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August 14, 2009

Techie Opinions Wanted: Apply Within

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Yes friends, it's good ol' bleg time here at 2Blowhards. ("Bleg" is an occasionally-used term for begging on a blog -- get it?) I have questions and would appreciate answers, so here goes:

* * * * *

I use the Firefox web browser on my Windows computer and the built-in Safari browser on my Mac laptop. Firefox seems to do a better job, so I'm wondering if I should download it to the Mac.

Does Firefox for the Macintosh have pretty much the same features as its Windows version? Do you prefer the Mac version to Apple's Safari?

* * * * *

My digital camera performs well in most circumstances, but has defects I find annoying. Its telephoto zooming is jerky when trying to frame a subject, and resulting pictures are often blurred due to user-induced wiggle (even when I think I'm holding the camera steady). When taking non-flash photos indoors and outdoors (in the evening or at night) with the flash switched off, I often get blurred results.

What I would like is a sub-$400 camera that has decent (mechanical, not digital) stabilization along with smooth zoom operation.

Charley Parker over at the Lines and Colors blog shopped for something similar a while back and describes his results here. Was Parker's choice a good one? Is there something better on the market (technology changes rapidly)?

Anyway, let me know your thoughts and personal experiences.



posted by Donald at August 14, 2009


As for the camera, this is all you will need, Donald...


There is a newer LX3 model, but it was recently withdrawn from the market for some mysterious reason. Speculation has it that Leica and Panasonic are in a tiff over pricing. But make no mistake, this is the best in its class. You would need to move into the $700 range with Olympus to match the features and quality of this Lumix.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on August 14, 2009 10:12 AM

I've got a Windows laptop and an iMac and I use Firefox on both. Yeah, I'd say Firefox on both platforms is pretty much the same. I prefer Firefox to Safari b/c Firefox has so many extensions available.

Posted by: Bryan on August 14, 2009 10:42 AM

Firefox is great on the Mac, although I still use Safari as I'm cutting down on the things I download, so one very good browser is enough. For a Windows box, I'd recommend Google Chrome. SUPER fast browser, very clean interface and the all-in-one search box/URL address window is awesome. I love it. There's a Mac version in beta right now, but I'd wait for the full release.

Posted by: JV on August 14, 2009 11:01 AM

Firefox became my primary browser for my Powerbook a while back and it works well, beats Safari.

Posted by: Chris White on August 14, 2009 12:21 PM

Firefox on the Mac is supurb and I am transitioning away from Safari.

The main reason is that Firefox is not as much of a memory hog as Safari which seems to bloat endlessly in ram. This affects performance if the browser is left open and the cache uncleared for any length of time.

Two extensions to recommend for Mac firefox: Session manager and Scribe. The first can save any session with any number of windows to be opened later. The latter is a blogging from the web app.

Posted by: vanderleun on August 14, 2009 12:21 PM

Safari on my Mac has slowly gotten worse, slower, clumsier, even freezing occasionally! I used Firefox now, and it's faster, and better.

Second the kudos to Chrome for the PC (got it on my laptop), and I can't wait for a Mac version to give it a whirl there.

Donald, I'm thinking a consensus has emerged here that you would be better off switching to Firefox on your Mac.

And yes, Firefox for the Mac is very similar to Firefox for Windows, although Firefox is still bound by the annoying refusal of Mac OS designers to incorporate appropriate hotkey commands for simple program and file management functions that Windows performs in its sleep. Too mouse dependent!

P.S. Bleg of my own! Anybody got any way to incorporate Windows-style hotkey commands for basic program/file mgmt into a Mac? That doesn't involve AppleScript or Terminal? I've already tried Witch, but it just doesn't seem to work reliably. It's allowed me to use Alt+Tab to switch actual program windows, not just the menu, but it cr*ps out on even that in irritatingly unpredictable ways.

Posted by: PatrickH on August 14, 2009 2:11 PM

All browser commenters -- Okay, I downloaded Firefox. I'm still somewhat frustrated because I was hoping for a drop menu for Bookmarks, a feature I like on the Windows version. Apparently, the "Mac way or the highway" forces software developers into using a horizontal toolbar for bookmark selection. On Safari I gulped and only put a few bookmarks on it, not knowing what would happen once I filled in the row (does a new row pop up?; does the existing row slide off the edges as a horizontal scroll?; I didn't have the guts to try). I did find a workaround that creates a selection panel, but that takes up a strip on the left side of the screen, crowding the web page. Yes, it can be killed and reaccessed later, but it's not nearly as handy as a Windows drop-menu.

Even so, Firefox seems to be an improvement over Safari, which was my goal.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on August 14, 2009 3:52 PM

I used Firefox on my Macs most of them, mainly for its useful ad-ons, such as NoScript and the eBay Companion.

I don't understand your bookmarking question -- Firefox lets you put books in the toolbar or in folders and sub-folders that show up when you mouse over "Bookmarks" in the upper menu.

Posted by: Chas S. Clifton on August 14, 2009 4:35 PM

Hmmm. My Firefox on MAC has Bookmarks drop menu that appears from the very top of the screen {Apple/Firefox/File. .. Bookmarks/Tools.) Each window also has the Bookmarks Toolbar which I limit to a handful of 'all the time" bookmarks (e.g. Google)

Posted by: Chris White on August 14, 2009 4:49 PM

Chas & Chris -- I'm writing this on my Dell and the MacBook is on my lap. On the Firefox form I have a top panel containing the edit line where I can enter a URL along with a few icon-buttons. Those include a home-page icon, a refresh icon, a couple of other along with a bookmark icon that I installed myself. Clicking on the latter creates a narrow panel that appears on the left edge of the screen which contains a clickable list of benchmarked web sites.

Below that panel is a narrow bend with names of my (3, at this point -- I want lots more) bookmarked sites. These are clickable.

At the very top of the screen is the white bar containing File, Edit, etc. and "Bookmarks." The latter does provide a drop menu that requires rolling down to "Bookmarks Toolbar" which then activates a tack-on menu with names of bookmarked sites. This is what you probably are referring to.

My frustration is that, on the Dell, I get one long drop menu without the tacked on supplemental menu. This makes navigation from site to site quick and easy: no extra cursor movements. The only quick and easy access on the Mac is that horizontal list mentioned above.

So yes, there is a drop menu. And no, it isn't what I'm accustomed to on the Dell running on Windows XP.

Ah, the joys of personal computers; for me, a source of frustration since May of 1983.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on August 14, 2009 5:55 PM

In the file menu, pick Booksmarks > Organize Bookmarks to get a new window where you can make folders, etc.

At least that is how it works on my Macs with Firefox 3.5.2

Posted by: Chas Clifton on August 14, 2009 6:02 PM

Ditto Chas's explanations ... admittedly it would be nice to have a keyboard shortcut rather than using the mouse or trackpad, but I got used to that ages ago..

Posted by: Chris White on August 14, 2009 6:52 PM

Sorry, the "Bookmarks" menu, not the "File" menu.

Posted by: Chas S. Clifton on August 15, 2009 10:43 AM

I have to use a Mac for work and found Safari very annoying. Firefox works much better.

Posted by: TGGP on August 15, 2009 2:47 PM

Pardon my lack of sympathy… But wanting to know if it's worthwhile to "switch" browsers is a no-brainer: I use a G4 iMac, and have 10 browsers installed – on a machine that runs from a 30GB harddrive and a half-gig of RAM! My default browser (which probably wouldn't suit you…) lets me open web pages and links easily in others, when I want. As long as you don't have to jettison your bookmarks and browsing history (and I can think of no reason why you would have to), why not use however many suit your needs?
RAM and disk space are cheap. There's no need to be ideological about browsers…

Posted by: Don Jackson on August 16, 2009 3:09 AM

I can recommend two cameras that might fit your needs. The Nikon L100 and the Canon SX10. Both are easy to use, have huge zoom capability (15x for the Nikon and 20x for the Canon), image stabilization, and use regular AA batteries. I find the Nikon easier to use, more compact and lighter in weight. The Canon costs $350-400 and the Nikon costs $200-280.

Dave - Erstwhile Urban Wanderer

Posted by: Dave Eriqat on August 16, 2009 10:25 AM

From your description of problems with indoor non-flash photography, it seems that you need a camera with better low light performance.

The Panasonic LX3 is too expensive, so your best option would be to have a look at the new Canon S90 which comes out in September at around $400.

It's not a super-zoom - but then again, big zoom point and shoots require compromises (smaller imaging chips and narrower maximum apertures) which mitigate against low light performance.

Posted by: nigel on August 20, 2009 7:52 AM

Better than Firefox is Camino, which is Mozilla tailored for Macs.

Posted by: Ted Craig on August 20, 2009 5:41 PM

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