Life After IRC – Your Move, Mozilla!

Last year marked the 30th anniversary of the Internet Relay Chat protocol (IRC) and it is hard to imagine that [Jarkko Oikarinen] could have foreseen the impact his invention would one day have on the world as we know it. How it would turn from a simple, decentralized real-time communication system for university-internal use into a global phenomenon, connecting millions of users all over the world, forming its own subculture, eventually reaching mainstream status in some parts of the world — including a Eurodance song about a bot topping European music charts.

Those days of glory, however, have long been gone, and with it the version of an internet where IRC was the ideal choice. What was once a refuge to escape the real world has since become the fundamental centerpiece of that same real world, and our ways of communicating with each other has moved on with it. Nevertheless, despite a shift in mainstream and everyday communication behavior, IRC is still relevant enough today, and going especially strong in the open source community, with freenode, as one of the oldest networks, being the most frequently used one, along some smaller ones like OFTC and Mozilla’s own dedicated network. But that is about to change.

Last month, Mozilla’s envoy [Mike Hoye] announced the decommissioning of irc.mozilla.org within “the next small number of months, and moving all communication to a new, or at least different system. And while this only affects Mozilla’s own, standalone IRC network and projects, and not the entire open source community, it is a rather substantial move, considering Mozilla’s overall reach and impact on the internet itself — past, present, and now even more the future. Let’s face it, IRC has been dying for years, but there is also no genuine alternative available yet that could truly replace it. With Mozilla as driving force, there is an actual chance that they will come up with a worthy replacement that transforms IRC’s spirit into the modern era.

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Control Anything With A Chat Bot

In the world of Internet of Things, it’s easy enough to get something connected to the Internet. But what should you use to communicate with and control it? There are many standards and tools available, but the best choice is always to use the tools you have on hand. [Victor] found himself in this situation, and found that the best way to control an Internet-connected car was to use the Flask server he already had.

The remote controlled car was originally supposed to come with an Arduino, but the microcontroller was missing upon arrival. He had a Raspberry Pi around, and was able to set that up to replace the Arduino. He also took the opportunity to use the expanded functionality of the Pi compared to the Arduino and wrote a Flask server to control it, which is accessed as if you are communicating with a chat bot. Sending the words “go left/forward” to the Flask server will control the car accordingly, for example.

The chat bot itself contains some gems as well, and would be useful for any project that makes use of regular expressions. It also seems to be easily expandable. The project also uses voice commands, and does so by making extensive use of Mozilla’s voice recognition suite. If you want to get deep in the weeds of voice recognition on your own though, you can also explore TensorFlow at your leisure.

Firefox Reality, A Browser For VR Devices

The browser you are reading this page in will be an exceptionally powerful piece of software, with features and APIs undreamed of by the developers of its early-1990s ancestors such as NCSA Mosaic. For all that though, it will very probably be visually a descendant of those early browsers, a window for displaying two-dimensional web pages.

Some of this may be about to change, as in recognition of the place virtual reality devices are making for themselves, Mozilla have released Firefox Reality, in their words “a new web browser designed from the ground up for stand-alone virtual and augmented reality headset“. For now it will run on Daydream and GearVR devices as a developer preview, but the intended target for the software is a future generation of hardware that has yet to be released.

Readers with long memories may remember some of the hype surrounding VR in browsers back in the 1990s, when crystal-ball-gazers who’d read about VRML would hail it as the Next Big Thing without pausing to think about whether the devices to back it up were on the market. It could be that this time the hardware will match the expectation, and maybe one day you’ll be walking around the Hackaday WrencherSpace rather than reading this in a browser. See you there!

They’ve released a video preview that disappointingly consists of a 2D browser window in a VR environment. But it’s a start.

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Speech Recognition For Linux Gets A Little Closer

It has become commonplace to yell out commands to a little box and have it answer you. However, voice input for the desktop has never really gone mainstream. This is particularly slow for Linux users whose options are shockingly limited, although decent speech support is baked into recent versions of Windows and OS X Yosemite and beyond.

There are four well-known open speech recognition engines: CMU Sphinx, Julius, Kaldi, and the recent release of Mozilla’s DeepSpeech (part of their Common Voice initiative). The trick for Linux users is successfully setting them up and using them in applications. [Michael Sheldon] aims to fix that — at least for DeepSpeech. He’s created an IBus plugin that lets DeepSpeech work with nearly any X application. He’s also provided PPAs that should make it easy to install for Ubuntu or related distributions.

You can see in the video below that it works, although [Michael] admits it is just a starting point. However, the great thing about Open Source is that armed with a working set up, it should be easy for others to contribute and build on the work he’s started.

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Messing Around With Naenara, North Korea’s Web Browser

[Robert] has been snooping around Naenara in order to learn more about how North Korea’s intranet might work. Naenara is the web browser that comes bundled with North Korea’s official Linux-based operating system known as Red Star OS. [Robert] once saw a screenshot of the browser and found it interesting that the browser seemed to automatically load a non-routable IP address immediately upon start-up. This made him curious about what other oddities one might uncover from the software.

Upon start-up, the browser tries to load a page located at IP address 10.76.1.11, which is a reserved IP address for private use. This indicated that North Korea’s “Internet” is actually more of in intranet. [Robert] suspects that the entire country may be running in private address space, similar to how your home or business likely runs.

[Robert’s] next thoughts were that the browser looks like a very old version of Mozilla Firefox, but with some default configuration changes. For one, all crashes are automatically transmitted to “the mothership”, as [Robert] calls it. He suspects this is to fix not only bugs, but also to find and repair any security vulnerabilities that may allow users more control.

There are some other interesting changes as well, such as the supported security certificates. The Naenara browser only accepts certificates issued by the DPRK, which would make it very easy for them to snoop on encrypted HTTPS traffic. there is also evidence suggesting that all traffic for the entire country is routed through a single government controlled proxy server.

None of these findings are all that surprising, but it’s still interesting to see what kind of information can be gleamed from poking around the browser and operating system. [Robert] has found more than just these few findings. You can check out the rest of his findings on his blog.

[via Reddit]

Software Security Courtesy Of Child Labor

We couldn’t help but poke a little fun in the headline. This is [Alex Miller], a twelve year old who claimed a $3000 bounty from Mozilla. See, [Alex] is a self-taught security guru. When Mozilla upped the reward for discovering and reporting critical security flaws in their software he went to work searching for one. He estimates that he spent an hour and a half a day for ten days to find the hole. Fifteen hours of work for $3000? That’s pretty good!

Is it good or bad to pay for these kind of submissions? The real question: Is the bounty high enough to get blackhats to report vulnerabilities, rather than selling software that exploits them? Let us know what you think in the comments.

[via Zero Day]

Mozilla Fennec Alpha 3 For Windows Mobile Released

fennec

Mozilla released the latest alpha version of their new mobile browser Fennec for Windows Mobile. It brings many new features and fixes, such as improved startup time and a caching system to help scrolling on a page. They have also added support for a wider range of screen resolutions, and for those of us running an HTC Touch Pro support for zoom via the directional pad has been included in this release. Being an alpha release, it’s still a bit on the buggy side, but is very a promising browser for mobile phones. The final release should give other browsers a run for their money.