Opera Adopts Chromium, Loses its Soul

Just days after Opera Software released the first version of Opera Mobile powered by the Chromium engine, it has unveiled an early preview of the desktop version. The latest build of Opera Next bumps the version number to 15, and utilizes Chromium 28. This means that Opera for desktop is now built on top of Google’s Blink rendering engine.

As we have come to expect from any major Opera release, there are plenty of changes in the latest version. Of course, the biggest change is the adoption of the new layout engine. Opera hopes that the website compatibility problems that have plagued it since its inception will go away with the adoption of Blink, which is a fork of WebKit. Thanks to the popularity of mobile devices as well as Chrome for desktop, WebKit is currently the most popular engine in the market. The new engine also helps in other ways. Opera has never been slow; however, Opera 15 feels fast. Really, really fast. In fact, it feels a lot faster than the stable release of Chrome, which is still at v27.

Opera-15-Preview-Build

Other new features include an improved speed dial that adds support for folders, and a new discover page that features a customizable stream of news from your selected region. Somewhat controversially, Opera has dropped support for traditional bookmarks. Also new to this version is a ‘Stash’ functionality, which is essentially Opera’s take on ‘Read It Later’ (now Pocket). You can add any website to your Stash by clicking on the heart icon in the address bar, and come back to that page whenever you feel like. Opera has also received a fresh coat of paint. The new skin feels more native, and is brought to life by some well thought out animations. Opera Turbo has been rechristened to ‘Off Road Mode’.

Unfortunately, the new engine and the fresh coat of paint come at a cost. Opera 15 isn’t just the old Opera with a new engine under the hood. It feels like an entirely different browser. Old users of Opera are going to be frustrated out of their wits by Opera 15. A lot of things that made me fall in love with Opera in the first place are no longer there. Opera Software has decided to separate the mail client from the browser. M2 is now an independent app which supports POP3 and IMAP mail accounts, Newsgroups, and RSS feeds. Unfortunately, it appears that IRC wasn’t deemed useful enough to be retained. One of my favorite features in Opera was its RSS client. Unlike other browsers, Opera offered a feed reader that was competent enough for most users, with the added advantage of tight integration with the browser. I loved not having to remember to separately launch my feed reader to read stories. I loved being able to instantly subscribe to any website that I was browsing. All that is no longer possible in Opera. To make matters worse, bifurcating the two functionalities didn’t really make Opera any smaller. Opera 15 is a 22 MB download, while Opera Mail is another 12 MB download. Opera 12 used to include both and still weigh only 13 MB.

In addition to splitting the mail component, Opera has also tossed out a number of beloved features. Here are some of the stuff that I noticed in the short time I tried using the new version:
– The famous sidebar has been eliminated. So you no longer have access to Notes or any of the other panels.
– All of advanced tab features have been chopped off. This includes visual tabs, pinned tabs, and even tab stacking.
– Private browsing is still present; however, you can only create private windows, and not private tabs like before.
– Per-site preferences, which allowed you to tweak how Opera behaved on each website has been tossed out.
– The new download manager is prettier, but doesn’t even allow you to copy the URL of a downloaded file. Also, you no longer get to specify where you want to save each file.
– Simple mouse gestures are still present; however, visual guide has been tossed out. I also couldn’t find a way to configure my gestures.
– Opera no longer has a true MDI (multi-document interface). Pop-ups now open in new windows, and the ability to resize browser tabs is also gone.
– Content blocker been canned.
– Trash can, which stored previously closed tabs and windows, is missing. Ctrl+Z hotkey also doesn’t work.
– Opera resumes sessions, but doesn’t have any of the powerful session management options it previously had.
– You can no longer save webpages in the MHTML format.
– The interface is completely uncustomizable. Forget about using vertical tabs or adding a status bar, you can’t even add new buttons or move stuff around.
– Couldn’t find any option to use userjs.
– Ability to create and modify search providers is missing.
– Opera Link is missing; however, this will almost surely make a comeback.
– Magic Wand, Opera’s password manager is no longer around. However, I would be surprised if it isn’t added back at some point of time.

That’s a pretty lengthy list, and I haven’t even used the browser for half a day. As it stands now, Opera 15 is a Chrome skin. It lacks pretty much everything that made it stand out from the crowd. I know that hate is a pretty strong word, and I detest using that word on something that lots of people have worked really hard to create. But, it’s the word that gets closest to describing my feelings about Opera 15. The good news is that this is only a preview build, and there is a possibility that we might get back some of the features by the time it’s ready for public consumption. However, seeing how extensive the list of missing features is, I’m not holding my breath.

You can download Opera 15 from www.opera.com/next. This release only has Windows and Mac builds, since Unix builds still need a bit of work. During my testing I didn’t experience any stability or performance issues. However, do keep in mind that this is a preview build.

Chromium Flavored Opera for Android Released

After spending a little over two months in the beta-zone, Opera for Android is now ready for prime time. The Norwegian browser maker has published the first stable version of Opera with Chromium rendering engine to the Play store.

Opera for Android is a major revamp for the popular mobile browser. Under the hood, it ditches Opera’s Presto engine in favor of Google’s Chromium rendering engine, which itself is based on WebKit. The biggest advantage of Opera for Android is that it supports Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and up. Chrome for Android on the other hand requires at least Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). This is crucial as almost 40% of Android users are still on Gingerbread. Opera also mentioned that it intends to “stay closely in sync with the Chromium development cycle, doing frequent updates”. This might indicate that Opera intends to move away from feature driven release cycles to schedule driven rapid release cycles like that of Chrome and Firefox. Google has already announced that it will be forking WebKit to create its own rendering engine called Blink, which Opera will also be adopting.

In addition to everything that Chromium 26 supports, Opera for Android also features some additional ‘standardsy goodness’ like WebGL 3D context and CSS3 @supports. Another new feature is background playback support for native HTML5 audio. You can start playing a song on Soundcloud, switch to a different tab or even a different app, and the audio will continue playing. You will be able to control the playback from the notification area.

Opera-Android

Opera for Android also features a complete revamp of the user interface, which is now more in line with Android design guidelines. It adds a new speed dial with folder support, a discover feature with latest news and updates, a combined search and address bar, and an off road mode. Off road mode is the new name for Opera Turbo, which compresses web pages to save bandwidth and improve browsing speed on slower networks. Some of the major features that didn’t make it to this release include Opera Link (sync) integration, custom search provider support, and access to about://flags. Support for tablets like the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10 is also missing.

[ Download Opera for Android ]

Opera Ditches Presto, Will Begin Using Chrome’s Engine

Opera Software has never had it easy. Opera has always been the browser that is ignored by most, and loved zealously by a few. Yet, not only has it managed to survive for almost two decades, but has also grown into a profitable publicly traded company employing almost a thousand people across the globe. Today, the Norwegian browser firm announced that it has reached the milestone of 300 million users.

Three hundred million is a major landmark for Opera, which had reached the hundred million mark less than three years ago. However, Opera Software can hardly afford to sit back and relish its achievement. It’s desktop market share has practically stagnated, and its head-start in the mobile segment has been practically nullified by the rise of Android and iOS. Realizing the difficult situation it is in, Opera has done what very few fans and followers could have even imagined. It has decided to completely ditch Presto.

Opera-Presto-Rendering-Engine

Presto is Opera’s layout engine, and one of its prized creations. It has served Opera well. It allowed Opera to promote web standards, push for a faster surfing experience, innovate with advanced developer features, and earn additional revenue through licensing deals. However, it was also turning out to be Opera’s biggest drawback. Developing and maintaining a rendering engine is an extremely complex task. The fact that there are only four modern rendering engines – Trident (Internet Explorer), Gecko (Firefox), Webkit (Safari), and Presto (Opera) — exemplifies this. The fact that Presto had the least market share often meant that developers didn’t test their websites on Presto. The end result was annoying compatibility issues in Opera. Opera Software tried long and hard to tackle the compatibility issue. It created dedicated positions called “Web Opener” to promote cross-browser development practices, and in extreme cases, even fixed website bugs on its own through browserjs. However, with Webkit becoming a de-facto standard in the mobile space, and gaining momentum rapidly in the desktop market, Opera was fighting a losing cause.

This is not the first time Opera is making a big, bold move that few could have predicted. Back in 2005, Opera went from being a shareware to a freeware on the back of a search deal with Google. The move allowed Opera to break out of its niche, and increase its user base from hundreds of thousands to millions. Now, Opera is taking another bold step. Will it work? Or is it too little too late for the browser that seems destined to be forever the little guy.

I believe that Webkit offers Opera a way out that didn’t exist earlier. It’s a shared code base that is being used and improved by multiple entities. Switching to Webkit will free up valuable resources for Opera, as it will finally be able to stop worrying about website compatibility. It will also save Opera the effort of duplicating cutting edge standards that other browsers have already implemented. Yet, I can not help but wonder, how things would have turned out if Opera had open sourced Presto earlier.

Through this year, Opera will be transitioning to the the Chromium rendering engine, and V8 JavaScript engine. We have already seen an experimental browser called Opera Ice, which utilizes Webkit. At this year’s MWC, Opera will be exhibiting another new Webkit based Android product.

While the move to Webkit is undoubtedly the right one for both Opera Software and its users, it’s hard not to feel a tinge of sadness to see Presto go. When it was released, it was the fastest and the most standards compliant engine in the market. It did a lot of good things, for Opera as well as the web. Hallvord Steen fittingly paid homage to the mere bits and bytes that was Presto.

Its software personality was one of surprising brilliance combined with equally surprising shortcomings. It was resourceful, forward-looking and often ahead of its time yet at other times neglectful of even long-stated needs and requirements. It had some hissy fits and temperamental interaction with other software, especially certain plug-ins. Nevertheless it carried out great work and brought the company that cared for it 300 million users, over the years being ported to an incredible number of platforms.

Dell Releases Chromium OS for the Mini 10v

Today, Dell’s Technology Strategist, Doug Anson announced that a Chromium OS build for the Mini 10v netbook is available for download from their website.

Chromium OS is the open source version of Google’s Chrome OS. Like Chrome OS, it is a minimalist operating system with just a browser – Chromium browser. Chrome OS and Chromium OS are quite similar to each other except for a few things like verified boot.

The only known problem with the Chromium OS build for the Mini 10v is that sound is broken. Dell, with the help of Broadcom, has managed to get the Wi-Fi on the Mini 10v working, though.

So, if you own a Dell Mini 10v and want to get a feel of Chrome OS, you should consider installing this build that Dell has released. First you will need to download the image file from Dell’s server.

Download Chromium OS for Dell Mini 10v

Notes:

  1. Installing Chromium OS will wipe out your hard drive.
  2. Dell does not provide support for Chromium OS.

After downloading the file, extract the file. If you are on Linux you can do it with the command,

$ gunzip ChromiumOS_x86_May13.img.gz

If you are on Windows, you can extract it using applications such as WinZip and 7-zip.

After extracting, you will get an IMG file. Make a bootable flash drive with the ISO file. Boot the Mini 10v from the flash drive and login using the username dell and password dell1234.

Once logged in, press ALT+CTRL+L to bring up the Terminal. In the terminal, type

$ install

Once that is done, type

$ exit

The terminal will close. Reboot and you should have Chromium OS on your Mini 10v.

[source: H-Online]

What is RockMelt? Do We Need a Facebook Web Browser?

Yes, there’s a new web browser designed around the idea that you can share more, and share more quickly on Facebook and Twitter. That alone may turn some people away, depending on how much they value their privacy. However, after trying it for a short time, I can see how this browser could easily turn normal Facebook users into hyped up Uber-Facebook users.

RockMelt was founded by Eric Vishria and Tim Howes, and is backed by Netscape developer Marc Andreessen.   It was released yesterday, mostly by invitation only. You can get a copy of this browser by visiting RockMelt.com and signing up via your Facebook ID.

After signing up late last night I received my invite and downloaded it. The install went fairly quick and here’s the first thing I saw … a Facebook login.

rockmelt-login

Yes, that’s right, it seems to be required. However, that makes sense.

It took me quite awhile to figure out most of the actions I could perform. If you open the RockMeltmenu at the top right corner of the browser, and click the Helpitem, you’ll find help for a few basic tasks. Here’s the first thing you see there.

4

As some of you have already noticed, RockMelt is built on top of Chromium, which is the basis for Google’s Chrome web browser. Those using Chrome now won’t have a hard time getting around in the browser.

Rather than go into too many details, I’ll show you the RockMelt video preview. It’s very well done.

RockMelt video

Techie Buzz Verdict:

I tried it, I like it, and haven’t found any major bugs yet. If you are already using Google Chrome, and you’re in Facebook often, there’s no reason not to give RockMelt a try. You don’t have to make it your default browser, and it won’t do anything to your current web browsers.   My wife reports that Farmville works very well in Chrome and RockMelt.

Download: http://www.rockmelt.com/


iPad Running Chromium OS

If you are not fond of the running on the , here is some good news. The folks from Hexxeh have been able to port the Chromium OS to the iPad.

iPad Chromium OS

The above screenshot was posted on Hexxeh’s blog. Excited? Hang on for more on this topic, we can wait to see a video of the Chromium OS in action on the iPad and post it as soon as we get to see it ourselves.

Firefox Edges Out Chromium – Will Remain Default Browser In Ubuntu Netbook Edition

In the last Ubuntu Developer Summit, it was decided that Chromiun will be the default web-browser in Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10. It was not the final decision, the final decision was left till Alpha 3 and they started shipping Ubuntu Netbook Edition with Chromium as the default browser in the Alpha 1 and Alpha 2.

Now that the Alpha 3 is approaching, Jorge Castro has confirmed that Chromium will not be used as the default web-browser in Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10. They have decided to stick with Firefox for Maverick,  at-least.

This is what Jorge wrote to the Ubuntu Mailing List:

This is a follow up status report from the Chromium-by-default-on-UNE discussion at UDS. The desktop team have decided to stick with Firefox for UNE for 10.10, however Chromium is moving into main. Here are the critical blockers:

  • We don’t have a plugin installer, ie. if you go to a Flash site it sends you to Adobe’s webpage instead of just installing the plugin.
  • No langpacks or translations support in lp so we can’t translate Chromium, we have to depend on upstream to do it in one huge thing. :(
  • Doing all the xulrunner packaging changes in order to get the CD size down AND switching to chromium in one cycle is currently not feasible with the people we currently have.

Jorge says that they want to switch to Chromium but right now there are simply too many issues with having Chromium by default. One problem is the disk space – Chromium is about twice the size of Firefox. Another problem is the release of security updates. With Firefox, the Ubuntu developers get around 1-2 weeks to test new security updates. However, with Chromium it is a bit different – they just release them once they have fixed it without giving the Ubuntu developers time to test it.

Chromium will still be available in the repository though.

Top 5 Favorite Chrome Extensions

chrome-extesions-ico I’ve seen lots of other people do this. Now it’s my turn. Below are my top 5 favorite extensions for the Google Chrome web browser, in no particular order.

after-the-deadline 1. After the Deadline

With a name like that, it’s surprising that anyone uses it. It doesn’t give you any clue as to what it really does. Here’s a quote from the gallery:

After the Deadline uses artificial intelligence to check spelling, style, and grammar. Use it to check your tweets, find mistakes in your email, and socialize with confidence. Click the ABC icon in the lower-right corner of an editable area to proofread your writing.

chromed-bird

2. Chromed Bird

Ok, another unusual name. If you use Twitter, this is very handy. I haven’t used many of the features, but you might. Quote from the gallery:

Chromed Bird is an awesome Twitter client extension for Google Chrome with lots of features.

Some of the most important features are:
* Add and remove timeline tabs “on the fly” using the new right-click context menu
* Create custom search queries that will update automatically
* Preview image links by hovering them
* See all your tweets in an unified timeline
* Follow your timelines, @mentions, lists, DMs and favorites
* Compose, reply, RT, share, favorite and delete tweets
* Create short URLs within the extension
* Preview shortened URLs before clicking them
* Track read / unread tweets
* Notify user whenever new tweets arrive

cooliris

3. Cooliris

Another name that doesn’t mean much, but has to be seen to be believed. This awesome extension brings 3D image browsing into your browser. Here’s a quote and a video to follow:

Meet Cooliris, the 3D Wall that speeds up search on Google Images, YouTube, Flickr, and more. Enjoy the richest way to view photos from Facebook, Picasa, and even your own computer. On our infinite 3D Wall, you can effortlessly scroll though thousands of images and videos in seconds without having to click from page to page.

Click here if you can’t see the video.

facebook

4. Facebook for Google Chrome

Finally a clearly named extension. Yes, it’s an extension that lets you very quickly view, post and comment on your Facebook pages. I have come to depend on it. Here’s a quote from the gallery:

This unofficial extension lets you check your Facebook news feed, wall, inbox and notifications.

Version 2.0 will now indicate when you have new notifications or unread messages. Additionally, the extension now uses Facebook Connect as a more reliable way to retrieve your information. Also, the extension now supports English, Spanish and French.

gtalk

5. Google Talk Gadget

If you have Gmail, you are very likely also using the G-Chat that’s built in. This extension allows you to pop it out into it’s own little window. It simply works great. Here’s a quote:

This is a very simple extension that allows to use Google Talk Gadget with Google Apps.
Please note that the chat session will not run in the background unless you click the ‘pop out’ link in the top left corner.

That’s all for now. I hope you see something here that you haven’t seen before. Be sure to comment below and tell us about your favorite Chrome extensions.


Flock Dumps Mozilla Firefox for Chromium

Flock the popular social browser which earlier ran on the Firefox Gecko engine has dumped Mozilla for Chromium, the popular new browser which also powers .

flock_beta_chromium

The new Flock beta browser now runs on Webkit which is also part of Safari and Google Chrome. Flock which has about 8 million users has also landed a new feature where you can create a Flock account and sync your settings to the "cloud".

Users can use the cloud feature to take their accounts to any Flock browser without having to reset it again and again. Considering that most of the other browsers too have an option to sync profiles or at-least bookmarks, it made more sense to have it in the newest Flock beta too. Apart from that Flock almost remains the social browser people have known it to be.

The switch from Firefox code to Chromium will come as a big jolt for Mozilla whose internet browser Firefox’s popularity has been going down since the launch of Google Chrome. Also the team at Flock had initially worked with the Mozilla team on the Netscape project before moving towards creating Flock, so their decision to branch out Flock to Chromium will be even more bitter.

You can download the latest beta of Flock by visiting this page, more info and details are available at the official Flock blog here.

(Source)

Chromium Now Supports WebM Videos

Google has just released its VP8 video codec it acquired a few days back as WebM. This acquisition came with the acquisition of On2, which was an expert in video compression technology.

As expected, the Chromium browser on Ubuntu now supports this new video codec. To try a WebM video, you will need to install the latest daily build from the Chromium daily build PPA at launchpad. The fastest rising Opera web browser also introduced support for WebM videos recently.

The added advantage in WebM videos, as spotted by d00d @OMG!Ubuntu is that the CPU usage for WebM decoding is minimal compared to Adobe Flash. This would make it ideal for mobile devices as well. He has also provided a link for you to try out some WebM videos on YouTube.

Now that a proper video converter is out with support for WebM videos, we expect to see this video format take over the world of online videos, in the next few months.