Yet Another Gift Chat and an Automatic Firefox

Rob Pegoraro
Monday, December 5, 2005; 10:10 AM

Somehow, despite all the time I find myself spending in instant-messaging chats, I'd never devoted an entire column to the biggest program in that category, America Online's AIM, until yesterday.

I hope my review of AOL's new AIM Triton helps to make up for that omission.

In Web Watch, Frank Ahrens gets "Lost" on the Web. We've got a look at a new way to soup up holiday greeting cards online, as well as a review of Ratchet: Deadlocked. And in Help File, I explain why you should never run two anti-virus programs at once and how to get your keyboard back up to speed.

Once again, I'll be online at 2 p.m. today to offer gadget gift guidance to perplexed shoppers everywhere. I'm doing these chats every Monday until Christmas. The last two (Nov. 21 and Nov. 28) drew enough questions to keep me tied down for almost two hours apiece, so please be patient if I can't answer your query right away. (And if you can't be online at 2 to catch the chat live, you can read the transcript any time at the same link.)

Firefox Turns 1.5

One other widely used Internet application recently got an update -- my favorite browser, Mozilla Firefox. Barely a year after version 1.0 shipped, 1.5 arrived Tuesday. It incorporates one big change that nobody will see at first: a faster and easier update system that automatically checks for, downloads and installs patches.

That's "patches," not "an entirely new copy of the browser." Firefox 1.5 only has to fetch a small updater file, which it can apply to itself. With this one feature, Firefox's developers have addressed the biggest issue with this browser.

This new release adds a few other interesting features. Its Options window has been reorganized and cleaned up slightly, and you can now rearrange the tabs that group multiple Web sites in a single window by dragging and dropping them left and right.

Its pop-up blocking has supposedly been upgraded as well, although I'm still seeing those annoying fastclick.net pop-ups (this site and others, apparently anxious to go out of business in a hurry, defeat conventional pop-up blocking by exploiting other weaknesses in Web coding). If you upgrade to Firefox 1.5 and see different results, please let me know.

I'll probably have a review of this browser at some point in the next month or so, but I need to decide how I'll frame it. Do I just write about this one release? Do I wait until I can also cover its e-mail-only counterpart, Mozilla Thunderbird 1.5? Do I compare it with such other browsers as Opera and Flock, a Firefox offshoot that incorporates bookmark-sharing and other "social browsing" features? Do I also report on the 7.0 release of Microsoft Internet Explorer, due at some point next year?

It's nice to have these choices in front of me. Competition is back in the browser market, after far too long.


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