My favorite things about Opera 9.5

opera 9.5 Everyone is talking about Firefox 3, but I’d like to take a moment to talk about a different browser! On June 12th, Opera released the latest version of its desktop web browser. Version 9.5 includes a bunch of new features and lots of incremental improvements. Here are some of my favorite things about it so far:

  • Faster. Opera says the new version is twice as fast as 9.2 at rendering HTML and Javascript, and my experience would support that. I haven’t timed it obviously, but 9.5 does indeed seem quicker.
  • Quick Find. Firefox 3 has the so-called “awesome bar” that remembers page titles and such, allowing you to type in the address bar to find pages you’ve visited in the past. Opera 9.5 does this too, and a whole lot more – it indexes the actual content of pages! Remember a word you read on a page you visited? Type it in the address bar, and Opera will help you find it again. Very slick.
  • Vista stability. I don’t think this is an official improvement, but 9.5 definitely seems more stable on Windows Vista than 9.2 did.
  • New look and feel. When I first launched 9.5, I was a little surprised at the black default theme. After a day or two of using it though, I’m hooked. I love it. It looks great on Vista too.

Opera 9.5 also has support for Extended Validation (EV) certificates – finally!

One new feature that I haven’t tried yet is Opera Link. It allows you to synchronize your bookmarks and Speed Dial settings between computers and devices. Firefox 3 has a similar feature. It’s a great idea for the average user, but for someone like me who uses, it’s kind of useless.

Of course, my list of ten things to love about Opera from last year is still valid too!

Want to give Opera 9.5 a try? You can download it here.

Firefox 2.0

Post ImageI had a chance to install the latest release of Firefox this morning, and I have to admit, it’s pretty sharp looking! The user interface and default theme have both been updated with a fresh, clean look. Here are my favorite new features:

  • The updated user interface of course!
  • The close button for tabs is now on the tab itself, like IE7 and Opera.
  • Session Restore – replaces one of my favorite extensions.
  • The new add-ons manager is easier to use than the old extensions box.
  • You can reorder tabs now!
  • It’s not really a feature, but so far it appears Firefox is using way less memory than it used to.

The obvious question when you install a new browser is – how does it compare to the other browsers? Well, Firefox 2 appears to be a good improvement over Firefox 1.5, that much is clear. Compared to IE7 and Opera 9? They are all so similar now, it is becoming increasingly difficult to say one is better than the other. The installer for Firefox is definitely the best, though I have read some reports of errors when trying to uninstall.

As I mentioned a while ago, I have switched back to IE7 as my main browser, but I’ve always got the three (don’t forget Opera!) installed. If you’re a Firefox user, you should definitely upgrade to 2.0!

Bet you didn’t know: the IE Team at Microsoft sent Firefox guys a cake to celebrate their launch!

Read: Firefox

Immortalized in Firefox 2

Post ImageAs you might have heard, Firefox recently released a beta of the next version of their browser, code-named Bon Echo. Interestingly enough, they have also announced a program that would let you get your name right in the source code:

To commemorate the three-year anniversary of the creation of the Mozilla Foundation on July 15, the open-source group announced that if a Firefox user persuades a friend to download the browser, both the user and the friend’s names will be added to the source code of the next version of the browser, Firefox 2.0.

It’s an interesting marketing experiment, I’ll give them that much. Read that article, and then read Jeremy Wright’s post titled Firefox Copying IE. What Jeremy has to say is dead on, Firefox 2 probably isn’t worthy of a complete 2.0 release. I’ve been critical of Firefox on this blog and elsewhere recently, and this only adds to my feelings. Perhaps the Firefox team should be focusing on creating an incredible next version rather than one full of people’s names.

Read: CNET

Browser Extensions

Post ImageAs I mentioned before, I have been testing Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2. As part of my testing, I have been using it almost exclusively. Turns out, some pages simply do not render in IE7! Sometimes this is because the rendering engine has changed so much, other times its because of crappy programming on the part of the web developer. In any case, I found that I needed to load these pages in Firefox (sounds eerily familiar to when I started using Firefox way back when and had to view pages in IE).

I have had the IEView extension for Firefox installed forever – it lets you right click on a page or link and display it in Internet Explorer. Today I came across FirefoxView, which as the name suggests, lets you right click a page or link in IE to display in Firefox. I love it! The only strange thing? It’s a Firefox extension that adds things to IE – go figure!

I am starting to think my friend Kevin was right. We chatted last week about the two browsers and he remarked that unless IE had extensions like Firefox, there was no reason for him to switch. I have to admit, I wish IE had extensions like Firefox.

Grow up Google!

Post ImageSometimes companies do things that just leave you baffled. There’s lots of commentary out there that suggests Google is taking the evil away from Microsoft, and the latest bit of news seems to support that. Apparently Google is not happy with Microsoft’s new browser and the way it features MSN Search:

“The market favors open choice for search, and companies should compete for users based on the quality of their search services,” said Marissa Mayer, the vice president for search products at Google. “We don’t think it’s right for Microsoft to just set the default to MSN. We believe users should choose.”

So now they are lobbying the government, expressing concern about competition in the search business. Are you kidding me? First of all, it’s dead easy to change the default search provider in IE7 to Google (or anything else for that matter). Secondly, are they totally forgetting that they made a deal with Firefox to be the default seach provider (and start page too) in that browser? Or that they pay a lot of Mozilla’s employees? I mean seriously.

If you’re going to complain about something, at least make sure you’re not doing the very thing you’re complaining about. All too often Microsoft’s competitors run to the government. It’s kind of sad, really.

UPDATE: As this post explains, MSN Search is not the default search provider after all!

Read: CNET

New Feed Icon

Post ImageYou might have read lately that Microsoft and Mozilla have decided to standardize their icons for feeds on the one used in Firefox. The Microsoft RSS Team reported they would adopt the Firefox icon a couple weeks ago:

We’ll be using the icon in the IE7 command bar whenever a page has a feed associated with it, and we’ll also use it in other places in the browser whenever we need a visual to represent RSS and feeds.

The Outlook 12 team has announced they’ll be using the same icon. Great news!

I think it is great news indeed! A standard icon will go a long way towards making web feeds even more mainstream, especially since I would expect many other companies to now adopt the icon as well. I have added the icon to my website, which you’ll see on the black bar above, next to the web feed icon. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll get rid of the web feed icon or keep it. I guess the new icon is really the “web feed icon” now!

The new icon is a departure from the RSS or XML icons, which is very good. Here’s what I wrote in August:

There’s some really simple reasons that we should be calling them web feeds. When you ask your friend or co-worker about something on the Internet, do you talk about visiting an “HTML page” or a “web page”? Does your web browser (not “HTML page browser”) load up “HTML pages” or “web pages”? Clearly, you talk about web pages, and that’s what your browser loads. There are three very good reasons we use the term web pages…For the very same reasons, we should be using web feeds, not RSS feeds.

Now that the graphic no longer says “rss” or “xml” or any word or acronym at all, I think it will become much easier to adopt the name “web feed”. And yes, we still need a name you can say in words, just like Prince was still called Prince after he adopted an icon to represent himself!

Firefox 1.5 Released

The Mozilla Foundation has released the first major revision to Firefox, version 1.5. I downloaded and installed it tonight on both machines without any problem. In fact, I quite like how simple upgrading the extensions was – much improved over previous installs. Here’s what’s new:

New in the 1.5 version are more sophisticated security and performance features. In addition to a more effective pop-up blocker, the updated browser is designed to ease security updates. The program checks daily for patches, downloads them automatically and then prompts users to install them, said Chris Beard, vice president of products at Mozilla.

Other improvements include “forward” and “backward” browsing buttons designed to load Web pages more quickly. A new drag-and-drop feature for browser “tabs” lets users keep related pages together.

If you’re a Firefox user, definitely download the upgrade!

UPDATE: It seems that all of the engines I had in my search box were removed after upgrading, and now when I try to add them again, they appear as blank entries in the list! Not sure what the deal is with that!

Read: CNET

Flock Developer Preview

Post ImageAn application called Flock has been hyped and hyped again recently. Naturally, I had to see for myself if it lived up to the hype, so I went and downloaded the Flock Developer Preview this afternoon. What is Flock?

Flock is based on the open source Mozilla code base. All of our modifications to Mozilla code are released under the MPL, GPL and LGPL licenses. 100% of the Flock-created code to date is released under the GPL license. Going forward, we may incorporate some proprietary code from partners, or even created in-house, but our plan is for the vast majority if not all of our code to be open source for the foreseeable future.

I guess the idea is that Flock is a so-called “Web 2.0 browser” based on Firefox. So far it connects up to and Flickr. As others have noted, it’s still very early in the application’s development so I’ll try not to knock it too hard.

Let me get a few things out of the way first. Their website sucks. They don’t have any images (not even a logo!). The download is huge compared to Firefox. The browser itself runs incredibly slow compared to Firefox (who knows what they did – it’s supposedly based on the very quick Firefox). I don’t see how they are going to make money – their “roadmap” is kinda funny. Much of what Flock promises can be accomplished via extensions, and there’s reason to believe such features will be rolled into Firefox and featured in the next IE version anyway.

Never say never, but I don’t see myself using Flock in place of Firefox or IE anytime soon. I’m not sure that, blogging and Flickr integration would be enough to tempt me either!

Ah that feels better. The only thing worse than a hyped application is a hyped application that sorely disappoints. Keep in mind this is only the developer preview, but I’m not holding my breath. Mark Evans wrote about Flock today too.

Read: Flock

Using Firefox? You're not safe!

Post ImageI have said it before, and I’ll say it again: Firefox isn’t really all that secure! It only seems more secure because it doesn’t have a large enough market share to warrant attacking. Fortunately, some other people have noticed this and done some excellent analysis, like George Ou and ZDNet:

Now that Firefox has become the first viable contender to Microsoft Internet Explorer in years, its popularity has brought with it some unwanted attention. Last week’s premature disclosure of a zero-day Firefox exploit came a few weeks after a zero-day exploit for Internet Explorer appeared on the Internet. Firefox not only has more vulnerabilities per month than Internet Explorer, but it is now surpassing Internet Explorer for the number of exploits available for public download in recent months.

In the post, George shows that since March of this year, Firefox has encountered 40 vulnerabilities, compared with Internet Explorer’s 10. And since April 2005, there have been 11 exploits for Firefox compared with only 6 for Internet Explorer. One could make the case that Internet Explorer 6 has been around longer and thus many of it’s problems were fixed prior to March of this year. It would be interesting to see some data on that. Of course, Firefox shouldn’t have had any of the same vulnerabilities though, as it was released after IE6 and should have been able to learn from it’s mistakes, right?

A new report from Symantec found similar results, but also noted that hackers still focus their efforts on IE – no doubt because of the size of IE’s market share and installed base:

According to the report, 25 vendor-confirmed vulnerabilities were disclosed for the Mozilla browsers during the first half of 2005, “the most of any browser studied,” the report’s authors stated. Eighteen of these flaws were classified as high severity. “During the same period, 13 vendor-confirmed vulnerabilities were disclosed for IE, eight of which were high severity,” the report noted.

The average severity rating of the vulnerabilities associated with both IE and Mozilla browsers in this period was classified as “high”, which Symantec defined as “resulting in a compromise of the entire system if exploited.”

See the browser wars aren’t really Firefox versus IE at all. No, the browser wars are hackers versus vendors.

Firefox 1.0.5 Released

Post ImageThe latest update to Firefox was released today by the Mozilla Foundation, version 1.0.5. No new features, but there are a number of security fixes, as well as improvements to stability.

Firefox 1.0.5 is a security update that is part of our ongoing program to provide a safe Internet experience for our customers. We recommend that all users upgrade to this latest version.

Release notes are up, and you can download from the Mozilla site.

I love Firefox, and use it as my main browser. I just wish that people would realize that it has the same potential for security problems as every other browser, including Internet Explorer. I mean, look at the issues that were fixed in this version – “Code execution through shared function objects”, “Standalone applications can run arbitrary code through the browser”, and a bunch of others. Nobody’s perfect!

Read: Mozilla Firefox