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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Google released a developer-oriented update to its Chrome Web browser

Google released a developer-oriented update to its Chrome Web browser on Wednesday that fixes some crashes and video playback issues.
Chrome is still in beta testing, and for those who have an even higher tolerance for rough-around-the-edges software, Google also offers developer versions. Chrome is the latter; see our earlier post on how to subscribe to the Chrome Dev channel.
"Release 154.0 (the most recent publicly released Chrome developer build) had a few browser crashes, including a crash on startup on tablet PCs running Windows Vista. We fixed the new crashes, and 154.3 should be much more stable," Mark Larson, Google Chrome program manager, said in a mailing list posting Wednesday evening.
The browser wars are back in force, albeit in a more standards-compliant and collegial way, and a major thrust of the resurgent competition is higher performance for faster, more sophisticated Web applications. The first beta version of Firefox 3.1, released Tuesday, brings significant improvements to JavaScript, the programming language that underlies many such applications. Microsoft is on the verge of releasing Internet Explorer 8 (though it still hasn't convinced innumerable people to upgrade even to the current version 7), and the Webkit project that forms the foundation of Apple's Safari browser is being fitted with a new JavaScript engine called Squirrelfish Extreme.
Other fixes addressed problems with plug-ins such as a bug that could hang video playback after a second or a plug-in priority issue that cause the browser to become unresponsive. Chrome can use the Mozilla Firefox versions of plug-ins such as Adobe Systems' Flash.
In the security department, Chrome requires more manual intervention before users can save executable files with .exe, .bat, and .dll extensions.
Chrome is open-source software, and Google credited two outside programmers for their contributions.

FileMaker Bento 2 offers a spreadsheet feel, more app integration
Less than a year after the beta of its first personal database for Mac, Apple's FileMaker has released Bento 2, an edition that adds features in two main areas: more integration with outside applications, and the addition of sophisticated spreadsheet-like functionality.
As previously reported in BetaNews, Bento is geared to helping consumers and business people manage and organize information that runs the gamut from contacts and calendars to projects and events, all without any database programming.

Web users who are expecting a major shift in philosophy in the first round of Firefox betas, may want to wait for the developers to have their say. For now, there are a few helpful features, but one really useful one remains on the way.
Typically the purpose of a public beta is to enable general folks to comment about new features. But in the case of Mozilla, which seeks contributions from the general public on ideas of how features should look, the first public beta of Firefox 3.1 is actually being presented as an empty vessel for ideas to be fleshed out by its users.
For that reason, one of the new version's more prominent features is actually absent from Beta 1: the private browsing window. Yes, it will be in the final version; but Mozilla is continuing its active solicitation for comments and ideas about how to go about presenting the feature, now that Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 and the Google Chrome beta both already implement it in their own way.
Private browsing sets up a way for users to temporarily visit Web sites without their history and temporary files being recorded. Ostensibly, manufacturers have said, this enables dutiful husbands to buy gifts for their wives without leaving tracks for them to uncover before they arrive; but perhaps in want of greater placement in Google News, many have taken to calling the feature "porn mode."
So the question on Mozilla's mind is, should Firefox 3.1 be explicit -- to borrow a phrase -- in how it tells the user his browsing window is a private one (Chrome, for instance, puts a little cloaked spy icon in the upper left corner)? Or if it's a private browsing mode, perhaps that fact should be kept private as well.
"The notification should be subtle," reads a suggestion made yesterday by Mozilla contributor Michael Ventnor. "A big change like the location bar color would fail the over-the-shoulder test (although based on common uses of Private Browsing, the signal that they're in PB mode is the least of their worries if someone is looking over their shoulder, I suppose). We must still meet the goal of a non-distracting chrome [front end] and one that is simple to implement and fast to render."
Ventnor goes on to suggest changing the hue of the throbber icon in the browser's upper right corner.
While discussion on that topic continues, one new feature that does appear to work for the first public beta of v3.1 is the tab preview. Up to now, the Firefox user could flip back and forth through open tabs in a window using the Ctrl+Tab keystroke (Ctrl+Shift+Tab to go backwards). But with the tabs being easily accessible via mouse pointer, I've never seen a lot of folks use this key sequence, and I haven't been one to use it myself.

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