Choosing a web browser – why can't I just put up with the default

My first web browser was Netscape 1.1

I remember sitting in the training rooms of GEC Marconi Avionics sometime in the late 90’s, going through the self study ‘How to use the internet’ course. They were good courses, I spent many evenings learning better driving skills (spotting the hazards) and the most time consuming course of all – how to type. Still, now I can type almost as fast I think. The downside of which is my ramblings tend to digress very quickly, so getting back on track, I used Netscape 1.1 to search for ‘porsche’, because that was the suggested search using Altavista. We’re in pre-google days here, Internet explorer may have been around but wasn’t on the work computers.

Then we move to today and the browser of choice is….. well, I can’t make up my mind. I once preferred Netscape, eventually moved onto Internet Explorer. Then Firefox became my friend until the last year or so where it seemed to keep crashing every time I closed it. Now we have google Chrome. So, time to try them all and see what I think.

Start with…. Internet Explorer.
Always there, installed on my laptop. It does the job but I’ve never quite got used to the new layout of IE7. Tabs were a great improvement, it was those that attracted me to firefox a few years ago. I always have more than one window open, and I much prefer to have them all grouped into one program on my task bar.

Firefox
Firefox is great. I prefer the open source angle. I found it easier to use and faster than IE6 (but that could just be perception). I liked the tabs and it was my browser of choice for a few years. Unfortunately it started crashing on exit. Solution was probably just to uninstall then reinstall from scratch but I never got round to it. Still on my list of things to do.

Google Chrome.
Google should stick to making money from searches. The browser is rubbish. OK, a little harsh. The launch marketing was very clever. The design principles are great (single bar for search or URL input was ever so easy to use). The automatic home page creation of most visited sites and recently closed tabs made usability a breeze. Being able to drag a tab into it’s own window even had it’s uses. Unfortunately there are a few bugs to iron out. Like the “view source” command that should show you the source HTML of the page but actually requests the page again so you get a different source. I haven’t got all the plugins working correctly either, both flash and quicktime seem to have issues. Still, for the basic web browsing tasks it’s OK. Comparable to firefox I’d say. It does win the battle on leaving the largest viewable page area, with it’s ultra minimalist interface. When/if they fix issues like the ‘view source’ command it may well become my browser of choice, although by then the other players will no doubt improve too.

Safari.
Mac lovers are taking over the PC world it seems. Apple pushed the download through an iTunes update (only got iTunes for wining an iPod). I’m using Safari this afternoon for this blog post. I find the page a little more blurry than all the others. I think there is some ClearText Font Smoothing (insert correct term here if you know it!) but I haven’t found the setting to reduce it’s smoothing. Coming from the land of Mac, this also has a few things done a little differently to the PC way. Not right or wrong, just different. Like the close button being to the left of the name instead of the right. I’m not a fan of the grey shading style of the browser either, but it’s something I’ll get used to.

So, when it comes to desktop browsers which will I settle on?
None of them. I like things from each so will be keeping them all around for different reasons. Use them all for their strengths and switch between them to avoid their weaknesses.

Rotary – club visit 6 to Strood

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My last post said I was visiting a nearby club but unfortunately I was the only one who arrived. The members had all gone to a special event somewhere else. I did call the club secretary in the morning but I guess he’s away on holiday as I got no reply. I was going to phone others in the club directory in the afternoon but was busy with work. Still, no trouble, the short walk did me no harm.

So, club visit number 6 was actually 30 minutes away in Strood. I grew up in the Medway towns so it was almost like going home. One of the club members is Dennis Spiller, he’s last years District Governor and as I’ve mentioned before was one of my youth leaders when I was a teenager. He hadn’t seen me for years before I joined Rotary and now I keep turning up like a bad penny 🙂

So, with a past district governor in their club, I was expecting good things. In many ways, things were very good, but I left feeling very, very frightened. Me, writing negatively about Rotary? Surely not I hear you cry! Well, yes, if being frightened is negative for you then this will be negative. However, being frightened can also be a force for change, a positive thing, and I’m going to be concious from now on of doing things to prevent my club getting into the current position of Strood.

To begin with, this was the smallest meeting I’ve been too, just 13 people including me. On the plus side this meant I could speak in more detail to everyone so it was still worth going. There were also several people still on holiday (and one member had landed in the UK at 4am in the morning so the members dedication cannot be faulted).

They were proactively planning their version of ‘Do Good Things’, in particular organising chestnuts to be roasted on a stand at the nearby Dickens festival. They raise a lot of money through that and collecting with buckets at the nearby Morrisons. Bucket collecting is something we’ve yet to investigate but clearly effective if you’re in the right place.

All good so far, so why was I frightened? They formed just over 30 years ago and from what I can tell were exactly like us. I can see myself in their position in 30 years time. A club membership who’s average age is in the late 60’s. They have 21 members according to the directory and taking into account illness and holidays their attendance when I there must have been 90%. So why so few in the club?

In fact, they know their age balance is wrong and are working on fixing it. A few years ago a young teacher joined. This year he recruited another 30 year old professional into the club. The club are battling to find the younger people that can join and continue the good things their club is already doing. I’m frightened because if we are not careful our club will be in exactly the same position in 30 years time, or worse, we wont realise it at the time.

They have just moved to a new venue which will give them more space for members to meet, their past venue was described as ‘cosy’ with 16 present. I didn’t find out their growth goals but I hope they’re aiming to be 30 members or more within 12 months.

Rotary – The next level of administration

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I’ve written, lots!, but somewhere along the line I’m sure I’ve mentioned how Rotary appears to be a very good infrastructure for ‘Doing Good Things’. Above each club is the Rotary District. Each District reports to RIBI, Rotary International in Britain and Ireland. RIBI reports to Rotary International. The system is a classic heirachy, rules come down from above and should be implemented. Feedback and ideas come from the ground up and will re-shape the rules from time to time.

Our club’s District is 1120, and the structure is open that even a new Rotarian like me can turn up to the quarterly district meeting to find out whats going on and give an opinion. As you’ve probably guessed I have plenty of opinions! I went to the district evening meeting last month where most clubs were represented, giving a room full of somewhere near 100 people. The structure to handle that number of people was such that most things had already been discussed in separate sub committees and the meeting was essentially a forum for these to report their status and seek approval to do new things or make significant changes to procedures, as well as answer questions from anyone present.

I learn’t two things:

1) That there’s a fine line between; giving a large group of people information as a basis to vote upon, and them all understanding information in order to vote the way they mean. This is especially true when there were more than a couple of Rotarians with a hearing aid or two…

2) This (Rotary at District level) is an organisation that actively looks to improve things and it not, in principle, frightened of change.

The biggest example of this was a brief discussion on the organisation of the District Conference. It has been organised 2 years in advance (it happens each year but takes 2 years to plan) but the suggestion was made it’s organised further in advance by a new sub committee. The reason being there are so few conference venues that can take over a 1,000 people in a single weekend event. Next week I go to this years District Conference being held in Eastbourne, a town not in our district! I booked ‘late’ by Rotary standards, which meant I haven’t got a place at the formal dinner – 1,150 people booked before me and I’ve since found out that some clubs choose to go to local restaurants so there will be a lot of people there. Next year, or maybe the year after – I forget now, the conference will be in Brighton at a large hotel with more space. You don’t have to stay in the hotel but if you can. It’s 350 or so for the weekend with accommodation. Some people in the room took this as you HAD to stay at that hotel in order to go to the conference – out of the budget of many, therefore voted against brighton for the following year and said they’d rather go back to Eastbourne. The idea of planning 5 years in advance seemed to get pushed aside in the end.

For me this meeting also highlighted the pleasure of fellowship. I was on a table with a retired paper salesman. While talking the conversation came around to youth clubs and my involvement with the Air Training Corps (I’m a Civilian Instructor at 1242 Faversham Squadron). It turns out this retired paper salesman was a Cadet in the Air Training Corps in the first few months of it’s formation in 1941. He left to join the air force and flew Mosquito’s over northern france amongst other things. I am constantly amazed by the people I’m meeting through Rotary. I don’t think I should be amazed, after all there were a lot of pilots, and a lot of people have done a lot of different things. I think the difference is I’m taking the time to speak to more people and therefore finding things I’d never have known about before.

Anyway, back onto the topic of district, outside of the meetings I’ve seen lots of email on different subjects continuously developing things. There seems a growing emphasis on recruitment and ‘the missing generation’, Rotarians between the age of 25 – 50. No doubt this was the impetus to our club being formed. At 32 I’m clearly in the missing generation referred to. I’m curious to find out more about what this means (I’ve started asking for the membership statistics) and the history that’s led to this. At the moment I’ve no idea if Rotary is growing or shrinking in size. It’s reassuring to see that at a District and higher level these details are being worked on, so I can concentrate on my roll within the club. It’s also nice that, so far at least, everyone I’ve emailed a question to has been very helpful. I get the feeling that if I emailed the R.I. President for this year, D.K.Lee, I’d get a personal response.