Why I’m switching back to Firefox … eventually

When Firefox first came out, I immediately jumped all over it. It was so much better than IE, it worked so well, had new features, and Internet Explorer had become stale, old, and, dare I say it, uncool, even for a browser.

Over time, though, I switched back to Internet Explorer. With IE7, everything I liked about Firefox was now in IE as well, and of course the convenience of IE being already installed on a system, and it’s quick speedy startup factored in a bit. The thing that really drove me away from Firefox, though, was the loading time in earlier versions of Firefox 2.

 It took me forever to open the darn program. It just would not open, period. It took ridiculously long, and used a whole lot more memory than IE. These problems have since been fixed, but there has not been a compelling reason to switch back.

Wait, scratch that, the compelling reason to have it co-installed on my machine was Firebug. There is a sort of half-assed version of this on IE, which is nice for general inspecting of items and quick CSS edits, but I really like the Javascript editor and debugger. Really cool.

But, with Firefox 3 beta versions out now, I gave it a shot. It’s neat. It’s quick. It’s zippy, and it’s really snazzy. Finally, lots more new features that are nice looking, function well, and are unique to the browser. Exactly the reason I switched to Firefox in the first place!

It seems that Firefox is not becoming stale as IE once did. I do hope that IE8 will come out and wow us with something – a great new interface, new functionality, or ideally both, with compliance issues fixed – but it looks like once Firefox 3 is finalized I might switch!

 I will not switch yet, though. Why? It’s buggy. Believe it or not, I managed, on a friends machine, to get two instances of the same version of Firefox (beta 3) running the same website to render it incorrectly. One window correctly passed the acid2 test. The other didn’t. Consistently. So somehow, in a browser, the same program interpretted the same page differently. For this reason, I will not be switching until the beta tests are over.

But I look forward to the day I can.

What .NET going Open Source really means

Microsoft and Open Source are two terms that are almost never seen in the same headline, unless it’s a negative one.

And yet today Scott Gu’s blog announced that .NET 3.5 is going open-source … kind of.

First of all, it won’t be fully open-source. At least, not at first. The move to open up .NET will be gradual, but eventually all class libraries will be open. Eventually.

Second of all, it is released under MS-RL, Microsoft Reference License. This is the most restrictive of all of the Microsoft shared source licenses. Essentially this means you can look, but not touch. The license is for reference only, accordig to Redmond.

This news will be disappointing to the many of Open Source gurus out there hoping Microsoft will jump on the open source bandwagon. It’s not really in the spirit of open source to release something that cannot be changed or touched at all.

So what does this news really mean?

For .NET developers this means that the code they are running their programs on can be debugged. An integrated debugger for .NET built into Visual Studio 2008 will allow devs to step into the .NET code and view the stack calls there.

Useful in some situations. Definitely a good PR move for Microsoft as well. The appearance of embracing open source without actually having to go through with it.

In all seriousness, what harm would it do to allow users to alter and redistribute their own additions to .NET? Microsoft releases the framework for free anyway, it’s not like it is a product in and of itself. You would think that they would appreciate the extra hands that would work on .NET for free.

Ultimately though, another added benefit is that more eyes can now look at the source and identify bugs. Right now it is somewhat difficult to report obscure bugs, as you need to get a tech support agent to reproduce the error. Then you generally get the message that your problem will be relayed to a developer, and that’s the end of it.

Now, with all eyes on Microsoft, hopefully they will see that people appreciate the gesture, but ultimately crave more.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to contact me, James Martin.
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