By Ron Doyle | March 19, 2013 - 4:14 am - Posted in Columns

I have always been a big fan, supporter, promoter, etc. of Google.  That is until recently and here is why they are starting to work their way off of my radar. 

Google is performing what is termed "Spring Cleaning" on several of their products.  They shut down services/apps which they do not believe are being supported by users.  Two that were announced last year were Google Calendar Sync which basically ended December 14, 2012 and iGoogle which is scheduled to shut down on November 1, 2013.

Google Calendar Sync Option ScreenPersonally, I used those two extensively, especially Calendar Sync.  Calendar Sync performed an extremely important function for me.  It matched up my Outlook calendar at work to my personal Google calendar online.  Using this syncing process then allowed me to share my Google calendar with my wife so she could keep up with when I was going on trips, meetings after work, etc.  I could also choose to share it with anyone else I chose. 

It was a painless process since you set it up once and never look back.  It automatically "synced" the two calendars immediately when changes were made.  Since the Google calendar is online you can get to it anywhere you have a computer.

It was a very good application for the seven or eight years I had it Google.  Of course, they do say if you are currently using it you may continue…on that computer.  I conclude that means, "Once you have a new computer Calendar Sync is kaput!"

iGoogle was bad news to many people, too.  This was basically a Google home page you could use on your browser.  You could arrange "widgets" to show weather, local movie listings, news articles from specific sites, maps/directions, games, etc.  It essentially served as a geek’s morning paper where you could get the news you really wanted to read. 

Now this week Google made another announcement concerning spring cleaning.  Another of my beloved apps and many other peoples’… (According to the uproar online) Google Reader bites the dust.  Google Reader will be gone as of July 1, 2013.  Gee, Google, thanks for the big advance notice!  If you want to sign a petition to keep GR around visit: http://chn.ge/ZeVrkp and cast your vote.  You may join the other over 114, 500 people who had signed up within four days after the announcement was made.

Google Reader is and was in my opinion one of the best RSS Feed readers around.  We have talked before about RSS (Real Simple Syndication) so I will not belabor it.  Nevertheless, here it is in a nutshell.  It allows you to link to sites which offer RSS feeds (most sties) and get updates whenever they add comments or any content to the site. 

Google Reader logoGoogle Reader is simple to set up, is easy to use and has a very clean and user friendly interface.  I just recommended it to a group I spoke to a couple of weeks ago because it is so easy to use.

There are many other readers out there which have been recommended to be good replacements for Reader.  I have tried numerous quantities of them.  I will not mention those which failed my examination totally; however, there are two which are OK.  I need to state: they are still not as clean as Google Reader.  I would say the first runner-up is "feedly" (feedly.com) and at this point in my research, the closest one is "Newsblur" (newsblur.com).  Let me know as you continue the hunt for the best replacement.

Thanks, Google.

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By Ron Doyle, Administrator | June 15, 2010 - 3:02 am - Posted in Columns

I received many emails asking me more about Firefox Add-ons after last week’s column.  So today we are going to look at a few more.  Keep those emails coming since I want to write about what interests you!

If you have any questions about basic Firefox Add-ons you need to read last week’s column about "Invisible Hand" and "Tabloc" online at the DNR or at the DoubleClicks.info site.   

"Forecastbar Enhanced" is another helpful add-on.  It allows you to set your location, via zip code, to get your local weather forecasts.  The forecasts are from Accuweather.com.  Other than the current weather forecasts, radar images, etc., you can display it in different locations in FF.  I keep mine in the status bar at the bottom of the Firefox window, which is the default.  You can also set it up to show forecasts for several days in the future. 

The next one I would like to share with you is called, "FoxTab".  "FoxTab" will allow you to set the sites you most often visit.  It will allow you to add any site to your top site "list" and quickly go to it at another time.  It enables a screen preview of "My Top Sites" in several great GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) which you can pick from.  Not only is it useful, it also looks good.  Once you bring your top site window up by clicking a button on your toolbar, you click on the site you want to go to and it pops right up.  Yes, this is like your favorites but in a slick new format.

The last one I will mention today is for you Gmail users.  It is called, "Gmail Manager".  This add-on allows you to set your Gmail account to be visible in your status bar, showing your unread emails.  By clicking on the account it will open your Gmail account in Firefox as if you had logged into Gmail.com yourself.  Then you can deal with your emails as you normally would.  It is set to a default of checking for new emails every 15 minutes but you can adjust that, along with other settings in the options for this add-on.  It will also allow you to keep track of multiple Gmail accounts at the same time.  Of course, that is for you geeks who, like me have more than one Gmail account.

Have fun trying these out and remember they are all free.  If you don’t like them you can easily uninstall them. 

Let me know if you would like to see some more next week…I have about 20 add-ons that I use in Firefox.

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