Mac OS X Browser Comparison, Take 2

It’s time for a refresh of the four main browsers on Mac OS X: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. These tests will be with the latest browsers as of date of testing as well as the most recent version of Mac OS X.

Test Date: March 29, 2013
Mac OS X Version: 10.8.3 (Mountain Lion)
Chrome Version: 26.0.1410.43
Firefox Version: 19.0.2
Opera Version: 12.14
Safari Version: 6.0.3

Part 1 – HTML5 Compliance

Chrome            Firefox

HTML5 - Chrome                    HTML5 - Firefox

Opera               Safari

HTML5 - Opera                    Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 6.50.29 AM

  • Remember, this is not a performance test but simply a test to see how well each browser supports the various HTML5 elements.
  • Compliance is not necessarily something expected to increase in the small .xx releases. This is the case for Opera but surprisingly Safari does manage to make an increase worth mentioning. Even more surprising is that in a whole version release Firefox did not increase its compliance at all. Chrome continues to dominate this realm but increasing an impressive 20 points in compliance rating.

Part 2 – Peacekeeper Test

Chrome            Firefox

Peacekeeper - Chrome               Peacekeeper - Firefox

Opera               Safari

Peacekeeper - Opera               Peacekeeper - Safari

** The tide has completely turned on this one. Safari showed a strong increase in performance but whatever the folks on the Chrome for Mac team are doing over at Google they should just keep on doing it. Chrome version 26 is a monumental jump forward.

Part 3 – Acid3 Test

Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 7.36.24 PM

  • All four browsers score a perfect pixel-for-pixel result in the Acid3 test.

Clearing the Smartphone Fog, Part 1

There are a lot of smartphones out there. According to some analysts there are over 1 billion smartphones in use around the world. If that number is even close to correct that means that 1 in every 7 people are using a smartphone. Consider that there are ~1.4 billion televisions in the world and TVs have been around a lot longer than cell phones let alone the modern day smartphone. This isn’t a discussion about why smartphones gained popularity and ubiquity so quickly (perhaps a different post?) but rather to help you deal with reality that they are so popular and ubiquitous.

Mac OS X Browser Comparison, Take 1

I’ve decided to post basic browser tests for the four main browsers on Mac OS X: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. These tests will be with the latest browsers as of date of testing as well as the most recent version of Mac OS X.

Test Date: January 18, 2013
Mac OS X Version: 10.8.2 (Mountain Lion)
Chrome Version: 24.0.1312.52
Firefox Version: 18.0.1
Opera Version: 12.12
Safari Version: 6.0.2

Part 1 – HTML5 Compliance

Chrome            Firefox

Chrome 24 - HTML5               Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 5.16.09 PM

Opera               Safari

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 5.16.18 PM               Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 5.16.32 PM

* Remember, this is not a performance test but simply a test to see how well each browser supports the various HTML5 elements.

Part 2 – Peacekeeper Test

Chrome            Firefox

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 6.58.35 PM               Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 7.13.05 PM

Opera               Safari

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 7.20.06 PM               Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 7.05.50 PM

** When running this test the amount of web technology compliance became evident. Chrome was clearly the most compliant as far as how many tests it could run in the Peacekeeper benchmark. It was closely followed by Firefox and Safari, respectively. It is interesting to note that while Chrome has dominated the Windows browser performance on this site for quite some time Safari performs considerably better on its native platform.

Part 3 – Acid3 Test

Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 7.36.24 PM

  • No real surprise here. All four browsers score a perfect pixel-for-pixel result in the Acid3 test.

OmmWriter Dana Review

What is serenity? According to the dictionary it is the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. That is how I feel when I use OmmWriter Dana. It is easily one of the most polished, albeit simple, “word processors” I’ve ever used. Giving it the classification of word processor probably isn’t fair to the likes of Microsoft Word or even Apple’s Pages app. It is order of magnitude less featured that either of those programs (especially Word) but I think there is a certain beauty to that. If you read the product description on the Mac App Store, it becomes clear that the developers really wanted to get back to writing. I’m going to take a quick screen shot now so you can see everything on my screen as I type this short article.

Do you see that? The resolution is high so there’s more of it than what would be on most displays. LOTS of white space, a few serene trees in the middle of winter and my text. There is some nice, relaxing music playing in the background, which is the main reason that the program encourages you to use headphones when you first start it up. Headphones help to further eliminate distractions and stay focused on getting your content down. The key to focus is removing as much outside stimuli as possible. With Dana II and a good set of headphones, you can accomplish that pretty easily. I could see myself sitting at a library or research desk going over all of my data and inputting things down for hours. On top of all of that, I feel really good as I write. I live in a world, or at least a culture, that seems to be focused entirely on the tangible. If it has more features, it seems to be automatically declared better. I used to think this way, but I’ve realized there is a better school of thought on how you define value. If value is defined exclusively as how many tangible things you get for your dollar, then simply stuffing any product full of features should automatically make it the best value. However, even the die-hard “feature hunters” will complain (and rightly so) about a feature poorly executed or implemented. That’s because there’s more to products than simply giving us lots of things to use. If a product has 1,050 features but I only use 50 of them, then the value of that product to me is really the price in light of those 50 features. You might be thinking, “But those extra features might be needed down the line.” Yes they could be, but making purchases based on something you might use isn’t really a good way to shop. First and foremost, you shop according to need. I admit, I bought Dana II because it went on sale and I had been curious. However, I’ve done more casual writing, putting thoughts down, and getting to projects I’ve been meaning to, more than I have in the past 3 years. Not kidding. Why? Because it’s the intangible concepts in Dana II that remind me of why I want to write, not simply what I need to write. There is something about the design that makes me feel like Dana II is saying, “Remember those projects you’ve been meaning to do? Let’s get started on some right now. I’ll help you get focused.” It may sound ridiculous, but no other writing tool I’ve used thus far helps me to do that at all.

In summary, I highly recommend Dana II as a writing tool. I can almost guarantee that you’ll love it. As a word processor, you may want to look elsewhere. Or, even better, do what I do. Do your typing in Dana II and, should the need arise, use a greater featured word processor to format it to your liking or needs.

Dana II as a writing tool: 5/5
Dana II as a word processor: 3/5

MacBook Air (2012) Decisions

This is just a brief post for anyone who may search and discover this blog and is deciding between whether to get an 11″ or a 13″ MacBook Air.  I recently sold my MacBook Pro so that I could “downgrade” to a much more portable computer.  My foreseeable future will have me less at home and more at the libraries and research tables.  So I want something that’s really really really easy to carry around.  “iPad!” Nope, I type at least twice (if not 3x) faster on a physical keyboard.  “Netbook!” Seriously? That’s worse than an iPad.  I need a computer, not a tech toy (yes, I know, that’s what an iPad is).  I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound demeaning but in general I think the whole netbook concept is pretty much an epic fail.  Now the Chromebook?  That’s a different story (completely under-appreciated concept).  Anyway, once again I digress.  So are you in the same boat as I am?  Well I’m currently typing on the 11-inch MBA and here is why so far (14 days to test drive) I am sticking with the 11-inch.  I have a Thunderbolt Display.  To me, this reduces the 11 vs 13 debate to one simple comparison: battery life vs. portability.  Extra screen real estate, resolution, and an SD card slot (that I’ll never use) mean very little to me if I have an option to get all the space and resolution I want when I get home.  However, the 13-inch does have a rated battery life 2 hours longer than the 11-inch.  So why am I going with an 11-inch?  If you’ve ever used a netbook you’ll how great it is to have something so small on your lap while you type.  Again, where netbooks fail is their performance (praise God for the ultrabook category!).

So here I am loving the fact that I can comfortably type on my couch while not feeling the weight of my former 5.6lbs powerhouse.  Sure, an extra 2 hours of battery life would be nice but I’ve never had a scenario where I was without power for even half that length of time (unless I intentionally did so).  I’ll keep using this for a few more days and update.

Update #1: I have 3 more days before the point of no return (pun intended) and I must say my mind is even more made up.  I simply love the ultra-portability. If you’re not a Mac person then I highly recommend the Asus Zenbook Prime that is coming out soon.  It is essentially the 11.6″ MacBook Air (wedge shape and all) but with a much higher resolution screen.  AnandTech did a great review of the MacBook Airs and noted that, in his opinion, if you were to have only one computer, the 13″ MacBook Air is his recommendation.  I fully intend to have a desktop in the future so I opted for the portability.

A Tale of Two Kitties (Blending the lines between Snow Leopard and Lion)

Apple now has two major OSes in the mix: Snow Leopard, the venerable Mac OS X release that was lean, mean, and yet refined. Best of all, it maintained the compatibility of older legacy software. In short, Snow Leopard “just worked.” Then came Lion, the “piece de resistance” in Apple’s mind. Lion brought the polish and finesse of iOS to the Mac and my oh my was it pretty. As a computer technician, technology consultant, and power user, I found myself torn for the first time since adopting Mac just a few short years back. I loved the UI changes made in Lion, from the new progress bars to the invisible scroll bars, to the squared off buttons. Mission Control was a welcome update to Expose & Spaces, full-screen apps allowed me to maximize the real estate on my MacBook Pro, and Versions was a great and innovative way to track our changes system-wide. Lions form was a welcome improvement to that of Snow Leopard (except Finder, I want coloured icons!). There was a catch this time around. I no longer had legacy support (Rosetta) which became a problem for me at my workplace where the printer driver installation program was ancient. Sure, I could have used generic printer drivers or even found a way to manually install them (which I did while writing this article) but the issue was still there. What do I do when I encounter legacy software that I HAVE to use? There really wasn’t an answer that I was aware of since Apple made the unfortunate assumption that everyone would just jump on board with the new band wagon. So I was left loving the function of Snow Leopard but the form of Lion. Thankfully, there are others like me who have figured out ways to bring much of the form of Lion to Snow Leopard. This article explains what I’ve done this far to “Lionize” my SL install and why I did it.

  1. Install Scroll Reverser
    Personally, I prefer the inverted scrolling. After using a touchscreen smartphone, it really does feel more natural. If you aren’t used to it, give it at least 3 days. Most people adapt in just a few days.
  2. Change the progress bars and buttons to a more Lion-like interface.
    First you need to download and install ThemePark. After that, download this theme and unzip it. Start ThemePark and then drag the theme file onto the ThemePark dock icon. A new theme box will pop up. Simply click “Apply Theme,” authenticate, and you’re done. You may have to restart to see some of the changes.
  3. User BetterTouchTool to give you more touchpad gestures.
    If you like the multi-touch gestures in Lion then this little app is a must! It gives you amazing control over what you can do with 1-5 fingers. In fact, you have more options than even in Lion. The catch? It’s still in beta and doesn’t always work as expected. BetterTouchTool does have a scroll reversing option but I’ve found Scroll Reverser to do a better job. Could be just preference though.
  4. Create multiple spaces and assign specific apps to each.
    To make this as Lion-like as possible, create a single row of Spaces. In Lion, you’ll often have three spaces for iCal, Mail, and Safari. You are limited to 4 horizontal spaces so you’ll have to decide which apps you want in your 3 dedicated spaces and leave the rest of your apps on your main space.

It’s a short list at this point in time but I will update it as I try more, do more and receive suggestions. Enjoy your form and function!

What does “better” mean anyway?

So I’ve been reading a few reviews over the past several of weeks about the newest smartphones that have either come out or are coming out.  Among them are the Samsung Galaxy S II and, of course, the iPhone 4S.  I was misfortunate enough to stumble upon a review/comparison where the reviewer essentially declared the Galaxy S II the “better” phone because it had “better” specs.  This puzzled me for a moment and I had to process why that conclusion bothered me as it did.  The two primary reasons, I discovered, are these:

  1. Better specs are only one part of a much bigger equation.  User experience is a critical point and is completely relative to each individual user.  Not to mention how the accessibility to tools and programs that will enhance your work and digital life (also completely subjective to each individual user).  One person may prefer a smartphone with at least a 4″ screen, a minimum screen resolution, HDMI out port, micro-USB port, and stereo speakers (media buff most likely).  Now if you’re not entirely sure what I just said, that’s exactly my point.  If you don’t really know (or care) what most of those specs are, then they aren’t truly that important to you.  The best consumer first asks, “What are my needs?”  Then they ask “What are my wants?”  Once they’ve established this they can ask the question that is really at the heart of the issue, “Which device meets all of my needs, most/all of my wants, and I think I’ll enjoy using?”  Simply asking “What’s the best deal?” isn’t good enough because it uses that silly subjective word, which leads me to my second point.
  2. The word “better” is a great word.  It can be used is so many effective ways.  Reviews are rarely one of them.  What’s the better deal?  That depends on your criteria for “better.”  I don’t like bulky things in my pockets.  Scratch that, I really don’t like bulky things in my pockets.  My brother-in-law is the same way.  As a result, you most likely won’t see us sporting a Galaxy Nexus with a 4.65″ screen.  I like something that will have minimum impact in my pocket.  The result?  An iPhone 4/S. because they are thin and narrow compared to most other phones out there.  You aren’t me, so you have different needs, wants, pet peeves, etc.  When you see reviews that say that one device is better than another because of specs, my suggestion is to take it with a pretty big grain of salt.  What are the “better” specs? The specs that give the device the best ability to satisfy your needs/wants/peeves (in that order).
In short, don’t fall for the “better” trap.  Any device that fits your needs, wants, and personality isn’t just the better device, it’s the best device for you.  After all, it’s your money so picking what suits you is the better way to go.