Even Sexier Wax for Your Browser
Maybe it was the steamy title, but Adam’s article "Sex Wax Your Browser" in TidBITS-377 (which contained a few tips for efficiently using Web browsers) generated a surprisingly large email response from TidBITS readers. Many people wrote in with additional thoughts or variations on Adam’s suggestions – I thought I’d share a few of those and throw in some thoughts of my own.
Shortcuts, Intranets, & Open Transport — In his article, Adam wrote that the latest versions of Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer both enable you to access a Web site with a domain name in the form of "www.company.com" by typing just the word "company" in the browser’s Address or Location field. Thus, entering "tidbits" in the field would take you to:
Although what Adam describes is typical for many dial-up and dedicated Internet users, readers wrote in to note some variations. Typing "tidbits" in a browser’s Address/Location field actually first tries to set up a connection with a machine called "tidbits" within your current domain (such as "tidbits.company.com"). If you’re using a stand-alone Mac, this isn’t a problem: the Web browser fails to find that machine, then tries "www.tidbits.com." However, if you’re on a corporate or organizational intranet, you might see different behavior. For instance, if there really is a machine called "tidbits" within your intranet, your browser will connect to it rather than TidBITS’ Web site. Also, if your intranet is large (or slow), merely searching the network for a local machine can take quite a bit of time. A few readers reported their browsers frequently time out before they’re done looking for a machine on their corporate intranets, so they always use bookmarks (or type in longer forms of a site’s domain name) to access external Internet sites.
If you’re using Open Transport, you can change how Internet applications look for sites. At the lower right of the TCP/IP control panel, you’ll see a field labeled Search domains (or Additional Search domains, if the control panel is in Advanced mode – you can select User Mode from the Edit menu to change modes). In this field, you can enter other Internet domains you’d like your Mac to treat as if they were on your local network.
For example, I access the Internet from the domain quibble.com. However, I’ve also entered tidbits.com as an additional search domain, so I don’t have to type it out to access any of TidBITS Internet servers. I can access TidBITS’ Web site by typing "king" in the Address/Location field, since the machine www.tidbits.com also goes by the name king.tidbits.com. This technique works so long as none of TidBITS’ machines have the same names as machines within my quibble.com domain – if I type "www" my browser will preferentially connect to my (currently unexciting) Web server at www.quibble.com.
Open Transport’s additional search domains can be confusing; for instance, Internet sites you access using these additional search domain appear as if they’re on your local network, so the full URL in the example above appears as "http://king/", which isn’t what you’d want to cut and paste into an email message to someone on a non-local network. Additional search domains can also be slow if you add large domains (like apple.com) or slow domains. However, once you get used to them, many people find additional domains helpful, and they work with any Internet application – including Anarchie, Fetch, and Cyberdog – not just the major Web browsers.
ramBunctious — The bulk of Adam’s article discussed how to set up a custom ShrinkWrap volume to hold your browsers’ disk caches in RAM for better performance. Several TidBITS readers wrote in to recommend ramBunctious – a $12 shareware RAM disk program from Elden Wood and Bob Clark – for the same purpose. As an application, ramBunctious seems to do a decent job with pure RAM disks, offering write-throughs to your hard disk to preserve your data, and an optional folder for items that are opened whenever you mount a RAM disk on your desktop. Although I can’t really recommend ramBunctious over the ever-versatile ShrinkWrap – RAM disks can only be used with the ramBunctious application running (which takes another 380K of RAM), it can’t mount or manipulate standard disk image files, it isn’t scriptable, it has a few quirks, and ShrinkWrap is still free for non-commercial use – ramBunctious was stable in my brief testing, and a few TidBITS readers preferred its interface to ShrinkWrap’s somewhat over-burdened preferences dialog. If you frequently need RAM disks and never use disk image files, ramBunctious might be worth a look.
Cyberdog — Adam’s discussion of using ShrinkWrap for browser caching only applied to Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. Greg Scarich <[email protected]> wrote in with a tip on how to use the same technique with Cyberdog:
Thanks for the detailed discussion of setting up the persistent ShrinkWrap RAM cache. I took it one step further and got it working for Cyberdog. Cyberdog doesn’t let you select the location for its cache, so I followed your instructions, then manually created a folder named Cyberdog Cache on the ShrinkWrap disk, then put an alias of that folder in the Cyberdog Preferences folder [which is inside the System’s Preferences folder -Geoff], replacing the default folder of the same name.
I found Greg’s technique works fine with Cyberdog 2.0, although presumably it would work with earlier versions too.
ShrinkWrap & AppleScript — Finally, many TidBITS readers wrote to say they’re taking advantage of ShrinkWrap’s scriptability and using a script to mount a ShrinkWrap image for disk cache and then launch their favorite Web browser once the disk is mounted. Suzanne Courteau <[email protected]> writes:
This has come up several times in Macworld and other publications. In April we ran a Quick Tip ("Efficient Browser Cache") that suggested writing an AppleScript program to mount your ShrinkWrap RAM disk not at startup but when you’re ready to go online – though I suspect after reading TidBITS-377, for you that is right after startup!"
Suzanne’s right: Adam, Tonya, and I have dedicated Internet connections so we tend to want our disk caches ready from the moment we start up. However, many users with dial-up access to the Internet may not want to constantly set aside a few megabytes of RAM as a browser cache. The AppleScript outlined in the Macworld tip shows how to mount your ShrinkWrap image in RAM and launch Netscape Navigator from a single, double-clickable icon in the Finder; the same principles can be applied to UserLand Frontier, OneClick, and other programs. I’ve also written a slightly more elaborate AppleScript that isn’t hard-coded to a particular ShrinkWrap image file or Web browser; with a little ambition, it could be modified to work with ramBunctious RAM disks.
We hope you find these tips from other TidBITS readers useful – happy Web browsing!