Sunday, July 24, 2011

Firefox Workaround to Get Rid of the New Facebook Sidebar

Facebook Logo

Did you agree to try the new Facebook Sidebar and now wish you hadn’t?

Let’s face it, the new Facebook Sidebar is pretty pointless! It only shows you some of your contacts (the ones you chat with the most) instead of showing all of the ones who are online or idle. The worst part is, there is no “official” way to go back to the old one.

Of course, you could try some JavaScript hacks, which turn up when you do a Google search for “get rid of new Facebook Sidebar” or something similar.

But there is an easier way, if you are using Firefox! The following information, which is taken from, will help you:

All you have to do is click on your bookmark toolbar and create a new bookmark. Give it whatever name you like, and enter this for the URL:

Make sure to select the button that says "Load this bookmark in the sidebar" and you should be all set.

Note that you can drag the sidebar divider to make the Facebook Chat window larger or smaller. If all you want to do is see your contact list, the sidebar doesn't take up much space as all. But if you want to actually open a chat window with one or more of your contacts, you'll need to widen the sidebar a bit, which will cost you some valuable web browser real estate.

The added benefit with the method above is that Facebook Chat stays in the Firefox Sidebar even when you browse to other websites!

Pretty nifty, eh?

Monday, July 18, 2011

My first screencast–A quick look at WebEx

I tried my hands at screencasting for the first time a couple of days back and posted my output on YouTube. Check it out, and tell me what you think:

If you are interested in doing your own screencasts, just download and install CamStudio, a free and open source screen recording software. The output that CamStudio gives you is very high quality (i.e. the file size is very big), so I used another product called Handbrake to reduce the audio and video quality a bit. I then uploaded the output I got from Handbrake onto YouTube (you have to sign-up for a free YouTube account first).

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Is Facebook’s dominance in jeopardy?

Google vs. Facebook

At the end of June 2011, the world found out that Google would be launching a social networking site, called Google+, to challenge the likes of Facebook.

Google+, which is already available by invitation to a small number of users, is said to have pretty much the same set of features as Facebook, but it also adds some other bells and whistle, which aren’t available on Facebook… yet.

Given that we’re talking about Google, and not some ambitious start-up company, one has to wonder, is Facebook’s dominance in the social networking market in jeopardy? Will Google finally be able to do what others (and even itself) have tried and failed to do in the past?

Google is arguably the best at learning and adapting faster than others in today’s technology industry, so the question of whether it will finally usurp Facebook is not an easy one to answer.

However, I have given the matter some serious thought, and I am of the opinion that Facebook doesn’t have that much to worry about from Google, at least not for a few years.

I say this partly because it’s wishful-thinking (I already have invested a lot of time on Facebook since joining it four years ago, and I don’t want to start over), but also partly because of some (what I hope are) valid reasons.

Facebook now touts over 750 million (i.e. three-quarters of a billion) registered users. Even if many of these people like to operate multiple accounts or are not that active on their single accounts, that’s still a huge number of people on Facebook!

Google will not find it easy to poach that many people because many have become very close to their Facebook online presences. In fact, Facebook is their online presence. And the same applies to businesses and other organizations, both small and large, who, together with their website, call their Facebook Page their “public face”.

Don’t get me wrong, some curious users may check out Google+ just to see what it is all about, but if it offers pretty much the same features as Facebook, which, from what I have read about Google+ so far, it does, what’s the point of switching?

Even if Google+ does offer something truly unique, Facebook, as its long-time users know, is always evolving as well, so the lead that Google+ may have one day can easily slip the next. The videoconferencing feature of Google+ is a recent example of this.

There’s also the matter of specialty. Google specializes in search, while Facebook has always focused on the social element online. It’s perhaps for this reason that Google’s earlier attempts to break into the social networking game (i.e. Google Buzz and, to a certain extent, Google Wave) failed miserably. The lesson here being, do what you know best, and don’t try to get your hands into everything.

What are your thoughts on this?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why go for Polycom PVX when there’s Ekiga Softphone?

Ekiga Softphone

For those of you who have access to high-end videoconferencing hardware (e.g. Polycom HDX) and are looking for a quick and easy way to connect with users who don’t have access to such expensive equipment, you might want to consider using Ekiga Softphone.

Ekiga is a free and open source VoIP application, which, among other things, makes it relatively straightforward to connect to video calls over the H.323 protocol with videoconferencing hardware, using only a computer with speakers, a microphone, and a webcam. All the benefits of HD video calls for the low, low price of zero!

Yes, I know there are other products in the market with similar features, most notably Polycom’s own PVX.

Now don’t get me wrong, PVX is a pretty good product, and I have used it for several months in the past, but I have to say, Ekiga is every bit as good. And while a license of PVX will run you about $150, Ekiga will cost you nothing!

But there is a catch… you will get the best performance only if you are running Ekiga on a Linux operating system (e.g. Ubuntu).

I tried to run Ekiga on Windows 7 Pro, and it would give me all kinds of weird errors, and it would not even work with my laptop’s integrated webcam.

I then booted into my Ubuntu 11.04 partition on the exact same laptop, and it worked perfectly fine!

It’s weird for Windows users to hear that things work better on Linux than on Windows, but Linux users know all too well that free and open source software usually tend to work best on free and open source operating systems.

Sorry, Windows users! Hopefully, by the time Ekiga for Windows is out of beta, such issues will be resolved!