FireFox Add-ons To Make Your Life Easy

One thing that I love about FireFox is its vast library of add-ons. Not only does Mozilla provide an easy to search an online repository of add-ons, but installing add-ons with FireFox is easy as three clicks. Although there are many useful add-ons, there are also quite a few of not so useful add-ons – So I thought that I would share some of the add-ons that I commonly use.

  • Clipmarks – Allows you to save sections of a page, without having to book mark the entire page. Useful for saving sections of a blog or news article. *Requires registration
  • CSSViewer –  A Simple CSS Property viewer. Provides a great, web 2.0 looking, floating window that displays CSS Information about the item your cursor is currently over.
  • Dog Ears – Mark important parts of a webpage to easily relocate them. Lets you dog-ear long pages, with persistent marks, so that you can skip straight to those marks the next time you return to that page.
  • FasterFox – Performance and Network tweaks for FireFox. I would recommend that you lower the performance increase back from “Turbo Charged” to at least “Optimised”, to help prevent overloading web servers.
  • FlashGot – Download helper for FireFox. Absolute must have, especially if you have a download manager.
  • GoogCal – A very simple add-on which lets you add a Google Calendar button to your toolbar.
  • GreaseMonkey – Allows you to customise the way a webpage displays, using JavaScript. Scripts can be downloaded from userscripts.org.
  • Locationbar – Changes the look of your location bar by putting emphasis on the domain.
  • PDF Download – Allows you to choose if you want to view a PDF inside the browser, as a PDF or as HTML, or in your default PDF application. Another must have.
  • Resizeable Form Fields – Lets you click and drag form fields to increase, or decrease, their size.
  • Tab Scope – Shows a thumbnail preview of your tabs, when you hover over a tab.
  • View Formatted Source – Displays formatted and color-coded source and CSS information for elements. Great for reading messy or long HTML source.
  • Web Developer – A useful toolbar which gives you various web developer tools. Can also be useful for non-web developer as it lets you disable JavaScript and CSS.
  • Zotero – Helps you collect and manage citation information. Great if you’re doing research or you frequently require saving citation information.

One of your favourite add-ons not in the list? Post a comment with the add-ons you use.

Useful Vista Sidebar Gadgets

I always thought that the Windows Sidebar feature, included with Windows Vista, was a waste of space – Well, it does take up valuable screen real estate – however recently I’ve started using the Sidebar on a secondary display. While I would probably still not use the Sidebar on a single screen, having dual screens gives me much more real estate and provides a great location for system information and supplementary windows. That’s where the Sidebar comes in…

Previously on my laptop; I used to use Yahoo! Widgets to display information, such as remaining battery power, WiFi signal reception, etc. I found these extremely useful in the circumstance because they were individual items which I could make just big enough to see, but small enough to be imperceptible while focusing on the main tasks on hand. When it came to the desktop, however, I found these to be too disorganised and ended up cluttering the screen – that’s where the Windows Sidebar comes in. Because of it’s dockable “Sidebar” the Gadgets are easily organised to one side of the screen. A great feature with this docking ability is that if you check the “Sidebar is always on top of others windows” option it will cause maximised windows to only open up as far as the Sidebar, allowing you to always be able to see you Gadgets.

Just like FireFox add-ons, there is a fairly decent array of Gadgets available (however there are a significantly less number of Sidebar Gadgets, 1453, available compared to Yahoo! Widgets, 3808 – *numbers are from the official download sites at the time of writing). So here is a list of Gadgets, with links, that I have found most helpful so far:

  • Weather (included with the Sidebar by default) – Great for showing the current temperature. Or, if undocked, a three-day forecast.
  • Calendar (included with the Sidebar by default) – Excellent in docked view as it shows the current date in large letter, with a nice orange background.
  • Multi Sensor – A nice graphical display of system diagnostic information, such as temperature, memory usage, etc. However, you do need to be running Everest Ultimate.
  • DriveInfo – Displays Free space and drive usage (in percent) of selected drives.
  • Network Meter v2.1 – Monitors network traffic and displays the current download and upload speeds on two separate bars.
  • NetGadget – Similar to the Network Meter, however, it displays the set and received speeds on a scrolling chart.

New Kid Coming To The Block: Powerset

Powerset Inc, a Silicon Valley company, is developing a new type of search engine which does not function based on the typical Google, Yahoo or Microsoft technique of keywords. Rather it is a natural language search engine, which uses a natural language processing techniques to “read and understand every sentence on the Web”.

Although the company has not released the search engine for use, for public or private testing, they have a Powerset Labs section on their site where invited users can provide feedback on the design of the search engine. Users are also given a peek at technology demonstrations that show off the search engine’s capabilities, which currently for the lab’s purposes has only indexed Wikipedia pages. At least, that is what they are saying on their blog. You can sign up for the labs at http://labs.powerset.com/, however, there is no guarantee that you will get an invite.

There does appear to be a few problems with the site, such as the lab’s login and extended the sign-up pages timing out, but I guess these things are expected with a start-up. Especially a start-up which is gathering more and more recognition – Powerset recently presented at TechCrunch40. A video of Powerset presenting at the TechCrunch40 2007 conference can be seen on the TechCrunch20 site.

Windows Safari

Apple has just recently released Safari 3 beta and with this release, they have included an XP and Vista version, for the previously Mac only browser. Steve Jobs announced the release of Safari 3 during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (see video here) and showcased some of its features and benefits. Aside from the claims of being “the best browser ever”, Jobs also claims that Safari is 2x faster than IE7 and 1.6x faster than FireFox 2.

Personally, I’m not a fan the Mac look and feel, especially that big grey toolbar, however, there are a few features which are useful, if not at least intriguing. For example, while tabbed browser, you can drag a tab off the tab toolbar and a new window will be opened with that tabs contents displayed. Another useful feature is the ability to resize text areas, without the need for this to be implemented by the website (of course this is available in FireFox through the use of a Resizeable Form Fields extension by Justin Watt).

Aside from the aforementioned features of Safari, it does appear to render HTML quicker than IE7 and FireFox. However, there are a few bugs or unimplemented features which should be included. One notable downfall is the lack of support for the scroll wheel click feature (I’m not sure if this is lack of support for my Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 or if it’s not included at all), which is presumably a direct side effect of the mac mouse having a 360 scroll ball instead of a wheel. Another downfall I noted was that the tab toolbar does not always close once you close all of the tabs (excluding one), but granted it is only a beta I’m sure that bug will be fixed before the final release.

All-in-all I think Safari is just another standard browser really, and I’ll be sticking with FireFox for now. However, if you would like to try out the new Safari you can head to http://www.apple.com/safari/ and download your free beta copy. Or alternatively, you can download the real “best browser” from http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/. :-p

Update June 13th: Apparently there have already been several vulnerabilities found in Safari.

News.com.au Maps

Although it appears to be about 7 months old, I recently stumbled across a useful Google Maps mash-up from News.com.au. The ‘News Map‘ places 10 articles (they say 10 on their site, but it appears to be a lot more than that) from the news.com.au World and National sections on to the Google Map interface, allowing users to see where particular stories are taking place. In order to determine the geographical coordinates, Metacarta is used to extract place names from the articles and convert them into longitudinal and latitudinal references.

Of course, this isn’t the only mash-up of its kind, with others providing such Google Maps displays with articles from the Associate Press, and news.bbc.co.uk. You also have your alternative implementations, such as a map by multi.co.za, which allows users to click on a country and be presented with a list of articles, from an array of aggregated news sources, which reference that selected country.

Ridiculous Tech Obsessions

A recent article – Ten Signs You’re Tech Obsessed – on the Sydney Morning Herald website lists ten signs which may indicate that you are “too close to your technology”. The ten signs include:

  1. You forget basic bodily functions
  2. You collect ridiculous accessories
  3. You check your email on Sunday … at 3am
  4. You know your mates by their online ‘handles’ rather than their real names
  5. Your favourite song goes “beep”
  6. Instead of laughing, you say ‘LOL’
  7. You answer your mobile phone when you’re on a date
  8. You change their ‘outfits’ depending on their ‘mood’
  9. You own a BlackBerry
  10. You speak in a secret language

Now I don’t own a BlackBerry, but I’m pretty sure that I can relate to more than one of those signs. Ok, so maybe I might be highly “involved” with my technology but I just can’t understand what the people in their real-life example were thinking to go as far as losing their life or taking the life of another. Some of the more ludicrous examples included:

  • A 24-year-old South Korean man dies after an 86-hour gaming session.
  • An Alabama man who killed a policeman blames his addiction to Grand Theft Auto for the crime. A jury later dismisses the excuse and finds him guilty.
  • Conscripts in Finland use internet addiction to avoid military service.
  • A South Korean man dies after 50 hours of non-stop computer gaming.
  • China opens its first internet addiction clinic; and
  • An English bus driver is sacked for playing games on his handheld device while driving.

Wireless

I don’t think that you actually appreciate the benefits of having a wireless connection until you actually get one. Having always been on a wired network connection, first with a Coaxial cable and then with a more modern cat-5 cable, I have always been privileged of having extra storage space, shared an internet connection, etc, etc, etc. However, it wasn’t until recently when I received my Sony Vaio VGN-S460 with built in wireless that I have actually come to appreciate the wireless technologies.

I have always been intrigued by the benefits of having a wireless connection but was never really keen to change to a wireless connection because of the slower transfer rate (11/54Mbps as opposed to the 10/100/1000Mbps of a wired network) and the actual expense that is involved in changing from the wired network to the wireless network. Although I still use the existing wired network for my desktop computer (simply because the transfer rate is much faster and it is already there) when I’m at uni, and hopefully when I’m at home soon, I use the wireless abilities of the laptop.

The great thing about having the laptop is that I no longer have to wait around for a computer if I’m not near a free lab room. General if I want to use a computer at the university I will just head over to the Information Technology Library and wait in line for a spare computer, leaving me with only a few minutes to actually use the machine. Now with the laptop, all I have to do is simply go near a wireless hotspot, connect to the network and I’m away. No more waiting, no more being restricted to using the software of the university machines and no more being restricted to the library or finding free computer labs.

Link: Web2Messenger

Web2Messenger.com is a brand-new service that allows people to send you messages from the web to MSN Messenger. You can redirect people to your personal Send Message page, or create your own Send Message page on your blog or personal website. You can even send a member a message when he or she is offline – your message will be delivered as soon as the recipient gets online!

Currently, in its beta stage, web2messenger, is only available by invite. I managed to get my hands on an invite and have been checking the new service out, soon there will be a page where you can send me MSN messenger from this site, without having to be logged in to MSN, or even having an account. What’s also great about this service is that it allows messages to be sent even when you are offline, it just stores them in their database and sends them when you come back online, you can also check your messages on their website, with details such as the sender, time and the actual message.

Optimus Keyboard

I never thought I could be amazed over a keyboard, but I am. Designer Artemy Lebedev has been creating – along with Timur Burbayev, Alexey Zalata, Nikolai Vershinin and Anna Ponomaryova – a new keyboard, called Optimus. The Optimus keyboard does not only look nice and smooth but “every key of the Optimus keyboard is a stand-alone display showing exactly what it is controlling at this very moment”!