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★ Safari vs. Chrome on the Mac

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Eric Petitt, writing for The Official Unofficial Firefox Blog yesterday:

I head up Firefox marketing, but I use Chrome every day. Works fine. Easy to use. Like most of us who spend too much time in front of a laptop, I have two browsers open; Firefox for work, Chrome for play, customized settings for each. There are multiple things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I‘m OK with Chrome. I just don’t like only being on Chrome. […]

But talking to friends, it sounds more and more like living on Chrome has started to feel like their only option. Edge is broken. Safari and Internet Explorer are just plain bad. And unfortunately, too many people think Firefox isn’t a modern alternative.

In an update posted today, he walked that back:

In my original post I made a personal dig about Edge, IE and Safari: “Edge is broken. Safari and Internet Explorer are just plain bad.” I’ve since deleted that sentence.

It’s true, I personally don’t like those products, they just don’t work for me. But that was probably a bit too flip. And, if it wasn’t obvious that those were my personal opinions as a user, not those of the good folks at Firefox and Mozilla, then please accept my apology.

It’s easy when making an aside — and it’s clear that the central premise of this piece is about positioning Chrome as the Goliath to Firefox’s David, so references to Safari and IE are clearly asides — to conflate “I don’t like X” with “X is bad”. So I say we let it slide.1

But I’ve been meaning to write about Safari vs. Chrome for a while, and Petitt’s jab, even retracted, makes for a good excuse.

I think Safari is a terrific browser. It remains the one and only browser for the Mac that behaves like a native Mac app through and through. It may not be the fastest browser but it is fast. And its energy performance puts Chrome to shame. If you use a Mac laptop, using Chrome instead of Safari can cost you an hour or more of battery life per day.2

But Chrome is a terrific browser, too. It’s clearly the second-most-Mac-like browser for MacOS. It almost inarguably has the widest and deepest extension ecosystem. It has good web developer tools, and Chrome adopts new web development technologies faster than Safari does.

But Safari’s extension model is more privacy-conscious. For many people on MacOS, the decision between Safari and Chrome probably comes down which ecosystem you’re more invested in — iCloud or Google — for things like tab, bookmark, and history syncing. Me, personally, I’d feel lost without the ability to send tabs between my Macs and iPhone via Continuity.

In short, Safari closely reflects Apple’s institutional priorities (privacy, energy efficiency, the niceness of the native UI, support for MacOS and iCloud technologies) and Chrome closely reflects Google’s priorities (speed, convenience, a web-centric rather than native-app-centric concept of desktop computing, integration with Google web properties). Safari is Apple’s browser for Apple devices. Chrome is Google’s browser for all devices.

I personally prefer Safari, but I can totally see why others — especially those who work on desktop machines or MacBooks that are usually plugged into power — prefer Chrome. DF readers agree. Looking at my web stats, over the last 30 days, 69 percent of Mac users visiting DF used Safari, but a sizable 28 percent used Chrome. (Firefox came in at 3 percent, and everything else was under 1 percent.)3

As someone who’s been a Mac user long enough to remember when there were no good web browsers for the Mac, having both Safari and Chrome feels downright bountiful, and the competition is making both of them better.


  1. What really struck me about Petitt’s piece wasn’t the unfounded (to my eyes) dismissal of Safari, but rather his admission that he uses “Firefox for work, Chrome for play”. I really doubt the marketing managers for Chrome or Safari spend their days with a rival browser open for “play”, and even if they did, I expect they’d have the common sense not to admit so publicly, and especially not in the opening paragraph of a piece arguing that their own browser is a viable alternative to the rival one. ↩︎

  2. Back in December, when Consumer Reports rushed out their sensational report claiming bizarrely erratic battery life on the then-new MacBook Pros (which was eventually determined to be caused by a bug in Safari that Apple soon fixed), I decided to try to loosely replicate their test on the MacBook Pro review units I had from Apple. Consumer Reports doesn’t reveal the exact details of their testing, but they do describe it in general. They set the laptop brightness to a certain brightness value, then load a list of web pages repeatedly until the battery runs out. Presumably they automate this with a script of some sort, but they don’t say.

    That’s pretty easy to replicate in AppleScript. I used that day’s leading stories on TechMeme as my source for URLs to load — 26 URLs total. When a page loads, my script waits 5 seconds, and then scrolls down (simulating the Page Down key), waits another 5 seconds and pages down again, and then waits another 5 seconds before paging down one last time. This is a simple simulation of a person actually reading a web page. While running through the list of URLs, my script leaves each URL open in a tab. At the end of the list, it closes all tabs and then starts all over again. Each time through the loop the elapsed time and remaining battery life are logged to a file. (I also logged results as updates via messages sent to myself via iMessage, so I could monitor the progress of the hours-long test runs from my phone. No apps were running during the tests other than Safari, Script Editor, Finder, and Messages.)

    I set the display brightness at exactly 68.75 percent for each test (11/16 clicks on the brightness meter when using the function key buttons to adjust), a value I chose arbitrarily as a reasonable balance for someone running on battery power.

    Averaged (and rounded) across several runs, I got the following results:

    • 15-inch MacBook Pro With Touch Bar: 6h:50m
    • 13-inch MacBook Pro With Touch Bar: 5h:30m
    • 13-inch MacBook Pro (2014): 5h:10m
    • 11-inch MacBook Air (2011): 2h:15m

    I no longer had a new 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar (a.k.a. the “MacBook Esc”) — I’d sent it back to Apple. I included my own personal 2014 13-inch MacBook Pro and my old 2011 MacBook Air just as points of reference. I think the Air did poorly just because it was so old and so well-used. It still has its original battery.

    I saw no erratic fluctuations in battery life across runs of the test. I procrastinated on publishing the results, though, and within a few weeks the whole thing was written off with a “never mind!” when Apple fixed the bug in Safari that was causing Consumer Reports’s erratic results.

    Anyway, the whole point of including these results in this footnote is that I also ran the exact same test with Chrome on the 13-inch MacBook Pro With Touch Bar. The average result: 3h:40m. That’s 1h:50m difference. On the exact same machine running the exact same test with the exact same list of URLs, the battery lasted almost exactly 1.5 times as long using Safari than Chrome.

    My test was in no way meant to simulate real-world usage. You’d have to be fueled up on some serious stimulants to read a new web page every 15 seconds non-stop for hours on end. But the results were striking. If you place a high priority on your MacBook’s battery life, you should use Safari instead of Chrome.

    If you’re interested, I’ve posted my battery testing scripts for Safari and Chrome↩︎︎

  3. If anyone has a good source for browser usage by MacOS users from a general purpose website like The New York Times or CNN, let me know. I honestly don’t know whether to expect that the split among DF readers is biased in favor of Safari because DF readers are more likely to care about the advantages of a native app, or biased in favor of Chrome because so many of you are web developers or even just nerdy enough to install a third-party browser in the first place. Wikimedia used to publish stats like that, but alas, ceased in 2015↩︎︎

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samuel
1 day ago
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Safari, baby. Used it to build NewsBlur and still use it everyday.
The Haight in San Francisco
satadru
1 day ago
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Firefox on Android allows you to use ublock origin, whereas Chrome on android doesn't... so Firefox on Android has become my default browser on there, but Chrome stays as default for me on macos.
New York, NY
jepler
1 day ago
yeah as mediocre as FF-on-android is, the ability to install extensions is the reason I use it.
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Kirkman
1 day ago
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I want use Safari on the Mac as my go-to browser, since it obviously syncs with my phone, etc. But I keep running into issues where Safari will freeze and the entire Mac becomes unresponses, forcing me to power it off and restart. So frustrating. But Chrome never does that. It can only crash itself.
Ferguson, MO, USA
acdha
1 day ago
Do you have any extensions installed? Since dropping Flash support years ago, that doesn't normally happen in fairly heavy use for me with no extensions other than 1 Password
njr
1 day ago
Weird. Safari shouldn't be able to do that, either — it does use some private APIs but doesn't have any special privileges. Any user-mode app that can crash macOS is fundamentally a macOS bug, though it sounds like this one might be hard to isolate.
acdha
1 day ago
I've seen that kind of behaviour in two cases – video driver issues tend to be obvious but I've also seen it in cases where apps start rapidly leaking memory and the system becomes unresponsive until the swap file fills up and the app crashes
Kirkman
1 day ago
Pretty good description of the problem I'm describing here: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/7687562. I'm trying one of the recommended solutions.

First Look at ABC: Basic Connections

1 Comment and 2 Shares

[Alberto Piganti], aka [pighixxx] has been making circuit diagram art for a few years now, and has just come out with a book that’s available on Kickstarter. He sent us a copy to review, and we spent an hour or so with a refreshing beverage and a binder full of beautiful circuit diagrams. It doesn’t get better than that!

[pighixxx] started out making very pretty and functional pinout diagrams for a number of microcontrollers, and then branched out to modules and development boards like the Arduino and ESP8266. They’re great, and we’ll admit to having a printout of his SMD ATMega328 and the ESP-12 on our wall. His graphical style has been widely copied, which truly is the sincerest form of flattery.

But after pinouts, what’s next? Fully elaborated circuit diagrams, done in the same style, of course. “ABC: Basic Connections” started out life as a compendium of frequently used sub-circuits in Arduino projects. But you can take “Arduino” with a grain of salt — these are all useful for generic microcontroller-based projects. So whether you want to drive a 12 V solenoid from a low-voltage microcontroller, drive many LEDs with shift registers, or decode a rotary encoder, there is a circuit snippet here for you.

One of the things that we like most about the graphics in “ABC” is that they’re not dumbed down — they’re fundamentally just well-done circuit diagrams, but with graphic touches and extra detail where it actually helps to clarify things. This is a middle ground between the kind of schematic you use in a PCB layout program and the kind of diagram you get from Fritzing. In the former, every part has a symbol but multifunction parts like microcontrollers are just represented as squares bristling with pin numbers. In the latter, wiring up an IC is easy because the parts and pins are represented graphically, but you quickly run out of colors for the different wires, and the “breadboard” turns into a rat’s nest with a circuit of any complexity.

“ABC” takes the middle road, using standard circuit diagram style overall, but also the nice graphic representations of the ICs and modules that [pighixxx] is good at. Is a 2N2222 pinned EBC or BCE? You don’t have to look that up, because it’s sketched out for you here. We’d guess that this attractive, but information-rich, style is a great fit for the target audience — people with some electronics experience who do not yet have their favorite transistor symbol tattooed on their forearm. [pighixxx]’s diagrams are simple, easy to understand, easy to use, and pretty to boot.

There is a planned online counterpart to the book, with further elaborations of all of the circuit setups. They’re not finished yet, but they have a lot more of the flavor of the Fritzing-style, this-wire-goes-to-that-hole diagrams. This style does work better in an online format than in a physical book, because you can build up the rat’s nest in bite-sized steps, none of which are too overwhelming. But honestly, for an advanced beginner or intermediate electronics hacker, the book can be treated as stand-alone. The web content may help the rank newbie when they get stuck.

Tee-hee.

The breadth of circuits in “ABC” is fairly wide, covering most of the microcontroller-interfacing problems that we’ve ever encountered. None of the circuits are revolutionary — they’re the tried-and-true, correct solutions to the various problems, rather than anything too hacky or clever. We weren’t surprised by any of the circuits, but we didn’t find anything that we wouldn’t use ourselves either. These are basic connections after all, and a darn solid collection of them.

To sum up, “ABC” is an attractive book in a handy binder format that would make a great collection of solutions for anyone who’s just getting started in the whole “Arduino” scene but who gets hung up on interfacing the chips with the real world. It’s a handy reference for the pinouts of a number of frequently used parts, combined with the resistors, flyback diodes, level-shifting circuits, and whatever else that you’d need to make them work. It’s what we wish our simple circuit diagrams looked like. We like it.


Filed under: Hackaday Columns, reviews



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samuel
2 days ago
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Backed!
The Haight in San Francisco
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Add your own Custom CSS and Custom JavaScript to NewsBlur on the web

6 Comments and 9 Shares

Ever wanted to customize NewsBlur on the web but didn’t want to install custom browser extensions so you could shoe-horn in monkey-patched code? And if you did use a browser extension, didn’t you just hate having to keep it synchronized between your computers? Just for you, NewsBlur now has two new fields: Custom CSS and Custom Javascript.

Head to Manage > Account > Custom CSS/JS. And here’s what you can do with this new feature.

Install an unofficial dark theme for NewsBlur

Over on Stylish, a community for custom CSS, there are a bunch of stylesheets that change how NewsBlur looks. Have you ever wanted a dark theme? There’s a few and the most popular is made by NewsBlur user Splike.

Hide that module or link that you don’t want to see on NewsBlur

Don’t like seeing Global Shared Stories or the River of News on the Dashboard? You can hide them with this little bit of CSS:

/* Hides the Global Shared Stories feed */
.NB-feeds-header-river-global-container { 
    display: none; 
}

/* Hides the Dashboard River */
.NB-module-river {
    display: none;
}

Run a custom script

Ok, to be 100% truthful, I have no idea why you’d want to run custom JavaScript on NewsBlur. But if you figure out a reason please let me know! Either shoot me an email or mention it to @newsblur on Twitter.

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samuel
3 days ago
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As @lywyn mentioned, if you want to get the dark theme you'll have to remove the top line from the CSS: @-moz-document domain("newsblur.com") { ---css goes here--- }
The Haight in San Francisco
drchuck
4 days ago
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Ooo! Good stuff!
Long Island, NY
popular
3 days ago
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4 public comments
evmcl
3 days ago
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div.NB-feedbar-mark-feed-read-container { float: left !important; }
expatpaul
3 days ago
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Nice
Belgium
codersquid
4 days ago
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Neat. Will people share their favorite themes?
chicago
davehansenlange
2 days ago
What could possibly go wrong? I'm sure that no newsblur users would try and insert XSS and XSRF attacks.
codersquid
2 days ago
brb enabling greasemonkey. come at me bro^W^W^Wjust kidding. I'm doomed.
tingham
4 days ago
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Not working for me yet I guess.
Cary, NC
chrisrosa
4 days ago
same. have only tried in chrome + w/ incognito mode.
lywyn
4 days ago
if copy css from userstyles remove the domain wrapper. Eg. @-moz-document domain("newsblur.com") { ---css goes here--- }

Scrolling Is Going to Change in Mobile Safari

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Here’s an interesting exchange in a Hacker News discussion about my criticism of AMP over the weekend. Malte Ubl, creator and tech lead of Google AMP:

With respect to scrolling: We (AMP team) filed a bug with Apple about that (we didn’t implement scrolling ourselves, just use a div with overflow). We asked to make the scroll inertia for that case the same as the normal scrolling.

Apple’s response was (surprisingly) to make the default scrolling like the overflow scrolling. So, with the next Safari release all pages will scroll like AMP pages. Hope Gruber is happy then :)

“Om2”, who seemingly works on WebKit for Apple added:

In current iOS Safari, webpage scrolling is inconsistent from all other scrolling on the system. This was an intentional decision made long ago. In addition, overflow areas are consistent with the rest of the system, and thus inconsistent with top-level webpage scrolling. This is semi-accidental. In reviewing scroll rates, we concluded that the original reason was no longer a good tradeoff. Thus this change, which removed all the inconsistencies: https://trac.webkit.org/changeset/211197/webkit

Having all scrolling be consistent feels good once you get used to it.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it was a good idea for Google’s hosted AMP pages to use overflow scroll all along. The inconsistency definitely did feel weird. And the way they do scrolling prevents Safari from auto-hiding its top and bottom bars. I believe all the desired scroll effects could have been achieved without the use of overflow scroll.

That’s a pretty big change, but I’ll bet Om2 is right that it soon feels normal. Web views have had different scrolling inertia than other scrolling views ever since the original iPhone. (My beef with scrolling in AMP is not that that AMP’s fast scrolling is bad and Mobile Safari’s current slower scrolling is good, but rather that scrolling in AMP pages should not feel totally different than regular web pages. And I forgot to complain about the fact that AMP’s weird implementation also breaks Mobile Safari’s ability to hide the bottom and top browser chrome toolbars.)

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samuel
3 days ago
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The NewsBlur iOS app uses the 'normal' scrolling behavior, but because it uses UIWebViews for rendering, by default it wanted the slower, stickier scrolling behavior found in Safari. I thought it made the app feel like a web app, so I disabled it. Now that's coming to the rest of web views on iOS.

This means that the NYTimes app, which uses web views and the default slower scrolling, will speed up in the next iOS update and feel more like reading on the NewsBlur iOS app.
The Haight in San Francisco
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The colors of Mister Rogers’ cardigan sweaters, 1979-2001

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Mr Rogers Sweater Colors

Using data from The Neighborhood Archive, Owen Phillips charted the color of every sweater Mister Rogers wore on his PBS television program from 1979 to 2001.

Some sweaters were worn once and then never again, like the neon blue cardigan Rogers wore in episode 1497. Others, like his harvest gold sweaters, were part of Rogers’ regular rotation and then disappeared. And then there were the unusual batch of black and olive green sweaters Rogers wore exclusively while filming the “Dress-Up” episodes in 1991.

Some things about the sweaters and Mister Rogers:

- His mother knit the sweaters. Sorry, MISTER ROGERS’ MOTHER KNIT HIS CARDIGAN SWEATERS! I have not heard a more perfect detail about anything recently. He talks about his mom and the sweaters in this video — “I guess that’s the best thing about things. They remind you of people.”

- As you can see from the visualization above, Mister Rogers’ sweaters got darker as the show progressed. I will not speculate about what that might have meant.

- The Mister Rogers Marathon on Twitch is still going.

- But if you miss the marathon, there are plenty of episodes available on Amazon Prime.

Tags: color   Fred Rogers   infoviz   Owen Phillips   TV
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samuel
6 days ago
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"I guess that’s the best thing about things. They remind you of people."
The Haight in San Francisco
chrisrosa
6 days ago
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San Francisco, CA
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Fundamental Attribution Error on Parade in Massachusetts

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The Boston-area commuter rail system adapts the Japanese idea of trains that run every 1-2 minutes to American standards of efficiency. I.e., the trains run every 1-2 hours. A group of locals were having coffee at our town’s sole breakfast venue when we fell into a conversation with a woman from another town who had missed her train to Boston and was thus stuck waiting for 1.5 hours.

She was 53 years old, never married, and has just moved in with a 60-year-old man. He had 18- and 19-year-old children from a marriage that ended when the wife sued him under Massachusetts family law. An MIT Class of 1960 member cautioned her not to get married to her moderate-income boyfriend. Given her good career and relatively young age, she would be a prime target for a divorce-and-alimony lawsuit from this guy in the sunset of his career. She responded that both the boyfriend and everyone other divorced person that she knew in Massachusetts and New York (where she’d previously lived) had endured years of litigation with legal fees typically exceeding the cost of sending all of the children of the marriage through college. “I don’t understand why people who aren’t happy being married can’t just walk away with what they had earned,” our never-married newcomer said, “Why do they have to try to make money off their kids or their ex? One guy in New York had been cheating on his wife for three years and lying to her. Then he tried to get a share of her pension in the divorce. It took her 20 years to recover from that.”

Her model of the world was that people were fundamentally good and loving and considered their children’s welfare more important than getting maximum cash. But she had observed that all of the divorce plaintiffs with children whom she’d known were determined to get the last possible dollar for themselves out of their respective defendants, even if the result was a lot less total cash for the children (due to the legal fees and other transaction costs). How to account for the apparent discrepancy? “It is all the fault of the lawyers,” she said. “None of these people were that greedy until they hired a lawyer.”

I think this is a great example of the Fundamental attribution error, which research psychologists have shown is more prevalent among Americans than, e.g., people in India. From Wikipedia:

In social psychology, the fundamental attribution error, also known as the correspondence bias or attribution effect, is the claim that in contrast to interpretations of their own behavior, people place undue emphasis on internal characteristics of the agent (character or intention), rather than external factors, in explaining other people’s behavior.

She found it easy to believe in the evil character of all of the lawyers who had represented all of the divorce plaintiffs she knew about. She did not consider “external factors,” such as a legislative environment setting up a winner-take-all system for divorce litigants.

Related:

  • Divorce Litigation chapter (“Both attorneys are giving accurate estimates based on what they’ve heard from their respective potential clients. These irreconcilable expectations quickly turn into feelings of entitlement. People naturally get upset when they aren’t getting something to which they feel entitled. … Part of the reason that divorce litigation is so intense is what tends to happen at parties’ first meetings with attorneys. “A lawsuit never looks better than the day you file it,” one litigator told us. By definition the attorney who is interviewing only one spouse at the inception of a lawsuit hasn’t heard any of the other side’s facts. The result is that each litigant develops an expectation regarding the divorce lawsuit that is an unlikely best-case outcome.”)
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samuel
6 days ago
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PG has some pretty explicit and intense views on marriage and divorce. But after all these years of reading I've finally gotten to the paragraph that explains why divorce is so litigious.

“Both attorneys are giving accurate estimates based on what they’ve heard from their respective potential clients. These irreconcilable expectations quickly turn into feelings of entitlement. People naturally get upset when they aren’t getting something to which they feel entitled. … Part of the reason that divorce litigation is so intense is what tends to happen at parties’ first meetings with attorneys. “A lawsuit never looks better than the day you file it,” one litigator told us. By definition the attorney who is interviewing only one spouse at the inception of a lawsuit hasn’t heard any of the other side’s facts. The result is that each litigant develops an expectation regarding the divorce lawsuit that is an unlikely best-case outcome.”
The Haight in San Francisco
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