Archive for the ‘ Security ’ Category

The Browser Wars: Firefox/Internet Explorer/Safari/Chrome/Opera


Browsers are a part of virtually every computer user’s life, whether to read up on news, check email, or do anything else. With the new arrival of what people are calling Web 2.0, which includes intricate online games and social networking sites like Facebook, browsers have become even more important than ever. A couple of years ago most people didn’t know what they even had a choice, and always used Internet Explorer, which was hard-coded into operating systems like Windows XP and Vista. As of late, a lot of people have been open to the idea of using other browsers, thanks to a lot of advertising for browsers like Firefox and Chrome as well as a fight between Microsoft and the European Union for antitrust issues. Ever since, people have been comparing their choices, sometimes with invalid statements. This post is all about to clear that it, although the final decision is still your own opinion.

Even though these “browser wars” started to be significant as of late, it has already been around for a very long time. In fact, there have been a lot of browsers most people don’t even remember. But memorable browser wars began with early versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape. As you have probably noticed, Internet Explorer grew in popularity, and Netscape eventually became extinct and is no longer supported. Internet Explorer then had a period where there were no major contenders. Then, in 2004, Firefox emerged, who has slowly and steady gained ground over Internet Explorer. In addition with Opera, the porting of Safari to Windows, and Google coming out with their Chrome browser, today’s browser market has become a big mixing pot with many high-quality, major contenders. Current standing show declining numbers for Internet Explorer, while virtually all other browsers are gaining users. The current top browser, Firefox, has toppled the crown that IE held for such a long time. Let’s see why these changes are happening.

Firefox, the current top browser, has gained it’s major popularity because of many different aspects that made it appealing to all users, especially IE users. Of all things, Firefox is a completely open source browser and is based on the Gecko engine, which gives way to a number of other opportunities. Since Firefox is open source, people can download it without any problems, completely free. Also, this points us to next perspective, security. Firefox has a reputation for being a secure browser. This is again thanks to it’s open source nature, where anyone can find security flaws and other bugs and report them so that they can be fixed, instead of a set of developers finding their own bugs without any public assistance. Firefox actually has to thank IE for part of its userbase as Firefox was a replacement option during times where extremely dangerous IE security flaws were found but not yet fixed. Firefox also as a mature extension system, which enables the use of popular add-ons such as Adblock Plus. Firefox is also appealing due to features such as Private Browsing, the Awesome Bar, and a very high Acid3 test score. Finally, Firefox is available on all major operating systems, and is automatically installed in almost all Linux distributions. There is also a variation of Firefox that is being made for mobile devices. It is definitely a great browser for anyone.

Internet Explorer has been a popular browser for a long time, based on the Trident engine. Back in the day, websites were made to appear the best in IE instead of staying with web standards. However, other than websites that work better on IE and a known user interface, the list of advantages for IE runs short. IE has turned into a big resource-hogging monster, flawed with security holes, and has been forced up in Windows up to and including Vista. Windows 7 has finally changed this, but it further promotes other browsers. IE has no built-in system for addons and scores poorly on the Acid3 test. IE is the only browser that supports ActiveX controls, which have been known to compromise system security, and is for Windows only.

Safari is a fairly good browser by Apple, and is automatically shipped with Mac OS X, although it has also been ported to Windows. It is based on the WebKit engine, which gets a perfect score on the Acid3 test. It offers a number of features, such as a panel with the most visited websites when Safari is opened. It also has Private Browsing and a few other features in browsers like Firefox. However, for whatever reasons, there have been a few features stripped in the Windows version of Safari, and therefore is less appealing to the Windows user.

Chrome, which is also based on the WebKit engine, is made by Google. Along with it’s large marketing push to create a browser, an operating system for mobile phones, and eventually an operating system for netbooks as well as a few other products and services, Chrome is supposed to be Google’s vision of what a browser should be. Some of it’s most characteristic features include it’s V8 JavaScript engine, which makes page loading very fast. It also has a security model that separates tabs into their own processes, so that if one tab crashes, the browser along with the rest of the tabs stay alive. As of the latest versions, Google is trying to incorporate an extension system into Chrome, although it isn’t very mature compared to the extension system in Firefox. One of Google’s main focuses is to keep the user interface as small as possible to give as much room as possible to the displaying of the website. Chrome, that is also open source, has received massive amounts of bug fixes and new features in a short time span, which shows great improvement, but also skepticism about what else may still need fixing. In the short amount of time it has existed, Chrome has gained a couple percent of users, and is still growing. Chrome is available for Windows and just recently for Mac, with development releases available for Linux.

Opera, last but not least, is a very innovative browser. Based on the Presto engine, it has continually kept a small amount of users compared to other browsers. However, it has invented a number of innovative features, such as mouse gestures and Opera Turbo, which compresses images and other objects to speed up load time. However, it has a somewhat bulky user interface, and is not exactly as easy to use and configure and IE and Firefox. Opera is available for all major operating systems, as well as on certain mobile platforms.

So, in conclusion, each browser has its own set of features and focuses to please a wide range of people. These competitions between browsers give users choice, something that will never go away. For the average Internet user, I would recommend Firefox because of it’s ease of use and customization. Also, it is extremely secure, and will always be up-to-date. Or better yet, rethink the browser that you’re using and come to your own decisions.

I’d like to hear what browser you use! Leave me a comment saying what browser you use, and why you support it!

Windows vs. Mac OS X vs. Linux: The Operating System Battle


Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux? That has been the age-old dilemma that is now gaining more and more attention as each operating system is progressing at a record pace. This summary will give you a comprehensive and thorough examination of each operating system, their advantages, disadvantages, and a final summary of which one is better. Please note that all conclusions are self-drawn opinions that are supported by facts. However, it does not guarantee that these thoughts are truths.

Windows, the pride of the Microsoft Corporation, has had a long and rough history since its beginnings. It is currently being used by 80-90% of all computers, which is mainly composed of desktop computers. These figures, like those of another Microsoft product, Internet Explorer, are starting to decline as other products and systems are getting more attention. It is still, however, very popular and used by most home users and companies. Beginning it’s story in 1981, it has now gotten close to completely monopolizing the computer operating system field. To some who are less computer-savvy, it appears to be the only operating system in the world. Over the years, it’s developed into an operating system that has become feature-filled and simply huge, especially with Windows Vista and Windows 7.

With our introduction out of the way, let’s get on to what Windows is, can do, and can’t do. Windows is know for it’s user friendliness, large hardware support, and the large amount of software available for it. However, it is also closed-source and is very well know for some of the greatest computer headaches in existance: viruses, spyware, malware, gradual performance decay, and the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). This means that as long as the user doesn’t want to see their system go down in fairly short time, they need to install security and maintenance software. Even then, the system isn’t 100% covered. Overall though, you can run the most programs, games, and devices on Windows, and with enough effort to maintain it, is a very effective operating system.

On a completely different side, Mac OS X is another operating system that should be reckoned with. It includes a very appealing interface with many programs that integrate tightly into the system. There are also a handful of programs that work just in Mac OS X that have received very well reviews. Mac OS X is based on Darwin, and is therefore correctly titled as a Unix operating system, complete with Unix certification. Because it’s built differently than Windows, programs made for Windows won’t work under Mac OS X, unless the application is made cross-platform to make it work over several operating systems. It doesn’t get Windows viruses because of its design (Unix), which automatically makes it numerous times safer than Windows. It also supports many peripherals attached to it, providing ease of use with cameras, printers, etc. In this sea of advantages it has, especially over Windows, there are two huge obstacles that keep it from being an ultimate contender: Both due to hardware support in specific areas and usage restrictions in its license, Mac OS X can only be run on systems built by Apple, such as the Mac mini, iMac, etc. This means that if you want to run Mac OS X without hacking it and then running it illegally, you will have to buy an Apple computer, which are more expensive than normal PCs, and may break your bank. Also, Mac OS X is, like Windows, mainly closed-source.

Last but not least we have Linux in our comparison. Linux is the general term that is used for the large collection of Linux distributions (distros for short), where all distros use the Linux kernel. Linux has a large number of advantages that can benefit everyone, no matter what they use their computer for. One of the most important points is that Linux is open-source. This means that anyone in the whole world can look through the source code of Linux and any other part of the distribution and find any bugs, security holes, or any other problems within the source code, and either fix it themselves, or give their findings to someone who can fix the problem. Open source, which is most characterized by the GNU GPL (GNU General Public License), which lets you create, modify, and redistribute any software freely that is using the GNU GPL, is very advantageous in that everything is free, both price-wise and freedom to do anything you want with the program. This can help individuals and companies with a small or even nonexistent budge create a robust system (and network). Second, Linux is classified as Unix-like, so you get the great flexibility and power of Unix (with tweaks). However, it contains no Unix code, but is a Unix-like replica made of open-source code. Third, there are also many great applications that work on Linux, such as OpenOffice.org, Pidgin, and GIMP. In fact, Pidgin and GIMP were first made for Linux and were eventually ported to other operating systems like Windows because of their popularity. Linux also has very good hardware support, and unique features/programs, such as GNOME, KDE, XFCE, and Compiz. Applications that work for Windows and Mac OS X are most likely also ported to Linux, and some Windows-only programs even work in Linux without any modifications through the use of Windows Compatibility Layer programs, such as the popular WINE program. Finally, Linux is also a fairly universal language (depending on the distribution), and can have a number of different languages installed and active. Linux is also most popular when used in servers, which is runs the famous LAMP application stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP), as well as many other server applications and services.

Overall, each operating system has its own perks. After doing my own calculations and weighting my own opinions of each, Linux seems to me like the best operating system of choice. Call me a Linux fanboy or whatever you want, but Linux has so many areas that are already having amazing effects on users and others that show major promise, I see Linux eventually getting a major market share, just like how Firefox is starting to topple Internet Explorer. Even though Linux has less than 2% of the market, it’s mainly because Linux isn’t well known to all users, plus it is hard for some to migrate to Linux because they try to use their Windows mindset on Linux, which just doesn’t work well. That, in effect, also shows that Microsoft has closed the minds of users with their monopolizing, closed-source Windows to other ideas.

Since this is only my opinion in the battle of the operating systems, what do you have to say about the three operating systems? Leave a comment! Tell us your favorite, and why!

Note: This blog post has been written with major but short-term inspiration. Therefore, please excuse the lack of pictures, links, and other eye candy for the time being until edited in.

Preview: The major wave of battles has just begun with the fundamental software inside computers, the operating systems. As the internet becomes more and more a part of every computer user’s life, we also need to take a major look at the major internet browsers out there. So, soon to come: The Battle of the Browsers! The list of browsers compared will include Firefox, Internet Explorer (7 and 8), Safari, Google Chrome, and Opera.

Why You Should Use Open Source Software


Today’s computer users are very accustomed to the fact that a lot of good software costs money. Sometimes it costs a reasonable sum, other times it’s about ten times as much. Two of the most popular examples of expensive software are Windows and Photoshop. Windows for home users can cost anywhere between $100 and $300, and Photoshop can cost even more. Of course, these pieces of software have their well deserved reasons for being so pricey, but your wallet doesn’t care about the money to quality ratio. It just cares about the money. Thankfully, there are some very kind-hearted people on this planet, who believe that quality software should exist without carrying a price tag. However, some people came up with an idea to go even further, and let other people modify their own programs to fit the needs of everyone. Here is where “Open Source Software” comes into play.

To give a small history background, the idea of open source software began with the GNU General Public License, created by Richard Stallman. The GNU General Public License allows everyone to modify, change or distribute software under the license without any restrictions. The only requirement is that all software under the license be free. This gives way to many advantages, which we will discuss later.

Now, if you are interested in open source software, you’ll be glad to know that obtaining open source software is easier than you think. Here are some of the most popular open source apps that you can easily obtain:

1. Mozilla Firefox

Firefox, in my opinion, is one of the greatest, most supported open source applications in existence. It is the most popular open source browser, and is currently used by approximately 35% of all internet users, placing it in 2nd place. It is extremely stable, and is offered on many operating systems, including the major ones such as Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Firefox has many areas that you can configure to personalize it to your needs and taste, such as themes, skins, and add-ons. On top of all this, it is supported by the benefits of the program being open source (see below).

2. Mozilla Thunderbird

Yes, it’s true that Mozilla makes some pretty great programs. Firefox isn’t the only one, and instead has an e-mail counterpart know as Thunderbird. Thunderbird is a nice little Outlook substitute that still packs a lot of muscle. It has great organization methods, a calendar, and supports all e-mail protocols such as POP3, IMAP, and SMTP. It even has an easy wizard to set up Gmail in Thunderbird, which gives you more control over your mail. Like Firefox, it’s available on multiple operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

3. Ubuntu Linux

Here’s something different that is still fully open source. Ubuntu Linux is not an application, but instead an entire operating system. If you think that all operating systems cost loads of money, I’m happy to announce that you’re wrong. Ubuntu is completely free, so you won’t have to go out and spend at least $100 for Windows. It can do almost everything Windows can, such as go onto the Internet (thanks to Firefox), read PDF and Word files, edit pictures, watch movies, and much more that you are able to do in Windows. In fact, the only downside is that not all Windows applications work on Linux, but for most applications there are open source alternatives. Something that Linux can offer that Windows can’t is the fact that Linux is virtually virus-proof. Except for the ultra-rare Linux viruses that have a hard time getting activated via user interaction, it is not affected by the horrendous streams of Windows viruses. Because of this, there is no need for an anti-virus program, although a firewall is still recommended (Ubuntu comes automatically with a firewall). This makes Linux in general a great choice for server administrators who wish to provide productive services or host intensive websites on a robust system. Ubuntu also plays friendly with Windows in case you decide to keep it and install a “dual-boot” setup.

4. GIMP

GIMP is a life-saver for your wallet in case you were ever once interested in Photoshop. Although not an exact replica, GIMP is definitely a good recommendation for anyone with a tight budget. This handy program contains all the features you could possibly need to edit photos or create amazing graphical art. You can add custom brushes, add amazing effects, and much more.

5. WordPress

Although it’s not an actual application that is used directly on your computer, WordPress is an open source blogging platform where you can blog about your daily life and do a number of other things. It is available as a directly-hosted product, or as a downloadable platform that can be installed and used on your own web server. It allows many different forms of media to be inserted into your blog, and is easy to use in general. It offers a variety of other features that can spice up your blog, no matter what it’s about. It is definitely something worthwhile to check out. Even this very blog runs on WordPress.

Using open source software can be a great thing, especially for you. Since open source applications offer their program code publicly, any programmer or other expert can look through the code and find any mistakes, whether pertaining to performance, security, or other factors that can improve quality, and point them out. Those mistakes, or “bugs”, in the code get fixed, and these fixes get released in an update that makes the software better, and your computing experience safer. So why not do something good for your computer and your wallet, and use open source software.