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Friday, November 12, 2004

I swear this is not off-topic :-)

Who cares, anyway? It's my blog, and I can noodle around any topic I want. Web browsers. Recently, Mozilla Firebird has gotten a LOT of "ink"—almost all from computer wonks touting it as THE answer to crappy browsing with Internet Exploder, the world's worst web browser. Well , Firebird is pretty good (in fact, I'm using it right now to blog this comment), but it's nearly as bad as Internet Exploder about some things. Sure, it's MUCH better overall than Internet Exploder, but then, browsing the internet with pen and paper would almost be better than Internet Exploder, so that's daming Firebird with faint praise. Much of the hoopla about Firebird's wonderfuliciousness in computer wonkish press is simply, IMO, because ANYTHING that works is worlds and away better than Internet Exploder. Sure it's faster than IE. And because it doesn't have deep, deep unfixable hooks into the OS, it's inherently more secure. Yes, it does have (a lame, IMO) implementation of tabbed browsing and a few other nearly OK implementations of browsing enhancements. BUT, it's so damned hard to get it to look and work like I like. In fact, I have yet to discover a way to get some of the toolbar/menu features to work like I want/prefer. And the single most significant advance in browsing ease of use, mouse gestures? It doesn't come built in! You have to choose among competing plugins to install after the fact. Dumb. "Add bookmark here"? Another plugin! Etc. Why features that ought to be built in have to be downloaded separately, instead of being enabled/disabled within the browser itself, is a puzzle and an irritant to me. And one really annoying "feature"—one that apparently cannot be fixed even with one of those annoying plugins: some sites that display line wrap fine even in Internet Exploder do NOT line wrap in Firebird. This is a real pain when changing text/display size on the fly (another thing Firebird doesn't do any better than the lame Internet Exploder implementation). In contrast, Opera, which has remained my primary web browser for some time, has mouse gestures, mouse wheel text resizing from 10% to 1000%, (which works well with line wrapping), and all those other features mentioned above (and more) built in. And it's faster loading pages. AND I can put toolbars and menu bars any damned where I want. And using CSS is a snap, and... Yeh. So, I use Firebird so I can be familiar with it. I use Internet Exploder when a site I absolutely HAVE to use has been put together by people who are so rude and stupid that they refuse to use standards-compliant html/xml coding and require IE (and I invariably send them emails about it until either they change their site or I can find a site that'll let me do without their crap). So, my take is that Firebird is mostly OK, especially when compared to the Lousy Browser, Internet Exploder. It does have popup blocking similar to Opera's and a few other nice enhancements, and if you don't mind just clunking along without the real browsing enhancements available (with Firebird) only through installing plugins, it's pretty much Just Good Enough for now. As to email clients... that's another story. In spite of some feature lacks, I'm becoming sold on Mozilla's Thunderbird email software as opposed to Outlook Express. Yes, Outlook Express is a more feature-rich free email software, but not by much. And the built-in junk mail handling in T-bird is nice, although a little quirky. In fact, the whole app is a little quirky, but still works well and is more secure by design than Outlook Express. T-bird's definitely worth a look, IMO Back to regularly scheduled snark in later posts.