My favourite pet: Python

Now that the Firefox series is over, it’s time to move on to other
things. One of the many questions that new programmers have is: Which language do i start with? I suggest Python.

Python is a programming language, or more correctly, a scripting
language. It’s interpreted, not compiled. That means that once you’ve
finished writing your program, you can run it straight away, without
having to compile it and sort out errors first. If there are errors,
then they’ll come out when you run the program. But the best part is
that if there are syntax errors, then they’ll come out while you’re
writing the program itself. How? Python is interactive, it scans your
program while you type and makes you fix syntax then and there. No more
searching through your program trying to decode weird error messages.
It is also a very high level language. That means that you don’t have
to worry about things like the size of arrays, since Python takes care
of all that for you. You just worry about writing a good program. After
C++, this is very welcome. Tomorrow I’ll give you an extended comparison of Python with other languages and explain why it’s perfect as a starting language.

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Extend Firefox into a Superfox: Part 4

Here we finally are, the last part of the series. This final post will just talk about some common extensions that you probably will find useful.
First off is AdBlock. If you don’t have this extension, get it. Now. It does just what the name says: it blocks ads. Simple and intuitive to use and completely effective.
One of Firefox’s most basic tools is tabs. They’re good enough on their own, but the Tab Mix Plus extension, makes them just that much better and easier to use. There is also another extension called Tabbrowser Preferences. Both of them do mostly the same thing, use whichever one suits you best.
Finally for those of you who equate performance and quality with speed, grab FasterFox, a simple tool designed to make your Fox sleeker and quicker.
Of course there are hundreds more extensions than the few mentioned here. So head over to the Extensions page and indulge!.

Extend Firefox into a Superfox: Part 3

Now that Email and RSS have been wrapped up, let’s move on to two more important aspects of a netizen’s life, namely blogging and IM.

Blogging
Unless you run your blog the old fashioned way, that is, off a server by manually editing HTML, then you probably use a blog host that provides you with blogging tools to manage and post to your blog. But sometimes the whole go-to-blog/ login/ go-to-edit-page routine can be tiring. And your blog tool might lack a comfortable WYSIWYG editor, though that’s rare. As an alternative to using your host’s interface you can use an external client such as w.bloggar for Windows or BloGTK for Linux. But why go to all that trouble when you can use a Firefox extension instead? There are in fact not one, but two extensions that add a bloggin client to Firefox: Performancing and Deepest Sender. Both are capable of handling multiple accounts and blogs and have full featured WYSIWYG editors along with source editing. Deepest Sender opens in it’s own window by default, though you can open it in the sidebar. Performancing gives you the choice of opening in a new window or in a tab inside Firefox. Though both are quite usable, I prefer Performancing as it seems to have a more professional interface and more polish. But I encourage you to try out both and take your pick.

Instant Messaging
Like Email, there are no complete IM extensions out there. There is ChatZilla, but that is only for IRC. But don’t despair. You can still have IM in your browser!. Check out Meebo. It’s a web service, using AJAX technology that allows you to connect to multiple networks and works just like a normal client. Sure it takes some getting used to and lacks “power features” like video or voice, but hey, it’s a start and is pretty good at what it does. Check it out.

Tomorrow we wrap this series with some general extensions that the community finds useful.

Extend Firefox into a Superfox: Part 2

Enough history and related boring stuff. Let’s get to the interesting stuff:

E-mail
    After browsing, e-mail is probably the most important use of the internet for most people. For some people like my dad, email is more important than browsing. So, where does Firefox come in? Well, there is no extension that turns Firefox into a full-fledged mail client. If you want a mail client you’re going to have to use somethine else. Mozilla Thunderbird is a good choice. But if you want to manage your mail through Firefox, as I do, the most obvious choice is to use Webmail. If you use your ISP’s email account, then your ISP probably gives you a webmail service. If not there are numerous free mail providers. Personally I recommend Gmail. Not only does it give over 2.5GB of storage, which is enough to keep anyone happy for a long time, it is also the fastest mail interface that I have ever seen. Once you’ve chosen your mail service, you can go looking for extensions. Once again GMail has a large number of extensions, but Yahoo also has a fair number. i personally use GMail Manager and GMail skins.

RSS Feeds
A growing number of people are using RSS feeds, to keep track of everything from news to blogs. While Firefox uses Live Bookmarks to fetch RSS headlines, you might want something like a complete RSS Reader. In that case you might want to try out Wizz RSS Reader. This does a very good jub of keeping track of and presenting your feeds in a clean and easy interface. There is also a large amount of documentation easily available. It’s a must have on the road to turn Firefox into Superfox.

Enough for today. Tomorrow we cover two more important net activities: blogging and IM. As always, comments welcome.

Firefox, Opera, Gmail, RSS

Extend the Firefox into a Superfox

Ever since Firefox started making waves, one of the major questions peopled asked and continue ask are “What makes Firefox so popular?”. Many people have many answers. Personally I think one of Firefox’s strengths is the community behind it. Many people who use the browser everyday contribute various add-ons and improvements, thereby making it a prime example of open source at work. The community doesn’t contribute just by adding source code to the final release, but more importantly by contributing small tools called Extensions which extend Firefox beyond just a simple web browser.

A few months ago the Mozilla Foundation announced the winners of the Extend Firefox contest, i.e. the best Firefox extensions available on the web. If you use Firefox, and you should be, then this is one things that you should probably check out. Now Firefox extensions are one of Firefox’s major features and the main reason why non-open source browser like Internet Explorer or even Opera will have a hard time winning over Firefox users. Extensions add extra functionality to the Firefox. With the right combination of Extensions it is possible to make Firefox into something much more than just a simple browser.
In the old days before Firefox, when Internet Explorer was unquestionably the King of the Hill, one of the premier open source browsers was Mozilla. But Mozilla was much more than just a browser. It had an integrated email client, an HTML editor and an IRC chat client all wrapped together. In fact, it was not unlike the old Netscape suite. Of course now, the Mozilla suite has been officially shelved and its parts have been divided up. The browser became Firefox, the mail client became Thunderbird and the HTML editor is now Nvu (all these after numerous changes and improvements though). For most people having these applications separated makes sense. After all less people use email clients than they do browsers and even fewer use an HTML editor. But what if you do want to combine your internet activities into one program? Going back to the old Mozilla is not recommended, especially since there is a far better option: use Extensions.
The following posts will show you how to use the correct extensions, and a few online services to turn simple Firefox into a powerful internet utility: A Superfox! Stay tuned folks.

Tags: Firefox, Opera