Firefox Quantum Is Very Fast

A couple of weeks ago, I downloaded the new Firefox web browser (v. 57) which Mozilla named Firefox Quantum. For a couple of minutes, I had to get used to the user interface which differed from Google Chrome. As I started browsing, I noticed that web sites loaded faster and the browsing experience was snappier overall.

Mozilla is overhauling components of Firefox to better support concurrency and to improve performance. Starting with version 57, things have changed for the better. I have been using Firefox for several weeks now and am very happy with it. Aside from being very fast even compared to Google Chrome, I have noticed that memory usage is better than Chrome’s. With nineteen tabs open, for example, memory usage is more reasonable than Chrome’s and performance seems not to have degraded.

Since I have 16 GB of RAM on my Macs, I have set the “content process limit” for Firefox to 5 (4 is the recommended maximum) since I normally open a lot of tabs.  Setting the content process limit higher consumes more memory but helps in handling more concurrently open tabs.Firefox Content Process Limit

Firefox Quantum uses Gecko and Servo. Written in the Rust programming language, the Servo project is Mozilla’s venture to build a new web browser engine. Parts of Firefox Quantum depend on Servo in order to achieve high performance and concurrency. The other parts of Firefox are written in C++.

For developers of web applications, the Firefox Quantum Developer Edition is most useful. You can simultaneously run both browsers without conflict of profiles. I’ve used this edition of Firefox Quantum to debug some web applications I have been working on.


New MacBook Pro

I recently got myself a 2015 13″ MacBook Pro. I had it customized with 16 MB of RAM and a 512 GB flash drive. It’s a nice and fast machine. The Retina display is also very pleasant to the eyes.

I put some computational applications such as Mathematica 10 Home Edition and Matlab 2015 Home Edition. They both run great with the amount of memory and the 2.9 GHz dual-core Core i5 processor. For testing, I used the MacBook Pro as my main computer for a few weeks. The Retina display helps reduce eye fatigue, even if the fonts are small.

This is a great laptop. I only wish it can be configured with 32 GB of RAM like those workstation-class PC laptops.

2015 13" MacBook Pro 2015 13" MacBook Pro 2015 13" MacBook Pro

MATLAB Home Edition Now Available

MATLAB finally has a Home Edtion just like Mathematica’s Home Edition. This is great news for hobbyists who normally wouldn’t want to shell out thousands of dollars just to get a regular license. Like Mathematica’s Home Edition, MATLAB Home Edition cannot be used for commercial, academic or non-profit applications. You can also buy add-ons for MATLAB for $45 each.  Note that the product has the same feature set as the commercially licensed product.

I’ve been waiting for this product for some time now. A lot of engineering and computer science books usually use MATLAB code as examples. Previously, only students could get a discount for the product. As I’m not in school, the Home Edition fits my needs perfectly.

I could have both Mathematica and MATLAB now for my personal use.  Awesome!


16GiB of RAM Feels Good

Upgrading my iMac from 12 GiB to 16 GiB of RAM makes things feel faster.  Actually, it simply allows more breathing room for multiple applications to run concurrently,  avoiding things like swapping to disk.

I utilize a bunch of virtual machines (VMs) running different flavors of Linux and,  at certain times,  Microsoft Windows 8.  Once in awhile,  I run a couple of Windows Server 2012 VMs for testing and this requires a lot more memory than Linux.  The upgrade makes running VMs and native OS X applications easy and problem-free.

If you need to run a number of applications simultaneously,  more RAM is good.  Having more cores per processor is another good thing,  especially when your applications take advantage of them.  Finally,   a fast graphics card with a good amount of memory (say, 1 GiB),  makes your games run more smoothly.

Don’t hesitate to upgrade your Mac or PC.
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HTML5 and Semantic Markups

I just got a book from called HTML5 & CSS3 For The Real World.   Published by Sitepoint, this book is a wonderful read.  The still-evolving new HTML specification has a lot of semantic markups that help web authors add meaning to the various components of a web page.  These semantic markups not only give meaning to the structure of an HTML document but also aids in styling of the page.

HTML5 is not just about fancy features.  It’s also about building HTML documents that make sense when analyzed for structure and design.  One aspect of HTML documents that is important is the outline of the document contents.  To aid in authoring HTML5 documents, there are some tools that analyze the documents’ structure.  One of these tools is the HTML5 Outliner,  which takes advantage of the outline algorithm for HTML5.  Try using it in your HTML5 projects and experiments to see if you have a semantically correct HTML document.

It is also important to understand the meaning and use of the various HTML5 markup elements.  Their use determines the logical structure of a document, aside from the styling.  There are certain HTML markup elements that should only be used in certain contexts.  One case is the use of the <em> and <strong> tags.   While <em> is used for emphatic stress, <strong> should be used for a span of text that has strong importance.

The proper and canonical use of HTML5 markup elements should be of concern to today’s web authors.  Reading the HTML5 specs carefully, even if they are still evolving,  is a good thing.  It’s best to future proof your HTML projects now.   See the Website Design and Construction page of this site for links to helpful resources.



Mozilla’s Thunderbird Version 5.0

Today, I upgraded my Mozilla Thunderbird email client to version 5.0.  To my surprise, it turned out to be faster than the previous 4.x versions.

I was disappointed with the 4.x versions of Thunderbird.  It was slower and the scrolling of the left window was not very responsive.  This changed in the new version 5.0.

I strongly recommend that Thunderbird 4.x users upgrade to version 5.0.  This is the best version yet of a quite reliable email client.

The Holidays Are Coming

Everyone seems to be looking for good bargains after Thanksgiving.  There are some who are already lined up at the stores that have sale items on Friday.  I’m just wondering if Apple products are going to be on sale as well.  At least OWC might have some Apple items on sale.

From Apple comes a new line of MacBook Airs.  They’re light and nice to use.  As for practicality, I’m still not sure about them.  However, if you just need something like an iPad but one that’s more powerful, the MacBook Air is it.  Note that it doesn’t have a touch screen yet though.

Another on my wish list is the new Apple TV.  It’s now a tiny black box that allows you to rent movies from the iTunes store and stream music and videos from different sources that support AirPlay (e.g. iPods, Macs, stereos).  I hope to get it for the holidays.  🙂

SCO To Put Most UNIX Assets Up For Auction

SCO is going to put most of its UNIX assets up for auction, according to this article.  Will there be somebody who’ll step in and continue supporting the products and the customers?

If I had lots of money in my pocket, I would probably buy the assets and see what can be done with the products.  Their UNIX is somewhat a direct descendant of the original UNIX created at Bell Labs.  It would be interesting to dissect it and see how it ticks compared to other UNIX and UNIX-like operating systems.  Moreover, it would be of historical value.

Anyway, that’s just a thought.

Also, I wonder what’s going on with the Solaris/OpenSolaris issue.

Computer Technology and Life

Obviously, computers permeate our lives in many ways through the gadgets and machines that we use everyday.  The Internet has also linked these computers in such a way that a vast amount of information can now be found flowing almost anywhere in the world.

I saw the revolution and evolution of computer technology from the time the Apple ][ was introduced.  Those were exciting days when 16kBytes of memory was a big thing.  There were competing makes and models of what were called personal or micro computers.  Remember the Ataris, the Radio Shack TRS-80s, the Commodores, and the Sinclairs.  There were others and even some of them predate the computers I just enumerated above.

On eBay, one can buy these computers, some of which are still in working condition.  I have a couple of Commodore 64s myself.  Try searching for the above computers and see how much they cost now.

In high school, I spent a lot of time, tinkering with the Apple ][ Plus.  I learned Applesoft BASIC and Machine Language programming.  Later on, I learned Pascal via Turbo Pascal which was later available on the IBM PC as well.

The IBM PC rose to become the dominant personal computer in the late 80’s.  Apple, however, introduced a great machine called the Macintosh (it was misspelled — it should have been McIntosh) which featured a graphical user interface (GUI) and a pointing device called a mouse.  Eventually, PCs (which usually meant non-Apple IBM-compatible computers) got their own GUI with the help of Microsoft.  It took at least a couple of versions before Microsoft Windows displaced the command line interface of DOS on the PCs.  Meanwhile, Apple Macintosh thrived, carving out a niche and building a loyal customer base.

The Internet was still at its infancy in the late 80’s.  Some domain names like SUN.COM were registered around 1986.  In the early 90’s, I got a taste of the Internet, albeit without the world wide web (WWW) yet.  FTP and Gopher were what we used to transfer files here and there.  It was entertaining and fascinating to know that computers were actually linked to each other and could pass information to one another.

Further down towards the mid 90’s, Linux rose to be a popular and useful open source project.  I was lucky to have tinkered with sometime in 1993-1994 when the kernel version was something like 0.99.  Once again, I was amazed at what one could do with a full blown Linux kernel-based operating system.  We used Slackware, one of the few surviving Linux distributions today, to set up Linux-based servers.

I found it cool compiling and running UNIX applications on Linux.  The X Window System provided the GUI with the additional functionality of remote Window sessions.  Samba proved to be a great thing for those that wanted to use a Linux server as a file and print server.  Of course, one could not help but gleefully hack and program on a Linux machine with all the free development tools available (Perl, C/C++, bash, tcsh, etc.).

……and many more things happened…….

Where are we today?  Mobile devices, embedded computers in machines, tablets, smartphones, multicore processors, etc.  It’s quite impressive to know they exist.  Even more so that these gadgets and embedded computers are (or can be) connected to each other via a network, wired or wireless.  They can even be accessible from the Internet.

We are all benefitting from these developments.  Should we also be scared of them?  We already face problems daily with computers getting affected by malicious software meant to steal our wealth and identities.  We also face the difficulty in making sure complex software don’t commit errors where lives are at stake.  With all the flow of information in the Internet, is our privacy not safe anymore?

Where do we go from here?  I guess we should proceed carefully but with a positive attitude.  As human beings, we are quite smart and we adapt.  We will learn from our mistakes and make things right.


The iPad

Finally, it’s official: a tablet computer from Apple named the iPad.  The iPad starts shipping sometime March of this year.

It’s a nice device that somehow fits between an iPod touch/iPhone and a notebook as far as functionality is concerned.  One thing missing is a web cam so you could use software like Skype or iChat for videoconferencing (Note: Though Skype is available for the iPod touch/iPhone, the iChat isn’t as far as I know).

An iPad version of iWork will be available soon enough.  This will be a useful set of applications (spreadsheet, word processor and presentation) to those who need to make or read documents.  Most applications already on iTunes App Store will work without need for modification although software developers will have to slightly modify their products to take full advantage of the iPad’s large screen size.

Pricing is okay: it starts at $ 499 for a 16GB WiFi-only model.  This is, for an Apple device, okay but may still be steep for non-Apple users.