Google's ChromeOS: O3D Integration Changes Everything...

Ok, so like many I've been extremely skeptical ever since it was first announced that Google was planning on building their own Operating System centered primarily around Chrome and the web. Obviously this would be fine for a netbook, where a browser's all you really need, but when they claimed people would use it on their desktops too, that's when I was confused. People expect a desktop (or full fledged laptop for that matter) to do alot more than just browse the web, especially when it comes to multimedia and gaming.

Well yesterday it was announced that the Chromium developers plan to make O3D a built-in standard component for a future release...probably Chrome 3 I'd be willing to bet, and probably the same version that will show up in the first edition of the Chrome OS. That's when it finally clicked...this could change everything. As I researched the topic today I stumbled also across Google's Native Client (NaCl for short, so should I just call it Salt from here out I guess?) which looks to add faster performance than a javascript engine will ever be able to accomplish, but more importantly could add the ability to use other languages like C/C++ or maybe even Python (my personal fav) right in your web apps.

And now it's all coming together. A year ago we all questioned...why is Google bothering releasing their own browser? Why not just work with Firefox? Then a couple weeks ago we once again thought...why is Google bothering creating it's own OS? They could just work with Ubuntu? When they announced O3D, I thought to myself...oh, neat...that could be really cool one day. But, now I've finally gotten a glimpse of the big picture. Combine all of this together and they just might be able to pull off things we never thought could happen, at least not any time remotely soon.

With Chrome having this new Native Client ability in combination with O3D (not to forget HTML5 audio/video support too), you might actually be able to make the next generation of web apps really compete directly against native desktop apps...and this makes the concept of a Chrome OS suddenly much more feasible... If you could play Xbox360 and PS3 quality PC games right in your browser, if you could have silky smooth GL powered interfaces for web apps...it all gives things much greater potential than what the ol' Web2.0 & AJAX revolution a couple years back have provided us with so far.

Not only this, but since all 4 of these projects are open source, it won't be limited to just Google. Unlike Flash & Silverlight, these technologies will be able to be modified to work really well across numerous operating system and hardware architectures, and be used by other developers and products beyond just Google. Java's new JavaFx platform was looking potentially promising at one point, but as there's yet to be any code released to the public (as far as I'm aware) and with all the uncertainty surrounding Sun's acquisition by Oracle that may never come to fruition. Now Mozilla's also working on some similar technologies, but I'd be willing to wager in a couple years Mozilla and Google will take these new 3D and local/native abilities to the W3C for inclusion in HTML5+1 and find a common ground.

One more interesting concept to also consider is the kind of services all these upcoming cloud gaming services are planning to offer. The more you think about it, the more feasible the concept of only having thin-client cloud computers for everything becomes. All we need now is for our pesky ISPs to pick up the pace with some more bandwidth, and more importantly: much less latency.

This is all very exciting to think about, but we have to remember to still take it with a grain of NaCl as it'll still take quite a few years for these new things to develop and take off with the web development community. Also don't forget that Google will probably have some pretty stiff competition from Microsoft and Apple who obviously won't easily relinquish their current power over general computing. However, the once dreamy picture of a cloud filled future seems to be less a question of if, and now just when? It might just be sooner than we all thought ;)


Firefox 3.5 Benchmarking in Linux

So I know there are tons of benchmarks already out there about the just released Firefox 3.5, but most of them are Windows focused. So if like me you run a Linux OS there's still a little more to know perhaps?

I know most benchmarkers prefer to do everything very cleanly with nothing but the browser running and maybe even a fresh reboot for each test...but I'm doing this more real world with other programs running in the background and no reboots. Just for reference though, none of the other programs running were changed during the tests to maintain some semblance of scientific objectivity.

I run Ubuntu 8.04 (LTS) still, and so the only official Firefox available to me thru Canonical's repositories is FF 3.0.11. In theory this one should be optimized specifically for use with Ubuntu, but as others have pointed out in the last few months, FF seems to run a bit slower on Linux than Windows of all things. Most believe this to be a matter of optimization, so I am trying out SwiftFox for the first time today too. The version I'm testing is 3.5rc3 and optimized to my Pentium D (prescott, 32bit) CPU, so supposedly it will be faster than the one Ubuntu has shipped and the vanilla binary from Mozilla's website, which is where I got the copy of 3.5 I'll be using for this test. And then on top of those three I'm also going to run the same tests on Google's new Linux alpha version of Chrome (ver:

So first off, just for curiosity's sake, let's see how they all do in the ACID3 test:

Firefox 3.0.11: 72%
Firefox 3.5.0: 93%
SwiftFox 3.5.rc3: 93%
Chrome 99.9%

As expected Firefox 3.5 and SwiftFox get the same score as they're technically the same version of the rendering engine. Chrome actually says 100/100, but then it says "linktest failed" below that and there is a big X in the top-right corner, so I've marked it down to 99.9% as I don't know what that really constitutes a score of.

Next up, we'll be running Google's own V8 Benchmark, and the scores are rather surprising.

FF 3.0: 119
FF 3.5: 194
SF 3.5: 230
Chrome: 2492

So, first off the difference between Chrome's score and the other Mozilla based browsers is almost ridiculous. As Google created this benchmark themself, it almost makes you suspicious if they specifically put in tests they knew V8 would handle better than TraceMonkey? So I'll take that portion with a grain of salt. Also these "points" don't have any real intrinsic definition as to how they are calculated, more being better obviously. As for the other three, FF 3.5 doesn't even score twice as high as 3.0 did. Swiftfox however finally proves that it is indeed much better optimized that the other 2 by scoring almost 40 points more than the vanilla build.

Last we'll go with the tried and true SunSpider benchmark provided by the WebKit team.

FF 3.0.11: 5,583ms
FF 3.5: 2,421ms
SF 3.5: 2,111ms
Chrome: 986ms

Here FF 3.5 shows it is clearly much faster than 3.0 by completing the series of tests in less than half the time it took it's older brother. Once again SwiftFox shows us it is certainly faster than its not-so-well optimized cousins. And here Chrome really shines with completing the tests in less than a second! This is over twice as fast as Swiftfox, so maybe that V8Bench score wasn't as artificially bloated as I thought?

There are obviously many other browsers I could have included here, but decided not to bother with. When Konqueror finally switches to WebKit and Squirelfish it may be worth writing about, but for now is last decades' browser. Projects like Midori are also much too new to worry with at the moment. Safari nor IE have native ports for Linux, so they're obviously right out. And last there's Opera... This is a philosophical question for most, but I refuse to use a proprietary browser when there are open source options just as good if not better, so I personally could care less about Opera at all, that and their javascript performance is still quite far behind the likes of TraceMonkey, SquirellFish & V8 from what I understand.

To conclude, Chrome is still extremely alpha at the moment, with no plugin support so it's not really viable for daily use. With no Flash nor HTML5, half the web quickly becomes unusable, so we'll see what the situation is looking like when they finally make their first stable release for Linux based OSes. For now, I know I'll be using SwiftFox from now on ;)