Posts tagged ‘firefox’

Google Chrome for Linux

I have seen a variety of stories around the web extolling the virtues of the new browser from Google: Google Chrome.  At the moment, it is still a beta available only for Windows and Mac, but it seems to be an, erm, internet browser I suppose.

To be perfectly honest and frank, I find it incredibly difficult to get excited about a web browser.  To me, the browser is a tool, not a way of life.  For comparison, go now and find a carpenter - I’ll wait.  Got one?  Good.  Now explain to your carpenter that there is a new hammer available.  Gauge the carpenter’s reaction.  Now contrast and compare with all the hoopla over Google’s offering.  Now decide who the hammer should be used on.

Gosh, I sound grumpy, don’t I?  The fact is that Chrome looks like a decent offering.  It has tabbed browsing, which we all should now expect.  It has a way to import your bookmarks from your existing browsers, again, we should all expect that.  It displays pages from the internet.  The best thing, in my opinion, is that it is very minimal and there is little that is not functional about it:

Chrome tab and menu bar

Chrome tab and menu bar - click for full pic

As you can see, it has a very clean look.  Unless Google decide to add masses of bolt ons, it should be a very useful browser indeed.  But they didn’t release it for Linux.  The bastards.  Many of Google’s apps have Linux counterparts - Picasa being one of them.  Now these aren’t direct ports, they usually have Wine embedded in them to make them work.  But not Chrome - Chrome can be beta tested by Windows and Mac users, but not Linux users.  This seems a little unfair to me.  After all, it is arguable that the only reason Internet Explorer was forced to improve and to offer tabbed browsing was down to the success of the Mozilla and Firefox browsers.  Even now, does anyone really care at all about Safari?

Luckily, innovation and awkwardness come naturally to the plucky programmers with an interest in Linux.  CodeWeavers have, again, stepped up to the mark.  With Crossover Chromium available for free (as in no cost) they have enabled us to use Chrome via the CodeWeavers Wine implementation.  Which means that I am able to download it and show you this (click the pic for full size):

Chrome on Debian Linux

Chrome on Debian Linux

In an ideal world, there would be no need for Wine, Cedega, Play on Linux or CodeWeavers to exist.  In an ideal world all apps would be available for all platforms.  In this world, though, they are needed and gratefully so.  It is the work of CodeWeavers and Wine that helps to break down the final barriers for a lot of people - those people who really need to run Microsoft applications but who want to also run Linux.

Anyway, to step down off my soapbox, Chrome (in it’s beta state) looks to be a useful addition to the current crop of browsers available.  It is one in a line of Google applications, along with GMail, Calendar, Talk, Docs, Video and the rest.


I often find myself casting around for ideas for new posts or even what to write on a post I had thought about. It all makes so much more sense in my head. And then, a stroke of luck! On my dashboard there was a link to a story on Mark Ghosh’s blog Weblog Tools Collection. So I followed it. And that tortuos story brings us here, I installed a Firefox extension by Zemanta. Called Zemanta.

There will be screenshots later, but for now let’s talk about what it does. I quote their front page here:

Have your browser understand what you are blogging about and suggest pictures, links, articles and tags to make your posts more vibrant. We are making blogging fun again.

Effectively, this is a tool for Wordpress, Typepad, Blogger and whichever other blogging engines they can eventually code for. It doesn’t live on your blog, it lives on your browser - this means that the plugin is unlikely to bring down your blog. It creates content on the sidebar of your “writing” page and suggests pictures, links, articles and tags for the article you are writing. Put down enough words and it will refresh and suggest.

I find this very handy. Often I am writing something and need links to illustrate what it is I am banging on about. This tool suggests them. In fact, it has already suggested links for me:

As you can see, it links to Wikipedia. Personally I think they get enough links as it is so I’ll be changing them. That said, they don’t insert unless you click the buttons.

lots of wikipedia links

I changed the links, I definitely think that Wikipedia gets enough links all on it’s own.

That said, take a look at the sidebar:

useful, unobtrusive, attractive

It’s happily sitting there, blending in and suggesting away. The wee little arrows allow you to shrink or expand the suggestions as you wish.

The two other great things about this are the low low price of absolutely nothing and the fact that the developers keep an eye on requests and suggestions and fix any issues very quickly.

It is by no means perfect, I would like to see non-Wikipedia suggestions for URLs, the gallery seems equally fond of Wikipedia - it’s a great project, but the web has billions of pages and wikis are not the be-all-and-end-all of the internet.

However, if you are blogging on a subject and need help with some of the links - whether for information or on whoever else has blogged on it - I would have to suggest this tool. It’s easy to install and equally as easy to uninstall, it is a Firefox extension after all.

FEBE for Firefox

I rebuilt my machine again recently. I fancied seeing what Fedora was doing and whether it was worth switching. Answer is: not for me. It felt somewhat lighter than it used to, but still a bit bulky and not all that great. And Gnome. I have lost a lot of my vehemence against Gnome, but I find that having 2 task bars kinda wastes screen real estate. It did make me wonder though, if KDE is the more Windows-alike desktop environment, why do businesses feel comfortable with Gnome?

Anyway, that’s beside the point. One of the downsides, in my opinion, to reinstalling your OS is remembering the various passwords, logins, bookmarks and plugins that you had before. Firefox, being a community-ish project has hoards of people to help solve that problem. There are a variety of plugins to help you with one or more of the problems - bookmark backups (although you could just back up the bookmark folder), password exporters and the like. You could even manually back up your profile (as long as it was working at the time) and then copy it to your new profile. Lots of solutions.

My new favourite is called FEBE. This backs up your entire profile or just bits of it to a schedule you set. You could ask it to back up to a network folder or to your hard drive. It just sits there in the background and does it’s thing. All you need to do is to install te FEBE plugin when you reinstall and get it to restore the profile. If you need a profile from a few days or weeks ago, not a problem. You can set it to save itself to date stamped folders meaning that it’s easy to go back to a “known good” profile. The only thing it’s not happy about doing is to restore the default profile if there’s only one profile set - the workaround is to rename the backup to end in .zip rather than .fbu and then to manually copy over the contents to your profile folder.

At the end of the restore you are left with all your plugins, bookmarks and login settings exactly as you left them - which is great if a plugin requires some tweaking to get it just how you like it. Not a major productivity boost, but it saves some hassle when you can’t remember whether you had a particular plugin or if you rarely manually log in to a site because you told Firefox to remember your username and password.

I Can No Longer Recommend Google Browser Sync

As those who know me will know, I tend to change distros a lot. One of the problems I have encountered with this is that you lose your internet browser bookmarks and tend to forget your passwords and this rapidly becomes a pain. One of the solutions to this is to use the Google Browser Sync Firefox addon.

The program itself (if we assume, as I did, that it works flawlessly) is a godsend. It saves your bookmark list to a Google server along with your passwords, your cookies and the tabs/windows you last looked at. It’s also configurable, in a very limited sense, so you don’t have to save everything. As I said, it’s useful if you reinstall a lot but even more so if you wish to keep things sync’d across multiple PCs. And, because it’s Google, you feel all safe and helped.

But. A couple of months ago I reinstalled a distro and reinstalled the addon and discovered that all my bookmarks had gone. My passwords appeared to have been saved and worked, but all my carefully gathered bookmarks had disappeared. It wasn’t a total loss - I’m a bit of a hoarder and tend to save things even after they cease to be useful, so it was a good time to clear out my bookmarks and start again. But it was perturbing and so I hit the search trail - Google, not unsurprisingly.

I discovered that I am not alone. On a Google discussion group, there is a thread called “Wrath of GBS” which is now legendary. There are some workarounds discussed but none of them worked for me. Which seems par for the course. Michael Parekh seems to have pretty much the same experience. Well, he seems to have been affected more than me. By the way, I am, of course, aware that Firefox provides a backup version of your bookmarks - but if you reinstall your entire OS, that isn’t any help.

It seems that Google have ceased work on the addon, beyond a few people looking at it as part of the famous “20% work” at Google. (see here and here for a wee bit more detail) If true, this is a huge shame - this would not have been so attractive to me without the Google name.

So, having lost everything again today, I am looking into alternatives. Foxmarks is certainly an option, but what I want is a unified bookmark and password synchroniser. I am, though, resigned to using two projects for this.

So, if you want to recommend Google Browser Sync, go ahead. But expect me to be right next to you shaking my head :)