AI

Mozilla's New Open Source Voice-Recognition Project Wants Your Voice (mashable.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: Mozilla is building a massive repository of voice recordings for the voice apps of the future -- and it wants you to add yours to the collection. The organization behind the Firefox browser is launching Common Voice, a project to crowdsource audio samples from the public. The goal is to collect about 10,000 hours of audio in various accents and make it publicly available for everyone... Mozilla hopes to hand over the public dataset to independent developers so they can harness the crowdsourced audio to build the next generation of voice-powered apps and speech-to-text programs... You can also help train the speech-to-text capabilities by validating the recordings already submitted to the project. Just listen to a short clip, and report back if text on the screen matches what you heard... Mozilla says it aims is to expand the tech beyond just a standard voice recognition experience, including multiple accents, demographics and eventually languages for more accessible programs. Past open source voice-recognition projects have included Sphinx 4 and VoxForge, but unfortunately most of today's systems are still "locked up behind proprietary code at various companies, such as Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft."
Mozilla

The New Firefox and Ridiculous Numbers of Tabs (metafluff.com) 209

An anonymous reader shares a blog post: I've got a Firefox profile with 1691 tabs. As you would expect, Firefox handled this profile quite poorly for a long time. I got used to multi-minute startup time, waiting 15-30 seconds for tabs from external apps to show up, and all manner of non-responsive behavior. And then, quite recently, everything changed. Right now, more effort is being put into making Firefox fast than I've seen since... well, since I've been working on Firefox. And I've been at Mozilla for more than a decade. Part of this effort is a project called Quantum Flow -- a bunch of engineers making changes that directly impact Firefox responsiveness. A lot of the improvement in this particular scenario is from Kevin Jones' work on bringing the overall cost of unloaded tabs as close to zero as possible. While the major work has landed, the work continues in Bug 906076. Test scenario: I took my 1691 tab browser profile, and did a wall-clock measurement of start-up time and memory use for Firefox versions 20, 30, 40, and 50 through 56. In the result, the person found that Firefox startup time has gotten worse over time... until Firefox 51.
Ubuntu

Ask Slashdot: Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Desktop Default Application Survey 289

Dustin Kirkland, Ubuntu Product and Strategy at Canonical, writes: Howdy all- Back in March, we asked the HackerNews community, "What do you want to see in Ubuntu 17.10?": https://ubu.one/AskHN. A passionate discussion ensued, the results of which are distilled into this post: http://ubu.one/thankHN. In fact, you can check that link, http://bit.ly/thankHN and see our progress so far this cycle. We already have a beta code in 17.10 available for your testing for several of those:

- GNOME replaced Unity
- Bluetooth improvements with a new BlueZ
- Switched to libinput
- 4K/Multimonitor/HiDPI improvements
- Upgraded to Network Manager 1.8
- New Subiquity server installer
- Minimal images (36MB, 18% smaller)

And several others have excellent work in progress, and will be complete by 17.10:

- Autoremove old kernels from /boot
- EXT4 encryption with fscrypt
- Better GPU/CUDA support

In summary -- your feedback matters! There are hundreds of engineers and designers working for *you* to continue making Ubuntu amazing! Along with the switch from Unity to GNOME, we're also reviewing some of the desktop applications we package and ship in Ubuntu. We're looking to crowdsource input on your favorite Linux applications across a broad set of classic desktop functionality. We invite you to contribute by listing the applications you find most useful in Linux in order of preference.


Click through for info on how to contribute.
China

Ask Slashdot: Is There a Way To Experience the Chinese Internet From Outside? (fffff.at) 93

dryriver writes: In 2008, a bunch of crafty developers created a Firefox plugin called China Channel. It apparently allowed you to connect to a proxy server in China, and experience the -- heavily censored and filtered -- internet as Chinese citizens experienced it back then. The nearly decade old plugin doesn't seem to work anymore. My modern Firefox browser couldn't install it. So the question: is there a way to surf the internet as if you were inside China, and experience for yourself how much of the experience is censored or filtered? It would be interesting to experience firsthand what the Great Firewall of China lets you see of the free world and internet as we know it in 2017, and what it does not.
Chrome

While Chrome Dominates, Microsoft Edge Struggles To Attract New Users (neowin.net) 172

An anonymous reader quotes Neowin's report on the newest browser-usage figures from NetMarketShare: Microsoft Edge only commands a market share of 5.65% -- which is an increase of only 0.02 percentage points compared to last month... it only grew by 0.56% year-over-year. On the other hand, Google Chrome has continued its dominance with a market share of 59.49%. As a point of reference, this is a sizeable growth of 10.84 percentage points year-over-year... Data from another firm, StatCounter, depicts an even more depressing situation for Microsoft. According to the report, Edge sits at 3.89%... Chrome is the king of all browsers according to these statistics as well, with a market share of 63.21% -- a decrease of 0.14 percentage points compared to last month. Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari command 14%, 9.28%, and 5.16% respectively.
The firm also calculates that when it comes to desktop operating systems, Windows has 91.51% of all users, followed by MacOS at 6.12 and Linux at 2.36%.
Microsoft

Google Chrome Bests Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Opera In Independent Battery Life Tests (betanews.com) 114

An anonymous reader shares a report: YouTuber Linus Tech Tips has pitted Microsoft Edge against Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera and discovered that it does not deliver as strong a performance as Microsoft claims. Linus Tech Tips took four Dell Inspiron laptops, with the same specs, and found that Microsoft Edge trails Chrome and Opera in battery life tests. It would seem that it still beats Firefox, after all. However, the results are much, much closer than what Microsoft's own tests indicate. On average, the difference between Chrome, which offers the best battery life, and Microsoft Edge is under 40 minutes. Opera comes closer to Microsoft Edge than Chrome in this test. Even Creators Update, which based on Microsoft's test should help Microsoft Edge obliterate the competition, didn't help make it faster than Chrome. Linus says he used the same methodology that Microsoft used in its set of battery tests earlier this year, in which it declared Edge as the winner.
Firefox

Chrome and Firefox Headless Modes May Spur New Adware & Clickfraud Tactics (bleepingcomputer.com) 80

From a report: During the past month, both Google and Mozilla developers have added support in their respective browsers for "headless mode," a mechanism that allows browsers to run silently in the OS background and with no visible GUI. [...] While this feature sounds very useful for developers and very uninteresting for day-to-day users, it is excellent news for malware authors, and especially for the ones dabbling with adware. In the future, adware or clickfraud bots could boot-up Chrome or Firefox in headless mode (no visible GUI), load pages, and click on ads without the user's knowledge. The adware won't need to include or download any extra tools and could use locally installed software to perform most of its malicious actions. In the past, there have been quite a few adware families that used headless browsers to perform clickfraud. Martijn Grooten, an editor at Virus Bulletin, also pointed Bleeping Computer to a report where miscreants had abused PhantomJS, a headless browser, to post forum spam. The addition of headless mode in Chrome and Firefox will most likely provide adware devs with a new method of performing surreptitious ad clicks.
Android

Mozilla Launches Privacy-Minded 'Firefox Focus' Browser For Android (venturebeat.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Mozilla today launched a new browser for Android. In addition to Firefox, the company now also offers Firefox Focus, a browser dedicated to user privacy that by default blocks many web trackers, including analytics, social, and advertising. You can download the new app now from Google Play. Because Google isn't as strict as Apple, Android users can set Firefox Focus as their default browser. There are many use cases for wanting to browse the web without being tracked, but Mozilla offers a common example: reading articles via apps "like Facebook." On iOS, Firefox Focus is basically just a web view with tracking protection. On Android, Firefox Focus is the same, with a few additional features (which are still "under consideration" for iOS):
  • Ad tracker counter -- Lists the number of ads that are blocked per site while using the app.
  • Disable tracker blocker -- For sites that are not loading correctly, you can disable the tracker blocker to fix the issues.
  • Notification reminder -- When Firefox Focus is running in the background, a notification will remind you so you can easily tap to erase your browsing history.

Mozilla

Firefox 54 Arrives With Multi-Process Support For All Users (venturebeat.com) 102

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla today launched Firefox 54 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The new version includes the next major phase of multi-process support, which streamlines memory use, improving responsiveness and speed. The Electrolysis project, which is the largest change to Firefox code ever, is live. Firefox now uses up to four processes to run webpage content across all open tabs. This means that complex webpages in one tab have a much lower impact on responsiveness and speed in other tabs, and Firefox finally makes better use of your computer's hardware.
Security

Russian Malware Communicates Using Britney Spears's Instagram Account (welivesecurity.com) 54

JustAnotherOldGuy writes: A key weakness in malicious software is the "Command and Control" (C&C) system -- a central server that the malware-infected systems contact to receive updates and instructions, and to send stolen data. Anti-malware researchers like to reverse engineer malicious code, discover the C&C server's address, and then shut it down. Turla is an "advanced persistent threat" hacking group based in Russia with a long history of attacking states in ways that advance Russian state interests. A new analysis by Eset shows that Turla is solving its C&C problems by using Britney Spears' Instagram account as a cut-out for its C&C servers. Turla moves the C&C server around, then hides the current address of the server in encrypted comments left on Britney Spears's image posts. The compromised systems check in with Spears' Instagram whenever they need to know where the C&C server is currently residing.
Safari

Apple Announces Support For WebRTC in Safari 11 (webkit.org) 46

Youenn Fablet, software engineer at Apple, writes: Today we are thrilled to announce WebKit support for WebRTC, available on Safari on macOS High Sierra, iOS 11, and Safari Technology Preview 32. [...] Currently, Safari supports legacy WebRTC APIs. Web developers can check whether their websites conform to the latest specifications by toggling the STP Experimental Features menu item "Remove Legacy WebRTC API". Legacy WebRTC APIs will be disabled by default on future releases. Websites that need to accommodate older implementations of the WebRTC and Media Capture specifications can take advantage of polyfill libraries like adapter.js. Peer5, a startup that offers serverless CDN for massively-scaled video streaming, writes in a blogpost: This is HUGE news for the computing industry. Since its introduction in 2011, WebRTC has become an incredibly important part of everyone's favorite platforms and applications. It is at the core of a few services that you might have heard of, including Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and Slack. WebRTC is also supported natively by most major web browsers, including Chrome, Firefox and Opera. But there were 2 big holdouts -- Microsoft's Edge browser and Apple's Safari. This meant that people using those browsers couldn't access WebRTC-based services without installing some type of plug-in. Well, those days are over given the WWDC news and Microsoft's announcement back in January regarding WebRTC support in Edge. Developers can now create compelling browser-based applications that incorporate real-time audio and video (and maybe even a peer-to-peer component) and know that 99% of the world's Web surfers will be able to use their services without having to install any plug-ins or additional software. This newfound ubiquity for WebRTC might even make a developer question whether he has to build a native iOS or Android app to deliver his service to end-users.
Mozilla

Amazon, Mozilla, Kickstarter, and Reddit Are Staging a Net Neutrality Online Protest (washingtonpost.com) 70

An anonymous reader shares a report: Some of the Internet's biggest names are banding together for a "day of action" to oppose the Federal Communications Commission (alternative source), which is working to undo regulations for Internet providers that it passed during the Obama administration. Among the participants are Etsy, Kickstarter and Mozilla, the maker of the popular Firefox Web browser. Also joining the day of protest will be Reddit, the start-up incubator Y Combinator, and Amazon. On July 12, the companies and organizations are expected to change their websites to raise awareness of the FCC effort, which is aimed at deregulating the telecom and cable industries. Mozilla, for example, will change what users see on their screens when they open a new browser window. Other participants include Demand Progress, Etsy, Vimeo, Private Internet Access, Fight for the Future, EFF, DreamHost, Creative Commons, BitTorrent, American Library Association, ACLU, GreenPeace, Open Media, and Patreon. Find more details here.
Mozilla

Former Mozilla CTO: 'Chrome Won' (andreasgal.com) 272

Responding to Firefox marketing head Eric Petitt's blog post from earlier this week, Andreas Gal, former chief technology officer of Mozilla (who spent seven years at the company) offers his insights. Citing latest market share figures, Gal says "it's safe to say that Chrome is eating the browser market, and everyone else except Safari is getting obliterated." From his blog post (edited and condensed for length): With a CEO transition about 3 years ago there was a major strategic shift at Mozilla to re-focus efforts on Firefox and thus the Desktop. Prior to 2014 Mozilla heavily invested in building a Mobile OS to compete with Android: Firefox OS. I started the Firefox OS project and brought it to scale. While we made quite a splash and sold several million devices, in the end we were a bit too late and we didn't manage to catch up with Android's explosive growth. Mozilla's strategic rationale for building Firefox OS was often misunderstood. Mozilla's founding mission was to build the Web by building a browser. [...] Browsers are a commodity product. They all pretty much look the same and feel the same. All browsers work pretty well, and being slightly faster or using slightly less memory is unlikely to sway users. If even Eric -- who heads Mozilla's marketing team -- uses Chrome every day as he mentioned in the first sentence, it's not surprising that almost 65% of desktop users are doing the same. [...] I don't think there will be a new browser war where Firefox or some other competitor re-captures market share from Chrome. It's like launching a new and improved horse in the year 2017. We all drive cars now. Some people still use horses, and there is value to horses, but technology has moved on when it comes to transportation. Does this mean Google owns the Web if they own Chrome? No. Absolutely not. Browsers are what the Web looked like in the first decades of the Internet. Mobile disrupted the Web, but the Web embraced mobile and at the heart of most apps beats a lot of JavaScript and HTTPS and REST these days. The future Web will look yet again completely different. Much will survive, and some parts of it will get disrupted.
Mozilla

Firefox Marketing Head Expresses Concerns Over Google's Apparent 'Only Be On Chrome' Push (medium.com) 189

Eric Petitt, head up Firefox marketing, writing in a blog: I use Chrome every day. Works fine. Easy to use. There are multiple things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I'm OK with Chrome. I just don't like only being on Chrome. And that's what Chrome wants. It wants you to only use Chrome. Chrome is not evil, it's just too big for its britches. Its influence on the internet economy and individuals is out of balance. Chrome, with 4 times the market share of its nearest competitor (Firefox), is an eight-lane highway to the largest advertising company in the world. Google built it to maximize revenue from your searches and deliver display ads on millions of websites. To monetize every... single... click. And today, there exists no meaningful safety valve on its market dominance. Beyond Google, the web looks more and more like a feudal system, where the geography of the web has been partitioned off by the Frightful Five. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are our lord and protectors, exacting a royal sum for our online behaviors. We're the serfs and tenants, providing homage inside their walled fortresses. Noble upstarts are erased or subsumed under their existing order. (Footnote: Petitt has made it clear that the aforementioned views are his own, and not those of Mozilla.)
IBM

New OS/2 Warp Operating System 'ArcaOS' 5.0 Released (arcanoae.com) 145

The long-awaited modern OS/2 distribution from Arca Noae was released Monday. martiniturbide writes: ArcaOS 5.0 is an OEM distribution of IBM's discontinued OS/2 Warp operating system. ArcaOS offers a new set of drivers for ACPI, network, USB, video and mouse to run OS/2 in newer hardware. It also includes a new OS installer and open source software like Samba, Libc libraries, SDL, Qt, Firefox and OpenOffice... It's available in two editions, Personal ($129 with an introductory price of $99 for the first 90 days [and six months of support and maintenance updates]) and Commercial ($239 with one year of support and maintenance).

The OS/2 community has been called upon to report supported hardware, open source any OS/2 software, make public as much OS/2 documentation as possible and post the important platform links. OS2World insists that open source has helped OS/2 in the past years and it is time to look under the hood to try to clone internal components like Control Program, Presentation Manager, SOM and Workplace Shell.

By Tuesday Arca Noae was reporting "excessive traffic on the server which is impacting our ordering and delivery process," though the actual downloads of the OS were unaffected, the server load issues were soon mitigated, and they thanked OS/2 enthusiasts for a "truly overwhelming response."
Firefox

Firefox 55: Flash Will Become 'Ask To Activate' For Everyone (bleepingcomputer.com) 114

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Starting with the release of Firefox 55, the Adobe Flash plugin for Firefox will be set to "Ask to Activate" by default for all users. This move was announced in August 2016, as part of Mozilla's plan to move away from plugins built around the NPAPI technology. Flash is currently the only NPAPI plugin still supported in Firefox, and moving its default setting from "Always Activate" to "Ask to Activate" is just another step towards the final step of stop supporting Flash altogether. This new Flash default setting is already live in Firefox's Nightly Edition and will move through the Alpha and Beta versions as Firefox nears its v55 Stable release. By moving Flash to a click-to-play setting, Firefox will indirectly start to favor HTML5 content over Flash for all multimedia content. Other browsers like Google Chrome, Brave, or Opera already run Flash on a click-to-play setting, or disabled by default. Firefox is scheduled to be released on August 8, 2017.
Businesses

'WannaCry Makes an Easy Case For Linux' (techrepublic.com) 411

An anonymous reader writes: The thing is, WannaCry isn't the first of its kind. In fact, ransomware has been exploiting Windows vulnerabilities for a while. The first known ransomware attack was called "AIDS Trojan" that infected Windows machines back in 1989. This particular ransomware attack switched the autoexec.bat file. This new file counted the amount of times a machine had been booted; when the machine reached a count of 90, all of the filenames on the C drive were encrypted. Windows, of course, isn't the only platform to have been hit by ransomware. In fact, back in 2015, the LinuxEncoder ransomware was discovered. That bit of malicious code, however, only affected servers running the Magento ecommerce solution. The important question here is this: Have their been any ransomware attacks on the Linux desktop? The answer is no. With that in mind, it's pretty easy to draw the conclusion that now would be a great time to start deploying Linux on the desktop. I can already hear the tired arguments. The primary issue: software. I will counter that argument by saying this: Most software has migrated to either Software as a Service (SaaS) or the cloud. The majority of work people do is via a web browser. Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari; with few exceptions, SaaS doesn't care. With that in mind, why would you want your employees and staff using a vulnerable system? [...] Imagine, if you will, you have deployed Linux as a desktop OS for your company and those machines work like champs from the day you set them up to the day the hardware finally fails. Doesn't that sound like a win your company could use? If your employees work primarily with SaaS (through web browsers), then there is zero reason keeping you from making the switch to a more reliable, secure platform.
Chrome

Should You Leave Google Chrome For the Opera Browser? (vice.com) 303

mspohr shares a report written by Jason Koebler via Motherboard who makes the case for why you should break up with Chrome and switch to the Opera browser: Over the last few years, I have grown endlessly frustrated with Chrome's resource management, especially on MacOS. Admittedly, I open too many tabs, but I'd wager that a lot of you do, too. With Chrome, my computer crawls to complete unusability multiple times a day. After one too many times of having to go into Activity Monitor to find that one single Chrome tab is using several gigs of RAM, I decided enough was enough. I switched to Opera, a browser I had previously thought was only for contrarians. This, after previous dalliances with Safari and Firefox left me frustrated. Because Opera is also based on Blink, I almost never run into a website, plugin, script, or video that doesn't work flawlessly on it. In fact, Opera works almost exactly like Chrome, except without the resource hogging that makes me want to throw my computer against a brick wall. This is exactly the point, according to Opera spokesperson Jan Standal: "What we're doing is an optimized version of Chrome," he said. "Web developers optimize most for the browser with the biggest market share, which happens to be Chrome. We benefit from the work of that optimization."

Slashdot reader mspohr adds: "I should note that this has also been my experience. I have a 2010 MacBook, which I was ready to trash since it had become essentially useless, coming to a grinding halt daily. I tried Opera and it's like I have a new computer. I never get the spinning wheel of death. (Also, the built-in ad blocker and VPN are nice.)" What has been your experience with Google Chrome and/or Opera? Do you prefer one over the other?

Microsoft

Microsoft Finally Bans SHA-1 Certificates In Its Browsers (zdnet.com) 38

An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: With this week's monthly Patch Tuesday, Microsoft has also rolled out a new policy for Edge and Internet Explorer that prevents sites that use a SHA-1-signed HTTPS certificate from loading. The move brings Microsoft's browsers in line with Chrome, which dropped support for the SHA-1 cryptographic hash function in January's stable release of Chrome 56, and Firefox's February cut-off... Apple dropped support for SHA-1 in March with macOS Sierra 10.12.4 and iOS 10.3... Once Tuesday's updates are installed, Microsoft's browsers will no longer load sites with SHA-1 signed certificates and will display an error warning highlighting a security problem with the site's certificate.
Security

Ambient Light Sensors Can Be Used To Steal Browser Data (bleepingcomputer.com) 37

An anonymous reader writes: "Over the past decade, ambient light sensors have become quite common in smartphones, tablets, and laptops, where they are used to detect the level of surrounding light and automatically adjust a screen's intensity to optimize battery consumption... and other stuff," reports Bleeping Computer. "The sensors have become so prevalent, that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed a special API that allows websites (through a browser) to interact with a device's ambient light sensors. Browsers such as Chrome and Firefox have already shipped versions of this API with their products." According to two privacy and security experts, Lukasz Olejnik and Artur Janc, malicious web pages can launch attacks using this new API and collect data on users, such as URLs they visited in the past and extract QR codes displayed on the screen. This is possible because the light coming from the screen is picked up by these sensors. Mitigating such attacks is quite easy, as it only requires browser makers and the W3C to adjust the default frequency at which the sensors report their readings. Furthermore, the researcher also recommends that browser makers quantize the result by limiting the precision of the sensor output to only a few values in a preset range. The two researchers filed bug reports with both Chrome and Firefox in the hopes their recommendations will be followed.

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