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

Who’s laughing now?


I get a number of strange looks when people realize that I have a number of web browsers on this computer. I agree that it can be a bit of overkill. In addition to learning the nuances of each, there’s the challenge of keeping them up to date.

It could have paid off this weekend though.

I’m sure that you’ve read about the issue with Mozilla Firefox (a favourite browser of mine). If not, you can get up to speed here.

Around here, I live a better browsing experience because of add-ons. They add functionality and security to an already great browser.

So, what would I do without the browser functionality of add-ons? I’d just use a different web browser which is what I was doing anyway yesterday. Weekends aren’t devoted to a lot of time online – mainly posting a couple of blog posts and doing some reading. Had the situation occurred during the week when I was doing a number of other things, I might have been singing a different tune.

That tune would revolve around passwords. I’ve long bought into the idea of long, secure, involved passwords. (although it might be interesting to see what someone else would do with my logins…) I’ve also bought into the concept that you should never write the passwords down on a sheet of paper lest someone else get a hold of that paper.

So, for a long time now, I’ve used a password manager. It saves me a couple of grey matter cells for doing things other than remembering a password. But, what if I was using a single browser and access to that manager wasn’t available? The tone of this post might be bit different.

It’s Monday morning as I write this so I did fire up Firefox to see what the damage was. I wasn’t terribly worried as I read to expect an upgrade with a fix. Sure enough, when I checked, there was an upgrade available; I applied it and live goes on here – with add-ons.

How this will impact Mozilla and Firefox going forward remains to be seen. I’ll continue to use it; I’ve been a long time supporter.

I’ll bet that there are quality control meetings going on at Mozilla and elsewhere this week.

But, who’s laughing now? This guy. By dumb luck, I had a Plan B already (every teacher does) so I avoided this issue.

For those big files


I remember once a tirade an email administrator went on one about sending attachments to messages.

We’re not a file transfer service

And yet, it was something that I need to do periodically.  So, I ended up setting up an FTP server on a disposable computer and sent the link to people who needed the file.  My security?  I’d use PKZip and compress the file and tack on a password to it.  It worked well as long as people who wanted the file were inside the firewall.

This was way before services like we have today.  Over the years, I’ve:

  • created another email account just for file transfers
  • used FTP on a fileserver to make the files anywhere
  • used Google Drive as a host
  • used OneDrive as a host
  • used Dropbox as a host

Now, there’s another option – Firefox Send.

Its value lies in simplicity of use, no account needed (although you can send bigger files with an account), encryption of the file, automatic deletion, and the fact that it comes from Firefox, long known as a champion of your privacy.

To use it, just head over to https://send.firefox.com/ and get busy.

1. Upload the file

2. Set when it expires3.  Get the link

Share the link with your recipient.  (and the password if you chose one)

What could be simpler?

Building the Perfect Browser


Baby, we’ve come a long way.  I remember working with Internet Explorer or Netscape, browsing the web when it was just a matter of “looking for stuff”.  Being connected to the internet today means so much more.

Recently, I shared my browser with another person who looked at the layout and said “What’s this stuff?” – pointing to the various icons that adorn the top of the browser.

As I started to explain, it really occured to me.  I couldn’t get along with a vanilla web browser in this day and age.  I’ve taken the browser and made it mine.

Depending upon the day, I might be working in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Opera Next but there’s a common thread.  I’ve added extensions or add-ons to make the browser mine.  As I scroll through the extensions page, I may have 20 or 30 installed.  From this big list, I figure that there’s at least five goodies that get me through the day.

ScribeFire – I use this daily.  It’s my in browser blog editor.  It’s got all the features that I could possibly need when composing posts like this one.  Fully featured, and it does a great job with all that I need.

LastPass – Every service that I access on the web seems to have a customized spot that requires logging in to access.  Confession time – there was a time years ago when I used the same password on every service.  “cat”.  OK, just kidding.  Now, I let LastPass create a very secure password every time I create an accound and store it for me.  It’s so nice to have the software remember passwords for me and let me keep my grey matter for other things.

Shareaholic – I’ll admit to being a sharer and I like to tuck away things that I find to my own services.  Shareaholic lets me configure the services that I want to use and I’m just a right click away from assigning it appropriately whenever I visit a web page.  It also serves as a launchpad to a bunch of other services like Diigo, Pinterest, Instapaper, Bit.ly, …

Adblock Plus – Like most people, I like to think I can have a bit of control over what I see when I visit a website.  My use was really initiated by a slow internet connection.  It’s bad enough to have to wait forever for content to appear; but it’s even worse when you’re slowed down by advertising.

Ghostery – I don’t know if there’s any way of perfectly protecting your privacy when connected, but there’s a sense of satisfaction when Ghostery indicates it’s blocking all of 1746 trackers.

There are a number of extensions that are installed but these are visibly active on a regular basis.  I can’t imagine browsing without them.  In fact, if I ever do, I just feel so handicapped and exposed.

What extensions make your good browsing experience great?