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Sunday, May 14, 2006

FireFox: A Refreshing Change

Mozilla Firefox - A Refreshing Alternative to IE
Part - I (Introduction)
Microsoft Internet Explorer have been the dominant web browser for past few years. Initially it had competition from Netscape Navigator but the scene quickly changed with Microsoft's marketing and bundling of IE with Windows operating system and soon it became dominant web browser on desktop with Netscape Navigator having negligible share . But with dominance the past few years have seen little new innovative features in the IE with Microsoft trying to fix leaky IE instead. Bugs and security fixes have become way too common and spywares and adwares have been trying all hard to make IE a miserable experience,making people scream for alternatives. Mozilla Firefox Provides them with a perfect alternative to their IE woes and Providing features that makes browsing a truly pleasureful experience. Further it works seamlessly on Linux,Macs and number of other operating system.

Mozilla Firefox began with an effort to create a strip down version of the bloaty Mozilla Web Browser ( Mozilla was Open Source version of Netscape navigator Web Browser) by Dave Hyatt and Blake Ross. Firefox started to become immensely popular with it registering 100 million download within year of launch of it's version 1.0 . The popularity continued to increase with 1.5 Version Registering 2 Million Download within first 36 Hours of release. Firefox in short has been a phenomenon both on Windows and Linux . It has been one of the biggest success story of the open source movement. Now it occupies close to 10 % of Web Browser market quiet a achievement considering it turned mature just few years back. Let's examine some of the features that make firefox so immensely popularIn Internet explorer every now and then we have been frustrated with the popup advertising windows but firefox comes with a unique tool that enables one to block popup ads when it is enabled.

Also one of the most popular feature of the firefox has been tabbed browsing allowing one to quickly open different webpages in the same window allowing to quickly move back and forth on the open webpages.Also an extension of tabbed browsing is ability to set multiple webpages as home page each opening in it's different tab so that when you click home button all the webpages open .

Opened tabs can be easily dragged and dropped to sort in order you want

Also one nice feature is Built in Search bar that allows one to quickly search different web search engines with ease.One feature that may impress people who search a lot is ability to drag selected text ,word in webpage directly toBuilt in Search Bar's searchbox to search for it instantly,without firing your searchengine and typing he text thus saving time.

There is provision for easy and quick removal of all your history and your secret information with one click .

LinkAlso not a mojor difference but searching text in webpage is much easier with search tool bar at bottom of screen rather than a dialog box in IE.

Firefox can be easily upgraded via it's update system and with version 1.5 you dont need to download entire firefox for updated version but instead it could be patched to include latest changes ,a nother nice feature considering how new flaws are being discovered in software .Also mozilla organization is much faster to correct flaws found in the browser as compared to internet explorer. Also they offer 500 $ and Mozilla T-Shirt to anyone who discover bugs in the mozilla source code under it's Bugs Bounty Program.

But one of the most powerfull and popular feature of firefox is it's ability to extend firefox functionality via the use of extension which can be installed with quiet ease and there are extensions available for a variety of purposes. Installing firefox extensions is as easy as clicking their link using firefox.

Here I demonstrate installing of popular extension (DownthemAll ( is a kinda Download Manager.

1. You first go to the webpage using firefox :

2. There Click on the Install Button a Wizard appears follow the instruction and install it accordingly.

3, After Installation the nasty part restarting Firefox for extension to become active

Though standard firefox installation dosen't come with plugins installed but they can be installed quiet easily.
Firefox is extremely small in size as compared to IE . It is just 4.9 MB as compared to IE 6 which is over 75 MB in size. Small size dosent mean it has any less feature than IE but it dosent come preinstalled with JVM , Shockwave,Flash etc plugins which have to be installed externally.

Further Firefox supports a large number of Spoken languages thus making it truly international and helping it to reach a large non-english speaking public .

RSS feeds popularly used by News websites and Webblogs to provide summary of content of website with links ,it is also used by software like aggregator to allow users to track changes and updated news items . Firefox comes with built in support for RSS . All Websites that support RSS a Orange Icon is Show in the addressbar's right end clicking it one can add the RSS feed to bookmark.

In short I would say Firefox is a perfect getaway for users of Internet Explorer who have been frustrated by bugs,viruses,adwares,popups and for those who just want to stand out of the crowd of IE using people.

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Article (C) 2006 Ambuj Varshney
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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Review of XFCE

First Impression:- XFCE

My experience of using Linux on my Desktop goes back 6 years with kde v 1.0 at that time it was considered quiet revolutionary because it was a mojor upgrade to the FVWM or other window managers that were usually shipped with Linux distro's at that time. Though it was still lacking some of the usefull features of kde as in today's KDE 3.5 but it was at least usable and quiet zippy even at those days 166 Mhz 32 Mb ram Pentium computers. But with releases as KDE has matured it's functionality has increased ,it's User Interface has become more trendy and a lot of features have been added but all this has made it quiet slow ,sluggish at times even on descent quality hardware it takes upto 30 seconds to start the older hardware arequiet out of the equation.
So my search begain for a good Window Manager for my old Celeron 1.4 Ghz 256 MB RAM IBM laptop,running on fedora core 4 . One of my friends recommended the XFCE window manager. I visited the site what i found was a very good neatly organized page there was a option for graphical installer , I had not seen a lot of graphical installer for Linux applications so i was quiet eager to try it as installing applications on linux have always been a problem for linux newbies.The installer was about 18 megabytes in size ,I fired the console and executed the installer ,the installers bin file's attributs werent set to executable so i changed it's attribute to executable with chmod command,executed the installer to my pleasant
surprise the installer worked quiet flawlessly showing welcome screen . On pressing next button the installation started the entire installation took about 40 minutes to complete . The installer probably did not ship with precompiled binaries but instead compiled it for the system on the spot , a pretty good approach indeed from normal make,confiure install routine.

After completeing the installation i started the XFCE . As soon as XFCE started thing that struck me was absence of any desktop icons and a relatively clean and uncluttered desktop it looked quiet similar to old CDE desktop though quiet nippy , and supporting anti-aliasing and other fine visual effects. There was a small panel at bottom which housed all the installed applications.The menu was relatively clean. The best feature about the panel was that it's functionality could be extended by using myriad of plugins available for a variety of purpose. Also the panel could be oriented in diffrernt parts of the screen. There was another bar at top which kept all the instances of running applications and different workspaces ,and a nice little button at the top edge to show,hide all the windows and desktop.

Two screen shot showing the XFCE desktop

Plugin Adding tool to the Panel
Clicking the right mouse button anywhere on the desktop opens the menu ,whereby any application can be launched,all my applications were housed in the menu.The XFCE included a number of it's own application the most important of which was the File Manager(Thunar),which was a relatively clean and compact file manager . I had used nautilus,konqueror earlier i found thunar equally good and quiet fast though it lacked HTML viewing abilities of the Konqueror but was equally usefull.Thunar's main strike point was it's compactness and clean interface with all the basic functionalities that one need in a file manager.

A Screen shot of Thunar A Screen Shot of Mousepad

The XFCE has a basic text editor Mousepad which is quiet similar to notepad found in Windows.Plain and Simple Also since XFCE works on GTK 2 it supports a large number of themes available for Gnome.So visually it might not as good looking as kde or gnome but is is pretty descent. Also all GTK based apps of gnome work quiet flawlessly with same speed on XFCE being both based on GTK+.

Orage ( Basic Calendar Tool)

The XFCE settings manager is also a relatively good configuration tool to tweak your systems settings. It houses all the common applets for configuring different system settings.It is equivalent to control panel of windows.
From the Control panel one can change Themes,Icon Themese from User Interface,Even the opening Splash screen can be changed quiet easily
XFCE Settings Manager (Control panel) XFCETheme preference Box XFCE manager to change splash screen

XFCE at last besides being very fast and occupying very small memory is quiet usable and I see no reason why XFCE cannot be used as only windows manager in place of KDE or GNOME.
Some Distributions like
XUBUNTU ( A 3rd Party Derivative of Popular Ubuntu Linux)
MiniSlack(Now i think called ZenWalk)
are already using XFCE as default Window Manager and i can for see a lot of distribution using XFCE as their default window manager.

At last i would say XFCE is a perfectly suited Window Manager for Old aging systems and is quiet usable on latest hardware's also . With releases as it matures further i can see it competing with likes of gnome and Kde for desktop space on desktop Linux.

Usefull Link: XFCE Homepage
Article: Author: Ambuj Varshney
(C) 2006 Ambuj Varshney