Where Does Google Chrome Store User History, Profile & Bookmarks?

I have been using and enjoying Google Chrome for the past couple of days. So as I am setting up my new computer, I am installing Chrome there as well. While doing this, I would like to bring over my saved browsing history and bookmarks so that I don’t have to build it from scratch on the new machine. The only problem is that while Chrome makes it very easy to import existing settings from Firefox, it does not display any visible option to export current settings.

After a bit of digging, I found the location where Chrome stored user data:

  • On XP – C:\Documents and Settings\<User Name>\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Chrome\User Data
  • On Vista – C:\Users\<User Name>\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data

The User Data folder contains three files: Local State, Safe Browsing and Safe Browsing Filter, along with a folder called Default. Default in turn contains your browser cache, plugin data, and all of your cookies and history data. To move my profile over to my new computer, I copied all of the files and folders under User Data on my XP machine, and moved them into the User Data on my new Vista machine (all of the files were nearly 100mb after only four days of use, which will give you some kind of idea about the amount of indexing going on in the background). When I next started Chrome on my Vista machine, it was identical to the app on my XP machine, down to most popular sites, history and cookies. I even started writing this post on my XP machine, and then continued it on my Vista machine without having to log in again into my WordPress admin.

In the end this was pretty easy to do. Though the ease of profile transfer could in turn make it easy for someone to steal someone else’s identity – after all, the cookies file (presumably a sqllite db or something similar) was only 256KB, and merely dropping it in the new User Data allowed a complete transfer of identity (perhaps a good security feature would be to allow the \User Data\Default\Cookies file to work only on the originally installed instance).

Google Chrome – Likes and Dislikes

I just downloaded Google Chrome and am going to try using it for some of my day-to-day web browsing over the next few days. Here are my initial reactions:

Likes

  • Fast. Very fast, and small memory footprint.
  • Each tab is a different process. This will make it very easy to any single tab that is using lots of memory, without having to close the browser (unlike in FF).
  • Tab positioning over the address bar (as oppossed to underneath in FF) seems more natural.
  • No header or footer bars. Do we really need to waste vertical screen space just to tell me the name of the program and reserve space for status messages? Nope. Here there is no header bar (functions like close/minimize are squeezed to the right side of the tab area), and status messages and urls in links appear in a temporary popup box fixed to the bottom left corner of the browser window, when necessary. Seems like a very good use of screen space.
  • Address bar has the domain name of the site appear in regular type, with the rest of the url appearing in a lighter type. It highlights the domain, which very quickly highlights where you are.
  • Real warnings for potentially problematic domains. In IE and FF, you just get a small red box in your address bar. In Chrome, when you go to a page that is potentially troublesome (example: loads resources from a domain associated with malware) you have to go through a confirmation screen before loading the site. Seems like a much better way of implementing this than the halfway solution in IE and FF that everyone will tend to ignore.
  • Useful built-in developer extensions (View Source, Debug Javascript, Javascript Console, Task Manager).
  • In-page search is slick and improves on FF’s implementation. You now see all occurences of the search term highlighted on the page at once, while maintaining the ability to enumerate through the bunch.

Dislikes

  • Non-existent bookmarking. I like my delicious add-on and bookmarks toolbar in Firefox as well as my different bookmarklets (Note in Google Reader, delicious, Seed Newsvine). It gives me easy access to the pages that I use frequently (I know that they are stored in the Chrome history, but often just clicking on my bookmark link is more efficient than going to remember the title or url, typing it into the address bar and sorting through the results to find the one that I want). I take it back. Ctrl-B attaches a bookmark bar to the bottom of the address bar. 
  • No page titles. Since there is no header bar, the page title is squeezed into the tab for that browser window, which in almost all cases is too small to see the page title. 
  • Clicking my mouse scroll bar doesn’t bring up the scroll pointer like it does in almost every other application.
  • I like having the search box separated from the address bar like it is in FF. 
  • No FF add-ons. No Firebug, Greasemonkey, Adblock, FireFTP or IE Tab).
  • No built-in support for RSS. I would at least have expected them to include an auto-subscribe to Google Reader.

This is what I can come up with after using Chrome for 3 hours. So I like it better than IE7 (haven’t tried 8 beta yet), though it does not beat out FF3 (yet).

Trying out Windows Live Writer

In honor of its officially coming out of beta, I decided to download and try out Windows Live Writer.

Some of the features that attracted me are the ability to use one interface to publish on a number of different blogs at the same time, through a desktop client, without having to log in and out of different admin sites (I currently write or contribute to 4-5 different WordPress blogs with varying degrees of frequency, and the ability to post from one place makes it much easier to add content to different sites).

I was also curious to see how well Microsoft has gotten one of their products to interact with software of non-MS origin (and with PHP open source systems like WordPress). Compared with others, Microsoft very often seems to have a hard time opening up their products to others (just look at the new Live email vs. Gmail: Gmail lets you forward your email anywhere, and retrieve your email through any program using POP or IMAP, while Live email only lets you forward to an email address that is part of another Microsoft domain, like msn.com, hotmail.com, but other than that gives no options to extracting your email automatically outside of the Microsoft servers).

Here are some things worth noting so far:

Download and Setup: Easy and painless. Install went quickly. I entered the url for my homepage, my username and password. The software automatically determined that I was using WordPress, downloaded theme information and set itself up. From when I clicked download, I was ready to write to my blog using Live Writer in less than 10 minutes.

Web Preview: ellisweb-livewriterA very handy feature, allowing you to preview your post within your current blog theme. It actually did a very decent job of rendering the post the way it should (judging by Firefox). (This is in Web Preview mode, giving you a read-only snapshot of how your page would look. The Web Layout view mode however did not work so well for me. From what I gather, this is supposed to let you compose your post inside your blog theme. In my case, it put the title of my post inside the header, making it impossible to see what I was typing.

The Basic Stuff: Hyperlinks, pictures, trackbacks, basic editing functions – all of it works well, and is pretty easy to figure out. Though this is not something that will make a product shine in the market (even spell check is common nowadays, both in Firefox and WordPress), lack of these features (or a bad implementation) will kill a product from the get-go. (One WordPress caveat: although WLW includes native support for different tagging systems, it does not yet allow you to post tags to WordPress 2.3+. There are workarounds for this.)

Plugins: Although WordPress features a very powerful plugin system, it is most often used to improve the output of your blog, not the UI for entering posts. WLW plugins on the other hand are all centered on helping you get different types of data easily into your posts. I see this (as well as the automatic connectivity to different blogging systems and accounts) as the feature that will make this product really stand out. So far I have installed two different plugins (automatically replacing text formatting methods that I had previously had to code into my template, css and html):

Insert Code:

public static string HelloWorld() {
  string s = "Hello World";
  return s.ToUpper();
}

(Note: I first tried using the Insert Source Code Snippet plugin, but this was buggy and added a whole bunch of superfluous brackets. Afterwards I looked some more and found the Insert Code plugin by shahineo – easy to use and as you can see, produces some nice output).

Insert LTR Text:

זה יעזור לי הרבה לכתוב בעברית בבלוג שלי

All things considered, I am pretty satisfied with my first experience using Windows Live Writer. If you are reading this, it means that the post was also successfully posted to my blog through the interface (yay!). I think that I will be making it my primary blogging platform over the next couple of months. Now, if only I could use this to post to Newsvine…

What is powering GridServer?

MediaTemple recently released a new hosting platform, GridServer, which basically promises to set up your site on a very scalable network of server, where you are not tied down to any specific piece of hardware, and your site can handle large amounts of traffic without hiccupping. (I switched my sites to (gs) last week, almost no problems so far, and the pages are being served very fast).

Ben Rockwood has posted some speculation as to how (mt) may have set up their whole new service offering:

The Grid magic is this: store all use data on NFS so that no matter which system you connect to you can access the data. Then spread your vhost configuration to all hosts in the “grid”, so that any system can serve your data. This system is therefore highly scalable because adding an additional node to the “grid” is trivial and reliable because if one system dies, big deal. But this means that you require two things to make it work: really good load balancers and really good NFS storage. And by good I mean very reliable and extremely fast.

The NFS in this case would be something from BlueArc. Although some people (in the comments and elsewhere) have expressed concern as to the viability of this setup, that doesn’t concern me too much. I am not running anything really mission-critical on the (gs) servers (and even if I was, I do not see it as being any less vulnerable than the traditional shared hosting setup where your site is on one physical box with 2000 other sites).

It does make for an interesting read though.

(Update: right after I wrote this, MediaTemple experienced some more problems with the (gs) service. You can read about what happened and the solution here. Everything seems to be working fine on my end now.)

MediaTemple vs. DreamHost

Four days ago, my webhost (who will remain nameless for the time being) noticed that its aging servers (all hosted by third-party enterprise hosting services) were dying. So they decided to upgrade all of the servers, and switch to a different hosting location at the same time. The result: my sites hosted by them were down or unusable for (well, actually, I cannot give an accurate number because at the time of writing, the sites are still down, and the server on which they were hosted is only “27% migrated”). I had been thinking of switching webhosts for some time, but foolishly did not take any action on these impulses, since “everything seems to be working ok for now”. Luckily, with month old backups of my different wordpress databases, plus cached feedburner feeds, I have all of the content I will need to recreate my sites on a new host (and then add back some missing items when my old host finally gets their act together).

For me, it came down to MediaTemple and DreamHost. I have used DreamHost for a client site in the past, and found that they are a company that is very concientous of their customer’s well-being. They go out of their way to give easy access to different server features on their (somewhat bizzare looking but very useful) control panel, and overall are very open about different issues that are occuring with their servers (and are not afraid to take responsibility when things get messed up and it is their fault). Overall, I have been pretty impressed with their hosting, as well as customer service. (And am reassured that if problems occurred on a server, that they would take care of it ASAP, unlike my current webhosts). Continue reading

Select All Conversations in Spam

One of the reasons that I really like Gmail is that I know that the development team in Mountain View is pretty active. How do I know? Because every few weeks or months I notice new, helpful, well thought-out features in Gmail that were not there before.

Every few days I go in and clean out my spam folder. Today there were 399 conversations waiting for me. Usually I have to do the following:

  1. Select All 100 conversations on the screen
  2. Delete
  3. Repeat for every screen

I understand why they make you do this, but it still gets annoying when you have a bunch of screens to take care of.

Today when I went to delete my spam conversations, what do I see?

Gmail - Select All Spam

That’s right. You can now select all of my spam conversations and delete them at once. Or don’t. (I did). The nice thing is that there are new features constantly being added with the intention of making my life easier, something only possible with a web application. Thanks Gmail!