Tag Archives: add-ons

Privacy: Ghostery helps you elude online trackers in all browsers

Ghostery browser add-on
Ghostery shows you who is tracking you and let's you stop them.

Browser cookies are the black helicopters of the Internet age. Everyone seems to believe they’re only used for a secret, evil purpose.

I guess it depends on your definition of evil. Companies use cookies  to store information about Internet users. That information is coupled with other data collected via “tags, web bugs, pixels and beacons that are included on web pages in order to get an idea of your online behavior.” That idea helps them deliver ads and marketing messages to you online. Probably the biggest problem is that this is done without you knowing that you’re building a customer profile simply by reading blogs and watching videos.

Ghostery is a free browser add-on that exposes who is tracking your behavior and allows you to block them. It is available for Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, Opera, Internet Explorer and Apple iOS. That’s right – you can use it on your iPhone.

When setting up the add-0n, it’s easiest to go with a broad brush by blocking all third-party extensions and cookies. It doesn’t seem to do any harm (depending on your definition of harm).

For example, it blocks almost all the social media sharing buttons you see on web content. So if you use them a lot to “Like” pages, tweet stories and add to social bookmarking services, you’re going to miss them. But it’s easy enough to allow the functions you want by clicking on the ghost icon at the bottom of your browser. That will bring up an info box that tells you what is blocked and lets you unblock it. You can also click through to get information on the service that is tracking your behavior.

That window also lets you temporarily turn off the blocking. Once you do that, Ghostery still identifies the trackers and gives you the same information.

One of the benefits seems to be increased browser speed. Sometimes the blocking takes time but overall pages load faster without the third-party extensions.

Another casualty is advertising. Some ads are blocked. Sometimes the space is there but no ad can be seen. Annoying pop-over ads still appear but don’t show any advertisement. I still have to close out the ad space to continue reading.

Other than that, I don’t seem to be missing any functionality, except my online banking site seems to be glitchy while Ghostery is blocking trackers. Pausing the blocks lets me do what I need to do though.

I see two problems for publishers though:

First, Ghostery can block your analytics – Google Analytics and Omniture for example. That means your stats could take a hit even if you’re only tracking traffic to pages not who is reading them.

Second, if you run a metered paywall – a limit to the number of pages that can be viewed for free – Ghostery can let readers bypass those limits since they rely on information in cookies. But it doesn’t break down paywalls that protect certain pages.

What I like about Ghostery

I don’t need a tin foil hat anymore. The add-on makes me feel invisible to all kinds of tracking. Since not all of it is evil, I have the ability to accept the services that I want to use. It’s easy to use and worth the time to install.

Ghostery
Ghostery blocks some ads from being displayed

[Download Ghostery]

Score Great Deals on Woot.com with Firefox and Chrome Browser Extensions

If you don’t know what Woot! is, it’s a site sells a single item each day (usually at an exciting price).  There are several different versions of the site – selling things like shirts, wine, and stuff for kids – but the original Woot! is the place where most of the action happens.

Every once in awhile, Woot! has a “Woot-Off”, where they abandon their usual deal-a-day methodology and instead offer limited quantities of items, sold one at a time, with a new item appearing as soon as the current one is sold out.  Mixed into Woot-Offs are “bags of crap”, which are blind grab bags full of random goodies.  At times, these bags of crap (lovingly referred to as BOCs) contain really nice things, like HDTVs and Xboxes.  Needless to say, it’s really hard to get a bag of crap, and the woot.com website is usually completely unreachable when one comes up for sale.

If you enjoy the occasional impulse buy, you can use some extensions for your Firefox or Google Chrome web browsers to stay up-to-date on the latest deals (and even get a better chance at purchasing the fabled bag of crap).

Woot! Watcher for Google Chrome

Chrome has a great extension called Woot! Watcher that gives you all the functionality you’ll need to grab deals on all of the Woot! websites.  This extension shows you deals from each website in a single window, and has optional notifications to let you know when new items are available.

woot-watcher-chrome

If a Woot-Off is going down (which is happening right now, if you’re lucky enough to read this article when it was posted), the Woot! Watcher icon turns into a flashing yellow siren.  You can set up optional Woot-Off voice alerts and notifications, and Woot! Watcher can even be configured to auto-buy bags of crap if they come up for sale (well, it doesn’t automatically buy it for you, but it will take you to the purchase screen to speed up the process).

woot-alarm

woot-settings

You will also see a percentage of how much stock the current item has left during a Woot-Off.

Woot BOC Purchaser for Firefox

The same developer of previously mentioned Woot! Watcher for Chrome makes the same extension for Firefox, but it is much less elegant and requires a giant sidebar window to display the daily deals.  I had preferred the less obtrusive Woot Watcher add-on, but unfortunately it hasn’t been updated since February 2010 and no longer functions properly.

Luckily, a different developer decided to pick up the abandoned Woot Watcher for Firefox add-on, fix the code, and add some new features.  You can download it at the Shopper Addon website, and to install it you’ll have to click Allow at the top of your browser window.

boc-1

boc-2

After restarting Firefox, today’s Woot! deal will be displayed in the status bar of your browser.  Clicking the item’s name will take you straight to Woot.com.  If a bag of crap happens to come up for sale, you will be automatically taken to the purchase page.

boc-3

Conclusion

With these extensions, you should be well on your way to blowing your hard-earned cash on impulse purchases.  And if you’re lucky, you might catch the Woot-Off that is going on right now.

How to Install Adobe Reader Without Installing Adobe DLM (Download Manager) Browser Plugin

As a quick follow-up to my previous article about installing Flash player without installing Adobe’s DLM browser plugin, I’ll cover how to avoid installing this unnecessary intermediary software when installing Adobe Reader.

If you didn’t read my previous article, here’s what you need to know:

  • Adobe DLM is a “download manager” plugin that is installed in your browser by default when trying to install some Adobe products such as Flash player and Reader.  This software simply performs the download (just like your browser normally would), and has no real added benefit.
  • These products will run just the same whether you use Adobe DLM to download them or use the standard installer directly.
  • The standard installer is not the default method to install these products, so you’ll want to follow this procedure whenever installing Adobe products to avoid extra software.

Update 10/6/2010

As noted in the comments, Adobe has now changed their website so the Reader installer is even harder to find.  By default, you are now required to download Adobe DLM, then cancel the download, click a secondary link, then remove Adobe DLM.

Not fun, right?  Don’t worry, here’s the solution:

Step 1: Open Adobe’s FTP server in your browser and select your operating system (“win”, “mac”, or “unix”).

Step 2: Select the most recent core version of the software.  In my case, this was “9.x”.

Step 3: Select the newest version listed again.  In my case, this was “9.4.0”.

Step 4: Select your language from the list.  United States English is “en_US”.

Step 5: Download the .exe installer and install Adobe Reader as usual.  That’s it, you’re done!

Removing Adobe DLM

If you’re using Firefox and have installed Adobe products in the past, you can check to see if Adobe DLM was installed by going to Tools –> Add-ons and locating it in the list.  From this menu it can be disabled and/or removed.

How to Install Adobe Flash Player Without Installing Adobe’s DLM (Download Manager) Browser Plugin

Most of us use Adobe Flash, that’s simply a fact of the internet.  YouTube, Hulu, Pandora, and dozens of other sites currently use Flash to provide you with interactive media and applications, and until HTML5 (hopefully) gives us a viable alternative, we’re stuck with it in many ways.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind Flash.  What I dislike is when Adobe starts forcing me to install an intermediary application, Adobe DLM, to install Flash instead of directly installing the software.  For those of you that have been on the internet for a while and remember “download manager” applications, when was the last time you needed one in the age of high speed internet?

I’m sure Adobe has plenty of reasons for wanting you to download and install two applications instead of just one, but I’m not having it.  And unfortunately for all of us, the default (and only obvious) way to install Flash is to install the Adobe DLM plugin to your browser.  You’ll probably notice this little yellow bar at the top of your browser when you try to install Flash:

Even I am tempted to quickly grant access to Adobe DLM so I can get my Flash fix on.  But you can install Flash without Adobe DLM with just a few steps:

Installing Adobe Flash Player without Adobe DLM

Step 1: Instead of installing Flash from the normal installation page, head to the Flash troubleshooting page.  You can alternatively get to this location from the normal installation page by clicking the link “click here for troubleshooting information” as shown below.

Step 2: On the troubleshooting page, click the link that says “Troubleshoot Flash Player installation”.  I haven’t tested this in other operating systems, but I was presented with a specific Windows link.  Please post in the comments if you’re using another OS and see something different.

Step 3: Skip all the steps presented on this page and instead click the link that says “Download Flash Player with the manual installer”.

Step 4: Select the correct file for the browser you are using.  One file is for Internet Explorer, the other is for all other browsers.

Now just install Flash as usual.  It was a little more work, but now you are only installing the software you wanted to use in the first place.  Hooray!

If you’re using Firefox and have installed Flash in the past, you can check to see if Adobe DLM was installed by going to Tools –> Add-ons and locating it in the list.  From this menu it can be disabled and/or removed.

Create Goo.gl Shortened URLs in your Browser – Now without Google Toolbar

Full-length URLs have nearly become an internet faux pas since the advent of sites like Twitter where character restrictions reign supreme.  Sending a normal URL in a tweet is the digital equivalent of tripping over your own shoelaces, and most people have adopted a “favorite” URL shortening service like bit.ly, tinyurl, or is.gd.

Google recently entered the URL shortening business offering the Goo.gl domain – but why would you want to switch from your current shortener of choice?

Google’s biggest advantage over their competitors is their sheer size – they can guarantee the shortened URLs will always work and be as fast as possible.  We’ve learned from other URL shortening services that if they ever go down (or get permanently shut down) you’ll be completely unable to access the original link.

The only real downside to Google’s shortening service is they haven’t made it really easy to shorten your own links yet.  You can have Goo.gl links created automatically using Feedburner if you’re a content publisher, but the average person was required to install Google Toolbar to create their own links.

But not anymore!

Creating Goo.gl links in your browser

Firefox

Firefox users can simply install the goo.gl lite add-on to create shortened URLs.  After you’ve restarted Firefox, go to View –> Toolbars –> Customize and drag the big “G” icon anywhere on your toolbar.

Once the Goo.gl icon is in your toolbar, just click it and the shortened Goo.gl URL will be copied to your clipboard!

Google Chrome

Google Chrome users can install the goo.gl url shortener extension to create their own shortened URLs.  After installation you can optionally choose which services to share links with (like Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail) then click Save & Close.  You can now click the Goo.gl shortener button to create a shortened URL and it will automatically be copied to your clipboard.

Bookmarklet

If you’re (gasp) not using Firefox or Chrome, you can simply drag the following bookmarklet to your bookmarks toolbar in any browser to have instant Goo.gl creation power.

Shorten with Goo.gl (created by Matt Flaschen)

What do you use for a URL shortener right now, and do you think you’ll be switching to the Big G to shorten URLs in the future?  Share with us in the comments!