Fantasies can crash?

If Microsoft made cars, goes the story. And it’s been ringing true for so long.

I was reminded of this story, because I saw a web ad for MS’s masterpiece browser Internet Explorer 8 today. The storyline of the ad goes thus: a lissome damsel in a frock is busy eating a sandwich in such an engrossed manner that would remind you of good ol’ Liv Tyler, while our hero is busy watching her from a distance. In the midst of this, we see the worried hero trying to look around an insurmountable obstacle, followed by the text “Fantasies can crash”. And then we see a rather rotund gentleman just standing between the two, while all we and our hero can see is his posterior. Then the hero starts making faces, from which I can only guess that the rotund gentleman has just performed an act with his posterior which causes considerable noise & air pollution.

We then see the Vista-esque dialog box asking whether you want to restore your last session or go to your homepage. And then we are informed about the groundbreaking new innovation in the new IE8 – Automatic Crash Recovery (where is the ™ guys?)!!! Of course now you are dying to use the new & improved IE8 right? With this automatic crash recovery feature that was not present so far in the IE, IE is now complete and can take on the other browsers like Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome, which anyways used to restore crashed browsing sessions (they can even save sessions when you are closing the window, if you preferred). Heck, even MS’s Office software do a half-decent amount of crash recovery.

But the best part of the ad is the sort of self-aware admission that “Fantasies can crash”. Refreshing to see MS admitting in their promotion itself that their software crashes, and we have to just live with it. But look at the new shiny feature — Automatic Crash Recovery! Don’t you just love the IE, now that it can restore your session after crashing it? Make it more stable and reduce crashes you said? No sir, can’t do. We’d much rather advertise the most irritating thing we can show you — our crash screen telling you that your browser crashed last time you opened it.

Coming back to cars, wonder if cars advertised like this. “Your car can crash or break down, but look at this feature — it puts you back on the road you were going on (after 3 months in the hospital or garage maybe)”. Do you want to advertise that your product does not fail (or that you have made efforts to prevent it from failing), or do you advertise that your product can fail, there’s nothing wrong with it, just look what we have added — it remembers what you were doing when it failed.

And then there is the copy — “Let’s you start from where you had stopped”. Weren’t copywriters supposed to be good at language? But then maybe in the new age of freestyle apostrophe usage, I am a purist.

Chrome: is it… worth it?

So Chrome is out. Wonderful. Is it good? Or is it like the others in the market?

To find out I tried a very simple (some might say simplistic) test to see if I’d like to shift to Chrome.

I am most concerned with memory usage and stability in all my applications, and since the browser is the one software I use the most, well, I’d like to test this new kid on those two counts.

And if you remember that I was dissatisfied with Firefox 3, I have been on the lookout.

So here we go.
Methodology:
check memory usage
a. of each of the following browsers: Microsoft’s IE7, Mozilla’s Firefox2 (I had FF2 only, remember FF3 crashes so often on my machine, Mozilla would sue me for this post :D), Apple’s Safari, Opera and Google’s Chrome.
b. with 1, 2, 3 and 4 tabs open
c. comments about observation and usage etc.

So here are the stats:

One window: facebook.com (my profile page)
IE7 – 206kB
Firefox2 – 92kB
Safari – 107kB
Opera – 53kB
Chrome – 38kB

Two windows: facebook.com (my profile page), flickr.com
IE7 – crashed!
Firefox2 – 81kB!
Safari – 116kB
Opera – 67kB
Chrome – 38kB + 21kB

Three windows: facebook.com (my profile page), flickr.com, gmail.com
Firefox2 – 101kB
Safari – 148kB
Opera – 68kB
Chrome – 38kB+21kB+16kB

Four windows: facebook.com (my profile page), flickr.com, gmail.com, xkcd.com
Firefox2 – 105kB
Safari – 153kB
Opera – 93kB
Chrome – 38kB+21kB+16kB+36kB

So? Do you want charts for me to tell you which is better? Well, if you don’t consider Chrome right away, Opera was the lightest browser around, but I don’t know why, to me it always seemed to be heavy.

Now what’s unique about Chrome is that every tab comes up as a separate process, though on the taskbar it’s only one icon. What it means is that if one of your tabs is not responding, then only that tab needs to be shut down, not the whole browser. So even though with a high number of tabs (over 3 on average) Chrome has higher memory usage than other browsers, what would you do with slightly lower usage for statistical purposes if for one malicious tab your entire “slightly lower memory usage” browser goes down? Atleast Chrome is better on that count. And if you want to just check your mail and facebook updates, you won’t have to block some 100 kilos of memory.

Touch and feel:
I agree to the Google Chrome comic when it says that the browser needs to get out of the way (and in my opinion, so should the Operating System) when the user is working. Chrome works well on those counts.
More screen space – good.
No status bar – but its functionality is there – with temporary status boxes which appear on a need basis.
No menu bar – but there are two buttons which club all the functionality of the menus. Smart thinking – it’s a browser, not an illustration package where you need detailed menus to list out everything.
The favourite/bookmark bar is also not there – bookmarks appear when you open a new tab, which also shows an Opera like, but dynamic dial-space listing out the most visited/last visited pages. Ofcourse if you want an always-visible bookmark bar, press Ctrl+B.

The browser feels nimble and light. The clicks are quick, actions are taken instantly. I like it.

Stability:
On my machine, where FF3 crashed everytime the population of the world hit a multiple of 3, and FF2 and Safari also would go for a toss every couple of hours (let’s not talk about IE at all shall we, after seeing the “test results”), Chrome has not crashed ONE SINGLE TIME so far – 5 days, and not even a tab has crashed. Rock solid so far.

Cons:
I’ve heard about search issues, but I’ve not needed that functionality so far, so can’t comment. But yesterday when I was browsing techmech.wordpress.com, I realised that the browser window did not have a scroll bar, the wheel did not work, even the up & down arrow keys did not work.Well, the content did flow beyond the first fold, because when I clicked in the window and dragged down, the content did slide up. I’m sure this is a minor bug, which should be rectified soon, if brought to Google’s notice.

Hypnos verdict:
Lighter than others. Stabler than others. I’ve faced a slight glitch, but I think I can live with that right now, given that I’m living a more peaceful life due to the two big plus points I already mentioned.