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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Browsers pick up the pace (week in review) | Business Tech - CNET News

Browsers pick up the pace (week in review) | Business Tech - CNET News

It might seem like the tech news this week has been all about the new iPad, but speedier browser versions grabbed some big headlines as well.
Google on Tuesday released Chrome 10, endowing its browser with faster JavaScript, password synchronization, and a revamped preferences system. Chrome is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Google announced Chrome 10's stable release on its blog but refrained from mentioning its product number. That's in line with the company's effort to focus on features rather than version numbers, which it calls mere milestones. Google tries to get new versions into users' hands as rapidly as possible and currently passes a new milestone about once every six weeks.

Chrome 10 comes with the "Crankshaft" version of the V8 browser engine that Google pegs as 66 percent faster than the unnamed version in Chrome 9 as measured with Google's V8 Benchmark suite. That's a major speed boost, but be aware there are many other attributes of browser performance, and one of the biggest--hardware acceleration--will hit prime time with the imminent release of Mozilla's Firefox 4 and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9.
Speaking of IE9, Microsoft will be formally launching the next version of its browser at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival on Monday--an interesting place to launch, given that the Austin, Texas, geek fest is packed full of the hordes who have long since ditched Internet Explorer for the decidedly hipper pastures of Firefox, Safari, or Chrome.

Among the new features in IE9 is a refreshed look with the browser taking up less space than previous versions of IE, as well as a way to pin sites to the Windows task bar. Sites can then program their pages to act more like desktop applications with things like notifications, and the Windows 7 Jump List feature, which can hop users to specific parts of a Web page.

IE9 also brings performance improvements, including faster start times and a new JavaScript engine called Chakra that Microsoft has proven to be faster at the WebKit SunSpider benchmark test than competitors. On the security side, IE9 also adds support for "do not track" through lists that users can subscribe to, as well as a way to filter ActiveX content from pages.

Meanwhile, Mozilla updated the Firefox 4 beta to release candidate status, meaning that the features are locked, and barring the discovery of any major bugs, this version is likely to become the browser's official release. Available to download for Windows, Mac, and Linux, Firefox 4 release candidate 1 contains no major bug fixes, and instead offers a series of stability, compatibility, and performance tweaks.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Google's Chrome untouched at Pwn2Own hack match | Security | Macworld

Google Chrome IconImage via WikipediaGoogle's Chrome untouched at Pwn2Own hack match | Security | Macworld

by Gregg Keizer, Computerworld Mar 10, 2011 12:00 pm

Editor's Note: This story is excerpted from Computerworld. For more Mac coverage, visit Computerworld's Macintosh Knowledge Center.

Google's $20,000 was as safe at Pwn2Own Wednesday as if it had been in the bank.

But no one took up Google’s offer.

“The first contestant was a no-show,” said Aaron Portnoy, manager of HP TippingPoint’s security research team, and Pwn2Own’s organizer. “And the other team wanted to work on their BlackBerry vulnerability. So it doesn’t look like anyone will try Chrome.”

Only two entries had pre-registered for Chrome: Moatz Khader and one or more researchers going as “Team Anon.” (Researchers may remain anonymous if they wish.) Based on a random drawing several weeks ago, Khader was to get first shot, with Team Anon second.

Team Anon is also slated to tackle RIM’s BlackBerry OS on Thursday.

Late Wednesday, TippingPoint provided a tentative schedule for Thursday’s Pwn2Own; that schedule doesn't show any planned Chrome exploit.

Even if someone unexpectedly stepped up to take a crack at Chrome and exploited the browser, Google would be on the hook for just $10,000. As part of the deal it struck with TippingPoint, the two will split the $20,000 payment for a successful hack on the second or third days of the contest.

If Chrome comes out unscathed, as it now appears it will, the browser will have survived three consecutive Pwn2Owns, a record.

On Wednesday, researchers successfully exploited Safari and Internet Explorer. A team from French security company Vupen took down Safari 5 running on a MacBook Air notebook in five seconds, and independent researcher Stephen Fewer used a trio of vulnerabilities to hack IE8 on Windows 7.

Portnoy was impressed with Fewer’s work. “The most impressive so far,” said Portnoy. “He used three vulnerabilities to [not only] bypass ASLR and DEP, but also escape Protected Mode. That’s something we've not seen at Pwn2Own before.”

ASLR, for address space layout randomization, and DEP, or data execution prevention, are a pair of technologies baked into Windows that are designed to make it more difficult for exploits to reliably execute. Protected Mode is IE’s “sandbox,” which isolates the browser—and thus any attack code that manages to infiltrate it—from escaping to do damage on the system as a whole.

Pwn2Own continues Thursday and Friday, when Mozilla’s Firefox and four smartphones running Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows 7 Phone and RIM's BlackBerry OS will be in researchers’ crosshairs.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Mozilla Releases Firefox 4.0 Release Candidate - PCWorld

Image representing Firefox as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseMozilla Releases Firefox 4.0 Release Candidate - PCWorld

The Mozilla Foundation has issued the first release candidate of Firefox version 4.0, finishing a grueling and ambitious beta development cycle for the browser.

This release candidate represents what the development team feels is a finished browser, said Johnathan Nightingale, director of Firefox development, in an interview.

The quality assurance team will still take feedback from users over the next few weeks, but if no major bugs are found, Mozilla expects to issue the full production release of the browser by the end of the month, he said.

If so, March will be a busy month for the ongoing browser wars. In addition to the pending final release of Firefox 4, Microsoft plans to launch version 9 of its Internet Explorer on March 14. And Google released version 10 of its Chrome browser on Monday.

Version 4 of Firefox is a major upgrade for the open-source browser, and includes a wealth of new features and enhancements.

The user interface has been completely revamped and streamlined, with the menu bar condensed under a single button. The JavaScript Engine has been overhauled for speedier performance. The Add-ons Manager has been upgraded to a full-page interface.

Tab management has also taken a great leap forward. Users can bundle sets of tabs into different groups, under a feature called Panorama. They can add small permanent tabs to the top of the browser, for those pages and applications they continually keep open.

For the first time, Firefox will allow users to synchronize their bookmarks across different computers and even with Android-based mobile phones. This is also the first version of the browser to include the Do Not Track feature, which can alert website owners if the user wishes to opt out of third-party Web tracking.

The release candidate is available for the Windows, Mac and Linux platforms, and supports more than 70 languages. Current users of the beta version will have their browsers automatically updated.

Google Chrome 10's New Settings Menu

The best browser in the world has gotten even better. It is sven much faster than version 9. Google Chrome has been updated 6 times since May of 2010. Those folks who still naively use Internet Explorer have not sen an update of that terrible browser in over three years. If you still use Internet Explorer download Chrome and you will be shocked by what you have been missing.

Google Chrome 10 focuses on speed and security | Web browsers - InfoWorld

Google Chrome 10 focuses on speed and security | Web browsers - InfoWorld

Google Chrome 10 focuses on speed and security

n keeping with its promise to update the Chrome browser every six weeks, Google rolled out Chrome 10 today. The new browser offers big boosts in speed and a host of new security features.

Speed is a main focal point in the ongoing browser wars, so naturally, Chrome 10 needs to ratchet up its quickness quotient -- and it does. Thanks to the Crankshaft JavaScript engine, Chrome 10 boosts JavaScript performance 66 percent, according to the V8 benchmark suite.

On the security front, Google has extended Chrome's sandbox to include the integrated Flash Player. The new browser also features malware reporting and will automatically disable out-of-date versions of plug-ins in order to thwart potential exploits.

Additionally, Chrome sports usability upgrades, including a new Browser Settings interface that is a tab in the browser instead of being a separate box. Alternately, settings can be found via a new search box that shows users the settings they're looking for as they type (typing "import" into the search bar will bring up the Import Bookmarks button, for example). Chrome Sync, for synchronizing passwords among different computers, is now turned on by default, and the browser sports GPU-accelerated video to cut down on CPU usage.

Chrome 10 is already available for download, and auto-updates of old Chrome browsers will begin soon, according to Google.

This story, "Google Chrome 10 focuses on speed and security," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.