Extending Yourself

I finally jumped into the Firefox 3 pool with both feet and started playing with all of the add-ons, extensions¬†and greasemoney scripts and I’ve been blown away. It’s mindboggling how much you can do with this browser. Now I understand why Firefox users are such zealots!

There are countless tools you can add to FF to improve your online experience, not only to save time but just to have more fun as well. Here’s a primer for noobs like me.

First and foremost, get thine a real browser: Firefox or Flock 2.0 Beta (which uses Firefox 3)

Get the Greasemonkey extension at http://www.greasespot.net

Go to http://userscripts.org for the largest collection of scripts for FF & greasemonkey

Here’s a sampling of the best scripts for FriendFeed on Firefox (or Flock 2.0):
Better friendfeed
retaggr card on ff
Add profile page to ff
Add favicons to ff rooms
Add Twitter client with counter to ff
Filter FF by Service

There are also countless tools for enhancing your twitterXperience such as this one:
Retaggr card on Twitter profile
This is what it did to DemoGirl’s twitter profile (added her Retaggr card)

There are also many scripts for other sites like YouTube like the Download YouTube videos script
and Flickr such as the Flickr Group Organizer

There are scripts for just about every site and service you can think of! Just type in the service you want to enhance and you will see a bevy of options available! StumbleUpon, Medium, Digg, Facebook, MySpace, you name it!

If all that weren’t enough, you still haven’t checked out the jaw-dropping FireFox Add-on library!
These are even easier to install because it doesn’t require the greasemonkey script. Simple click install and it’s done.

Here are some very useful Surfing Tools
Tab Mix Plus (MUST HAVE!)
Save to Delicious
Sync Bookmarks on multiple computers
One-Click Auto add to Google Reader (Bypassing igoogle option)

If you want to learn how to create your own scripts then Dive Into greasemonkey!

Videos & Screencasts
DemoGirl serves up warm and toasty screencasts on the best Firefox extensions on a regular basis so visit her blog often.

Here’s an excellent video on Firefox 3
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1g30Xyh6Wqc]

Note: By the way, if you’re concerned like I was about doing all this work to install all of these add-ons and scripts EVERY time you have to setup a computer with Firefox (at home, work or anywhere else) then fear no more! Someone came up with FEBE! This cool tool saves all of your extensions and add-ons and backs it up so you can easily re-install them all whenever and wherever you want!

Final Thoughts

The world is your oyster thanks to Firefox and all of its add-ons and scripts. It’s easy to install and best of all, it’s all free!

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Collaborative Browsing

In this day and age of social networking frenzy, I am surprised the concept of collaborative browsing or Co-Browsing has not caught on yet. How is that possible? Doesn’t it make sense to be able to see who’s visiting the websites that you are visiting in real-time? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could communicate with those people who obviously have the same interest as you do because you’re both on the same website?

I think it would be a blast to be able to surf with friends too. We can chat and comment on what we see, perhaps help each other out with finding what we’re looking for. Perhaps collaborate on a project too.

We have tools that almost give us this ability. There is the MyBlogLog widget that shows who has visited you website but that isn’t always real-time and there’s no way to communicate with them on there.

There are also many types of IM widgets you can embed on your site that will allow you to chat live with visitors but it still isn’t the same thing as co-browsing because you can only do that on a single website, your own site or blog. Co-browsing would allow you to do this on ANY website in real-time.

Enter Bumpin, the best co-browsing experience I’ve seen in many years. It allows you to do all of the things discussed thus far such as viewing everyone visiting the same websites you are and the ability to chat live with them. You can remain invisible or become visible any time you want with the click of a button. You can send broadcast messages to everyone visiting the site or send private messages.

There’s a small plugin to install but there’s also a web-version you can use in case you are prevented from installing anything at work or on a public computer. The only downside is that Bumpin only supports the Firefox browser at this time. Here’s a 5 minute demo of what it can do.

[googlevideo=http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3009461557320389698&hl=en]


I was informed of a new service called Medium http://me.dium.com (see comments section) that really impressed me. It’s what I’ve been envisioning for the future of the web, a more interpersonal and collaborate surfing experience. Install a small plugin and it changes your web world. I think they have the right idea here and I look for big things to happen with this technology.

Here’s an overview of what Medium offers. Here’s their tutorial that gives more information about their innovative service and the wave of the future.

***Update***

Since publishing this post, Medium has changed its name and focus to something totally different. What a shame. They’re OneRiot now and no longer that exciting to me. Just another search engine site.

SocialBrowse is a new Firefox extension that works similar to medium. You can communicate with other surfers in realtime from the sidebar.
socialbrowse

Final Thoughts:

I am hoping that this feature will become a common part of every browser and thus part of everyone’s browsing experience someday soon. I fully expected the Flock browser to have this ability but I was stunned to see it didn’t. Sure, Flock had a cool Twitter plugin but not a true co-browsing experience like Bumpin does. I still think Flock will add this ability very soon. Perhaps Microsoft will follow with their Internet Explorer and Apple with Safari? We shall see.

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How to Wax Your Surfboard (Browser)

Here are some tips, tricks and updates that will help improve your web browsing experience, no matter which one you use.

There are several common elements that all browsers require in order to view websites. The most important ones being Java and Flash players.

In all my years working in IT, one of the most common problems that helpdesks experience are issues with viewing websites which almost always resolved by updating the java or flash players. The other most common problem are security settings for the browser.

First, let’s make sure you are using the most up to date versions of java, flash and shockwave. Here are the links and steps involved:


Java is still used a great deal on the Internet and there are many versions floating around. Your best best is to stay up to date with the latest version.



Flash Player
from Adobe (Originally from Macromedia) is used by a tremendous amount of websites so having the latest player makes a lot of sense.

Shockwave Player
also from Adobe (also formerly Macromedia) that is used by many sites, but not nearly as many as Java or Flash. Still, it’s worth having.

Stay updated

Another good habit is to stay up to date with the latest version of your browser. Check with their website regularly or setup automic updates to do it for you.

Here are the links to the most popular browsers which all have a download center for installations and updates.

  • Internet Explorer is the most used browser, despite all the negative press and vulnerabilities to hacking and viruses.
  • Firefox is growing in popularity. It has an incredible amount of third-party add-on features.
    Safari is the famous Mac browser but they now have a windows version too. They claim to be twice as fast as ie.
  • Opera is a quick browser that has a small cult-like following.
  • Maxthon was purchased by Google so look for more news about this browser. I’ve used it for years because it had many things ie didn’t have.
  • Flux is a new kid on the block and the first built for social networking. It can get a bit busy with so many things going on but it works great.
  • Netscape is on its last legs as AOL annouced its plan to terminate all future updates and support on February 1, 2008. Netscape was the world leader in browsers before Microsoft released their free browser.

Blind Surfer

Some prefer to turn off the option to view pictures on websites which does increase surfing speed but what’s the point if all you see is text and red x’s?

Lower Your Defenses (A bit)

Another thing to check are your security settings. Go thru each option and enable the ones for ActiveX (if you dare) and java. Select the Prompt option instead of Enable if that makes you feel better. This will fix many problems you might’ve encountered on certain sites that you just couldn’t view correctly or even at all.

Pop This!

Many times your surfing experience suffers due to popup blockers. There are so many popup blockers today that we sometimes have several enabled at one time which is overkill and only slows you down. Here are some of the most common blockers to lookout for:

  • Just about every browser has their own popup blocker so simply go to the options (properties/Settings) page within the browser to disable it or learn how to add safe sites that you don’t want blocked.
  • Google Toolbar has a popup blocker. You can turn it off with a click.
  • Yahoo Toolbar also has one. You can disable it as well.
  • Many AntiVirus and antispyware utilities also include a popup blocker (McAfee, Symantic, etc.). Go to their control panel to either disable or learn how to add safe sites to their whitelist to prevent future blocking.

Final Thoughts:

These were just some tips that I’ve found that help your web surfing experience no matter which surf board you use.

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