Friday, 30 April 2010

Internet Explorered

Internet Explorer, terminally ill?
If you were given the task of picking your favourite browser, would IE be top of the list? Would you opt for the bundled, closed source offering of the worlds most popular operating system or would you opt for something more exciting and bleeding edge? There are many options out there and to name some big players in the browser field, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Sea Monkey and many more. I for one would steer clear of IE simply down to it's flaws. It's buggy, it's insecure and I want something that performs better. How does a browser that has hundreds and thousands of add-ons sound? Would you really put much thought into how you surf the web?


Cross Browser Compatible 
With CSS3 and HTML5 nearing release, the web development community are far from surprised that Microsoft have shot wide yet again. A brief Google search on the subject of browser functionality will reveal that IE7, IE8 and potentially IE9 are lacking some of the essentials that the Web Standards Project have been busying themselves constructing. Angry and frustrated Web Developers have been getting by using various hack to make websites look consistent across the main offering of browsers. The new standards aim to pull the drawstrings in and render many of these hacks unnecessary but this might not be the case where IE is concerned. I sincerely hope, if only for end-user sake, that MS manage to wake up and avoid forcing more design hacks by adopting the basics for the updated standards.

Louis Lazaris describes some of the flaws in the IE browsers to date in the article CSS3 Solutions for Internet Explorer

If it's so horrid why do people use it?
IE had been my choice of browser up until a couple of years ago. Being a Server Administrator in my previous position I was the proud user and implementer of Microsoft Products. 

It is both reluctantly and occasionally that I open IE these days. Usually if I've just rebuilt my partners laptop after malware, spyware and viral infestations. I double click that 'e' in order download Firefox, Chrome and a driver or two. I had found it somewhat romantic that my new firefox had underdog status and the average Windows Home PC user continued to block up their desktop like a constipated toddler with IE windows. I could easily entertain myself by watching friends and family bumble around the net tripping over flash banner ads and pop-ups. Unknowingly clicking, opening and infecting their system with viral all-sorts along the way.

So why dislike IE? Millions already do and millions more will learn. It has been the home user's choice in the past simply because it's there by default on a Windows PC. Maybe novice users are unaware that there are other browsers out there. Maybe it's fair to say that it's a trust issue with 3rd party software for some users. The operating system is Microsoft so use the Microsoft Browser. A computing uniform? The features, speed and compatibility of other browsers will ensure that if MS fail to keep up with the standards that Mozilla and Webkit are pushing they will flail in the race for top browser. Being a closed source project they just can't compete.

Whats next, Mobile?
It's now 2010 and we are at facing another IE installment. We've seen IE8 and MS' continuation of ignorance by way of non-compliance with CSS and Web Standards and by that I mean that they are still developing away from the industry tide. It's a long running joke in the Web Development Community that IE is the browser that doesn't fit in with the way the web is built and the standards that they strive to keep.

This year will see the highly anticipated Google Chrome OS, based on their open source Chrome web browser. Many Netbooks will be sold with this preinstalled and this will take Google's share higher as this OS become's more and more popular. We have also seen recently the release of Firefox Mobile to the Maemo based Nokia N900. This enters the mobile arena along with iPhone's Mobile Safari, Opera Mobile and native N900 Browser MicroB (powered by Mozilla). Designers are now catering for an increasing number of mobile web clients will Microsoft's IE Mobile compete?

It's clear that a well driven open source project is more agile and will be supported with much more vigour by the serious web users then a closed source MS delivery. The future of the web is open source. Expect IE's market share to crumble before your very eyes.

It's your choice what to use but if it down to me, you would be using my favourite from Google. It's made the web feel lighter, faster and with it's add-on library it has 'extended' past just a web page display tool.

Ubuntu 10.04, Lucid Lynx arrives

The Ubuntu Lynx is here and Canonical's latest Long Term Supported OS has made it onto my production laptop. This means like the Heron, it will be around for a while.

I spent most the day on the Ubuntu website yesterday refreshing the page waiting for the OS to appear. I was side tracked and returned in the evening to gather the 64bit ISO from a local mirror. My installation was delayed until 6.30am this morning, after I had fed the nipper and she was happily bouncing away in front of her favourite morning cartoons. As expected the installation was very straight forward. I'm sure my 4 month old could have sailed through the process too if she wasn't only interested in how far she could get the mouse into her mouth!

I confess that I am regularly one to jump on the 'it's shiny and new' band-wagon and this release was absolutely no different. I performed a clean install of Lucid over the top of my previously installed Lucid Alpha2 partition and plugged-in my /home partition from my Karmic installation. All went seamlessly and I was able to access all the files from my 200gb /home partition without having to do anything clever. 

So to the big question...am I impressed? Well...no, not yet. I have not seen any huge differences between 9.10 and 10.04 BUT that's not all bad news.

Installation
Very simple, standard wizard based installation directly from the ISO I downloaded. I'm sure that novices and experts alike will have no problems installing the Lynx.

Boot
As it proclaims, a fast boot time allows you to head straight for your email and documents within seconds of powering up. Canonical aimed for a 10 second boot but I'm sure that this will vary depending on what it's installed on.

Interface
The logo has had a spring clean. The colour (or color if you're in the States) scheme is also different from that of it's predecessor. A new purple theme greets you at the door. It is the fur of our new Lynx which mustn't be mistaken for that of a certain snow leopard...hmm! There are also some small menu tweaks, UbuntuOne has appeared along with some account management tools in the Indicator Applet Session menu. There's nothing to persuade you to write a letter to your Mother and Father though. One thing I will mention too is that Ubuntu's default theme seems to have moved the window controls from the top right of the windows to the top left...very mac-like but this can be changed as can the theme.

Default Application Set
It's not a major concern to anyone that can use apt, but there are some changes to the application roster. There are certain applications missing from the default 10.04 installation and there are some new faces too. The most noticeable crater left is that of the GNU Image Manipulation Program, gimp but a few clicks later and your package manager will put that right. Gwibber social client now lives in the internet menu tab and a video editing package named PitiVi joins the party too.

Suffice to say I will be knocking around on the Ubuntu forums to see if there are any gotchas I should be worried about.

I will be filling my Friday evening upgrading my Ruby on Rails development Environment and digging into the new features of the Lynx!

Happy Lynx-ing!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Ubuntu 10.04 Countdown

Add your Countdown banner for Lucid Lynx, Ubuntu's all-singing, all-dancing LTS (long time support) release. Lots of new features heading to a desktop near you soon!