Posts tagged ‘web browser’


Welcome to Vivaldi

07.09.2017

Earlier this week, I installed Vivaldi browser, and decided to make it my default after reading CEO Jon von Tetzchner’s blog post about the potentially corrupt practice of suspending his company’s Adwords campaign after he was critical of Google.
   I have resisted browsers made from Chromium because I was never sure how much went back to Google, but seeing von Tetzchner’s honest blog post about Google’s alleged misdeed made me think that Vivaldi would likely look after my interests as a netizen.
   It wasn’t the only reason, mind. Firefox, and before that, Cyberfox (a 64-bit Firefox that had been my default for quite some time) had begun eating memory on my computer. The memory leak would still happen after I got rid of many extensions, and even on safe mode, Firefox took up a lot more space than I expected. Firefox had been having issues with certain ads from some networks for months, too, resulting in script errors.
   It didn’t take much time for Firefox to chew through 6 Gbyte, freezing other programs that I relied on, and crashing Windows altogether. It happened right after I installed a Crucial SSD that I bought from Atech Computers on Cuba Street, but fortunately I didn’t blame it on the new gadget. Logic prevailed and I discovered the culprit, though an upgrade to Universal Media Server didn’t help either: 6.7 is poorer than 6.5, confusing video files for JPEGs and forgetting what had been recently played. (Like Windows 10, which regularly forgets settings, modern software seems to have a memory poorer than its users.)
   A screen shot of the Windows 10 Task Manager shows just how much memory Firefox ate in around 10 minutes, whereas at this point Vivaldi had been on for quite some time.

   It mirrors the experience I once had with Chrome, which handled memory and web pages so poorly that I began calling it the ‘“Aw, snap!” browser’ because of its regular crashes. The same problem that cemented my use of Firefox (and Waterfox and Cyberfox) has now happened to Firefox, forcing me to look for an alternative.
   First indications are that Vivaldi is a well made product, with a built-in screen-shooting feature and notes. There are some things that are harder to get to, such as a menu where I can customize which cookies should be blocked (I like living in a YouTube-comment-less world; I feel my IQ is preserved as a result), but overall I’ve managed to get myself the right extensions to mimic what I used to do on Firefox. I’ve also switched off the Google phishing and malware protection setting, for obvious reasons, blocked a bunch of cookies from dodgy big US tech firms (Google among them), and done the ad opt-outs.
   It might be marginally quicker, though if I was just interested in speed, Blaze beats Vivaldi and Firefox hands-down, and has a smaller memory footprint. However, a browser is not just for pleasure for me; if it were, then maybe this blog post would have been about another browser altogether. I’ve downloaded Blaze for my phone, and I’ll try it out soon.
   I wonder if this is a longer-term change. I remember beginning surfing on Netscape 1, and if I recall correctly, 1·2 had just come out so I actually began browsing in colour. Netscape stayed good till 4·7, and 6 was bloatware and truly awful. I switched to Internet Explorer 5 at this point, before moving to Maxthon (when it had an IE core, but its own interface). Firefox had issues back then with typography, preventing me from switching, but as it matured to v. 3, I went over and wasn’t disappointed. Chrome also had typographic issues for a long time.
   I invested a lot of time troubleshooting Firefox with the devs over the years, so I don’t make this move lightly. But there comes a point when a piece of software becomes impractical to keep. Firefox hadn’t changed much on the surface yet when it forces two hard resets a day, you have to make a hard call.
   If it weren’t for von Tetzchner’s blog post, I mightn’t have made the decision to use his company’s browser quite so readily. But it is a good product, even at v. 1·11. Vivaldi has obviously invested into making a decent browser from day one, and it’s not just for technologists and power users, which some seem to think. The fact it works better than Firefox should automatically make it appealing to the bulk of users, and if its CEO isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade when it comes to Google, the general public should be impressed.
   But, as we’ve seen, an honourable stand doesn’t always mean success: Duck Duck Go hasn’t overtaken an increasingly suspect Google, and people still flock to Facebook for social networking despite that platform’s privacy gaffes and unanswered questions about its forced downloads. I only hope that Vivaldi stays the course because the public deserves a product that hasn’t come from a morally questionable source.

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Posted in internet, technology | No Comments »


Switching to Cyberfox, after Waterfox and Firefox stopped displaying text

23.12.2014

Since the Firefox for Windows updates in November, I’ve had a big problem with the Mozilla browser, and the Waterfox 64-bit version based on it: they won’t display text. I had to downgrade to Waterfox 32.0.3 for the last month or so, but it’s begun crashing more and more regularly (from once a day to thrice today—I visit largely the same sites, so why does software “decay” like this?).

   On the latest incarnations of Firefox and Waterfox, linked fonts work, but the majority of system fonts vanished from the browser. And, for once, I’m not alone, if Bugzilla is any indication. It is probably related to a bug I filed in 2011.
   I’ve had some very helpful people attend to the bug report—it’s great when you get into Bugzilla where the programming experts reside—but sadly, a lot of the fixes require words. And, unfortunately, those are the things that no longer displayed in Firefox, not even in safe mode.
   As many of you know, there’s no way I’d switch to Chrome (a.k.a. the ‘Aw, snap!’ browser) due to its frequent crashes on my set-up, and its memory hogging. There’s also that Google thing.
   After some searching tonight, I came across Cyberfox. It’s not a Firefox alternative that comes up very often. Pale Moon is the one that a lot of people recommend, but I have become accustomed to Firefox’s Chrome-like minimalism, and wanted something that had a Firefox open-source back end to accompany it. Cyberfox, which lets you choose your UI, has the familiar Firefox Australis built in.
   I made the switch. And all is well. Cyberfox forces you to make a new profile, something that Waterfox does not, but there isn’t much of an issue importing bookmarks (you have to surf to the directory where they are stored, and import the JSON file), and, of course, you have to get all your plug-ins and do all your opt-outs again. It also took me a while to program in my cookie blocks. But the important thing is: it displays text.
   You’d think that was a pretty fundamental feature for a web browser.
   The text rendering is different, and probably better. I’ve always preferred the way text is rendered on a Macintosh, so for Cyberfox to get a bit nearer that for some fonts is very positive. It took me by surprise, and my initial instinct was that the display was worse; on review, Firefox displayed EB Garamond, for example, in a slightly bitmapped fashion; Cyberfox’s antialiasing and subpixel rendering are better.

Firefox and Waterfox on Windows 7
Firefox_Screenshot_2014-12-23T14-14-06.693Z

Cyberfox on Windows 7
Firefox_Screenshot_2014-12-23T14-13-23.809Z

Here’s where the above text is from.
   Gone is the support for the old PostScript Type 1 fonts (yes, I still have some installed) but that’s not a big deal when almost everything is TrueType and OpenType these days.
   The fact Cyberfox works means one of two things: (a) Cyberfox handles typography differently; or (b) as Cyberfox forces us to have a new profile, then there is something in the old profiles that caused Firefox to display no text. That’s beyond my knowledge as a user, but, for now, my problems seem to be solved—at least until someone breaks another feature in the future!

PS.: That lasted all of a few hours. On rebooting, Cyberfox does exactly the same thing. All my text has vanished, and the rendering of the type has changed to what Firefox and Waterfox do. No changes to the settings were made while the computer was turned off, since, well, that would be impossible. Whomever said computers were logical devices?
   Of yesterday’s options, (a) is actually correct—but how do we get these browsers behaving the way they did in that situation? In addition, the PostScript Type 1 fonts that the browser was trying to access have since been replaced.

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Posted in internet, technology, typography | 3 Comments »


Google Chrome blocked us over a GIF

04.07.2012

Thank goodness for mates. Decent people out there prepared to tell me when I screw up—you know who you are—and when Google screws up.
   One friend had the decency to tell me yesterday that he could not access Lucire’s online edition. This is what he saw:

   It’s not the first time Google has blocked a site of ours through no fault of our own. Something very similar happened about a year and a half ago with this blog. But I had been wondering why our traffic stats had been down for over a week and why the search queries started looking more niche than usual. I originally just blamed the summertime malaise (in the northern hemisphere) though the overall traffic was a lot lower than the same period in June 2011.
   It turns out that a single GIF on the page from Blogarama, a site Google identified as spreading malicious software, made Chrome go all panicky.
   I’m not saying it’s wrong of Chrome to be cautious, nor do I suggest Google contact everyone who has content from a reported site on their page. But I wonder if it was overcautious in this case and whether its technique is the right one.
   I don’t use Chrome, for very good reasons. However, on Firefox, with the McAfee plug-in, the content to dangerous sites is blocked, not the whole page. It gives a warning at the top of the browser, saying that potentially malicious content has been blocked. That seems to work all right and it would at least allow people to get to the content they want safely.
   I will give Google credit on one thing, however: once the Blogarama GIF was removed, it lifted the block within hours.

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Posted in internet, publishing, technology | No Comments »


I’m not the only one who has a problem with Internet Explorer

21.06.2012

I realize software crashes can happen to anyone at any time, even Microsoft Windows president Steve Sinofsky, when demonstrating the new Microsoft Surface tablets in front of an audience in Los Angeles.
   However, it does remind me of the year where Internet Explorer 9 would not work on any of our computers. The question must be asked: if one of Microsoft’s own bosses can’t get Internet Explorer to work, what hope do the rest of us have?

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Posted in humour, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Internet Explorer 9 can’t even display Microsoft’s own page

26.03.2011

After this issue with Microsoft Internet Explorer 9, I went to the McAfee forums to record it so others knew.
   The McAfee volunteers and tech support guys have, in the last while, been fantastic. There’s one volunteer there, Peter, who’s always been right. So I would be foolish to ignore their advice.
   You can read the thread for yourself but after following these registry-cleaning suggestions, I downloaded IE9 again.
   Result: the same. IE9 doesn’t display anything. Pages are either all black or all white.
   It’s even more worrying when you realize Internet Explorer cannot display its own page at Microsoft:

   That’s two out of two fails. It’s official: IE9 is the worst browser on the market and an absolute waste of time.
   Not that I would have ever used it—it was more intellectual curiosity to see how it compared to Firefox 4, Chromium and Opera. Conclusion: it doesn’t.

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Posted in internet, technology, Wellington | 8 Comments »


The epic fail called IE9 has consequences for other programs

25.03.2011

I was prepared to put up with the epic fail of IE9, since I hardly use the program. In the years I’ve had IE8, I’ve only opened it accidentally (e.g. when certain programs are removed, they load IE for the ‘Why did you remove it?’ customer screen).
   But I forgot one thing: some programs rely on IE to display their information, like the Windows sidebar gadgets and McAfee.
   Bit of a problem when IE9 doesn’t actually display anything.

Thanks to IE9, I can't see a thing

   So Microsoft’s ineptitude has consequences that reach far further than its crappy browser.
   I wish I could tell Microsoft. Many, many years ago, after registering some Microsoft product, I was asked to sign up to the Microsoft Network. So I did.
   Then, one day, Microsoft insisted that I sign up for a Microsoft Passport, because this was the one sign-on that I needed to get in to every one of its services. Well, I didn’t use any other than registering software. But I did anyway.
   Problem: that no longer works, because Microsoft now insists that I sign up for a Windows Live ID.
   MS, this is just stupid.
   In 1999, we had a Yahoo! Group list. We no longer run it after we moved our users on to an in-house mailing list. And, you know what? My little company, a fraction of the size of Microsoft, will still honour the requests from the old Yahoo! members.
   If we can keep old user data, how come Microsoft can’t keep hold of registered customers’ data and move it over to each successive service? How can I be assured that this doesn’t actually hook me up to a third Microsoft service when in fact I only expect one?
   Or was MSN for the 1990s, Passport for the 2000s, and Windows Live for the 2010s? That we have to change each decade because Microsoft doesn’t work on a long-term basis?
   Even though quite a few people suffer from the blank screen problem of IE9, Microsoft won’t be hearing it from me.
   I understand that this bug had plagued IE9 even at beta stage, if the McAfee forums are to be believed.
   You’d think it would be pretty serious if an internet browser couldn’t display, but it looks like Microsoft never fixed it for its final release.
   The one thing it did right was providing instructions on how to remove IE9, which I followed tonight. I am glad my gadgets have returned, along with text in my McAfee security program.
   Frankly, I don’t think McAfee or any other software developer should rely on IE to deliver screens, though I can understand why, with the standardized installation of the program in Windows.
   What a pity, then, that Microsoft cannot deliver a browser that works with its own products.

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Posted in business, design, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Chromium remains buggy; and I get charged twice for parking (thrice if you count my rates)

18.03.2011

I am happy to say that Firefox 4 Release Candidate 1 is working smoothly with no crashes to date. It reminds me of, well, Firefox 3·0, before Mozilla started doing weird things to it and we had the multiple-crashing 3·5 and 3·6. Let’s hope this situation lasts.
   Meanwhile, the bugs I reported to the Chromium people in October and November 2010 have finally received responses. It’s too long compared with Mozilla. I told the chap that I had given up on Chrome, but I downloaded it today just to see where things were at.
   Based on the latest Chromium, the incomplete font menu bug has, indeed, been fixed, though various font-changing ones still appear present. There are still font-linking and character-set issues. (The images below have had their colour depth reduced for faster loading.)

Chromium 12
Chromium 12Above and left: When Chromium hits a ligature, the line or part of the line changes font. Opera does something similar: it changes the font of the one word that contains the ligature.

Chromium 12Left: Chromium might just decide to change fonts anyway—likely a Postscript error already sorted in Mozilla thanks to the likes of Jonathan Kew.

Chromium 12
Above: The font-linking problem on the home page of Lucire still has not been solved. There is no problem on IE8, Firefox or Opera. I can’t report on IE9 as my psychic powers are not strong enough to determine what is being told to me through the heavenly dimensions.

Chromium 12
Above: This one paragraph is properly linked—what causes it to work and the others not to is unknown.

Chromium 12
Above: Go outside the regular Latin set, and Chromium falls all to pieces, just as it always did.

Chromium 12
Above: At least there are fewer font changes than last time—though Chromium continues to struggle with soft hyphens.

   Meanwhile, after I reported spam faxes (a breach of the Telecommunications Act) to Telstra Clear, I was surprised to learn that my case was never examined. I had to open a new ticket with new faxes today. The excuse was the backlog of work post-Christchurch earthquake and, in the circumstances, I had to accept that.
   One was for a law firm, as far as I could make out. I wouldn’t hire a lawyer who breaches the Telecommunications Act. They shot themselves in the foot with that one.
   My main reason for calling, however, was the Text-a-Park service that the WCC offers. I hate cellphones, but had brought one with me on one of those rare occasions, and decided to give the service a go. I fed in the code, dialled 7275, and was told by the meter that the transaction had failed. No parking ticket was generated.
   Just as well. I prefer to use a credit card anyway, and fed that in. I got my ticket and my credit card was charged.
   Problem: as I walked away from my car, I received an SMS saying (sic), ‘Thanks for using TXT-a-Park. Your transaction for $6.50 has been accepted.’ I have no idea how one gadget says it’s failed and another says it’s succeeded, and my quantum physics isn’t good enough to figure out into which alternative universe this supposedly successfully printed ticket went to.
   Of course, the charge appeared on my Telstra Clear bill today.
   There’s a reason that jokers like me don’t use cellphones. Because, each time we do, they bite us on the bum. Though a buttcheek bite is better than testicular cancer.
   I’d urge folks to check their bills—if you haven’t received a ticket from a Wellington parking meter, and you still got charged for it, then give the telco a call.

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Posted in business, internet, New Zealand, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


Microsoft Internet Explorer 9: the worst browser on the scene

15.03.2011

Microsoft has released its Internet Explorer 9 to much fanfare at SXSW. I’m really not sure what the fuss is, because it appears, as usual, the browser hasn’t been tested.
   Here it is on my Asus laptop, running Vista.

IE9

That’s apparently my company’s home page. Looks slightly different to how Firefox, Chrome and Opera display it:

Firefox

   I might dislike Chrome but at least that browser shows something other than pitch black with a few tiny details.
   Let’s go to the most well known website in the world. Surely IE9 can display that and that its beta testers must have been to Google. Unless Google is banned at Microsoft and everyone uses Bing. Here’s what Google’s home page looks like:

IE9

I knew Microsoft was aiming for a minimalist look, but isn’t that taking it a bit far?
   You won’t see it on the screen shot above but there is a blinking cursor. You can begin typing, but nothing echoes on the screen. On pressing ‘Enter’, you do get a search page, and, lo and behold, it resembles the usual Google results’ page—kind of.

IE9

   What if I scroll down?

IE9

   Conclusion, based on one machine that can run every other browser: Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 is a load of cobblers. I managed to crash it twice on the first two web pages I visited, within the first two minutes. The rest, you see above. I couldn’t be arsed doing more with it.
   Mr Gates, if you want to come back to me when your team has actually tested your browser, I will be happy to give it another shot.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 15 Comments »


Hopefully the last Firefox 3 blog post

05.03.2011

Since discovering that Firefox 4 Beta 13 is stable, I have spent less time with Firefox 3·6, the buggiest, most oft-crashing program I have ever used in 30 years of computing.
   But I used it today enough times to net myself five crashes, though this is above average. The ‘unmark purple’ bug that plagued me for so long has disappeared, which indicates it was an error with an extension (Flash, maybe?), and the average of four per day has decreased to two to three (on the days I use Firefox 3·6 exclusively).
   However, since the ’quake, I have still netted a number of errors, and apart from one, there is no pattern to them. Here are the last 13 on this machine (I’ve used it a bit more on my laptop, which doesn’t have 4 Beta):

1 × [@ nsTArray::IndexOf >(nsAppShellWindowEnumerator* const&, unsigned int, nsDefaultComparator::RemoveObject(imgCacheEntry*) ]
1 × [@ InterlockedCompareExchange ]
1 × [@ PR_AtomicDecrement | nsSupportsCStringImpl::Release() ]
1 × [@ hang | mozilla::plugins::PPluginScriptableObjectParent::CallHasProperty(mozilla::plugins::PPluginIdentifierParent*, bool*) ]
1 × [@ hang | ntdll.dll@0xe514 ]
1 × [@ nsRuleNode::WalkRuleTree(nsStyleStructID, nsStyleContext*, nsRuleData*, nsCSSStruct*) ]
1 × [@ WrappedNativeProtoMarker ]
1 × [@ F_592283983_____________________________________________ ]
1 × [@ nsExpirationTracker::RemoveObject(gfxTextRun*) ]

   I have no idea what any of this means, but to the layman it suggests the gremlins are everywhere in the program. (The defence by Firefox proponents in claiming that post-3·5 versions are the most stable releases falls on deaf ears here: 3·0 and 3·6·10 crashed far less often.)
   I’ll sure be glad when Firefox 4 rolls out, and I have been really impressed by the bug-fighting and beta-testing programmers. They have actually listened to what I have to say and confirmed that most of the bugs I have reported existed. It’s already a darned sight better than Chrome and its nearly-every-session ‘Aw, snap’ pages, of which no screen shot can be taken.
   But based on the above crashes, there is, of course, no mystery on why Chrome’s market share has increased and Firefox’s has decreased. Chrome crashes, but not as often—and most won’t care about its typographic problems or the lack of support. Mozilla needs to get 4 out ASAP: the more 3 crashes—and judging by the comments in Bugzilla, the rate of crashing remains remarkably high—the more likely users will hop over to the competition.

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Posted in business, design, internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


Firefox 4 Beta 13 passes my tests

24.02.2011

Firefox 4 Beta 13 works, and I have not found any bugs with it.
   I may be wrong, but I believe this is the last beta before release.
   What’s amazing is that the bugs I have been complaining about for a long time have each been fixed. In other words, the reporting system works.
   While for many versions, most of the Beta 4 text was unreadable, eventually bug reports to both Mozilla Support and Bugzilla got things on the radar.
   That took a bit too long for my liking, and you do have to persist. But once I was “in the system”, things got resolved fairly quickly.
   One of the Mozilla boffins created a patch that I could use to tell him what fonts I was using, to trouble-shoot the unreadable UI.
   When those font issues were fixed, I noticed that there were still some errant numerals—a bug that Chrome also has. The difference: at Mozilla, it got fixed. Someone (Jonathan Kew) believed me, had at the back of his mind what it was, and wrote code to sort it out.
   We all worked it out together, with a layman like me providing screen shots and some public domain fonts on request, and the real experts then doing the hard yards.
   The main thing was that I was believed and it was confirmed, on each occasion, that I had a valid complaint.
   Unlike a certain other browser from a company which, I must say, did a good job with the Google Person Finder in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.
   I don’t deny they do good sometimes—it’s just that they slip up far too often other times.
   The Chrome bug reporting and forums are about as useless as those for Blogger.
   Features I’m discovering in Beta 13 are really nice, now that I am no longer being distracted by the wrong fonts displaying.
   The box in which I am entering this text can be resized—not something I could do on Chrome or Firefox 3.
   More fonts’ kerning pairs are being read (see above left): someone at Mozilla likes typography. Some text-sized pairs look a little tight, but that’s a small complaint.
   Some alternative characters in OpenType fonts are showing up—whether that was intended or not, I don’t know. But it seems Firefox 4 is, at least, accessing them.
   It’s not a memory hog: I estimate the memory usage is on a par with Firefox 3.
   The promise of Firefox being reliable seems to have been realized: it took me days to crash Beta 12, and Beta 13 is so far, so good.
   The user interface is cleaner—not Chrome-clean, but pretty good.
   The speed seems improved, though I still feel Chrome is quicker. But I’d rather wait the extra hundredth of a second and have the page displayed properly.
   Hopefully, once installed on my system, Firefox 4 is going to work a treat. Well done, guys.
   If you’re going to have speedy R&D, it sure pays to have a system which embraces user experiences, working as much in parallel with your own team as possible.

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Posted in business, culture, design, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »