My Favorite Firefox Add-Ons

I’ve been using Firefox for some years now, having been introduced to it shortly before it boomed into popularity and made Microsoft start to sweat. I don’t use too many add-ons for it. In fact, I currently use exactly five. There are a great number of useful add-ons out there which I like but I don’t keep installed because my use of them would be rare. (One notable example of this is the Firefox Companion for eBay. Great if you use eBay regularly… which I don’t.)

Of the five add-ons I employ, three are passive. One was an option in the installation of my virus scanner, AVG Free (which, by the way, is the bomb). It just checks anything I download for me. One was an option in the installation of Skype, which I use for all my long-distance calling. It turns any phone number it finds in a web page into a button I can click to call that number with Skype. The third is called Download Statusbar, and just changes Firefox’s downloading interface.

Two of my add-ons are more active. One is TwitterFox, which eliminates the need for me to keep a tab open for Twitter. It minimizes to the bottom-right corner of your Firefox window until you tell it otherwise, at which point it becomes a small Twitter interface in the bottom-right corner of your Firefox window. Twitterfox checks for new updates at regular intervals and uses a combination of color-coding and tabs to make it easy to find new messages, replies, and direct messages aimed at you. You can tweet to your feed right from the interface. It even has the added functionality of making it easy to re-tweet someone else’s messages. Furthermore, it supports multiple Twitter accounts with a simple drop-down menu so you can flip back and forth in case of multiple computer users or what have you. Now I can surf the web without that extra tab sucking the fun out of my peripheral vision.

My fifth and final add-on is StumbleUpon. This is a wonderful add-on for people who like to just find cool stuff on the internet. You click the Stumble! button and it pulls up a random web page. It does require you to create a StumbleUpon profile so it can tailor the web sites it feeds you to your interests. You can give the web sites you find a thumbs up or thumbs down, which StumbleUpon then uses to further tailor the selection it gives you to your liking. I must warn you, however, that although you’ll find some really awesome stuff using StumbleUpon, there are two significant disadvantages to this add-on:

  1. It’ll keep you up past your bedtime. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought to myself, “I’ll just do one more Stumble! and then sleep,” only to look at the clock an hour later and berate myself for weakness. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person with this problem; I’ve encounted many StumbleUpon-related insomnia jokes floating around the internets.
  2. If you refrain from rating sites because you don’t want to narrow the selection StumbleUpon provides, you’ll start to see the same sites over and over again. If you ever used Pandora and tried to rate every song it throws at you, you know that such a Pandora station eventually ends up having about a dozen songs. Some of us prefer a little more variety than that. My solution in StumbleUpon’s case has been to only rate those pages which I like or dislike very much. Rating a small portion of the web pages you find keeps the new pages flowing without overly restricting the things it throws at you.

StumbleUpon is probably my favorite Firefox add-on of all. It’s a great way to fill ten minutes, and some of the stuff I’ve found through it has been truly amazing.

How South Park is Awesome

South Park is a rude, crude, violent, satirical cartoon. As if that weren’t enough, it’s frickin’ brilliant.

I’m bad at catching TV shows on TV. I usually just wait until they’re posted online (now that the networks and cable stations have started making everything available on the internets for a limited time before DVD sales commence) and watch them at my liesure. South Park is one show I’ve been lax about keeping up with over the years, so I’ve recently been taking advantage of the fact that the entire series is available for perusal at the South Park Studios web site.

The more I watch it, the more I have to appreciate how good the show’s mockery is. Through the unrealistically convoluted adventures of the kids and their co-denizens of South Park, the show’s creators do a fantastic job of boiling the objects of their mockery down to their basic elements. Although these summaries and presentations aren’t appropriate for kids (or, sometimes, for anyone at all), the writers display the kind of paraphrasing skills teachers encourage their students to use to avoid plagiarism in essays. Many of the episodes are keyed to current and recent events. Many of the episodes cover very controversial topics. Many of the episodes are bold social commentary disguised as crude humor.

Take, for example, an episode I watched last night called “The Entity,” which originally aired on November 21, 2001. This was, as you’re probably aware, shortly after the World Trade Center was bowled over by hijacked airplanes. Airline travel security had just been tightened to extremes. In the South Park episode, Mr. Garrison decided he was done dealing with the ridiculous amount of time it took to get through security. He therefore invented a new mode of transportation designed to rival the speed of flight. As part of its normal functioning, this mode of transportation simulated the driver being taken from behind while simultaneously giving a blow job to someone and jacking off two more guys. Everyone who tried it was disturbed by how uncomfortable and violating the machine was… but they still felt it was better than going through the airport security hijinks.

Nutshell message for the episode: These heightened airport security measures are ridiculous. The show said it much more eloquently than that, though. It’s all about the Flexi-Rods.