Mozilla Pushing out Windows 64-Bit Firefox

What has seemed like an eternity of flip-flopping about having a Windows 64-Bit (Win64) version of Firefox may very soon come to an end. Earlier this week Bug 1180792 was filed to enable 64-bit windows builds on release channel. In October 2014, Mozilla had started talking about having a Win64 release as early as Firefox 37 for March 2015. Firefox 37 came and went and still no Win64 released. There have been Win64 versions for Firefox 38 and 39, but those never offered outside the Beta channel.

So, when will be seeing this Win64 release? There is still some debate about that right now. Ideally, it should be Firefox 40 which is scheduled for August 11th. On the other hand, Windows 10 is due for release at the end of this month and most of all the other browsers will already have a 64-Bit Windows version. In that case, it could be pushed out as Firefox 39.0.1. However, the point of ‘point’ release is to address bugs, security issues, regressions, etc. NOT to introduce a new feature (if you can call Win64 support a feature). This will be discussed in the channel meeting scheduled for later today.

One thing to keep in mind is when the Win64 release is pushed out, it is not going to be on the main Firefox release page. It will be on the fully localized versions page which can be accessed via the Systems & Languages link on the main page. Eventually there will be mechanism in place to automatically detect if the user is running a 64-Bit Version of Windows and offer the Win64 release.

Update (07/08/15 1045): Bug 1181014 was filed on July 6, 2105 which indicates a target release for Win64 builds on the release channel with Firefox 40 on August 11th, 2015.

Firefox 39 Released

Mozilla released the next update for Firefox on Thursday, July 2nd (release notes show the original planned release date of June 30th) with the Firefox 39.0 release. There are various OS related changes and fixes, the complete details can be found in the Firefox 39.0 Release Notes.

Depending on their update settings, users will be prompted to update within the next 24-48 hours. Users can also manually update by going to the Firefox Help Menu and selecting About Firefox and follow the prompts to update. Alternatively users can also down and manually install the update via getfirefox.com site.

The next planned release for Firefox is Firefox 40 on August 11, 2015.

Add-on to control ‘new tab’ page?

Currently Firefox users can go into the about:config and customize the preference browser.newtab.url to a specific web address (URL) or even set it to about:blank for a blank tab. However, so can malicious/unwanted software (McAfee, Ask, AVG, Babylon, Yahoo, etc.) by directly making changes the user’s prefs.js profile file. However, many novice Firefox users don’t know about or how to work within the about:config interface.

Mozilla’s solution to this as purposed in Bug 118285 (The browser.newtab.url preference is abused and should be removed) is to only allow (approved) add-ons to change the behavior of the new tab page. This would be landed in Firefox 41 which also coincides with new extension signing. The thought process on this is that it would be too much trouble for the makers of this software to create an add-on to override the user’s settings. Or if they did create an add-on Mozilla could easily blacklist said add-on.

I am not quite certain though what the (approved) add-on would change that can’t be manipulated through other means. From what I gather reading the bug is the changes would not be made in prefs.js, but rather some other file that can only be changed via the (approved) add-on.

Some people have issues with Mozilla going this route. Why should the user have to install an add-on just to change what happens when they open a new tab? This is especially true if the user can go into about:config and change browser.newtab.url preference. Well, as I mentioned in the beginning of this post not all users are familiar with about:config editor and also malicious software is making unauthorized changes to the users browser settings. Mozilla’s intent here isn’t to make it more difficult for users to change the way the new tab behaves, but prevent malicious software from making the changes in the first place. Thus making it so users wouldn’t need to change this setting at al.

There were a couple suggestions in the bug about changing the User Interface (UI) within the settings to allow users to control what happens when they open a new tab. Interestingly, neither Firefox nor Chrome allow you to change what happens when you open a new tab directly from the browser settings. Chrome has several extensions including Currently, that will change your new tab behavior. Safari sort of does in that it allows you to set new tabs to open your pre-set home page. The only browser that gives you the most control over what happens when you open a new tab (including the option to open a blank tab) is Internet Explorer (version 11 for sure).

ie_newtab

This bug has already been landed into the Nightly builds of Firefox 41. We are still about 2 1/2 months away from the release of Firefox 41, so there is a chance this change could get backed out (but that is highly doubtful).

Firefox 41 ships with massive memory improvements for Adblock Plus

"Version 41 of the Firefox web browser ships with memory improvements that benefit all users of the browser but Adblock Plus users especially.
"When Mozilla ran memory tests against a set of popular Firefox add-ons recently it noticed that the popular extension Adblock Plus was adding an average of 60-70 Megabytes to the browser's memory usage.
"It discovered furthermore that certain conditions could increase memory usage extremely so that the overall use of memory by Firefox would double, triple or even quadruple while sites remained open in the browser. ..."
Source: gHacks Tech News
Details ---> Firefox 41 ships with massive memory improvements for Adblock Plus

Pale Moon Fork and Why I Moved To It

I have been using Firefox for a long time - my old laptop has 1.1 on it - and was quite happy with it. I used to post links to it with the caption "Finally, a browser that works the way I want it to!!"
Recently Mozilla has been making changes that made that statement somewhat deceptive though, and a source of increasing frustration/irritation for me and others. [GHacks Article]
I had heard of Pale Moon but I use Linux and it was Windows only at the time. When a member of the community made a Linux version I jumped on it.
I had expected a few bugs since it was a new project but that was not the case as it worked perfectly from the start and I am a happy camper again.
I had been tweaking my profile for years [screenshot] and did not want to lose any of that, but my fears were put to rest as I copied it over with nary a hitch.
The 20 or so extensions I had installed worked as usual with 2 exceptions and one of those (Bamboo Feed Reader) now has a working one in Pale Moon's own small but growing extension site.
For me it has been stable and very low on memory usage - seldom goes over 300MB.
I am quite relieved and happy that someone came up with this and I recommend it highly.


Mozilla making Firefox bloated?

Over the course of the last year I have noticed Firefox is becoming more and more bloated. Martin Brinkmann (ghacks), talks about what Firefox was like when it was first introduced:
Back then, the core development philosophy was to create and maintain a user-friendly browser with a high level of customization options and a powerful extension ecosystem that adds new features to the browser. This worked really well, kept the core browser rather slim without sacrificing features as users were able to install extensions or scripts, or use other customization options such as styles to modify the browser for their needs and requirements.
He also discusses the new features Mozilla has added natively into the browser such as Social API, Hello, Reader Mode and Pocket, while at the same time removed others such as the status bar. While the users might appreciate some of these new features, most are not going to use all of them (or in many cases any of them). These could have been offered as optional add-ons which the user could add upon the first run when these were released or at later time via AMO. It does seem as if Mozilla is changing its philosophy with Firefox. Moving from doing what is best for the users (lean and customizeable) to forcing the user into major changes (Australis is prime example) and then let them fend for themselves to find an add-on to "undo" these changes. It is even coming to the point where Mozilla thinks it should have a say as to what add-ons a user can install (add-on signing with Firefox 41). While I am all for preventing rogue add-ons from installing themselves in the browser, user should still be able to install whatever add-ons they choose (even if they are not signed). A simple warning such as that when a user goes into about:config or even the safe browsing/known attack site warning would do. In this case,the user is made aware of the risks of installing said add-on, but can choose to go ahead and install. Blocking the installation of an unsigned add-on sounds like something Apple would do, not Mozilla. It is no wonder more former Firefox users have moved over to Pale Moon. It is just like Firefox, except it is not supported by Mozilla. It is based of the source code of Firefox, but without a lot of the bloat and restrictions:
Pale Moon offers you a browsing experience in a browser completely built from its own, independently developed source with carefully selected features and optimizations to maximize the browser's speed*, stability and user experience, while offering a rich collection of extensions and themes (including compatibility with many Firefox extensions many users have come to love and rely on).
Source Ghacks via Grand Stream Dreams

Favicon Bug

This is a really an odd one and it affects both Chrome and Firefox (possibly Safari as well), but NOT Internet Explorer. If you have had unexplained crashes while/after visiting a WordPress (WP) site, it is possible it could be caused by this bug. The good news is this bug has been reported to Mozilla [Bug 1174811] and it was patched on Wednesday (June 17th). Just not sure yet when it is going to be pushed out. Firefox 39 is due out in less than two weeks (June 30th), but then there could also be a 38.0.6 release between now and then (though I haven't seen anything to hint of such a release). My understanding is this bug is not malicious, just an annoyance as the browser is secretly trying to download an insanely large file 1 GB TAR file which cause the browser to run out of memory, become unresponsive and eventually crash. Though as an administrator for multiple WP sites I am concerned what exactly in contained in this TAR file. If the main WP configuration PHP file is accessible that could be a major security issue. Source: The Windows Club

How to disable auto-playing Flash and HTML5 videos

"If I had to rate annoying things that I encounter on the Internet on a scale, auto-playing videos would certainly make it to the top of the list, especially if they are not configured to start muted by default. But even if videos start muted, they are a huge annoyance as they may distract users, suck up bandwidth or waste cpu cycles. ..."
Source: gHacks Tech News
---> How to disable auto-playing Flash and HTML5 videos

Turn Firefox into a Security Information Powerhouse

"The majority of things that happen when you load a website in your browser of choice happen in the background. Unless you have installed security extensions in the browser or software on the system, you may be completely unaware of the connections that are initiated when a page is loaded in the browser.
"While you can check that manually using the browser's developer tools (hit F12 and switch to network for that), it is only displaying information to you while the page is loading.
"The Firefox web browser is probably the browser with the best selection of extensions that provide you with security information, often before you connect to a website.
"This guide provides you with a list of extensions that you may want to consider for that. ..."
Source: gHacks Tech News
---> Turn Firefox into a Security Information Powerhouse