Linux Web Surfing - Get Armed with Dillo Print E-mail
Contributed by Paul Tatham   
Sunday, 15 September 2002
 I recently read an article in Linux Journal by Marcel Gagné (see screenshot below) in which he spoke of Dillo, a lightweight, fast web browser. As a fan of applications that aren't resource hungry I thought it worth investigating. It turns out that Dillo uses the html parser from gzilla, a seemingly moribund GTK+ browser; but everything else is written from scratch in C. 

At the download site are source and binary packages including the Mandrake 8.1 rpm that I used (version 0.6.6) at less than 200mb (Ed note: 200kb). This seems almost unbelievably small for a graphical web browser; in fact, I was able to download, install and open the application in less than 30 seconds. Those who have referred to Dillo as fast are badly underestimating it. It loads and displays its splash screen in less than a second on my machine, a Duron 800. It is every bit as fast as Lynx, the text-based browser I sometimes use for quick page reading. It's a real pleasure to watch pages of image-rich sites explode onto the screen. I have to wonder what it would be like with faster connections than my DSL.

Dillo won't be for everyone; it doesn't support java, javascript or https, and some pages get rendered in strange ways, (including the index page). And you can forget about audio and video, you'll have to download and run offline. Streaming media is out of the question. But if you want to visit news sites or do general browsing, Dillo will work for you. It also seems to be remarkably stable considering it's alpha software. I've been using it quite a bit lately and it hasn't bailed on me yet. More than I can say for the other graphical browsers.

Dillo has most of what you might want for blitz browsing. It stores cached pages in memory, not on disk so hitting the back button provides instant response. A double click on a link opens it in a new window, also instantly. Most pages will render normally as long as they don't contain frames. You can even change the default background colour to whatever suits your eyes. A right mouse button click on a page provides several options: A bookmark can be added, the page source can be viewed and you can save the page. You can also use the find feature to locate text in a page or jump to sections identified by heading tags (useful for long help files).

There are a few things I'd like to see: being able to download by ftp, select, copy and paste text from the displayed page, and I really like the tabbed panes we now have with Mozilla and Galeon. But anything that adds significant overhead I can live without. There isn't a nifty animated spinner, but it does have a couple of text displays at the right end of the toolbar that show the total number of images on the page and the number currently loaded. It also shows the number of kbs for the page being loaded. However, pages render so fast you won't be able read anything until it's completed.

In the users' home directory is the /.dillo directory and in it are 3 files. A bookmarks.html contains the bookmarks you've added. You can edit this file in your favourite text editor, the entries appear as html listitems. There is a cookiesrc file that by default contains nothing but the line DEFAULT DENY. In other words, all cookies are rejected. You can easily change this behaviour if you want to accept cookies from all or just some sites. If you do then the cookies that are received will appear in the cookies file.

There is a configuration file, /usr/share/doc/dillo-0.6.6/dillorc, that you may wish to copy to your /.dillo directory. It is well documented and provides a means to control several things like initial browser window size, home page, default fonts and so on. Look at the colors section to set the background color...nice touch.

Dillo may not find its way onto every desktop, but it's certainly going to have an important place on mine. In fact, for general browsing, it's hard to beat. I'll use Mozilla or Galeon for instances where I need plug-ins to work or to log into an https server, but Dillo gets the nod for the rest just for sheer speed and stability. However, the workstation desktop may not be Dillo's main niche. Mobile devices, kiosks and handhelds are excellent candidates for a small footprint, resource-friendly browser. In fact, it already runs on some of this hardware. The project maintainer, Jorge Arellano Cid has written an excellent article on the subject.

Dillo is really an outstanding piece of work, and one with a potentially bright future. But funding is needed. It might be a, sharp gesture, for a company, especially one that profits from open source by running Linux on their devices, to take ownership of the project and support the development effort.

A Little Diversion No.5

I was trying to teach my young son to keep a record of his spending and had provided him with a small notebook in which to do so. He was to write down each purchase and the balance remaining (he doesn't yet use GnuCash). It's that time of year and I gave him $50 to buy some school supplies. He returned from the store with a sad face and the following "accounting", explaining he had lost a dollar somewhere since he had no money left:

   Money left
backpack$25    $25
calculator$12    $13
dictionary$5    $8
binders$5    $3
exercise books  $3    .... 
Where did he lose the dollar?
Answer to Previous Puzzle

If you said that the house must be built at a location such that the three arms of the driveway meet at the center of the plot you are right, but still clueless. It turns out that the house can be anywhere. If three lines are drawn from any point within an equilateral triangle perpendicular to each of the three sides the sum of the lengths of the three lines will always equal the altitude of the