Power to the people – weekly roundup

We may not stop to appreciate it, but nowadays computer users have much more freedom and control over the software we use. There once was a time when we were spoon fed software and had to work within the constraints of what the developers provided in their applications. Now though, we can bolt on all manner of widgets, plug-ins and extensions to our apps to inject more power.

This week on insideTonic, we’ve unearthed some sizzling add-ons that open the door to new features within some of our favourite programs. Browsing with Firefox will never be the same again since Tom came across Hyperwords, an ingenious extension that allows you to access a range of commands by selecting a word on a web page; ranging from Googling the word to performing in-line translations, as well as facility for instantly blogging the text.

Cyril was busy going back to his retro gaming roots, and explains how to turn Firefox into a Pong console using nothing more than a simple extension. Meanwhile, Nick brought news of a Messenger Live add-on that lets you view IM chats directly on your desktop, providing a classic example of the benefits of customizing your apps to suit your own needs.

It seems people are simply not prepared to play into the hands of money-hungry software developers any more, as staff and students from Imperial College in London have proved by rebelling against their school’s policy of using expensive proprietary software in favour of open source solutions. Even Microsoft may be cottoning on to the fact that users don’t like to be unnecessarily bankrolling gigantic tech corporations. The Redmond firm has kindly agreed to donate a portion of the ad revenue they make when users chat through its i’m service to a number of worthy causes.

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