Why Google Chrome is my Web Browser of choice.

Just so that everyone knows my current Web browser of choice is Google Chrome. As a software developer I feel Chrome is leading the pack with new capabilities, features, performance and frequent invisible release cycles. It is also now the best and easiest browser to write extensions for.

It appears to me that Firefox (which was my browser of choice) is loosing its edge. Firefox Extensions have always been hard to write and hark back to it’s Netscape days, which seems like a lifetime ago, yet little has changed. And even though certain improvements were made with how extensions are packaged in FF V4, I was unable to get this to work with the updated Surfulater Extension. Comments on the Mozilla bugs repository indicated the issue I faced was known and should be addressed one day. I was left quite unimpressed. From reading Mozilla PR material I get the impression they feel a need to follow Google Chrome, instead of carving out their own ground.

I’ll mention two aspects of Chrome I find invaluable. First the unified Address and Search bar, one place to type whatever I’m interested in. Another is the Session Buddy Extension which keeps track of the multiple Chrome Browser windows I have open, their size and position and all of the Tabs open in each Window.

One big pet hate with Firefox is the obtrusive update process for new releases and extension updates. Oh and how new releases frequently break extensions, which in turn forces developers to do work they shouldn’t have to and probably don’t want to. Glad I got that of my chest. 😉

The final comment I’ll make about Google Chrome and this is a very big one for many developers, is that it uses the Webkit Browser Engine. The reason this is so important is that Webkit is used as the core for the Web Browsers in all Apple iPhone and Google Android phones. In other words in 90+ percent of all smart phones. It is also used in the Apple Safari Web Browser.

For developers writing Web Applications it is so, so much easier to focus ones efforts on a single browser engine, especially one that is moving ahead so rapidly in adopting the many important new HTML 5 capabilities. Oh and Chromes built-in Javascript Debugger is a truly wonderful thing.

These are some of the reasons why my Web Browser of choice is now Google Chrome.

Have a great week everyone.

Your Information in “The Cloud” – Safe, Secure, Available or Not?

Everywhere you turn you see “The Cloud” being mentioned – run your applications in ‘the cloud’, store you backups in ‘the cloud’, run your enterprise in ‘the cloud’. There is little doubt that ‘the cloud’ is the buzzword of the year. Google have their shiny new Chromium Operating System and Chrome OS Laptop whose focus is to get you working entirely in ‘the cloud’ or as they call it ‘the internet’.

I used to be pretty sceptical about cloud computing and web applications, however I am slowly but surely changing my thinking and I am using some web applications on a very regular basis. The Web, its capabilities, development tools, languages and libraries have come an awfully long way in the past 5+ years, yet it still feels like we are just at the beginning of much bigger things.

To me the most important benefit of ‘the cloud’ is the ability to have access to ‘my information’ and applications on any PC that has a Web Browser and an Internet connection. Further this also encompasses use on my amazing new Android Smartphone.

Now as wonderful as this brave new world of cloud computing is, there are some show-stopping downsides. At least four come to mind:

  1. When you don’t have an Internet connection, most likely all work stops.
  2. When you have a slow Internet connection, productivity slows accordingly.
  3. The company whose Web Application or Service you now rely on pulls the plug on it or they change it so much as it no longer meets your needs.
  4. Same company goes out of business.

As an end user what concerns me most here is that I no longer have “my information” in my own hands (it is somewhere in the cloud) and I potentially have no way to move forward in the worst case scenarios of points 3 & 4. I might have many years worth of important information that I can no longer access or utilize. So to use ‘the cloud’ you must have absolute trust and faith in the companies or organizations providing you with whatever services you are consuming.

To my mind the ideal scenario is to have a combination of desktop software with “my information” on my PC that is synchronized to ‘the cloud’ and to other PC’s. Then take this one step further and have a Web Application that I can use in any Web Browser on any PC to gain access to “my information” for the times when I am not at “my PC”.

This gives me the best of both worlds – I can keep working whether I have an Internet connection or not, I get ownership back of “my information”, I can continue to use the desktop application no matter what happens to the company who provided it and I will have better prospects of migrating “my information” to a replacement application should the need arise. If the company does go out of business or kills the application I will loose the Web Application and probably the synchronization capabilities, however I still have the Desktop App and “my information” on my PC, so the situation is nowhere near as dire.

This is very much the direction I want to see Surfulater head in, allowing our users to access and utilize their information wherever they are, while keeping their own local databases and being able to access same regardless of whether they have an Internet connection or not. And of course having their local databases synchronized across the PC’s they have Surfulater installed on, work, home etc.

I’d been thinking about writing this blog post for some time and finally hit the tipping point when I read on the weekend that there is talk of Yahoo closing their Delicious bookmarking service down. This appears to have created a degree of panic amongst Delicious users who are now searching for a replacement service. Some have imported their Delicious data into Surfulater, however their Tags aren’t coming across because the XBEL format does not include Tags in its specification.  We should be able to update Surfulater to resolve this.

Merry Xmas to all and keep on Surfulater’n.


PS. We’ve got a great Xmas special running with a 50% discount on Surfulater – see image at top right of the Surfulater.com web pages. This is our very first Xmas special, I thought it was time we did. Do tell your friends, family and colleagues.

Ticking all of the right boxes

When evaluating a product there are various key factors we need to assess such as:

  • Does it solve my particular problem.
  • Is it easy to use.
  • Does it have the set of features and capabilities that I need.
  • Will it continue to meet my needs as I become more adept.
  • Does it include good documentation.
  • Will it save me time (will I be more productive).
  • Is it worth the cost (both financial and time to learn & use).
  • Is it robust and well supported.
  • Also see: Before purchasing software

Continue reading “Ticking all of the right boxes”

We should never expect much from free

When I did the big update to the Surfulater Blog last month I included a social sharing widget SexyBookmarks by Shareaholic. These widgets let visitors share details of our posts on Facebook, Twitter etc. and E-mail friends about them.

I did a quick evaluation of the most popular WordPress Social Bookmarking services and widgets and SexyBookmarks rated highly and looked pretty. Unlike most other programs of its type, it didn’t use any 3rd party service/web site for its operation, which was another big plus. Continue reading “We should never expect much from free”

Surfulater Blog – Major update now live

Following on from launching the new Surfulater Web site and Support Center we have now completed a major update to the Blog. I realized today that the blog has been up and running for over 5 years now. In that time we’ve written 121 Posts,  which have attracted 439 comments.  This is not a lot of posts compared to many blogs out there, but unlike many other blogs, we keep on writing new and hopefully interesting content on a reasonably regular basis.

Continue reading “Surfulater Blog – Major update now live”

Out with the old and in with the new- new Surfulater site is live

I am pleased and excited to announce the release of the all new Surfulater Web site. The new design is a much simpler, less cluttered and more to the point. But most importantly it is more approachable and does a far better job of conveying what Surfulater does, why you need it and what you can use it for. I’d be the first to admit the original site failed in most all of these respects and the need to replace it has existed for too long. Continue reading “Out with the old and in with the new- new Surfulater site is live”

We have good news and good news

Following up from my last post I am very pleased to say we found a fantastic web design company for the redesign of our Surfulater.com web site. We actually finished up with a short list of a two companies, either of which I am confident would have done a good job. We have been working with the winning designer for a few weeks now and have gone through several iterations. About a dozen people have seen the initial design and the comments we’ve received have been overwhelmingly positive. I have no doubt that the new site will work much better for us than the current site.

Continue reading “We have good news and good news”