System Searcher My First Potentially Useful Tool

My latest contribution to the Google Chrome Store I think is the most broadly useful tool I’ve developed. It allows you to execute searches on multiple websites at the same time. This can be useful if you frequently search sites like Amazon, Walmart and Target for the same thing such as “Tables”.  With this extension you just punch in what you want, and it launches searches on the websites you setup.

You can download from Google store at: http://bit.ly/systemsearcher

Downgrading Utility Of Limitless Chrome New Tab

For about 5 months I have been using a Chrome extension called Limitless as my default “new tab”. During installation, Limitless requested my GMAIL credentials, which I I declined to provide. It works fine without them. However, in light of the recent Equifax data breach, I was curious to see what exactly Limitless was asking for.

As I suspected, the extension wants the ability to have total control of your email. Specifically:

View, manage, and permanently delete your mail in Gmail

At this point, alarm bells should be ringing loudly in people’s heads if they are entering in an active gmail address. Limitless’s privacy policy can loosely be interpreted as, “Even though the NSA, Equifax and Ashley Madison can’t keep their data secure, you can trust us and every employee that works for us now, or in the future, because your privacy is important to us! 🙂 ”

They do state that data is stored locally, and looking at their code, this appears accurate. However, they also state they may change this policy at some point in the future…

Sure, you could use a dummy gmail login, or none at all. However in principle, I’m tired of extensions asking to be trusted with information they simply cannot guarantee to remain secure. So I changed my feedback to negative 2 (out of 5) on chrome store and am going to drop the extension completely.

To be fair, Limitless is just one of MANY extension offenders wanting total access to your email. The point of this post is just to encourage people to drop these extensions, even if you don’t provide or even if they are semi-useful. If Limitless adjusts their policy I’ll change my Chrome extension feedback and followup with this post saying so.

As a side note, I feel like the “new tab” extension market is kind of weak. I may tinker with making my own. Maybe I’ll call it “LIMITED” as in the amount of data I’ll seek to collect from users!

Encrypt Your Gmail/Yahoo/Outlook/iCloud Emails

Use Mailvelope to send and receive encrypted email. Uses PGP encryption, the same method Edward Snowden used to reach out to reporters in 2013. When used properly, with the private key protected, there is no known successful direct attack against PGP. Most attacks focus on indirect methods such as stealing a password, keystroke logger or snooping over someone’s shoulder.

Steps:
1) Install Mailvelope on Chrome or Firefox
2) Create a public/Private key for yourself
3) Share your PUBLIC key (NOT YOUR PRIVATE KEY)
4) Collect your friends Public key and import them to your Mailvelope Key ring.
5) Message away with complete privacy.

Always remember to lock your computer, and don’t share your private key or give anyone access.

 

Selecting A Music Program for Your Family

I felt it was time to synchronize my house with one music app so I did some research on what made the most sense for us. My objective was to find solid music app I could listen to regularly, as well as use with the kids. Seems easy enough. I decided to sample the big three options for a week at a time, and here’s my observations:watch full film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 2011 online

Apple Music:

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month.
  • 30 million songs.
  • Some radio stations.
  • Saving locally seemed inconsistent.
  • Works nicely with iTunes, but not everyone in my family has that.
  • Interface was a little difficult.
  • Supposedly lower audio quality (256kbps), but I couldn’t tell the difference between the higher 320 KBPS.

Spotify

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month.
  • 30 million songs.
  • Definitely the best interface. Clean and intuitive.
  • Great job of making playlists I thought were pretty awesome.
  • Improved sound quality of 320KBPS.
  • It had a weekly 30 recommended songs that was always a success.
  • Never had any playing problems. Google and Apple would occasionally stall (but not frequently).
  • It’s the only option for Linux, not that you care.

Google Play:

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month. A BIG limitation on the family plan is that the signup account must be a DROID phone user. It didn’t work for me when I tried a Nexus.
  • 50 million songs.  Don’t be deceived by this figure as a lot of the songs are performed by unknown artists “inspired by” the real artists. An example was Memories By David Guetta that is performed by someone else. This essentially just clogs up my search trying to find the real song.
  • Easy to save locally to your Google Play app, but can’t copy like a regular Mp3.
  • Reasonably good interface and easy to make playlists, but not as good as Spotify.
  • They do allow you to upload 50,000 of your own MP3 songs which will probably be mixes you’ve stolen off of youtube (up to 90 minutes in length). However Google is one step ahead of you because they have intelligently brought YouTube into the equation, see next point.
  • YouTube Red is included (not to be confused with RedTube…). This gives a user:
    • Ad-Free Youtube. Let me tell you that this may not seem like much, but once you have it, it’s painful to return to the land of waiting five seconds, then click “skip” every time you want to watch a video.
    • Ability to listen to youtube on your phone, with the Youtube App minimized. Again, this may not seem like much, but once you get used to it, it’s tough to forget.
    • Download videos locally to your phone. This is quite useful for me as a traveler, if I want to scramble to find 4 hours worth of content to watch on a flight, it’s easy to catch up on my “watch later” playlist..
    • Original YouTube content that’s trying to compete with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. I haven’t seen any of these, but they look professional.

Between the big three, the Google Family Plan proved the most optimal choice and I had to beg my Droid-using brother to sign us all up under his account. Spotify was the clear victor based exclusively on Music, but the Youtube element was too enticing.

I really would have preferred to go with Apple this year as they stood up the US government on Privacy contrasted to Google’s Eric Schmidt infamous dismissal of privacy . But I can’t say I’ve regretted my choice.  I don’t get cable, as my kids fulfill all their “TV viewing” on YouTube, so the removal of adds, sometimes ones that were not okay for kids to see, is a big win.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon, Netflix or Hulu purchased Spotify just to form a package that can compete. As it now stands, it seems like a pretty obvious choice for Google Play and I would predict others reach the same conclusion as me.

While doing research, I did consider a couple less well known music options. My comments on them:

Rdio.com:

Tidal:

  • $20 for Lossless compression (wave files). I doubt that makes a difference, but again some people who live and breathe music may think so.
  • 35 million songs.

Pandora:

  • $5 a month or free with ads. Actually most of the above ad-supported free versions. I couldn’t stand them though.
  • Can’t pick your own songs, only rate them, so it’s effectively like the radio.
  • Low quality sound of 192 KBPS.
  • Amazingly only 2 million songs… ouch.

Google Chrome Short-Cuts and Hacks

This is just a dump zone for me to drop Google Chrome notes that I don’t want to search for again.

CTL “L” = Shortcut to Omnibar (Address bar)

 

Setting up a search Engine Shortcut:

To add a search engine to Google Chrome (note from the Omini Bar you can execute searches from various search engines).

To find the search query for that website, run a query, and then substitute the result of your query with %s

Example is to setup Reason.com as a search, go to Reason.com. Run a search such as “ABCDEFG”

The URL will return: https://reason.com/search?q=ABCDEFG

Change to: https://reason.com/search?q=%s and add as a search engine to Chrome.

Couple other common ones for me:

  • http://stackoverflow.com/search?q=%s
  • http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%s
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?search=%s

 

 

Code Saving/Editing Option For Google Drive

For better or worse, I have been entangled with Google Drive since its inception. It’s not perfect, but the ability to access it through most customers’ networks or while using their mandated laptops has proven extremely useful. My most common usage is accessing notes or solutions I’ve compiled from previous projects. I realize lots of offer ways to do this, some probably better. But Drive was one of the first I found, so I have a lot in there which makes the concept of switching to GitHub, OneNote or something else seem not worth the effort.

One problem I did encounter was saving text in the Google Doc format. When storing saved code for VBA or Swift, Docs occasionally applies little adjustments in the formatting or attempt to spell check which was undesirable. What I really wanted was a text editor like Notepad.  Google drive does let you save Text files, but they weren’t very easy to edit from the normal interface.

I found a great solution with an app called Drive Notepad available in the Chrome Webstore. This does almost everything I want with some helpful features. Most notably, you can adjust what language your code is displayed in, which is extremely useful for its readability. Initially I was just looking for a text editor (which there are plenty of), but this works even better. See screenshots below.movie Rings trailer

Other positive features:

  • Free. Thank You DM!
  • Open source.
  • Can share with usual google share options, though not in real time like doc or sheets.
  • Searchable as a regular google drive. I use excessive comments in my archived solutions specifically to facilitate the searching based on what I will likely remember.

Small drawbacks:

  • Have to manually save. Unlike google drive document that saves literally in real time, Drive NotePad requires you to manually hit save or CTL S. This has never been a problem for me as it delivers a warning when you navigate away after changes, but it would be nice to have. I’m sure the creator has been bombarded by this request.
  • It inconsistently checks code for errors. I wouldn’t expect it to check any code, but it does for some languages like JavaScript, but not for  others like VBA. Basically people shouldn’t consider this a substitute for XCode or an actual development platform. Again, this is just a great way to save/share your finalized work for future usage.
  • Files count against your storage space on google drive. Nobody should care about this, I just am listing it in case anyone was curious. Source text takes up an infinitesimal amount of space that this will never be an issue. I always got some quirky satisfaction of knowing that Google Docs and Sheets never counted against my storage limit (which I’m not near close to hitting). If you’re rolling your eyes that I listed this as a small drawback, I don’t blame you.