Browser Wars! Part 4 of 7: SRWare Iron

This is a guest post by EasyOSX.  EasyOSX is a Mac technology blog founded specifically for the Mac community. You can check it out at easyosx.wordpress.com

For this next installment in the “Browser Wars” series, we look at another Chromium browser that takes stuff out of Chrome rather than puts something in it.

Whether or not you like them, Google makes a lot of great and influential products.  Among them, Chrome has really moved the browser market forward with its minimalist design, fast update cycle, and rapid growth.  However, for all of Chrome’s goodness, some people are concerned about Google’s hand in it.  They worry about Google keeping records of their visits, if their personal information is going to be sold to advertisers, etc. (I mean, what other major browser actually makes you have a user agreement before you can use it).  Many still want to test the power and speed of Chrome.  Simple put, they want Chrome without Google.  The solution comes from Germany (don’t worry, it’s in English).

SRWare is a German company that takes Google Chrome’s code and strips Google out of the code, maintaining the focus of the browser on privacy and security.  In its place is the browser Iron (creative with the metal-based naming scheme aren’t they?).  Even without Google’s code “features”, Iron isn’t a deprived browser.  Iron still has all the speed of Chrome, as well as almost all of the features, including a minimalist design, sandboxed tabs (meaning if one tab crashes, the whole browser doesn’t go down), and an easy to grasp control panel.  They even have a built-in ad-blocker within Iron (though I still use AdBlock +).  If you have a Google Account (like Gmail, etc), you can still sync Iron’s passwords, bookmarks, etc. across computers with the built-in sync feature.  And let’s not forget about extensions; you can still install Chrome extensions and apps from Google’s repository (or you can use Iron’s own little repository).  While I still use Rockmelt as my primary browser, Iron is a great Chrome substitute, especially for people who are very privacy conscious.  I actually used Iron before Rockmelt as my primary browser and I loved it.

SRWare Iron Logo

That being said, there are a few things in Iron that just don’t seem right.  First of all, every major browser has either an auto-update feature, or at least has a way of notifying you of updates.  Iron doesn’t have it, at all.  If you want to see if there is an update, you need to check their downloads page occasionally, or follow them on Twitter.  They claimed to take it out because of privacy, but at least there should be some easier way of notifying us of updates would be nice.

One other complaint is on the Mac side of updating.  When Chrome updates, Iron gets updated about a week later for Windows, and a little after that for Linux.  The Mac version traditionally has been updated only every 2 Chrome versions.  This makes Mac users (like me) feel a little bit left out for new features, speed, and security upgrades.  However, with the update to Chrome 13, SRWare announced they will be working to release the Mac and Windows version side-by-side (sorry Linux users).

Otherwise Iron is a great browser for people who want Chrome, without the privacy worries that you may have about Google.  Iron works for OSX 10.4 and higher (including Lion), Windows XP, Vista, and 7, & most major Linux distributions.  You can download it from http://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron_download.php

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Regarding the Future of OS X & iOS

When talking about the future of Apple product lines you inevitably hit an intersection. Slowly but surely the iPad (and to some extent, the iPhone) are becoming increasingly powerful and feature rich with each iteration of iOS. While the Mac has slowly become more user friendly like it’s iOS cousin. This leads to speculation about the future of these two operating systems. Will they continue to stay separate? Can they continue to stay separate?

One of the last things Steve Jobs did before handing over reigns at Apple was to demote the computer from being the hub of the digital life to being just a device. With the Mac and iPad now finding themselves on equal footing, where does the software go from here? Some think it’s possible that iOS & OS X will merge. I don’t find that very likely for several reasons.

Reason 1 has to do with the file system. “We’ve been working for 10 years to git rid of the file system”. That was Steve Jobs at WWDC this year. Lots of times when you want to get rid of something, you just erase it. I can press backspace on this keyboard and delete the words I just wrote. When you try to remove a feature (or in this case, a fundamental architecture) people depend on, they get hopping mad. The best way to get them to stop relying on that thing you are trying to kill, is to get them to rely on something else. Something cooler, newer, more exciting.

Keep in mind iOS is technically OS X under the hood, albeit slimmed down. Steve Jobs stunned a very large crowd during the introduction of the iPhone, saying “iPhone runs OS X”. Jobs continued “it (OS X) has everything we need”. Most notably missing from the list of things they needed? The file system. Since Apple was essentially starting from scratch with the iPhone, they had the ability to keep out the stuff they didn’t want. Apple removed previous baggage. They created a new, more mobile OS that didn’t, and couldn’t work the same way.

Reason 2 pertains to the iPad and Mac. People love the iPad’s hardware. The main gripes with the iPad currently (mostly with the more advanced users) is the limits iOS presents. That’s one of the main reasons the App Store exists. If the OS doesn’t have the feature built in “there’s an app for that”.

If running full OS X on an iPad were a good experience, Apple likely would have done it already. The fact is, I’m almost sure it’s not. Without an external keyboard I know it’s not. With an external keyboard it could be, but again, if Apple thought it was they would have done it already.

Despite all that evidence, there are some things about the OS X that confuse this theory of mine. What is the future of the Mac App store? Will is just simply disappear? I don’t know if Apple can do that without upsetting a lot of developers. If iOS and OS X were to merge, would the apps be compatible? Assuming Mac hardware still exists running the combined OS, are devs supposed to retool their apps to work with both mouse and trackpad inputs? Apple hasn’t really expressed a desire for touchscreen Macs. Unless there were a significant reworking of the way the Mac is built and works, input for the merged OS would still use a trackpad and mouse. You can’t design an app for touch and just slap mouse compatibility on it, or vice versa, and still retain a good user experience. It’s just not that easy.

What is the future of the Mac? In my opinion, it’s highly probable that the Mac will just disappear. My personal opinion is if OS X and iOS ever get to a point where they would merge, OS X will simply fade away. Steve Jobs was never one to dwell on past products. If he can do something better, he would be willing to buck the trend and possibly hurt other product lines to move the industry forward. At some point the Macintosh will eventually start getting in the way of Apple’s goals, but will Tim Cook and company be “Steve enough” to move forward. Only time will tell.

Shawn Blanc’s Instacast Review

I had been wanting to write a review of Instacast for a while now, but as a procrastinator I continued to put it off. Then I stumbled across one better than I could have written. Shawn Blanc has a really great and comprehensive (like, over 1.000 words comprehensive) review of Instacast for iOS. So I would recommend you go read his review (I’ve linked to it below). Instacast is simply a really great app for listening to podcasts. So sit back and enjoy.

Shawn Blanc’s review of Instacast.

Word of the Week #1

Word of the Week is a new kind of post I will be doing regularly (weekly if you haven’t already guessed). I will choose a word which will be the only word in the post (unless I put a note at the top of the post in italics as I’m doing now). Said word will be a link to a technology related story that is described by the Word of the Week. Simple enough. If that didn’t make sense don’t fret, I’m sure you’ll figure it out eventually.

P.S. I reccomend you read the whole post. It’s really quite interesting, even if you’re not a nerd.

Classy

(Via: Write for Your Life)

First Look (sort of): iPod nano

Even though the iPod nano has been out for a while, I got one (I’ll be getting a watch band as well). I thought I would give an overview of the product so you can see it better. I’m going to begin working on a review and will have it up when it’s finished. Enjoy.

HP Will Keep Making PCs (Update: I Was Right)

HP announced they will keep their computer division:

HP today announced that it has completed its evaluation of strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group (PSG) and has decided the unit will remain part of the company.

That’s weird. I think Nexflix just tried to spin off one of their core business as well. Interestingly enough, they realized it wasn’t good for their customers, didn’t really make sense, and eventually back-peddled as well. My translation of the press release is in quotes.

“We hired, supported, and approved the plans of our former CEO, Léo Apotheker, but after allowing someone with a sound mind to evaluate our business strategy, we realized we were just being stupid.”

Finally, it also showed that the cost to recreate these in a standalone company outweighed any benefits of separation.

“We really have no idea what we’re doing.”
- Sincerely,
HP Board of Directors

(I got the idea for the comparison to Netflix from Daring Fireball. You should see what he wrote about it.)

Update: According to The Next Web, Whitman was quoted during an internal HP employee meeting saying:

“In all honesty right now we don’t know what kind of company HP is. We’re still figuring that out.”

I rest my case.

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