Monday, March 29, 2010

Why I love Firefox

I've recently made two computer transitions. Shouldn't be that hard, but it's astonishing the things you get used to and the habits you have to break.

The first transition was voluntary: my old PC was getting so old and sluggish that no matter how many files I cleared up, how often I defragmented, how many Miracle Fixes I employed, it was starting to become unusable. Fed up with Windows and the constant virus attacks that no virus software can ever totally prevent, resulting in a machine that has to be replaced every three years (three years! I have food older than that), I decided to go for a Mac. It's a learning curve, but there's little I can't adapt to, or which isn't already better (although if anyone can tell me what will replace the MS-only Digital Image I used to love, I'd be very grateful).

The second change was involuntary. Minnie, my Linux-based netbook, went belly-up on Friday night. I ought to explain that Minnie is actually Minnie II, the first incarnation having lasted only two months before she stopped responding to her battery charger, and eventually died. Minnie II lasted just over a year before succumbing to the same disease. When it happened the first time, I went back to John Lewis prepared for a fight, and was astonished to be offered a refund or exchange. So when it happened a second time, I confidently gathered my receipt with its two year guarantee and marched off to the Electronics Dept only to be told that Minnie II couldn't be replaced until she'd been sent off for service three times. Which is a bit like saying you can't have surgery until you've had three heart attacks.

Minnie: smaller than your hand. Faster, too.

Anyway, I'm annoyed with John Lewis, and with myself for recommending them to everyone on the strength of their returns policy (and really with myself for being so naive as to actually believe a large retailer has the concerns of its customers at the forefront). At least they offered me a replacement laptop while Minnie is being fixed, although a) I was warned if the problem is the battery that's a chargeable item (what does 'guarantee' mean to these people?); b) I had to wait until they'd got a laptop available for me and c) the thing they've given me is huge, unwieldy, and runs on Vista. "I've never used Vista," I told the woman at John Lewis. "My netbook runs on Linux." "Do you use Windows 7?" "No," I repeated to the woman who organised computer repairs, "Li-nux." "Oh. What was the last version of Windows you used?" I considered telling her 3.1 just to see her face. But instead I told her it was XP. "Oh, there's not much difference." Sure, which is why even my techophobe mother has heard how horrible Vista is. Should have told her I've been a Mac user for decades.

For something replacing a 8.9in netbook, the Vile Laptop is an appalling substitute. It's got 18.4 in screen--let me repeat, that's 18.4, more than two times 8.9. This in effect makes it actually four times the size of Minnie, I'm not kidding. Weighs about the same as the Demon Puppy, and is as easy to control. Touchpad is pathetically small for such a massive screen, and the scrolling section barely works at all.

(Small side rant here: can anyone tell me what the actual point of a laptop with an 18.4in screen is? It's too big to actually go on your lap, and anyone attempting to transport it anywhere will need a wheelbarrow. Dude, get a desktop.)

Vile Laptop: Bigger than the Demon Puppy and twice as useless.

So, anyway. The upshot is that with both new machines I began using a different browser than the one I've been used to. The Mac's built-in browser, Safari, isn't bad--it's fast and sleek, but it doesn't have the options I'm used to with Firefox. I don't really care about changing the menu bar look, but I do care about Echofon for Twitter, and Gmail Notifier. Keeping three windows open so I can repeatedly check my email accounts and Twitter is inefficient, no matter how fast the browser is.

Which brings me to Internet Explorer on the Vile Laptop. Lord, I've become smug since giving up Windows! Before I could do anything the antivirus had to heave itself into action, and then refused to let me download anything--even open a file someone had emailed me--until I'd updated antivirus and rebooted. About an hour later, I got IE back open, and spent a very frustrating period of time attempting to make it usable. Apparently Microsoft didn't think web users would need to see the menu bar for more than a second or two at a time. Which meant changing any of the unhelpful default settings was like herding cats. It's incredibly slow, taking 10 seconds to even open a new tab, let alone load a page onto it. The whole browser is demented, and almost completely unusable.

I was pathetically grateful, therefore, to be able to download my beloved Firefox, customise it at will, and go on browsing the Internet. Which is, after all, what I got my netbook for.


  1. Wow, that is a size difference! I'd have gone over the counter at the lady. That's a horrible substitution. I hope they get Minnie II fixed quickly.

    I run on the Mac here, but have a Windows XP laptop which is slower than molasses. I use LogMeIn whenever I can so I end up working on the Mac from the laptop. Kinda fun to watch the double take when people see the Toshiba running OSX :)

  2. In all honesty I'd rather have had a refund so I could buy a new one--not an Acer since that's what the last two Minnies have been!

    The Vile Laptop is a horrible substitution, but at least they offered me a replacement. I have no idea what they offer if you take a desktop in!