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Last updated:
October 24, 2009

Opera: our favourite browser

Small web sites made easy

Rinkworks: it makes me laugh
Smartgroups: keep in touch with yer mates
The Icicle still Works







Stuff we recommend

Our taste is no better and no worse than anyone else's, with the obvious exception that everyone's taste is better than Jeffrey Archer's. There's no reason, therefore, why you should take any more notice of our recommendations than anybody else's, but where would the World Wide Web be without people making recommendations to each other? It's be the California Wide Web or something, so here's a few words about some of our favourite bits & bobs on the web.

Our favourite browser

There's nothing much wrong with Internet Explorer (apart from the security issues), it's just that we like Opera lots better, especially now it is free.

The download is very small, so you are probably thinking it is a text-based browser. Wrong. It is a "proper" Windows program by which I mean that all the tiling, cascading and windowing takes places within the main program - you don't have to start up 18 instances of Opera if you want to have 18 web pages open simultaneously, you can open them all up within one program; this saves on resources in comparison with the likes of Netscape and Internet Explorer which, unlike Opera (which was built from scratch), were built by bolting on bits to an aged browser called Mosaic. The latest version of Opera allows you to open umpteen instances of the browser if you like the Internet Explorer/Netscape habit of clogging up your taskbar with icons.

It has lots of useful features. Here are a few, many of which Firefox has not got around to incorporating as standard yet.

  • zoom magnification (very handy if you are a bit short sighted or if you want to to zoom out to see a page in its entirety)
  • open all the pages within a folder with one click. All the sites I look at on a daily basis are in a folder called Daily. I open them all simultaneously by dragging the folder to the main screen.
  • it remembers where you were when you logged off. I was halfway through investigating the results of a search before I went on holiday. I closed Opera, "saved the windows" and when I came back 2 weeks later and logged on, there were the results of my search waiting for me. Nice.
  • mouse gestures that enable you to page forward & back, open new windows and various other things, just by wiggling the mouse
  • an excellent mail client that enables you to tag e-mails so they appear in multiple folders (and it is not prone to the security attacks you get with Outlook)

Opera update: Most of the above was written in the late nineties. Opera is now up to version 8.  It no longer works on a 386 (maybe the Windows 3.1 version does) and it has "bloated" up to a 3+ meg download but on the plus side it has added new features such as tabs to make it easier to switch between the different pages you have open (several years before Firefox nicked this idea). Best of all for you fellow skinflints, it is now free.

What about Firefox?

Yes, Firefox is very good, largely because it has incorporated a lot of the features Opera pioneered 5 or 6 years back.   I'm still inclined to support Opera, however, for two reasons.

1) A lot of the cool Opera features that Firefox has ... ahem .... borrowed, require additional plug-ins (e.g. mouse gestures, where you can page forward & back with a simple wiggle of the mouse), and these are a bit fiddly to install.

2) Opera is a commercial product. If people decamp en masse to Firefox, the company will go out of business, and then where will Firefox gets its inspiration from for new features?

Very small and very fast

Small web sites made easy

Looking at the dog's breakfast this site has become over the years, you may wonder how I have the nerve to offer my services as a web designer.  Well, it's like the tale of the cobbler's children whose shoes were always in a state of poor repair, because Dad was too busy tending to his customers' needs to fix their shoes. So it is with me.  Entrust me with your web site and, for a remarkably low price, I'll do you a decent, fast loading, clean and simple web site.


There's a lot of funny stuff out there on the web but probably too much of it to spend your life looking for it. You can generally be safe in the knowledge that the really funny stuff will find its way round to you via a chain e-mail.

One thing that has tickled me recently, and which can't really be demonstrated via cutting and pasting to an e-mail, is the Dialectiser (spelling?) on Rinkworks. This converts most web pages into one of several dialects: Cockney, Redneck, Moron, Jive, Swedish chef, Elmer Fudd. The thing to do is to convert your company's official web site into, say, Elmer Fudd's dialect ("oh that scwewy wabbit!"), and then show it to your Corporate Communications director without first telling him it's a gag. Watch him kak his pants! Watch him give you the sack afterwards!

Try the Dialectiser on our web site, converting it to Cockney. Result? No bleeding difference whatsoever, mate!

A meeting of like minded people

I can often be found frittering my time away on the Usenet group rec.games.board, corresponding with my fellow gamers. If you fancied something a bit more intimate, a bit more organised, with the opportunity to share files, check each other's diaries and other stuff that Lotus Notes probably still can't do properly, have a butcher's at www.smartgroups.com. It offers Group Email, Group Voting, Group Calendar, Group Database and a Group Document Store.

I'm also using it to enable old school friends to keep in touch and to try and organise a game of 18xx amongst a group that used to play 1830 every Sunday but now manage it only 2 or 3 times a year now. Bit like my sex life really ....

The Icicle still Works

I am, so I am told, a very loyal person.  This applies to people and of course my football team, but also to musicians.  Back in the mid-eighties I was knocked out by the high octane Rickenbacker-based music of the Icicle Works, the bastard sons of a marriage between the Byrds and Scott Walker.  The band has long since split up. The drummer, Chris Sharrock, has served time with the La's, World Party, The Lightning Seeds, The Lemon Trees and now Robbie Williams.  The bassist, Chris Layhe, has virtually disappeared from view but does apparently gig occasionally in the north of England.   The band's main songwriter, Ian McNabb, now has a solo career where the commercial success he enjoys seems to be in inverse proportion to the artistic merit of the records he releases. Nonetheless I am sticking with him for as long as he sticks with us.

Since going solo he has released the following albums:

Truth & Beauty *
Head Like A Rock **
Merseybeast **
A Party Political Broadcast On Behalf Of The Emotional Party
Live At Life
Ian McNabb **
Waifs & Strays *
The Gentleman Adventurer
Boots's Boots (limited edition, official bootlegs)
Before All Of This (pre-order from Townsend Records)

The ones marked with an asterisk are recommended, and those with two asterisks are especially recommended.  You can purchase all of the albums from lots of places but the outlet I recommend is Townsend Records.  Competitively priced (though not necessarily the cheapest) and a good service.  Support your independent record store.

If you have a site which you think should be listed here, drop us a line.


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