Mozilla Reverses Decision to Axe 64-Bit FireFox Builds, But Support Will Be Left to the Community

Subject: General Tech | December 26, 2012 - 01:34 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox, browser, Internet, 64-bit

A month ago Mozilla announced that it would no longer release 64-bit versions of its popular Firefox web browser due to a lack of resources. While the stable versions for Windows were 32-bit, nightly builds were available to enthusiasts that were 64-bit and could take advantage of more than 4GB of memory.

Mozilla developer Benjamin Smedberg stated that there was significant negative feedback from the community over the decision to axe 64-bit nightlies. While Mozilla has reaffirmed that they do not have the resources to support 64-bit builds, the developers are proposing a compromise that they hope will assuage users. In short, the Release Engineering team will continue to build 64-bit versions of the Firefox browser, but Mozilla will consider it a teir 3 build and the support is left up to the community.

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Currently, the plan regarding 64-bit versions of Firefox involves a forced migration of existing 64-bit users to 32-bit versions via the automatic browser updates. Then, after the migration date, users that want the 64-bit version will need to go and download it again. Once installed, users will be informed that it is not officially supported software and they are to use it at their own risk. Click-to-play plugins will be enabled in the 64-bit builds while the crash reporter will be disabled. Win64 tests and on-checkin builds of the browser will be discontinued.

Interestingly, all browser testing by Mozilla will be done on the 64-bit edition of Windows 8. Yet they are only testing and supporting 32-bit versions of Firefox. The current situation is less than ideal as the x64 Firefox browsers will not be supported by Mozilla, but at least the software will still be available for those that need it. For now, Waterfox is an option for those that need to install a 64-bit browser based on Firefox.

Does Mozilla’s decision to stop supporting the 64-bit Firefox browser affect you? What do you think of the offered compromise?

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla ... you do know 64-bit OSes aren't going to disappear soon, right?

Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2012 - 10:03 AM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox, dumb, 64-bit

Once upon a time was a little company called Mozilla who had a browser that knew some tricks no other browser did.  After a while the Mozilla foundation decided to split up several projects and the Firefox browser was born, again capable of things that no other browser was doing at the time.  The other browsers were quick to pick up on these tricks and to emulate them, but Firefox held onto a respectable share of overall usage which slowly eroded as other browsers came onto the scene to steal away some of that share.  Apparently this depressed Firefox as it decided to start on a steady diet of add-ons and stuffing extras in below the belt which eventually caused such bloating as to make those who cared about Firefox suggest it might want to think about slimming down a bit or at least wear something a little larger, maybe a size 64. 

Instead, according to various sources such as DailyTech, Firefox has decided to dump all development of a 64-bit version of its browser.  IE10 supports 64-bit, Opera supports 64-bit and Chrome does on Linux and is working on a Windows version for the near future, leaving Firefox in the company of Lynx.  While the news stories are specific to the Firefox browser, it leaves one suspicious about the Firefox OS which is being developed for mobile devices; just what features are going to be abandoned as too hard to continue developing for.

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"Fans of the non-profit Mozilla Foundation have waited... and waited... and waited more still, for Mozilla's popular Firefox browser to add 64-bit support. With pickup of 64-bit SKUs of Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows operating system rapidly accelerating, it certainly seemed a 64-bit browser would be just around the corner.

Instead Mozilla has made the curious decision to pull the plug on the long-delayed project, while offering only small clues as to why the decision was made."

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Source: DailyTech

Netflix (Finally) Playable On Linux Using Patched Version of WINE

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2012 - 02:53 AM |
Tagged: wine, windows, ubuntu, silverlight, Netflix, linux, firefox

One of the major hurdles preventing me from switching to Linux completely (despite my love for Mint) has been Netflix support. While there is a Silverlight-equivalent called Moonlight for the Linux operating system, it does not support the necessary DRM aspects to facilitate Netflix Instant Streaming. Aside from installing VirtualBox and booting an instance of Windows (which basically defeats the purpose of switching), Linux users have not been able to stream Netflix shows.

Thanks to a Linux developer by the name of Erich Hoover, there is a ray of hope for Linux users that want to take advantage of the streaming side of their Netflix subscriptions. Using a patched version of WINE (Wine Is Not An Emulator), Firefox, and an older version of Microsoft Silverlight, he was able to get Netflix streaming to work without breaking the DRM. That’s good news as it means that even though it is not officially supported, Netflix is not likely to actively break or fight it.

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Netflix Instant Streaming running on Ubuntu 12.10 (32-bit).

Currently, it has been tested on the 32-bit version of Ubuntu 12.10, but other distros are likely to work as well. Users will need to compile WINE from source, apply five patches, and then install Firefox 14.0.1 and Silverlight 4. Right now, there is no GUI or pre-compiled version, and at least the first few steps require the use of the terminal. Thankfully, I Heart Ubuntu has put together a step-by-step guide outlining exactly what you need to type into the terminal to get Netflix streaming up and running. The site notes that the WINE patching process could take a good chunk of time if you are on an older computer. Further, Silverlight 5 does not work, so using the older version is necessary.

This is great news for the Linux community, and along with the Steam for Linux beta things are definitely looking up and moving in a positive direction for the open source operating system. Obviously, this is far from native support, but it is a huge improvement over previous workarounds. A PPA is also reportedly in the works to make the installation of the patched WINE version even easier for those not comfortable with the terminal. Until then, check out the I Heart Ubuntu guide for the full setup details.

The developer asks that you donate to the WINE Development Fund if you find his Netflix support patches useful.

Image credit: iheartubuntu

Firefox OS Interface as of September 6, 2012

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2012 - 06:02 PM |
Tagged: firefox, Firefox OS

Mozilla has released a demonstration of their mobile operating system, Firefox OS. As much as I like Mozilla and their influence on the PC industry I cannot see much reason for this operating system to exist as it stands right now.

We have reported earlier in the year on Mozilla’s push into the mobile and app store market.

Just last week as of the time of this writing we have been given a video walkthrough of current builds for Firefox OS. This is obviously a very early build of the operating system and we have no idea what the developers have planned for the platform in the future. The only position I can speak from is what I can see right now – and that is what I will do.

There’s also the whole issue of tablets…

The operating system as it currently stands looks like it could very well be a custom skin of Android. It is clear that Mozilla has put a substantial amount of work into the backend just because of how complex a mobile operating system fundamentally is. The interface could be little more than placeholder used to develop the fundamentals.

If not then it is somewhat disappointing to me. Mozilla has always had innovative hooks such as tabs or extensions to disrupt incumbent products. Apart from its legally open nature I do not really see anything yet that would differentiate the platform from its peers. Simply put, it looks like Android – and not even the most recent Android.

Hopefully we will begin to see some of the disruptive force Mozilla is known for as this operating system begins to mature. There just has to be a hook somewhere for it to gain any ground especially when it is this late to the game.

Source: Youtube

Firefox 12 will be able to bypass UAC and possibly corporate security settings

Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2012 - 10:01 AM |
Tagged: UAC, security, firefox

One of the causes of the adoption of Google's Chrome browser in the workplace is that for the most part, since it installs under your user directory it can bypass the limited permissions on most business computers, letting the user install something without consulting IT.  This is a minor security concern as Chrome runs with limited permissions and is certainly not more inherently vulnerable than the old corporate standby, IE6.

According to The Inquirer Firefox will be starting to do something similar but with larger repercussions.  FireFox 12 will be whitelisted on UAC, allowing system level access to the program.  While this does mean that if they are successful users will be running up to date software and not require IT resources to upgrade FireFox every month or so, it also introduces a powerful attack vector for infections.  A silent FireFox update might not be from Mozilla and could instead be from malware online, creating a system vulnerability that the user is completely unaware of until obvious symptoms start to show, by which time it could be too late to stop the spread of an infection to the network or to clients machines.  The update is due out today, so keep a close eye on your FireFox installation for now.

 

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"SOFTWARE DEVELOPER Mozilla will bypass Windows' user account control (UAC) to implement silent updating in its Firefox 12 web browser.

Mozilla's Firefox 12 is expected to be released today, and the outfit claims it will bypass Windows UAC in order to enable silent updating. Since Mozilla put Firefox on its rapid release schedule, it has put out new versions of the web browser every six weeks, leading some users to complain about the number of releases."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Inquirer

Mozilla Will Support H.264 Codec For HTML5 Video, Grudgingly

Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2012 - 05:14 AM |
Tagged: webM, web browser, mozilla, html5, h.264, firefox

Mozilla executives working for the foundation behind the Firefox web browser today announced that they would be giving in to the H.264 codec as the open WebM VP8 codec has lost the war. The H.264 and VP8 (part of WebM) codecs are used to encode and decode video files, and are especially important on mobile devices as Flash support is less ubiquitous (or totally absent if you're using Apple products). In the absense of flash, the web turned to the HTML5 standard which provides <code><video></code> tags that allow direct embedding of videos into websites. Also important is that H.264  has wide support for being hardware accelerated on many mobile devices, enabling smart phones to smoothly playback high quality files that the low power CPU portion of ARM SoCs would otherwise struggle with. This situation is also available to desktop users, but is less of an issue as processing power is not as scarce and can, ah, accommodate Adobe's Flash plugin (heh).

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The downside, and where all the controversy arises from, is that the H.264 codec is not free and requires manufacturers or sites that stream H.264 videos for a fee to license it as well as users, though the actual cost for licensing is generally rolled into the cost of the OS, device, or other piece of purchased software. Further, because the HTML5 standard does not specifically define a set video codec, there is room for fragmentation. Adobe, Mozilla, and Google eventually would jump behind what is now known as the WebM standard, which is an open (and free) video codec (VP8) that would not require expensive licensing restrictions. On the other hand, Apple backed the H.264 standard. Mozilla would roll WebM into their browser but not H.264, meaning that users could view HTML5 videos using Firefox but not HTML5 videos encoded with the H.264 codec. Google, Apple, and Microsoft would support the H.264 codec for HTML5 videos, despite Google developing WebM (and the included VP8 video codec) and giving word of mouth support for WebM. This meant that Chrome users could view both WebM and H.264 based HTML5 video.

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According to the article, Google promised to drop support for H.264 and move solely to the WebM VP8 codec to entice websites to move to the open codec. Unfortunately, the company never came through with that promise, and has continued to offer dual support while Mozilla was left holding the open source support banner and causing their users to suffer as a result. The article references a study by MeFeedia that suggests that as of December 2011, H.264 based HTML5 video accounts for 80% of the market, implying that WebM has already lost the war. Brendan Eich, Mozilla's Chief Technology Officer noted that WebM needed support from a larger entity than Mozilla, and it needed that support in the beginning. Especially with Apple heralding H.264, for mobile site publishers, WebM really needed heavy backing to compete with Apple's market share and influential support of H.264 to have a chance. He further stated that:

"it might not have worked then, even with Google on-side. Now, with just Mozilla going it alone, all we do is kill our mobile initiatives in order to appear pure...That does not serve our mission or users."

Mozilla is now looking to support H.264, if a bit grudgingly. At this point, not supporting H.264 is only hurting their users and market share and not furthering their push for WebM. After all, if users are forced to look at other browsers just to play videos, it will not be WebM that is the only open source software forgotten (rather, the entire Mozilla web browser will wain).

Granted, Google is not the only company to blame for VP8 not catching on, Adobe also failed to properly push the codec. Also, Google is allegedly continuing to develop VP8 and WebM. Right now; however, losing Mozilla's support seems to be the final nail in the WebM coffin and the recognition that H.264 is the dominant format. More information is available here.

Source: CNET

FirefoxX: Coming soon to a TF2 user handle near you!

Subject: General Tech | February 1, 2012 - 02:55 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox

Firefox is my default browser. I often complement Firefox with Google Chrome due to habits introduced in the dark ages where Flash and crash were more ironic rhymes for Firefox users, but I stuck with it. I watched as it grew from a suite and innocent Mozilla build into the standalone browser it is today. Could Firefox be ten already? It seems like it was just yesteryear -- it was just four and we were out in the textfield try{}ing to play catch(){}.

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Yeah that got creepier as I went on, I apologize.
It’s easier to try{} and ask forgiveness than debug permissions.
… I prefer to recycle my jokes rather than rely on garbage collection.

 

If you are a developer -- and if you are still reading then you probably are -- this version of Firefox has a lot to offer you. While a lot of the features touted as new are not, they are certainly much upgraded from what we are used to. Allow me to put it like this: you may be able to finally uninstall Firebug. You may infer what you like from that statement. Some highlights of the developer features include a built-in page inspector, a web console interface, and scratchpad.

The page inspector allows developers to examine their own websites as well as study the websites of others in a much friendlier interface than Firebug. For quick tweaks, you can edit the CSS from within page inspector and turn whole properties on and off and immediately see its effect.

The web console interface allows you to edit your site as it is temporarily rendered from a command-line interface. This appears to be mostly useful for smaller Javascript tweaks and additions if you have a small change that you would like to iterate upon quickly. The web console also allows you to see network requests which should help greatly with optimizing load times.

Scratchpad is a new developer feature for Javascript which is just too complicated to test upon with the console interface. Scratchpad is somewhere between Notepad and Notepad++ and is used to quickly experiment with full Javascript scripts on the website you currently have loaded.

Don't just take my word for it, see it!

More general enhancements were, of course, also made with this version: WebGL is now antialiased; security, performance, and stability fixes were introduced; and add-on compatibility is much less annoying. The experience feels much more responsive and clean than it has recently, continuing on the advancements started with Firefox 7.

What do you think? Looking forward to new WebGL content now that it will not be as jaggy? Excited about the developer tools or performance enhancements? Let us know!

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla Considers Extended Support for Firefox: a Whole Year

Subject: General Tech | January 11, 2012 - 11:40 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox

Just seven months after taking their firm stance against supporting back versions Mozilla is considering following a model similar to Ubuntu: every few major versions, flag one as being supported much longer than the rest and support it while innovating on your main versions. I still believe that supporting many enterprise customers is wasteful for a company like Mozila, but now that they have substantially more revenue as of their recent deal with Google I suppose it could help advertise Firefox outside of work as well.

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Firefox installments versus long running media franchise installments.

Yeah I was VERY conservative with Final Fantasy... I know.

John O’Duinn, current director of Release Engineering at Mozilla, wrote about the proposal in his personal blog last October and discussed attempts to compromise between long-term support and Mozilla’s current release plan. It is still quite early to tell what they will ultimately come up with and whether it will mend relations with their enterprise customers, but it looks as though Mozilla will not follow their original decision to focus on the present and future at the expense of those reliant on the past.

Source: Mozilla Wiki

Mozilla Starts Asking For Donations from Users

Subject: General Tech | December 30, 2011 - 08:42 AM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox, donations, browser

Mozilla, the company behind the popular open source Firefox web browser recently struck a quite lucrative deal with Google for providing the big G with a default search box and google search start page.  Apparently, 900 million (over three years) is not enough for the company; however, as they have started asking for user donations of at least $10.

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According to their new story page, "We believe the Web is a place where anyone can come to build their dreams."  The non profit states in the accompanying video that they are more than just a web browser, they are a global community fighting to keep the web a good, innovative place.  And that, they argue is why they need your support; to make the web a "force for good by making a donation today."

Personally, this feels like a cross between late night PBS broadcasts as a kid and Wikipedia's pleas for donations.  Sure, if you are a big fan of Firefox it couldn't hurt to support them; however, I don't think they are going anywhere any time soon.  What are your thoughts on this as a user?

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla Renews Firefox Search Box Deal With Google

Subject: General Tech | December 21, 2011 - 01:53 AM |
Tagged: search, mozilla, google, firefox

Mozilla, the company behind the popular open source Firefox web browser receives a great deal of revenue from it's deal with Google wherein they make Google the default search engine and prominent placement in the search box. The deal between the two companies was set to end this year, and there was talk around the web that Google was set to not renew the deal now that its own web browser, Chrome, was gaining market share. Needless to say, such a deal ending would be very bad for Mozilla and the continued development of the Firefox browser.

 

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Fortunately, according to Tom's Hardware, Mozilla has managed to renew the Firefox Google search deal for an additional three years. While the exact amount of money Mozilla is paid by Google for the search box deal, the deal's extension speaks well to Mozilla's financial stability, and should give them time to build up their browser and explore additional revenue opportunities. Firefox currently holds about a quarter of the browser market, and its continued development is important to keeping the competition on its toes and prodding IE into being standards compliant.  The site quoted Mozilla's CEO Gary Kovacs in stating "this new agreement extends our long term search relationship with Google for at least three additional years," and that the deal between Mozilla and Google was "significant and mutually beneficial."

Are you glad that Firefox is going to stick around? The comment form is always open.