Thursday, February 23, 2006 Best Firefox Extensions Vol II

I cannot believe that I have taken so long to switch to Mozilla Firefox, much less done without all the really really sweet addons and extensions that are provided free.

So people like Her (and me), the one best reason I would suggest switching to Mozilla Firefox is a little addon called gSpace. What it does is to allow your browser and Gmail to act as an FTP server. So I've uploaded some of my files straight to gmail and I can use this addon to call them through the programme anytime I want. The FTP server interface makes it incredibly easy and intuitive. Sure the speed is dependent on your ISP connection, but this creates the best virtual drive I've seen so far.

For internet safety paranoid freaks like me, it gives me access to Adblock plus and No Script, both programmes arguably better, more powerful and more customisation friendly than the google toolbar and anti-virus programme I have on my laptop and PC.

And of course, there's the whimsy little addon called Forecast Fox which gives me cute little pictoral representations for Seattle. Hmmm...looking at the next few day forecast is actually kinda depressing. Rainy city indeed.

This is the tip of the ice-berg and there are easily 3000 plus addons fulfilling all your weird and wonderful desires.

So it gets me thinking. Why did I take so long to switch to Firefox. The thing is, I was a long time user of Netscape (I remember using 1.0 and their predecessors. And I may have been one of the first thousand, if not hundred users of the World Wide Web when the first internet cafe opened in Singapore). I eventually switched to IE because I found that it loaded faster and was more stable. But eventually I found myself using Avant! Broswer which I felt gave my the speed and stability that IE was found wanting after a while. But I have to say, Firefox beats them hands down. Mostly because of these extensions.

I think this lends some credence to an argument I once used with regards to why the EU Anti-trust should force Microsoft to unbundle their software (which effectively means that they have to include rival software on their Windows OS). The argument I made was about technology inertia that afflicts most users of the PC/Mac of Internet. And it's based on the old axiom, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

It makes perfect sense because there is an opportunity cost that is incurred when you make the changeover i.e. time wasted downloading the programme, installing it and then figuring out how to use it. And I think it's powerful enough that it rather surprised me when I learnt that a number of my rather techie friends have not made the transition to OpenOffice.

Now, it's true that I discouraged one of them from doing so when it was still OO 1.0 primarily because it took forever to start up (and I was and am still using Office 97 which has a remarkably fast startup time on even relatively ancient computers). This got better with OO 1.1 and then with OO 2.0. Unfortunately, I use it less often than I expected primarily because of the cross-programme formatting problem. For it makes opening and saving Microsoft office documents a little scary because your formatting can get messed up. So I primarily use it now to open documents that Office 97 has problems openning.

But, baring that (and it's not as big a problem as you think really), it's an incredible piece of software. It's basically an Office Suite that's is similar to Microsoft Office but way more user friendly for free! And since it's so rarely used, it gives you an additional amount of protection in terms of readibility.

So let's talk about opportunity cost. It took me a couple of minutes (less than 10) to download and install Mozilla. Upon opening it, the homepage was very helpful and pointed the way to these nifty addons. Downloading and installing them was a breeze because they were all so small in size and installation automatic (although I had to restart the browser).

Open Office took a little longer because it was pretty big at 50 mb (but a mite compared to Microsoft Office). But installation and use was not a problem nor was it terribly time consuming. But it's size and versitiliy makes it an incredibly attractive option in creating what is effectively a portable harddisk in an USB flash disk. You can get 1GB ones now for slightly over a hundred dollars and that is much much more than sufficient space to load a mini-Linux and Open Office together with all the files you work on and need (which would presumably include some games).

Portable computer indeed, simply plug into any computer or laptop and boot it up from the flash disk.

Anyway, I think these few programmes show the power of Open Source. I'm not a raving anti-IP radical but they offer a different view of software.



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