Firefox less secure than Internet Explorer

Now, that headline grabbed your attention, didn’t it?  Regardless of the validity of that statement, Firefox did, in fact, have the most exposed vulnerabilities at this years Pwn2Own event, sponsored by HP.

Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Adobe Flash were all compromised during the two day event, which saw HP dole out $850,000 in award money.  The monies were paid out for the exposure of the flaws. 

IE was exploited once on each day. Safari, a previous popular choice for exploitation, was only exploited by one team.  Chrome was also exploited, once. Both Safari and Chrome had their sandboxes bypassed, allowing code execution in the ‘real world.’

Firefox, on the other hand, was like a runny faucet, exploited three times on the first day and once on the second day.  Mozilla, however, is generally pretty quick in fixing the troubled browser, so I wouldn’t worry too much. If you use Firefox, be sure to update it when you get the notification.

In previous Pwn2Own events, Safari was generally the first to fall and the easiest. It seems to have fared a bit better this year.  Internet Explorer is generally a popular choice for teams to go after, but, it too, seems to be faring better in recent events. Both Google and Mozilla WANT their browsers to be exploited, so they can fix them and make them better. If this years event is any indication, Firefox should be bullet proof pretty soon.

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Windows 8.1: Start Button, animated backgrounds, more choices and new boot options are coming in June

Microsoft, finally, released details on the point release of Windows 8.  Windows 8.1 will feature more customizations for the Start Page, deeper search functionality (ala Bing) and will mark the return of Start button…sort of.

win81startFirst, and most importantly, Windows 8.1 will feature more robust applets and a new store.  The release will also give the user a lot of new customization options for the Start Page.  Among those features: a background that matches the antiquated desktop. I’d say it’s about time too! Though, it will render my ‘Decor8’ app from Stardock a bit less useful.  Users will also get more choices in the size of the tiles. New sizes include a small one that puts four tiles in the space of one current tile; a double height tile for more information and more.  In addition to matching the antiquated desktop background, Start Page now supports animated backgrounds (a feature from Vista that seemed to have disappeared with 7.)  I loved the animated backgrounds from Windows Vista and am glad to see them return. Photo slide shows make an appearance on the lock screen now. 

An interesting change that will be made to the Windows Store is that apps you purchase will no longer automatically appear on your Start Page.  They will go into the list of apps (swipe from the bottom of the Start Page or right click a blank spot on your Start Page and the select the ALL APPS icon) after which you can pin to the Start Page if you wish.  I didn’t realize this was an issue for some, but, apparently, it was.

The boot options have been changed as well. You will be able to boot to the Start Page, antiquated desktop, ALL APPS or some other view of the Start Page.  I like this.  I was opposed to only have the antique desktop as an option, but these other options make sense and I’m glad to see them.

Mouse and keyboard navigation has been improved as well. Perhaps the most asked for change-return of the Start MENU-was ignored, fortunately. However, Microsoft has restored the Start BUTTON. On the non-desktop (antique desktop, that is) screens, the Start ‘tip’ (as they are now calling it) will only display if you hover the mouse over the lower left corner of the page. On the desktop, it will display in the same spot as the Start Button. No matter where you see it, tapping or clicking it will take you to the START PAGE.  However, with the new options, you can make the Start Page appear to have the same or similar functionality as the old and lame Start Menu.

Other interesting changes and additions include the excision of IE 10 and appearance of IE 11. There are more settings available on the Metro side and SkyDrive (or, I’m guessing, a similar service) is even more integrated.

Perhaps the most important thing that Microsoft stated: a date for the ‘preview’ version: June 26, 2013. I’ll be ready to download and install the update the day it is ready.  These changes (there were more, read about it all here) appear to make Windows 8 more appealing to more people and, perhaps, quell some of the negativity about this nice operating system.

PS: Microsoft, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE ditch the damn desktop.  That is all.

EC strikes again…fines Microsoft for lame browser ballot screen…Europeans, after all, cannot make up their own minds you know

Microsoft reached an agreement, several years ago, with EC to include a browser ballot in Windows. This browser ballot allowed Europeans to choose a default browser. In effect, this protectionist move (over the ill-fated Opera browser) hand held Europeans in selecting a browser because, you know, they couldn’t figure it out on their own.

Fast forward to 2011. Microsoft releases service pack 1 for Windows 7. Through some kind of mistake, the browser ballot is left out. A YEAR LATER, Microsoft informs the EC that of the mistake. It took the Commission from July of 2012 to NOW to decide to fine MS a cool $750 million dollars for the mistake. Never mind NO ONE NOTICED that for nearly a year, the ballot was missing.

Now, aside from the fact that the reasoning for the screen is long dead and stupid to begin with-I know my Euro friends are quite intelligent-the fact that no one noticed speaks volumes. This ruling is yet one more reason for the EU/EC/Ewhatever to slap an American company for doing well.

What would happen if the Us did the same? There would be an outcry from every EU member nation.  Yet, this move, designed to protect Opera, goes on without so much as a protest from anyone.It just makes me want to use IE even more and hope for Opera’s demise-which, fortunately,has been hastened by its adoption of Webkit, a decidedly inferior web rendering engine.

Now, I gotta run and do some surfing…avoiding any EC-sanctioned site or product, of course.