Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

A word about betas (reader question)

Q: The Firefox 4 (beta) looks pretty good.  Is there anything I should ask you about Firefox4 before I install it?

A: Dear Reader,
“Beta” quite literally translates to “not ready for Prime Time”, and the “rule of thumb” is: do not play with betas on production machines.

If you have a computer you can use as a “testbed”, that has nothing of real value on it, and you wouldn’t care much if it crashed, you can go ahead and play (aka “test it out”) with a beta program.

In this specific case, (Firefox 4) this is, like, the 9th version of the beta.. meaning, it is getting close to “release”, and so is probably fairly refined and stable.
But.. what would the gain be for going ahead and trying it? What benefit? What would the cost be if it crashed your machine? Only you can weight that.

To me.. Firefox is a web browser, meaning — it opens web pages. Browsers have been doing that for years now… The only reason I can really see for updating a web browser is security. Personally, I will wait for Firefox 4.1 before I switch.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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March 3, 2011 - Posted by | advice, browsers, computers, Firefox, Internet | , ,


  1. For a beta, Firefox 4 is insanely stable. (I’ve been using it since beta 6 and have never had any problems with it)


    Comment by Ben | March 3, 2011 | Reply

    • Ben,
      Thank you for this. Firefox is my primary web browser (largely because of NoScript, Flashblock, and Ad Block Plus) and I have been using it for years and years. I am a fan of Mozilla.

      I am not in the least surprised to hear that Firefox 4 beta is “insanely stable”.

      However, this article expresses a general “betas rule of thumb” (aka “good practices”). Experience has taught me that “the average computer user” has no system state backup (or “ghost”) and wouldn’t know how to clone it back if they did (frankly, most have no backup at all); nor do they use testbeds, or VM’s. “Beta” is just one more meaningless geek word to them.. like “netBEUI”.

      Power Users and Über Geeks understand the risk inherent with running not-ready-for-prime-time applications, and are better able to cope with crashes/glitches/OS reinstalls. Still, one should weigh the potential benefits vs the potential headaches.

      Getting tired (also, my time is more valuable) has made me more conservative; I don’t even install version 1, usually. But there was a time I wanted to try every new app that came along… alphas, even.


      Comment by techpaul | March 3, 2011 | Reply

      • That’s true, better be safe than sorry:)


        Comment by Ben | March 3, 2011 | Reply

        • Ben,
          When people have their tax and business records, irreplaceable photos, expensive music download collections.. have lost their install cd’s.. and don’t have a single backup anywhere.. Yeah.


          Comment by techpaul | March 3, 2011 | Reply

  2. BETA (Buggy Experimental Trial Applications)


    Comment by 1101doc | March 5, 2011 | Reply

    • 1101doc,
      Thank you (I think I have heard that before…)

      I have to confess, in the last few years (or so) I have found a few exceptions to that acronym: several Microsoft betas spring to mind.

      But. Whenever I try something new to me – beta or not – I use a dedicated testbed. Because that is what releasing betas to the public is for.. so they can (as guinea pigs) find bugs.


      Comment by techpaul | March 5, 2011 | Reply

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