The power of a single statistic (to distract)

“I know that major API changes are always a pain for developers and they would rather not have to deal with them, but please keep in mind stats like “42% of malicious extensions use the Web Request API” when you’re considering what we’re trying to improve here.”

—Justin Schuh, on Twitter. (Also stated in Google’s official post here)

Google is using a large number—42% of malicious extensions—in isolation to justify a decision. This number shows that a large proportion of ‘bad developers’ use this API. But this single data point gives no clue about how big is the total pool of developers using this API.

Are bad developers a large proportion of users of this API, or are they a tiny minority? In the latter case, Google’s action to deprecate/restrict the API may be fairly justified. In the former case, they could have chosen a better, alternative approach in dealing with the bad actors, rather than punishing the mostly good users.

An analogy for case 1:

Bank decides to close all doors leading to the street because 42% of all robbers walk-in through those doors.

Analogy for case 2:

Bank decides to close all waste disposal tunnels because 42% of all robbers sneak-in through those doors.

All we know is that 42% of robbers come in through a point. We don’t know if it’s the main customer entrance, or the waste disposal.

If this statistic was a big argument for this decision’s approval inside Google/Chrome-Dev, then they really need to revisit their decision-making fundamentals.

I seriously doubt this though. Googlers are very smart. They are dealing with mostly smart people on the outside. This number is not for them or us. This number is being published solely to turn the narrative, for the common reader, from ‘Google blocking APIs that stop ads and tracking‘ to ‘Google blocking APIs that stop malicious extensions‘.

Continue reading The power of a single statistic (to distract)

Chrome Extensions I use (start 2018 edition)

This is the updated, early 2018 snapshot of the list of Chrome extensions and apps I use.

Favourites/recommendations are in bold.
My own extensions/apps are marked with an asterisk (*).
Extensions by Google are marked with a (G)

The previous list, from late 2015, is here.

Continue reading Chrome Extensions I use (start 2018 edition)

Chrome Extensions I use

Just thought I’d share the full list of Chrome apps and extensions I use. Favourites/recommendations are in bold.

Extensions

General / Productivity:

Introducing: Done – Chrome extension for iDoneThis

iDoneThis is a unique productivity tool that begins where normal productivity tools finish – after you complete a todo/task. The core idea is very simple – log your completed tasks in (as you go, or once daily), and then track, search, tag, discuss, share them as you want.

To log a task you can either email a specified email address with completed tasks (better: just reply to their daily emails), or go the iDoneThis website to log the tasks.

Users can be part of (and post dones to) multiple teams, say one for each project or department. Completed tasks can be #tagged for easy organisation, and team members can comment on and/or *like* each completed task.

Productivity hack: Close your email client!

The log-by-email option used to work for me till, as a productivity hack, I decided to keep my email client and Gmail tabs in a default closed state *all the time*.

The hack’s worked brilliantly! There’s no notifications, and no more quick-check-if-there’s-any-important-new-email only to spend 15 mins going through unimportant, but interesting ones. I open the email client now only when I want to send an email, or am taking a break so I have time to spare. No more interruptions!

The downside to this successful hack is that now I don’t want to open the email client, more recently the Inbox tab, or the iDoneThis website just to send a one line completed task email. And so, slowly, I stopped logging any dones at all.

The real deal: Done!

This new extension, Done!, is my solution to this problem – a way to quickly log completed tasks to iDoneThis without sending an email, or opening the website. Quick, simple, single-purposed.
Continue reading Introducing: Done – Chrome extension for iDoneThis

Filter articles in Pocket by length & age

Filtering articles in Pocket, powered by AcceleReader

I’m happy to announce that the latest update of AcceleReader for Chrome brings article filtering to Pocket.

Articles may be filtered by age or length:

  • By length1, articles can be filtered as Quick Reads (<4 mins), Medium (4-8 mins) and Long Reads (>8 mins)
  • By age2, the articles can be filtered as Fresh (< 1 week), Ripe (1-2 weeks), Ageing (2-4 weeks), and Old (>4 weeks)

The filtering interface is brought up by:

  • clicking on the total time displayed on top left, or
  • by pressing the key ‘.’ (Period).

It can be dismissed in the same manner, or by clicking anywhere on the page.

After reading-time tags for mobile, this is the second big feature I’ve been enjoying using myself, and hope other users like it as well!

Continue reading Filter articles in Pocket by length & age

Offline Testing In Chrome

Offline testing in Chrome – No more WiFi toggling

Despite ever expanding web of internet connectivity, no modern web app can expect not to work decently when offline.

Testing offline functionality, though, can be a bit of a bummer for people like me who develop almost exclusively in/for Google Chrome – unlike the old Internet Explorer, it doesn’t have a quick to access ‘Offline Mode’.

Not being a professional developer, I didn’t have extensive tools at my service to test my app in offline mode, and switching WiFi off-on was becoming tiresome. This is the solution I’ve ended up with for offline testing in Chrome:

  1. Install the Proxy SwitchySharp extension from Chrome Web Store.
  2. In extension’s settings, set up a proxy to a non-existent IP Address, preferably on our local network. We could even set it to localhost/127.0.0.1 if we aren’t running a server on local machine.

Proxy SwitchySharp Extension Settings
  1. Now every time we need to switch to offline mode, all we have to do is go to the extension’s browser button, and select the local-profile we created.
Browser Button – Select proxy to go offline.
  1. When we want to go back on-line, we just select ‘Direct Connection’ or, if we have a corporate proxy, then that.

That’s it! No more toggling WiFi to test offline mode for our web apps.

Android Jelly Bean – First Impressions & Suggestions

Android – Jelly Bean

Great Things

  • Super fast responsiveness.
  • Love the transition effects in/out of apps, but would’ve loved to have an option to switch them off.
  • Google’s own apps have been optimized and work really well.
  • Default Gallery app has been fixed – use to take ages to load albums, now is faster than even QuickPic.
  • Google Now works brilliantly.
  • Face Unlock now works despite my having encrypted the phone (in ICS, only options were password and passcode), and works really well!

Issues

  • While Google’s own apps have been optimised for Jelly Bean, most of 3rd party apps haven’t. This causes quite a bit of dissonance – both in appearance and performance.
  • Google Now works really well here in London. Wonder how it’ll do when I visit back home to my small town in India. Or even smaller towns here in the UK.

Suggestions

Matias Duarte and the Android team have done a great job on the looks and responsiveness of Android. They now need to sort the issues around wide variety in quality of apps, and of OS upgrades. I suggest they exchange notes with the Chrome team.

For homogenizing the app quality, they should take a similar approach to what Chrome team has announced for roll-out of Manifest Version 2 to apps on Chrome Web Store ( See ‘Manifest version 1 support schedule‘). Also, as earlier suggested by Abraham Williams, OS updates should be moved to a rapid release schedule, and (my input) be turned into silent upgrades – just like Chrome.

These changes might require some heavy lifting at the OS/update architecture level, but can be real game changers for Android in the platform wars.

Continue reading Android Jelly Bean – First Impressions & Suggestions