Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Browser Out-Geeking

I am a Mozilla Firefox convert. I admit it.

I do all my web development for an Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE)-mandated company, so the only real criterion that I have to meet for browser compliance is that it works in IE. And I'm a Firefox convert.

Tripp has opined on this discovery recently himself. Preach on brotha.

Moving away from IE for my main browser is a big deal: IE won the browser wars; it owns over 97% of the market share; it's the de facto standard. But Firefox is invulnerable to all the myriad nuggets of spyware, script viruses, adware, and other 'malware' nasties that are out there, simply because it's not IE.

I've tried a number of IE extensions and shells, of which my favorite is Avant Browser. It has the benefit of actually using the IE renderer, and it's got most of the goodies Firefox does, including popup blocking, ad blocking and many other niceties. I've never infected a box, never served as a vector for malware.

I'm low-risk, and I practice safe browsing. Why have I switched?

Because Firefox just works. Avant Browser is a smooth, smooth product, but it doesn't catch everything the Net throws at it, and it doesn't quite offer the customization ability that Firefox does, or the granularity of ad-blocking. After a day or so of serious tuning, I almost never see an ad, and for the most part Firefox flows the text around neatly rather than leaving gaping "ad holes." That means no 'oops, I blocked it and it showed anyway' like Avant occasionally throws, no 'oops, the window popped up anyway,' and no locking into an all-browsers-open-in-one-window MDI thing like Avant does, despite offering the tabbed browsing I refuse to do without.

I'm seriously impressed. There are Firefox plugins out there for all the little interface things from Avant Browser that I missed at first, and in a week of heavy use Firefox has yet to crash, which is sadly more than I can say for Avant. It's Open Source at its best, and damned if I'm not going to get the benefit of it.

From now on I browse with Firefox. I still use IE for sites that require it by using proprietary coding, but those sites are fewer and farther between than I've ever seen. My bank's site works great in Firefox. So does Blogger. I'm ashamed that the more complex sites I've written for work don't, but I'm hoping I can make any new ones comply from now on.

I'm going to put a Firefox icon in my sidebar from now on, in hopes some additional people download it and move away from IE, at least until browsing with it is no longer hazardous to the health of the average user's machine. Don't call it zealotry; call it a public service.

Get Firefox!
Get it here.


Monday, December 06, 2004

Of Late

So what's on my plate lately, what's pending, and what's been on my mind?

Well, as the post below mentions, Leslie and I are doing well, and having fun shopping and otherwise enjoying one another's company.

I do have a batch of beer (a hazelnut porter) that I'm trying to get made... I've had the ingredients since May or so, but I recently grabbed a fresh batch of yeast and will be getting it into the fermenter sometime this week. I also still have the kit for a Pinot Noir I'm going to get into a fermenter within a small while.

I'll be visiting the Philadelphia contingent of my family for the last week of the month (12/24/2004 through 1/2/2005, to be precise), and I'm definitely looking forward to the time off, as well as the loved-ones time.

As for what's been on my mind...

As you might imagine, my buddy Dubya cleaned up in the election, and I'm very much looking forward to the advancement of the Evil Republican Agenda.

Wikis (see below) have been on my mind a fair amount, as has the using of Java servlets and JSP (Java Server Pages) for things I used to use ASP and Visual Basic for. I have a friend at work who's been doing lots of research into these subjects in his spare time, and I have to keep up, or I'll start to look bad. ;-)

The Incredibles was... well... incredible! I loved it, and would heartily recommend it to pretty much anyone who likes comics, movies, graphics, or in fact has a heartbeat and eyes to see a movie. Just loved it.

Since I do a fair amount of driving each day (on the order of 90 miles), I've begun listening to a lot (a lot) of audiobooks lately, and odd ones, at that: ones by Nora Roberts, Linda Howard; mainly romantic suspense novels. Why? I'm trying to get an ear for the writing of character, and I discovered that most of the "leisure" books I've read (and have in my library) tend to be idea- or action-based in nature: science fiction, historical fiction, political or military thrillers. Very seldom do the characters take center stage, and I hoped this would serve as a way to help with my "character ear." So far it seems to be helping. Yes, the plots can be formulaic (though Nora Roberts has surprised me), but I find that a predictable plot helps me "get" the characterization more easily.

Anyway, must dash!


Ah Well

[Ed: this post was started at the end of October; I have several draft posts like this one, but I feel like pitching them and starting fresh. Stay tuned!]

Not doing too well with the whole "restarting the blog" thing, it seems. I'm going to keep trying, though. Leslie is still nudging me to blog, so I shall do so.

So, what's been going on?

That Relationship Thing
Well, for one, Leslie and I are still doing well; she's visiting her parents at what I will term an Undisclosed Location in the midwest this week, though I do occasionally bother her with cell phone calls.

I did some gift shopping yesterday; probably my major vice these days is exercising insufficient restraint when it comes to the lavishing of goodies on Leslie. This Christmas season should be no exception.

Some friends around the office are holding a progressive dinner later this month, and I'm looking forward to that. Going out with a person of considerable fabulosity has definitely increased my level of social activity. I like it. :-)

What can I say? I am really, truly happy.

That Wiki Thing
I've known in the abstract about wikis for a fair while. For the uninitiated, a wiki is a website (not entirely unlike a blog) whose pages can be edited by anybody who can read them. That's it, and it's surprisingly powerful. While it would seem like the wiki recipe would be one for chaos and unmanageability, in practice it's surprisingly effective at assembling a central location of well-maintained information.

Anyway, we in the Books-A-Million IT department have been looking around for some sort of tool to help us with our intradepartmental communication, and I put together a quick wiki (using the JSPWiki engine, since we already had Tomcat running on a test server) as a test, and so far it's been useful to me for maintaining my to-do lists and as a place to keep notes of How I Do Stuff.

One of the things I like most about wikis is the relatively simple syntax that they use (mostly) for their page editing. It's much simpler (and more legible) than HTML, and offers most of the important text-formatting and interlinking flexibility that HTML does. I really wish that Blogger would allow wiki syntax for its post editing, but I suppose everyone but me is moving to the WYSIWYG editor these days anyway.

That Blog Thing
I suppose I'm trying to figure out exactly what I want to do with Brain Squeezings lately. On the one hand, I'm struggling with the motivation to post (life is good, and I'm not quite so motivated to opine, or complain), but on the other, I have lots of friends and family members out there who would love to go back to keeping track of my doings here, so it's a real service to them when I do condescend to post.

I shall make the attempt to do better. :-)