I Almost Switched to Chrome Today

My default browser is Firefox and has been for years. I’m not a Luddite. I have enough technical skill to customize my browser so it’s just the way I like it, but I prefer to keep my browsing options simple. For instance, I don’t use RSS readers. If I can’t go to a site on my own, then I probably don’t need the information anyway. So that’s where I am as a web user. I’m probably more internet savvy than the average Internet Explorer user, but I don’t want to do anything that resembles coding or become inundated with too much information.

I installed Google’s Chrome browser a few times over the past year or so, but the Adblock function was clunky and the zoom feature for magnifying pages didn’t remember the amount of zoom for each page, requiring a manual zoom every time. (I don’t like micro fonts.) I decided I wouldn’t try Chrome again until those issued were addressed.

FAVOURITE SITESThose issues have been addressed with the latest version of Chrome. So I imported my bookmarks and my tool bar from Firefox (can’t live without my buttons) and things were looking great. The transition was easy and painless.

But it wasn’t long before I noticed the absence of two features, and it’s a deal breaker for me.

Firefox saves my most visited sites in the address bar and allows me to access them instantly. Chrome doesn’t. In Firefox, I don’t even have to bookmark my most popular sites. I just click a little triangle at the end of the address bar and ten or so of my most frequented sites are listed. Then I easily click on the site I want to go to. This is a huge time saver for me.

SEARCHESThe other missing feature in Chrome is the easy installation and use of multiple search engines. I have about twenty search engines that I can access in Firefox with two clicks. Is that the case with Chrome? I don’t know, because I gave up when I was required to modify some URL code while trying to add a search engine to Chrome. Adding a search plugin to Firefox requires practically no technical skill, and that’s the way it should be. Chrome needs to simpify the installation and use of multiple search engines.

My latest trial of Chrome lasted for maybe fifteen minutes. It’s possible I didn’t give it enough time. If I’d poked around a little more, I may have discovered quick and easy methods for accessing my most visited sites and using multiple search engines. Any Chrome users who would like to enlighten me, please do so in the comments. I like the look and the speed of Chrome (it’s fast) and I’m willing to make the switch from Firefox. Just not yet. Google came this close. So close.

UPDATE (Feb. 23/11): Firefox has been extra slow lately, so I’m giving Chrome another try. The plugins Pender posted are useful. The recent history plugin (so far) does an okay job at mimicking Firefox, which speeds things up. The multiple search engine plugin is an improvement over Chrome’s default multiple search feature, but neither one of them outshines the under-rated Mycroft Project which makes setting up and selecting multiple search engines in Firefox a breeze.

In Firefox, I can look for a new search engine through Mycroft, then install it and use it in about 30 seconds. In Chrome, again, I would have to go to the website I want to search, do a search, copy the resulting URL into Chrome’s search engine manager, and then change the URL by replacing the search object inside the URL with this code: %s. All of that is asking too much for a general user (especially any kind of coding), and it would likely take me my lunch hour to do that with all the search engines I use on a regular basis. (Setting up the multiple search engine plugin requires the same amount of messing around, though it’s easier to use once it’s finally set up.)

And then actually using the multiple search engine feature in Chrome — I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s clever how the Omnibox anticipates the search and can recognize the specific search engine by a nickname, but is that any faster or easier than choosing a search engine from a drop-down box in Firefox and typing in the search? It also requires the user to remember all the installed search engines and their nicknames.

Chrome’s multiple search engine features are not an improvement over similar features available in Firefox, but I’m impressed with the enhancements Google has made to the browser so far. They’re getting there.

I’ll continue to test the browser, but further updates will show up in the comments.

Mad Men – Season 4 is Killer

Has anyone been watching the fourth season of Mad Men? That show is off the hook. In the past four or five episodes (about half way through the 13-episode season), it’s shifted into a whole near gear. It’s sublime. It’s more cinematic than most movies I see in theatres these days. Here’s a season 1 trailer that won’t give anything away:

I didn’t think they could beat season 1, and they didn’t with season 2 or 3. But now, I don’t know what’s going on, if they’ve hired new writers or producers, but each episode plays out like a work of art. They’ve dispensed with all the melodrama that was over-taking the storyline in seasons 2 and 3, and they’ve dug deep. Real deep.

Check out Jim Emerson’s blog for someone who seems equally impressed with the show. He has a lot more insight into all this cinematic stuff than I ever will. And it’s kinda cool.

Looking for Help on Paul Auster’s “Invisible”

austerinvisibleI finished Paul Auster’s 2009 novel, Invisible, a few days ago and I’m not sure what to think of it (but I’ll give it a 7 out of 10). Again, it’s Paul Auster writing about a character that is himself thinly disguised — himself as a university student in the late ’60s making friends with people who turn out to be maybe not the greatest people on the planet. It’s another engaging existential journey, one that’s familiar to anyone who’s read Paul Auster, who I think could write a novel about someone hanging clothes out to dry and it would still suck you in. “Invisible” has that Paul Auster thing going on. So it’s a good read.

But that’s the most I can say about it because, for me, the book just ends without resolving any of the mysteries that are introduced in the first 300 pages of the novel. I had to take a 3-day break from the book before I could finish the last portion of it, so it’s possible I forgot some revealing detail during the break. But if anyone who has read the novel can tell me the truth behind the main event of the story, please leave a comment and let me know. Because I completely missed it — if it was revealed.

So except for not getting the ending, “Invisible” was a good read. I enjoyed it. I just didn’t get it.

10 DVD & Blu-ray Recommendations (October 2010)

Here are 10 new and old movies or TV shows I’ve seen in the past year that are now available on DVD and Blu-ray, and probably Netflix, etc. They’re all top-notch, but I’ve listed them in order of highest recommendation to least-highest recommendation. If your tastes are close to mine, you might enjoy them.

#1: Band of Brothers is a 10-part HBO mini-series that follows a bunch of guys through basic training during WWII, their deployment on D-Day and all the battles they went through until the end of the war in Europe. It’s intense, and for me, educational. It made the soldier’s perspective on the war more vivid than anything I’ve seen before. I felt scared for them. It reminded me of William Wharton‘s novel, A Midnight Clear. It’s about the everyday experiences of soldiers in the trenches (and thankfully not an excuse to wave the US flag in our faces). I would have been a Section 8 after D-Day. Don’t let the first episode with “Ross” from TV’s “Friends” turn you off. He leaves and it only gets better after that. (The following-up series, The Pacific has similar production values and is worth a look, but it’s not essential viewing like “Band of Brothers.”)


#2: A Serious Man, directed by the Coen Brothers, is about a physics professor in 1967 who’s life is going down the toilet one piece at a time. Everything in the movie is so well done — the look, the feel, the acting — any random 2 minutes of “A Serious Man” is more interesting, intelligent and entertaining than most entire movies I’ve seen in the past year. This is filmmaking. And it’s fun, not cruel or bizarre like some Coen Brothers movies can be.
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