Move Over Microsoft - There's a New Browser About: A Look at Mozilla Firefox, The New Kid on the Web-browsing Block

Recently, Br. Mark here at the monastery has been having trouble with the computer he has been using. Every once and a while Internet Explorer is hijacked! He goes to a website under his "Favorites" and finds himself on another one – most of the time with something to sell or with pornography on it. This illicit solicit disables the "Back" button on the browser. So to get back to the original website he intended he has to go back to his "Favorites" once again.

Now I suspected that this hijacking of Internet Explorer was coming from Spyware or Adware on his computer. However after running Ad-aware (available free from adaware.com) that is supposed to detect such unwanted programs running on one’s computer, nothing was detected. Now that doesn’t mean it still isn’t on the computer. Other anti-spyware programs might find it. Microsoft now offers a free "Windows AntiSpyware" (Beta version) at microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx that is available automatically through the Automatic Windows Updater on your computer. I wanted to try a different approach. Why not use a different Internet Browser? Perhaps it would be more tamper proof. So I downloaded the Mozilla Foundation’s new free browser called Firefox at mozilla.org. I wasn’t alone. Since its release in Fall of 2004, over 25 million people have downloaded Firefox. Microsoft has taken notice of this erosion of its dominance with IE. So rather than wait to release IE version 7 with its next version of Windows, it will release it this year instead – but only to Windows XP SP2 users!

Now like me, you probably have your "Favorites" filled up with websites on IE and perhaps other customized settings and you don’t want to do them again. You are in luck! Firefox has an import wizard that will import your IE Favorites, options, cookies, stored passwords, etc. when you install it. (You can do it later as well with Firefox by going to File menu and selecting "import"). Further, don’t expect a bigger learning curve to use Firefox. Standard setup gives you five of the IE buttons you have memorized by now: Left Arrow (Back), Right Arrow (Forward), Two Arrows (Refresh) and the House (Home). Most of the other familiar buttons like the Printer (Print) can be dragged onto this button bar by going to View>Customize. The menu items at the top are similar to IE except for small changes like "Favorites" is now called "Bookmarks".

One thing you will notice right away when using Firefox is how much more quickly webpages load. Jim Potter commented to PCWorld Magazine, "I have used several browsers and ‘Yeah, okay’ was the strongest response I could muster. But Firefox – oh WOW. When I installed Mozilla’s Firefox, my PC sat up and took notice. It shook off its own dust, and I’d swear I hear a snap when I click the ‘go’ button." The speed really is impressive. Another feature that I believe users will find refreshing is tabbed webpages. Let’s say you want to go back and forth between multiple webpages. With IE you could open each one in a separate browser window. With Firefox webpages are loaded in "tabs" within the same browser window, making it easy to switch back and forth among multiple webpages.

Under Firefox’s "Options" under its "Tools" menu you will find other useful features. Select "Web Features" and you will find a "Block Popup Windows" option. Under "Load Images" you will find a sub option "for the originating web site only." This feature is useful to stop images from loading from another site that the one you are looking at such as banner advertising.

Under Options if you select "Privacy" you will find "Cookies." Here you can block all cookies, allow them but make exceptions, specify how long they will reside on your computer, and restrict them to the originating web site only. This last feature is useful because banner advertising can leave cookies on your computer, even if you don’t click on it! By checking this last option for cookies, only the website you are looking at can put a cookie on your computer.

Another useful feature of the Firefox browser is the search bar at the upper right hand corner of the window. You just type in what you are searching for and select where you want to search for it from the handy drop down list. You can add other search engines to this list as well.

Now if you feel like you need to know more about Firefox go to "Help" on the menu items and select "Help Contents." If you are used to Internet Explorer select "For Internet Explorer Users" to read about the similarities and differences between the two browsers.

Now not every website works perfectly with Firefox. Can you guess one that doesn’t? Yes, Microsoft’s "Windows Update" and "Office Update" will not automatically scan your computer for updates unless you are using Internet Explorer. That’s not really a problem – just use IE when you want to do this. (Note: You can always set your computer to update Windows automatically and not have to use IE.) If for some reason you can’t load something on a webpage, Firefox will alert you to this and direct you where to get that plugin. Firefox is still a target for hackers, also. So you still have to pay attention to Firefox when it tells you an update is needed, which by default is set to automatic checking. But even so Steven Vaughan-Nichols, an editor of eWEEK.com and former employee of NASA and the Department of Defense, tells us "Firefox is a lot more secure than Internet Explorer."

Not everyone is crazy about Firefox. Todd Haugen comments to Maximum PC magazine, "I’m getting pretty sick and tired of all the Firefox this, Firefox that. Opera has been around for years and has improved greatly over the past few releases." Is this man crazy. What does opera have to do with browsers? A lot. Another competitor to IE is the Opera browser available for free at opera.com. You may want to give this browser a test drive also. For now, I’ll stick with Firefox as the browser of choice.

This month let us look at helps for the Easter Season, which doesn’t end until Pentecost.

You will want to look at the Vatican site at vatican.va under the "Focus" section for Easter 2005 links.

Trinity Communications has a "Easter Workshop" page at catholicculture.org/lit/overviews/seasons/easter.cfm that has information about Easter along with devotions and hymns.

The Franciscans along with St. Anthony Messenger Press have a webpage called "From Easter to Pentecost" at americancatholic.org/Features/Easter/ that gives season readings, audio and video reflections and is updated daily for the 50 days of the Easter Season.

An important part of Easter is "Christ’s Resurrection" which you can read about in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas at newadvent.org/summa/405300.htm that has some interesting considerations for further reflection. And while you are at it, look into "The Ascension of Christ" at newadvent.org/summa/405700.htm for further consideration.

In order to prepare for Pentecost you might want to look into the "Prayers for Pentecost" put together by Liturgical Publications of St. Louis at catholic-forum.com/saints/index020.htm that includes "Liturgical Prayers," "Personal Prayers," "Litanies," and "Novenas."

Brother John Raymond welcomes
e-mail at john@aplusconsultingnow.com.

He is author of Catholics on the Internet: 2000-2001,
Webmaster of www.monkofadoration.org