Win prizes for promoting Firefox

The SpreadFirefox team are celebrating the fact that they are blazing a trail towards 50 million downloads, and are giving away some unique prizes to those who do something “cool, unusual and spectacular” to promote the browser.

Details are here.

Update: Check out my Firefox downloads counter underneath the sidebar to the right —>

As a special reward to all you loyal Firefox users, check this out! It’s an extension which lets you play Pong from within Firefox, perhaps while waiting for a long download :)

FireTune – Speed up your Firefox!

Fed up with deciphering about:config options, or reluctant to dig deep into Firefox’s configuration files just to speed up your browser? FireTune, a free tool from Total Ideas Software, may well be the answer. It safely and automatically tweaks your Firefox settings to make the most of your computer and Internet connection, which might just shave a few minutes of loading time from your day.

For Windows XP users, there is an option to create a special “Firefox Fast Start” shortcut which uses XP’s prefetching features to enable Firefox to start up faster.

This is an essential tool in the arsenal of any Firefox user and something I’d recommend to anyone.

In a similar vein, TNK-Bootblock offer an Adobe Reader speedup tool, which will prevent the program from loading little-used plugins every time you open a PDF file.

digg – tech news you choose

Since I first heard about digg on Return Of The Screensavers, I have been using it a lot. It’s similar to other sites which fall under the “tech news” banner, such as Slashdot, but with one major difference. Stories can be submitted by anyone, and whether they appear on the front page depends on users who can “digg” stories they like. It’s difficult to explain, but it works surprisingly well – give it a try to see what I mean.

I find digg much more fun to use than Slashdot, with more stories I enjoy, and can honestly say I haven’t read Slashdot since joining digg. Highly recommended!

Systm – from the creators of thebroken

This looks promising – a downloadable show from the creators of thebroken, starring Kevin Rose of The Screensavers/Attack of the Show. According to Kevin’s blog, this promises to be a treat for anyone missing the TechTV experience, and should be out by the end of the month.

There are a couple of behind-the-scenes clips at Keith Harrison’s blog and I’ve got to say, I’m looking forward to it. As a UK resident, I didn’t get to see much of TechTV besides the clips available on their website, and it’s great to have freely available “tech TV” for those of us in less “geek-enlightened” areas of the globe.

Also, the long-awaited fourth episode of thebroken, featuring all your favourite characters, should be available “soon”, says Kevin.

While I’m on the subject of Internet TV shows with a geeky flavour, be sure to check out The Scene, which follows the lives of a (fictional) illegal movie distribution group, and Pure Pwnage, where you can watch “pro gamer” Jeremy (aka teh_pwnerer) “pwning noobs” – it’s probably one of the funniest things I’ve seen for a while!

Opera 8 released – talk to your browser!

Version 8 of the popular Opera web browser has been released, and now sports support for voice commands, although you’ll need to download an extra 10MB package the first time you use it.

I make no bones about the fact that I am a Firefox fanboy, but thought I’d try out Opera anyway, as it’s free to use if you can put up with the ads. The voice feature isn’t bad, although it took a few attempts to get it to recognise me – possibly as I’m British. It’s nothing more than a gimmick to me though, and as I found it easier to navigate conventionally using my mouse, it won’t convince me to switch browsers.

If you think you have a need for a voice-controlled web browser or would simply like to see it in action, give it a try. And if you switch to Opera as a result, I don’t mind. Honest. At least it’s not IE… ;)

Revenge Of The Screensavers

As reported by Slashdot, some of the presenters of The Screensavers TV show, which was axed by G4 following their takeover of US cable channel Tech TV, have recently started a podcast. Leo Laporte, Patrick Norton, Kevin Rose & Robert Heron have just released the first episode of Revenge Of The Screensavers which is a radio-type show conducted over Skype. There are MP3 and Ogg Vorbis versions available, so give it a listen, it’s well worth it.

Stay tuned at Leo’s blog for future developments.

Update: The second show is now available! Both episodes are also available via BitTorrent here.

Ubuntu – Linux For Human Beings

I’ve just heard about Ubuntu Linux and placed an order on their site for a free CD. That’s right, they’ll send you a free pressed CD (or more if you request them). I’ve tried various Linux distributions including Red Hat, Mandrake (now Mandriva), SuSE and the Knoppix live CD distribution, but am still using Windows for my day-to-day computing, simply because I’ve been a Windows user since the 3.1 days. I’ve dabbled in Linux for server use (I set up proxy and Intranet servers last year during my work placement) but hope to make the plunge into using it as my primary desktop OS once I find a distribution I really like. Maybe Ubuntu will be the one!

I’ll post a review of Ubuntu once the disc lands on my doormat :)

MSN Messenger 7 final

I’ve been using the MSN Messenger 7 beta (for Windows) for a while, and it’s now reached prime time – build 7.0.0777. I imagine users of previous users will soon be forced to upgrade by MS, but it’s not all bad. Actually, it’s an improvement over previous versions – here’s a few new features:

  • can hide the Windows title bar for a fully “skinned” window
  • contacts in list “squeezed” closer together to save space
  • ability to add a personal message to your status rather than continually changing your name
  • can use the above feature to display the currently playing track in Windows Media Player or iTunes

Unfortunately, while Messenger Plus! still works on this version, the developer has decided to disable the ad bar removal functionality. All is not lost, though, because there is now Mess Patch. Here are just a few of its features:

  • remove advertisement banner (my favourite feature)
  • remove MSN search bar (my second favourite feature)
  • enable polygamy – can run multiple instances of Messenger as different users
  • enables Winamp support for the “Now Playing” feature
  • disable Nudges (prevent window shaking)

It will also allow you to remove other random bits of bloat from the Messenger user interface, which is always welcome.

You can download Mess Patch from, but be warned that the site is difficult to navigate, full of ads and doesn’t work fully in Firefox. Which is unfortunate really as it makes it difficult for me to recommend, although it does have some useful content. If you’d prefer to download the installation file directly, it is mirrored here.

Apologies for the lack of updates recently – I have my dissertation to complete and exams to revise for. Happily it will all be over by 19th May, so I’ll be able to devote more time to my blog. Thank you for your patience :)