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Find your best performing browser with Peacekeeper

All the browsers claim that they’re the fastest and offer the best Internet browsing experience. However, the performance of the browsers will vary depending upon your system. Therefore, you can test which browser gives the best performance on your system using Futuremark Peacekeeper. The site puts the browsers through a rigorous test which pushes them to the limits of their capability to do such things as: render websites fast, handle multimedia, and cope with data.

Results from the browser tests performed on my laptop

Results from the browser tests performed on my laptop

Peacekeeper is rather a joy to watch; whilst it’s taxing your browser by testing its capabilities, you receive a rather dashing show of colour, text, data, and at one point a beautiful video. These are designed to test your browser’s capability to handle the demands of the modern web. Leaving the browser alone whilst the test runs is your best bet, since using other websites whilst the test runs may slow down the test slightly and therefore cause an inaccurate result. Before you run the scan you have the choice of doing it with a system scan, or without. I chose without, since this saves installing a Java plugin. The scan runs fine and is just as accurate without the system scan, since it only serves to provide Futuremark with more data for their overall statistics.

You may be wondering what the point in all this is. Other than a rather pretty display of content, it’s actually very useful in terms of finding out which browser will perform fastest for you. Since the tests conducted by websites and magazines generally only test on their computers, their results may not be as useful to you. However, being able to test multiple browsers on your PC could prove very helpful in choosing which browser you’re going to use on a regular basis.

The test takes about five minutes to complete, and after doing so you’re presented with a screen which shows you on a graph the overall rating of the browser. You can click on the bar to see a breakdown of the scores to see how well the browser did in each area. Below that graph is a list of the top scores on the top processors. This is probably not of much use other than to make you drool over the expensive processors. You can also click the ‘Benchmark another browser’ button which gives you a URL to copy and paste into another browser. This then compares the results of all the browsers you’ve tested on a graph, allowing you to see a comparison of each browser you’ve tested.

I was surprised to see that Firefox was lagging a long way behind Chrome and Safari. However, this may be partly due to the fact that I use it most often and have quite a few addons installed. However, the overall statistics show that Firefox is markedly slower than Safari and Chrome. Whilst the tests tell you about speed and performance, you should also take into account the other features of the browser which the test doesn’t take into account – such as customisation.

You can run the test from http://service.futuremark.com/peacekeeper. Give it a go and see what results you get.

Keep copies of websites with BackStreet Browser

Before you groan and trundle back off to wherever you were going, this isn’t a review of some obscure, naff browser. Despite its name,  Backstreet Browser doesn’t serve the purpose of being another browser which vies for your usership when browsing the Web. Instead, this application is a rather nifty way of keeping a copy of a website on your computer (or CD, USB key – anywhere you desire.)

Backstreet Browser allows you to download and keep a copy of any website

Backstreet Browser allows you to download and keep a copy of any website

I’m preeempting that you are thinking one of the following two questions: ‘why would I want to save a copy of a website’ and ‘can’t I just save the pages as I normally would?’ Starting with the former. You might find a website which contains some rather smashing information or content, but you fear that it won’t be around forever – it might be a really old website which is likely to be taken offline soon or have its domain name registration run out and not be renewed. Keeping a copy of the entire website would be rather snazzy way to avoid this problem. As for the latter question – you could indeed save the webpages individually, however, this is likely to be a long and rather difficult process. I tried it, and organising the various saved webpages into a reasonable order in a folder is a bit of a difficult process. You might also end up losing images or other content this way or missing certain pages.

In addition, what sets BackStreet Browser apart from the manual method of saving the pages is that it retains the links. If you were to save each webpage separately, the links that page would still go to the original location on the Internet. This would force you to open each page you want to visit from your files. With Backstreet, you can simply open up one of the pages that it saved, and all the links will point to your own internal copies of the site. It’s like browsing the website on the Internet, but from your own local storage. There’s no risk of it disappearing unless you delete it or something goes kaput on your beloved computer.

You tell the software which website you want to download by clicking ‘New’ and then telling it the URL. You can then tell it how far to drill down into the links. For example, you may only want the top, most important layer of a website – the ones which are linked to from the homepage, so you would just choose ‘1’ for the link depth. Alternatively, if you want to nab everything, you could set the link level to a higher value. You can also choose whether you want the software to save copies of external pages to which your chosen website links to – eg, if a website links to a Wikipedia article.

I think my only criticism would be that the software is a bit dated; the interface has the potential to be confusing and difficult to use. In addition, the datedness of the application shows more clearly in the fact that the choices for the way the software identifies itself to websites consist of ‘Backstreet Browser 3.1’, IE 5.1, Netscape 4.5, or Opera 6.05 . This causes me to wonder whether things will display correctly when it downloads them. I think anything you download from newer, more advanced websites should be fine provided that you open the downloaded pages in a modern, capable browser.

This is a great bit of software for keeping backups of websites which you think might dissapear sometime soon, or something which you think might prove useful to you in the future, but you might not be able to find again. You can download from the official website at www.spadixbd.com/backstreet, or from Download.com.

Has Firefox burnt out?

It seems like it’s everyone and their dog’s favourite bit of open-source software. It’s been the choice of both basic users who were pushed to change, right up to professionals who know that it’s better then Internet Explorer. However, with a horde of new browsers released recently, and a lack of updates and new features from Mozilla, is it time we doused the flames of our firey chum?

Version 3.1 might be released by the time I’m using a zimmerframe and moaning about children being on my lawn. But I wouldn’t bet on it. There’s been setback, after setback on this release, and even when it is released, no features which are not currently available in other browsers will be added. With Mozilla’s interface designer, Beltzner, now saying there will need to be fourth beta (fourth!), surely it’s time for all of us to reconsider our choice in browser?

With other browsers offering more features and faster browsing, has Firefox lost is spark?

With other browsers offering more features and faster browsing, has Firefox lost is spark?

Chrome is faster, Safari is faster, Opera 10 is faster. The only thing slower is the elephant desperately masquerading as a browser: IE8. Speed is a key issue for many users – we’re all obsessed with it: if we can’t get there in the blink of an eye, we’re not interested. 3.1 is set to have a massive speed increase, but with current alternative browsers, or at least reliable betas, in the case of Safari, offering a massive speed increase, Firefox certainly can’t cling onto users due to its speed.

Firefox’s betas aren’t approachable to the ordinary user: it’s not linked to or even mentioned on the homepage, and the whole beta testing process at Mozilla appears to be geared towards those with an IQ higher than that of Stephen Hawking: with all the jargon and incessant technical babble, it’s difficult for an ordinary user to find the download, let alone help to improve it.

Speaking of which, Firefox isn’t targeted enough towards consumers. This is epitomized by the lack of a new tab button being present by default. When I get friends or family to switch browser, I always add a new tab button to the toolbar, and/or install an extention which adds one in a sensible location: to the right of open tabs. If users are switching from IE7, they’ll want the same simple tab functionality as they were accustomed to: they simply won’t be interested in fiddling around to add buttons or installing extensions to do something that was so simple in their previous browser. Simply adding a new tab button to the browser by default would make the whole thing more approachable to a typical convert.

Addons have long been a key reason for users sticking with Firefox. However, the average user neither knows about nor is interested in addons. Again, I draw the example from my friends and family: they only know about or use addons if install them for them, and then they just create an extra hassle due to Firefox’s cumbersome addon update methods. Certainly some users love addons, I use a fair few in my Firefox, but they’re on their way to Google Chrome, where I can get both a faster, easier browsing experience, plus addons very soon.

Mozilla hasn’t done anything new or innovative with their browser in a long time: all the new features coming in 3.1 have already been implemented by other browsers. By contrast, the newest contender, Safari 4,  released many new innovative features. I think we could well see Firefox’s browser share dropping soon unless the snail that Mozilla has become recently makes a turnaround. Fast.

Safari 4 beta released

February 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Apple’s Safari browser, originally a Mac OS only product, has been released on the Windows platform for some time now. However, a new version has been released for testing, and it’s pretty polished for a beta. Its speed is astonishing – slightly faster than the other front runner for speed, Google Chrome, and astonishingly faster than the most widely

used browser, Internet Explorer 7. It also adds some nifty new features: ‘top sites’ appears in an aesthetically pleasing

The Safari history cover-flow

The Safari history cover-flow

showcase when opening a new tab; a cleaner and more complementary interface has been donned, replacing the awkward-looking brushed aluminium of its predecessor; and the ability to flick visually your bookmarks in a similar way to Apple’s famous Cover Flow on their iPods and Operating System is a welcome addition.

The new look for Safari sees an end to the somewhat obtrusive Mac-style appearance which the previous versions forced into Windows. Instead, it has a much more ‘Vista-ish’ appearance, allowing the glass of Vista in the title-bar to shine though. It’s also used Chrome’s bright idea of moving the tabs to the top, making good use of the title-bar; therefore allowing more room for the webpage to be viewed and wasting less on the browser’s frame. As mentioned, it also ports Apple’s trademark flair for visuals: Safari greets the user with a sleek grid of their most commonly used websites when a new tab is opened. It also allows the user to search through their bookmarks and history using a Cover Flow type interface, where each page is represented by an image of it, rather than just the name or address, as in most browsers.

However, it’s still lacking in some features which you might expect. There is no ability to add custom search providers: this means you’ll have to navigate to the site you want to search in order to use the search box there, rather than simply using the search box built into the browser. I was quite startled to see that this feature had not been included in this release, as it’s commonplace in all other modern browsers, greatly saving time for the user. There is also a lack of customisation options: the user is limited to a very small number of buttons which can be added to the toolbar. It also currently to lack the ability to save tabs when closing it and have them reopen when next using Safari – a must for anyone who wants to quickly get back to the websites they were using last time. The new look also seems somewhat out of place on Windows XP; the baby-blue of XP’s default theme do not work well with the new use of the titlebar.

A pleasing sight for all web developers is the 100/100 results on the Acid 3 Test. This means that it should have no problem handling the modern coding standards – allowing it to display modern websites seamlessly and quickly. It also aces the CSS3 Selectors test. By comparison, Microsoft’s latest offering, Internet Explorer 8, comes nowhere near to Safari’s results in either of the tests.

It’s certainly worth trying out, but I’m not convinced that it’s worth the switch for most users. However, it does seem to go a long way to helping dissolve a lot of the bad press and opinions which are often vented about this browser. It’s still in beta so I hope to see the fairly minor issues ironed out by the time of its full release. Why not check it out and see what you think?

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