Friday, September 16, 2005

Firefox bugs and benefits

Let me start this by saying that, while I'm neither an elitist nor a person who uses the term "M$", I honestly can't believe people still use Internet Explorer. And no, I haven't used IE7 and its tabs and whatever other features it has added. Once search keywords, type to find, AdBlock, FlashBlock, Mouse Gestures, SessionSaver and of course tabs become part of your daily browsing experience, there's no going back.

However, I started this blog entry because there are a few irritating Firefox bugs and I just hit the most annoying one right now. Sometimes, you can no longer type into forms because the Firefox "begin finding when you begin typing" feature takes over after the first letter. The only fix is to exit Firefox and restart. It is an annoying bug that has not been fixed in the last five versions of Firefox. Since I didn't want to write some dumb complaint without acknowledging Bugzilla, I searched and found this bug and voted for it. It was actually a learning experience as the bug stated that it was caused by launching a second instance of Firefox.

Actually, let me take this opportunity to give a shout-out to SessionSaver. Closing and restarting Firefox isn't that big a deal because of it. When I first got into Firefox in the 0.7 days, I found TabBrowser Extensions which included that feature. But as Firefox progressed, it seemed to become slower and more crash-prone and I finally asked on a forum how to alleviate the problem given that saving session state and restoring it upon relaunch was a feature I couldn't live without. The resounding answer was SessionSaver and I have been happy ever since. It's not that Firefox crashes so often, it's that I like to have a core set of tabs like GMail, my band's forum, PERFECTLY LEGAL BitTorrent files I plan to download, blog archives I'm slowly reading, etc. as well as things that are somewhat temporary that I haven't acted on yet (things to send to my coworkers, software to try at home) and I like to pick back up where I left off without leaving my computer on or hibernating. I now expect a browser to work like this because it is so useful and great.

Moving along, I find that Java is another cause of crashes in Firefox. Before Google Maps came out I was blown away by www.map24.com which is a great mapping tool that had all the features of Google Maps and more, months before Google Maps came out. However, as soon as I found it, I quickly discovered that it crashed Firefox every other time you loaded it. So it became an IE-only program but that just meant I really didn't want to use it that much. I was happy when Google Maps came out because it wasn't a Java applet and so far Google Maps has never crashed my browser.

When Java isn't crashing the browser, it's running up high utilization on the machine. I guess this is not really a Firefox problem but rather a Java problem (or a problem with a Java program, to be exact) but that I haven't seen this crash in IE but regularly with Firefox is either a nefarious plot by the people of map24.com to limit the number of people who use their free, advertising-supported product or it is that the linkages between Java and Firefox are not quite as robust as those between the 10-year-old Internet Explorer and the 3(?)-year-old Firefox.

The other annoying thing about Firefox is not Firefox's fault at all. It is that there are sites that don't work with it. This is the fault of developers who relied on wacky IE quirks rather than test their site with other browsers or operating systems. I mean, two years ago in the 0.7 days I can totally understand it; who had the budget to re-architect for a browser used by 500,000 people, 499,990 of whom were not your customers or intended site visitors? But with somewhere between 6% and 10% (depending on which stats you believe) of all individuals using Firefox, it's time for chase.com, Interwoven WorkSite Web, et al to get with the program. Fortunately, until then, there is the IE View add-on to launch these sites in IE.

I'll write another entry extolling the virtues of AdBlock, Gestures, and more Firefox stuff later. I'm finding that I have several long blog entries sitting here in OneNote that I never finish… and it's because I'm being too long-winded. Gotta learn to keep 'em short and sweet.

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