Sunday, February 18, 2007

Why I use Netscape - but almost stopped

I use Netscape for two reasons, the first historical, and the second technical. First, the history. In 1993, I was working at FTI. This was back in the day when small companies couldn't really afford a broadband T-1 connection, so we downloaded our email messages via a modem on our server and surfed the newsgroups at 9,600 baud. Late that year (November-ish) I read a story about a product called Mosaic. It was a college project, led primarily by Marc Andreessen that allowed you to browse fromatted information (html) over the Internet. I thought it was so cool, I arraged to get access to a Sun workstation at a friends company over the weekend to try it out. We downloaded Mosaic 1.0 and had a blast surfing the handful of sites on the Internet. I honestly believe that we could have surfed the entire Internet in a few hours.

I went on to work for SGI a few months later, just as Jim Clark was leaving to form Netscape with the afore-mentioned Andreessen. Their new browser, Netscape Navigator was the primary browser on SGI (a Unix platform) for the 4 years I worked there. So, I stuck with Netscape for many years. Since the acquistion of Netscape by AOL, Netscape has been completely re-architected from the ground up.

What I like about the Netscape product is that it supports multiple rendering engines in the same browser. Instead of needing to have two browsers, one for sites that only support IE and one for performance and features (that would be Firefox), you get the best of both worlds in one pretty darned good browser. For instance, Netscape lets you choose to use the IE engine for browsing your banking site, and the Firefox engine for general web browsing. It remembers your preferences on a domain-by-domain basis so that you rarely have to switch over to another browser.

Things were working great until last week when Netscape 8.1.2 started freezing every couple of minutes. My CPU usage would spike to 100% and the browser would just hang. It isn't clear that anyone knows the exact cause of this problem, but it appears to be related to some sort of statistics function in the browser. Updates from Microsoft and Java are both suspected. A long discussion is going on here. If you've found this post and are looking for the answer, here was the workaround that fixed the problem for me.

1. Use Notepad to open the file: C:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts

2. Add the following line at the end of the file: # block netscape stats

I'm happy to say I am posting this from Netscape and the freeze-ups are completely gone.

1 comment:

dequervains said...

Your patch worked. Thanks a million. I noticed others having the same problem reported on the net. Your patch worked immediately. It just started out of nowhere yesturday. Constant freezing. No idea why.