Wed, 28 May 2008
Browsers: Back to Square One
On Oct 15, 2005 i wrote about Galeon development slowing down, and I speculated that I would have needed to choose a new browser. With recent problems of Galeon in Fedora 9, I have decided to look at the current state of browsers again.
Firstly, Firefox: it is not a bad browser, the Firefox 3.0beta in Fedora 9 even feels much faster than Galeon. With some essential extensions it is almost usable: TreeStyleTab allows to have tabs vertically on the right side, and NewTabURL allows something other than a blank page to be displayed in newly opened tabs (I wonder why these two features are not included in the Firefox itself). FireGestures are even better than in Galeon: more configurable (not that I need that), but also the plugin displays the gesture. It also does not have a long-standing Galeon bug, where gestures do not work over an empty tab.
Now the bad part: I need a "middle button pastes the URL in new tab" functionality. It is much faster to have it on one click instead of having to open new tab manually beforehand. Another problem is that newly opened tabs do not inherit parent's history, so you cannot do Back in them. There is no way how to create a "smart bookmarks" toolbar (i.e. bookmarks with a wildcard in their URL, which are then displayed as input boxes). In Galeon, it is very convenient to have things like dictionaries, IS MU people search, Wikipedia, etc., each with separate input box. Moreover, in Galeon you can open the search results in a new tab by pressing Ctrl+Enter instead of Enter. The Firefox search inputbox is really a bad joke: the text entered there remains there, for example. So when you want to look up a new dictionary word, instead of just pasting it there you have to clear the previous search contents. Sometimes the NewTabURL stops working, so after opening a new tab I wait whether my home page gets loaded or not. Unread tabs are not displayed in a different color in the tab list. And finally, there is this bug, which makes saving and restoring session with multiple authenticated tabs next to impossible. Reported almost two years ago, and still unfixed.
As for Epiphany, it is a bit better: smart bookmarks are there, there is an extension for moving tabs to the right side (left side actually, but it can be trivially modified for the right side; I wonder why this is not in the main distribution - having two line Python plugin instead of a configuration option is really ugly). However, the gestures use a middle mouse button, and it clashes with possible future "paste URL in the new tab" functionality. Also the cookie manager is not as flexible as in Galeon and Firefox.
So after much experimenting and testing, actually using both Firefox and Epiphany for several days, I have decided to downgrade Galeon in my Fedora 9 to the one from Fedora 8, and I am back to square one. Galeon is still the best browser available, despite being in pure maintainance mode for two years. Both Firefox and Epiphany are getting better, but they still lack some functionality, not to mention having real bugs.
Tue, 27 May 2008
I have upgraded my primary workstation and my laptop to Fedora 9. So far I have mixed impressions from F9. On the one side there is plenty of new software in F9, but on the other side, I have probably filled (or hit) the highest number of bugs in F9 than any other Fedora release:
- #446042 xorg-x11-drv-ati: Zaphod does not work on ATi X300SE.
- OK, I have switched to a new graphics card and got both monitors of the same size, so I can use a large virtual screen mode instead of Zaphod. It is somewhat clumsy, but it works.
- #447892 xorg-x11-drv-ati: Text console until first X server restart.
- This is on my laptop. I don't use text console much, so it is not critical.
- #439386 synaptics: Touchpad setup does not survive suspend.
- Fairly critical. I use a "scroll down" button on my laptop as a middle mouse button, but after suspend or switching to another virtual console it does not work anymore.
- #448077 control-center: gnome-typing-monitor locks only one head.
- Extremely ugly, but I can live with it.
- #447910 gdm: gdm does not run ~/.xsession.
- GDM got rewritten for F9 (more rants about it in another blogpost, probably). In the meantime, they have decided to move the "run ~/.xsession" feature to the separate package,
xorg-x11-xinit-session. Guess why the session startup is so slow now, when instead of a single "
if test -x ~/.xsession" statement they need a separate file.
- #443316 galeon: Galeon crashes on almost every web page.
- This one was in fact my own bug, removing an old third-party Java plugin fixed it.
- #443518 galeon: Lots of issues with galeon in F9.
- No comment.
- #446233 galeon: Galeon does not support basic authentication.
- Pretty serious one, as many of the sites I use or develop (like IS MU) require basic authentication. Probably, after two years and half, a time for a new browser has finally come? More browser-related rants also in another blogpost.
- #446241 metacity: Vertical maximization does not sometimes work.
- I have been using metacity briefly, until I have figured how to run my own
~/.xsession. Sawfish is still way better and more configurable.
- #445533 NetworkManager: network manager has both wired and wireless adapters up.
- This one is pretty serious usability bug. The default is not what most users want, and what is worse, the previous behaviour (keep the wired ethernet as an only active interface when plugged in, and after it is unplugged, try to activate wireless) is probably not possible anymore.
- #447500 NetworkManager: no network with static ip.
- Quite annoying on new installs, but easily solved by
chkconfig network on; chkconfig NetworkManager off.
The above said, I am still not very disappointed with F9. It seems the community around F9 is stronger than ever, and the bug reports keep being answered even from non-Fedora people. Also it is nice to have an opportunity to test a bleeding-edge software.
On the other hand, including a beta version of X.org and Firefox was a mistake (incomplete HW drivers, and e.g. Galeon developers unwilling to port the browser to new XULRunner API until it is stable). Also it seems many packages (like GDM or NetworkManager) are being developed in the questionable direction of "usability", which is an euphemism of "no configurable features". And that is sad, as configurability is where Linux-based desktops are far superior to its alternatives, both Windows and MacOS.