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Tuesday Tidbits: Remote DVR Gets Court OK, Mozilla Firefox 3.5 Ships

The past 24 hours have brought news that a lot of tech enthusiasts have been waiting to see--no, not Apple's report that chief executive Steve Jobs is back on the job after a successful liver transplant.

One item comes courtesy of the Supreme Court, which yesterday let a lower court ruling stand that permitted Cablevision Systems Corp. to offer a "remote storage" digital video recorder service to its subscribers.

Cablevision's idea was fairly straightforward: Instead of putting an individual hard drive under each subscriber's TV, why not let customers save their recordings on a centralized server? But a long list of companies in the movie and TV business--to name a few, Major League Baseball, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, the Screen Actors Guild and CNN--objected, claiming that Bethpage, N.Y.-based Cablevision was really offering a video-on-demand service and should pay them extra for the privilege.

Individual viewers would be hard-pressed to see any such difference; whether the video they watched came from a box in their living room or in a data center somewhere, the experience would be about the same from the couch. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed with that logic and rejected the lawsuit (see this recap of its ruling by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a brief in support of Cablevision); when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal, that ended the case. Now Cablevision is free to roll out this feature--and, more importantly, other companies can experiment with other video-recoding services that rely on network storage.

(For an interesting exercise, compare the logic in this case to the history of My.MP3.com, a music service that let people listen to streaming copies of the music on their own CDs.)

The other tech-news item comes from Mountain View, Calif.,-based Mozilla, which shipped the next version of its Firefox browser this morning. Mozilla Firefox 3.5--a free, open-source download for Windows 2000 or newer, Mac OS X 10.4 or newer and recent versions of Linux--brings a few distinct upgrades from last summer's Firefox 3.

To judge from my experience with beta versions of 3.5, the most important part of this browser may be its faster JavaScript performance. Firefox 3.5 also catches up to competitors with a new set of privacy options, including a private-browsing mode that prevents it from keeping any record of your Web use. (Yes, I'm aware that this could be convenient for viewers of certain... ahem, video-intensive sites. It's also useful if you're borrowing a computer from a friend or using one in an Internet cafe.)

Other 3.5 features may need some time to pan out. For example, it can--with your permission--estimate your physical location and pass that on to Web sites, which can then provide information tailored to your neck of the woods. (See Flickr's implementation of this feature.) Firefox 3.5 also includes built-in, no-plug-ins-needed support for free, open audio (Vorbis) and video (Theora) formats. Despite their cost and licensing advantages, those formats have yet to see much use compared to the likes of Adobe Flash--but will Firefox's endorsement lead more sites to give them a shot?

Firefox 3.5 looks to be off to a fast start--a page at the Mozilla site tracking downloads of the new browser has gone from recording a little over 1 million downloads to almost 1.4 million while I've been writing this post.

I have, of course, installed this browser on one computer and will soon do so on a few others. My plan is to write about it for my next column, and you can help with that: If you've installed Firefox 3.5, what do you think of it? And how would you compare with the other popular alternatives to Microsoft's still-dominant Internet Explorer, Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 30, 2009; 4:34 PM ET
Categories:  TV , The Web , Video  
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Comments

I downloaded this morning. I think it may be a tad faster but I didn't have many speed issues with the last version. I do like the little add-a-new-tab tab on the tab bar although I usually use the keyboard shortcut. Other family members will use it more. I also like being able to drag a tab out into a new window. Those are my first impressions.

Hope some of my add-ons get updated quickly -- especially Accessibar and my Classic Compact theme.

Posted by: Eremita1 | June 30, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Well I downloaded it (OS-X 10.5.7) and it doesn't work. It displays but the preferences aren't recognized and other features won't close when opened. Anyone know how to uninstall it or revert to 3.4?

Posted by: wsrphoto | June 30, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Followup to previous post. I put FF 3.0.11 (last official version) back and everything works fine. Mozilla has some homework to do with OS-X 10.5.7. This is unusual for them as past updates haven't had problems. But FF 3.5 has serious problems.

Posted by: wsrphoto | July 1, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Definitely renders javascript faster. With my first hour of use, I've definitely noticed an increase in page loading speeds. Very snappy.

Posted by: thiazzi | July 1, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, I quit.

I was having crash problems with 3.0.10 and .11. I purged the system all the way through to a manual Registry edit. I did a new profile. Th problem did not go away.

I installed 3.5 ans the *first thing* it did was crash. So, sorry, afrer a nice few years, it is gone.

Posted by: mitrich | July 1, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Great browser ! This new version seems identical to 3.5 RC2, which presumably means that no stoppers were found in the latter. It's quicker than its predecessors, both the 3.1 betas and the 3.0.11 stable version. If one is using an older version of the Google Toolbar one may encounter problems after updating - these are easily dealt with by uninstalling and then re-installing the Toolbar. Like the Google Toolbar, most important add-ons, such as Adblock plus, NoScript, and Delicious bookmarks, work very well, so long as one has the latest, compatible versions installed. All in all, a great job - kudos to the Mozilla developers !...

Henri

Posted by: mhenriday | July 1, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

I downloaded it this weekend to my 2 year-old Gateway laptop running Vista Pro. I think 3.5 may be faster but I didn't have many speed issues with the last version. I do like the add-a-new-tab button on the tab bar, although I used to use the keyboard shortcut, CTRL-T. HOWEVER, I downloaded and installed 3.5 on my wife's laptop, brand new Toshiba running Vista Home ed., and then 3.5 failed to start up. Finally uninstalled it and resintalled 3.1 and that version works fine now. Don't know why 3.5 didn't work but it was very frustrating for a little while.

Posted by: davidoreen | July 6, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

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