back to article Second Firefox 3.1 beta under starters order

A second beta release of Firefox 3.1 is on the starting blocks, with the publication of an almost ready version of the latest edition of the open source browser due in days. A third beta is expected before Mozilla ships a final version of the software next year. Beta 2 of Firefox 3.1 includes a "web workers" feature that …

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  1. Mark
    Coat

    Meh...

    Opera 10 Alpha, much more exciting...

  2. EdwardP
    Flame

    Slowdown Button.

    Ok. I really don't know what the fuck Mozilla are doing to Firefox.

    I read your article Mentioning how quick minefield was, how much better the memory usage was, so I though, "mmm, maybe give it another chance"

    So I download Minefield, and was amazed, it was lightening fast and had effecient memory usage. Pretty much everything I hate about the "stable" firefox was gone. I immediatly switched back, and for a week, I was in browser heaven.

    However, over the past two weeks Minefield has prompted me to update, probably 4 times. Each and every update has reintroduced one of the MAJOR bugs that turned me off Firefox in the first place.

    Minefield as it stands uses more memory than Firefox 2 ever managed.

    Crap benchmark:

    My K-Meleon (Geko engine) has: 3 Gmail windows, 5 slashdot (with many comments), 5 El Reg and 1 Maddox (WIN). It was left overnight (office computer), and on getting back in this morning, I went to these pages without restarting the browser. It is using a grand total 45 megabytes of ram.

    Now, I fire up Minefield, open up the same pages, give it 10 minutes, and come back. It is using 560mb of ram. That, people, is a joke.

    I do not know what the fuck Mozilla think they're doing, but they just blew their last chance with me. Firefox was a great idea, which was then badly implemented (dispite popular opinion), but has somehow managed to survive on the hype it recieved initially. Look at the browsing experiance pragmatically (forget the "oh it's firefox, it's wonderful because it's not MS and it's just wonderful") and then download K-Meleon/Opera and be done with it.

  3. Nic Brough
    Unhappy

    Looks good to me

    I've been running with the beta for a while and it's very nice (once adblock and noscript catch up).

    I'm not a developer type, but I am a moderately heavy browser user, and I'm impressed.

    The only thing I would change is that you still can't (easily) turn off the new look-up in the url bar. I quite like it myself, but I can totally understand if someone else hates it. At least with the marmite, I know that it's easy not to open the jar...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Fail

    I will personally be not upgrading to firefox 3 until they give options to disable the horrible new address bar, and the irritating rendering of tabs when you drag them to reorder them.

    Might have to check out opera when ff2 dies.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Sticking with Firefox 2.x

    So, have the dolts at Mozilla finally fixed all the things they broke horribly in Firefox 3? Have they implemented a way to disable the "awsomebar"? Have they gone back to storing bookmarks in a sensible (as in, not a WTF database) format that I can run through diff or read in plaintext? Or fixed some of the weird dialogs that I couldn't resize? Yeah, I know a lot of people like that stuff, but no matter how cool your UI, if you can't turn it off, you're no better than Microsoft, inflicting its own personal ideas about user interface and under-the-hood operations on the user, responding to any complaints with a heavy-handed "deal with it."

    I'd use Opera, but I loathe tabbed browsing (again, a lot of people like it, but I switch back and forth between pieces of data rather than programs, and so to me, tabs just mean your window manager isn't very good), and tabs are even more baked-in in Opera. Why do things suck so much in the future, and why does everyone insist on making them worse?

    Also, why would anyone think that saying "I didn't like $FEATURE at first either, but I tried it for a while, and now I like it!" in response to "how do I make this go away?" is anything other than insufferably annoying, at best? That's pretty much the response curve to cigarettes, too, after all.

    Adblock and Noscript are the only reasons I can see for using Firefox, these days. Sad to see all that potential wasted. "Triumph of open source," my arse...

  6. Mark Sims

    Firefox Version numbers

    I have a question. Why is it this article talks about Firefox 3.1 being on beta, when my version is 3.4? Can someone help.

  7. BlueGreen

    @EdwardP, @AC 16:38

    I'd never heard of minefield so I went to the website. Curiously even that didn't tell me what it is (the ultimate in user unfriendliness). Anyway, there are some words there that said "Warning: This is NOT A FINAL OR PRE-RELEASE VERSION. This program is provided without any guarantees of stability, so please use it at your own risk. It is recommended that you back up your profile regularly, as there may be bugs that corrupt your data."

    Apparently it isn't stable and there may be bugs that corrupt your data. Is that my heart bleeding?

    Seemingly not.

    .

    @AC the only thing I hate about the 'awesome' bar is the name. It works for me. I don't understand why people get uptight about it, but there's personal taste. However, there are good reasons for storing bookmarks in a DB (although not MySQL, but anyway). If you want to see it in text form click Bookmarks : Organize bookmarks... then you get a small window; click 'import and backup' button at the top of it then Export HTML... to get the text version.

    Maybe later they'll expose the searching facilities of the database for advanced users, right now the 'awesome' bar mostly does that AFAICS.

    FTR FF3 has never crashed on me.

  8. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    And elsewhere on the web Opera 10 Alpha was released

    Pretty happy with it so far.

    http://my.opera.com/desktopteam/blog/show.dml/2778455

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @BlueGreen

    The awesomebar is annoying to many people and, as with any UI that flickers, blinks, bleeps, or in any way changes the screen unbidden, it should be able to be turned off without hacking things or fiddling with badly-documented things that may or may not completely work. That's just good user interface design. I don't want stuff to pop up on my screen unless I explicitly ask it to. Why is that such a hard concept to understand?

    Exactly what are these "good reasons for storing bookmarks in a DB"? That's an honest question. Name one. Not speed - my bookmarks file exceeds three megabytes, and on FF2 it takes about five seconds of CPU-thrashing to display the menu... whereas when I tested FF3, it took... four! Meanwhile, yes, I know that I can export bookmarks, but I use shell scripts and diff to maintain consistency between browsers on different computers (laptop and desktop), and I can't do that with whatever FF3 uses. Nor can I use a shell script to strip out all the unnecessary data (like "last visited") that FF poos into its bookmarks file. Note that exporting a flat-text bookmarks file is not the same as actually using one. That misses the point entirely.

    In short, FF3 breaks my ability to control my browser experience, with absolutely no upside that I can perceive. Oh, and FF2 has never crashed on me, either.

    Seriously, what's the upside to upgrading for those of us who find these new "improvements" to be anything but? This is exactly like Microsoft's "ribbon" interface that, yes, some people like, but for the ones who don't, "suck it up and cope" isn't exactly an answer that inspires brand loyalty... Whatever happened to the user being able to take charge of his or her own browser, eh?

  10. J
    Coat

    @Mark Sims

    I can help: click "Help", then "About Mozilla Firefox", then read it (but pay attention this time).

    I bet you are seeing 3.0.4 (like I do), and NOT 3.4. Small difference.

    If you STILL do see 3.4, then you might be running something VERY fishy there...

  11. Nic Brough

    Title

    Hmm. I hadn't thought about the bookmarks when I posted.

    BlueGreen said

    >However, there are good reasons for storing bookmarks in a DB (although not MySQL, but anyway). If you want to see it in text form click Bookmarks : Organize bookmarks... then you get a small window; click 'import and backup' button at the top of it then Export HTML... to get the text version.

    I, as will the vast majority of users, don't give a **** how the bookmarks are stored as long as I can look through them quickly and easily. The bookmarks generally work fine in FF2 and FF3. Differently, but no great shakes.

    However, whilst the current system is fine for the majority of users, I suspect there are a good proportion who sometimes want a plain text list (html or xml will do). In old FF, all we needed to know was where the file was. Now, we have to go through hoops to get there. So having to click 4 times every time I want an extract is a PitA compared with the old "open that file" route.

  12. BlueGreen

    @AC 21:50

    > The awesomebar is annoying [snip] Why is that such a hard concept to understand?

    It isn't hard to understand, and I never said it should be forced on people. I only said it was fine for me and didn't understand why it was a problem for others, not that they should be required to use it. If it causes so much trouble for so many, then yes, it should be disableable. In fact, I just searched for "firefox awesomebar disable" and got good hits, including an addon.

    > Exactly what are these "good reasons for storing bookmarks in a DB"? That's an honest question.

    Fair enough. These are just my feelings: pretty well any app that manages non-trivial data should use a competent app to manage that data - IOW, use a database. Not doing so takes extra programmer work (not your concern) and means the data is prone to being broken (is your concern) because ad-hoc data management tends to be worse than when done by something whose sole job is data management.

    Like when I upgraded my Thunderbird from 1.5 to 2 and it trashed a newsgroup thread. AFAIK Tbird didn't/doesn't use a DB for its backend (correct me if I'm wrong, I know someone will) and that was the result.

    A decent database is not just about 'select'ing data, but storing it reliably, in a way that can recover from some types of corruption. IMO this is one of their greatest yet least recognised benefits.

    However, I'm not sure that MySQL does that part very well.

    > Name one. Not speed - my bookmarks file exceeds three megabytes, and on FF2 it takes about five seconds of CPU-thrashing to display the menu... whereas when I tested FF3, it took... four!

    Either way, 3 MB of ASCII have to be grepped. That is going to take time. Nothing you can do about that except... indexes? As you can now bookmark with tags/keywords, these can be indexed trivially (because indexes come with databases), so you have a potential win.

    If the browser could keep track of your non-keyword searches and notice patterns, which there certainly are in mine, it would be fairly easy to index those as well. In theory.

    > Meanwhile, yes, I know that I can export bookmarks, but I use shell scripts and diff to maintain consistency between browsers on different computers (laptop and desktop), and I can't do that with whatever FF3 uses

    I can only agree. I want to do my bookmark backups completely automated and in ASCII, not some human-obscure database format. it would be really, really nice if Firefox had some command line option I could kick off in a script to dump the bookmarks raw. I haven't been able to find one.

    (so I just searched and found this: <http://totalrecall.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/automating-export-of-firefox-3-bookmarks-and-history-from-command-linecron/>. typical. Unfortunately you need insertion as well as extraction for synchrony, so may not be the cure)

    However, if you are backing into a database, it's conceivable that you could get database content synchronisation for free as many databases provide this, albeit in somewhat complex forms. Even if they don't, a few manual selects and deletes should do it.

    If your data store has intelligence behind it instead of being a flat, passive ASCII file, then you start getting a *whole lot more* for free. In theory, anyway.

    > Nor can I use a shell script to strip out all the unnecessary data (like "last visited") that FF poos into its bookmarks file.

    If it is marked as such in the DB then trivially you can. In theory.

    > Note that exporting a flat-text bookmarks file is not the same as actually using one. That misses the point entirely.

    I take your point but -- in theory -- you get pretty well all the benefits with none of the downsides if you use a database.

    The trouble is the bookmark database does not seem to be very well exposed or documented, which makes it harder for us. That's why I keep saying 'in theory', because the apparent potential is being left hidden and unused. I know I have a ton of duplicates in my bookmarks. If I had access to the database I could remove them in a couple of lines. I would like to generate queries based on the bookmarks so I can track certain information. If I had access to the database... you get the picture.

    > Seriously, what's the upside to upgrading for those of us who find these new "improvements" to be anything but? This is exactly like Microsoft's "ribbon" interface that, yes, some people like, but for the ones who don't, "suck it up and cope" isn't exactly an answer that inspires brand loyalty... Whatever happened to the user being able to take charge of his or her own browser, eh?

    Well, a search revealed how to deal with the 'awesome' bar (and am going to keep putting the word in quotes because it's making me heave), and there seems to be a way to extract the ASCII from the database, perhaps answering half of your other question.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts and there may not be accurate. I have never used MySQL either. I'm sure people here will pick up my mistakes and let me know.

  13. Mike Bronze badge

    title?

    @EdwardP

    I agree, unfortunately this seems to be the way with a lot of software these days eating huge amounts of system resources, I think it's mostly down to the so-called programmers not caring - "write code to combine 2 bits of text? but there is this nice utils library which has a really advanced string class which i can use to combine strings, it only takes 10MB of RAM which is nothing really...", get 10 people with their own favourite library, multiply it by a new library for every simple little task they need to do, in no time at all you have yourself a vista!

    I pride myself on not using such bloat in my own programs, people come up with all sorts of excuses for "code re-use", while i have to agree that there are some cases that it's useful (such as if you need database functions, the sqlite library would save a lot of time) most of the time it doesn't save any time at all (how long is spent fixing bugs due to unexpected behaviour? you'd expect it if you wrote the thing...). It's also extremely rare for software made by these people to run reliably - although I can't say i'm surprised when you consider they couldn't even be bothered to look at the majority of the code in it to see what it's doing...

    @AC

    Firefox uses sqlite3 databases, so you can use standard sqlite tools to manage them... i know not as easy as a text file for some tasks, but then it is easier for others (simple tasks editing a text file is easier, but then you can make an SQL query to do other tasks that would perhaps need complex scripts to parse a text file..)

    while i agree in principle that the use of sql databases for a simple list of bookmarks is overkill, it is apparently used for the search features of the address bar and has no real disadvantages to use it as it's used elsewhere anyway (probably better than having a second set of code to maintain for parsing a bookmarks file... just stick in an sql query using the already included sqlite library... although i should point out that this is only because the sqlite library is one of the rare relatively fast and efficient ones, it's the general "well might as well use that library instead..." mentality that causes the above!)

  14. BlueGreen

    correction to my previous post

    it seems the DB that FF uses is sqlite, not mysql.

  15. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
    Go

    @ Mark

    I haven't read the article yet. I just came straight here to flame them for never mentioning Opera. Their Blogsite has just had major reconstruction too.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @BlueGreen (again)

    You make some fair points, although I maintain that the AwesomeBar should, like any UI enhancement, be disableable from the standard "Preferences" menu, out of politeness to the user if nothing else. And I think I went off on you perhaps a little unfairly.

    However, I need to point out one small problem:

    >Either way, 3 MB of ASCII have to be grepped. That is going to take time. Nothing you can do about that except... indexes? As you can now bookmark with tags/keywords, these can be indexed trivially (because indexes come with databases), so you have a potential win.

    See, that would be fine, in theory, but I tested this in Opera by importing my entire bookmarks collection into it. And I got absolutely no lag whatsoever there. None. And Opera doesn't use a database. So I admit that this isn't a very scientific test, but it strongly suggests to me that whatever the Mozilla crew are doing wrong is NOT in the file-format they're using. And I did try very hard to find some programs that would let me deal with the new bookmarks DB directly, but I just couldn't make it work - I gave it a week, and concluded that I wasn't prepared to invest the effort necessary to become a database geek. At that point I gave up and went back to FF2, which works. (There were a bunch of other UI irritations, but I can't remember them anymore...)

    On the other hand, yeah, tagging your bookmarks instead of arranging them hierarchically probably does take a database.

    There is, by the way, a pretty good Firefox extension called "Bookmark Duplicate Detector" that does a great job of telling me when I'm adding a bookmark that's already stored. I haven't found a good program for going through and sifting duplicate bookmarks on linux, but on Windows, I highly recommend AM-Deadlink. Both of which, I suppose, won't work at all with FF3...

  17. BlueGreen

    @ac 07:14

    > ... although I maintain that the AwesomeBar should, like any UI enhancement, be disableable from the standard "Preferences" menu...

    entirely agree, and that should probably have been picked up in user testing. And I can't blame you for getting pissed off.

    Actually I think the name AwesomeBar should be disableable from the preferences menu.

    > However, I need to point out one small problem: [grepping three meg of ASCII + opera is faster]

    > See, that would be fine, in theory, but I tested this in Opera by importing my entire bookmarks collection into it. And I got absolutely no lag whatsoever there. None.

    Well, according to this <http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/indexing-and-searching-in-opera-with-ope/> opera uses a (fully?) inverted index; meaning that effectively it indexes all words. I don't think it's a difficult, but it has a potential disadvantage, that it will find words very quickly, but not parts of words (unless it's a bit clever, but I don't know). For example, and you can test this yourself in Opera and let me know, if in Firefox I start typing into the address bar "ws fro" I am quickly presented with the BBC site, as this matches the full description of that site, which is "News front Page". Does something similar work in Opera? I suspect not, if the above description of operas indexing is correct.

    I don't think it's a big gain, to be able to provide this kind of matching at the expense of a lot of speed, because you have to grep through the entire text potentially looking for part-words, which is slow...

    ... however!

    I did actually wonder about that. It's obviously possible to index words, but it's also feasible in theory to pick out and index every possible sub-string in the bookmarks file. I thought I'd take a look.

    I took my own bookmark index, about 1.5 meg, chopped out the most obvious irrelevant markup, and collected every possible substring between two and 12 characters long (I picked those lengths arbitrarily, you don't want to index down to single characters, and 12 characters is pretty good).

    That gave me a file of about 15 meg containing about 1.5 million unique substrings. That's manageable by any database, but still excessive.

    I then repeated that but substrings would break at spaces and other obvious end-of-word characters, so I would get words and every possible sub-word (up to length 12 anyway).

    This gave me a file of about 1 meg containing about 115,000 unique words or parts thereof.

    Now, that is quite reasonable to index, and would give you something resembling the Opera behaviour, and as quickly, but as it also contains substrings it would be feasible to pick out every document containing parts of words, so in the above example if I typed in "ws fro" I could pick out every document which contains *both* of those pieces and present those to the user. It would still be extremely quick.

    If you actually want to look into this kind of stuff, well, I've had a quick gander at sqlite and although it's a toy database compared to the industrial grunting monsters I'm used to, it's a rather impressive toy and I wouldn't mind having a try at using it. If you want to experiment with this kind of thing, let me know. It would be a good excuse to play with sqlite.

    Thanks for your suggestions about duplicating bookmarks, I can live with it at the moment and a few extensions I've got in my browser, the better for stability.

    (By the way I think there may be some data structures which allow you to index all possible substrings efficiently, suffix trees? That thing in column 13, programming pearls, (John Bentley)?)

  18. EdwardP
    Flame

    @BlueGreen

    I'm well aware of the pitfalls that one expects from Alpha/Beta software, but that isn't my objection.

    <rant>

    I got a copy when it was bleeding edge alpha, and it ran like a bloody dream. Sure, it crashed quite regularly, but that didn't matter to me, I could use my extensions (with little modification), the Firefox UI and above all, browse with, at least the responsiveness I was enjoying 3 years ago from Firefox 1/IE6

    And then they started to Upgrade it and it went from buggy, but brilliant, to stable and absolutely-fucking-useless.

    If you'd told me in 2003 that in 2008 the standard browser would use in excess of 500mb of RAM, I'd have laughed at you.

    The Geko engine is brilliant, but Firefox is a horrible inner platform that needs snuffing out as soon as possible.

    </rant>

    Hardware's got cheap, and we've got lazy. Back when they were coding Doom for i386, every single CPU cycle counted. Every. Single. One.

    Now don't get me wrong, I like higher level languages and the speed and ease of use they afford us, but we're in real danger of forgetting the basics and jumping right into the Microsoft & Intel lead circlejerk that requires us to buy new hardware every 6 months, only to run software that is FUNCTIONALLY THE SAME it's predecessors. To me, this seems stupid.

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