Thursday, March 17, 2005

Ahhh, Camino...

Skeptically, carefully and with reservation I stepped into the fray that is Camino. Actually, this is my second time giving it a try. But this time, I've been pounding on it, and wow, is it fast! A reader of one of my previous posts also suggested I try Camino. And try I have.

Camino is an open source, gecko-based browser, which, according to the material on their web site, more closely resembles Mozilla. But don't let that stop you from taking this browser for a test drive. Appearance-wise, it in no way resembles Mozilla. Rather, you'll find it a smooth, OS X-like application that feels like it was made for OS X as opposed to being cross-platform (unlke Firefox).

Let's get the comparison to Firefox out of the way. Firefox is in desperate need of a cocoa makeover. Camino is already there. Firefox is fast, but IMHO, Camino is faster. Your mileage may vary. Firefox has a plethora of useful (and non) extensions which are lacking in Camino, but in Camino's favor, there's less clutter.

Firefox, to me, has just not felt right, not to mention the horrid time it has when you try to select text. There's so much potential there, and I've no doubt that they'll at least get darn close to the bullseye of browsing perfection. I know the plans are to rewrite Firefox in cocoa. That's good news.

But in the mean time, Camino simply trounces Firefox and Safari in terms of speed and flexibility. I've complained about Safari already here and elsewhere. Safari is in bad shape and we can only hope that Safari in 10.4 fixes all the nonsense.

Version 0.8.2:

This is the "stable" version according to the website. I found it stable until I opened a folder of bookmarks in tabs - it consistently crashed Camino. It was obvious to me that one of the 5 sites was causing Camino a headache.

The look and feel of 0.8.2 is pretty cool. The tabs are aqua widgets as opposed to folder-style tabs a la Safari and Firefox. Preferences, while not as vast as Firefox, are adequate. Shareware (Camino ExtraPrefs 2.3) can be downloaded to enhance the preferences if you so desire.

Unfortunately, for my job, 0.8.2's crashing on that particular set of tabs was just not gonna cut it, so I decided to jump into the deep end and try the nightly builds using CaminoKnight 2.3.2. I've grabbed two builds in as many days. Both builds do not allow me to access preferences, but that's okay since I set my prefs before updating. It's a problem the developers are aware of and working to squash.

But the good news is that I've yet to crash the nightly builds - and I used it all day today hitting probably 250+ sites, some multiple times. I'm still nervous using these "unstable" stable builds, but I'm confident that the bugs will be dealt with and Camino will continue to push the envelope.

Another change in the nightly builds are the change from aqua-widget tabs, to regular folder-like tabs. This isn't a problem, but I was surprised to see the change. The regular style suits me just fine.

One thing I'd like to see as a preference is the ability to leave tabs on when there is only one site open.

Secure sites - banks - work fine. I've only come across a few, that via the nightly builds, do not render pages properly although the same pages are still viewable/readable.

AppleScript: Whew! While not as scriptable as Safari, it is more so than Firefox. There are still scripting features yet to be added according to their library, such as "do javascript" support. But it hasn't slowed me down. I put several hours into tweaking my Safari scripts for Camino and I'm quite happy. Scripting a set of sites to load in tabs actually works better than in Safari as Safari chokes on sites as they load slowing the whole script down.

The bottom line for me is speed, ability to select text and get what I selected every time, compatibility and good response/feel.

Camino has become my default browser as of yesterday.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hauppauge! WinTV Pro / Mac & Windows

I've been in the market for a TV Tuner for my computer - either an internal PCI card for my Dell tower, or an external USB 2 model for the Mac.

Today I picked up the Hauppauge! WinTV Pro PCI card from CompUSA -- for $19.99 after instant rebate! Doggone! I've seen nothing come even remotely close on the Mac side of the universe in terms of price. A PCI card is definitely going to be cheaper than an external box, but still, the closest Mac PCI card I've seen is a Miglia and it was priced at $129.

Over on the USB 2 side of things, the ATI box is priced within $20 - 50 depending on where you look (PC being cheaper).

Since money is an issue for me, Windows won. I simply couldn't plop down the $100+ necessary to jump into TV on the Mac. But I admit I'm piqued. There have been some reviews posted on MacSurfer recently. MacCentral also posted some PR from Miglia which generated quite a few comments on Mac v. PC in the TV realm.

Tonight I installed the WinTV Pro. It is okay. Less than what I thought it would be, to be honest. The obvious is that a TV is a lower resolution, hence a better picture. So when I run the TV in full screen, the resolution is blurry, which is to be expected. I'm unable to use it as a PVR as it needs hardware encoding to make it so. I can freeze TV, but when I unfreeze it the show picks up where it should be, skipping over the parts since the freeze.

All this has me wondering whether it is even worth it to attempt TV on the Mac. Obviously there is an industry for this. People are into TV on their computer. I'd rather spend some $$ on a 14-20" TV that only does TV. As things stand for me now, I don't have the computing power to make things as good as the TiVo (PVR'ing either my PC or Mac). While I have a 1.33GHz PowerBook, I've read numerous reviews of both ElGato and Miglia units really doing best when used with a G5, especially a dual-G5.

The PC side of things is good to go with machines considerably less than a G5, but more than what I have (an 866MHz PIII).

Where does this leave me? With an unexhausted search. I will be making my decision on the WinTV Pro over the next few days. If I had the money to test a Mac model, I'd be all over it. To be honest, while I want to be platform agnostic, and believe me, I try, it is hard to when I find the Mac (OS X) to be quite superior to XP. Of course there are exceptions, gaming, for instance, but over all the experience is not in the eXPerience, but in the OS X-perience.

I'm very interested in any of you who have had experience with both Windows TV and Mac TV (all of recent vintage). If you've been able to compare both, what is your conclusion? If you've only had one or the other, etc. Thanks in advance for your feedback.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Safari, OS X Wierdness, Pop-ups/unders

I probably shouldn't have let things get this far ... but then, what am I to do? :-)

First a plea to Apple to fix Safari's pop-up blocking feature ASAP. I truly hope they see this nonsense as a hot issue. I rely on Safari everyday for the hundreds of sites I visit for my job, I feel like I'm using Internet Explorer (for Windows) again.

Which brings up an interesting point. If you're running XP SP2 and all the latest patches/updates to IE 6, the pop-up/unders affecting Safari (and Firefox on all platforms) do NOT happen under IE 6! Egad! MS is actually ahead of the game in this regard. But not in the other stuff like tabs and general coolness, heh.

Now for OS X wierdness. Let me first set the stage: my system is a 1.33GHz 17" PowerBook with 1GB RAM, 80 GB HD. There are no problems with my system, and a few 3rd party apps like WeatherMenu, TypeIt4Me and iKey. I am to the point where I run Cocktail (system maintenance utility) every day now so Safari's icon cache (among other things) are flushed, system logs rotated/deleted, permissions fixed, and more.

Since much of what I'm seeing has been subtle in its approach, so I've not kept logs of when all problems have occurred, but I can tell you it has been occurring through several major system updates of 10.3.x. Right up thru today.

Symptoms: When loading a group of tabs, Safari will inevitably show the spinning beachball such that I can not get to any tabs until magically, it is released. The one or two sites still loading (indicated by the circular spinning lines - dunno the technical term for that wait "cursor") can still be trying to load in the background.

Then I'll try to select text - say the title of said page from a site. I may or may not be able to grab the text of the headline. One day it will work great, other days I have to position the mouse cursor just right and gently selection what I want - careful not to move the mouse up or down lest I select every blooming ad in a column.

Sites like cnet, the NY Times and many others used to allow me to double or triple-click on text to highlight it. Now, that double or triple-click will have a delay of 3 or more seconds before the highlighting actually occurs! If I click and drag (assuming my mouse is at the right spot), it often works better, but not always.

Is Safari simply falling behind the "new technologies" or code being developed on more and more web sites? Is Safari too sensitive to new or offensive code?

Comparing this to Windows XP, on my 750MHz PIII with 512MB RAM - Firefox has no problems allowing me to grab text via highlight on the very same pages on which Safari chokes. Same with IE, though because of its lack of tabs I don't bother testing it that much.

If this problem is because so much code on the web is IE friendly, but not to other browsers, then why doesn't Apple simply acquiesce - or allow for even greather compatibility so that these things aren't an issue. Probably has to do with MS' proprietary code, but still, Firefox has a plug-in to allow one to see a page as what it'd look like in IE (come to think of it, I think that requires Windows). Maybe this is an impenetrable issue that non Windows-based browsers are stuck in the mud.

Next: Switching applications is often not immediate. Say I grab what I need from Safari and need to jump over to BBEdit - I either click on BBE or use a macro via iKey to jump over (or an AppleScript telling an app to activate).

There is quite often a delay in that app activating such that I'll do the paste of said text but the system is still in the process of switching from Safari even though it looks as if I'm definitely in BBEdit.

Is this something others are seeing as well?

Granted, I pound my system very hard every day. Maybe my solution is to get a dual G5, but that wrecks my portability. If my 750MHz PIII can handle most of my workload, then my 1.33GHz PowerBook should be able to do it better.

Yes, I have disabled third party apps to test these things. I can't live without iKey, though, but when I run the Activity Monitor, Safari is absolutely huge, Mail is large, but nothing else is hogging processor or memory. So unless a lower-level issue is at stake, I don't think the 3rd party apps are the problem.

I hold out hope that Tiger will resolve much of these rising issues. My greater hope is that my 1.33GHz machine won't be dragged down by the new processing requirements. WinXP Pro runs great on my old PIII hardware. Whatever you think of Windows, that's a good thing for folks who don't have a lot of capital to spend. Tiger will be pricey, but if it runs better on my hardware than Panther, I will be overjoyed.