Two things that make me feel like a cranky old man

1. Tabbed Browsing: People seem really excited IE is getting tabbed browsing. People seemed really excited when Mozilla et. al. got tabbed. I just don't get it. Is having a few more windows opened really that much of a problem? I still need to use two keys on my keyboard to switch between the tabs. What's the big deal? I normally have about a million windows open and I never have a problem finding what I need, I just can't figure out what I'm missing with the tabs. Do they posses some magical powers I'm not aware of? Do they organize things in a way that I'm missing? These are not rhetorical questions, someone help me out here, I just don't get it. I've got about a googlzillion plugins in my Mozilla, most of them are super useful and get regular use, but I never feel the need to open a new tab.

2. RSS Aggregators: People seem really excited about the ability to read a billion blog posts on one page. This one I can understand. The urge to read what hundreds of people are writing about is understandable. So, it's not that I don't understand, it's that I don't care. I don't care if I missed another link, another story or another thought from the blogosphere. I think I keep up with the people I enjoy reading fairly well most of the time and that's good enough for me. I suppose I'm on the supply side of RSS, and I've never felt the need to be a hyper-consumer of RSS. If I spend more than a few minutes a day reading blogs I always feel like I'm wasting my time. I don't mean to sound like an arrogant bastard again, but I really do have better things to do. I know I'm missing things, I know there's tons of good stuff being written, and I know I can learn a lot, but I just don't have the time. Yes it might just be ironic that LISNews offered some of the first RSS feeds, and yes it may be ironic I also run a web site that aggregates RSS feeds. And let me just say because it's not for me doesn't mean it's wrong. There's nothing wrong with you having a million feeds in your aggregator, it just doesn't currently fit in with how I use the web at this point in my life. For now I'll just keep working to make sure you have something to read in your aggregator.

My name is Blake, and I'm a cranky old man.



senility is setting in. Welcome to the club.

browser tabs?

I swear by em.

Some of this is less of an issue now, because of the ever-increasing cheapness of computing horsepower, but running each browser process in its own separate window is more resource-intensive than putting it all in one window. Switching from one window to another, especially when you have more than a few open, demands a context-switch from the OS. On systems with less RAM, this usually means cranking the hard disk to retrieve the new process from virtual memory.

MSWindows' default settings to manage virtual memory dynamically actually makes this worse. It's always expanding/contracting the swap files until they are scattered in little discontiguous fragments all over the drive. It already takes roughly 1000 times longer to get data from a drive than from RAM, just because of their different physical properties. Having to jump around the disk to reassemble the bits on the fly complicates that process and slows it down even further.

Try this: CTRL-N opens a new browser window; CTRL-T opens a new tab. For speed, I have both set to open with blank pages. On a Celeron 1.8 with 256Meg or RAM, the tab still opens noticeably faster.

Also, ALT-TAB in MSWindows gives you little window to scroll through to pick which other process you want. You have to hold the ALT key and TAB until you get the window you want. The process order changes each time you switch, favoring the most recently viewed windows. CTRL-TAB within Mozilla just goes right to the next tab in line. CTRL-TAB again goes on down through the list in order. Seems like the more things you are doing at once, the more work it takes to switch from one thing to another. For me, browser tabs makes this much more intuitive.

I have the middle button (scroll wheel) set to open a new tab with the clicked link, and to do it in the background. Say I'm reading an article that references a handful of other articles/sites. I just middle-click on each of the links as I'm reading. I get through the whole article without having gotten off on a tangent. Then I'll go check up on the various references. And I didn't have to wait for them to load.

On top of that, there's Windows' ever-shrinking task bar. Too many programs insist on running a background "accelerator" process in the system tray. Others, somewhat more politely, just drop an icon in the shortcut bar over by the Start button (or the worst offenders do both). As a result, many folks only have room for perhaps 4 or 5 legible task buttons. XP found a kludgey solution of grouping multiple instances of the same program onto a single tab and then popping up a menu so that you have to select again to get the one you want. Much nicer to have all the browser pages grouped across the top, separate from the icons for other programs. At 10x7, I can fit a physical maximum of about 30 tabs, but the practical limit is a still more than a dozen for legibility's sake.

Then there's the wonderful feature that lets you make a group of tabs into a single bookmark. I start up the browser each day with about a half dozen news sites, a summary of my bookselling inventory and most recent buyer feedback, plus the Gmail inbox of my main account. Whenever I have to give up the computer to the wife, I just bookmark the whole lot of what I had open. The next time I log in, I can pick it up roughly where I left off. 

Of course, after all that, I don't have anything to say about RSS because I've never even touched it. I dunno, maybe it'll end up scratching an itch I didn't really know I had. But right now, it seems like its just yet another new thing to sink some of my time into.

Half with you but then I'm older and crankier

I'm with you on tabs. I understand the resource argument given above, but I've never seen it work that way on my own computers--and, in fact, we ran some tests when working on an application suggesting that opening a dozen different browser windows have almost no effect on system resources. The difference between a new tab and a new window doesn't seem significant to me--but then, I wouldn't attempt to run XP on a 256MB system either. Not with RAM costing so little.

I love Firefox. I never use the tab function. If other people find it wonderful, great. For me, dropping down to the taskbar to change windows is at least as easy as moving up to the tab bar...(and I'm pretty ruthless about eliminating "accelerators" and other system-tray nonsense. For that matter, current XP seems to organize system-tray space so it never takes up much of the taskbar, using a double-arrow if you want to see all of the items.)

As for RSS aggregators, you're right if you don't find weblogs all that useful. I depend on them as a source of potential ideas and insights. For me, the difference is that Bloglines lets me survey 120 weblogs (not all that many, as hot aggregators go) in 10-15 minutes--and lets me keep track of dozens of weblogs with very few postings, ones that I'd drop if I had to check them individually.

As always, YMMV. I don't do podcasts because I don't have any convenient time to listen to them and because I can read so much faster than I can listen. That doesn't make podcasts useless, just not my own great tool just now.


I didn't like Tabs much at first, either. Opera seemed to be the only browser in which they made any sense to me although not enough to use Opera on a regular basis.

Now I love them. Instead of having 10 windows open and getting them stacked up in Windows XP, I can just click back and forth at will. Today is a light day thus far so I only have 5 tabs open, a view source, and one IE window.


I never thought about the resource issue, but I kind of group the pages I'm looking at into multiple tabs -- my web-based e-mails, blogger, bloglines, etc., stay open in one set of windows; one research project with associated journals and databases will be open in another; and tangents in 3rd-?

The thing with firefox is that you can do both or either tabbed and windows.

My tabs always open behind -- I like that so they can load while I'm reading whereas IE seems to grab your attention and throw you to the new site.

Re:browser tabs?

wow, great explanation.None of that seems to matter on this machine or my laptop, but that explains why they would help.I've tried grouping my tabs but never could see any advantage there either.Good stuff though, thanks!

Re:Half with you but then I'm older and crankier

Welcome back!I still feel like I'm missing alotta "potential ideas and insights" as well, but it's about all I can do to keep up with LISNews, I couldn't possible hit 120 other sites, this one keeps my busy enough.


I haven't touched Opera in ages, I'll have to take that thing for a spin, I always forget about it.For whatever reason stacking windows doesn't bother me much, chaos reigns!


Ah, loading while reading, that could be a huge + if on a slow connection, nice point!

Re:Half with you but then I'm older and crankier

And that's why I use Bloglines: I could manage maybe a dozen if I was hitting each site. Discounting Monday-Tuesday (when I was plowing through 1,200 items...), I probably click through to no more than two to five sites per day: Otherwise, Bloglines itself tells me what I need to know. It really is a "coffee break" process.

We cover different things. You keep an eye out for news and the like. I rely on, ahem, LISNews to do that for me.

Re:Half with you but then I'm older and crankier

"You keep an eye out for news and the like. I rely on, ahem, LISNews to do that for me."And I rely on you to keep an eye out for all the billion other things out there!

One thing I like about tabs

I didn't get the tabs thing at first either.

One thing I really like is that I can set a group of tabs as my home page. So when I open Firefox, four different sites (my aggie, two email accounts and Tasktoy) all load and open at the same time. In theory, you could use this feature as an aggregator of sorts, by setting all the sites you care about as a collective home page.

Re:browser tabs?

I have to second this. It is a great explantion.
I would throw in that tabbed browsing (alongside the mousewheel) have changed how I look at and organize information.

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