Webconverger moves away from Firefox ESR
The latest 14.0 release of Webconverger, a browser-only operating system for web kiosks, drops the extended support release (ESR) of Firefox in favour of the current major version of the browser, Firefox 14.0.1. The open source OS had previously used the mainline version of Firefox until Webconverger 11, but later switched to ESR in March with the release of version 12. Speaking to The H, project founder and lead developer Kai Hendry said that the change was the result of feedback from his paying customers and bugs encountered in the 10.x branch; his company, Webconverger Limited, sells custom-configured versions of the OS for use by, for example, banks, medical practices and libraries.
As Webconverger is typically used for public kiosks, it automatically wipes itself clean by default after each session to protect users' privacy. However, in some cases this may not desirable, such as private deployment in a relative's home. With version 14.0, the Debian-derived distribution now includes a "noclean" API option for users that want to disable this default behaviour. A new swarp API for mouse positioning has also been added. By default, the system moves the cursor to the top left hand side of the screen; this is useful for some web apps which could be accidentally triggered by the cursor's usual center position.
In terms of development time, Hendry says that the biggest new feature is integration of Bumblebee. With Bumblebee, the discreet NVIDIA card can be enabled or disabled as needed on systems with hybrid-graphics. "This is very important for some customers since they want to use LVDS output (more typical on kiosk hardware setups) instead of the port on the NVIDIA card, allowing serious WebGL acceleration by just adding a NVIDIA card to their existing boxes," added Hendry.
Other changes include fixes for time synchronisation, an updated 686 kernel which performs better on systems with multi-core CPUs and improvements to XRandR screen handling. The bundled Adobe Flash Player plugin has also been upgraded to version 22.214.171.124, which addresses a critical security vulnerability that could have been used by an attacker to take control of the system.
Further information about the new version can be found in the announcement blog post and in the change log. Webconverger 14 is can be downloaded from the project's site; instructions for burning it to a CD or creating a bootable USB flash drive are provided. Sources for Webconverger are hosted on GitHub.