Using a different browser

Until the recent urge to upgrade my computing
environment
, I was using firefox as my
main browser. This was not because it’s a particularly good
program, but because it has managed to get enough market share
away from Internet Explorer that the people who design
websites test on it. There are very few websites, except for
the ones that deliberately try to restrict themselves to
commercial OS’s, that don’t work on Firefox for Linux.

Unfortunately, there are at least two major problems with
Firefox on Linux, that cause me to try other things from time
to time:

  • It has major memory leaks. This means that if you keep your
    system running for weeks, or even days, at a time, after a while
    Firefox will grab enough of the memory that everything,
    including the program that draws the windows on the screen, is
    gasping for memory, and going to read the hard drive before
    drawing every pixel. I knew that killing firefox would fix
    this, but I kept not getting around to it until killing firefox
    took several minutes, because of waiting for the pixels to
    redraw.
  • Less common of a problem for me, but still a sign of an
    uncivilized program, is that once you play music with firefox,
    it grabs some sound resource, and doesn’t let it go, so the next
    time you want to run some of the other music programs I use, you
    have to kill firefox to do it. (For those who wonder, the way
    to do this is the command “alsa force-reload”. This kills all
    the programs that are holding onto resources that prevent alsa
    from reloading the modules it uses.)

Now some people claim that opera is a good
browser for their purposes. Whenever I download it and try it,
it takes me about 10 minutes before I find a site that doesn’t
work with it. I believe the site I do my online banking at is a
frequent offender, so if you have a bank that tests their online
banking with opera, maybe you don’t have my problems. But
switching banks is even harder than switching browsers, and by
most of the bank evaluation criteria I use, mine is pretty good, so
I’m not going to drop them just because their software testing
leaves something to be desired.

A lot of the other browsers for Linux are in fact using the
mozilla engine, which is the same one Firefox uses. Of course,
I don’t know exactly where in the code these memory leaks and
resource hoardings happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a
different browser using the same engine had the same
problems.

However, it is possible to install an alpha test version of
google’s chromium-browser for Linux. The version for windows
has been out for a few months and gotten rave reviews for being
clean and fast. The Linux version has a lot of things
that don’t work, but for the ones that do, it’s really a lot of
fun to use.

It’s a nuisance to be doing testing on alpha
software (which was pre-alpha until a few days ago). And of course I
need to restart chromium-browser every day when I get the new copy.
And do some testing to find out which things work today.
Yesterday was very exciting, because “copy link address” worked
for the first time. But today, it doesn’t seem to want to
display some slightly complicated PHP for my wordpress
administration, which it’s been doing for some time. Another
button that’s inconsistent is the “Publish” button when I
publish a new post. And of course, they aren’t even claiming
that printing or flash work. I also still haven’t reconfigured
emacs to use chromium instead of firefox, so when I click on a
URL in my email, I still get a tab in Firefox.

So I do still have to keep a copy of Firefox running, but it
usually only has one or two tabs on it, so it isn’t that much of
a nuisance if I have to restart it, and it actually behaves very
much like a civilized program if you’re closing most tabs right
after you open them.

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