Mozilla, Opera, and Google Pull Malicious Extension

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2018 - 09:12 PM |
Tagged: Opera, mozilla, google, firefox, chrome

I don’t think this should surprise anyone, but it’s good to report on none-the-less. There was a popular browser extension, called Stylish, that allowed users to customize the pages that they visit, and share those customizations with their friends. It’s a cool concept, but it was later sold to another company. That new owner changed the extension to monitor its users.

Mozilla, Opera, and Google slapped it across the jaw with a banhammer.

valve-nope.jpg

If you go to Mozilla’s Firefox Add-ons site, Opera's Add-ons site, or Google’s Chrome Web Store, you will get a 404. If you already installed the extension, it will be removed from your browser. As such, you probably don’t need to worry about it, because the browser vendors went DEFCON 1 on it.

But just in case you haven’t yet got the kill signal (because you’re behind a limited VPN or something) be sure to remove “Stylish” from your browser.

This also raises the point about curated app stores: review isn't perfect. Sometimes malicious software can go unnoticed for years. It's best not to get too complacent.

Source: Sophos

Firefox 51 and Chrome 56 Launch with WebGL 2.0

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2017 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: webgl, webgl2, firefox, chrome, google, mozilla, Opera

After quite a bit of anticipation, both Mozilla and Google have just shipped compatible implementations of WebGL 2. This feature was unlocked to the public in Firefox 51 and Chrome 56 for the desktop, both released this week, while Opera will push it out to desktop and mobile on their next version, Opera 43. Microsoft currently has the API “under consideration” for Edge.

As we’ve highlighted in the past, this new version of the graphics API pushes the platform up to OpenGL ES 3.0, with a few exceptions that are typically made for security reasons. This update allows quite a few new features like off-screen render targets, which is useful for deferred rendering. The shading language is also significantly larger, and can now operate natively on integer types and 3D textures.

WebGL 2.0 does not include compute shaders, however, which is a bit unfortunate. That said, it is (at least last I checked) a highly-requested feature and the browser vendors are interested in providing it.

Opera Adds Built In VPN and Ad Blocking To Web Browser

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | October 28, 2016 - 12:46 AM |
Tagged: editorial, web browser, vpn, Privacy, Opera, Blink

It has been some time since I last looked at Opera, and while I used to be a big fan of the alternative web browser my interest waned around the time that they abandoned their own engine to become (what I felt) yet another Chrome (Webkit) clone. Specifically, it looks like the last version I tested out was 12.10. Well, last month Opera released version 40 with just enough of a twist to pique my interest once again: the inclusion of a free built-in VPN.

Opera 41 Built In VPN.png

I (finally) got around to testing out the new browser today, and it works fairly well. While setting the default to share usage data is not ideal, offering to enable the ad blocker after installation is a good touch. The VPN feature is a bit more tucked away than I would like but still accessible enough from the settings menu. Further, once it is enabled, it is easy to turn it off and on using the icon in the search/address bar.

According to Opera, the built-in VPN (virtual private network) comes courtesy of SurfEasy – a company that Opera acquired last year. SurfEasy uses OpenVPN and 256-bit encryption and also lauds itself on being a no-log VPN (they do not maintain logs tracking users' usage). Opera is not currently imposing any restrictions on the free VPN built into Opera with bandwith and data usage not being capped. Not bad for a free offering! For comparison, I've used the free version of ProXPN on occasion (public Wi-Fi mostly), and while the VPN is for the entire PC (not just the browser like in Opera's case) they heavily throttle the download speeds to entice you to pay (heh).

In a quick test, I got the following results:

  Ping (ms) Download (Mbps) Upload (Mbps)
No VPN 13 90.26 12.14
Opera VPN 108 89.72 12.06
ProXPN Basic 38 1.74 11.19

Considering the exit point was much further away (SpeedTest chose a Kansas test server, and it looks like the VPN server may have been in Houston, TX), the performance was not bad. Download and Upload speeds were only slightly slower, but (as expected) the ping was much higher.

Opera offers five locations for its free VPN: Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, and the United States.

Users can enable the VPN by browsing to opera://settings and clicking on Privacy & Security in the left hand list then checking the box next to "Enable VPN."

On another note, the included ad blocker seemed to work well (it apparently has already blocked 86 ads even though I only hit up a couple sites!). My only complaint here is that it does not make it as easy as AdBlock Plus to block/unblock specific elements (or if there is a way it's not intuitive). It is only a minor complaint though, and not really relevant for the majority of users.

I am by no means a browser benchmarker, but it feels fast enough when switching between tabs and loading websites. Fortunately, Michael Muchmore and Max Eddy put Opera through its paces and compiled the benchmark results from several synthetic tests if you are into the nitty-gritty numbers. From their data it appears that Opera is not the fastest, but by no means a slouch. The one test it fell hard on was the Unity WebGL benchmark, though it was not the only browser to do so (Opera, Chrome, and Vivaldi were all close with FireFox and Edge getting the top scores).

Other features of Opera 40 (41 in my case) include a personalized newsfeed that can be fed with any user-supplied RSS feeds, a new battery saver mode, hardware accelerated pop-out videos, Chromecast support, and a number of under the hood performance and memory optimizations (especially with more than 10 tabs open).

I am going to keep it installed and may switch back to using Opera as my daily browser. It looks like it has come a long way since Opera 12 and while it is similar to Chrome under the hood, Opera is doing enough to set itself apart that it may be worth looking into further.

What are your thoughts on Opera 41? 

Source: Opera

Chinese Group Purchases Opera for $600 Million (50% Off!)

Subject: General Tech | July 19, 2016 - 02:38 AM |
Tagged: web browser, Opera, China

Opera is the smallest of the major browser vendors, estimated at about one-fifth the desktop market share of Mozilla's Firefox. That said, it had some fairly high-profile device wins, such as the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo DS, and they're strong on other mobile devices, too. They had their own rendering technology until 2013, when they switched to Webkit and, when Google forked away from Apple and KDE into the Blink project, followed Google.

opera-2016-logo.png

Recently, a group of Chinese companies have announced that they will be purchasing a large chunk of the browser vendor for $600 million USD. Interestingly, this was after offering $1.2 billion just a few months earlier. This time, the Chinese group will receive less of the company, and thus will pay less for it. The original company, which will have 18 months to find a new name, will maintain ownership of three parts:

  • Opera Mediaworks
  • Opera Apps & Games (including Bemobi)
  • Opera TV

According to Engadget, the original, $1.2 billion dollar deal was canceled when some government organization disapproved of the deal. Looking at the three components that were omit, I cannot see why a regulation body would raise an issue, whether it be for national security or monopoly reasons. They seem pretty innocuous and small, but I guess the EU might take issue with consumer data privacy?

Either way, these three elements will remain, but everything else will go.