More New Old Tech

January 19, 2013

I’ve mentioned here before some instances in which current technical problems have sometimes been amenable to old technologies, dusted off and updated a bit.  For example, there is the use of the venerable AC induction motor, patented by Nikola Tesla in 1888, in new electric vehicles, as well as the renewed interest in the use of DC power distribution for data centers.

Now, according to an article at Technology Review, another old technology, for a type of Diesel engine, is getting another look.  The basic design, called the Jumo engine, was originated back in the 1930s by Junkers, a German aircraft manufacturer.  It was dirty, but very efficient.  In contrast to a conventional Diesel engine, which uses a single piston per cylinder to compress air and fuel, the Jumo engine uses two pistons per cylinder, compressing the air-fuel mixture between them.  The efficiency advantage arises from expending less energy heating up the cylinder head, leaving more to drive the pistons.

A California company called Achates Power has updated the engine design to allow it to meet current emission standards, at least in a one-cylinder prototype.  The US Army has given Achates, together with a partner company, AVL Powertrain Engineering, a $4.9 million grant to develop a multi-cylinder prototype.  The company believes that the engine can be made smaller and cheaper than existing Diesel engines, while boosting fuel economy by 20%.  Compared to a gasoline engine, the fuel economy would of course look even better.

This is still a prototype, and the new design is not likely to make the 2014 model year for new cars.  Still, it is encouraging that progress can be made without requiring a “great leap forward” in every instance.


Mozilla Releases Firefox 18.0.1

January 19, 2013

Mozilla has released an updated version, 18.0.1, of its Firefox browser for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.  This appears to be a bug fix release, focused on three specific areas:

  • Problems with HTTP Proxy transactions
  • Unity player crashes on Mac OS X
  • Rendering problems with HIDPI support on external monitors

There are no security-related fixes listed.  More information is available in the Release Notes.

You can get the new version using the update mechanism built into the browser, either automatically or via Help / About Firefox / Check for Updates.  Alternatively, you can get a complete installation package, available in more the 70 languages, from the download page.


Microsoft Issues Out-of-Cycle Patch for IE

January 14, 2013

Microsoft today released a security patch, outside its normal schedule, for versions 6, 7, and 8 of its Internet Explorer browser, to fix a recently discovered  Critical vulnerability that is being actively exploited.  According to Microsoft’s Security Bulletin [MS13-008], the vulnerability stems from a memory management error in the browser, which can cause memory corruption, leading to the execution of arbitrary code in the context of the current user.  The Security Bulletin [MS13-008] contains more information, and download links for the relevant patches.  Microsoft says that applying the patch will require a system restart.  Microsoft has also added information on this new bulletin to its Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for January 2013, which also continues to contain information on the patches released on the usual schedule last Tuesday, January 8.

This is a serious security flaw, particularly for desktop clients, and I urge you to update your systems as soon as you can.

Update Monday, 14 January, 16:47 EST

There is a Microsoft Knowledge Base article (KB 2799329) that contains some additional information.


Google Releases Chrome 24

January 10, 2013

Google has released a new stable version, 24.0.1312.52, of its Chrome browser for all platforms: Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, and Chrome Frame.   The new version incorporates fixes for 25 identified security vulnerabilities, 11 of which Google identifies as High severity.  As expected, the Flash Player bundled with the new release also incorporates the security fixes that Adobe released earlier this week.

The new version incorporates speed and stability improvements; it is also the first stable version to include support for MathML.  There is more information in the Release Announcement.

Because of the security content of this release, I recommend that you update your systems as soon as you conveniently can.   Windows and Mac users can get the new version via the built-in update mechanism; Linux users should check their distribution’s repositories for the new version.


Thunderbird 17.0.2 Released

January 9, 2013

Yesterday, in addition to the release of Firefox 18.0, Mozilla released version 17.0.2 of its Thunderbird E-mail client, for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.  The new version incorporates a number of bug fixes; it also fixes 19 identified security vulnerabilities.  Mozilla rates the importance of 12 of these as Critical.   (Incidentally, if you were wondering, there was no version 17.0.1 of Thunderbird.)  More details are available in the Release Notes.

Because of the security fixes incorporated in this release, I recommend that you update your systems as soon as you conveniently can.  You can use the update mechanism built into the software (Help / About Thunderbird / Check for Updates), or you can get a complete installation package, in a variety of languages, from the Thunderbird download page.


Adobe Flash Player Security Update

January 9, 2013

Adobe today released new versions of its Flash Player for Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and Linux systems.  According to Adobe’s Security Bulletin [APSB13-01], the updates address a critical vulnerability in the software:

These updates address a vulnerability that could cause a crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system

The following versions of the software are affected:

  • Adobe Flash Player 11.5.502.135 and earlier versions for Windows
  • Adobe Flash Player 11.5.502.136 and earlier versions for Macintosh
  • Adobe Flash Player 11.2.202.258 and earlier versions for Linux
  • Adobe Flash Player 11.1.115.34 and earlier versions for Android 4.x
  • Adobe Flash Player 11.1.111.29 and earlier versions for Android 3.x and 2.x
  • Adobe AIR 3.5.0.880 and earlier versions for Windows, Adobe AIR 3.5.0.890 and earlier versions for Macintosh and Adobe AIR 3.5.0.880 for Android
  • Adobe AIR 3.5.0.880 SDK and Adobe AIR 3.5.0.890 SDK

For Mac OS X, Linux, or Windows systems, you can check the version of Flash Player that you are using by visiting Adobe’s About Flash Player page.

The new versions are 11.5.502.146, for Windows and Mac systems, and 11.2.202.261 for Linux systems.  (Adobe is no longer providing new Linux versions of Flash Player, but it is still releasing security updates.)   Please see the Security Bulletin for information on Android versions.

Flash Player has always been an attractive target for the Bad Guys, because it is so widely installed across platforms.  Although I have not seen any reports of exploits “in the wild”, I do recommend that you update your systems as soon as you conveniently can.

Windows users who have the silent update option enabled should receive the new version automatically.  Windows or Mac OS X users can get the update using the update mechanism built into the software.  Alternatively, the new version for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X is available from Adobe’s download page.  Windows users should remember that they may need two updates: one for Internet Explorer, and one for any other browser(s) you may use.

Google’s Chrome browser comes with a bundled version of Flash Player.  Although I have not yet seen a release announcement from Google, I expect that we will get a new version of Chrome fairly soon.  I’ll post a note when I see the announcement.


Mozilla Releases Firefox 18

January 8, 2013

Mozilla has released a new major version of its browser, Firefox 18.0, for Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows.  In addition to fixing 21 identified security vulnerabilities (of which 12 are rated Critical), the new version incorporates some additional features:

  • Better JavaScript performance using the IonMonkey compiler
  • Support for Retina displays under OS X 10.7 and up
  • Preliminary support for WebRTC
  • Better scaling of images in HTML
  • Better performance in tab switching

Further details on the updates are available in the Release Notes.

Because of the security fixes incorporated in this release, I recommend that you update your systems as soon as you conveniently can.  You can get the new version using the update mechanism built into the browser, either automatically or via Help / About Firefox / Check for Updates.  Alternatively, you can get a complete installation package, available in more the 70 languages, from the download page.

Update Tuesday, 8 January, 21:45 EST

Ars Technica also has an article on the new version.


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