Over the last couple of workdays, in between viruses, I’ve had to diagnose some flaky Web browsers. The browser might work fine for me, but a user will swear it’s crashing. You can run the repair tool on Internet Explorer and/or take them up to Internet Explorer 5.5SP2, then you can hit a few sites and see what happens, but even a Microsoft product can usually survive 15 minutes of regular work (unless we’re talking about Word 2000 with one of my book chapters loaded, in which case you’re lucky to get five minutes’ stability, but I digress).
A Web search on “web browser stress test” turned up nothing useful. I found lots of tools for stress-testing Web servers, but I wanted to stress-test the other side. Finally I just went to BrowserTune and ran it. When IE passed all the tests, I declared the installation stable.
Then yesterday I grew weary of only having the Dillo and Konqueror browsers on my main Linux box. Dillo is lightning fast but it still won’t render sites like cnn.com and espn.com properly. It’s readable, but sometimes annoying. It’s the best occasional-use browser I’ll ever see, but I’m not comfortable using it all the time. Konqueror’s a decent browser, and has a lot of promise, but it doesn’t always render things properly either. And sometimes it’s annoyingly slow. I needed a well-known browser that most Web designers keep in mind when coding their pages, but of course I wanted to compile it myself… That leaves out Internet Exploder, of course. And I can’t compile Netscape myself… Or can I? I went and got Mozilla, and the current build is almost indistinguishable in appearance from Netscape Communicator 6.x. I found it renders well, and quickly, loads about as fast as Konqueror. And it includes an invaluable resource: Under the Debug menu, there’s an option called “choffman’s browser buster.” It’s just a link to a Mozilla site that repeatedly loads Web pages for as long as the browser stays running (so, until it crashes or you close a window). Great stuff. If part of your job is building Ghost images for new PCs, you’d do well to run one or more of these tests overnight (why not run several, in separate browser windows?) to make sure your browser installation took. If you ever have to troubleshoot an end-user’s Web browser, you’ll thank yourself for bookmarking that site.