Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Opera – the browser that came in from the cold

Opera used to be my favourite web browser. But that was long ago. Since then I’ve moved on:  these days I generally use either Firefox, Chrome or Vivaldi. On Windows 10, I use Edge and on my iPad I use Safari. What the heck, a browser is just a browser after all!

So why have I now installed the new version of Opera? And why is it rapidly becoming my favourite browser? Two reasons: VPN and ad-blocking.

Opera now has VPN (Virtual Private Network) browsing built in. You just pick a country from a drop-down list and Opera lets you log on from your selected ‘virtual’ location. In principle this enhances your privacy and keeps your browsing anonymous. Well, I never really believe I have any privacy online, so I take the promise of anonymity with a fairly large pinch of salt.  But even so, I love Opera’s VPN. It lets me browse American web sites as though I am browsing from America. So I can easily check manufacturers’ prices quoted in dollars instead of pounds, and I can log onto CNN’s American news instead of its International news. Read more about Opera’s VPN here:

The other thing I really like about the Opera is its ad-blocker. With other browsers you generally have to install some kind of extension to blocks ads. With Opera it’s a standard feature. This means I am now able even to read ad-intensive sites such as the UK’s ‘Independent’ online newspaper which, in Firefox, has so many damn’ ads that it often causes the browser to grind to a standstill.

So, after years apart, Opera and I are back together again. So far, it’s looking so good that it may soon become my default browser. You can download Opera here:

Monday, 12 September 2016

Microsoft’s free cross-platform IDE, Visual Studio Code 1.5

Microsoft has just released a new version of its cross-platform editing and debugging suite: Visual Studio Code 1.5. With support for a broad range of languages including C, C#, Ruby, JavaScript and Java, VS Code can be run on Windows, OS X or Linux. If you program one or more languages on any of these platforms, this is certainly a tool worth having.

You can download VS Code here:

Bear in mind that some tools and support for some programming languages requires the addition of optional free extensions which can be found here (and some of these, such as the Object Pascal extension for Windows, may only be available on specific platforms):

Friday, 2 September 2016

Don’t Use LibreOffice 5.2.0 for Windows!

In short – it crashes. I’ve installed this version on three different PCs – two running Windows 7, one running Windows 10 – and the result is the same on each. When I create a new text file in the Writer application, a crash dialog pops up prompting me to recover the document I’m trying to open. I recover it but the next time I try to open it, the same thing happens all over again.

The good news is that the latest pre-release edition (currently 5.2.1) appears to solve this problem. For all I know, it may have other problems – it is a pre-release edition, after all – but at  least it doesn’t keep bombing out whenever I try to open a document.  I haven’t found any online reports on the 5.2.0 crash problem, so I suppose it is just possible that there is some specific problem with each of the three PCs I tested it on. At any rate, if you encounter the same issue, I recommend that you too give the pre-release version a try. Downloads are available here:

Incidentally, while LibreOffice is a decent free office suite, it isn’t the only one. There are at least a couple of others (not counting LibreOffice’s close relative, Open Office) that are worthwhile trying out. I’ll be writing about a couple of these soon.