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

Try it yourself


If you’re like me, you probably hear and read a lot about this.  “Chromebooks aren’t real computers”.

I always like to challenge back with a why?

The answers are typical – it doesn’t run Photoshop.  Or, I’m not always connected to the Internet.

So, I’ll add a reply to that – “When was the last time you used Photoshop?”  “Did you buy your current computer just because of Photoshop?” “If you could install a program on your Chromebook and could run it offline, would that change your perspective?”

Now, the misconception of a Chromebook’s capabilities undoubtedly stem back to the beginning when it really was a browser in a box needing an Internet connection.  It’s just that it’s come a long way since then but the Internet never forgets.  Neither do some of the silly people who still maintain that it’s just a browser.

In fact, the whole concept like the Chrome browser and Chromebook has come so far.  And, you’re not limited to just that; modern Chromebooks run Android and some are experimenting with Linux.

And yes, it’s not the product of universal choice in schools.  I’d be up in arms if someone indicated that a Computer Science or Drafting or Visual Arts program would be equally as served.  But, there are so many other areas where the Chromebook does a terrific job.

So terrific, in fact, that we’re now seeing that Microsoft is developing a version of Windows to put computers at the same price point.  That’s going to be interesting.

In the meantime, you owe it to yourself to get yourself up to speed.  To that end, you should check out the Chromebook Simulator in your current system.

chromebook

Even if you are a Chromebook user, there’s always something new to learn.  Maybe a little time in the simulator will change the opinions of some or make others more sophisticated users!

Make your own


I’ve been doing a bit of tweaking of the way my browser looks recently and sharing them here on this blog. In the past, I’ve played around with Google offered themes and the Chinese Zodiac ones.

Yesterday, I had the laptop out on the patio enjoying the warm spring (finally) weather and decided to create my own. That’s where I learned about the Chrome Theme Creator.

At 1.1 million themes already created at this site, I was definitely late to this party!

As a visitor, there are two options.

One is to download someone else’s work and install it as the theme for your browser. You can find something that comes close and then look to related themes or use the hashtags for each theme to find similarly tagged themes.

The second is to create your own. And, with the onscreen editor, it’s simple.

Just work your way through the four steps and you too can be a designer.

Now, I supposed if you were artistically inclined, it would be easy. For people who are challenged in this area like me, it sounds easier than it is. It’s not that it’s not easy to do – it actually is. It’s just finding colours that work well together.

A colourful post


One of my favourite features of a web browser is the ability to customize it. After all, we’re running it on a personal computer; why not personalize it?

Of course, there’s the ability to add extensions or add-ons to the browser but there’s also the ability to change the colours. I’ve always done that; typically right out of a fresh installation, the tabs and other features are white. I like the ability to change the theme and the colour in the process to make it “mine”.

The downside and something to be aware of is that you can end up taking resources away from your computer so judicial use is always suggested. But, when Google actually does it and not just supports it, you have to believe that the feature would be optimized.

Now, I don’t particularly care if there’s a background image in my browser since I seldom look at a new tab screen for long anyway. But, colours? That’s another story.

From the Google Chrome developers comes a collection of colours that you can install and change you look very quickly.

Off I went like a kid in a candy store. There were a couple of green options, but you’ll notice from the highlight that I’ve settle on “Just Black”. My browser now has got a nice look to it and when I hover over a link on a page the destination is easily readable in white on black at the bottom of the screen.

For me, it’s a keeper.

But, hey, you might want to consider a Rose – at least for today.

The Browser I’ve Always Wanted To Use


On my computer, I’ve always kept the latest copy of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Chromium, Safari, and Opera – depending upon the computer.  It’s not nearly as important now but years ago, it really was important to test your webpages on different browsers as they can render things differently.  There’s nothing I find more frustrating than visiting a site and it just doesn’t look right or you’ve done something that limits things.  Remember messages like “Sorry, this page ony runs on Internet Explorer”.

I always am intrigued by web studies showing where the current popular web browser is.  Only a fool would take a look at one set of stats and make complete decisions based on that.  Rather, they’re just a snapshot in time.  It’s always been interesting to see the fall and decline of Internet Explorer, the rise of Firefox and Chrome.  Always taking a small slice of the pie has been Opera.  And yet, it’s always intrigued me so I keep it installed.  Unlike other browsers where I load up on extensions, I keep Opera basically free of them.  That way, if I run into something that looks badly on one browser, I could flip to Opera and test it unfettered by third party authors.

There has always been a lot of things to like about Opera; it’s very quick to load, always seems to be rated highly in security testing, Scandinavian in design (who doesn’t like good things with Scandinavian heritage), and I’ve never had it crash on me.  Like Firefox, the latest version allows you to search from the address bar as well as having an area to specify a search engine.

I’ll typically have the default search enging set to use Google and the second one to use Yahoo!  It allows me to to do two searches without a great deal of effort.  Opera has also had some unique features like Turbo Mode and Speed Dial which you don’t find by default on other browsers.  All in all, it’s a solid performer and yet I’ve never made it my default browser.  It’s a question I really can’t answer except that, I guess, I like the additional functionality that extensions to Firefox and Chrome provide.

This week, there was exciting news from Opera.  They’ve released their next version – Opera Next.  Word had been trickly down that Opera was going to be re-written, abandoning its Presto web engine in favour of Blink.  So, you know me – I had to give it a shot.

With the switch in engines, it came as no surprise that Opera Next looked like Chromium or Chrome right out of the box.  I started to poke around to see what was what.

Right off the bat, there were a couple of things that had me scratching.  I’m a big user of pinned tabs.  At present, there doesn’t seem to be a way to pin a tab in Opera Next.  The other gotcha was the X to close a tab.  It’s on the other side of the tab.  As a long time Chrome user, old habits die hard!  Got to suck it up here.  That certainly can’t be a show stopper!

Opera Next is snappy and was a pleasure to work with.  Now, it comes time to deck it out.  Can I customize it?  I went to the Chrome store and many of the extension were expecting to install themselves into Chrome.  That’s fair enough; I don’t know why but I thought that they would just transport across the platforms.  But I did poke around and from the Opera Menu, there’s an option to install extensions.  Opera is developing its own store for extensions so a trip there was in order.  There’s some of my go-tos there.  I install Web of Trust, Evernote, Feedly, LastPass, Ghostery, and Ad Block Plus.  That’s about it – no blogging tool at present – I was hoping to see Scribefire.

While there, I notice that there’s an option to change themes.  I visited the Opera Next theme site and there are a few ways to dress up your browser desktop.  I looked at a couple – nothing green!

Desktop real estate is important to me.  In my browser, I’ll also downsize the font a couple of steps.  I’m not a fan of Full Screen Mode all the time so the less that the browser uses, the more room there is for me to read.

I stacked Chrome, Opera Next, and Firefox together and you can see that Chrome maximizes the screen real estate nicely.  Notice how it places the tabs on the same row as the exit, minimize, and maximize buttons.  That’s a really good way to avoid dead space.  I’d really like to see Opera Next and Firefox follow suit.

Regular browsing functionality was there.  I was surprised that Opera Mail was not included.  Perhaps it’s just because it’s early in development?  I guess time will tell.

There are two features unique to Opera Next that I spent a bunch of time playing with.  One is called “Stash” and the other “Discover”.  I’m excited about both.

Discover finds news stories for you just by selection.  I changed the setting to Canada and then back to Global.  It seems to have more interesting reads for me at the moment.  I’m just not interested in Toronto’s Mayor or a certain Senator.

That’s a really nice feature.  It reminds me of Rockmelt for Web.  It’s based on the premise that there should always be something new and interesting to read when you open your browser.

The second feature, Stash, I think is best described as temporary bookmarks.  A regular bookmark is permanent.  With Stash, if you’re browsing the web looking for stories, click the little heart icon to stash them away for later retrieval.

Don’t get caught up on the actual stories I’ve stashed above – I just stashed three pages for this post.  I can see myself using this quite a bit, particulary in conjunction with Discover.  As I scan news stories, I can Stash them and then later on take some time to read them fully.  I see a boost in productivity coming here.

I haven’t even talked about cottonTracks.  This could turn out to be a big change for me.

My first kick at Opera Next was very positive.  For the Chrome or Chromium user, there’s very little new learning to take on and yet, the potential for better productivity certainly is there.  I really did enjoy it; the limiting factor is the number of extensions that are currently available.  That will get better with time and Opera has promised regular updates over the next while.  I’m looking forward to seeing this product evolve.

So Smooooooth


There’s so much about Google Chrome that I like and it’s been my main browser for quite a while now.  There was one annoyance that happened when I sat at my desk, using a full keyboard and a scroll mouse.  The scroll action to the mouse just didn’t always seem right.

It seemed slow and jaggy at times.

But no more.  I read about and installed the Chromium Smooth Wheel Scroller.  There is a smooth scrolling option available if you’re brave enough to ignore the warnings and go to chrome://flags/ and experiment.  Sadly, as of the current release, it’s not available for the Macintosh.  However, this extension has you covered and more

Install the extension and then right click to head to the configuration options.

Scroller

 

Then, quite frankly, it’s just a matter of adjusting the sliders until the scroll wheel does what you need.

The cool thing about Chrome is that you install the extension in one installation and, with synching turned on, it appears on them all.  So, I installed it under Linux where I use the scroll wheel and shortly thereafter, it appeared on my Macintosh.  I had spent some time configuring it under Linux and got it just right.  Fire up the Mac and Whoa!  It takes a little while since the trackpad has a different level of sensitivity so it was back to the sliders to get it just right there.

It was worth the time and effort.  Scrolling is even smoother on all the machines now.  It’s so nice.  There are other little niceties like having the screen bounce when you reach the bottom like iOS.

All in all, I just have to recommend this extension if you’re looking to customize your scrolling experience.  Be prepared to spend a little time adjusting it until it feels just right.  Once you get the knack of it, hide the button and never look back.