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 docs.new 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.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1eRxe6lfDs6mKnKtxcHM3bYJTTJ_Jft98JuNG7QcqpYI/edit#slide=id.g35f391192_04

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. http://bit.ly/BIT19Extensions

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!

More customisations …


With the new version 77 Beta of Chrome OS comes something that I’ve wanted for a long time.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’ve got a thing for green themes so I’ve off to the Chrome store in search of the perfect theme. The problem is that I haven’t found the exact colour. So, I’d taken to written my own theme and applied it. Now, if you’re interested in creating your own customisation, you don’t have to go that far.

It starts at the “New Tab” page.

In the bottom right corner, you’ll find an option to Customise things that brings up this dialogue.

You can make your own clever background from stock items or upload something of your own. But, check out the bottom option for Colour and Theme.

And, if there isn’t the perfect colour and shade, head into the colour picker…

There is no longer any excuse for not having that perfect colour any longer.

Virtual desks


I’ve been a longtime user of virtual desktops on my computers. It’s my way of trying to stay sort of organized and not get confused with what I’m doing. Or at least minimizing that confusion.

Up until now, virtual desktops weren’t available in Chrome OS but a recent release now makes it possible. Here’s how.

Enable it. It’s actually something that you need to make happen before the magic happens. It’s easy enough. By now, you should know that there are many things available in the chrome://flags screen when you type it in your address bar. Search for desks and enable them.

You’ll have to reboot your computer to make it active.

Show windows. I’m not quite sure what this key is actually called. You can use it to take screenshots and also to see all the windows that are open. It’s the key just above the 6 on your keyboard! Press it.

Create a new desk

In the top right, there’s a + New desk option that lets you add a new desk to your computer. A thumbnail of each desktop will appear centred on the screen. Above, you’ll see that I have three desks open.

Choose your desk

Once you have as many desks (up to 4) that you want, select the desk that you want to use and away you go. As you work, subsequent show windows actions will show you up to date thumbnails.

Alternatively, ALT+TAB will let you cycle through desks just like you would normally switch through windows. And, if you have content on one desk that you want on another, just drag and drop it where it’s needed.

Personally, I typically have three desks in operation. Two instances of Chrome – each isolated on a particular task, and an instance of Opera open. Periodically, I’ll open another desk to run another Android option if the urge comes.

Chromium Edge


As I was thinking about this, I wonder if Google takes offense to being paired with Edge or if Microsoft takes offense to being tied to the Chromium project and its Google connections.

Or maybe not.

It will come as no surprised to regular readers that I have this newish browser installed on my computer and I’m using it to write this blog post. I’ve had the Developer Edition installed since it was made available. In today’s world, we’re going to want the best browser we can have, n’est-ce pas? So, I’ve been kicking the tires with Microsoft’s proposed successor to its original Edge. I’m guessing that Edge didn’t have the uptake or the features that Microsoft wanted as a standalone offering and so wanted to join the Chromium world with all of the others – Chromium, Chrome, Opera, Brave, Vivaldi, …

As luck would have it, I have those installed on this computer as well. Each has its own unique features. With my slow internet connection, advertisement blocking is crucial and so Opera and Brave were welcomed with open arms with their built-in blockers. The others achieve the blocking via extension so that is good. So many extensions have been written to go along with Chromium and they slide nicely into place with all of the products. Interestingly, the others have their own store but will let you click through to the big repository at Google to add others.

As with all of the browsers that I use, I’m a big reader of their blog and updated features; Edge’s is here.

It’s also the place where you can download the application for your computer if you’re so inclined. And, you’re not just limited to Windows 10.

The Developer’s Channel has served me well so I don’t see myself changing at any time in the near future.

All of the browsers based on Chromium have their own unique customizations. For example, Edge lets you adjust your new tab page.

In true modern fashion, none of the browsers claim to be finished. Updates and features are to be expected and we will only be winners as a result.

There is a nebulous (at least to me) part of all of these and that deals with how they handle Privacy. Adding an extension is easy enough. Generally, you do it because you want a feature and you can tell whether or not a feature is working properly just by using it. Privacy always seems just like a claim to me. How do I know that those little switches and options actually do what you think they might? I’d love to know the answer to that and how to test for it.

In the meantime, my quest for the ultimate browser continues. I didn’t know what to expect from Chromium Edge but I’m pleasantly pleased. There really is no learning curve to getting started and customization isn’t a big deal anymore.

Will this be the ultimate winning browser? I don’t know but it’s fun running it through my regular routine and seeing that it holds up nicely.