Firefox 42, Major Improvements

Firefox 42 was just released with major improvements for both Android and desktop. Firefox now has tracking blocking built in! By default it is only on during private browsing, to enable it for general use go to about:config and scroll down to privacy.trackingprotection.enabled and set the value to true. This works on both mobile and desktop. It will block many ads and most trackers and works similarly to Ghostery or Privacy Badger.

For desktop use, Firefox also now includes an icon to show which tab is playing audio and the ability to mute it without leaving the current tab. This is a catch up feature that has been available in Chrome for some time. Still a welcome addition.

Firefox usage is in decline and that is a shame. The one browser coded by a non-profit with keeping the web open as its stated goal. Safari, IE/Edge, and Chrome are all made by large corporations concerned more with molding the web to their own needs/profits that with the fate of their users. Even after Edward Snowden’s revelations, many still cling to these locked down proprietary browsers. I honestly do not understand it.

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Of portals and such…

When I first started using the internet, web portals were all the rage.  I remember I used Excite, even having an @ Excite email address.  There was also Alta Vista and others.  With the advent of Google the web portal went into decline although its shell is still visible at such places as Yahoo and MSN.  Back in the day, web portals were utilized as a means of keeping you confined within the walls of a single service.  Even today if you sign up with comcast internet they set Yahoo as your homepage and you can see how many folks then use Yahoo as their email and then go on to use yahoo finance and yahoo sports, etc…  The portal made the web sticky, it kept you within the walls of its corporate owner as much as possible.  Remember how folks used to think that AOL WAS the internet?  To a large degree Google helped break down these walls.

[Edit: Sure there are modern portals called Personal Pages, like Netvibes, iGoogle, My Yahoo, etc…  Unfortunately, the amount of data that they need to pull make them fairly useless as a home page, and even more unwieldy to use as a new tab page. Even after pulling the data you need to wait while your PC renders all the ajaxy stuff.   I dutifully test each release but continue to find them all to be to slow for my taste.]

Still, I am partial to the concept.  It continues to make sense to me.  So for a number of years I have maintained my own portal.  Recently I have come up with a way to make it more useful…that is what this post is about.

First I installed about:tab a Firefox extension from Mozilla labs.  About:tab monitors what you type into the Firefox address bar and presents you with links to the sites you type in the most on your new tab page.  After a few weeks it was clear which sites I was typing in the most.

Then beginning with my original portal page, I incorporated the sites that I had been typing in the most.  I dropped extra text, dropped javascript widgets, and took a cue from the Google monster and dropped the unnecessary colors.  The result (posted to an unused domain) is that I rarely have to type anything into the address bar.  And my homepage and new tab page are fast and useful.

I simply type “foggytown” and hit shift+enter (to add the http and .net) and viola, links that meet 98% of my needs are ready to get clicked on, no matter where I am accessing the internet from.

Of course setting the new portal as my home page goes without saying (or it did till I “said” it).  To further make things easier, I replaced the about:tab extension with New Tab Homepage which puts your homepage into any empty new tab that is opened.

This whole process took about an hour of work.  I estimate that it saves me a full minute or two each day, meaning I get my time back in one or two months…after that it is all extra free time.

This method gives me quick, typing free, access to the websites that I use most.  My new and improved home page is here…but don’t copy mine, make one that fits your needs.  After all, we all have different habits and requirements.

My personal web portal, plus Mozilla Lab’s Weave (a browser sync extension, Firefox 3.5 required), gives  me a smooth and continuous browsing experience–regardless if I am using my desktop, my laptop, or my work computer.  (When my phone needs upgraded, a major consideration will be the ability to run Fennec.  Fennec is still in early development and only supports a limited set of platforms.  With my phone having about two more year of  life left to it, I can wait for its progress.)

Thankfully, the web continues to evolve and we are not stuck with dodgy sites like Yahoo and AOL…to steal a phrase from Mozilla: take back the web.

Edit: I forgot to mention that adding some search fields to the portal makes it much more useful.  I use search fields for Google, Bing, and Wikipedia…you can get the code by “viewing source” on the portal page.

Google, what’s up?

googleCapture, originally uploaded by foggytown1.

I can’t search google this morning.

Every search result on google.com is showing that “This site may harm your computer.”

Even when you search for “google” and click on google.com, you get routed to google’s malware warning.

I can’t find info about the problem anywhere online. I have verified the issue on Firefox, Chrome, and Firefox all on Vista.

After I make this post I will reboot into Win7 to see if it is the same.

Edit: I verified it with Win7, it is the same.  I did find that if you refresh the results the malware link goes away.

What is going on?

Edit 2: The issue seems to be fixed now.  But I have found something far more ominous with this issue.  When I first found the problem I searched google news for “google malware” in an attempt to find what was wrong.  There were no results that were pertinent to the issue.  But, as soon as the issue was resolved there were lots of items…this smacks of news censorship on google’s part…is it time to begin moving my data off google’s servers?

Splintering the web…one phone at the time…

Trying to ignore the iPhone, I didn’t pay much attention to this phenomena in the past.  But now I have a crackberry and see it everywhere.  What is “it”, you ask?  “it” is the splintering of the web caused by a propietarty company extending web standards on their own and  causing web developers to code specifically for it, and it is done by Apple Electronics, Inc.  It comes down to a repeat of IE 4.  If it was wrong when MS did it (and who can argue that?), then it is wrong when Apple does it.  I first thought of it the other day (yes I am slow) when one of my business tech magazines mentioned that the browser wars are on again.  It made no sense at first, after all we have the mobile net and the regular net, what is the beef?  The beef lies in that Apple has extended CSS and is asking developers to build sites “for the iphone”.  Remember when sites had stupid logos that said Made for IE?  Well now they have stupid logos made for iphone.  The same people who bitterly complained about MS are embracing Apple.

The problem is not that Apple added proprietary extensions to CSS, the problem is that web developers use them.  That is the issue.

Nothing original here, I was just out to lunch, the meme has been around since Apple announced the iPhone.

Wired Blog
TUAW
Schmitt

Fracturing the net

error

More and more lately I’ve seen these sorts of “errors”. Usually kids, they think they are cute, or somehow getting over on MS. Personally. I use IE, Firefox, and Konquerer almost equally. I’ve been using Firefox since .7 and I generally like it.

There is a whole movement out there to get Firefox more support. I appreciate that, it is important that your browser not matter when surfing the net. That is the whole point behind net neutrality.

Then you have folks like the one linked above. Blocks content if you use IE. Then has the temerity  to state that “your browser is out of date” so I am blocking content. Puts the person in the same boat as people like my bank. I get steamed when someone pops up a window in Firefox stating that it won’t work, but if I tell Firefox to pretend to be IE, it works fine.  Now we have just the same but from the Firefox camp.  Sure, that’s how you beat them…

But to state that IE 7 is out of date, arguably the most state of the art browser out there, is pure and utter nonsense.

Isn’t the whole point of the internet to work in any browser?  If I use Lynx, the page should degrade nicely and be workable.  I don’t get it….

Edit Note: I removed the ornery attitude (swear words and personal attacks) from this post.

Digg was cool,

but…

I’ve been a big fan of digg for about a year.  It has become my prime source for tech news.  However with digg’s new release and expansion, it is becoming mostly self referential.
Self reference is usually a sign of rot…