HttpWatch 8.1 is now available for download. The new features in this release include support for Firefox 11:
and Internet Explorer 10 running on the Windows 8 Customer Preview:
There’s also support for auto-completion of text entered into the Find:
and Filter windows:
You can check whether you have the latest version installed by going to Help->Check for Updates in HttpWatch. A full list of changes is available in the version history.
We often get asked if we have a Mac version of HttpWatch. Unfortunately, the answer is no and it is likely to stay that way in the short term as it would take a significant amount of effort to port it to Mac OS X.
However, we decided to take a look if to see if there was a simple way to access HttpWatch on the Mac. Having used VMware extensively for testing HttpWatch on different versions of IE, Firefox and Windows the VMware Fusion product was an obvious candidate.
The result was much better than we initially hoped for. Vmware Fusion is able to run IE 9 and HttpWatch directly on the Mac desktop alongside other Mac applications:
We were even able to setup short-cuts to directly run HttpWatch Studio from the Dock allowing it to open HttpWatch log files or HTTP Archive files (.HAR) stored on the Mac file system.
The rest of this blog post describes how we setup VMware Fusion to run HttpWatch, IE and the Windows version of Firefox. Parallels Desktop for Mac also seems to have similar capabilities and could probably be setup in a similar way.
We used the following software:
Our setup was created by following these steps:
Open the Virtual machine and interact with the Windows desktop to:
Once you’ve got the Windows VM machine configured and running select the View->Unity menu item in VMware Fusion. It will close the view of the Windows desktop and run Windows applications on the Mac desktop. It even displays icons from the Windows system tray on the Mac menu bar:
You can then start Windows applications that you want to use (e.g. IE or HttpWatch Studio) by going to the VMware Fusion dropdown menu and typing in the application name or selecting it from All Programs:
The application’s window will then appear on the Mac desktop and its icon will be in the Dock. By right clicking on the icon you can permanently add it to the Dock:
VMware Fusion also applies the file associations found in Windows. That allows you to directly open HAR or HWL files on the Mac directly into HttpWatch Studio:
Initially, we tried running VMware Fusion on a basic Mac mini with 2GB RAM. It was very sluggish at times; particularly when it first started up the Windows VM. However, a $ 46 memory upgrade to 8GB solved that issue allowing Windows applications to Start as quickly as native Mac applications.
We also did some comparisons, running page load tests with HttpWatch in IE 9 and Firefox 10. The performance of the Windows VM on the Mac wasn’t noticeably slower than a native Windows PC with a similar spec.
Earlier this year Mozilla shifted from releasing a new version every year or so, to once every six weeks.
So in the previous four years we had five major new builds of Firefox, but this year we’ve already had versions 4, 5 and 6.
Releasing often seems like a good idea; unless you’re in a controlled corporate environment or you develop extensions for a living.
While changing to this new model, Mozilla largely gave up on backwards compatibility to speed up their development process. In the past many interfaces were said to be ‘frozen’ meaning that script based and native binary extensions could rely on using them at any point in the future. That’s all changed so anything can be updated. There’s no guarantee that code in an extension will work with a new version of Firefox.
For native binary components like HttpWatch the picture is much worse. Binary components must be recompiled to work with each new release:
That means it’s impossible for us to ship a version of HttpWatch that will work with a future release of Firefox. Also, we have to add at least one new DLL to our install program for every new Firefox release. It’s not just developer centric tools like HttpWatch that are affected. Even consumer focussed add-ons like RoboForm need updating for every Firefox release.
Of course, Chrome has always been frequently updated but it has a much smaller extension ecosystem because it doesn’t have the range of APIs available in Firefox or Internet Explorer. Therefore, the frequent updates to Chrome don’t cause as many issues because there are less extensions and the extension API is less likely to change as it is so much more restricted.
In comparison, Microsoft has been the master of backwards compatibility across versions of Internet Explorer. For example, HttpWatch 3.2 was last compiled nearly 5 years ago but still works with IE 9 on Windows 7:
IE’s longer release cycles and excellent backwards compatibility really appeal to corporate users compared to Firefox’s new release model.
There was even some talk of increasing the frequency of the Firefox releases to once every five weeks or less. The resulting discussion on Slashdot gave rise to these negative comments about the change:
Have they totally lost it? It’s not like the browser world is making sudden great progress. It’s a mature technology. The big problem today is getting stuff fixed.
Sorry i have other things to do than repackage FF for deployment every 5 weeks.
What FF user actually wants this model? Most of them don’t. Releasing at the same speed as Chrome isn’t going to win over Chrome users, but it will chase FF users off. That’s what we’re seeing here.
If they keep this up, I will remove it from our labs. I am not going to deal with this s**t. Release bug fixes as often as you need to, but new features need to be something that doesn’t happen too often. I can’t go and test this s**t every few weeks, nor do I want to deal with things that are outdated. I like FF, but this policy they have is pushing me to dump it. I haven’t yet, but we’ll see.
Extensions stop working at random without any good reason and in record time. So many of us use Firefox over Chrome because of extensions. This plan is just terrible.
Of course, we are biased because short release cycles for Firefox create more work for us. What do you think?