Mozilla Firefox in 2012By Sean Michael Kerner | December 31, 2012
From the 'Open Source Browser Goodness' files:
2012 was one of the busiest year's ever for the Mozilla's Firefox project. This is the first full year for Mozilla's rapid release cycle which debuted in 2011. I have to admit that last year I was among those that didn't think that the new cycle would work, but after 2012 it's clear that the rapid release system can work extremely well.
During 2012 Mozilla landed a staggering 7 major version releases of Firefox.
The first Firefox release of 2012 was Firefox 10, which debuted at the end of January. From my perspective, the most interesting addition in that release was the Inspect Tool which in my daily usage has now replaced my usage of 'view source'.
Firefox 10 was also an important release as it is the basis for Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release), which is what enterprises can rely on for stability. Over the course of 2012 Firefox 10 ESR issued multiple security point updates, but nothing that broke any compatability.
Firefox 11 came out in March and once again provided a pile of developer focused features. The one that still amazes me is the 3D Tool view.
The Firefox 12 releasein April, marked the beginning of a new era for Firefox. Firefox 12 is the first to include silent updating, enabling browser updates without user interaction (if the user so chooses).
Firefox 13 was released in June and finally provided a new tab page. So instead of simply getting a blank page, from Firefox 13 onwards, Mozilla users now get a new tab page that show most frequently accessed pages. Firefox 13 also provides support for the SPDY protocol, enabling faster web connections.
In July, Firefox 14 was released, providing users with secure SSL encrypted HTTPS connections for Google searches.
SSL overall got a boost with this release by way of the improved Site Identity Indicator. With the indicator, Mozilla made it easier for users to know if a site is using SSL or not.
Firefox 15 was releasedin August, with the core aim of improving browser performance.
At the time of release, Mozilla developers claimed that Firefox 15 was a 4.8x memory improvement over Firefox 14.
Firefox 16in October turned the focus back on developer tools with a new developer toobar.
The final Firefox release of the year was Firefox 17 in November. This release, perhaps more than any other during the calendar year, provided end-users with noticeable new features. Among them is the Social API and the direct integration of Facebook Messenger.
So yeah, that's a lot of release. Sure, in the old days (pre-2011) all of that would have been wrapped up in to one or two releases, but the incremental performance, standards and developer gains of the rapid release cycle are more than worth the trouble right?
Looking out to 2013, Mozilla has Firefox 18 scheduled for the first week of the year, so there is clearly no slowing down this train.
FreeBSD 9.1 Official Release Nears as PC-BSD 9.1 DebutsBy Sean Michael Kerner | December 19, 2012
From the 'Slightly Delayed Open Source OS' release files:
PC-BSD is a desktop based derivative of FreeBSD and typically PC-BSD releases follow FreeBSD releases. That's not quite the case with the new PC-BSD 9.1 release which is actually coming out *before* the official release of FreeBSD 9.1
FreeBSD 9.1 was originally set for official release at the end of October but has been hit by some delays. Though an official announcement has not yet been made the primary FreeBSD mirror currently has FreeBSD release ISOs available (ftp://ftp.freebsd.org/pub/FreeBSD/releases/ISO-IMAGES/9.1/)
In terms of PC-BSD, the 9.1 release includes a number of new features. Installation has been optimized with the separation of pre and post installation tasks. The installer also now specifies ZFS as the default file system for 64 bit systems with 2 GB or RAM or more. Those systems will now also default to the KDE desktop, while PCs with less than 2GB of RAM will default to 2 GB.
One of the most interesting new pieces from my perspective in the PC-BSD 9.1 release actually isn't a desktop feature, but rather is a server one. While PC-BSD includes the FreeBSD server it also has the ability to deploy a TrueOS server as well. TrueOS is an enhanced version of Free-BSD and includes the PBI (Push Button Installer) Manager.
PC-BSD 9.1 also gains new 'Warden' features. Warden is a sandboxing/virtualization/container type of technology that enables users to run isolated virtual instances. With PC-BSD 9.1, Warden is now fully baked into PC-BSD and can be easily controlled, managed via a control panel.
All told, sure looks like an interesting release and one that will transform PC-BSD usage a bit too.
HTML5 Still Not a Standard Until 2014December 17, 2012
From the 'fine print' files:
The W3C announced today that the HTML5 definition is now complete. This is a big deal for the web and all of us that work and use it…but it's not end of the story.
The definition is not a final standard for HTML5, though it is an important milestone. HTML5 will not likely be a full bona-fide standard until mid 2014 according to what Jeff Jaffe told me during a conference call today to talk about HTML5.
Between now and mid-2014 the W3C will work ensuring stability and building out test suites.
Today's news really should come as now surprise. After all, HTML5 has been in development for a looong time. In February of 2011, the last call for HTML5was issued for HTML5.
Work on HTML5 overall has been ongoing since at least 2007. That's right, from initiation to full specification is likely a seven year marathon.
Does anyone else think that's a bit nuts?
I have nothing but respect for the W3C, but the web moves faster. Seven years ago, the web was a different place. HTML5 has helped to reshape that web, moving it to a more dynamic and mobile footing -- and all of that happened as the standard itself was evolving.
It's important to remember that while HTML5 is just now hitting its final stages of standardization, developers and hundreds of millions of people around the world already benefit from HTML5 today.
Standards are the end of the road in my view for adoption, not the beginning. Early adopters, like the browser vendors, have implement many (if not most) of the features in the definition already , well ahead of the 2014 final specification.
During the conference call today, Jaffe note that stability, which is what a W3C standard provides, is very critical in a number of industries – among them is set top boxes. It is my belief that in the modern world even firmware bound hardware, like a TV can (and is) often updated. That said, do you really want to update your TV every six weeks?
The HTML5 standards process is now also pushing forward with the first preliminary ideas into HTML 5.1. The process by which 5.1 will evolve is an interesting one.
Jaffe noted that Extension Specifications will be developed by different groups. Then over time different Extensions will be consider for inclusion into the formal HTML 5.1 standard.
The days of HTML 4.x are long since past. The era of HTML5 is now here (so don't wait until 2014!)
Mozilla Firefox 20 Will Speed Up Page Load TimesBy Sean Michael Kerner | December 17, 2012
From the 'Nightly Open Source Innovation' files:
Firefox 20 is sure shaping up to be a really big release for Mozilla. We already knew that it would finally be the release that provides Private Browsing as it should be. Now it looks like Firefox is finally getting a really interesting Network load fix that seems obvious and sure could make a huge performance difference.
Firefox 20 will load stylesheets before images.
Yup I know. Seems so ridiculously obvious doesn't it?
The bug is titled," Make sure that we load stylesheets and scripts with a higher priority than images."
Mozilla developer Ehsan Akhagi wrote:
"I don't know what our heuristics in the load priorities look like, but it seems to me that images (at least those which won't affect layout) should have a lower priority compared to stylesheets and scripts in order for us to be able to get something to the screen faster."
Akhagai is of course correct and a patch is now in place. Preliminary testing done by Mozilla developer Patrick McManus shows some promising results as well. Using the popular social networking site pinterest as an example, the wait time to get something to show up the screen, dropped from 3.4 seconds to 1.6 seconds.
I suspect that users will notice an observable difference as a result of this change across a wide variety of site.
Samba 4 Brings Active Directory to Open Source and Wins Praise from Microsoft!?By Sean Michael Kerner | December 13, 2012
From the 'THANK YOU SAMBA!' files:
Like millions of others, I rely on Samba. Like millions of others, I will now rely on it more with Samba 4.0 thanks to the full Active Directory compliance. It's a move that has been a long time coming and one that I frankly didn't think would ever really come.
Samba 4.0 was officially released this week and in the press release there was something that I did not expect – a quote from Microsoft.
"Active Directory is a mainstay of enterprise IT environments, and Microsoft is committed to support for interoperability across platforms," said Thomas Pfenning, director of development, Windows Server in a statement. "We are pleased that the documentation and interoperability labs that Microsoft has provided have been key in the development of the Samba 4.0 Active Directory functionality."
Why is this so shocking? Well for one – it wasn't that long ago (six years ago for me), when Microsoft execs weren't all that thrilled with Samba. In April of 2006, I published an interview with Bill Hilfwho at the time was the General Manager for Microsoft Platform strategy. This is what he told me in 2006:
"With Samba I'm really familiar with that technology and I'd say that a lot of what they do under the guise of interoperability is clone ability. I wouldn't say it's a great relationship but we have a working relationship. They ask things of us and we say, "That's our IP." And they say you should do it because all software should be free. "
Now in 2012 after ten years of effort, Samba 4 is here thanks in part to Microsoft's help. The Samba Team also thanks Microsoft for interoperability testing that Microsoft engineers helped with.
Times do change.
ActiveDirectory is a mainstay and isn't going anywhere, but with Samba 4.0 it will now go everywhere.
WordPress 3.5 Elvin Drums Along Open Source CMSDecember 12, 2012
From the 'Open Source CMS that Rules Them All' files:
That's right I called WordPress a CMS (Content Management System) and not a blogging platform. With WordPress 3.5, officially released on Tuesday, the CMS moves forward with some incremental features.
I'm a user of both self-hosted as well WordPress.com sites so I've noticed some of the WordPress 3.5 changes roll out over the last several weeks. WordPress tends to dogfood releases on the hosted WordPress.com platform first before making the full release generally available.
The most obvious new item in WordPress 3.5 is the image uploading feature which has been dramatically improved. Instead of going through three or more clicks to upload media, it's now a one click drag and drop type of operation. Even something as basic as creating image captions (which we've long been able to do with WordPress) is now easier because it's all part of the flow.
The initial welcome screen as well as the user dashboard also gets a refresh in this update, though that seems to be an area that WordPress updates with every update (right?)
For those that like to use WordPress to host multiple sites with one engine (multisite), WordPress 3.5 is a huge change too.
For the first time multisite installs can be installed with WordPress in a subdirectory. Might sound like a small thing, but I gotta tell ya, it has been a major pain for many people (myself included). Multisite first landed in WordPress core with the WordPress 3.0 releasein 2010 so this fix is two years in the making.
Stallman's Attack on Ubuntu Linux is Bad News for CanonicalBy Sean Michael Kerner | December 10, 2012
From the 'Don't Mess with RMS' files:
Richard Stallman (RMS),the Father of Free Software doesn't like Ubuntu Linux. Stallman posted a scathing diatribe against Ubuntu on Friday.
"If you ever recommend or redistribute GNU/Linux, please remove Ubuntu from the distros you recommend or redistribute," Stallman wrote. "In your install fests, in your Software Freedom Day events, in your FLISOL events, don't install or recommend Ubuntu. Instead, tell people that Ubuntu is shunned for spying."
The key issue for Stallman isn't about Free Software here, it's about spyware. Ubuntu 12.10 includes some integrated Amazon search capability that has concerned many for months. Why Stallman didn't go after Ubuntu earlier, I'm not sure, but the fact that he has now is not good for Ubuntu.
While some might brand Stallman as being on the fringe of software adoption today – I'd argue otherwise. His influence is still not to be trifled with as Ubuntu's rival Red Hat understands full well.
It's not about money either, it's about software freedom and privacy.
I've asked multiple Red Hat CEOs including former CEO Matthew Szulik and current CEO Jim Whitehurst about Stallman over the years. Red Hat's executive management in private or in public has never said anything but the most positive things about Stallman to me. Red Hat respects Stallman.
That's right Red Hat, a company that generated a billion dollars from Linux last year, respects Stallman. Stallman (AFAIK) has never told anyone to not use Red Hat in the same way he has now gone after Ubuntu.
Certainly there are some people that won't care what Stallman says, but there are a lot who will. No question this will have an impact on some level of grassroots adoption for Ubuntu. Companies and cloud adopter may not care, but the people do outreach and getting small business and individuals started on Free Software operating system will care – and they will care a whole lot.
Google Kills Free Apps (and Bleeds Small Businesses)By Sean Michael Kerner | December 07, 2012
From the 'I'm a user' files:
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have used and recommended Google Apps to hundreds of organizations over the years. In most cases, the people I help out are small groups and Google Apps Free was a great place to start.
With no warning whatsoever, Google is KILLING the Free Edition of Apps. Users will now need to use the $5 a month version instead.
This is a huge blow to small businesses startups in my admittedly biased view. For really small startups of less then 10 people, Google Apps let them get email and calendar for Free - now they'll have to pay.
Google Apps Free also had the best deal going on Domain names - users could buy a .com domain from GoDaddy for only $10 including Privacy. Buying that same domain name from GoDaddy directly with Privacy typically cost $17 or more.
In my own experience, many of those smaller orgs that started out free, migrated to paid as their organizations grew. The free version was a great way to get started.
Instead what is now likely to happen is people like me will look for a different free alternative. It's not just about $5 a month, it's about time to live. With a free service, someone like me could help out an org very quickly. While $5 a month isn't all that much, it's still a cost and a barrier.
While this is clearly a cash grab by Google, I also suspect (and again I'm biased) that this move will also create an opening for an agile startup - a startup that recognizes that a freemium, free-to-paid low barrier email for orgs is a needed thing in today's economy.
WCIT ITU Conf Site Disrupted – Hackers Claim ResponsibilityBy Sean Michael Kerner | December 06, 2012
From the 'Is it really a DoS'?
We've all been to plenty of tech conferences where connectivity is less than optimal. Thankfully that has become less of an issue in recent years, even as wireless speeds have grown. That's why news coming out of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) today really sounded strange to me.
The WCIT conference in Dubai is the one where (apparently) the UN is trying to 'seize' control of the Internet.
The news today is that one of the ITU websites was 'interrupted' late Wednesday.
"As a contingency measure, network traffic was redirected to a backup website hosted in another geographical region," the ITU stated. "ITU has noted a significant increase in network traffic generated by the worldwide attention around WCIT-12, and in particular, the public interest in conference documents and webcasts of conference proceedings. Some performance degradation was experienced for two hours before normal operation was restored."
Ok none of that is all that strange. Lots of users, they didn't have the right capacity so they had to shift right?
Well except for the fact that the WCIT is now claiming that hacker groups claimed responsibility for the outage and traffic surge.
The reality is that an organization that is trying to 'control' the Internet should understand the realities of the modern Internet. Traffic bursts or even Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are not uncommon for any website. I'd suggest that the ITU, as well as any large political organization, should leverage the power of the cloud and multiple availability zones – ALWAYS. That's not something new that's just a good best practice.
What's also particularly ironic is that various organizations around the world have argued that the WTIC proceedings have been happening in private, behind closed doors. Those same websites that hackers allegedly interrupted seem to suggest otherwise, providing public available materials and access to those proceedings.
Don't get me wrong, I'm personally no fan of UN control, intervention or oversight of the Internet, I'm just sayin….
Has Secure Boot for Linux Finally Arrived?By Sean Michael Kerner | December 03, 2012
From the 'Thank You Microsoft for *allowing* Linux on Windows 8 hardware?!' files:
Few topics have been as controversial in the Linux community this year as the Secure Boot/UEFI issue.
The Tl;dr version is that Secure Boot is enabled by default on all new Windows 8 certified hardware. That Secure Boot mechanism by default is 'secured' to boot Windows and not other operating systems.
One option that has been available since the beginning is to simply disable Secure Boot on the BIOS of the hardware itself – thought that's not an ideal solution for many. Matt Garrett, engineer at Red Hat has been working (and talking) about a solution for over a year now. It's a solution that Garrett had originally hoped would be ready for Fedora 18 (currently in beta).
That solution is now finally available. (Garrett however is no longer working at Red Hat as of the end of day on November 30th.)
The Linux Foundation has its own idea for Secure Boot that has yet to be formally released.
Though Garrett's Secure Boot shim is now available, I suspect that it will still take some time and effort until the solution (or one of its alternatives) is fully baked into a mainstream Linux distribution. With Fedora 18 now set for general availability in early January, I suspect that it *could* be the first.
But right now as is it stands, if you've got *brand* new Windows 8 hardware, getting Linux to run isn't going to be easy.