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July 3, 2008

Foxy records

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 9:14 am

“Adversity causes some men software to break; others to break records.” — William Arthur Ward

Firefox Download Day!

It’s official. Firefox 3 has created a world record for being the most downloaded software in a 24-hour time-period (approximately 8 million times actually, and that too with a server outage). I did download the source-code on the release day but I didn’t compile it until only yesterday. The compilation went smoothly, mainly because I had already solved out incompatibility issues while messing with the betas.

The grandmother’s theorem just got another postulate to build open ;-) .

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May 11, 2008

The Vulpine Metamorphosis

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 12:55 am

These days, anyone claiming that browser-wars are still around tends to sound like a broken record (or Rihanna — eventually the same thing anyway). In reality, the grandmother theorem, which has been around for about three years now, states that “Firefox > Internet Explorer for all Firefox versions >= 0.1 (Pescadero)”.

Nevertheless, as far as I believe, Firefox wouldn’t have been able to provide such a great browsing experience for a diverse range of Internet users without the ever useful addons — the little “extensions” that provide new functionalities or enhance existing ones in the browser. With the choice of these addons being a persistent topic of discussion among the fox-fans, I thought of compiling a list of addons I have been using for over about two year now. These addons have become an integral part of my day-to-day browsing and any Firefox user should at least try them once just to see how convenient they make your internet surfing. Giddy up!

  • CoLT: Suppose you want to copy the text on a hyperlink. The traditional way would be to position your cursor at the start, click and select the link till the end and then Ctrl+C. The shortcoming is pretty obvious, as it is cumbersome to position the cursor at the beginning without it being turned into a “hand”. This extension provides the intuitive solution in the form of a “Copy link text” menu entry when you right-click a hyperlink.
  • DownThemAll!: Forget KGet. Forget Download Accelerator Plus. This extension does everything a download manager should do and does it with style. It can resume, pause, download in chunks, download all the links on a page, filter those links according to a criterion and does all of this with easily customizable settings.
  • File Title: An extension which, IMO, should be pre-compiled in Firefox. When saving webpages, it provides the page titles as the file name instead of the original (usually worthless) file names e.g., “index.html”.
  • Greasemonkey: The grand daddy of ‘em all. No top Firefox extensions’ list can ever be truly complete without Greasemonkey. It’s an extension which allows you to install other tiny “scripts” that work on particular websites. For example, Orkut’s design has this annoying habit of being centered on my screen even when I have more horizontal space available on it. With a Greasemonkey extension, I can change the behavior so that Orkut “stretches” across the screen and spans all the occupied space. Similarly, I can use Greasemonkey to change layout or theme of popular websites. The count of these tiny scripts approaches infinity, as there are even books out there that just document how to write them.
  • Pearl Crescent Page Saver: Another useful addon, this one provides menu and toolbar options for capturing “screenshots” of webpages.
  • Save Session: More often than not, you have to exit Firefox while you’re browsing (e.g., you want to shut-down your PC, the PC wants to shut-down just because “Windows told ya!”, you have installed another addon or your cat is messing with the power-cord etc.). Save Session allows your to save the current “state” of your browsing so that you can later on continue exactly from where you left off. Nifty, isn’t it?
  • SmoothWheel: This addon makes page-scrolling relatively smoother depending on the settings — something Opera addicts shall be delighted to discover in Firefox.
  • Tab Scope: Another “Opera-ish” addon, this one creates pop-up thumbnails of open-tabs when you hover your cursor on them. Very useful for habitual users of tabs.
  • User Agent Switcher: Allows you to switch your user agent string which identifies your browser on the websites you visit. Useful for bypassing “browser checks”, e.g., websites which allow only Internet Explorer access (as brain-dead as that sounds, they do exist).

“And so at last the beast fell and the unbelievers rejoiced. But all was not lost, for from the ash rose a great bird. The bird gazed down upon the unbelievers and cast fire and thunder upon them. For the beast had been reborn with its strength renewed, and the followers of Mammon cowered in horror.” — The Book of Mozilla, 7:15

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October 11, 2007

Watching the froots

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 6:55 pm

“The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbet; watch the roots, the lion, the tyger, the horse, the elephant, watch the fruits.” — William Blake

(As far as history tells us, Blake was a n00b in the field of computers and internet. Which adequately explains why he knew as much about browser wars as anyone’s grandma. Certain fiery foxes do watch the (open-source) roots, but I never heard anything about a Radiating Rat, Mercurial Mouse or Rigorous Rabbit.)

Anyone not living under a rock for the past decade knows this pretty well: Firefox is the best web-browser on the face of earth, period — as far as embedded browsing isn’t concerned. For me, and everyone else who actually browses full-blown websites on cell phones, Opera still holds that honor on mobile platforms. Here’s a list of few good reasons why:

  • Page refitting “modes”. You can view the page in its original design or opt for having Opera “fit” it on the mobile screen for you.
  • Inline frames. You can’t log-in in some of the Google services without them (e.g. orkut).
  • Better Javascript support.
  • One reason to rule them all: absence of Firefox on the platform.

And the one reason looks like it’s finally going to be rectified by Mozilla. Gentlemen, everyone’s favorite fox is aiming for mobile platforms.

The bad news? You’re gonna have to wait for about another year before you could actually get your hands on it (the project is as mature right now as Steve Ballmer; and that’s virtually indicative of infancy). Other than that, the details are aplenty and if you do use internet on a hand-held, you should definitely give the announcement link a visit.

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April 8, 2007

Firefox, Internet Explorer and the Acid2 test

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 5:12 pm

Firefox and other popular open-source projects are well-renown for their rapid development pace. That’s exactly the reason why you would be seeing the 3rd major version release of Firefox in almost the same amount of time which Internet Explorer took to roll one (Firefox 1.0 was released in November 2004 and Firefox 3.0 is expected to be released around Fall 2007, whereas Internet Explorer versions 6.0 and 7.0 were released in August 2001 and October 2006 respectively).

If we shift our concern from development pace for a while, development focus immediately grabs our attention. Firefox became better and more confirming to W3C standards while IE focused on changing the interfaces and getting rid of old problems by introducing new ones. To back this view, I decided to compare the respective browsers’ progress in the Acid2 test. For those who’re not familiar with Acid2 yet, here’s a quick intro: It’s a cleverly constructed web-page which determines an internet browser’s support for web standards. If your browser displays a correctly rendered smiley on the page and changes the nose color to blue upon hovering with the mouse pointer, it passes the test. If it displays a jumble of non-recognizable patterns, you’re most probably using Internet Explorer.

Here’s the comparison:

Acid2 on Firefox 2 Acid2 on Internet Explorer 6
Firefox 2 Internet Explorer 6
Acid2 on Firefox 3 Alpha 3 Acid2 on Internet Explorer 7
Firefox 3 Internet Explorer 7
(Progress in 1 year) (Progress in 5 years)

I think the pictures speak for themselves. It should be noted that Firefox 3 isn’t even released yet. I was testing an Alpha build just to get an idea of where the development is being headed. The answer is certainly pleasing, specially for web-developers who spend nights trying to fix annoying rendering bugs across various browsers.

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January 29, 2007

Tragedy of the masses

Filed under: Blog — krkhan @ 2:55 am

As much as I hate Internet Explorer, it’s just not possible for me (or any other web-designer) to completely ignore it. (more…)

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