All posts tagged ‘chrome’

File Under: Browsers, JavaScript

Speedy Chrome Tops Google’s New ‘Octane’ JavaScript Test Suite

Is your browser running on high octane? Image: Barbara L. Hanson/Flickr

The Google Chrome team has added a new set of JavaScript benchmarks to the web, dubbed “Octane“. Octane joins the ranks of other test suites like WebKit’s SunSpider test and Mozilla’s Kraken.

Google’s Stefano Cazzulani, Chrome Product Manager, writes on the Chromium blog that, despite a plethora of benchmarks on the web, Google wanted a new suite with “new benchmarks created from full, unaltered, well-known web applications and libraries.” The result, says the company, is a test suite that better reflects performance in “real web applications.”

Of course what constitutes “well-known web applications and libraries” is left to Google’s Chrome team to decide, and, perhaps not coincidentally, Chrome scores quite well on Octane’s hand-picked suite. That’s not to say that Chrome isn’t actually quite fast, but it does highlight the main problem with browser-maker benchmarks — the browser vendor creating them almost always seems to score the highest on them.

I ran the latest version of each of the major web browsers through Octane on a 2008 MacBook Pro (average of five runs each):

  • Safari 6: 6007
  • Chrome 21: 8517
  • Firefox 14: 5351
  • Opera 12: 3330
  • Internet Explorer 9: (tested in VMWare, but IE9 didn’t render the page.)
  • Mobile Safari (iPad 3): 553 (incomplete test, typed arrays aren’t supported in Mobile Safari).

Naturally the results will vary depending on your hardware, particularly your graphics card, but in all my tests Chrome won by a large margin.

To see the actual tests — which include a 2D physics engine, a 3D rendering engine culled from translated C++ along wit PDF.js and other libraries — head on over to Google Code where you’ll find the source for the entire suite. Also be sure to read through the FAQ for more info about the thinking behind Octane.

File Under: Browsers

Chrome Tightens the Leash on Adobe’s Flash Player

Google’s latest version of the Chrome web browser offers an even more secure, tightly sandboxed version of the browser’s Flash Player plugin.

If you haven’t already updated you can download Chrome 21 from Google. Existing users may need to restart their browser for any updates to apply.

At the moment the Flash Player improvements are only available to Windows users, but the change does apply to the entire Windows spectrum, covering everything from Windows XP (where Chrome is the only option if you want to keep Flash sandboxed) to the coming Windows 8.

As Chrome Software Engineer Justin Schuh writes on the Chromium blog, “Windows Flash is now inside a sandbox that’s as strong as Chrome’s native sandbox, and dramatically more robust than anything else available.”

The Flash update sees Chrome dropping the older Netscape Plugin API — which browsers have long relied on for plugin security — in favor of Google’s own Pepper Plugin API (PPAPI). Since PPAPI has a tighter sandbox it makes it harder to exploit Flash, but Schuh says the new architecture will make Flash more stable as well. “By eliminating the complexity and legacy code associated with NPAPI, we’ve reduced Flash crashes by about 20%.”

There are also performance gains since the PPAPI offloads some of the display work to your PC’s GPU, which makes for faster rendering and smooth scrolling. The new Pepper API also means Flash will work in Windows 8′s don’t-call-it-Metro mode.

Google says that it’s working on bring the same Pepper-based sandboxing to Chrome for Mac OS X and hopes to “ship it soon” (Linux users have enjoyed PPAPI-based Flash Player since Chrome 20).

File Under: Browsers

Chrome 21 Looks and Listens Thanks to WebRTC Standard

Head to Sketchbots with Chrome 21 and your image will soon appear in the sand. Image: Google

What if web apps could see? What if they could hear?

That’s the far-fetched opening to Google’s latest Chrome update announcement. But as it turns out, it’s not all that far-fetched. In fact Chrome 21, which is now available in the stable channel, can, like coming versions of Firefox and Opera, use your webcam to see and your microphone to listen.

The magic behind Chrome 21′s all-seeing gaze is the getUserMedia JavaScript API, which gives developers access to your webcam and microphone. The getUserMedia API is part of WebRTC, a larger group of proposed standards that will eventually make web apps capable of many of the same feats that currently require platform-native APIs.

Whenever you point Chrome 21 to a web app that wants to access your camera or microphone, Chrome will display a prompt requesting permission, and, assuming you allow it, you’ll also get the option to select which device to use — i.e., a USB headset instead of a built-in mic.

If you’d like to see it in action Google has an impressive new demo to show off Chrome’s getUserMedia capabilities. Sketchbots is an experiment that uses getUserMedia to grab a picture of your face via webcam and then converts the image to a line drawing. The line drawing is then sent to a robot in the Science Museum in London where the robot draws out your portrait in a patch of sand, which you can watch live on YouTube (and is seen by anyone visiting the museum).

Chrome 21 also adds official support for Apple’s new high-res Retina Macbook Pros. This release also introduces support for the Gamepad JavaScript API, which will allow developers to write web-based games that use videogame controllers.

File Under: Browsers

Chrome Drops OS X 10.5, Adds New Video and Gaming Tools

Chrome 22, which Google just dropped into the Chrome developer channel, marks the end of the line for Mac OS X 10.5 users. When Chrome 22 arrives in final form roughly three months from now it will require OS X 10.6 or newer.

Apple’s OS X 10.5 is looking a little long in the tooth these days, having been released some five years ago. Chrome isn’t the first to drop Leopard support, Mozilla’s recently released Firefox 13 does likewise and even Apple hasn’t updated Leopard since 2009.

If you aren’t using Leopard, you can grab the latest Chrome dev channel release from Google.

On the plus side for Leopard users (and everyone else), Chrome 21 — which has now been promoted to the beta channel — supports the getUserMedia API, which allows web developers to tap your device’s camera and microphone. That means web-based chat apps will work in Chrome. It also opens the door to other audio and video web apps that would once have required Flash or platform-native apps.

The getUserMedia support is also the first step in supporting the Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) standard, which is also part of recent Firefox and Opera releases. Opera has some demos that show what WebRTC and getUserMedia can do. For another cool example of getUserMedia check out Magic Xylophone from developers Romuald Quantin and Magnus Dahlstrand of Stinkdigital.

Chrome 21′s getUserMedia isn’t the browser’s only new trick, this release also introduces support for the Gamepad Javascript API, which will allow developers to write web-based games that use videogame controllers.

File Under: Browsers

Firefox Developer: ‘Everybody Hates Firefox Updates’

Look, Yet Another Firefox Update. Screenshot: Webmonkey

Mozilla’s Jono DiCarlo has come out to say what many a Firefox user has long been thinking: the rapid release cycle is killing Firefox.

DiCarlo has a long and well-argued post on how and why Firefox’s attempts to ape Google Chrome have not only made the browser less usable, but done the very thing Mozilla was trying to prevent — driving people to switch to Chrome.

The problem, argues DiCarlo, isn’t just the rapid releases, but the way Mozilla has handled them:

Ironically, by doing rapid releases poorly, we just made Firefox look like an inferior version of Chrome. And by pushing a never-ending stream of updates on people who didn’t want them, we drove a lot of those people to Chrome; exactly what we were trying to prevent.

That squares with the user feedback Webmonkey has received over the last year or so of rapid Firefox updates — comment after comment of fed-up users tired of the endless updates and dialog boxes. Less anecdotally, Webmonkey traffic from Firefox has declined from roughly 34 percent to roughly 30 percent since Firefox 4 and the rapid release cycle debuted.

The problem isn’t the updates necessarily — security updates, bug fixes and support for new web standards are all necessary, even welcome, things — it’s the way that Mozilla has handled them, using intrusive dialogs that interrupt work and cause frustration, that sends users to other browsers.

Of course bug fixes, security updates and standards support aren’t the only things Firefox has been packing into the rapid release cycles. DiCarlo also calls out Mozilla’s user interface designers, arguing that using the rapid release cycle to constantly change Firefox’s interface compounds the problem and user frustration.

After years of aspiring to improve software usability, I’ve come to the extremely humbling realization that the single best thing most companies could do to improve usability is to stop changing the UI so often! Let it remain stable long enough for us to learn it and get good at it. There’s no UI better than one you already know, and no UI worse than one you thought you knew but now have to relearn.

DiCarlo’s post has understandably provoked some heated discussion, both on his site and in a Hacker News thread (DiCarlo’s site has also been up and down today, the Google cache version is here if the original is not currently working). Mozilla is in the process of addressing some of these problems, and plans to make the update process less intrusive in future release, but for many users the damage has already been done.