Night at the Opera

This week I’ve got a couple of items to cover and first up is an Internet browser which is new to me, at least.

It’s called Opera and has been available for years, but I never bothered because it cost money in an era when other browsers were free. It has been very popular on mobile phones but I hadn’t encountered it, not being a mobile Internetter.

I recently saw that a new version had been launched and, having a couple of minutes to kill, I went along to opera.com to have a look. Somewhere along the line, they stopped charging for what is a capable, good-looking piece of software.

The new version, Version 10, is not quite as minimalistic as Google’s Chrome browser, but its interface is neat and clean and it looks very smart. It does the normal web browsing thing very well and has plenty of extras built-in, like a Bit-Torrent download capability, just for starters.

It also has a built-in notepad which you can use to take notes as you hop from one website to another, or which can be used for other purposes like keeping to-do lists, or whatever else takes your fancy. Opera allows you to install widgets (or small programs), of which there are a large selection, ranging from games to clocks, and much else besides.

Opera also includes a capable looking e-mail and news client which will operate with both POP3 and IMAP-based e-mail systems. The IMAP capability lets you to use it in conjunction with services such as Google’s Gmail or indeed, with Operas own web-based e-mail system.

It has a feed reader, which will allow you to subscribe to websites that provide feeds, and keep you up to date when new material is added to any of the sites that you have subscribed to. Unusually, Opera has a voice control feature, which allows you to control the browser with the power of your voice alone, and it’s certainly going to be interesting playing with that.

It has a feature which will remember your website passwords and fill them in, at a click of a button, whenever you visit a site requiring them. The feature will also streamline filling online forms by automatically entering personal details, such as e-mail and postal addresses, into web-based forms.

It’s too early to say whether I’m going to make the switch to Opera, but my preliminary impression is that it is a very capable browser and more polished and complete than most of the other options.

I had hoped that talking about Opera would expand into an entire column but, seeing as I have some centimeters left to fill, I thought I would go into some interesting websites that you might possibly visit using Opera, or your favourite browser.

The first one, courtesy of Sky News, was an ongoing auction on eBay (ebay.co.uk) in which one million frozen mixed fruit pies were being sold off to the highest bidder. The 1,090,000 pies, occupying 130 pallets and needing five articulated trucks to carry them, had then received 208 bids, with the highest being for £125,300. Bidders were warned that the winner would have to come and fetch their pies.

And I thought I had seen everything!

The other site worth visiting is detouch.org which shows off the work of a variety of beauty retouchers, who take pictures of already attractive women and manipulate them to make the models look better; or just different, it might be argued. The site has a very nifty Java application built into it, which allows you to select from a stack of options and shows you pictures before and after retouching.

I have to say that I was amazed at some of the examples shown, which range from skin smoothing, whitening of teeth, brightening of eyes and the elimination of stray wisps of hair, to much more elaborate retouches. Eyebrows are shaped, excess poundage is removed, certain features are plumped-up, and even dramatic shadows and makeup are added.

It certainly gives you a new perspective on the beauty and fashion shots that feature so often in popular magazines. Those ladies are definitely not as perfect as they might seem.

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