Thursday Oct 26, 2006

The Temptation of Firefox 2

[Editor Update May 21, 2008:  Keith has moved on to another team within Oracle and, sadly, is no longer an active contributor to this blog.  Feel free to direct any questions about his posted articles directly to Steven Chan, instead.]

Hot on the heels of Microsoft, Mozilla has released their latest update in the form of Firefox 2.

Firefox 2 logo:

Although it won't show up as any kind of high-priority automatic update, it's likely that many users will want to upgrade to take advantage of its new UI and security features. However, we all thought it would prudent to remind you that deploying Firefox 2 to any Oracle production environment is not recommended until after certification has been completed.

Rest assured, though, we do have plans to certify Firefox 2 with E-Business Suite 11i and 12, and you'll find out about here as soon as that's done.

Firefox 2 tabs:     <br>

In the meantime, if you'd like to use Firefox 2 for any other browsing you need to do, you can still use my earlier article as a guideline for installing versions 1.5 and 2.0 side-by-side.

Related Articles


Thursday Sep 07, 2006

Pre-Release Browsers: Why Internet Explorer 7 Matters

[Editor Dec 14 Update:  IE 7 is now certified with the E-Business Suite.  See Microsoft IE 7 Certified with Apps 11i.]

[Editor Update May 21, 2008:  Keith has moved on to another team within Oracle and, sadly, is no longer an active contributor to this blog.  Feel free to direct any questions about his posted articles directly to Steven Chan, instead.]

After a lengthy and unintended delay, I will now begin the "last" of my three-part series on working with pre-release browers. I would like to say I saved the best for last, but I'll try to be more objective and say that it's really the hardest that I saved for last: Internet Explorer 7. In fact, it turned out to be so hard, that the issue is best divided into two separate posts, so perhaps you haven't seen the last of this topic yet.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 logo 2: <br>

For this post, I'll concentrate on why you will most likely want to test Internet Explorer 7 before it is released, and how to avoid some potentially nasty surprises when it is released, and shows up overnight on every PC in your organization -- even though you told everyone not to download it on their own. As one might expect, Microsoft is eager to help you on both points, with readily available IE 7 release candidate downloads, and a highly important Blocker Toolkit to manage the incoming tide.

Bigger than Big

Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 (IE 7) is one of the most talked about updates in browser history. Most notably, it is Microsoft's first major update to their core browser product in nearly five years. IE 7 has promised many new features that bring it up to parity with competing browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari, but the biggest changes, despite being under the covers, will have even more of an impact in the IT department than on the users' desktops.

Microsoft is making great efforts to do a better job of adhering to web standards, and "clean up" much of the buggy CSS and JavaScript behavior that
has been the bane of every web developer's existence. Chances are if you're reading this blog, you don't design web sites for a living, so you may be wondering, why is this so important to you? The answer comes in two parts.


 

Seeing is Believing

First off, if you customize the look and feel of any Oracle HTML-based applications, you're probably more impacted than you may know.

It's important to understand that you can't throw an HTTP request around without hitting a website these days that doesn't have some kind of code branch along the lines of "if IE then do this (hack-filled code), else do this (standard code)". Microsoft is well aware of how this practice has ballooned over the years, and because of this, they made the unusual move of sending out an early warning to web developers and site maintainers around the world, saying that many of these web page "hacks" will not only fail to work with IE 7, but will actually fail to render properly, yielding unintended consequences and, in some cases, totally unreadable or non-functional web pages.

This means that testing your internal web-based applications and even helping to test vital supplier web sites is crucial to ensure a smooth transition with IE 7 arrives. Included in that list of applications is any customizations you may have made to E-Business Suite.

Granted, it will be difficult to fully test it without certified E-Business Suite code; rest assured, we've got a headstart on our certification efforts and are working hard to keep the gap between release and certification as small as possible. In the meantime, you will probably get the best results by extracting your customized HTML code and testing it independently from the rest of the E-Business Suite code. This will also allow you to roll out your changes along with any interoperability patches we may require as quickly as possible.

Coming Soon to a PC in Front of You

The second reason for the importance of pre-release testing is that Microsoft is sending you this new browser whether you like it or not.

Capitalizing on its popularity, and the fact that they have control over the product as a "core component of the operating system", the new browser version will be automatically delivered to all Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 users that have the Automatic Updates feature configured on their desktop. Although it won't exactly be forced on users, IT departments that have configured their users to automatically download and install updates from
Microsoft will find that one day in the near future, quite suddenly, everyone will have gone from running IE 6 to IE 7. (Ed. Update: This actually won't happen invisibly; customers will always have to consent to the upgrade in a pop-up window. See the followup to this article for more details.)

If you aren't sure, open up Automatic Updates from the Control Panel. If you see something configured like this:

Automatic Updates: If the first bullet is selected, as shown here, IE 7 will automatically be downloaded and installed. If the second bullet is selected, the user will have the ability to deselect IE 7 before installing any other updates.<br>

then IE 7 will automatically be downloaded and installed to your machine. If the second bullet is selected, you will have the ability to deselect the IE 7 update before installing any other downloaded updates.

While Microsoft is simultaneously using the lure of new features and security improvements to encourage its user base to upgrade, they are also taking advantage of their deep OS integration to minimize the user base running the older, outdated browser as quickly as possible. There are certainly benefits to this approach, but the impact it will have on IT departments and web designers around the world that have yet to clean up their IE-specific code is nothing short of painful.

Damming the River

Before you panic, however, Microsoft has you covered. Microsoft is offering a bone to the IT departments out there in the form of an Internet
Explorer Blocker Toolkit
. This toolkit will allow you to configure your network so that the browser update is "blocked" before it can be delivered to PCs in
your domain, until you decide your organization is ready for it.

Oracle has recently published
MetaLink
Alert 390582.1

on this topic; if you're interested in learning more about this tool, I encourage you to check it out.

In fact, I would go so far as to recommend that everyone that is responsible for PCs that are using Internet Explorer to access E-Business
Suite review this alert as soon as possible.

Alternatively, if you have control over automatic updates on your machine or your network, you may want to turn off the feature that automatically applies these patches. (If you're one of the many companies that believes in testing automatic updates before deploying them widely, then you're probably already doing this, and should be insulated from the sudden change.)

Preparation Before Preparation

The upshot of all of this is that before you can prepare to test your applications and services with the new version of Internet Explorer, you should prepare everyone else by ensuring the update doesn't get deployed prematurely.

Very soon, I'll discuss how you can go about testing IE 7 on your network without getting in the way of your E-Business Suite usage. Depending on your goal, as you'll soon find out, this turns out to be either very easy or very hard.

Related

Friday Jul 21, 2006

Working with Pre-Release Browser Versions

[Editor Update May 21, 2008:  Keith has moved on to another team within Oracle and, sadly, is no longer an active contributor to this blog.  Feel free to direct any questions about his posted articles directly to Steven Chan, instead.]

Editor Dec 14 Update:  IE 7 is now certified with the E-Business Suite.  See
Microsoft IE 7 Certified with Apps 11i.


Like Steven, I'm rather particular about the web browser I use every day. (Pick up a copy of O'Reilly & Associates' Firefox Hacks and scan the list of contributors in the Preface -- you'll see just how strongly I feel about it.) Since the majority of my working time is spent there, new features and improvements are often a strong motivator to experiment with beta and pre-beta test versions of new browsers. But being early releases, one must use caution and discretion before throwing them onto your primary machine, and especially before using them in any kind of production setting.

Still, that shouldn't keep us from looking, right?


Welcome (to) Bon Echo


Last week, Firefox users were treated to the first official beta release of Firefox 2, which had previously gone by the codename "Bon Echo". The new major version -- which is really somewhere between a minor and major release -- offers several valuable new features, such as: 


  • Safe Browsing (built-in anti-phishing protection)
  • tabbed browsing enhancements (such as reopening closed tabs)
  • inline spell checking for text boxes
  • better support for reading and subscribing to RSS feeds (like this one!)
  • session restore capabilities
  • Microsummaries (bookmarks with dynamic titles updated in real time)
  • a search plugin manager
Firefox 2 Beta:

 


The final release of Firefox 2 is expected in the third quarter of this year, and will support a wide variety of operating systems, including Windows 2000, Windows XP, Mac OS X, and Linux.


Playing Catch-Up


Not to be forgotten, the behemoth of the web browsing business is also getting ready to release a new version.


Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 is the final beta release of Microsoft's first major browser update in nearly five years, and adds significant features that bring it more in parity with the other leading industry browsers.


The new IE brings to the party new features such as these: 


  • improved security features
  • tabbed browsing, including "Quick Tabs" preview and auto-restore
  • new streamlined interface
  • improved printing support
  • support for RSS feeds
  • instant search box
IE7 Beta:

 


Internet Explorer 7 is expected to ship later this year, and will only support Windows XP Service Pack 2 (and the forthcoming Windows Vista operating system, but that's a topic for another posting).


The Support Folks Make Me Say This


Unfortunately, Oracle does not support beta browsers when using our products. So please do not use any version of Firefox 2 or Internet Explorer 7 with Oracle E-Business Suite (or other Oracle products) in production use until we have announced certification for the final versions of these browsers, which will hopefully happen sometime shortly after their release.


Now That Your IT Manager Has Left the Room...


Okay, so certification and support notwithstanding...if you're like me, you're probably eager to try out the new version anyway. So what can you do?


The answers will be coming soon. I'll be writing a couple of "HOW TO" posts that will tell you how to gain some familiarity and experiment with these pre-release browsers safely, and without interfering with your certified and supported production browser.


Stay tuned!

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