Firefox

Mozilla Tests Firefox 'Tab Warming' (bleepingcomputer.com) 148

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: Mozilla is currently testing a new feature called "Tab Warming" that engineers hope will improve the tab switching process. According to a description of the feature, Tab Warming will watch the user's mouse cursor and start "painting" content inside a tab whenever the user hovers his mouse over one. Firefox will do this on the assumption the user wants to click and switch to view that tab and will want to keep a pre-rendered tab on hand if this occurs. "Those precious milliseconds are used to do the rendering and uploading, so that when the click event finally comes, the [tab] is ready and waiting for you," said Mike Conley, one of the Firefox engineers who worked on this feature.
EU

City of Barcelona Dumps Windows For Linux and Open Source Software (europa.eu) 237

An anonymous reader quotes Open Source Observatory: The City of Barcelona is migrating its computer systems away from the Windows platform, reports the Spanish newspaper El País. The City's strategy is first to replace all user applications with open-source alternatives, until the underlying Windows operating system is the only proprietary software remaining. In a final step, the operating system will be replaced with Linux... According to Francesca Bria, the Commissioner of Technology and Digital Innovation at the City Council, the transition will be completed before the current administration's mandate ends in spring 2019. For starters, the Outlook mail client and Exchange Server will be replaced with Open-Xchange. In a similar fashion, Internet Explorer and Office will be replaced with Firefox and LibreOffice, respectively. The Linux distribution eventually used will probably be Ubuntu, since the City of Barcelona is already running 1,000 Ubuntu-based desktops as part of a pilot...

Barcelona is the first municipality to have joined the European campaign 'Public Money, Public Code'. This campaign is an initiative of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and revolves around an open letter advocating that publicly funded software should be free. Currently, this call to public agencies is supported by more than 100 organisations and almost 15,000 individuals. With the new open-source strategy, Barcelona's City Council aims to avoid spending large amounts of money on licence-based software and to reduce its dependence on proprietary suppliers through contracts that in some cases have been closed for decades.

Intel

How a Researcher Hacked His Own Computer and Found One of the Worst CPU Bugs Ever Found (reuters.com) 138

Reuters tells the story of how Daniel Gruss, a 31-year-old information security researcher and post-doctoral fellow at Austria's Graz Technical University, hacked his own computer and exposed a flaw in most of the Intel chips made in the past two decades. Prior to his discovery, Gruss and his colleagues Moritz Lipp and Michael Schwarz had thought such an attack on the processor's "kernel" memory, which is meant to be inaccessible to users, was only theoretically possible. From the report: "When I saw my private website addresses from Firefox being dumped by the tool I wrote, I was really shocked," Gruss told Reuters in an email interview, describing how he had unlocked personal data that should be secured. Gruss, Lipp and Schwarz, working from their homes on a weekend in early December, messaged each other furiously to verify the result. "We sat for hours in disbelief until we eliminated any possibility that this result was wrong," said Gruss, whose mind kept racing even after powering down his computer, so he barely caught a wink of sleep.

Gruss and his colleagues had just confirmed the existence of what he regards as "one of the worst CPU bugs ever found." The flaw, now named Meltdown, was revealed on Wednesday and affects most processors manufactured by Intel since 1995. Separately, a second defect called Spectre has been found that also exposes core memory in most computers and mobile devices running on chips made by Intel, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and ARM Holdings, a unit of Japan's Softbank.

Chrome

Opinion: Chrome is Turning Into the New Internet Explorer 6 (theverge.com) 294

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge: Chrome now has the type of dominance that Internet Explorer once did, and we're starting to see Google's own apps diverge from supporting web standards much in the same way Microsoft did a decade and a half ago. Whether you blame Google or the often slow moving World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the results have been particularly evident throughout 2017. Google has been at the center of a lot of "works best with Chrome" messages we're starting to see appear on the web. Google Meet, Allo, YouTube TV, Google Earth, and YouTube Studio Beta all block Windows 10's default browser, Microsoft Edge, from accessing them and they all point users to download Chrome instead. Some also block Firefox with messages to download Chrome. Hangouts, Inbox, and AdWords 3 were all in the same boat when they first debuted.

It's led to one developer at Microsoft to describe Google's behavior as a strategic pattern. "When the largest web company in the world blocks out competitors, it smells less like an accident and more like strategy," said a Microsoft developer in a now-deleted tweet. Google also controls the most popular site in the world, and it regularly uses it to push Chrome. If you visit Google.com in a non-Chrome browser you're prompted up to three times if you'd like to download Chrome. Google has also even extended that prompt to take over the entire page at times to really push Chrome in certain regions. Microsoft has been using similar tactics to convince Windows 10 users to stick with Edge. The troubling part for anyone who's invested in an open web is that Google is starting to ignore a principle it championed by making its own services Chrome-only -- even if it's only initially.

Google

Amazon's YouTube Workaround on Fire TV Works Just Fine (geekwire.com) 64

Last month, a notification that YouTube would no longer be available through Fire TV and Fire TV Stick devices starting Jan. 1 popped up, threatening to leave a huge hole in Amazon's streaming lineup. But just last week, Amazon added the ability to surf the web and get to YouTube via a browser. But does it work? GeekWire thinks so: The result is a simple path to YouTube, circumventing Google's move to pull it from Fire TV. Web browsing probably wasn't a direct response to Amazon's issues with Google, which owns YouTube, but it provides a convenient alternative to keep the service accessible for Fire TV users. The first step is downloading one or both of the web browsers. Opening Firefox leads to this home screen with easy access tiles to both Google and YouTube. On Silk, the home screen defaults to Bing search. But as I poked around, I noticed that YouTube for TV showed up in my bookmarks even though this was the first time I opened the browser. A YouTube interface optimized for TV, the same one you would see on other streaming devices, pops up on both browsers. To sign in, YouTube prompted me to activate YouTube for TV through a phone or computer. Once that process was complete, YouTube showed the same personalized recommendations as my phone and computer.
Firefox

Mozilla Will Delete Firefox Crash Reports Collected by Accident (bleepingcomputer.com) 38

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Mozilla said last week it would delete all telemetry data collected because of a bug in the Firefox crash reporter. According to Mozilla engineers, Firefox has been collecting information on crashed background tabs from users' browsers since Firefox 52, released in March 2017. Firefox versions released in that time span did not respect user-set privacy settings and automatically auto-submitted crash reports to Mozilla servers. The browser maker fixed the issue with the release of Firefox 57.0.3. Crash reports are not fully-anonymized.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Applauds 'Massive Change' to HTTPS (eff.org) 214

"The movement to encrypt the web reached milestone after milestone in 2017," writes the EFF, adding that "the web is in the middle of a massive change from non-secure HTTP to the more secure, encrypted HTTPS protocol." In February, the scales tipped. For the first time, approximately half of Internet traffic was protected by HTTPS. Now, as 2017 comes to a close, an average of 66% of page loads on Firefox are encrypted, and Chrome shows even higher numbers. At the beginning of the year, Let's Encrypt had issued about 28 million certificates. In June, it surpassed 100 million certificates. Now, Let's Encrypt's total issuance volume has exceeded 177 million certificates...

Browsers have been pushing the movement to encrypt the web further, too. Early this year, Chrome and Firefox started showing users "Not secure" warnings when HTTP websites asked them to submit password or credit card information. In October, Chrome expanded the warning to cover all input fields, as well as all pages viewed in Incognito mode. Chrome has eventual plans to show a "Not secure" warning for all HTTP pages... The next big step in encrypting the web is ensuring that most websites default to HTTPS without ever sending people to the HTTP version of their site. The technology to do this is called HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), and is being more widely adopted. Notably, the registrar for the .gov TLD announced that all new .gov domains would be set up with HSTS automatically...

The Certification Authority Authorization (CAA) standard became mandatory for all CAs to implement this year... [And] there's plenty to look forward to in 2018. In a significant improvement to the TLS ecosystem, for example, Chrome plans to require Certificate Transparency starting next April.

Windows

Windows 10 Visits To US Government Sites Surpass Windows 7 For the First Time (onmsft.com) 111

In what may be a signal of changing attitudes for Windows 10, visits to U.S. government sites via Windows 10 have surpassed Windows 7 for the first time. On MSFT reports: This United States government website reports that of the 2.54 billion visits to U.S. Government websites over the past 90 days, 20.9% came from Windows 10, and 20.7% from Windows 7. Interestingly, Windows 8.1 came in at 2.7%, Windows 8 .05%, and other OS 0.8%. The numbers are a bit niche and could be just from a holiday bump based on the sites 90-day average, but they still do give a solid number comparison for the state of various OS and browser stats. When it comes to browser share, Edge was not popularly used to visit U.S. Government websites. Chrome was on top with 44.4%, Followed up Safari with 27.6%, Internet Explorer at 12.3%, and then Firefox at 5.9% and Edge at 3.9%. Though all these government percentages may be bleak for Microsoft, the latest AdDuplex December report also shows strong adoption for Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, so things can only go up from Microsoft from here on out.
Businesses

Amazon's YouTube App on Fire TV Stops Working Ahead of Schedule (fastcompany.com) 85

Amazon has already deactivated its YouTube app on Fire TV devices, four days before a planned blockade by Google. Instead of opening YouTube directly, the app now encourages users to install Silk or Firefox, and will open a link to the site once either browser is installed. From a report: Google has said it will cut off YouTube access on Fire TV starting January 1, citing Amazon's unwillingness to support Prime Video on Chromecast, or to sell Google hardware (including Chromecast) on its website. The companies say they're having productive discussions, and Amazon now has a product listing up for Chromecast, but the YouTube app's deactivation suggests an agreement isn't imminent.
Businesses

Established Players in Tech Industry Are Displaced By New Technologies and Companies Often When They Are Operating At Their Peak (learningbyshipping.com) 57

In a column, Steven Sinofsky, former President of the Windows Division at Microsoft, cites various examples from the past to suggest that it is often when incumbents in technology space have established market dominance that new startups rise and displace them: While the tech incumbents are clearly generating massive revenue and profits, nearly all of this comes from products developed long ago. In fact, as we now know in hindsight, it is exactly when conventional wisdom conflates today's economic success with forward-looking product innovation that seeds are being planted for the next massive wave of innovation. Google was formed at time when the incumbents of AOL and even Yahoo were stronger than ever. Facebook came just after the dot com bubble burst. Even the reincarnation of Apple took place after the bubble burst with products being developed as the bubble peaked. And for what it is worth, the PC ecosystem, particularly Windows, was relatively "flat" mired in Windows Vista while Firefox dominated and Google Chrome was appeared (Windows 7 wouldn't come out for a year after Chrome). In the infrastructure space, the seeds were planted for both AWS and VMWare in the shadow of the dot com bubble. In an historical context it is highly likely that the next wave of innovation in new technologies and new companies will happen right under the noses of big companies operating at what the public markets think of as peak (earnings) potential.
The Internet

Some Telcos and ISPs are Frustrating IPv6 Adoption (guardian.ng) 135

An anonymous reader writes: "There are indications that telecommunications operators and traditional ISPs in the country are frustrating adoption of Internet Protocol version six (IPv6) by other networks," reports Nigeria's Guardian newspaper, citing Nigeria CommunicationsWeek. The magazine found 32 networks with IPv6 addresses -- but only three which are using them. And the newspaper cites "a network engineer with a university who does not want to be named" frustrated that their ISP's network isn't IPv6-compatible, so the university can't use its own IPv6 address. "Mohammed Rudman, chairman, IPv6 Council Nigeria, said that most telecommunications operators and internet service providers in the country have not adopted IPv6 which raises the issue of compatibility with other networks."
Firefox has a fast-fallback-to-IPv4 option, which you can disable in about:config (as well as an option to disable IPv6 altogether). But "the Chrome browser supports IPv6 natively and doesn't allow users to decide which protocol to use," reports TechGlimpse.com.

How does your browser perform? Long-time Slashdot reader ourlovecanlastforeve shared a link to Test-IPv6.com, which detects whether "when given the choice, your browser decided it would prefer to use IPv4 instead of IPv6."
Firefox

Firefox 57's Speed Secret? Delaying Requests from Tracking Domains (zdnet.com) 119

An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: A Mozilla engineer has revealed one of the hidden techniques that Firefox 57 -- known as Quantum -- is using to improve page load times... It delays scripts from tracking domains, such as www.google-analytics.com. The technique was developed by Mozilla engineer Honza Bambas, who calls it "tailing". It works by delaying scripts from tracking domains when a page is actively loading and rendering...

Tailing only briefly prevents the tracking scripts loading, rather than disabling them entirely. Page load performance is improved by saving on network bandwidth and computing resources while loading a page, in a way that prioritizes site requests over tracking requests. "Requests are kept on hold only while there are site sub-resources still loading and only up to about 6 seconds. The delay is engaged only for scripts added dynamically or as async. Tracking images are always delayed. This is legal according all HTML specifications and it's assumed that well built sites will not be affected regarding functionality," explains Bambas.

Firefox

Firefox Is Now Available On Amazon's Fire TV, Bringing YouTube Access With It (techradar.com) 49

Mozilla has announced that its Firefox web browser is now available on all Fire TV devices. While navigating web browsers on televisions isn't the most user-friendly experience, it could be the only way users can access YouTube. Earlier this month, Google pulled YouTube off the Fire TV and Echo Show since Amazon stopped selling several Google products. TechRadar reports: Though there's no explicit 'hey, this is a convenient workaround' section in Mozilla's announcement of the news, there is a section of the blog post which states that users can "go to YouTube and other sites directly from the Firefox for Fire TV home screen" and another which promises access to videos from "YouTube and other popular sites." While the companies are currently in talks to resolve their disagreements, Google's threat to pull YouTube access from the Fire TV line on January 1, 2018, is still hanging over Amazon. This threat is, however, now carries slightly less menace if Firefox browser access remains a workaround.
Security

Firefox Prepares To Mark All HTTP Sites 'Not Secure' After HTTPS Adoption Rises (bleepingcomputer.com) 244

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: The increased adoption of HTTPS among website operators will soon lead to browsers marking HTTP pages as "Not Secure" by default, and Mozilla is taking the first steps. The current Firefox Nightly Edition (version 59) includes a secret configuration option that when activated will show a visible visual indicator that the current page is not secure. In its current form, this visual indicator is a red line striking through a classic lock that's normally used to signal the presence of encrypted HTTPS pages. According to Let's Encrypt, 67% of web pages loaded by Firefox in November 2017 used HTTPS, compared to only 45% at the end of last year.
Microsoft

Do More People Use Firefox Than Edge and IE Combined? (computerworld.com) 152

A funny thing happened when Net Applications' statistics began excluding fake traffic from ad-defrauding bots. Computerworld reports: Microsoft's Edge browser is less popular with Windows 10 users than earlier thought, if revised data from a U.S. analytics vendor can be believed. According to Net Applications of Aliso Viejo, Calif., Edge has been designated the primary browser by fewer than one in six Windows 10 users for more than a year and a half. That's a significant downgrading of Edge's user share statistics from the browser's portrayal before this month...

By comparing Edge's old and new shares, it was evident that as much as half of the earlier Edge traffic had been faked by bots. The portion of Edge's share credited to bots fluctuated month to month, but fell below 30% in only 4 of the 19 months for which Net Applications provided data... Microsoft's legacy browser, Internet Explorer (IE) also was revealed as a Potemkin village. Under the old data regime, which included bots, IE's user share was overblown, at times more than double the no-bots reality. Take May 2016 as an example. With bots, Net Applications pegged IE at 33.7%; without bots, IE's user share dwindled to just 14.9%. Together, IE and Edge - in other words, Microsoft's browsers - accounted for only 16.3% of the global user share last month using Net Applications' new calculations... In fact, the combined IE and Edge now face a once unthinkable fate: falling beneath Mozilla's Firefox.

StatCounter's stats on browser usage already show more people have already been using Firefox than both of Microsoft's browsers combined -- in 12 of the last 13 months.
Mozilla

Mozilla Slipped a 'Mr. Robot'-Promo Plugin Into Firefox and Users Are Pissed (gizmodo.com) 307

MarcAuslander shares a report from Gizmodo: Mozilla sneaked a browser plugin that promotes Mr. Robot into Firefox -- and managed to piss off a bunch of its privacy-conscious users in the process. The extension, called Looking Glass, is intended to promote an augmented reality game to "further your immersion into the Mr. Robot universe," according to Mozilla. It was automatically added to Firefox users' browsers this week with no explanation except the cryptic message, "MY REALITY IS JUST DIFFERENT THAN YOURS," prompting users to worry on Reddit that they'd been hit with spyware. Without an explanation included with the extension, users were left digging around in the code for Looking Glass to find answers. Looking Glass was updated for some users today with a description that explains the connection to Mr. Robot and lets users know that the extension won't activate without explicit opt-in.

Mozilla justified its decision to include the extension because Mr. Robot promotes user privacy. "The Mr. Robot series centers around the theme of online privacy and security," the company said in an explanation of the mysterious extension. "One of the 10 guiding principles of Mozilla's mission is that individuals' security and privacy on the internet are fundamental and must not be treated as optional. The more people know about what information they are sharing online, the more they can protect their privacy."

Operating Systems

ReactOS 0.4.7 Released (reactos.org) 94

jeditobe writes: OSNews reports that the latest version of ReactOS has been released: "ReactOS 0.4.7 has been released, and it contains a ton of fixes, improvements, and new features. Judging by the screenshots, ReactOS 0.4.7 can run Opera, Firefox, and Mozilla all at once, which is good news for those among us who want to use ReactOS on a more daily basis. There's also a new application manager which, as the name implies, makes it easier to install and uninstall applications, similar to how package managers on Linux work. On a lower level, ReactOS can now deal with Ext2, Ext3, Ext4, BtrFS, ReiserFS, FFS, and NFS partitions." General notes, tests, and changelog for the release can be found at their respective links. A less technical community changelog for ReactOS 0.4.7 is also available. ISO images are ready at the ReactOS Download page.
Firefox

Yahoo Sues Mozilla For Breach of Contract -- So Mozilla Counter Sues Yahoo (betanews.com) 112

Mark Wilson writes: Mozilla and Yahoo have started a legal spat about the deal that existed between the two companies regarding the use of the Yahoo search engine in the Firefox browser. On December 1, Yahoo fired the first shot filing a complaint that alleges Mozilla breached a contract that existed between the two companies by terminating the arrangement early. In a counter complaint, Mozilla says that it was not only justified in terminating the contract early, but that Yahoo Holdings and Oath still have a bill that needs to be settled.
Firefox

How Converting A C++ Game to JavaScript Gave Us WebAssembly (ieee.org) 139

Slashdot reader Beeftopia shares "a detailed history of WebAssembly...from one of the developers." IEEE Spectrum reports that "Like a lot of stories about tech innovation, this one started with video games." [Mozilla's Alon Zakai] wanted to take a game he had helped write in C++ and convert it to JavaScript code that would run well on the Web. This was in 2010, and back then, converting C++ to JavaScript was unthinkable... so he started working to adapt an open-source tool that could translate C++ code into JavaScript automatically. He called his project Emscripten... we were able to formalize the permitted JavaScript patterns, to make the contract between Emscripten and the browser completely clear. We named the resulting subset of JavaScript asm.js... I would optimize the JavaScript engine in Firefox to run the resulting code even faster...

This brings us to the present... Emscripten can take code written in C++ and convert it directly into WebAssembly. And there will be ways in time to run other languages as well, including Rust, Lua, Python, Java, and C#. With WebAssembly, multimillion-line code bases can now load in a few seconds and then run at 80 percent of the speed of native programs. And both load time and execution speed are expected to improve as the browser engines that run the code are made better.

They'd started with a C++ game because "If we could make games run well on the Web, other computationally intensive applications would soon follow."

The article -- by Mozilla software engineer Luke Wagner -- remembers that the name Emscripten was a "a mash-up of 'script' from JavaScript and 'embiggen' from the TV show The Simpsons."
Mozilla

Mozilla Revenue Jump Fuels Its Firefox Overhaul Plan (cnet.com) 127

Well, now we know what paid for all those programmers cranking out the overhauled Firefox Quantum browser: a major infusion of new money. From a report: Mozilla, the nonprofit behind the open-source web browser, saw its 2016 revenue increase 24 percent to an all-time high of $520 million, it said Friday. Expenses grew too, but not as much, from $361 million to $337 million, so the organization's war chest is significantly bigger now. Mozilla, which now has about 1,200 employees, releases prior-year financial results in conjunction with tax filings. Most of Mozilla's money comes from partnerships with search engines like Google, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, Baidu and Yandex. When you search through Firefox's address bar, those search engines show search ads alongside results and share a portion of the revenue to Mozilla. Mozilla in 2014 signed a major five-year deal with Yahoo to be the default search engine in the US, but canceled it only three years in and moved back to Google instead in November. Mozilla's mission -- to keep the internet open and a place where you aren't in the thrall of tech giants -- may seem abstract. But Mozilla succeeded in breaking the lock Microsoft's Internet Explorer had on the web a decade ago, and now it's fighting the same battle again against Google's Chrome.

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