Subject: General Tech | January 1, 2016 - 03:25 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webgl2, webgl, mozilla, firefox
The next step is WebGL2. OpenGL ES 3.0 adds a bunch of new features that are sorely needed for modern games and applications. For instance, it allows drawing to multiple render targets, which is very useful for virtual cameras in video games (although the original WebGL software could access this as an optional extension when supported). The addition of “Uniform Buffer Objects” is a better example. This allows you to store a bunch of data, like view transformation matrices, as a single buffer that can be bound to multiple applications, rather than binding them one at a time to every draw that needs them.
It's hard to describe, but demos speak a thousand words.
The news today is that Mozilla Nightly now ships with WebGL2 enabled by default. It was previously hidden, disabled by default, behind an option in the browser. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but one of the largest hurdles to WebGL2 is how the browsers actually implement it. The shading language in WebGL was simple enough that most browsers convert it to DirectX HLSL on Windows. This is said to have the added advantage of obfuscating the ability to write malicious code, since developers never directly writes what's executed. GLSL in OpenGL ES 3.0 is much more difficult. I'm not sure whether the browsers will begin to trust OpenGL ES 3.0 drivers directly, or if they finally updated the GLSL translator, but supported implementations means that something was fixed.
Unfortunately, OpenGL compute shaders are not supported in WebGL2. That said, the biggest hurdle is, again, to get WebGL2 working at all. From my talks with browser vendors over the last year or so, it sounds like features (including compute shaders) should start flying in easily once this hurdle is cleared. From there, GPGPU in a website should be much more straightforward.
Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2015 - 11:01 AM | Scott Michaud
This is like a five-year-old figuring out how to unlock a fireworks case full of paper crackers.
Regardless, there are two vulnerabilities, both of which have already been updated. Both of them take advantage of the whitelist functionality to ignore malicious code. By default, NoScript trusts a handful of domains, because blocking every script ever would break too much of the internet.
Subject: General Tech | May 13, 2015 - 09:06 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mozilla, firefox, DRM
Mozilla has just released Firefox 38. With it comes the controversial Adobe Primetime DRM implementation through the W3C's Encrypted Media Extensions (EME). Or, maybe not. If you upgrade the browser through one of the default channels, the Adobe Primetime Content Decryption Module will appear in the Plugins tab of your Add-ons manager on Windows Vista or later (but it might take a few minutes after the upgrade).
Alternatively, you can use Mozilla's EME-free installer for Firefox and avoid it altogether.
I have mentioned my concerns about DRM in the past. EME does not particularly bother me, because it is just a plugin architecture, but the fundamental concept does. Simply put, copy protection does very little good and a whole lot of bad. If your movie is leaked before it is legally available in consumer's hands, as it regularly does, then what do you expect to accomplish after the fact? It takes one instance to be copied infinitely, and that often comes from the film company's own supply chain, not their customers. Moreover, it is found to reduce sales and hurt customer experience (above and beyond the valid ideological concerns).
Beyond the DRM inclusion, several new features were added. One of the more interesting ones is BroadcastChannel API. This standard allows a web application to share data between “contexts” that have the same “user agent and origin”. In other words, it must be on the same browser and using the same app (even secondary instances of it). This will allow sites to do multi-monitor split screen, which is useful for games and utilities.
WebRTC has also been upgraded with multistream and renegotiation. Even though the general public thinks of WebRTC as a webcam and voice chat standard, it actually allows arbitrary data channels. For example, “BananaBread” is a first person shooter that used WebRTC to synchronize multiplayer state. Character and projectile position is very much not webcam or audio data, but WebRTC doesn't care.
Subject: General Tech | April 15, 2015 - 12:08 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mozilla, http, https, firefox
On the Mozilla Dev-Platform Newsgroup, hosted at Google Groups, a proposal to deprecate insecure HTTP is being discussed. The idea is that HTTPS needs to be adopted and organizations will not do it without being pushed. The plan is to get browser vendors to refuse activating new features, and eventually disable old features, unless the site is loaded as a “privileged context”.
This has sparked a debate, which was the whole point of course, about how secure do we want the Web to be. What features should we retroactively disable unless it is done through HTTPS? Things that access your webcam and microphone? Things that write to your hard drive? Then there is the question of how to handle self-signed certificates to get encryption without verification, and so forth.
Note: Websites cannot access or create files on your hard drive, but standards like localStorage and IndexedDB allow websites to have their own spaces for persistence. This is to allow, for instance, a 3D game to cache textures (and so forth) so you don't need to download them every time.
Personally, this concerns me greatly. I started helping Mozilla a couple of years ago, a few weeks after I saw Microsoft's Windows 8 developer certification program. I do not like the thought of someone being able to stifle creation and expression, and the web was looking like it might be the last bastion of unrestricted development for the general public.
In the original Windows Store requirements, no browser could exist unless it was a skin of Trident. This meant that, if a site didn't work in Internet Explorer, it didn't exist. If you didn't want to play by their rules? Your app didn't get signed and your developer certificate could even be revoked by Microsoft, or someone with authority over them. You could imagine the problems a LGBT-focused developer might have in certain countries, even if Microsoft likes their creations.
This is obviously not as bad as that. In the Windows Store case, there was one authority whereas HTTPS can be authenticated by numerous providers. Also, if self-signed certificates are deemed “secure enough”, it would likely avoid the problem. You would not need to ask one of a list of authorities permission to exist; you could secure the connection yourself. Of course, that is a barrier of skill for many, and that is its own concern.
So we'll see, but I hope that Mozilla will take these concerns as a top priority in their decisions.
Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2015 - 06:46 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: security, OneCRL, irony, firefox, CRLSet, chrome
It seems somehow strange that the vast majority of 'secure' connections still completely ignore what were developed as industry standards to ensure security in favour of creating their own solutions but that is the world a security professional lives in. The basic design of OCSP does carry with it a lot of extra bandwidth usage and while maintaining a time limited local cache, referred to as stapling, would ameliorate this your TLS connection is not likely to support that solution. Instead of fixing the root cause and utilizing existing standards it would seem that Firefox 37 will start a brand new solution, maintaining a list of revoked certificates ironically called OneCRL which will be pushed out to Firefox users, duplicating the CRLSet which Chrome has already developed and maintains.
This is good for the end user in that it does add security to their browsing session but for those truly worried about attempting to make the net a safer place it offers yet another list to keep track of and for attackers yet another vector of attack. At some point we will have to stop referring to standards when referencing networking technology. Pour through the links on the Slashdot post and read through the comments to share in the frustration or to familiarize yourself with these concepts if the acronyms are unfamiliar.
"The next version of Firefox will roll out a 'pushed' blocklist of revoked intermediate security certificates, in an effort to avoid using 'live' Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) checks. The 'OneCRL' feature is similar to Google Chrome's CRLSet, but like that older offering, is limited to intermediate certificates, due to size restrictions in the browser."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Socketed Intel desktop Broadwell coming mid-year @ The Tech Report
- Apple: We could expose our WHOPPING 12 INCH iPad - but it's not real @ The Register
- The Intel / iPro LIVEPAD 8.9 Face To Face Event @ Tech ARP
- Samsung-Microsoft deal will bundle Office 365 with Android Knox @ The Register
- D-Link removes fingers from ears, preps mass router patch @ The Register
- HyperX Announces New FURY DDR4 Memory and Extends High-capacity Predator DDR4 Kits @ Modders-Inc
- IBM mixes with AlchemyAPI to bring deep learning to Watson @ The Inquirer
Subject: General Tech | November 21, 2014 - 03:10 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: yahoo, mozilla, google, firefox
Mozilla, developer of the Firefox web browser, has been mostly funded by Google for the last decade. Between 2005 and 2011, the search giant slowly ramped up its contributions from around $50 million USD for a single year to just over $100 million for the last year. All of this money was to keep the default search engine set to Google for the location and search bar. At that time, journalists were voicing their concerns that Mozilla would be cut off after the success Google saw with their Chrome browser.
In December 2011, Google and Mozilla surprised the world with a different announcement, $300 million dollars per year until November 2014, or almost three times their previous annual contributions. I could not help but feel it was like a light bulb that flares before it extinguishes, although later rumors claimed that Microsoft and Yahoo drove up Google's bid with high counter-offers. Of course, that deal ends this month and Google is no longer the winning bid, if they even proposed a deal at all.
This time, Yahoo won for the next five years (in the US) with a currently undisclosed sum. Yandex will be the default for Russia, and Baidu has been renewed as the default in China.
Yahoo also committed to supporting the Do Not Track (DNT) header for Firefox browsers. If your settings have DNT enabled, the search engine will adjust its behavior to acknowledge your request for privacy. One thing that has not been mentioned is how they will react to your request. This could be anything from treating you as completely anonymous, to personalizing your search results but not your ads, to personalizing your ads but not your search results, to only looking at the geographic location of your IP address, and so forth.
The search experience is not what you will get by going to the Yahoo homepage today; the new site was developed in collaboration with Mozilla and will launch for Firefox users in December. It will go live for every other Yahoo user in 2015.
Subject: General Tech | October 6, 2014 - 07:45 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows, mozilla, firefox, 64-bit
If you had a reason, Mozilla has been compiling Firefox Nightly as a 64-bit application for Windows over the last several months. It is not a build that is designed for the general public; in fact, I believe it is basically only available to make sure that they did not horribly break anything during some arbitrary commit. That might change relatively soon, though.
According to Mozilla's "internal", albeit completely public wiki, the non-profit organization is currently planning to release an official, 64-bit version of Firefox 37. Of course, all targets in Firefox are flexible and, ultimately, it is only done when it is done. If everything goes to schedule, that should be March 31st.
The main advantage is for high-performance applications (although there are some arguments for security, too). One example is if you open numerous tabs, to get Firefox's memory usage up, then attempt to load a Web applications like BananaBread. Last I tried, it will simply not load (unless you clean up memory usage somehow, like restarting the browser). It will run out of memory and just give up. You can see how this would be difficult for higher-end games, video editing utilities, and so forth. This will not be the case when 64-bit comes around.
If you are looking to develop a web app, be sure to check out the 64-bit Firefox Nightly builds. Unless plans change, it looks like you will have even more customers soon. This is unless, of course, you are targeting Mac OSX and Linux, which already have 64-bit binaries available. Also, why are you targeting specific operating systems with a website?
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 14, 2014 - 02:12 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mozilla, intex, Firefox OS, firefox, cloud fx
If you were on a mission to make the cheapest possible mobile phone, you would probably not do much better than Intex Cloud Fx. Running Firefox OS, it will cost users about $35 to purchase it outright. Its goal is to bring the internet to places which would otherwise have nothing.
I believe the largest concession made by this phone is its RAM -- 128 MB. Yes, I had a computer with 32 MB of RAM and it browsed the internet just fine (on Netscape Navigator 2 through 4). I also had a computer before that (which was too slow to run Windows 3.1 but hey it had a turbo button). This is also the amount of RAM on the first and second generation iPod Touches. Nowadays, it is very little. Ars Technica allegedly made it crash by scrolling too fast and attempting to run benchmarks on it. This leads into its other, major compromise: its wireless connectivity. It does not support 3G. Edge is the best that you will get.
Other than those two points: it has a 1 GHz Spreadtrum SoC, 46MB of storage, a 2MP camera, and a 1250mAh battery. You do get WiFi, Bluetooth, and a microSD card slot. It also supports two SIM cards if necessary.
Again, at $35, this is not designed for America or Western Europe. This is for the areas of the world that will probably not experience the internet at all unless it is through a mobile phone. For people in India and Asia, it is about the lowest barrier to entry of the internet that is possible. You can also check out phones from other partners of Mozilla.
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 08:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: firefox, mozilla, web browser, web development
Remote Debugging for Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android is available in early development on Firefox Nightly with an optional extension.
Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2014 - 07:52 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mozilla, gamepad, firefox
After three years' reign, the orange Firefox button has been retired by Mozilla. Firefox 29 introduces the new Australis interface, with its curved tabs and a simple menu button comprised of three horizontal lines (the "Hamburger Icon"). The interface missed its targets a few times but is finally here.
Obviously, Australis makes the browser look more like Google Chrome (and less like Opera). Users of Mozilla's Thunderbird will also find it more familiar as that program skipped Firefox 4's direction and immediately adopted parts of Australis as they developed. Thunderbird still lacks a few bits and pieces, its development having slowed since its transition to Extended Support. But this is not about Thunderbird -- it is about Firefox.
In terms of actual features, Australis brings a new Bookmarks button, which is basically two buttons, and is pretty slick to both add and access links to favorite web addresses. The little star-dropping animation is a subtle hint to the user that a bookmark has been added to the list, accessed by the right-most button. Many users will be upset by the removal of the Add-on Bar, a place where extensions can leave a button or two without clogging the rest of the interface. Mozilla seems to expect that extensions, if they absolutely must leave a button, will cram it next to the gigantic location bar (or less-gigantic search bar); that, or affected users will just install an Add-on Bar extension.
Also in Firefox 29 is the finalized, and enabled by default, Gamepad API. With it, web games can be controlled with devices such as the Xbox 360 controller. If you want to see a geeky example, one is available at html5gamepad.com. This website lists every compatible game input device and their current state. In my testing, Firefox 29 was able to detect both my Xbox 360 controller and my Thrustmaster T-16000M joystick -- and register their inputs independently.
There's not really anything, from the technical side of things at least, to prevent split-screen gaming in the browser. Detecting the input devices did not even require restarting the browser, although that is a good troubleshooting step, as Firefox detected it immediately after I plugged it in and pressed a button. The flight stick, probably because it has never been attached to this instance of Windows before, required the good old unplug and replug of its USB cord after Windows "Add New Hardware" finished in order to register input. It is not perfect, but still pretty good.
Firefox 29 launched in the middle of the night on Tuesday, April 29th. It is free and, if Firefox is set to automatically update, you probably already have it. If not? Get it.