The leaks by Julian Asange of Wikileaks were a dominant theme of 2010 and it got me thinking that perhaps, in some cases, a little more privacy could be desirable when browsing the internet, which is certainly unusual for a me as I rather agree with Zuckerberg that privacy is largely dead, so is it possible to browse privately nowadays?
After following the trials and tribulations of the Iranian Presidential Election in 2009 I became aware of the Tor Project for Anonymity Online which was developed to help people in oppressed regimes gain access to the internet without being able to be easily traced by their governments. They describe the project as:
Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location. Tor works with many of your existing applications, including web browsers, instant messaging clients, remote login, and other applications based on the TCP protocol.
Sounds excellent no? And it has the added benefit of allowing you to setup a node on your computer, so that whilst you benefit from anonymity as you browse you can help others in much more difficult situations be protected to. There are easy to follow instructions here and packages for all flavours of Windows, Mac and Linux.
But you might not want to just browse the internet anonymously all the time. I certainly haven’t spent years actively sharing my web browsing habits with google’s web history to loose it’s benefit now. So I wanted a way to just be able to turn it off and on as I felt like it. If you’re using Google Chrome this is as simple as installing an extension: the Proxy Switcher to be exact.
You can find an excellent tutorial here to guide you through the process of linking Proxy Switcher to Tor, all of which shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes of your time (courtesy of the eminently helpful Lifehacker.com) and then you’ll be able to browse privately to your hearts content without the fear of Big BrotherÂ breathing down your neck (or read Wikileaks if you’d prefer to be secretive).
I’ve only had Google Chrome installed a few weeks, but it is already changing my browsing habits.
The most evident of which is using the url bar to search. This is perhaps the single most natural development of the browser I have experienced in years. It is becoming, however, quite irritating… and you’ve guessed it: I keep on expecting Safari to search using the same method.
I’ve always considered Apple to be the leading light of software minimalism, after all look at the trouble Steve Jobs went to to get rid of the screws on the Macbook Pro or the edge to edge glass on the new iMac (tablet hint anyone?) so I am puzzled that there has been no adaptation of this Chrome method to Safari.
Come on Apple give me a little New Year cheer and adapt Safari now!
It’s finally here. Some of you may have been using the developer releases and hacks to get google Chrome working on your Mac, I certainly have, however, it is now possible to get the real versions, albeit with plugins disabled. To join the google love visit: here.
Unfortunately for lots of Mac users google has only made Chrome compatible with Intel chips, which is a real shame as I know a good number of older Mac users who would really benefit from Chrome.
I regularly and bitterly complain about the shortcoming of my browsers. As a prolific internet consumer I have grown into the habit of having many windows open, which have in turn many tabs open. At the time of writing I am running the latest build of webkit as my primary browser, if I ask it to quit (the only way you can find out how many windows and tabs you have open) it reports back:
(Notice how webkit is reported as Safari (same in the menu bar (which is extra confusing if you happen to have both open at the same time!))
As it happens I recently restarted my computer so I don’t have Safari 4 also open, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. I’ll tend to keep some things running in Safari 4 just in case webkit crashes (which as it’s a nightly build it does quite often, but less frequently than Safari with this many tabs open). I do however have Firefox open, which it turn has five windows, with forty tabs open.
I also have about half a dozen custom Fluid browsers open at any one time to take care of the custom web services I use on a daily basis such as Google Reader (always over 1000+ articles to read… why oh why), Github (which my brother reliably informs me is the Geeks Facebook), Facebook (for us mere mortals), Pivotal Tracker (for my projects); in fact if I tend to use a service everyday I tend to have a fluid browser for it…
Regular crashes in Safari 4 forced me to try out Webkit nightly builds (which are surprisingly more stable), unlike him I abandoned Firefox as a primary browser a good deal of time ago as I have never found it able to cope with a 100+ tabs Â (which I frequently reach by the end of the day) without it becoming unresponsive or crashing; but still I suffer frequent crashes and all the attenuated irritation.
Like Sal I also initially thought that it was perhaps my older system, and before I upgraded earlier this year to a shiny new MBP (2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB 1067 MHz DDR3 RAM) it was much worse, but to be frank it’s not much better. Since fleeing from Safari 4 to Webkit Nightly I have tended to restart and reload my browser once a day (having it restore all previously open tabs), which has certainly made things better but not perfect.
It seems to me that there is a significant problem with web browsing on this scale. I have tried to use various web services to organise it efficiently from delicious, where I have thousands of bookmarks (once bookmarked never revisited – usually much quicker to just re-google) to google’s own bookmarking service (useless) to activating the full web history storage. Currently I am finding Safari / Webkit’s coverflow history helpful but its not enough.
Personally I think more and more of us are using the web in this prolific way and whilst I agree with Sal that there is definitely something up with our browsers I think that Google and the major browser developers have failed to adapt quickly enough to this changing phenomenon. Or offer us any tools to make it easier…
For example why in OS X.6 can’t I click on the Safari or Webkit icon in the Dock and see a list of sites I currently have open? When I have 20 tabs open in a single window I won’t necessarily remember which one it is, and so I end up cycling away through innumerable tabs. And though I try to keep them organised, being able to move tabs to different windows has helped, it’s certainly laborious.
The bookmarking tools in Safari / Webkit in particular are laughably basic. I use my menu bar bookmarks for bookmarklets such as my current favourites: Smush.it, TinyURL!, Translate into English, Send to Site Sucker, Google Bookmark… and there we go, googling a source url for Smush.it told me there was a wordpress plugin (which I’ll have to install) and now I have another tab open.
There does not seem to be much innovation in this area and I can reassure Sal that he’s not the only one suffering and that there has to be an improvement or progress in these areas soon (or it might just drive me mad!).