Mike Thoene

Web Browsers

The only three Firefox addons a regular internet user needs. Yes, three.

by on Feb.12, 2010, under Web Browsers

There are tons of blogs out there these days that are raving about “50 Firefox addons worth a view”, or something along those lines. Well you know what, whoever wrote those probably never really used all 50 of those addons to make their opinion worth anything. This is one of those quality over quantity things. I think there are really only 3 addons that are actually necessary for regular internet users. Most people don’t need to know about the other 47, so let’s just stick to the basics.

AdBlock Plus

About a month ago we had an article here about ABP, and I want to reiterate a little bit about this. ABP is the first thing I install every time I have a chance to install Firefox on to a clients computer, of course with their permission. ABP simply gets rid of advertisements. Sometimes I really get confused because I wonder how websites like Omegle make money. Omegle is a random-user-chat-room, that’s a different story. I actually had to ask someone how a website like that made money, and they mentioned the ads on the right side of the screen. Then I had remembered that I had ABP installed, and I temporarily allowed ads through. Low and behold.. Google Ads! It is weird because it just becomes part of your daily life, you just slowly adjust and then you don’t even know what advertisements look like anymore. It’s pretty magical. Don’t really worry about how it works, just know that it does, and flawlessly.

Get AdBlock Plus Here

Xmarks

There have been several different types of addons for all sorts of different browsers that save your bookmarks on one central server, but I have yet to find one that works as flawlessly and as seamlessly as Xmarks. Originally it was named Foxmarks, because it was only available in Firefox. Times have changed, and now it works in all of the four major browsers: Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and of course Safari. That’s right, so even if you are reading this and you don’t have Firefox, you can use Xmarks to sync your bookmarks.

Now that I got the requirements out of the way, let me tell you why exactly this bookmark syncamajig is so handy. It also syncs passwords! This feature is only available in Firefox, which is why its one of the three addons you absolutely need and should not go without. If you have Firefox on your computer in your office, and computer in your home, and you have tons of passwords and bookmarks, what is the best way to keep everything organised? Pen and paper? Come on.

In case you are worried about your passwords getting out, just read this:

To encrypt your passwords, Xmarks uses the current state of the art AES 256-bit encryption algorithm. AES is a United States government standard and is recommended by National Security Administration (NSA) for encrypting classified information. See the AES Wikipedia entry for more details.

AES works by taking data that needs to be encrypted along with a secret PIN of your choosing, and then produces an encrypted result. It is strong enough to virtually guarantee that your encrypted data cannot be decrypted by a third-party, not even Xmarks. The biggest point of weakness is in the strength of the secret PIN that you choose. Xmarks recommends that you choose a PIN that is difficult to guess and contains a wide variety of different characters and numbers.

So your bookmarks, and your passwords are securely kept in one place, and always kept up to date.

You can get Xmarks by clicking here.

StumbleUpon

I kept this one for last because it really isn’t that necessary to have to keep your life going steady with Firefox, it is mainly something that is great for wasting time if you are having a slow day at work, or even if you have a cold and just want to relax with a hot cup of tea. StumbleUpon asks you what types of things you are interested in, and there are hundreds and hundreds of options to chose from so you wont miss something. Then, all you do is click a little button that says “Stumble”. What does this little button do? Well, it randomly goes to a website that you might be interested in that has been previously discovered by someone else! You can also discover websites as well, such as this one.

As you stumble, there are two more buttons that are thumbs up or thumbs down, and obviously those are basically asking if you like it or not. If you don’t like it, it wont display that page ever again and it will work to not show pages like that one ever again. If you do like it, it will work to find more pages just like that so you it brings you more joy.

It’s really simple. For full instructions and how to install it, you can check out StumbleUpon’s website here.

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Getting rid of all of those horrible, ugly, advertisements in Firefox

by on Jan.18, 2010, under Web Browsers

Every week I hear about some type of annoying advertisement on YouTube or some other website from friends of mine. I reply with, “What ads?” There is a very simple solution to those ads they despise so much. It’s a very useful Firefox plugin that I’m surprised so many people haven’t heard of. AdBlock Plus is a fairly light weight, very simple Firefox plugin that essentially removes most if not all ads on nearly any website you can think of.

Installation

Getting AdBlock Plus is fairly easy. ABP can be downloaded directly from the Mozilla Firefox addons section found here. Click on the big green button labeled “Add to Firefox”. Once installed, restart your browser.

Configuration

You should now see the Adblock plus icon at the top right of your browser. Select the filter for your preference. I use EasyList (USA) which works flawlessly. Click Apply and then Ok and you’re all set!

If you weren’t prompted to select a filter, you can do so by clicking the downwards pointing arrow next to the red ABP icon at the top right of you’re browser. Clicking on that brings up a menu. Select “Preferences” to open the options for ABP. You can also access this window by pressing Ctrl+Shift+E simultaneously. At the top left of the preferences window click on “Filters”. Then click “Add Filters Subscription”. Now you can select the filter of your choice. Again, EasyList (USA) seems to work just fine.

Conclusion

That’s all there is to it! Most, if not all, websites should now be ad-free. If you come across an ad that should be blocked. You can right click it and select the option “Adblock Plus: Block image”. If you come across a website that has videos, flash games, or anything of the sort that would normally play and do not after installing ABP. ABP may be the culprit. It’s simple to disable ABP on any webpage. Click on that downwards pointing arrow and select either “Disable on website here” or “Disable on this page only”. Then refresh the page and you should be good to go.

All in all a simple but very useful add-on that solves a lot of annoyances, something that I am definitely going to push to all of my clients, how about you? Do you use this? Are you going to? (Trust me, it’s worth it!)

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Firefox 3.6, The beloved browser gets a speed boost

by on Jan.16, 2010, under Web Browsers

The most recent release of Firefox is Firefox 3.6 RC1. The RC stands for Release Candidate, which basically means that almost 100% of the bugs and quirks that all of the beta versions have had have been ironed out to a pretty much perfect crease.

The Mozilla Corp. claims that with an increased version number, comes some pretty nice features. One of the things that I always love is the increased load time. It feels that if something takes longer than two (yes, two) seconds to load up, then it takes too long. I guess that might be a little hasty, but when I say that I mean something like a web browser. You want to be connected to the internet as fast as technologically possible. I am writing this while using Firefox 3.6, and to be honest, it loaded instantly.

Speed

I am on my laptop, and it loaded instantly. I take good care of my computers but my laptop has never loaded Firefox at such a rate. It is great to see that there are still improvements that can be made on such brilliantly written software. In case you are wondering, my laptop is a 2.1Ghz Dual Core with two gigs of memory, so it does load most things pretty quickly.. but it’s getting on in age and age always makes computers slow down no matter how well kept they may be!

Full Screen Video

Another pretty cool feature I like is the native full screen mode that Firefox 3.6 has a built in to it sexy self. With a simple right click of any video that is embedded using the <video> tag, you can easily click “Full Screen”, there is almost no time in flipping from normal screen to full screen, and you wont miss a beat of your video. This works much better than any extension that you could have been using, because it won’t start your video over at the beginning and have you re-stream it. To be short, it works pretty well.

Compatability

The one thing I really don’t like about upgrading a browser, is the worry that some of my favorite plugins and extensions wont load correctly, or at all. Well this time around the nice folks at Mozilla have stated straight up that “More than 75%” of currently released addons work, and the ones that don’t work are getting updated extremely quickly. They even have a tool made specifically for the purpose of testing your addons. “You’re favorite Add-on author will appreciate it!”

Languages

Wow, Firefox 3.6 now supports more than 70 languages! That’s right SEVENTY. I am not a linguist in any form, but wow.. that is pretty phenomenal.  Having more than 70 languages under your belt is definitely an extreme. I am loving Mozilla for this, it makes the whole world seem so much more included and together as one, since we all can use the same thing without having any sort of problems.

All in all, this new version of Firefox seems to be working out pretty nicely. It is also nice that it works for all of the three major operating systems, Microsoft, Mac, and Linux. I love the load speed and all the other new things that are promised, for a full list of changes and just what this is about, be sure read the release notes.

Looking to get your grabby hands on this Firefox 3.6 RC? Then head over to this link and you can download it yourself! Let me know what you think of it, because to me, it’s lookin’ good!

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