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Opera 10.60 Brings More Than Speed

Opera 10.60 beta is out the door, and they've reinstated Linux as a first-class citizen for releases. The latest release has more speed, WebM support, and Geolocation for users who want everyone to know exactly where they are when posting from Twitter.

Opera keeps churning out new releases faster than you can say “Vuvuzelas are annoying.” With the 10.60 beta, Opera is faster, smarter, location aware, and serving up WebM video. Waiting for 10.50 final for Linux? Forget it, hop on board the beta train to 10.60.

Opera decided to skip the final 10.50 release for Linux altogether and jump ahead to 10.60. At the speed the company is releasing new builds, it’s not hard to see why. Let’s take a look at what’s new in this release.

Speedy

The speed battle continues, with Opera striving to achieve speed supremacy over Google Chrome and Safari. The company says that this release is 50% faster for JavaScript than 10.50. I usually like to benchmark Opera versus the latest Chrome and Firefox, but was a bit hesitant to try benchmarking this time around. Not because of any flaws with Opera, but because my ISP (Charter) was providing flaky service. I couldn’t be sure that conditions would remain the same between browser tests, so I opted to hold off.

What I did test is how pages rendered with the Opera 10.60 beta JavaScript engine. For the most part, Opera 10.60 renders like a champ. However, I found a few glitches. Google Docs didn’t display properly using Opera 10.60, showing read-only displays of the docs instead. Thinking it might be a problem with the browser ID, I told Opera to identify as Internet Explorer — but still found the same issues.

On Identi.ca, the page renders OK excepting the text box has the same background as the rest of the page — which can make things a bit challenging to read when posting. The text box should have a white background.

WebM Support

Opera isn’t alone in this, but it will be one of the first browsers shipped with WebM support. All you need to do to see WebM videos in 10.60 beta is run it and check out a page with WebM video samples. Playback is smooth and videos look great in 10.60.

It’s good to have support in Opera for this, but it will be a while before there’s a lot of use for WebM. YouTube is ramping up support for WebM, which is where many folks get most of their online video, but outside of YouTube I haven’t seen much rush to produce or deliver WebM content.

Geolocation Support

Another new feature in 10.60 is support for the Geolocation API. If you’re one of those folks into Foursquare or other sites that want to update the world with your location, Opera will help you do it!

Call me a curmudgeon, but this is one feature that I could skip quite happily. I’m not crazy about the idea of sharing location information in an automated way. I’m sure that legitimate applications for Geolocation exist, but I’m not terribly interested in using them. Opera does do a good job of verifying that you want to share this when a site asks for the location info. I tried it out using Identi.ca. The first time it’s used, Opera not only verifies that you want to provide the information to the site in question, but then pops up a terms and conditions dialog that gives greater detail about the Geolocation feature and privacy policies.

What may not be obvious if you don’t read through the entire dialog is that Opera feeds location data through Google Location Services and then provides the guesstimate of the latitude and longitude to the Web site. So not only are you dealing with Opera’s privacy policy, you’re also dealing with Google’s.

How does it fare? Not so well. When I posted to Identi.ca with Geolocation turned on, it provided my location as Bradenton, Florida. That would have been accurate a few weeks ago, but I was posting from St. Louis, Missouri. I’ve no idea how Opera is getting its information, but it’s definitely not error-free. This may be an error on Google Location Services’ part, though. Either way, some work remains before this is entirely solid.

Miscellaneous Improvements

Opera 10.60 includes a slightly buffed up “peek” effect for tabs, so when you hover your mouse over the tab bar you see prettier and rounder thumbnails of pages.

Speaking of tabs, I have to say that Opera offers the best out of the box experience with tabs. You can re-arrange them to the right, left, or bottom of the browser without an extension needed. You can create a “follower” tab that will open any links clicked in the current window. I’m finding that feature insanely useful. It may not be new, but it is useful.

They’ve also buffed up Speed Dial a bit to help with wide-screen monitors, which is nice. I don’t use Speed Dial enough, which definitely needs to change.

Other than those features, Opera 10.60 isn’t terribly different. It’s a nifty upgrade, but with iterations coming out so quickly there’s not likely to be huge leaps forward in each release.

Worth Checking

The Opera 10.60 beta has a few bugs, like some oddness editing Speed Dial pages, but it’s stable and speedy. Generally I test Opera and then go back to using Firefox and Chrome, but it’s starting to grow on me a bit. I might just stick with Opera for a few weeks and see if I could make a go of it as my regular browser.

This release does bring more than speed, even though that’s always the first feature the Opera folks lead with. Opera often hypes its speed, but undersells its actual features. While speed is good, it’s not terribly useful if the rest of the browsing experience is sub-par.

The main sticking point is still extensions. No Evernote, no Xmarks, no Delicious, and no Instapaper extensions for Opera. Without those, my browser is much less useful. If Opera can solve its anemic add-on offerings, it’ll be in a much better position.

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