Editor's Note: Lighting a Fire(fox) Under a Browser
Jun 18, 2004, 23:30 (35 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)
Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame
By Brian Proffitt
Okay, I have to 'fess up: I was a trend follower, not a trend
setter, this week.
When new software products are announced, I usually look at them
with a slight longing, as I wish that I actually had two minutes of
the day to rub together to take on such a project.
It's not that Linux installations are all that time consuming
(they're usually faster now than the Windows installations I have
had to do recently. Dear InstallShield: I cannot imagine a world
where your software can be much slower.)--it's just that after an
installation is completed, I tend to want to play with the shiny
new toy on my computer. That's where the time comes in.
But, as I bent like a willow under the relentless peer-pressure,
I eventually snapped and downloaded the new version of Firefox,
installed it, and started using it.
I have a certain affinity for browsers. Before I came to Linux
Today full-time, I was working for the now-defunct
BrowserWatch.com. BrowserWatch, in case you don't recall, was a
newsfeed site much like this one, with a huge directory of browsers
for nearly every platform you could think of. In the year or so I
worked on that site, I became a bit of an expert on browsers. Or,
at least, a talented amateur.
And in that time, I came to the somewhat inescapable conclusion
that browser built around Internet Explorer technology pretty much
Keep in mind, this was just before the big wave of
vulnerabilities that hammered (and is still hammering) IE. And
Mozilla was still in its infancy as a project. But the difference,
to me, between this browsers was like night and day, particularly
in the speed category.
So, I'll be honest with you--when people around me were saying
that Firefox was faster than Mozilla, which, in my mind, was the
standard for fast GUI browsing, I was scoffing. Since a browser is
my number one work tool, I am very discriminating, but my Mozilla
was fast. A little slow to start, but once it is up, things will
happily click along.
Getting Firefox was simple, the Mozilla Web site makes tracking
down download links a breeze. More sites should follow their
example, by the way. I was a little worried when I saw the download
for was 8.1 Mb. Not a problem on broadband, but already I was
thinking "how fast would this be?"
I don't want to be too technical, but in my professional
opinion: really, really fast.
Firefox is absolutely perfect for what I need it to do. Besides
the speed issue, I was worried that I would be trading
functionality for a ligther browser. Nope. The big thing that's
missing is the e-mail client, but truth to tell, I never used that
in Mozilla, as I prefer all my in/out mail to be handled by one
client. Tabbed browsing, which is the major feature I need, is
right there, in all its spendored glory.
And, even better, Firefox has something even cooler up it's
sleeve: the ability to add on functionality as you need it, in the
form of extensions. Extensions are add-on applications that give
Firefox users more power. Note that these are not plug-ins;
plug-ins are still used, but they are strictly used for viewing
content. Extensions modify the browser itself.
The extension I wanted to get was Tabbrowser, which according to
the description, would let me do all sorts of cool things with the
tabs. I found it, and clicked on the Install link. Again, I
expected the worst: I figured I'd have to install the extension,
then manually point Firefox to it, yada yada... wrong again. I
clicked, it installed, I restarted the browser, and there it
Now I can click and drag my tabs into any order I want, which
means I no longer need a Gnumeric spreadsheet to organize the flow
of news on LT; I can just sort the tabs in order, then start
feeding the site in tab sequence.
Firefox, like Mozilla, has themes. They are easier to get to
than Mozilla--instead of being buried in the Preferences dialog,
Firefox's theme manager is accessed right from the Tools menu. I
found a good assortment of themes, but I did run into the one
bugaboo I have had since I've started using Firefox. I swtiched
themes while having a large number of tabs open, and basically all
the content disappeared and did not seem to want to come back. (And
did Brian save the tabs before doing this? Nooo...)
I have been using Firefox 0.9 since the day it came out, and I
have not had any other problems than that. I did run into one more
problem installing the Java plug-in, but this was not inherent to
Firefox. I found this solution
referenced at JustLinux.
I will add two big suggestions to this process: first, get the
tarballed RPM file if you can, so the JRE is automatically
installed in /usr/java (or install it there yourself with the
non-RPM tarball of JRE). Second, when making the symbolic link to
the /firefox/plugins directory, make sure your Firefox instance is
off. Once I did both of these, Firefox could find the
plug-in, and I happily had my animated radar maps running
Beyond being just a really nifty tool, Firefox is just a really
good example of what an open-source project can do when left to its
own devices. In all my time at BrowserWatch, I saw many IE-based
browsers that ultimately ended up being just different wrappers
around the IE/Mosaic engine. Clearly, with open source, this does
not have to be the case.
By the way, I am a bit disappointed... we did something
different last week, and no one wrote in about it!
Actually, last week was a trial run, to see if it could be
managed. But, it did, so this week it will be official:
After many years, Linux Today will now be going back to a
24-hour, 7-day news format.
The decision to do this was mine, and it really made a lot of
sense to do this. We get a lot of news on Fridays, and I would
schedule some to post on Friday evenings, and some on early Monday
morning. Invariably, though, come Monday, there would still be news
left over from Friday that I would feel obligated to run on
Monday--but would compete with the new Monday stories, and make
Mondays very hectic.
So, what will happen is this. Around this time Friday evening,
we will go to a weekend mode and space stories of interest out over
the entire weekend (or Sunday-Monday, for those on the other side
of the Date Line).
Please note, it may be a wide spacing. Last weekend, stories
were three hours apart in posting. If the news content that week is
less, it could be even longer between posts. But there will be
coverage of news on the weekends, and I will (as I did last
weekend) post additional relevent and breaking content when I
To anticipate a question: we may still stop the feed on US
holidays. I haven't worked that one out yet.
This move back to 24/7 status reflects just how busy we are in
terms of more news coming in and users visiting the site at any
time, day or night. Linux is of great interest to those in the IT
field as well as general users, teachers, politicians, scientists.
I am glad we can provide our content to meet everyone's schedule