The Great Browser Test 2008 (part 1)

Posted by beakersoft | Posted in Applications | Posted on 01-04-2008

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Over the last few days I have read quite a few posts about Safari for Windows coming out of beta. Lots of people seem to be having a go at Apple for the way they are distributing it via the Apple software update (the CEO of Mozilla for one, see here), but i’m more bothered about how the different browsers perform up against each other.

So I decided to put them to the test. I installed Internet Explorer (7), Firefox (2.0.0.13), Safari (3.1) and Opera (9.26) onto a Windows Vista SP1 PC (dell 755, 1gig ram 2ghz proc) and came up with a few of simple tests:

  • How the perform at the ACID3 test
  • How much memory they take up when first loaded
  • How long it takes to render the main page of a bunch of site (microsoft.com, apple.com etc.)
  • Of those sites, did they all look and act as they should

The object of these tests is’nt to find the best browser, it is just to see how they stack up against each other. Everyone’s taste is always different and the ‘best’ performing browser might not be for everyone.

Up First… The ACID3 Test

The ACID3 (http://acid3.acidtests.org) test tries to render a page to test different web standards of the browser. The previous ACID test was more about CSS compliance, where as this once tests for more things that would effect the rendering of web2 kind of site. The ACID2 test also did not have a score to rate the compliance, so its hard to express the results. You can run the ACID2 test here

Browser Acid3 Test Result
Internet Explorer 12/100
Firefox 52/100
Safari 75/100
Opera 36/100 (then crashed)
 

So, as you can see from the results, the most compliant browser of the lot was Safari, but i suppose that’s to be expected as it is the most (feature wise) recently updated browser.

Next… Memory Usage on Start

Next up, how much memory does each browser use on start up. For this test Firefox is running as a new install so there are no extensions in there to slow it down.

Browser Memory On Startup
Internet Explorer 6176 k
Firefox 13312 k
Safari 14876 k
Opera 35744 k
 

Here Internet Explorer is the clear winner, but i think that is to be expected as it is tried into other windows components (like explorer.exe) so much. Opera was the last performer in this test, but if you start to load Firefox with some extensions over time that will probably end up the worst memory hog. In the new version of Firefox they have done a lot of work to plug all of the memory leaks.

Last… Page Loading times

Next up we will time how long it takes to render pages in each of the browsers. I will clear the cashe and history of each browser before going onto the site. To time the load times of the pages I will use the stopwatch service at numion.com You can just enter a url and it will re-direct you to it, and time how long it takes the page to load. Hopefully these are a good cross section of sites.

  microsoft apple digg facebook bbc lep
Internet Explorer 7.64 9.27 6.39 4.48 1.44 3.22
Firefox 14.83 2.66 11.43 5.12 2.25 4.25
Safari 2.52 2.23 4.2 5.96 0.94 1.61
Opera 3.26 2.41 5.99 4.98 1.94 3.27
 

Note: the pages tested where the front page of the site, apart from facebook, in that case it was the home page you see after logging in

Again, the results show that Safari comes top again. I must admit I haven’t used it in the past, but the page load times are very impressive. On the bottom end of the scale Firefox seemed to perform the worst of the bunch, that came as quite a surprise to me.

So, what have we learnt?

Personally, quite a bit. I use Firefox day in day out, and I didn’t release the other browsers were that much faster than it, especially Safari. I was quite unimpressed with Opera, it looked and felt to me like Internet Explorer with a more cluttered interface. That said I still prefer Firefox over the others. Its easy to use, and its plugin system means it will always have the functions I want (even if some do come with a performance penalty)

I can understand why Apple are making a dig deal out of safari though, its speed alone makes it worth while, and it also has a couple of features (such as snapback) that the others don’t possess. That said I don’t know how it stable it is, but some things I have read online say that this version is fine.

 

Internet Explorer 8

Posted by beakersoft | Posted in Applications | Posted on 09-03-2008

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Last week the boys over at Microsoft launched the first beta of Internet Explorer 8, you can download it now from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/ie/ie8/readiness/Install.htm (be warned its a beta so could go pear shaped yada yada ya)

Reading through the docs, looks like the main new thing with this version is improved compliance. Finally, it might be possible to create a website that looks (and behaviors)  the same in all the Major browsers, without having to put in a lot of extra code and css. Only question I have is why the hell has it taken them so long (and were they scared by the impending release of Firefox 3?)

However, not to jump on the Microsoft bashing bandwagon to much, there are a couple of cool new features in there that might prove to be useful. You can read more about them at Readiness Toolkit page, but they are:

  • ¬†Activities – Now when you click on the IE8 page menu, you get a list of activities you can perform on that page. These include thing like sharing it on Facebook, Digging the page, Translating the page, blogging the page etc. There is a framework for this that allows you to create your own ‘activities’, so you are not limited to what they want.
  • Webslices – This for me is the most interesting new function. You can add some code to your websites so that the user can subscribe directly to content on your page. Its kind of like a better version of RSS integration with the browser. You can do things like subscribe to Friend status’s on Facebook, when you hit the webslice (it lives in the favorites bar) a drop down appears with pics of your recently updated friends, there status and the time of the status. I am going to try and code a simple one for this website hopfully this week, and ill post my findings up.

Something else that occurs to me is that are they trying to take on traditional RSS feeds with there webslice function, and how long will it be until there is a Firefox extension that will emulate it?

PacketTrap Network Management

Posted by beakersoft | Posted in Applications | Posted on 13-02-2008

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Recently I have been made aware of a network management package from Packettrap.com. The idea behind the software is it will provide you a central interface and reporting service for all your network management and diagnostic needs. The free version includes the following services:

  • Overview dashboard
  • An enhanced ping
  • Graphical ping (it shows the info on a graph)
  • Trace route
  • TFTP server
  • MAC address scan
  • WHOIS tool
  • Various other features, see them on their site

The main idea behind the software is that you can do all of your normal networking tasks from one place. A fine idea, but how well does it work?

Unexplained Explorer Crashes

Posted by beakersoft | Posted in Applications | Posted on 20-01-2008

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Explorer.exe, the shell we spend most of our lives using. Normally (remember this qualifier) it tends to be quite stable, but yesterday a colleague of mine started to have strange problems with it on his XP SP2 machine.

If you clicked on Start -> Run and started to type in the UNC path to a server (as you do 100 times a day) after the two slashes ‘\\’ explorer would inexplicably crash and restart. As is the case with such thing, there didn’t seem to be a logical explanation as to what was going on.

The only new software that we had been recently messing about with was from http://portableapps.com and as that gets installed onto a portable drive (thats kind of its point) we are pretty sure it wasn’t that.

When I got back in the following day, it was working again. What was the solution? Well, clearing up the History and Cache on the machine. That was it. There must have been something the the most recently used list of run, that was causing the problem. As it only occurred after typing in the leading slashes, it must have been a computer name. Unfortunately as the list was cleared we have no idea what the hell caused it.

This what what was logged into the event log on the pc:

Explorer Event1

Explorer Event2

We had a Google around for the error but didn’t really come up with anything, so if all else fails, delete your history and clear your cache!