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Firefox Lorentz Keeps Plugin Crashes Under Control 115

Posted by timothy
from the pleasant-fantasy dept.
pastababa writes "A beta of the Firefox Lorentz project is now available for download and public testing. Eming reports Firefox 'Lorentz' provides uninterrupted browsing for Windows and Linux users when there is a crash in plugins. Plugins run in a separate process from the browser. If a plugin crashes it will not crash the browser, and unresponsive plugins are automatically restarted. The process-isolation feature has been in Google's Chrome from the beginning. Chrome sandboxes individual tabs, and the crash of one tab does not affect the running of the rest of Chrome browser. Firefox currently isolates only Adobe Flash, Apple Quicktime, and Microsoft Silverlight, but will eventually isolate all plugins running on a page. Mozilla encourages users to test Firefox 'Lorentz' on their favorite websites. Users who install Firefox 'Lorentz' will eventually be automatically updated to a future version of Firefox 3.6 in which this feature is included."
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Firefox Lorentz Keeps Plugin Crashes Under Control

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  • How is this new? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Friday April 09, 2010 @11:34PM (#31797750) Homepage
    Versions of Gnash have frequently segfaulted on my Linux box (the segfault is reported by dmesg), yet I've never had a browser crash because of it. I had thought that plugins were already isolated enough from the application as a whole.
    • by pavon (30274) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @12:02AM (#31797864)

      No, this has not been the normal plugin architecture. When Linux moved to 64-bit, firefox was ported to 64-bit but all of the proprietary plugins were still 32-bit. The solution to this problem was to create nspluginwrapper which would run the apps in a separate process. It had some bugs of it's own, wasn't always reliable about letting you restart crashed plugins, and has itself crashed the browser on me, but it largely prevented plugins from crashing the browser as a side effect.

      Older 32-bit versions of firefox on linux, and all versions on windows did not have this capability.

      • Gnash has 64 bit version that doesn't use nspluginwrapper, and Flash has a 64 bit alpha (that works rather well).

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Firefox plugins have been able to "voluntarily" use a subprocess for most activities for a long time - going back to netscape! They just need to, well, fork and exec a subprocess to do whatever they're doing. X11 even allows different processes to directly control subwindows as a design feature, though the subprocess could also talk back to the in-process segment of the plugin.

          However, initially for performance reasons and later when that became a realtive nonissue apparently just due to laziness (and pro

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Does this also keep Slashdot's 503 errors when trying to login under control?

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I am already logged in, but I get 503 errors whenever I try to view a user page.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)
          Same here. It's been happening since last night - around 14 hours ago, and it's quite irritating because it means that I can't see any of the replies to my posts. Without the ability to see - and reply to - replies, Slashdot becomes a one-shot discussion forum like OSNews or Digg. Please fix this soon!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mu22le (766735)

      I agree, my browser is already stable enough (all things considered). I wish there was a way to prevent flash from trashing 100% of my cpu for a stupid game.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by hedwards (940851)
        There already is, run FreeBSD. After all something can't crash that isn't available.
        • by wampus (1932)

          HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

          I installed PCBSD not long ago. That motherfucker can't keep Firefox or anything else that uses Gtk running for more than 10 minutes at a time, right out of the box. It's swell.

        • There already is, run FreeBSD. After all something can't crash that isn't available.

          I'd think it'd be easier to just uninstall Flash on his current system...

  • by gzipped_tar (1151931) on Friday April 09, 2010 @11:34PM (#31797754) Journal

    but can it be extended so that plugins are not only run in their separate processes, but separate SELinux sandboxes as well?

    • by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @12:08AM (#31797896)

      I'd prefer they run on a separate machine. Someone else's machine in fact.

      • On a Beowulf cluster, you can!
      • As funny as it may be, it's actually possible with X and XEmbed. Even though X haters have been screaming for years that network transparency needs to go.

        • by the_womble (580291) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @05:43AM (#31798770) Homepage Journal

          [quote]Even though X haters have been screaming for years that network transparency needs to go.[/quote]

          Largely because they do not realise how useful it can be...

          • Largely because they do not realise how useful it can be...

            As someone who uses remote X regularly, I think the above is a really odd thing to say about a GUI.

            Windows and Mac graphics have had network transparency for a while, but anyone using them who wants to explore in that direction can do so by clicking on icons with a mouse. This disparity is a reason why people like me hate the typical X11+whatever subsystem stacks: OS features (including features of the GUI subsystem itself) are seldom discoverable when using that self same GUI.

            If I were the Xorg devs, I wou

        • Technically, you don't even need XEmbed, it's all in the core protocol. When you use Flash on FreeBSD, you do something similar. You run the Flash plugin in nspluginwrapper. This, in turn, runs in the Linux ABI compatibility layer, but communicates with the same X display as your native browser. The communication, I think, happens via pipes, but it could easily happen via sockets or even through the X server via event notifications.

          There are lots of things wrong with X, and I'd love it if someone would

    • by TheLink (130905)
      Firefox should just make it easier for you to start up different firefox instances, have them easily distinguishable and have them in different sandboxes.

      That way you can use one browser instance for your banking (and whatever weird plugins, user agent etc your bank requires), another browser instance for facebook, one for "usual sites", and one for "default" (which is what opens when you accidentally click on email links).

      Then you adjust your sandbox/risk exposure for a category of sites, not just plugins.
      • by mysidia (191772)

        Problem with that is Advertising and other things that you get you directed to nasty sites, when in a 'more trusted site' security context.

        Your bank probably includes links or items imported inline from other websites. One of those sites might be less trusted or more prone to attack.

        It also does nothing for your compromised Bank A site using XSRF/CSRF techniques against your browser to compromise your details with Bank B in your 'bank security' context.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by malevo (952162)

      With all the rage about cloud computing they should make the plugins run on the web.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We are working on that.

      https://wiki.mozilla.org/Plugins:PlatformIndependentNPAPI

      It will require the plugins to be re-written to not use any system APIs but here is work on that as well.

    • if they are in a separate process, they can be using a different selinux domain.
      in fact, I'm already doing this with RSBAC (similar to SeLinux) with the preversions of this "lorentz" since a while.
      Have been doing it using nspluginwrapper before.

      Basically all plugins using the process separation have the separate role/domain (albeit same one) (so, plugins have 1 role/domain, browser another)

      • Thanks for the search keyword provided in your post. Haven't paid attention to RSBAC which seems worth knowing.

    • but based on the subject, this message could be about anything.
  • by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Friday April 09, 2010 @11:50PM (#31797806)
    Hmm, Google Chrome already handles plugins this way, but one flash-heavy site I know delivers a lot of streaming video and absolutely will crash either Firefox or Chrome in linux (I use Mint, mainly) without fail, if given enough time, Gnome or KDE. Crash as in the entire browser becomes unresponsive and must force-close. After it did this to Firefox a few times I tried Chrome, with the same result. Everything will be fine for a few minutes, sometimes up to an hour or so, then the whole browser will die. Haven't tried IE, tried Firefox with Windows 7 and had the same thing happen. I will certainly look into anything that prevents crashes for Firefox, since I strongly prefer it to every other browser I've tried, since most of the time it works perfectly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you see the same problems in a development Firefox build, please file a bug report against Core::Plugins at bugzilla.mozilla.org. We'd love to figure out what's wrong and fix it.

    • >>>one flash-heavy site I know delivers a lot of streaming video and absolutely will crash either Firefox or Chrome in linux

      Which site is it? I'd like to try it myself to see if it does the same for me.

      .

      >>>(I use Mint, mainly)

      Just curious - Why would I choose to use Mint Linux instead of, say, Fedora Linux?

    • by cffrost (885375)

      [...] one flash-heavy site I know [...]

      Never heard of it.

  • Why didn't we have this stuff in the late nineties?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      We've had it on FreeBSD for a while, and on x86-64 Linux too. It's been possible on most *NIX systems, but the motivation for doing it has been the lack of native plugins, not stability. Both FreeBSD and x86-64 Linux run 32-bit Linux plugins via nspluginwrapper, in a separate process. If you go to a site that crashes Flash, it just crashes another process. There's a little bit more overhead - an extra process instance, IPC between the plugin and browser instead of just function calls - so browsers on ot
  • We've known about plugin crashiness for a long time. We're just now going multi-process for this?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      We've known about plugin crashiness for a long time. We're just now going multi-process for this?

      Translating that to FOSS speak: We've known about plugin crashiness for a long time. This problem would never be fixed if it was up to me to fix it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Konqueror has run flash (and more generally nsplugins) in a separate process since before Chrome was even a rumour. I used to run Konqueror as my primary browser and when I stopped using it I was surprised to discover that other browsers didn't run flash as a separate process.
  • Using it now (Score:4, Insightful)

    by flyingfsck (986395) on Friday April 09, 2010 @11:55PM (#31797832)
    Let's see how it goes. The auto-restart of plugins should be good, but could also cause a plugin DOS.
    • Re:Using it now (Score:5, Informative)

      by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt@@@gmail...com> on Friday April 09, 2010 @11:59PM (#31797854) Homepage
      I didn't think it autorestarted plugins. They even provided a reason (probably the same reason Google did it)... current webpages will not expect plugins to restart. And because it's possible for Flash to make JS calls etc this could lead to side effects and page breaking, I think they thought it was just best to reload the page so JS restarts too. Of course I read this on a blog a few weeks back, they could have changed their minds?
      • by Tim C (15259)

        Never mind that, as the OP hints if the plugin is crashing because something in its input is causing it to barf the last thing you want is to just restart it with the same input; chances are it'll just barf again...

  • by deek (22697) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @12:33AM (#31797990) Homepage Journal

    Does this mean that, when "Lorentz" covers all plugins, we can install and update plugins without having to restart Firefox?

    That would be a worthwhile feature. It's annoying having to restart the browser for any plugin changes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by iammani (1392285)
      Mmmm are you sure not talking about the annoying Extension (extensions as in adblock, betterprivacy) updates? Because I have almost never be annoyed by any plugin installation/update (Except when I installed adobe flash on windows, when it wanted me to restart all browsers to start installation).
    • by Dynedain (141758)

      Hey, at least it's not Internet Explorer where changing a plugin can result in restarting the OS!

      ***bad-dump-ting***

      Thank you, and tip your waitress!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by xtracto (837672)

      Ah yeah, that is one of the most irritating things I hate on firefox. Why would I have to restart the web browser after installing an extension like scrapbook? this is from the people who whined that you have to restart Windows for any reason...

      What I would really like is an "extension profiler", that is, a program that let you check exact statistics of resources used by the different Firefox extensions. This way you could see which is the extension that is taking more memory or time and it may be a good to

    • by X0563511 (793323) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:35AM (#31799010) Homepage Journal

      Plugins are not extensions.

    • No, restart-less extension installing and updating is a separate feature that's also in the works. I don't recall if they have a set release for that yet or not.
  • by BLKMGK (34057)

    I crash Firefox several times a day right now. I leave it running all day and when I come back to the machine it's toast 9 times out of 10. I think it's a combination of Flash! and Java but other things seem to take it out too. I finally got pissed and found out more about how to look at the Firefox bug reports and am slowly trying to add more info to the ones that plague me! this one https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=537630 [mozilla.org] is a bitch for instance. If you want to see yours put this in the addres

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jez9999 (618189)

      I think it's a combination of Flash! and Java but other things seem to take it out too.

      Did Yahoo! buy out Flash while I wasn't looking?

    • by BLKMGK (34057)

      So much for that - got up this morning and Firefox was toast again. No troubleshooting info available for them to dissect either which has been happening more and more often. I can say I was able to watch more video on Break and YouTube than I'd been able to watch in the past without issue so for that I'm happy. We'll see... Sadly IE is rock stable for me but I think if I pushed it nearly as hard as I do FF it too would fail - it has in the past.

  • by Protoslo (752870) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @01:42AM (#31798154)

    Firefox currently isolate [sic] only Adobe Flash, Apple Quicktime and Microsoft Silverlight, but will eventually isolate all plugins running on a page.

    The quote emphasizes that Lorentz affects only plugins, not extensions, a distinction that seems to be escaping many posters.

    I've had flash behave pretty screwily short of crashing, so this might be nicer if it included a mechanism to manually stop & restart plugins. Perhaps it will expose API allowing other add-ons to do so.

    The plugin that gives me by far the most trouble (on Windows) is Adobe Acrobat Reader. I can already restart that (by killing the process) without crashing firefox.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Protoslo (752870)
      My earlier reading of the comments was unfair, the vast majority of posters seem quite clear on what a plugin is. Yay, slashdot!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by amorsen (7485)

      The plugin that gives me by far the most trouble (on Windows) is Adobe Acrobat Reader. I can already restart that (by killing the process) without crashing firefox.

      There are much better products even on Windows which provide the same functionality as Acrobat Reader. E.g. the built-in Remote Desktop is quite ok these days, and TeamViewer is very nice.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @03:02AM (#31798372)

    There appears to be a download for Mac available right at the same link - but from the FAQ:

    2. Why aren't multi-process plugins available on Mac?

    Mozilla is working on making multi-process plugins available on Mac. Because of architectural differences, the code is not ready for beta testing.

  • Can anyone please explain to me why there's a need for completely new processes, as opposed to using threads?
    I'm curious as to what's the difference, and where the thread mechanism "fails" here.

    • by Cobra_666 (777517) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @03:42AM (#31798476)
      Separate address spaces. When a thread crashes, the whole process goes down. If separate process dies, the browser should still be intact.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by kangsterizer (1698322)

        yeah that's also why chrome uses so much memory, and also, processes are be nature slightly slower to communicate since you can't just lock and access the memory. In practice however its peanuts, and on Linux its pretty much just as good.

        anyways, using subprocesses for plugins makes complete sense. using them for tabs etc are just a way to work around the browser's instability. Rather have quick threads and non buggy code, than people just thinking a plugin went wrong while really, the browser is at fault.

  • by syousef (465911) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @04:33AM (#31798602) Journal

    Crashes are a hassle for sure, but if you're lucky and don't have an unstable plugin installed, you rarely crash. What I tend to see is runaway memory and CPU usage that forces me to close the browser and start again.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Has nobody attached a profiler and just let it go until this happens? Is it really that hard to find the cause?

      • by hedwards (940851)
        Find? No, it's not really the finding that's the problem it's that Flash is frequently the problem and Adobe doesn't seem to care enough to fix it. It's amazing how seldom Firefox crashes without some sort of plug in assist. Perhaps Adobe should just skip a step and just release a "crash the browser, annoy the user" plug in rather than wast time pretending that people want Flash.
  • by thaig (415462) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @04:44AM (#31798630) Homepage

    I'm using it now and I like it, but Chrome is not stable for me.

    It's problem is that it gets "stuck" in flash in such a way that nothing on my system can use the sound card.

    I can kill off all the tabs but there's still a chrome process running and until I kill that manually I can't play any music.

    I find this an incredible nuisance. Firefox has the same problem but when I kill it it's gone - no processes left behind.

  • by Mr. Bad Example (31092) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @05:45AM (#31798774) Homepage

    > Chrome sandboxes individual tabs, crashes of one tab does not affect the running of the rest of Chrome browser.

    Will Chrome also restart sentences in the event of comma splices?

    • You pick up on a slightly misdirected interpunctuation (semicolon or even a colon would have been fine) but ignore the glaring grammar errors?

      • > You pick up on a slightly misdirected interpunctuation (semicolon or even a colon would have been fine) but ignore the glaring grammar errors?

        Not so much "ignore" as "refrain from correcting in disgust". I'm only dedicated to drive-by snark to a point.

  • Well, I would gladly test this. But "automatically updated to a future version of Firefox 3.6"? I normally wait about a week for my critical extensions to catch up to a new release. Potentially a week without Tab Mix Plus? No thanks.

  • by siglercm (6059) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:57AM (#31799070) Journal

    Been running nightly 64-bit Firefox, automatically updated. I guess I got Lorentz a couple of nights ago, not sure when because I was traveling.

    Now no Flash instances run, they take 30 seconds or more to "initialize" before they crash, and the entire Lorentz-enabled Firefox browser crashed on me once. It just suddenly and unexpectedly disappeared. It's been a year or more since Firefox crashed on me.

    So at this point there are lots of bugs to shake out. Going back to vanilla 3.6.3 for the time being.

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