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New Firefox Nightly and Aurora logos unearthed, and how to enable channel switching

Firefox Nightly and Aurora logos
Later today, Firefox will undergo its biggest developmental upheaval ever. Mozilla-central, the source of nightly builds, will be renumbered to version 5 -- and at long last, after years of wallowing around version 1, Mozilla's rendering and layout engine, Gecko, will also have its version number updated to match Firefox.

Shortly thereafter, Firefox's new channel system will be implemented. Firefox 5a2 will be introduced as the first Aurora build, and we should also see a Firefox 6 Nightly build. While we we're not sure where they came from, one Sören Hentzschel seems to have unearthed the new Nightly and Aurora logos (see above), along with new About Firefox dialogs (after the break).

In other news, if you want to take a sneak peek at the new 'channel changing' technology that will be introduced in upcoming Firefox builds, head to about:config and create a new string called app.update.desiredChannel -- the value doesn't matter. Then open Help > About Firefox and you'll be able to switch channel, but it doesn't do anything just yet (image after the break). Here's hoping that Firefox channel switching is smoother than Chrome.

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Google Chrome now uses SPDY HTTP replacement, halves page load time

SPDY in Google Chrome
We're not entirely sure of the time line here, but it looks like Google has now rolled out the SPDY HTTP replacement to its full bevy of Web services, including Gmail, Docs, and YouTube. If you're currently using Google's Chrome browser you're probably already using SPDY.

We originally reported on SPDY way back in November 2009, when Google introduced it as yet another experiment in making the Web faster, like Go, Native Client and speculative pre-connections. Over the last 18 months, though, SPDY support has found its way into the stable build of Chrome.

SPDY is basically a streamlined and more efficient version of HTTP. At its most basic, SPDY introduces parallel, multiplexed streams over a single TCP connection -- but at the same time, SPDY allows for prioritization, so that vital content (HTML) can be sent before periphery content (JavaScript, video). All in all, the SPDY protocol can halve page load times, which is obviously rather significant.

The best bit, though, is that SPDY is an open-source project. HTTP 1.1 is a lumbering beast that needs to be replaced before low-latency real-time computing really becomes a reality, and SPDY is one of the best options currently on the table. To be honest, we're not sure why SPDY hasn't received more coverage -- it's awesome in every way. At the moment, though, the only way to help speed up SPDY's proliferation, is with an experimental Apache mod.

As far as actually 'trying it out,' your best bet is downloading Chrome, hitting up some Google sites, and then checking chrome://net-internals to see your active SPDY sessions. SPDY is a transparent replacement for HTTP, though, and as such it's rather hard to see its effects. Google's sites definitely feel fast in Chrome, but there are more technologies than just SPDY at work.

You can now rent Adobe Photoshop for $35 per month, CS 5.5 available soon

Rejoice! No longer will you have to fork over $700 for a Photoshop CS5 license! Adobe has unveiled a new subscription scheme where you can rent the entire Creative Suite, or individual packages, by the month, or for an entire year.

Adobe Photoshop can be yours for $35 per month if you agree to rent it for 12 months, or $49 per month if you require its services for a shorter period. Dreamweaver can be had for even cheaper, at just $19 per month. The entire Master Collection is still rather expensive, though, at $125 per month.

Today, Adobe also ushered in the release of Creative Suite 5.5, and simultaneously upped its release cycle from 18 months to 24 months. This means, if you rent Photoshop for two years, it's actually the same cost as buying it outright. There's no rent-to-own option, though -- so you wouldn't have access to the cheaper upgrade price once Creative Suite 6 rolls around next year. Still, if you need access to Photoshop, After Effects or Premiere for a one-time project, the new rental scheme could be exactly what you're looking for.

In other news, Adobe has announced that it will be launching three rather exciting iPad apps that work in conjunction with Photoshop: Eazel, Nav, and Color Lava. Eazel lets you five-finger paint on your iPad, and export the result into Photoshop; Nav acts as some kind of workspace, brush and menu extension, and the hopefully named Color Lava is a paint mixing palette. The apps are expected to appear in the App Store in the next 30 days.

Apple orders iCab iOS browser to cripple JavaScript modules

The developer of iCab Mobile, a feature-rich alternative to the Safari Web browser on iPad and iPhone, has been ordered by Apple to remove its ability to download and install JavaScript modules.

Presumably it's not the fact that iCab can execute JavaScript that's causing Apple to apoplectically puff and splutter, but rather its ability to download modules. Both Apple and Google frown upon apps that contain market-like functionality, and someone at Apple probably thought that iCab's JavaScript modules looked like a bit too much like discrete apps.

Alexander Clauss, iCab's developer, has rather a lot to say on the matter. "Maybe if I would have called the modules 'smart bookmarks' and would have made installing them much more complicated, Apple would have never asked to remove the ability to download them from the internet. The great user experience of installing modules has probably created a suspicion that these modules are more than just a piece of JavaScript code. From a pure technical point of view, if Apple does not allow to download modules (JavaScript code), Apple would also have to disallow to load web pages in general, because these do also contain JavaScript code."

In conclusion, to circumvent Apple's draconian decree, iCab Mobile now simply comes bundled with some 20 JavaScript modules. The ability to download modules made by third-party developers has been disabled, however -- but even then, Clauss says that you can simply contact him and ask for your module to be bundled with the next version of iCab.

Download iCab Mobile for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch ($1.99)

Bing begins roll out of HTML5-enhanced search interface

Bing transitions
Bing's new HTML5-and-CSS3-enhanced search interface, which was first demonstrated back in September 2010 to showcase the power of IE9, has started to roll out.

The most notable addition to the new interface is is smooth page transitions -- the fade in and out -- and navigation tabs (maps, images, videos, etc.) now persistently float at the top of the page. WinRumors is also reporting that a feature reminiscent of Google Instant search is being added to Bing, with page elements smoothly transitioning in and out as you type in your search query.

If you want to try out the new Bing UI, your best bet is to set your locale to United States - English and pray that you're part of the initial roll out. Alternatively, just wait a few days until MIX 2011, Microsoft's Web developer conference, which is when the new Bing UI should be officially launched.

Adblock Plus developer pokes holes in Mozilla's new add-on performance tests

Wladimir Palant, developer of the most popular add-on in the world, Adblock Plus, is also an active contributor to the Planet Mozilla blog community. Over the last few days, in response to Mozilla's new name and shame list of slow add-ons, Palant has been investigating whether Mozilla's testing methods are actually accurate.

Rather surprisingly, it turns out that Mozilla's numbers could be significantly wrong -- and if they're not wrong, the factors that Mozilla uses to tabulate an add-ons final score should definitely be made more transparent.

In the first set of tests, Palant shows that FlashGot's position in the top 10 is probably due to a fault in Mozilla's testing setup, and that add-ons can perform very differently depending on which operating system they're being tested on. In the second analysis, Palant uncovers an irregularity that doesn't seem to have an obvious cause -- but it could be due to an I/O bottleneck on Mozilla's test machines. Basically, even though performance testing of Read It Later is disabled because of a bug, it still (somehow!) manages to record a 14% slow-down on Windows 7.

Palant concludes both analyses by scolding Mozilla for going public with the performance data before its testing methods had been confirmed accurate. It definitely looks like Mozilla has been more than a little reckless, considering the importance of Firefox's add-on ecosystem.

Skype 5.3 for Windows released, improves mobile video call quality

Version 5.3 of Skype for Windows has just been released, with the main emphasis of the new release being improved call quality, and the quality of video received by mobile Skype users. Presumably one party of the video call must be using Skype for Windows 5.3, though.

Beyond improved call quality, not much has changed. You can now see your friends' presence icons when contact cards are collapsed, and the topic editing button is now always visible on the conversation header. For a complete list of changes, hit up the Skype Garage blog.

Download Skype 5.3 for Windows

GNOME 3 released, ushers in an interesting amalgam of iOS and OS X

GNOME 3 desktop manager
GNOME 3, after more than two years of development, has been released into the wild. GNOME 3 is not merely the logical successor of GNOME 2: it is an entirely new project, started from scratch, to create a "completely new, modern desktop designed for today's users and technologies."

The best way to check out GNOME 3's new features -- and it has lots of new features -- is to run a live version of openSUSE or Fedora, or simply head over to the GNOME 3 website and watch the (rather pretty) introductory videos. If you want a synopsis, though, here it is: GNOME 3 looks a lot like Mac OS X, with a healthy dollop of iOSesqueness for good measure, but yet it still somehow retains an underlying feel of Linux.

The overall aesthetic is very simple, very elegant, and despite being slightly out of fashion, there are plenty of rounded corners, too. The main addition, workflow-wise, is the addition of an app-launcher-cum-alt-tab screen, where you can launch apps, or flip through your open windows. For a complete list of the new features and changes, check the GNOME 3 release notes.

Despite GNOME 3 being officially launched, there aren't actually any releases for existing, stable Linux distros -- it's the live CD/USB images, or Ubuntu users will have to wait for the launch of 11.04 for a GNOME 3 PPA, but it will break Unity in the process. Fedora users will have to wait for for the May 24 release of Fedora 15. Of course, if you're feeling crazy, you can always build GNOME 3 from source.

First Firefox 6 build next week, Firefox 7 by May, and aurora channel introduced

Firefox 5, 6, 7 and release channels
Mozilla's Engineering Project Manager, Christian Legnitto, has detailed the release schedule for Firefox 5, 6 and 7. If all goes to plan, Firefox 6.0a1 will be released next week, April 12, and Firefox 7.0a1 in the middle of May. The final build of Firefox 5 should be released on June 21, exactly three months after the release of Firefox 4.

Along with the faster 6-week release cadence, Firefox's new Chrome-like release channels have also been given names and anticipated update frequencies. The most notable change is the introduction of a new alpha channel -- which is analogous to Chrome Canary -- that will be called 'aurora' and will update nightly. Aurora will be where fixes and features are tested, and either approved for Beta, or backed out to Central. Aurora will have a new icon, too.

The Nightly (mozilla-central) channel will remain unchanged in name and frequency, but it will gain a new 'nightly icon.' The Beta (mozilla-beta) channel will remain as-is, with new builds rolling out weekly. The Release (mozilla-release) channel will also remain as-is, with security and stability updates coming every 6 to 12 weeks.

It should be noted that the names (including 'aurora') are not necessarily final, but it's unlikely that they'll change. We're also awaiting the arrival of the new 'channel switching' technology, which should arrive in the next few days -- in time for the release of Firefox 6 aurora!

Banshee music player now works in Windows, supports Amazon MP3 downloads

A few moments ago, version 2 of the Banshee music player for Linux was released, bringing with it a whole slew of new features, and the addition of an official -- but alpha-quality -- Windows build. The Mac OS X build of version 2 is due later today.

The most notable new feature is support for the Amazon MP3 store -- you can buy and download music from within Banshee -- but unfortunately it's only available in the Linux build at the moment (OS X and Windows support are planned, however). There have also been some significant improvements to artist, album, and queue interactions -- and yes, you can finally right click a track, album or artist and select 'play after' to insert it into the queue.

Beyond actual playback, the user interface has been tidied up -- it now looks a whole lot smarter -- and the Ubuntu One Music Store and SoundMenu extensions have been made official. For a complete list of changes, additions and bug fixes, check the change log.

When Windows support initially appeared in February, we found it rough around the edges and fraught with stability issues. With version 2, Banshee for Windows is still a bit unstable, but it's shaping up to be a good alternative to Winamp, iTunes, or whatever other music library manager you use. It's almost as attractive as its GNOMEish brother, too!

Download Banshee 2 for Linux and Windows (Mac OS X coming soon)

Security firm RSA attacked using Excel-Flash one-two sucker punch

It has emerged that the underlying cause of RSA's SecurID gaffe was the recently-reported zero-day vulnerability found in Adobe's Flash Player. The exploit, which used specially-crafted Flash embedding in Excel spreadsheets, was first reported on March 15 and has since been fixed. RSA was hacked sometime in the first half of March when an employee was successfully spear phished and opened an... Read more »

Toyota pulls Cydia theme and ads to appease Apple

In news that will no doubt shake the very bedrock of your belief system, Apple has asked Toyota to remove its Scion theme and its advertising from ModMyi, a Cydia repository. The Scion theme has been available for weeks, but after it received a ton of press in the last couple of days, Apple finally lashed out. It's not like we should be surprised, considering Apple has claimed in the past... Read more »

Leaked Android Music app images and hands-on review

This morning, an updated version of the stock Android Music app was leaked along with a new version of Android Market. The new Music app, which is labeled 'version 3', is similar to the leaked build from December, but it has received a ton of polish -- and indeed, it looks almost ready for prime time. If you don't have Android 2.3 -- or don't want to root your phone to install the leaked... Read more »

Konstruct for iOS creates generative augmented reality art with your voice

If you have an artistic temperament, but you weren't blessed with steady hands or an eye for color, Konstruct might be the app for you. Not only does the iPhone app let you produce generative art using words, warbles and whistles, but it also uses augmented reality to bring your artistic creation to life. To get started, you first need to print out the Konstruct marker and place it wherever... Read more »

British royal family announces iOS and Android wedding app

To celebrate the imminent marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Royal Collection will release an Android an iOS app that chronicles the last seven royal marriages, including Queen Victoria's marriage to Prince Albert in 1840. Ironically, the app won't actually feature anything to do with William and Kate's marriage -- rather, it will focus on the "tradition, splendor and romance"... Read more »