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How to Browse the Web Safely and Anonymously with Google

As you may already know, Google grabs a copy of each web page it crawls and files it away in its cache. There are exceptions to this behavior as some website owners request not to cache their content either by using robots.txt or password protecting their sites. But, the vast majority of the data Google crawls is cached and accessible via the cached link on the search result page or by using the cache operator.

The Google Cache Banner

For example, to see the Google’s cache of this blog enter the following in Google’s search box: cache:awads.net/wp. You will notice a banner at the top of the page that has some really important information:

Most probably, you rarely pay attention to the banner and you just blow right past it. If you look closely, you will notice the following: This cached page may reference images which are no longer available. This means that you are actually communicating with the original web server that hosts the page and fetching all the images directly from there. This also means that the website where the original web page is hosted on knows about your visit and can log and track your IP address even when you view a web page through the Google cache.

So, if you were striving for anonymity by viewing the Google cached page, you just blew your cover! and if you were striving for maximum page load speed by viewing the Google cached version of the page, you just fetched the images (and other stuff) directly from the external website, making the page load slower in your browser (unless you want to view the images of course).

Cached Text Only

But don’t give up just yet. Notice the Click here for the cached text only in the Google cache page header. This gives you an option to view only the data that Google has captured, without any external references, without any style sheets, without any JavaScript, without any Flash, without any Java Applets… just plain old HTML and text. The fact that viewing a web page with JavaScript disabled provides a safer browsing (there is even a Firefox add-on that does that called NoScript). Moreover, using the the cached text only, you communicate only with the Google server bypassing any connection with the external server where the original page is stored.

When you click on the cached text only link, all what Google does is appending &strip=1 to the cache URL. Notice that the banner at the top of the page looks different now:

The &strip=1 parameter strips out all the “bells and whistles”, leaving you with a page that could look quite different from the original, but still has the “meat” that makes it useful to read.

Cut and Paste

So, you can browse most of the web safely and anonymously using a quick cut and paste and a URL modification. For example, the following Google query site:awads.net inurl:contact returns one result. Instead of clicking the Cached link, right-click the Cached link and copy the URL to the clipboard (Firefox: Copy Link Location, IE:Copy Shortcut), then paste it into the address bar of your browser. Append &strip=1 to the end of the URL and hit Enter. You will be directly taken to the stripped version of the cached page.

Greasemonkey

By now, you’re probably saying: but that’s a lot of work, this copy and paste business. Well, again, don’t give up just yet. There are a couple of Greasemonkey scripts (Firefox only for now) that will make the whole experience with Google cache seamless, easy and fast.

Greasemonkey is a Firefox add-on. It allows you to customize the way a web page displays and functions using small bits of JavaScript. You can download it from the Firefox add-ons site.

After installing Greasemonkey you need to feed it user scripts. You can pick from hundreds of user scripts available at userscripts.org. Here are two that work with Google cache:

  • Google Cached Text: Adds a link to the “cached text only” version near any “Cached” link.
  • Google Cache Continue: Adds links to Google cache results to allow continuing using the cache; keeping search terms highlighted.

I have found the above user scripts very handy and especially useful when used together.

Sources and Resources

2 Comments | Filed in Firefox, Greasemonkey, Tips | Tags: , ,


See How Easily You Can Search Oracle

Since the introduction of the first Oracle search plugins for Firefox, a few things have changed:

So, what does this have to do with search plugins? Read on and you will know:

  • What’s new in IE7 and Firefox 2 regarding search plugins.
  • You will be introduced to the new Oracle custom search engines powered by Google.
  • And you will be able to install many Oracle search plugins that will help you in your Oracle-related research and learning.

Search plugins in the new Firefox 2 and IE 7

Both Firefox 2 and IE 7 browsers now support the OpenSearch description format (XML) for search plugins. Which means that if you develop a search plugin for Firefox, that exact same search plugin can also be installed and used in Internet Explorer.

Moreover, there are now two (automated) ways to install search plugins (and they both work in Firefox 2 and IE 7). The first is to call one simple JavaScript function, the second is through auto-discovery of search plugins.

Using auto-discovery, a web site that offers a search plugin can advertise it so that Firefox 2 and IE 7 users can easily download and install the plugin. This is similar to the RSS auto-discovery of feeds.

Search Plugin Installation in IE 7 Using Auto-Discovery

In IE 7, here is how the search bar looks when you browse a website without search plugin auto-discovery:

iesb.png

And here is how it looks with search plugin auto-discovery enabled:

iesb-ad.png

If you click on that small orange down-arrow, you will see something similar to this:

iesb-ad2.png

In fact, if you are using IE 7 to browse this very page, you will be able to see it in action in your browser right now. Just look at your search bar.

Note: I have noticed that IE 7 does not discover more than 3 search plugins using auto-discovery.

Search Plugin Installation in IE 7 Using a JavaScript Link

Alternatively, if the installation is done using the JavaScript link, you will be presented with this window in IE 7:

iesb-ad3.png

Search Plugin Installation in Firefox 2 Using Auto-Discovery

In Firefox 2, here is how the search bar looks when you browse a website without search plugin auto-discovery:

ffsb.png

And here is how it looks with search plugin auto-discovery enabled:

ffsb-ad.png

If you click on that small blue-ish down-arrow, you will see something similar to this:

ffsb-ad2.png

In fact, if you are using Firefox 2.0 to browse this very page (or Wikipedia for example), you will be able to see it in action in your browser. Just look at your search bar.

Search Plugin Installation in Firefox 2 Using a JavaScript Link

Alternatively, if the installation is done using the JavaScript link, you will be presented with this window in Firefox 2.0:

ffsb-ad3.png

Oracle Custom Search Engines

I have created three Oracle custom search engines powered by Google.

  1. The first search engine is for Oracle-related blogs. It searches all the blogs aggregated by OraNA.

  2. The second search engine is for Oracle-related forums and mailing lists. Currently this search engine searches the following sites:

    Let me know if you have other Oracle-related forums you want to include in this search engine.

  3. The third search engine is for Oracle-related websites. Currently this search engine searches the following sites:

    Let me know if you have other Oracle-related sites you want to include in this search engine.

These search engines, and more, are now available to you right from your browser’s search bar.

Install Oracle search plugins

Just click on a search plugin below to add it to the list of engines available in your browser’s search bar:
(Firefox 2 or IE 7 and above only)

Oracle Custom Search Engines:

Oracle Documentation Search Engines:

Keyboard Shortcuts

Here are four search bar keyboard shortcuts that will make using the search bar even faster:

  • Go to search bar: Ctrl+K in Firefox. Ctrl+E in IE.
  • Select next search engine in search bar: Alt+Down in Firefox. Ctrl+Down in IE.
  • Select previous search engine in search bar: Alt+Up in Firefox. Ctrl+Up in IE.
  • Open search results in a new tab: Alt+Enter

And here is a bonus tip to change the width of the search bar in Firefox.

Happy searching!

6 Comments | Filed in Firefox, Oracle, Plugins | Tags: , , , ,


Oracle OpenWorld 2006 – The Arrival (Video)

I’m in San Francisco now. Here is a short video about my short trip from Portland. I’m planning on posting a few more Oracle OpenWorld videos during the next few days (in other words, I’ll be video blogging).

Comments Off | Filed in Oracle, Plugins | Tags: ,


Oracle Bookmarklets, The Easiest Way to Search Documentation and More

In addition to the Oracle documentation Firefox plugin and extension, you now have another easy and quick way to search Oracle documentation and other Oracle and non-Oracle related web sites.

Introducing Oracle Bookmarklets

A bookmarklet is a small JavaScript program that can be stored as a URL within a “bookmark” (or a “favorite”) in your browser. Bookmarklets are simple one-click tools that can add substantial functionality to the browser. Below you will find Oracle specific bookmarklets as well as other useful bookmarklets. They work in Firefox and Internet Explorer.

How to install the bookmarklets

In Firefox:

  1. Make sure your “Bookmarks Toolbar” is visible (ensure View/Toolbars/Bookmarks Toolbar is checked).
  2. Right click on the bookmarklet.
  3. Select “Bookmark This Link…” from the menu.
  4. Select “Bookmarks Toolbar” in the “Create in” drop down list and click “OK”.

Alternatively, you can just drag and drop the bookmarklet on the Bookmarks Toolbar.

In Internet Explorer 6:

  1. Make sure your “Links” toolbar is visible (ensure View/Toolbars/Links is checked).
  2. Right click on the bookmarklet.
  3. Select “Add to Favorites…” from the menu.
  4. If you get a security alert, click on “Yes” to continue.
  5. Select “Links” in the “Create in” drop down list and click “OK”.

In Internet Explorer 7:

I have successfully tested the bookmarklets in Internet Explorer 7 (RC1). The installation is similar to IE6. However, for the bookmarklets to work properly you may need to disable IE7′s built in pop up blocker and tweak the default security settings, otherwise you will have to explicitly allow the bookmarklet script to run everytime you use it.

How to use the bookmarklets

The bookmarklets below can be used in two ways:

  1. If you select (highlight) text on the web page you are browsing and then click on the bookmarklet on your toolbar, the corresponding search for the selected text will be performed and the result displayed in a new window (or tab).

  2. If you do not select (highlight) any text on the web page you are browsing and click on the bookmarklet on your toolbar, you will be asked to type in your search terms and then the corresponding search for the entered text will be performed and the result displayed in a new window (or tab).

Oracle Database Documentation Bookmarklets:

Oracle Resources Bookmarklets:

Other Useful Bookmarklets:

Bonus:

I have created these bookmarklets and used them to research a topic I want to blog about or a work related problem I want to solve. I hope you will find them useful as well.

2 Comments | Filed in Firefox, Oracle | Tags: , , , , ,


Search Oracle Documentation Google Style

Last month, Oracle removed the authentication requirement from its documentation libraries. Since then, OTN membership is no longer required for accessing the Oracle documentation.

Yesterday, Justin announced that a new way for searching the documentation has just gone live.

For example, to see the new Oracle Docs search in action, here is the search result for “merge”.

Check it out at search.oracle.com.

To make searching easier:

  • For Firefox users: Install the new Oracle Docs (SES) search plugin.
  • For IE users: Add the new Oracle Docs (SES) custom button to your Google toolbar.
4 Comments | Filed in Firefox, Oracle, Plugins | Tags: , , , ,


Useful Firefox Extension: ConQuery

If you use Firefox and have the Oracle Firefox search plugins installed, you know that you can easily search the Oracle documentation by typing your search terms in the search box up in the top right corner of your Firefox browser.

You can get to the search box by hitting Ctrl+K or just clicking your mouse inside the search box.

I have recently discovered a handy Firefox extension that allows you to interact with the search box in a different way. The extension is called ConQuery which stands for “Context sensitive web Query”.

ConQuery puts your regular searches to the context menu and allows you to search for selected text.

conquery.gif
Click to see a larger picture

If no text is selected, ConQuery acts as a list of shortcuts to the search engines, allowing you to enter search terms manually.

Whenever you want to correct the content of the selected text, you may hold the Ctrl key while executing a search and ConQuery will bring you the configuration dialog for that engine. Edit the text and press OK to proceed, or Cancel to interrupt the query.

The Oracle Docs Firefox Extension has a similar functionality when you right click on a highlighted text on a web page.

One of the benefits of using Firefox is the availability of many useful extensions that can make your browser a more useful tool.

By the way, Firefox extensions will be re-named Add-ons in the next version of Firefox (2.0).

2 Comments | Filed in Extensions, Firefox | Tags: ,


maxlength: Firefox vs. IE

I bumped into an issue while testing one of my ColdFusion applications. The issue is how Firefox and IE render HTML. Take the following HTML input tag in test.htm for example:

<input name="field" type="text" value="1234" maxlength="3">

Now, if you view it in Firefox (1.5.0.1) you will only see 123 in the input box. However, if you view it in IE (6.0) you will see 1234. Looks like Firefox truncates the value based on the maxlength attribute, but IE does not.

However, in the example above, both browsers do not allow you to enter a value more than 3 characters in length.

2 Comments | Filed in ColdFusion, Firefox, Tips | Tags: , ,


Oracle News Firefox 1.5 Extension

The extension is now compatible with Firefox 1.5.

If you have the extension in your Firefox extension list, but grayed out, just go to Tools > Extensions and click on the button “Find Updates”, an “Update Now” button should appear next to “Oracle News”. If no updates were found, then clear your Firefox cache and try again.

If you do not have the extension installed, just visit the extension’s main page to install it.

4 Comments | Filed in Extensions, Firefox, Oracle | Tags: ,


Cool Firefox extension: Foxmarks

I have at least two computers I use on a daily basis, one at work and one at home. I use Firefox on both computers. I have always used the Firefox extension Bookmarks Synchronizer to synchronize my bookmarks to my personal FTP server, so that I can access them from work and home. When I upgraded to Firefox 1.5, the extension stopped working. I have been searching for an alternative ever since.

Recently, I found an extension called Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer. Basically, it performs the same functions as the older Bookmarks Synchronizer but it is much better because: Continue reading…

7 Comments | Filed in Firefox | Tags: ,


My favorite Firefox keyboard shortcuts

Here are my favorite Firefox keyboard shortcuts. I find them very useful because they make my browsing experience faster and easier. They are also handy especially when I am tired of using the mouse. In no particular order: Continue reading…

4 Comments | Filed in Firefox, Tips | Tags: