Geeky stuff about browsers

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Obviously I don’t use Internet Explorer because it is (a) not compliant with standards; (b) not safe; (c) Microsoft.  And I don’t use Safari because Steve Jobs is a control freak and I don’t wish to be locked up in his world.

So like most geeks I’ve been using Firefox, which is faster and safer than Internet Explorer and has great add-ons. But I’m finding Firefox is becoming a little sluggish as it gets more bloated, and perhaps it is becoming a little unstable. For the time being  I have now switched my default browser to Google Chrome, because it is quite a bit faster than Firefox. (I’m writing this in a Chrome, for example).  I’m keeping Firefox because I like some of the plugins (such as S3Fox and Scribefire) but I reckon I’ll only use it when I need one of those.

But, I hear you cry, what a pain switching between different browsers!  It means your bookmarks and logins are never in one place, and they are never there when you want them. Well that is where Xmarks comes in.  This nifty add-on which is available for Firefox and Chrome (and indeed IE and Safari, if you like that kind of thing) synchronises your bookmarks to a central server on the interwebby.  (Securely, we hope.) Once you have installed Xmarks in your various browsers you can forget about it.  Whenever you bookmark something in one browser, that bookmark will appear the same everywhere.  (Ditto stored passwords, if you want.) So whether I am using my home computer, my work laptop or my Linux server, and whether I am using Chrome or Firefox, my bookmarks and logins are all the same in every broswer without me having to copy them over.  Which is nice.  Even if you don’t use more than one browser, Xmarks is pretty handy if you use more than one computer.

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2 comments on “Geeky stuff about browsers”

  1. Agreed about Chrome – it is an elegant browser. It’s been my browser of choice for a while now – and I use it across the three operating systems I use regularly (Ubuntu, OS X and Windows 7). Worth also pointing out that it supports the growing Google ecosystem very well – gmail/buzz, calendar, docs, wave etc. As we move increasing into the cloud – my hunch is that chrome will become even more useful.

    But I have to take you up on your points about both Safari and Microsoft. Why should Steve Job’s personality traits become the basis upon your choice of browser? Your argument that you do not use Safari because ‘Steve Jobs is a control freak and I don’t wish to be locked up in his world’ is not balanced. Conversely you could encourage people to use Microsoft on the basis that their co-founder Bill Gates is a good guy (which, no doubt he is).

    I have always been frustrated by fellow geeks – who share knowledge based on their preferences rather than balanced opinion. (Slight rat hole but I happen to be a linux and OS X guy, but equally accept that both operating systems have their issues and that Microsoft works best for others).

    You are right to exclude Internet Explorer (IE) on the basis of security and standards but wrong to exclude Safari.

    Safari is a decent browser (not the best, but importantly better than IE). Your readership should be aware that at the core of Safari sits webkit – an open source browser project, which started life from KDE’s Konqueror. It is not a browser based on control freakery.

    I accept that much of Apple’s hardware, such as the iPhone, does lock users in. But OS X and apps such as Safari remain open at their core. Unfortunately the ‘geekery’ of OS X and some of its core applications have been lost in all the hype around the success of iphone/ipod and very soon the iPad.

    As geeks we should be happy that finally users are moving away from Microsoft to viable alternatives. Sure Apple makes the headlines but we should at the very least be encouraged that people are joining the UNIX family (perhaps without even knowing it) and switching to OS X and using alternative browsers to IE.

  2. Thanks for this!! I was just reading through your site (which I think is excellent) – when the word firefox caught my eye – and, low and behold, a post with the answer to something that has plagued me for ages! – bookmarks having to be redone in each new browser.

    I read your blog as I also (like most readers I assume) work in development, but to find an actual practical answer to a problem that has bothered me for ever is a real bonus. Thanks again for the post.

    Also, I’d like to say how great your ‘development drums’ podcasts are – do you have any more planned?

    Owen replies: thanks Mia. Yes, I’m planning a new “series” of development drums podcasts shortly.

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Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and