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News from November 2004

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Caves of Narshe Site News
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Posted in: CoN Site News

Mozilla Firefox 1.0 Arrives


Caves of Narshe Site News

That's right, folks: the first release of Firefox 1.0 designated for general use rather than being a "Technology Preview" is out now. If you've ever held off from giving it a go because you don't trust beta software, now would be a good time to make the leap.



There are few new visible features in this release; the main focus has been on fixing bugs and improving stability. That leaves my post a little empty, so I'll go over some thoughts about Firefox in general, since this is probably the last milestone post I'll make.



First, it's worth dispelling some illusions that you might have heard from so-called Firefox "fanboys". Is Firefox perfect? No. Does it have every feature you would ever possibly need in a browser? No. (That's what extensions are for, after all.) Now that the version number is 1.0, is it guaranteed to work flawlessly and never crash or behave strangely? No. That's an important one: I've seen too many posts across the Web screaming in Firefox's defence "This is beta software! Everything will be perfect in 1.0!" That's certainly not true. It's as stable as I'd expect from any Web browser, though, and a good deal more so than most of the Internet Explorer releases I've used in the past.



It's also not the amazing all-in-one PC security kit some make it out to be. Mozilla and Firefox have had their share of vulnerabilities reported against them, though few have been as critical as those seen and exploited in Internet Explorer in recent times. It's almost certainly true that the average user is less likely to be duped into installing spyware using Firefox compared to IE, but it's also true that, provided you keep it updated with the latest patches, IE is a suitably secure alternative if you browse the Web with your eyes open, and don't just say "Yes" to everything a dialog box asks you. The Windows XP SP2 version of IE in particular is much safer than previous incarnations, though good luck getting it on an earlier version of Windows.



If you're wondering why I'm not just singing Firefox's praises as usual, it's because there's already been a lot of hype, and I think in some respects it's detrimental. Some new users who've taken in all the good press come to Firefox expecting nothing short of a life-changing experience, and are then naturally disappointed. At the end of the day, Firefox is just a browser. We think it's the best one available at the moment, and urge you to give it a go if you haven't already. It won't cure cancer, but it might make your Web browsing more efficient if you give it a chance.



With that said, what aspects of Firefox might you find particularly helpful? I've compiled a few I personally enjoy and have heard postiive comments about.





Tabbed Browsing

Not really an advantage over many browsers other than plain Internet Explorer, since it's pretty widely implemented, but it's a useful feature. Personally, I didn't see the point for a long time — what was wrong with organising pages in taskbar buttons? The real benefit is actually in background tabs. Try visiting, say, a thumbnail gallery where you want to view several pictures from it. Try clicking them all with the middle button — they'll open in unfocused tabs, so you can click every link that interests you and then go back to see all the results.


Popup Blocking

Even XPSP2 IE6 has this, now, so again it's not a major advantage any more; still, unrequested popups will rarely bother you in Firefox. Little further explanation is necessary, except that if you're new to popup blocking, don't worry about popups you do want to see because you've clicked them on purpose — any good popup blocker will still let these through, and Firefox is no exception. (It is possible to tweak the browser to block them all, though, if you so wish.)


Quick access to clearing sensitive information

Head over to the Privacy tab of the Options window, and you'll find all sensitive information the browser might store (cookies, saved form information, passwords etc.) in one place, where you can clear them quickly and, if you need to, prevent them from being saved in the future.


Extensions

If Firefox's native features aren't enough for you, you can often find an extension to add what you're looking for. For example, if popup blocking alone isn't enough, try AdBlock to get rid of most inline ads too. Tabbrowser Extensions and Tabbrowser Preferences both add more preferences and features to tabbed browsing (though I recommend the latter if you can live without the extra functions of the former, as it's generally more stable and less disruptive of native code).




It only takes a quick Google search to find more appreciated features. As you may be aware by now, our particular platform for encouraging users to move away from IE is based on Web standards. Internet Explorer's standards support is looking very dated nowadays, and it's causing the Web to stagnate in the way Netscape 4 did a few years ago, as authors are forced to keep legacy code for IE compatibility, often at the expense of making pages that look and work better. Just about any browser other than IE works pretty well from this point of view, but Mozilla's Gecko engine is our favourite core, and Firefox the easiest interface to it for migrating from Internet Explorer. If you care about CoN's alternative styles, it's likely that future ones simply won't be available to IE users (some of the current ones already look pretty bad anyway).



Anyway — I hope everyone has a good experience with Firefox 1.0.





Posted in: CoN Site News

Nintendo DS Sold Out Already?


Nintendo DS
As the battle for the handheld market begins to shape up between Sony and Nintendo, the latter's latest entry in the market is selling like hotcakes --- and it has not even been released yet.

Many major video game retailers, including Gamestop, are ceasing from taking further preorders for the Nintendo DS as they have already sold out of their launch day allotment of the device. It is beginning to appear that it may be difficult (just as it has been with recent past hardware releases, the Nintendo 64 and Playstation 2 coming specifically to mind) to get the handheld on its November 21 launch date.

The titles (as of right now) that are expected to be in store by launch date are: Asphalt Urban GT (Ubisoft), Madden NFL 2005 (Electronic Arts), Urbz: Sims in the City (EA), Feel the Magic XY/XX (Sega), and Spider-Man 2 (Activision), and, of course, Super Mario 64 DS.

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Someone want to be my Rich Uncle Pennybags? With its backward compatibility with the GBA, I would love to have one of these things. I can neither afford nor justify spending 150 dollars on one at the moment, however.

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