Mozilla 1.0-RC1 Browser-Suite Sneak Preview
Mike Angelo -- 15 April 2002 (c)
The Mozilla Organization and Mozilla Project produces the Mozilla browser-suite. Although they claim to be independent of AOL and its Netscape division, the Mozilla Organization and Project appear to be a de facto AOL-Netscape project/division. The Netscape 6 Web browser suite is based on Mozilla code. In effect, the Mozilla browser-suite is an Open Source version of the Netscape browser-suite.
If the Silicon Valley Lizard follows the current plans, there will be at least one more release candidate (Mozilla 1.0-RC2) before the long overdue and elusive Mozilla 1.0 hits the FTP download servers. It has been more than four years (more than 1,000 person-years in development) since the Mozilla Organization started on its rocky path to produce the Mozilla browser suite.
What's In Mozilla 1.0-RC1
The Mozilla browser suite is comprised of four main modules, (1) the browser, (2) an e-mail and news client, (3) Composer (a WYSIWG HTML word processor and Web page authoring tool), (4) and ChatZilla an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) client.
Figure 1 is a screen shot of the Mozilla 1.0-RC1Composer module in normal (WYSIWYG What You See Is What You Get) mode. Please notice the mode-tabs bar near the bottom of the Composer screen. You can use the mode-tabs to switch among Composer's four modes, Normal, Show Tags, Source Code, and Preview.
Among the most notable features of the Mozilla browser-suite are its (a) custom skins or themes, (b) customizable sidebar panel, (c) browser-window tabs, (d) a nice rendering/layout engine, and (e) Web-page display standards compliance.
Figure 2 is a screen shot of the Mozilla 1.0-RC1 browser showing, inter alia, the sidebar panel (opened to the Tinderbox tab) and the Web-page window tabs above the displayed Web page. Please notice the shortcut icons (favicons) on the Web-page window-tabs and the very good quality of the page display.
Some Mozilla Problems
On the downside Mozilla 1.0-RC1 is very buggy, including more than 500 crash bugs and more than 12,000 screened (targeted) open (not fixed), bugs. Add the un-screened bug count to that and there are more than 22,000 new, assigned, and re-opened bugs listed in the Mozilla Project's bug-tracking database, Bugzilla.
Additionally, the Mozilla browser-suite lacks some important features such as a spell-checker for its e-mail, news, and Composer modules editor. Third-party spell checkers that will work with Mozilla are available.
However, that means you have to hunt around for them and install them into Mozilla yourself. Spell-checking functionality is an important part of modern-day, text-editing/composing, software and Mozilla ought to come with a spell-checker for its e-mail, news, and Composer modules editor.
Early on, the Mozilla browser-suite suffered from major memory hogging, memory release troubles, sluggish speed, system crashes, application lock-ups, and other performance problems. Although these sorts of problems still exist in Mozilla 1.0-RC1, there has been substantial improvement.
Despite the more than 500 open (unfixed) crash bugs in Mozilla, we very seldom experience a crash or application lock-up with the Mozilla browser-suite. So far, there appears to be less memory hogging in Mozilla 1.0-RC1 than in previous milestone editions of the Mozilla browser suite. On a Windows 98 SE, 1-GHz PIII, 512-MB RAM, test box Mozilla 1.0-RC1 (13 April branch build) memory use has been running around 30-MB with several browser windows, an e-mail window, and a Composer window open.
Overall performance in Mozilla 1.0-RC1 branch builds so far seems decent -- particularly on faster machines, with lots of RAM, that far exceed Mozilla 1.0-RC1's minimum system requirements. However, on slower machines that are at or not much above Mozilla 1.0-RC1 system requirements, Mozilla 1.0-RC1 tends to be somewhat sluggish -- although faster than it was in the Mozilla 0.9.x milestone series.
The minimum Mozilla 1.0-RC1 system requirements for Linux and Windows PCs are a 233-MHz processor (CPU) and 64-MB RAM. For the Macintosh PowerPC, minimum Mozilla 1.0-RC1 system requirements are a 266-MHz processor (CPU) and 64-MB RAM
Should You Use or Switch to Mozilla?
All-in-all, the Mozilla browser-suite still does not offer any compelling, performance reason for people to switch from Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser to AOL-Netscape's Mozilla browser. On the basis of overall browser look, feel, and performance, Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser still is a better choice than AOL-Netscape's Mozilla 1.0-RC1 browser.
In the Linux arena there is a nice assortment of Web browsers available, such as KDE's Konqueror browser and file manager. Konqueror is an integral part of KDE. We see no compelling reason to use the Mozilla 1.0-RC1 browser instead of the Konqueror browser.
Nevertheless, Mozilla 1.0-RC1 is a nice and usable product. Moreover, although Mozilla 1.0-RC1 is not rock-solid, it is relatively stable and reliable. Additionally, the Mozilla browser-suite does have many nice and handy features too.
However, to avoid the chance of losing your bookmarks and e-mail/news files, you ought to back them up regularly and also before installing a newer Mozilla build than the one you are using. In Windows 98 SE you likely will find them in the C:\WINDOWS\Application Data\Mozilla\ tree. In Windows 2000 (Win 2K) they likely will be in the C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Application Data\Mozilla\ tree
On the other hand, there is no compelling reason not to use Mozilla 1.0-RC1 other than perhaps the expressed fact that AOL-Netscape and its de facto Mozilla division do not want end-users to use the Mozilla browser suite. In contrast, Microsoft and KDE want you to use their browsers.
Unless you are interested in participating in the Mozilla Project, officially AOL-Netscape's Mozilla Organization does not want you to use the Mozilla browser-suite. Here is what the Mozilla Organization says about that: We make binary versions of of (sic) Mozilla available for testing purposes only!. (sic) We provide no end user support. (Releases, the Mozilla Organization, 13 April 2002.)
Apparently, the Mozilla Organization's de facto parent company, AOL-Netscape, does not want any competition from the Mozilla browser suite. It seems that AOL-Netscape wants you to use its Netscape browser suite rather than its Mozilla browser suite. In our opinion, if the Mozilla Organization and Project were truly independent of AOL-Netscape, it would produce Mozilla browser-suite binaries for end-use too, not just for testing only.
While we do not see any compelling reason to switch from the KDE Konqueror or Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers to the Mozilla browser, Mozilla's composer module is another matter.
Mozilla's Composer module is a nice, free, and useful WYSIWYG Web page composing and layout tool. Its biggest drawback is the lack of a spell-checker.
Customizing Mozilla Browser-Suite Skins and Themes
If there is a reason to switch to the Mozilla browser-suite, it likely is its customizability. You can design and create your own Mozilla skin(s) -- called themes in the Netscape 6 version(s) of Mozilla.
Mozilla's customizability goes deeper than merely skinning the Lizard. Not only can you customize Mozilla's look, you also can customize its feel -- the UI (user interface) behaviors if you like.
Mozilla Needs an Attitude Adjustment
One of Mozilla's core drawbacks is a really rotten, counter-productive attitude of at least some, if not many or most, of is developers. In part it is a very anti-end-user attitude. As mentioned above, officially the Mozilla Organization does not want you to use the Mozilla browser-suite.
One example of this really rotten, counter-productive attitude is the Mozilla developers' attitude about the spell-checker problem. Some, if not many or most, of the Mozilla developers' attitude is that end-users should independently find and install a spell-checker -- and/or that they should work around the lack of a spell checker by composing and editing text in a text editor that has a spell checker -- and then copy and paste that text into the Mozilla e-mail, news, or Composer windows. That is doable, but it also is so lame!
We have noticed time and again instances where people involved in or interested in the Mozilla Project are maliciously criticized and intimated by Mozilla Project managers/staff, developers, and fanatics -- merely for discussing Mozilla problems and bugs, suggesting improvements, or expressing their points of view. When you get right down to it, Mozilla Project management, discussion, and deliberation often seems more like a childish soap opera or cat fight than a professional software development collaboration effort.
Another example of some Mozilla Project managers/staff, developers, and fanatics' bad attitudes is one of their excuses for Mozilla's runaway bugs problem. It goes something like this. More people are using Mozilla now and therefore there are more bugs in Mozilla now or therefore more bugs are being reported now.
This comes pretty close to making it sound as though these Mozilla Project managers/staff, developers, and fanatics are saying that the more users, the more bugs. It is almost as if these Mozilla people are implying that it is the users' faults that there are so many bugs in Mozilla. How absurd!
Certainly the more people using a product the more chances that existing bugs will be detected. However, the incremental increases in non-duplicative bugs being reported should negatively accelerate as the number of users/reporters increases. If you look at the Mozilla bug count charts, you will see just the opposite. Mozilla bug counts are increasing -- by leaps and bounds.
The primary reason Mozilla bug counts are going up is because of poor coding, poor programming, poor quality assurance, and poor program management. Unfortunately, some, if not many or most, of the people that are making these excuses for the Mozilla bug counts just cannot stand the truth -- Mozilla bugs counts have been going up. And chances are the people that are making and promoting these excuses are the very people that are to blame for the increasing Mozilla bug counts.
Take Mozilla 1.0-RC1 for a Test Drive
Download links for the Mozilla 1.0-RC1 branch builds are at the end of this article for you readers who can't wait to take a preview look at Mozilla 1.0-RC1. Take 1.0-RC1 for a test drive yourself and make your own decisions about it.
MozillaQuest Magazine will have the download links for the shipping edition of Mozilla 1.0-RC1 as soon as it is released. So please check the MozillaQuest Magazine front page (MozillaQuest.com) from time to time more Mozilla 1.0-RC1 and Mozilla 1.0 information as it develops.
The Mozilla browser suite, as reflected in Mozilla 1.0-RC1, has seen much improvement over the past year or so. Mozilla 1.0-RC1 is fairly stable and usable.
Unfortunately, AOL-Netscape and its de facto Mozilla division do not want end users to use the Mozilla browser suite. Rather they prefer Mozilla be used as a development tool (or perhaps toy). In sharp contrast, other browser providers such as KDE and Microsoft want you to use their browsers.
The Mozilla Lizard needs an attitude adjustment! Hopefully the more professional and mature people in the Mozilla community will do some serious Lizard-tail twisting and get the Mozilla Organization and Project on the right track -- and with a better attitude.
Mozilla 1.0-RC1 has lots of bugs and lacks some important features such as a spell checker for the editor used by Mozilla's e-mail, news, and Composer modules. Even though many Mozilla bugs are being fixed, bugs are cropping up faster than they are being fixed. That's not very healthy program development.
Unfortunately, the Mozilla project's quality assurance practices do not seem to be blocking buggy code from being added to Mozilla. However, since the Mozilla 0.9.9 release, code-checkin practices have been tightened down somewhat. That seems to be providing some reduction in the Mozilla runaway bugs problem.
To the Mozilla Organization's and Mozilla Project's credit the Mozilla browser-suite now is usable and has many nice, handy features. That's a nice plus for people that already use the Mozilla browser suite. However, if the Mozilla folks want people to switch from other browsers to the Mozilla browser suite, or Mozilla-based browsers, they still have a way to go.
Currently, Mozilla pre-1.0 Milestone and daily development builds are available for the BSD, Linux, Macintosh, Microsoft Windows, OS/2, Sun, and several UNIX platforms. Source code is available if you want to custom compile your own Mozilla builds. If you have not already tried Mozilla, download a copy and give it a try. Mozilla 0.9.9 should be good for such a try.
If you would like to take a preview look at Mozilla 1.0-RC1 you can try a Mozilla 1.0-RC1 branch-build now.
Incidentally, please check the MozillaQuest Magazine front-page (mozillaquest.com) sidebar every now and then for bug-count updates and for upcoming Mozilla 1.0-RC1 progress updates. MozillaQuest Magazine will have additional Mozilla 1.0-RC1 release information as it becomes available. Please check the MozillaQuest Magazine front page regularly for Mozilla 1.0-RC1 final release news too.
Please see our article, Mozilla Roadmap Update: Mozilla 1.0 Set Back to April 2002, for more information about the October 2001 Mozilla Development Roadmap and development schedule revisions. There is lots of bug information in that article too. For the revised post-Mozilla 1.0 development roadmap and plan please see our article, Moz 1.0 April Release Confirmed & Post-1.0 Development Plan Announced.