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Firefox 4 Beta 5 Brings Hardware Acceleration, Better Security
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The latest Firefox 4 beta has landed bringing with it a couple of new features like hardware acceleration for Windows users and a new audio API. Firefox 4 Beta 5 also comes with a new security feature which enables sites to force HTTPS connections.

"The latest update to Firefox 4 Beta brings super fast graphics and incredible new audio capabilities to the Web," Mike Beltzner, Mozilla's director of Firefox announced.

"Firefox 4 Beta now leverages hardware acceleration to improve graphics performance for Windows users and also allows, for the first time, the visualization of audio data within the browser," he explained.

For Windows users, the big news is hardware acceleration. Firefox 4 Beta 5 now uses Direct2D by default to speed up page rendering. You will need a graphics card supporting DirectX 10, but the difference it makes, especially for visually intensive web pages, is significant.

Unfortunately, Mozilla doesn't have an alternative to Direct2D on other platforms, since it's a Microsoft technology, so Linux and Mac users are out of luck for now. The team has said that it is looking at ways of bringing hardware acceleration to all users at some point.

Another big feature in Firefox 4 Beta 5 is a new audio API. The API gives developers the ability to read and write raw audio data within the browser. It's a pretty powerful API and comes in very handy in a few specialized use cases. However, it is unlikely to make a difference for most users.

One feature that will make a difference though is support for HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS). This new security protocol enables webmasters to request that Firefox always uses HTTPS connections for that site.

This way, in the case of a man in the middle attack, which would try to redirect you to a non-encrypted version of that site, Firefox will automatically replace any HTTP URL with HTTPS ones.

There are also several smaller new features as well as a lot of fixes and updates. Still, Firefox 4 Beta still has some way to go before being deemed stable enough for a wider release.

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