document wasn’t the only thing that could be created. Sheets and Slides were there as well.

Each could easily be invoked by typing the URL in the address bar. It’s not limited to Google Chrome; it works in any browser since it’s just an address. So, it’s equally as functional in Firefox. Ever in search of something more productive, these things work nicely as a bookmark! So, I had created the three of them and then put them together into a folder on my bookmark bar in all my browsers.

As often happens, I forgot about it until the presentation. Those in attendance were impressed with how easy students could create new documents. It definitely would work for that.

After the presentation, I forgot again until this past weekend when I read this blog post on the Google site.

10 shortcuts made possible by .new

It’s just not the three shortcuts that I’d previously been using. In fact, there are a few more. I took a look through the list. If there’s something that I do repeatedly, it only makes sense to add them to my bookmarks. And I did. My list now looks like…

If you read the article, Google is letting people apply for new .new domains. The good news is that there may be more productivity shortcuts on the way. This is a good thing.

How about a .new to create a WordPress post?

Whole lotta extensions going on

Not related to this topic but I love this song anyway…

The session “There’s an Extension for That” was given by these ladies at the Bring IT, Together Conference.

I’m a sucker for sessions like these.

I firmly believe that owning a browser is just a starting point. You make it “yours” by customising the look and functionality. It makes no difference whether you’re using Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Brave, Vivaldi, or any of the other alternatives. They all browse the web well.

I’m a long time Firefox user and have always thought that you could turn a good experience into a great experience by adding addons that extend the functionality of the browser. I have my favourite collections – devoted to privacy and what I need for functionality.

But, I’m not confident enough that I have the best of the best or that I have them all. I enjoy sessions where people identify what extensions they use and how it makes them productive. I’m not above stealing borrowing a good idea.

That led me to this session, run on Leslie’s laptop, to see what these two presenters felt were important to them. I remember thinking that surely, surely, all of these extensions were loaded on Leslie’s computer just for the sake of the presentation and not that they’re always there!

I like the presentation dynamic that they had. Leslie was seated and operating the computer while Nicole gave us the description of the extension and what they felt was the value for them. The presentation moved along very quickly and if you were taking notes, you might have missed something. Thankfully, they shared their presentation.

The presentation was done in Chrome but most of the extensions/addons are available for all browsers.

I would encourage you to walk your way through the presentations and see what they’ve identified as their “Best of the best” choices. We can always learn from others.

Getting serious about privacy

I think we’ve all heard of the stories – I mention that I was looking to buy this or I did a search for that product and then, lo and behold, advertisements for that product appears on your desktop. Coincidence or not, it’s pretty freaky when it happens.

A long time ago, I took action around here to block advertising and third party cookies. When I want to purchase something, I would like to do my own research and come to my own conclusions about products. Plus, I didn’t like all the bandwidth that these advertisements were using. It definitely slowed things down here and my internet access is slow enough to begin with.

If only this setting, which is available on all modern browsers, did the trick.

Basically, websites are on their honour to recognize this and do something about it. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a banner that told you that they respecting you. Actually, search engines like DuckDuckGo that do respect you make that claim up and front. Thank you for that.

For the others, I guess we’re on our own. Allow it to happen or do something to prevent it like installing an advertising browser blocker.

Fortunately, for us, latest releases of browsers are helping the cause.

Opera has advertising blocking built right in and also offers a free VPN.

Brave also has advertising blocking as a key component. It also has an interesting feature – most modern browsers allow you to open a “Private Window” which has a limited privacy protection. But, Brave also allows you to open a tab using the Tor network. That’s very handy instead of using the Tor Browser.

Chrome is promising a feature that will block what they’re calling “heavy” advertising. Where the advertisement blocking extension fits into this remains to be seen.

This weekend, I’ve been playing around with the latest in Privacy protection from Firefox. It’s labelled as “Enhance Privacy Protection”. Rather than just taking their word that they’re blocking things, a graph, by day, shows what they’re blocking. As I write this, Firefox claims that it has blocked 47 trackers. For the record, it’s 11:15 on Sunday morning. I’ve been on Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard, my blog, and a couple of newspaper websites. I haven’t even checked my email yet; it’s the weekend…

So, what’s it blocking?

There’s a warning that some sites won’t work with this level of paranoia. That’s always been the concern when you’re using blockers. For those special times when I absolutely need to go to a website, I’ll open it in a Private Window so that it can set all the cookies it wants and they’ll be gone when I close the window.

If you do one bit of learning today, read the corresponding documentation from Mozilla.

Trackers and scripts Firefox blocks in Enhanced Tracking Protection

The nuclear option

Grinning, at least now.

I wasn’t a few days ago. With the update to Chrome OS 78, I was feeling pretty good about reliability again. Then, I started to read about new features. If they were as good as the Accessibility Option that I had previously blogged about, this could be good.

One new feature, in particular, excited me. It was a setting for “Dark Mode”.

I’m a real fan of dark screen (green screen too but that’s not the point). I find it easier on the eye and hope that it saves on battery life as others have claimed. So, I was ready to check it out. Simply go to the Chrome Flags menu and change a setting.

I’ve seen this warning a million times and a million times I’ve ignored it. I think you know where this is headed, right? I applied the Dark Mode setting and rebooted as suggested.

And everything looked good. I logged in and the browser reloaded. I went to Twitter and it was fine. But then, I had already set it natively to show a Dark Mode. Let’s try something with a White Background.

Aw, Snap!

We know what that means. The browser has crashed that tab. I reloaded to see it partially load and then crash again. It looks like the browser is attempting to load the original page, do some colour shifting, and then reload with the new colours.

I tried to go to the help page.

But I couldn’t. It’s a Google page and so has a nice white background and so crashes.

I did some searching on my phone and found a Reddit page Dark mode on ChromeOS 78 has broken my Chromebook. That post could have been written by me! That, and a couple of other similar pages, revealed the one and only solution. Do a Powerwash on your computer.

So, I tried to do that. Into Settings I went where I new the Powerwash option was. The problem?

It had a white background and wouldn’t load! So, no Powerwash here!

Supposedly, after a Powerwash, the next step is to go to the Terminal and enter a “rollback” command. I was getting desperate so just went to the rollback stage.

The message from Chrome OS sounded hopeful; I guess it either didn’t know that I couldn’t access the Powerwash button or didn’t care. So, I let it do its thing.

I expected to get a fresh Chromebook with no settings and a previous version of the Chrome Operating System.

What I did get kind of surprised me. I got the same Chrome OS version as what caused the problem but it did work. In fact, the customized settings that I had previously set were all gone and I was back to the defaults. Then, came in all the browser settings from my Google account. I did expect that although I probably could have gotten away without all the Android applications being reloaded. But, they came too.

The result? I have a nicely functioning Chromebook restored to Acer’s settings.

You’ve got to love the cloud.

Oh, and Happy Hallowe’en!