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OSX
OS X Odyssey 262 - Checking Out Mozilla 1.3b and Safari 1.0b60

Thursday, February 13, 2003


By Applelinks Contributing Editor Charles W. Moore

A couple of significant new browser version releases this week. I skipped the Mozilla 1.3 alpha, but last evening downloaded the 1.3 beta version that was posted Monday, along with the third public release of Apple's new Safari browser.

One big advantage Safari has, at least for folks like me on dialup connections, is that it's a lot quicker to download. Mozilla 1.3 took more than an hour and a half, while Safari arrived in only twenty minutes.

Both of these browsers are now OS X only -- the last Mac OS Classic version of Mozilla is 1.2.1.

My first impression test driving Mozilla 1.3 was: "Whoa -- this thing is fast!!" Relatively speaking, that is. Web surfing on a 26,400 bps dial up connection is never a truly speedy process. However, the 1.3 build of Mozilla definitely seemed to be significantly faster than the 1.2.1 version. Then I started up Safari. Wow again! I've never seen a browser load be National Post Web page so quickly. Both of these browsers are speedsters.

I'm also happy to report that the instability and buggy behavior that annoyed and frustrated me in the first two Safari public releases has been much improved with this one. I didn't experience any spontaneous page reloads or other notable wonkiness in my test drive so far.

I decided to do a quick timed comparison to see which of these new browsers is faster. Please note that these are NOT scientific benchmarks, but rather just a quick slapshot of relative performance. My usual practice has been to dump the cache before timing page loads, but someone suggested that cache reload times are more relevant, so this time I downloaded each page First, and then timed a fresh page load in a new browser window for each site. Here are the results:

Mozilla 1.3
National Post - 25 seconds
Applelinks - 10 seconds
Low End Mac - 14 seconds
Environment Canada weather for my county - 5 Seconds

Safari 1.0b60
National Post - 12 seconds
Applelinks - 16 seconds
Low End Mac - 17 seconds
Environment Canada weather for my county - 9 seconds.

Ergo; Safari is fast, but Mozilla is faster, at least on most of these pages. The National Post page was the exception, where Safari handily dusted Mozilla. At least on dial up. Reports from broadband users have indicated that Safari is a better relative performer on fast connections. However, in general, Mozilla 1.3 is the fastest browser I've ever used.

And overall, Mozilla is the browser I would choose without hesitation if I were obliged to the use just one. It is not only very fast, but does all browser tasks relatively well. And if you want a POP 3 email client incorporated in your browser, Mozilla (or Netscape) is the ticket. I've been experimenting a bit with the Mozilla Mail module lately, and it's a pretty good email program, although I still prefer Eudora and Nisus Email. Mozilla Mail has some enhancements to its spam filtering with the 1.3 release.

However, Safari he is really beginning to show its potential with this release. Still no tabbed browsing, which is another reason why Mozilla remains my first choice, but Safari is a really nice, fast browser too, and the amount of third - party hack and add-on support is awesome.

But for now at least, I still prefer Mozilla by a substantial margin, and this is the fastest, slightest Mozilla release yet.

Mozilla 1.3b Web Browser

New in this version:
• Image auto sizing allows a user to toggle between full-sized images and images sized to fit the browser window. To give it a try, load a large image into the browser window or size the window to be much smaller. Now clicking on the image will alternate between auto-sized and full-sized.The feature can be disabled (or enabled) from the Appearance panel in Preferences.
• Mozilla Mail's junk-mail classification is mostly complete. Users can now automatically move junk mail to a spam folder. • Users can now "dynamically" switch profiles. To give it a try, from the tools menu select "Switch Profile..."
• Find as you type, formerly known as type ahead find, has a new preferences panel (Advanced: Keyboard Navigation).
• When installed, Chatzilla now has a normal Mozilla preferences panel.
• about:config, the listing of most of Mozilla's preference settings is now editable. Power users can now tweak just about every pref available without opening prefs.js in a text editor. Warning: tweaking some of these prefs may break Mozilla completely. Use at your own risk.

This release of Mozilla also marks the kickoff of a research project to apply machine learning to improve the browser's autocomplete feature. The project's first phase needs as many Mozilla users as possible to participate in collecting data. All you need to do is turn on a pref, use this build for daily browsing for a couple of weeks, zip up a data file on your local drive, and submit it online.

In this project, the developers will use machine learning to make Mozilla more intelligent in sorting urls in the list.  Sorting will happen based on a rank assigned to each url in the list.  The goal will be to rank urls that are likely to be visited highest on the list.  That way, when the urls are sorted by rank, they will show up on the top of the list and can be selected easily.  Mozilla will continously improve its method of ranking urls as the user selects urls in autocomplete sessions.  While our first application of url rankings will be to improve the usability of the autocomplete drop-down list, we also hope to use similar methods later on to improve web page prefetching and caching.

To make this project successful, Mozilla.org needs your help in collecting data for the first phase of this project . All you need to do is switch on a preference, browse using the Mozilla 1.3 beta release, and submit a data file after approximately two weeks. For more details, visit:
http://www.mozilla.org/projects/ml/autocomplete/

System requirements:
• Mac OS X or later
• PowerPC processor (266 MHz or faster recommended)
• 64 MB RAM
• 36 MB of free hard disk space
 
Mozilla 1.3b is freeware

For more information, visit:
http://www.mozilla.org/releases/

Safari 0.8.2 Web Browser version (1.0b60)

New in this version:
• Safari Update 2-12-03 improves compatibility with popular web sites, displays web pages and Flash content more quickly, adds XML support, increases standards conformance and improves stability. The update also works with self-signed security certificates.  

System requirements:
• Mac OS X 10.2 or higher
 
Safari is freeware

For more information, visit:
http://www.apple.com/safari/

***
Re: Activating Inkwell
OS 9 Hatred
OSX Odessey - Memory Stick

***

Re: Activating Inkwell

From Jonathan Tyzack

Hi Charles,

Much like ViaVoice etc with your speech patterns, don't forget that Ink has to learn your handwriting over a period of use (which means you must also correct any mistakes it makes otherwise it won't be able to do so). As I said in my last email, by the end of my trial period with it (which would have only totalled a couple of hours at most), it had already started to recognise some of my more... to put it in a totally non-sensical fashion... cursive non-cursive writing (e.g. a ti with the cross of the t joined to the top of the i would be inputted correctly as ti and not as n). I was almost at my natural writing speed with it.

Also, be aware that you can alter the character of the yellow paper input in the Ink system preferences (to have a delay before it appears so that a mere brush with the pen won't be interpreted as an Ink input; to keep it in view for longer so that you can pause in your writing, etc). I found it best when I set the delay before inputting text into the application to the maximum - this allowed me to fill the screen with text and made it feel like a more "natural" method of writing. Agreed about the size of the Ink pane - but you can drag it to the far bottom right of the screen (and off it, except the left hand edge of the title bar) to keep it out of the way. It would be much better if there was some sort of hot button (in the menubar perhaps) that made the pane visible/invisible.

Although typing is (or can be!) faster, I find writing a much more fluid way of getting ideas down on paper so-to-speak... with a few adjustments, I think Ink will definitely have its place in the Mac repertoire. It is almost there already. Full recognition of cursive handwriting would be both incredible and incredibly useful, but I don't think we'll see that for a very long time.

Cheers,
Jonathan

___

Hi Jonathan;

I agree with you wholeheartedly in theory. I prefer composing with a pen or pencil in my hand. Back when I could still type for extended periods of time without pain, I sort of lapsed into composing at the keyboard, but for the past three years or so, I've gone back to drafting most everything of more than a paragraph or two in length longhand on paper, and then entering it using dictation software.

However, I'm more of a writer than an orator, and I find verbal composition problematical, so theoretically, handwriting recognition is right up my alley, especially if it could be trained to recognize my horrible, henscratch scribbling. (A big order -- I often can't decipher what I wrote ;-) )

Another issue, however, is ergonomics. One of the things I like about composing longhand on a clipboard is that I don't have to be sitting in front of a computer screen, but can be in a comfortable chair, lying down on a sofa or in bed, etc., and there are no strings attached. Perhaps I ahould experiment with some sort of PDA.

Thanks for the notes on the preference settings. I'll experiment with them.

Charles

***

OS 9 Hatred

From S. J. Nielsen

Hi Charles,

I continue to be baffled by the vitriolic hate directed at OS 9 by letter writers here and elsewhere on the 'Net, especially those who go through computational gymnastics to rid themselves of any trace of the venerable Classic OS. I associate this kind of thinking more closely with Windows users who consider the entire Mac platform an also-ran. A recent letter asked you what your most common computing tasks were, and from your reply I didn't see anything you couldn't still do efficiently in OS 9. In fact, I wondered if you would have upgraded to X at all by now if you wrote only about sailing and not about computers.

This got me thinking about my own needs, so as an experiment I installed the original Wallstreet OS, 8.1, on a spare partition, just to see if there is anything I couldn't do. I couldn't find a single limitation. I can browse the net, get my mail, write, track my finances, view streaming media, listen to MP3s, edit graphics, all with reasonably current versions of the relevant software.

My good will towards Classic by no means is meant to slag OS X. I use 10.2.3 about 60 percent of the time now, despite its sluggishness on my Wallstreet. The stability and multi-tasking compensate for the speed hit. But I had to install a boatload of third-party additions to make it usable at all for me, and I still hate having to log in to my own machine, and authenticate myself from time-to-time, and I still struggle with un-intuitive folder navigation and open/save dialogs. I continue to work with it because I know eventually I will have no choice, and I don't want to have to start from scratch in a few years. But as you pointed out in a previous Odyssey, one shouldn't have to try to like a product, it should just happen.

Classic may be dead, but long live Classic!

-Steve N.

___

Hi Steve;

You and I seem to be about on the same page across the board on this issue. I am continually baffled by the hostility and animosity expressed toward the Classic Mac OS, which is of course what got us here in the first place.

I LOVE OS 9, but affirming that should not imply hostility toward OS X or vice versa.

After 15 months, I finally have come to the place where I prefer working in OS X, but that's in large part due to the availability of cool applications and app. versions that are not available in OS 9. Also, having a machine (my new iBook) on which OS X runs without the constant frustration of Finder slowdowns helps a lot -- but OS 9 is still faster.

I detest logging in too. I try to depend on as few third-party hacks as possible, but Windowshade X and a decent application launcher (I use TigerLaunch) are indispensible. I use a handful of add-ons in OS 9 too, so that issue's a wash.

However, I finally do like OS X without trying. It has its shortcomings, but so does OS 9. Nevertheless they are the two finest personal computer OSes ever devised.

Would I have switched were I not writing about Macs and tech topics? Theoretically, I could probably still be working on my old Mac Plus in System 6 (which was faster than OS X for basic fiunctions ;-)), and OS 9 is still more than adequate functionally for everything I need to do, but time marches on.

Charles

***

OSX Odessey - Memory Stick

From Bruce

Charles,

Read your OSX comments daily, and can't stand reading your experiences a single day more without imploring you to finally use the freeware OSX memory desktop indicator MemoryStick, as has been suggested numerous times yet dismissed by you as "maybe I'll get the time someday to bother" comment everytime.

This little graphic display will show at a glance the continous state of your RAM usage; active = programs in use, inactive = RAM reserved by applications and all-important free RAM, which when used up, dumps you into page-ins and page-outs (virtual memory use on disk). As soon as you start paging-in and outs, your OSX performance will slow to a crawl, regardless of your G3 or G4 processor, your system mhz or the-extremely-over-rated Quartz Extreme (graphics and gaming aside).

You have a healthy skepticism about the virtues of OSX (more a "show me" attitude) yet somewhere lost that when it comes to OSX multi-tasking myth, leaving open a dozen applications, then wondering why your OSX speed is so poor.

The dirty little secret is that OSX multi-tasking works with dual-processor systems with tons of RAM, but fails miserably with low-end Macs that you insist on using. Have you ever tried shutting-down all those apps on your Pismo and actually running one or two at a time maximum? I'll bet your speed will increase across the board, including the Finder response. With 640MB RAM and a dozen apps open, you are probably reverting to virtual memory hundreds, if not thousands incidents a day. Really, I bet if you checked your page-in/outs for a single day, they would report those large numbers.

Now back to little-old MemoryStick, it would SHOW you all of this graphically in a 1/4"x2" strip on your desktop (even count and/or sound chime when page-in/outs occur). For the sanity of some of your readers, PLEASE spend a few hours and observe this critcal aspect of OSX speed/performance (again, particularly for slower Macs using OSX) all while you work away normally. It should prove to be a revelation, not exaggerating! MemoryStick is tiny, stable and VERY friendly to use, too.

Bruce

___

Hi Bruce;

I'll try to check out Memory Stick soon.

Re: my suite of production applications, I use essentially the same bunch in OS 9, and had no memory problems even on my old WallStreet with 192 MB of RAM.

Speed usually is better on the Pismo after a fresh startup with only a few apps open, but that's an academic point. I don't keep anything open that I don't need and use, and the notion of opening and closing apps repeatedly is a non-starter as far as I'm concerned. I HATE waiting.

Again, there seems to be a philosophy issue here. My philosophy is that the computer and OS should conform to and support my way of doing things. The Classic OS is very good at this. OS X somewhat less so.

As for "low-end" machines, that is what the vast, vast majority of Mac users have. Even former "high-end" machines, (which is what my Pismo was a little more than two years ago) become "low end" very quickly these days. Laptops, none of which has dual processors, now represent more than a third of Mac sales, and are expected to be more than half within a couple of years. If Apple wants to expand the OS X user base, then they need to cater to "low-end" users, because that's most of us.

That said, my new "low end" 700 MHz iBook offers very decent performance in OS X with 640 MB of RAM (the max. it, and the new 12" PowerBook will support). Quartz Extreme seems to be the main benefactor.

Charles

***

The OS X Odyssey archives may be accessed here:
http://www.applelinks.com/news/odyssey/

***

***
Charles W. Moore

Note: Letters to Moore's Mailbag may or may not be published at the editor's discretion. Correspondents' email addresses will NOT be published unless the correspondent specifically requests publication. Letters may be edited for length and/or context.

Opinions expressed in postings to Moore's MailBag are those of the respective correspondents and not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Editor and/or Applelinks management.

If you would prefer that your message not appear in Moore's Mailbag, we would still like to hear from you. Just clearly mark your message "NOT FOR PUBLICATION," and it will not be published.

CM


Charles W. Moore

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