Monday, 29 March 2010

ExtensionFM: a (p)review

At present ExtensionFM is still in pre-release*, so whether what follows constitutes a review, a preview, or a preview with a silent 'p', I'm not wholly sure. On the other hand, let's leave ontology to philosophers, it's just a blogpost.

ExtensionFM, as you might guess from the name, a) plays music, and b) is a widget you can add to the Chrome browser. What makes it different is the way it builds its library: whenever you visit sites hosting audio files ExtensionFM instantly adds the songs (and their locations) to its library - meaning, first of all, that you can try out any track on the page immediately, but second, that even when you've left the site, you can still stream any of the tracks whenever you like.

Or to put it all a little more visually:

And how well does it work?

Very nicely, for the most part. There's a small drop-down player, accessible from an icon on Chrome's main menu bar, as well as a full player (with more information) that opens in a tab - both are quick, responsive, easy to navigate, and add album artwork almost instantly. Anyone who uses Songbird or iTunes should feel instantly at home. There aren't any playlists yet, however, but tracks can be queued (though once queued the order can't be changed, aside from removing tracks).

On web sites, you'll find that ExtensionFM has handily overlaid any embedded audio links with a play button; and in a particularly neat touch, to keep its library fresh and well stocked, ExtensionFM will keep updating itself with new tracks from the sites you've visited (you can turn this off on a site by site basis, though, if you prefer). users are catered for with an option to integrate audio-scrobbling; plus, there's some kind of integration with Tumblr (but I don't have a Tumblr blog, so I'm not quite sure what that achieves).

However, being pre-release, there are - understandably - a few glitches and limitations (though just a few):

- As yet, there's no shuffle button - imagine being able to go to an MP3 blog, click shuffle and see what comes up - wouldn't that be a pretty handy music discovery tool? Happily, the developer agrees: looking at ExtensionFM's Google Groups forum, shuffle's very much in the pipeline.

- The occasional track will cause ExtensionFM to crash; but in pre-release you'd expect the odd compatibility issue. And, this being the Chrome browser, a crashed extension at least doesn't crash the whole browser; in fact, Chrome even lets you reload crashed extensions (though that doesn't always work).

- More playlist making/altering options would be useful; but, again, that's already being worked on.

- At present, tracks in the ExtensionFM library remain playable only for as long as they remain on the sites where they're hosted. The developer looks to be trying to find a workable way around this.

- It's impossible to download tracks from within the main player - for now. (The player does, however, link to the site where each track is hosted; and right-clicking within the player gives you an option to buy from Amazon).

So, while there are a few faults to be ironed out, and some useful features still to be added - all of which the developer seems to have well in hand - even at this early stage ExtensionFM's core functionality still offers the music loving Chrome user something unique** and worthwhile: visit a site, get an instant, self-refreshing music library. If it lives up to its potential, the full release could even make a switch to Chrome essential.

*Visit the site to request an invitation to try it out. Each invitation allows five separate installations.

**As far as I'm aware - anyone know different? (I know Firefox has Twones, but that seems more focused on bookmarking individual tracks, and certainly doesn't let you make an instant library just by visiting a site).

Saturday, 27 March 2010

The Weekly Links Post: No. 4

An entirely subjective weekly selection of 15 links, roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below:

Highlights from Guardian Technology (Because otherwise I just don't get around to reading it now that it's no longer in the print edition).

Wednesday was Ada Lovelace Day; Guardian Tech columnists Mercedes Bunz and Jemima Kiss offer their personal tributes to women in technology here and here.

Could games become a force for more than just entertainment? Jane McGonigal believes so. (And here's her TED talk).

Facebook causes syphilis... if you misquote unsupported speculation and have newspapers to sell.

What you need to know about the Digital Economy Bill. Probably.

Apparently there's an etiquette to posting on Comment is Free. (Well, that's what the article says).

Books, Writing & Storytelling

Overcoming creative block, the ISO50 blog way. (Link courtesy of @nibus).

Writers talking about writing: useful and inspiring quotes selected from The Paris Review Interviews Vols. 1 - 4 by the Inkslinger blog.

Social Media

Facebook threatens to sue The Daily Mail, over claims of misrepresentation and damage to its reputation. (No word yet whether Zuckerberg's engaging anyone re. the syphilis stories).

Useful Apps & Downloads

For the Chrome browser: ExtensionFM, in effect, creates a music library from the music sites you visit. It's still pre-release, and invitation only, but you can sign up for invitations. (I've been using it for a few days now; a full review will follow in the next couple of days...)

For Firefox: Twones does much the same job, but with more social features. Plus, it's at a more advanced stage of the development process.

Games & Other Distractions

It's a game, it's a maze, it's a story. It's a spiralling deconstruction of all three. It's Ergon / Logos.


Beautiful and idiosyncratic MP3 blog Motel de Moka is posting its Top 200 Tracks of the 2000s - the first 180 tracks are already available for download, the final 20 are due any day now... lets you make or remix music in your browser. (Can also serve as a handy reminder that you're just not that musical... Sigh).


Dweeb? Nerd? Dork? Geek? What's the difference? Here's a Venn diagram to clear up the matter once and for all. (Link courtesy of @patroclus).

Ever found yourself registering at temp agency after temp agency after temp agency, desperate for just one more hit of that MS Word competency test? No, me neither; but apparently that hasn't stopped Microsoft from creating Ribbon Hero.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Weekly Links Post: No. 3

Now that I'm once again neither elsewhere nor internetless, it's high time the Weekly Links Post returned. So, without further ado: an entirely subjective selection of 15 links, roughly collated under the seven broad categories seen below.

Highlights from Guardian Technology

Will 2010 be the year of Britain's first e-election? Spoof election posters, Mumsnet, online campaigning, and all the rest.

She of the wonderfully improbable name, Mercedes Bunz, takes a look at The New York Times' and CNN's successful yet contrasting technology strategies.

Why online anonymity is still important, despite comment trolls, flaming, and so much other online anonymosity.

Microsoft forced to point out 'other browsers are also available', Opera downloads increase.

Why an article dated 8 September 2003 is Guardian Tech's most read story of the past 24 hours I have no idea; still, I doubt I'm the only person who's never heard of Project Cybersyn, 1970s Chile's 'socialist internet'.

Books, Writing & Storytelling

For those in or around London, London Word Festival will be running various events daily until 1st April. is offering thousands of audiobooks to download, for no more than the price of (free) registration.

Presumably in preparation for the iPad, Apple's iPhone App Store now has more books available than games.

Social Media

William Shatner has launched his own social network, or something, (, alas, seems to have nothing whatever to do with Dennis Quaid).

Well, I suppose it had to happen eventually: LoKast, the first disposable social network.

Useful Apps & Downloads

The most popular URL shortening services listed and rated for uptime and speed. (No mention, though, of either of the shortest ones I've found, and

Games & Other Distractions

For all those bored office-bound gamers: games that look like work, courtesy of


Is it that time of year again? Time to download some free SXSW festival MP3s... and here's the easy way.


The government is apparently determined to push through its controversial Digital Economy Bill before the general election; for those with doubts about its content, has made e-mailing your local MP about as easy as it could possibly be.

137 years of Popular Science magazine, now fully searchable and browsable on Google Books. Even if you're not bothered about the science stuff, just going back and looking at the vintage ads is a joy in itself.