Reply to Walt Mossberg – Native apps vs web apps

I recently listened to an episode of the Ctrl-Walt-Delete podcast, in which Walt Mossberg and Nilay Patel talked about web browsers vs native mobile apps. There was something Walt said that I have to comment on, because I disagree with it, and a tweet just isn’t enough. 🙂

When explaining why most people use native mobile apps, he argued that the main reason is because an app (when done right) offers a more focused experience, He cited Google Maps as an example.

I don’t think it’s that complex. I think it has more to do with how fast you can get there. If I want to use Google Maps, it’s quicker and more convenient to tap on the Google Maps icon than it is to tap on the browser, then pull up a list of bookmarks, and tap on the Google Maps bookmark. That has nothing to do with the experience of using the app.

I’m not saying that’s the only reason people use native mobile apps. I think most other differences have a minor effect on the user’s decision, and how fast and convenient it is to get to the app is probably the biggest factor.

Gecko is Gecko

I just read a post by Robert Kaiser in mozilla.dev.general, that contains a great link:

http://www.geckoisgecko.org/

I see it as something like www.googleityoumoron.com, but for web developers. It might be useful for users of Mozilla-based browsers, other than Firefox.

The Mozilla Developer Center also has a good article on Browser Detection and Cross Browser Support, if you come across a website, that is too specific in its browser sniffing.

Someday….

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.

Moving the Home button on Netscape7

This is one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ questions, that I answered long ago, and kept the answer on my hard drive. The question was from a Netscape 7 user, who installed the Home button for the Navigation Toolbar. He wanted to move the button, so instead of being beside the navigation buttons (Stop, Reload, Back, Forward), it would be to the left of the throbber.
Here’s how to do it:

– Close Netscape

– Use a file zipper/archiver, such as Winzip, to view the contents of home.jar. It will reside in either the \Netscape\chrome\ directory, or your profile’s \chrome\ directory, depending on where you installed it.

– Open homeOverlay.xul in a text editor, such as Wordpad.

– Scroll down, until you see the line that starts with:
<hbox

– change the id to throbber-box, so it looks like this:
<hbox id=”throbber-box”>

– a little lower, you will see a line that starts with:
<toolbarbutton

– at the end of that line enter the attribute position=”1″, so the line looks like this:
<toolbarbutton id="home" class="toolbarbutton-1" label="&homeButton.label;" position="1"

Save homeOverlay.xul in C:\content
– Using Winzip, add the file C:\content\homeOverlay.xul to home.jar, and remember to enable the option to save the folder info. This way, you keep the \content\ file path within home.jar.

– save and close home.jar

The result should be like this:

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.

Netscape 8 is now secure…at least when using gecko

Back when the Beta version of Netscape 8 was released to the public, I stated in a previous blog entry, that:

The plugin used to access Internet Explorer’s rendering engine opens Netscape 8 to the same security vulnerabilities Internet Explorer has, regardless of what rendering engine is being used.

To further explain this, there is a file in the plugins folder called npTrident.dll. The name of Internet Explorer’s rendering engine is Trident. If you enter about:plugins in Netscape 8 you’ll see that the trident plugin is enabled for the MIME types text/HTML, text/plain, text/xml and application/xml. Any website that detects you are using Netscape 8, could use an <embed> to feed you an Internet Explorer exploit, even if you’re surfing in the Firefox mode.

Well apparently this vulnerability has been fixed in the final release of Netscape 8.0. (currently at 8.0.1)
For more info see http://www.stonie.co.uk/nsbvuln.html

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.

Mozilla Firefox vs Netscape 8

This blog post is not a comparison of Firefox and Netscape 8.

I’ve been doing some prototype and pre-beta testing of Netscape 8, which is built off the Mozilla Firefox code. Netscape has recently released the Beta version, and made it available to the general public. When such a variation of the Mozilla code is made available, people want to know the differences between the variation, and the Mozilla code. In this case, we’re talking about the differences between Netscape 8 and Mozilla Firefox. Other than the obvious user-interface differences, the are many major differences. There should be a document that outlines all the differences.

The most popular page on my site, aside from the top-level page, is the Mozilla Application Suite vs Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird page. Second is The Relationship And History Between Mozilla And Netscape. Therefore it would be natural for me to be the one to write up something on the differences between Firefox and Netscape 8. . . . I’m not.

Netscape 8 is a product I have little interest in supporting. The plugin used to access Internet Explorer’s rendering engine opens Netscape 8 to the same security vulnerabilities Internet Explorer has, regardless of what rendering engine is being used.

Still, I feel a comparison page would be a good thing. I encourage anyone who is up to the task, to write one up.

UPDATE: Netscape 8 is now secure…at least when using gecko