So, I just switched my preferred browser back to Firefox. I’d been using Chrome for a while now because it provides seamless (or nearly so) tab syncing between my laptop and my iPhone. Trouble is, Chrome has started leaving this massive processing footprint on my laptop. So, just out of curiosity, I compared the numbers. Being the power user that I am, I currently have about 30 tabs open. In Chrome, those tabs use up almost 2.8 million processes. Firefox — 850,000. Yup, that’s a no-brainer. I’ll just use Firefox Home to open tabs on my phone when I need to.
I’ve been using Twitter for a couple of months now, but I admit that I hadn’t really gotten into much until a friend of mine (thanks, Dweezle) pointed me at a nice little Firefox addon called TwitterFox. It basically lets you read and write twitters right from your Firefox statusbar. It makes it extremely convenient and fun to use. I still don’t use it as aggressively as some of the folks I’m subscribed to but I definitely use it a lot more now.
I’m curious – does anyone else use Twitter? If so, what are your usernames? Feel free to add me to your own list; my username is stitzelj.
I think Google changed something in relation to Gmail yesterday evening. I use two Firefox addons to make managing my email a little more efficient – Better Gmail and Gmail Manager – and as of yesterday, both addons now seem to be broken. I first noticed a problem when Gmail tried to refresh and issued a ‘Could not build contacts’ error and subsequently logged me out. No amount of cajoling or urging could get me logged back in. Initially I thought it was a Gmail problem, but when I tested it out, I found I could still login normally from IE7 and Safari. My next thought, then, was that maybe somehow the Better Gmail addon I use with Firefox to restyle Gmail and add a few convenient functions might have broken. I disabled it and restarted Firefox, and sure enough, I was logged back in just fine. I’m a little annoyed now that some of the features that Better Gmail added are currently unavailable, but I’d much rather not have them than not have access to my email at all.
The other plugin that no longer functions is Gmail Manager. This little addon puts a little module on Firefox’s status bar that allows to check and manage multiple Gmail accounts quickly and easily. Well, Gmail Manager no longer works, showing all emails accounts as having no email, despite there being mail in most of those inboxes.
My guess is that Google changed something in their Gmail API that has caused most, if not all, Firefox addons for the service to break. I haven’t had a chance to do much in the way of research into the issue yet, so I don’t know how widespread this issue is and if it’s affecting everyone or if it’s just something screwed up with my particular instance of Firefox.
If anyone knows anything about this, do please let me know. I’ll try to keep you posted in the meantime.
Update: Turns out this is a known issue. There is a comment from the Better Gmail developer that Google rolled out a new version of Gmail recently. They are currently working on developing a new version of the addon to be compatible with Gmail. No word yet on whether Gmail Manager is being updated.
I think I finally tracked down the memory leak in Firefox. I’m still waiting to see if anything goes completely haywire, and I do need to double-check it on my PC at home to be sure, but I think the problem may have been the Firebug addon. While it _is_ a very useful tool for web development, when it’s looking at every single one of your tabs to check for errors and such, it does have a way of making Firefox very, very big. It’s a much better policy to just disable the entire thing and then enable on a site-by-site basis, and then for only as long as it takes to troubleshoot any code you’re working on.
In the meantime before I figured this out, I popped open Safari for Windows again this morning. I really, really like that browser. In a lot of ways, it makes most websites look a lot better. Safari seems to render websites with a cleaner, sharper look overall. Plus, the browser just fired right up and responded instantly to every command I gave it. It seems to be pretty lightweight, much the way Firefox was in its earlier days. The only trouble with Safari is that it doesn’t have the addon and plugin support yet that Firefox does, which still makes Safari my second choice for a browser. If it ever gets the kind of open source addon support that Firefox has, it will certainly give Firefox a run for its money.
I did run a brief Google search this morning for websites that have plugins for Safari. I didn’t really find much, aside from Safari’s version of Adblock and a couple of developer tools. I’m kind of hoping that more plugins will open up, but I don’t even know if Safari’s API is open. It’d certainly be good if it was, but Apple might be playing things close to the vest.
If anyone knows anything about good plugins and addons for Safari, do please let me know. I think there’s a lot of potential for Safari yet, and probably most of it is still untapped as yet. I’d like to see that change.
I’ve loved Firefox from the first day I started using it several years ago – tabbed browsing, nearly infinite customizability, and less glitchy than IE. Also, at the time, it was super-lightweight and fast, which was another key point for making the switch away from the Microsoft native browser.
Unfortunately, with each successive iteration of Firefox, the browser seems to grow into a bigger and larger beast. I still love Firefox, even though tabbed browsing is now nearly standard across browsers, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s still the most flexible and customizable browser out there right now. What I’m not loving is the way it seems to inflate its consumption of computer resources with each new version. I’ve started noticing how quickly Firefox starts to lag and temporarily hang up on itself after launching it, even on a newer computer with plenty of resources. And when you give your computer the 3-finger salute and check the Processes tab, Firefox is far and away the heaviest consumer.
I’m something of a power-user when it comes to Firefox, too. On any given day, I run with a minimum of 20 tabs open – and that’s just the way I start. I usually go upwards of 30-50 tabs throughout the day during my regular browsing sequences. And I know I’m not even the biggest power user out there – I know of several folks (web designers especially) who run 100-200 tabs and more at any given time. And for every tab you open, that’s more of your computer’s resources that Firefox sucks away.
One other minor gripe – with the upgrade to Firefox 184.108.40.206, I’ve hit upon more fatal browser crashes and unresponsive script errors than I’m used to seeing with Firefox. If it was just one computer, I’d attribute it to an incompatibility with something on that computer. But I’ve hit this problem with two or three computers now, so it causes me to think that something within Firefox itself is problematic. Of course, it could simply be the fact that Windows itself is buggy and always has been.
I still love Firefox, despite these little problems I’ve pointed out. I’m very loyal to open source software, and Firefox is still far more customizable than just about any other Windows-based browser out there. I would just like to see the developers of Firefox work toward returning it to the light-weight program that it started it as. In that respect, it was a much better browser in its younger days. Of course, maybe light-weight is the trade-off we have to make in order to get more use, functionality, and power out of Firefox. I don’t really know. I just know I’d like to have the best of both worlds.
It’s official – my 1GB flash drive, the one I’ve been running Firefox, Filezilla, GAIM, and every single other portable application from for the last several months, is officially hosed. I plugged it into my computer at home tonight and got the same disc-not-formatted error I got at work today. So I reformatted it and attempted to move files from backup onto it. Every attempt failed about halfway through. So I tried to push just Firefox onto it. It went, but when I tried to start it, it would load most of the way through, then stop and start loading from scratch again.
Final determination – flash drive: 1; Jim: 0. I lose.
I’m not surprised. I make my flash drives work hard. They’re plugged in and running nearly 24/7, which means a rather limited lifespan. I think what I really need is one of those new portable hard drives, but those are currently way out of my price range (along with a whole host of other geeky toys I’d love to play with).
So, I’m back to where I was before – running separate instances of Portable Firefox on my work and home PCs until I can afford to replace my flash drive.
Apparently, updating three addons at once causes Firefox to take quite a bit longer to load.
I use a lot of portable applications. At last count, I have 22 of them sitting on my flash drive. I use about half of them nearly every day, and the other half get used often enough to warrant their continued presence on my flash drive. Part 1 of the Portable Applications section will cover the programs that are, for me, daily essentials. Part 2 will cover the ones that I consider to be my ‘support’ programs.
* Firefox Portable – I have long held disdain for Internet Explorer, ((So much so that I jokingly refer to it as Internet _Exploder_.)) and Firefox has been my replacement browser of choice. When computer account limitations at work prevented me from installing Firefox on my work PC, I went hunting for alternate solutions. What I found was Firefox Portable. It was my introduction to portable applications nearly a year and a half ago, and I’ve never looked back. I now run Firefox exclusively from my flash drive, which allows me to keep all my settings, bookmarks, and addons with me at all times. I’ll be talking about Firefox addons in a later part that will make this browser even more powerful and versatile.
* GAIM Portable – What computer and web geek would be without his Instant Messaging client? GAIM Portable gives you the power of several of the most popular IM clients right on your flash drive. No more worrying about getting logged off on another computer or having to import your settings (or installing the software) on a new computer. Launch it from your flash drive and your good to go. It also allows you to run multiple AIM accounts, which is a huge advantage if you have different screen names for different groups of people.
* FileZilla Portable – Web developers rely heavily on their FTP clients. I use mine literally every day for moving files back and forth on my webhost. FileZilla has become my FTP client of choice – it’s free, and it’s extremely easy to use.
* metapad – Who needs Windows Notepad when you have something as powerful as metapad? Granted, Notepad _has_ become a bit more powerful with recent editions, but in my opinion, metapad is still far superior. It offers up more options than does Notepad and handles certain types of files (like .php and .css) much better than Notepad does. metapad has been a staple program for me for several years now.
* GIMP Portable – Photoshop is still my graphics editor of choice, but since it is also still prohibitively expensive to buy – and since I’ve not yet seen a portable version of the software – GIMP fills the gap for the kinds of basic graphic manipulations I generally need to do. It’s relatively small, as programs go, and lets you do quite a bit of the same things that you can do in Photoshop. It’s not as user-friendly or as intuitive as Photoshop, ((Not that Photoshop is particularly intuitive.)) but it generally does what I need it to.
* MWSnap – I frequently need to quickly and easily capture screens from my computer. SnagIt is a great capture software for doing just this, but it’s also relatively expensive to buy. MWSnap does exactly the same thing that SnagIt does, but it has the bonus of being both free and portable. It’s _very_ easy to use and makes it very simple to capture the entire screen, individual windows, or custom-sized rectangles from your computer screen.
* 7-zip Portable – I work with compressed files a lot these days, so I have to have compression software at the ready all the time. WinZip is fine, insofar as it goes – but it only handles .zip files. Sometimes I need to open up a .tar or a .tar.gz file. PowerArchiver does these and more – but it also costs money to buy (unless you’re purchasing much older versions with fewer features). 7-zip opens just about every kind of compressed file out there.
* irfanView – Periodically, I need to resize some pictures, especially ones coming down off a digital camera. The main thing that I use irfanView is its ability to process entire batches of images. I simply select all the images I want to resize, tell it how big I want them, and within a moment or two, everything is down to a manageable size. It makes sharing digital photographs or maintaining a photoblog that much easier.
* OpenOffice Portable – Microsoft has a relatively solid office suite with their MSOffice package. However, like most things Microsoft, it’s also rather expensive. It’s also not portable. OpenOffice provides an alternative office suite to Microsoft’s version that runs every bit as good as, if not better than, the MS version. It has also now been made portable so that you can load it up on your flash drive and run it from anywhere.
* RoughDraft – Now, from a writer’s perspective, RoughDraft is one of the best utilities in my toolkit. I have two writing programs that I use with regularity. RoughDraft is the one I use for writing flash fiction and short stories. It works exclusively with .rtf files, which is actually a pretty good thing because it’s a versatile file type that is available to a number of different word processing programs. RoughDraft allows you to open multiple documents in tabs right inside the main window, so there’s no worry about having too many things open in your Windows taskbar at the same time. This is a slick little program that is must-have for any writer.
* yWriter – For longer writing project I use yWriter. This is quite possibly one of the most powerful little writing packages I’ve ever seen, allowing you to easily create chapters, break them into scenes, and move pieces around as you need to adjust chronology. It also allows you to create character profiles and keep track of notes. This is another must-have for any writer who is serious about getting that novel written.
All of these programs of free and easy to use. These are the programs that I use nearly every day and thus serve as the core of my tools for writing and maintaining my website.
Part 2 of Portable Applications will cover another group of portable apps that get used less frequently but in some ways are just as important as my daily essentials.
_Note: When leaving comments for this series, you may receive a 302 error and not immediately see your comment. Rest assured that your comment has been logged and received. Simply refresh the page, and you’ll see it. This is a bug with the series plugin I’m currently using and will hopefully be ironed out soon._
Today I’m starting a series of entries on some of the software that I use on a daily basis, things that make my life a lot easier and simpler and allow me to do just about anything I want and need to from just about anywhere. In this series, I’m going to talk about a handful of desktop applications I use frequently, portable applications (software that can be run directly from your flash drive), add-ons for Firefox that make the browser much more versatile and powerful, Greasemonkey scripts that further enhance the way you _see_ aspects of certain websites, and WordPress plugins – both those that I consider essential to any WP installation and those that serve as WordPress glam.
This first part of the series will deal with defining some terms, since I know that not everyone is aware what some of these things are:
* *Open Source* refers to software that is open to anyone to modify and change. The source code is open to everyone, and so there is usually a general community of people who collectively work on making it better. Personally, I’ve come to swear by open source software because, first and foremost, it’s free. These days, with the ready availability of software on the Internet, there is now open source software out there for just about anything that is just as good (and in some cases, better) than brand-name software that you can purchase from a software company. Open source software also tends to be updated frequently, and many extensions and modifications may be available from other coders who wish to make the software more versatile and more powerful. Firefox is one example of this type of software, which we will discuss in greater detail later.
* *Freeware* is similar to open source software is that it is freely available to all consumers. The major difference here is that freeware isn’t generally continually under development by a community of developers. Either the software is developed once and distributed across the Web, only to be promptly forgotten, or the original author maintains exclusive rights to the source code and so upgraded releases and extensions are developed _only_ by the author.
* *FTP* stands for file transfer protocol. FTP is what allows web developers to maintain their sites easily by making it fast and efficient to upload (or download) lots of files at once to their websites. Later on I’ll discuss my favorite FTP client and how I use it to make continual changes to my own website.
* *Flash drives* are miniature hard drives. They run in size anywhere from 256MB to as much as 8GB. Of course, now there are portable hard drives that weigh in at a hefty 250GB that function in much the same way as flash drives. Most flash drives, though, can go on a lanyard or key chain for easy portability. They make great storage for files and applications.
* *Portable applications* are applications that are designed to be completely self-contained so that you can run them from anywhere – your desktop computer’s hard drive, a CD, or your flash drive. They don’t install – that is, they don’t make any changes to the registry in your Windows operating system – which means that, if you have the application on CD or a flash drive, you can just plug it into any computer anywhere and run it instantly. This is what makes them portable, by being able to essentially take specific functions of your computer with you. I’ve come to swear by portable applications, so much so that pretty much every application I run on a daily basis I run from my 1GB flash drive. I’ll talk more about portable applications later and why I think they are so valuable and convenient.
This is just a taste of things to come. The articles that follow from here will detail different types of software that are great for web geeks and some that are great tools for anyone.
I’m brain-burned today. Feels like someone aimed an unhealthy dose of microwaves right at my cranium and set it on ‘Well Done.’ Boom – crispy critterized brain goo. ((_”Would you like a hot apple pie with that?”_)) So much I wanted to get done today and so little actually accomplished. I supposed I should be more careful in the future to actually try to get more than five hours of sleep in a night.
Here’s the upshot – I have several entries planned out for the very near future. One is a book review that may fluff into two book reviews before I’m done – _Odd Thomas_ and _Forever Odd_. The former is already done and the latter is on the homeward stretch. I also have a movie review planned for M. Night Shyamalan’s _Lady in the Water_.
Additionally, I’m been continuing to pimp out Firefox and WordPress with all kinds of fun little toys and ‘gadgets’ that’ll make you positively drool. I believe in getting the most mileage possible out of my tools, and I’m making theses suckers _dance_!
I also have a bunch of stories begging for my attention. I keep trying to ignore them, but those baseball bats with the nails drilled through them are starting to look more menacing every day, so I suppose I’ll have to bow to their demands soon.
All that’s coming down the pike soon, hopefully after a longer night’s rest tonight so I don’t feel quite so much like whipped egg, fried over low heat, and served up to a horde of voracious junior high kids.
Oh, and do please check out the “previous entry”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/03/20/feet/ – I still need more feet pictures. I’ve already had one willing -victim- participant. Anyone else wanna join in on this madness?