Tag: linux

What’s my next OS?

Right now I’m using a borrowed MacBook. And Boy Howdy I’m never going to actually buy one. Gimme DOS any day!

My work PC runs Windows 8.1 (short story: I had no intention of upgrading but Windows had quietly downloaded the update and presented me with an ultimatum: upgrade now or we’ll do it in the next 24 hrs. So I did and I’m now a happy Windows 8.1 camper.) (more…)

Firefox 4 Beta out now with modified user interface

It’s heeeere! The much awaited Mozilla Firefox 4 Beta (or rather Beta 2 to be exact). With its ‘all new’ layout. That’s quite similar to Chrome but still needs work. Feature-wise little has changed since the Firefox 3.7alpha5 release. And there are still plenty of gap areas. That in the Beta can’t be addressed through add-ons because of changes in the Firefox 3.7alpha5 add-on structure. Even Nightly Tester Tools, every tester’s jailbreak app, doesn’t work.

Right now there’s just the one add-on that does work: Mozilla Sync (aka Weave, Dec 9, 2009).

Several previewers have been complaining that Firefox 4 Beta starts up slower. I didn’t notice any speed checks as compared to Firefox 3.7 alpha builds. But when you start a new instance or even open a new blank Windows the app seems to lockup for several seconds.

In the default display, the menu and bookmark tool bars are hidden. With menu tabs displayed above the address bar. But unlike Opera there’s no tab preview. All you get is the page title text. The Bookmark bar is now accessed via a button set at extreme right. Unfortunately in the Beta, you can’t change the button position. But oddly enough you can add the same button to the menu using the customize option!

The new orange colored button (labelled Minefield) at the top extreme left is more Opera that Google Chrome. This button supposedly allows access to the most used links. On my version Check Updates is a frequently used option that doesn’t appear in the quick list. But not having the menu bar constantly visible isn’t that bad. On Windows press ALT to display the menu. Then when you click a menu item it vanishes. If you can’t decide what do do press ALT again to hide the menu.

The right-click context menu has been updated for hyperlinks. You can now direct open a link (in the selected tab/window). Or in a new Tab or Window.

Test-wise Firefox 4 Beta 2 still turns in an ACID3 test score of 97/100 compared to Firefox 3.6.6 (94/100), Google Chromium (100/100) or Opera 10.60 (100/100). The only browser that does worse is Internet Explorer 8 with a failing score of 20/100. But then do we ever expect great geeky stuff from Microsoft.

For this users I miss simple things like the ability to paste ‘n open URLs from the address bar (available in Google Chrome/Chromium and Opera). Or the ability to add, disable and re-enable add-ons without a app restart. Google Chrome manages this so well. How come Firefox can’t do so too?

Tip Jar: Pidgim – multi-service Instant Messaging (IM) client

Friends, family and customers frequently wonder which instant messaging client I use. The answer is the free Pidgin. That allows you to connect to multiple services like Yahoo, GMail (Jabber), MSN, AOL, ICQ, IRC, MySpace and more. And is available for the MacOS, Linux and Windows platforms.

There’s even a Skype plug-in for Pidgin but because of the Skype platform model, you also need to have Skype running. Which sort of defeats the purpose of a single IM client? Just use Skype for text, voice and video chats

Yes, some features like voice chat (VoIP) and file transfers are either crippled or plain not available. But I like my all-in-one client which uses fixed system resources. And runs multiple chat sessions via a tabbed pop-up. Instead of multiple clients with their own chat windows. Pidgin connects directly or through a proxy. And you can set each account’s connection individually.

Pidgin is available as a download complete with the GTK runtime. Or you can download a Portable version.

My company has standardized on an internal OpenFire (Jabber platform) chat server for inter-employee communications including file sharing. Doing so has really simplified our LAN configuration since we no longer need to use Active Directory to share files among computers.

And for members of the super-paranoid tribe, you can encrypt communications using Encryption or OTR (Off The Record) add-ins. Once installed you have to setup private and public keys. Then send a chat request with public key to your buddy (also using Pidgin). Who accepts the request and adds the key to their certificate store. Now all chats between you two are encrypted.

A network admin buddy  tells me that unlike other IM chats displayed in plain text in server access logs, OTR communications display as hashes. Pretty neat, dontcha’ think?

There are other free clients available like Digsby and Miranda. But my experiences with both haven’t been very good. The open-source Digsby requires that you first register an account with them to use the client. I don’t see why I need to add another gateway with potential access to my buddy lists and private conversations.

Miranda has been very unstable for me. Not only are there frequent crashes; usually in the middle of an important chat. But setting up Miranda isn’t very easy. You need to activate just about every feature. In Pidgin where key features are activated and you only need to disable the ones you don’t need or want.