Monday, February 15, 2016

Is it time to stop using Firefox because it is less secure?

Firefox has been my favourite web browser for a decade. Recently I started using Chrome in Linux because it performs better on most web pages, but there doesn't seem to be a Chrome performance advantage in Windows. Experiences with Chrome show that it is a good browser, but I prefer Firefox because I prefer Mozilla over Google.

Nowadays, Google is the Microsoft of the Internet. They own some of the most popular web sites plus the most popular web browser. Advertising is their main source of revenue, which makes them bad for privacy. Potentially giving so much of my information to Google does not seem good.

It seems like Firefox has lost its way recently. New unpopular features were added, while old features were removed, upsetting some loyal users. There doesn't seem to be much real progress. I hate how it won't be possible to disable extension signing, which means you will need to install a different build if you want to use an extension which wasn't signed via Mozilla. However, all of that was ultimately acceptable.

What really made me stop and think was when Pwn2Own announced that Firefox won't be attacked because it is too easy. Looking at comments on several sites, I didn't really see a valid defense of Firefox. Instead, some people expressed an irrational conviction that Firefox is safe and doesn't need security improvements. Then I looked at statistics on exploits, comparing Chrome to Firefox. In 2015, Chrome had 8 code execution vulnerabilities, and Firefox had 83. Previous years show a similar pattern.

Is using Firefox in Windows unwise because it is less secure? Running it in Linux probably gives you security through obscurity, but I'm already using Chrome in Linux.

Firefox will eventually get sandboxing via Electrolysis, but when? It seems like that has been "coming soon" for a long time. Is waiting for it to be released a good idea?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Don't use the Miranda NG Facebook plugin

Since Facebook disabled XMPP (Jabber), the options for connecting to Chat via a third party plugin are limited. Miranda NG, my favourite IM client, has a Facebook protocol which I was using. I had been getting captchas for sending or posting totally innocent links, like even Wikipedia or Slashdot, and even via the web interface. I didn't know what was causing this. Then I switched from the stable to the development Miranda NG version so I could use the SkypeWeb plugin. Soon after that, Miranda NG said my computer is infected and needs to be cleaned. After doing a bit of searching, I found that others had similar problems due to Miranda NG. Since then I intermittently can't send links at all.

It has been a few days since I stopped using the Miranda NG's Facebook protocol, the problem hasn't gotten better, and I'm annoyed. I don't want to use an instant messaging application which has the capability of blocking messages based on content. Much older IM protocols which allow direct connections between clients are so much better. I'm also not happy with their ability to block links in posts.

Basically, Facebook is a piece of shit which I use because others use it. Social networking should function via an Internet standard, not via proprietary web sites. It should be distributed, so you can select or run a server, instead of just logging in to one place.

I'm deactivating Facebook because it's too annoying now. Maybe eventually when I reactivate, it won''t annoy me with captchas and link blocking.

The purple-facebook plugin for Pidgin claims to use the protocol used by the Android Facebook Chat application. That could work better and not trigger captchas. Pidgin is worse than Miranda, lacking in features and flexibility. It's okay though, and I may start using in in Windows because of this.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Testing a 10X macro lens filter

The Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom camera already has good macro capability, so there is no need for anything to help with that. However, experiments with a magnifying glass showed an interesting possibility for macro photography with zoom, and the 10X filter was very inexpensive at after the 2015 holiday $3 off $6 gift card.

Here's an nRF24L01+ module with C-770 super macro mode, without the macro lens filter. This is as close as I could get.
The 10x Macro lens filter allowed me to get a bit closer. It's a very slight improvement in macro capability, with a corresponding decrease in depth of field. Image quality degradation from the filter is minimal.
Using maximum zoom, it's possible to get even more magnification. There is significant image quality degradation, but you still get to see a lot more detail. You can see individual strokes of the laser engraving of the frequency on the crystal.

Taking these kinds of pictures required manual focus. Both the depth of field and the range of focus adjustment are very limited. It's easiest to set a specific focus, and then move the camera to optimize sharpness. The camera's focus adjustment would probably come in handy for focus stacking if it was mounted securely. 

For best magnification, I set the focus to the closest possible position. Due to the 10x macro lens filter, the actual camera distance is nice. It's not too close, allowing for good lighting, and not too far either.

I got the best sharpness at f/8. It seemed to minimize the hazy blurring seen in the above photos. It required good lighting to prevent blur from camera shake, but that's easy when the camera doesn't need to be too close to the subject.

With a more open aperture, there was an increase in blur when I half-pressed the shutter button, and f/8 decreased that. I nevertheless made my final focus adjustments with the shutter button half pressed.

This is a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD). You can see the cathode filaments which heat up and emit electrons, control grids used for multiplexing, and the anodes below them, which light up when electrons hit them.
This is an MC68705P3S microcontroller. The chip has a window because the program is stored in EPROM, which is erased by ultra-violet light.