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I Failed the “Going Flash-Free on Mac OS X” experiment

July 22, 2011

Eight months ago, I read an article on John Gruber’s Daring Fireball about how to ditch Flash on my Mac. The premise is a great and novel idea with many theoretical benefits. Apple has been pushing for years, since the introduction of iOS to wean people off of the atrocity known as Flash. I followed the guide and tried my best, but it just didn’t stick. Why did I fail? find out below. 

John’s article was actually a variation off of this article, but he had a few extra tips. It all starts with Safari, the default Apple browser. The blogger suggests to use the Flash uninstall tool to completely remove the plug-in from Safari and Firefox so that no Flash will load when visiting web sites. The benefits to this is reduced processor load, better battery life on notebooks, and faster page load. With the Flash plug-in completely removed this tell some web pages to load HTML 5 versions of the video instead of the Flash version. For the web sites that have nothing other than Flash for video, Gruber’s work around was to you Chrome. Chrome comes with its own Flash-plug in backed in. You can disable it but it is there and does not rely on the Same plug-in that Safari and Firefox use. 

So, a couple week go by and I am trying this out. I find my self switching over to Chrome more and more to check out a video or two that I wasn’t able to access with Safari and then something started to happen. Chrome and Safari share the same underpinnings in that both are derivatives of Apples WebKit, the rendering engine of the browsers but they fork off in different directions from there. The more I used Chrome, the more I started to like it. 

I use multiple operating systems everyday. Although the Mac is my primary machine, I remote into Windows machines and run multiple Windows virtual machines for testing. Chrome has this great sync feature built in that syncs all my bookmarks, settings and plug-ins like LastPass together so no matter which machine I jump into all my stuff is there. Safari does have this ability with the soon to be dysfunct, paid service MobileMe, but you need to download a separate installer for windows to install the MobileMe control panel separate from safari. With Chrome I am able to just log in with my Google account and BAM, all my history and settings. 

A couple other things I like about Chrome, over Safari, is the single bar and my perceived speed increase and the frequent updates. Chrome has a great single input bar at the top of the window for search or for inputting addresses. In Safari I am constantly entering Google searches in the wrong place and that leads to a Safari error saying it can not find the server. I also I feel like the application cold launches much faster and simple things like opening new tabs or opening a link in a new window is quicker without the cute little animation from Safari. As far as updates go, I feel like Chrome is updated much more frequently than Safari to provide features like pre-fetching DNS and java rendering updates. 

So, my experiment failed because the backup browser became my primary browser. Sure, I could have disabled the plug-in and maybe used Safari as the backup for Flash content, but, be it that I am usually not far from power and the inconvenience of switching to another browser in the middle of something, I will stick with Chrome and its Flash plug-in. I do, however, agree that this is a dying, overextended way to view video on the Internet and hope that we can move past it, sooner rather than later. 

I hope to get more tips from John Gruber’s Daring Fireball. If this experiment would have worked I would be without Flash and running smoother accross the Internet, however I am happy with my switch to Chrome. 

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From → Rant

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