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Debian

Mozilla Thunderbird Finally Makes Its Way Back Into Debian's Repos (softpedia.com) 45

prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: A year ago, we told you that, after ten long years, the Debian Project finally found a way to switch their rebranded Iceweasel web browser back to Mozilla Firefox, both the ESR (Extended Support Release) and normal versions, but one question remained: what about the Mozilla Thunderbird email, news, and calendar client? Well, that question has an official answer today, as the Mozilla Thunderbird packages appear to have landed in the Debian repositories as a replacement for Icedove, the rebranded version that Debian Project was forced to use for more than ten years due to trademark issues. "Thunderbird is back in Debian! We also renamed other related packages to use official names, e.g. iceowl-extension -> lightning. For now, we need testers to catch existing issues and things we haven't seen until now," said Christoph Goehre in the mailing list announcement. You can find out how to migrate your Icedove profiles to Thunderbird via Softpedia's report.
Mozilla

Mozilla Will Deprecate XUL Add-ons Before the End of 2017 212

Artem Tashkinov writes: Mozilla has published a plan of add-ons deprecation in future Firefox releases. Firefox 53 will run in multi process mode by default for all users with some exceptions. Most add ons will continue to function, however certain add ons have already ceased to function because they don't expect multi user mode under the hood. Firefox 54-56 will introduce even more changes which will ultimately break even more addons. Firefox 57, which will be preliminarily released on the 28th of Novermber, 2017, will only run WebExtensions: which means no XUL (overlay) add ons, no bootstrapped extensions, no SDK extensions and no Embedded WebExtensions. In other words by this date the chromification of Firefox will have been completed. If you depend on XUL add ons your only choice past this date will be Pale Moon.
Open Source

LinuxQuestions Users Choose Their Favorite Distro: Slackware (zdnet.com) 145

ZDNet summarizes some of the surprises in this year's poll on LinuxQuestions, "one of the largest Linux groups with 550,000 member". An anonymous reader quotes their report: The winner for the most popular desktop distribution? Slackware...! Yes, one of the oldest of Linux distributions won with just over 16% of the vote. If that sounds a little odd, it is. On DistroWatch, a site that covers Linux distributions like paint, the top Linux desktop distros are Mint, Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Manjaro. Slackware comes in 28th place... With more than double the votes for any category, it appears there was vote-stuffing by Slackware fans... The mobile operating system race was a runaway for Android, with over 68% of the vote. Second place went to CyanogenMod, an Android clone, which recently went out of business...

Linux users love to debate about desktop environments. KDE Plasma Desktop took first by a hair's breadth over the popular lightweight Xfce desktop. Other well-regarded desktop environments, such as Cinnamon and MATE, got surprisingly few votes. The once popular GNOME still hasn't recovered from the blowback from its disliked design change from GNOME 2 to GNOME 3.

Firefox may struggle as a web browser in the larger world, but on Linux it's still popular. Firefox took first place with 51.7 percent of the vote. Chrome came in a distant second place, with the rest of the vote being divided between a multitude of obscure browsers.

LibreOffice won a whopping 89.6% of the vote for "best office suite" -- and Vim beat Emacs.
Chrome

Most of the Web Really Sucks If You Have a Slow Connection (danluu.com) 325

Dan Luu, hardware/software engineer at Microsoft, writes in a blog post: While it's easy to blame page authors because there's a lot of low-hanging fruit on the page side, there's just as much low-hanging fruit on the browser side. Why does my browser open up 6 TCP connections to try to download six images at once when I'm on a slow satellite connection? That just guarantees that all six images will time out! I can sometimes get some images to load by refreshing the page a few times (and waiting ten minutes each time), but why shouldn't the browser handle retries for me? If you think about it for a few minutes, there are a lot of optimizations that browsers could do for people on slow connections, but because they don't, the best current solution for users appears to be: use w3m when you can, and then switch to a browser with ad-blocking when that doesn't work. But why should users have to use two entirely different programs, one of which has a text-based interface only computer nerds will find palatable?
Netscape

Mozilla To Drop Support For All NPAPI Plugins In Firefox 52 Except Flash (bleepingcomputer.com) 163

The Netscape Plugins API is "an ancient plugins infrastructure inherited from the old Netscape browser on which Mozilla built Firefox," according to Bleeping Computer. But now an anonymous reader writes: Starting March 7, when Mozilla is scheduled to release Firefox 52, all plugins built on the old NPAPI technology will stop working in Firefox, except for Flash, which Mozilla plans to support for a few more versions. This means technologies such as Java, Silverlight, and various audio and video codecs won't work on Firefox.

These plugins once helped the web move forward, but as time advanced, the Internet's standards groups developed standalone Web APIs and alternative technologies to support most of these features without the need of special plugins. The old NPAPI plugins will continue to work in the Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) 52, but will eventually be deprecated in ESR 53. A series of hacks are available that will allow Firefox users to continue using old NPAPI plugins past Firefox 52, by switching the update channel from Firefox Stable to Firefox ESR.

Firefox

Mozilla Binds Firefox's Fate To The Rust Language (infoworld.com) 236

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: After version 53, Firefox will require Rust to compile successfully, due to the presence of Firefox components built with the language. But this decision may restrict the number of platforms that Firefox can be ported to -- for now... Rust depends on LLVM, which has dependencies of its own -- and all of them would need to be supported on the target platform. A discussion on the Bugzilla tracker for Firefox raises many of these points...

What about proper support for Linux distributions with long-term support, where the tools available on the distro are often frozen, and where newer Rust features might not be available? What about support for Firefox on "non-tier-1" platforms, which make up a smaller share of Firefox users? Mozilla's stance is that in the long run, the pain of transition will be worth it. "The advantage of using Rust is too great," according to maintainer Ted Mielczarek. "We normally don't go out of our way to make life harder for people maintaining Firefox ports, but in this case we can't let lesser-used platforms restrict us from using Rust in Firefox."

InfoWorld points out most Firefox users won't be affected, adding that those who are should "marshal efforts to build out whatever platforms need Rust support." Since most users just want Mozilla to deliver a fast and feature-competitive browser, the article concludes that "The pressure's on not only to move to Rust, but to prove the move was worth it."
Mozilla

Firefox Fail: Layoffs Kill Mozilla's Push Beyond the Browser (cnet.com) 319

So much for Mozilla's quest to bring Firefox to new and different places. From a report on CNET: The nonprofit organization told employees Thursday that it is eliminating the team tasked with bringing Firefox to connected devices. The cuts affect about 50 people. Ari Jaaksi, the senior vice president in charge of the effort, is leaving, and Bertrand Neveux, director of the group's software, has told coworkers he will depart too. Mozilla had about 1,000 employees at the end of 2016. The layoffs greatly curtail the nonprofit organization's ability to make Firefox relevant again. Once a dominant choice for internet browsing, it has long been overshadowed by Google's Chrome. Mozilla tried to take the web technology powering Firefox to other devices, but struggled to get acceptance. Its shrinking influence comes at a time when more people are browsing the internet on their phones -- an area where Firefox is particularly weak.
Security

Google Chrome Engineer Says Windows Defender 'the Only Well Behaved Antivirus', Cites 'Tons of Empirical Data' (onmsft.com) 231

Days after former Firefox developer Robert O'Callahan said that antivirus security suites are not necessary, and AV vendors are of little help. A Google Chrome engineer has echoed the same message, reaffirming that Microsoft's built-in software is indeed the most well-behaved security suite. From a report: Apparently the disdain for 3rd party AV solutions runs deep amongst browser developers, as in response to the threads a Google engineer, Justin Schuh, had this to say: "Browser makers don't complain about Microsoft Defender because we have tons of empirical data showing that it's the only well behaved AV."
Security

You Don't Need an Antivirus (Except Microsoft's Built-in on Windows), Says Former Firefox Developer (ocallahan.org) 352

Former Firefox developer Robert O'Callahan believes that antivirus software is not necessary, AV vendors are of little help, and that you should uninstall your antivirus software immediately. From a blog post: Users have been fooled into associating AV vendors with security and you don't want AV vendors bad-mouthing your product. AV software is broadly installed and when it breaks your product, you need the cooperation of AV vendors to fix it. (You can't tell users to turn off AV software because if anything bad were to happen that the AV software might have prevented, you'll catch the blame.) When your product crashes on startup due to AV interference, users blame your product, not AV. Worse still, if they make your product incredibly slow and bloated, users just think that's how your product is.
Wine

Wine 2.0 Released (softpedia.com) 202

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Softpedia: It's finally here! After so many months of development and hard work, during which over 6,600 bugs have been patched, the Wine project is happy to announce today, January 24, 2017, the general availability of Wine 2.0. Wine 2.0 is the biggest and most complete version of the open-source software project that allows Linux and macOS users to run applications and games designed only for Microsoft Windows operating systems. As expected, it's a massive release that includes dozens of improvements and new features, starting with support for Microsoft Office 2013 and 64-bit application support on macOS. Highlights of Wine 2.0 include the implementation of more DirectWrite features, such as drawing of underlines, font fallback support, and improvements to font metrics resolution, font embedding in PDF files, Unicode 9.0.0 support, Retina rendering mode for the macOS graphics driver, and support for gradients in GDI enhanced metafiles. Additional Shader Model 4 and 5 shader instructions have been added to Direct3D 10 and Direct3D 11 implementation, along with support for more graphics cards, support for Direct3D 11 feature levels, full support for the D3DX (Direct3D Extension) 9 effect framework, as well as support for the GStreamer 1.0 multimedia framework. The Gecko engine was updated to Firefox 47, IDN name resolutions are now supported out-of-the-box, and Wine can correctly handle long URLs. The included Mono engine now offers 64-bit support, as well as the debug registers. Other than that, the winebrowser, winhlp32, wineconsole, and reg components received improvements. You can read the full list of features and download Wine 2.0 from WineHQ's websiteS.
Firefox

Firefox 51 Arrives With HTTP Warning, WebGL 2 and FLAC Support (venturebeat.com) 130

Reader Krystalo writes: Mozilla today launched Firefox 51 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The new version includes a new warning for websites which collect passwords but don't use HTTPS, WebGL 2 support for better 3D graphics, and FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) playback. Mozilla doesn't break out the exact numbers for Firefox, though the company does say "half a billion people around the world" use the browser. In other words, it's a major platform that web developers target -- even in a world increasingly dominated by mobile apps.
Firefox

The SHA-1 End Times Have Arrived (threatpost.com) 50

"Deadlines imposed by browser makers deprecating support for the weakened SHA-1 hashing algorithm have arrived," writes Slashdot reader msm1267. "And while many websites and organizations have progressed in their migrations toward SHA-2 and other safer hashing algorithms, pain points and potential headaches still remain." Threatpost reports: Starting on Jan. 24, Mozilla's Firefox browser will be the first major browser to display a warning to its users who run into a site that doesn't support TLS certificates signed by the SHA-2 hashing algorithm... "SHA-1 deprecation in the context of the browser has been an unmitigated success. But it's just the tip of the SHA-2 migration iceberg. Most people are not seeing the whole problem," said Kevin Bocek, VP of security strategy and threat intelligence for Venafi. "SHA-1 isn't just a problem to solve by February, there are thousands more private certificates that will also need migrating"...

Experts warn the move to SHA-2 comes with a wide range of side effects; from unsupported applications, new hardware headaches tied to misconfigured equipment and cases of crippled credit card processing gear unable to communicate with backend servers. They say the entire process has been confusing and unwieldy to businesses dependent on a growing number of digital certificates used for not only their websites, but data centers, cloud services, and mobile apps... According to Venafi's research team, 35 percent of the IPv4 websites it analyzed in November are still using insecure SHA-1 certificates. However, when researchers scanned Alexa's top 1 million most popular websites for SHA-2 compliance it found only 536 sites were not compliant.
The article describes how major tech companies are handling the move to SHA-2 compliance -- including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Salesforce and Cloudflare
Security

Pwn2Own 2017 Offers Big Bounties For Linux, Browser, and Apache Exploits (eweek.com) 56

Now that TrendMicro owns TippingPoint, there'll be "more targets and more prize money" according to eWeek, and something special for Pwn2Own's 10th anniversary in March. Slashdot reader darthcamaro writes: For the first time in its ten-year history, the annual Pwn2Own hacking competition is taking direct aim at Linux. Pwn2Own in the past has typically focused mostly on web browsers, running on Windows and macOS. There is a $15,000 reward for security researchers that are able to get a local user kernel exploit on Ubuntu 16.10. The bigger prize though is a massive $200,000 award for exploiting Apache Web Server running on Ubuntu.
"We are nine weeks away," TrendMicro posted Wednesday, pointing out that they're giving out over $1 million in bounties, including the following:
  • $100,000 for escaping a virtualization hypervisor
  • $80,000 for a Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome exploit
  • $50,000 for an exploit of Adobe Reader, Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint
  • $50,000 for an Apple Safari exploit
  • $30,000 for a Firefox exploit
  • $30,000, $20,000 and $15,000 for privilege-escalating kernel vulnerabilities on Windows, macOS and Linux (respectively)
  • $200,000 for an Apache Web Server exploit

Firefox

Mozilla's New Logo Reminds Us that It Is, In Fact, a Web Firm (cnet.com) 185

Mozilla has a new logo. The company has ditched the world "ill" from the name with a colon and two slashes. From a report: Last year, Mozilla, the internet company best known for the Firefox browser, publicly started the rebranding process by opening the door to public feedback. With several options on display, Mozilla asked for comments and input from all who cared to share. As of today, the new logo is official and the simple change is meant as a reminder that Mozilla is more than just a browser.
Privacy

Fingerprinting Methods Identify Users Across Different Browsers On the Same PC (bleepingcomputer.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: A team of researchers from universities across the U.S. has identified different fingerprinting techniques that can track users when they use different browsers installed on the same machine. Named "cross-browser fingerprinting" (CBF), this practice relies on new technologies added to web browsers in recent years, some of which had been previously considered unreliable for cross-browser tracking and only used for single browser fingerprinting. These new techniques rely on making browsers carry out operations that use the underlying hardware components to process the desired data. For example, making a browser apply an image to the side of a 3D cube in WebGL provides a similar response in hardware parameters for all browsers. This is because the GPU card is the one carrying out this operation and not the browser software. According to the three-man research team led by Assistant Professor Yinzhi Cao from the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Lehigh University, the following browser features could be (ab)used for cross-browser fingerprinting operations: [Screen Resolution, Number of CPU Virtual Cores, AudioContext, List of Fonts, Line, Curve, and Anti-Aliasing, Vertex Shader, Fragment Shader, Transparency via Alpha Channel, Installed Writing Scripts (Languages), Modeling and Multiple Models, Lighting and Shadow Mapping, Camera and Clipping Planes.] Researchers used all these techniques together to test how many users they would be able to pin to the same computer. For tests, researchers used browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Edge, IE, Opera, Safari, Maxthon, UC Browser, and Coconut. Results showed that CBF techniques were able to correctly identify 99.24% of all test users. Previous research methods achieved only a 90.84% result.
Mozilla

Browser Autofill Profiles Can Be Abused For Phishing Attacks (bleepingcomputer.com) 112

An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: Browser autofill profiles are a reliable phishing vector that allow attackers to collect information from users via hidden form fields, which the browser automatically fills with preset personal information and which the user unknowingly sends to the attacker when he submits a form... Finnish web developer Viljami Kuosmanen has published a demo on GitHub... A user looking at this page will only see a Name and Email input field, along with a Submit button. Unless the user looks at the page's source code, he won't know that the form also contains six more fields named Phone, Organization, Address, Postal Code, City, and Country. If the user has an autofill profile set up in his browser, if he decides to autofill the two visible fields, the six hidden fields will be filled in as well, since they're part of the same form, even if invisible to the user's eye.

Browsers that support autofill profiles are Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera. Browsers like Edge, Vivaldi, and Firefox don't support this feature, but Mozilla is currently working on a similar feature.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

2016 Saw A Massive Increase In Encrypted Web Traffic (eff.org) 91

EFF's "Deeplinks" blog has published nearly two dozen "2016 in Review" posts over the last nine days, one of which applauds 2016 as "a great year for adoption of HTTPS encryption for secure connections to websites." An anonymous reader writes: In 2016 most pages viewed on the web were encrypted. And over 21 million web sites obtained security certificates -- often for the first time -- through Let's Encrypt. But "a sizeable part of the growth in HTTPS came from very large hosting providers that decided to make HTTPS a default for sites that they host, including OVH, Wordpress.com, Shopify, Tumblr, Squarespace, and many others," EFF writes. Other factors included the support of Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.3 by Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.
Other "2016 in Review" posts from EFF include Protecting Net Neutrality and the Open Internet and DRM vs. Civil Liberties. Click through for a complete list of all EFF "2016 in Review" posts.
Mozilla

Firefox 52 Borrows One More Privacy Feature From the Tor Browser (bleepingcomputer.com) 81

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla engineers have added a mechanism to Firefox 52 that prevents websites from fingerprinting users using system fonts. The user privacy protection system was borrowed from the Tor Browser, where a similar mechanism blocks websites from identifying users based on the fonts installed on their computers, only returning a list of "default fonts" per each OS. While sabotaging system font queries won't stop user fingerprinting as a whole, this is just one of the latest privacy-related updates Mozilla has added to Firefox, taken from Tor. Back in July 2016, Mozilla engineers started the Tor Uplift project, which aims to improve Firefox's privacy features with the ones present in the Tor Browser.
Firefox

Mozilla Will Support Firefox For XP and Vista Until At Least September 2017 (venturebeat.com) 73

Krystalo writes: Mozilla today announced that it will continue to support Firefox for Windows XP and Windows Vista until September 2017. In March 2017, XP and Vista users will automatically be moved to the Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) and in mid-2017 the company will reassess user numbers to announce a final support end date for the two operating systems. Firefox ESR is a version designed for schools, universities, businesses, and others who need help with mass deployments. Firefox ESR releases are maintained for one year. This means Mozilla will provide regular Firefox security patches for XP and Vista users for nine more months. After that, it may continue for a few more months, but eventually the browser won't get new versions on those operating systems. Mozilla correctly notes that "unsupported operating systems receive no security updates, have known exploits, and are dangerous for you to use." The company also tells enterprises that September 2017 should be considered the support end date for planning purposes and "strongly recommends" that all users "upgrade to a version of Windows that is supported by Microsoft."
Firefox

Firefox Takes the Next Step Towards Rolling Out Multi-Process To Everyone (arstechnica.com) 154

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: With Firefox 50, Mozilla has rolled out the first major piece of its new multi-process architecture. Edge, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari all have a multiple process design that separates their rendering engine -- the part of the browser that reads and interprets HTML, CSS, and JavaScript -- from the browser frame. They do this for stability reasons (if the rendering process crashes, it doesn't kill the entire browser) and security reasons (the rendering process can be run in a low-privilege sandbox, so exploitable flaws in the rendering engine are harder to take advantage of). Moreover, these browsers can all create multiple rendering engine processes and use different processes for different tabs. This means that the scope of a crash is narrowed even further, typically to a single tab. Internet Explorer and Chrome both implemented this long ago, in 2009. Firefox, however, has not offered a similar design. Although work on a multi-process browser was started in 2009, under the codename Electrolysis, that work was suspended between 2011 and 2013 as priorities within the organization shifted. In response, Mozilla started switching to a new extension system in 2015 that opened the door to a multi-process design. The first stage of Firefox's move to multi-process involves separating the browser shell from a single rendering process that's used by every tab. In Firefox 48, that feature was enabled for a small number of users who used no extensions. Firefox 49 was rolled out to include users running a limited selection of extensions. Now, in Firefox 50, a separate renderer process is used for most users and most extensions. Developers are now able to mark their extensions as explicitly multi-process compatible. Firefox 51 will extend this even further to cover all extensions, except those that are explicitly marked as incompatible. Mozilla says that, even with the limited changes made in Firefox 50, responsiveness of the browser has improved by 400 percent due to the separation between the renderer and the browser shell. During page loads, responsiveness will increase to 700 percent.

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