Firefox 3.6.3 released

Not much to say here, but a new release of Firefox 3.6 was made purely to address the recently demonstrated exploit in the Pwn2Own contest.

Due to the critical nature of the exploit, the developers of Firefox made the decision to release a new version solely to address it. Suffice to say that this is a highly recommended update. The exploit uses a memory corruption flaw to execute code, which occurs in the Garbage Collector for DOM.

All users are recommended to update, which should occur automatically. If you haven't seen an update notice yet you can trigger it from the Help menu. Of course you can also download the entire file.

Straight from Chromium comes the ANGLE project

Google Chrome is progressing rapidly and it certainly has been a success. Some even speculate that it was responsible for preventing Firefox the reach a global usage of 25%. Anyway, what's much more important is that Google is working hard on new technologies that may become interesting in the future.

On Chromium, the place where Google Chrome's source code lives, they've announced the ANGLE project, which stands for Almost Native Graphics Layer Engine. Its purpose is to layer WebGL's subset of the OpenGL ES 2.0 API over DirectX 9.0c API calls. As you may know, the last releases of Windows do not come with any OpenGL version bundled, and most GPU manufacturers pore more effort in a good DirectX (games!) driver, than the far less popular OpenGL (AutoCAD?).

WebGL is an effort by the Khronos Group to create a standard for 3D content on the web. You may get flashbacks of VRML or other technologies from the past, but in this case the real intend is to make it hardware accelerated. Imagine playing those Android, iPhone, iPod touch or iPad games right in your web browser without the need for a (Flash Player or Java) plug-in.

By open-sourcing the ANGLE project, Google hopes that other members of the Khronos Group (such as Mozilla and Opera) will join their effort and increase the possibility of WebGL in total as a valid and solid technology of the web. Currently WebGL is present in Mozilla Firefox 3.7 nightly builds, WebKit (not Safari), and Google Chrome developer previews.

What do you think of Opera 10.5?

* The best release yet!
* It has some bugs, but no showstoppers
* It has bugs, but the developers are addressing them quickly enough
* Unusuable, waiting for a new release
* A disaster, I've switched to a competitor!

Firefox 3.6.2 released

Skipping a release, Mozilla has issued an update for Firefox bringing it up to 3.6.2. This (semi) standard maintenance release contains mostly fixes to polish the current stable release.

Although no direct explanation is given on why this is 3.6.2 instead of 3.6.1, which actually gives more ammo for Google approach for Chrome of making it irrelevant for the end user, it does contain some interesting bits that we all want.

As this is the first maintenance release of Firefox 3.6 it fixes a large series of stability bugs that have affected people. However most importantly is are the security issues that have been addressed, of which one critical. This critical issue could allow remote code execution and therefor makes this release a highly recommended update.

As always, if Firefox doesn't pick up the update you can trigger it from the Help menu. If you want the entire download you can get it from the usual place for all supported platforms.

Opera 10.51 for Windows released

After the somewhat rushed release of Opera 10.50 comes the latest release, bringing it up to 10.51 and some added bonuses. Linux and Mac users still have to wait though, for their platforms to reach maturity.

The inevitable Opera 10.51 release should make some Windows users happier who've complained about stability and memory usage. The changelog is quite large, but the most important reason is security though, two issues where addresses in this area, and therefor is makes this a recommended installation for all Opera users.

But there is more news to be told. According to the Choose Opera blog, Opera 10.51 shows performance improvements in JavaScript of up to 27% in Peacemaker. Certainly that's one hell of a leap for a minor release, and makes the already outstanding Carakan engine even more superb.

If you're using Opera 10.50 already, but haven't seen an update warning yet, you can trigger it manually through the Help menu. Of course it's also possible to download. the entire web browser from Opera's site.

Making Opera even better

Whether or not if Opera 10.5 was rushed out to coincide with the European browser ballot in Windows 7 remains a discussion. What everybody agrees about is that an interesting comeback (with bugs). But what do you want in the next release?

Yeah, Linux and Mac users need to be patient, their Opera 10.5 release isn't ready yet, but today we'll focus on some though missing features in all of the Opera releases up till now.

Fill me in
Of course Opera renders pages (with plug-ins), but browsers are all about making the entire experience easier for you. While Chrome, Firefox and from the early beginning even Internet Explorer support automatic filling forms, Opera does not. Of course you can pre-fill information for some time now, there is no support in Opera to remember what you filled in forms, which is not part of your standard preferences.

Import everything from anyone
Another, perhaps the most vital feature missing from Opera is migration support. If you're on a ballot screen do make sure that any transition will be a breeze. Other competitive browsers, especially Chrome, support importing of bookmarks, history, and most importantly your web site passwords. Without these you are far less keen to swap, and third party tools just doesn't cut it (if they are payware).

Stability
A lot of people have complained about Opera 10.50's stability, luckily Opera 10.51 is coming pretty soon. However as a browser vendor you're also dependent on plug-in developers. Chrome was the first to introduce it's unique per-process tabs. Although some think this approach is somewhat of a killer for your system (it is probably more stressful for your memory), a partial implementation would also work. With partial I mean not a per-tab isolation, but plug-in isolation. Adobe Flash Player for instance runs in a separate process, if it crashes, the area rendered on the screen is gone, but your tab, and your web browser remains safe. Safari also includes this feature on Snow Leopard, while Internet Explorer was one of the first along Chrome to have a similar per-tab process isolation. Firefox 3.7 builds include a plug-in feature for Windows, while the other platforms will be support in the near future.

Extensions
A long and tired request for extensions has been going on since the popularity of Firefox. As Google isn't crazy, they knew from the start that Chrome with all its intention to be fast and easy needed something for the power user. Heck, even normal people use it if it's truly handy. If you want a browser that truly fits its audience, and trigger innovation, an extension supported environment is the way to go. Just look at extensions like Firebug for web developer, or how the rise of social networks (Facebook, Twitter) was directly integrated. Of course Opera has widgets support, but separate applications is something else than integration, and why work on something like that while Chrome simply creates a "shortcut" to a web page in a separate process?

Future
With Firefox in a bit of personal problem (when to release what and how), and the increasing use of Chrome, Opera has been playing catch up for the last releases. Many features have been integrated from the competition and even been improved (private tabs, Carakan, Vega). If Opera can continue to add more useful features from the competition and enhance them while being innovative at the same time, they still really make a chance. Chrome is more of a threat to Firefox and Safari, and Internet Explorer 9 may even disturb that fight. But looking as how Opera is today, it's uniqueness, while both its strength and weakness, can certainly be played out even further and better to increase its usage, and name around the web.

And while you're at it Opera Software, don't forget to patent it in the us, in case Apple turns an evil eye!

Chrome 4.1 for Windows released

Google is streaming the new Chrome 4.1 release towards all Windows clients as we speak. In the coming days you'll be automatically updated if you're running Chrome on Windows. This next version is, as it's number suggests, a minor update, by nice nonetheless.

Still I think this strategy of Google is quite nice and should be adopted by others. Google actually wants you to forget version numbers. In fact you're using Chrome, not really Chrome 4.1 or 5.0. The thing is, if all updates are "forced" to users, you can keep everybody up to date feature wise, as well as stability and most importantly security wise. Reports have suggested that a group of users tend to be slow in updating and may be in danger.

Anyway, back to the real deal today. This next release of Chrome focuses on three major new features: a new translator info-bar (which detects foreign languages and asks to translate it), privacy features (cookies, images, JavaScript, plug-ins, pop-ups), and XSS Auditor (disabled by default).

Of course security and stability issues were also addressed, making Chrome a better experience and place to stay as a web citizen. Do note that Google has published the names and rewards (yes you can earn money) for finding these!

If you have Google Chrome for Windows you'll get the update automatically (within a few days), if you want it right away, go to the about dialog and it should trigger. If you haven't got Chrome yet, you can download it from Google's site.

Opera Mini 5 Beta for Android released

With the bad news that Opera Mobile for Android might only be available if the mobile or OEM company decides to bundle it comes some good news. Yup, the first beta of Opera Mini 5 is here, and for those who wonder... it's not just a J2ME port like before!

No, Opera Mini 5 Beta shines like polished Android for you. In fact you just might overcome much of the disappointment that you may not enjoy Opera Mobile any time soon. If a team within Opera Software can make dreams come true it surely is the innovative and hard working team behind Mini. After installing Opera Mini 5 Beta from the Android Market (it works on my HTC Hero, running Android 1.5) it looks gorgeous. Using red and black as the default color scheme it acts like any native Android application using full touch as well as the menu and back buttons.

So what kind of features can you expect? First of all Opera Turbo, which uses Opera's servers to compress web pages, is part of the package, increasing page loading performance while sending less data. Opera Link and Speed Dial are also familiar faces, where Link allows you to sync bookmarks (and more) and Speed Dial allows you to add several default pages on the new tab and home page. Page zooming works like a charm and uses the familiar double-tap to zoom into areas while you view the web site in an eagle-mode for overview. But there is much more, like find in page, tabbed browsing, landscape mode, a password manager.

In fact if you have an Android phone, you know, from HTC, Motorola, Sony-Ericsson, LG, Samsung and all the others, just download it. You won't be disappointed. Isn't the Android world sweet, allowing Opera Software to offer even better alternatives of standard applications?

Opera 10.50 for Windows released

Almost just in time for the new web browser ballot screen in Windows 7, Opera Software released the final version of Opera 10.50, one of the most exciting releases in a while!

Although this is for the first time in years that Opera Software released their web browser for just one platform, as the Mac release is in beta, and the Linux version is still in pre-beta stage (available as snapshots). However sacrifices must be made sometimes in order to have miracles. And Opera 10.50 is a miracle. For the last couple of releases I've personally been a bit negative, but this one makes up for it, it truly does.

Carakan
At the heart of all the enthusiasm about this release is Carkan, the new JavaScript engine from the vikings. Simply put, when Presto came, it showed that they managed to create a completely fresh rendering engine within a short time frame, while Mozilla crawled along for years. And now, after all the fighting between Chrome, Safari and Firefox, there is now Opera 10.50 with Carakan that competes and even finishes off top dog Chrome's V8 in several benchmarks.

Private
Opera's browser was the frontrunner at introducing the well known "delete private data" functionality, but was left behind when Safari first introduced "private browsing", meaning it didn't store any private data once the functionality was activated. IE8, Chrome followed soon, while Firefox delayed the 3.5 release just for this. Opera was quite for a while, but now they've introduced it as it should, you can browse privately per tab or window, surpassing the competition in your ability to control it.

Engine talk
Of course Presto has been updated to support new standards (and upcoming standards). One of the most requested is support for CSS3 rounding of corners, which is now available in this release. But Presto is also assisted by Vega. Although previously it was thought to be hardware accelerated, Vega is currently running in software mode (don't worry hardware acceleration is still coming), and improves rendering of pages (and the UI) much better than before.

Platform integration
With Opera 10.50 you can see that they've worked on integrating with the platform it's running on. Most noticeable is the new Opera menu button in the top left corner that hosts all the standard menus. But also apparent is (when the personal bar is disabled) the new tab bar which shares space at the top of the browser, similar to Chrome (if it must be said). On Windows Vista and Windows 7 it looks even sexier with an all glass background, as many Firefox users want to have (emulated with add-ons). In a few words, Opera 10.50 looks better than IE, and is on par with Chrome.

Conclusion
Opera 10.50 is more than ever a big punch at the competition and shows that (with a 24 hour release candidate cycle) can produce a strong release when needed in a relative short time span. If you've used Opera before, or never, you should definitely try one of the fastest browsers out there.

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