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Archive for February, 2006

Is Firefox Falling Behind in the Browser Wars?

Published on February 14, 2006 in Browsers, Firefox

With the release of the public beta version of IE7 more and more articles are being published postulating that Mozilla Firefox is beginning to lose its lead in the browser wars. Many are relating this to the way Netscape lost its lead to IE in the past. Richard MacManus of Read/Write Web, writing on ZDNet, is the latest to put this point in writing. The argument seems to be that Firefox is quickly losing its main advantages and selling points which have contributed in converting 10% to 15% of the market to the browser. Leaving that argument aside for the moment, I often wonder if most of these ‘pundits’ (Richard MacManus excluded) are fully aware of the subject they are writing about. First of all, while I myself use Firefox as my primary browser, Firefox is not now or has been in the past the leader in browser innovation, this honor belongs to Opera. Secondly, these comparisons between the beta version of IE, Firefox 1.5 and Opera 8.5 are like comparing apples to oranges. Comparing a beta version of IE with the latest two end user releases from Mozilla and Opera makes little sense. At the very least, use the new beta version of Opera (Opera 9) which has many significant changes (the soon to be released alpha version of Firefox 2 includes many significant changes, also, and will be in end-user release by the time IE 7 hits the market).

The argument that Firefox is losing its edge revolves around three issues. IE 7 is no longer behind the curve on security, Firefox has way too many memory issues, and any advantage Firefox had in the user interface department has been taken away by IE 7. On the security front the new version of IE is a definite improvement. The IE developers have taken some drastic steps to clean up its act (See A Crawler-based Study of Spyware on the Web (PDF) by the University of Washington for a study on the threats facing IE 6 and Firefox 1.5 and please no references to George Ou reporting that Firefox has more security holes than IE). But while the new architecture, in IE, should result in a decrease in the number of overall exploits, IE is still and will continue to be playing catch up in this area.

On the memory front, Firefox is not without its problems and can be improved. At times Firefox can use up a fair amount of memory. Most of this seems to be caused by extensions, though Jesse Ruderman has described a memory leak issue with Gmail, which have been released without the proper testing. The Session saver, NoScript, IE Tab, and a combination of FlashGot and Filterset.G Updater extensions have been found to cause memory leaks (this is why the Mozilla folks need to create a group that much more extensive testing on extensions before they are added to the Mozilla add-on site). In addition, setting the browser history to extremely large values, opening large amount of tabs or keeping high amounts of days in history will increase memory usage. Opening a large amount of tabs can cause a problem as Firefox has a Back-Forward cache that retains the pages for the last five session history entries of each tab. Many of these memory issues have been fixed in Firefox, some will be fixed in Firefox (which is scheduled to be released in March), and most will be fixed in Firefox 2.

When it comes to the user interfaces of the browsers, this area is not just about having a built-in RSS reader and tabs. If it was, Opera would be where Firefox currently is. Firefox is more that just a browser, unlike Netscape or even the upcoming new version of IE. It is a browser based platform. Firefox extensions and Greasemonkey scripts are what truly make Firefox stand out from the pack. While many use very few of these extensions, some extensions like the Web Developer extension, for web developers, and the Performancing extension, for bloggers, by themselves make Firefox in indispensable piece of software to have.

While others are worried that Mozilla may be “dropping the ball” with Firefox I see no real cause for concern. Mozilla has a significant challenge ahead of it in continuing to grow its market share, there is no real immediate danger in Firefox losing its place of innovation and leadership in the browser market. It’s very nature leads Firefox to lead IE in security, even in its current state Firefox is more secure than than IE 7. Most of the memory issues are caused by situations the average user and even most heavy users will never encounter and the list of improvements and enhancements to Firefox 2 should allow the browser to continue to be at the forefront in setting the user interface enhancements in the industry.

Update: Ben Goodger has just posted an article about the Firefox memory leak.

Songbird Media Player

Published on February 10, 2006 in Firefox, Software

Songbird, a free skinable media player capable of playing all types of music formats has recently been released. It comes with links to stores like eMusic and mp3Tunes, as well as various blogs and mp3 aggregators. Think of Songbird has a combination of music player and web browser.
Songbird Media Player
The current release is just a “proof-of-concept” version, a sign of things to come. Thus, it is only available for Windows at the moment (Linux and Mac OSX versions to come). In addition, there are a lot of features, such as cross fading and CD import and burn, that are not present. One of the things that makes Songbird exciting, though, is that it has been built off of Mozilla Firefox and was created using XUL allowing Songbird to work with third party extensions. This is a good sign for future flexibility and features.

While Songbird is not ready for prime time, I am looking forward to seeing what how Songbird develops. The first version has a tendency to crash occasionally and lacks many of the more advanced features of an iTunes or other compeititors. Songbird may very well be a sign of things to come, a “web browser for music”.

The History of Mozilla Firefox

Published on in Firefox

Ben Goodger has posted an interesting essay on how Mozilla and Firefox came to be, from its time at Netscape to the present.

Running IE 7 Beta 2 with IE 6 in Standalone Mode

Published on in Browsers

Now that the IE7 Beta 2 Preview is available to the public it is a good idea for web developers to start looking at how their web sites render in IE 7. In the past one could always run standalone copies of IE with the latest version of the browser. Unfortunately, the IE6 Cumulative Security Update broke the IE standalone mode causing all kinds of problems. The current IE 7 beta release does include an uninstall, which will return your machine to its previous version of IE, but this is no help to web developers who want to prepare for IE 7 but still need a solid copy of IE6 on their machines for development purposes.

Thanks to Jon Galloway, we can now run IE7 in standalone mode while keeping IE6 as the main IE version. Run IE7 as standalone and keep IE6 as the default browser. Visit Jon’s web site for more information and the script necessary to accomplish this. Basically many of the non-browsing features do not work but it is quire handy to browse and test websites. In addition, justaddwater has reported that “If I start IE6 before IE7, I cannot use the address bar in IE6 (as this loads the page in Firefox which is my default browser). The workaround for me is to start IE7, and then start IE6. Now I can see a web page in IE7 and IE6 side-by side.” Remember this solution is unsupported and thus may cause problems, but many have reported it working so far.

Palm Noia DIA with WiFi Buttons

Published on February 9, 2006 in Palm

The Palm Noia DIA has been updated to now include WiFi buttons for use on Palm handhelds such as the TX when running mySkin. You can download the Noia DIA here.

Palm Noia DIA

Palm Crystal DIA with WiFi Buttons

Published on February 8, 2006 in Palm

The Palm Crystal DIA has been updated to now include WiFi buttons for use on Palm handhelds such as the TX when running mySkin. You can download the Crystal DIA here.

Palm Crystal DIA

One For The Thumb! Steelers Win Superbowl XL

Published on February 5, 2006 in General

Pittsburgh Steelers Logo

It has been 26 years, but the Steelers have finally won another Super Bowl. A pair of big plays from Willie Parker and Antwaan Randle El helped Pittsburgh beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10.

Who Am I?

Leslie Franke Profile

Leslie Franke:[les-lee fran-key]; 1. Husband and proud dogowner; 2. Seventh-day Adventist; 3. Web Designer; 4. Atlanta Braves Fan; 5. Northeast Ohio Native; 6. Bottle Caps Lover; 7. Certified 'Freakonomic';