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Browser surf wars

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Software

Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Internet Explorer, Safari... We rate the Big 5 of the browser brigade to help you decide which should be your window to the cyber-world.

It all began with WorldWideWeb. Not the vast smorgasbord that is cyberspace, but the basic browser that was developed, in 1991, by Brit scientist Sir Tim Berners-lee. It was renamed nexus to avoid confusion with the World Wide Web. Much data has since flowed under the bridge and users are now spoilt for choice. But before you download every new beta version, we help you choose what deserves your default click.

Firefox 3

With a Guinness World Record of more than 8 million downloads on its launch day, Mozilla Firefox 3's arrival in cyberspace was nothing short of a supernova. But this was not a criterion on our test block and we put it through its paces to check if it was worth the hype and hoopla. Firefox has always been known for the features it offers and its extensibility factor with thousands of add-ons available. but since a Web browser is not only about features and add-ons, we tested it, on the basis of Design and Usability, Feature sets, Performance and Speed, and Security and Privacy.

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Via James Bessen, we learn of how a patent trolling operation by StreamScale has resulted in an open source project completely shutting down, despite the fact that the patent in question (US Patent 8,683,296 for an "Accelerated erasure coding system and method") is almost certainly ineligible for patent protection as an abstract idea, following the Supreme Court's Alice ruling and plenty of prior art. Erasure codes are used regularly today in cloud computing data storage and are considered to be rather important. Not surprisingly, companies and lawyers are starting to pop out of the woodwork to claim patents on key pieces. I won't pretend to understand the fundamental details of erasure codes, but the link above provides all the details. It goes through the specific claims in the patents, breaking down what they actually say (basically an erasure code on a computer using SIMD instructions), and how that's clearly an abstract idea and thus not patent-eligible. Read more