Kurt McKee

lessons learned in production

Hey there! This article was written in 2006.

It might not have aged well for any number of reasons, so keep that in mind when reading (or clicking outgoing links!).

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Posted 3 May 2006

I upgraded to Ubuntu 6.05 "Dapper Drake". With the upgrade, I've made several changes in my application choices. In particular, I've moved from Mozilla Firefox, which caught me by surprise.

Mozilla Firefox is heads and shoulders above Internet Explorer. However, as a cross-platform web browser, it doesn't fit in very well with the rest of my Gnome desktop. I experienced a similar situation a few years back with my music player and system monitor (XMMS and GKrellM, respectively). Both were extraordinarily ugly, and were incapable of fitting in with the rest of my desktop.

Firefox is better able to blend in with my desktop, but it cannot do so perfectly. However, Gnome ships with a browser called "Epiphany". Epiphany uses the very same backend code as Firefox, but the frontend integrates flawlessly with the rest of Gnome. It is this integration that first caught my attention. But that's not what kept me using it.

Try it, they said

Prior to upgrading, there were several Gnome developers' blog entries that caught my eye. In particular, Ploum's post challenged me to try it for one week. So I did.

10 minutes later, I decided to switch from Firefox.

First of all, the bookmark system is far more advanced than Firefox's and Internet Explorer's. It supports tagging of bookmarks, and will dynamically arrange your bookmarks into submenus so that the submenus are as balanced as possible. It's a truly wonderful feature.

Second, feeds are handled well - attempting to subscribe to a feed in Epiphany opens my feed reader, which is something that Firefox cannot do.

Third, it is faster than Firefox. That is not to say that Firefox is slow; the reason why is entirely technical, but it stems from the same reason that Firefox can run on Windows, OS X, and Linux, and why Firefox cannot perfectly integrate with Gnome.

Looking back

I do miss several extensions that are unique to Firefox (the extensions don't work in Epiphany, again, for technical reasons). Web developer is not available for Epiphany, for instance. Nonetheless, there is work being done so that extensions can be written for Epiphany using Python, which is very exciting.

Next steps

I'm currently giving Evolution a shot as my primary email software. This will be the first time in a long time that I've tried switching from Mozilla Thunderbird. Like Epiphany, Evolution integrates better with Gnome. It also lacks the impressive extensions available for Thunderbird. We'll see how things are at the end of the week. Be sure to email me so I have a good idea of what to expect if I switch!

Reissuing the challenge

If you're running Gnome 2.14 (available in Ubuntu's upcoming "Dapper Drake" release), give Epiphany a shot as your primary web browser for one week. I cannot say that Epiphany is for everyone, but I can assure you that it offers several features that you won't find in Firefox.

If you're not running Linux, give me a call. We'll get right on that.