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06.Oct.2019



Review of browsers on an Amiga 1200 under AmigaOS 3.9 (Update)
In 2019, for the operating system AmigaOS 3.9 there are three different browsers which can be used to surf the Internet using an Amiga 1200? But how does this work? Our editor Daniel Reimann has taken a closer look.

It is hard to believe: In 2019, still it is possible to surf the Internet using my 25 years old Amiga-1200 running AmigaOS 3.9. Recently the best-known browser for the Amiga, called IBrowse, has been updated to version 2.5. Besides, there are two different versions of the browser NetSurf, which both are constantly developed: Artur Jarosik's recently updated developer version 3.10 is based on SDL, Chris Young's ReAction-based version also has been updated to developer version 3.10 in July. This version constantly is being replaced by updated builds.

The key question is: Which websites you can surf using these three browsers and an outdated, at least very slow performing computer technology? How do they manage the websites of the Internets, which nowadays are created using standards like CSS, HTML5, Javascript and a lot of pictures and clips? A first indication that this will be not quite simple is the fact, that by the release of version 3.10 both NetSurf browsers for the first time provide rudimentary support for JavaScript.

One aspect is clear: Browsing the Internet using an Amiga 1200, upgraded by a Blizzard-1230 accelerator board, it requires a lot of patience and creativity. This article is not supposed to and cannot review all aspects but maybe gives you an idea how differently the browsers display the layout and text of the websites, how much time they take and by that is supposed to encourage you to (again) browse the Internet for yourself.

Being able to load websites within a reasonable time, by default loading pictures and Javascript is disabled. In this way some sites look a little bit "amputated", but it saves a lot of time. As we shall see sometimes it cannot be avoided to load pictures. Otherwise you have not access to some functions of the website.

We start our tour with our homepage. In this case we indulge in the luxury having pictures enabled. When amiga-news.de could be accessed unencrypted, IBrowse only took a few seconds to load the website. Now, like many other sites, a "https"-connection has to be established which takes iBrowse 50 seconds to load the site (30 seconds pictures disabled). But IBrowse display the site much sooner, only some loading processes last a little bit longer without changing anything else:



Both NetSurf versions take much longer: Artur's NetSurf 240 seconds (curiously Netsurf calculates only 170s; 73 s without pictures). The result was quite good. The site is displayed compactly and clearly legible:



es Chris Young's NetSurf takes a similar time. The graphic of amiga-news.de looks blurred which might be explained by reducing my Workbench to 64 colours.



Looking at these two pictures, the different concepts of menu navigation can be explained. While Artur's Netsurf completely dispense with a menu and therefore you have not quick access to options, Chris' version offers the menu navigation known from Amiga programs. Using it you can easily and fast turn on/off loading foreground and background pictures as well as disable/enable JavaScript or scaling the view. Artur's NetSurf uses a separate MUI prefrerences window. By calling it (on the left side the first buttom under the Google search), NetSurf disappears and the preferences windows appears:



Also Chris' version offers a separate preferences window for more detailed options.

Curiously amiga-news.de is the only website (so far), where the loading time, calculated and shown by Netsurf bottom right, differs so much from the real one. Both NetSurf versions then only took about 15 seconds for loading the individual news items.

After reading about iBrowse on amiga-news.de, we want to see what the Google search else knows about the browser:



Artur's Netsurf provides the results after 31s (above). Chris' Netsurf takes 26s, IBrowse 25s (below), all with pictures enabled:



Here we notice the link to Wikipedia (https-connection!), which we adventurously open. IBrowse takes 60s for loading the website (pictures enables even though not a single one can be seen), but after 40s the website is displayed. Only some loading activities which do not change the look take another 20s:



Chris' NetSurf fails responding a software failure. Upon request Chris wrote: "I can't test the 68k version because it doesn't work on my UAE any more, but Wikipedia was fine on the OS4 build last time I checked". Artur's version takes 240s:



By releasing the developer version 3.10, Artur Jarosik's NetSurf now supports AmiSSL 4.3. Comparative tests with version 3.9 could not prove any speed advantage for encrypted connections.

Now we want to check a website which requires JavaScript. For this we dare ebay-kleinanzeigen.de. As mentioned previously sometimes you have to be creative. Which means: Do not call the main site (https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de but take the shortcut to the direct log in site, in this case https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de/m-einloggen.html?targetUrl=/.

IBrowse masters the challenge after 170s:



Both NetSurf candidates failed. After some loading process both version freezed. Only one time I got Artur's Netsurf loading the website so I could have logged in:



Jumping for joy I entered my mail address when I realized that my "@" symbol was a "2". Further tests showed that it also is not possible to copy and paste because obviously the "alt" key do not work. Artur said, using Alt+2 or Shift+2 the "@" symbol should appear but I failed. I hope some of the readers can tsts it.

Finally I want to show some examples demonstrating strengths and weaknesses of the different browsers. We always want to know how the weather is. First a screenshot in which way Firefox dislay the website under Windows:



Using the direct link, Chris' NetSurf tries to load the site:



and now Artur's Netsurf:



I guess Artur wins the point.

Being a passionate train traveller, I want to check the rail links. Again we do not use the homepage bahn.de but enter the link for the travel information reiseauskunft.bahn.de. All three browser do not offer any automatic suggestions for starting and destination station. In my case I was lucky because I got the correct main stations out of my entries. IBrowse only takes 25s (all disabled). After another 20s you get a really familiar view of the travel information. Great!



Unfortunately I did not get Chris' NetSurf starting the search because although all pictures have been enabled, no "serch" field appeared. After 517s Artur's Netsurf provides the option of entering the parameters and starting a search. After another 828s(!) you get the following result:



The good new is: It works and looks pretty good although the time required by Netsurf is quite high.

Some final comments. One additional plus point IBrowse and Artur's NetSurf get for their capability of scrolling down and up websites without jerking and rebuilding the website. Chris' NetSurf always build a website top down.

Regarding the stability (on my system), I must praise all browsers: If the browsers were successfully launched, they run without any problems. IBrowse gets another plus point for its special reliability. No problems, no crashes. In contrast, Chris' NetSurf has always crashed after quitting it so I had to reboot. Artur's NetSurf sometimes stopped loading after launching the program or the welcome screen was displayed very, very slowly. Besides, the mouse pointer sometimes stucked in the scroll bar.

One detail I was surprised: Although in the prefrerences I did set the harddrive cache to "0 MB" and the RAM to "80 MB" for a better, faster performance, the HDD lamp of my Amiga-1200 flashed while loading the websites. Chris said: "Maybe there is still something in the cache from before". But I guess it could be caused by AmiSSL. The question is if the options setting obove has an influence on the loading time of the browser at all. Maybe some readers have also tested it and can provide some additional information.

Update: (12.10.2019, 16:30, dr)

Of course we have informed all three developers about the publication of this article. We want to share the statements of Chris Young and Oliver Roberts.

Chris Young (NetSurf) wrote: "Interesting! I will note that my version of NetSurf needs more work, but it really needs to be looked at by somebody who is knowledgeable about 68k code in order to track down the bugs and optimise. I don't have the time or inclination to work on it much and am reaching the limit of my ability."

And Oliver Roberts (IBrowse) noted: "Very interesting. One thing I'd like to point out: Google will look much better if you use the default IBrowse 2.5 settings. In the defaults, IBrowse will spoof as MSIE 5.5 on Google, resulting in a much better experience."

Of course I did pursue this lead. He is right. You can change the corresponding option in the preferences of IBrowse under "network" and then "spoofing". However: I did not change anything here before. By default (after installation of IBrowse 2.5) "IBrowse" was enabled here.


(snx) (Translation: dr)

[News message: 06. Oct. 2019, 09:11] [Comments: 1 - 12. Oct. 2019, 17:36]
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