Category Archives: flying-lizards

Review: Netscape 6: Is the Wait Finally Over?

Ed: This is the first in a series of articles of Captain Fantastic’s (aka Jim Intriglia of experience with Netscape 6. The short answer is no and I’ll detail why below in this narrative of my experience downloading and running Netscape 6. I run the Red Hat Linux distribution on three systems in my home office.
One of the features that I appreciate is the Red Hat Package Manager, a
software utility that makes it a snap to manage the installation of software
on my Linux systems. As it usually take a while before somebody in the
user community creates an RPM package for new software releases, I was
not surprised when I did not find an RPM package for Netscape 6. Thus,
off to the Netscape web site to do a download of a Netscape 6 tar ball,
so I could do a manual install.

Without too much difficulty, I was
able to locate information on the Netscape 6 product release via Netscape’s
Home page
. In fact, a pop-up box appears when you access the home page,
offering you a chance
to win $100,000 via the Netscape 6 stakes as well as download or purchase
the Netscape 6 product.

I chose to download Netscape 6 via my 56K
dial-up connection, a worst case scenario to be sure. (My practice is to
purchase a CD-ROM when a software release is proven to be stable.) After
a short period of time, I noticed that the download had completed. In my
download directory, I noticed the file netscape-i686-pc-linux-gnu-installer.tar.gz.
The “i686” tells me that this distribution is for Intel Pentium II machines
– wonder when a distribution will be available for older Pentium I PCs?

After unzipping the tar file via the
command tar -zxvf netscape-i686-pc-linux-gnu-installer.tar.gz, I
printed a copy of the ReadMe file, which then instructed me to run the
Netscape 6 installer (while I have an Internet connection up-and-running
BTW) by entering the command ./netscape-installer.
I noticed
that the web page conflicted with the ReadMe instructions, as the web page
instructions stated that one should enter ./ns-install
rather than ./netscape-installer.

A nice-looking GUI-based dialog was displayed, providing me the usual
options of a standard or custom install. I chose a custom browser install
option, checking off the Instant Messaging, Java 2, UK browser Pack as
desired installation options. After submitting my options, the Netscape
installer began to download the software files needed to complete my desired

The expected then happened – after three software file packages had
been downloaded, my Internet connection monitor indicated that the download
process stalled. After waiting fifteen minutes or so for it to restart,
I decided to abort the process and re-start the process again via the ./netscape-installer
Surely the installer
would detect what had been already downloaded and pickup from where the
process stalled.

Surely not.

restarting the installer and re-selecting my custom install options, the
installer began downloading the very first package
, which
had been previously downloaded in the prior run of the installer. Nuts.
Even AOL software is smart enough to detect where a installation qiit and
go on from there. I chalked-up a demerit for this annoying oversight on
the part of the installer developers.

The second time around, the download/install
process got further along, stalling and forcing me to abort after about
five or so file packages had download. This is nuts – I aborted the process,
restarted the installer, and decided that I would purchase the CD-ROM if
this sucker stalled again.

On the third run of the installer,
it appeared to hang after completing the download of the Java 2 file package.
I am not sure if the process really hung, if the developers decided that
a “install process complete” message was not really necessary. Based on
my experience working with various software installation package, I decided
that the installer crashed this time around. If I wanted to evaluate Netscape
6, it looked like I would have to purchase 
a copy of the software
on CD-ROM. Two steps forward, one step back.

On the outside chance that the install process completed and crashed
at the point of displaying the desired “installation completed successfully!”,
I decided to try the final step, and boot Netscape 6. I typed ./netscape
and kept my fingers crossed.

Much to my delight, I was greeted with a
very slick-looking Netscape 6 web browser! The new look of Netscape 6 is
welcome as compared to the boxy and cryptic-looking Netscape 4.7x release
for Linux. The feature set implied by visible graphic cues promise some
neat features, as well.

Another nice feature of this release is that
if you are a registered NetCenter user (you go through this registration
process the first time you need to update Netscape online), the Activation
process – whereby you are prompted to register – is completed automatically!
Slick and a real timesaver. If you click on the NetCenter User option,
you are prompted for your User ID and Password, and boom – you are registered
and ready to surf the ‘Net. It may be a good idea to become a NetCenter
user before installing Netscape 6, as it will save time during the registration
process and in the future when Netscape releases updates for version 6.

In playing with the browser for a week
or so, it has not yet locked-up or crashed and burned. I have confirmed
the reported bug that it cannot handle SSL, which is the reason you need
to hang-on to the old 4.7x release
until this problem is fixed in
the next release.

This is the first of a series of reviews of the Netscape
6 for Linux. The latest version of this document as well as future articles
on the capabilities of Netscape Communicator/Navigator can be found at

© Copyright 2000 James C. Intriglia

All Rights Reserved.