Category Archives: Web Resources

Various useful online services and tools that can make life a whole lot easier

You Probably Shouldn’t Deactivate Your Twitter Account

Everything's missing!

If you’re considering deactivating your Twitter account, whether to tackle social media addiction or for other reasons, you might want to read this post and reconsider.

First, a little backstory: I decided to take two weeks off Twitter in mid-November because I was wasting all my time in it. Simply logging out of Twitter on my PC and smartphone didn’t work, so I decided to deactivate my account and delete the Twitter apps. After a few days of back-and-forth tussle, I emerged victorious and stayed off Twitter for ten days. When I reactivated my account in early December, nearly everything was missing.

This is what I have learnt in the process:

 

Your account data will not be restored immediately

I deactivated Twitter on 23rd November, but was back a day later to tweet some crap (I had to!). When I logged in, all my user lists were empty (followers, following, lists). It didn’t bother me much because my timeline was still updating. Plus, Twitter had warned about delays in data restoration.

After tweeting the aforementioned “crap”, regret set in and I deactivated my account again (I know, I have issues). I reactivated my account about ten days later, and again found all my lists were empty. No big deal, because delays! But things were different this time – my timeline was completely dead. I actually had 0 followers and was following 0 people.

As I looked around, I found more missing stuff. All the mentions were gone from my Interactions tab (a quick search surfaced those tweets, so they were obviously still there but weren’t showing up in the Interactions tab). All the images I had uploaded were gone (the tweets associated with those images were still there). Worst of all, the 800+ tweets I had favorited were also gone (I spotted this after a couple of days). I use Twitter as a complementary bookmark service, so losing all my favorites was a bummer. Again, I did not pay too much attention to all this, because Twitter says it can take up to 24 hours for your data to be restored.

Some of your data may not be restored at all

48 hours passed, and not a single thing had been restored, so I set out to contact an actual person at Twitter. It’s notoriously hard to find someone to talk to at a free online service company (it’s free, don’t complain!), and thankfully that wasn’t the case here. I found a contact form quite easily, and sent an email to The Twitter Support Institution. An email from Cheerful Twitter Employee arrived the next day saying everything was fixed. I am impress, Twitter!

Except, that wasn’t really the case. My followers and following lists were back, my timeline was flowing like butter again, my…no, that was it. Mentions, images, and favorites still missing. I sent another email stating this, didn’t get any answer for three days, so I emailed again. Cheerful Twitter Employee promptly closed the support ticket and let me know that Twitter engineers are on it, and I need not check back. Here’s a snapshot of the full conversation. None of the missing data has been restored since.

I want to be optimistic, and hope that the Twitter engineers will indeed fix this issue one day. Then again, I have been hopeful of getting Login Approvals (two step authentication) in my Facebook account for over a year, and I still don’t have it.

 

Twitter will delete your account after 30 days

Unlike Facebook, which will retain your deactivated account indefinitely, Twitter will delete your account if you don’t reactivate it within 30 days. Now, this won’t come as a nasty surprise or something – Twitter warns you very clearly during the deactivation process. You will also get email alerts when the deactivation period approaches 30 days. Still, something to keep in mind if you’re considering staying off the Internet for more than a month.

 

What you can do instead

So, the bottom line is that you shouldn’t deactivate your Twitter account. The entire process might go off very smoothly in your case, but chances are things will break. It’s certainly not as seamless as deactivating/reactivating Facebook.

That doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to stay away from Twitter (or any other service that you’re addicted to). Log out of Twitter from all your devices. Delete all your Twitter apps and bookmarks. Remove all traces of Twitter from your browser history – this way, the browser won’t recommend Twitter when you start typing ‘t’. Install a tool that will outright block Twitter for a period of time.


While we’re talking Twitter addiction, why not follow me there! I am not a complete disaster, I swear.

Turn on HTTPS for Feedly’s Chrome app

Feedly enabled HTTPS for all its users a while ago, but there is no way to turn it on permanently on its website.

If you use Feedly’s app for Chrome, right-click on the icon, go to Options and enable HTTPS.

Feedly Chrome Options

Feedly for Chrome HTTPS

If you don’t use the Chrome app (or you use another browser), simply bookmark and use https://feedly.com.

HTTPS provides a secure connection between your computer and the website you’re visiting, and prevents others from eavesdropping on your browsing activity (which is why websites for banking and transactions use HTTPS). You should turn on HTTPS on every website that supports it.

SugarSync is ditching its free plan. Here are some great alternatives.

SugarSync, one of the earliest and most feature filled cloud storage services, is removing its 5GB free plan. If you’re an existing free SugarSync user and do not want to upgrade to one of their paid plans, we have some great free alternatives for you.

 

You should switch to Dropbox if…

Dropbox Logo

You want excellent cross-platform compatibility. Much like SugarSync, Dropbox has solid apps for every major operating system except Windows Phone (you can find third-party apps for Windows Phone).

You do not want too much space. Dropbox gives you 2GB of free storage, although you can quickly add mode space by completing few trivial steps, and inviting your friends. (Sign up with my referral link to start with 2.5GB space!)

You want simplicity. A big reason for Dropbox’s popularity was its simple approach to cloud syncing. You get one folder to  put all your stuff and it gets synced across devices and platforms.

Other features: automatic media backups, 30 day file revisions

 

You should switch to Google Drive if…Google Drive Logo

 

You use Google’s online services. If you have a Google/Gmail account, you’re good to go for Google Drive.

You want relatively more free space. You get 15GB of free storage from Google, and it’s shared across  Drive, Gmail, and Google+ Photos. If you don’t get a ton of email and don’t use Google+ Photos, most of that 15GB can be used for your Drive.

You use Google Docs/Spreadsheets/Slides. Documents, spreadsheets, and presentations created in Google Drive do not count towards your free storage.

You use Chrome OS. Google Drive is the only deeply integrated cloud syncing service currently available for Chrome OS, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

You want unlimited photo backups. Technically, this is a feature of Google+ Photos, which, together with Google Drive and Gmail, shares your Google Storage (yeah, very confusing). You can set Google+ Photos to automatically backup your photos in iOS, Android, Chrome OS, and Chrome. Google can automatically resize your photos to 2048px resolution (which is plenty good) so they won’t count towards free storage. You will need a Google+ account, obviously.

 

You should switch to Microsoft SkyDrive if…SkyDrive Logo

 

You use Microsoft’s online services. If you have a Microsoft/Outlook/Hotmail/Xbox account, you are already on SkyDrive.

You use Windows and Windows Phone. SkyDrive is integrated deeply into Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone, and has excellent apps available for Windows 8 and below. Non Windows users need not worry – Microsoft also makes good SkyDrive apps for OS X, Android, and iOS.

You use Internet Explorer. SkyDrive syncs IE bookmarks and settings across devices running Windows and Windows Phone.

You use Microsoft Office on the desktop/web. SkyDrive is deeply integrated with Office, particularly Office on the web.

Free storage: 7GB

Other features: automatic media backup on Windows Phone, Android, and iOS.

 

You should switch to iCloud if…iCloud Logo

 

You use only Mac OS X and iOS. If you have an Apple account on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you’re likely already using iCloud. iCloud has few configuration options, and silently syncs your bookmarks, app settings, mail, calendar, contacts, recent photos, iWork documents, and more in the background. iCloud has a complementary app for Windows.

Free storage: 5GB

Think of iCloud as a complementary service to your primary cloud syncing app.

 

You should switch to Ubuntu One if…

Ubuntu One Logo

 

You use Ubuntu. Ubuntu One is baked into Ubuntu and offers all the usual syncing features. It is essential for using Ubuntu’s Music Store.

Free storage: 5GB (extra space through referrals)

Apps for Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android (besides Ubuntu, of course).

 

You should switch to Tresorit if…

Tresorit Logo

 

You want absolute privacy. Tresorit will encrypt your data locally before uploading it to their servers. They can neither read your data nor retrieve it if you lose your password.

Free storage: 5GB (extra space through referrals)

Apps for Windows, Mac OS X, Android, iOS. Windows Phone and Linux coming soon.

Similar services which encrypt your data before uploading to their servers include Wuala and SpiderOak. Besides Dropbox, Wuala and SpiderOak are the only services to currently support most Linux distributions.

How To Get The Portable Versions Of Popular DC++ Clients

Direct Connect (DC++) hubs are quite popular for sharing data among logged in users, especially so in residential college networks. A DC++ client is obviously required to tap into such hubs, with the most popular options being the official DC++ client, Strong DC++, and Apex DC++.

While all of the above clients provide perfectly usable Windows installers, did you know that you can actually use them as portable apps too?!

What’s the big deal about portable apps, huh?

Okay, so a portable app does look and work like a normal installed app. From that perspective, it’s really not that different. But! It’s portable, and that’s what magical about it. It won’t add junk registry items to your computer. It’s just one single folder that you can put anywhere (Dropbox!), use on any number of computers, and delete anytime.

Portable apps do have poor system integration, but that hardly matters in the case of DC++ client – all you do with the app is open it, join a hub or three, and share your files like crazy. Absolutely no system integration is necessary.

Get those portables!

We shall be covering more about the awesomeness of portable apps (including the PortableApps.com platform) in future posts, but this post is here to help you find portable builds for your favourite DC++ client. So lets get started.

Official DC++

You’ll find all the available DC++ builds on this SourceForge page. Click on the version number (currently 0.782), and download the .zip file from the list. Once downloaded, unzip the folder contents to somewhere on your computer (again, I’d recommend the Dropbox or SugarSync folder, if you use either), and create a shortcut for the DCPlusPlus.exe file on your desktop or taskbar.

Strong DC++

Visit the Strong DC++ files on SourceForge, click on the latest version number (currently 2.42), and get the 32/64 bit .7z file depending on your OS. Rest of the process is same as above. Do make sure that you’ve an archiving app like PeaZip, that can unpack the .7z file.

Apex DC++

Again, say hello to the SourceForge page for Apex DC++. Click on the latest version (currently 1.4.2), and download the ApexDC++_x.x.x_slim.7z file, x.x.x being the version number. The other .7z archives contains the source files, and is not meant for normal users.

Do note that Apex DC++ will add itself to the “Installed Programs” list, allowing you to uninstall it from the Control Panel.

There are, of course, many other DC++ clients, and you can quite possibly find their portable builds with a bit of Googling and searching their SourceForge archives.

Get Quick-fire Information With The Google Talk Guru

UPDATE #2: Good news, it’s working again. Thanks, Lifehacker.

UPDATE: In a recent move to streamline itself, Google has shuttered the entireLabs unit, which includes this particular bot.

If you’re a regular Google Talk user, here’s a useful chat bot that you should add to you chat list now – the Google Talk Guru, straight from the Google Labs. You can “friend” the bot by adding [email protected] to your contact list.

Guru helps you get some specific information like sports results, current weather and forecast, currency conversions, word definitions, etc, just by chatting with it. For example, if you want the weather stats for your city, just initiate a chat with the Guru bot and type “weather <city-name>”. Guru will search Google and almost instantaneously deliver back the stats to you. Not revolutionary, but useful to have nonetheless.

Here’s a list of the queries supported by Guru, along with examples (screenshot taken from its homepage):

Google_Talk_Guru_-_Google_Chrome-0021

I can confirm that most of the stuff works as expected, however Guru is absolutely horrendous when it comes to queries regarding tennis (my favourite sport). You’re in luck if you like football better. Smile

google talk guru

[via Mashable]

Create a Desktop Uploader App for imgur Using a Chrome Extension

imgur-logoimgur is one of my favorite image-sharing webapps, thanks to its sheer simplicity of uploading and sharing screenshots. The service also provides an API, which is used by a quite a few desktop tools and browser extensions (makes me like it even more).

While the desktop uploaders for imgur are pretty good (especially the ones for Mac OS X), you can actually convert a tiny Chrome extension to a full fledged desktop tool for the purpose. I like to install as few software on my system as possible, and this extension-cum-desktop-app helps me reduce that number by one.

Without further ado, lets see how we can turn a Chrome extension for imgur to a desktop app.

  • Launch Chrome, and install the “imgur” extension from here. If you don’t have Chrome, you can download it from google.com/chrome.
  • Once it’s installed, you’ll find a small “i” icon next to the Chrome address bar. Click on it.

imgur-chrome 

  • The extension will launch a new tab with a dark background. Now all we have to do is to create an application shortcut for this tab. Click on the Chrome “wrench” icon, and select Tools –> Create application shortcuts.

chrome-application-shortcut

  • Specify where you want to place the shortcuts, and click Create when done.

chrome-gears

  • You can now use this shortcut as your pseudo-desktop app. Clicking on it will launch the dark-background page; simply drag your photos / screenshots into it, and the extension will upload them to imgur. The links to the uploads will be displayed just below every image – you can right click and copy them to share them with others.

imgur-desktop

The imgur desktop uploader should be sufficient for most cases, but it has some limitations you should keep in mind,

  • The extension uses the imgur anonymous API, which means there is no support for imgur accounts. Support might be added in future.
  • All your uploaded images are put in one single gallery, regardless of whether they’re related or not. You can browse through this gallery on the imgur website by clicking on the “External Gallery” link at the top right corner of the app.
  • All uploaded images are public by default (though anonymous), so you might not want to upload sensitive or personal pictures.
  • The app requires you to have Chrome installed (even if you don’t use it). Uninstalling Chrome will break the shortcuts.

If these limitations are a deal-breaker for you, try some of the more powerful uploading tools as listed here. For everyone else, this imgur uploader for your desktop can be very handy for quickly uploading and sharing screenshots and photos.

Twimbow Is A Colourful New Web App to Manage Twitter

Twimbow is a new web app in town, that lets you manage your Twitter profile in a new way. Lets see what it’s got in store to compete with well established rivals like Seesmic Web, HootSuite, and Brizzly.

twimbow

For a start, Twimbow is colourful. With the exception of Brizzly, most Twitter clients (desktop or web) are usually monotonously coloured and look boring. Not with Twimbow. This webapp is illuminated with all sorts of colours that make it stand out from the crowd. And colour doesn’t end just with the interface – you can actually add a #colour hashtag at the end of your tweet and Twimbow will show that tweet in that colour (obviously, this is not supported in any other client, and the fun kind of wears off after a while). Despite that, it could be a killer feature for casual Twitter users who are overwhelmed by the jam packed web clients of today.

twimbow colors

The default interface of Twimbow has got 3 columns which, at the time of writing, do no look like they can be modified. The first one is the ‘Personal Buzz’ – which is just entirely different from what you’ve seen on any Twitter client so far. This column shows everything that has to do with you – starting with your tweets, retweets, mentions, replies, DMs, favourites, and whatever else – all of which is distinguished by, gasp!, colour codes. This is obviously a very new approach to separating your activities from your contacts’ activities on Twitter, although it’s not without its caveats. While Personal Buzz can be really helpful, it can quickly turn into a hodge podge of complete Twitter craziness if you do/receive any of this in excess – tweets, replies, DMs etc. Twimbow seems to be doing some sort of background filtering to keep this column relatively clean, but it still tends to get messy at times.

The second column, Home Buzz, is about everything else – the tweets, from people you follow, that are unrelated to you. At this moment, this column doesn’t automatically refresh itself, and you’ve to keep clicking on the top to show newer updates (not unlike the Twitter web interface). This column also allows you to filter users by the lists you’ve created, which is really handy if you ask me.

The final column is simply a search stream on everything about Twimbow. There’s seemingly no way of removing it at the moment, but then it peacefully stays out of your way and also offers you an useful insight into what early adopters have to say about the service, if you’re interested.

There’s also a neat Monitor tool at the bottom that lets you keep you updated on anything, or anyone, on Twitter.

Twimbow is still in pre-alpha, meaning it’s still very very new, and it’d be rude to be demanding every feature out of the box right now. But there are still a few things I’d like to see rather sooner than later,

  • An ‘options’ dialog. Somewhere. Anywhere. As a self-proclaimed geek, I’m obsessed with the settings of any program that I use. If I can’t find one, I get mad. Twimbow is still circulating among a few pre-alpha testers, so that may be the reason for the lack of options, but they should get to implementing one soon.
  • Ability to upload images. Almost every other Twitter webapp does it now, and it’s actually a feature that people are gonna use.
  • Ability to customize width of the columns. Not every computer screen is the same, and things can look too big or too small on non-standard resolutions.
  • Twimbow uses fade-in pop-ups to show dialog boxes to update your status or to see user profiles. I don’t like those all that much. The hovercards and normal text boxes on Seesmic Web are tons better.

Of course, everyone is going to have his or her own demands, but I feel like Twimbow should have these features straight off the bat. Right now, it’s doing great for something that’s in as early stage as pre-alpha.

I’ve seen lots of people sign up for Twitter and then abandon it, as they fail to understand what the hell to do in here. For them (and everyone else as well!), Twimbow is a nice way to keep the Twiverse colorful and engaging, while still being simple and fast at the same time. As for me, I’m gonna stick to Seesmic Web for now because I just seem to like it that much better.

If you want to try Twimbow right now (and you should), comment with your Twitter handle below (something like, Hey I am @sharapova and I’d like a Twimbow invite!) and the @Twimbow team will automatically send you an invitation through Twitter. Else, you can simply @filos (who is one of the ones behind this project) and request for an invite. 🙂

—————

Bonus

  • Try the #rainbow hashtag on Twimbow.
  • Twimbow supports desktop notifications on Chrome, just like the new Seesmic Web. Also, it runs the smoothest on Chrome.

Create a Swivel View of Your Photos in Picasa Web Albums [GT Posts]

picasa-logo

…Generally speaking, creating an actual 360 degree view effect requires you to snap photos of the same object from numerous closely spaced angles, arrange them all together in proper order and queue them in a fast slideshow mode. And if you do happen to have a bunch of such photos lying around, you still need to be able to cook up some javascript work to be able to swivel through those photos.

Thankfully, Picasa Web makes the process of adding swivel effect a smooth one. It not only has the feature baked in, but also makes using it really easy

 

How to Get a 360 Degree ( Swivel ) View Of Your Photos in Picasa Web Albums [Guiding Tech]

How to Combine Multiple Bookmarklets and Reduce Browser Toolbar Clutter [GT Posts]

Now that I’m writing for Guiding Tech, I feel like I should post snippets of my published articles on PC Tonic. Here’s the latest one, and it’s about Bookmarklet Combiner – a web app that lets you combine multiple bookmarklets into one.

… bookmarklets share the same problem as regular bookmarks – they can grow into a wild, unsorted bunch very quickly. Sure you can put them in a ‘bookmarklets’ folder, but if you’ve got anything over 10, finding the right one for any particular webpage will make you pull your hair apart.

This is where is web app Bookmarklet Combiner comes in handy…

Read the full post on GT, and let us know of your view on the app. 🙂

What Are Userscripts, And How Can I Use Them?

Web applications often lack the flexibility provided by their desktop counterparts. Although they’re designed to offer a unified and pleasing experience to most users, they don’t have those configuring options that would otherwise allow you to tweak the app to suit your needs.

Let’s take Facebook. The largest social networking site in the world is best accessed from its web interface because of all the features it provides, but there remain a few quirks that you really can’t do much about. Photos can’t be rotated. There is no threading in comments. You can’t apply themes or even custom colors to your profile. These and more, depending on how you use Facebook (or any  other web app). So how to address these issues? Simple, just install a userscript, and watch along as the problem magically vanishes!

Userscripts are tiny bits of code written in JavaScript that add useful functionality to your web apps. You can think of them as a cosmetic makeover of the web apps that you use. Userscripts are browser-specific and website-specific; a particular script, if installed and supported by your browser, will work only for a particular website (or a group of websites). Unlike regular extensions, user scripts won’t slow your browser down.

How To Install A User Script?

As I said above, you need to install a userscript on your browser for it to work. Now, of all modern browsers, only Google Chrome and Opera support these scripts out of the box, although you can bring the functionality to other browsers with simple add-ons. To install a script in Chrome, all you have to do is download it. Chrome treats these scripts as regular extensions, and will install them as one, which you can then manage from the Extensions page. Getting user scripts on Opera isn’t as straightforward as that on Chrome, but it’s not much difficult either. You can learn how to make Opera use the scripts from this doc.

A vanilla Firefox install doesn’t support user scripts. However, there’s nothing to worry as the awesome Greasemonkey add-on brings the functionality to the open source browser. In fact, Greasemonkey for Firefox is so popular that most user scripts are usually designed to be fully compatible with it.

Where Do I Find User Scripts?

UserScripts.org is the largest source of user scripts available online. All scripts are free to download and use. They’re specifically designed for Greasemonkey, though most will run just fine on Chrome and Opera, if not all. IE users using IE7Pro can try IEScripts.org instead.

Caution

Userscripts are relatively simple to create (for programmers, at least!), hence you’ll literally find thousands of them doing practically the same thing. Finding that exact script for your particular need will need some tinkering around. Whether you’re looking in UserScripts or IE Scripts, make sure that you search with accurate parameters to get the best results. Lets say you’re looking for a script that’ll change Facebook’s colour from the monotonous blue to something else; for this you should search for something like ‘facebook colour’ or ‘change facebook colour’. From the results that will be displayed, look for one that has high ratings and has been downloaded more number of times than the other scripts displayed, and install it.

Again, owing to the ease with which they can be created, there’s a good chance you’ll come across scripts that contain malware. So never install them from unknown sources. UserScripts is huge (and safe), and you’ll almost always stumble across whatever you’re looking for.

Some Useful Userscripts

There are thousands of amazing userscripts available, and it’s not possible on my part to list even a part of them. However, here are three of my absolute favourites. All of these work flawlessly on Firefox (with Greasemonkey) and Chrome, and I’ve no idea about Opera (they should work!).

Greased Lightbox

If you’ve ever searched for images on Google (and you certainly have!), you know how frustrating it is to get to the actual image which you can save to your computer. Enter Greased Lightbox. With this userscript installed, the images, when clicked, will instead appear on a fancy ‘lightbox’ overlay. The images can be scrolled back and forth, and even viewed in a slideshow.

Screenshot 121

[That’s Lady Gaga without makeup!]

Grease Lightbox works on Google Images, Wikipedia, MySpace, DeviantArt, FFFFound!, flickr, and Blogger. Neat!

YouTube Video Download

Well, this userscript is the easiest way to quickly download any YouTube video. Install it, and you’ll find the amazing Download button below your YouTube video. Click on it, and you’ve options to download the video in any of the available formats!

Screenshot 122

FFixer

This adds a ton of stuff to Facebook, and is quite likely to fix any issues that you’ve got with the interface. I don’t use Facebook a lot (though this is changing fast!), but I can assure you that you’ll be a happier soul using Facebook after installing this.

 

I’ll definitely be covering many more userscripts in future, but that’s it for now. Enjoy the web your way with userscripts!