Perhaps the greatest surprise in the announcement, June 12, of version 9.5 of the
Opera Web browser, and the June 17 launch of Firefox 3, is that neither is a
snoozer. Both are new products with stuff that'll excite dedicated Web surfers,
which is just about all of us, it seems.
Opera, http://www.opera.com, is a longtime favorite of this reviewer. It's compact,
fast, and has neat touches such as a "speed dial" page where you can pre-program Web
addresses and call them up with a single click. Yes, there are "bookmarks," too, but
the speed dial listing is faster, graphical and it seems to me a tad more
A new feature called "Opera Link" will synchronize your Web settings, bookmarks,
speed dial listings and perhaps your 401(k) account balance online with any other
Opera 9.5 browser that you're using. The effect is an ability to take "your"
Internet desktop with you almost anywhere. Time didn't allow for extensive testing
of this, but it seems like a neat idea.
One reason for my time pressure is that there are still some rough edges to the
software. It doesn't like Adobe Corp.'s Flash software, at least when I tried to use
both Adobe's "Buzzword" online word processor as well as read (or even download) The
Washington Times' "e-edition." This strikes as a major flaw which may be
corrected even by the time these words hit print, but one worth noting.
Apart from this, Opera has tons of features, including a built-in e-mail client,
that make it worthwhile for evaluating and perhaps using regularly once the kinks
are straightened out. As with Firefox, you can't be Opera's price tag, which is
"zero." A free download is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and many mobile phone
users, as well as possibly those still using the character-based CP/M operating
system. Well, maybe not that.
Firefox 3 will attempt to make history on June 17: they want to sett a Guinness
World Record for largest number of software downloads in a single day, as noted
online at http://www.spreadfirefox.com/.
A final "release candidate" was put out the other day and it's essentially the
software you'll download on the 17th if you choose to do so. It's faster and more
capable than Firefox 2; pages load more quickly, and password data can be stored
easily. Bookmarking a page is now a one-click task, look for the "star" in the
address bar. For Mac users, the Firefox interface looks more like that of Safari,
which is nice. And, yes, it supports both Adobe Buzzwords and The Times' e-edition
Firefox is fast becoming the browser of choice for more and more users on both
Windows and Mac systems. It's more stable, in my view, and more secure than many
other browsers, and a delightful user experience. It's well worth trying and using.
Whichever browser you use, if you drive a car, check out RepairPal.com, a brand-new
Web site, launched June 12, which offers a glimpse behind the curtain of auto
repairs. The firm has licensed pricing data for auto parts, has mechanics who
estimate repair fees, adjusts labor for geographic locations, and spells it all out
in plain language.
I tested the system on three vehicles' needs and found spot-on answers that were
detailed and accurate. The explanations and estimates make sense, and help you
determine whether a repair is worth it, or if the car needs to be traded in.
The service is free; the firm behind it hopes to make money via advertising and
other means of "monetization." I can't say enough good things about it, however: if
you drive a car, you absolutely need to investigate the site and learn from it.
Ignore RepairPal.com at your own risk!