Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Must-Have Extensions For FireFox and Chrome

FireFox is my favorite browser.  It beats Chrome in terms of usability.  But I'm curious to see if I could live with Chrome for a while.  So I'm taking it for a test drive.

First for safe browsing, I like to have...
NoScript (FireFox) // ScriptNo/ScriptSafe (Chrome)
Blocks all scripts from running.  Allows the user to add exceptions for scripts on any given domain, either just for the current session (temporarily) or also for future sessions (permanently).  I think I like ScriptSafe on Chrome better than NoScript on FireFox.  Why?  Because NoScript will reload the page each time a single host is enabled, whereas ScriptSafe will let you enable multiple host before reloading the page.  And ScriptSafe features color-coded buttons while NoScript differentiates between temporary and permanent whitelist with italics.

WOT (FireFox) // WOT (Chrome)
WOT, or Web Of Trust, warns you in advance when a link leads to a dangerous website, before you even click on it.  The database of dangerous links is maintained by the community of WOT users.  But this sometimes can lead to sites getting blocked when a user disagrees with a site's ideology.  Still, you can get more detail on each website's rating and decide for yourself.

For usability, try these extensions...
FBPurity (FireFox, Chrome, Safari, Opera)
Facebook could be useful if only _______ (fill in the blank).  Well, FBPurity fills in the blanks by filtering out the elements that you don't want to see.  I use it to block "food pron" (plus other annoying and recurrent topics), to keep videos from auto-playing, to hide the reactions bar, to always sort posts in Most Recent order, to hide the newsfeed, etc.

LastTab (FireFox) // CLUT (Chrome)
N either FireFox nor Chrome cycle through tabs with Ctrl-Tab the way Windows cycles through active programs with Alt-Tab.  These extensions alter how these browsers behave when you press Ctrl-Tab.  So rather than cycling tabs from left to right, Ctrl-Tab cycles in Most Recently Used order.  There is one caveat, though.  Chrome extensions are not allowed to redefine default keystrokes (such as Ctrl-Tab), so none of the MRU-type tab managers on Chrome can fix Ctrl-Tab.  However, you can bind CLUT to Ctrl-q and Ctrl-Shift-Q, which is just to the right of Ctrl-Tab and Ctrl-Shift-Tab.

Password Management
Both Chrome and FireFox come out-of-the-box with the ability to remember the username and password needed to log in at each unique website.  However, FireFox can remember multiple usernames and passwords for any given site.  After looking for a Chrome extension to get Chrome to work this way (and failing), I thought I stumbled across an experimental option to enable the behavior.  But perhaps not, since the setting I thought I discovered doesn't affect this at all.  Rather, Chrome (at version 49) just started behaving the way I wanted it to!

View Selection Source
In FireFox, you can select content, right click on it and then choose a command to view the source code for that extension.  Chrome provides an "Inspect" command, but it reveals only the CSS details and not the complete HTML.  The View Selection Source extension for Chrome (or its equivalent) is necessary to see the snippet of HTML that's rendered by the browser for that selected content.  Yes, you can press Ctrl-U to view the source of the entire page in a new tab.  But then you have to search for the content you're interested in.  That's awkward, and it works only if the content can be pasted into the search bar.  The weird thing about the View Selection Source extension is that it doesn't come up if you search for it on Google Play.  I found the link in a post on the Help Center.

Save As... / Print To... PDF
Chrome has a built-in PDF printer that it calls "Save to PDF."  It works great, and there's no need to install a separate printer driver.  But you'll have to choose at least one of these three options to get FireFox to save a page as PDF, too.
  1. Install on your computer a PDF Printer Drive, such as PDFCreator or CutePDF.  (Both are free to download and use.)
  2. Install in FireFox a PDF printer extension.
  3. Use an online Web page to PDF service.
I like the first option, since the extensions I've come across either save the web page as a image or send the HTML over the internet to a server to perform the conversion.  I like the ability to select and copy text from the PDF, which is not possible with an image.  And when I generate PDF, it's usually to record a financial transaction, the details of which I'd rather keep on my local hard drive.

At one point I couldn't get the PDF printer drivers to work with FireFox.  Before giving up and switching to Chrome, I came across this Mozilla support page.  It turned out that resetting the print_printer setting fixed it.  As well, I've had to delete the prefs.js in order to solve a problem with the PDF coming out with all blank pages.

What are your favorite Extensions / Add-ons?

2016-07-09 LG Added the section "Save As... / Print To... PDF"
2016-06-13 LG Added "View Selection Source" paragraph.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Notes on Setting Up Windows 7

Recently I had to set up fresh installations of Windows 7 on two computers.  Here are some tips to make that process go a bit smoother...

1. Windows Update #1 -- Microsoft has released hundreds of recommended and important updates for Windows 7 since it was introduced.  All that data is a burden for Windows Update, and the update process can bog down on slower computers.  To remedy this, you'll want to download the update associated with KB3102810 first before you even check for updates.  Adjusting your computer's Power Options so it stays awake during the long update process may also help.

2. Windows Update #2 -- I wrote about this before.  Unless you want to upgrade to Windows 10, you'll want to hide the update KB3035583, or uninstall it if it already got onto your system.

3.  Gadgets -- Third party gadgets are no longer supported due to "serious vulnerabilities" in the Windows Sidebar.  You'll still be able to add the default Microsoft ones, such as "Clock," "Calendar," "Slide Show" and "CPU Usage" (my favorites).  But I also liked the third party "Network Meter," which I'd use often to verify download rates.  Since Network Meter is no longer available, I figured out that I can use ResMon to do something similar.  To have ResMon (almost) mimic Network Meter I minimize the various components in the left pane of ResMon and resize the window so that only the network graphs show up.  And I add a shortcut to ResMon.exe in my StartUp folder.

Do you have any tips for setting up Windows 7?  Please share them!