From:         Patrick Crispen 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 14 DEC 2004 - Updates From the Left Coast


The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

Howdy, y'all, and greetings once again from deep behind the orange curtain in beautiful Irvine, California, the national theatre of Bulgaria.

Before we begin, let me say a special thank you to everyone at the Georgia Educational Technology Conference, the Virginia Educational Technology Leadership Conference, and the North Carolina Educational Technology Conference for inviting me to speak at their conferences over the past few weeks. Not only did I rack up some serious frequent flyer miles, I also had a *wonderful* time. If you were unable to attend, SHAME ON YOU! You missed out. But, don't fret. You can find all of my PowerPoint presentations on my website at

In addition to spending the past few weeks eating airline food [which, like "Microsoft Works," is a contradiction in terms] I also changed jobs. I am now the Faculty Training and Support Coordinator for the California State University, Long Beach, home of the Dirtbags. [No, really. How can you NOT like a university whose baseball team is named the DIRTBAGS?!] Anyway, my new boss [who is not a dirtbag] is a long-time reader of Tourbus, so y'all have to promise to be on your best behavior from here on out. :P

Update: Java
Audience: Everyone

Martin asks: In late Spring or Early Summer in Tourbus, you wrote about the Java situation where Microsoft would be dropping Java support. Has that happened?

Not exactly. Shortly after I wrote that post, Microsoft paid Sun just shy of two billion US dollars [1.5 billion EUR or 53 moose and 12 geese Canadian] in return for Sun's settling antitrust lawsuits
against Microsoft. So Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine isn't going away anytime soon [or at least not until December 31, 2007.]

But, I still stand by what I said back on January 6th: Sun's Java is better [and safer] than Microsoft's. To find out why and to learn how to get the official version of Java on your PC or Mac, check out


Once you get the latest version of Sun's Java, how do you uninstall Microsoft's buggy Java Virtual Machine? Well, the honest answer is you can't, not without a whole bunch of unnecessary and potentially dangerous steps. Fortunately, Sun's Java removes any pointers to Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine, so you can safely abandon it in place.

Firefox v. Mozilla v. Netscape v. Internet Explorer
Audience: Everyone

Angela writes: I have a quick question about Netscape. You recommend ditching Internet Explorer, but what about Netscape? Do you recommend Firefox over Netscape as well and why? Should Microsoft Outlook be avoided too for the same reasons?

The answer to all of your questions, Angela, is "yes." I hope this helps. Actually, the following email from my dad, the Rev. Bob "Bob" Crispen [not to be confused with Dr. Bob Rankin who isn't my father] sums up the whole browser war quite nicely.

Firefox is just a web browser. Thunderbird is the corresponding email program (and it's a dandy). At one time they called their calendar Sunbird, but now it's just called Mozilla Calendar, and it's a plugin for either Firefox or Thunderbird. [See ]


Mozilla is Firefox plus Thunderbird plus an IRC client and a web page editor, all tied up in one pretty bundle. If you want to replace The World's Most Dangerous Web Browser (Microsoft Internet Explorer) just get Firefox. If you want to replace The World's Most Dangerous Email Program (there's a tie between Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Outlook Express), just get Thunderbird. If you want to replace both of them at one fell swoop, get Mozilla.

However... there's no law against getting Thunderbird and Firebird instead of Mozilla. In fact, that's what I use at home. I never use IRC, and I don't like their HTML editor. Small is beautiful.

Netscape gives some money to, the lovely folks who are responsible for Firefox and Thunderbird (and Camino for Mac OS-X). So they take the results and integrate them into their browser. Generally Netscape is a revision or two behind the Mozilla products.

Rough edges:

(1) Mozilla's calendar can't read Outlook's calendar. That's because the Mozilla calendar uses a standard calendar format and Microsoft doesn't.

(2) Firefox and Thunderbird each have calendar plugins. It looks like the same calendar, so why there's two of them is a mystery. And what's a calendar doing on a web browser?

(3) Both Firefox and Thunderbird have plugins for reading RSS feeds, neither of them very satisfactory. Firefox treats RSS feeds as bookmark folders and Thunderbird treats them as message threads. For now if you're heavily into RSS, you still need a separate RSS feed reader like FeedDemon.

(4) Last I looked, Mozilla's HTML editor was pretty wretched. It won't produce valid XHTML Strict, and it's only a little better than Netscape 4's HTML editor. On the other hand, it's free, and it beats the pants off FrontPage.

(5) There are people who love the way Netscape handled USENET news. If you were one of them, you'll love the way Thunderbird does it. If not, you probably already use Xnews, and Xnews is still the most flexible, feature-packed free news reader out there.

One thing Tourbus riders want to know: Are Firefox and Thunderbird (or Mozilla) ready for prime time? Absolutely. Not only that, they're miles ahead of Internet Explorer and the Outlooks. The spam filter and message sorting on Thunderbird are grown-up examples of their genres. The filtering on the Outlooks is a toy. And Firefox even has that favorite feature of Opera fans, tabbed browsing, plus a rendering engine that's fast and bulletproof.

More importantly, while Internet Explorer and the Outlooks were designed to be dangerous--and have a grim history to prove it-- Firefox and Thunderbird are designed to be safe. The most effective thing the average computer user can do to improve the security of her computer is to stop using Internet Explorer and the Outlooks and start using Firefox/Thunderbird, Mozilla, or Netscape's new suite.

I hope that clears things up a bit. If you have any questions or comments, or if you just want to see a list of hyperlinks to the tools my dad mentioned in his email, feel free to join us in the Tourbus forums here:

Tourbus Forums -

I'd love to hear YOUR comments on this whole Firefox v. Mozilla v. Netscape v. Internet Explorer mess.

That's it for today. Have a safe and happy week, and we'll talk again soon.

The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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