Browser and Mailnews FAQs Restructured

Well, I finally did it. A little while ago, I posted about my browser and mailnews FAQs being too big for one page, and that I was considering giving each FAQ item its own page. I contemplated using a content management system, but in the end decided to get rid of template content that I might change, and do it all manually.

I’ve applied these changes to my Netscape 7 Browser FAQ, Netscape 7 Mailnews FAQ, Mozilla Browser FAQ, and Mozilla Mailnews FAQ; so if anyone references those pages, or if you have have a website that contains links to any of the items on those pages, be sure to update your links.

XPI blocking whitelist in the Mozilla Application Suite


Many people don’t know this, but the XPI blocking feature in Firefox is also in the Mozilla Application Suite, starting at version 1.7 and up. They just couldn’t get a user interface for it, on time for Mozilla 1.7.

By default, the “Enable Software Installation” setting will not block anything. Simply unchecking it, will turn XPI installing off all together.

To enable software installation, but but only for certain sites, you first need to enter about:config in the browser location bar, then search for the preference xpinstall.whitelist.required, and set it to true.
By default, there is one site on the whitelist: update.mozilla.org. To add a site to the list, use about:config to look for the pref xpinstall.whitelist.add, double click on it (or right-click on it, and select ‘Modify’). Set the value to the domain you want to add. For example: ilias.ca

To remove an entry from the whilelist, you’ll have to close down Mozilla, go to your profile folder, and manually remove the entry from the file hostperm.1.

Related bugzilla items: 240552, 270170, 246131.

Digitally signing newsgroup posts

I recently did some testing of SMIME signed newsgroup messages. First, I guess I should state how I achieved it in Mozilla Thunderbird (also works in Mozilla Application Suite, and Netscape 7):
First, set up one of your mail accounts to have a certificate for digital signing. Close Mozilla Thunderbird, and open your prefs.js file. The mail identity in which you added a certificate should have a couple of pref lines pertaining to digital signing. For instance, if it were id1, it would be:
user_pref("mail.identity.id1.sign_mail", false);
user_pref("mail.identity.id1.signing_cert_name", "certificate name here");

Copy and paste those lines to the id that pertains to your news account, and edit the id number on the pasted lines. So, if your news account is id6, you should have both:
user_pref("mail.identity.id1.sign_mail", false);
user_pref("mail.identity.id1.signing_cert_name", "certificate name here");

and
user_pref("mail.identity.id6.sign_mail", false);
user_pref("mail.identity.id6.signing_cert_name", "certificate name here");

(Note that if you want your messages to be automatically be signed, you can change the value of mail.identity.id6.sign_mail to true.)

Save and close the prefs.js, and start Thunderbird. Open a newsgroup, and click on “Write.” If you want to sign the message, you can go to Options -> Security -> Digitally Sign This Message.

Okay, now that we know how to do it, what happens when it’s done?

Size
The first message I tested contained a body of one word: “test”. That message was 4KB. I got a certificate with lower encryption. The first was 2048bit, the second was 1024. The same test message with a 1024 bit key was 1KB less in size (3KB). Note that if you’re using the Face header, that will also add another KB to your message, so all in all, you could have a one word newsgroup post, that is 5KB in size.

Usenet
I did a few tests in netscape.public.test to see if the messages would propagate, and how Google will take and display them. Google didn’t take them. As a matter of fact, neither did Giganews. I had to use news.mozilla.org to post them. Unsigned replies to those tests showed up on both Google and Giganews, so I did some digging. The signed messages were sent with the content-type header:
Content-Type: multipart/signed; protocol=”application/x-pkcs7-signature”; micalg=sha1; boundary=”————ms090800060705060603050107″
Both Google and Giganews filter out messages with binary attachments in text groups. Google and Giganews are treating the signature as a binary attachment. To verify this, I tried to post a signed message to giganews.test.binary, and it worked. If you want to sign your newsgroup messages, expect them to be treated as binary attachments.

Display
Okay, the digital signatures are treated as binary attachments. How are other news clients going to display the message. What I have on my system is Thunderbird, Netscape7, Mozilla 1.7.8, Netscape Communicator 4.8, Opera 7.54, Outlook Express 6, and Xnews5.04. All, except Opera and Xnews, recognized the signature as such, and had special display for it (key, etc). Opera and Xnews just considered it an attachment and used the generic attachment display method.

Conclusion
If you’re posting on usenet, don’t bother. If you’re posting on a private server, make sure there’s a clear reason to digitally sign your messages, that is worth the extra 2KB, and take note of the software others are using.

Your browser is NOT outdated

Today Netscape 8 was released; so I went to Netscape.com to download it. I was automatically redirected to a detour page, with this message [click on image for the full page]:

I’m using Firefox 1.0.4. Netscape 8 is based on Firefox 1.0.3.
Folks, if you get this message, don’t believe it. It’s a lie. The only browser detection script being used is one that checks to see if you are already using Netscape 8.

As a matter of fact, if you’re using Netscape 8, your browser is outdated.

A Proper Signature

For those who didn’t know;

RFC Standard
ftp://ftp.demon.co.uk/pub/news/doc/so1036.txt

“signatures”: short closing texts, auto-matically added to the end of articles by posting agents, identifying the poster and giving his network addresses etc. If a poster or posting agent does append a signature to an article, the signature SHOULD be preceded with a delimiter line containing (only) two hyphens (ASCII 45) followed by one blank (ASCII 32).
Posting agents SHOULD limit the length of signatures, since verbose excess bordering on abuse is common if no restraint is imposed; 4 lines is a common limit..

Let’s recap:
– Your email/newsgroup signatures should be a maximum 4 lines. That’s the standard limit.
– separate your signature from the message body with two hyphens and a space (-- ). You’d be surprised what software can do if it can recognize a proper signature delimiter. 🙂