Since 2010

Chrome user switching

Tuesday 15 September 2015

We’ve established that my last post had been on my to-do list for a while, but the thing that finally got me to pull my finger out and write it was the desire to remark on this comment on a Google Chrome issue.

The issue in question was regarding the addition of a new thingy to Google Chrome which some people were getting pretty upset about. The details don’t matter (although it was one of the things that made me question my dependence on Chrome), but the comments on the issue quickly descend into dozens and dozens of variations of “Chrome developers suck because they won’t do what I want”.

Now read the last comment by pkasting. I dream of being able to respond to similar conversations I have in my own professional life as calmly and succinctly as this. Emotions have been kept out of the response, each point is addressed, and advice is given to users on how they should proceed with their queries and concerns. Fine work Chromium stranger!

PS Google Chrome has over a billion users?! Wow.


Monday 14 September 2015

I keep a list of things I want to blog about. I realise how ridiculous that sounds given the frequency of posts here, but it’s true. Anyway, I’ve been meaning to write something about Firefox for a while, and why I believe the world desperately needs Firefox to claw back some browser market share.

I want to love Firefox. I certainly used to love it, but then Google Chrome was released and it was immediately obvious that it was a superior browser, with it’s per-tab processes, sand-boxed extensions, and fancy Omnibox.

Mozilla are working hard on the underlying architecture of Firefox, and are right on the brink of releasing a multi-process version which will allow the implementation of a whole raft of things, including a new add-on framework.

Now what I’m about to say goes completely against general wisdom, but I can’t wait for Firefox’s XPCOM and XUL based add-ons to be completely killed off. They are, in my experience, the source of almost all issues I have with Firefox, and have been holding Firefox back for too long. Stability, security, transparency, and predictability go out the window once you start adding extensions to Firefox. Peeking into the code of an extension is certainly possible, but who wants to have to do that just to confirm that some hidden preference won’t be changed by the add-on, or that it won’t sell your soul to the add-on’s maker? And isn’t restarting your browser to install an extension a little old-fashioned?

Over the years Google have added various bits-and-pieces to Chrome which encourages users to try out other Google products. Of course they have - Google are an advertising company. Why wouldn’t they do that? It makes me uncomfortable though. I don’t want to sign-in, so no need to bug me every time I open a new tab. I don’t want to sync my bookmarks with Google, and I don’t want to be reminded that I should do that every time I add a new bookmark. I don’t use Gmail or Google Docs or any of the other apps or extensions that come with a default Chrome install. And because Chrome is closed source and Google know exactly what they’re doing, I can never be entirely sure what’s being done with my browsing activity.

Google do a good job of laying out the what and the when, and weirdly I do trust Google with my data, but that doesn’t mean I want them to have it.

Extensions, add-ons, whatever you want to call them were what made Firefox great, but the overhaul of their implementation is way overdue. I regularly make a serious effort to switch from Chrome to Firefox, and my fingers are crossed that the promotion of Electrolysis to the stable channel will finally give me the confidence to remove Chrome from my dock.

In the meantime I’ll continue to help out on the Firefox support forums, attempt to resolve bugs, and continue convincing friends and colleagues that the things Mozilla stand for are for the good of the open web.


Tuesday 1 September 2015

Dad and I were at a loose end one day the last time I was back in Scotland, and he off-handedly mentioned the National Museum of Flight as a possible destination. Then he told me they have a Concorde there, and that was that.

By coincidence, I’d had an episode of omega tau sitting in my podcast app for a while titled “Flying the Concorde”, so I listened to that on my flight back to Melbourne. John Hutchinson, former Concorde pilot, provides the commentary.

Then I discovered that Haynes - famed publisher of automotive repair manuals - published a Concorde Owners' Workshop Manual, which I immediately ordered from eBay. It’s obviously not a workshop manual in the traditional sense, but it’s packed with stories about Concorde’s conception, the relationship between the French and the British, and gloriously technical details about some of the aircraft’s systems and operational procedures.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on a bit here without really saying anything, but if you’re remotely interested in aircraft or engineering or just finding out about amazing feats of human perseverance (the thing was built fifty years ago) you can do a lot worse than following any of the three paths above: museum, podcast, book.

(Not many people know that I studied aeronautical engineering for a couple of years before I switched to computer networking which, as my boss at time pointed out, I “should have done in the first place”, and I’ve always had an interest in big aircraft. Things with turbojet engines. It fell by the wayside because there was too much oil and not enough avionics.)