// 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.

Profiles?

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.

Plugins?

  • 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.

RSS?

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.

Geek Sanity Tip: Make Everyone Run the Same Software

Posted in Microsoft Windows XP and Vista, Technology by engtech on September 01, 2008

Working With Windows

Much like how doctor’s get bombarded with medical questions, being the alpha geek in any family or group of friends means you’ll get asked questions about computers. There’s only one way to stay sane: get everyone you know to run the same software.

Outlook vs Gmail

Case in point, I’ve had to support Microsoft Outlook for over a decade now even though the last time I used it was in 1997. Even though I switched from Outlook to Thunderbird, and then Gmail I’ve had this albatross of questions hanging around my neck. If I could convince everyone I know to switch to gmail I wouldn’t have to worry about problems like:

For me the main advantages to using gmail instead of a desktop based client are:

  • Access email from any computer
  • No “downloading email” wait time
  • NO VIRUSES! Everything is virus scanned any nothing is downloaded on to your computer without your express interaction
  • The best junk mail filtering available
  • Incredibly fast search that works so much better than manually organizing emails
  • You can keep your old email address and still use gmail as your mail program
  • Offline support with Google Gears
  • Automatically signs into other Google services like Blogger and Reader

There are many instructions on switching from Outlook to Gmail using special software like Gmail Loader (or gExodus), by temporarily setting up a mail server to importing into Gmail using IMAP, or using POP. With that last method, you can transparently use gmail while keeping your old email address.

Internet Explorer vs Mozilla Firefox

I love Firefox because of all the ways I can extend it with Greasemonkey and because of ad-block plus. Internet Explorer isn’t as bad as it used to be, but you’ll still run into strange headaches like how much more difficult it is to subscribe to an RSS feed using Google Reader in Internet Explorer than in Firefox.

Filesharing

I was a long time Azeurus bittorrent user, but I’ve found it hard to explaining to anyone else how to use the program, not to mention how poorly it performs. uTorrent is so much simplier to use, and it is so much easier to explain to other people how to use it. These are the uTorrent settings I use to work well with Rogers Canada.

uTorrent seems to work better than Azureus or the original Bit Torrent client, and I really like how it defaults to selecting individual files in a torrent to download. It also seems to have much less virii than the older quality P2P applications like Limewire and Soulseek.

There are quite a few legitimate uses of bittorrent. A lot of excellent free software is distributed using bittorrent, and as older movies, books and music comes into the public domain it is being hosted on bittorrent networks. People are sharing their public domain podcasts and video casts using bittorrent as well.

Norton Antivirus vs Anything Else

The other big problem I run into as the computer tech person is “my computer is slow”. The culprit is an easy find: Norton Antivirus. Norton Antivirus is a virus because it is more detrimental to your computer performance than actually having a virus. Nobody likes Norton Antivirus.

We’ve been trying out AVG Free as an alternative, but ran into issues with how user unfriendly it is (finding virii in the Recycling Bin, finding virii in the Outlook Deleted Trash and the difficulty in deleting the virii). Leave a comment if you have any suggestions of which antivirus to use for casual home users who aren’t tech saavy.

I keep hearing about NOD32, Kapersky, or Clamwin.

The World’s Stupidest Productivity Tip: Open All in Tabs

Lifehacks and Productivity

Here’s a stupidly easy tip for web browsing that can be a real time saver. It works in Firefox or Internet Explorer (and maybe even Safari). The trick is to bookmark all of the websites you commonly visit as one group so that you can open them all at once when it comes time for your daily maintenance.

For me, the list is:

Step 1: Open your favorite sites in tabs

Keep using Ctrl-T or middle-click to open sites in a new tab until you have a list of all the sites you normally visit at the start of a day.

Step 2: Bookmark the open tabs as a group.

This is where the magic happens. Instead of individually saving the bookmarks, you save them as a group/folder so that you can open them all at once.

In Firefox, use Bookmarks >> Bookmark All Tabs (Ctrl-Shift-D)

Hot Tip: Save to group under Bookmarks Toolbar so that they’ll be accessible from your Firefox toolbar.

In Internet Explorer, use Favorites >> Add Tab Group to Favorites

Step 3: Organize your bookmarks

If you want to remove a link from your group (because Facebook is a timesink) then you can use the organize feature of your web browser to add or delete bookmarks, or to reorder them.

In Firefox, use Bookmarks >> Organize Boomarks (Ctrl-Shift-B)

In Internet Explorer, use Favorites >> Organize Favorites

Step 4: Opening the group all at once

In Firefox, you can navigate to your bookmarks using the toolbar or the Bookmarks drop-down menu (depending on where you saved them in step 2) and choose Open All in Tabs.

In Internet Explorer, it’s a bit more complicated.

  • Click on the Star (for favorites)
  • Click on the arrow beside the tab group you just created

After that’s all done, you’ve probably saved yourself a few minutes a day of having to switch between sites you check out very often. Because they all start loading at the same time, it’s pretty quick to jump between them and grab the information you need.

Simple and Secure Computer Access While Traveling

Posted in Firefox and Greasemonkey, Lifehacks, Technology by engtech on July 28, 2008

Lifehacks and Productivity

There are no great solutions for accessing the Internet while travelling. Bringing a laptop has the convience that it is much easier to find free wi-fi than it is to find a computer with Internet access, but then you have the pain of bringing a laptop with you.

One solution is to use a USB key (USB thumb drive) to store your commonly used applications. So long as you have access to a computer with Internet you’ll be able to access the net with the applications, passwords and settings you’re comfortable with even if it’s at a pay-by-the-minute café, the business center at your hotel, or dial-up at a relative’s house. You don’t have to worry about your login information getting stolen because you aren’t leaving anything behind — everything is stored on your USB key.

You may even want to do this for any personal computer in a corporate environment. Lay offs could be around the corner, and you’ll be secure in the knowledge that your work PC won’t have any personal traces left behind after you’ve left the company because there was nothing personal on it in the first place.

This guide will show you how to:

  • Build an Encrypted PortableApps Drive
  • Download Portable Apps on to Your Encrypted USB Drive
  • Installing Firefox on your Encryped USB Drive
  • Installing a Live USB Linux Distro
  • Portable iTunes on Your iPod
  • Portable Remote Desktop Using LogMeIn

USB-Flash-Drive by _ES.
Photo by endlessstudio

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Filtering Reddit and Hacker News

Posted in Firefox and Greasemonkey, Reddit, Technology by engtech on May 23, 2008

Social Bookmarking and Social Voting

Giles had a fantastic rant this week that cut to the heart of what’s wrong with all of these “social web application sites”:

People who waste their own time have, in effect, more votes than people who value it – to elevate bad but popular ideas and irretrievably sink independent thinking.

It’s analogous to what’s wrong with the entire massively online roleplaying game genre (eg: World of Warcraft) in that success is a greater factor of the time invested than of skill or talent. Many social web applications add extra features to keep the users interacting with the site, even if this interaction offers dubious value to their lives.

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How to Profile Greasemonkey Scripts with Firebug

Posted in Firefox and Greasemonkey, Programming Tools, Technology by engtech on November 13, 2007

Programming Tips

Running performance analysis on Greasemonkey scripts can be a pain in the butt. They aren’t part of a webpage so standard tools for analyzing web sites don’t work… or do they?

The Goal

Profiling Greasemonkey scripts with Firebug

What You’ll Need

  1. Firefox
  2. Greasemonkey
  3. Firebug extension

The Trick

#1: You need to remove all of the Greasemonkey GM_* functions from the script you want to profile. This is easier than it sounds because all of the functions can be performed by plain ‘ole javascript (except for the open in new tab function and register menu command).

#2: You need to embed your Greasemonkey script inside of the running page so you can analyze it with Firebug’s profile tool. I have a function below that can embed a function inside the current web page.

#3: You’ll need to call the function either using unsafeWindow or by embedding a call to the function in the page.

#4: Litter your code with calls to Firebug’s console.profile() and console.time() functions.

Sample Code Template


(function() {
  function embedFunction(s) {
document.body.appendChild(document.createElement('script')).innerHTML =
s.toString().replace(/([\s\S]*?return;){2}([\s\S]*)}/,'$2');
 }

  function myKickassGreasemonkeyScript() {
    console.profile();
    // Put everything you need for your Greasemonkey script in here
    // Don't use any of the GM_* functions!

function kickass() {
      console.time("Block1");
      // Block of code that might take a lot of time
      console.time("Block2");
      // another block of code
      console.timeEnd("Block2");

      console.timeEnd("Block1");

    }

// more cowbell

console.profileEnd();
  }

  embedFunction(myKickassGreasemonkeyScript);
  // Method 1: embed the function call into the current page
  document.body.appendChild(document.createElement('script')).innerHTML = "myKickassGreasemonkeyScript();";
  // Method 2: directly call the function using unsafeWindow
//     window.addEventListener("load", function(e) {
//                   unsafeWindow.myKickassGreasemonkeyScript();
//                   this.removeEventListener('load',arguments.callee,false);
//                 }, false);

 })();

Firebug Tutorial

Michael Sync has a tutorial on using Firebug that describes the console.time() and console.profile() functions. The official website has a nice list of Firebug keyboard shortcuts and a brief description of all the console.* functions.

Related Posts

How I Use Google Reader

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

Software

“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.

Best of Feeds – 30 links – programming, productivity, code, socialsoftware, socialnetworking

Posted in Best of Feeds by engtech on September 29, 2007

RSS feeds are like cookies (that are good enough for me). Best of Feeds is a weekly collection of the best stuff I saw on the Internet this week. They’re saved on delicious and stumbleupon and cross-posted to Twitter and Tumblr as they happen and then collected together on Saturdays. I don’t blog on the weekend so read these links instead.

Subscribe to //engtech to see this every week (or get it by email).

Legend

  • saves – number of people who bookmarked on http://del.icio.us
  • inbound links – number of blogs who linked to it (max 100)
  • diggs – number of people who dugg on http://digg.com

This Week at Internet Duct Tape

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