Oh The Tools I Use…(more)

19 May 2009

This is my second posting for an on-going series where I’m describing the software tools I use. So far:

The next tool I’ll discuss is my web browser.

The web browser, or just browser now days, is so powerful and so important that it actually hosts most of my tools. Much of waht I do, look for, communicate with or about is often online and even many of those resources and applications are online too. This obviously includes Google Reader which is hosted by my browser. GR is my web, yes it’s that small, but small is bountiful.

For most tools any of us use on our PC, there are now versions available online. Maybe are not as powerful, maybe not as flexible, but…. almost always there are online options. Sometimes really good ones as I’ve found. And once your online, you can do it from anywhere and beginning to be any device…..it that a computer in your pocket?

Today, it is hard to imagine an OS without a browser, even an integrated one DoJ or EUoJ(?)!

Interesting enough, some even can consider the browser as an operating system or that it is possible to host one in the cloud as we do today with our servers. Wow! We’ve come a long way from IBM’s Tom Watson infamous lore ‘There is only a market for 5 Computers’, to DEC’s Ken Olsen’s “there is no reason for any individual to have a computer is his home”.

Today we each have many computers in every home (arguably 6 or more in my house with 3 teens). Some/many/most of us with a computer or two in our pockets or phones or wrists or?? So that is only a dozen or so in my house and that’s only if we ignore the microcontrollers that are now the core of nearly every electrical device and ones I design for customers. It’s a long way, but now we are heading back up to those 5 computers or at least 5 virtual cloud clusters hosting a slew of independent agents of code in a massive scalable Orwellian machine of doom. Oh oh….hmmmm… what happened to personal? You know, me! Help me Mr Wizard!!

I now do my work in the cloud or in the browser. Other than the OS, most of my applications are at least installed from the web via my browser. I often run servers through remote VNC-like connections so, sometimes, I don’t know where my comptuer is?

We can only thank the false web lore about Al Gore saying that he invented the internet, after Sir Tim gave use the key RESTful protocols that ‘created the Internet’, but still decades after the US Department of Defense and a slew of corporate and educational contractors, actually invented the Internet or then called ARPANET. But really, if it wasn’t for Netscape and their great advances and promotion, we might still be going to the library to find stuff. Who does that anymore, really? With Wikipdiea, Google, Wolfram Alpha, Amazon, MS Live, and all of the global googleness we love, what newspaper, do you really need.

Currently, I mostly use Firefox as my browser. I used to use IE, but I think it’s gone from the worst to the best and back to worse again. And it was supposed to limit our choices, but it doesn’t seem to have since there are more browsers and offshots of than I have time to look at. The big problem for me with Firefox with MS-overlord is that many sites still program to IE and only IE, so that’s the only pain, but that pain often includes the many versions of IE especially of recent. Many sites also wrongly decided to require one of the worst additions the IE marketers did which was add ActiveX controls to the browser and hook it into the OS. That decision and the fact that most users use the computer as an Administrator is the primary reason why Windows is so virus/spyot/root-kit/blah-blah-invectous ridden ball of yarn. Even now that MS has decided to tie down the OS security in Vista a Win7 it’s become the butt of jokes, cancel or allow?, even though on a MAC or Linux you have to ‘sudo’ or enter a root/admin password to make many OS level changes.

But Firefox….why Firefox. I’ve looked at Chrome, but like .NET in 2002 it’s notYET. Starting for a clean slate is nice and useful, but until they have all or many of the extension support as Firefox or even IE, it is an experimental toy. Firefox extensions are key, though I only use a few 10 or so. Here are the ones on my OSX machine:

  • Elasticfox
  • S3 Firefox Organizer
  • Evernote Web Clipper (just starting this)
  • Gmail Notifier
  • Google Desktop Search
  • Google Gears
  • Ubiquity
  • XMarks

Again, it seems, Google owns me and I didn’t realize how much until I looked and count…um 3 or so of my 7-10 extensions depending on the machine. I use so much of their cloud, it’s a little scary. Probably why I’m a little scared of going Chrome.

Firefox is also pretty cross-platform or at least more so that any other browser I know of. I can sit down at almost any PC OS and install Firefox and it feels very much the same (a little streach, since the OSX has its byte). And daily, I use OSX and XP and I can use Linux, if required.

My favorite feature of Firefox is the address bar or ‘awesome bar’ as I think it’s called. It is so smart, remembering where I’ve been and googling for me if that seems better…”oh! thank you Mr. Awesome”. It’s smart like Google search and Launchy, but that’s getting ahead of myself.

My recent work has been actually building a custom browser or really just an .NET application hosting the IE control or 4 for a fancy web scraping, database content driven, automatic, in some cases hidden from the user browsing around an IT nightmare end around to get around a set of multiple independent password protected web-based systems that all look different for no godly reason and than business-case gone made by takeovers and IT staffs that don’t talk cluster mess of mud. Breathe….. phew! My God what have we done!

More later about my other tools, but what would life be without a browser!

Kenny

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