Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 4, 2013 - 06:47 PM | Scott Michaud
Web browsers are getting really good at being general-purpose application platforms.
I can see the web developers drooling already.
But even though performance lags behind reasonable native environments, the divide is rapidly shrinking. Many applications have reached or exceeded the saturation of useful performance at the same time as browser developers narrow the gap between native performance and themselves.
According to David Herman of Mozilla, one of the lead authors of the ASM.js draft, the specification also allows for multithreading through web workers. Applications can take advantage of multiple hardware threads in this way, and potentially other methods as they continue development. I would expect this is especially relevant for mobile devices which tend to have relatively many cores considering their single threaded performance.
Check it out, imagine what you could be doing in your web browser in the near future.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 26, 2013 - 04:19 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Firefox OS, mozilla, firefox, MWC, MWC 13
Mobile World Congress is going on at Barcelona and this year sees the official entry of a new contender: Firefox OS.
Mozilla held their keynote speech the day before the official start to the trade show. If there is anything to be learned from CES, it would be that there is an arms race to announce your product before everyone else steals media attention while still being considered a part of the trade show. By the time the trade show starts, most of the big players have already said all that they need to say.
If you have an hour to spare, you should check it out for yourself. The whole session was broadcast and recorded on Air Mozilla.
The whole concept of Firefox OS as I understand it is to open up web standards such that it is possible to create a completely functional mobile operating system from it. Specific platforms do not matter, the content will all conform to a platform of standards which anyone would be able to adopt.
I grin for a different reason: should some content exist in the future that is intrinsically valuable to society, its reliance on an open-based platform will allow future platforms to carry it.
Not a lot of people realize that iOS and Windows RT disallow alternative web browsers. Sure, Google Chrome the app exists for iOS, but it is really a re-skinned Safari. Any web browser in the Windows Store will use Trident as its rendering engine by mandate of their certification rules. This allows the platform developer to be choosey with whichever standards they wish to support. Microsoft has been very vocally against any web standard backed by Khronos. You cannot install another browser if you run across a web application requiring one of those packages.
When you have alternatives, such as Firefox OS, developers are promoted to try new things. The alternative platforms promote standards which generate these new applications and push the leaders to implement those standards too.
And so we creep ever-closer to total content separation from platform.
Subject: General Tech | February 22, 2013 - 05:11 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: web browser, pdf viewer, mozilla, firefox
Additionally, Mozilla has fixed several bugs and improved performance. The browser will now start-up more quickly than previous versions, and a WebGL drawing operation error has been corrected, for example. Further, Firefox 19 now recognizes more CSS features including @page and support for fixed-width text transformations. A new debugger has also been added to Firefox 19, which should help add-on developers test their code. Also in interesting news, mobile users running Firefox for Android will also be pleased to know that Mozilla has relaxed the CPU clockspeed requirement to a mere 600 MHz–allowing the mobile browser to run on even more Android devices.
The new version is available for download from the Mozilla website.
Subject: General Tech | February 21, 2013 - 12:27 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
"Mozilla's Firefox web browser now includes a built-in PDF viewer - allowing users to bin plugins from Adobe and other developers.
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Seagate joins OpenStack foundation and Open Compute Project @ The Register
- BlackBerry squashes W-TIFF-F bug that's ripe for malware squirters @ The Register
- Nikon D7100 hands-on preview @ Hardware.info
- Giveaway at Rbmods together with Cm Storm
Subject: General Tech | December 26, 2012 - 04:34 PM | Tim Verry
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.
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?
Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2012 - 01:03 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- The 3D Printing Wars Begin @ MAKE:Blog
- Samsung brews half-asleep OCTO CORE phone brain MONSTER @ The Register
- Win OCZ RevoDrive 3 PCIe SSD and Kitguru fans! @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2012 - 05:53 AM | Tim Verry
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.
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
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2012 - 09:02 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2012 - 01:01 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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:
- HTC plans to develop customized processors @ DigiTimes
- ARM profits rise 22 per cent as margins increase @ The Inquirer
- Windows 8 Release Preview is coming 'first week of June' @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft lobs out first Skype for Windows Phone @ The Register
- Plumbers of the interwebs vow to kill IP hijacking @ The Register
- AMD Confirms Drop of Monthly Driver Support for Radeon HD 2000-4000 Series @ NGOHQ
- Sophos study finds that one fifth of Macs carry malware @ The Inquirer
- The TR Podcast 110: The lowdown on Ivy Bridge and her mobos
Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2012 - 08:14 AM | Tim Verry
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).
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.
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.