// Internet Duct Tape

Why Google Chrome Isn’t My Default Browser

Web Browser Tips & Tricks

Google Chrome has been public for all of about 30 minutes now. I am very impressed with how fast it downloads and installs, with almost no need for user prompts (except to close your web browser so it can import bookmarks/passwords). It’s fast as fast can be.

I can’t get over how fast it is. If you type “about:memory” into the address/search bar you’ll see a memory comparison between Chrome and any other web browsers you’re currently running. It uses so much less memory than Firefox.

Lifehacker has a good round-up of what’s “new” in Chrome, as well as ways to tweak Firefox to get the same features. But I can’t switch to Chrome because of my dependency on multiple profiles and my Firefox extensions.


Multiple profiles let me log into Gmail with different user accounts at the same time, and keep my browsing history and bookmarks separate from my girlfriend who shares the computer with me.

Heck, I keep my blogging related bookmarks separated from my Joe Public bookmarks for my day-to-day email, Facebook, and job related stuff so I can be more productive.


  • I can’t log into my accounts without Password Hasher. Not only do I not use the same password for every account, I don’t even KNOW my password for most accounts.
  • I don’t want to surf the web without Ad-block.
  • I’ve written so many custom Greasemonkey scripts that are unavailable on Chrome.
  • I don’t want to even think about doing any kind of web stuff without Firebug at my beck and call.
  • I’m missing my Delicious tag button for bookmarking.


There doesn’t seem to be any RSS auto-discovery in Chrome. I hate how painful it is to subscribe to feeds in Google Reader using Internet Explorer, it looks like it’ll be even worse in Chrome.

Chrome looks very cool, but I think anyone who has been reading Lifehacker for the past few years is going to find they’re missing too much of what is “essential” to them. It’s really too bad, because I’d love to run some Greasemonkey scripts inside of Chrome with it’s better memory debugging. I’m hoping that one of the big brained Googlers figures out a way to transparently run Greasemonkey userscripts so we don’t have the same Firefox vs Opera vs Internet Explorer vs Safari development sinkhole.

On the other hand, Chrome might be the best thing ever for people who use Internet Explorer and aren’t co-dependent on all of Firefox’s wonderful extensions.

Delete It – Tips for Managing Information Overload

Lifehacks and Productivity

We’re deep into the beginning of the Information Age, as you can see from the propagation of information aggregators like Google Reader and the meta-aggregators like Friend Feed. There’s only one tip for handling information saturation that has any success: delete it.


How to Subscribe to RSS Feeds with Google Reader and Internet Explorer

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, RSS Syndication, Technology by engtech on November 08, 2007

Mastering the Google

In August I was being the dutiful son and trying to get my father hooked on RSS feeds. (It’s like the Ring — if you get someone hooked on RSS you no longer have 700 unread items in Google Reader)

I hit a snag: his browser of choice is Internet Explorer and there wasn’t a simple way to “one-click subscribe” like there is in Firefox. I couldn’t come up with a quick solution while I was there, but I did bitch about it afterwards which lead to one of my readers coming up with a solution using Google Toolbar. Thanks!

To Install

Step 1: Install Google Toolbar (if you don’t already have it)

Step 2: Install the Add to Google Reader button for the toolbar

To Use

Step 1: Click on an RSS feed link

Subscribe to feed
Click to subscribe using RSS

Step 2: Click on the RSS icon in the Google Toolbar

subscribe with Google Reader and Internet Explorer

Step 3: Choose the Subscribe with Google Reader option

one click subscribe with google reader

The only gotcha is that you have to click on the feed URL before clicking on the Add to Google Reader button. This is because the Google Toolbar Button API doesn’t support RSS feed autodiscovery (something they’ll hopefully rectify). It’s still not as simple as subscribing to a feed with Firefox, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Thanks for helping me with this Eric, this is a great example of the lazyweb in action.

For the geeks in the audience, building a custom button is quite easy. I’m going to have to give it a try some time.

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<custombuttons xmlns="http://toolbar.google.com/custombuttons/">
    <title>Add to Google Reader</title>
    <description>Add to Google Reader</description>

Avoid Prime Real Estate for Live.com Email Address Landrush

Microsoft’s live.com is offering email addresses, and the usual land grab rush is on to “secure” your identity on the service. What most people don’t realize is that securing a “prime real estate” email address is probably the LAST thing you want to do.

An obvious email address suffers from an insidious kind of spam you’ll never be able to properly filter or get rid of: I’m talking about wrongly addressed email.

(photo by planeta)

As a gmail beta tester I was lucky enough to grab several firstname@gmail.com accounts and a couple of firstinitiallastname@gmail.com accounts. It was fine for the first year, but it has rapidly gone downhill as Gmail has risen in popularity. Now when I check my primary email account I’m lucky if one in four emails were intended for me.

I’ll get university class mailing lists, church lists, hotel bookings, and account signups by the handful. [1] It’s the digital equivalent to rifling through the magazine rack for subscription cards to sign up your ex. Except there’s no malice behind it; only ignorance and carelessness.



jqpublic@live.com john@live.com
jpublic77@live.com jpublic@live.com
johnqpublic@live.com johnpublic@live.com

Possible email address for John Q Public

What makes it doubly-worse is that with many email programs automatically collecting any correspondence to your address book means that telling someone they have the wrong address might be enough to get you added to their address book forever. If you choose an email address with your last name, chances are that the people emailing you might have the same last name — automatic address collection means that you’ll be on the receiving end of each other’s Christmas newsletters for who knows how long.

I know I sound ridiculous, but you really can’t appreciate the number of similar email accounts on services like @gmail, @hotmail, @yahoo and now @live until you get a popular email address and start seeing the effect of several people who give out the wrong account name — yours.

Related Posts

[1] And out of all those wrongly addressed emails there was only one mis-sent dirty letter.

Password Recovery — The Achilles Heel of Your Online Security

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, Technology by engtech on October 31, 2007


I had a fun surprise when I woke up this morning: I was locked out of my Gmail account. I sometimes play in bad neighbourhoods on the internet, and this immediately brought up worries of that I might have a keylogger Trojan, but a system scan revealed nothing. The actual truth of what happened was much stranger…

password recovery - locked out of my gmail account

Like most people who grew up in the last quarter of the 20th century I have been inundated with information technology since a very young age. I had one email address in high school, two others during university, and new email addresses with each job and change of internet service providers. For the last few years I’ve been stabilized on Gmail, but I still switch between four different accounts (real name, nickname, gaming, blog). Schizophrenic? Yes.

Email aside, I use around twelve different online user accounts over the course of a week, and many more irregularly. When it comes to those dusty accounts I often have to use the password recovery feature to retrieve my login information over email. Despite my distaste for OpenID, I have to admit that I see the appeal. Password recovery works fine only if you can remember which email account you used to sign up with and you still have access to it. Jobs change, ISPs’ switch, and that free web-based email account you got in 1999 eventually goes down.

It was that last scenario that blindsided me. Like any other web account, Gmail’s recover password feature will send a verification message to your secondary email address on file. In my case that secondary email address was a free account I used infrequently in the hazy years following the turn of the century. Because I used it so infrequently I had no idea that it had been sold and was under new ownership. And I would have remained ignorant for much longer if I hadn’t been using a common name for my gmail account.

Being a Gmail beta tester had it’s perks, one of which was being able to grab the good names before anyone else could. But as Gmail became more popular, that perk changed into a disadvantage: the world is full of idiots who don’t know what their email address is and put down your email address instead. The amount of spam I receive is almost equal to the amount of misdirected email I get because Erica T. put down the wrong email address when the professor was handing the sheet around the classroom. Often these savants trigger the Gmail password recovery cycle as they try to log in to “their” account.

I ignore these password recovery emails the same way as I ignore the misdirected emails. Unfortunately, the good Samaritan who bought the domain my password recovery email was pointing to wasn’t as laissé-faire. Things were eventually sorted out, but not before I had a heart palpitation when he tried to do me a favour by changing my Gmail password and trying to find an alternate means of contacting me. Don’t let this happen to you, and make sure you know what email address the password recovery feature is going to use for your most important accounts.

How to Change Your Secondary Email Address and Your Security Question With Gmail

Click on the Google Accounts Settings link. (It’s hidden in Gmail under Settings >> Accounts).

Click on the Change Security Question link.

gmail change your security question

Change your security question or your secondary email.

gmail change your password recovery email

The Moral of the Story Is…

Well, I’m not quite sure what the moral of the story is, to be honest. Obviously, there is something to be said for having one email address and keeping it for as long as you can. There is something else to be said for using an email provider who requires voice confirmation with personal identifying information before changing your password. Don’t get me started on the benefits of having an account name that other people are unlikely to use.

I know that I’ve got a long boring task ahead of me over the upcoming weeks. I have to assume that any other accounts that were linked to that email address could have been compromised in the 12 hours I lost control of my account. Searches of the trash and sent folders showed no tampering, but that means nothing since a smart person would have just downloaded all of the mail and started data mining with a copy. Can I safely assume because the guy went out of his way to contact me to restore access to my account that nothing bad happened to it? Would you?

How I Use Google Reader

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, How I Use, Software by engtech on October 18, 2007


“How I Use” is a new series I’m starting about the software I use on a day-to-day basis. I want share tips and tricks and to learn tips and tricks from readers sharing with me in the comments.

Google Reader is a web-based RSS reader. Because it’s web-based I can access my Google Reader from multiple places (home PC, home laptop, work PC, visiting family, etc) and all of my information is stored and updated in one place. I use the Firefox web-browser with the Greasemonkey extension.

Google Reader is an RSS reader

RSS can be best described as a stream of news. Instead of visiting different websites at a time, you subscribe to them and you get all of the updates from the websites you follow in one place. For me that one place is Google Reader. This video will describe RSS and why you would want to subscribe to an RSS feed.

Subscribing to a Feed

I subscribe to feeds either by clicking on the feed link directly or by using the autodiscovery feed option in Firefox.

rss feed auto-discovery

The first time you subscribe to a feed, Firefox will display the feed in a nice, human readable way, with a yellow box asking you what you want to use to subscribe to this feed. Choose the Google option and chose the option to always use Google to subscribe to feeds.

always use google reader to subscribe to rss

Unfortunately, Google isn’t smart enough to remember your preference between Google Reader and Google Homepage — so you have to always chose the red pill or the blue pill. There is a handy Greasemonkey script to fix that though: always subscribe to Google Reader.

Accessing Google Reader

I access Google Reader by typing reader.google.com into my address bar or by clicking on the Google Reader icon in the Google Toolbar.

  1. Install Google Toolbar
  2. Install Google Reader button for Google Toolbar

Setting Up My View

Google Reader lets you save your view settings which ever way you like them. I like to view all items at a time instead of sorting them by tags (I’ll switch to tag view if I don’t have time to read all my feeds and I want to focus on a specific subject).

google reader all items

I click on the Expanded view tab in the top right hand so that I can see titles and the body of each item.

google reader expanded view

I turn off the left sidebar by clicking the left margin or pressing ‘u’ on the keyboard.

google reader remove sidebar

Then I click on the View Settings drop-down and choose sort by newest and set as start page.

google reader save settings

Now Google Reader will remember these settings every time I log in.

Navigating Feeds

I read feeds by

  • using the middle mouse wheel to scroll down the page with my right hand
  • my left hand hovers over the ‘j’ and ‘k’ keys on my keyboard
  • ‘j’ jumps past a post that I don’t find interesting enough to read completely
  • ‘k’ jumps back to the previous post if I decide that I do want to read it

I find quickly scanning through full posts like this lets me read many more feeds than if I have to click on the titles I find interesting.

Opening Links

I open links I want to read by

  • clicking on the link with my middle mouse button to open it in a background tab

When I get around 10 links I take a break from reading feeds and go through all of those open tabs, closing them as I’m done with them.

Read a Post Later

If I come across a blog post that’s too dense to read at the moment I’ll use the Readeroo extension to save it to delicious with the toread tag. Readroo will let me fetch it later, and mark it as read.

Leaving a Blog Comment

When I find a blog post I want to comment on

  • I hit the ‘v’ key to jump to the post on the blog
  • hit the ‘end’ key on my keyboard to go the bottom of the post
  • press ‘alt+c’ to fill in my name / email address / blog url thanks to the handy prefill comments Greasemonkey script
  • write my comment and click send
  • press ‘ctrl+w’ to close the tab and return to my Google Reader tab

Bookmarking a Blog Post

When I find a blog post I want to save for my ‘Best of Feeds’ series

  • I hit the ‘v’ key to jump to the post on the blog
  • click on the ‘TAG’ button in my toolbar to save it to delicious

Google Reader has it’s own mechanism for sharing and bookmarking posts but I don’t find it nearly as useful or as fast as delicious. That might change with time.

I’ve seen a Greasemonkey script that lets you bookmark the post from within Google Reader, but I prefer using the official delicious extension to bookmark posts because of other enhancements I’ve made to it.

How Do You Use Google Reader?

The reason for writing a post like this isn’t only because I want to share how I do something, but because I also want to learn tricks I might not know about. Got a trick I’m missing out on? Please leave it in the comments, or write your own blog post about it and send a trackback.

Are you making the most out of Google Search? (by guest blogger Ashish Mohta)

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, Technology by Guest Blogger on April 12, 2007

This post is by a guest blogger.

Ashish writes about security and technology at Technospot.net

Quick Tips on how to Search Using Google

One of the major complaints people have is “I can’t find this on google.” Which is surprising, because it’s the best search engine. It all comes down to knowing how to search. Here are some quick tips to help you become better at searching.


The Secret Behind Why Blog Readers Unsubscribe

Posted in Building a Community, Google Calendar and Gmail, Technology by engtech on March 16, 2007

paperboy rss readerRSS is a way of subscribing to news/blog feeds that keeps track of new updates and what you have already read. It’s like having your very own little paperboy trapped inside the computer scouring the Internet for the things you like to read (except not nearly as creepy and possibly illegal). RSS is the best way to keep track of several sites with the minimal amount of hassle. It’s also one of the few reliable ways to find out how many people are regularly read your blog.

//engtech RSS feed

Darren at ProBlogger leveraged his 20,000 RSS readers and polled them to find out why people unsubscribe from blog RSS feeds. They came up with a list of 34 reasons. The top three reasons people unsubscribe from RSS feeds is because there are too many posts, there are too few posts or because the blog uses partial feeds. Partial feeds are when the RSS feed only shows a snippet of post and you have to click through to the blog to read the entire thing.

Why do readers unsubscribe from rss feed subscriptions like feedburner?

That’s an interesting contradiction! Obviously, the solution is to have a consistent posting rhythm, but why is there such a schism between people unsubscribing because of too few or too many posts?

The answer is in which RSS application they use.

Which RSS reader people use greatly affects how they interact with and view RSS feeds. Different RSS readers will have different features and limitations that will change the user’s behaviour. I’ve tried out Firefox Sage, Netvibes, Google Personal Homepage, Bloglines and Google Reader (in that order) and these are the conclusions I’ve drawn.


Google Custom Search Engines

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, Links, Technology, Web 2.0 and Social Media by engtech on October 24, 2006

Google has rolled out a new “custom search engine” feature that is going to knock some start-ups like Rollyo dead in the water. It’s simple to set up a custom search for a list of sites. I’ve already created a life hack search engine (example search: how to stop drinking coffee) for searching about common life improving tasks. Creating engines is simple, but what is nice is that they’ve added features so that you can brand the engine, collaboratively develop it with other people, as well as collect AdSense revenues. There is a real incentive to use your expertise to build a top-notch engine.

I predict the rapid development of 356,724 custom search engines that aren’t refined after the first week. After around a few months there should some clear domain specific engines with real expertise behind them.

UPDATE: Fellow wp.com-er Vik Singh made a pretty sweet tech search engine and posted the instructions (via Scoble).

UPDATE 2006/11/15: Google Blogoscoped gives a tutorial on advanced custom search engine tweaking

(FT, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch Blog, TechCrunch, Matthew Ingram, Google OS, Blogoscope, Problogger, Slashdot)

Comments Off on Google Custom Search Engines

Find what you’re really looking for with Google Code Search

Years ago I had to take over maintaining scripting infrastructure for a build environment that was written in a language called Expect. Expect is a TCL package focused on dealing with interactive processes. It was also very different than anything I’d worked with before, and I kept shooting myself in the foot with every simple change I had to make.

Part of the problem was trying to maintain something without taking the time to learn the language, but what really made my blood boil was trying to search for Expect code snippets. Expect is a common word, so good luck finding a web page devoted to the language. Thankfully times have changed and Google now knows that you’re looking for information about Expect the language.

Google has a new product on the market that might fix problems like what I used to have with Expect. Google Code Search lets you search within source code. What makes it really powerful is that it supports regular expressions and it supports limiting search results to specific languages and filenames.

Read more to find out what Google Code Search is good for (finding bugs and passwords)

How to access Gmail when it is blocked at work or school

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, Lifehacks, Popular Posts, Technology by engtech on October 04, 2006

My friend Mike asked me if there was a quick way to get around the firewall that keeps him from being able to access his Gmail at work. I was surprised at how easy it is.

I don’t understand why Gmail gets blocked at work. I think it is much better that people are having their personal conversations using iluvkfed69@gmail.com instead of representing the company with every list of jokes, funny images, or comical videos they forward.

But enough of my diatribe against poor policies in the workplace. You can access Gmail using a different URL! They usually only block some of the web addresses.


Unofficial software development cycle at Google

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, Programming and Software Development, Technology by engtech on September 30, 2006

I’m another one of those starry-eyed geeks who looks at Google with a moonstruck gaze and wishes I could work in a “developers, developers, developers“-centric company-slash-utopia. A rant like this one by Steve Yegge becomes a much treasured road map to the Holy Land.

I think I’m the last person on the Internet to read this (it’s at 141 comments so far), so tossing out a link is rather pointless… but I’ll do it anyways because

  • if you’re still at work at this point on a Friday afternoon you could probably use a well-written, humorous (if slightly long) rant and
  • if you’re not at work at this point then comparing your company to Google might be a great way increase your motivational mojo on a Monday morning (or maybe not).

Who is Stevey? He’s a former Amazon employee who now works at Google. I think Joel Spolsky sums it up best when he says:

“Recently I sat down with a long list of nominations [for the Best Software Writing 2] and worked through them. When I was done, I was extremely depressed to discover that there wasn’t enough material for a whole new book, and what I did find was 50% Stevey. It didn’t seem fair to give him half the book. “

>> How software teams work at Google or “Good agile, Bad Agile” from Steve’s blog

>> Stevey’s Drunken Blog Rants from when he used to work at Amazon

Like this post? You may also be interested in Google’s hiring strategy, and Blogging as Unofficial Corporate Representation.

Google to World: Linking is Good

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, Technology, Web 2.0 and Social Media by engtech on September 19, 2006

Forgive me Father for it has been 35 and 1/2 days since I posted about Google. Despite having not really living up to the deep love affair I had for them in 1999 (other than Gmail), it’s nice when Google does something to spark my interest again like teaching a couple of Belgian Newspapers about linking.

Attention is good. It is never, ever bad to show up in search results. Unless of course you don’t want random strangers to find you and know things about you — as a newspaper that is not the case.

Filing a court order to get Google to remove all links to you? That’s suicide if you’re in the media business.

>> Ballsy Google Kicks Belgian Newspapers’ Asses

UPDATE 2006/09/26

>> Google’s Official Response

Whenever something like this happens Google has to subtly remind websites that they can opt-out of showing up in search results with the robots.txt file.

Comments Off on Google to World: Linking is Good

ScheduleWorld now supports automatic synching with Google Calendar

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, Links, Technology by engtech on September 18, 2006

Mark Swanson of ScheduleWorld has announced (giving us the scoop, no less!) that ScheduleWorld now supports automatic synching of GoogleCalendar.

This is pretty big news. He also mentions that everyone needs to update their settings because he no longer stores Google username/password information, instead he uses the Google authorization API.

He also mentions that you probably want to update your Funambol clients because of bugs that were fixed.


Guide on How to Setup Two or More Gmail Accounts to Use One Account (Create, Forward, Link)

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, Lifehacks, Popular Posts, Technology by engtech on September 11, 2006

I have one Gmail account I use to check the mail from 10-12 different accounts I’ve created. I create different Gmail accounts for different online activities:

  • For friends
  • For resume/job hunting
  • For professional use
  • For this blog
  • For video games and video game modding

I set all of the accounts to forward to one Gmail inbox. When someone sends an email to any of these accounts, Gmail will automatically respond as that account even though I’m logged into a different Gmail account.

This is how I do it.


Brought to You By Google Writely

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, Technology by engtech on August 29, 2006

I tried Google’s Writely for the first time with the previous post. I’m pretty impressed, so far. It has all the WYSIWYG features I expect after using the WordPress.com blog editor, but doesn’t have nearly the same lag (or the same knack WordPress.com has for crashing if I play iTunes in the background).


The Holy Grail of Synchronization: combining Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar, Gmail, iPod, and mobile phone

The Holy Grail of Synchronization

2008/03/06: Google now official supports synching between Google Calendar and Outlook

Last updated: 2006/09/19

This is a guide for synchronizing Contacts (address book) and Calendars (schedule) across multiple computers and gadgets.

Common terms:

  • synchronization – making the information the same on two different applications
  • WAP/GPRS – wireless Internet access for mobile phones
  • SyncML – a synchronization protocol

This is the setup I am trying to sync:

  • Calendars
  • Contacts
    • Gmail for email addresses
    • Microsoft Outlook at home for contacts
  • Gadgets
    • Nokia 6682 for access to contacts/calendar on the go (or any mobile phone that has software to synchronize with Microsoft Outlook, ie: all of them)
    • iPod for access to contacts/calendar on the go

ScheduleWorld wasn’t something I used before I tried to do this, but it is the glue that holds it all together.

Here is a beautiful drawing of The Plan. It was made with Gliffy, a web-based Visio clone.

The Holy Grail of Synchronization

Read the rest of this article

Breaking News: Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” may help you get lucky.

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, Links, Technology by engtech on August 02, 2006

Dream girl finds appreciative Microsoft employee thanks to overzealousness of trusting the first link in Google search results.

>> Rory Blyth – Neopoleon.com – Google a Girl

I’m showing up 4th in Google’s search results for engtech, but don’t tell my girlfriend.

Google New Service Speculation // Tony Ruscoe

Posted in Asides, Google Calendar and Gmail, Technology by engtech on July 28, 2006

Tony Ruscoe finds out how to access a test account in Google Sandbox, and speculates on the results

  • Local (AKA Local Business Center)
    Google Local (now known as Google Maps) where you can create, edit, or suspend your Google Local business listing.
  • Google Weaver
    Most suspect it’s going to be some kind of Medical Scrapbook.
  • Google WiFi
    Free wireless Internet service offered to the city of Mountain View.
  • Google Online Assessment
    Assess job candidates online?
  • Google Real Estate Search
  • Mobile Marketplace
  • Google Workplace
    Microsoft Office killer?

Much more information and speculation is available at Tony’s site.

>> Tony Ruscoe’s Blog: What’s in Google’s Sandbox? – Tony Ruscoe – Ruscoe.net – Blog – Photos – Portfolio

>> 55 Ways to Have Fun With Google (available as a book and as a free PDF download)

Google Code Project Hosting – A replacement for Sourceforge?

There is a new entry into the open source software code repository space: Google Code – Project Hosting. This will hopefully be a long awaited kick in the pants for Sourceforge.net which hosts many, many projects but it can be difficult to find the cream of the crop, compare similar solutions and weed dead projects from the results.

Update: I assume that the reader is already familiar with Sourceforge and I focus on what Google is bringing to the table.

Update: I wrote a guide on getting started with Subversion and Google Code hosting

Google Project Hosting Features:

The interface is clean, compact and concise. It is missing the abundant clutter that permeates Sourceforge and most programming tools. Avoiding “too many options” is something Google understands well.

After the break, all the features of Google Code Project Hosting as of launch 2006/07/28.