After months of betas and release candidates, the final version of Adobe Flash Player 10.1 is available for download. We've been running the release candidate for a few months, but if you were holding back, now's the time to make the jump. Most of the improvements are not particularly user-facing. The one feature that people will notice is the addition of hardware acceleration of Flash content.
The hardware acceleration will use a computer's graphics processing abilities to more efficiently run Flash content, taking strain off the CPU. The Mac version of Flash 10.1 does not have hardware acceleration built in at this time. This capability is still being developed in the Gala Project. Apple just opened the necessary APIs a few weeks ago, so we expect a bit of a wait.
What we didn't get today is a final version of Flash 10.1 for Android. We don't know when that product will move out of beta and Adobe isn't giving any hints. Get it here. Do you feel like the new Flash is running better on your system?
Mozilla has been working on the Weave browser sync plug-in for a while now, but they've announced that Weave has "graduated" from Mozilla Labs. The new Plug-in will be renamed Firefox Sync. Firefox sync will allow users to sync bookmarks, history, preferences, tabs, and passwords across multiple instances of Firefox. The feature will be included in an upcoming release of the popular browser. We imagine it will make the scene in Firefox 4.0.
The setup process in Firefox sync has been greatly streamlined since Weave first debuted. Mozilla has added more tolls to help users manage what content is synced, and to which computers. Weave has also been available to users of the mobile browser Fennec. Presumably, these changes will roll out to the mobile plug-in as well.
The idea of having an integrated syncing utility is a desirable one. The Chrome browser currently includes some syncing features, but Firefox Sync seems to be a more full-featured solution. Do the Firefox users out there use third-party plug-ins for syncing? Will you switch to Firefox Sync?
If a business wants to block Facebook, it's common for them to work with IT to design an elaborate, and ultimately flawed, scheme to do so. But according to Microsoft's Stuart Strathdee, many businesses are just continuing to run the now ancient Internet Explorer 6. As it turns out, most of the slick new social networking sites don't render properly in IE6; they sometimes don't work at all.
This way a company doesn't have to actively talk to employees about acceptable usage, or develop security tactics. "For a lot of our customers that's just a comfortable consequence of staying on IE6," said Strathdee. This looks like a bit of speed bump in Microsoft's efforts to get everyone on IE8. Strathdee points to the much improved security features of newer version of the web browser as reason enough for companies to switch.
Does your place of business still use IE6? If so, do you think they're doing it out of laziness, or is there a more devious purpose?
Today's Google I/O presentation offered a bit of a surprise in the form of a Chrome web app store. The store will be available for both the Chrome browser and Chrome OS whenever it is released. This really helps put the pieces together as far as Chrome OS goes. As it was before, the Chrome OS experience was looking a little too spartan.
Many of the apps we saw at I/O today are familiar names. There is a version of Tweetdeck, an attractive Sports Illustrated app, and (of course) Plants vs Zombies. Many of these apps are reminiscent of iPad apps with embedded video and crisp graphics. When the store launches there will be both free and paid apps.
According to Google, the Chrome web store will be pushed out on the Chrome dev channel "soon". We're still not sold on the idea of making an app store for web apps, but we'll reserve final judgment until we can use it. Do you think a well designed web app is worth paying for?
Users of the Japanese file-sharing service Winny are grappling with a new threat today. Trend Micro is tracking a trojan called Kenzero that steals a user's web history and posts it online until such time as the user pays up. The virus is masquerading as illegal copies of explicit Hentai games, assuring the affected individuals likely have at least some embarrassing items in their browser history.
The virus appears to be a game installation screen that requests the personal details of the user. It then posts the web history along with the personally identifiable information. Users are confronted with an email or popup demanding 1500 yen (about $16) to "settle your violation of copyright law" and remove the stolen information from the website.
The website the history is published on is owned by a shell company known to be associated with other malware scams. Security experts warn that paying the ransom is unlikely to result in the removal of the information. It's more probable that the malware makers will just sell the card number. Over 5500 users have admitted to being infected. Might be a good time to update your antivirus, in case Kenzero variants spread.
The long development of Firefox has left many a crashed browser in its wake. But a recent study undertaken by the Mozilla Metrics team shows that the relatively new Firefox 3.6 is much more stable than Firefox 3.5. As each release matures, the rate of crashes goes down with each update. Version 3.6 has already surpassed 3.5 in overall stability, having gotten about 40% more stable since release.
Another interesting statistic uncovered by the study was that Firefox 3.5 started out significantly less stable than version 3.0. Firefox product lead Mike Beltzner explained that the cause was 3rd party applications. The 3.0 build was what took Firefox into the mainstream and developers began building on top of it in larger numbers. When the code was altered in version 3.5, many API calls that worked fine before caused crashes.
Whatever the cause, we're certainly happy to see Firefox improving over time. Now that we've got these numbers, you've got another reason to update if you're still on 3.5.
New data from analytics firm Net Applications shows Google's Chrome browser holding a 6.1% market share through March. Based on the rate of increase, the browser is expected to break into double digits this year. Moat of Chrome's gains have come at the expense of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which fell from 61.6% to 60.7% in March. It should be noted this is also when the EU implemented their browser ballot screen.
Chrome has been on the rise as of late as other browsers were flat of shrank. Even the ever popular Firefox only saw 0.3% growth in March. Chrome had only a 1.6% market share this time last year, so usage has nearly quadrupled. Google has been iterating the browser rapidly and recently added extension support for the stable builds. Combined with the speed and stability of the browser, it may finally be catching the eye of more users.
The upcoming Chrome OS is expected to be based on the Chrome browser. In the early preview builds users Chrome simply sits on top of the underlying framework allowing users to access cloud-based applications. The expectation is that this will be similar to the final product. Do you use Chrome? If so, why did you choose it over Firefox?
Opera has officially submitted their Opera Mini browser to the iPhone App Store. The general consensus is that Apple will reject the browser as it duplicates the functionality of Safari, but Opera seems confident. The browser maker is touting the speed increase saying that Opera mini is six times faster than Safari. It accomplishes this with server side rendering that compresses pages to about 10% of their actual size.
Apple has in the past approved other browsers, but they have all used the Safari WebKit rendering engine. Opera Mini is completely different. We have to wonder why Opera would go to so much trouble when it seems more than likely that the app will be rejected.
Could it be that Opera plans some sort of legal maneuvering similar to the EU complaint against Microsoft that led to the browser ballot screen? For now, the ball is in Apple’s court.
The recent announcement of the iPad, and revelation that it would not support Adobe Flash, revived debate on the plug-in’s future. If you take Steve Jobs’ word for it, Flash is a CPU hog now and always. Video encoding expert Jan Ozer decided to look into it himself, and the results may surprise you.
On both Mac and Windows platforms, Ozer tested Safari, Chrome, and Firefox (additionally IE was tested on Windows). Safari on the Mac showed HTML5 besting Flash by a wide margin with only 12.39% CPU utilization versus 37.41% for Flash 10.0 and 32.07% for 10.1. Chrome saw HTML5 and both version of Flash with almost 50% CPU usage. Firefox doesn’t support the HTML5 encoding used, but Flash results were similar to Safari.
On Windows, it’s a different story. Safari’s CPU utilization on Flash 10.0 was 23.22%, but 10.1 showed only 7.43% used. Chrome was the only Windows browser that both Flash and HTML5 could be tested in. On Google’s browser, HTML5 used a sizable 25.66% of the CPU. Flash 10.0 was up at 22.00%, but 10.1 used only 6%. Firefox and IE showed similar huge gains from the 10.1 version of Adobe Flash.
Clearly, the GPU acceleration on Windows makes a huge difference and means Flash is more efficient than HTML5 most of the time. The Mac, however, does not expose the necessary APIs for Adobe to do GPU acceleration. Adobe has said the "the ball is in Apple's court". So Apple does not allow Flash to run efficiently on OSX by denying the plug-in access to the graphics hardware? Given these Windows test results, we think that’s kind of unacceptable. Where do you come down in the streaming standards battle?
Make sure you check out Jan Ozer's full rundown here.
Google launched their Chrome browser just over a year ago, and new figures from analytics firm Net Applications seem to indicate things are going quite well indeed. The plucky young browser was the only one of the top five to see any gains in the month of February. While certainly far from being the market leader, Chrome is now solidly in third place with 5.61% of the market. Internet Explorer and Firefox took first and second with 61.58% and 24.23% respectively. IE lost 0.54% and Firefox lost 0.20% last month.
Chrome has gained a reputation for being speedy and usable out of the virtual box. It is also reputed to be more standards compliant than other leading browsers. Whatever the reason, users are responding. The recent 4.0 release brought better HTML5 support, bookmark syncing, and the all important extension support.
Firefox came about at a time when Internet Explorer dominated the market almost completely. There was only one fight to be had for the Mozilla team at that point. Chrome is now up against a still widespread Internet Explorer and a very number two in Firefox. Google may not be overtaking a competitor any time soon, but Chrome is definitely moving in the right direction. So, do you use Chrome? Is it better for you than Firefox?