Brooks (brooksmoses) wrote,

Fun with Web Browsers

So. I've been bugged rather a bit by Netscape 4.77 not doing style sheets correctly, and decided to look around for another browser.

The first try, of course, is an updated version of Netscape. They're now up to 4.8 in that branch, so I downloaded a copy, and installed it. The approximate difference that exists is that it crashes more often. This is why I keep backups of all install files that I use; after confirming that it was indeed crashing frequently, I reinstalled 4.77. Back to square one.

Internet Explorer is a functional and working browser, and installed on this computer. I also dislike it for ideological reasons (aka "indoctrination by fellow geeks") enough that I haven't really tried it that much, but anyhow. Part of it, I think, is simply that I'm used to the Netscape "look", and IE portrays things enough different that they look "wrong". On the other hand, its capability of saving a page with the included pictures is nifty (and reminds me of the wife of one of my professors; she was the first non-student computer geek I'd met, and had customized her copy of Mosaic to do that, back when it was the only open-source browser available). Mainly, I prefer open-source stuff, on principle.

So, to try something a little more adventurous. I decided to try the latest Mozilla, instead of Netscape 7.0, on the grounds that it's essentially the same, and 1/3 the download size. Unfortunately, it claims to require more CPU than my computer has -- which is silly and, IMHO, broken; this box can run Win2K and a whole host of various desktop applications at reasonable speeds; it shouldn't have issues with web browsers. And it doesn't, as it turns out, except in places where the browsers are badly written. The text input thingy in Mozilla is one example of this -- typing in a multiline input thing (like, say, this LiveJournal update form) pegs the CPU and is still slower than the server lag were I typing this in Lynx over a modem connection!

Anyhow, that's enough right there to make me say "no way!" I like using the browser LJ interface. This qualifies as broken.

So. Off the beaten path just a bit more, and we get Opera. Which seems to work well, but costs actual money to use, and doesn't really seem (to me) to offer enough beyond the other options to be worth paying for. And the ads in the free version are a business model that frankly I'm loathe to support -- PKZip is still enough better than the other options I've found that I'll use it anyway, despite its ads (in the free version), but Opera doesn't really seem to be.

Further off the beaten path are such things as BrowseX, which seems to peg the CPU pretty much continuously, particularly when waiting for incoming information (which, on a modem connection, is virtually all the time). It also has issues with closing properly; I had to force-kill it. That one I didn't even keep a backup of the install file.

On a whimsey, I downloaded a the latest (1997-vintage) version of NCSA Mosaic -- the browser that started it all -- and tried that. Small, fast, and crashes completely on a LiveJournal friends page. "Next!"

At this point, for visual browsers (as opposed to, say, Lynx), there's not a lot left out there. There are some various smaller things -- say, W3C's "Amaya" (which is more an editor than a browser; it displays things fine, and even loads them via http, but doesn't submit forms or anything), or the "Off by One" browser, which I tried a week ago and ... well, it didn't do CSS either, so why switch?

If it wasn't for Mozilla's broken text-input thing, though, there'd be a really good solution for my particular preferences -- K-meleon. It's a lightweight functionality wrapped around the Mozilla rendering engine, which means that it's only a 4MB download, yet implements all the latest html features. And it even looks like it works a bit better on the text-input -- enough to trick me into starting this post in it, until about four paragraphs in it started bogging as bad as straight Mozilla does. Sigh.

(Thus, I cut-and-pasted to my text editor, which was well worth paying a shareware registration fee for because it's far better than anything else on the market, and will cut-and-paste it back when I'm done.)

So. I think I'll use Opera for a while to see if the ads bug me too much, and wish someone would fix the text input thing in Mozilla. (I might peer at it myself, if I get bored someday -- this is why I like open source stuff. Even if my programming skills for suchlike are pretty weak ... on the other hand, if I could tempt mikz into poking at it, it might get done competently. *grin*)

Meanwhile, any other suggestions for things I should look at would be quite appreciated....

- Brooks

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