I’ve never understood why some people are
so passionate about Firefox. What the heck, it’s just a web browser!
Internet Explorer does the job well enough, so why bother
changing…? Well, recently I have changed. And it
isn’t to Firefox.
No, it's not Santa Clause
in drag. It's the fabulous Dschinghis Khan (more of
whom later) seen here in the almost equally fabulous
Opera is in a different class altogether. It has always
seemed me that the main benefit of Firefox, for those people
who care about this sort of thing, is that it isn’t
from Microsoft. OK, so it also has skins and tabs and a
somewhat inelegant support for RSS feeds (it ‘subscribes’ them
into the menu system) but, frankly, none of that strikes
me as particularly remarkable.
Opera, on the other hand, is beautifully designed. It
too has skins (very nice ones). Its tabs are better implemented
than those in Firefox (double-click the tab-bar to create
a new tabbed page; right-click to open a link in a foreground
tab, a background tab or a new foreground or background
window) and it has a well-organised RSS reader which displays
items on a separate page. Just for good measure, it even
has a newsreader and email client built in.
So why hasn’t Opera become a dominant web browser?
The simple reason is that, up to now, you either had to
pay for it or you had to put up with advertisements being
displayed in the browser interface. With IE and Firefox
going free, relatively few people felt the inclination
to pay or put up with irritating ads. Now Opera has gone
completely free. No payment, no advertising. No excuse
not to get it…
Opera is well thought-out with all kinds of useful touches
and a remarkably good-looking user interface which can
be tailored to taste by applying all kinds of slick 'skins'
It’s not just the big features that I like. It’s
the little things too. Opera is full of nice touches that
just ‘feel right’. For example, its history
list includes a ‘quick find’ field into which
you can enter text to do an incremental search of the pages
you’ve visited. When you download a file it appends
the details to a File Transfer list from which you can
open or delete those files. An icon lets you selectively
turn off images in a page or display only images that are
cached. When you start up an Opera session, it can optionally
remember your previous session and reload all the previously
viewed pages. When printing, it can fit wide web pages
onto narrow paper (something Firefox does too, but Opera
does it better).
It’s not all good news, however. I have experienced
a few crashes when first loading Opera. A friend tells
me that he has had Opera crash when displaying PDF files.
Another drawback is that Opera is not as well supported
as Internet Explorer (or Firefox, for that matter); many
web designers don’t test (or care) if their
pages are displayed properly in Opera. Occasionally you
find that certain pages may not display correctly or at
all. And some plugins don’t work (the WYSWYG editor
used in some Blogs such as Pivot and Blogger, for example).
It is a testament to the overall quality and efficiency
of Opera, however, that, in spite of these irritations,
I now use Opera as my default browser, only switching back
to Internet Explorer when absolutely necessary. What more
can I say - if you haven’t tried it, I’d recommend
that you do so.
Mind Your Language
I am heartened to discover that there are, spread across
the Web, people whose enthusiasm for the subtleties of
the English language rivals my own - even down to the finer
points of punctuation. Arguably the most misunderstood
punctuation mark of all is the apostrophe. The problem
is less that people fail to use it when it’s needed
than that they stick it in where it doesn’t belong.
Greengrocers’ signs so habitually advertise “Tomato’s,
Potato’s and Cabbage’s” that this particular
misuse is now sometimes called “the greengrocer’s
Mind you, this error is not exclusive to the fruit and
vegetable trade. Glance through a computer magazine and
you are quite likely to see adverts for PC’s and
A few web sites are now fighting back against this cruelty
to the apostrophe. Notable among these are The Apostrophe
Dreaded Apostrophe. For a more wide-ranging discussion
of various interesting or confusing elements of the grammar,
spelling and general usage of the English language, see Jack
To Grammar and Style.
Jack Lynch is Associate Professor in the English
department of the Newark
campus of Rutgers
University and writes with authority and wit. Though
I do think he’s a little hard on the passive voice.
But never mind all this serious stuff. The best site devoted
to the English language is undoubtedly Michael Quinion’s
World Wide Words. This is
a wonderful collection of over 1,600 items discussing everything
from Bafflegab to Vaccimulgence. If you have a few minutes
to spare, you should definitely avoid this site like the
plague as you’ll soon find those minutes stretching
to hours. If you have a week off work, however, go there
right away and treat yourself. If you can’t spare
so much time, Mr Quinion also has an RSS feed which will
deliver interesting words to your desktop.
Those of you who share my taste for Euro-pop ranging from
the wonderful Günter and the Sunshine Girls to
the truly extraordinary Tommy
Seebach may be interested to explore the undeservedly ignored musical
wonders of Dschinghis Khan (the name is German for ‘Genghis
Dschinghis Khan seen here preparing to conquer all of
Asia Minor while simultaneously extolling the virtues of
his 'rocking son'...
But for WFMUs’s
Beware Of The Blog,
the extraordinary talents of this group would have passed
me by. Fortunately, WFMU hosts two classic video clips,
Rocking Son of Dschinghis Khan. If this whets your
appetite for more (and frankly, why wouldn’t it?),
you can find additional information and audio clips on
Khan site and another video clip here.
For real devotees there is a massive fan site, Dschinghis
Khan Online, packed with information
(in German) and photographs.
Whoever would have guessed that a bloodthirsty warlord
with aspirations to world domination would also have such
a finely honed sense of camp…?