Bristle Software Internet Tips

This page is offered as a service of Bristle Software, Inc.  New tips are sent to an associated mailing list when they are posted here.  Please send comments, corrections, any tips you'd like to contribute, or requests to be added to the mailing list, to

Table of Contents:

  1. Fred Stluka's Links Page
  2. Internet Security
    1. Beware Hoaxes and Scams
    2. Sextortion hoax with real password
    3. Patch/upgrade your browser
    4. Google GoodToKnow
    5. Internet Security Tools
      1. Who sent this e-mail?
  3. Running Javascript from Address bar
  4. Changing font size in Web browsers
  5. Bristle BrowserWidth tool
  6. Bristle JavaScriptEnabled tool
  7. Mozilla Firefox
    1. Intro to Firefox
    2. Firefox Shortcut Keys
    3. Changing font size
    4. Multiple Home Pages
    5. View Live Source
  8. Google Chrome
    1. Reopening a closed Web page
  9. Microsoft_Internet Explorer
    1. Autocompletion of typed URLs in IE 4.0
    2. History of typed URLs in IE 4.0
  10. Google
    1. Google Web Apps, no login required
      1. Google Search
        1. Google Search Basics
        2. Google Search Synonym
        3. Google Search Number Range
        4. Google Search Calculator
        5. Google Search Movie
        6. Google Search Define
        7. Google Search Phonebook
        8. Google Search Area Code
        9. Google Search City
        10. Google Search Zip Code
        11. Google Search Address
        12. Google Search Site
        13. Google Search Spell Checker
        14. Google Search Stock Ticker
        15. Google Search Weather
        16. Google Search Travel
        17. Google Search Date
        18. Google Search Pics
        19. Google Search Link
        20. Google Search Info
        21. Google Search Shortcut
      2. Google Maps
        1. Google Maps Navigation
        2. Google Maps Searching
        3. Google Maps Routing
        4. Google Maps Satellite View
        5. Google Maps Street View
        6. Google Maps Traffic View
        7. Google Maps Terrain View
        8. Google Maps Search Nearby
        9. Google Maps Shortcut
      3. Google Voice
      4. Google Finance
      5. Google Alerts
      6. Google News
      7. Google Groups (coming soon...)
      8. Google Suggest (coming soon...)
      9. Google Trends (coming soon...)
      10. Google Froogle (coming soon...)
    2. Google Web Services, no login required
      1. Google Search API (coming soon...)
      2. Google Maps API (coming soon...)
      3. Google Chart API
    3. Google Web Apps, login required (coming soon...)
      1. Google Apps (coming soon...)
      2. Google Calendar (coming soon...)
      3. Google Docs (coming soon...)
        1. Google Drawings
          1. Google Drawings Keyboard Shortcuts
      4. Google GMail (coming soon...)
      5. Google Talk (coming soon...)
    4. Google Installed Apps
      1. Google Now
        1. Talking to Android, Chrome, or iPhone/iPad
      2. Google Pack (coming soon...)
      3. Google Desktop (coming soon...)
      4. Google Earth (coming soon...)
      5. Google SketchUp (coming soon...)
    5. Google Phone Services (coming soon...)
      1. Google 1-800-GOOG-411 (coming soon...)
    6. -- The Philanthropic Arm of Google
  11. Mozilla Thunderbird
    1. Intro to Thunderbird (coming soon...)
    2. Thunderbird Shortcut Keys
    3. Changing font size (coming soon...)
    4. Thunderbird RSS feeds
    5. View Message Source (coming soon...)
    6. Address Completion Speed
  12. YouTube
    1. Link to a specific time in a YouTube video
    2. Interactive Transcripts, Speed, and Translation at YouTube
  13. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents
  14. Audio/Video Tips
    1. Pause while downloading to fill the buffer
  15. Internet Music
    1. custom streaming radio
  16. Internet News Sites
    1. US Newspaper Front Pages
  17. Internet Automation Services
    1. If this, then that --
  18. Screen Sharing Services
  19. File Sharing Services
    1. Dropbox
      1. Dropbox Camera Upload
  20. Adobe Acrobat Reader
    1. Single Page Continuous
  21. Unicode domain names (gTLDs)
  22. Hour of Code -- Fun Intro to Computer Programming
  23. Internet Shortcuts
  24. Slideshow Presentation Software
  25. Wearables
    1. Jamming Cell Phones
    2. Smart Earbuds

Details of Tips:

  1. Fred Stluka's Links Page

    Last Updated: 4/23/2000
    Applies to:  Internet, World Wide Web

    Check out my links page for links to lots of useful Web sites.


  2. Internet Security

    1. Beware Hoaxes and Scams

      Last Updated: 12/4/2007
      Applies to:  Internet, World Wide Web

      Beware of hoaxes and scams, especially those leading to identity theft.

      Here's a fun cartoon video that is worth watching every now and then to remind you not to fall for these things.

      On a more serious note...

      There are tons of hoaxes circulating via e-mail these days.  No, you probably didn't win the UK lottery, if you'll just send them your name, addresss, age, ...  No, it is probably not a good idea to send bank account info to that friendly Nigerian official so he can use your account to transfer massive amounts of money out of the country before the rebels get it.  Etc...

      Here's a typical one that arrives by phone, not e-mail:

      Jury Duty Scam

      The phone rings and the caller says you missed jury duty and a warrant has been issued for your arrest.  When you say you never got any notice of jury duty, he asks for more info, so he can check the records, clear up the confusion, and get the warrant cancelled.  He asks for your SSN, birth date, etc.

      You just got scammed and gave away the info he needs to steal your identity.

      For more info, see:

      Here's a really common e-mail one:

      Identity Already Stolen Scam

      You get an e-mail that seems to be from your bank, claiming someone may already have stolen your identity, and asking you to login to your bank account to confirm that fact, and to get started resolving the problem.

      The e-mail looks real, because it uses the bank's graphical logos, and has lots of links to the real bank site (its privacy policy page, its page for changing your password, etc.).  It is also full of warnings to not fall for scams.  However, the one link it asks you to click to login is a bogus link that takes you to a page that looks exactly like the login screen of the bank, but which collects your username and password for its own purposes.  After doing so, it may even use the username and password to log you in to the real bank site, so you never notice that you were scammed.

      The one thing to watch for in advance is the status bar at the bottom of your e-mail window that, when you hover over a link before clicking on it, shows the URL that the link will take you to.  You may notice that it says something like:
      or something, instead of just:
      However, not all e-mail programs show such info, and even that can be faked sometimes.

      For more info, see:

      The best way to be safe is to NEVER give out personal info and NEVER log into a Web site, unless you initiated the contact. If you called them at the standard phone number, or you went to the standard Web site to do your on-line banking, fine.  But if they called you, or they sent you an e-mail with a link, beware!!

      If anyone contacts you, via e-mail or phone, asking you to login with your username and password, or asking you for info like account number, age, address, username, password, PIN, SSN, credit card number, etc., no matter how plausible the context, ask yourself:

      • What proof do I have that they are legit?
      • Does it sound too good to be true?
      • Wouldn't the real agency/company/whatever already have that info about me?

      If you want to check out a particular e-mail or phone call to see if it's a hoax, check any of the hoax-debunking sites listed at:

      Thanks to Carol Hebert for sending me the warning about the jury duty scam, and to Mary Neviska and Carol Stluka for sending me the video! 

      Feel free (but not obliged:-) to forward this warning to your friends.


    2. Sextortion hoax with real password

      Last Updated: 10/24/2018
      Applies to:  Internet, World Wide Web

      Security risks keep getting worse and worse.  Here's a new twist:  "Sextortion" scams with your real password!

      For decades now, we've had to be careful about computer viruses.  Then we started seeing scams that claimed we ALREADY had a virus, and pushed us to download and install a program to fix it -- which was itself a virus!  Doh!  The hackers keep getting more and more clever.

      A few months ago, I got an email that claimed my computer had been hacked and my camera was being used to watch me.  Said they'd recorded embarrassing video of me while I was visiting a porn site.  Threatened to send it to people in my contacts, which they also claimed to have access to.  Wanted me to pay them (anonymously via bitcoin), OR ELSE!  Don't dare call the police, etc., etc., etc...

      I laughed it off because the first thing I always do with any computer I use is to tape over the camera.  And I'm pretty careful about what sites I go to, and never download or install anything from a non-trusted source.  Get lost, sucker!  Nice try though!

      But it occurred to me that lots of people would not be as sure as I was, and might pay the ransom.  Worse, they might be extorted into doing something else.  Abuse their power in a way that the scammer demanded.  In their workplace, to help the scammer with industrial espionage.  In their elected office, to help the scammer manipulate the government.  In their position as a judge in a court case.  Lots of possibilities...

      Last week, it got even worse.

      I got a similar email.  Camera has been watching me.  Send money now.  Yada, yada, yada, ...  But with a new twist.

      This email had my REAL PASSWORD in the subject line!!!

      Claimed that it already had complete control of my computer.  Could monitor every keystroke I typed, watch me with my camera, listen via my microphone, see the stuff on my screen, etc.  That was how it knew my password.  Send money now or we'll do all sorts of damage to your reputation, your data, your files, your email, etc.

      Fortunately, I NEVER use the same password in 2 different places.  And I keep track of the passwords I've used over the years.  So, I recognized the password as one I had used for a while at about 10 years ago.  Not my current password on my laptop or anywhere else.

      Yeah, it was possible that they'd hacked some computer of mine 10 years ago (especially back when I used Windows instead of Mac and Linux).  But that doesn't mean my current laptop is vulnerable.  Anyhow, it seems more likely that they hacked and found my password there.

      I did a quick Google search:

      Found lots of sites talking about it.  Yes, MySpace, LinkedIn, Tumblr (and probably lots of others) were hacked years ago.  For some reason, these sites had stored the passwords without strong encryption.  (Should have been using Linux, not Windows).  So the hackers got the passwords and sold them to scammers like the one who wanted money from me.

      One of the sites I found was the FBI asking people to report such scam emails to them at the "Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)":

      So again:  Get lost, sucker!  I've reported you to the FBI.  Nice try though!  Thanks for playing!

      But again, not everyone is as careful as I am.

      Imagine you'd used the same password at lots of places for years, and were using it on your current laptop.  Then you got an email with that password in the subject line.  Would you have believed the scammer, and been tempted to pay the extortion money to avoid having your life upended?  I might have...


      • Don't fall for this particular scam
      • Use different passwords at different sites.
        (Watch for my upcoming tip on how I use a simple algorithm to generate and remember a unique password in my head for for each site.)
      • Always be skeptical.  Do a Google search or check the site before believing any such claim
      • Change your password at any site that's reported as having been hacked
      • Also change any passwords at other sites that are the same, follow the same pattern, or are in any way guessable by a hacker who's seen the hacked password
      • Report such scam attempts to the FBI

      Be safe and be happy!


    3. Patch/upgrade your browser

      Last Updated: 11/18/2014
      Applies to:  Internet, World Wide Web

      Lots of scary bugs lately.  How can you protect yourself?  Read on...

      We're starting to find lots of security holes in the basic software used for Internet connections.  Recently, there have been the Heartbleed, shellshock, and POODLE bugs that all have to do with vulnerabilities in Web servers.  Hackers could take advantage of these bugs to break into Web servers and steal info, or to listen in on the connection from your browser to the server and steal info.

      Not much you can do about them.  The people who run the web servers are scrambling to apply patches. All of my servers are now patched.   Most likely, all of the banks and other critical sites you connect to are now patched too.

      However, there are also lots of bugs in browsers that allow a hacker to take control of your computer if you browse to an infected site.  No one else is going to fix these for you.  You'll have to fix them yourself, by applying patches and allowing automatic upgrades to your browsers.

      Here is the latest bug found in Microsoft Internet Explorer:

      • Overview:
      • Details:

      For the past 19 years, any time you connected to any web site via Microsoft Internet Explorer, the web site has been able to silently do whatever it wanted to your computer:

      • Stealing your files that may contain credit card info, bank accounts, and other sensitive data
      • Installing a program to record every keystroke you type and send them to the hacker
      • Adding your computer to a "bot-net" -- a robot army of computers that do whatever the hacker wants, like all simultaneously attacking the computer of a bank or store, or power plant, or the government, to prevent that computer from doing its job. So, for example, block stock trades while someone makes a financial killing, block the US defense systems while missiles are launched at us, etc.
      • etc.

      I claim that the vast majority of Windows computers are already part of a bot-net, and the owners just don't realize it. If you don't want to be part of the problem:

      • Install all security patches as soon as possible
      • Use Chrome or Firefox instead of Internet Explorer
      • Consider moving from Windows to a more secure operating system like Mac or Linux
      • Turn your computer off when you are not using it, so it is available less often to be part of an attack.

      Meanwhile, if/when Microsoft releases a fix for this latest bug for your Windows operating system, be sure to apply it ASAP.  The bug was discovered in May and Microsoft was told about it.  6 months later, they finally have a patch fix for some versions of Windows (not yet Windows XP because they want you to buy a new version from them instead).

      Now that they have a fix, the guy who found the bug is starting to tell people about it, which means even more hackers will learn about it and start trying to exploit it.  So if you don't apply the fix, you are at risk.

      You've been warned,

    4. Google GoodToKnow

      Last Updated: 1/30/2012
      Applies to:  Internet, World Wide Web

      Here's a link I just added to my links page:

      It's a new Google site with lots of info about security and privacy on the Internet, including explanations of:

      • Cookies
      • Phishing
      • Viruses vs Worms vs Trojan Horses, etc...
      • 2-step verification (Multi-Factor Authentication)
      • etc.

      Also warnings about:

      • Internet cafes and other public WiFi hotspots
      • Electronic banking
      • Online shopping
      • Strong passwords
      • etc.

      It also talks about Google Dashboard:
      which you can use to review and edit all of the info that Google stores about you.

      If you don't already know about all this stuff, or have friends and family members who don't, this is a good site to start learning.  It has lots of simple explanations, short videos, etc.

      I added it to the "Google" and "Internet Security" rows of my links

      Thanks to Brita van Rossum for telling me about the site!


    5. Internet Security Tools

      1. Who sent this e-mail?

        Original Version: 11/10/2011
        Last Updated: 2/22/2013
        Applies to:  Internet, World Wide Web

        Here's how to find out who really sent an e-mail.

        This is useful in 2 cases:

        • When you want to know whether to trust an e-mail you received
        • When someone tells you that your e-mail has been hacked and is sending spam to them.  Most likely, you have not been hacked.  Instead, a spammer is probably just sending e-mail from his own mail server and making it look like it came from you, so your friends won't know it is spam.

        Some e-mail headers, like the "From:" line are very easy to fake.  I can easily send you a message that appears to be from "" or any other address I choose.  In fact, I have done this to friends and family several times over the years, just for fun.

        Other headers are much harder to fake, especially those that are used by the e-mail software to actually deliver the message to you.  Most e-mail programs provide a way for you to see the detailed message headers:


        In Thunderbird, it is very easy.  Simply hit Ctrl-U or use the "View" menu and choose "Message Source".   You'll see a window containing the entire message as it was transmitted across the Internet.  You can see the details of how the message was passed from one computer to another on its way to you, which can give you a good feel for whether the message is likely to be genuine.

        The headers might look like:

        From - Sun Sep 18 16:39:51 2011
        X-Account-Key: account2
        X-UIDL: 1316376419.24861.mail35,S=5303
        X-Mozilla-Status: 0001
        X-Mozilla-Status2: 00000000
        Delivered-To: fred@908309.929134
        Received: (qmail 24858 invoked by uid 78); 18 Sep 2011 20:06:59 -0000
        Received: from unknown (HELO cloudmark1) (
          by 0 with SMTP; 18 Sep 2011 20:06:59 -0000
        X-NETSOL-Whitelist: Yes
        Received: from [] ([]
        	by cm-mr21 (envelope-from )
        	(ecelerity r(37554)) with ESMTP
        	id AE/2F-04952-36F467E4; Sun, 18 Sep 2011 16:06:59 -0400
        Received: from cm-omr5 ( [])
        	by (8.13.6/8.13.6) with ESMTP id p8IK6x2E007045
        	for ; Sun, 18 Sep 2011 16:06:59 -0400
        Authentication-Results:  cm-omr5; auth=pass (LOGIN)
        Received: from [] ([]
        	by cm-omr5 (envelope-from )
        	(ecelerity r(31179/31189)) with ESMTPA
        	id B9/31-09932-D5F467E4; Sun, 18 Sep 2011 16:06:54 -0400
        Received: from mbp2.local ( [])
        	by (8.14.2/8.14.2) with ESMTP id p8IK6rFZ032665
        	for ; Sun, 18 Sep 2011 16:06:54 -0400
        Date: Sun, 18 Sep 2011 16:06:53 -0400 (EDT)
        Message-ID: <1406417406.460.1316376413648.JavaMail.fred@mbp2.local>
        Subject: Cool new ideas at TechCrunch Disrupt...
        MIME-Version: 1.0
        Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
        Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

        If you don't want to dig through all those details, there are tools that will do it for you.  Copy the headers above and paste them into the "Email header analysis" box at:


        and it will show you a nice easy to read report about where the email came from and how it got to you.  In this example, which is from a message I sent to myself, it shows that the e-mail was sent:

        • from Malvern PA (where I live) via Comcast Cable
        • to (where my outgoing mail server is hosted)
        • and from there to Network Solutions (where my incoming e-mail is stored)

        If even shows you a Google Map of where the Comcast office is located in Malvern.

        Note:  You have to ignore any references to "France Telecom" in the report.  They are triggered by a bug that causes this tool to interpret ecelerity version numbers like as IP addresses.

        Whenever you are investigating a suspicious IP address, you can use:


        to see the geographic location of the IP address.

        See these and other Internet security tools at the "Internet Tools" row of my links page:



  3. Running Javascript from Address bar

    Last Updated: 6/16/2000
    Applies to:  Netscape 3+, IE 3+

    You can run simple Javascript programs directly from the Address bar of the browser.   For example, to find out the date that a Web page was last modified, type the following URL into the Address bar while viewing the page:


    For convenience, I added this URL to my Netscape Bookmarks.


  4. Changing font size in Web browsers

    Original Version: 10/22/2004
    Last Updated: 7/5/2007
    Applies to:  Firefox 1.0+, Netscape 3+, IE 6+

    Hard to read the tiny font size at some Web sites?  (Happens to me more and more lately, as I get older!)  Even if you can read it okay, do you sometimes need a larger font during presentations and demos?

    In recent versions of Netscape (6, 7, 8, 9, etc.), and in all versions of Mozilla Firefox, simply hit:

            Ctrl-Plus or Ctrl-Minus

    a few times to grow or shrink the text to the size you want, from absurdly huge with one word filling the entire screen (2000%) to nearly microscopic (5%).  In older versions of Netscape (4, 3, etc.), grow or shrink with:

            Ctrl-]  or  Ctrl-[

    If you forget these key combinations, check the Netscape menu:

            View | Text Zoom

    which offers these same features, plus 7 preset sizes, plus the ability to type in a custom zoom factor directly.  It also remembers the custom zoom factor you chose, so you can quickly revert to that exact zoom factor after a temporary zoom in or out.

    In Firefox, it's the menu:

            View | Text Size

    which offers options to increase, decrease or reset to default size (Ctrl-Zero).  In Firefox (and Netscape 8 and 9, which use the Firefox engine internally), you can also grow or shrink the text size via:


    That is, by holding down the Ctrl key and using the mouse wheel.

    Internet Explorer 6.0 offers a limited version of this feature, but no shortcut keys, no custom zoom, and only 5 preset sizes, ranging from 100% to 175%.  Use the menu:

            View | Text Size

    It also supports Ctrl-Wheel, but again only for the 5 preset sizes.  It also remembers your current zoom setting and continues to use it if you close the browser and re-open it later.

    I haven't tried it yet, but I hear that Internet Explorer 7.0 supports Ctrl-Plus and Ctrl-Minus in a different and perhaps better way.  There is a problem with simply growing or shrinking the text on a Web page.  Depending on how well the Web page was written, simply changing the text size may or may not cause other page elements to move out of the way to make room for the text.  Therefore, poorly written pages may not look good at different text sizes.  For example, text may grow to overlap other text or pictures, or things may get chopped off if they do move to avoid overlap.  Also, images (GIF, JPEG, etc.) do not grow and shrink with the text.  This can make the page look bad, and can also be confusing when what looks like text is actually a picture of text and so doesn't grow or shrink with the rest of the text on the page.  Internet Explorer 7.0 solves these problems by growing and shrinking the entire page, not just the text.  As I said, I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds good. 

    So, why haven't I tried it?  Microsoft doesn't make it easy.  I can install Netscape 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, Firefox 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 etc. all on the same box for testing purposes, but I need a separate box (or at least a separate Windows installation) for each version of Internet Explorer.  Each new install wipes out the older version.  If I don't like the new version, there is no way to get back to the old version without re-installing the entire Windows operating system and reinstalling and reconfiguring all of my installed applications.  I asked a friend at Microsoft about this, and he says their current answer to this problem, for testing a Web application on multiple browsers, is to download free temporary versions of Windows pre-installed with various versions of Internet Explorer.  See:

    Not exactly what I was after.  What I'd really prefer is to be able to flip back and forth between versions, on the same PC, the same Windows installation, etc.  With all of the other browsers, I can write a simple batch file to load a page into multiple browsers and do a quick manual test on each.  Or I can write a full fledged regression test suite and run it on each browser.  Having to stop the automated tests, boot to a new Windows installation, and resume testing on that Windows installation (where I would also have had to install all of my testing software) is a major bump in the road.

    Anyhow, things seem to be changing fast in the browser world, with the various vendors copying each other's ideas, and leapfrogging each other with new and better features.  Competition is good!

    Thanks to the following for their contributions to this tip!

            James Higgins
            Alex Leshinsky
            Tom Stluka
            Joe McPeak
            Mark Georg

    P.S.  I finally managed to get Internet Explorer 7.0 installed and tried it out.  I decided to bite the bullet and take the irreversible step of upgrading a computer from IE6 to IE7.  I went to the Microsoft site to download IE7.  

    Oops!  It requires WinXP, not just Win2K.  I prefer Win2K, so I decided to not upgrade that computer.  However, I do have a WinXP computer around here somewhere, so I decided to install there.  

    Oops!  It requires WinXP Service Pack 2, not just Service Pack 1.  I did a full backup, just in case, then downloaded the 200MB SP2 for an hour and installed, and allowed it to reboot.  Now, on to IE7.  

    Oops!  It requires me to install the "Genuine Windows Validation Component" ActiveX control first, before it will let me do the download. OK, I guess...  (What am I getting myself into?  I've spent most of a day on this already, and I just keep getting in deeper.  Yesterday, I installed and tested my software against Firefox 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0, and Netscape 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9, all in one day, with no reboots and no problems.)

    Finally, do the download, install it, and let it reboot.

    Oops!  Computer won't reboot.  Totally black screen!  Glad I did that backup!  Tried a couple more times, powering off and on and eventually got lucky.  I wonder what broke it?  WinXP SP2, the ActiveX control, or IE7?  It managed to boot OK during the WinXP install, but then the install continued.  Who knows?  

    I wonder what else is now broken, or modified to suit Microsoft's interests, on that computer?  Who knows...  Things generally seem to be working.  So, let's try out the Zoom on IE7.

    Oops!  Bugs.  IE 7 does support Ctrl-Plus, Ctrl-Minus, Ctrl-Zero, and Ctrl-Wheel.  However, on most pages, zooming in or out also jumps to the top of the Web page, so you have to page back down to find the thing you were trying to zoom in on.  It doesn't happen with all pages though.  It jumps to the top when viewing the main Microsoft page, for example, but not when viewing the AOL page.  

    Also, incompatibilities.  For some reason, IE7 uses Ctrl-Wheel to zoom in the opposite direction from the other browsers that added this feature years ago.  Up zooms in, and down zooms out.  Oh well, back to Firefox...


  5. Mozilla Firefox

    1. Intro to Firefox

      Original Version: 4/15/2007
      Last Updated: 6/6/2008
      Applies to:  Firefox 1.0+

      Firefox is a very fast, powerful, secure Web browser.  I recommend it strongly over Microsoft Internet Explorer.  It has much better features and much better security.  With Firefox, it is very unlikely that your computer will become infected with a virus as you browse the Web.  Also, it is more compliant with Web standards than any other browser, so it works at pretty much any Web site.

      You can download and install it for free from:

      Firefox is derived from the older browsers "Mozilla" and "Netscape", sharing much of the source code with them, but adding lots of new features.  Its popularity has been growing rapidly for the past couple years.  According to the Web site:

      its share of the browser market has grown from:

          5.5% in Jan 2004 (as Mozilla), to 
          16.6% in Jan 2005, to 
          25.0% in Jan 2006, to 
          31.0% in Jan 2007, to
          36.4% in Jan 2008

      and still growing strong.  I started using it in 2004 and have never looked back (and never had a virus).

      Firefox is "open source", so anyone can look at the source code, find bugs, and add new features.  Hundreds of people have written useful add-ons that you can download and install for free.  There are plugins to support:  Adobe Acrobat, Flash, RealPlayer, Shockwave, Windows Media Player, etc.  There are also tons of extensions for searching, calendars, photo organizers, map lookups, debugging JavaScript code, etc.  See the list of add-ons at:

      Try it!  You'll love it!


    2. Firefox Shortcut Keys

      Original Version: 4/15/2007
      Last Updated: 4/5/2012
      Applies to:  Firefox 1.0+

      Here is a list of some of the more useful shortcut keys in Firefox.

      Key Function
      Ctrl-Plus / Minus / Zero Larger/smaller/default font size
      Ctrl-Wheel Larger/smaller font size
      F11 Toggle full screen mode
      Shift-Click Open link in new window
      Ctrl-Click Open link in new tab
      Alt-Enter Open typed address in new tab
      Alt-F4 Close browser window
      Ctrl-N New window
      Ctrl-T New tab
      Ctrl-F4 Close current tab
      Middle Mouse Click Close tab
      Ctrl-Shift-T Re-open most recently closed tab (and its history).
      For details, see Reopening a closed Web page
      Ctrl-Shift-N Re-open most recently closed window (including all of its tabs and their histories).
      For details, see Reopening a closed Web page
      Alt-Left / Right Back/Forward
      Backspace / Shift-Backspace Back/Forward
      Alt-Home Home page
      Esc Stop loading page
      F5 Reload page
      Ctrl-F5 Force reload page (bypassing cache)
      ' (apostrophe) Incremental Find Link
      / Incremental Find Text
      Ctrl-F / Ctrl-G Find / Find Next
      F3 / Shift-F3 Find Next/Previous
      Arrow Keys Scroll down/up/right/left
      PageDn / PageUp Page down/up
      Space / Shift-Space  Page down/up
      Home / End Go to beginning/end of page
      Ctrl-Home / End Go to beginning/end of page
      Tab / Shift-Tab Go to the next/previous clickable link, text input field, button, checkbox, etc., wrapping around as necessary.
      Enter Click the current link
      Space Click the current button, checkbox, etc. 
      F1 Help
      Drag Select
      Ctrl-Drag Rectangular Select
      Ctrl-A Select All
      Ctrl-C Copy
      Ctrl-V Paste
      Ctrl-P Print
      Ctrl-O Open File
      Ctrl-D Bookmark this page
      Ctrl-Shift-D Bookmark all tabs
      Ctrl-B Manage Bookmarks
      Ctrl-K Select Web Search Bar
      Ctrl-L Select Location Bar
      F10 Go to menu bar
      Shift-F10 Pop up right mouse menu
      Alt-Space Open the system menu (restore, move, size, minimize, maximize, close)
      Ctrl-Left / Up Move Tab Left (when tab is focused)
      Ctrl-Right / Down Move Tab Right (when tab is focused)
      Ctrl-Home / End Move Tab to Beginning/End (when tab is focused)
      F6 / Shift-F6 Next/Previous Frame
      Ctrl-Tab / Ctrl-Shift-Tab Next/Previous Tab
      Ctrl-PageDn / PageUp Next/Previous Tab
      Ctrl-1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9 Select tab 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9
      Ctrl-Z Undo
      Ctrl-Y Redo
      F7 Toggle "cursor browsing mode" (so you can move a cursor around the page via the arrow keys, follow links via Enter, etc.)
      Shift-Del Delete selected Autocomplete entry.
      Ctrl-U View Page Source
      Ctrl-I View Page Info
      Ctrl-Shift-I DOM Inspector
      F12 Show/hide Firebug pane
      Ctrl-F12 Show/hide Firebug window

      Note that these keys are defined for Firefox on Windows.  The keys are similar but different on other platforms (Linux, Mac) to conform to the conventions on those platforms.

      Also, Firefox on Windows supports other keys that are common to many Windows applications.  See:  Windows Shortcut Keys.

      For a complete list of Firefox keys (tailored to your platform), see the Firefox on-line help:  Help | Help Contents | Keyboard Shortcuts.

      Many of these keys are also supported by other browsers.  Even if you're not using Firefox, try them in your browser.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

      This list is far from complete.  Please feel free to mail me your favorite shortcuts.  I'll add to this list as time permits.  Contributors so far include:
          Andriy Palamarchuk
          Vadim Storozhuk


    3. Changing font size

      Last Updated: 4/15/2007
      Applies to:  Firefox 1.0+

      Firefox allows you easily change font size.  See:

              Changing font size in Web browsers


    4. Multiple Home Pages

      Original Version: 4/15/2007
      Last Updated: 4/24/2007
      Applies to:  Firefox 1.0+, IE 7.0+

      Firefox allows you to have multiple Home pages, so that each page opens in a separate tab when you open the browser or click Home.  To set this up, go to:

          Tools | Options | General | Home Page | Location(s)

      and put multiple names separated by vertical bars, as:


      Alternatively, you can open the pages as multiple tabs and then use:

          Tools | Options | General | Home Page | Use Current Pages

      Or you can choose a folder of your bookmarks to be the tabs via:

          Tools | Options | General | Home Page | Use Bookmark...

      You can also maintain multiple sets of tabs for easy access without making them your home pages.  You simply group them as folders of bookmarks, and access them via any of the following:

          Bookmarks | Manage Bookmarks... | Right-Click on a folder | Open in Tabs
          Ctrl-B | Right-Click on a folder | Open in Tabs
          Ctrl-I | Right-Click on a folder | Open in Tabs

      I haven't tried it yet, but I hear that Internet Explorer 7.0 also supports multiple tabs and multiple home pages.

      Thanks to the following for their contributions to this tip!

              Mark Georg
              Joe McPeak
              Tom Stluka


    5. View Live Source

      Last Updated: 4/15/2007
      Applies to:  Firefox 1.0+

      Firefox allows you to view the "live source" of a Web page.  See:



  6. Google Chrome

    1. Reopening a closed Web page

      Original Version: 7/4/2018
      Last Updated: 7/5/2018

      Want a way to re-open that web page you just accidentally closed?  Especially when reading a long web page or when filling out a long form?

      Hit Ctrl-Shift-T.

      In Chrome, Firefox and Safari (and maybe other browsers too), this immediately re-opens the most recently closed browser tab.  If it was the last tab in a browser window (so the entire window is now closed), this opens a new browser window to house the tab.

      This capability is slightly different in the various browsers, but in general, it has the following features.

      It also restores everything about the tab that it can, including:

      1. The full history, so the Back button works properly
      2. The current scroll position of the page in the tab, so if you had scrolled down while reading a long article, you're still scrolled to the same spot
      3. Any data you may have typed into forms on the page
      4. etc.

      Hit it multiple times to go back to previously closed tabs.

      Or you can use the browser's History menu, instead of this shortcut key.

      Use Ctrl-Shift-N to reopen all tabs that were open when you accidentally closed an entire browser window. (Firefox, but not Chrome or Safari which use this key instead to open an Incognito or Private window for more private browsing.)

      If you closed the entire browser app, re-open it manually and then hit Ctrl-Shift-T. (Chrome, but not Firefox which disables both Ctrl-Shift-T and Ctrl-Shift-N when you open a new browser.)

      On a Mac, use Cmd-Shift-T and Cmd-Shift-N.

      For more Firefox shortcut keys, many of which also work in Chrome and/or Safari, see:

              Firefox Shortcut Keys

      Thanks to:

      1. Martin Segall for reminding me to write this tip
      2. Dave Weiss for reminding me it works in Safari
      3. Wayne Keyser for telling me Ctrl-Shift-N doesn't work in Chrome


  7. Microsoft Internet Explorer

    1. Autocompletion of typed URLs in IE 4.0

      Last Updated: 10/10/1999
      Applies to:  IE 4+

      Microsoft Internet Explorer has a feature that is usually, but not always, convenient.   As you type a URL into the Address box, it searches the list of URLs that you have previously typed and completes the URL with any matching one it finds.   This can be a problem, if you ever typed a URL that was slightly wrong.  It keeps insisting on completing the URL incorrectly.  For example, if a URL is case sensitive, and you once typed it with the wrong case, how do you get IE to leave the case the way you want it?  Even if you type it exactly right and hit Enter, it converts it to match the incorrect one.  One solution is to leave a space in the URL while typing it, then go back and delete the space just before hitting Enter.  Tedious, but it works.


    2. History of typed URLs in IE 4.0

      Last Updated: 10/10/1999
      Applies to:  IE 4+

      The list of "typed URLs" (the ones you have manually typed into the Address box) of Internet Explorer is stored in the Windows registry, at:

      	[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\TypedURLs]

      At startup, IE reads named values from this registry key with the names url1, url2, url3, ... url25, stopping at the first one that is not defined.  You can use the registry editor to delete or modify these URLs.


  8. Google

    1. Google Web Apps, no login required

      You can run the following free applications directly at the Google Web site, using any Web browser.  You don't have to download or install any software, and you don't need a Google login.

      1. Google Search

        You are probably already familiar with the basics of Google Search.  Go to:


        type in words, and see a list of links to Web pages containing those words.  However, there may be more features than you realize.

        1. Google Search Basics

          Last Updated: 11/6/2007

          At the Google Search web site, you can also:

          1. Put multiple words in quotes to search for an exact multi-word phrase, as:
                    "java programming language"
          2. Do more complicated searches like:
                    (java OR j2ee) programming -island -country
            to specify words where one or the other must be in the Web page, and other words must not be in the page.
          3. Click the "Advanced Search" link to be prompted for details of more advanced searches.
            Or go directly there via:
          4. Click the "Preferences" link to specify personal preferences like how many matches to show on each results page (default is 10, but I prefer 100), whether to open a new browser window (or tab) for the results instead of using the same browser window, etc.  These preferences are saved on your computer and remembered next time you use Google Search from the same computer.
          5. Click "Language Tools" for language translation (English to French, etc.)
            Or go directly to the translation page via:

          For more info, see:

                  - Thanks to Thor Collard for pointing me to this last one!


        2. Google Search Synonym

          Last Updated: 11/18/2007

          You can tell Google to search for synonyms of the word you specified, by prefixing the word with tilde ("~"),as:

                  ~garden design

          which finds pages containing "design", as well as any of "garden", "plant", "landscape", etc.

          For more info, see:



        3. Google Search Number Range

          Original Version: 11/18/2007
          Last Updated: 11/30/2007

          You can tell Google to search for any number in a specified range by specifying an ellipsis (with 2 dots or 3 dots), as:

                  DVD player $100..150

          This last one searches for the words DVD and Player, along with any dollar amount in the range $100-150, so it tends to find DVD players for sale in that price range.

          For more info, see:


          Thanks to Carol Hebert for advice on clarifying this tip!


        4. Google Search Calculator

          Original Version: 11/1/2007
          Last Updated: 11/13/2007

          At the Google Search web site, you can enter an arithmetic expression instead of words to search for.  Google evaluates the expression and shows you the answer.  For example:

          1. 1+2 (shows 3)
          2. 2.5*1.9 (shows 4.75)

          It also converts between different units and currencies as:

          1. 5 pounds in kg (shows 2.26796185 kilograms)
          2. 6 tsp in tbsp (shows 2 US tablespoons)
          3. 5 currency of Brazil in Malaysian money (shows 5 Brazil reais = 9.37128344 Malaysian ringgits)
            Note:  The currency conversions are not guaranteed to be absolutely current.  However, they are probably pretty good since Google pulls them from CitiBank.

          It handles a wide variety of mathematical functions like sin(), cos(), sqrt(), log(), ln(), etc., and constants like pi, e, c, etc.

          It supports decimal numbers, as well as octal, binary, hexadecimal.

          For more info, see:



        5. Google Search Movie

          Original Version: 10/27/2007
          Last Updated: 2/1/2009

          To limit a Google search to pages about movies, include the special word: 


          including the colon, among the search words.  This is an easy way to find a movie when you can only remember what it was about, or an actor who was in it or something.

          Alternatively, you can find show times for movies at nearby theaters, by including any of the special words:


          You will be prompted for a zip code or city name, and can ask to have that saved for future searches.  Or you can specify the zip code on the search as:

              movies 19355
              showtimes 19355

          You can also search for the name of a movie and get a list of show times for that movie at nearby theaters.

          For more info, see:



        6. Google Search Define

          Original Version: 11/3/2007
          Last Updated: 2/1/2009

          To use Google Search to find the definition of a word, include the special word:


          including the colon, among the search words.  Google will show you a list of definitions of the term along with links to more detailed definitions in WikiPedia, various dictionaries, and other sites.

          For more info, see:



        7. Google Search Phonebook

          Original Version: 11/2/2007
          Last Updated: 2/1/2009

          You can use Google Search to look up phone numbers.  Just search for any combination of:

          • first name (or first initial), last name, city (state is optional)
          • first name (or first initial), last name, state
          • first name (or first initial), last name, area code
          • first name (or first initial), last name, zip code
          • phone number, including area code
          • last name, city, state
          • last name, zip code

          Then click the Map link to see a map to their house.  Then click the Satellite link to see a satellite photo of the house.  Zoom in and you may even see them working in the back garden.  :-)

          You can also do reverse lookups.  Search for a phone number and see who has that number.

          For more info (and to remove yourself from the Google phone book, if you like), see:



        8. Google Search Area Code

          Last Updated: 11/2/2007

          Search Google for a 3-digit telephone area code.  It shows you a link to a map of the area covered by the area code.  The link takes you to the right map in

          For more info, see:



        9. Google Search City

          Last Updated: 11/2/2007

          Search Google for a city name to see a link to a Google Map of the city.

          Include a city name among your Google search terms to limit the search to the specified city.  This is useful when searching for local businesses, schools, etc.

          For more info, see:



        10. Google Search Zip Code

          Last Updated: 11/2/2007

          Search Google for a zip code to find out what city and state uses it, and a link to a Google Map of the area.

          Include a zip code among your Google search terms to limit the search to the specified zip code.  This is useful when searching for local businesses, schools, etc.

          For more info, see:



        11. Google Search Address

          Last Updated: 11/3/2007

          Search Google for a street address to see a link to a Google Map of the address and a button to get directions to/from the address.  

          Just type the address into the Google Search text box, in ordinary format, as:

              1011 West King Rd, Malvern, PA


        12. Google Search Site

          Original Version: 11/2/2007
          Last Updated: 2/1/2009

          To limit a Google search to a specific Web site, specify the site name prefixed with "site:" among the search words.  For example, to find all occurrences of the word "reload" in any of the pages at the Bristle Software site, search for:


          You can also get a complete list of the pages from a Web site that have been indexed by Google.  For example:


          For more info, see:



        13. Google Search Spell Checker

          Last Updated: 11/3/2007

          Google Search checks not only for the exact words you specify, but also for slight misspellings that occur more often than the spelling you used.  Therefore, it makes a great spell checker.  If you are not sure whether the word is spelled:




          try searching Google for each one.  The wrong one (occurrance) will come back with fewer matches and prompt you:

              Did you mean: occurrence

          This is not based on a dictionary.  It is based on the number of matches on all of the Web pages indexed by Google.  Therefore, it is better than a dictionary in that it reflects common usage in the modern world, not only at the time a dictionary was written.  It finds new slang terms before they are added to any dictionaries, and finds common misspellings that are becoming generally accepted, etc.

          For more info, see:



        14. Google Search Stock Ticker

          Last Updated: 11/3/2007

          Search Google for a stock or fund ticker symbol (like YHOO, HD, or GE) and it shows you a graph of the stock or fund value for the past day, along with links to the stock or fund at various financial Web sites, like Google Finance, Yahoo Finance, MSN Money, MarketWatch, CNN Money, and Reuters.

          If you don't know the exact stock ticker symbol, search for the company name (like Yahoo, Home Depot, or General Electric).  You'll get a brief description of the company, a link to its Web site, and a link like:

                  + Stock quote for GE

          that expands to the daily graph and links you'd have seen for the stock ticker.

          For more info, see:



        15. Google Search Weather

          Last Updated: 11/3/2007

          Search Google for the special word "weather" followed by a city name, like:

                  weather malvern

          and it shows you the current temperature and weather conditions for that city, along with a 4-day forecast, all pulled from  If necessary to get the right city, throw in a state, zip code, or country name also.

          For more info, see:



        16. Google Search Travel

          Original Version: 11/3/2007
          Last Updated: 2/1/2009

          Search Google for the special word "airport" preceded by an airport 3-letter code, like:

                  phl airport

          and it shows you the current conditions at that airport, pulled from

          Search for a flight name and number, like:

                  united 134

          and it shows you links to track the status of that flight at various travel sites, like Travelocity, Expedia, etc.

          For more info, see:



        17. Google Search Date

          Original Version: 11/13/2007
          Last Updated: 12/11/2007

          Want a way to restrict a Google search to recent info?

          According to the Google Cheat Sheet:


          you can add the special word "date:" followed by a number, to restrict a Google search to pages first found by Google within that many months of today.  However, I can't quite get it to work.  I've tried with and without a space after the colon.  Instead, it searches for the word "date".

          However, at the Google Advanced Search page, you can choose any of the following from the "Return web pages first seen in the" dropdown:

                  past 24 hours
                  past week
                  past month
                  past 2 months
                  past 3 months
                  past 6 months
                  past year

          and it works just fine.  If you look closely at the generated URL for the search results page, you'll notice a parameter added to specify the date range:

          &as_qdr=d past 24 hours
          &as_qdr=w past week
          &as_qdr=m past month
          &as_qdr=m2 past 2 months
          &as_qdr=m3 past 3 months
          &as_qdr=m6 past 6 months
          &as_qdr=y past year

          Apparently, "as_qdr" stands for "advanced search query date range", and the values (d, w, m, m2, m3, m6, y) are obviously days, weeks, months, and years.  I tried a few that were not available via the drop down, and they worked also, so it seems like a general purpose mechanism:

          &as_qdr=d2 past 2 days
          &as_qdr=d3 past 3 days
          &as_qdr=w2 past 2 weeks
          &as_qdr=m4 past 4 months
          &as_qdr=y3 past 3 years

          Anyone know the syntax to do it from within the Google search box, instead of having to use the Advanced Search page or edit the URL directly?

          Wait a minute!  What am I thinking?  Why ask all of you?  Just Google it!  Duh...

          OK.  Searching for:

                  google search date range 

          shows interesting results:

            An article about how to restrict a search to a starting and ending date via the syntax:
            Unfortunately, startdate and enddate must be expressed as "Julian dates" like 2454445 for 12/11/2007, and 2454438 for 12/4/2007.  Julian dates (a counter of days since a specific day long ago) are great for computers, but not easy for people.
            A page that offers a friendlier user interface and then uses the above syntax behind the scenes for you.  You specify the number of days into the past or choose the start and end dates from a dropdown calendar, and it computes the Julian dates and does the Google search for you.

          Still seems like there should be an easier way to do it directly with a Google keyword...


        18. Google Search Pics

          Original Version: 10/27/2007
          Last Updated: 2/1/2009

          At the Google Search web site, you can search for images without switching to the Google Image Search site, by entering a word like "images", "pictures", "pics", etc as one of the search words.  

          However, this is less useful recently since Google started including some images among regular search results by default.  Also, you don't get as many images as at the Google Image Search site.  Finally, since they've now added an "Images" link to the results page, it is easy to click that link to flip to the Google Image Search site, without even retyping your query.

          When doing a Google Image Search, you can limit the search to images of an exact size.  Specify the image size prefixed with "imagesize:" among the search words.  For example to find pictures of sailboats that are exactly 1152 pixels wide and 864 pixels tall, search for:

              sailboat imagesize:1152x864

          For more info, see:


          Thanks to Jim Gadrow for telling me about "imagesize:"!


        19. Google Search Link

          Last Updated: 11/5/2007

          It is supposed to be true that if you search Google for a site URL prefixed by "link:", it will show you a list of pages that link to the specified site.  However, I can't quite get it to work.  I've tried with and without a space after the colon.  Without the space, I find very little.  With the space, I find pages that mention the URL and the word "link".  Anyone know how to make this work?


        20. Google Search Info

          Last Updated: 11/19/2007

          At the Google Search web site, you can ask for the information Google has stored about a specific Web page, by prefixing the URL with "info", as:

          This shows you links to useful info about the page, like:

          • Google's cache of the page
          • Pages that Google considers similar
          • Pages that link to it (doesn't seem to work any better than "link:")
          • Pages from the same site
          • etc.

          For more info, see:



        21. Google Search Shortcut

          Last Updated: 11/3/2007

          Want to save your most common Google searches?

          You can include the search terms for a Google search in a URL, using the standard URL parameter syntax and the parameter name "q" (which I assume stands for query).  For example:


          You can save such a URL as a Windows shortcut, or a browser bookmark/favorite, etc.

          Since I spend most of my time at the Windows command line, I save many of my favorites URLs (for Google and other sites) as one-line batch files.  I also have a one-line batch file called google.bat that I can use to quickly do Google searches, specifying the search terms as batch file parameters on the command line.  The entire contents of google.bat is:


          This allows me to type things like:

                  google 5 pounds in kg
                  google showtimes
                  google define:altruistic
                  google 1-610-555-1234
                  google Malvern, PA
                  google 19355
                  google reload
                  google occurrance
                  google 1011 West King Rd, Malvern, PA
                  google weather malvern

          at the command line, without having to start a browser and navigate to Google first.  This makes it much easier to use Google for the various purposes mentioned in my previous tips, in one simple step without even leaving the command line.

          In case you are not familiar with Windows batch files and/or the URL parameter syntax:

          • The "@" sign causes the command in the batch file to not echo to the command window.
          • The command "start" causes your default browser to be launched at the specified site.
            For more info, see:
          • The %1 through %9 values are replaced by the command line parameters of the batch file.
          • The "?" and "=" are the standard way to specify a parameter on a URL.
          • The "+" signs cause the entire URL, including parameters to be treated by Windows as a single parameter of the "start" command.  Otherwise, it would search for only the first word.  The "+" signs are treated like spaces once they are passed to the Web site.


      2. Google Maps

        You are probably already familiar with the basics of Google Maps.  Go to:


        type in an address and see a map of the area.  Then drag the map to scroll it left, right, up, or down.  Click "Get directions" to get directions from one address to another.  However, there may be more features than you realize.

        1. Google Maps Navigation

          Original Version: 11/11/2007
          Last Updated: 1/27/2008

          At the Google Maps web site, you can navigate (browse around in) a map by doing the following:

          1. Double-click to zoom in.  The zoom is done intelligently.
            1. Common zoom techniques:  Whenever you zoom in on anything in any computer program, some stuff stays on the screen and other stuff gets pushed off the sides to make room.  Many computer programs use a simplistic zoom algorithm that keeps the center of the screen fixed, pushing the edges out uniformly, or keeping the top left corner fixed and pushing the rest down and to the right.
            2. Google's zoom technique:  Google Maps does it more intuitively, moving the point you double-clicked to the center of the screen and then pushing the edges out uniformly.  Most people don't even notice exactly what is happening.  They just find it very easy to use because it happens to do exactly what they want.

          2. Zoom in and out with the mouse wheel.  Again, it is done intelligently.  Move the mouse to the point of interest and scroll in or out.  No need to even click the mouse button.  The point stays put and the rest grows or shrinks around it.

          3. Zoom in and out with the Plus and Minus keys.

          4. Zoom in/out quickly by dragging the displayed slider, not just by clicking the displayed + and - buttons.

          5. Scroll left, right, up, and down by holding down the keyboard's arrow keys.

          6. Page left, right, up, and down with the Home, End, PageUp, and PageDn keys.

          7. Zoom out with the Insert key.  (Hey, why not?  If your hand is over there by the Home, End, PageUp, and PageDn keys, the nearby Insert key may as well do something useful too!)

          8. Click the little arrow button at the bottom right of the map to see a small overview map showing the mapped area in a purple rectangle, in the context of the surrounding area.

          9. Quickly scroll the main map by dragging the purple rectangle in the overview map.

          10. Return to the location and zoom level you started with, by clicking the small square with 4 tiny arrows that is displayed in the middle of the displayed arrow buttons above the zoom slider.

          For more info, see:



        2. Google Maps Searching

          Original Version: 11/11/2007
          Last Updated: 1/27/2008

          At the Google Maps web site, you can search for a new map by doing the following:

          1. Type 2 street names or highway route numbers separated by the word "and" to find the intersection of the roads.  For example:
                    king street and us 30, malvern

          2. Type 2 addresses separated by the word "to" to get directions from one place to another without having to click "Get directions" first.  For example:
                    malvern pa to breeze way circle olney md

          3. Type in a business name and city to find directions to the business, like:
                    primavera pizza kitchen, downingtown PA

          For more info, see:



        3. Google Maps Routing

          Original Version: 11/11/2007
          Last Updated: 1/27/2008

          At the Google Maps web site, there are lots of ways to get more than simply the default route from one starting location to one final destination. You can also:

          1. Drag the blue route line on the map to force it to take a different route.
            1. Very useful if you prefer to use US 1 instead of I-95 to get from Pennsylvania to Maryland, for example.
            2. The distance and time estimate are constantly updated as you drag, so you can quickly consider and discard alternatives.
            3. Use Alt-Left or the Web browser's Back button to return to the previous route.

          2. Click on a step number in the directions to see a blowup of that turn.

          3. Click "Add destination" to add an additional destination.  You can use that to plan out an entire delivery route or series of errands, with directions from each stop to the next.  Or just drag the blue route line to an intermediate destination to insert another stop.

          4. Drag a destination up or down in the list of directions to change the order of your stops.

          5. Click the Edit button next to the starting point or a destination in the list of instructions to change to a different address.

          6. Type 3 or more addresses separated by the word "to:" (with a colon) to quickly create a route from one place to a second, to a third, etc.  For example:
                    malvern pa to: breeze way circle olney md to: annapolis md

          7. Click "Avoid Highways" to take the scenic route.

          8. There used to be some fun things at Google Maps, also.  A while back, I was directed by my brother Tom, and by Lorri Benyaker, and by Helen Loiacono, to check out step #23 of:
            where it said:
                    22. Turn right at Long Wharf 0.1 mi
                    23. Swim across the Atlantic Ocean 3,462 mi (29 days 0 hours)
                    24. Slight right at E05 0.5 mi (2 mins)     
            However, someone has since removed that, and you now get a much more boring page that says:
                    We could not calculate driving directions between new york and paris.
            For a complete copy of the old directions, see:
            Anyone know of any fun ones that are still in there?

          For more info, see:



        4. Google Maps Satellite View

          Original Version: 11/11/2007
          Last Updated: 1/27/2008

          At the Google Maps web site, you can:

          1. Click "Satellite" to see a satellite photo of the area.

          2. Click the "Show labels" checkbox that drops down from the "Satellite" button to hide/show street names and other labels superimposed on the photo.

          For more info, see:



        5. Google Maps Street View

          Original Version: 11/11/2007
          Last Updated: 1/27/2008

          At the Google Maps web site, you can:

          1. Click "Street View" to see a draggable, zoomable, rotatable view of what it looks like as you drive along that route in your car.  
            1. This is similar to Google Earth, except that it uses photos taken by an actual car driving around, not taken from a satellite, so the detail is much better.
            2. Blue outlines on the map show which areas have Street View data.  It is not yet available in all areas.

          2. Use the regular Google Maps navigation features to drag, zoom, etc.

          3. Pivot to look in a different direction via the curved arrow buttons above the zoom slider.

          4. Click the white arrows laid along the street to move along the street as though driving.

          Note:  Street View is not yet available in all areas.  Blue outlines on roads in the map show where it is available.  For Philadelphia, see:


          For more info, see:



        6. Google Maps Traffic View

          Original Version: 11/11/2007
          Last Updated: 1/27/2008

          At the Google Maps web site, you can:

          1. Click "Traffic" to see color-coding of roads based on current traffic conditions:
            1. Red = heavy traffic (0-25 25 mph)
            2. Yellow = slow traffic (25-50 25 mph)
            3. Green = normal speed (50+ mph)
            4. Gray = no traffic information is currently available

          Note:  Traffic info is not yet available in all areas.  Small traffic light icons with red, yellow and green lights show areas where it is available.  For Philadelphia, see:


          For more info, see:



        7. Google Maps Terrain View

          Original Version: 11/11/2007
          Last Updated: 1/27/2008

          At the Google Maps web site, you can:

          1. Click "Terrain" to see a view that emphasizes the hills, valleys, and other terrain.

          So far, this view is pretty high level, and not all that useful, but stay tuned...


        8. Google Maps Search Nearby

          Original Version: 11/11/2007
          Last Updated: 1/27/2008

          At the Google Maps web site, you can search for restaurants or other businesses near a certain location.  I do this often to choose a restaurant for lunch near where someone works, or any other location of interest.  

          You can:

          1. Type a class of business, the word "near" or "in" and a location.  For example:
                    pizza near malvern pa
                    pizza in malvern pa

          2. Or, click "Search nearby" or "Find businesses" after viewing a map.

          3. In either case:
            1. The list of nearby restaurants includes their addresses and phone numbers.
            2. Each restaurant is shown on the map via a location tag.

          4. Click on the location tags or the listed restaurant names to:
            1. See a link to their Web site, to find menus, hours of operation, etc.
            2. See reviews written by other people
            3. Write a review
            4. See Web pages (food magazines, etc.) that talk about the restaurant
            5. Get free printable coupons for discounts at the restaurant
            6. etc.

          For more info, see:


          or the hokey video at:



        9. Google Maps Shortcut

          Original Version: 11/11/2007
          Last Updated: 1/27/2008

          Like my google.bat file described at Google Search Shortcut, I have a one-line batch file called maps.bat that I use to quickly access Google Maps, specifying parameters on the Windows command line.  The entire contents of maps.bat is:


          This allows me to type things like:

                  maps king street and us 30, malvern
                  maps malvern pa to breeze way circle olney md
                  maps primavera pizza kitchen, downingtown PA

          at the command line, without having to start a browser and navigate to Google Maps first.  I can use Google Maps in one simple step without even leaving the Windows command line.

          I also have a batch file called traffic.bat that I use to quickly check traffic conditions.  It looks like:

                  @echo off
                  rem Note: Need quotes to hide ampersand from Windows command line interpreter
                  rem          that would otherwise interpret it as a command separator.
                  rem Note: Need quoted name ("dummy") to provide a dummy name to the START
                  rem          command which always treats the 1st param as a name instead of a
                  rem          command if it is enclosed in quotes.
                  start "dummy" ""

          and it lets me type commands like:

                  traffic phila
                  traffic malvern

          Any other favorite Google Maps tricks to share?


      3. Google Voice

        Original Version: 1/26/2014
        Last Updated: 1/7/2019

        Google Voice is a great free phone service.  Some highlights:

        1. Totally free service. No credit card. No charges.
        2. You get to pick your own new phone number (free), or can move an existing number to Google Voice (one time $20 porting fee).
        3. You tell it where to send incoming calls:
          1. To your existing cell phone
          2. To your existing home phone
          3. To your laptop, so you can use the built-in microphone and speakers, or a headset, or whatever
          4. To all of the above
          5. etc.
        4. You can set up rules for incoming calls, based on time of day, who's calling, etc:
          1. Ring my work phone till 5pm and home phone after that
          2. Ring my cell phone only for my wife and close friends
          3. Play the "The number has been disconnected" message for telemarketers
          4. etc.
        5. Any incoming call rings at all of the specified places, and the first place you answer stops the ringing at the others
        6. You can make outgoing calls too, from your laptop.  Go to:
        7. Other incoming calls while you are on the phone can be joined to the current call to create a conference call
        8. When you don't answer, you get an email with an audio recording of any message left by the caller, and a text transcript of what they said, as best as Google's voice recognition can do. You can do these things to such transcripts:
          1. View/sort/delete them like a list of email messages
          2. Click to call the person back
          3. Click to text the person back
          4. Edit the transcript, to corrrect whatever Google might have gotten wrong
          5. Add notes to the transcript
          6. Cut/paste from them instead of having to take notes
          7. Visually skim, jumping past the long chatty parts
          8. Block the caller
          9. Email the audio recording and transcript to someone
          10. Download the audio recording to your computer
          11. Embed the audio recording in a Web page, with an optional caption
        9. You can screen calls, exactly like you used to do on your old answering machine, and as you can probably no longer do on your current cell phone.  When the call comes in on your laptop, you can choose to:
          1. Answer
          2. Ignore (send to voicemail, so you'll get an email)
          3. Screen (listen in on the call, as the caller is leaving a message, and "pick up" at any time, or let the message go to voicemail)
        10. If you install the Google Voice app on your Android phone, you can make free US calls.  Uses "data" (which I still have unlimited, grandfathered by Verizon), but no "minutes".   Can also make cheap international calls (Michel van der List calls his mother in Holland for $0.02/min). Thanks for the tip, Michel!
        11. Much better reception at my house than my cell phone

        Check it out at:


        It's been around for a couple of years, and is still free. I'm glad I finally signed up, at the suggestion of Brian Clapper.

        Some caveats/warnings:

        1. Be sure to explicitly enable SMS (text messages) to your cell phone if you want them to go there:
          1. Google Voice | gear at top right | Settings | Phones | Receive text messages on this phone
        2. Support for MMS (pictures/video) is sketchy.  See:
        3. Windows IE11 may require a plugin for outgoing calls.  Steve Weitzman had to download one that was described at the Gmail page, but not mentioned at the Google Voice page.
        4. Brian Meadows warns:
          1. Doesn't work well if you live in Maine -- no local numbers available when he tried.
          2. Don't try to register a cell phone when in a dead zone -- can't accept the confirmation call.

        Any other Google Voice features or caveats/warnings to share? Contributors to this tip:

          Brian Clapper
          Michel van der List
          Steve Pozun
          Tom Stluka
          Tim Harrison
          Steve Weitzman
          Brian Meadows


      4. Google Finance

        Original Version: 11/11/2007
        Last Updated: 11/29/2007

        Google Finance is a great financial Web site.  Lots of useful info, and the typical Google flair for making it interactive and easy to use.  Go to:


        The main page shows the day's graphs of Dow Jones, Nasdaq, etc, as well as recent news headlines, sector summaries, top movers, etc.  It also shows quotes for specific stocks and funds you've searched for recently, as well as news headlines about them, etc.  It's a great one-page summary of your personal financial interests.

        Enter a stock or fund ticker symbol or company name to see the graph of its price, along with news headlines plotted along the graph to perhaps explain the ups and down.  Also, financial summary, links to discussions, blogs, list of related companies and their prices, etc.

        Drag the graph to see a larger, smaller, or different date range of prices.  Or click the various presets (1 day, 5 day, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, YTD, 1 year, 5 year, 10 year, max).

        Click "Historical Prices" to see tables of price data, showing open, high, low, close and volume, daily or weekly.  Click "Download to spreadsheet" to download the data in CSV (comma-separated values) format, saving it to disk, or opening it directly in Microsoft Excel or your favorite spreadsheet.

        Click the checkboxes to see comparative graphs with various indexes, and with up to 4 other companies.  Or enter multiple stock or fund ticker symbols in the main search box to see a comparative graph of more than 5 companies. 

        You can also log in with a username and password to create and edit portfolios of stocks and funds that you want to track.

        Like my google.bat file described at Google Search Shortcut, I have a short batch file called finance.bat that I use to quickly access Google Finance, specifying parameters on the batch file command line.  The entire contents of finance.bat is:

                @if not "%1"=="" start
                @if "%1"=="" start

        This allows me to type things like:

                finance brk.b
                finance goog
                finance general electric

        at the command line, without having to start a browser and navigate to Google Finance first.  I can use Google Finance in one simple step without even leaving the command line.  I can also pass it multiple ticker symbols, as:

                finance goog yhoo ebay cmcsa

        to compare multiple companies.  

        Similarly, I can use this syntax in Unix scripts, Windows batch files, browser bookmarks/shortcuts, desktop shortcuts, etc. to do my favorite combinations of companies.

        Any other favorite Google Finance tricks to share?


      5. Google Alerts

        Last Updated: 11/18/2007

        Google Alerts is a great way to keep informed about a particular topic.  Go to:


        Here you can enter the search words for any Google search.  Instead of doing the search immediately and only once, it does the search continuously and e-mails you the results.  Each time the Google search engine finds a new page that matches the search, it mails you a link to the new page.

        You can specify whether such additional matches should be sent to you as soon as they are discovered, or batched up into daily or weekly messages.  You can also limit the search to news sites, blogs, video, etc.

        You don't need a Google account, and don't have to specify a Google GMail address.  You can use Google Alerts with any e-mail address.  Each arriving e-mail comes with a link to click if you want to cancel the alert.  However, if you do create a Google account and log in to it, there are additional tools for managing your alerts: changing the frequency, switching between HTML and plain text e-mails, etc.

        You can use Google Alerts to watch a developing news story, do a continuous "vanity search" (search for your name on the Web), monitor a local sports team, etc.

        You may want to set up a filter for the incoming e-mail though, as it could be a lot of mail.

        So that other people can't set up alerts for your e-mail address and flood you with unwanted messages, there is a confirmation step.  When you create a new alert (or someone else creates one for you), it immediately sends you an e-mail containing a link you must click on to confirm that you really want the alert.  Furthermore, once you have received 10 such confirmation messages for 10 different alerts, and have not confirmed them, it won't bother you any more.

        For more info, see:



      6. Google News

        Last Updated: 11/18/2007

        Google News is a great way to see the latest news of the world, or one of 40-50 specific countries.  Or you can search for news on a city or smaller region.  I haven't compared it much with other news sites and news aggregators, but I'm impressed.  Check it out, at:


        The main page shows recent top stories, as well as categories like:  World, US, Business, Sci/tech, Sports, Entertainment, Health, etc.  It is offered in dozens of languages.

        It also offers RSS and Atom feeds for those who prefer their news in that format.  And a link to Google Alerts, which sends you e-mail when a new Web page is found that matches the Google Search criteria you specified.

        Any favorite Google News tricks to share?


      7. Google Groups (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 10/27/2007

        Coming soon...


      8. Google Suggest (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 10/27/2007

        Coming soon...


      9. Google Trends (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 10/27/2007

        Coming soon...


      10. Google Froogle (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 10/27/2007

        Coming soon...


    2. Google Web Services, no login required

      You can invoke the following services from your applications, pulling data from tem to use internally or to display in your own applications, etc.  You access them directly from the Google Web site.  You don't have to download or install any software, and you don't need a Google login.

      1. Google Search API (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 12/12/2008

        Coming soon...


      2. Google Maps API (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 12/12/2008

        Coming soon...


      3. Google Chart API

        Original Version: 12/12/2008
        Last Updated: 6/13/2010

        The Google Chart API is a service that generates charts, graphs, plots, maps, etc. from your data.

        You invoke it via a URL with the data as URL parameters.  It returns a PNG image file of the chart.  If the data is static, you can store the generated chart in a PNG file for repetitive use from a Web page later.  If you don't want to store the file locally, or if the data is dynamic, you can have Google generate the chart on the fly as you display it.  Generation of a chart takes a small fraction of a second.

        The base URL is:
        and you follow it with URL parameters that specify:

        • Required parameters:
          • Chart width and height, in pixels
          • Chart type (line, bar, pie, 3D pie, Venn, Scatter, Radar, Geographic map, Speedometer, etc.)
          • Chart data (one or more sets of data points to be plotted, etc.)
        • Optional parameters:
          • Chart title text, font size, color, etc.
          • Data labels, legend position
          • Data colors
          • Data scaling to fit the chart size
          • Chart axes, ranges, labels, etc.    
          • Axis label font sizes, colors, alignments, etc.
          • Background and data fill patterns, stripes, gradients, etc.
          • Line widths and styles, dash lengths, blank lengths, etc.
          • Data point markers (arrow, cross, x, diamond, circle, square, text, etc.)
          • Priority of data, labels, markers, etc. (when overlapped, which hides which)
          • Fill effects (fill with color or pattern above, below, or between data lines)
          • Bar spacing, space between groups of bars, etc.
          • Continents to show in geographic maps
          • Countries to highlight in geographic maps
          • States to highlight in US geographic maps
          • etc.
        There is a very similar product called the Google Visualization API.  Unlike the Google Chart API, it executes locally within your Web page to generate the image, it allows the user to interact with the image, and it can pull its data directly from a variety of data stores.  For more info, see: For a comparison of the two APIs, see:

        The Developer's Guide for the Google Chart API, with lots of examples, is at:
        Take a quick peek at the pictures on the following pages to get an idea of the types of charts it will do:

        Here are some of the examples:


        Right click on any of these examples and choose "Copy image location" to copy the exact URL used to generate the chart.  (Or if you are still using Microsoft Internet Explorer, right click, choose Properties, and copy the text of the Address property.)

        Since Google Chart API is a Web Service that you can call from a program, there are already lots of Web Apps out there that use it.  Some of these exist specifically to provide a simple user interface for you to chart data with.  These make it much easier to chart data on the fly without writing a program.  They are also useful for experimenting, to decide the exact URL to use within any program you do write.  See:

        There are also lots of sites doing cool things with it.  You may want to browse these to get some idea of the power behind the simple URL interface:

        50 cool things you can do with Google Charts API

        Bullet graphs

        Calling Google Chart API from Excel (to do types of graphs that Excel doesn't support)

        Pie charts scattered across a world map

        Pie charts generated when you click on a state in a map of the US

        Here's a link to my own cryptic cheat sheet documenting (very concisely) many of the features:

        Thanks to Matt Brophy for telling me about the new Google Visualization API!


    3. Google Web Apps, login required (coming soon...)

      1. Google Apps (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 10/27/2007

        Coming soon...


      2. Google Calendar (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 10/27/2007

        Coming soon...


      3. Google Docs

        1. Google Drawings

          1. Google Drawings Keyboard Shortcuts

            Last Updated: 9/28/2012

            Here is a list of some of the more useful shortcut keys for Google Drawings:


      4. Google GMail (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 10/27/2007

        Coming soon...


      5. Google Talk (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 10/27/2007

        Coming soon...


    4. Google Installed Apps

      1. Google Now

        1. Talking to Android, Chrome, or iPhone/iPad

          Last Updated: 10/26/2014

          Here's a quick explanation of how to talk to your Android phone, Chrome browser (phone, tablet, laptop, desktop), iPhone, or iPad.

          I've been talking to my Android phone for almost 5 years now, long before "Siri" appeared on the iPhone, but no one seems to advertise the features of Android phones the way Apple does for the iPhone, so lots of people have Android phones and don't even know they can talk to them.

          With older Android phones, you had to download and install an app to make it work, but these days it's pre-installed.  Watch for the microphone icon to appear near a text box or in the keyboard. Press it and start talking.

          If you have the "Google Now" app installed on your Android, or in your Chrome browser, or on your iPhone or iPad, it's even easier.  Just say "OK Google" and then continue talking.

          I've used these phrases for years:

          - Call Mom
          - Dial 800-555-1212
          - Text Mike Stluka  On my way
          - Note to self  Buy milk (sends me gmail)
          - Navigate to 630 Lancaster Ave, Frazer PA
          - Navigate to John's Pizza, Frazer PA

          But it knows tons of others, for setting reminders, checking voicemail, checking your calendar, checking the weather, calculating tips, translating to other languages, taking pictures or videos, finding nearby gas stations, identifying music, etc.

          Here are some lists of other standard phrases it knows:

          Also, it does the conversational thing where you can just ask a free form question and it speaks an answer back to you.

          Try it out!  Let me know if you discover any particularly cool or useful ones.


      2. Google Pack (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 10/27/2007

        Coming soon...


      3. Google Desktop (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 10/27/2007

        Coming soon...


      4. Google Earth (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 10/27/2007

        Coming soon...


      5. Google SketchUp (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 10/27/2007

        Coming soon...


    5. Google Phone Services (coming soon...)

      1. Google 1-800-GOOG-411 (coming soon...)

        Last Updated: 10/27/2007

        Coming soon...


    6. -- The Philanthropic Arm of Google

      Last Updated: 12/4/2007

      Have you seen the "Philanthropic Arm of Google"?  Check out:

                (.org, not .com)

      It was founded by Google in Oct 2005 with an initial grant of $90 million and is now funded with $2 billion in Google stock.  Fits nicely with Google's corporate philosophy of:

              Do no evil

      I find it amazing that Google has poured $2 billion into this without any fuss.  Other big companies that have created charitable foundations have named them after their CEOs, and make a big fanfare each time the company gives money to the foundation, as well as each time the foundation gives that SAME money to a charity.  Double-dipping!

      Google just keeps adding money to the foundation, and adding features to their free tools and Web sites, without patting themselves on the back.  Word gets around on the merits, not the marketing.  

      Very admirable!

      In case you're wondering, yes I do own Google stock (and you should too), but that's not why I'm such a fan.  I was a fan years before the stock became available.  I wish I'd bought a whole lot more when I did buy.  

      Admirable and profitable both -- amazing in today's world!


  9. Mozilla Thunderbird

    1. Intro to Thunderbird (coming soon...)

      Last Updated: 10/31/2008
      Applies to:  Thunderbird 1+


    2. Thunderbird Shortcut Keys

      Original Version: 10/31/2008
      Last Updated: 1/9/2012
      Applies to:  Thunderbird 1+

      Here is a list of some of the more useful shortcut keys for Thunderbird:

      Did I miss any good ones?  Let me know.


    3. Changing font size (coming soon...)

      Last Updated: 10/31/2008
      Applies to:  Thunderbird 1+


    4. Thunderbird RSS feeds

      Last Updated: 10/31/2008
      Applies to:  Thunderbird 1+

      Like most advanced mail readers these days, Mozilla Thunderbird supports RSS and Atom feeds.  

      This is a relatively new (since early 2000's or so) way to subscribe to newsletters, blogs, tip-of-the-day services, etc.  Instead of one person mailing ("pushing") a copy of each message to all subscribers, each subscriber configures his feed reader to occasionally check for new messages and "pull" them in to the reader.  Typically, the message stored in the reader is just a link to the real message, not an actual copy, so if it gets updated before the subscriber sees it, he'll see the latest copy when he does see it.  To learn more about such feeds, see:

      Thunderbird makes RSS as easy as e-mail.  Once you subscribe to a feed, it checks periodically for new messages posted to the feed, and shows them to you just as though a new e-mail had arrived, showing a one-line header for each message consisting of the name of the person who posted the message, the subject line, date/time, etc.  You can see the full body of the message just like a mail message in the Thunderbird preview pane, or by double-clicking on the header line to open a new window.

      To subscribe to an RSS feed in Thunderbird, simply create a new "account" of type RSS instead of type e-mail, and specify the URL of the feed.  For example, to see the daily Dilbert comics from the official Dilbert site, as though they were being mailed to you, specify the URL:

      BTW, yes, I have created RSS and Atom feeds for some (but not yet all) of my Tips mailing lists.  A while back I took on a big project to convert all of my Tips pages from HTML to XHTML, and use XSLT to automatically generate the TOCs, as well as RSS and Atom feeds.  It's mostly working, but I haven't yet converted all the pages, and switched to that mode.  Hopefully, some day soon...


    5. View Message Source (coming soon...)

      Last Updated: 10/31/2008
      Applies to:  Thunderbird 1+


    6. Address Completion Speed

      Last Updated: 1/29/2009
      Applies to:  Thunderbird 1+

      Is Thunderbird getting to be slow at auto-completing addresses?

      I've used Thunderbird for years, but recently it is sometimes very slow (10+ seconds) to auto-complete an e-mail address that I've started typing.  Here's the fix.

      Apparently, there was a bug in Thunderbird 1.5 that is fixed in and later versions, so I suggest you upgrade to the latest version at:

      However, it may still be slow until you clean up your Thunderbird config file (prefs.js).  

      The bug was writing bogus lines to the config file.  Over time, you may have accumulated hundreds of such lines.  The delay occurs as Thunderbird (even the latest version) scans all of these bogus lines and tries to look up addresses in the non-existent address book files and LDAP servers they refer to.  To speed it up, delete all lines in your prefs.js file that contain either of the strings:


      Ah...  Much better...  Now very snappy again!

      Details at:


  10. YouTube

    1. Link to a specific time in a YouTube video

      Original Version: 2/18/2015
      Last Updated: 9/14/2018

      Want to send someone a link into the middle of a YouTube video?

      Instead of sending them a link to the start of a video, like:

      send them a link to a specific time in the video by adding the t (time) parameter to the URL, as:

      Thanks to Ricky Pifer for showing me this one!

      Or better yet, send them a link to a specific start and stop time in the video via the start and end URL parameters (expressed as a count of seconds):

      Note: For some reason, this only works with the "embed" form of the URL.  So the following does NOT work.  it starts at the right time, but plays all the way to the end:

      Thanks to Alex Yankelevich and Danielle Capalbo for inspiring me to research this further!


    2. Interactive Transcripts, Speed, and Translation at YouTube

      Original Version: 6/11/2017
      Last Updated: 4/12/2018

      Looking for a way to watch YouTube videos more efficiently, without having to sit through the entire thing at normal speed?  Want to see a transcript or subtitles showing the words being spoken?  Want to see them translated to a different language?  Check out these cool YouTube features:

      • Interactive Transcripts

        This allows you to easily skip around to different parts of a talk on YouTube, backward and forward.

        I started seeing it a few years ago, but then it seemed to vanish.  Today I discovered it again, tucked away as an option that doesn't happen automatically.

        When viewing a YouTube video that is largely one or more people speaking, look for the "... More" button below the video.  Click it, then choose "Transcript" (which occurs on some, but not all videos), then click "English (Automatic Captions)" or "English - CC" or "English (auto-generated)" -- different videos seem to have different choices.  If that doesn't activate the transcript, it may drop down a menu from which you have to choose "English (Automatic Captions)" again.

        This causes a scrolling transcript to appear, with timestamps next to each line of text.  You can watch it scroll by and read what the people are saying.  But, much more powerful, if you get bored, you can scroll ahead reading what they are going to say, find a more interesting part and click in it.  The video will immediately jump to where the person is saying that line of text.  It's a great way to get the most out of a talk without having to sit through the boring parts.

      • Speed Controls

        Want to listen to the entire talk, but at a higher speed?  Click the settings cog icon below the video, and set the speed to 1.25, 1.5., or even 2.  The speakers talk faster, but it's still easy to follow what they are saying.

      • Subtitles

        Want to see subtitles (closed captioning)?  Hit the letter "c" while watching the video.  Or you can turn it on via the settings cog icon.

      • Translated subtitles

        Want to see the subtitles in a different language?  Click the settings cog icon, choose "Subtitles/CC", then choose "Auto-translate" and pick from one of the 100 or so languages offered.  Note: You may have to switch from "Off" to "English" first, to get the "Auto-Translate" option to be enabled.

      Any other cool YouTube features you want to share?


  11. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents

    Original Version: 3/25/2008
    Last Updated: 4/6/2012
    Last Reviewed: 3/21/2015
    Applies to:  Internet, World Wide Web, IRS

    You can directly download documents (publications, forms, and instructions) as PDF files from the IRS Web site.  This is handy if you prefer paper to electronic filing.  No more running to the Post Office or Library for paper copies of various forms.

    Also, the forms are typically editable PDFs, so you can fill them out electronically, then print them and mail them in.  This is handy if you prefer paper, but want to keep an electronic copy of the form you filled out, rather than just a paper copy.  It also makes them more legible, and saves you from having to start over if you make mistakes that you can't erase.

    Warning:  Save your changes via the Adobe Reader toolbar button, not the browser File | Save Page As menu.  See details below.

    If you know which documents you want, you can choose from the list at:


    Otherwise, you can browse by category at:


    You can search for forms for previous years (past 100 years or so, plus 1864) at:


    You can view the instructions as regular Web pages (HTML) instead of PDF, at:


    The filenames of the PDF files are mostly systematic, with prefixes "p", "i" and "f".  For example:

    p526.pdf Publication 526: Charitable Contributions
    f1040.pdf Form 1040
    i1040.pdf Form 1040 -- Instructions
    f1040sab.pdf Form 1040 Schedules A&B
    i1040sa.pdf Form 1040 Schedules A&B -- Instructions (OK, some inconsistencies...)
    f8889.pdf Form 8889: HSAs
    i8889.pdf Form 8889: HSAs -- Instructions

    Therefore, you can bypass the list pages and create bookmarks, favorites, desktop shortcuts, etc. that link directly to specific documents, via URLs like:


    See the complete list of filenames at:


    and the complete list of forms from previous years at:


    Since I generally prefer to work from the command line, I wrote a batch file called irsdoc.bat that I use as:

            irsdoc f1040
            irsdoc i1040

    Here is the complete contents of irsdoc.bat:

    @echo off
    if "%1" ==""   goto USAGE
    if "%1" =="-?" goto USAGE
    if "%1" =="/?" goto USAGE
    if "%1" =="*"  goto LIST
    goto :EOF
    goto :EOF
    echo Usage:    %0 irs_doc_name
    echo Examples: %0 *             To see names of all IRS docs
    echo           %0 ?             To see filenames of all IRS docs
    echo           %0 p526          Publication 526: Charitable Contributions
    echo           %0 f1040         Form 1040
    echo           %0 i1040         Form 1040 -- Instructions
    echo           %0 f1040sab      Form 1040 Schedules A/B
    echo           %0 i1040sa       Form 1040 Schedules A/B -- Instructions
    echo           %0 f8889         Form 8889: HSAs
    echo           %0 i8889         Form 8889: HSAs -- Instructions

    When I moved from Windows to Mac, I re-wrote and enhanced the batch file as a Unix shell script called irsdoc. Here is the complete contents of irsdoc:

    #!/bin/csh -f
    if ($#argv < 1 || "$1" == "-h" || "$1" == "--help") then
        echo "Usage:    $0:t irs_doc_name"
        echo "Examples: $0:t all       To see names of all current IRS docs"
        echo "          $0:t old       Search for 100 years or so of old IRS docs"
        echo "          $0:t oldall    Links to 100 years or so of old IRS docs"
        echo "          $0:t top       Browse/search forms, pubs, etc."
        echo "          $0:t f1040     Form 1040"
        echo "          $0:t i1040     Form 1040 -- Instructions"
        echo "          $0:t f1040sab  Form 1040 Schedules A/B"
        echo "          $0:t i1040sa   Form 1040 Schedules A/B -- Instructions"
        echo "          $0:t p526      Publication 526: Charitable Contributions"
        echo "          $0:t f8889     Form 8889: HSAs"
        echo "          $0:t i8889     Form 8889: HSAs -- Instructions"
        exit 1
    if ("$1" == "all") then
    else if ("$1" == "old") then
    else if ("$1" == "oldall") then
    else if ("$1" == "top") then

    Thanks to Brian Clapper for showing me the complete list of previous year forms.

    Thanks to Wayne Keyser for reminding me that there are a couple of forms that you cannot get this way.  For some reason, they use special ink and/or paper, and you must order them from the IRS by telephone two weeks before you need them.  For example:  Form 5500 and Form 1096.  You can download copies, but you are immediately warned that you are not allowed to use them.  What a drag!
    [2012 update: Form 5500EZ is now downloadable and usable.  Form 1096 still says you can't use it.]

    Thanks to Geoff Rhine for the warning about saving from the browser menu instead of the Adobe Reader toolbar.  Here's some more detail:

    If you have the Adobe Reader plugin installed, the PDF document may open directly in the browser instead of prompting you to open it with Adobe Reader or save it to disk.  In that case, after making your changes, be sure to save via the Adobe Reader toolbar button, not via the browser's File | Save Page As menu or Ctrl-S, because that may save only the original page, not the edited version, so you may lose your edits.  This seems to be a problem with browsers like Firefox and Netscape that go back to the server for a fresh copy of the page before saving.  Internet Explorer saves the local copy, which does include your changes. 

    I didn't notice this problem myself because I generally download a file first, put it in a known location on my hard drive (where it will be found by my backup software), then edit it outside of the browser.  It is generally a good idea to take these explicit steps when working with Web stuff because you're not safe till you have a local copy in a known location.  Otherwise, things sometimes save back to the Web cache, where you may not be able to find them, and where they are subsequently deleted without warning to make room for new temporary files.  Or they try to save into a readonly e-mail attachment, or the temporary file created for that attachment.  Always save the attached file or downloaded file first, then re-open the file directly, and edit it.

    [2012 update: Still a problem on any browsers or operating systems? I haven't tried it in years.]

    If you're interested in the history of income taxes in the US, you may also enjoy this link -- the tax form used in 1864:


    Looks like it was the first year of income tax.  It cites a law passed in 1863.  Much less complicated than today's form, but surprisingly similar -- graduated tax, personal exemption ($600), lower rate for tax on US bonds, married filing jointly or separately, marriage penalty, orphans get a break, expenses deductible, etc.

    There's a big gap in years from 1864 - 1913. According to:




    this is because the tax was enacted to support the war effort during the Civil War, but later challenged and dropped until the 16th Amendment in 1913.

    Both of the above are interesting to read.  Wars have typically caused higher tax rates -- sometimes over 90%.  Wow!


  12. Audio/Video Tips

    1. Pause while downloading to fill the buffer

      Last Updated: 4/26/2008

      Problem:  Tired of having audio or video streams start and stop during playback?  

      Solution:  Pause it until the buffer is full, then resume playing.

      When you are playing streaming audio or video from a Web site like YouTube, the data begins downloading and is buffered locally.  Meanwhile, the playback begins immediately, playing the buffered data.  If the download is too slow, the playback runs out of buffered data and pauses for a while, until the buffer begins to fill up again.  This can lead to an erratic, annoying, start, stop, start, etc. during the playback.

      If this happens, click the pause button that most players display on the screen, and watch the graphical indicators.  Often there are two.  On YouTube, there's a slider that shows haw much has been played, and a red bar underneath it that shows how much has been downloaded.  Pause until the red bar gets well ahead of the slider.  Then resume for a smooth and continuous playback.


  13. Internet Music

    1. custom streaming radio

      Last Updated: 11/14/2008 is a Web site that allows you to easily create and listen to your own music mix.  It's like having your own custom radio station, for free.

      Check it out at:

      No special software required.  Use any browser that supports the Adobe (was Macromedia) Flash Player.

      You start by seeding it with the names of a few artists and/or songs you like, and it starts guessing what else you'd like, and playing it while showing you the title and artist.  As it's playing, you can give each song a thumbs up/down to tune your preferences.

      You can create multiple stations with different preferences, for your different moods.

      You can share your radio stations with other people, so they can listen to them, browse your initial seeds and your thumbs up/down.  When they start voting, it offers to let them create their own station which is initially a clone of yours.  They can not vote on your copy of the station.  

      You can search for a station created by a friend, and listen to it, browse their initial seeds and their thumbs up/down, and make your own copy, even if they never explicitly shared it with you.  For example, under the Share menu, you can search for a shared station, and enter my e-mail address to see my stations.  Right now, I'm starting to tune a clone of a friend's station, so it doesn't necessarily reflect my tastes yet, but hopefully soon...

      You can search for existing stations that contain a specific artist or song, browse the settings of that station, and make a copy.

      Pandora does keep track of which songs it plays, so that it can make the appropriate payments to the artists, but they claim to not sell any personal info about you.  They are supported by the ads they display in their window, which I typically have minimized, except when I'm voting on a song.

      According to James Higgins (I haven't tried it yet), you can use a free Pandora iPhone app to stream the same stations to your via cellular or WIFI network.

      For more info, see:

      Thanks to Jim Gadrow for pointing me to Pandora, and sharing his station with me!



  14. Internet News Sites

    1. US Newspaper Front Pages

      Last Updated: 2/2/2009

      Want to see the local news in a US city?

      By now, everyone knows the URLs of USA Today, the Washington Post, New York Times, etc.  Also, most of us read our news at Web sites like that have no printed newspaper, or at other sites more focused on our specific interests.  But, what if you want to see the headline news in a specific city and don't know the URL?  Sure you could Google it pretty quickly, but the following link is even easier, especially if you are interested in a general region of the country, not just a particular city:

      Click on the cities in the US map to see the front page of the printed newspaper of each city.

      All you get is a JPEG image, so you can read the front page, but can't flip to other pages to finish the articles, can't copy/paste text, etc.  Still it's a quick way to see what's going on in a specific city, and the front page usually contains the URL of the newspaper, where you can probably see more.

      Thanks to Frank Stluka for this tip!

      BTW, if you don't know the URLs of the papers mentioned above, they're on my links page:


  15. Internet Automation Services

    1. If this, then that --

      Original Version: 1/1/2012
      Last Updated: 1/1/2012

      Ever wish you could automatically get notified by an e-mail or text message when something happens that you care about?

      Ever wish you could automatically post to Facebook or Twitter when something happens? ("If this, then that") is a free service to do exactly that and more.  It can monitor things like clock time, weather, stock prices, incoming e-mail, Facebook status updates, Twitter posts, RSS feeds, etc., and cause them to trigger actions like e-mails, text messages, phone calls, Facebook status updates, Twitter tweets, Google Calendar updates, etc.

      You can link any trigger with any action, so it's easy to do things like:

      • Get e-mail when the temperature drops below freezing
      • Get e-mail the day before the temperature is predicted to drop below freezing
      • Get a text message when a stock price hits a target value
      • Get a text message when a certain person sends you e-mail.
      • Post to Twitter whenever you update your Facebook Status
      • Add all your tweets to Google Calendar to keep a record of them.

      You can sign up for free at   You'll have to choose a username and password, and give it your e-mail address.  This activates some of the "channels" (E-mail, Stocks, CraigsList, RSS Feeds).  You can then activate other channels, but may have to give some info.  For example:

      • SMS -- Have to give cell phone number to receive text messages
      • Weather -- Have to give town and state where weather is checked
      • Date & Time -- Have to give time zone
      • Facebook -- Have to authorize access to your Facebook.   I haven't tried yet.
      • Twitter -- Have to authorize access to your Twitter.   I haven't tried yet.
      • LinkedIn -- Have to authorize access to your LinkedIn.   I haven't tried yet.
      • etc.

      For more info, see:


  16. Screen Sharing Services


      Original Version: 2/10/2012
      Last Updated: 2/9/2013

      Looking for a free and easy way to share your computer screen with someone over the Internet?

      There are lots of paid services like WebEx and GoToMeeting, but what if the people you want to share with are not subscribers, or if you just prefer something free?

      I use

      It's free, requires no install by the viewers, and uses no special ports.  That's huge!

      On a whim, without having to install any software or open any firewall ports, up to 250 invited viewers can just click a link to see your screen, watch your mouse move, ask you to let them control your mouse and keyboard, hear your voice, talk back to you, etc.  Each viewer sees the screen in a browser window, with no extra software required -- just Adobe Flash running in any Web browser.

      The presenter must allow to install a browser plugin, which it offers to completely uninstall at the end of the session.  After a few sessions, I chose to keep mine installed to make it even easier to launch future sessions.

      For the shared audio, there's a free conference call number set up for you and your 250 viewers as soon as you begin sharing your desktop.  Each participant can use his computer microphone and speakers/headphones (VOIP), or a regular telephone.
      Update: In June 2012 or so, they moved the regular telephone option into the "Pro" (paid) version.  The free version now does voice only via VOIP, so you need microphone and speakers, or a headset.

      It's great for:

      • Presenting
      • Support
      • Training
      • Collaboration

      As they say at the Web site (, is "ridiculously easy to use"

      • As a presenter
        • Launch it by going to the Web site, clicking "Basic" and then "Share"
        • To tell someone else how to connect:
          • Click on the link that appears and choose "Send viewer link by e-mail"
          • Fill in the e-mail addresses of the viewers, and send the e-mail
        • Or just tell the other person the 9-digit number shown in the link
      • As a viewer
        • Receive e-mail from the presenter, click the link in the e-mail and immediately see the shared desktop
        • Or just go to the Web site, type in the 9-digit number and click "Join".

      Privacy Notes:

      • The "Send viewer link by e-mail" link opens your local e-mail program with a message already composed, containing instructions on how to connect to your desktop and how to use the shared conference call for those viewers that want to use a standard telephone instead of VOIP.
        Update: Standard telephone now only in "Pro" (paid) version.
      • You do NOT have to enter their e-mail address into a screen, only into your own local e-mail program
      • So doesn't learn their e-mail address and cannot spam them later


      • Desktop Sharing
        • With all viewers seeing your desktop

      • Shared Control
        • Any viewer can request control of your mouse and keyboard, and you can choose to share control with them
        • You can both use the mouse and keyboard simultaneously until you revoke the shared control
        • You can choose to share control without the viewer having to request it
        • This is useful when the presenter is requesting help and the viewer is teaching, or when the viewer wants to say "You mean, like this?"

      • Supported Devices
        • Your computer can be Mac, Windows (Linux not yet supported)
        • The viewers can be Mac, Windows, Linux, Android phone/tablet, or iPhone/iPad

      • 250 People
        • Up to 250 people can connect to the same session, seeing the same desktop and sharing the same conference call

      • Conference Call
        • Each person can use a regular phone, or his computer's microphone and speakers/headphones (VOIP) -- Everyone hears the same thing
        • If no one is really interested in viewing a shared desktop, you can still use a mix of phones and VOIP (or even all regular phones and no VOIP) for a regular audio-only conference call
        • It's not a toll-free number, but there's no charge other than long distance bills for those who don't have free long distance and choose to not use VOIP
        • Does not directly share any sounds generated by your computer (no sound effects, WAV files, etc.), but your microphone may pick them up and send them
        • Update: Standard telephone now only in "Pro" (paid) version

      • Invitations
        • You can invite someone to view your desktop via the e-mail technique above, and you can edit the pre-composed e-mail before you send it
        • Any viewer can similarly invite others to view
        • You or any viewer can bypass the e-mail and invite additional viewers by telling them the 9-digit session number and having them go to the Web site to join in

      • Textual Chat
        • Also includes a textual chat, if you want to send text messages instead of all talking on the single audio channel
        • Can send text messages to the presenter only, or to all participants

      • File Transfer
        • You can send files to/from the presenter

      • Firewall
        • Uses only port 443 (SSL/HTTPS), so it would get past corporate firewalls if you ever need to share with someone at their work computer

      • Privacy
        • It always shares your entire screen, never just one window.
          Update: As of 7/26/2012, the "Pro" (paid) version offers the option to share just one window.
        • If you have multiple physical displays, it only shares one, so you can keep your notes and other private stuff on another screen
        • If you use multiple virtual displays (Mac "Spaces"), it shares the one you are currently seeing, so that's not a way to keep private stuff
        • Has a Pause function, so you can pause the sharing while you do something private, with the viewers seeing the screen as it was when you paused it

      • Reliable
        • It's from the makers of LogMeIn, a widely used and well trusted remote control app that you can install on your desktop to allow you to connect to it and control it remotely
        • One big difference is that LogMeIn allows you to seize control of the machine (useful to control your work PC from home and vice versa) while always requires someone at the shared machine to say OK

      • Security
        • Uses 256-bit SSL encryption so no one can sniff the data being sent across the wire
        • No password is required, so anyone could theoretically eavesdrop on your shared desktop if they guessed the 9-digit session number
        • However, you or one of the viewers might happen to notice that the displayed number of participants is higher than expected
        • For better security, buy the paid version

      • Video Sharing
        • There's no video sharing -- it doesn't use the cameras of the computers, so it is not a full videoconferencing product
        • However, you can use Mac's "Photo Booth" or any similar Windows app to get your live image from the camera onto your screen, and will share that part of the screen also, so you can get shared video
        • To get two-way video sharing so you can both see each other, you can use 2 sessions, one in each direction.  However, at least one of you must have 2 physical monitors.  Otherwise, you each share your screen which contains a window showing the other person's screen which contains a window showing your screen, etc., etc., etc.  Suddenly, gets very, very slow...
        • There's no practical way to do multiple video sharing with more than 2-3 people

      • Session Recording
        • There is no option to record the shared session

      Competing products:

      • WebEx (not free)
      • GoToMeeting (not free)
      • Skype (not free)
      • Yuuguu (not free)
      • Mikogo
      • Others?

      More info:

      What do you think?  Useful?  Any pros/cons compared to other products?

      Thanks to Ron Wilhoite for pointing out that Linux is not yet supported as a sharable desktop, only as a viewer.


  17. File Sharing Services

    1. Dropbox

      Original Version: 11/12/2012
      Last Updated: 11/12/2012

      Dropbox is a great site for:

      • Sharing files with other people
      • Synchronizing files among multiple computers
      • Synchronizing files across computers, phones, tablets, etc.
      • Backing up your files

      Do a quick install onto one or more of your computers, phones, tablets, etc., specifying which folders to share and you're done.

      Every time you update a file on any of the devices, it gets backed up to the Dropbox site and updated on all of the other devices within a couple seconds.  You can edit the file locally on the device, drag/drop it as usual, right click to see other operations, etc.  On each device, it is just a regular local file, but the Dropbox software notices the change and updates the other devices.

      I use it to synchronize files among my devices.  This also keeps a copy at the Dropbox site as a backup in case I have a disk crash on my computer or something.  It also keeps older copies of each file for me, so I can recover from an accidental change to a file.

      I also use it for sharing with other people, by creating subfolders of my DropBox folder and clicking to share them with specific other users.  For example, when sharing files with my colleague Hans, I create a FredAndHans folder, and give us both the right to read/write files there.  Then I create ToHans and ToFred subfolders, with the understanding that Hans should delete from ToHans when he finds and copies a file from there, and I should delete from ToFred when I find a file there.  We each have an Inbox, effectively.  Separately, I create a FredAndXXX folder for each other person I want to share with.

      You can also share with more than 2 people at once, and can share readonly, and can make files available to people who are not Dropbox users.  You can create a link to a Dropbox file, making it public for anyone to read, and e-mail the link or Tweet it, or post it to your FaceBook page, etc..  Anyone can click the link to see the file.  If you update the file on any of your devices, they'll see the latest version.

      Dropbox also does notifications.  For example, whenever Hans adds/updates a file in the ToFred subfolder or removes a file from the ToHans subfolder, I get a popup message on my devices.

      If you haven't already signed up, please do so via this link.  That will give me credit for referring you, which means that you and I each get more free space at Dropbox:

      For more info, see the tips below.


      1. Dropbox Camera Upload

        Original Version: 10/18/2012
        Last Updated: 10/18/2012

        You may already be using Dropbox (if not, check it out:   However, did you know that it can be configured to automatically upload pictures from your Android or iOS phone or camera, as soon as you take them?  This of course immediately downloads them onto your Mac, PC, or other computer and any other devices you have synchronized via DropBox.  Nice!

        For details, see:


  18. Adobe Acrobat Reader

    1. Single Page Continuous

      Original Version: 1/26/2013
      Last Updated: 1/26/2013

      Tired of Adobe Acrobat Reader jumping to the next page every time you try to scroll down a bit?

      To scroll normally via the mouse or arrow keys, you have to change from "Single Page" mode to "Single Page Continuous":

        View | Page Display | Single Page Continuous

      To avoid having to do this for each document you open, you may want to change the default setting:

        Preferences | Page Display | Page Layout | Single Page Continuous

      But if the author of the PDF file specifies a different setting, Adobe Acrobat Reader ignores your preference.  To override the author's setting:

        Preferences | Accessibility | Override Page Display | Always use Page Layout Style = Single Page Continuous

      Thanks to "dgitlpnetrtionbyadobe" for posting the override tip at!


  19. Unicode domain names (gTLDs)

    Original Version: 10/26/2013
    Last Updated: 10/26/2013
    Applies to:  Internet, World Wide Web

    A warning to programmers, and to a lesser extent, all software users -- the new Unicode domain names will break your software.

    As you may know, new Internet domain name extensions are rolling out this week.  I hadn't been paying too much attention, but I just realized that it will likely break a lot of software.  It's a mini-Y2K problem.   Why?  Unicode vs ASCII.


    I knew that the domain name extensions (or "gTLDs" - Generic Top Level Domains) would no longer be limited to the original seven:

    • .com
    • .edu
    • .gov
    • .int
    • .mil
    • .net
    • .org

    or even to the new ones added in the past decade or so:

    • .biz
    • .info
    • .name
    • .pro
    • .aero
    • .coop
    • .museum
    • .asia
    • .cat
    • .jobs
    • .mobi
    • .tel
    • .travel
    • etc...

    So, I knew that any software that assumed the gTlD was 3 chars or less would break, but I figured most programmers would be smart enough to not build such an assumption into their software.

    However, I saw an article today that says 4 gTLDs are rolling out that are Arabic, Cyryllic, and Chinese words. So they consist of Arabic, Cyryllic, and Chinese (Unicode) characters.

    Oops!  We can no longer assume that e-mail addresses and Internet domain names consist entirely of ASCII chars -- we have to support Unicode in all of them now.

    Start reviewing your software for places where this will cause problems.   And start thinking about software packages, services, and servers you use that may break as a result.

    BTW, business owners should also start thinking about whether to register their own custom gTLDs before someone else grabs them.

    For more info, here are some links to info about the new gTLDs:

    And here's the press release that got me thinking about it:


  20. Hour of Code -- Fun Intro to Computer Programming

    Original Version: 12/21/2013
    Applies to:  Internet, World Wide Web

    Programmers, programmer wannabees, parents, etc.,

    You may have heard about the "Hour of Code" campaign in the past couple weeks.

    There's been a major push to make it easier for us and our kids (and our parents, and grandparents, etc.) to learn computer programming. The idea is to have everyone try it for an hour and have fun learning what it's all about.

    Lots of Web sites, tools and languages are springing up to make it really easy and fun to learn to write computer programs. I've added a new "Easy Computer Programming" row to my links page:

    Check it out! Try out some of the links. Tell me about others you've found, and I'll add them to my list. Tell your friends, and your kids, and your parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grand parents, etc. No one is too old or too young, or too non-techie, to learn a little computer programming. It can be really fun and easy.

    Invest an hour over the holidays! You won't regret it. Or at least watch the 2-minute video that is the first link in the "Easy Computer Programming" row of my links page.

    Even if you have no real interest in computer programming, it is useful to see what the possibilities are, so you know what you can and cannot reasonably expect computers to do for you.

    Or, if you are already a skilled programmer, this may be a way to learn a new language or technology. Or a chance to mentor someone by doing some of the tutorials with them.

    Thanks to Stephen Lafredo for telling me about the "Hour of Code" campaign!


  21. Internet Shortcuts

    Original Version: 11/9/2014
    Last Updated (entire tip): 11/24/2014
    Last Updated (WhatsForDinner): 1/16/2019
    Applies to:  Internet, World Wide Web

    If you go to the same Web site often, you may like to create a shortcut to get there.

    You probably already know how to create a "bookmark" or "favorite" in your browser.  And you probably already know that on Mac, Linux and Windows, you can create a "shortcut" icon on your desktop to take you directly to a site.

    Since I spend most of my time at the command line (Mac, Unix, Linux, or Windows), I've created many command line shortcuts.  Such shortcuts are more powerful than mere bookmarks, favorites, or desktop shortcuts because they can take parameters to help you drill deep into a web site to the exact page you want. 

    Each shortcut on Unix (including Mac OS X and Linux) is an "alias" (see Aliases) or a "shell script" (see Writing a shell script) and typically uses the "open" (Mac) or "xdg-open" (Linux) command to open a URL.  Each shortcut on Windows is a "batch file" (see Batch File Tips) and typically uses the "start" command to open a URL.  Most of the names are very short and easy to type (g, o, ff, ...) but with command line completion, even the long names are convenient.  The scripts and batch files can be used directly at the command line or called from other scripts and batch files.

    Here are some Mac examples:

    Try them out!  Download the scripts to your Mac, Unix or Linux computer, or write the equivalent Windows batch file.

    These are some of the web sites I use most often, which is why I bothered to create scripts for them.  For thousands of other useful links, see my links page:

    Any others you would recommend?


  22. Slideshow Presentation Software

    Original Version: 10/23/2009
    Last Updated: 12/4/2014
    Applies to:  Internet, World Wide Web

    Want to give a presentation with simple HTML pages as your slides?

    In 2009, I was asked to give a guest lecture on Cloud Computing at Penn State.  I was faced with the horrible prospect of having to use Microsoft PowerPoint -- the world's worst presentation software.  I wanted just a few simple features:

    • Scale the font if the people in the back of the room ask me to
    • Scroll down if the scaled slide becomes too long to fit on a single screen

    Since PowerPoint can't do either of these (and is expensive, and runs only on Windows, and is hard to use, and limited and clunky, etc.), I decided to write my own, with each slide as an HMTL page and a little JavaScript and CSS to tie them together.  It turned out to be really easy to implement the above features, as well as:

    • Runs in any browser, on any computer, tablet, or phone
    • Each slide is a URL to a local or remote HTML page, so you can mix demos, live Web sites, etc., into the slide deck seamlessly
    • Manual advance:
      • Next/Previous slide with Right/Left arrow key
      • Next slide with mouse click or Enter key
      • Enable/disable mouse click with "m" key
      • First/last slide via Home/End key (fn-Left/Right on Mac)
    • Auto-advance:
      • Auto-advance on a timer
      • Enable/disable auto-advance with "a" key
      • Disable auto-advance if user does a manual advance (mouse or arrow keys)
      • Auto-advance faster/slower with Plus (or Equals) / Minus keys
      • Shared background image, scaled to fit any window
    • Shared header/footer on all/some slides
    • Current/Max page counter shown in footer
    • etc.

    and of course, all the basic slideshow stuff:

    • Bullet/number lists nested to any depth
    • Tables
    • Graphics
    • Sound effects
    • etc.

    I wrote it over the weekend, just in time to give my talk.  As a mental exercise, I did it all with old-fashioned HTML <div> and <frame> elements, manipulating the src attribute, and using onload events and timers.   These days it would be even easier to write, doing the Ajax via XmlHttpRequest or jQuery, and using callbacks, promises, etc.

    I open-sourced the whole thing and put it at my Web site along with the CloudComputing talk.  See:

    In the years since 2009, lots of other people have created similar HTML/JS/CSS presentation tools.  Many of them are much fancier than mine, but they are all the same basic idea -- JS and CSS driving HTML pages as slides.  So you can create your slides in any one of them without getting locked into it.  If you prefer another, simply cut/paste the HTML into it.  See links to a dozen or so in the "Slideshow Presentation Software" row of my links page:


  23. Wearables

    1. Jamming Cell Phones

      Original Version: 5/30/2016
      Last Updated: 5/30/2016

      Jamming cell phones is illegal, but here's an interesting article on how and why various people did it anyhow.  Also the author's comments on better ways those people could have solved their real problems.

      Interesting ideas:

      • Jammer in car to make drivers around him hang up and drive more safely
      • Jammer carried on commuter train to make passengers around him hang up, for peace and quiet
      • Performer required audience to put cell phones in individual locked radio-proof Yondr bags
      • Smart Earbuds (see next tip)
      • Prevent cheating on exams:
        • Phone in underwear, microphone in shirt, earbud -- whispered to buddy
        • Glasses w/camera -- sent picture of questions to buddy, answers texted back
        • Should just do open-book ("open smartphone") exams since the people taking the tests will realistically always have the Web available to them in the future anyhow.  It's not so important to know stuff, as to know where to find it.


    2. Smart Earbuds

      Original Version: 5/30/2016
      Last Updated: 7/4/2016

      Here's a cool idea.  Smart wireless earbuds that connect you to the Internet, cancel out unwanted noise around you, and give you super-hearing.

      Interesting ideas:

      • Stream music from local storage, phone, or direct from Internet
      • Cancel noise:
        • Sound of crying baby
        • Traffic noise
        • Crowd noise at concert
        • Loud annoying music in public places
        • Hear only within 10 feet
        • Cancel all noise to concentrate on a task
      • Focus sound:
        • Place paired wireless microphone near TV to hear it better
        • Point directional mike at friend in noisy restaurant
        • Hear speaker better in a noisy lecture
        • Eavesdrop across the room
      • Tivo-style instant replay -- No more "what did you say?"
      • Record conversations, take notes
      • Entire cell phone embedded in earbuds, not held in hand
      • Hear phone calls in noisy places, cancelling background noise
      • Digital Assistant like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri
      • Fitness monitor: heart rate, oxygen, calories, pace, distance, etc.
      • Natural Language Translation (English, Spanish, etc.)
      • Other "disappearables"
        • Smart contact lenses
        • Smart tattoos
        • Implants
        • Dental crowns

      Some early products:


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