Contextual Information


I’ve been slow to convert from Firefox to Chrome – despite the fact that Chrome is a lot faster, has more screen-estate and in general provides for a smoother browsing experience.

I’ve finally gotten rid of Firefox altogether though thanks to a great little extension called Apture Highlights. Although Apture works for Firefox too, it somehow fits with Chrome being more ‘new generation’.

What makes Apture absolutely fantastic is how real it has made the “contextual web” for me.  Sure, one doesn’t really need contextual links to save a few clicks. The great thing is that this is how we search for information in the real world — we read something, find something we don’t know about and ask. All without having to do a couple of intermediate steps in the middle.

Take a look at the video below:

Here’s what Venture Beat says about Apture

Perhaps the most coolest thing about this feature is the fact that you can also perform Apture searches within Apture content. I suspect most readers are used to following their curiosity through multiple Web searches and pages. Now you can do that without leaving the page where you started or opening a bunch of new browser tabs. Harris said publishers have found that readers stay on the page two to three times longer after Apture is activated.

Try it, it is awesome!

Edutainment?


A friend who works with ‘Education’ (as we in the third sector often like to put it) once told me ” In India its difficult enough to obtain an education without having to worry about its quality too”.

I like to believe in the potential of private enterprise to do do wonders for education, professor James Tooley’s new book – the beautiful tree, does a great job of pointing how this might be plausible with primary education.

I’m also a long seasoned advocate of the Friedman argument that the Government has no business being in business. In India there is no business quite as complicated (both on the regulatory scenario front and on the potential impact front) as the business of higher education.

The argument against the utility of certification and regulatory roadblocks to offering and receiving higher education more common sense than anything else.

Sadly though, when one takes sides one often (and I am guilty of this in more ways than one) — one forgets to account for the losers in the short-run. Take the ICFAI mess in the cities of Hyderabad and Jaipur for instance.

So what can you do, as a student – while the rest of us sit and pontificate about the merits and demerits of who should be in the business of education or who shouldn’t?

Take a look at this article which suggests that students’ check the following four things before committing a good year or more of their lives to an ‘institution’ –

a. Is the Institution awarding the degree, either a valid University or Deemed to be University? If yes, is it operating within its authorized jurisdiction?

b. Does the course/ programme have the approval of the relevant professional council?

c. Does the institution have valid accreditation?

d. Is the institution awarding the degree a member of the Association of Indian Universities?

I recommend everyone who is contemplating any sort of higher education (in India) read this piece thouroughly!

As the author points out towards the end:

“…it is important that students know the regulatory environment in the field of higher education in India. Knowing the legal requirements and taking reasonable care in these matters can help the youth of this country avoid losing money and precious years to well marketed, money-oriented educational business empires. It is certainly better to be careful than to be sorry!”

Firefox Fascination


fx_extensions_icon_275Working has managed to take me away from blogging as often as I once used to.

Its done other things to0 – like rekindle my interest in building, keeping and growing social networks, figuring out a GTD like system that actually works for me both at work and at home.

I call this phase of my existence the “networking-productivity MashUp” phase.

Central to this phase has been reconciling myself to use two separate laptops one for work and the other for my techie misadventures.

The two set-ups have much in common sans the OS and documents.

One of the things that maintains seamless similarity across any laptop/computer I am assigned to for a fairly reasonable length of time is my browser.

My Wakoopa usage tells me I spend a lot of my time in a ‘browser’ (combined for work and home use) and so I try to get it to work the way I like.

Firefox is still my favourite browser despite the existence and obviously faster performance of Chrome (which I use solely for GMail, GReader and so on…), the reason is its extensibility.

Here are my favourite Firefox add-ons with a description of why I like them.

Some are still ‘experimental’ so you’ll need to create an account to make them show up on the add-ons website.

Adblock Plus

Just the most effective way to get rid of ads on the net.

Better Flickr
Better GCal
Better Gmail 2
Better GReader
Better Lifehacker
Better YouTube

I like this set by Gina of lifehacker – and because I read Lifehacker every single day the ‘Better Lifehacker’ add on too is extraordinarily useful.

To use any or all of these you need to get GreaseMonkey.

bit.ly Preview
A little pop up overlay over all shortened url’s (not just Bitly) which is great, if you, ever need to discover what website that great nugget of knowledge came from while you stumbled along the net.

Brief’

A feed reading extension which is probably the simplest one to use!

Calvin and Hobbes

This one puts a new strip of the ‘greatest political philosopher ever’ 😀 in your status bar, comic relief is important!

Clean And Close

Adds a Clean And Close button to your download manager, which is useful if you download a lot and the long list bothers you.

CoLT

Makes it easy to copy link text and locations, especially useful for research where you want text and link sources.

Cooliris

The best description is the official one — “Cooliris (formerly PicLens) transforms your browser into a full-screen 3D Wall for searching, viewing and sharing the Web.” Very pretty indeed!

CyberSearch

I like how this adds to the ‘awesomeness’ of the awesome bar – search results directly from keywords. Cool.

Dafizilla Table2Clipboard

If you ever have had to copy a table from a web-page you will be very happy you found this!

Delicious Bookmarks

Doesn’t require a description does it this one!

Extension List Dumper

“Dumps a list of the installed extensions.” – very useful if you ever wanted to write your own “my favourite Firefox extensions” type blog post.

Fasterfox Lite

“Performance and network tweaks for Firefox but without the Pre-fetching”, which really wasn’t that useful.

– FindThatBand

Sorry!, but Google for this one. It lets you – “Search for a music artist or band on MySpace, LastFM, or Pandora”. 🙂

Fire.fm

Get your daily music fix from Last.fm.

FlashGot

Want downloads? Get FlashGot.
Google Gears

At the minimum you’ll need it to enable gmail offline and a faster loading version of word press.

Google Shortcuts

For keyboard shortcut junkies.

GoogleEnhancer

Adds numbers, highlighting, favicons and ‘search by date’ to Google searches

Image Toolbar

“Provides easy access to common image functions”, IE Style.

Intense Debate in Google Reader

Enables the Intense Debate comment system in Google Reader.

Link Alert

Changes the cursor to indicate the target of a link.

Linky

Converts text links into genuine, clickable links.

LiveClick

Adds feed reading and notifications to Live Bookmarks.

Morning Coffee
Keeps track of daily routine websites and opens them in tabs.

MovieRating

Lets you view the RottenTomatoes rating for a movie.

Net Notes

Store Notes on Websites in your Bookmarks.

No Squint

Manage site-specific full page and text zoom levels

Open in Google Docs
Open web documents directly in Google Docs

PDF Download

Allows you to choose what to do with a PDF file: download it, view it with an external viewer or view it as HTML.

Previewr

Allows “Easy link previewing”

QuickJava

Allows quick enable and disable of Java and Javascript from statusbar.

ReminderFox

Displays and manages reminders and ToDo’s

Search Cloudlet
More powerful Google search with context-aware tag clouds

Select-n-Go by Cleeki

Select, search, and preview instantly.

Site Launcher

Open websites using special keyboard shortcuts, like Launchy for Firefox

Smarter Wikipedia

Adds a “related articles” box to Wikipedia and allows searching of selected text from context menu

TwittyTunes

Post your tunes to Twitter using FoxyTunes, and more…

Ubiquity

An extension that allows for the use of dynamic commands in Firefox.

Unread Tabs Supreme

“Unread tabs are displayed in italics to indicate that you haven’t read them.

UrlbarExt

“Extends the Location Bar with set of commands to (Make Tiny URL,Copy URL,Search site,Go up,Tag pages easily ,Navigate through sequential URL’s,Unblock filtered websites and Surf anonymously using online phproxy servers)

YouTube Cinema

Play YouTube videos in cinema style.

Two Videos and a Service


Two videos I highly recommend watching, if you have the time…

The Aurora video on the future of web user experience is here.

Also check out this lecture debunking myths about statistics in developing countries, its long but brilliant.  You’ll need FLV Player to watch it on your computer – which is available for free here. Or just watch it online.

Incidentally I found this video on the YokWay social network, which is one of the better content geared social networks I’ve seen lately. Its in Beta currently, I have 10 invites to give out though, so comment and let me know if you want one.

Update : Part two of the Aurora video is online now here.

Another Update: All four parts of the Aurora Series are online here, courtesy Lifehacker.

The ‘I Hate Vista Snowball Effect’


Last week I became a part of the Snowball Effect group on Face book. The group is trying a social experiment to illustrate the snowball effect which is the long-standing phenomenon that people follow what others do.

The ‘Mojave Experiment‘ put together by a Microsoft research team illustrates this idea nicely. The “Mojave Experiment” is an attempt to find out –

What do people think of Windows Vista® when they don’t know it’s Windows Vista? We disguised Windows Vista as codename ‘Mojave,’ the ‘next Microsoft OS,’ so regular people who’ve never used Windows Vista could see what it can do – and decide for themselves. …

Results from the experiment indicate that over 90% of users rated Vista much better than they did based on preconceived notions.

For most part, Vista works very well for me- sure it has annoying parts like every Windows system has had in the past, the real question is; Are we all sheep?

The Condom Song


If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the Indian Condom Song on YouTube.

Unlike the comments I find the song more than just funny.

To me – the video illustrates the awesome power of local creativity to spread a vital public health service message.

It is repetitive, which is a good way of reinforcing the message in addition to being amusing and memorable.

For several South Indians its a familiar tune that remains in your head and most importantly it goes a long way towards talking about ‘safe sex’ openly.

New Pages


Lots of new stuff coming up:

The all new start-page is online @: http://varna.sr.googlepages.com/

A new tumblrlog for random stuff on the web is online @: http://varna.tumblr.com

The delicious bookmarks page (cleaned up) is online @: http://del.icio.us/varna

A new photojournal is online here @: http://varnavisuals.wordpress.com

I shall start publishing on these pretty soon. 😀