Saturday, July 30, 2011

Intelligence quotient and browser usage

OR: Correlation is not proof of causation.

New online study says Internet Explorer users are dumb, smarter users use Firefox, even smarter users use Chrome, but the smartest users use Opera.

Internet Explorer users confirm they are dumb by threatening a dumb lawsuit.

I think the Internet Explorer 6 result may have something to do with my previous post. Does the daily tedium of office life for civil service and other corporate users of IE6 decrease IQ with time?

(Story first seen on the Debian Forum.)

Update: The BBC has the story.
The findings have been treated with scepticism by Professor David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University's Statistical Laboratory: "They've got IE6 users with an IQ of around eighty. That's borderline deficient, marginally able to cope with the adult world.
Just for fun, I tried searching Google for an image of an Internet Explorer user to see if it matched the description.


Image: shoutEx.

Update 2: The story seems to have been a hoax, according to the BBC.

Why Firefox dumped corporate users

From a BBC story on UK government being ripped off on IT:
I'm a civil servant and have to use these IT systems. For all the money that is spent on them I'm using a machine that's 7 years old, has minimal memory and hard-drive capacity, is running Internet Explorer 6, has snail's pace connectivity speed and find it really difficult to do my job. And as you all may know, everything is done on computers these days.
Corporate use = browser fossilisation.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The safest web browser?

(OR: What connects Internet Explorer and Rush Limbaugh)

Surely not a difficult question to answer? Just look at the statistics for security vulnerabilities- especially those that were exploited by malware "in the wild" before a patch was issued and how long those vulnerabilities remained unpatched.

Source: Web Devout.

Historically, the answer would certainly not have been Internet Explorer. It has the worst record for zero-day vulnerabilities leaving the browser open to "drive-by" malware attacks for considerable periods before a patch was released- it has left its users vulnerable to such attacks on numerous occasions.

To my knowledge, Firefox has only exposed its users to one such vulnerability, and only briefly, and only to malware on one specific website, rather than widespread attacks. Still, to my recollection, Opera, although it has had vulnerabilities, has patched these before they were used in malware attacks; the same for Chrome.

So, historically, if I had to guess, Opera or Chrome might get the award. To Microsoft's credit, they recognised the security problems with their browser and recent versions have been a lot more secure. Anybody interested in the original question could look at the data on browser vulnerabilities for recent versions and follow the evidence.

The evidence will tell you the answer- a purely logical process that tends to invoke irrational responses. Why?

The first illogical response is the common statement that Internet Explorer is used by more people and therefore a bigger target and therefore more looked at for vulnerabilities. This excuse ignores the evidence that Internet Explorer is more open to exploit because it has features that other browsers don't have that have their own security weaknesses, such as ActiveX, and because it is more integrated into the Microsoft operating system. It also ignores the evidence that hackers find Internet Explorer easier to hack.

The second illogical response is usually an attack on Firefox, usually along the lines of "Firefox sucks" or similar. Should Firefox users then point out the evidence, they are then often labelled as "fanboys", despite the juvenile nature of their own emotional response- an unsophisticated form of ad-hominem attack known as "projection".

Back to the question- why? And why is it Firefox that is resented by Internet Explorer users? I think the answer is political. The people who resist the evidence that Internet Explorer is not as secure as other browsers often subscribe to a loud-mouthed extreme right wing ideology. Take for example this post to a thread on browser security:
Anything has to be better than FF. (Roll Eyes)
With the signature:
"If you want to make a Conservative angry, tell him a lie. If you want to make a Liberal angry, tell him the truth." - Rush Limbaugh
Now you could say I'm stretching one comment to make a point.

But the internet long called Poe on the American fringe right's antipathy to Firefox: Exhibit 1, Exhibit 2.

The extreme hard right mentality resents a group of people working together to produce a better browser for free: it undermines their belief in the superiority of free-market capitalism in producing better software, and indeed a better world than any collective, altruistic enterprise run by wishy-washy socialists, as they would see the open-source community.

The idea that open-source software is a tool of socialism designed to undermine capitalism is of course total nonsense. Wherever could the hard right have got that idea from?

(Possibly it's the result of a complete lack of a sense of humour?)

As a footnote, the only thing the hard right hate more than a collective, altruistic enterprise interfering with a commercial enterprise, it's a collective, altruistic enterprise interfering in the economy itself- which is why the anti-Firefox trolls have turned their attention to climate science and global warming.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Debian Mozilla Repository engages warp drive

In response to the rapid new Firefox release cycle mentioned in my previous post, the Debian Mozilla team repository has been updated- and users need to update the appropriate lines in their source files, as detailed on the Debian forum.
In short, the new line will contain release for the latest version, instead of the version number, which will now change every six weeks or so as new versions are released and older versions are no longer supported.
There is also a beta channel for the adventurous, and an alpha channel (called aurora) for the really adventurous.