This has been an interesting week for Opera Software. They released three successive browser betas. Each of which included incremental, yet significant, updates. So much so that it seems I was downloading and installing a new Beta version every other day! Yet in spite of the frequent updates, these builds fix one set of problems and introduce another!
The latest (at time of writing) Opera 9 Beta Build 8410 resolves two Widget bugs—session handling and create folder in widget panel. As well as a browser lookup caused by incorrectly nested tags. However ironically this build (and its predecessor—Opera 9 Beta Build 8406) incorrectly renders Betanews.com, the popular Beta software information and downloads web site. While Opera correctly renders the site header. It displays the body at 100% instead of within the constrained layout. The most logical explanation for the bug is that Betanews.com registers 249 XHTML code errors according to the W3C.org’s HTML Validation service! Opera, as we all know, prides itself on being strictly standards-compliant.
I haven’t used the Widget feature for the past 4 builds. But am pleased to report that Widgets are now persistent. And if saved will be accessible in a future browser session. Widget management too follows that of File Transfers, History and Torrent downloads—each can be managed via its own tab. Playing Tetris is an even better time-waster than Rasterwerks Phosphor Beta FPS!
But at least I got the dialog box. My previous two Opera 9 Beta builds had serious rendering problems with GMail. Where more often than not the site would timeout when changing views. The most common error being an unsuccessful transition from login screen to Inbox view. Here either the Loading overlay would be displayed indefinitely. Or I’d receive an on screen alert that a Firewall or security software was preventing access. Be as that may (I have PC-Cillin Internet Security 2006 installed), the issue wouldn’t reproduce itself when using Firefox or Internet Explorer.
And if you’ve been trouble by a dearth of pop-up blocking software for Opera (Firefox has Ad-Block). Fret no more. Using a INI file level hack you can download, and blacklist, the most common ad servers. You can either develop your own list using the instructions at http://pgl.yoyo.org/adservers. Then open the urlfilter.ini (Opera catalog) with Windows Notepad (or any other pure text editor). And copy the addresses generated by the Web page into it. If its a simple solution you want then download this URL Finder file to your Opera catalog. Incidentally the Firefox Ad-Block plugin uses the same list.
Talking of Firefox, be sure to download and install (in a separate folder) Firefox 2 Bon Echo Alpha 2. Readers who prefer the Portable version can expect an update later this week. This Alpha 2 release discards the Places Bar feature. And retains the separate Bookmarks and History feature of the Firefox 1.5.x versions.
Also missing from the current Alpha 2 release are SafeBrowsing and DOMStorage as they missed the release date. They’ll be added to the forthcoming Alpha 3 release.
Firefox 2 Bon Echo Alpha 2 add several new features. Now links will open in tabs by default. There’s also inline spell checking in text boxes. And session save works if the browser crashes. You will prompted to restore your previous browsing session. But the feature is still nowhere as good as using the SessionSaver Extension. And the built-in SpellChecker is awesome. And is identical to the new spell-enabled version of Thunderbird. And OpenOffice.org 2.x.
Did you know that the fewer Extensions Firefox loads at startup? The lower is its system resource use. The browser also loads faster. And renders pages faster. As proved by my Portable Firefox 2 Bon Echo Alpha 1 with just 4 installed extensions—ScrapBook, SiteAdvisor, SessionSaver and Nightly Tester (required to make the other 3 compatible with Portable Firefox 2 Alpha).
Also new in this Alpha 2 release is an enhanced RSS feed add and preview function. And while search suggestions are (supposedly) enabled in the search box auto complete when using Google and Yahoo. I was unable to access them.
There’s also a new microsummaries feature that offers regularly-updated, succinct compilations of the most important information on web pages. Some typical uses (from the MozillaWiki web site) include:
- auction items: the item name, the current highest bid, and the time remaining, f.e. Honda Accord – $5000 – 1 minute left;
- products for sale: the product name, the current price, and whether or not the product is in stock, f.e. Linksys WRT54G – $60 – in stock;
- news sites: the latest headline, f.e. BBC: Chirac to sign France’s job law;
- “[thing] of the day” pages: today’s [thing], f.e. (for Merriam-Webster’s word of the day page) flat-hat;
- stock quotes: the current price of the stock and its movement in the market, f.e. TWX 16.94 + .30;
- stock portfolios: your current net worth, f.e. net worth: $30k; +$500 today;
- weather pages: the current forecast, f.e. SF: showers likely;
But to view these microsummaries you need an enabled feed. And I’m still struggling to activate the feature!
To see some of the new features, visit this link for a collection of Firefox 2 Bon Echo Alpha 2 screen shots.
The Extension manager too has been updated. But remember available extensions are rated for Firefox 1.5.3 with a few that are limited to Firefox 1.5.2. You will need to first install the widely-used Nightly Tester Tools extension. Then use its compatibility mode to allow extensions to be installed and activated.
I have been extensively testing out the SiteAdvisor service. Founded by a group of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) alumni, this free “service encompasses a system of automated testers that continually patrol the Web to browse sites, download files, and enter information on sign-up forms. These results collected are documented and supplemented with user feedback, comments from Web site owners, and analysis from our own employees. The software summarizes the results into intuitive red, yellow and green ratings (also displayed by the in-browser SiteAdvisor button) to help Web users stay safe as they search, browse and transact online.” SiteAdvisor is available as a Firefox Extension and an Internet Explorer plug-in. The service is so popular it has been acquired by McAfee who are still offering it for free.
And so we part this week. Safe browsing. And we’ll meet again next week.