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SapphireSteeel Software



November 2005

Huw may have changed his browser but his dubious musical tastes remain unaltered. From Opera to Euro-disco is, with him, the work of an instant...


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 browser

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 apostrophe”.

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 CD ROM’s.

A few web sites are now fighting back against this cruelty to the apostrophe. Notable among these are The Apostrophe Protection Society, and The 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 Lynch’s Guide 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.

And finally…

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 Khan’, apparently).

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, Moskau and The 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 this Dschinghis 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…?

Copyright © 2009 Dark Neon Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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