Improving productivity and fun with browser add-ons and scripts

I spend all day working online and managing information systems.
I was asked again how come I don’t have the same ‘bad experiences’ others do when browsing the internet. Why I don’t get things like getting ‘drive by Trojans’, bogus Anti-virus pop-ups, and obtrusive music or videos that play no matter what.
I mentioned that besides the obvious of keeping all of my systems AND applications(browsers, Acrobat etc.)up to date with the latest security patches, always making sure I have the latest Anti-Virus/anti-spyware updates and not going places I know I shouldn’t or clicking on suspicious links, the most likely reason beyond that is the web browser and add-ons I use that make my browsing more productive and fun. I also spend a great deal of time furthering my education, catching up with friends and family and just plane wasting what little free time I may have being entertained online.
I have put together many tools and configuration additions that make all of the things I do with my systems way simpler and easier.
I hope these may help some of you be more productive and provide for a more pleasurable internet experience.
I work with lot’s of different people with varied technical skill sets from absolute newbie’s all the way to the guys with lot’s of CC’s and MS’s after their names, and when they see how much I can ‘just do’ from the browser they are often just amazed.
I am a believer in ‘Kaizen’. Why not try to do everything better if you can. Work, play, rest, worship and just plain life in general. So I hope some will take the time and try and use some of these tools and tips and have some more fun and a more pleasant and rewarding internet experience.
First off I must start off with the ‘machine’ with which I connect to the internet with 90+% of the time.
That is Mozilla’s Firefox browser.
I use Firefox not because it is not any more secure than IE (compared to IE8 it is definitely not, but that is news for another post.), Safari, Chrome or Opera, but I use it because the ‘browser is the machine or portal’ that gets you to all of the ‘stuff out there’ and Firefox has ALL these custom tools and add-ons available to make just about everything I do easier, faster, funner and more efficient.
I use IE only when absolutely needed; usually with custom built applications that require some of IE’s more integrated Windows ‘hooks’. I actually like the way Internet Explorer renders pages better than Firefox. But the lack of add-ons stop me from using it.
Google’s Chrome is a fast simple browser but all of the extensions for Firefox have not been ported yet. AND I really dislike how the ‘Google updater’ is continuously running and connected to Google. As much as I like lots of things Google, especially Gmail and Google Docs, I try to restrict some of the information they are gathering on me.
[While I do love my Gmail, Google is getting more like big digital brother than imagined.]
I used to recommend the Google Toolbar for Firefox and IE but I have now removed it from ALL of my machines. I now recommend that everyone do the same. Seems Google is being even more sneaky and still tracking you even when you disable ‘sending of usage statistics’! I realize it is for ‘marketing’ – to provide you with targeted adds. People forget Google is in the ADVERTISING business; and they are very profitable at it. But I just don’t need that much data collected on me. Here is one article describing the issue. And here is another.]

I was recently asked about these tools and items so I just updated the links and information and added a few items. I hope you all enjoy.
Here are the Firefox Extensions I use:

After the Deadline
After the Deadline checks spelling, misused words, style, and grammar using artificial intelligence and natural language processing.
Now you can use it in your browser. Write better blog comments, tweet with correct grammar, and compose professional messages.

Better Gmail 2:
Developed by the founder of Lifehacker.com Better Gmail 2 compiles the best Greasemonkey user scripts for Gmail into a single package. Adds useful extra features to Gmail, like hierarchical labels, an unread message icon on your browser tab, file attachment icons, and more.

BetterPrivacy
Super-Cookie Safeguard (protects from LSO Flash Objects, DOM Storage Objects).

DownloadHelper:
I use this A LOT. Just surf the Web as you are used to, when DownloadHelper detects it can do something for you, the icon gets animated and a menu allows you to download files by simply clicking an item. It is also possible to capture all the images from a gallery in a single operation.

Adblock Plus:
Ever been annoyed by all those ads and banners on the internet that often take longer to download than everything else on the page? Install Adblock Plus now and get rid of them.

FaviconizeTab:
Alows you to right click on a tab and ‘Faviconize’ it.

FireFTP:
FireFTP is a free, secure, cross-platform FTP client for Mozilla Firefox which provides easy and intuitive access to FTP servers.

gui:conif:
Adds a graphical interface for Firefox about:config tweaking. Useful for the non-geek crowd.

Ghostery:
Ghostery allows you to detect trackers on the sites you visit, learn more about the companies behind them, and control their visibility into your online behavior.

Firesheep:
A Firefox extension that demonstrates HTTP session hijacking attacks. Nice to know if someone is ‘sniffing’ your wireless browsing!

IE Tab  2
Allows you to use IE to display web pages in a tab within FireFox. This updated version includes support for FireFox 3.6 and will continue to be updated with new features and enhancements.

MultirowBookmarksToolbar:
Multi Row Bookmarks Toolbar.

PDF Download:
Use PDF Download to do whatever you like with PDF files on the Web. Regain control and eliminate browser problems, view PDFs directly in Firefox as HTML, and use the all-new Web-to-PDF toolbar to save and share Web pages as high-quality PDF files.

Perspectives:
Perspectives is a new approach to help clients securely identify Internet servers in order to avoid "man-in-the-middle" attacks.

RightToClick:
Defeats a wide varity of javascript annoyances like disabled right click (contextmenu) , disabled text selection, disabled drag&drop and many more.
Enables right-click, text selection, context-menu, drag&drop and much more where it is disabled by Javascript.
Puts little ‘Arrow’ in bottom corner allowing you to enable, then highlight and right-click and/or copy text!

StopAutoplay:
Disable the autoplay of the embedded music and movies. User action (clicking on the play arrow) is then required to hear or see ‘active content’. Some people don’t like this because the want to click on a YouTube link and have it play right away. I DON’T. Being the control freak I am I want things to play ONLY when I choose them to. I would rather go to the page and use DownloadHelper add-on mentioned above, to download the file and view it with out all the buffering and such. Most web videos are ‘Flash’ video format, and can be played back via a freeware flash player like the one from Martijn de Visser his site is here and the actual player download is here.
I love this one! Stops that lousy music or videos from playing automatically playing on certain sites.

TinEye Reverse Image Search:
TinEye is a reverse image search engine. It finds out where an image came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or if there is a higher resolution version.

User Agent Switcher:
The User Agent Switcher extension adds a menu and a toolbar button to switch the user agent of a browser. The extension is available for Firefox and will run on any platform that this browser supports including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Helpful for sites that require specific browsers and versions.

Download Context Menu:
Shows the Explorer context (right click) menu of downloaded files in the Downloads list.

Open Bookmarks in New Tab
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/13784

Vacuum Places:
Defragments your Firefox "Places" database (history/bookmarks). This greatly reduces the lag while typing in the address bar and the start-up time.

BetterPrivacy:
Better Privacy serves to protect against not delete-able long-term cookies, a new generation of ‘Super-Cookie’, which silently conquered the internet.

VTzilla:
VTzilla is a Mozilla Firefox browser plugin that simplifies the process of scanning Internet resources with VirusTotal. It allows you to download files directly with VirusTotal’s web application prior to storing them in your PC. Moreover, it will not only scan files, but also URLs.

WiseStamp:
WiseStamp Email Apps enable users to bring social functionality in every email they send.

Greasemonkey:
Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension that allows you to customize the way webpages look and functions by adding additional scripts.
Hundreds of scripts are already available for free. And if you’re the tinkerer sort, you can also write your own.

[ultimate greasemonkey repository – if there is a script it is here:http://userscripts.org/ ]

Greasmonkey scripts I use. You can visit the authors pages to see more details:
Userscripts Updater:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/26062
YouTube HD Ultimate:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/31864
Gmail Favicon Alerts 3:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/24430
YouTube Enhancer:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/33042
Google Maps Zoom:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/7840
expertsExchange:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/37941
and
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/37941
and
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/59258

Remove Facebook Ads:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/46560

Greasemonkey scripts I don’t use but have heard good things about:
I don’t go on Facebook much but if I were a real ‘facebooker’ I would use this one too:
UnFuck Facebook:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/11992

Another one I don’t use but for people who would like to have ‘folders’ in Gmail:
Folders4Gmail:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/8810

Now to keep all tidy consistant in all places.
I use MS SyncToy to synchronize my Mozilla Firefox profiles from machine to machine too:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID;=c26efa36-98e0-4ee9-a7c5-98d0592d8c52

Pretty good Tutorial:
http://www.pchell.com/support/synctoy.shtml

Location of your Firefox profiles for synching:
Windows/Mac/Linux:
http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/Profiles#How_to_find_your_profile

Lastly even more geeky.
I have a portable version of Firefox on most of my usb flash drives so I can work on machines that might have had their browsers ‘compromised’ by maleware and virii.
To get more information on ‘Portable Firefox’go here:
http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/firefox_portable
Here the more technically savvy will find out how to install, configure and update your portable edition.

History Lesson on Social Security

Social Security Card

This is a little history lesson that you won’t see in the main-stream media–now or ever.

Make a copy and learn these facts–they’re relevant!!!

Your Social Security

Be sure and show it to your kids. They need a little history lesson on what’s what and it doesn’t matter whether you are Democrat or Republican. Facts are facts.

Social Security Cards up until the 1980s expressly stated the number and card were not to be used for identification purposes. Since nearly everyone in the United States now has a number, it became convenient to use it anyway and the message was removed. The cards are not supposed to be laminated.

OrigSScard

An old Social Security card with the "NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION" message.

Our Social Security card

Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, introduced the Social

Security (FICA) Program. He promised:

1.) That participation in the Program would be Completely voluntary,

No longer Voluntary

2.) That the participants would only have to pay 1% of the first $1,400 of their annual

Incomes into the Program,

Now 7.65% on the first $90,000

3.) That the money the participants elected to put into the Program would be deductible from

their income for tax purposes each year,

No longer tax deductible

4.) That the money the participants put into the independent ‘Trust Fund’ rather than into the

general operating fund, and therefore, would only be used to fund the Social Security

Retirement Program, and no other Government program, and,

Under Johnson the money was moved to The General Fund and Spent

5.) That the annuity payments to the retirees would never be taxed as income.

Under Clinton & Gore Up to 85% of your Social Security can be Taxed

Since many of us have paid into FICA for years and are now receiving a Social Security check every month —

and then finding that we are getting taxed on 85% of the money we paid to the Federal government to ‘put

away’ — you may be interested in the following:

Q: Which Political Party took Social Security from the independent ‘Trust Fund’ and put it into the

general fund so that Congress could spend it?

A: It was Lyndon Johnson and the democratically controlled House and Senate.

———— ——— ——— ——— ——— ——— ——— —

Q: Which Political Party eliminated the income tax deduction for Social Security (FICA) withholding?

A: The Democratic Party.

———— ——— ——— ——— ——— ——— ——— —–

Q: Which Political Party started taxing Social Security annuities?

A: The Democratic Party, with Al Gore casting the ‘tie-breaking’ deciding vote as President of the Senate, while he was Vice President of the  US

———— ——— ——— ——— ——— ——— ——— –

AND MY FAVORITE:

Q: Which Political Party decided to start giving annuity payments to immigrants?

A: That’s right!  Jimmy Carter and the Democratic Party.

Immigrants moved into this country, and at age 65, began to receive Social Security payments! The

Democratic Party gave these payments to them, even though they never paid a dime into it!

———— — ———— ——— —– ———— ——— ———

Then, after violating the original contract (FICA), the Democrats turn around and tell you that the Republicans want to take your Social Security away!

The worst part about it is uninformed citizens believe it!

If enough people receive this, maybe a seed of awareness will be planted and maybe changes will

evolve. Maybe not, some Democrats are awfully sure of what isn’t so.

But it’s worth a try. How many people can YOU send this to?

Mac vs Windows Personal Computers – PC’s

People very often ask me about the differences between Apple products and Microsoft’s.
My usual answer is this simple – one sells hardware (Apple) the other software (Microsoft). Both provide Operating systems that run PC’s (Personal Computers where the abbreviation PC really comes from!); Apple’s Operating system is OS X, Microsoft’s is Windows 7 (both latest). Both are fantastic. But there are many other distinct differences in the philosophies that drive each company.
I just spend another good bit of time trying to explain this to a few folks so I thought I’d pass on some of my points.

Microsoft does software primarily (yes there are some good hardware products by Microsoft like the Xbox and K’nect) – operating systems and applications and let’s just about anybody ‘build’ the hardware ‘around’ that software. In fact Microsoft was the premier software provider that helped Apple really get started in the 80’s.
Heck after Apple ousted Steve Job’s and nearly imploded, it was Microsoft that, along with the ‘re-hiring’ of Jobs literally saved the company with loads of cash and promises to continue software development for Apple!! Without Bill Gates, today’s Apple probably wouldn’t exist! Lets go back to Aug 6th, 1997 …Read here and Read here.

Apple is primarily a hardware seller. They tightly, and I mean very tightly, control the hardware that they allow their software (OS) to run on. In fact it is against the licensing agreement for OS X to run it on anything but Apple hardware! This helps Apple deliver hardware (with the associated software OS) that is usually of fairly good quality. But of course at a premium price.

Apple is great at ‘user interfaces’. The iPod and iPhone are simple and very easy to use, very intuitive. With such a large following the iPhone(and iPad now) also now have many great applications. The iPod took a technology that had existed for while and made it unbelievably user friendly Same with the iPad. Again simplicity of software interface to pretty hardware. Something that is sometimes missed is that ‘prettiness’ and the price people are willing to pay for it.
Apple has an awesome marketing department.
Apple ‘Fan-boys’ far out number any others.

My primary systems are MS Windows machines and servers of course. But I also run some Linux servers and a few Apple desktops. And I have been intimately working with all of them for decades (Linux being a ‘build/port’ of Unix that has been around for over 30 years). And my knowledge is simply not just web surfing or printing pictures. I have and do continue to use all of these in business production environments – digital pre-press, medical fields, financial fields, government and many other industries. [I also won’t even go into the ‘more stable’ argument I often here from some fan-boys because I’m sure they have never RIP’d a 300+MB file on a Mac vs a PC or had to crunch massive digital files. Suffice it to say all systems crash but in my personal experience it has been Mac’s that do so more than any other under heavy processing]

Before you jump on me; I have had apples since my first Apple IIe. I still have lots of Apple hardware. So don’t call me a hater. I just don’t like being ‘locked’ into items or forced to spend loads of cash for hardware upgrades just to keep my software up to date.
As an illustration of that point.
"If you took your car in for service and they welded your hood shut, you wouldn’t be very happy,"- Apple shutting owners out of their iPhones.
http://goo.gl/HDmNY

Another VERY important thing for many to consider is the cost of hardware of each system. Apple systems do and will cost you a HIGH premium over similar Windows based systems. AND Apple is very good at making sure you will have to replace your system every few years! I am not kidding. If you have an Apple machine that is over 3 or 4 years old there is most likely no way you could run the latest version of their OS (OS X Snow Leopard). If you have a ten year old Windows PC sitting around you could still put Windows 7 on it and also upgrade most of the hardware too!!

However please remember the best’ product is one that will do what you want it to (or minimum you will accept) and provides the user experience you desire.
That’s it!

Technology is only a tool, a means to an end. Not the end in and of itself.

I also won’t waste the space here to go over the VERY false argument that Mac’s are immune to being hacked or compromised. This is a statement NEVER made by anyone who deals with security on a regular basis such as myself and many of my colleagues! Mac’s have just had a much smaller ‘target’ on their head in the past but are still just as easily compromised as PCs.

If you have been using a Mac or Windows PC and it works for you stick with it unless you have some other overriding need to switch. The learning curve for Windows 7 and OS X is very short now days compared to the differences of even a decade ago.

If you are primarily just going to be browsing the web, looking at photos and some simple office type application work you will do OK with either one.

Now some entertaining illustrations:

mac-vs-pc

macpc

PC_Mac994