Monthly Archives: July 2009

10 Must Have FireFox Browser Addons

Occasionally I depart from the usual eye care related topics and branch into something that I feel people might find useful.  My internet browser of choice is Firefox. I only use Internet Explorer when absolutely necessary, which is a very rare event indeed.  What I like about Firefox is that you can customize it with addons.  There are thousands of addons available for Firefox.  Here are a few of my must have favorites.  I use everyone of these daily.

  • Tab Mix Plus – Adds increased options and functionality to Firefox’s current tab system
  • Unites States English Dictionary – a spell checker
  • Google Toolbar for Firefox – search Google from the browser without going to the website, includes other helpful items as well
  • Adblock Plus – gets rid of pop ups and advertisements, you can tell it which pages you want the ads removed
  • Delicious Bookmarks –  Store your bookmarks online and categorize them.  Decline the option to install Yahoo’s Toolbar, Google’s is better
  • ForecastFox – gives you weather in the bottom right corner of the browser
  • Gmail Manager – Much better way to access your Gmail, especially if you have multiple accounts
  • IE Tab – sometimes only Internet Explorer works, usually only needed for an E-Commerce site
  • Remember the Milk for Gmail – My todo list integrated with Gmail
  • Sxipper – Gives me the option to enter my passwords at logon screens

That’s it those are my must have Firefox Browser Extensions/Addons.  You can search for other Firefox addons at the Firefox Addon Website.  I have also reviewed addons that are available to patients with impaired vision.

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Firefox Browser Tips and Addons for Low Vision Patients


I started to write this post to inform patients with low vision about the added utility of using Firefox to make the screen more readable.  Very simply you can magnify the Firefox window by holding down the CTRL key and then hitting the + key or the – key as appropriate to make the entire Firefox screen change size.  The post then grew to including useful Firefox addons, which will be our next blog post.   However, in researching other Firefox addons for low vision patients I came across LowBrowse™ and I am very glad I did.  It is a great program for patients with limited vision from diseases such as macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa or glaucoma.

First of all the easiest way to get LowBrowse™ is directly from its developer, the Lighthouse International.  The step by step instructions are very detailed and easy to understand.  LowBrowse™ was developed in the Arlene R. Gordon Research Institute by vision scientist Aries Arditi, Ph.D. under a research grant from the National Eye Institute.  Dr. Arditi has also developed larger mouse icons which are very essential to increasing a computer’s usability for patients with low vision as well as improving the functionality of LowBrowse™ for the severely visually impaired.

Installation was easy and no different than any other Firefox addon.  Once the browser restarted a window appeared just above the Firefox tabs and below the toolbars.  This window is where the magnified text appears and is referred to the reading window.  Below the reading window is the normal Firefox browser window which is referred to as the global window.

The reading window is configurable as to the size of text, font and color.  The default color of the reading window is white print on a black background.  Initially the reading window was blank for me.  I discovered that the Firefox extension “Tab Mix Plus” was interfering with LowBrowse™.  Once I disabled the offending extension and restarted my browser my magnification window, or reading window as it is referred to in the help file, displayed text that was about 2 inches tall.


Once you place your cursor over any text in the global window, the text in that paragraph will be available in the reading window by scrolling through it with the left and right arrow keys.  If the LowBrowse™ extension is enabled you can not use the left and right arrow keys for navigation in the large global screen, they are only available for scrolling text in the reading screen.

LowBrowse™ also has a text to speech function that was developed in cooperation with Charles L. Chen.  I found the text to speech function to work very well and was quite accurate on my Windows Vista PC.  The speech function worked very much like the magnification window.  You place your cursor on the text you want to read in the global window and it reads the paragraph.

I found LowBrowse™ to be a great addition to our inventory of options available for patients with low vision.  When combining Firefox’s inherent ability to magnify the webpage in the larger navigation window with the speech function and greater magnification capacity of LowBrowse™ it truly opens up the Internet to patients with low vision.

Another device we have reviewed and found useful for some low vision patients is the Amazon Kindle, for more information see our review.  Also see our review of the 10 must have Firefox Addons.

Response to “Top 5 Reasons Healthcare is Broken” on ZDNet News

The current Healthcare Debate has the potential to be the most important issue of our generation.  For good or bad this legislation will affect all of us for the rest of our lives and the lives of the generations after us.  This post is a departure from our usual posts, however, I read a blog article by an online insurance broker writing on ZDNet News giving his top 5 reasons why our healthcare system is failing and given the timeliness of the issue I felt inclined to respond.  His points are in quotes and italicized.

1. “The current system is set up to reward sickness. Doctors get paid when you see them. And you only see them when something’s wrong, right? Hospitals get paid when someone gets injured or is sick. Pharmaceutical companies make outrageous profits when their drugs are prescribed (and they lavish gifts worth more than your annual salary to the doctors who prescribe the most…see #5). Insurance companies take in more money when there are more sick people to cover. Everything revolves around us being sick.”

The current system doesn’t “reward” sickness.  I can’t imagine a cancer patient feeling rewarded.  More likely they feel  grateful for the excellent care their insurance covers and the second chance at life.  Our current system, unfortunately does not reward good lifestyle choices (see #2).  The coverage for well visits is weak at best.  It is true doctors as well as hospitals get paid when we are sick. I don’t know of a single doctor that would not welcome the chance to consult with a patient regarding preventative medicine.  Preventative care saves a ton of money in the long run and improves the public’s productivity by keeping people well, out of the hospital and in the workforce or school, home, etc.

Who is to say a profit is outrageous?  Profits are necessary to fund future medications, medical devices etc. that solve health problems that treat your family, my family, everyone.  Without a profit a drug company has no money to fund research, donate their product to the needy etc.  Regarding lavishing gifts on doctors to prescribe their meds worth more than an average citizen’s yearly income is an inflammatory statement with no basis in fact that makes the public’s blood boil, and for good reason I might add, but it has no substance.  Many years ago I would not doubt some degree of this went on.   To say or imply that “pay to prescribe” is now or was in the past a common, everyday practice that most, if not all, docs were involved in is to irresponsibly inflame the debate.

2. “We are killing ourselves. Our choices bring on diabetes, heart-attack-inducing high blood pressure and cholesterol, obesity, chronic illness, and the like. We eat crap. We supersize it. We consider the walk from the parking lot to our office exercise. We only see the doctor when we get sick.”

I agree here, however, we don’t need to nationalize healthcare to solve this problem.  We need to reward people for making the right choices. We also need to educate people that the choices they make directly influence their well being and future financial health.  Heathcare costs could be cut tremendously through educated lifestyle changes. Read Points 3, 4 and 5 Here….

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Encouraging Early Results in Nearsightedness Prevention Study

The first year of the Stabilization of Myopia by Accelerated Reshaping Technique (SMART) Study has produced some encouraging results in a recent announcement.  According to Dr. Robert L. Davis, co principal investigator of the SMART trial,  “The net effect of this contact lens fitting philosophy is to change the cornea shape for the sole purpose of reducing the amount of myopia as measured by change in refraction” .  “The results of the SMART Study so far are very exciting,” said Dr. Davis. “The outcomes of this study may revolutionize how we manage young nearsighted patients from this point forward”.

The SMART Trial involves 300 patients between the ages of 8 and 14.  The goal of the study is to see if having patients where overnight orthokeratology or corneal molding lenses will stop or slow the progression of nearsightedness.  The SMART Trial is the largest of its kind.  Other studies have also shown that preventing nearsightedness with ortho-K contact lenses is possible, such the CANDY Study.  A study from Ohio State Unversity suggested that wearing Ortho-K lenses overnight actually prevented the eye from becoming longer.  The SMART Trial has just completed the first year of the five year study.  We will continue to keep an eye on this potientially ground breaking study.

Patient Reports Great Results Latisse™

A patient stopped by the office today to show me her new eyelashes.  I must say they were quite impressive, and more importantly ….. she loves them.  Before we started her on Latisse™ four months ago her eyelashes were short, thin and intermittent.  Well, no longer they now look great.  She had to cut back on the Latisse™ from every night to 3 or 4 nights a week, because they were too long!

How Should We Safeguard Our Children’s Eyesight?

Is it too early to think about what we need to do to get our kids ready for school?  One of the most important “school supplies” is your child’s annual eye exam.    Over 80% of what a child learns is through their eyes, therefore it is important for our kids to see their very best.

Kids often don’t complain when they don’t see well and we can not rely on them to tell us when their vision is blurry.  Blurry vision rarely happens quickly, it happens slowly over time and children and adults alike don’t realize what they have lost because it happens so slowly.  On the Total Eye Care website we have more information on the components of a complete eye exam, school screenings and more information on children and vision.  So carve out some time this busy summer and enhance your child’s learning with an eye exam.