Posts Tagged 'chrome'

WRT54G Wireless Router Not in Swedish Any More

I was in the middle of studying for my Network+ certification when I happened upon the tracert command (which I was aware of, but hadn’t tried since high school). When I tried it out, I realized my Linksys wireless router was still configured with the default IP address (192.168.1.1). What I was faced with was a chance to fix something I should have done years ago. What did I do? I totally seized the day.

When I set up the access point many moons ago I was smart enough to change the default SSID, I set up an admin password (which I promptly forgot), and I encrypted the signal using WPA2 with a good password. However, I was a major noob (I picked WPA2 not because it was the best – I had no idea – I picked it because it looked fancier than the rest), and I had no idea that I was leaving myself open to attack by not changing the default IP address. Heck, I didn’t even realize I could change the IP address.

Now, however, in order to change it, I needed to figure out what my login name and password were.

I found out that some Linksys equipment (mine, in particular) uses a default username of admin and a default password of, you guessed it, password (others may use a blank username and a password of admin). So, using the appropriate login name I was quickly able to guess my password, which is good.

Unfortunately, I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to do much. All of the admin pages were in Swedish. Now, I remember setting the thing up several years ago, and it wasn’t in Swedish. What happened since then? I don’t know.

Lucky for me, I use the all-powerful Google Chrome web browser, which automatically noticed my predicament and graciously offered to translate the page for me. I clicked the, “gee thanks” button and was presented with awkward but passable English.

I quickly changed my router’s IP address to something top-secret, then went about poking around the settings tabs. I wanted to change the language. You know, it’s usually pretty easy. You’ve got your cell phone, your Nintendo DS, your home game consoles, your computer, Facebook, movies, your banking site, your children… They all make it relatively easy to change the language you use to interact with them. For some strange reason, Cisco decided to hide the language settings page. I poked around for several long minutes before realizing it wasn’t there. Bologna.

Hey, 1 was good for them too!

While poking around I noticed some other things to do. I changed the broadcast channel finally. Months ago I downloaded the excellent WiFi Analyzer app for my Motorola Droid, and had seen that I was broadcasting on the most popular channel in the neighborhood, but I hadn’t been able to get into my router at the time. Now that I was in, I used the application to select a better channel than the default (6, I believe). In my area, channel 1 was pretty empty.

I also changed the timezone since I originally set up the router in California but I’m now on the East Coast.

Sadly, changing the timezone didn’t change the language (I wouldn’t have been surprised to find that Swedish is the default language when you use the router in California, but this was not the case). So, I went to my good friend Google for help.

I immediately found that the answer was buried online as well as being buried on the router. One user on Yahoo Answers suggested contacting Cisco technical support for the answer. That’s not very helpful!

That’s when I realized, “if I find the answer, I should write a blog post about it to make it easier for people to find, then I’ll write a whole bunch of crap before the solution, forcing them to read pages and pages of stuff they don’t care about.” Either way, I hope that this brings people to my site for something useful, rather than looking for pictures of Robert Downey Jr. (apparently my single post the merely mentions him is galaxies more popular than any of my other posts).

Anyhow, I eventually found the answer in the comments section of a post about configuring one of these wireless doohickeys (yeah, I thought it should end in “ies” also, but spellcheck liked this better).

The humble comment posting from this genius, karthickjck, appears below:

How to fix the access point of Babbel

So that’s it? There’s a language.htm page? Where was the link for it? Why couldn’t I find it? Where does Mr. karthickjck get his information? For those of you who can’t read images, here’s a transcription of karthickjck’s secret information:

In your browser try opening the page http://192.168.1.1/language.htm then try selecting the language you prefer. It may ask for a language pack. Insert your setup CD and in the CD look for the folder Langauge and select the appropriate language pack.

Just to let you know, it didn’t ask me for a language pack, but I kept hitting the button directly below the Language Selection drop-down box (which, as you can see below, is the “Upgrade Language” button) rather than the save button below it. Don’t do that, it’s confusing and it takes you to a page where it asks you to upload one of those language packs. Also, the address in the solution is the default IP address for Linksys wireless routers – if it doesn’t work then your router’s IP address has been changed and you’ll need to use the correct IP address. Running tracert http://www.google.com like I did (or you can use some other destination) will show your router’s IP address (should be the first one listed, unless you have a vastly more complicated home network than I do).

WRT54G From Google Image SearchSo we’re on the same page, I’m using an old but reliable WRT54G Linksys Wireless B/G router, but I think this should work for a lot of older (and perhaps newer) Linksys routers if they use the same HTML based interface for configurations and settings.

Anyhow, here’s a screenshot of the magical Language page (called Multi Language in the title bar) that is not directly linked to in the rest of the interface:

Multi Language(Click to enlarge.)

See in the sub-menu area below the big ADMINISTRATION menu header where it says, “… Config Management | Language” ? That “Language” link goes away when you click on any other menu link anywhere on the page. Why did they do that? Why couldn’t the language option be a permanent resident in the menu? So many questions, not enough answers.

I hope that helps you. If this helped you solve your problem, please leave a quick comment for me. It’ll make me feel good, and you’ll feel good for making my day.

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New Computer? – Start Here

**EDIT**

If you’re just looking for a list of free software to install on your computer, I’ve created a Springpad notebook full of links to my favorites. If I find anything else to add, I’ll put it there.

I want to start out by saying that I am just a guy. I wasn’t paid to write any of this, I don’t work for any of the companies mentioned, and these are all just my opinions. If any of the mentioned companies wanted to pay me because I wrote all these nice things about them, I’d be willing to talk to them about an arrangement. 😉

Having said that, here are the chronicles of my recent adventure procuring and setting up my new laptop. I’m going to break this down into three separate categories: Hardware, Pre-installed Software you Don’t Need, and Free Software you Might Need. Lucky for you, I’m all about free, open-source and simplicity; so the only part that I spent money on was the hardware.

I’ve designed this as a sort of guide to assist YOU in purchasing and setting up a new computer. People are always looking at my glasses. After they get a good look at my glasses, they say, “Hey, I need a new computer. What kind should I get?” People with new computers are always asking me, “Is it better to just use Internet Explorer, or should I get one of those new browsers?” Also, it has been my own experience that just using all of the default software (that ships with the system) for document editing, virus handling, and many other tasks is a bad idea. So, here are all of my answers and tips in one place. This may not be the definitive guide to getting a new computer, but it is MY definitive guide for those who need it.

So, without further chit-chat, let’s look at your hardware options.

HARDWARE

This one’s easier than you might be inclined to believe. Sure there are a lot of choices, but it all comes down to what you want to use the computer for.

The computer I wanted this time around was a laptop I could actually take places. Last time I got a laptop (over five years ago) it weighed ten pounds, it was more of a desktop replacement and cost me over two thousand dollars. Now I’ve got a desktop, and I wanted an inexpensive computer that could go places with me AND do stuff. I’ve got an Asus eee PC (a netbook), but that thing can’t really do stuff. I mean, it can do some stuff (I use it for NaNoWriMo every year), but it’s a little wimpy when it comes to multitasking and other processor/RAM intensive activities.

The Argument for Desktops

First, if you’ve got the space for it and you don’t need to move it, get a desktop. Laptops have really gone down in price lately, but an equivalent (as far as hardware and capabilities) desktop will always cost less than its laptop counterpart (as of this writing).

Desktops have the greatest range in options as well. You can get a cheap-o system that is really only good for running your web browser and a word processor for under a hundred dollars, or you can pay tens of thousands of dollars for systems that can perform at speeds rivaling supercomputers. No matter what you’ll be using the desktop for, you can always find a system that perfectly meets your needs without spending more than you have to. Always.

The first step in selecting a desktop is to imagine yourself using that computer for the next two years. What will you use it for? Do you play many games? You might need to spend more for a system that will be compatible with future game releases. Will you be hooking it up to your TV to watch shows and movies? There are a lot of media center pc options. If you’re a Mac person (which, I might be if I had more money), you might want an Apple TV rather than a new computer.

Just decide what you’ll need the computer to be able to do, and consider these simple guidelines (which, unless you’re a “power user,” will more than cover the basics). I don’t need to say it, but if you know enough about computers to know that these guidelines aren’t comprehensive, then these guidelines weren’t written for you.

  • RAM – For most users, this is arguably the most important decision. More RAM means faster, smoother, more powerful computing. You want to open and use every program installed on your computer at the same time? You need lots of RAM. Will you only do one thing at a time for the rest of the time you own the computer? You can get by with 2 Gigs or less (depending on that one program you’ll be running!).
  • Operating System Bits – Related to RAM, but separate, is the operating system you’ll be using. Right away I have to mention that a 32 bit operating system cannot handle a full 4 Gigabytes of RAM, and certainly not more. If you will want 4 Gigs or more of RAM, you’ll need a 64 bit OS. Otherwise, 32 vs 64 bits will not have much of an impact on you.
  • Operating System Flavor – Which OS you choose will depend on many factors, but at the risk of bringing on hoards of criticism, I’m going to go ahead and simplify things this way: If you’re lost when it comes to choosing your operating system, just get Windows 7. Sure, Macs are simple, but getting software for them can be a hassle. Windows may have a poor track-record when it comes to stability and ease of use, but I’m putting a lot of faith in Windows 7, and I think it’s a safe choice for YOU. If you know you want a Mac though, please get it!
  • Processor – When it comes to desktops, you’re really only going to concern yourself with how many cores and processors you want. Adding processors and cores means better ability to process multiple instructions at a time (translating to blazing speed and excellent multitasking), while a single core on a single processor will more than meet the needs of most users. Don’t get the fancy processor set-up unless you know you need it. For most modern operating systems and software, though, I recommend at least a single processor with dual cores. More than that and you’d better be doing some serious video editing or 3D graphics (like games).
  • Hard Drive – If you’re doing video editing or if you’re archiving your DVD collection on the hard drive, get something huge. If you’re just surfing the Internet and writing papers in Word, you don’t need much hard drive space. Even the smallest hard drives shipping these days are more than ample for the average user. Note that media center systems should have more hard drive space to store videos or recorded television.

Sure, there are more factors than just these to consider, but if you’re not a power user who already knows about the other factors, then you don’t need to worry about them. What you don’t know can’t hurt you here.

The only other thing I would caution is to avoid brands you’re not familiar with and be wary of prices that are significantly lower than competing systems with similar capabilities. Your desktop shouldn’t be too expensive, but don’t be a cheapskate once you know what you want. Just pay what the trusted manufacturers are charging.

I currently use a first generation HP TouchSmart for my desktop, and it’s held up very well in the two years we’ve owned it. Both of my laptops are Toshibas, and we love them. Namebrand systems are always a good bet.

Where Desktops Fail

The only problem with a desktop is that it is not very portable. Sure, some of the newer CPU box form-factors (especially in the case of media center computers) are very small and lightweight. However, the screen and input devices are not built in, thus to use the system it must be hooked up to these things, and to move it you have to unplug everything. Convenient? No.

So what if you really need something you can take to class with you? You need either a laptop or a netbook. Can’t decide which one? Consider this:

I thought I could get a netbook and do the same things with it as I do with my laptop. I was wrong. Even with a full size keyboard attached and an external mouse, the netbook screens are too small to be practical in a number of applications. For a true, natural computing experience, you’ll still want a larger system. They make laptops that are much closer in size (and price) to netbooks, but they are much more convenient. If you’re not sure about getting a netbook, don’t. Just go for a smaller laptop. I promise you’ll be happy with it.

If you know you want a netbook, get it. If you’re not sure, don’t. You’ve got to be committed to liking your netbook, or you’re going to hate it.

Other than the netbook vs laptop decision, there isn’t a whole lot more to think about. How portable do you want it? There are a range of sizes from 13 inches to over 18 inches for screens. Some are less than an inch thin, and others have huge 12 cell batteries that lift them about three inches off your table top. Some run hot from having their hardware crammed in to a small space, while others have minimal hardware configurations and are quiet and cool. Again, the considerations for desktops will all hold true for laptops, but you might want to consider the following IN ADDITION to the desktop suggestions:

  • Overall Size – You’re getting a laptop because a desktop isn’t portable enough for you, but how portable do you need your laptop to be? If you are still just going to leave it set up in one place for long periods of time, you might consider a larger desktop replacement laptop. These systems offer the same performance as a desktop, at often competitive prices, but at the end of the day the screen folds up and you can pack it away in a bag. Expect these to weigh close to ten pounds though! Then there are the ultra portables that weigh in at under five pounds (mine weighs like three pounds!). Keep in mind that a netbook can weigh close to one pound, but you’ve already decided you want a laptop, right?
  • Battery Size/Usage – Some laptops these days are being designed as marathon machines. They can squeeze almost a full day of usage out of a single charge, but that efficiency comes at a price (both in dollars and performance). Most laptops are designed to fully contain a six cell battery, but by doubling the number of cells to twelve (and subsequently, increasing the size of the battery pack itself, causing it to protrude out the back or bottom of the computer), you can double the life of the battery. Also, Intel and AMD make processors specifically designed to use less power. They usually run at far less than 2 Gigahertz, and they cannot handle too many big tasks like gaming and video editing as well. You could try, but if that’s what you need the system for (primarily) you’ll just have to charge the system more often.
  • USB Ports – If you use a lot of devices at once, you’ll need at least three USB ports. I always recommend using an external keyboard and mouse with a laptop whenever possible simply because they can be replaced much easier than the built-in devices. The less you use them, the less likely they are to break. So, with a keyboard and mouse plugged in, you will want to have at least one more USB port for external hard drives, thumb drives, cameras or whatever else tickles your fancy. A few laptops only have two ports (one on each side), most have three, and a few have up to five USB ports. Get as many as you can without spending too much just for that feature. Also keep in mind that some USB devices have a special “Y” shaped cable that plugs into two USB ports. If you might need one of these devices, you’ll want a laptop with two USB ports that are close together, not one on each side.

In my most recent purchase, I wanted something far more portable than my old laptop but more capable than a netbook. I went with a Toshiba Satellite, ultra thin system. This particular system (like most ultra thin, lightweight systems) does not have an optical drive (no DVD or CD drive). That wasn’t an issue for me because I knew that all of the software I could ever need I was going to download for free once I got it connected to the Internet. If you install a lot of software from disks but still want a system like mine, there are some great external drives that will meet your needs. I may end up getting one too so I can watch movies on my laptop, but for now I’m fine without an optical drive.

Accessories

The final hardware consideration is, what else do you need? Some people need lots of storage but end up choosing a laptop with a smaller hard drive. In that case, just get an external hard drive. Do you transfer a lot of files between systems? Get a thumb drive. Actually, I recommend that people get thumb drives even if they don’t need them for transferring files. They make a great place to keep backups of your most important files.

Keyboard:

The only thing I know you’ll need if you got a laptop is a mouse and keyboard. There’s no getting around it – using the laptop keyboard puts wear on it that could eventually require maintenance. If you use an external keyboard, and it breaks, you can just unplug it and get another one. My favorite typing keyboard ever (that I’ve used anyhow) is the Logitech Classic Keyboard 200. It currently sells for $13.99 on Amazon.com, it is comfortable, and I’ve never had any problems with it. I love it.

Mouse:

I do recommend spending a little more for your external mouse though. Touch pads are great for basic navigation and occasional clicking, but nothing beats a scroll wheel on the Internet, and when doing graphics work or gaming you just can’t live without a mouse. My current favorite is the Microsoft Explorer series. Specifically, my wife and I love our Explorer Mini mice. Amazon.com sells them for about $40, they retail for about $60, and there is currently a vendor on Amazon that is selling them for under $20 (with $4 shipping). The great thing about the Explorer mice is that they will track on literally anything but glass and mirrors (although in some tests these mice have actually tracked on glass and mirrors!). We can use them on shag carpet, glossy surfaces, pitted surfaces, hair, clothing, anything at all, and more. If you want a great mouse, Microsoft actually has a great product.

PRE-INSTALLED SOFTWARE YOU DON’T NEED

All computers come with what is lovingly called “bloat-ware.” This is software that people pay the manufacturer to include pre-installed from the factory. In some ways I guess it’s good because I’d like to think that the money they earn from that endeavor goes toward keeping costs lower for me, but I rather doubt it.

Anyhow, the first program I highly suggest you uninstall (if it’s installed) is Norton Anti-Virus. Many computers come with it pre-installed along with an offer for a whole year or month or day of free updates. It’s not worth it. Microsoft has a free program you can download right away that does the same thing (well, roughly the same thing).

To get rid of Norton (or any program, for that matter), just go to the control panel and look for “Add/Remove Programs” or something like that. Find the offender, click “uninstall,” and follow the directions. Most virus protection software will require that you restart after removing it. That’s OK.

Now, I don’t recommend you leave your computer virus-protection-free for long. It is a dangerous thing. So once you’ve finished uninstalling the crud you don’t need, make sure you immediately download the “essential” software I have listed below, in the order I’ve listed them.

First though, look for any programs that say “offer” or “setup” next to them and get rid of them (still in the Add/Remove Software tool). Also, some systems (most Toshibas and HPs) come with some kind of game portal that you should get rid of.

Many people will tell you to get rid of a lot more than this, but it’s not always necessary. After you’ve been using the computer for a month or so, go back to the Add/Remove Software tool and look over the list. If you recognize the program and you know you use it a lot, don’t get rid of it. If you recognize it and you know you don’t use it a lot, get rid of it (just make sure you know what it does first!). Everything else is probably OK to leave installed.

FREE SOFTWARE YOU MIGHT NEED

Some of these are more essential than others. I’ll categorize them to simplify this. In some cases it won’t matter what program you get as long as you get something that does the job. So, if you’re ready to get started, open Internet Explorer (unless your system came with another browser pre-installed, in which case you should DEFINITELY use the other one!).

Note: This list is designed for Windows users ONLY. Many of these programs are cross platform, but I’m not going to say which ones because I’m not making this list for Mac users. Sorry guys. Maybe another time.

Essential Software

These are programs that you will need to get – almost everyone needs these programs. Right away, before downloading anything, you need virus protection!

  • Virus Protection – Search for “Microsoft Security Essentials,” or go to http://www.microsoft.com/Security_Essentials/. Click on the big “Download Now” button, save the executable and run it. Make sure you have already removed any virus protection that shipped with your computer, then close your web browser while the program installs. Once it installs make sure it runs OK, then let it scan your system. Depending on the size of your hard drive, this can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Since this is the first thing you’re doing on your new system, everything should be clean. After it scans your system, you may proceed with this list.
  • New Browser – DO NOT USE INTERNET EXPLORER. Sure, there are a lot of sites that require it, but I can show you how to get around that later. For now, just download one or both of the following browsers and try them out. You won’t miss Internet Explorer after a few days. I promise. My favorite is Google Chrome, but I was once a die-hard Firefox fan (I even have an embroidered FireFox shirt). They are both worlds better than IE, more secure, faster, and prettier. While I might catch some heat for this, I am going to recommend that you just get Google Chrome. It’s better. Once you’ve downloaded and selected a new browser, close Internet Explorer and never open it again (unless you really have to).
  • Free Office Software – While there are a few options for this, my favorite (and arguably the most user friendly and robust) is OpenOffice.org. Just go to their website in your new, shiny browser, and download. It’s that easy. The installation is easy and the program operates a lot like Microsoft Office. There are some differences, but OpenOffice.org can do just about anything Microsoft Office can do, and in some cases it does it better. If you ever find that OpenOffice.org just isn’t meeting your needs, feel free to go back to the Microsoft version, but I don’t think most people will ever need to.
  • Media Player – Windows Media Player is pretty good, but there are a lot of things it can’t handle. For everything else, there’s VLC. VLC can’t do everything, but I’ve never found a video it couldn’t play.
  • Photo Organizer – Since most people maintain some kind of image collection (from digital cameras, web graphics, etc.), you’ll probably want a good program to organize and lightly edit those photos. Google Picasa is a great product that is completely free and I recommend it to everyone.

Everything Else

Those, to me, represent the bare-bones necessities for a new computer. If you get nothing else, make sure you get those things. The remainder of my list is specific to my needs and wants, based on what I want to use the computer for. If you know of other great free programs that aren’t listed here, please add them in the comments.

  • Dropbox – This is a really cool file program. It creates a special folder that automatically backs itself up online any time you add or change files in the folder. If you install Dropbox on other computers and link them with your account, Dropbox will synchronize all of the folders across all of the computers and devices you have Dropbox installed on. I love it.
  • Notepad ++ – If you do any web development or coding the old fashioned way (in notepad) you might want to try Notepad ++. I found this little gem several years ago and have installed it on all of my computers ever since.
  • Skype – For video calls and VoIP, my favorite is still Skype. We’ve been using it for quite a while now and we love it.
  • Google Talk – Actually, I didn’t download the Talk program, I installed the Video and Voice plug-in. While most of our video chats are handled over Skype, we have more friends with Google accounts than Skype accounts. With this plug-in, I can have a video call with any Google Talk contact who is also using the plug-in or the desktop client. I’ve only done it once, and it was a long time ago, but this is a valuable thing to have on standby.
  • Google Earth – There’s nothing cooler than exploring your planet in 3D with a nearly infinitely scalable, detailed and textured model with Google Maps plastered all over it. This is as fun as it is useful.
  • Google SketchUp – I am a bit of a 3D hobbyist, and SketchUp is a great way to rapidly visualize a model. It’s a wildly different experience from most of the 3D software I’ve used, but once I got the hang of it I realize it was easier and more intuitive than anything else I’ve ever tried. Plus, it’s free!
  • Blender – On the subject of 3D, how does a free 3D program with advanced features sound? SketchUp may be easy and fast, but it’s not anywhere near Blender’s level. I don’t know if it’s just me, but Blender is extremely un-intuitive to learn. However, I’ve seen what it can do, and I’m impressed enough to trudge over the learning curve and figure it out.
  • Paint.NET – If I’m going to make awesome 3D images in Blender, I’ll need software like Photoshop to make textures, composites, do touch-ups, and more. Windows Paint won’t do any of that. In fact, Paint is nearly useless. Luckily, there’s a better Paint. This program can do layers, adjustments, transparency and even some cool effects. Sure, there’s a lot that it can’t do, but it’s free. If it does what you need it to then you’ve lost nothing, right? I even made the cover for my new book entirely in Paint.NET.
  • Inkscape – Paint.NET can handle most of my 2D needs, but it is primarily for raster images (bitmaps). For vector images, I love Inkscape. It’s relatively easy to learn, and it can handle almost anything you can dream up.
  • GIMP – Many people believe GIMP capable of anything Photoshop can do. I don’t agree, but I do think GIMP is better than Paint.NET for more advanced jobs. A lot like Blender, I find GIMP hard to learn, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. I want to learn it so I can see how long I can live without Photoshop. Someday I’ll be rich and it won’t matter. Until then, I’ll be struggling with GIMP.
  • WavePad – I haven’t tried this yet, but it’s a free audio editing tool that I hope will allow me to make simple audio tracks for animations or an audio book. We shall see. Once I’ve tried it, I’ll write a review (and link to it from here).
  • VideoPad – Like WavePad, I downloaded this to see if it would be suitable for creating simple promotional or family videos. I just want to be able to cut scenes together, edit things out and add simple effects. If this program is a winner, I’ll write a review.

CONCLUSION

I hope this helped. As I use my system and learn more about what programs are meeting my needs and which ones I don’t have that could help, I may modify this list.

I’m 100% sure of all of the hardware tips though, as well as the “essential software” bit. The important thing to remember is that there are hundreds of thousands of free programs out there that you can find that will do the same things that more expensive software can do. Look to the free stuff first, and if it doesn’t work out, pay for what you need.

Good luck and happy computing!

Thoughts on Chrome So Far

I was about to write all about my problems with Chrome and Google Docs, so I did a quick document in Google Docs from Chrome, sent it to my blog at WordPress and grabbed screen shots of everything, then went to Google Docs in Firefox to grab screen shots of how it performs there and write up a quick document to show how it formats everything, then I was going to post that document to my blog to show how my work flow had been running so smoothly from Firefox.

Unfortunately, Google Docs wouldn’t post to my blog in Firefox for some strange reason (despite that I have always done things this way).  It’s always unsettling when things suddenly stop working the way they had been working consistently.

Overall, after using Chrome for nearly two weeks I have almost no complaints.  Of course, I was spoiled in Firefox with all of the ad blocking add-ons, bookmark synchronizing and other plug-ins that will surely be a part of Chrome in the future.  From an everyday use point of view, Chrome has met all of my needs and shown me a better way to browse the web in most cases.

On the features page for Google Chrome they list ten features that have been talked about since even before the browser launched a couple days shy of two weeks ago.  Taking a shortcut in writing my official initial review of the Google Chrome browser, I am going to list each of the ten features and write about my personal experiences with that feature.

One Box for Everything

AKA, the Omnibox.  Let me just say that I love the omnibox.  I have been trying to exploit all of its functionality since I began using the browser, and I think it may still be hiding cool features from me.  It just seems to be able to do everything.  You can type anything into it and when you hit “Enter” it just goes.  Sure, nothing is perfect, and I was hoping to be able to find a story I read earlier today somewhere by searching the omnibox, but it couldn’t find it (then, neither can I, searching the history, searching the web and retracing my steps, so I may just be dumb).

Of course, not much of what it does from a basic user standpoint is actually unique, it’s the fact that it is all combined into one place that makes it new.  It highlights the main domain URL, but so do some plug-ins and beta browsers.  It does both URL and search box jobs, which Internet Explorer has been doing with Microsoft’s own search when what you type doesn’t lead to a website.  Of course, the ability to search using a site’s search function before you ever load the page is a wonderful new feature.  The omnibox’s connection with your browsing history is extremely useful, and the fact that it has combined so many features into one place just makes me happy.

I’ve always loved Google’s approach to designing user interfaces, and they carried their ideas over to Chrome beautifully.  The omnibox is, of course, the very essence this philosophy.  If I didn’t have my bookmark toolbar turned on all the time the whole user interface would nearly disappear into my browsing experience.  Even with the slender bookmark toolbar I feel like Chrome is a much lighter browser than most of the competition.

New Tab Page

I use iGoogle as my homepage, but the new tab page in Chrome is so comfortable and useful, it’s almost like home.

It’s divided into four areas.  The first, and largest section being the Most Visited sites grid.  The grid contains thumbnails and titles of your nine most visited sites.  I’ve never used the Opera browser, but I guess this “dialer” approach is directly knocked off from Opera (I’ve also seen the feature offered by add-ons for Firefox).  Below the grid there is a link to your complete web history (also a nice looking, easy to use page).

The next section at the top of the right hand column is the Searches box.  Here search boxes grabbed right from sites you’ve visited and searched from are displayed for you to use.  This function is separate from the omnibox’s ability to allow you to search Amazon, for example by typing “amazon.com health and medicine” to search Amazon for “health and medicine.”  My Searches section has a search bar for my browsing history, Amazon.com, Wikipedia.com and YouTube.com, all places I’ve searched from lately.  Rather than loading those sites to search there, I can use the omnibox or the search box right on my new tab page.

The next box below the Searches box is the Recent Bookmarks box.  In my new tab page it lists the last nine bookmarks I saved.  I don’t know if it grabs those based on a time frame or will always list the last nine bookmarks.

Somehow, my current new tab page doesn’t have the final box (it’s usually there, and I’m sure there’s a good reason for it to be gone).  The final box displays recently closed tabs.  I have recently closed tabs, but by “recent” I mean a couple of hours ago.  I suppose this box is populated based on a time frame.  Either way, it’s the closest thing Chrome has to an “Undo Close Tab” function.

I use the new tab page frequently, though I don’t see it ever replacing my iGoogle homepage unless it can learn to display custom updates (new Gmail messages, new Reader feed content, messages and updates from other sites, etc.) from the sites I use most.

Application Shortcuts

Admittedly, I hadn’t used this function until just a few seconds ago, but it’s great!  I went to my site’s dashboard at WordPress and clicked on the “create application shortcuts…” menu item.  A box popped up showing me a preview of the icon and text for the shortcut, and below there were three check boxes for creating the shortcut on my desktop (checked by default), in my start menu and in the quick launch bar.  I left the default checkbox checked and hit OK.  Immediately, the WordPress tab jumped out of my main browser window and the whole Chrome interface disappeared.  At that point, the WordPress interface takes over and it behaves just like an application on my computer.

Just to try it out, I closed the WordPress window and opened the new shortcut.  I loaded quickly (Google Gears may have been playing a part in that) and worked beautifully.  I had originally worried that the shortcut might be an average Internet shortcut that opens in your default browser (still Firefox on my computer), but these shortcuts load in special, featureless windows designed to make the page feel like its own application.

Perfect.  I love this feature and will begin creating application shortcuts for all of my favorite web applications (and some I wasn’t using just because they weren’t accessible enough).

Dynamic Tabs

Dynamic is a good word for it.  Even just watching them move around so fluidly as I rearrange them, open new ones and close old ones, I love the way these tabs work.  Even better is the ability dock and undock tabs from different windows.  If I have three tabs open and I want to make sure one doesn’t get closed by accident while I am closing others, I can drag that tab down out of the tab bar and it separates into its own new window.  When I have the first window back in order, I can drag that separated tab back into the main window and I’m back to having only one browser window.  It’s fluid, it’s dynamic, it’s fast and it’s efficient.  I think it’s great.

Crash Control

Aah, what a relief.  Google Chrome runs each tab in a separate process on your computer so if something crashes one tab the rest of them can continue functioning.  In theory this should bog the system down a bit, but I haven’t noticed a drop in performance at all (and my system is OLD – 512 MB of ram, single core processor, and so forth).

Built in with these separate processes is a process manager.  I can’t figure out how to bring it up manually, but it comes up automatically if a tab is taking too long and gives you the option to shut it down.  I’ve heard the process manager can be viewed by bringing it up manually, but I haven’t cared to poke around enough to find it.

So far, after twelve days of continuous, daily use, I have yet to see any fatal errors, major problems or crashed programs.  The task manager has come up offering to let me wait on or close slow tabs only three or four times, and most the time I just choose to wait and the tab loads eventually (dumb slow ISP…).

Incognito Mode

True, this has been dubbed “porn mode” by many ever since the feature was made part of the new Internet Explorer and similar functions appeared through the use of plug-ins and third party applications.  Basically, this is a new browser window you can open that prevents any information from being stored on your computer (cookies, history, cache, browsing information of any kind, and more).

I don’t have much use for it as a “porn mode” but I did run some tests on it to see if it could indeed mask my web browsing activity as promised.  No sign of my incognito activity was recorded to the computer, just like they said.

Unless I’m trying to hide something from someone else who uses the computer, I really can’t see much of a use for incognito browsing (for me, personally).  I understand there are people who would want it for one reason or another, but it’s not really that exciting to me.

Perhaps the best part about this mode is the window that loads when you first open the incognito browser window.    

Click for larger view.

I love that last bullet point of things to be wary of – people standing behind you.  Especially with the nickname such a mode has earned, the idea of someone thinking they are safe looking at some dirty videos or images and someone else standing right behind them watching really tickles me.

Safe Browsing

Chrome is connected with Google’s directory of harmful sites and integrates this service into the browsing experience.  While my normal web browsing habits never take me to the darker corners of the net, I can see how such a service could be quite handy.

When you are about to view sensitive data over an insecure connection the browser warns you.  Also, as with any non-Internet Explorer browser, browser specific attacks are rare.  The separate processes for each tab also provide a certain degree of safety.  For a number of reasons, Google is entitled to claim that Chrome offers safe browsing.

Of course, security holes exist and a patch has already been issued in the form of an upgrade (an easy process once you know where to go – the About Google Chrome menu option).  No browser (to date) can claim to be 100% secure, but Chrome makes major strides in the right direction.

Instant Bookmarks

Bookmarking a page really is easy, especially since Google borrowed most of the process from already established models.  The star icon that I first saw in Firefox (though since I avoid Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera and Netscape I suppose it could have started in one of those) has reappeared in Chrome, and it has been improved upon.

While at a page you wish to bookmark, you click the star icon and a tiny menu box opens right there with options for renaming the bookmark and placing it in a folder.  There is an Edit button for more options, a Close button for if you don’t need to edit anything and there is a remove button to remove the bookmark (the same menu pops up every time you hit the star, even if the page is already bookmarked).  That’s it.  Simple, sweet and easy to use.

Importing Settings

When I installed Chrome it identified Firefox as my current default browser and offered to import my settings and data from Firefox.  I did, and it brought all of my bookmarks and cookies over, but I don’t think it brought my browsing history, which would have been nice.

Simpler Downloads

I really do like the download manager in Chrome.  There isn’t much to say about it though, because it’s just too simple and elegant to criticize or discuss.  It downloads things at the bottom of the window, the tab that initiated the download gets a little green down-arrow to signify that a download is being managed from there, the corner display has a percentage and bits downloaded progress circle, and the finished download display has a menu for interacting with the downloaded file.  That’s it.

The browser keeps a history of your downloads, which can be viewed like the browsing history.  A default download location can be set, and an option to “ask every time” can be enabled.

General Review

Again, this browser isn’t ready to replace my beloved Firefox browser as the default browser.  However, after twelve days of using it as my default browser, I have to say I’m only waiting for a few things to come together.

For one, if this post formats correctly after the transfer from Google Docs to WordPress, about 90% of my reason for leaving Firefox as the default browser will have disappeared.

If I have to go back and erase a bunch of DIV tags to get it to format correctly, I’m going to be quite annoyed and Chrome will have to start mowing my lawn before I’ll make it my default browser.

So I suppose we could consider the posting of this article the moment of truth between Chrome and me.  Of course, the formatting issue isn’t the only problem I’ve had with using Google Docs in Chrome.

Here is a summary of the problems I have encountered so far in Google Docs using Chrome:

1. It uses DIV tags to separate paragraphs in the HTML.  This does not happen in Firefox.  (See screenshot below.)  The DIV tag creats an issue in WordPress, and makes the whole thing format incorrectly.

Click for larger view.

2. The main Google Docs interface page is having troubles rendering correctly in Chrome (see screenshot below).  As of right now, the problem seems to be coming from a failed attempt to update the Google Docs application.  Right now I’ve got a red exclamation point where the little green circle should be.  That’s not good.

Click for larger view.

It never got past the 67% and now it says: “An error occurred while updating software. Failed to update software for the applications: Google Documents, Google Spreadsheets.”  If this isn’t Chrome’s fault, I don’t know who to blame.

3. When assigning text as a link, a space is often inserted after my selected text.  If my memory serves correctly, this may have been happening on occasion in Firefox as well.  May not be browser specific, but it can be annoying.

4. I don’t know whether to blame Chrome for this one, but Google Docs mysteriously quit posting to my blog from Firefox after I posted to my blog from Chrome just once.  Coincidence?  Maybe.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is obvious that Chrome is having compatibility issues with certain web applications (eh hem, Google Docs; though others are probably out there) and that is to be expected.  For now, I forgive Google but I expect them to fix it, especially since my problems have to do with Google products.

To be completely fair, web standards play a huge role in this issue, and Microsoft’s near monopoly on the browser marked makes things difficult for smaller browsers (even Firefox).

Except for compatibility and web standard issues, I really don’t have many complaints about Chrome.  Google stripped the traditional browser of many features it felt were redundant, unnecessary or overly complicated and produced Chrome with all the features it needed wrapped up into a neat, efficient package.  I love the way it handles.  It feels like navigating the web in a technology demonstrator prototype vehicle.  Some things are a hundred times more efficient (Chrome does feel a little faster) and in other areas you’re bound to happen upon a bug or two.  I look forward to future releases and upgrades, and may soon make Chrome my default browser (especially if this post works out and I don’t have to redo the formatting).

*Update: The formatting issue remains an issue.  I suppose I’ll have to report this to the folks at Google. 

Side Project & Had to Share…

I started a side project that I want you all to know about, but first I got a chuckle out of something that I wanted to share with you.

You may or may not have heard about the new Microsoft ad campaign.  They hired Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates (remember Gates doesn’t work for Microsoft any more, he’s retired) to do an ad campaign aimed at erasing the bad image Microsoft has of being the devil.  The first ad was released earlier this month and I thought it was a good first step but I felt like they should have done a lot more with it (I didn’t laugh even once, which left me wondering why they hired Seinfeld at all).  The second ad came out last week and I just got around to watching it today.  I laughed out loud at this one and you just have to watch it yourself.  I watched it embedded at Engadget, but here it is if you don’t want to click through to their site:

I think it’s an interesting concept and was well executed.  I look forward to seeing more of these ads in the future.

Now, for the project I started.  I linked to it from here sometime last week and even inserted the feed (you may have noticed it if you visit my page often) in the side bar.  The project is called My Favorite Quotes.  If you are subscribed to my feed in a reader, I recommend that you subscribe to this new feed at http://ilikethesequotes.wordpress.com/feed/ and if you just stop by my site every once and a while to read what I have written lately, be sure to look at the My Favorite Quotes feed toward the bottom of my side bar.

Here’s the deal: the feed only displays the quotes, not what I write about the quote.  What I am not trying to do is start a “quote of the week” service (once I’ve got a few more quotes up, I’ll start doing it once a week or so but over the last few days I have written commentary on four different quotes).  The feed only serves up the quotes, but the whole point of the project is that I write my thoughts and commentary about each quote.  Thus, if you see a quote that interests you, be sure to click through to the site to see it in context where you can read what I wrote about it and (please) leave your own comments.

Also, the new site has an About this Project page where you can leave quotes you like in the comments and, if I like the quote too, I’ll do a commentary on it.

I hope you at least enjoy the quotes.  Many of them are humorous and most of them contain a great deal of wisdom.  I also hope you read my comments on the quotes and share your own comments.  As always, I am listening and would love to hear your thoughts.

In other news I have rearranged most of the side bar here (at the Mediocre Renaissance Man site) to remove some of the clutter and make the new features easier to notice.  I shall have to do more if it is ever going to be a truly efficient place to interact with me, but this is a good step forward.

Work on my game project has slowed, no screeched to a halt.  I intend to pick it back up a bit this weekend, but my wife’s patience was wearing thin so I decided to give it a rest.  It has been difficult for me, and I am worried that this break may prevent me from ever completing the project.  I need momentum to get projects like that one finished, and my momentum is all gone.  I will still upload the project even if I never finish it, so you will get a chance to check it out even in its unfinished form.  No time frame on that though, it’s just going to happen when it happens.

Also this weekend I plan on writing a more in-depth review of Google Chrome since I have had a while to test it out and gather my feelings.  I may not actually get around to writing the whole review this weekend, but expect it by next weekend at the latest.

For all you family readers out there, we have new videos to upload, but we’ll just add that to an already bursting list of “todo” items.  Maybe I can start the upload now and let it run while I do other things…

Finally, I have added a page to this site called About You.  I recommend you check it out (not a lot of text, I promise).

All in all, I really just plan on relaxing and playing some games with my family this weekend.  There’s always a list of at least ten things I’d love to do in a day, and if I get around to just one of them I’m happy.  I’m going to go play some SSBB.  Later.

RE: Chrome

Amazon knows almost everything about nearly every major purchase I’ve made in the last four years (or longer, I can’t even remember when I started shopping on Amazon). Google knows all about who I’ve been in touch with, what I’ve been looking at, looking for and reading all over the Internet for at least the last three years, but probably even longer since I was using their search engine shortly after they first appeared online about a decade ago.

And, until recently (just today, actually), Firefox has been quietly and dependably facilitating all of my activities, communications and learning via the World Wide Web since I converted from Internet Explorer near the beginning of the millennium, around 2004 (not that I needed a good reason to leave that tired piece of reject code behind). All the way from 1.0 to version 3+ I’ve been a loyal supporter, fan and avid user of Mozilla’s beautifully designed desktop icon, Firefox. I upgrade every chance I get. I install plug-ins. I even bought a Firefox t-shirt and some stickers.

I still love Firefox, but now I’m feeling a little… confused.

It’s not like I didn’t tell her. Firefox knew all about our little “thing” since it started. Since February of 2005 I’ve been a raving fan of Gmail, Google’s (still beta, three years later) e-mail service, and Firefox was there when I signed up. When Google really started branching out into other services, especially with the iGoogle homepage, Google Docs and Google Reader, I was interested. After all, Google was a strong supporter of Firefox, so using their services wasn’t a disservice to my beloved web browser at all, was it? In fact, I was supporting a supporter of Firefox.

A couple of days ago I heard that Google was on the verge of releasing their new browser, Chrome. I read a nice article about it from a source I enjoy reading (and usually trust) and decided to give it a try. I had already been using Google Desktop on my Linux laptop and Google’s Picasa photo software on my Windows computer, and I love Google Earth, Google Talk and Google’s release of SketchUp, so a Google web browser didn’t sound all that bad.

My first impressions are a mess of mixed feelings, but overall I am both impressed and pleased. I can come up with really only one major gripe (other than that Chrome doesn’t support any good plug-ins yet, like Adblock Plus) having to do with the way it handles RSS and other subscription feeds, but despite how much I do like the newcomer, my beloved Firefox is dormant even now while I use Google Docs to write this from within Chrome, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

I’m enjoying the experience, but with a touch of bitterness. Chrome is not Firefox. Mozilla took on a web browser giant and made some major headway and history, significantly impacting Microsoft’s monopoly on the web browser market. Now Google wants to offer Internet goers yet another option, and I’m all for competition, but now I am forced to question my personal definitions of loyalty and support in this grand game of Hungry Hungry Web Browsers.

Would making the complete switch to Chrome be betrayal? I’m not ready for that yet, as I have fallen in love with the features many of Firefox’s plug-ins offer as well as Firefox’s inherent feature-set. I don’t think Chrome is that far behind though, and it will probably catch up soon. What should I do? Obviously I’ve switched before, and it’s not like I’m married to Firefox, but I had never felt loyalty for a product before like I do for Firefox – or so I thought. Perhaps what I felt wasn’t loyalty at all, but satisfaction. If I can find satisfaction somewhere else, and we’re not talking about marriage here (of course) then perhaps I belong somewhere else.

That’s how I handled my switch from a mail service I liked (go.com, before Disney bought them – do you even remember them?) to a mail service I love. That’s how we should do business, that’s why there’s competition. There has to be choice.

But then, I’ve been with Firefox longer than I’ve been with my wife. We go way back (in Internet years, anyhow). Just now I was doing some research to get the dates right for when Firefox was first released, and when Google really got their start. I typed “http://www.wikipedia.org” into the address bar, then hit “TAB” and it displayed this:

Then I could type in my search without ever having to load the main Wikipedia page. Of course, Firefox and other browsers have offered this function in one way or another (separate search bars, toolbars, plug-ins, etc.) but never has the workflow been this natural and easy (from later tests I found that I didn’t even have to hit the tab). That’s just one of many features they’ve included in their browser (the Omnibox).

They also snatched up the fastest JavaScript engine on the market (up to ten times than the system Firefox is running, and WAY faster than the IE JavaScript), and they set up their infrastructure to prevent many of the problems that older browsers are facing today with common viruses, bugs and page crashes that can disable the browser or even the whole computer.  
For more details on the technical aspects of this new browser, check out some of these articles:

  • Wired Magazine – the one I read that got me interested – the history, reasons behind it and some of the new technology in a well-written, easy-to-read, fun presentation
  • Blogoscoped – very good basic rundown of the features
  • Washington Post – good review of some of the features
  • PC World – good article, seven reasons for it and against it
  • USA Today – a nice, brief review

In the end, Chrome has many awesome, powerful features that make it very attractive to me. I may end up switching when they make those last couple of changes to make it just a little more attractive to this (still) loyal Firefox user.

No matter what happens, though, I’m keeping my Firefox t-shirt.


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    "The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as the greatest virtues." - Rene Descartes
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