Kicking the tires on Opera GX


In a world where every browser pretty much looks the same, I was intrigued with the announcement that Opera was going to release a gaming browser. The preview picture had me interested; the features are interesting.

The default colours are an LED looking red on a black background.

Of course, I had to change it to green right off the bat.

Much better. LED type colours look great on a black background.

So, the colours might bring me in but features need to be here to keep me. And, don’t take away any of the features that I’ve been accustomed to with Opera.

It looks good in that department; the battery saving, VPN option, advertisement blocking, video popout, and the menu sidebar were all intact. In addition to all of the quick buttons in the sidebar, there are two new ones. If you have a Twitch account, it’s just a click away. The real power, as far as I’ve discovered is the GX Control, shown above.

Here, you can control how much memory and how much CPU Opera GX is allowed to use. So, if you’re doing something else and Opera GX is in the background, these control allow you to stop it from taking over your computer when it wants. It’s not that I’m a big-time gamer but there are times when I’m working in another application with a browser open that might benefit from these limits.

It just looks so cool and different from any other browser.

There’s a quick setup feature that gets you going in a hurry.

as well as some new wallpapers, if you’re into that sort of thing. Personally, I have the browser maximized when I’m using it so I’m not going to use that much, I suspect.

In what appears to be a permanent tab, you have access to something labelled GX Corner.

That’ll keep you up to date in the gaming world. I also see it as an interesting way to monetize the product by selling space here.

Google comes as the default search engine but that’s easily changed. The browser settings appear to be the same as in regular Opera.

The version number is a tongue in cheek feature?

Your version is LVL 1 (core: 60.0.3255.50747)

Will Opera GX level up in future updates?

I will note that the download and install process is pretty routine. The only thing that would have been nice to have had from an installation point of view would have been to ask me if I’d like to use the extensions that I’d had in place with my “other” Opera installation.

At this time, that’s about it. It’s a really different experience to use in a dark space. The tabs seem to take on less importance with their dark colours but the favicons and the outlined active tab really pop off the screen.

I know that it’s early in development but it will be interesting to see where the Opera team goes with this product. It will also be interesting to see how other browsers respond. Controlling the amount of resources your browser uses is very desirable.

You can download your own copy here.

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A really quick fix that took a while


I’ve been using Linux in one form of computer or another since 2004.  It was at an ISTE conference that I attended a poster session (I was the only one; everyone else was at Apple or Microsoft based sessions) and the gentleman gave me a demo and a CD to install when I got home.

I got home; made an old computer dual bootable and haven’t looked back.  I’ve played with a number of distributions and currently am using Linux Mint on this computer and love it.  Everything is so stable and reliable compared to what’s on the other side of the hard drive.  

I also recognize that I’m not the nerdy type that compiles my own, etc. etc. but that’s OK.  If there’s one thing that Linux stands for, it’s freedom.

One of the very best things about Linux is that it can be configured to check for updates for every program on your computer at bootup.  With the move to operating system stores, this seems to be becoming adopted everywhere and I think that’s a great thing.  You should be running the latest and most secure of everything.

Anyway, since 2004, updates come along and I just acknowledge to the Update Manager to do its thing while I work on whatever it is that I want.  There’s no begging me to quit the application that I’m using so that it can be updated.  It just happens at next launch.

So, life was good until a couple of days ago when Update Manager refused to go any further until I fixed something.

Repository ‘https://deb.opera.com/opera-beta stable InRelease’ changed its ‘Origin’ value from ‘Opera Software ASA’ to ‘Opera Software AS’

How much difference could one lousy A make?  Well, it was enough to stop everything.

I put my years of training on Windows into action and rebooted the computer.  Same thing.  I deleted the offending program Opera and reinstalled.  Same thing.

So, apparently all this experience in the past wasn’t going to cut it.  I looked around the Update Manager with every menu and option I could find.  I struck out.

I was almost prepared to just delete Opera and continue to use Firefox, Chromium, or Vivaldi instead.  But that’s admitting defeat – an action I seldom like to take.

Then, from the depths of my memory, I went back to life on the command line.  It is a skill that more often than not has been replaced by some button on a GUI somewhere.  In particular, I started to wonder if the answer lied in using the APT command.

And, I was right!  It was just a matter of running “apt update” as superuser.

Oh, and replying y (not the default) to allow the change to be made to my system.  

Update Manager runs smoothly again.

So, there’s my visible thinking for today.  And, I’ll add the blogging component to make a record to myself should this ever happen again.  Eighteen years it was until I needed to solve this problem.  Who knew?

Just for one lousy, stinking “A”.

Giuseppe Verdi


This post is a big departure from the normal things on my blog but I do have license to write about whatever I want!

One of the places we pass on a particular dog walk route is the Verdi Club in Amherstburg.  Like so many clubs that you’ll find, it’s a very popular place for wedding receptions, all of my kids had their graduation there, and there’s a wonderful restaurant open to the public where we’ve been known to drop in to enjoy a night out.

Recently, a big banner has been on display announcing the recognition of Giuseppe Verdi‘s 200th birthday.

Now, I’m not a frequent visitor to the opera but there is an odd connection to me and to education!  Yes, I did accompany a fellow teacher as a chaperone on a field trip to Toronto where we did attend an opera.  But there’s another connection.

In my first year of teaching, one of the English teachers at my school happened to be patrolling the hallways after dismissal and before the buses left.  He stuck his head into my classroom (the door was always open) where I was at my desk marking and I had my portable stereo tuned to the local rock station and I was doing my thing.

I’ll still remember the conversation.

“How can you mark with that stuff on?”

My new found mentor then invited me down to his classroom to see how marking should be done.

I had not mastered the fine art of marking yet.  I never thought of it as an art; it was more of a marathon for me.

Maybe this guy has the key.  What could I lose?

I dropped down to his classroom at day end a couple of days later and, sure enough, he had music on his portable stereo.  I stuck my head in the door and saw the trick to marking.  He had opera playing on the machine and, with both hands, he was directing!  Clearing my throat to let him know I was there, I was in for a lesson.  Apparently, there was an art to holding your red pen like a conductor.  I’ll never forget what was playing – it was “La Traviata” by Verdi.

After that, I did listen to more classical music while marking but I’ll admit, I was never quite a complete convert.

But, as a tribute to that moment, and to celebrate Verdi’s birthday, I present “La Traviata”.

Looking for more?  There’s lots more on YouTube.

The Seattle Times recommends 10 recordings to listen to in honour of Verdi’s birthday.

On Twitter, look for the hashtag #Verdi200

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.

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?

Bookmarking, Part V


The same rationale that I used yesterday continues today.  If you have a good collection of bookmarks tucked away on Delicious or Diigo, then it makes a great deal of sense to search them first.  After all, you’ve already previewed them and if you’re looking at the entirety of these services, so have others.  Why not use that previously spent energy to get the best results rather than starting from scratch each time.  Yesterday, I showed you how to change the default search engine in Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.  Today, a couple more browsers.  I like that developers recognize the functionality of doing this and have support built in for customizing your choice of search engines.

In Opera, the process is similar to working with Google Chrome.  In the top right corner, you’ll find the search box.  Pull down the menu to look at the search engines already defined.  At the bottom, you’ll see the option to manage your search engine.  You’re in the right spot.  Just click on add a search engine and configure it to your satisfaction.  Here, I’m going to add Delicious as my default search engine.  The key is to get the right “Address”.  I used:

http://www.delicious.com/search?p=%s&chk=&context=userposts�7Cdougpete&fr=del_icio_us&lc=

Chances are, you’ll want to change the “dougpete” to your own account.  (unless you do want to search mine…)

 

Delicious

 

Finally, the easiest one of all.  If you’re using the latest Beta 9 of Internet Explorer, you can install a search engine like Diigo in a heartbeat.

 

diigo

 

Open the Internet Explorer browser and go to this website:  http://www.ieaddons.com/ca/  All of the Internet Explorer add ons are there.  Now, you can go browsing or find what you want quite quickly by searching for Diigo.  However you get there, just click on the orange “Add to Internet Explorer” button and the search is added.  To make it the default, click on the little cog icon and choose Internet Options and then click on options from the search defaults.  You’ll have the opportunity to make any of the search engines your default.  Choose Diigo and you’re searching your account immediately.

Hopefully, regardless of your choice of browser, you’ve done some setup and experimentation.  By searching yourself and your learning community first, you’re validating the work you put into collecting the resources in the first place.

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.

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