Tag Archives: Firefox

On the Chrome bandwagon

Well Twitter and the interwebs sparked up with discussion of Google’s new browser, Chrome, late last night (UK time) and I thought I’d add some ill-formed thoughts of my own. Don’t expect reasoned, complete analysis at this point: the morning coffee is sitting beside me unsipped…

First thing to say is that I enjoyed the web comic that leaked out a day before the formal announcement, although I did wonder at some of the logic at the time.

  • Chrome installed very smoothly on Vista. For a beta, it’s remarkably stable and well-featured. It has been no real secret that Google have been at least tinkering with browser technology for a while, but they’ve made a very credible entry to the space by coming along with something so (relatively) complete and solid as a first release.
  • I didn’t quite get the reasoning behind the inversion of current UI paradigms with the tabs along the top of the window. I’ll be interested to see how this looks across the major OS platforms. Phil mentions that it’s probably easier when each tab represents a separate process, and Phani points out that it lets them associate the address bar and tools with a tab rather than the window. I guess I’m more used to a platform-native look-and-feel now.
  • Some of the touches in chome-bad-httpsthe UI are quite nice – sites with insecure SSL certificates appear with a crossed-out line through the https, and in common with Firefox 3 it initially warns with a big red page when the site is not trusted.
  • It seems fast, but I typically browse with a lot of tabs open in Firefox so I could just be “used” to a slower browsing experience brought on by bad habits.
  • On that note, the concept that a “bad tab” won’t kill my browser really, really appeals to me. The design of this feature leaves me wondering whether we are going in another technology loop (processes good, threads bad) but I’m willing to be convinced.
  • I like the idea of the start page with thumbnails of favourite pages. I’ll be the other browsers adopt that soon.
  • I like the idea of “application shortcuts” which can go straight onto the desktop. It makes sense. Lots of applications are webapps now.
  • Flash “just works”. Java does not.
  • On the subject of plugins… I’ve come to depend on a lot of the plugins that I can get for Firefox. Given the heritage of the Chrome development team, and the model that the comic describes for isolating plugins / scoping them to a tab, I assume that it will be possible to extend Chrome… but the user-visible extension points are currently limited (no menu bar, no status bar) so it will be interesting to see how they approach this and what the take-up is likely to be.
  • The developer tools that are built-in are very impressive… nice source viewer, element inspector, and the “task manager” with “stats for nerds” gives an interesting glimpse into the way the browser and task isolation is working.
  • RSS feeds don’t appear to display. I half-expected an RSS link to whisk me off to Google Reader – I have no doubt that all my base WILL belong to Google here. Maybe that’s a “todo” feature.
  • Another technical thought – are images in Chrome rendered with colour profiles? I assume so since it uses WebKit, but I’m not sure.

I’ve been saying to people for a while now that Apple has been worth watching… using WebKit as the basis of Safari, Dashboard widgets for OS X, and the iPhone. With this (re)use of the same techology by Google, I’m intrigued to see where all of this will take the browser. With Google’s brand recognition and reach, this has the potential to be a very disruptive move.

Update: WOAH, major licensing issues. And Mark Cathcart brings some interesting perspectives, too. For now, I’m removing Chrome.

Update: as Mark and Justin note below, the EULA has been fixed. Chrome gets a reprieve and can come back to my system, for experimentation purposes at least.

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Safari on Windows

I was initially excited about Apple’s release of Safari for Windows.

I’ve been a long-term Phoenix Firebird Firefox user and I use it as my primary browser on both Windows and OS X. I love the fact that I can install extensions to enhance what I’m doing. In particular I like Greasemonkey, which lets me hack the pages I’m viewing using small scripts.

However, Firefox seems to me to have lost its way a bit. It seems to have sprung some pretty serious memory leaks (as I type this it is sitting at ~460Mb real RAM and ~500Mb VM) and doesn’t feel as snappy as it once was. As I’ve said numerous times before, this could be due to the way I use it – I’m lazy about managing the number of tabs that I keep open, and I do use a lot of extensions.

More annoyingly, Firefox doesn’t currently use colour profiles to display images. This is quite upsetting on the Mac, where I can quite happily use Lightroom to edit my images; export them as JPEGs; and view them on Flickr in Safari, and they will look just as rich as they did in Lightroom…. switch to Firefox on any platform, and they appear washed out. Progress is being made on improving this situation – in fact it looks like a possible fix has been checked in to the Firefox code base recently – but right now, Safari on OS X is my only way of seeing the colours I expect.

I had high hopes that Safari on Windows would do the same thing for me – display my photos as I want to see them. So, I installed it. Unfortunately, it looks like it is rendering images in the same way as Firefox – so clearly there’s something magic in the underlying libraries it is using that hasn’t come across from the Mac version.

A wider question remains though – without forced bundling (IE), advertising and word-of-mouth (Firefox), or hardware (as with iTunes/iPod) to drive it onto the OS, what will make a Windows user choose Safari? Cool factor? Well, the release made a small piece on the second page of this morning’s Metro newspaper, so maybe UK commuters will rush to download it. I’ll follow the size of the install base with interest.

On colo(u)r matching in Gecko on OS X

I’ve been merrily processing RAW files in Adobe Lightroom, and using jUploadr to get them onto my Flickr photostream.

One thing I’ve noticed (and briefly commented on before) is the fact that the colours of the images seem really wrong once I get them on to Flickr. It’s hard to describe or demonstrate, since I’m fairly sure this is browser-specific so images are not going to work here. Basically, the rich colours of the images are lost when they are viewed on the web.

I’m currently exporting JPEGs using the sRGB colour space, since AdobeRGB and ProPhoto seemed much worse in this respect. The annoying thing is that the images look great in Lightroom and Preview on the Mac, but once I’ve uploaded them, they seem more washed-out.

My primary web browser is Firefox. As an experiment, I also looked at the images in Camino (which is based on Gecko, like Firefox), and Safari. A good example image is this one, but any of the recent shots from Cuba or Virginia Water are also good candidates.

Result – the images look great (i.e. the same as in Preview) in Safari, but not good in Camino or Firefox.

Conclusion? There’s some magic foo in the Apple WebKit and the underlying graphics engine on OS X that Safari takes advantage of, but the Gecko-based browsers are missing out on. Firefox doesn’t deal with ICC color profiles, but Safari does. Madness.

I did some research into this issue. An interesting test page demonstrates that while Safari supports ICC color profiles correctly, Firefox currently does not. There’s a very old bug open about it, but no target fix date 😦

Posted whilst at White Leaf House [ plazes.com ]

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Settling in with OS X

It has been over a month since I got my MacBook Pro. I’d never really used OS X before, and apart from a lightning introduction in the store (backed up by some sound and invaluable advice from Adrian) I’ve been essentially on my own since day one. Roo suggested that I pick up the Missing Manual, and I will do that, but I’m going to wait for Leopard to appear first.
I’ve been promising to write about my experiences, and it is about time. Long post on the ins-and-outs of Mac OS 10.4 follows.

The biggest adjustment has been getting the hang of the keyboard layout. I’m pretty much acclimatised now – to the point where I hit Alt on Windows expecting it to be the Command key! I know that I need to hold down Ctrl for my right-click menu; I know that Alt-3 is the hash symbol; I try to remember that Shift-Cmd-4 lets me grab a screenshot. I find it weird that there’s no Delete key, but I can live with it. I still forget to hit Fn when I want to use Expose, and end up turning the brightness down. I’m getting there. I’ve never been a fan of touchpads, and yet here I am using one like a pro.

From day one, I knew I’d be wanting to install a whole bunch of software, despite the excellent suite that comes with OS X (this led to the Mac beating a PC in last night’s Gadget Show face-off between the two systems). Here’s a summary of what I’ve installed.


Essentials

Firefox is a known quantity to me, I’ve been using it for years, and I trust it. I did start out playing with Safari, but it doesn’t have the range of extensions offered by Firefox (although I’ll post on an interesting FF limitation I’ve discovered shortly). I do think it has some memory management issues, but that could be due to my habit of running with ~50 active tabs. I’ve downloaded Camino too, but that doesn’t support extensions either, so it hasn’t seen much use.

Thunderbird was another obvious choice. I’ve not tried OS X Mail.

Beyond surfing and reading mail, a good blogging client and a good RSS feedreader were essential. I’ve gone with Vienna for reading feeds, and ecto for blogging. Both seem to work well, with some reservations. Vienna doesn’t let me follow track comments, while GreatNews on Windows does. ecto has some annoying limitations when compared to the elegance of Windows Live Writer… limited ability to format my posts; inability to post images to WP.com at the moment; no way of grabbing my Flickr photos without installing 1001, which I didn’t like; and the multiple windows get on my nerves since they don’t all come to the front when I click on one of them or on the program icon. ecto is the only piece of software I’ve had to pay for so far.

For photo work I’ve got Lightroom, and I upload to Flickr using jUploadr, which just works brilliantly – exactly as on Windows, and looking entirely OS X-native. I love it. Gimp solves my image editing requirements.

I’ve already posted about office applications: NeoOffice over OpenOffice.

For media, so far I’ve basically only needed to installed Realplayer, Flip4Mac and VLC and I’m good. Oh, and for grabbing / transcoding audio streams I have CocoaJT and ffmpegX. I’ve also dropped the current version of Songbird on the system.

Social networking

For IM, I’ve configured iChat to use Jabber for my Google Talk account. I downloaded Adium too, but it doesn’t support voice or video, and I rarely use the other networks I’ve got accounts on. I’ve also installed Skype, although I’m frustrated that the Mac version appears to lag behind the Windows one (2.5.x instead of 3.1.x currently.

I’m using the Twitterlex widget for the Dashboard to post and view updates on Twitter, although I also use the web interface a lot.

For Last.fm, I’ve got the full client installed. I have also found a nice tool called Amua, but it doesn’t scrobble tracks from iTunes, so it isn’t quite as useful as I’d hoped (the official client won’t start silently, which is annoying).

Plazer works fine on OS X.

Development

I’ve installed Eclipse, but not really played with it in depth. I’ve also been over to the Apple developer site, and installed Xcode and Dashcode. I installed the Subversion client today as well.

For editing, I started out using Smultron, which seemed to be a nice text editor. More recently I’ve discovered TextWrangler, the free version of BBEdit, which seems even better.

Tools

The uber-tool on my machine is Quicksilver. I’m far from being a ninja with this software, but I can basically launch any app with a few keypresses, and don’t have to open the Applications folder very often. Check out the various tutorials on the subject.

I’ve replaced Terminal with iTerm, which is far nicer and more reminiscent of the terminal program I used under GNOME on Linux.

I had a lot of trouble opening archives until I discovered that Tiger doesn’t include StuffIt Expander by default. I installed it, then found something even better – The Unarchiver – it handles pretty much any archive file format I might throw at it.

Google Earth is a must these days, on any machine I use.

I sometimes use VNC for connecting to other machines. I’ve installed Chicken of the VNC, but I’m disappointed to find that UltraVNC on Windows is incompatible with it. I’ve also installed the Microsoft Remote Desktop client for OS X, which is handy for controlling machines on my local network.

I installed a bunch of other little utilities to help me get my head around OS X – Growl, Bonjour Browser, GeekTool, Lingon, coconutBattery

Games

I’m no longer a big games player, but for fun I’ve installed Frozen Bubble, krank, Battle for Wesnoth, Second Life (of course!!), and I await EVE Online.


That about does it. Right now I’m fairly comfortable with the system. If anyone has any suggestions as to important things I’ve missed, I’m willing to listen, since I’m still a total beginner 🙂

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Someone persuade me to try Firefox 2.0

Should I upgrade? FFx 2.0 RC 2 was released a few days ago. Back in the olden days, when Firebird / Firefox was being developed pre-1.0, I was an enthusiastic follower of the alpha and beta releases. These days I’m inexplicably more cautious.

Anyone else using 2.0? What extensions have you found that don’t work?

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