All posts tagged ‘plug-ins’

File Under: Browsers, Web Services

Xmarks Lives: LastPass Buys Downtrodden Bookmark Syncing Service

Just when we all thought we’d never see it again, the cross-browser bookmark syncing service Xmarks has received a life-saving injection.

The company has been acquired by LastPass, maker of a cross-browser password manager and form filler add-on. The deal was announced Thursday, and terms were not disclosed.

Xmarks will live on as a freemium service. The initial cross-browser syncing tool you’re already familiar with will be free, but users will be encouraged to upgrade to a paid subscription to unlock more advanced features. It’s the same model employed by LastPass for its own Premium version of its (otherwise free) password-syncing service.

Xmarks Premium will be offered for $1 per month ($12 per year) and it comes with some new features like apps for the iPhone and Android phones, and technical support. You will also be able to bundle the premium offerings from LastPass and Xmarks together for $20 per year.

There’s already an iPhone app for Xmarks, and the company just recently released an Android app, too. Xmarks says anyone currently using the iPhone app can continue to use it without upgrading to the premium service, but they will have to buy in to the $12 per year plan to get future upgrades.

It looked like curtains for Xmarks in September, when the company announced it would shut down its service in early 2011.

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File Under: Browsers, Multimedia

Firefox Update Gives Flash 45 Seconds, Then Pulls the Plug

Mozilla has released Firefox 3.6.6, an incremental update which tweaks the way the browser handles misbehaving plug-ins, giving Flash and other plug-ins 45 seconds to respond, or else get shut down.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Firefox 3.6.4 was released. It included a new Crash Protection feature that keeps plug-ins like Flash and Silverlight isolated into separate processes. If a plug-in hangs or crashes, it won’t cause the entire browser to crash with it. Firefox only lets the plug-in remain unresponsive for 10 seconds, then it shuts the process down. (This feature is only available in the Windows and Linux version of Firefox, Mac users will have to wait for a future update).

Firefox 3.6.6 extends the amount of time Firefox will wait before terminating unresponsive plug-ins. Mozilla upped the limit to 45 seconds. Apparently, the 10-second timeout limit proved too short for many users — Flash routinely hangs for more than 10 seconds without crashing.

Isolating plug-ins is actually just the beginning. Mozilla’s larger plan is to apply “out-of-process” handling, as the more general feature is known, to all add-ons and even tabs, making Firefox considerably more stable. Once that feature is enabled, each web app would be cordoned off inside its own tab. If one page or app crashes, that single tab simply closes and the rest of the browser keeps cooking along as usual.

Isolated tabs won’t arrive until Firefox 4, which is slated for later this year.

This feature was popularized by Google Chrome, and it’s now being added into other browsers. It also started becoming a standard feature across browsers just as Flash began feeling the renewed heat over performance issues. Even though Adobe recently released a new version of its Flash Player software specifically to address many of these issues, it remains under scrutiny thanks to Apple’s decision to ban Flash from the iPad, and its campaign to get web developers to build rich apps using web standards instead of Flash.

Firefox 3.6.6 was released over the weekend, and it should be an automatic update. If your copy of Firefox hasn’t automatically applied it yet, you can force Firefox to update using the “Check for Updates” menu item, or head to the Mozilla downloads page and grab the latest version.

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File Under: Browsers, Software

Firefox 3.6.4 Isolates Flash for a More Stable Browser

Mozilla has announced the first, and hopefully only, release candidate of Firefox 3.6.4, an incremental update which adds one significant new feature to Firefox 3.6 — plug-ins now run in separate processes. That means if Flash crashes, it won’t cause the entire browser to crash with it.

To give the new beta a try, head on over to the Firefox beta downloads page. If you’ve subscribed the beta channel in the past you’ll automatically get the update, or you can force Firefox to update using the “Check for Updates” menu item.

The new feature is known as “out-of-process” handling, and promises to make Firefox considerably more stable. Eventually, Mozilla plans to have each tab isolated in its own process as well, which will also increase stability. Once that feature is there, each web app would be cordoned off inside its own tab, so if one crashes, that single tab simply closes and the rest of the browser keeps cooking along as usual. Isolated tabs won’t arrive until Firefox 4, which is slated for later this year.

Isolated plug-ins and tabs are among the best things about Google Chrome. It’s had isolated tabs since its debut, and isolated plug-in handling arrived at the same time as Chrome Extensions.

With the release candidate available, look for the final version of Firefox 3.6.4 to ship in the next couple of weeks. If you just can’t wait, or would like to help test the latest build, head over to the Firefox beta download site. (Note that the build is still labeled “build 6,” but according to the post on the Mozilla Developer Network, this is the release candidate.)

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File Under: Browsers, Multimedia

Firefox Quarantines Video Plug-ins to Stop Browser Crashes

Mozilla has announced a new beta of Firefox 3.6.4, an incremental update which adds one significant new feature to Firefox 3.6 — Flash and other plug-ins now run in separate processes. That means if Flash crashes, it won’t cause the entire browser to crash with it.

To give the new beta a try, head on over to the Firefox downloads page. If you’ve subscribed the beta channel in the past you’ll automatically get the update, or you can force Firefox to update using the “Check for Updates” menu item. For now, the isolated processes feature is only available in the Windows and Linux versions of Firefox. A Mac version will be available soon.

With the new “out of process plug-ins,” or OOPP as this feature is known, when a plug-in like Flash crashes, users will simply see a sad face where the Flash content should be. Reloading the page will restart Flash and try loading the file again.

Firefox’s new isolated processes feature is similar to what Google Chrome already does and will significantly improve Firefox’s overall stability since plug-ins can no longer bring down the whole browser.

For the beta, only the Flash, Silverlight and Java plug-ins are included, though you can try isolating others (for example, the Adobe Acrobat plug-in) by visiting the about:config settings and adding them to the list. Just be aware that there’s a reason only the primary three plugins are supported right now, adding others may cause Firefox to crash.

While Firefox 3.6.4 is just an incremental update it’s the first time Mozilla has delivered on its new strategy of pushing out features when they’re ready, rather than waiting for the next major release. You can thank Google Chrome and its constant updates for pushing Mozilla to adopt roughly the same policy.

To give the new features a try, head over to the download page and grab a copy of Firefox 3.6.4 beta. Remember, the isolated processes feature is only available in the Windows and Linux versions. A Mac version will be available soon.

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File Under: HTML5, Web Standards

No Virginia, Adobe Isn’t Blocking HTML5

Ian Hickson, head of one of the standards groups charged with creating HTML5, caused quite a stir over the weekend when he alleged that Adobe was trying to block HTML5.

Adobe quickly denied the charge, but not quickly enough for the open web evangelists to grab their pitchforks and take to blogs in anger. After all, it was a juicy turn of events — big company with a vested interest in its own tech (Flash, in this case) tries to block a competing technology on the free, open web. It all ended up sounding like some conspiratorial, back-room maneuvering worthy of an Oliver Stone film.

The truth is considerably more complex and, dare we say, kind of embarrassing. In fact, dig a bit into the internal workings, back-stabbing, petty snipping and politics of both the W3C and the WHAT WG, and you’ll quickly come to realize it’s nothing short of a miracle that HTML5 exists in any form at all.

This particular tempest in a teacup revolves around an e-mail from Larry Masinter, Principal Scientist at Adobe, questioning whether the Canvas 2D element, the RDFa specification and the Microdata spec were within the scope of the WHAT WG’s charter.

The answer to that is hashed out in some detail on the WHAT WG’s public mailing list. The short version seems to be that no, they probably aren’t, but WHAT WG decided to include them in the spec anyway.

As far as we can tell, no formal objection was ever lodged. Though it certainly sounds like Masinter is planning to file one when he writes:

If I need to use the word “formally” in there somewhere, or if there’s some “Formal Appeal Change Proposal” form I’m supposed to fill in, recapitulating all of the e-mail arguments made to date, suggesting the documents “change” by disappearing, and written in iambic hexameter, please let me know.

However, Masinter has since said that neither he nor Adobe has filed or intends to file any formal objections. Perhaps more importantly, even if Masinter were to do so, it’s hard to see how that would “block” HTML5. Masinter (and some others) merely object to HTML5, Canvas 2D and other specs all being lumped together, not to the specs themselves.

So how will all this hoopla impact HTML5 and the web that we mortals actually use? The answer is, it won’t.

Regardless of what the W3C ends up doing with the Canvas 2D spec and other sub-elements of HTML5, browsers are already supporting them. Certainly it would be good if these elements became an official part of the HTML5 spec, but whether or not they do will have very little impact on the web as we know it. After all the HTML5 spec won’t officially be finished until 2012, but HTML5 is already changing the web since all browsers but IE are supporting it.

The reality is that, for all their blustering and antics, neither the W3C nor the WHAT WG ultimately have much practical impact on HTML5′s adoption on web. For that, we rely on browsers and the various HTML5 elements they chose to support.

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