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Review: Netsurf under AmigaOS 3 (Update)
If nowadays users of classic Amiga hardware are going to surf the Internet, until recently they could only choose between iBrowse and A-Web. But both web browsers have not been updated since 2006 and 2011, respectively. As long as you are only intending to browse websites like or the Aminet, then these two are sufficient - but it is quite impossible to access more complex websites like Our editor Daniel Reimann has examined the new alternative called Netsurf:

In recent times, almost unnoticed a third option for surfing the Internet has been added: Netsurf. More precisely you would have to say a third and a fourth option, because there are two different versions of this browser that was originally ported to AmigaOS 4. Almost unnoticed, because these ports were only early alpha versions. Now both ports have been released in version 3.4.

Netsurf is a free, open source web browser, which is available for different platforms. The project was established in 2002, the first public version 1.0 of Netsurf was released in 2007. Already in August 2008 a port for the operating system AmigaOS 4 was added. Since that time, the browser has been uninterruptedly developed and now is available in version 3.4.

Since about a year, Chris Young is also working on a ReAction-based port for AmigaOS 3. According to Chris, Artur Jarosik has been developing a version for OS3 for a longer time, but which so far required the ixemul-environment. Today we are going to have a closer look at the port of Chris Young and find out if this version can be launched, is working or even is suitable for daily use. Test system was an Amiga 1200, extended with a Blizzard 1230/50 and 32 MB RAM, which is connected to the scart port of a TV set.

The readme states explicitly that AmigaOS 3.5 or 3.9 with 32 MB RAM are required. Besides it is pointed out that "this is early beta quality software for testing only". Chris also wrote, that "it *will* crash!". Well, this I can already tell you: Netsurf did not crash a single time - this is quite an unusual quality concerning Amiga software: Hats off! The archive also contains a detailed tutorial in AmigaGuide format.

While earlier versions of Netsurf could not be unpacked under OS3, this is no longer a problem with the latest Lha archive. It contains an installer, which simply copies Netsurf to the desired destination and finally runs FixFonts. Afterwards you can launch Netsurf without installing any other additional Software.

After a few seconds, a first welcome screen is opened which tells you that Netsurf is "The Open Source Web Browser for AmigaOS 4". After that, the browser window is opened. The first time you start the program, a locally saved home page is loaded:

Netsurf screenshot

Of course this default home page can be changed.

Chris Young has uninterruptedly developed his port of Netsurf. While in earlier versions the preferences window did not work, the latest version even has added Tabs - which so far cannot be closed, though.

Netsurf screenshot

As you can see looking at the screenshot, the buttons for "forward", "backward" und "reload" currently do not work. According to Chris, this bug crept into the latest release while implementing the tabs.

Before we are going to load some more complex websites using Netsurf, two facts: Javascript is still disabled. And which perhaps is some more disappointing and because this considerably limits Netsurf: HTTPS connections do not work using this version of the browser. According to Chris Young it should work, but when accessing, after a few seconds a message pops up: "Timeout was reached" - therefore at the moment you cannot access websites like which use HTTPS.

But what Netsurf can load:

Netsurf screenshot

As you can see (by the way, in the background the Workbench works using 256 colours) sometimes there are some graphic bugs if you use the "normal" presentation. The horizontal scroll bar also is missing. But the browser has a real nice and handy feature: It can scale.

Netsurf screenshot

According to Chris Young, this function still does not work as it should, because the website should not be cut off at the side, but either there should be the horizontal scroll bar or the whole website should be seen. For me, this feature was very helpful, because often the fonts are displayed much better when the website is scaled.

I want to mention two issues: Speed and memory consumption. As you can see on the lower left corner of the last screenshot, Netsurf always informs you about the time it takes for loading a website. In this case it took Netsurf 266 seconds to load, while is loaded in about 42 seconds. This is a lot of time but compared with its previous version, which makes me watching the monitore for about 70 seconds, it loads it much faster.

According to the author, all preferences are set by default to values which speed up the browser as much as possible. Only in respect to the memory he recommends to try out to set the value of the disc cache to 0. In my case, this had not any influence to the speed of Netsurf. However I did increase and decrease the value for the memory cache: For my computer, the value of 20 MB was found to be best. Higher values did slow down my system again.

As usual for Amiga browsers you can disable loading pictures, which saves a lot of loading time. Everyone has to decide for himself if and when pictures should be loaded ot not. For example loading the website took Netsurf 874 seconds to load with pictures and only 292 seconds without loading of pictures.

The number of colours set for the Workbench screen did not have an explicit influence to the loading time of the browser.

By the way, I did not have any issues with missing free memory at any point. The lowest available free memory which I had was about 11 MB. On average I had 19 MB of free RAM.

What conclusions can we draw from our tests? Actually I can recommend to give this early version of Chris' Netsurf a try! Of course the missing features like disabled Javascript or still not working HTTPS support are limiting the potential of the browser - and compared with iBrowse and AWeb, loading times sometimes are extremely high. But already at this early stage, Netsurf reliably works and gives you the option to access websites, which until now were not available to the classic Amiga user. Chris Young asks to report bugs to You can have a very nice and personal contact to him and he actually does answer to your questions and problems. So it depends on all of us, the users of OS3, to provide feedback to him and demonstrate our interest so he keeps looking forward to develop Netsurf with energy and enthusiasm.

Update: (04.03.2016, 00:30, cg)

In the meantime, we figured out how the SSL problem can be solved: The configuration file Netsurf/users/default/choices contains a "curl_fetch_timeout" that determines how many seconds Netsurf will wait until it displays the timeout error message. Increasing that value to 60 we managed to loadebay's classifieds (just to hit the next stumbling block, due to the lack of Javascript):

Netsurf screenshot

Loading worked fine aswell now. Why it describes our SSL client as "bad" instead of "imrovable" - Chris Young tells us it should be the latter - is currently being investigated.

Netsurf screenshot
(cg) (Translation: dr)

[News message: 26. Feb. 2016, 15:38] [Comments: 0]
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