Sunday, June 08, 2008

To the Moon, to the Opera, to the battlements!

To the Moon

We are watching Discovery Channel’s “When We Left Earth” series right now.  It is really captivating.  The narration isn’t too bad (bit over-dramatic) and the soundtrack really is heavy and somber.

But the footage is spectacular.  Lots of neat images and clips.  Alvis grew up with the Shuttle and the concept of watching the rockets launch with the capsules on top is just amazing to her.  So it is a great history lesson, especially the failures…something we are still a bit isolated from, despite the Shuttle losses.

To the Opera


Opera is really polishing up their browser!

Opera 9.5 Gets a New Default Theme – CyberNet News.

I downloaded the latest “snapshot” version for Windows and it really has knocked my socks off.  It looks wicked-pretty, is rocket-fast, and is very similar to Firefox with the tabs.

I do wish the toolbars could be rearranged.

I had exported my Firefox 3.0 bookmarks as a HTML file and it imported them no-sweat.

It is really clear the Opera team has been working hard on the UI.

How hard?

First read this post by the Opera Desktop Team: Looking Sharp. It points out the design work in the latest beta release. It was done on June 5th.

Then on June 6th they released a new “snapshot” and post: Turtle Wax making fine-tuning based on the comments from that first post.


I’m loving it.  If you haven’t tried Opera in a while, it’s worth the time to check it out.

(Warning: cutting-edge beta software lurks below!)

Download Opera 9.5 Beta “Snapshot” version below
Windows Classic

No, I’m not swapping for Firefox, but Opera will surge to 2nd place behind Firefox on my systems as my alternative browser of choice. IE still quite far behind even Apple – Safari for Windows, and that’s pretty sad.

If you are looking for a bit less “cutting-edge” Opera, but still Opera 9.5 beta, try this one: Opera 9.5 beta 2

One other thing you will notice in these versions is that Opera is joining Firefox 3.0 in the malicious-link filtering protection game.

Opera Partners with Haute Secure for Malware Protection - CyberNet News

For more details, look at this Opera Desktop Team post: Malware protection.

Short-post made shorter, Opera has teamed up with Haute Secure to allow the option to enable "Fraud Protection" in the browser. If you are surfing using Opera with this feature enabled, then like Firefox you will get a warning page alert if you land on a potentially hostile link. Unlike my last experience with Firefox's protection, Opera does offer a tiny link for you to progress on to the site, if you feel you must.

I didn't see any indication they would be providing more details via a link-jump from that warning page on what the danger is or why the site got the rating.  Fortunately, it looks like the Firefox team is tweaking their malware-link protection pages to make them more information-friendly: Small Steps by Google...Big Help in Firefox 3

Spybot Search & Destroy 1.6 Beta: Much Faster!

A tiny announcement posted in the Spybot Forums brings exciting news:

Scanning a bit faster... first beta of 1.6 available!

Eight years ago, Spybot-S&D originally started off as a very fast anti-spyware scanner, detecting some 30 small things, and you could watch it finish in under a minute.

Today, a full scan applies more than 600,000 tests, and you can watch that number grow weekly on our update list. Handling such numbers obviously is quite a bit different, and while we've tried to adjust to that with each version, a full scan might still take half an hour currently. Since this was one big major complaint issue, we decided to integrate parts of the new file scanner designed for a future 2.0 release and optimized for modern malware fighting, and got you a major push in speed now - that same scan will now take five to six minutes only, being about five times as fast as 1.5 was!

If you want to enjoy that speed and know a bit about beta testing, head over to our beta forums and get the first beta! If you prefer to wait for a thorougly tested public release, we hope to get around to that quite soon.

Oh, and one more thing... there's more up for 1.6: a second big issue we hear often will be addressed, so stay tuned!

Turns out in my tests on both XP and Vista, it is much faster indeed.

If you are curious, get the download safely from this direct-from-developer link:Spybot-S&D 1.6, beta 1 - Safer Networking Forums

Also of teasing note in that second forum post:

Q: When will you release a final version of 1.6?
A: U.S. Independence Day (4th of July) would be nice. Provided that there's enough feedback and no bigger problems appearing.

Q: How did you make it faster?
A: As you may have read on the news page, we've integrated parts of the new file scanner engine designed for Spybot-S&D 2.0, which was rewritten to take many aspects of modern malware fighting into account - those include the fast growing size of the database, the variety of malware and a few other aspects.

So it looks like in about another month, there will be a pretty nice update to the current Spybot and work is ongoing for what tantalizingly may be a pretty well re-made Version 2.0 of Spybot Search & Destroy.

A Fresh Java Bean

Yep. I have the latest Java version installed on all my systems.

I also have installed the very latest bleeding edge versions of Java: Java SE 6 Update 10 Early Access Program!

News is out that a new release (b25) is out.

SDN Program News - Java SE 6u10-b25 is now available

Find the Summary of Changes here.

Download if you dare!  It will co-exist with the latest (normal) release version pretty well, and when the next version of these u10-bx versions come out, you can install it on top of the current one and unlike the other Java editions, it will update the version in place, instead of placing yet another new version alongside the existing one. 

I started trying it out as I was curious to see what difference it made after reading this post by Percy Cabello: A better Java for Firefox 3 : Mozilla Links and items # 21-26 in this Java FAQ.

Other Benefits of the u10-bx builds? 


Java SE 6 Update 10 (formerly known as 6uN) is an update release that introduces new features and enhancements aimed at providing an optimized consumer end user experience. Java SE 6 Update 10 focuses on the following areas:

  • Enhanced JRE installation experience
    • The Deployment Toolkit takes the guess work out of determining what versions of the JRE end users have installed on their PC. It supplies Java based web applet/application deployers with a simple interface to accomplish Java detection and installation.
    • The Kernel online installer lets first time Java users run applets and Web Start applications without waiting for the whole JRE download. The default Kernel installation is expected to satisfy the requirements of most Java applets and applications, and any additional libraries that may be required at runtime are downloaded to complete the Kernel installation. This installation mechanism let the end user get up and running significantly faster, while the complete JRE installation takes place in the background. See Java Kernel FAQ for more information.
    • For current users of Java SE, the JRE update mechanism has also been improved, using a patch-in-place mechanism that translates in a faster and more reliable update process (the patch in place mechanism will take effect for end users who upgrade from this update release or later to a new update release). As an added benefit, follow-on update releases will no longer be listed as separate items in the Windows "Add or Remove Programs" dialog.
  • Improved performance and look & feel
    • The Quick Starter feature will prefetch portions of the JRE into memory, substantially decreasing the average JRE cold start-up time (the time that it takes to launch a Java application for the first time after a fresh reboot of a PC).
    • Hardware acceleration support: Java SE 6 Update 10 introduces a fully hardware accelerated graphics pipeline based on the Microsoft Direct3D 9 API, translating into improved rendering of Swing applications which rely on translucency, gradients, arbitrary transformations, and other more advanced 2D operations.
    • A new cross-platform Swing look & feel, code name Nimbus, provides a nice update over 'Metal' and 'Ocean'.
  • Next-Generation Java Plug-In
    A new implementation of the Java Plug-In that is designed to address long-standing issues with applets, and which features improved reliability, the ability to specify large heap sizes, the ability to select a specific JRE version to execute a particular applet, improved Java/JavaScript interoperability, and better support for signed applets on Windows Vista.
  • Unify Browser and Desktop Experience
    The new draggable feature in Applet unifies user's browser and desktop experience - The New Plug-In allows you to drag an Applet off from a browser to your desktop and allows your Applet continues to run. In addition to dragging an Applet off from a browser, when user closes the a shortcut can also be created from this draggable Applet. The shortcut utilizes Java Web Start technology and allow user to launch the Applet with Java Web Start without opening a web browser. Thus, this feature unifies desktop application deployment via Java Web Start technology, and Applet deployment inside the browser.
  • New Version Download and Pack200 Support
    Since 6u10-b13, we introduce new Java system properties to support the usage of version download and Pack200 without any server side requirements. This addresses the issue that is raised in RFE 6378311.



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