Moving back to Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox with Quantum Dark theme

Back in the days following the browser wars, there was a new browser that rose from the ashes of Netscape: Mozilla Firefox. I was a massive fan when it first launched. I literally bought the t-shirt. And the umbrella.

But like many, sometime after Firefox 3 or 3.5, I was seduced by the simplicity of Google Chrome and I made the switch.

Recently, however, I have become more aware of and concerned about security and privacy, two things that Mozilla have really been putting in the effort to improve in Firefox over the last few years. I’ve also grown more cynical about Google after they removed their “do no evil” clause from their code of conduct in 2018.

This is obviously an opinionated piece, but Mozilla does provide quite a nice comparison of various features of seven of the most popular browsers currently.

So, this week, after 12 years using Chrome almost exclusively, I made the switch back to Mozilla Firefox. From Firefx v3.5 to v89.

I imported my bookmarks from Google Chrome, logged into Firefox on my Android phone and initiated a synchronised relationship between the two. I have installed my favourite plugins/add-ons and have this gorgeous Quantum Dark theme.

I’m going to give it a go for the next month and see how I get on.

So far, I am really impressed.

Observations

Friday 18 June 2021

I thought I would update this post with any observations that I have during this experiment.

I miss the ability to natively group tabs the way that you can now in Google Chrome. I used that a lot to keep certain collections of tabs together.

I also don’t like the way that Firefox renders Gmail—the internal scrollbars are very intrusive. I spent a little while today trying to restyle them using the Stylish plugin but to no avail.

In terms of speed, rendering pages, and general usability: no problems at all. I actually prefer the tabs in Firefox, and I prefer how it displays when you rip off a tab and move it another monitor.

I am getting used to the inspect source code (developer tools) option not being right at the bottom of the context menu in Firefox, as it is in Chrome.

I miss the JoinTabs plugin in Chrome but I found one with a similar functionality (Merge all windows) which works via the right-click context menu rather than a standalone button on the toolbar.

The experiment continues…

Elementary OS Linux on iOTA Flo 11.6″ laptop

Screenshot of iOTA Flo 11.6″ laptop at 1440 × 810 pixels (16:9)

A change this week for my smaller laptop, from Linux Mint to Elementary OS and I couldn’t be happier.

Continue reading Elementary OS Linux on iOTA Flo 11.6″ laptop

Organising tabs by groups in Google Chrome

Four tab groups in Google Chrome

Generally, I am a bit of a tab minimalist when it comes to my browsing habits—I don’t often have more than about five or six tabs open at a time.

At work, however, I am working with two teams (Kronos and Odin) and I was recently looking for a method to neatly group tabs relating to the two teams plus my general work stuff (email, HR system, Jira, Trello, etc.) and personal productivity applications (calendar, email, contacts, task list, etc.)

As I switch between teams quite regularly, I was finding myself taking a little too long to search my various tabs for the right one. Enter Google Chrome’s built-in tab groups. Now everything is much easier to find.

Continue reading Organising tabs by groups in Google Chrome

New tab pages in Google Chrome with a movie theme

Discover a good movie to watch each time you open a new tab
Discover a good movie to watch each time you open a new tab

A few months ago I blogged about a new Google Chrome extension called Momentum that replaces the default Chrome ‘new tab’ page with a beautiful image that changes daily (they have since extended it with a premium version that imports todos from other applications such as Todoist).

Yesterday I received an email from David Gordillo from Noosfeer who have released a similar extension with the less snappy title of New Tab = A Movie to Watch + Watch List, which I shall refer to as NTAMTWWL.

In David’s words,

It is a Chrome extension that delights its users with movie pictures each time they open a New Tab. The more you interact with the extension, the more the recommendations will adapt to your taste.

You have also a Watch List, in which you can collect the movies you want to watch later.

The website, for the company behind it, Noosfeer, however, calls it “a content reader and aggregator.”

Movies

Unlike Momentum, which gives you the same image for 24 hours, in NTAMTWWL the image and movie recommendation changes every time you open a new tab: The Martian (2015), 25th hour (2002), We Are Your Friends (2015), Whiplash (2014).

While you can click on the little plus at the bottom of the new tab page to bookmark that movie, to watch the trailer later, I can imagine that you might easily forget or close a tab before you’ve saved that movie to your list. As I have done a few times since trialling the extension.

Suggested articles

For full functionality you need to register an account with Noosfeer—the usual suspects are available including using your Google or Facebook account.

This is where it integrates with Noosfeer’s content aggregation functionality.

The extension invites you to enter topics that you are interested in, such as technology, movies, etc. Noosfeer then provides links to articles based on your topics. They claim to tailor the articles to your likes as it learns more about you.

Bookmarks

The bookmarks link at the foot of the new tab page takes you to a list of suggested articles based on the topics you have identified, plus movies you have bookmarked, and articles that you have elected to read offline.

The extension page advises that you can synchronise with your Pocket account, but I can’t figure out how—it’s not very straight forward.

Update: It turns out that you need to sign-up for Noosfeer by logging in to your Pocket account. I was expecting that I could create an account (using Facebook) and then from within my Noosfeer account connect to my Pocket account. Simple instructions on the login page may have made this clearer.

Evaluation

Changes too often

My immediate response when looking at the new tab page was that it was attractive. Within just a few minutes I had already found a few films that I never knew about that look really interesting.

If you want to discover new films then this looks like a really ideal and unobtrusive way to do it.

However, even having used the extension for less than an hour I find the continuous change of image distracting. I imagine that if I continued its use it would affect my productivity: always demanding that I pay attention to this new movie to watch… or what about this one? Or this one here? That’s why I like Momentum: I have the delight of seeing a new image each day, but then it becomes part of the background of my day—it continues to inspire but it doesn’t distract.

I would be happy with a new film every hour or two, even one a day.

UPDATE: This has now been changed, so you can select to keep an image for 24 hours.

No 24 hours time format

One criticism I have: I would like to display the time in 24 hours format. While that may be possible, I couldn’t find how to change it. My Windows default is 24 hours format, so it’s not taking its lead from my system.

Noosfeer integration

The settings appear minimal and whisk you off to the Noosfeer website to do nothing more than select topics.

Conclusion

Having used it for just an hour I have discovered a few films that I will certainly look out for. But the continuously changing background I found more distracting than endearing. I just know the way that I work best, and I need more continuity and fewer distractions, but your mileage may vary.

To be honest, personally, I can’t imagine using this extension, as I use Feedly and Pocket almost daily for following the content and blogs that I am interested in. I don’t have room for any more.

But here is perhaps the main issue for me. I expected to be reviewing a plugin that showed different movies on my new tab page, but I’ve ended up writing about a content aggregator.

Overall, I do wonder if this extension is trying to do too much. I felt like I’d installed it under a false pretence. I was surprised after installing it. I was expecting new tabs with movie recommendations. I didn’t expect a content aggregator behind it—I felt a little duped, if I’m honest.

While this isn’t the extension for me, if you are looking for a content aggregator and love your movies then definitely check it out on the Chrome web store.

I do hope they can find a better name, though. Noosfeer New Tab, perhaps.

Beautiful Google Chrome new tab pages with Momentum

Today's new tab background in Google shows a beautiful landscape
Today’s new tab background in Google.

One of my favourite new Google Chrome extensions (plugins) is Momentum.

Momentum replaces the default Chrome ‘new tab’ page with a beautiful image that changes daily, the current time, plus an inspirational quotation, the weather, and an optional to-do list.

I never used to use the shortcuts on the default new tab page, so I find this page much nicer. It’s fun, it’s friendly, it opens really quickly (unlike other new tab replacements that I’ve tried) and it’s inspiring, not just because of the quotation at the foot of the page, but the image giving you a 24 hours glimpse into another beautiful part of the world.

Today’s image is of Geiranger, Norway, © Igor Sukma. For me it is, interestingly my colleagues who are using this extension always see an image unique to them each day, which is neat.

Check out Momentum on the Chrome Web Store.