Firefox 14 is out *yawn*
Other than 14 security issues fixed, there’s not much going on here, folks.
They’ve got 5 critical, 4 high, and 5 moderate severity issues patched. As is usual lately, many of them were actually fixed by Google for Chromium and got merged into Firefox. (They both use many of the same Free/Open Source libraries.)
Elsewhere, we see that there’s some progress with memshrink.
These aren’t as easy to sort, due to the ongoing nature of the memshrink project. Some users who have been using older Firefox versions have seen improvements in memory usage because Mozilla has been leaning on extension developers to fix broken extensions that use memory stupidly. These tend to be proprietary extensions from big companies that are not known for quality software design. (McAfee and Microsoft are big offenders) If you do have crappy extensions like these, get rid of them.
This problem mainly affects Windows users because you guys tend to have Firefox extensions installed in “drive-by incidents” when you install unrelated software or when Microsoft feels like taking a shit all over your browser. Take a minute to look through your add-ons and make sure that you are only using ones you actually want. There are uninstall and disable buttons for the rest. The problems that incompetent extensions create tend to be blamed on Firefox even though Mozilla has nothing to do with them. Alternatively, you can just get rid of Windows and install something like Kubuntu where this stuff never happens.
Moving on, we bust out the magnifying glass and see what new features we have.
I only noticed two that were worth mentioning.
1. There’s a click to load plug-ins feature now. It is off by default and hidden under about:config. It breaks a few sites, but this sort of thing is badly needed, as plug-ins like Adobe Trash tend to be 99% obnoxious and 1% useful.
2. The HTTP Pipelining system seems to have been reworked, that too is under about:config and off by default.
Capital One’s banking website is by far, the worst I’ve EVER seen.
Opera gives you a security warning that the site doesn’t support secure TLS renegotiations, and you should contact the site owner to upgrade their server.
When I went to check what server they were running, it turned out to be Windows Server with IIS behind some Linux-based caching servers. *UGH!*
Their No Hassle Rewards site doesn’t even load in any browser that is not running on Windows. I’ve tried everything. (Including Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Rekonq, and even for kicks, Konqueror)
It just doesn’t work without Windows.
I ended up calling their tech support hotline, and they told me to have the Geek Squad look at my computer. I shit you not! (Not only is the Geek Squad’s sole purpose to rip Windows users off by charging them $200 for Norton Antivirus and a file system defrag, Best Buy recently fired most of them as it goes belly up because of their overall price gouging. I doubt they know anything about my Kubuntu system, at all.)
In the end, the only way I could end up getting my cashback rewards was to set up auto redemption at every $25.
Capital One’s tech support has people that are so stupid, they should be in the Tea Party.
A trip to the meme generator gives me this to close on….
For kicks, I loaded up the Windows 8 “Consumer Preview” in VirtualBox.
I was expecting the usual. More crap that nobody asked for. More anti-competitive Microsoft tie-ins. More lock-in with Microsoft services. More EULA mess. More spyware. I found pretty much all of this.
The setup process was much like Windows 7 up to a point, except there are now three entire pages full of toggle switches where the user must agree to sacrifice their privacy to use Windows 8 fully, in addition to a EULA written in legalese that goes on forever, which nobody who isn’t a lawyer will fully understand. If they don’t, then there will be huge swaths of missing features. (And since it is proprietary software, you absolutely cannot trust anything it says or does, so the choice is misleading anyway.)
As Dr. Richard Stallman has said, Windows is malicious software. Their privacy policies open up the user to all kinds of abuse for simply agreeing with the EULAs (which are mandatory if you wish to use Windows), and in the EULA you agree that Microsoft can slip in updates or change the EULA at any point in the future. So, if there is something malicious that Windows currently does not do, then it would be very easy for them to slip that into an update and push it out tomorrow.
They’ve done this sort of thing before, countless times. Anyone remember how “Windows Genuine Annoyance” wasn’t originally part of Windows XP?
Anyone remember when Windows XP and Vista would simply lock you out of your computer and forbid you access to anything even if the software was legally licensed and Microsoft just happened to screw up?
Idiot Exploiter being in Windows 98 without an uninstaller got Microsoft some DOJ attention, but it’s literally EVERYWHERE in Windows 8, and it’s more malicious than ever.
Here’s what you agree to send to Microsoft now to get a fully functional copy of Windows 8 if you take the default settings (Some of these have been a requirement of various Microsoft apps and Windows in the past, some are new. This is in addition to anything mandated by their EULA, so you can’t opt out of all of it even if you tried):
Every site you visit in Internet Explorer.
Everything you download with Internet Explorer.
Every URL you click on in an application from the Windows store, regardless what browser it opens in.
Every web resource that an application loads.
Every application you have installed on your computer, regardless of where it came from.
Your EXACT location. (Via IP geolocation or GPS coordinates.) when you use an app that uses this feature. Note: GPS coordinates are accurate to within a few inches.
Crash data for any application that has a problem, including a memory dump. (Those can include personal information like passwords, site login data, your bank account information, truly any information the app had in memory when it crashed.)
Which parts of Windows Help you have read, and what URLs you clicked on in that.
You agree that they can force application updates on you, silently, even to install malicious features,even if you didn’t want the update.
You agree that they can update Windows, including for the purpose of stuffing in more malicious features, even if you didn’t want the update.
Applications can use your name, account picture, location data, and various Windows Live features, as you.
Perhaps most disturbing at all, the Windows Store and many of the applications that come with Windows that can’t be removed, like their messenger program that censors its users and spies on what they say, require you to sign up with a Microsoft Account (which is, I guess what they’re calling Passport these days), and to fully utilize the software store, you have to link a major credit card/debit card to your account and agree to anything Microsoft or apps you use try to charge to it.
You agree in the EULA that Windows can update things like their Windows Media Digital Restrictions Malware and you won’t try to stop it.
The US DMCA makes it illegal to try to break their Digital Restrictions Malware, even if it’s because it fucked up and you’re just trying to use the content you “bought”. Or because Microsoft’s latest DRM’d music store flops and they take down their license renewal server. Happens.
If you use any of Microsoft’s “Cloud” features, you agree explicitly that they can share your information with advertisers or the federal, state, or local government units with or without a valid search warrant, and you also agree that you hold Microsoft harmless if they fuck up and delete your data. So don’t upload anything expecting to ever get it back out. But, these are problems with most cloud services, which is why you shouldn’t use them.
We live in an age where the government doesn’t even need warrants because people tell them everything they want to know, willingly. How many criminal cases has the government been able to make out of data that Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook have turned over? We might never know.
These reasons, and many more are why it’s time to consider making the move to Free and Open Source software. There’s no 20 page EULAs, no “activation”, no spyware, fewer headaches, and no bullshit.
Big companies have proven time and time again that they are not to be trusted with your information. Why do people agree to give them more and more of it all the time in light of this abuse?
If you need a starting point in learning about Free and Open Source software, what it is, and more reasons you should be replacing your proprietary software with it, here’s some places to read up about it.
In short, there’s probably a suitable free and open source replacement for almost everything you use, even for operating systems such as Ubuntu and Fedora, office suites such as LibreOffice and Caligra Suite, even replacements for Photoshop, like The Gimp. Of course that’s just naming a few.
Switch now, and you will not only have the peace of mind that nobody is using your computer against you or effectively leasing your own computer out to you, or using your software to censor or spy on you, but also that they can’t rack up fraudulent credit card transactions from an app that is targeted to your children which sells them pretend apples and hay to feed imaginary animals with.
One Apple customer was recently in the news, horrified, that his seven year old daughter managed to rack up the equivalent of about $350 US dollars to his credit card, which Apple simply allowed to go through. If you think Microsoft will be treating customers any better, I would suggest that you’re in for a painful life lesson.
One more disturbing trend….
Each version of Windows comes in yet more “editions”. “Edition” is just a nice way of saying they cripple it a bit more and a bit more to segment the market and create price points. This is something else you never see in Free and Open Source Software, because it would be pointless. Nevertheless, Microsoft has decided that Windows 8 will not play a DVD or Blu Ray without the “Media Pack”, which will be an additional fee.
How much? They declined to say. For reference, adding DVD playback to Windows Media Player in Windows XP cost $25, and adding Blu Ray support to Windows has typically meant a MONTHLY RECURRING SUBSCRIPTION fee because it requires downloading the new content restriction keys every month, so if you stop paying, your discs stop playing. Isn’t that cute?
Benjamin Mako Hill wrote about this deliberate software crippling in an essay about Windows NT 4. He called the disabled features anti-features. The point he made, quite concisely, was that if you pay Microsoft for anything other than the most expensive version, you’re literally paying them to remove features from your software. He also made a list with more examples of products with antifeatures.
There’s much more detail I could go into, but this is yet another wake up call that you deserve Freedom, and Free Software gives you the Freedom you deserve. The Free Software Foundation defines “Free” (as in freedom!) Software as giving the user these four freedoms.
- The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
In short, you are free to study, modify, redistribute, and use the software, for any purpose, and you are never “under surveillance” by it or unable to help your friend by sharing the software with him or her.
Microsoft and Apple both have something in common; they try to make the user overlook all of the things they have to sacrifice just to use their software, by making it pretty on the surface. That pretty surface is only skin deep, and underneath it, the internals of the system are as bug-ridden and as DRM-encumbered as ever. Just because you paid for a license doesn’t mean they can’t come back later and terminate it, for any or for no reason, without a refund.
What’s most disturbing, above and beyond anything else I’ve talked about, is when the software is so tied to the hardware that the hardware is useless without their software (such as Windows on ARM or the iPad). What do you do if they throw you out? I guess you have a really expensive door stop. (Did someone say, Plasma Active? Yes, you should use Plasma Active.)
Windows 8 gives you a choice. You can keep surrendering more of your freedom to Microsoft and other malicious software companies every year, or you can get off their slippery slope right now.
Just a quick note.
I was (and still am) outraged that Wladimir Palant sneaked into people’s browser preferences and turned on some ads for big companies and parking page parasites that were paying him the big bucks.
There’s now another option; a fork of Adblock Plus called Trueblock Plus. It is derived from Adblock Plus code and is under the same Mozilla Public License as Adblock Plus. Both are free and open source software.
The freedoms that make up “free software” include using the software for any purpose and being able to modify, improve, and redistribute it. In other words, the freedom to “fork” if the upstream dies off, becomes unresponsive to new features that people want, or in the case of Adblock Plus, start to add malicious features that nobody really asked for. (Or for any other reason.)
Right now, the only real modifications to Trueblock Plus are to re-brand it (The name and logos that Adblock Plus uses are trade marks, and are not covered by the free software license of the source code) and to turn off that annoying “Acceptable Ads” antifeature that Wladimir Palant cooked up.
There are also some rough edges in Trueblock Plus. The author of the fork notes that there’s going to have to be some more purging of Adblock Plus branding before Trueblock Plus can progress beyond “preliminary review” status at Mozilla Add-Ons. For example, the Contribute button still links to Adblock Plus’s website. I’m not sure if that’s intentional or not but it says “Contribute to Trueblock Plus”, so I am thinking he may have just searched for and renamed each occurrence of Adblock Plus.
The other problem is that the “Acceptable Ads” code is still there, just disabled by default. Since this code is hardly vital to the operation of the extension, it might be better if Trueblock Plus were to simply revert the commit that added it in the first place. More code in a program means more potential for bugs and security issues, plus the only reason it’s there is so Wladimir Palant can make money by allowing spyware and tracking garbage through by silently switching it on without the user’s consent upon “upgrading” to Adblock Plus 2.0 or later. It is doubtful that any user would opt into something that directly counters the problem that led them to install the software in the first place.
Users who pay attention can still uncheck Wladimir’s Acceptable Ad$ , but he even admits on his website that he’s banking on people not doing that since most people don’t like to tinker and may not even notice what has changed that is allowing ads to get through.
If you have less computer literate friends or relatives, or if you personally don’t want any more nasty surprises from Mr. Palant, then Trueblock Plus might be the way to go.
Today on The Heise Online, they mention that Microsoft is set to automatically download and install the latest version of Internet Explorer that manages to run on the particular Windows version installed. Since XP is the oldest thing they support, those users will get the obsolete Internet Explorer 8 browser, and Windows 7 users will no doubt get IE 9, which is only barely an improvement over IE 8.
I have no idea how they plan on updating Windows Vista users, but that will no doubt be another surprise for anyone foolish enough to actually be using it. There is IE 9 support for Vista (Which is where they will cut off support), but to get it you need a humongous “platform update” full of select backported crap from Windows 7.
Regardless of what version of Windows the user has, an Internet Explorer update is always dangerous since Microsoft continues to claim it is a system component and not a web browser. It means that at best, you need to reboot your computer, and if the upgrade goes wrong it can mean anything from Internet Explorer not working to the Windows shell failing in inappropriate ways. Internet Explorer installations and upgrades have had a significant number of cases of destroying the operating system beyond being salvageable since at least Windows 95.
No decent operating system claims the web browser is an integrated component that can’t be removed. The Internet Explorer situation is a continuing monopoly abuse and Internet Explorer itself is a relic from the 1990s, when Microsoft tried killing Netscape by forcibly installing their own web browser into Windows.
While we’re on the topic, most other operating systems don’t need to reboot after the user updates their web browser, file manager, media player, email client…..
This “almost comical if so many Microsoft victims weren’t suffering through it” situation makes me wonder what kind of a contrived setup those Microsoft funded “studies” used to get “99.999% uptime”. As soon as you apply any patch or update for Windows, it needs rebooted before the new files are used. Even if the user doesn’t want to reboot. Windows will pester them until they do or better yet, start a countdown and reboot the computer without regard to any work the user has left open and unsaved.
This was one factor, out of many, that frustrated me enough to leave Windows. Another factor is that they routinely triage security patches and frequently leave critical flaws open until the next month, like they did with BEAST this month.
That graph is funny, isn’t it? It’s not that Windows has gotten safer, it’s simply that Microsoft is stretching to classify updates that once would have rated critical as “important” based on the factors of “security improvements” in Windows that are often ineffective. (ASLR not being as random as it could be. NX/DEP being off by default for 32-bit software, many applications don’t bother using stack smashing protection because it exposes their programming flaws and causes them to crash, etc.) In many cases the user is left less than protected by what passes as Windows “security improvements” which is why malware is still rampant.
How can any human being tolerate this?
So I go to install Adblock Plus from the Development Builds section and on the welcome page there’s now a thing mentioning “acceptable ads” won’t be blocked anymore, you can opt out of it of course but doing so requires digging through preferences.
The page for this malicious “feature” is here:
And the list of exceptions that it makes is here:
If you believe that Wladimir Palant is concerned about Google and others being able to advertise to and spy on you for altruistic reasons, I’ll sell you the Brooklyn Bridge for two dollars. What’s going on here is that Wladimir Palant has discovered that he can monetize Adblock Plus for profit by taking payments for ad servers that don’t want to be subject to the rules the user has chosen.
People install Adblock Plus because they don’t want ads. This “acceptable ads” nonsense is no different than if your anti-virus software started allowing “acceptable malware” and claimed that it was because honest hard working Russian malware writers who make non-binding promises to screw you over ever so gently deserve to make money even if most people find what they do dirty and disgusting. Of course what this anti-virus vendor does not say is that the “acceptable malware” vendors are paying them to be delisted from the pattern file rules.
This is just filthy and it’s making me truly consider whether or not I can trust Adblock Plus anymore.Monkeying around with the users settings and flipping advertisements on that the user clearly doesn’t want (but only for major companies with deep pockets) makes Adblock Plus highly suspect now.