Archive for March, 2005

Monday, March 28th 2005

FireTune makes Firefox slower?

I recently heard of FireTune 0.5, a free tweaking utility for Firefox 1.0. I thought it would probably just activate pipelining, but I’d give it a try all the same. It turned out it didn’t touch the pipelining settings, but it altered the number of connections allowed per server (among other things, perhaps).

The program gives you the choice of tuning one particular profile at a time or tuning all profiles in one go:

Screenshot of Firetune v0.5

It then lets you select roughly how fast your computer is, and what type of Internet connection you use. Since my computer is an AMD 64 3200+ and I’m on a 0.5 Mbps DSL connection I thought it suitable to choose “Fast computer / Fast connection”.

However, my testing of loading times for a few major websites shows that FireTune more often than not makes the webpages load more slowly:

Three out of five websites load more slowly after using FireTune

I did the tests using the timer suggested by Total Idea, after inactivating both disk and memory cache before starting (by setting browser.cache.memory.enable and browser.cache.disk.enable to false) I set up two new, identical profiles: one which I tuned, and one which I left with the default Firefox settings. Each webpage in the test was loaded ten times with each profile and an average was calculated.

Now, since I’m not an expert on Firefox’s network settings, I don’t quite understand why the tuned settings are causing longer load times for some of the webpages. If you do – let me know in the comments.

Here are the test data:
OpenOffice format (14.1 kB)
Excel format (12.0 kB).

Thursday, March 24th 2005

Firefox Bundled

Firefox is now bundled with the two major computer magazines in Sweden, PC Hemma and PC för Alla. Another small step towards total world domination. 🙂

Tuesday, March 22nd 2005

The Nice Aspects of Being a Firefox User

Through Slashdot I found this article at The Age. It’s very accurate and an interesting in-depth read on Firefox and open standards. It would be interesting to hear where they got the 40 million figure from though – Spreadfirefox.com hasn’t updated the counter for ages, and even though I read basically all the Mozilla blogs, I haven’t come across that figure anywhere.

Anyway, the article reminded me of all the nice and truly good things about Firefox:

  • Conforming to standards: By using a browser which follows the W3C standards and doesn’t make up standards of it’s own I am helping to move the web forward. The current technological grid-lock on the web wouldn’t have been at all as serious if IE6 had implemented the standards properly. (As I have previously written here, IE6 claims to comply with CSS1, but doesn’t.)
  • Security and privacy: Since I started using Firefox, I can’t remember having a single unwanted pop-up. Having seen the adware and spyware mess that infests computers on which IE6 is the mainly used browser, I know I am using a browser that stops that kind of junk in its tracks.
  • Efficiency: The tabs in Firefox together with the middle-click (or Ctrl-click) are huge time and annoyance savers. The default behaviour of Windows XP to group similar buttons in the taskbar makes web browsing with Internet Explorer into a full-blown IQ test. Trying to find the right window in the list that pops up when you click the Explorer taskbar-button is just such a pain – at least when you know how simple and swift a truly efficient web browsing user interface can be.

Well, those are the main points anyway. Then of course there are many nice little details, such as extensions and themes, too.

Sunday, March 20th 2005

Opera 8 is better

I have downloaded and tried both betas of Opera 8 (and I now see they have put out a thrid one), and I must say they have improved the user experience considerably since version 7.

However, it still took me something like four tries, and endless amounts of time, to get the toolbars the way I wanted them: menus, Google ads, basic navigation buttons and location bar, and then the tabs. Now, I would consider myself fairly computer-litterate, having made two themes for Firefox among other things, so it shouldn’t be because of my level of general computer knowledge. I suppose it could just have been bad luck. It could also be due to the fact that I’m very used to Firefox. My feeling, though, is that the toolbar customization in Opera 8 is still fairly unintuitive. What do you think? If you haven’t tried Opera 8 yet – give it a spin. It’s the best browser around. Sadly, it’s also (to my knowledge) the most expensive.

Thursday, March 17th 2005

Microsoft being Microsoft

At the beginning of March we could read the following at the IE Blog:

We know we have a lot more work to do in addressing our consistency issues with CSS and furthering our coverage of these standards. Expect to see more detail on our plans in IE7 in the future.

Now we can read that IE7 will (according to unofficial sources) not include full support for CSS2, just like IE6 doesn’t include full support for CSS1. (The IE team are claiming it does, but judging from how this CSS1 test page displays in IE6 it clearly doesn’t.)

So, congratulations all fellow website devs – we all just got another five years, or so, of hair-tearing and endless IE-hacking.

Update: I just found this petition asking the IE team to include (real?) standards support in IE7. I would probably have worded it slightly differently myself, but the basic message is there.

Update 2: Robert Scoble just wrote I’m also telling you that the support for standards is changing at Microsoft. Stay tuned. in the comments to his post about the Acid2 challenge.

Wednesday, March 16th 2005

Is Microsoft going to be good?

Hakon Wium Lie has written a great article for CNet which challenges Microsoft to live up to their claimed commitment to interoperable software.

Hakon proposes that the Web Standards Project hosts a test suite, named Acid2 (Acid was the nickname of one part of the CSS1 test suite over at W3C – have a look and you’ll see why), which will serve as a means of testing the capabilities of modern web browsers in general, and IE7 in particular.

I think this is a great initiative, and I think it’s good that it has been made in a forum which gets a certain amount of publicity, and that it was made by someone who knows what he’s talking about. Now it’s just a matter of convincing the IE devs that this is what we want.

Seriously. Making websites could be fun, all over again, if only all web browsers (hrrrk-hmm IE cough cough) would follow standards – and all the standards. So, I’d better get a-nattering over at the IE blog…

Tuesday, March 15th 2005

Slightly Slashdotted

Looks like there was a minor slashdotting of my blog a few days ago:

The reason it was on the somewhat lighter scale is because I was only featured in the developer section of slashdot, which naturally doesn’t have as many readers as the front page. (For instance, I myself wasn’t even aware that the categories existed until now.)

Tuesday, March 8th 2005

Browser Recognition of Statistics Services

Over the last few days, having had nothing better to do, I’ve investigated how well the main (free) website statistics services cope with browser recognition. The results of my testing are presented in this table.

The first step was to create a webpage containing all the counters to be studied. I started off with Nedstat Basic 3.0, Statcounter, OneStat Basic 3.0, eXTReMe Tracker, CQ Counter, S-Tracking, Site Meter, NextGenStats, WebCounter and PowerPhlogger. However, the last three turned out to be excruciatingly slow in updating the stats reports and I didn’t have the patience to sit and wait for them. They were excluded from the study, and I don’t feel it was a great loss since the quality in general of those services felt rather low. (WebCounter, for instance, was constantly trying to get you to pay for stuff even though this was supposedly a totally FREE sevice.) After publishing some preliminary results in the user forum at statcounter.com I was asked by David Smith to check out Site Meter too. (I later realized he is the creator of Site Meter.)

The results were collected by loading the counter page in one browser at a time and subsequently checking the browser reported by each stats service. Some services (NedStat, OneStat and CQ Counter) don’t show detailed information about each pageload, which means that I had to track the changes on the browser stats pages available.

For pageloads with non-Windows browsers (Safari, Camino and Konqueror) I received help from Jeff Pony, David Smith and Johann Petrak.

Interesting Findings

There weren’t any really big surprises. However, the myth that “many Opera users are detected as IE users” is at least killed, once and for all. (Opera’s default setting is to identify as IE, so as to prevent the user from unecessarily being locked-out by clueless webmasters.) The only statistics provider to be fooled by the Explorer spoofing is S-Tracking, who seldom (if ever?) drop browser figures on the world OneStat&WebSideStorystyle.

One noteworthy fact is that OneStat’s free stats service doesn’t discriminate between Firefox and the Mozilla Suite (or any other Moz browser for that matter). Yet they publish press releases which do (or look like they do). There are three possibilities here: Either (1) they exclude statistics from the free accounts in their press releases, (2) the browser stats in their press releases are seriously flawed, or (3) they actually count Firefox and Mozilla Suite seperately for the free counters too, but to make a paid upgrade seem worth-wile they don’t report them separately.

Netscape 8 beta had an interesting habit of importing the Firefox user agent string when importing other settings from said browser. The original string includes the information Firefox/0.9.6, which was exchanged for Firefox/1.0.1 after importing Firefox settings. As well as fixing this bug, Netscape need to produce a unique user agent string for the final release if they want to be visible in website stats at all.

Another slightly odd thing was that Site Meter sometimes claimed to be able to see more information in the user agent string than was actually there. One example was Netscape 8 beta in Internet Explorer rendering mode: the user agent string presented when calling navigator.userAgent using JavaScript was Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1), while Site Meter claimed it was Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1) NS8/0.9.6. I can only presume I am missing something here, so if you know – please contact me.

Conclusions

Statcounter is quite clearly king of browser recognition – it accurately reports even the minor versions of almost all browsers. The only thing holding it back from total perfection is that it doesn’t understand Mozilla Suite version numbers. Judging from this test and previous experience it seems like all Mozilla Suite 1.x versions are reported as version 5.0. (The user agent string of Mozilla Suite always begins with Mozilla/5.0.)

Worst of the pack is S-Tracking. For starters it’s the only service fooled by Opera’s user agent spoofing. It also puts all Mozilla-related browsers as well as Safari (!) into one category and simply calls them Netscape. However – because of this – it’s the only service that correctly identifies Netscape 8 beta. Impressive! 🙂

OneStat, which is a fairly popular website tracker, can probably be considered second last. Even if it seldom actually gets it wrong, it’s a pretty blunt tool. It groups all browsers into Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Netscape Navigator (including Konqueror!), Opera and Apple (better known to us earthlings as Safari).

Wednesday, March 2nd 2005

Koenigsegg beats McLaren's speed record

The Koenigsegg CCR has now officially beaten McLaren F1’s speed record for production cars.

The Koenigsegg CCR

The new speed record (387.87 km/h or 241.02 mph) was set two days ago at the Nardo Prototipo track, which is a 12.5 km (7.8 miles) long, circular track. The McLaren F1 set the previous record (386.7 km/h or 240.3 mph) on the VW Ehra facility in Germany, a 9 km (5.6 mile) straight track, which makes the Koenigsegg’s feat even more impressive.

I wonder how fast the CCR would go if driven in a straight line? Why didn’t they just take it to the VW Ehra track straight away, and have it done with? With the Bugatti Veyron lurking in the shadows, Koenigsegg had better get their act together if they want to hold on to the speed record for more than just a year or two.

Tuesday, March 1st 2005

Google Pushing Cash into the Mozilla Foundation

ZDNet has an interesting article in which Gervase Markham of the Mozilla Foundation makes it clear that the deal made with Google is bringing in a substantial amount of cash.

The deal is presumably something along the lines of “You ship Firefox with Google as the default Search Engine and we give you many moneys.” I think it’s great to hear that Mozilla are getting this financial boost, enabling them to hire more staff than would be possible otherwise. At the same time though (as Gerv says in the interview) it’s a balancing act, where it’s important not to get too tied up your commercial partners.