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Unlike IE9, Firefox 4 Will Still Support Windows XP
Unlike IE9, Firefox 4 Will Still Support Windows XP

By Barry Levine
March 21, 2011 1:56PM

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While Internet Explorer 9 will not support Microsoft's Windows XP, Firefox 4 supports the still-popular OS as well as Windows 2000. Microsoft said IE9 dropped Windows XP to utilize the graphics processor. Mozilla's Firefox 4 provides partial acceleration in Windows XP. Apple's Safari, Opera and Google's Chrome support Windows XP.

New versions of the two most popular browsers -- Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox -- are being released. Among their competing features is an unusual twist -- Firefox, which is being released Tuesday, will support Microsoft's venerable and still-popular Windows XP operating system, while IE will not.

IE9 is designed to support Vista and Windows 7, while the new Firefox also supports XP as well as Windows 2000. Microsoft has said it decided not to support XP in IE9 because it will utilize the graphics processor, which isn't possible under XP, which was released in 2001. A Microsoft executive told news media that supporting XP would have meant "optimizing for the lowest common denominator."

Obligation 'Is To the Users'

Like IE, Firefox 4 offers support for hardware acceleration in Vista and Windows 7 by utilizing Direct2D and Direct3D APIs. XP doesn't support Direct2D, but Firefox uses Direct3D on XP to provide partial acceleration in Firefox 4.

According to web-statistics firm Net Applications, XP represents 55 percent of operating systems connected to the web, or 61 percent of all Windows-based systems. Jonathan Nightingale of the Mozilla Foundation told news media that "our obligation is to the users, and Windows XP is not a part we can cut out."

Other browsers, including Apple's Safari for Windows, Opera and Google's Chrome, will continue to support XP, which Microsoft has essentially abandoned as it attempts to move users to Vista and Windows 7.

In a video on Mozilla's web site, Nightingale said the new JavaScript engine in Firefox 4 is up to "six times faster than any previous version we've shipped." He also pointed to a new "streamlined user interface, which takes up a lot less space." Another new feature is app tabs, which pin small site icons for frequently visited sites to the edge of the interface.

Panorama is a new Firefox feature that allows many tabs to be organized, instead of searching for them in the tab strip. For customization, an Add-On Manager includes extensions and plug-ins as well as a search-engine interface for finding new add-ons. Firefox Sync offers the ability to sync personal information between devices, with the information being encrypted locally before moving. Firefox 4 is also offering new support for HTML5, WebGL, CSS3 and downloadable fonts.

IE 9 Features

IE9 also offers extensive support for those web technologies, and Microsoft said its browser rethinks "the concept of fast" and how "people interact with web sites and web applications."

In IE9, Pinned Sites can be accessed directly from the Windows 7 taskbar without having to first open the browser. With IE9's JumpList, a web-site task can be accessed, again without having to launch the browser first. This assumes the site developer has implemented JumpList capabilities, and, if so, composing a new e-mail, checking an inbox, changing a music station, or accepting an invitation can be initiated outside the browser.

There's also Aero Snap, for positioning two sites side by side in separate windows. One box incorporates search functionality into the Address Bar, as well as the ability to navigate to a site, search for a site, switch between search providers, or access browsing history or favorites.

Finally, Microsoft pointed to IE9's built-in security, privacy and reliability technologies. A new Tracking Protection allows a user to limit the browser's ability to communicate your actions to certain web sites, as determined by a Tracking Protection List that the user can determine.

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Posted: 2011-03-22 @ 1:13pm PT
Find some old unwanted Vista Business 32Bit SP1 installation disk, then on a reasonably recent PC running XP and with at least 2 Gb of memory: 1) Download and install VirtualBox; 2) Create a new virtual machine ("VM") for Windows Vista; 3) Set aside about 1 Gb of memory for it; 4) Insert the Vista installation disk; 5) Exit out of any pop-up window that might pop up with the insertion of the disk; 6) Start up the new VM you just created; 7) You should see prompt to boot off the Vista disk -- press any key to start the Vista installation process; 8) When it comes to creating a partition in the unallocated space VirtualBox created for it, manually create the partition and then have Vista install to that; 9) Take a break; 10) Once Vista is finished installing, eject the Vista install disk from within Vista and then install the VirtualBox Guest Additions from the VirtualBox menu (it will "insert" a virtual CD with them that you can click on under "Computer" if it doesn't automatically run); 11) Once Vista is fully installed with the Guest Additions, run Windows Update to get all the critical SP1 updates -- you will likely have to reboot more than a few times; 12) Now download and install the "5 Language" SP2 version for Vista from Microsoft; 13) Take another break; 14) Once SP2 is installed, you can now download and install IE9.

The net result of all this will be to put IE9 into a VM sandbox on your XP, essentially making it far safer than IE9 on any Win7 PC, and the Vista VM will actually seem speedy since you installed it without all the CPU-power sucking bloatware that usually comes with new PC's. VirtualBox also lets you copy and paste between its VM's and the host, and you can also create a shared folder for the host and the VM. And yes I did this (be wary of other versions of Vista & Win7 installation disks -- it took some trial and error to find one that worked.) Consider this just a recipe that works rather than the only way to do it.

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