Linux Tech Daily

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Firefox Add-On: Google Browser Sync

Running Linux Tech Daily causes me to switch between distributions often. One of the pains caused by this is keeping my Firefox bookmarks synchronized. There are Firefox Add-ons out there to take care of this, but none have worked the way I want them to. My folders get jumbled, or I have to move everything back to my bookmarks toolbar where I generally navigate from. When I read about Google Browser Sync from Google Labs I was intrigued. It seemed a great fit for my needs.

Google Browser Sync not only synchronizes your bookmarks, also syncs your Cookies, Saved Passwords, History, Tabs and Windows. This is a godsend for me. It is an annoyance to punch in my username and passwords each time I am running a fresh install. I visit a lot of sites. This looked to be a very helpful add-on. It works only with Firefox, version 1.5 or later.

Installation was very easy. I went to the page, clicked install, and it installed just like any other add-on. I restarted my browser, associated it with my Google Account and punched in the Security PIN. I refreshed, which sends the information to the Google servers and was done. Your cookies and saved passwords are automatically encrypted. You are given the option of encrypting your bookmarks, history, tabs and windows. I booted out of my Arch Linux system and rebooted into my fresh PCLinuxOS install. I ran through the installation routine again, synced and I was running essentially the same browser. I keep my bookmarks organized into folders on my Bookmarks Toolbar, and this is where I typically run into trouble. Google Bookmark Sync set it up identically. Very nice. Images of the install procedure are below.

My bookmarks are identical in each Firefox on each computer. My username and passwords transfer correctly, so I am able to log right in. It is nice to log off of one system, log onto another and have the option to restore my tabs from my last session. History works very well. It was a hindrance to be on one system and try to remember where I was earlier. Now my history follows me, no matter what system I am on. I can’t escape my past.
Google Browser Sync has worked exactly as promised. I read in the Google-Firefox-Extentions group that a few people have had problems with it. Luckily for me, it has been flawless. The convenience that it offers outweighs any privacy concerns I may have. You may feel differently, so be sure to review the Privacy Policy and Terms Of Service before using. Your information will be stored on Google’s servers. They claim that they cannot unlock your data without your PIN. I don’t know if that means Google can access it or not. I emailed them for clarification, but haven’t received a response yet. I will update when I get it. If I wasn’t comfortable with there being a record of my 4chan usage out there, I can simply use Konqueror or Opera to view it.

Google does not recommend that you use this on a shared computer. To quote the FAQ:

“Why shouldn’t I install Google Browser Sync on computers that other people can access?

Browser Sync keeps all your browsers in sync with each other, so it needs to send potentially sensitive information like your stored passwords, bookmarks, and browser history to the other computers where you’ve installed it. Also, once you install Browser Sync, you don’t need to log in every time you start the browser to access this info. Therefore, someone who uses a computer where you’ve installed browser sync will have access to all the info you’ve chosen to sync across your computers. Any new browser settings they create, such as browsing history, will also show up on your other computers.”

That is clear and makes sense. If you share a computer and don’t want others to access your info, this isn’t for you. If you use multiple computers and don’t mind having this information stored by Google, I recommend Google Browser Sync. It has made my life easier. Google Labs have done a very nice job here.

Screenshots:

Google Browser Sync Google Browser Sync Sign Up WizardGoogle Browser Sync Step 1

Google Browser Sync Enter PinGoogle Browser Sync Initial Sychronization Google Browser Sync Sucess Screen

Google Browser Sync Google Brower Sync Settings Window

If for some reason you are using Internet Explorer, get Firefox. It is worth trying. You can get it here:

February 15th, 2007 Posted by admin | Uncategorized, Google, Firefox Add-on, Firefox, Google Browser Sync | 2 comments

Review: Sabayon Linux

There is a newer distro in town, gaining traction. Sabayon Linux is an installable, Gentoo based live Cd/DVD. It has the stated goal of being 100% Gentoo compatible. A lot of attention has been paid to the Sabayon brand. Theming is consistent and striking. Sabayon is one of the best looking distros I have used. They use a yellow,orange and red theme that is fresh and unlike any other Linux distribution. Beryl is used by default. It is a KDE distro with the option to use Fluxbox as your Desktop Environment. Sabayon gets it’s name from an Italian desert, to quote the website and Wikipedia: “Sabayon is an Italian dessert made with egg yolks, sugar, a sweet  liqueur (usually Marsala wine), and sometimes cream or whole eggs. It is a very light custard, which has been whipped to incorporate a large amount of air.” Sabayon refers to its users as “Hens” which isn’t as off putting as you might think.

Sabayon uses the Anaconda installer, from Red Hat. It is fully themed and consistent with Sabayon’s desktop look. The install goes as painlessly as an Anaconda install should, the difference is that instead of Fedora you have a fully running and configured Gentoo system without the hassle of a Gentoo install. You are left with a metaphysical question, am I using Sabayon or Gentoo? Is Sabayon a flavor of Gentoo? What was your original face before you were born? I can say that I don’t feel as if I am running Gentoo, I feel like I am running Sabayon.

I installed using the Mini Edition X86_64 3.2 as opposed to the full edition. My DVD burner is on the fritz, so it was my only choice. It was easy to add the programs I need and use. I prefer this method, actually. It is nice to build my system from a smartly configured base. 3D effects worked right out of the box. Package selection was intelligent. It contains proprietary and non-OSS software, which you can disable with the “noproprietary” boot flag. The mini edition gave me a fully featured operating system. It includes the Koffice office suite, the Amarok audio player, Codeine for video, K3B for Cd/DVD burning. Post install I emerged Mplayer, OpenOffice and other programs without a problem. Need your Google apps? Google Earth and Picasa install very easily.

Portage is your package manager. A graphical front end, Kuroo, is provided. I found Kuroo a bit confusing, and felt safer working through the command line. Kuroo is nice to see what if available, then emerge from the command line. Since it is Gentoo, expect installing packages to take some time. It isn’t as if your computer is rendered useless while programs compile, so that didn’t bother me. Sabayon uses Portage with a Sabayon overlay. Before installing and upgrading anything with Portage, be sure to read the forums. You need to mask packages, specifically dbus and qt or you may break your KDE, as I did. Be careful updating. Do not do an “emerge –update world” just because you can. You really need to take the time and make sure you understand Portage before doing anything. Sabayon recommends waiting for a new release and updating using the ISO. You can save yourself a lot of trouble following that advice if you are new to Gentoo. You are given the power to completely hose your system. Use it wisely.

I use the 64 bit version, Sabayon installs 32 bit versions of packages that have trouble running in 64 bits or are unavailable. That means you get Adobe’s Flashplayer for your browser. Mplayer uses 64 bit Realplayer for its codecs, so they are truly 64 bit. I have run into no problems or slowdowns. Everything runs seamlessly, whether it is using 64bit or 32bit libs. All of my multimedia needs are met with Sabayon.

As I mentioned, Sabayon uses Beryl by default. I run Compiz on my Arch install, so it was interesting to see what Beryl brings. I am running Beryl 0.2.0 beta 2. It is snappy and running without problems. Kudos to both the Compiz and Beryl teams. 3d effects are moving along very rapidly. I find it hard to work without the cube or transparency (Alt + mouse scroll) now. There seems to be a lot in this Beryl release, more than I have had time to play with. The new Beryl Settings Manager is nice and clean looking. There are still so many options that I end up getting overwhelmed and closing it. I read that “Beryl-settings-simple” exists, but it isn’t part of my install. Sabayon has a partnership with Beryl, so if you are a Beryl addict, this is the distro for you.

In the few weeks I have been using it, Sabayon has become one of my favorite Linux distributions. The developers have done a very nice job, particularly for a newer distribution. It is great for the whole spectrum of Linux users, from a new user to a seasoned vet. It is very simple with the potential to be as complicated as you wish. If you have been curious about Gentoo but put off by the installation, I heartily recommend Sabayon. They have a great and helpful user community that is growing. They have the weight of Gentoo’s documentation behind them. In this age where most new distros seem to be Debian based, Sabayon is a breath of fresh air. It is a great Distribution.

Screenshots:

Sabayon Desktop Sabayon Cube Sabayon showing transparency

LinuxQuestions.org has graciously allowed me to link to thier comprehensive screenshot gallery here. It is appreciated.

February 7th, 2007 Posted by admin | Linux Distributions, beryl, Sabayon | 27 comments