Living with Firefox, 2004-2010

Well, it’s been a mostly enjoyable 5 or so years, but I’ve just ditched Firefox. Back in the mid 90s I heard rumors from Netscape people that their browser code was a barely maintainable mess. Apparently jwz didn’t believe in object-orientation, threads, or unit tests. Still, he thinks the code was fine until Collabra employees got their hands on it, and tried to turn the browser into a groupware suite.

Microsoft discovers principles

Microsoft has announced its new tenets to “promote competition”, so I thought I’d take a look at them. I wasn’t impressed.

1. Installation of any software. Computer manufacturers and customers are free to add any software to PCs that run Windows.

Translation: “Your computer belongs to you, not us.”

Yes, you’re actually allowed to install any software you like on the computer you build or purchase. It’s hard to believe that Microsoft even have to write this down. That they feel it’s some kind of new principle to apply “going forward” is a shocking admission.

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer doesn’t render my web site properly. The navigation bars all appear at the bottom, instead of on the right where they belong. It’s not a bug with the web site; the problem is that IE doesn’t support web standards properly. I’m not interested in working around your buggy browser when you can upgrade to something that works, for free. Check out the award-winning Mozilla Firefox. It’s much better than IE:

Internet Explorer security hole

New Windows / Internet Explorer security hole: Upload any Windows executable you like to a web server. Set up the web server to send .exe files as text/html. Put a CLSID in the filename. Post links to the file, cloaking them as via the previously announced URL cloaking bug. Wait for anyone using Internet Explorer to click on the innocent-looking link and get asked if they want to open the HTML web page.


Since I’ve just spent a while updating three Windows machines with this week’s half a dozen security and antivirus updates, here are some statistics I found interesting. Product Critical security holes to date Internet Explorer 68 IIS 56 Windows NT 4 WS 48 Windows NT 4 Server 41 Windows NT 4 Terminal Server Edition 40 Windows NT 4 Server Enterprise Edition 36 Windows 2000 Professional 34 Windows 2000 Server 31 Windows 2000 Advanced Server 31 SQL Server 28 Windows 98 26 Exchange Server 25 Windows 95 16 Windows 98SE 15 Windows 2000 Datacenter Server 11 Windows ME 10 Windows 2000 9 MSDE 8 Windows Media Player 8 Windows XP Professional 7 Site Server 7 Commerce Server 6 Windows XP Home 6 Site Server Commerce 6 Visual Studio 3 Systems Management Server 3 Index Server 3 Visual Basic 2 ISA Server 1 Content Server 1 Another interesting statistic: Microsoft is trying to reduce the number of security bulletins it has to issue by bundling multiple products’ vulnerabilities into a single bulletin.

Windows 2000

Windows 2000 is a piece of shit. I now have a new(er) ThinkPad at work, which will run Windows 2000. People have often said to me “Yes, Windows 95 was awful, and Windows 98 was bad, and Windows ME was flaky, and Windows XP isn’t very good… but Windows 2000 is great. Stable, fast, reliable.” I took their word for it. Yes, I know, paint the word “SUCKER” on my forehead.

Browser update

Downloaded Mozilla 0.9.8. It now has support for some Mac OS X native user interface elements, so it looks slightly less crappy. However, it crashed within the first couple of minutes of using it. Downloaded iCab X latest preview release. Doesn’t render my home page correctly; apparently the CSS support is lacking. OmniWeb has a lovely interface, but also lacks proper CSS support. Oh well, looks like I’m stuck with Internet Explorer for now.

PC repair work

Mark came over, bringing his Compaq PC which has been behaving oddly. A little exploration revealed that all kinds of vital files had been deleted from the hard drive—some DLLs needed for Windows domains, a few key bits of Internet Explorer, and the whole of Outlook Express, for example. After half an hour or so fiddling with the Network control panel, rebooting, then fiddling with it some more, I managed to get the machine to request an IP address and join the network.

Outrageous Microsoft snooping

It seems that Microsoft Internet Explorer keeps a record of all web sites you ever visit, and all search engine terms you type in to any search engine—even if you tell it to clear the history! It also collects all your cookies from every site you visit, in a separate set of secret folders hidden away from the normal cookie folder—so even if you think you cleared out your cookies, you probably didn’t.

Burning inside: CD-R and archiving data

Some people may wonder why my web site was left unchanged for over a year. Well, I’m engaged in a lengthy project to digitize my entire photo collection, using a Nikon film scanner to produce 3000×2000 scans direct from the negatives. Some of the images are decades old, and often the film has deteriorated and needs careful restoration. Color film in the 70s really wasn’t very stable, and these negatives haven’t been particularly well cared for either.