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Editor's Note: Surfing on the Dark Side

Jun 23, 2006, 23:30 (18 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

On Monday nights, I have to endure a great amount of suffering for my fellow man.

It's when, for about four hours, I maintain Linux Today via--Heaven have mercy--Internet Explorer. And my question is, why in the world does anybody stick with this monstrosity?

The back story: on Monday evenings, I volunteer at a local hospital, working at the front desk and directing visitors to the various places in the hospital they need to go. Sometimes I will take them directly to those places, either by walking, rolling them in a wheelchair, or via golf cart. And aside from the occasional thrill of driving a golf cart down busy hospital hallways, most of the job is performed behind the desk.

I find volunteering very rewarding, but like any job, there are times when things get slow. It's at these times I feel the need to check up on the site: pushing through talkbacks, looking for a late-afternoon story--that sort of thing.

The computers behind the desk have a VT100 emulation application running on Windows NT 2000, so the browser of choice is just IE. (And as a guest worker, I have no access rights to install Firefox; I've tried.) Most of the time, this is just mildly painful. Managing talkbacks is a single-screen process that just involves reading and a lot of radio-button clicking. But if there's an actual story, I need to see more than one Web page at a time. And that's when things go horribly awry.

Such was the case on June 12 when I noticed Google has posted the blog entry announcing the beta of Google Earth for Linux. That was big news, and I wasn't going to wait a few more hours to post that. So, I began the arduous process of opening multiple browser windows(!) and getting the news up on LT. It worked, but it took me 16 minutes, which is over four times the amount of time it takes to get a story posted on my home Kubuntu/Firefox machine.

Now, I realize that what I do with a browser is very specialized, and even most Firefox users aren't going to routinely open 40-plus tabs at a time. But even the most casual user can benefit from tabbed browsing.

In my mind, anyone still choosing to use has either never heard of Firefox or has not actually tried it.

I am coming at this, I suppose, from a fatherly angle. When my kids choose not to try something we have served them for dinner, we use the old saw, "how do you know you don't like it, if you don't try it?" Right from the Parent's Handbook. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But I feel compelled to admonish all of us to urge our poor unfortunate Windows-using friends to at least try Firefox.

This is not just because of productivity; there's security, flexibility, and ease of use to consider as well.

Friends don't let friends surf with IE. The sooner people realize this, the happier all of us will be.