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Tech Industry

Browser bugs hard to catch in Net rush

The new IE upgrade for Windows 95 illustrates how "fix-it" releases have become more routine as Microsoft and Netscape rush their browsers to the Net.

Producing browsers upgrades under the demands of Internet time while keeping the bug population down seems to be an impossible task, leaving the browser vendors to attack bugs as best they can as they go along.

Its been about two months since the release of the much-anticipated Version 3.0 upgrades of both Explorer and Navigator and both Microsoft and Netscape Communications have now found time for some housekeeping.

Microsoft last night posted a minor upgrade, version 3.01, to Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows 95 and Windows NT. Last week, Netscape introduced a beta of a minor upgrade to Navigator, version 3.01 beta 1, that squelched several Java and other software bugs.

Microsoft and Netscape regularly introduce what might be called housekeeping releases of their browsers that clean up security problems and other technical glitches. Such releases have become more routine as both companies scramble to get their new browsers onto the Net, sometimes failing to eradicate annoying software bugs.

But while the companies hail the major upgrades from every mountaintop, they are often much more circumspect about the bug-fix versions.

The new version of Internet Explorer improves the security capabilities of the browser's Authenticode feature, which analyzes Java applets and ActiveX controls being downloaded from the Net to ensure that they come from a trusted software publisher. The Authenticode dialog box now differentiates between individual and commercial software publishers. Version 3.01 also incorporates several security fixes that were previously available as standalone patches.

The new Explorer also fixes some minor bugs with the Java Virtual Machine, reduces the hard disk "footprint" required when installing the browser, and eliminates bugs specific to the CompuServe and America Online versions of Explorer, Microsoft said.

Users can learn additional information about Internet Explorer 3.01 and download the software from Microsoft's Web site.

The new edition of Navigator fixes what Netscape officials call minor bugs in the browser, including problems with the display and functioning of certain Java applets and several bugs specific to the Macintosh version of Navigator. The new Navigator also fixes a problem in Navigator 3.0's HTML syntax for calling device drivers.