Apple, Computers, Linux, Open-source, Software, Thoughts, Web, Windows

The Obligitory Firefox 3 Beta Post

Firefox 3 is right around the corner with the Beta 1 release available for public consumptionment.  It had just enough cool new features that it was worth talking about.The full set of features can be read on the Mozilla Release Notes page.

Lets start with the bad: SSL certificates now SUCK when they are broken. I understand the need for security, but I also feel that SSL is a cashcow that costs more than its worth. Firefox pre-3 handled this with a short dialog about something not being right with the server, and you could just click the continue button. Now its become more complicated as shown below:

Firefox SSL: Step 1

I connected to “adminsystems.clayton.edu” as shown above, but I used an on campus alias of “as”, wreaking havock on our SSL certificate signature. Now, my connection is completely halted, and I am presented with this message on a gray background.

Firefox SSL: Step 2

I clicked on the “or you can add an exception”, as it was the only link I could see to let me continue. Next, I see more text, then two more buttons. “Get me out of here!” takes me to my homepage. “Add exception” takes me to the screen below:

Firefox SSL: Step 3

It fills in the location automatically, but I have to confirm by clicking “Confirm Security Exception” below.

I lothe the way that Internet Explorer 7 has approached the broken certificate issue, and I always assumed that they had taken some serious money from Verisign to make things that ugly. It seems that by browser of choice has followed suit. Buy stocks in SSL, as this is enough scare to consumers for all companies large and small to invest into valid certificates. IE made sure of that, and now Firefox is cleaning up whats left.

Password management has been greatly improved.  I used to find it funny that a browser asks if you want to store a  username and password before you even know if you have the correct credentials for the website you are visiting. It always seemed backwards, because I only want to store them if they let me in the site. Well, it seems that I wasn’t alone in my idea I posted to Mozilla’s forums. Check this out:

Password Manager: Step 1

I visited Gamespot.com (because my password wasn’t already stored, and because everything is in the top right corner) . My credentials were not saved, so I typed them into the fields, then clicked the login button.

Password Manager: Step 2

Instead of the form submission being halted, I continued and successfully logged in to Gamespot.com. During the process,  I am asked whether I wish to save the credentials, or cancel – all without interruption of work flow.

The download manager  has been revisited, now with search-as-you-type filtering, and simplified information about downloads. The release notes claim that suspend / resume of downloads has been improved, but I didn’t really use it in the past because it failed more often than worked. For shits and giggles I tested it anyways on Gamespot.com, and it seems to work now as advertised. I am sure this will be a site-by-site basis though:

New Download Manager UI

Zoom is pretty sexy now. I don’t use this  feature much except when I use a notebook with a tiny ass display, and a nose-bleed resolution.  I like running at higher resolutions because of the real estate, but of course every new site I visit gives me a headache with its tiny print. Now, instead of the text getting larger, EVERYTHING gets larger so things are proportionately correct.

Text selection can now be split up between multiple words by holding down Ctl/Cmd. This means in the previous sentence, I can highlight “Text selection”, and then “split up” without losing my first selection choice. This is nice when you use the context menu option “Search Google for selection“.

The new Plugin manager UI  lets you manage all of those pesky browser crashing things like Java without having to leave your browser options window. I can do this the old way sure, but Java is a pain in the ass, so me being able to disable it with a few clicks is a dream:

Plugin manager

One more thing I would like to revisit is the potential that Firefox is placing on the table for protocol handlers to allow web applications to manipulate desktop files. This means that soon, that text document that you double-click could launch with Google Docs instead of Microsoft / Corel Office. This  can mean leveling the playing field on that $40 million dollar a day money maker we know as Microsoft Office.

There are hundreds of “small things” that really help the browser congeal into quite the polished product. All in all, I am very pleased with the continued  progression of this software product. As I have already expressed, this innovation totally blows its competitor, IE,  out of the water. Since Microsoft scrambled for years to revamp IE into version 7 to compete with Firefox, I wonder how long they will wait to counter this latest move.

Congrats Mozilla, I can’t wait for the final release.

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