November 15, 2005

Get Firefox

If you have ever suffered from annoying pop-ups and daunting spyware then you have two options. The first and more expensive solution is to invest in a new Mac mini computer from the makers of iPod. The Mac mini is a great computer, priced at $799 and runs the very secure, stable and easy-to-use operating system called Mac OS X. Mac OS X is unique as it is very powerful, easily capable of running day-to-day applications like Micorosft Office and Adobe Photoshop but also by far the easiest to use. In our business, computer training, our clients pick up and are able to use at an intermediate level the Mac OS X operating system about 4 times faster then the equivalent Windows XP.

However, if you are using Windows then it’s time to change your browser software. As standard Microsoft ships Internet Explorer bundled with every copy of Windows, but Internet Explorer is unfortunately one of the main reasons that Windows gets infiltrated by adware and spyware – generally causing the whole system to slow down to the point where it becomes unusable.

Enter Firefox, a fast, stable and best of all free web browser, now recommended by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), a division of the Department of Homeland Security. Firefox is producted by Mozilla, a company that used to be known as Netscape (you might remember Netscape once had the lions share of the browser market before Microsoft bundling Internet Explorer with every version of Windows that shipped).

I’ve been using Firefox now for over 2 weeks and can tell you it is great. It feels much faster than Internet Explorer and I haven’t had a single pop up yet. Additionally, Firefox has some great new features like tabbed browsing (the ability to load multiple tabbed web pages in the same window), pop-up blocking and smarter search (google is built in to the browser toolbar).

If you already have lots of favourites in Internet Explorer Firefox will even offer to import them when you start up for the first time.

Additionally, Firefox is an open source project, which means that lots of developers around the world have access to its programming code and therefore can help make changes if any bugs or security issues are found. To quote from the mozilla website: “We believe and practice the canons of open source development: release early and often, listen to your users, and given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”.

So, go and get Firefox now. Once you’ve got it check out some of the great new features, and when you are ready to explore advanced features go to the Tools menu and select ‘extensions’. Here you’ll find a large list of ‘plug-ins’ that allow Firefox to do all sorts of interesting things. I have downloaded a 4-day weather outlook that sits in the bottom of every window. And just today I installed a plug-in that lets me use mouse gestures (I draw simple lines on the screen) to control my browser. For example, instead of using the ‘Back’ button in the browser I draw a simple back line and am taken back a page. It takes some getting used to but I’m sure it will be standard practise eventually.

Without a doubt Firefox is the most exciting piece of software to be released this year. What’s better is that it is free to use and doesn’t come with the security and privacy risks associated with using Internet Explorer.