Saturday, June 20, 2009

Browser News and Tips

Miscellaneous news and happenings in the world of web-browsers.

Firefox First

Firefox 3.5 RC1? and Firefox 3.5 Release Candidate 2 Released - The Firefox Extension Guru’s Blog – If you blinked this week you probably missed 3.5 RC1.  I saw it was coming and pulled it down by doing a manual Check for Updates.  If you didn’t or were waiting for a big public announcement…you probably missed it!

First look to Firefox 3.5 RC2 - Mozilla Links blog opens up with news that the first RC wasn’t that big a deal and this one doesn’t add much more to the party…then goes on to long-list all the neat and improved features it provides…whazz-up?  It’s a good rundown and 3.5 RC2 has been rock-solid on all my various (and I do mean various) Windows systems.

But really…why the fast RC1 to RC2 release jump?  Mozilla is usually very cautious and deliberate in these semi-public official releases.  There has to be a story behind the story. Right?

Maybe so…

Mozilla posts yet another Firefox 3.5 Release Candidate – Betanews’ Scott M. Fulton, III digs around and comes up with this information in a really brief post.

It was apparent yesterday, after a test of the organization's latest private daily build of the Firefox 3.5 browser, that Mozilla's developers had discovered a jackpot of performance improvements in some specific areas: JavaScript math, RegEx (regular string expression) searches, and general control flow. Betanews tests yesterday gave the Thursday morning build 8% better overall speed in Windows 7 RC, and a better overall performance index score on that platform of 9.35 versus 8.81, relative to the performance of Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 on Windows Vista on the same physical machine.

Now it appears the team is willing to capitalize on that find. This morning, Mozilla's servers made available Release Candidate 2 of Firefox 3.5 to the general public. Again, the team makes these public builds available prior to a formal announcement, though word from Mozilla about RC1 was actually rather quiet this week. The possibility of an RC2 in the near term -- just days later -- may have been why.

Firefox web browser 3.5 RC2 Public Link – Mozilla’s latest public Release Candidate can be found here if you are still on the 3.0.x builds and are curious.  Most of the popular extensions for 3.0 builds have been updated to support 3.5 so it might be a good time to try it out if you are curious.  More technical news and warnings here: Mozilla Developer News » Firefox 3.5 Preview now available for beta users

The new Firefox icon - Mozilla Links – Besides the speed and other feature enhancements, this RC version now brings with it the updated Firefox icon.  As silly as it sounds, it really does stand out as I have multiple versions of Firefox on some of my systems and seeing the icons side-by-side on my desktop the differences are clear.  Well done!

Firefox/Sprints/about:me – MozillaWiki – very preliminary work on an extension that provides drill-down data on your Firefox browsing patterns.  Scary stuff for some but a goldmine for OCD Firefox users. I was curious to install the very early version on my system.  I read (somewhere but didn’t save the link) in this post peek: profiling yourself at Mozilla Links blog that this might be added in as a “feature” of future Firefox versions (Danger Will Robinson…Feature Bloat Detected…Danger Will Robinson!)

A statistical analysis of the user's history, average tab load, etc. Like Google Zeitgeist, but based on their Places database.
  • Dietrich has an add-on that does some of this already. screenshot

Introducing Add-on Collections - Mozilla Add-ons Blog.  In a effort to make the power of Firefox's extensibility even more easy for Firefox virgins to join in on, Mozilla now has a project called “Add-on Collections” that bundle popular extensions in singularly-downloadable package sets.  That a Cool Thing.  It’s a cool idea.  If you find some collections you really like, you can add them to your RSS feed-reader to monitor changes.

….install the Add-on Collector extension for Firefox. The Collector turns your favorite collections into subscriptions in your browser, where you’ll be notified as soon as new add-ons are published to one of your collections. The extension has a number of other features, including the ability to share an add-on you have installed with a friend by e-mail, publish an add-on to one of your collections, and set up a collection that is automatically kept up to date with your installed add-ons.

We’ve made video demos of creating a collection and setting up an auto-publisher collection to show how easy it is dive in to collections.

Pop over to the Mozilla Collection Directory to see what this latest news is all about. - newsfox: installation and Newsfox - Release candidate: NewsFox 1.0.5rc2 is out.  My fave RSS news reader for Firefox continues to mature and become more stable and stunning each time!

Disable Firefox 3.5’ Location-Aware Browsing – Privacy – Lifehacker – Firefox 3.5 now comes with Geo-locating features.  This might make some privacy browsing folks a bit uncomfortable. Lifehacker shares a simple tweak from How-To Geek site writer Asian Angel.

  1. Go to about:config
  2. Change the geo.enabled value to false by double-clicking on the key.

In fairness, as Lifehacker points out, even with this “Geo-Loco” feature left enabled, you would still have to (theoretically) grant your consent when prompted to share your Geo-Loco-ness info with the site.

At least you know….

Opera Sings…off key?

Opera Desktop Team - Welcome to Opera 10 Beta 1 – Opera Desktop Team blog – Nice shiny new version. Some bells-n-whistles. Opera remains nice but here in the States has quite a job ahead getting noticed with Mozilla/Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Chrome/Chromium still ruling the sand-lot.

Opera Unite – New feature embedded in Opera 10 allows for file sharing and other typically “server” based operations.  It’s pretty easy to set up and configure. The API will allow other developers to publish “widgets” to interact and leverage this feature.  Could be cool…or is it a sinister threat to end-user/organizational security?  See two links down…

Freedom – Opera Desktop Team blog – The development team work hard to introduce this feature and convince us all what joy will come our way.  Clearly they have worked hard and are proud of the accomplishment.

How secure is Opera Unite? – Betanews.  Scott M. Fulton, III analyzes Opera Unite and shares some real concerns.  Does the average consumer end-user really need (or want) a server embedded in their web-browser? What if someone publishes an “non-Opera approved” widget on their own website that unbeknownst to the user actually serves malware or scrapes the user’s key files/documents/pictures from their system?  In fairness it’s the same charge that has been leveled at Firefox extensions, and from time to time a rouge extension for Firefox is uncovered.  I’m not sold and from a sysadmin’s perspective this adds just one more layer of headache to policing the desktop systems. On the other-hand, for sophisticated browser users, these might be powerful and useful features.  Jury is still out on this one.

And an Apple drops from the tree…does anyone but Newton notice?

Recently Apple took the “beta” tag off Safari for Windows 4.

Apple - Safari - Introducing Safari 4

Safari 4 final: no top tabs, performance updates for 10.6 - Ars Technica

I’ve loaded it on the Vista Home Premium 32-bit with no issues.  Haven’t cared enough to put it on Windows 7 64-bit.

It’s quite nice but still ranks way down my list of browsers to use, despite being installed.

--Claus V.

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