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Mozilla 1.0 Browser Quick Look

Mike Angelo -- 8 July 2002 (c) -- Page 3


Article Index

Some Mozilla Problems

On the downside Mozilla 1.0 is very buggy, including more than 500 crash bugs and more than 12,000 screened (targeted) open (not fixed), bugs that were listed in Mozilla's bug database when Mozilla 1.0 was released. Add the un-screened bug count to that and there were more than 24,000 new, assigned, and re-opened bugs listed in the Mozilla Project's bug-tracking database, Bugzilla, when Mozilla 1.0 was released.

These bug counts are not mere abstractions. But rather they point to a vast array of annoying Mozilla behaviors, problems, and issues. That means that many of those more than 24,000 bugs might impact on your user experiences with the Mozilla browser. We took a closer look at Mozilla browser annoyances, bugs, and issues and how they impact upon the user experience in our article, A Quick Look at Some Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite Annoyances, Bugs, And Issues.

There are more reported bugs in Mozilla now then there were a month ago when Mozilla 1.0 was released. Earlier today, there were 12,504 targeted new, assigned, and reopened Mozilla bugs listed in Mozilla's Bugzilla bug-tracking database. Altogether there were 25,632 new, assigned, and reopened bugs plus 4,546 unconfirmed (not-yet-triaged) bugs listed in Bugzilla earlier today.

  • Looking at Some Annoyances, Bugs, And Issues

We took a closer look at some of Mozilla 1.0's bugs, problems, and issues in our article A Quick Look at Some Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite Annoyances, Bugs, And Issues. Some of the browser related issues we look at in that article include wasting Mozilla desktop real estate by having both icons and text on the Toolbar, saving Web pages, opening local files and Web pages, the Mozilla in-program Help, copy and paste, context menus, bookmarks, and so forth.

As we mentioned in our Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite Annoyances, Bugs, And Issues article, please keep in mind that not every Mozilla 1.0 bug, annoyance, and issue will affect all Mozilla 1.0 users. Mozilla is designed to run with a variety of operating systems and computer hardware configurations. Many of the Mozilla 1.0 bugs, annoyances, and issues apply to only one operating system or to a particular hardware configuration.

Moreover different people use the Mozilla browser differently. Some use the Tabbed-Browsing feature and some do not. Some use the Sidebar and some do not. For example, if you do not use the Sidebar History Tab, you will not experience the oingo.com bug.

Some people use keyboard shortcuts rather than a mouse to navigate the Mozilla browser desktop and vice-versa. Mouse users are not likely to experience issues involving keyboard shortcuts. Using the ctrl + c and shift + insert to copy and paste verses drag and drop with the mouse is an example of this sort of different usage style.

In part that means that some Mozilla 1.0 users will not experience any bugs, annoyances, and issues at all. Or the particular small set of bugs, annoyances, and issues they experience will not discourage them from using and liking Mozilla 1.0. Other Mozilla 1.0 users will be sufficiently upset with the bugs, annoyances, and issues they experience to ditch Mozilla.

  • Performance Issues -- Memory Hogging, System Crashes, Sluggish Speed, Etc.

Two desktop computers were used in the Mozilla 1.0 evaluation that serves as the bases for today's discussion of Mozilla 1.0 performance issues. One machine has a 1-GHz Pentium III on a PowerLeap motherboard with 512-MB of hard RAM running Windows 98 SE. The other box has a 300-MHz AMD K6 on an Amptron motherboard with 128-MB RAM. Mozilla 1.0 tests were run on this second box in Windows 98 SE.

Both machines feed display output to a Gateway EV910 19" monitor via a Belkin 4-port KVM switch. The Powerleap machine is equipped with a 100-GB Maxtor ATA 100 hard drive and the AMD-based machine is equipped with a 40-GB Maxtor Ultra DMA 66 hard drive.

We took a closer look at Mozilla browser performance issues in our article A Quick Look at Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite Performance -- Speed, Stability, and Memory Hogging. Here is a very brief recap of some of the Mozilla 1 browser performance issues.

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, there has been substantial improvement.

Using a 1-GHz Pentium III with 512-MB of hard RAM running Windows 98 SE, we were able to pull Free Resources down from about 60% to 5% or 6%.

In these informal tests, three Mozilla 1.0 test build windows were opened with about a dozen or so window tabs opened in each Mozilla 1.0 test-build window. Initially, this would bring the Free Resources down to about 30%. Reloading the pages from time to time is what pulled the Free Resources all the way down to about 5% to 10% levels.

We also experienced some system crashes with the Mozilla 1.0 branch test builds we used. Our suspicion is that Mozilla pulled the free memory levels down so low that crashes ensued due to low free memory.

Overall performance in Mozilla 1.0 builds so far seems decent -- particularly on faster machines, with lots of RAM, that far exceed Mozilla 1.0's minimum system requirements. However, on slower machines that are at or not much above Mozilla 1.0 system requirements, Mozilla 1.0 tends to be somewhat sluggish -- although faster than it was in the Mozilla 0.9.x milestone series. On Windows 98 SE, Mozilla 1.0 seems to run a little faster and more smoothly than did some earlier Mozilla 1.0 release candidates.

The minimum Mozilla 1.0 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 system requirements are a 266-MHz processor (CPU) and 64-MB RAM.

The default Mozilla 1.0 disk cache setting is 50-MB. If you do much Web surfing, Mozilla 1.0 is going to be adding and deleting cached Web page files to your hard drive frequently. So, it is likely that regular hard drive defragmentation (MS Windows) will help with Mozilla performance.

Standard of Review

The standard of review for a shipping product is much tougher than the standard of review for a beta or pre-shipping product.

That in part is why in our pre-1.0 Mozilla coverage we did not go into details about all the Mozilla bugs and issues. We merely reported the bug-report counts.

In part bug counts are important because the bug counts and bug count trends tend to reflect the overall quality of the in-development product. To some degree, pre-1.0 development coverage is directed toward how product development is moving along. Bug-count trends indicate how a product is moving along.

Bug counts are not mere abstractions, but rather they are a measure of the number of bug reports in the project bug-tracking database. If the bug-tracking database is being used appropriately then each listed bug is a report of a legitimate bug (in the classic, error, sense), annoyance, or issue.

Although some people attempt to pass feature/enhancement requests off as not being bugs (in the more general sense) that is an incorrect position. A feature or enhancement suggestion is every bit as directed toward product quality and improvement as is a classic-bug report. Moreover, once a triager gives an enhancement/feature request New, Assigned, or Reopened status, the triager has deemed that enhancement/feature request to be an issue which impacts on product quality. And unresolved/unfixed enhancement/feature requests indicate existing product quality issues!

Now that Mozilla has reached 1.0 status, we are constrained to get more into the detail of the pros and cons of this shipping product.

Unfortunately, that tighter standard of review leads us to conclude that all in all, Mozilla 1.0 as a shipping product is premature and not yet ready for prime time. However, as a beta or development release, Mozilla 1.0 would be pretty decent in so far as it is developed to date. AOL-Netscape's Mozilla Organization releasing Mozilla as a 1.0 product at its current level of immaturity is indeed unfortunate. It is premature. In time the Mozilla browser-suite will be a very nice product. It's not there yet.

Standard of review and its associated issues are discussed more thoroughly in our article, A Quick Look at Some Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite Annoyances, Bugs, And Issues.

The Mozilla 1.0 Browser Is Usable

Nevertheless, Mozilla 1.0 is a nice and usable product. Moreover, although Mozilla 1.0 is not rock-solid, it is relatively stable and reliable. Additionally, the Mozilla browser-suite does have many nice and handy features too.

Certainly Mozilla 1.0 is better than the pre-1.0 Mozilla offerings even though it also is buggier than the pre-1.0 Mozilla releases. If you already are a Mozilla user, you ought to try Mozilla 1.0 if you already have not done so. If you have not tried Mozilla, you ought to try it.

There are some data loss risks. Earlier today a Bugzilla dataloss keyword query turned up nearly 150 open dataloss bug reports.

However, to lessen the chance of losing your Mozilla bookmarks and Mozilla 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

There is no compelling reason not to use Mozilla 1.0 -- 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, Stilesoft, 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 Mozilla available for testing purposes only! We provide no end user support. (Releases, the Mozilla Organization, 21 June 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.

Conclusion

The Mozilla browser, as reflected in the Mozilla 1.0 final release and pre-release test builds, has seen much improvement over the past year or so. Mozilla 1.0 is fairly stable and usable -- but it is not rock-solid.

All-in-all, the Mozilla browser 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 browser for the Microsoft Windows desktop.

Feature-wise, Mozilla's Tabbed Browsing is very handy and useful. And Microsoft's Internet Explorer does not have a tabbed-browsing feature. Nevertheless, we find that Mozilla 1.0 is just too darn buggy and too lacking in polish to recommend it for the MS Windows desktop.

However, if the Mozilla/Netscape developers would ever get their acts together and do some serious program polishing and bug control, Mozilla 1.0 could become the browser of choice for the MS Windows desktop -- but it is not there now!

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 browser instead of the Konqueror browser. Once again, however, the tabbed-browsing could put the Mozilla browser ahead of other Linux browsers -- except, Opera already has tabbed-browsing and Konqueror soon will have it too.

At least four other browsers, Crazy Browser, NetCaptor, Netscape 7, and Opera have tabbed browsing. Because Netscape 7 is based upon Mozilla code, the Netscape 7 tabbed browsing of course is Mozilla's tabbed browsing feature.

The free download version of Opera includes annoying advertisements on the Opera browser desktop. However, you can purchase a version of Opera without the annoying ads. Opera is available for both the Linux and Microsoft Windows platforms.

NetCaptor is not free. However, you can download a 15-day free trial version of NetCaptor. NetCaptor is a Windows-only product. Crazy Browser is a freeware NetCaptor clone.

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) only. In sharp contrast, other browser providers such as KDE, Microsoft, and Stilesoft want you to use their Konqueror, Internet Explorer, and NetCaptor browsers.

Regardless of AOL-Netscape and its Mozilla Organization's rotten attitude towards end-users and regardless of the problems and immaturity of Mozilla 1.0, it's worth taking the Mozilla 1.0 browser for a spin. That way you can see how the Mozilla 1.0 browser works (or does not work) for you.

However, you might wish to wait for Mozilla 1.0.1, which should be out soon. It appears the oingo.com bug has been fixed for Mozilla 1.0.1 and Mozilla 1.0.1 seems at least slightly better overall than Mozilla 1.0.

Mozilla 1.0 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.

Incidentally, please check the MozillaQuest Magazine front-page (mozillaquest.com) sidebar every now and then for bug-count updates and for upcoming post-Mozilla 1.0 progress updates. MozillaQuest Magazine will have additional post-Mozilla 1.0 release information as it becomes available. Please check the MozillaQuest Magazine front page regularly for Mozilla 1.x release articles and news too.

Stay Tuned.

Take Mozilla 1.0 for a Test Drive

If you would like to take a look at Mozilla 1.0 you can download Mozilla 1.0 for free. Please see our Mozilla 1.0 Is Out article for download info and links.


Related Articles


Turmoil in MozillaLand: Current Status of Mozilla 1.0, 1.0.1, and 1.1-Alpha

Mozilla 1.0 Browser Unofficial Sneak Release -- Mozilla 1.0 is unofficially out!


Year 2001 in Review -- Mozilla and Netscape Browsers

Is Mozilla Actually AOL-Netscape's Mozilla?

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MozillaQuest the Series: Building Your Own Mozilla-Based Web Browser


Mozilla's ChatZilla -- The Lizard Speaks: Real Internet Chatting & Communication


Part II: The Many Faces of Mozilla -- A Preview Look at the Mozilla Application Programming Framework

Other

DMOZ Social Contract with the Web Community

Nglayout Project / Gecko Layout Engine FAQ


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