I became annoyed with Skype’s click to call Chrome extension lately, not only because I never use it, but it feels very intrusive most times. The Skype Click and Call function highlights phone and contact numbers on webpages and emails, and a Skype call can be initiated by clicking the highlighted number. The situation got unbearable after a Skype upgrade, when Chrome started to freeze occasionally, obviously, the immediate suspect was Skype’s click to call function.
When I first turned to disable click to call in Chrome’s extension menu, to my surprise, the enable check box was checked and greyed out – No disabling possible. No matter how I played with Chrome, I couldn’t un-grey the enable check box, and it was impossible to disable the extension. Playing with Chrome, I realized this unnecessary extension and plug-in are taking up Chrome resources that have been ever climbing more and more. The solution had to be less conventional. As it turns out, click to call is an independent application and not merely a Skype chrome extension extending Skype’s functions.
So the easiest way to disable click to call is to uninstall it via Control Panel’s Add or Remove Programs. Well, not always. In some cases, during the uninstall process, the installer requires the user to close all Chrome windows even when they are all closed and no Chrome processes are running. To resolve that, we will need to disable Chrome’s applications running in the background, as follows:
1. Open Chrome.
2. Go to settings and click “Show advanced settings”, if it’s not already open.
3. Scroll down to System section
4. Uncheck the Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed check box.
5. Exit chrome and make sure no Chrome process is running in the Task Manager.
6. Try to uninstall Skype click to call again.
Once click to call is uninstalled, open Chrome’s settings again and enable the Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed check box again – It enables some pretty useful apps.
I’m very disappointed (though not surprised) with Skype (Microsoft Skype Division) for this unsolicited stealth install of click to call.
If following this uninstall you wish to re-enable the click-to-call function in Chrome, download and install the Click and Call plugin again separately.
It’s been more than two years since the last Daily Friction, I’m not sure it’s going to be back in it’s old form, it’s certainly not going to be a daily post. But it’s back for now with new and interesting articles and information. Some of the articles in this particulate issue are somewhat old but nevertheless interesting.
Following up on yesterday’s post about various alternative RSS feed reading services to the shutting down Google Reader, it’s time to transfer all your feeds to the new service of your choice. If you didn’t choose a new service it’s high time to do so.
You can add all your feeds one by one – but that will be tedious and unnecessary. Instead, you can transfer them from Google Reader (before it’s officially dead) by exporting it. It sounds complicated, but it’s not.
That’s it. You’re done!
It was a bit of a surprise to hear Google’s announcement about the closure of the Google Reader service on July 1, 2013. It is surprising for two main reasons. First, It’s a very popular service and considered one of the more successful offerings of the entire Google plethora, and it’s the most popular RSS reader on the market, by a huge margin. Second, Google is not offering any alternative. Historically, Google closes down a service for one of two reasons, it’s either failing in popularity (by Google’s standards) or there is a different service which is either more advanced or already covering the same functionality with a clear and easy migration path. There were a few hints of a replacement of some form under Google+, but I haven’t seen any indication of it.
Since the question of why Google is shutting down Reader is not fully answered, at the time RSS feeds are still popular and not going away any time soon, I would like to look at the available alternatives.
Standard readers and aggregators:
If you’re a Mac user, Cream might be for you. Cream is a feature-rich feed reader, but what makes it special is that the application knows which stories are the best and most worthwhile reading and floats them to the top so you can go through them first.
It offers one-click import from Google Reader, and its method for determining which articles and feeds are better suited for you is impressive: the application “learns” as you read, scan or ignore stories, within a particular feed or in general. That means that Cream not only pushes stories to the top but also entire feeds based on your actions.
FeedDemon is a windows only RSS reader which offers a high level of customization. In this application you can enable keyword triggers to send an alert when any of the set keywords appear in the feed, regardless of whether you’re subscribed to the feed they appear in. Another useful feature is podcasts subscriptions with automatic downloads to a specified directory where they can be listened to or transferred to your mobile device.
Platform: Firefox | Chrome | Safari | Androd | iOS | Web
Feedly is a very popular reader and had many users long before Google announced it was shuttering Reader. It is both a browser add-on and an Android and iOS app. Feedly takes your feeds and presents them in a magazine-like view. It also has integrated sharing and integration features with many social networks. In addition to having a rich news suggestion algorithm that makes it easy to surface articles that you’ll find most interesting, it’s a rich social tool that lets you share stories with your friends and post them to your favorite social networks. Feedly has the ability to save stories for future reading, and offers layout choices that let you read the news in the manner you choose — whether it’s straight headlines from top to bottom, full articles, neatly arranged tiles, or images all laid out on a page.
Currently, Feedly uses Google Reader as its backend and there is no word whether Google will be keeping the Reader APIs online for developers. As of yet, I don’t know if Google will break the functionality of third-party application when it integrates Reader with Google+. But Feedly are not waiting to find out as it is building a new syncing engine so it’s users can seamlessly continue using the service long after Google Reader turns off the lights.
FeedsAnywhere is a browser-based reader, and while it doesn’t have a mobile app it does offer a website that is focused on the mobile user. It can handle a huge number of feeds pretty easily and has a smooth user experience. It can sync with Google Reader to get the user’s current feeds and allows the user to look at either single folders, a single feed, or all the feeds in one streamline. Setting up FeedsAnywhere is VERY simple. All you have to do is go to the FeedsAnywhere website and create an account. There are occasional quirks with the service, but it is a feature rich news reader.
Platform: Android | iOS
Flipboard is an immensely popular newsreader, and this is while not having any desktop or browser-based component. While Flipboard is considered mainly a newsreader and less useful RSS reader, it still have the capabilities and a very attractive and comfortable interface. Flipboard is an excellent option because it allows you to organize the articles you want to look at and then flip through it like a magazine. Flipboard presents you with an intuitive layout of your feeds and a few default news categories to browse. Touching a panel lets you browse through any of the default categories; touching and holding a panel lets you delete it and replace it with whatever RSS feed you might want. You can customize your Flipboard by browsing through several categories like News, Technology, Business, and Entertainment and more.
Historically Netvibes was a refuge for long iGoogle users since apart from supporting RSS feeds, it is mainly a personalized homepage service, a fact that may deter some hardcore RSS users who are looking for the RSS reader to be a centric feature. Netvibes can become somewhat similar to Google Reader once you switch it out of the default widgets mode. The service has moved beyond Web page personalization to provide online dashboards and business intelligence to companies, but still allows consumers to create personalized Web pages while augmenting its free service with business-centric paid options, such as brand monitoring, analytics, and enterprise portal services. Basic accounts at Netvibes are free, and are all you really need to keep track of your feeds. You can take the suggested feeds they start you off with, or you can import your own via OPML. After choosing Netvibes as a replacement, importing the Reader OPML file into Netvibes is as simple as clicking “Add content” and then “Import.”
Platform: Web | Android | iOS
NewsBlur has a well-built, beautiful, slick and fast-paced interface that’s somewhat similar to Google Reader, but with some additional bells and whistles that make using it a little more fun. For example, you can toggle the original view and display articles the way they show up on their respective sites, or read them the way they’re presented in their RSS feeds, or view them text-only to get rid of the images and other fluff. It has some social feature we’ve all got used to, you can share stories with friends, save them for future reading, star them, and start your own “blurblog” of featured stories you want to share.
The bad news here is that there is a big restriction, free accounts are capped at 64 blogs, 10 stories at a time, and public sharing options. Premium users ($US24/year) can subscribe to as many sites as they want, get all the latest stories at one time, get faster site refreshes, and can share publicly or privately.
Remember the days when everyone went crazy about personalized home page? Pageflakes was one of the runner ups, having been beat out by the likes of iGoogle and Netvibes. PageFlakes is still around, and you can use it to subscribe and manage your RSS feeds.
Here’s something for the Linux crowd. There are many news readers that are pretty, with nice and slick layouts, good graphics, and pictures. And then there is Newsbeuter. This app isn’t old-school so much as it is a creative anachronism. It only works on Linux, and it only runs from the command line – Yes, good old fashioned Linux.
Platform: Web | Android | iOS
Pulse is a news aggregator that has built in RSS capabilities with an intuitive interface for touch screens. News sites are laid out vertically so you can swipe up and down to the latest news from all sites quickly, or you can swipe horizontally to read more stories from the same site. It relies heavily on its own news filtering algorithms to help you find the stories that they think you’ll want to read. You can use it as a way to keep with latest news and stories from the blogs you already like. Your Pulse home screen is completely customizable, and you can easily save stories for later, share with friends, filter by category, and pick up where you left off on a new device without losing your place.
Platform: Web | Android | iOS
Taptu gives you a visual interface for browsing news feeds and also lets you add your personal social network and RSS feeds for easy access. The app comes with several premade Taptu-curated news categories, but it’s very easy to set up your own categories with the feeds you already love. Build a stream from scratch using the Add Streams button, where you’ll find many suggested feeds from popular publications. You also can search by category, or simply perform a search to gather all the feeds that relate to a specific keyword.
The Old Reader:
The Old Reader is still in beta, but is designed to be an exact Google Reader replacement for. This does not intended to be a Google Reader copy but the older Google Reader that offered more tools for sharing and organization. The log in is done via Google or Facebook, and it is possible import your feeds from Google Reader or any other RSS service via OPML. The interface looks very much like Google Reader, complete with folders down the left side, your list of stories in the main pane, and one-click subscription to new feeds. You get all the same keyboard shortcuts, and even get the ability to follow other Old Reader users and share interesting stories, the way you used to be able to with Google Reader. There are no mobile apps yet, but the web version works well on mobile devices, and the developers behind it note that they are working on mobile versions of it, though there are Chrome and Safari extensions already available.
Most web browsers have a built in RSS reader that allows you to follow up on feeds directly from the comfort of your familiar browser. There are plenty of plug-ins or extensions enabling this option in browsers that do not support it as part of their basic install. The disadvantage of this approach is the same as of a PC installed application, you can’t take the feeds with you and they will stay in the computer where the browser is installed.
Platform: iOS | Android
Google Currents was officially unveiled in December 2011 on both Android and iOS, and was framed as a sort of hybrid magazine viewer and RSS reader in one. Not many users used it when it started, and still today it has yet to gain widespread traction on either mobile platform. Regardless of its usage statistics, though, Google Currents is still useful, especially now that Google Reader will be going away.
Similar to other news aggregators, Google Currents employs a magazine-style interface with large images and paginated posts. It may not be most intuitive, but it looks sleek and works well. It lets you subscribe to and download app-optimized editions of publications, and you can subscribe to any RSS-enabled sites you like, just like Google Reader. The problem here is, there is no knowing if Google will ever decide to shut this service down as well.
Platform: Web | Android
TinyTinyRSS is not exactly an RSS reader but rather self-hosted RSS service. It is a free open source self-hosted RSS reading platform that allows you to grab your feeds on any system, as long as you have a web host and you’re comfortable installing and setting it up. It also has a Tiny Tiny RSS Android app for comfortably accessing and reading your own feeds. With this hosted on your own web server you now it won’t shut down on you.
Fortunately, Reader has always had the ability to export your RSS subscriptions and feed groups in the widely-accepted OPML format, which not only includes your feeds, but also your shared items, friends, likes, and starred items. To export your data from Reader, click the Cog button > Reader Settings > Import/Export. Make a backup of the OPML file while you’re at it, too. Now, pick one of the RSS reader replacements and import the OPML file.
While Google Reader is not shutting down right now, there is still some time until July 1, which gives plenty of time for new options to emerge. Many of the popular apps will roll their own syncing agent and try to stay alive in a post Google Reader-universe. But it is important to remember grabbing your feeds before the shutdown date.
Don’t you love it when you switch something on and it instantly works? No installation, no deployment, no mocking around with manuals or calling a consultant to help you set everything up. How about having your own private instantly on plug and play cloud? Ok, maybe not you and me, but any company that wishes to have their services on their own private cloud without needing the services of Amazon or Rackspace. This is exactly the solution Nebula are providing.
Based in Mountain View, Calif., Nebula claims to have an answer for any company that has ever wanted to build its own private cloud system and not rely on outside vendors, may it be for security, privacy or other reasons. Their solution is called Nebula One. And the setup is very simple, actually, it’s as simple as it can get. Plug the servers into the Nebula One, then you turn it on, and it boots up cloud. That’s it. All of the provisioning and management that service providers charge customers for has been created on a hardware device. There are no services to buy, no consultants to pay to set it up, and no technical stuff to fuss around. “Turn on the power switch, and an hour later you have a petascale cloud running on your premise,” says Chris Kemp, CEO and founder of Nebula
The Nebula One is a hardware device sitting at the top of a rack of servers. on the device’s back are 48 Ethernet ports to where you plug in your cloud server. It runs an operating system called Cosmos that grabs all the memory, CPU and storage capacity from every server in the rack and makes them part of a single cloud. It doesn’t matter who made the servers (Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, or the corner shop down the road) or how much memory and storage each one has.
Nebula’s technology is based on OpenStack, an open source cloud computing platform, designed by Anso Labs – A NASA startup. Not surprisingly many of Nebula’s team members came from Anso Labs, which was acquired by Rackspace. OpenStack consists of a series of interrelated projects that controls large pools of processing, storage, and networking resources shared between a pool of physical servers, all managed through a dashboard that gives administrators control while empowering their users to provision resources through a web interface. OpenStack is free open source software released under the terms of the Apache License. The project is managed by the OpenStack Foundation, a non-profit corporate to promote, protect and empower OpenStack software and its community. Nebula is the only startup company that is a platinum member of the OpenStack Foundation, Others are IBM, HP, Rackspace, RedHat and AT&T, among others.
With several high profile customers (Xerox among them) and investments from Kleiner Perkins, Highland Capital, and Comcast Ventures, Nebula is on the high road to the cloud.
We’re all familiar with the mystery sounds spurting out of our speakers just at the wrong time. Frantically, we try to locate the offending origin before attracting the attention of the sleeping baby/manager/partner/zombies outside the door. Most times, it ends up being one of our browser’s tabs, after opening several links in new tab windows.
A new Chrome feature (Issue 12328027) may put an end to the heart attack inducing race to find the culprit. A feature being tried out in test versions of Chrome would place a visual indicator in each tab that is generating audio. It is already incorporated into the latest Chromium and Canary test builds for Chrome, giving it a decent shot of reaching the masses in the public Chrome releases.
The feature is largely intended to help Chrome keep track of tabs that are actively being used for playing or recording audio, mostly in the background.
I’ve came across the mysterious message “file does not begin %PDF” when trying to open pdf files. What seems to be an enigmatic message, is actually a very simple one. It isn’t complaining about the file name, but about the contents of the file. PDF files will always start with %PDF, on the very first line. The Acrobat message means, in effect: “this is not a PDF file” so there is no way to display it. There isn’t much more Acrobat can do, but you may be able to work out why this is happening.
- Check if the file is indeed a PDF file. Maybe it’s a different file saved with the pdf extension. Maybe Adobe Reader was mistakenly associated with a different file extension causing it to open a file of a different type. If the file isn’t a PDF file and Acrobat Reader is starting, (this can happen on both Mac and Windows) you will get the “file does not begin %PDF” message. Check whoever provided the file about it’s real content, don’t be fooled by the Acrobat icon.
- Is this a PDF file you viewed in Microsoft Internet Explorer? If so, be careful when using the “save as” function to save a copy of the file. In many cases Internet Explorer will not save a copy but something useless instead. To save a PDF file in Internet Explorer, look at the page with the link (before or after viewing the PDF). Right click on the link, a menu will appear and from it select “save target as”. On the Mac, press and hold the mouse instead of right clicking.
- Was this file e-mailed to you? Unfortunately, e-mail programs don’t always pass pdf file correctly. Sometimes attached PDF file are not sent correctly and a corrupted file is received. If you are using Windows, and the file was sent from a Mac, the file may be “binhexed”. You may try to play with your mail setting or ask the sender to compress the PDF document before sending it again.
One of the solutions above should solve this issue. Essentially, this is a very simple message, Acrobat Reader is letting you know the file it’s trying to open, does not start with %PDF, which indicates a PDF file. If nothing of the above worked, you can try opening the file in a text editor and view the first few characters of the file yourself, it should look like this:
If the file does start with %PDF and you still get the “file does not begin %PDF” error message, it might be a problem on the Adobe Acrobat side.
We have been witnessing the bitter wars over mobile operating system domination for a long while now, with an evident lead to Android and iOS over Windows Mobile and BlackBerry. Other players, that experienced partial success in the servers and personal desktop domain, are getting into the battlefield. Slowly but surely, Ubuntu is spreading out in different directions, trying to gain ground outside the boundaries of the PC world. Last year, Ubuntu TV was introduced as an easy was to integrate broadcast, online services and applications, this year Ubuntu mobile for phones is upon us, and Canonical is also introducing features in Ubuntu designed for enterprises that may be tired of paying heavy licensing fees for proprietary software.
This week, Canonical announced Ubuntu for Tablets, which the company says will offer “unique multitasking productivity, effortless navigation and defense-ready security.”
In the mobile world, Ubuntu is about to face the same challenges it did in the PC world. The main challenge being applications, or the lack of thereof. The challenge becomes even greater because of the inherit difference in the way PCs and Mobile devices are used. If people used PCs mainly for productivity (documents, spreadsheets, financial management) and casual entertainment, the mobile device became our little assistant we don’t live home without, we expect much more from it. Our smartphones help us to know how to get places, what is around us, where should we go, it gives us local and general information, different ways to communicate, entertain us, and much more. With more functionality, there is a need for more applications that will take advantage of the added options. The key, or more accurately the main key, for tablets running Ubuntu to succeed, will be rapid application development.
Canonical has announced that Ubuntu for Tablets will ship with several native applications and some web applications. This is beside the applications in the Ubuntu Software Center that will be readily available. This week Canonical is making a developer preview available, and that’s certainly aimed at getting early development going. In a conference call with the press, Mark Shuttleworth provided further details:
“What we have that’s unique is a set of transitions between these form factors, which in each case is very minimal. When you transition from the tablet to the desktop, things don’t move around. Your indicators, things like network status and time, they don’t jump around on screen, they stay in the same place. That’s what’s really different certainly between our approach to convergence and for example Windows 8, where when you’re in the desktop mode, which looks like Windows 7, and suddenly you get the new tile-based interface, it’s a stark transition that can be jarring for users.”
The “gentle phase changes” Mark Shuttleworth refers to, may mean that it will be relatively easy to make existing Ubuntu applications work on the tablets version of the OS. But again, the starting point of Ubuntu, when it comes to applications, is way behind the speeding trains of existing mobile operating systems.
Are you familiar with the dependency chain of your mission critical systems? If one system crashes or seizes to operate, do you know which other systems are affected? Do you know which system is the next to crash? And most importantly, do you know where and how to stop the domino effect? If the answer is no, you might be in serious risk of losing control when problems start, and you are missing a great deal of insight into whats going on around the systems you manage.
Application Dependency Mapping and Management is exactly the tool that helps system managers to determine which systems are communicating with one another and all the dependencies between the different systems in the organization. Most of these applications drill down to port and process levels and report which processes are running on specific machines. Provided discovery maps are generated automatically into upstream and downstream system relationships. The result is an enterprise dependency mapping, of which business process/transaction can be traced to an underlying IT process i.e. That trade from system A to System B application goes through this network switch, or through specific system API, etc, so both the technical and business impact can be better determined.
Using Application Dependency Mapping you can know the dependency chain of your applications and where the next application will fail, if an upstream application already has an issue. Once disaster strikes, predictive impact analysis is possible using the data from running processes to determine which machines to drill into for more application-specific situational data and how to stop the downfall before the next system crashes.
In addition to predictive impact analysis, the information provided by Application Dependency Mapping applications can be used to determine and define application tiers and their associated criticalities, so the appropriate business continuity plans can be created before disaster occurs. Application runbooks for disaster recovery can be written and arranged in an orderly manner.
While I believe most organizations recognize the importance of collecting application dependency data, they frequently overlook or underestimate the complexity of keeping the data up-to-date and ignore the micro management involved in creating emergency procedures using the collected data. Given the dynamic and constantly changing IT environment, it becomes impractical to keep an application dependency document current manually (which may or may not be written by IT staff based on their individual’s domain knowledge). Even when such documents exist, and are updated constantly, they do not provide concurrent on-line information of the situation at any given time, in addition to being cumbersome and inefficient at time of emergency.
A good Application Dependency Mapping application reduces the time and effort of mapping multi-tier systems to the IT personnel supporting them by enhancing visibility of relationships and dependencies between the various organizational systems and simplifying the decision making and process. Using these maps, IT personnel can better understand how applications and infrastructure work together to deliver the services and solution required.
Such systems can support Run Book Automation (RBA) in defining, managing and reporting on workflows that support system and network operational processes. A run book process can cross all management disciplines and interact with all types of infrastructure elements.
An Application Dependency Mapping tool makes sense in any IT environment. Basically the tool should be used to constantly monitor systems traffic, to map out the application dependencies, and to report changes in infrastructure as they take place.
Mapping of dependencies is important not only in maintaining existing systems but is also critical for succeeding with strategic IT initiatives such as IT service management, data center automation and transformation, cloud computing and visualization management, service impact management and long term costing of services. Understanding complex application dependencies is a fundamental requirement for any new initiative in IT services.
Application Dependency Mapping is important for a plethora of critical reasons, while most organizations recognize the importance, not many actually do something about it. Far too often, an operation is taken with piecemeal -on an ad-hoc ‘at minimum’ task to address a very specific issue of immediate necessity. The solution is typically manual and thus single-point-in-time managed at the lowest levels of the organization. This should go far beyond applications and systems, to the underlying IT and to the business processes, methodologies and best practices.
I did a Google search today, one of tens I do every day, and it made me stop and think. They were showing me posts on Google Plus from people they know I know because I interact with them more or less regularly. We all have known for a while that Google search is “personalized”, most of us like it, because it tends to get the result we need instantly without us browsing to the second or third result pages. But sometimes, I want search to be just search. I want the same search results everyone else gets unless I specifically ask it to personalized according to my interactions. Beside the fact that most of my searches are a poor target for advertisers. Searches for creative work or technical answers, will never result in a purchase, of anything. I would like to get the wheel back. Google are you hearing me?
The search experience in Google have changed dramatically, with the users consent, and without them knowing it. Most people do not notice the effects of personalization. That is until Google Now got into the picture, a very useful, yet intrusive application that is part of Android 4.1 – Jelly Bean. Soon in every Chrome browser.
Maybe it’s time to go incognito, or use Bing, or … Sadly, we are almost out of options, the internet search market have consolidated to the point where we have no options.