Guess what I’ve got for you today, folks? You guessed it- more Google + themed Chrome extensions and applications. What, you thought I was done? It’s like I’ve said before- Google + is gaining steam with all the speed of a runaway locomotive. With that in mind, there’ll always be new extensions to cover, new means by which the developers are improving upon an already excellent platform. Granted, the array of extensions I’ve found this time aren’t quite as impressive as some of the addons I profiled in previous posts, but they’re all still useful in their own way- and they’re definitely the sort of tools that someone, somewhere, is going to need.
This time around, we’ve got some added functionality for Google’s “+1″button, a non-malware extension that lets you add Facebook to G+, and some minor cosmetic overhauls for Google’s social networking platform. Enjoy.
You know, while I love Google Chrome, I’ll be one of the first guys to admit that Chrome’s start page is boring as hell. It’s just so drab, and bland, and…empty. Thankfully, it looks like Google feels the same way- word is, they’re planning a colossal revamp of the startpage. As they should- with both Opera and Mozilla focusing on their own ‘new tab’ screens, Chrome’s startpage is something Google simply cannot afford to ignore anymore.
For their part, each of the major browser developers are going for their own unique ‘style’ of sorts. Mozilla is looking for a means of integrating a permanent Home Tab into the browser- something that goes beyond a simple ‘new tab’ page and instead is present in the browser as a permanent app. Details are rather sparse on this one, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Mozilla found some way to tie it into social networking in some way.
Opera, on the other hand, is using widgets- giving their start page a rather deep sense of customization by allowing users to pick and choose what they want to see when they open their browser. Definitely a good idea, and one that I hope Google considers adopting for Chrome, at least in part. Anyway, you’re probably wondering what Google’s doing to give the Chrome startpage a bit more zazz, right?
To that end, I’ve got some rather cool features to show you folks. No word on when they’ll be arriving in the Chrome browser, though- they’re currently in the process of making their debut on the Chromium platform. See, the way Google’s setting up their start page appears involve organizing the elements into ‘pages.’
In a lot of ways, Google’s “Circles” are something of a mishmash of Facebook’s friend system and Twitter’s followers system. You’ve got the sort of personal connections you can make on Facebook coupled with a twitter-like system of friendship known as “circles.” Consequently, there are a lot of people obsessed with who’s added them to their Circles on G +- just as you’ve got folks on Twitter who’ve an unhealthy compulsion to gather as many followers as humanly possible. In many cases, it all seems to come down to a popularity contest. On Twitter, it’s at the point where you’ve got what I like to term ‘fair weather followers’ who follow people just to get them to follow back, then proceed to unfollow them once that ultimately irrelevant little counter on the right side of their page goes up by another little tic. As you could imagine, there are a lot of Twitter apps designed to notify users when they’ve been unfollowed. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were something like that for Google +?
Currently, there’s an extension that at least purports to do so. I wouldn’t trust it, though- and I’m not sure you should, either.
I’ve always gotten some enjoyment out of memory match-type games. They’re a simple, enjoyable way to waste a few minutes of the day. I’ve also always loved role playing games. There’s just something entertaining about seeing a character you’re playing get better, faster, and stronger, able to take on increasingly insurmountable challenges with ease. Plus, there’s the story- I’m a sucker for a decent narrative(though, to be fair, that’s not necessarily something I go into a browser game fully expecting.)
Naturally, when I saw the game “MatchHack,” which labels itself as an “open source, RPG matching game,” I jumped on the opportunity to give it a try- with mixed results.
Here’s another Chrome Extension that gives Google + a bit of a makeover. See, here’s the thing- as you get more and more people sharing posts with you, and begin to add more and more folks to your circles; your stream can start to feel a bit…overcrowded. Maybe a bit cluttered and overwhelming, to boot. When there’s a message with too many new comments on it, it could potentially dominate the entire stream- whether you care about those comments or not.
“G + Me For Google +” purports to enhance “the Google + web app to make it much easier to process a large stream of incoming posts and comments,” helping it to “unlock the potential of its real-time updates.” According to the developer, the extension adds the following features to Google + through Chrome:
- Notification status visible at all times
- Collapsible comments
- Collapsible posts
- Real-time comment count on collapsed items
- Mark comments as read
- Two available modes: Expanded and List.
- Mouse-over instant preview(currently only available in List mode).
Not only that, the developer’s also gone so far as to include a list of extensions and apps their addon’s compatible with. The only extension it’s incompatible with is Comment Toggle- but I’ve found I rather like this addon more than the former anyway- so it’s ultimately a nonissue. Now, there are evidently a few minor glitches with the extension- the ‘j’ and ‘k’ keyboard shortcuts don’t really sit well with the addon, and occasionally the comment count goes a little wonky as a result of people deleting their comments: In other words, you could very easily see a post with a comment count of zero or negative comment counts.
My Thoughts On The Extension:
I decided to take G + Me For Google + for a test run, and I’ve gotta say- I liked what I saw. First things first, I’ll explain the two formats to you. Expanded mode looks fairly similar to standard Google +, with one additional feature: each post in your stream has a small gray bar above it. Clicking on that bar will collapse the post down to a single row. You can also collapse or expand comments- which automatically marks the post as ‘read’ (more on that in a moment). All in all, pretty nifty- and it works a hell of a lot better than Comment Toggle.
List mode is probably the coolest feature of this extension. See, in List mode, all of the posts in your stream are automatically collapsed down. Each collapsed item displays the name of the person who published it, the time at which it was published and the number of comments it has received. If you’ve already marked it as ‘read’ the comment box will be gray. If there are any unread comments, the comment box will be red.
If you want to focus on a single post in your stream, all you have to do is click on it. The post will expand, and any other post you happened to be looking at will automatically collapse. You can also mouse over posts to see them in an overlay on your screen-sort of like how +photo zoom zooms into pictures. All in all, it gives the feeling of having a sort of ‘Google + dashboard’ to work off of, and makes sorting through what can often amount to a massive volume of messages a far less daunting task.
You can grab G+Me For Google from the Chrome Web Store, as always.
Google Voice is great, isn’t it? Lets you call and text from your computer, send SMS to and from your phone, and generally just provides a great service as keeping in touch is concerned. The problem is…it’s not actually available outside the US. Plus, I’m sure there are quite a few of you who, for whatever reason, don’t want to use Google Voice, even though you have it available to you. Fortunately, there are alternatives. We’ve already looked at one a little while ago- Mightytext. Today, we’re going to look at another one, known as DeskSMS.
Right off the bat, I’m going to make it clear- you could do a lot worse than this application. Whitson Gordon of Lifehacker labels DeskSMS as quite possibly the best application of its kind. After doing a bit of my own research on the extension, I’m inclined to agree with him- at least partially. While I don’t know of enough alternatives to say whether or not this is the best piece of software out there, it definitely ranks among the upper echelons.
You’re given a number of options regarding how you want to manage SMS on your system, and how this management will relate to your phone. Any time you receive a text message, DeskSMS will automatically forward this message to Google Talk, Gmail, a web interface, or the Chrome extension. Hell, if you’d prefer, you can go with all of the above.
One particularly nice touch of DeskSMS is that it allows you to respond to text messages with your instant messaging software- no additional steps required. Just receive message, send response, and you’re done. As an added bonus, it’ll send the response using your phone number, rather than an email or internet phone number.
Where it really shines is the interface- it’s a simple, no-fuss affair, and it’s amazingly simple to set up and use. All you need to do is download the Android app, then install the extension onto whatever platform you’re running it on. Once you’ve done this, link the extension to your account, and you’ll be prompted to select what services you want to forward and you’re good to go.
There’s one problem with this software. If you don’t have an Android phone, you’re pretty much out of luck.
Those of you who do can grab the beta of this extension from the Chrome Web Store. Be sure to download its counterpart from the Android Marketplace.
If you’re one of those folks that love how Google + looks, and want to give yourself the feeling of taking it with you everywhere, I’ve got a theme for you. It’s called Google + Theme, and essentially does precisely what one would imagine- overhauling Chrome’s appearance so it more closely resembles Google’s runaway social networking site. The developer, Ruocaled isn’t particularly descriptive about the specifics of the theme. Hell, even if you don’t like the look of Google plus, this theme looks pretty damned spiffy.
I’ll provide you folks with the details, if you like.
The theme changes the color of both the downloads bar and tabs bar to a rather smart-looking gray-black hue. In addition, the active tab is slightly darker than all the others, and features an orange highlight along the top. It doesn’t make any particularly noticeable overhaul to your startpage- aside from adding a background like the one in the picture, seen above. Alternatively, you could download Ruocaled’s other theme- it’s basically the same thing, except it features a chibi mascot for Google Plus known as “Google Plus-Tan.” on the start page, instead of the image shown above. Oh, he’s also developed a Nyan cat theme-complete with instructions on how to craft an animated version for yourself.
You can download Ruocaled’s “Google + Theme” here, or his “Unofficial Google + Theme Ft. G+ Tan” here. Oh, and for those of you using Incredible Startpage…both themes work just fine with that extension.
Are you a fan of old school puzzle games? If so, I’ve got a treat for you today. Here, for your enjoyment, is The Secret of Grisly Manor. Developed by Firewalker Games, The Secret of Grisly Manor casts you as the nondescript grandchild of a famous, eccentric engineer who’s recently gone missing. You’re tasked with entering your grandfather’s mansion and unraveling the mystery of his disappearance- as well as how he was able to send you a letter in spite of having apparently vanished.
So basically, you’ve got a vanished relative and a creepy mansion filled with intricate puzzles and odd clues all in all, pretty standard fare for a puzzle game, right? The question is whether or not it holds up to the old conventions, and does them proud. Let’s find out.
Anybody wondering how their browser stacks up in terms of real world speed? I mean, sure- we’ve got lab tests and official benchmarks, but those are isolated, controlled environments. In the real world, things can tend to be a little more chaotic- people use different models of computers, have different software and hardware…you get the idea. How fast a browser is and how fast that browser feels- that is, the experience of the audience- are two entirely different things, after all.
At least, that’s what Compuware’s benchmarks division- titled “Gomez”- reasoned. The project collected browsing data from over 1.8 billion individual measurements spanning over two hundred websites. So what’d they end up finding? What results did the test provide? What browser is the fastest of them all?
The answer isn’t particularly surprising- it’s Chrome.
Designed by Halfbrick Studios(you might remember them as the guys behind Fruit Ninja) Monster dash is a game about running really fast. And shooting monsters. And…that’s about it. Believe it or not, those are they only things the game really needs to work. And hey, their best known game is about attacking pieces of fruit with a katana, so this premise is actually a bit of a step up, if you think about it.
Chances are good that if you’re reading this, you’ve got at least a marginally positive opinion of Google. Assuming this is true, chances are also good that you use at least one Google service, right? Google Docs, Gmail, Google +, pretty much any of those are fair game- and all of them are pretty damned useful. Of course, chances are also good that you’re using more than one service. See where I’m going with this?
Here’s some rather alarming news. See, a lot of folks think that they’re safe if they simply avoid questionable websites. Staying away from suspect domain names, pornography, all the nasty stuff that exists on the underbelly of the internet. Trouble is…that’s not exactly the case anymore. Apparently, over eight million web pages have been hijacked this summer alone; set up to load malware onto the computer of unsuspecting visitors. It’s not a particularly pleasant story, and it might even sound like fearmongering.
Honestly? I wish it was.
According to research by web security firm Armorize, this latest epidemic is just part of a larger trend that’s been sweeping the internet, a new style of hacking that targets individual websites instead of the users who browse them- though the users are, ultimately, still the end target. ”The misuse of small sites is making the Internet a much more dangerous place” said a lab analyst from Avast. “Even the unimportant sites can do big harm when misused.”
Even worse? Apparently it’s all traceable to a single criminal gang, situated somewhere in the Ukraine. This gang is using computer servers to hack legitimate websites, transforming them into zombie sites that exist only to deliver ‘drive by downloads’ to users who are visiting the site. You’ve probably already figured out that a ‘drive by download’ isn’t the sort of download you want to be involved in. I’ll give you an idea of just how unpleasant the whole process is.