Facebook Releases Desktop Application, Aptly Named Facebook Desktop

fbdesktop6Facebook – the world’s fastest growing social network – wants to keep you connected to your social network without the web browser.  Using their newly released Facebook Desktop application, you can connect with friends, view your stream, and publish information right from your desktop computer.

To install Facebook Desktop, you first need to install the free Adobe AIR platform.  Since it is based on Adobe AIR, Facebook Desktop can be installed in Windows, Mac, or Linux [check out our guide on installing AIR in Ubuntu].  Once you’ve installed AIR, simply download and extract the Facebook Desktop installer to get started.

To install the application, double click the extracted Facebook_Desktop_for_AIR.air file and approve its installation as shown below.

fbdesktop2

Next, the application will ask you to sign in to Facebook and provide your approval for the application to access your News Feed and Wall, as well as publish posts and comments.

fbdesktop4

Once you’ve jumped through the authorization hoops, you’ll be presented with a News Feed much like the one you see on the Facebook homepage.  From here you can browse your friends’ news and statuses, comment and “like” updates, and publish your own updates using the “What’s on your mind?” box at the top.

fbdesktop9

Facebook Desktop provides a clean and easy-to-use user interface for getting the latest information from your social network.  The initial version of this application is very simplistic and clearly intends on furthering the “Twitterization” of Facebook – but you really can’t blame them for trying the same methods that have made Twitter so popular.

Have any thoughts about the Facebook Desktop application?  Do you think Facebook’s attempts at redesigning their user content have been beneficial?  Share it in the comments!

Gmail Labs Adds Google Web Search, Never Leave Gmail Again

Let’s face it: Gmail is fantastic and Gmail Labs keeps adding features we didn’t realize we couldn’t live without.  New to Gmail Labs this week is the Google Search “experiment” which allows you to perform a Google web search through a sidebar widget – all without ever leaving Gmail.  The next time you’re in the middle of writing an email and can’t remember the definition of the word ‘Luddite’, you can easily look up the answer without missing a step.

For those of you that are new to Gmail Labs, they are additional features that Gmail offers on an experimental basis with the disclaimer that they may “change, break, dissapear at any time”.  However, most of these features are so useful that they will no doubt be included in future versions of Gmail.

Adding Google Search in Gmail is very easy.  Head over to the Google Labs tab under Settings (you’ll have to log in to Gmail) and scroll down to the “Google Search”  experiment.  Click the Enable button and select Save Changes at the bottom of the page.

gmailgooglesearch1

Once Google Search has been enabled, you will now have access to the Google Search sidebar widget (shown below) anywhere in Gmail.

gmailgooglesearch2

When you perform a Google Search using the sidebar widget, the results will load in a Google Chat-esque box which displays in the corner of your screen and can be minimized or moved into its own separate window.

gmailgooglesearch4

Each result contains a drop-down box that gives you options based on what you are currently doing in Gmail.  If you’re reading an email, you can choose to begin a reply to that email with a link to the search result.  If you’re writing a message (as shown above), you can paste the result in the email or past just the URL.  If you’re currently in Google Chat via Gmail, you can send the result through chat.

One additional tip: If you’ve added several Google Labs features to your sidebar, you may find it getting pretty cluttered.  To deal with this, you can enable the “Navbar drag and drop” feature in Gmail Labs which allows you to easily drag-and-drop widgets anywhere you like in the sidebar.

What are your favorite Gmail Labs features?  What are some features you’d like to see in the future?  Tell us about it in the comments.

How To: Install Adobe AIR in Ubuntu 9.04

adobe_airAdobe AIR is a platform that allows software developers to build rich Internet applications that run outside the browser on multiple operating systems.  A few examples of applications that are based on the Adobe AIR platform are Twhirl and TweetDeck.

To install Adobe AIR in Ubuntu:

  1. Navigate to http://get.adobe.com/air/ and click the “Download Now” button.
  2. Open Terminal (under Applications –> Accessories –> Terminal)
  3. Navigate to the directory where you saved the Adobe AIR .bin file (AdobeAIRInstaller.bin).
  4. Type chmod +x AdobeAIRInstaller.bin and press enter.
  5. Type sudo ./AdobeAIRInstaller.bin and press enter.

The typically Adobe AIR installer will now open and follow the on-screen instructions.  Once the Adobe AIR framework has been installed, you can launch any .air file and it will automatically be installed.

How To: Automatically View YouTube Videos in HD and Resized to 720p

youtubehq

Firefox Only:  Now that YouTube has a high quality / high definition option available for almost all videos, you may have found yourself wishing it would be enabled by default.  Realistically, YouTube has the higher quality mode disabled by default to save bandwidth on users who don’t mind lower quality videos, but this guide will show you how to automatically view all YouTube videos in the highest quality available (and also automatically resize certain videos to a higher resolution).

To accomplish this, you will need Firefox with the Greasemonkey add-on installed [New to Greasemonkey? Check out our guide].  Once you’re running Firefox with Greasemonkey, simply install the YouTube HQ + 720p Ultimate Greasemonkey script by clicking the Install button on the script’s information page.  Now when you view a YouTube video which is available in high quality, the high quality option will automatically be enabled.

YouTube videos have varying degrees of quality, so certain high quality videos will be automatically resized to a larger resolution, with many videos displaying at a full 720p.  720p-resized videos are too large for users with a display resolution of less than 1440×900, so if that is the case you can disable the resizing feature by following the instructions provided in the Options section of the script’s information page.

A YouTube video resized for 720p playback.
A YouTube video resized for 720p playback.

This script also contains several additional features which can be enabled or disabled:

  • Autoplay – YouTube videos begin playing automatically by default, but with this option the video will be paused and will buffer until you click the play button.
  • Jump To Player – This option automatically jumps your browser’s view to the video’s location.
  • Adjust Player Colors – Users can customize the foreground and background colors of the YouTube player.
  • Hide Annotations – YouTube allows video authors to add annotations to videos which can many times be spam or just plain annoying.  This option disables them from showing up over your video.
  • Loop – Just as you’d guess, it loops the video.

One important thing to note about Greasemonkey scripts is that if YouTube changes their code, layout, or player, the script could potentially stop working.  If this happens, be sure to check the script’s information page to see if an update is available, and if no updates are available you can contact the script author via that page.

Have a Greasemonkey script for YouTube you’d like to share?  Tell us about it in the comments!

How To: Automatically Hide Labels in Gmail

Hide Gmail LabelsFirefox Only:  Although Gmail’s labels can be extremely useful for organizing and increasing your email productivity, they can become quite a nuisance if you have several labels applied to a message.  When this happens, the labels take over the space that usually displays the message preview, and makes your inbox start to look cluttered and disorganized.

You can automatically hide Gmail’s labels (until you move your mouse over the message) by adding installing the Hide Labels in Message Row script for Greasemonkey. [What’s Greasemonkey? Check out our guide.]

Have any Greasemonkey scripts for Gmail you enjoy?  Share them in the comments.

UPDATE 04/23/09: The Better Gmail 2 add-on for Firefox now has built-in support for the Hide Labels in Message Row script.

Fix: Featured Content Gallery WordPress Plugin Displays Incorrectly in Internet Explorer 6

For many websites, the Featured Content Gallery for WordPress provides the centerpiece and main focal point of the front page (Techerator included).  This plugin has the ability to display posts in a specific category as well as a graphic and accompanying text for a great preview of articles on the site.

The Problem

When doing some cross-browser compatibility checking, I noticed that the Featured Content Gallery plugin (version 3.2.0) was rendering incorrectly in Internet Explorer 6.  Instead of displaying the article’s preview text as an overlay on the bottom of the article image, it was displaying directly in the middle and looking very out of place.  The picture below shows the rendering error.

Featured Content Gallery Rendering Problem

The Fix

The solution to this problem was a very simple CSS fix.  Find and open the jd.gallery.css file for the Featured Content Gallery plugin (usually located at yoursite.com/wp-content/plugins/featured-content-gallery/css/jd.gallery.css).

Locate the following code (approximately line 41):

* html .jdGallery .slideInfoZone
{
bottom: 100px;
}

And replace with:

* html .jdGallery .slideInfoZone
{
bottom: 0px;
}

Voilà!  The Featured Content Gallery plugin now renders properly in Internet Explorer 6.

Featured Content Gallery Rendering Correctly

How To: Remove the Smiley from the WordPress.com Stats Plugin

One of the first plugins I installed when building the Techerator website was WordPress.com Stats, a plugin which offered useful and practical statistics (instead of the overwhelming metrics that Google Analytics and others provide) with the added benefit that since the statistics monitoring is hosted by WordPress, it would have no adverse impact on the site’s performance.  The only requirement to activate WordPress.com Stats was an API key, which is provided to anyone with a WordPress.com account.

WordPress.com statistics have been very useful and a welcome addition to my WordPress dashboard.  However, I noticed that when logged out of WordPress, a small smiley face icon was appearing at the bottom of the website and breaking the template!  Check out the picture below to see what was happening…

Smiley
Oh Snap!

As you can imagine, I was pretty unhappy to find my template being destroyed by such an innocent emoticon.  At first, I wasn’t even sure where the smiley was coming from so I had to examine the site’s source code to determine its diabolical origin.  It turns out the smiley graphic is added by the WordPress.com statistics script, and isn’t even a part of the plugin (trust me, I looked).

The smiley face can be removed with a very simple addition to your style.css file.  By adding the line:

img#wpstats{display:none;}

to your style.css file (located in your theme directory, usually www.yoursite.com/wp-content/themes/theme_name/style.css), the smiley face will be automatically hidden and no longer wreak havoc on your beautiful template.  The reason the smiley face only is displayed when logged out is so administrators of the site do not inflate the site’s statistics.

Hooray!
Hooray!

Incidentally, this little tip was included in the WordPress.com Stats plugin readme, but who really reads that stuff anyway? 🙂

Enhance Websites in Firefox with Greasemonkey

Greasemonkey is an extremely versatile add-on for Mozilla Firefox which allows users to install scripts that can make modifications to most HTML-based websites.  Greasemonkey can greatly enhance a website by changing the layout, adding new features, or increasing ease-of-use.

To install Greasemonkey, head on over to the Firefox Add-On Greasemonkey page and click “Add to Firefox”.  After restarting your browser, Greasemonkey will be active and ready to accept scripts (it should be noted that Greasemonkey will have no installed scripts by default). Continue reading “Enhance Websites in Firefox with Greasemonkey”

Thunderbird Fix: All Emails Show Attachment Icon (even if they don’t have attachments)

thunderbirdSoftware Involved: Mozilla Thunderbird, AVG Anti-Virus 8.0/ 8.5

Problem/Symptoms: All incoming emails in Mozilla’s Thunderbird appear as if they have attachments, regardless if they have attachments or not.  The attachment icon disappears immediately after opening the email (as long as the email did not legitimately have an attachment).

Solution: AVG automatically attaches an email certification message to all incoming emails stating, “No virus found in this incoming message.” which Thunderbird interprets as an attachment.  This problem has a very simple fix:

  1. Open the AVG Anti-Virus User Interface. This can be done by right clicking the tray icon.
  2. In the menu bar, click Tools –> Advanced Settings.
  3. Select the E-Mail Scanner tab, check the box next to With attachments only under “Certify email”. (See image below)

This will only add the “No virus found…” message to only emails with attachments, solving the false attachment problem.

avgfix