Tag: browser

How Much Paranoia…


…should a person have when configuring a web browser?

I had a good back and forth with @pbeens about this today.  A fresh installation of any web browser comes with certain settings.  With a good browser, you can add extensions to do various things to try to maintain your privacy.  But how much is too much?

I tried to reach a website today – it was a school website and one of the pages just refused to load with my decked out Google Chrome browser.  I fired up Mozilla Firefox and was able to see the desired page with no problem.  So, it was noodle scratching time.  I went through the process of disabling extensions until I got it to work.

So, I started to think.  Just how far do I need to go to try and keep my privacy and stop the web from tracking where I go.  (Although, I’ll admit, it’s pretty boring since I tend to hit educational and news sites).

I took a look through my extension to Google Chrome and have the following installed.

AdBlock Plus – Used to block advertisements that are pushed my way.  It’s not that I’m adverse to advertising; it’s just that with a slow internet connection, this does help to speed up the browsing process.

Collusion for Chrome – I’m big into visualizations and Collusion illustrates the webbing and connections that are happening as you browse.  I find it fascinating.

Do Not Track Me – Plain and simple, it’s designed to stop web sites from tracking where I go.

Ghostery – Blocks and displays a popup to let you know when there’s an element on a web page trying to track you.

KB SSL Enforcer – Forces the website that you’re visiting to use https:// for browser encryption when it’s possible.  (This was the extension that had caused my “problem” earlier.

That’s about it.  I should also point out that I use

WOT – This displays a crowd sourced traffic light on links to give you a sense as to whether clicking on them will take you to a safe sight or one that those working the web have concerns about.

So, I’ll end with the question that I started with.  Is this too much paranoia?  I think there can be a danger when you have too many extensions doing too many similar things.  What do you think?  Any recommendations for what can be removed or replaced with something better?

Powered by Qumana

 

Advertisements

Browser Choices


I admit it.  I have a whole slew of internet browsers installed on my computers.  I keep looking for the perfect browser.  In my mind, it needs to be fast, secure, compatible with every website known to browserkind, work miracles with Flash and Silverlight, and handle Java, HTML 5, and CSS3 perfectly.  Oh, and render images perfectly regardless of format using hardware acceleration, allow me to customize it, give me a choice of search engines, let me run extensions to customize the experience, synchronize browser settings from different computers, and let me have everything that I want my way.

Is that too much to ask?

It used to be considerably easier.  Previously, I only ran Windows and had my choice of Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator.  Even when I was forced to use a Macintosh computer, there still was a version of Internet Explorer that would make me feel at home.  These good old days seem so long ago now.  These browsing experiences were fairly similar and so I had a particular mindset as to what the browsing experience was.

I then read about this browser developed in Europe called Opera.  I downloaded it and it was an eye opener for me.  There actually was a different way to think about browsing the internet.  This has started me on the search that I continue today.

So, on my computer, you’ll find instances of Internet Explorer, Opera, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Flock, Safari, and RockMelt and I rotate through them all regularly.  As of late, my favourite has been Google Chrome, I will admit.  I’m not alone – browser share is important to the individual developers.  You’ll see them and their legions of fans scrambling to explain why a particular browser is better than the rest.

 

image

Thanks – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/04/Web_browser_usage_share.svg

The real winner in all of this is us, the end user.  As each browser adds new features  to it, it pushes the whole industry along to create better browsing experiences.  For me, the timing of this post is especially important.  Microsoft is releasing Internet Explorer 9 at the SXSW Conference.  Recently, Google upgraded its browser to Version 10, Apple pushed out a new version of Safari, Firefox has a Release Candidate for Version 4, Opera is now at Version 11, and the upgrade paths continue.  What’s really nice though is that all of these browsers are adding features and making things better with each release.  These better things include making your time on the internet safer.

I suppose the biggest thing for me was the incorporation of hardware acceleration in the browser.  Microsoft demonstrated it nicely with an earlier Beta of the Internet Explorer browser and I did sit up and take notice.  With the hardware at work rather than the software at doing graphics, it flew.  I just wish that some smart developers could work their magic with Flash and Silverlight in this manner.  There’s nothing quite so warm as a computer fan picking up speed to try and cool off the i7 processor doing its best to keep up.

I don’t think there’s a bad browser in the bunch but here are my current thoughts about each.

Internet Explorer
Unfortunately, I see this browser in a downward spiral.  It used to be THE browser – nothing else came close.  But, security issues became apparent and patch after patch was pushed out to try to make the browser safe.  With a huge market share, it was the perfect target for designers of malware.  As one patch was applied, another security flaw appeared.  It’s tough being number one.  As Internet Explorer’s problems became apparent, it really presented opportunities for other browsers to get fans.  In advance of the release of Version 9, the Internet Explorer 6 Countdown was given.  It’s hard to believe that, in this world of heightened security, a ten year old browser is still seen as safe to use.  Internet Explorer 9 is build with security in mind and the promise is to make the web a beautiful thing.  I’ll be grabbing a copy on March 14 to experience it myself.  This might be enough to stop the spiral.

Mozilla Firefox
Until about a year ago, this was my default browser – hands down.  It provided a safer feeling when browsing on the web and opened the door for extensions/addons for me.  I saw the light for different ways to browse with Opera and it continued with Firefox.  I went on a mission to try and incorporate all of the things that I do on the web – blogging, Twitter, and Facebook being very important – having them built right into the browser.  It was great.  However, with subsequent updates to version 3, Firefox started to feel sluggish and my eyes started to wander.  I was intrigued with the Release Candidate of Version 4 and it now resides on my computers.  Recently, on this blog, Stephen Downes offered a suggestion for a new feature to speed up the loading.  When Firefox goes gold, I’ll give it a shot if it’s still needed.

Google Chrome
I must admit that, after playing with all the browsers, this is the default for me right now.  It loads almost instantly; I have my default pages pinned in place and a nice collection of addons in place.  Along with Firefox, the AdBlock extension is great for making things even faster by hiding many of the annoying ads that come along.  It does scream in terms of speed.  It’s fully customizable and just works so nicely.  With the promise of the Google Chrome Operating System in the offing, it can be configured by using the Google Chrome Store to be like an entire web operating system right in the browser.  I do think that I’m looking at the future with the concept of a Web OS.  Imagine just getting connected to the web and you always have the latest and greatest software and storage available without having to constantly apply patches to your computer!

Opera
I really like Opera as a browser.  It was the first piece of software that incorporated gestures.  That is a real experience for me.  Not only does Opera have extensions but it does have widgets.  Combining the two lets you dress up a browser very nicely.  Opera seems very fast but I haven’t had a great deal of luck with the ad blocking extensions.  Opera seems to do the best job of giving the most room for browsing on the screen.  It incorporates Speed Dial when you open a new tab and many other browsers have since incorporated similar features.

Flock
Flock used to be my default browser when it was build on the same code as Firefox.  In addition to the features that I enjoyed with Firefox, Twitter was built right into it.  It was my first move into a social web browser and I really liked it.  Then, there was one update that came along that didn’t like Flash well.  Hit a web page that used Flash and the fan noise seemed deafening!  There wasn’t an upgrade forthcoming and so I left Flock although I did check in periodically to see if there were upgrades.  Unfortunately, not.  I then started to hear rumblings that Flock was going to be built on the code from the Chromium project.  As soon as it was released, I downloaded it and was impressed to a certain extent.  However, I had moved to a different Twitter client and the Twitter functionality just wasn’t at the same level.  The latest news is that Flock has teamed up with Zynga.  This could result in some really exciting social media use in the future.  I’ll keep my eye on the prize.

RockMelt
I really like the concept behind RockMelt.  It takes the premise of a social browser like we see in Flock and adds more to it.  With Facebook integration, you can monitor everything that’s happening in your Facebook world while you browse.  It reminds me of a secretary that I had years ago with sticky notes all around her monitor with the Twitter, Facebook, and addon edges in place.  I have my copy tripped out with the same functionality as Google Chrome.

Safari
I’ll be honest.  I keep it updated but I don’t use it.  Maybe I would if I just used a Macintosh computer but I regularly work on the Windows and Linux platforms as well.  My ultimate goal is to find the perfect browser for all of my computing words and to synchronize among them all.  In my world, that rules out Safari at this time.

By the same logic, I’ll grab Internet Explorer 9 when it’s available to see the “beauty of the web”.  Maybe it will make a deep enough impact that I’ll make it the default browser on my Windows computer.  Who knows?  I am hoping to see good things with it.  The other players have made great moves in visibility and safety while this release has been under development.  I’m looking forward with anticipation.  The preview releases have indeed changed the way that Internet Explorer has always worked and felt.

How do you feel about your browser?

A New “Spin” for Social Media


Fuse Labs has done it again.  Another offering from there has my interest.  One of the handiest things that you can have in a social browser is to have all of your social content easily presented and collated for you.  Spindex does that for you without installing anything.  Just fire up your web browser, configure your Twitter, Facebook and any RSS feeds that you want to monitor and Spindex does the rest.

And a great deal more.

Updates to these services come across as a stream right in your web browser.  Nothing more is needed to download or install.  In many ways, it reminds me of Friend Stream on my phone.  It’s handy on the phone since you don’t have to wander from application to application to pull it all together.

In addition to just the stream though, Spindex also collected the media that has been shared recently from the resources.  I find this very interesting.  Rather than scrolling through the history looking for something, the most recent is sitting there, in the right panel, just waiting for you to do something with it.  It’s a handy collection of photos, links, and stories that the people that you’re following have mentioned.

That takes care of the recent past.  For what’s happening right now, images are embedded right in the middle of the post.  Want to know what’s trending right at the moment?  Spindex has you covered there.

Because it’s a Microsoft project, you just have to know that search will be a key component in all this.  Not only can you search your own information stream (which is always helpful), clicking on a particular tweet seems to somehow pull the key words from the message and returns a collection of related searches in the right panel.  It’s very slick if you want to do some research on a topic right in your social browser.

Finally, how many times do you wish that you could post to both Twitter and Facebook at the same time?  There are configuration options in Facebook that make it happen.  But, because you’ve connected both services to Spindex, you can post to either or both with a simple click like you would with any service.

I find Spindex and interesting “spin” on the concept of social monitoring.  I would encourage you to give it a try and see what you think.  The nice, clean interface may change your thoughts about how to best monitor your accounts.

 

RockMelt


Earlier this week, I received my invitation to use the RockMelt browser and so decided to give it a go.  It was a relatively quick download and I was ready to go.

My first impression was – hey, this is Google Chrome.  In fact, it’s based upon the code from the Chromium project and so the initial look and feel shouldn’t have come as a surprise.  RockMelt claims that it will be more than just a piece of software – it will be a way of pulling together your web experience.  Where have we seen that before?  Notably in the Flock browser of which I was a real fan.  However, development for the Macintosh seems delayed so this may be just what I’m looking for.

My internet needs are relatively small – I want to browse securely, I use Facebook, Twitter, and Diigo/Delicious routinely.  It would be nice to find a way to streamline the experience.  To date, that has meant downloading and installing Extensions to Google Chrome.  RockMelt claims to have that done for me and more.

Since it’s built on Chromium, it make sense that I deck it out like I do.  That means adding my favourite extensions like AdThwart, Shareaholic, and Evernote.  And, of course, I need to get a little theme action going – my current choice is the Robot/Android theme.  I also pin my frequently used tabs to the top.  It just takes a few minutes and I’m ready to go.

image

RockMelt displays the content relatively inobtrusively.  The extensions and social services that I use are on the right “edge” and a sampling of the folks I’m friends with on Facebook on the left.

They’re all just one click buttons with quick access just a mouse click away.  The Facebook access is nice; it’s really quick with no advertising.  The Twitter access is pretty basic and certainly has nowhere near the power and functionality of Seesmic Desktop.  But there’s something very functional about just opening the browser and being automatically logged in to all of these services.

One of the things that a good learner does is share with others what’s happening.  At the top of the browser window a “Share” button provides one click access to sharing whatever is open in the browser.  A very nice touch.

And then, there’s search.  My initial thought when looking at the browser was that we’re retrograding here.  Instead of the Omnibar that Google Chrome has, there’s actually a search box.  Whaaaa?  Here is the nicest feature so far.

The Omnibar is certainly there.  Type a URL or a search term and you’re searching as you might with Google Chrome.  But, if you type a search term in the search box, a search with results pops up in a window on top of the current page!  This was a feature that I took a shining to immediately.  Rather than leaving the current page to do a search or to open another tab, do the search on top of what’s currently open.  It’s a big jump in productivity.

image

Often, I don’t need to go to the actual website to get the information that I need.  The quick summary that a simple search is sometimes enough.

At this juncture, RockMelt is still early in development and only accessible by invitation.  As such, it wouldn’t be fair to get into benchmarks comparing it to other browsers but there’s no noticeable performance delays for my use of the browser.  The whole design is indeed made with the web and the social web in mind.  It’s really worth a download to try a different type of experience.  Whether you stay with it or choose similar add-ons/extensions to your existing browser will be your choice.  RockMelt does give you a good glimpse of what the entire browsing experience could me.

The Little Things


Sometimes, it’s the little things that put you over the top.  One of the things that can really help productivity online is to have a good start.  I’ve tried most everything thing from the configuration in the browsers to using services like Tizmo or Symbaloo.  All lend a certain element of functionality that speeds up the process.

Essentially, you have your own personal portal to web resources that are of regular use.  Once your browser opens, you click on the resource, a new tab opens, and away I go.  I just can’t remember the last time that I used a browser with only one tab open!

Yet, it still takes opening each of the tabs to get them started.  Chrome has become my browser of choice and it does allow you to open a set of tabs when you start which is nice but there’s a little feature that makes it even more functional and quicker.

If you open a tab and then right click on the tab, one of the options is to “pin the tab”.  Now, pinning is something that’s done regularly with Windows 7 and the task bar to remember application shortcuts so I was intrigued to play around with it in my Chrome browser.

It has the same functionality there!  A webpage that you may use regularly gets pinned to the tab bar and is opened each time that you launch the browser.  Cool.  But, it gets even cooler.  Instead of appearing as a regular tab, it’s just the website icon.  It takes up way less real estate and yet gives the same functionality.

How much cooler is that?  So, because I always want to have access to Gmail, Facebook, my Blog, my Wiki, and my Alltop page, they’re now just a button, er, tab away.  Even more impressively, when you’re using a Netbook where every pixel is precious real estate, we’re now making better use of the space allocated.  As the browser is loaded, so are all of the pages!

As Chromium edges closer and closer to being an operating system, it’s interesting to see the functionality that you might expect to see in an OS appear in a browser.

This isn’t an earth-shattering way of starting a browser but it does have some immediate advantages.  Sometimes, it’s just the little things!

More Browser Thinking


I’ve decided that what I want in my browser is everything and everything fast.  That’s why stories like this one from Lifehacker command my attention when I see them in my daily browsing.

This time, the article was about speed and the headlines were about the speed tests surrounding Google’s Chrome Browser and the Opera browser.  The article is well written with lots of charts comparing various speed tests between the two browsers and others in the same area.  Noteably, Firefox results are shown on the same graph and periodically Internet Explorer shows up in the comparison.  There’s even a peek at the Safari browser in the mix.  Unfortunately, the Flock browser doesn’t appear in the review.

Based upon the results, it appears that those in search of speed should drop everything and switch immediately to Chrome or Opera.  Such a switch wouldn’t be a bad move – thousands have made the switch and do so happily.  However, there’s much more than speed that needs to be made in such a major experience.  With today’s computers, they all run faster and have more memory than before.

Is speed the only determining factor?  If so, you might want to consider none of the above.  After all, Lynx is still available.  If all that you want is text content, you can’t go wrong there.  Appropriately, you need to know how to navigate a text directory structure to get to the file for download.

We’re expecting more from our browsers though.  We demand a graphical interface; we expect to be able to interact with objects written in Flash and Silverlight; and we know that inevitably we’ll run across a PDF or XLS or DOC or any other of a myriad of data types on the web.

There are special projects to consider as well.  Many applications require a particular version of a browser to work.  When I create our board’s Teachers’ Essentials CD-ROM, I have to focus on Internet Explorer and Safari as they are the official browsers at work and so content has to run well with these programs.  Yet, we have many technology savvy users who will use the resource at home on a different browser so simplicity is the key to running everywhere.

In today’s world, can you drop everything and switch because of speed enhancements?

Not for me.

It’s the quest for everything that still the determining factor for me.  I want to be able to open my browser and do just about everything from the single application.  I want it to give me the weather, I want to be able to save notes to research later, I want to get my email, I want access to my social networking sites, I want my browser to keep me save, I want to enhance my searching routine, I want to know the top trending topics, I want to be able to create blog entries, I want to read other blog posts, I want to block unnecessary ads and pop-ups, and I want to do it all as quickly as possible.

That’s why I continue to get intrigued with stories that inspired this posting.  Keep them coming.

Social Bookmarks:
Blogged with the Flock Browser