Thursday, August 21, 2003

Okay, this turned out to be a really long yet still half-assed review, so if you don't care about web browsers or open-source software, you can punt on this post.

So I've been fucking around all day with a new web browser - Mozilla Firebird. Standard Mozilla is my browser of choice, for a few reasons. I don't care much for IE, and it's not an option under Linux (well, maybe with wine, but I don't care either way), which is fine by me. Firebird is an offshoot of Mozilla, and it's supposed to be a more lightweight browser. I'm all for lightweight; I don't need a bunch of bullshit colorful borders or pretty pictures or useless menus that do nothing but suck up memory. The same philosophy extends to my desktop environment, where I'm happy as long as I have a pop-up desktop menu and can have a JPEG as my background.

Firebird definitely does seem more lightweight - load times are faster, which is nice on my 500 MHz shitbox laptop, and menus and icons are simplified. It also has one of my favorite Mozilla features, tabbed browsing. I wouldn't even touch anything without tabbed browsing nowadays, and as far as I know, IE doesn't even have it (at least, not the versions I've used, and from what I understand, IE hasn't exactly undergone a lot of updates). The problem with Firebird is that its default configuration is a little too lightweight. There's one button that Mozilla's tab bar has, whose function is to open a new tab. Firebird doesn't have this by default, but it can be added. The fucking thing is, I cannot for the life of me figure out how the fuck to add it manually. I can download an 'extension,' which I have done, which gives me that one stupid button. The problem is, it fucks up other shit on the tab bar. I shouldn't have to download an extension for something so basic, anyway. The fact that such a simple thing isn't in there is fucking infuriating, not to mention inexcusable. In addition to this one button nonsense, there are all sorts of other neat things you can do to extend the functionality of tabs, but so far I haven't figured out the right set of options that make me happy. One option, and fuck if I know which one since there seem to be about 12 that sound like they do the same thing, causes problems with 'blog editing, which we simply cannot have.

Firebird is only in its 0.6 release, but stability is pretty good, except for hangs when trying to change themes/skins. It looks like it has some improved functionality for handling bookmarks, but the bookmark manager itself looks just as retarded as Mozilla's. And by retarded, I mean that in the sense that it has no intelligence. Like, say, I'll cut a bookmark, and then go double click on a folder, and paste the bookmark. I want the bookmark placed in the folder I just opened, but it puts the pasted bookmark outside and above the folder, and then I have to drag it to where i want it. Little shit like that I just wish they'd fix. Oh, and for some reason, buttons like the arrow keys just stopped working in Firebird. I don't think that has to do with the pounding on the keyboard I've done out of frustration, because they still work in other applications. Oh, wait, now they magically work again. WTF? Goddammit, broken again.

The Google search section on the main toolbar is nice, but I wish I could figure out how to move it somewhere else. In fact, that's the whole problem, is just that I can't fugure out how to move, add, and delete shit. Configuration can be done by hand-editing CSS files, which is a royal pain in the ass. The few examples I've seen by no means give me any insight as to syntax or even options that can be controlled. Maybe there's some decent documentation out there, but if I didn't stumble across it through the seaches I've done already, then that's just bullshit. I'm probably just being a dumbass, though, and it's not that hard to find.

Of course, the ultimate test of a browser will be its porn downloading abilities. One thing that fucking pissed me off about Mozilla was that in the right-click popup menu on images, it had the 'save image' and 'send image' options one after another. Obviously, I use 'save image' a lot. But sometimes I accidentally click on 'send image', which pops up a fucking e-mail window. When I'm trying to download a bunch of images, I can't wait 6 seconds for the window to open, and then for me to close it. The default menu on Firebird doesn't have this shit since there is no built-in mail client (one is available, but I don't care since I gave up on GUI mail clients a long time ago... Pine all the way, baby!). Otherwise, it seems to be OK in the downloading department. Mozilla's recent versions have been corrupting images for some unknown reason, which is just intolerable. So far, Firebird has allowed me to download my pictures of Japanese idols without any corruption issues, but it hasn't seen the tour of duty that Mozilla has.

So, unless I can get that one fucking button, and sort out the other tab bullshit, it will probably be back to standard Mozilla for now. Firebird is just too much of a fucking pain in the ass to get to behave right now. This, of course, is a common syndrome with open source projects like Mozilla or Linux. I like hacking on shit and trying to figure stuff out, but when I get to points where I'm saying "this is fucking irritating; I don't want to deal with this shit," then the average user will never jump on board, because he doesn't want to have to do anything.

Still, if you're someone who likes to tinker, Firebird may be something to keep an eye on. Mozilla was way too unstable for me for a long time, but it's become my everyday browser. Hopefully Firebird will get there too. I know some tinkering will always be necessary just based on its nature as a lightweight yet extensible browser, but if countless Google searches can't answer my questions, then there's just not enough of a knowledge base out there to make it a workable scenario right now. We'll see how it goes over the next few days and with future releases.

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