Alternate Linux Browsers – lefty Tests a Few

Lately there have been a few blog entries about other browsers for linux.  I looked them over and downloaded some for review.

MIDORI

Let’s start with Midori.  It was a simple apt-get (or aptitude install).

  • It is licensed under the Lesser General Public License.
  • it is based on Gtk+
  • lightweight and portable

Midori came right up.  It did so quickly.  It seems to operate pretty quickly in general, which is a great feature to have in all programs.  Before I went out to the Wild World Web, I went to EDIT, Preferences, where I made a few modifications.  There isn’t a lot to configure in Midori, making even this job quick and nearly painless.

When I say nearly painless, I do so because of the way my head started throbbing when I realized the user cannot control javascript or cookies.  There is simply no function for it.

Midori – you’re outta here! …..(sudo aptitude purge midori)

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NetSurf

  • License: Gnu General Public License version 2
  • comes up quickly
  • multi-platform (RISC, unix, linux, and more)
  • portable
  • standards-compliant
  • proprietary engine, written from scratch

Ubuntu had it in the repositories but you can also get packages at the site.

Heading off to configure the browser, I quickly discovered this under EDIT, Choices.  You can do a small amount of ad and pop-up blocking, as well as setting fonts and cache.

Once again, no javascript or cookie control.

NetSurf – you’re outta here!
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ARORA

  • License: Gnu General Public License version 2
  • comes up quickly, takes longer to load page
  • cross-platform (linux,OS-X,Windows, anywhere Qt goes)
  • uses the Webkit engine (like Chrome)

Arora comes up with an annoying bookmarks toolbar, like Firefox.  It’s a minor complaint but a pet peeve of mine.  If I want extra toolbars, I’ll enable them, thank you.

Of course I headed right to configuration, cleverly hidden at EDIT, Preferences.  You have the choice of what gets loaded when the browser opens, as well as whether and how long to keep history items.  Not bad for the first pane of Preferences.

On the Privacy tab, you can block popups, enable plugins, javascript, and images.  Right under that is cookie control.  YAY!  There is also tab control.  (I know… I’m getting all excited because there are standard configuration options)

Enthralled simply because this browser might work, I set about importing some bookmarks I just saved from my usual browser, Firefox.  I sometimes wonder why IMPORT BOOKMARKS is not in the Bookmarks menu – do you?  I hit ENTER and was presented with a bizarre error message about nbsp’s entity not being declared in line 4000 and that was that.  Not a single bookmark imported.

I think Arora is paying me back for being excited that it has standard configuration options.

But wait… something worked.    The bookmarks eventually got attached to an Imported Bookmarks menu.  Unfortunately they’re not handled very well, as they are split into three panes that cover the entire screen.

EDIT: The browser has some interesting features not found on other browsers, even with plugins. There is a safe browsing mode, in which no private data is accepted or released. There is also a Network Manager, which is a lightweight version of a network sniffer. It shows you exactly what the browser is doing and what is coming in. Nice stuff.

Cookies can be set globally or per-site. Unfortunately javascript is global-only. Thus far, that is the only change I’d make, if I were the kind of person who could make these kinds of changes.

All that aside, it moves quickly.  I think I’ll keep it around and use it for a while against my other main browser, Opera.  Opera is a speed demon and always has been.

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SWIFTFOX
Swiftfox is Firefox with some additional tweaking for AMD processors.  It took a while to get it installed, as I had difficulty figuring out which version was appropriate.  It was more my fault than theirs.

  • licensed like Firefox because it IS Firefox (3.0.10)
  • Mozilla Gecko engine
  • cross-platform

Well, there’s good news and bad news….
The bad news is that Swiftfox looked like it got lost for a while on the way to my screen.  It ate huge amounts of the CPUs.  It’s possible this is because I had Firefox open already.
The good news is that Swiftfox came up with all of my Firefox plugins installed!  It also picked up all of my configuration settings from Firefox.  Neato.
In addition to being Firefox, more or less, it doesn’t seem to bring anything different to the table.  I’ll have to run it by itself and see if that makes any difference.  This is a wait and see.
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Some of the other browsers mentioned, like Epiphany, Kazehakaze, and Galeon, I have already tried and found to be near exact copies of other browsers but with perhaps a little less.  Not impressed.  There is also a SwiftWeasel, which is simply an open-source SwiftFox.
Other browsers mentioned in blogs were multi-purpose or social in nature.  Put another way, I don’t want to browse with Konqueror and there’s no way in hell Flock will ever touch my desktop.
So there you have it.  All of the browsers, including the ones I axed immediately, are faster than my installation of Firefox.  Of course this is partially because they do less.  It looks like I have Arora and SwiftFox to mess around with for a short time to see how they perform.  I’ll mix Opera in also and report on that later.
If I had a death wish, I’d throw in a comparison of IE6 (yes, IE6 works under linux with a package called ies4linux).  I’m just not that brave.  Plus it still tries to screw with linux after it has been shut down.

Internet Explorer: Not Even Safe on Other OSes.
All in all, not a terribly impressive bunch.  Perhaps that’s why they’re the alternate browsers.