I've decided to release a tool I developed for the self quantification system I'm building. svg_graph is a Javascript object that builds timeline graphs and injects them into XHTML documents.

I've tested it on Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera, and it should work on any browser that supports XHTML and SVG. Unfortunately IE doesn't support either, so it won't work there.

More information and download here.

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Slashdot on Firefox's SSL mess

Slashdot has picked up on Firefox 3's terrible certificate management system, pointing to this article. While I'm rather critical of Mozilla's handling of this, they're in the right in this case.

The article in question points out several sites with expired certificates getting terrible error messages. This is the right thing to do, those sites should trip a giant "OMGWTF" flag in browsers. They're broken, and the lax treatment they've gotten from browsers in the past has not prompted their admins to fix them.

The problem isn't with legitimate security issues like lapsed certificates, it's the fact that Firefox has effectively banned self-signed certificates for technical illiterates. There are many use cases where commercially available Certificate Authorities are not practical or even outright impossible.

Hardware firewalls, for example, cannot use CA signed certificates. For one, their final sale price is often at or below that of a CA signed certificate for a single year, and for another they won't have a permanent, externally accessible DNS name to certify. It's fine to say that users of commercial grade equipment should be able to add exceptions, but your average Mom & Pop with a $50 Linksys firewall probably won't manage.

This change won't result in better security. It can only result in either people deciding Firefox doesn't work, or that configuring their routers is just too hard. Hundreds of thousands of identical systems running with default passwords open to the wider internet will not make the world a better place.

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On Firefox's antipathy to encryption

Overall, Firefox 3 is a great update. It's faster, leaner and though others may disagree, I love the Awesome Bar. Unfortunately, it's extremely hostile to secure web browsing and makes it all but impossible for regular users to use encryption for non-commercial purposes.

Previously, Firefox 2 would warn the user when accessing a secure site that didn't prove it's identity (a self-signed certificate), but it would let them through. Firefox 3 throws a screaming hissy fit, and forces the user through not one, but four confusing and intimidating gauntlets, none like the other. The stereotypical grandma simply isn't going to be able to make her way through that. Firefox 3 will not allow her to use encryption anywhere but her bank.

Phishing is a problem, but solving it does not justify banning all non-commercial encryption outside the nerd ghetto.

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