Category Archives: Browser

Enabling epiphany as default browser in OpenBSD

I had the experience that on GNOME on OpenBSD strangely Firefox is started as default. This shoudl not be the case as Epiphany is the default. One way to set it is when you start “gconf-.editor” and browse to the section where you might alos find firefox:

and change it right away to “epiphany %s”. This is only a fix. I need to find out why this is set false. Maybe somebody thinks GNOME should have Firefox as default. I could not change the default behaviour when just setting it right in “Preferred Applications”.

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Filed under Browser, Free Software, GNOME, OpenBSD, Technology

Pointers indicating Firefox security issues

I use this post to just list some hints how insecure Firefox can get:

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FF3 criticism part II

Some other things I like to critisize:

  1. This is a good thing: Actually FF now uses Epiphanys model of accessing (via “Smart Location bar” ) bookmarks – bookmarks, tags  and history are searched while you type. Also bookmarks now get tags instead that they are stored in folders. Whats funny about that is that this was one of the major reasons to use Epiphany – so now FF uses that, too – Whats bad about that? Nothing much, just want to mention that Epiphany had that since MANY years
  2. “Organic software”? WTF? One essence of open source software is not think your users are stupid. Firefox thinks people think organic food is nice and so they do want organic food for their computers. Well… its just nonsense, this kind of “microsoftic” “aollike” marketing. If you dont want smart people to use your browser tell us in clear words!

I must say maybe Epiphany was not able to continue its road of inventions and rather made solid new releasesm while some problems were still in place. But I still prefere Epiphany as it seems to me lightyears ahead in simplicity. And now that Mozilla does this promotional shit I have lost my last hope that Firefox might once be either unified with Epiphany or better than Epiphany.

I think one problem FF faces is FeatureCreep. I personally dont think fewer features are always good. But if software is build to get more features in it always gets messy.

Also read another criticism with another view: “What have I got against Firefox 3?” from Nanci Barthelmess

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Ubuntu investigated

I have taken a deeper look into Ubuntu. Those are some things I find weird:

  1. Firefox is the default browser. I think this is ugly, but anyway… if you try to install Epiphany the problem is you can only install Epiphany without the extensiosn via the graphical installer. As this is the suggested method this means that most users wont ever be able to have adblocking and other cool extensions that come by default with the browser. Its really funny, because I know a lot of people who dont like Epiphany because it doesnt have all those nasty little extensions – but they dont see how elegant it is. Its potentially VERY fast and gives you a whole lot of good extensions that dont exploit your system. On Firefox you never know what you get when you install random extensions from the web. Actually their plugin system fails to be as secure as it needs to be. I have seen people with about 50 plugins that are partly incompatible. People dont think. If you allow people to install all kind of crap, they will do so – and then it doesnt make much difference if the core would be secure. As long as the browser doesnt give me some core and secure plugins it doesnt really provide me the needed functionality. Thats why I am really advocating Epiphany. Konqueror might have been some similar advantages, but I havent looked at it that much.
  2. One of the most important feature for users like me who came from the Mac was that the upper right corner in GNOME also had the application switcher menu. Ubuntu chose to replace it with the “Leave” button (to log off, shutdown, restart). So this had two disadvantages: a) One of the most important menus is gone and b) People levae the desktop instead of switching – also this makes the GNOME desktop work very different on Ubuntu than on standard GNOME, VERY fatal. I suggest to change that.
  3. the small trash on the lower right is just too small to be used effectively . When shall I use that one? Why should the desktop only contain icons of the user? I agree that the common desktop concept has a problem which is mostly this: The desktop can only be seen fully when the user hasnt any applications open. But OTOH a small trash is very hard to use especially for children, old people or people with disabilities.
  4. There are no icons on the default desktop. Which leaves the user to only use the menu. Why is the desktop user switcher on my default? I would think that 99% of all desktops are only used by one user – and as space is valuable this applet wastes space.
  5. There is no system tools sub menu. Where is gconf-editor? Not only did the gconf-editor make it hard to find some settings, now Ubuntu also hides the editor and makes it even harder to tweak settings. Um, why?
  6. Still my Ralink RT61 wireless connection drops all the time  (without NM realizing this). This is extremely annoying this happens with WEP as well as with WPA. On Foresight Linux this only happened with WEP.
  7. The messages NM posts to the log are not very informative compared to Foresight so I cant really help debugging. Has anybody disabled some debugging in the Ubuntu package?
  8. Synaptic opens too much windows and is complicated to use. It also doesnt help the user to install the right packages. It tries to help, but it also lacks a lot of packages.I think PackageKit looks much more promising and I hope Ubuntu will pick this in the future.

I will keep testing Ubuntu in this notebook, because we will have an install event at the end of march. And there is really no alternative to use Debian and Ubuntu. Foreisght? Sorry, you still havent enought localization support and also many things dont work, like you can only scan images in one resolution (FL-825). Fedora? Sorry but as long as the community policy is not going to change that is not up for discussion? Gentoo? Nope, not for newbies!  OpenSuse? That might be an alternative, but nobody  know would like to help installing that 🙂

I think for a local LUG there is no other option than the combination Debian & Ubuntu für install fests. There could be many others but all I have looked at so far decided to make things harder.  “PClinuxOS” might make some sense. I have seen it installed and it has a nice configuration center. But it also had weir weirdnesses. But I could imagine to install and test it at least.

Remember: If we help installing we want people to be able to ask others or come back to us. So we wont pick any esoteric Linux, even if it would be better. Unlessthe majority in a LUG is convinced that this is the best.

My big hope was that Foresight would rise, would have good hardware support (scanners, cameras) and localisation by now. But all my core points werent worked on. I am still sad about this fact, especially because I think I will never love Ubuntu. Ubuntu is just like the big elephant you cant ignore. 😉 And this means also that it really doesnt matter if ots providing good software. I think if it brings people to Linux it is good. People can then switch later if they want. People will think its good as it is trendy. So the marketing still works.

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Why have intelligent bookmarks or search plugins?

People like to search – and often people like to search for specific stuff – like a wikipedia article, the Amazon product base, a movie in IMDB or in social bookmarking. I have thought about that for a while. Firefox lets you install search plugins to be able to select this more comfortable and Epiphany also allows you to define “intelligent bookmarks”. But is that all really intelligent?

  1. You should not need to install a random plugin on your system or browser. An installation is like an operation of a human – there is always a chance that something goes wrong or you get infected. Also what Firefox gives you is a selection of websites. The options to search are: ENDLESS. Which means that the search plugins menu could be endless and you could have a never infinite list of plugins.
  2. Defining intelligent bookmarks isnt always easy, especially when its not simply URL based but hidden in a search form.

How would a really intelligent search work?

I don’t know how you search but I often do something like this: I look for a technology or a product – lets say I search for an USB microphone – this means I need to know what makes up a good microphone – I need some customer opinions – and also a comparison of prices. In this search might be involved: tech sites, Wikipedia, review sites(like dooyoo or ciao.com), online shops,… . The problem with search with a general search engine is, that it doesnt understand my search. How could it? I think thats only possible with user collaboration and when the users give feedback about their search. The problem with that is that people are leaving a search site when they browse other content. What could we do? I think the only possibility is to integrate intelligence into the browser itself. I should be able to save “search paths” into my browser – maybe not bookmark a page but mark a sentense that gives me an answer and link that to the question. So you might start with just typing in a question in you local browser. This now uses a desktop search engine to  look up if there is a similar question. So you might even get saved answers by typing in the question – like “How much euro is 1 us dollar” or you even could say “euro dollar”. Typing in “time” could give you the time. or when the desktop would not know what you mean or you explcicitly tell it to search online it could try to identify your search like:

  1. euro, dollar  – both are currencies – so the user most likely wants to see their relation.
  2. usb microphone – the desktop could know or maybe lookup in some databases that this is some technical product – question would be if the user wants to understand how they work, want to get this working on his computer just buy such thing or get some recommendations.
  • About recommendations: Users could interactively say what recommendations they like – or could trust some users (friends, colleagues) what recommendation sites might be helpful.

Maybe Wikia is now on the way of implementing this – but personally I strongly believe that the important part has to be the browser or desktop search engine. And then it can link to specialised searches like Technorati – but maybe rather fetching the content than opening a web site. I think opening a website should be the last thing to do. I dont think it makes much sense to load tons of websites on a local computer without any need of all that material – and also – why loading a web page, stripping out the adds as good as possible and then search for the real content. This is all because of too much crappy business models based on advertisements – while this all takes much more of our valuable time and makes getting the information we want or need much too hard.

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Foresight chooses Epiphany as new default browser on upcoming release!

Why did we do this? Why didn’t we continue to present Firefox as the front row browser? Well its simple: We are THE GNOME distribution. We want to show the latest and greatest in GNOME software – and to experience what a real GNOME desktop looks and feels one should really should recommend the official GNOME browser.

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The chat client of my dreams

I am very unsatisfied with todays chat clients (IRC,…). I take xchat-gnome as an example. What is bad about it? The window needs to be large to be usable. I wish that the windows would not be full of logins and logoffs. I also would wish that I get displayed all messages to me since the last hours by a simple click. Also instead of a search I would prefer a filter. Also servers do not have to be displayed. All server messages could be displayed in some hidden windows. Only on connection maybe there should an inbox, for server messages. These should be cached so you only get new messages and not the standard ones. The login message should just be a meta info of the server. There is no such thing as meta info of a server.

For the users I wish I also could add meta information and link this to Evolution like its done in GAIM – link to blogs, notes, photos/avatars, aliases etc..

What is also missing is an integration of pastebins as these are most widely used. There should be a mechanism to prevent spamming of a channel that should be enabled by default. You get a warning if you want to send an empty email – so you also should get a warning when you want to paste 200 lines of code in a channel. The chat program should autconfigure pastebins that are mentioned in the topic.
Every channel also should have meta information (like #fedora-> http://www.fedoraproject.org or a link to backlogs)

For me all IRC clients work at maybe 1 % of what they could do and they are not helpful at all and there is no progress. The only progress really is coming from jabber clients. Some prefer command line chat clients – but they are not integrated in the desktop at all. I also work mostly on command line, but I expect gui applications to work more intelligently.

Addition: I also would like to see a more sufficient bookmark handling. By that I mean: a) Clicking in a link should open a browser. It should not happen that the chat moves while clicking on a link. Also the user should get a feedback if the click was successful. I often have to click more than once and then also maybe have 3-4 open windows. Also I would like to have a better bookmark collector. A tool which has to be open all the time is not very helpful, especially when xchat already has a big window. It should also be better visible if an URL is for the own nickname.

Another addition: I would also like to have the possibility to search for a marked term in Wikipedia or Google.

And yet another update: The sheer number of possible servers is overhwhelming. In a browser you do not get a filled bookmark list. So you also should not get this with a chat client. Maybe one can have server bookmark packages which are organized like bookmarks (and contain more than one possible host? I also love to see better integration of server addresses into web browsers. Right now you cant handle IRC bookmarks very well in Firefox or Epiphany. But its a ressource they should be able to handle.

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