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.

Chrome and Firefox showing JavaScript improvements

With new betas for both Firefox and Chrome being released, CNET decided to find out how good their JavaScript performance was. Both browsers got a performance boost with Firefox slightly edging out Chrome. You have to turn on TraceMonkey, Firefox’s new Javascript engine in 3.1b1, to get the improvement. We never thought Google was that serious about building a new browser. They just want wanted Firefox to get their act together and suck less. It seems to be working.

[via Lifehacker]

Geode, Mozilla Labs’ location-based browser plug-in

Mozilla Labs has launched yet another new project, this one a location based plugin for Firefox. Geode will let users to take advantage of location data embedded within a web page. Like [MG Siegler] at VentureBeat, we wondered what the point of a location-based desktop browser was, since most cell phones are now GPS-enabled. TechCrunch and CNET’s Webware, cite the example of a user who is looking for a place to eat while out of town. Using Geode, his favorite restaurant review site would know automatically to display eating establishments in the locale he is visiting. As semantic information permeates more and more of the web, we’re certain that we’ll see many more uses for a tools like Geode. Geode’s uses Skyhook’s Loki technology, which determines position base on what WiFi access points it sees just like the Eye-Fi.