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Chrome 15.0.874.121

Almost but not quite there.

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Watching one's powerful OS X system grind to a halt as the beast Safari and the erratic virtual memory system struggle to get things out to and in from swap is an enriching experience. Entire minutes go by as the beach ball continues to spin and the system as a whole becomes more unresponsive. So a cold reboot becomes unavoidable.

Safari is Apple's native web browser for OS X. Despite a number of staggering quirks over the years, it has NSText all over it, meaning text and search operations work better than anywhere else.

But if it's Flash or if it's Safari's reckless caching system or if it's a flawed VM design, it doesn't really matter. It's obvious why Steve Jobs didn't want Flash on his mobile devices - not if they're going to be running Safari. Flash is an old dog that shouldn't be out there running around anymore. But Flash can't explain it all.

Firefox is an absolute kludge to launch. Firefox might have the most plugins and an extensive collaborative community, but Firefox just won't do it either.

Chrome is coming on strongly. Google recently had a version war with Firefox and Google seem to have won. When you're up to version 15.0.874.121 in a matter of a few short weeks, you're pretty much in the clear.

Chrome uses Apple's open source WebKit. Meaning it's going to start faster than Firefox. But is it a better browser?

Most importantly: the spinning beach ball is mostly gone. Better still: one recuperates swap as tabs and windows close. How this is accomplished is another matter. But this rarely happens when Safari runs. Once the swap files are there, they stay put. As with Firefox. Not so with Chrome. Rarely will a session with Chrome force a reboot. Safari makes them happen on an hourly basis.

The Chrome download includes some 630 files. But you only need about 200 of them. This must be said: Chrome's install package is one of the sloppiest anywhere. And Chrome the browser is hard to tame. But once its patterns become known, it plays by the rules. More or less.

There are a few incredibly annoying things with Chrome. The arrow that comes out of nowhere and bounces down on downloads. The download shelf that appears on the same. The occasional quirks with scroll bars. The refusal to show file extensions on downloads. The stubbornness in not allowing the correct file extension on downloads.

The seemingly illogical system for placement of new tabs - Safari's system is smarter by a mile: new tabs always go to the end of the line. Period.

The lack of a title bar so you can't ever see the file title of a web page. What's the <title> tag for anyway? The incessant prompt to visit the Chrome Web Store each and every time you open a new tab in incessantly annoying.

But it does have a better look. Safari looks decidedly dated next to it. And above all: Chrome is strong and stable and treats computer memory well. You get back memory - even on disk - when tabs are closed and when the app exits. That's fabulous.

Chrome is a petty 32-bit app. What a wonder, as Apple promoted everything to 64-bit over five years ago. But it runs fast and smooth. A Chrome session has more than one process. There's the bundle, then renderer processes, then helper processes. But somehow this works out for the better.

One would just hope that a company of Google's caliber could do a better job of packaging software, as the packaging for Chrome 15.0.874.121 is very sloppy.

Chrome windows don't maximise properly. They certainly don't do the fancy stuff Safari does to maximise just enough so everything's visible, but they can't even do the simplistic stuff Firefox does. This is a simple menu-driven call in Cocoa, a call one doesn't even need to interfere with. Why sabotage this call? The 'zoom' effect in Firefox - which is default for Cocoa and somehow has eluded Walt Mossberg all these years - is certainly better than nothing.

There's no activity popup in Chrome to see what's accessed per web page. The 'inspect element' feature's almost identical to Safari's and has to have been mostly (if not completely) taken from WebKit.

Flipping plugins on and off doesn't always have an immediate effect. Pages have to be reloaded. As opposed to Safari where disabling plugins has immediate effect. The reason might be that Chrome uses subsidiary processes to render content. A bug or a feature? You decide.

There are a lot of settings in Chrome, and a lot of cool 'haXor' things too, but they're not presented in a readily accessible fashion. The UI is interesting but it also wastes a lot of time.

'Open in Tabs' can be very handy if you know how to use it. But there's no such opportunity with Chrome.

Chrome's source code view is better than the one with Firefox. It seems to be an amalgamation of the Safari and Firefox systems: leave the source code alone and don't try to get fancy and reformat it. But add syntax colouring.

Chrome's search function is horrendous. The one in Firefox is bad enough. But Chrome's is even worse.

Chrome's PDF rendering is pretty sad.

Is it really necessary for Google to build their own menu system? And not use the built in menu system in Cocoa? No. Is anything won by using one's own menu system and skipping past the operating system's own code? No. Is anything lost? You decide - but think carefully.

Throttling: perhaps a good idea but be careful so you know when it's being used. Had Safari had throttling years ago, then a great number of websites wouldn't have been DoSed by Apple's lunacy.

Google will steal your data if possible. You can stop them. Enough said. There are ways to stop them and they're already described at this site. Start with a search here.

See Also: Chrome
ACP Gurus: Google Chrome
Industry Watch: Google Announce: Windows Killer
Hall of Monkeys: Google's Little Shop of Horrors
Learning Curve: Google to the Rescue of the Internets?
Red Hat Diaries: Google Moving to Mac OS X
Industry Watch: Google Bomb Blowout (1)
Industry Watch: Google Bomb Blowout (2)
Industry Watch: Google Bomb Blowout (3)
Learning Curve: Google Desktop Tracked

See Also: Safari
Software Reviews: Safari 1.0 (73)
Hotspots: One Year Safari Response Timeouts?
The Technological: Safari Exploit Runs Windows Calculator
Learning Curve: On CVE-2009-1700, WebKit, and Safari 4
Software Reviews: Safari 3.1.2
Coldspots: The Strange Case of Safari 4.0.5
Hotspots: Safari 4: A Privacy Nightmare
The Technological: 'Safari can't find the Internet plug-in'
Learning Curve: Safari Meltdown
Developers Workshop: Safari the Pig
Hotspots: Safari World's Fastest Browser
Hotspots: Safari: Raising the (Scroll) Bar
Industry Watch: Burpin' Safari
The Technological: Apple Universal Web Wiki™
The Technological: Apple Universal Web Wiki™: No Gag
Developers Workshop: Fresh Boot
Software Reviews: Safari 5
Learning Curve: Son of Input Manager
Developers Workshop: 061-7784

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