Gadget speak

Firefox and Safari go head-to-head in the browser wars.

Separated at birth: Firefox versus Safari

Both browsers have been in the news lately and it may seem strange to compare these particular browsers with scant reference to the market leader, Internet Explorer. But they are available more widely than Internet Explorer because they are available on Windows and Macs - Firefox is even available on Linux.

Thus, we are entering another browser war era - not for overall dominance, but to be the natural alternative to Internet Explorer which is the default browser for the vast majority of desktop environments. The prize would be an increased importance in the make up of the Internet as desktop applications move from existing solely on user's desktops to establishing a presence in the Internet cloud.

Firefox

Firefox 3, the latest Web browser from Mozilla, broke the 14 million download mark recently. The company hoped for five million downloads in a World Record attempt for downloads in a 24-hour window. It surpassed that goal - ending up with over eight million downloads.

It is a free Web browser, originally bundled with the Mozilla Application Suite. According to the most recent figures available, Firefox has approximately a 19 per cent share of the recorded usage of the Web browser market, which puts it second behind the market leader, Internet Explorer.

Firefox introduced Windows users of the world to tabbed browsing, an integrated spell checker, live bookmarking, a download manager, incremental find, and an included search architecture that allows the user to choose their desired search engine.

Because it is the only major browser available on the Macintosh, Windows and Linux operating systems, it has a greater reach than Safari and lays better claim to being platform agnostic. But it's interface borrows a great deal from Windows environments - making it a less appealing alternative for Mac users.

Safari

Apple's Safari was first released as a public beta on 7 January, 2003 when it became the default browser for the Mac operating system.

The mobile version, released soon after, is the native browser on the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch portable devices.

Safari for Microsoft Windows was released last year on 11 June, 2007 as a public beta and is compatible with Windows XP and Windows Vista. Like Firefox, it includes tabbed browsing, an integrated spell checker, a download manager, a bookmark feature fashioned around iTunes jukebox software and many other features.

Earlier this year, Apple's Safari drew controversial headlines when Apple started to use its large install base of iTunes on desktops around the world to, not just upgrade iTunes itself, but to tag on a download of Safari when the upgrade application detected that the software did not exist on the client computer.

Understandably, on the Mac, it integrates very well and pages load incredibly fast.

However, on the Windows platform, Apple has had early teething problems.

Also, whereas Firefox borrows from Windows, Safari's interface is designed to flow in a similar fashion to the Mac OS X. Therefore, Windows users might find it's UI a greater culture shock.

Simplicity has been a mantra for the design of all Apple products, whether they are software or hardware-based, and the designers of the Safari user interface clearly sing from the same hymn sheet as Apple's other products.

But the question that many are asking is: 'Why is there increased development in the browser market?'.

As far as the Mozilla Foundation is concerned, the World Wide Web is a civic and social resource that should not be dominated by Microsoft or anyone else.

Apple's commercial reasons for developing a browser for Windows is probably known to just a few within the confines of Apple's Cupertino base. Although it is fair to say that it is a little bit more than Steve Job's claim to provide "a glass of ice water to somebody in hell".

Technology clinic

What gadget should I take with me?

I don't own an MP3 player or even a camera phone. I am going travelling with my fiancée and we shall be coming back with the same last name. I like music that I can listen to on my own or that I can share to suit any situation; it may need to be loud and clear.

Do I need an iPod with docking station - with or without DAB radio? What about an iPhone? It shouldn't be too large, and I would like to be able to use it in the garden on our return. I would like something that is rechargeable, rather than an AA battery eater.

John Sharpe BEng CEng MIET

Since you require an MP3 player and a phone, I would recommend the new 3G iPhone, which shares the iPod interface. Therefore, it has the best accessories programme of all the media devices out there and you're spoilt for choice in relation to speaker docks.

DAB radio may not work in some regions abroad, but you can check on www.worlddab.org.

For the dock, I recommend the Parrot Party - it's portable, sturdy and rechargeable. You can connect your phone to it using Bluetooth, which will mean one less cable to lose.

The iPhone is available on contract on the O2 mobile network. Price will depend on the contract you sign up for. The Parrot Party is available from their website (www.parrot.com) for £79.99.

Illegal downloader confesses

I'm a Virgin Media customer and I have to admit that I have illegally downloaded about eight songs and the pilot episode of Blake's Seven using Bittorrent. But I am concerned that my ISP may disconnect my Internet.

Name and email withheld

It has been reported that Virgin Media has sent letters to 800 of its customers warning that it would disconnect them if they continue to illegally share or download copyright protected content. The record industry plants music files on common peer-to-peer networks in order to catch illegal downloaders. Once activated for download, it would send the IP address to their legal team which would then contact your ISP. It seems likely you have escaped this time - but don't expect always to be so lucky.

Going, going, gone… the Hoff's car

Perhaps you're the proud owner of a tight perm, a leather jacket and a silk shirt buttoned down to the naval. To complete the picture, you may want to own the Trans Am sports car that was used in the third and fourth series of the 80s TV show 'Knight Rider'.

The original KITT car was recently on sale on Internet auction site eBay.

Starring David Hassellhoff as Michael Knight, 'Knight Rider' became a cult US show as he and his super car - KITT, which stood for Knight Industries Two Thousand, toured America fighting crime for the Foundation of Law and Order (FLAG).

Whereas today's talking car's conversational skills may be limited to helping you get from A to B, this car - with a distinctive red light bar in the nose, specialised in cutting one-liners and turbo-boosting itself over obstacles and frightening villains in the process.

The description on eBay states: "This is one of the original vehicles from the series introduced initially in the third season and then re-converted to simulate the 'Super Pursuit Mode' variant of KITT that featured in the fourth season and was later used in the 'Knight Rider' made for television movie (1984) and for exhibition and promotional purposes."

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