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|17 May 2002||As Microsoft announces yet another raft of security updates for Internet Explorer, I download Opera 6.2 with high hopes...|
|Most people browse the Internet using Internet Explorer (IE). Microsoft has acheived this by “integrating” IE into it's various versions of Windows®. The USA courts have found Microsoft guilty of monopolistic behaviour by this & other actions, and you can reverse this integration if you wish by using 98Lite - see here - but as a Webmaster I need to address myself to the reality found on the net, and have used IE myself throughout my time browsing web sites, no matter how much I hate doing so.
Why do I hate using Internet Explorer? Partly it is because of what Microsoft is like - an all-devouring beast that thinks “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” - but also because IE is a lumbering beast, is full of security holes, and slows my ancient Cyrix 233 to a crawl. In addition, the main alternative - Netscape Navigator - did not have the facilities that I wanted, principally the History folder, which allowed me to re-look through the pages whilst off-line.
Microsoft produces excellent software which, unfortunately, is fatally compromised by the company's desire to dominate the world. Internet Explorer was an excellent browser which then got tangled up with the operating system (OS). The result was that both IE & the OS became sluggards, requiring more & more CPU horsepower, more & more system memory and more & more hard disc memory to acheive the same result. Computer manufacturers have loved this, because their systems are out of date literally overnight & their customers are forced to throw away perfectly good machines & buy new ones. I built my own computer about 5 years ago, and recall at the time Linux being promoted as suitable for a 486 computer - something around 100MHz - whilst currently I support people having problems with machines 20 times faster & 1,000 times the hard disc memory. Technologically it is wonderful, of course, yet the work done & the problems remain much the same. Plus ças change.
|Then recently in The Register yet another raft of security updates was announced for IE. These are a whole set of Critical Updates bundled together in a single download. Microsoft did this for the first time back in February and, by not including IE 5.01 SP2 as one of the supported products (except as part of Windows 2000), also announced that now IE 5.5 is the minimum-supported version of Internet Explorer.
All I wanted was a version of Outlook Express that would allow me to enforce viewing emails as plain text. Instead, I have Outlook Distress, an email client that allows HTML virii with IFrames to drop their poisonous packages into the Temporary Internet cache merely by looking at them - up to 80 of these are sent to me every day, by the way - even though the security updates installed a year ago are supposed to stop it. Enough was enough. IE was a 75 MB download, whereas Opera has been given excellent reviews for it's speed & adherence to Internet standards. Opera it would be, then. Ooops, another mistake.
|Opera is 3.4 MB for the non-Java version (the latter provided by Sun) but otherwise an 11 MB download - easy if, like many of my work colleagues you have Cable connections, but a bit slow if you stick to dial-up like me. I went with the default USA RGE FTP site & this was very slow. The free version includes adverts but, while I waited for it all to download, I tried to pay for my copy - only $39, very reasonable - and lose the adverts. I didn't manage to do it. My card is a debit card from one of Britain's big-4 banks - nothing esoteric in England - but the USA-centric site used to pay for Opera (although Opera is written in Norway) did not recognise it. Ooops, a sale lost, folks.
Installation was painless although it insisted on re-connecting to the web to show me more adverts - damn annoying. Next was to get my mail transferred across.
Now, I'm a serious mail user. There are a few thousand names & addresses in the Address Book & a few hundred mail folders, ordered in hierarchies. As one example, my Modem Inbox->Contributors->Modems->(individual Manufacturers). Opera managed to pull every folder in, but laid them all out flat - no hierarchy. What a bummer. Next to recreate the hierarchy; shouldn't be too much of a problem... should it? But Opera hasn't heard of Object-Oriented Programming & drag 'n' drop. The only way to re-create the hierarchy is to manually re-create each folder & manually move each set of messages into it, then delete each old folder. I did about a hundred, looked at how many were left, and started to think that maybe I had better things to do with my life.
It turned out that there was no History facility - why not? If, whilst working offline and a web address was entered, it didn't have the sense to offer to connect - why not? I'd already lost interest in Opera by this stage, but what really did it for me was seeing the abortion that Opera made of my pages. Now, I take Internet standards seriously, and have tried to avoid any proprietary constructs. I've also got very annoyed at IE's lack of implementation of certain of the CSS standard but, if I thought that IE was lacking, Opera takes the biscuit. Consider these Style-Sheet howlers:
The final straw was visiting the Opera page with buttons & banners to try to give this section a little visual appeal. This page is designed for those who want to become affiliates & promote sales of Opera and, although I'd decided against this - I cannot promote something that I don't believe in - you would think that this page would be made easy for people. It's not easy in Opera, of course, as it doesn't have a History folder, so I had to go back there with Internet Explorer. But the webmaster has set the page to be impossible to view whilst offline. These guys just haven't got their act together, have they?
|Saturday, 18 May
Down to my local Dixons store & collect a free copy of the Freeserve CD v8.0. Copy the Update folder to my hard disc & open ie6setup.exe - restarting takes much too long for me (all those Registry entries) but there it all is at the Desktop, and not a glitch (Opera caused an illegal operation when shutdown for the first time.) 8 different ways to import into the Address Book (including a comma-delimited file), and only 3 of them from Microsoft products. Nice try, Opera, but you have a long, long way to go to become a serious contender. I hope that you make it (try to become totally standards compliant as a first step).
Now to download several MB of security updates...