Browsers

Normally when I play with a new browser (like a few weeks ago when I tried out Flock 1.0) I usually post at least something. In the past week I played with no less than three new browsers.

I started out by installing opera mini 4.0 on my N95. Earlier versions of this program were already quite nice and I used it a lot on my E70 before I switched to the N95. This new version adds some impressive features again. Overall quite nice but I’ll probably use the S60 browser on my N95 most of the time regardless.

The second browser I played with was Apple’s Safari 3.0.4 beta. Unlike earlier betas, this one is actually quite usable and stable. I think the UI stinks and feels really awkward on windows but aside from that it is a fine browser. My main issue with it after a few hours of browsing was that I started missing my firefox extensions and some of its behavior. Additionally the fonts it uses are different from what I’m used to and I’m not sure I like the way it renders them. It uses its own antialiasing which gives a weird smudgy look to the fonts. But to be honest, I think I could get used to using Safari full time. A nice bonus feature is that it integrates Bonjour support. This is really useful because as you may have deduced from some recent publications on my publications site, I’m working with mdns based service discovery mechanisms at work. So I installed this at work and my aptly named foobar.local N800 portal website showed up in the windows Safari browser. Cool!

Speaking of Firefox, I just switched over to 3.0 Beta1 released last night. I’ve been using it all evening and it seems a quite nice upgrade. Most of the feature work is not that important to me but the performance work is really noticeable. I’ve caught myself several times already thinking “hey this used to be slow/laggy”. It’s mostly subtle differences of course and not having most of my extensions (due to lack of 3.0 port) is great for performance probably. But still, works great and seems really stable so far.

To compensate for the loss of extensions I was able to enable the most essential ones using the nightly tester tools. This allows you to override the version check. Since in many cases, a version bumb was all that was needed, many extensions work fine. So far I have just enabled del.icio.us support. What would be really nice is a new version of that that integrates with the new places system in Firefox. Until that happens, I’m posting to del.icio.us using the old extension.

A bit of a disappointment is that none of the exciting stuff regarding ms cardspace, openid and microformats that was more or less promised a few months ago, has made it into this release. There’s no openid support, microformat features are not integrated and I have not found any UI for MS Cardspace either. It could be that this is due in later betas. There is probably still a few months until the final release.

Feature wise, most of the changes are minor tweaks and most of those were not in Alpa 7 that I tried when it was released in October?. The biggest change is the new places functionality which is nice except (as mentioned) that I use del.icio.us instead of bookmarks so this not something I will use a lot. The rest of the changes are quite nice but not that essential changes to stuff like the downloads windows, various settings screens and the url bar. For the rest it is good old Firefox, and what’s wrong with that? Next betas will introduce an updated theme. I was less than enthusiastic last time they changed it and still am rather indifferent to the 2.0 theme, so lets see what comes out.

Anyhow, unless something major crops up, I’m keeping this as my main browser.

QR codes

I just found this cool mobile barcoder extension for firefox that displays so-called QR codes that encode the url of the page you are currently looking at. QR codes are like bar codes, only 2-dimensional. For example:
QR code for my blog
(generated using this site: http://qrcode.kaywa.com/)

It so happens that my Nokia N95 (hey, there’s some benefit in working for a market leading mobile phone manufacturer 🙂 ) includes a bar code reading application that is damn near useless reading old fashioned bar codes in dark supermarkets. The problem is partly with the optics in the camera which do not support macro mode photography very well (i.e. photographing subjects from something like 15cm doesn’t really work wel). A second problem is that while hovering with your camera over the barcode you generally block the light that falls onto it. This combined with real world situations where bar code equipped objects are generally indoors in possibly poorly lit places doesn’t make it easier. A final problem is that the old vertical bar codes are actually quite hard to scan properly with a camera since the thickness of the bars has meaning (four different bars) and the bars tend to be quite close together.

However, I just discovered the software handles QR codes displayed on a nice bright LCD screen a hell of a lot better. Just hold the camera about 30 cm from the screen, press scan code and almost instantly you have the url in the phone and can then proceed to open it in the S60 browser. QR is short for quick recognition and it really is quick. QR codes don’t have all the problems listed above and are basically optimized to be scanned using a camera. They include error correction. The three big squares are used for indicating the dimensions of the QR code to the software.

So, why is this nice? Well T9 is OKish for sending short messages to people with all vowels omitted but sort of sucks for entering urls. So if you quickly want to browse a url with your N95 (or any other phone with QR bard code scanning software), this is a pretty neat way to do it.