Sunday, November 16, 2008

Browser Bullets

Last night Lavie went in for a sleep-study. I think this one was number four in less than two years.

Why is it that when your partner has a sleep-study, the other seems to not get any sleep?

The first time Lavie went in, she didn’t want to be left alone, so I remember trying to sleep in her room in a faux-pigskin recliner. Everytime I moved it sounded like a prat-joke movie gone bad. I got about three hours of zzz’s that night.  The only comfort was my iPod filled with Security Now podcasts.

By the time Lavie had her second and third studies she was a bit braver and was allowed to just drop her off and pick her up.  The center’s results were very inconclusive.  Lavie’s diagnosis was that the center wasn’t getting very good results if they had to keep coming in to wake her up every hour to adjust a sensor, or ask her to roll a certain way.

Friday night I dropped her off again and stayed a while as she got connected up to the harness.  The technician was young but enthusiastic.  Turns out he was also sleep deprived as his main work hours were at night, but he was going to school on a GI Bill grant during the day.  Tough kid.  He had served, with honestly mixed feelings, on a few different ships during his tour, including a carrier flight-deck.  Lavie and I had watched the PBS series CARRIER on PBS so we were able to hold a great discussion with him. Turns out his duties involved crash-recovery as well as some aircraft taxi control.  Although he didn’t seem particularly impressed with military life, he did exhibit a noticeable attention to detail as he plugged Lavie up so the sensors wouldn’t come loose by applying extra conductivity paste and taped the leads down where possible.

Lavie was tucked in by 9PM and I was home just before 10PM.  Alvis quickly went to bed but I stayed up restless until past midnight listening to the wind howl and bay and the trashcans tumble around.

Then came the 5AM phone call that Lavie was ready to be picked up.  When we got back home before 7AM, it was back to bed.  Unfortunately, I slept way too long (until almost 10AM) and woke up with a sleep-hangover headache.  I’m prone to those when I get greedy with oversleeping in the mornings.  Should have just stayed up.  The rest of the morning was a write-off with the girls going shopping for a bridesmaid dress for Alvis and sundry items for Lavie.  Me? I was pretty much a weekend bum until the fingers started moving on these blog posts mid-afternoon.

On to some browser related links of interest:

Browser News

Opera Mini 4.2 beta – I’ve been using Opera Mini on my Blackberry unit for a while now and generally like it a lot.  This new beta-release installs alongside the current version you may have.  It boasts skin colors (yawn), some performance improvements, video compatiblity, and Opera Sync support. For more on that last one check out Opera Link.  This is actually pretty cool as it offers the opportunity to sync information from both your desktop Opera browser with your mobile Opera browser and even a web-accessible version of your Opera data if you happen to be using another brand of browser.

Upcoming Releases – Firefox Extension Guru – While the Mozilla release schedule in of itself is pretty dry reading, if you are a Firefox fan, seeing that the next beta 2 version release of Firefox Shiretoko 3.1 is coming out around November 21’st is certainly something worth expecting. Especially if it incorporates the new Private Mode features.

Meet Firefox private mode - Mozilla Links – Speaking of that Private Mode feature, Mozilla Links has a great overview of how this feature will work.  Basically if you want to start a browsing session that disables retention of history, cache, cookies, etc, you select a Private Mode session. Your current browsing session is saved and the window/tabs closed. A new Private Mode window opens and away you go. When you exit, your previous “normal” Firefox browsing mode returns.

Although Mozilla’s, along with IE 8’s, and Safari’s private browsing modes are “private” but not actually anonymous sessions, I suspect they will still leave a bit of evidence behind for the forensic experts and am looking forward to how these Windows sleuths will uncover the evidence left behind.

Make Firefox look better on Vista - Mozilla Links -  If you were looking for a quick solution to add a nice Vista Aero effect to the default Firefox theme, forgettaboutit.  However, if you are willing to do a bit of work and theme-tweaking, Percy Cabello’s walk-through is pretty simple and really does deliver a much more pleasing effect.

Firefox: Why TraceMonkey is Going to Blow Your Web Browsing Mind (Lifehacker) and JavaScript:TraceMonkey (MozillaWiki) – Both posts give more information on just how awesome the TraceMonkey JavaScript performance improvements will be.  These are now built into the Firefox Nightly (Minefield) and Shiretoko (beta) releases of Firefox 3.1 but to my knowledge not enabled by default.  You can enable them with a quick about:config tweak. 

In my usage, many JavaScript enabled sites to respond much faster. However the JavaScript still can do weird things. For example, even though I NoScript enabled all the elements at Lands End (I’m buying some long-needed dress shirts), with TraceMonkey enabled, some drop-downs just didn’t work. When I disabled it again all behaved normally. So play with it all you want, but be mindful that some sites still don’t always work quite as expected.

Safari: Safari 3.2 Released, Bolsters Security (Lifehacker), Apple Safari download, (or via  Either way, if you are a Windows user and run Safari, go ahead and get this update.  It contains a number of security-related tweaks.  I personally am running a beta version of Safari 4 – Apple Insider. If you are interested in this version, follow the steps at the end of this previous post and you should be set.  It continues to work great on my Vista system.

Browser Related Utilities of Note

Transmute - (freeware) – Now I don’t know how it has taken me so long to find this clever little utility. Transmute allows you to convert bookmark files between different web-browsers.  That doesn’t sound like a big deal but consider this, this particular utility will let you do so for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox (versions 1, 2, and image3), Microsoft Internet Explorer, Opera, Apple Safari, and Chromium.

Wow! Think how much time this could save if you are a browser junkie like me!  Or maybe if you are a sysadmin or investigator and you want to review some links from a user’s Internet “exploiter” browser but want to do so in a more secure and controllable browser like Firefox with a ton of specialized security add-on extensions.  Convert away and go!  Added options include exporting directly to the target browser file locations, another folder, appending with a timestamp, exporting to a root folder, and overwriting the target file directly. You can (and should) also request a backup file be made.  It is glorious in its simplicity.

Transmute does require the .NET 2.0 framework, but does come in both install and “portable” flavors. Always a big plus in my book!

OperaCacheView - (freeware) – NirSoft's cache viewer for Opera web browser now allows for recall of last specific cache folder opened/viewed as well as re-saving the cache files in the same directory structure of the website.  Something that might be handy for forensic examiners.

ChromeCacheView - (freeware) – NirSoft's cache viewer for Google Chrome Web browser now also allows re-saving the cache files in the same directory structure of the website.

IE PassView - (freeware) – NirSoft's Internet Explorer password viewer adds an exciting new feature. Namely the ability to read the IE 7 passwords off an external drive. As Nir points out in his related NirBlog entry, this could be useful for users (or examiners) who want to collect the passwords from a dead (or offline) drive.  The only restriction is that you need to know “…the last log-on password that you used for the user profile that store the passwords.”

Good stuff, all around!

--Claus V.

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