Feeds

Firefox 4 beta gets hard on Windows

Drops 60s psychedelia API

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Mozilla has released a fifth Firefox 4 beta, offering graphics hardware acceleration on Windows and a new API that lets site developers code pages that visually display audio data inside the browser.

"The latest update to Firefox 4 Beta brings super fast graphics and incredible new audio capabilities to the Web," reads a blog post from Firefox development head Mike Beltzner.

The new beta also includes HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), which lets websites demand that Firefox always use a secure connection when visiting. "Firefox 4 Beta now remembers what sites use the HSTS protocol and will only connect to those sites using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) in the future, helping to prevent 'man in the middle' attacks," Beltzner says.

If you're running Windows Vista or Windows 7 and your graphics card is DirectX 10–compatible, Mozilla's beta will automatically accelerate graphics via Microsoft's Direct2D rendering system. Previously, the beta — and the Firefox 4 alpha — offered such hardware acceleration as an option, but it's now turned on by default.

In a separate post, Mozilla man Bas Schouten said that although there's nothing analogous to Direct2D from other OSes, Mozilla is also "working hard on alternative approaches to use hardware acceleration on other platforms."

The browser's new audio data API — dubbed Audio Data API — exposes raw audio data housed in HTML5's <audio> and <video> tags. With the API, coders can read and write audio data within the browser, building pages in Javascript that seek to turn a piece of sound into an animated graphic. "In December, a few of us...had an idea," reads a blog post from Seneca College professor and Mozilla contributor David Humphrey. "What if we could visualize sound data coming out of an <audio> or <video> element? My colleagues were good at thinking in terms of 'how can we make what we have now work?' But I had another idea: 'Let’s try and teach Firefox how to do this.'"

Clearly, this is the ideal tool for those looking to build an homage to late-60s psychedelia:

Last year, Mozilla began work on a project called ForceTLS that would allow sites to force a secure connection. "The main idea was simple, yet powerful: allow sites a way to say 'in the future, ALWAYS load me via HTTPS,'" said security maven Sid Stamm. The idea has now been added to the Firefox beta using the HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) protocol.

"If Firefox knows your host is an HSTS one, it will automatically establish a secure connection to your server without even trying an insecure one," Stamm says in a new post. "This way, if I am surfing the 'net in my favorite cafe and a hacker is playing MITM [man in the middle] with paypal.com (intercepting http requests for paypal.com and then forwarding them on to the real site), either I'll thwart the attacker by getting an encrypted connection to paypal.com immediately, or the attack will be detected by HSTS and the connection won't work at all."

Stamm adds that work on the project is not completely finished. The team also aims to include an interface that lets you remove the HSTS default for a server on your own.

The Firefox 4 beta 5 can be downloaded here. And you can leave feedback here. A complete, stable version of Firefox 4 is scheduled for arrival in November. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.