Sunday, May 09, 2010

The browser saga continues

In an ongoing low-participation, un-scientific poll in a previous post, 80% of KN@PPSTER readers pick Firefox as the best Mac browser.

I personally prefer Camino as a Mac browser proper. But like that 80%, I'm finding myself drawn back to Firefox. Here's why:

Summer is here, and I'm running a second machine -- an Asus EEE 900 netbook that the family bought as a "backup/loaner" machine when Liam's laptop was in the shop.*

The Asus is already effectively my second computer, because I like to work outside in nice weather -- set up my gear on the family "patio" table in the back yard, kick back with a cold drink, connect to our household network, and do the same things I do in my "office" inside.

The Mac is a headless laptop. Moving the laptop, monitor, external keyboard and mouse, etc., in and out of the house on a daily basis would be a Pain In The Ass. The 8.x-inch netbook with a roll-up waterproof USB keyboard and USB optical mini-mouse is very portable.

I'm running JoliCloud (a netbook-optimized, cloud-centric gloss on Debian/Ubuntu Linux) on the Asus. As a matter of fact, yesterday I went ahead and re-installed it, removing the Windows XP installation entirely (I never used it, and found out that none of the other family members were using it either, and the machine only has a 16Gb solid state drive internally, so ZAP, free up the space).

The easily available browsers (e.g. pre-installed or installable from the apps cloud) include Firefox, Seamonkey, Opera, Chrome and Chromium.

What sets Firefox above those other browsers is Mozilla Weave.

I no longer have to export my latest set of bookmarks to a file and then import that file to another machine. Weave keeps the bookmarks updated between machines. It also keeps my stored passwords, browser history, etc. synced.

I know that Chrome also has a bookmark sync function, but Chrome isn't available for PPC Macs, and my understanding is that its "sync" function merely maintains a file on Google Docs rather than actually automating browser bookmark updates.

Bookmarks are a big deal to me. I keep a large library of them for daily coverage so that I can find content to blurb in RRND.

That library is constantly changing -- new sites come on, old sites go away. Until Mozilla Weave came along, the library was at the mercy of my absent-mindedness. Computer X goes tits up and I have to move my work to another machine. When was the last time I exported my bookmarks? Who knows? And where did I export them to? To the machine with the hard drive what just exploded, or to some folder on the web I thought for sure I'd remember?

On my Mac, Firefox doesn't run as fast as Camino, nor is it quite as intuitive. But Weave and the FireFTP add-on (which lets me move files I have to move every day without opening yet another app) make Firefox into the clear choice for a user who's running more than one machine and wants those machines on the same sheet of music.


* This is NOT a paid testimonial, but I want to recommend a computer and electronics store because my experience there has been so damn good. That store is Micro Center.

A few months ago, we bought a laptop there. It was an Acer -- almost brand new, returned by a customer within the standard "no questions asked" return timeframe, nothing apparently wrong with it, nice price.

Because it seemed likely that Liam, eight years old (turns nine tomorrow!) would be the primary user, we also purchased the three-year "platinum" warranty.

A week later, the keyboard started acting up. Took the machine back to Micro Center. They diagnosed and replaced the keyboard, no questions asked, within 24 hours.

Two weeks ago, the computer wouldn't boot up -- right after the usual BIOS stuff, it just sat there and did nothing until you turned the machine off.

Took the machine back to Micro Center. This was serious enough that they had to send it out for big-time diagnostics. The word came back, finally, that it would cost $500+ to fix (it needed a new motherboard, etc.), and that they were invoking the warranty's replacement option instead.

Yesterday, we went in to get our replacement. They told us they'd issue us a gift card for the retail price of the original machine, and that we should just pick out what we wanted to buy.

We chose a new eMachines 15.6" laptop that was at least as good as the Acer in every way and superior in others (and btw, I've had enough bad experiences with Acer machines that they are on my "do not buy" list). That machine was priced so low that we were able to get it, buy the platinum warranty on it (for one year rather than three this time) and buy a cart full of sundries (two keyboards, a cooling deck, a car FM-transmitting MP3 player, etc.) for a net out-of-pocket cost of about $25 after the warranty gift card was exhausted.

The folks at Micro Center have been friendly every minute of every visit we've made there. They've never given us any static on warranty work or product returns. They've never pressured us for an up-sell (although they've made several by being helpful and making smart suggestions). If you've never shopped there and have one in your area, I urge you to check them out the next time you need a new computer, peripheral, accessory, whatever. And yes, they do Mac.

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