Washington Apple Pi

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Microsoft Internet Explorer, Version 5.0
Outlook Express Version 5.02

By Al Lubarsky

Washington Apple Pi Journal, July/August 2000, pp. 29-32, reprint information

Disclaimer - While this article was started prior to the publication of the Internet Explorer 5.0 test in May/June Washington Apple Pi Journal, it obviously wasn't finished before the conclusion of that test by Washington Apple Pi Labs. Since the Lab has vast quantities of both expertise and facilities, the reader is cautioned to carefully consider the points made in this article in light of that Quick Look. It is understood that at the Labs, among other things, there is a known relationship between the grounded AC receptacle and true ground potential.

It began when I felt the need to review the first reasonably decent Mac Internet offering s from Microsoft (I.E. 4.5/O.E. 4.5) for the March/April 1999 Washington Apple Pi Journal. Then just in time for a review in the January/February 2000 Journal edition, along came OE 5.0. Now it's Internet Explorer (I.E.) 5.0 and an update to Outlook Express (O.E. 5.02).

Again, the first indication of the new release came to me from Apple eNews:

6. Introducing Internet Explorer 5

Microsoft set itself some mighty big goals. Not content with the
performance offered by the already stellar Internet Explorer 4.5,
Microsoft was determined to deliver the fastest, most reliable, and
easiest-to-use web browser on the planet.

Internet Explorer 5--now available--does that and more, offering
features sure to make your Internet browsing more enjoyable than
ever. For example, with Internet Explorer 5 you can easily track
your auction activity, drag URLs to your desktop, manage your
favorites, archive web pages in its new Scrapbook area, customize
your Internet work space, and much, much more.

Learn all about Internet Explorer 5, the exciting new web browser
for Macintosh, by visiting Microsoft's MacTopia website:




After checking out the size of the download and comparing it with my patience and time available, it became obvious that the easy way this time is to just order the CD from Microsoft. The "handling charge" is $9.95 plus state tax ($10.45 in Virginia), delivery is promised in 6 to 8 weeks and all sorts of credit cards are acceptable to order on-line. The usual hesitation about providing additional funding to Mr. Gates was tempered by the feeling that he would soon lose about $30 billion in the upcoming stock market correction, so he would probably be more than usually grateful for my modest contribution.

After returning from a short trip out of town, the NASDAQ had begun to correct itself and the US Postal Service had delivered my saved mail (the other kind, which comes in a large plastic tub); it included the envelope from Microsoft. Delivery time of about a week, maximum.

Installation is still simple. Copy the disk icon onto the hard drive and check off the agreements. Everything goes smoothly. Favorites, preferences and settings from I.E. 4.5 automatically get carried over. And no need to download a separate 128-bit encryption file as in the past-- this version has it built-in -- a practice now allowable, evidently, by changes to Federal regulations.

For updating to O.E. 5.02, you do need to move existing 5.0 files into the new O.E. folder, unless Mac OS 9 is being run, in which case, this step is not required. These are located in the "Identities" folder within O.E. in both cases. If you are updating from O.E. 4.5 or earlier, it will be somewhat more time consuming, but also fairly easy. (See the Jan./Feb. 2000 Journal article, if you must.) Also note that while I.E. 5.0 will run under Mac OS 7.6.1, O.E. 5.0 won't. It needs 8.1 or later -- for real, since I've tried it once or twice on another machine, with 7.6.1 without success.

I. E. 5.0 Performance

The first big change is that the type size on a Web page, as viewed on an older (PM 6100) Mac is large and the font strange-looking. This can be changed fairly easily by entering the correct monitor resolution values under "Preferences: Language/Fonts". However, after using the larger and somewhat unusual font size for awhile, I find it sort of comforting to my aging eyes.

Next comes the subtitle out-guessing game, similar to the email address game on O.E. 5. As you fill in the desired URL, I.E. 5 attempts to decide which, of any sites previously visited, are of current interest. These show up in a logical listing (shortest to longest, perhaps) just beneath the address blank. While it is difficult to keep an accurate score, Microsoft usually wins this game, unless you go to the trouble of fixing the outcome in advance.

Now equipped with Netscape Navigator 4.08 (N.N.) and I.E. 5.0, the acid test on my screaming 66 MHz machine. Try a few timed tests to see if MS's great Tasman rendering engine is actually faster than the warmed over Navigator. A few simple tests without benefit of calibration; about the same performance when viewed at the end of a WAP Explorer 33.6 kbps dial up circuit in opening Web pages. A few seconds faster in loading some pages, but not consistently so. Never slower than N.N. I.E. 5.0 consistently opens about 5 seconds faster than N.N. on my machine -- that might save someone an hour and a quarter a year? For larger (1-2MB) downloads, Navigator still appears faster. Since it is not possible for me to duplicate Internet conditions between downloads, quantification is difficult. But using the average of several attempts, Navigator consistently displays faster speeds than the I. E. Download Manager. Usually N.N. shows about 3.3k while I.E. is below 3.0k, but this might just be an overly optimistic method of calculating speed by the N.N. "speedometer". Total download times while faster, do not appear to differ by the 10% or so shown.

Then off to check the weather maps with I.E. Weather Channel's looped local radar picture (formerly on Fairfax County cable TV; but now gone thanks to Cox's recent takeover) requires MRJ 2.2 in lieu of the 1.X version that was supported by OS 8.1 and I.E. 4.5. After about an hour, this 4.1 MB file is downloaded from Apple.com and installed -- the green blotches again move over Northern Virginia with vigor (sometimes they do stagger a little).

The other new features have been widely reported by now in the Journal, the Mac magazines, on-line and even in the "trade press", so there is no need to reiterate. Change the color, get rid of the tool bar, customize, use the scrapbook feature and have fun.

About the only conclusion concerning the performance of browsers on old machines in locations with dial-up service, is that it doesn't seem to make much difference. Just pick the one you, or your favorite Web pages, like the best.

OE 5.0, Revisited

The "Read Me" blurb on O.E. 5.02 states that it fixes some bugs in the original but doesn't get specific about new features. Since it is supplied on the same MS CD-ROM, (my first "hard copy" of these MS Internet applications, since the ones previously downloaded exist only on two hard drives) and the installation is relatively painless, it might be a good opportunity to try customizing O.E. 5. In my case, to add the feature most missed from O.E. 4.5 - namely the Progress Window. In O.E. 4.5, when logging onto the mail server, the Progress Window appeared. It contained some information as to the total size of the messages being downloaded and those being sent, as well as the barber pole representation of "Progress". For those using dial up service who occasionally receive multi-MB attachments at inopportune times, it may be considered an essential feature. But it is nevertheless mysteriously absent from all versions of 5.0.

Third-party expertise makes up for Microsoft's oversights.

After digging around on the Mactopia site and following the link to the "Unofficial" MS O.E. site for Macs, low and behold, several Apple Scripts designed to reinstall the missing Progress window. The latest of which, that claims to avoid the buggy-ness of earlier editions, is a freeware program called "Progress Window Connect 2.3", by Paul Berkowitz. After downloading this one, it also turns out that several other Scripting Additions are necessary to complete the installation. The helpful link to http://bbs.applescript.net allows downloading of Jon's Commands2.1, Sigmas_Additions and Sleep Commands .9b6. For those using Mac OS 8.1, a single script ("Choose from List") contained in the GTQ_Scripting_ Library 1.2.1 is also needed. (As mentioned earlier, 5.0 doesn't support Mac OS prior to 8.1; 8.6 and later have a later version of this script already installed.) After following the rather straightforward instructions supplied with Progress Window Connect 2,.3 all the scripts get properly placed-- AND-- a Progress Window that has more features than the original one in 4.5 appears. Great! In fact, it will handle several email accounts and contains a work around for the supposed O.E. 5 shortcomings in using Hot Mail accounts. Having no experience with these features, I'll leave that discussion to others. For me, this completes an email package -- (almost) for free and with no ads--that does all that I ask, and lots more. Until a better one comes along, that is.

Progress has been restored!

As I finish this article, a copy of Government Computer News, May 22nd edition comes across the desk. Headline: "Internet Explorer rules on Mac and PC". Of the seven browsers compared ( iCab, O.E. 5.0 and Netscape 6 preview 1 -all for the Mac and I.E. 5.5 beta 1 for Windows, Netscape 6 preview 1 for Windows and Linux and Opera 4.0 beta 3 for Windows) the highest grade, the only A- , is awarded I.E. 5.0. (Its PC version gets a B+, if you must know and/or care.) This from a publication that sometimes has trouble even spelling "Macintosh". And if you are anxiously awaiting Netscape's latest offering, be prepared for a "C", perhaps. (You may find the article at:http://www.gcn.com/vol19_no12/reviews/2008-1.html)

Government Computer News ratings.

Enough said.

Al Lubarsky has been a WAP member since 1995. His bio has appeared previously.