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Friday, April 15, 2005

Open Source Friday: Standards

Posted by: Hammer / 2:52 PM


Firefox continues to grow in popularity:
The Firefox browser continues to draw millions of users looking for an alternative to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, with Nielsen//Netratings confirming data from other market analysts showing that the open-source browser has developed a strong following in a short time.

Nielsen reports a whopping 237 percent increase in the number of visitors to the Firefox Web site -- operated by open-source developer Mozilla -- in the past nine months. Some 2.6 million people visited the site during March 2005 to download the browser...

Developers, until now, have focused on Explorer, given its dominance, but they now are being forced to target both the Microsoft and open-source environments, said Goulde.

Web standards

That last part is not entirely true. Firefox follows the W3C standards. W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium) sets standards for how web data (HTML, for example) should be formatted and displayed. Firefox follows those standards. Internet Explorer does not. In some cases, that makes IE easier for developers, but it also causes Internet fragmentation. Ideally, every site would be readable by every browser. Microsoft wants an Internet readable only by IE. Microsoft sucks.

The latest example is SVG -- scalable vector graphics. It's an open protocol, so anyone can build an application to create new SVG images. Like Sodipodi, for example. SVG images are described using XML. Unlike static JPGs or PNGs, SVGs are scalable without losing image quality. The Opera browser supports the W3C SVG standard now. Firefox aims to have support in June. IE has not announced whether it will support SVG or not; if it does support SVG, there's no word on whether IE will meet the W3C standard or create its own implementation of SVG. It's a recipe for disaster.


There are a few updated extensions this week. One of a blogger's best friends, undoclosetab, has been updated. Great for those occasions where you closed something you really needed. Sure, you can usually dig it out of your history sidebar, but undoclosetab feels more elegant. And you want to feel elegant right after you close a tab due to gorillaish clumsiness.

I don't know what to make of bioFOX. Apparently, bioFOX fills the need for an extension that implements various bioinformatics tools. Whatever those are. Looks like it lets you look up nucleotides and proteins. Probably helpful if you're a biologist.

Flashblock, which is a must-have extension, has been updated. Nothing cleans up ugly web pages faster than Flashblock. Instead of weathering the deluge of flash animations, you are given the option to play or not play each animation. It's a nice feature. I like flash. It livens up the web. But I don't like web pages with forty flashlets all throbbing at me like the green light on Daisy's dock. Except brighter. And more of them. And I'm not envious. Or living next to Jay Gatsby.

This article and its follow ups suggest a number of other valuable extensions. I'm trying out the Bookmarks Synchronizer. It's a great idea, but you do need your own FTP space to use it. You can get free FTP space from a number of hosts, but that might be more trouble than it's worth. As designed, though, it allows you to seamlessly integrate your bookmarks across multiple machines. The article also recommends FoxyTunes to control media players within Firefox. Not a priority for me. There's also Sage, an RSS aggregator, which is an essential blogging tool. It lets me easily monitor dozens of web pages for updates.

Audio software

There are two open source sound-editing packages to check out. Audacity is available for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. According to the review, "Audacity may not be as advanced or powerful as other audio editors (which also function as music composers), but it does stand out as one of the easiest to use." You can download Audacity from here.

There's also BEAST, which just released version 0.6.5. You can see the program in action here.

Graphics software

A new version of The Gimp has been released. This is a bug fix release for the 2.2 series. You can download the Gimp for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. The Gimp does what Photoshop does. Having never used Photoshop, I don't know if the Gimp is better or or worse. It is freer and cheaper, which are both plusses. If anyone wants to make a cool logo for 3WN, you could start with this primer. As you can see, my attempts largely failed.


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