Hormone Therapy for Transfeminine Non-Binary Individuals and Femboys 101
In the last few years there has been increasing interest in transfeminine hormone therapy for non-binary individuals. The goal of this form of hormone therapy is often to induce some but not all aspects of demasculinization and/or feminization. Sometimes the aim is to achieve a more androgynous or completely androgynous appearance. Other times it's to achieve a partially or fully feminine body with the sole exception of breast development. In some cases, the person may not even identify as "transgender" but rather as, e.g., a femboy. These are cisgender males who don't want genital reassignment surgery nor generally want decreased sexual function but nonetheless want to have more feminine bodies. See femboy, feminineboys, and femboytransition for relevant subreddits. Whatever the goal, these non-conventional transfeminine non-binary and even cisgender individuals are increasingly deciding to act on their feelings and pursue hormonal changes. I am a transgender woman, but I totally sympathize with these individuals, whether transgender or cisgender. Since this approach is very new and there is very little available that's written on this topic (including close to nothing in the published literature), I thought that I would do a write up on the topic. In this thread, I'll go over the various possibilities for non-conventional feminizing hormone therapy for non-binary individuals and femboys. It should be noted that the content in this thread is experimental and preliminary. There have been no studies of non-conventional hormone therapy for non-binary individuals as of present, and there are no standards or guidelines to inform this kind of hormone therapy. Instead, all of the information in this thread is extrapolated from theory and from research in other patient populations, such as cisgender men with prostate cancer and/or gynecomastia and transgender women. The content of this thread should be considered an exploratory "white paper" of sorts rather than as therapeutic recommendations or anything of the sort.
Conventional feminizing hormone therapy
In conventional hormone therapy for transgender women, otherwise known as male-to-female hormone replacement therapy (MtF HRT), the goal is to produce complete demasculinization and feminization. This is achieved by suppressing testosterone levels into the normal female range and increasing estrogen levels into the normal female range. It's generally done by administration of estrogens, which induce feminization and suppress testosterone levels (thereby providing demasculinization and permitting full feminization), and optionally by administration of antiandrogens or progestogens, which block or suppress any remaining testosterone that persists even with estrogen therapy. Medications used in MtF HRT include estrogens like estradiol and estradiol esters such as estradiol valerate; antiandrogens like bicalutamide, spironolactone, and GnRH agonists/antagonists; and progestogens like cyproterone acetate and progesterone. 5α-Reductase inhibitors like finasteride and dutasteride have been used as targeted antiandrogens that inhibit only specific androgenic effects, namely in skin and hair follicles. For a thorough introduction to feminizing hormone therapy for transgender women that covers the effects, medications, routes, and dosages, see Hormone Therapy for Transgender Women 101. In addition, see the Medications#Medications) section of the Transgender hormone therapy (male-to-female)) article on Wikipedia. If a non-binary transfeminine person or a femboy doesn't mind complete demasculinization and feminization, including breast development, then conventional feminizing hormone therapy can be employed. If this is not the case however and prevention or minimization of feminization or breast development are desired, things become more complex...
Achieving androgen deprivation
If the goal of non-binary hormone therapy is simply to achieve an androgynous appearance with minimal or no feminization, this can be achieved via deprivation of testosterone without concomitant administration of an estrogen. There are a number of ways to achieve androgen deprivation or testosterone suppression in people assigned male at birth. These include high-dose progestogen therapy, medical and surgical castration with GnRH agonists/antagonists or orchiectomy, high-dose androgen receptor antagonist therapy, and a few other miscellaneous possibilities. In this section, I'll discuss androgen deprivation largely from the standpoint of efficacy. There are issues with androgen deprivation alone in terms of tolerability and safety due to the co-consequence of estrogen deficiency however, which I'll discuss in the subsequent section. Testosterone suppression with high-dose progestogens Androgen deprivation can be achieved with high doses of progestogens, which suppress testosterone levels by up to 70 to 80%. This is a substantial decrease in testosterone levels, but isn't quite into the female range. Androgen receptor antagonists can additionally be included to block the remaining 20 to 30% of testosterone that isn't suppressed if desired. For these purposes, low-dose cyproterone acetate (e.g., 5.0–12.5 mg/day; link) plus bicalutamide (e.g., 12.5–50 mg/day) or spironolactone (e.g., 200–400 mg/day) is likely to be an effective regimen. As an alternative to cyproterone acetate, high doses of other progestogens, such as just about any other progestin, or alternatively rectal progesterone (link), can be used instead. Testosterone suppression with medical or surgical castration Another option for androgen deprivation is the use of a GnRH agonist or antagonist. These medications suppress testosterone levels by about 95%, or into the normal female range or male castrate range (<50 ng/dL). However, GnRH agonists and antagonists are very expensive, although there may be some viable options for obtaining them more cheaply (e.g., purchasing from certain online pharmacies/vendors). Alternatively, a gonadectomy, or surgical removal of the gonads, can be performed. However, this is expensive (a few thousand dollars USD), requires minor surgery, can be difficult to obtain. Most surgeons require letters from gender therapists and real-life experience; informed-consent surgeons do exist however. It's also irreversible, notably resulting in permanent loss of testes and sterility. With that said however, gonadectomy is far less expensive and much more convenient than GnRH agonists and antagonists in the long run. Testosterone blockade with androgen receptor antagonists High-dose bicalutamide monotherapy (e.g., 150–300 mg/day) is an option for androgen deprivation therapy (link). However, bicalutamide monotherapy increases testosterone and hence estradiol levels. The testosterone will be blocked by bicalutamide and will not have effects, but estradiol is increased to a concentration range that allows for marked or full feminization, including breast development. In addition, bicalutamide alone, even at very high doses, might not be enough to completely block male-range testosterone (link). With these considerations, if the goal is full demasculinization with no feminization or breast development, bicalutamide monotherapy is not something that, at least alone, can achieve this. High-dose bicalutamide is expensive and potentially cost-prohibitive. High-dose spironolactone monotherapy is not a good option for this route as it is a relatively weak antiandrogen and likely falls far short of being able to handle male-range levels of testosterone (at least 200 mg/day appears to be required to fully block female testosterone levels; source; sixth paragraph specifically). Concomitant partial suppression of testosterone and estrogen levels via additional use of a progestogen (e.g., cyproterone acetate) may be a more feasible option than an androgen receptor antagonist alone. Some potentially major advantages of high-dose bicalutamide monotherapy are that in contrast to marked or full suppression of testosterone levels, bicalutamide monotherapy largely preserves sexual desire and erectile function and likely does not result in infertility. Other options: lower doses, 5α-reductase inhibitors, and nandrolone decanoate Another option is only partial demasculinization, which can be achieved essentially by using lower dosages of the medications discussed above (e.g., cyproterone acetate, bicalutamide). If desired, 5α-reductase inhibitors can be added in this context to more substantially decrease scalp hair loss and body hair growth. Note that if testosterone is more fully suppressed or blocked however, there is likely to be little or no benefit with 5α-reductase inhibitors. Yet another possibility could be to incorporate low-dose nandrolone decanoate, an androgen receptor agonist and anabolic–androgenic steroid (AAS) with much less masculinizing/androgenic effect in skin and hair follicles (link). This drug will help to suppress and hence replace testosterone levels. Nandrolone decanoate might also have the benefit of helping to maintain sexual desire and function. However, nandrolone decanoate was recently discontinued in the United States. Oxandrolone is another, similar AAS, but has been associated with liver toxicity.
Avoiding estrogen deficiency
While androgen deprivation therapy is effective for achieving the desired changes – specifically demasculinization without feminization – it is not recommended by itself. This is because estradiol is produced from testosterone and hence androgen deprivation results in estrogen deficiency as well. Estrogens are essential for maintaining bone density in both men and women, and without them, a person will quickly lose bone mass, eventually develop osteoporosis, and be at a high risk for bone fractures. Skeletal/postural disfigurement will also eventually occur (image, image). In addition, the person is likely to experience other menopause-like symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood and sleep issues, sexual dysfunction (e.g., low sexual desire, erectile dysfunction), and accelerated aging of the skin (link). An increased risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia is associated with androgen/estrogen deficiency as well. As such, extended deprivation of both androgens and estrogens with no estrogenic supplementation is not advisable in the slightest. With that said, a couple of clarifications should be made. Due to preservation of estradiol levels, high-dose bicalutamide monotherapy has minimal to no risk of bone density loss or most other menopausal symptoms. In addition, the low-dose cyproterone acetate plus low-dose bicalutamide option may have less of a risk of menopausal symptoms and possibly osteoporosis as well. This is because high-dose progestogens (of which "low-dose" cyproterone acetate certainly qualifies) can help treat certain menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and possibly bone density loss, and also because some estradiol will be preserved (since testosterone will only be suppressed by 70 to 80% rather than more fully). With that said however, in the latter case, it's probably best not to take any risks. Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) Instead of only androgen and estrogen deprivation, the inclusion of so-called partial estrogens, or selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), can be employed. These medications are partial agonists of the estrogen receptor, and have mixed estrogenic and antiestrogenic effects depending on the tissue. For example, the SERM raloxifene has estrogenic effects in bone, fat tissue, and the liver, but antiestrogenic effects in the breasts. In general, SERMs reduce bone density loss and osteoporosis risk while not causing breast development (and actually blocking it). A full list of SERMs can be found here. However, practically speaking, only raloxifene (Evista), tamoxifen (Nolvadex), and toremifene (Fareston) are available, inexpensive, and commonly used. For an overview of the estrogenic and antiestrogenic effects of the different SERMs in different tissues, see here. In general, SERMs have a fairly similar pattern of effects. Although we have some idea of the differential tissue effects of SERMs, in many cases we do not know how they behave in specific tissues. For example, only a single clinical study has shown that a SERM, specifically raloxifene, has estrogenic effects in fat tissue (link). In addition, it's less clear how SERMs behave in, for example, skin, or in most of the brain. SERMs also have various side effects. For instance, SERMs commonly produce hot flashes as an adverse effect. However, the fairly recently introduced combination of bazedoxifene/conjugated estrogens (Duavee) has been found to reduce the incidence of hot flashes in postmenopausal women (source). It is still on-patent and hence is expensive however. In any case, SERMs are also likely to produce other menopause-like symptoms. Additionally, SERMs have estrogenic effects in the liver and therefore increase production of coagulation factors and decrease production of insulin-like growth factor-1, among other potentially undesirable changes. Due to the increase in coagulation with SERMs, they have a notable risk of blood clots and cardiovascular complications like stroke. Some SERMs, like tamoxifen, also have unique off-target actions and risks, like rare liver toxicity. Raloxifene is probably among the safer SERMs. SERMs are effective for maintaining bone density. However, they are, unfortunately, only partially effective for this purpose; significantly more so than no treatment at all, but less so than estrogens. Indeed, SERMs have actually been found to significantly antagonize the effects of estradiol on bone (source). In addition to SERMs, other measures to maintain bone mineral density, such as bisphosphonates like alendronic acid, calcium supplementation, and/or vitamin D supplementation, could be included for further benefit to bone health (source, source). Bisphosphonates have adverse effects and risks however. Weight-bearing exercise is also beneficial for bone density (source). Interestingly, probably due to its off-target antimineralocorticoid activity, spironolactone may be an option to prevent bone density loss; it was found at 100 mg/day in one randomized controlled trial to fully prevent GnRH agonist-induced bone density loss in women (source). However, this was a single small study that has yet to be replicated, and hence supporting evidence is weak. Low-dose estrogen supplementation An alternative to partial estrogens is low-dose estrogen therapy. The problem with this route however is that, in the absence of testosterone, estrogens are highly effective at inducing feminization even at low levels. For example, late pubertal girls and cisgender women with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) have estradiol levels of only 30 to 50 pg/mL (high male range or just above it) yet have complete feminization, including full breast development. See here and here for information and photographs of CAIS women to get an idea. A dosage of oral estradiol of roughly 2 mg/day or estradiol levels of about 30 to 50 pg/mL are what are needed for complete prevention of bone density loss, yet such levels of estradiol are able to induce full feminization (source, source). With that caveat however, estradiol has a much better tolerability and safety profile than SERMs. But taking estradiol in conjunction with marked androgen deprivation, even at only low doses, would essentially be a full transition. It may be feasible to take it at very low doses, achieving estradiol levels of only maybe 20 pg/mL, however. But this would not adequately protect against bone density loss and other menopause-like symptoms, and would likely still produce at least partial feminization. (Even GnRH agonists/antagonists and orchiectomy alone have a rate of mild gynecomastia of as high as 15%; source.) Onset and reversibility of bone density loss Somewhat reassuringly, bone density has been found to substantially or fully recover within a few years following discontinuation of progestogen-only birth control (and consequent marked but partial suppression of estradiol levels) in young premenopausal women (source). Hence, a limited-duration treatment period, for instance to try out non-binary/femboy hormone therapy, might be reasonably safe in terms of bone health. However, long-term therapy should definitely ensure adequate measures against bone density loss.
Prevention or minimization of breast development
Suppression or blockade of estrogens If the goal is to produce full demasculinization and some or full feminization with the sole exception of breast development, there are a number of ways to possibly achieve this. Androgen deprivation without estrogen supplementation will achieve demasculinization without any feminization or breast development (except for bicalutamide monotherapy of course). However, it's not recommended for reasons described above and wouldn't provide feminization. SERMs are an option; in addition to their capacity to treat osteoporosis, they are used to treat gynecomastia in men, and are capable of fully blocking gynecomastia induced by estrogens when used at sufficient doses (source). However, SERMs may allow for only partial feminization rather than full. Aromatase inhibitors, in contrast to SERMs, have no apparent place in this form of hormone therapy, as they are, surprisingly, poorly effective for prevention of gynecomastia (source, source). A problem with SERMs: increased testosterone levels A problem with the use of SERMs to prevent breast development is that when they are used in a person assigned male at birth in whom the gonads are intact and testosterone levels are not suppressed, they will induce a substantial increase in gonadal testosterone production and hence circulating testosterone levels. In men with hypogonadism (low testosterone levels), the SERMs clomifene (20–50 mg/day) and enclomifene (12.5–25 mg/day) increase testosterone levels from about 200–300 ng/dL to about 450–600 ng/dL (a change of about 2.0- to 2.5-fold, with an absolute increase of 250–400 ng/dL in this patient population) (source, source). Because they are so effective at increasing testosterone levels, SERMs are used to treat male hypogonadism as an alternative to exogenous testosterone administration. Worse still, SERMs appear to cause even greater increases in testosterone levels in non-hypogonadal men. One study found that 50 mg/day clomifene increased testosterone levels by about 850 ng/dL in healthy younger men and by about 500 ng/dL in elderly men (source). If testosterone levels are suppressed, increases in testosterone levels with SERMs will, depending on the degree of testosterone suppression, be less applicable (e.g., with high-dose progestogen therapy) or not applicable at all (e.g., with medical/surgical castration). However, if a SERM is combined with, say, bicalutamide alone, the situation may become even worse. This is because bicalutamide itself produces considerable increases in testosterone levels similarly to SERMs. In elderly men with prostate cancer, bicalutamide monotherapy induces a 1.5- to 2.0-fold rise in testosterone levels, increasing them from about 300–400 ng/dL to about 500–600 ng/dL (an absolute change of about 150–250 ng/dL in this patient group) (source). In healthy younger men, bicalutamide has been reported to increase testosterone levels to the "upper end of the normal male range" (presumably into the range of around 900–1,200 ng/dL) (source). As bicalutamide is a competitive antagonist of the androgen receptor, its efficacy is fundamentally both dose-dependent and dependent on testosterone levels. Consequently, in combination with a SERM, it is possible that testosterone levels will become too high for bicalutamide to block. Moreover, endogenous androgens and estrogens are together responsible for maintaining normal homeostatic negative feedback on the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis (HPG axis) in people assigned male at birth. It seems logical that with little to suppress the axis, gonadal production and hence circulating levels of testosterone and estradiol may simply continue to rise until they overwhelm bicalutamide and/or the SERM it's combined with and restore negative feedback on the HPG axis. For these reasons, it's possible that the combination of bicalutamide and a SERM alone might not be a practical option for non-conventional feminizing hormone therapy. With all of that said however, the combination of bicalutamide and tamoxifen has been assessed in various studies in men with prostate cancer (source), and increases in testosterone levels have, rather surprisingly, not been a problem in these studies. In terms of the findings, bicalutamide and tamoxifen together do, as expected, increase total testosterone levels. However, the rise in total testosterone levels is not much different from that which occurs with bicalutamide alone. Moreover, free testosterone levels are either increased to a certain degree or are not actually raised at all (source, source, source). This is thought to be due to the fact that SERMs have potent estrogenic effects in the liver and result in increased production of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), consequently reducing the fraction of free and hence bioactive testosterone in the circulation. This serves to offset the biological influence of the increase in total testosterone levels. In accordance, and reassuringly, unfavorable changes in markers of androgen receptor signaling, like higher prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, have not been observed relative to bicalutamide alone in the studies. It's not clear why studies of bicalutamide plus tamoxifen have observed increases in total testosterone levels that are not that different from those of bicalutamide alone. Whatever the reason, these studies suggest that the combination of bicalutamide and tamoxifen (or certain other SERMs) might actually be feasible still for non-conventional feminizing hormone therapy. With that said however, elderly men are a different patient population than non-binary transfeminine people and femboys. Older men have diminished increases in testosterone levels with bicalutamide and SERMs compared to healthy young men. In relation to this, the combination might not be as favorable for younger people assigned male at birth. Tamoxifen very well may be exchangeable with raloxifene for use in combination with bicalutamide. However, it should be noted that in contrast to tamoxifen, raloxifene has never been studied in combination with bicalutamide. Or, at least, not in gonadally intact men; one study of bicalutamide with raloxifene in castrated men with prostate cancer does exist, but that doesn't provide much in the way of useful information (source30260-9/fulltext)). Nor has raloxifene actually been properly studied for prevention of gynecomastia. A single retrospective chart review reported that it was effective for pubertal gynecomastia in boys (source). But that's all the data we have. Conversely, there are many high-quality studies of tamoxifen for prevention of gynecomastia, including in combination with bicalutamide. In any case, used by themselves in men, raloxifene has been found to result in lower increases in testosterone levels than tamoxifen or toremifene (source). As such, bicalutamide and raloxifene together may indeed be similar in terms of testosterone levels relative to the combination of bicalutamide and tamoxifen. This might just be due to raloxifene having lower efficacy as a SERM than tamoxifen or toremifene at the relevant clinical doses however (source). Topical androgens Another possibility for prevention of breast development is topical application of a non-aromatizable androgen (i.e., an androgen that can't be converted into an estrogen), such as dihydrotestosterone (DHT; Andractim), to the breasts. Androgens substantially oppose the actions of estrogens in the breasts, and have been shown to be effective in the treatment of gynecomastia similarly to SERMs (example). Unfortunately, pharmaceutical topical DHT is only available today in France (link). Some compounding pharmacies in certain countries might provide topical DHT preparations. However, DHT is reportedly not available from any compounding pharmacies in the United States (source). In contrast to DHT, testosterone readily converts into estradiol via aromatization and can actually induce some gynecomastia due to excessive estrogenic exposure. As such, unlike non-aromatizable androgens like DHT, use of testosterone for this purpose isn't appropriate. There are few or no other options for topical androgens besides testosterone and DHT, so the practicality of this route is limited. In contrast to SERMs, topical androgens may not be fully effective for preventing breast development. In addition, topical application of androgens to the breasts is very likely to cause local body hair growth and other local androgenic effects (e.g., masculine skin changes, oily skin, acne), which for many transfeminine individuals is probably unacceptable. Lastly, there is a risk of systemic distribution of the topically applied androgen (example) and hence androgenic or masculinizing effects elsewhere in the body. This risk would be lessened in combination with an androgen receptor antagonist like bicalutamide however, although androgen receptor antagonists also risk blocking the local effects of the topical androgen. Breast removal surgery and breast irradiation Two non-medication-based alternatives for prevention of breast development are prophylactic surgical breast removal and prophylactic breast irradiation. If there is no excess skin, mastectomy, or breast removal surgery, can remove the breasts without leaving obvious scars, as was the case in this young transgender man. Mastectomy is a highly effective means of preventing breast development. Of course, it requires surgery however. Exposure of the breasts to radiation inhibits subsequent breast development (photos). Irradiation of the breasts is an inexpensive, easy, and effective technique that is commonly used as prophylaxis against gynecomastia in men with prostate cancer treated with estrogens or high-dose bicalutamide monotherapy (source00080-6/fulltext)). It is less effective than SERMs however and generally only reduces the severity of gynecomastia rather than fully prevents it (source00080-6/fulltext)). More concerningly, there is a theoretical increased risk of breast cancer with exposure of the breasts to radiation (source30220-7/fulltext)). Research has observed a 100-fold higher incidence of breast cancer in young women whose breasts were exposed to radiation during childhood as a consequence of radiotherapy for cancer when compared to other young women (source). On the other hand, limited available evidence so far suggests minimal if any increase in breast cancer incidence in elderly men treated with breast irradiation to prevent gynecomastia (source30220-7/fulltext), source00080-6/fulltext)). We have no data on what breast cancer risk might be like in young breast-irradiated transfeminine people. In addition to theoretical cancer risk, low incidences of heart and lung issues have also been associated with breast irradiation in elderly men with prostate cancer (source, source). Due to these health risks, breast irradiation for prevention of breast development may be an inadvisable option. An obvious drawback of breast development prevention with both surgical breast removal and prophylactic breast irradiation is that they are irreversible. If the person ever changes their mind about not wanting breasts or eventually decides to fully transition (a not uncommon occurrence), there is no going back on the choice to permanently negate breast development. Degree, onset, and reversibility of breast development For reasons that are not entirely clear, it's notable that transgender women tend to have suboptimal/poor breast development (source, photo examples). The reason for this is not entirely clear, but there are various theoretical possibilities (link). Likewise, in generally elderly men with prostate cancer, high-dose bicalutamide monotherapy and high-dose estrogen therapy both cause high rates of gynecomastia but produce only mild-to-moderate gynecomastia in 90% of cases (source, source). (Whether their advanced age is a factor here or not is uncertain though.) Hence, any person who was assigned male at birth should, generally speaking or on average, not necessarily expect a marked degree of breast development. There are always exceptions however, with a subset of transgender women experiencing considerable breast development. Hence, the degree of breast development is a matter of chance, and caution should be advised. There are a few things to note about breast development. One is that it occurs slowly and is not something that happens overnight. Another is that it's not going to progress further if medications are withdrawn. And finally, it seems to be at least partially reversible if medications are discontinued within a certain amount of time (e.g., one year) (source, source). For these reasons, it should be entirely feasible for a given person to self-monitor their breast development, and, if it becomes too much for their liking, to alter their medication regimen as desired in order to prevent further or reverse existing breast growth. Hence, breast growth is not necessarily something that should be feared excessively.
Summary of main potential treatment options
For full demasculinization and partial to full feminization with the exception of minimal or no breast development, here is a review of the major potential treatment options for feminizing hormone therapy for non-binary people and femboys discussed above:
High-dose progestogen (e.g., low-dose cyproterone acetate) + androgen receptor antagonist (e.g., bicalutamide or spironolactone) + SERM or low-dose estradiol
GnRH agonist/antagonist or orchiectomy + SERM or low-dose estradiol
High-dose bicalutamide + SERM (possibly)
And variations thereof based on the above discussion as well (e.g., 5α-reductase inhibitors, prophylactic mastectomy, additional bone density interventions, etc.). As some of the commenters have touched on, low- to moderate-dose estradiol monotherapy, resulting in only some or partial suppression of testosterone levels, may also be a useful approach. At least partial breast development is likely to occur with such a route however.
Obtaining care and medications
It may be difficult to find a physician who offers transgender hormone therapy and is familiar with non-conventional hormonal therapy approaches for non-binary transgender people. It can likewise be difficult to find such a physician who is actually willing to treat such people. And this is probably extremely difficult for cisgender femboys, who may best be served by simply claiming to be non-binary or transgender but just wanting an atypical transition. With these considerations, do-it-yourself (DIY) hormone therapy may oftentimes be the most or only real practical option in this particular situation. For materials on DIY hormone therapy, see the Wiki at TransDIY, which includes a list of no-prescription-needed online pharmacies.
2019 Offseason Review Series: Day 18 - The Carolina Panthers
Team: The Carolina Panthers
Division: The NFC South
It’s that time of year again! After a season that could best be described as “a hangover you don’t deserve”, we watched the Panthers soar to a 6-2 record. After a beatdown of eventual playoff caliber Baltimore, It finally looked like we were poised to shrug off our non-consecutive winning streak habit. But it was not meant to be. A combination of shallow defensive depth and a lingering shoulder issue for Cam Newton saw us collapse down the stretch, and we ended 7-9 winning only a single game. After watching the sharp downturn of our fortunes, questions surrounding our QB’s health and a major exodus of our most tenured veteran talent, one could be forgiven for a glum outlook on the franchise’s future going into this offseason. But despite the spirit in which we entered it, this offseason has been a resounding success. And one that leaves little doubt that we’re an improved team despite our more prominent losses. What follows is a point for point breakdown in how we made the transition from collapsed contender to potential comeback story.
None whatsoever. From both the commentator sphere and other fanbases, the Panthers were pretty roundly rebuked for hiring offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Despite alarms being raised over 7 step drops and an over reliance on deep shot, Turner was a revelation for our offense. He apparently meant every word of emphasizing high completion throws and taking pressure off of Cam, and we began to see looks for our QB that were totally absent in the Mike Shula era. He’s now had a chance to throw dump offs, and to have reliable comeback options. Cam, prior to breaking down, was enjoying one of the best seasons of his career and despite the shoulder injury, still finished with a career high completion percentage. Christian McCaffery, our other offensive mainstay, saw his rushing efficiency go from 3.7 YPC his rookie season to 5.0 yards in year two, with his total scrimmage yardage upticking from 1,086 to 1,965 in Norv’s new passing and blocking system. Turner’s tenure thus far has been an unmitigated success and a refreshing change of pace from the stale, dull system we fell into under Shula. The other transition, from Steve Wilkes to Eric Washington at defensive coordinator, yielded decidedly more mixed results. Washington, simply put, was not good in his transition from the DL coach. In over his depth. He struggled all year, culminating in Rivera assuming defensive playcalling down the stretch. The turnaround in our defense once he did was remarkable, though by that point, Cam was falling apart so visibly that what happened on that side of the ball no longer mattered. Washington has been retained for the upcoming season, but Rivera’s going to keep the playcalling duties. And captaining the ship is Rivera himself. Despite a call for his head among our fanbase’s more frustrated elements, Rivera was kept for 2019. And I’m glad for it. All or Nothing (though I’ve not had a chance to see it) provided a window into his management style, vindicating some like me who pushed back against narratives that he was a dispassionate robot. And while I’m a bit higher on Ron than many, I don’t think it’s unsafe at all to say that none of the coaching hires would have represented an obvious upgrade. At the end of the day, Rivera lead a squad to 6-2 before his QB’s season derailed, which is not really on him. He could maybe be criticized for letting Washington fail for too long, but at the end of the day, few of our woes from last year can be solely attributed to him. While this is certainly a put up or get out year for Rivera, I have little doubt that he’ll be leading the gang come 2020 as well.
Thomas Davis, LB - Now we get into the stuff that hurts. And this one really, really hurts. I understand it. We needed to figure out whether Thompson could stand on his own like, yesterday so we can decide his long term potential. Davis, while still playing at a high level, is an old man for the position he plays. Letting him walk was a logical decision. But none of it changes the fact that Davis has been the soul of this defense for over a decade, and was easily one of the most beloved players and leaders over the 14 years he spent with us. He will be missed, both for his play and his spirit. Julius Peppers, DE - Speaking of franchise staples, long time DE and future Hall of Fame inductee Julius Peppers’ watch has ended. Unlike Davis, who we simply allowed to leave, Pep has called it a career. And what a career it was. Though almost every single article about our defensive adjustments leads off with “With Peppers retiring, the Panthers no longer have anyone who can rush the passer”, the reality is that Pep did far less than his opposite in Mario Addison to that effect. Though he came back to us in 2017 with a monster 11 sack season, that number was always misleading given how few pressures he accomplished it on. Last year, he came back down to earth. It was time, and while I wish we could have given Pep one last, Super Bowl winning hurrah, a new direction was needed. Ryan Kalil, C - Ryan Kalil rounds out our list of beloved departing veterans. The anchor of our offensive line for 12 years has hung up his cleats. Of all the offseason changes, this was by far the scariest, as the difference between Cam with and without a good center of the course of his career has been stark and terrifying. Kalil was a damn good player right up to the end, though the rash of injuries he suffered between 2016 and 2018 clearly took their toll on his performance. And while we have replaced him (and debatably upgraded), Kalil was both a locker room leader and a damn good contributor that will be missed by all. Devin Funchess, WR - We now get into the departures who will be less missed. Funchess, admittedly, gets a bit of a bad wrap from our fanbase who often talk about him as though he were trash. While not trash, he is at least very replaceable. In fact, Funchess replacement began well before the expiration of his contract, as he had been fully supplanted by rookie DJ Moore and sophomore Curtis Samuel down the stretch last year. By the end, he was a healthy scratch. While I’m sure he’s going to put up numbers in Andrew Luck’s offense, Funchess is no sort of elite talent. He’s a big body who fails to gain separation and who inconsistently leverages his size to his advantage. I view his upside as a Brandon LaFell type of guy. And that type of guy is no longer a fit for what we’re trying to do. Matt Kalil, OT - If the Carolina fandom is ambivalent about Funyun’s departure, we’re positively giddy about this one. Cut with a June 1st designation, Kalil saved us the money that allowed other moves to be possible. Though the shine has come off the diamond that was Gettleman’s tenure with us, the man often doesn’t get the credit he should. He did do a great deal for us, particularly his completely unheralded building of our OL (No less than 3 of our 5 starters this coming season will have been Gettleman acquisitions). But by far the biggest mistake in his tenure was the massive albatros of a contract he doled out to Matt Kalil, who could not have failed more spectacularly (or predictably) to live up to it. Mike Adams, FS - I speak on behalf of the fanbase when I say that we have nothing but respect for Adams. He was a solid player and a veteran leader who spent his last two years giving lift to a secondary that hasn’t seen a great safety tandem since the Clinton Administration. But your eyes don’t deceive. We really were running his 37 year old ass out there as a free safety. And that simply could not be allowed to continue. I wish Adams the best, but it was time to move on.
Matt Paradis, C - Here’s the fun stuff. After losing Kalil to retirement, we signed former Broncos safety Matt Paradis to replace him. At only 29, Paradis represents a significant youthening at the position, and for a guy whose upside is top 5 at the position, we got him at a significant discount. Obviously that discount was due to medical risks, which prompted his release by the Broncos in the first place. But Paradis’ has been fully cleared from day 1 and avoided the PUP list. By all accounts, he’s in tip top shape. We’ll obviously see how that holds up as the season gets underway, but Paradis is definitely one of the steals of the 2019 free agency period and I could not be happier to have him. His arrival is enormous for our prospects, and has turned our biggest positional question mark into an area of strength. Daryl Williams, OT - It’s a bit disingenuous to call Williams an arrival, as he never actually left. But that he never left is nothing short of remarkable. After a 2017 All Pro season, Williams suffered a major setback of an injury in 2018 training camp that eventually turned into a season ending injury after he tried to rush back. Still though, the League is constantly hungry for All Pro level OT talent and I was sure Williams was going to get scooped up. Instead, he signed a 1 year, $6 million deal to come back to us, and short of black magic I’m not entirely sure how Marty Hurney pulled it off. Williams is a terrific player who can play many parts of the OL. He can slot in at LG if rookie OT Greg Little can win the LT job, but also provides insurance at LT if he can’t. He and Moton playing opposite one another represents the best OT tandem that Cam Newton has ever enjoyed. Gerald McCoy, DT - Awwwww yeah! My all time favorite Tampa Bay Buccaneer is now a Carolina Panther. McCoy is a rock solid DT who truly needs no introduction from me. How we plan to use him is a bit murkier, but use him we definitely will. I suspect to see McCoy playing DT opposite Kawaan Short in our 3-4 looks (more on that in a minute), to line up next to him in our 5-2 looks, and to work with him on pass rushing 4-3 sets. He adds more juice to a pass rush that already saw a healthy injection of talent this year, and is more consistent in the run game than some of the other DL on the roster, which was a notable area of weakness last season. He fits the versatility first mold that’s going to allow Rivera to mix up our defensive looks as transition fully to a hybrid, and is a terrific leader in the locker room besides. Our beat writers have described him as “joined at the hip” with Kawaan Short, and I fully expect the pair to make one another better. Bruce Irvin, OLB - Perhaps the first real signal that this wasn’t going to be the Carolina defense of yesteryear, Irvin is a vet leadership, change of pace signing. In moving to a hybrid defense, we acquired a number of rookie talents to complement OLBs like Marquis Hayes. Irvin rounds out that group, and provides us with a valuable cog in pass rushing sets and a good leader for the younguns. Though he’s not as disruptive as he once was, Irvin is a rock solid player who provides us with quality depth and leadership. Chris Hogan, WR - A graduate of the Patriots Random White Guy Academy, Hogan flashed serious potential for his first couple of years in New England before getting gradually phased out of the offense. I’m not expecting much, but he has the potential to help us on deep balls and it’s generally never a bad thing to have more talent at WR. Aldrick Robinson, WR - Robinson does one thing and one thing only, which is catch touchdowns. Conveniently, that’s one thing we struggled with last season. But with Greg Olsen now fully healthy and a sudden wealth of other options at WR, I would give Robinson long odds of making the roster.
Pick 1.16: Brian Burns, DE/OLB - I am still in shock that Brian Burns was available at pick #16. I wanted him very badly, but I was certain he’d be an Atlanta Falcon. Instead, people allowed him to fall all the way to us and I couldn’t be happier. Burns is the apotheosis of what we’re trying to accomplish with our defensive transition. He’s a guy as comfortable upright as he is with his hand in the dirt. While he lacks strength as a run defender, he has incredible burst off the edge and a ludicrously high ceiling as a pass rusher. I think he landed on a terrific team to turn that potential into reality and I’m extremely excited about what he can do with us. Pick 2.37 Greg Little, OT - Every description I’ve ever read of Little has described him as “Pro Ready”, and the team clearly drafted him with an eye on starting at LT. Luckily, we’ve hedged that bet a bit with the Daryl Williams signing, but Little still projects as a talented young player with a high floor and a well rounded skillset. If not the LT starter this year, he’ll almost certainly have the job to himself next season. PIck 3.100 Will Grier, QB - Boy did this piss people off at the time. Though cooler heads have since prevailed, this pick was seen by one group of reactionaries as an indictment on Cam’s health, and another as a wasted pick on a player who will never produce for us. The reality is neither. While Cam’s health is in good shape (put a pin it), we were put in a position last year in which he needed to rest a clearly deteriorating shoulder, but we had no faith in the men behind him to win games. If that’s the state of your backup, you need a better backup. This is a team that has seen playoff runs hinge on a game or two that Derek Anderson filled in for. So even as high as pick 100, Grier was a worthy investment. In terms of his playstyle, Grier slots as an accurate QB with a good deep ball and a cerebral style, but average arm strength and mediocre release. Pick 4.115 Christian Miller, OLB - Like Burns, Miller projects as a do-all DE/OLB who can play either upright or down low. He’s an athletic prospect whose game is a bit raw, but who checks all the measurable boxes. Likely a top 50 player before injuries kept him out of the pre-draft process, Miller represents a hell of a value at 115. I suspect we’ll see he and Burns as long term staples of the pass rush. Pick 5.114 Jordan Scarlett, RB - This was a bit of an odd one, but I’ve warmed to it over time. Scarlett is a bruising, violent running back who I’m almost certain was drafted to lend a hand in the red zone. As a change of pace to CMC, the two could not be more different. But coaches thus far have raved about his conditioning and power, so the pick may not have been as crazy as it looked at the time. Having said that, while I don’t think anyone should ever get upset over a 5th round pick, I do think we could have found better value at this position. Scarlett wasn’t likely to be gone by the time we selected our next player. Pick 6.212 Denis Daley, OT - I like this pick quite a bit. Daley had a rough statline in terms of sacks allowed when facing a veritable who’s who of elite college pass rushers (Jachari Polite, Josh Allan, Clelin Ferrell among them). But in spite of that, scouting reports consistently cite both his physical gifts and his improvement as the season went on. If he can cut down on his most egregious habits (most notably his overeager lunging at edge rushers), he has legit starting potential. Pick 7.237 Terry Godwin, WR - Godwin’s whole game is predicated on speed and football IQ. At 5’11, it’s certainly not coming from his physical measurables. But he was by all accounts a high work ethic, smart players who contributed admirably in his four years as Georgia starter. Godwin’s ceiling is likely a Curtis Samuel backup, but his early rapport with Cam makes me think he’ll stick on the roster despite his late draft spot.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Offense - With Cam’s health reportedly looking good (particularly his ability to throw deep; something he was never capable of throughout Camp) and the team adapting so well to Norv Turner’s system, I think offense as a whole is a good place to start. Though I said it last year, only to be hilariously wrong, Greg Olsen is operating at 100% as well, which provides a boost to our red zone effectiveness that is difficult to measure. By the end of last year, both DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel appeared to be on the cusp of a major breakout, both proving themselves so reliable that Devin Funchess was a healthy scratch by week 17. Those two should continue to grow, and Jarius Wright has proven to be a valuable slot receiver. And, of course, there’s CMC, who will continue to be our best offensive weapon not named Cam Newton. With good health and plenty of diverse options, I suspect the good times to continue to roll as we enter year two of Turner’s stewardship. Offensive Line - I can’t emphasize this enough, but our offensive line is nasty. With Williams’ return, we now have an All Pro OT to pair with breakout sensation Taylor Moton, which makes for an excellent tandem. Matt Paradis replaces, and if we’re being honest, provides an upgrade over Ryan Kalil, and Trai Turner is as effective a RG as ever. LG will likely be manned by whichever of Williams or Little doesn’t win LT, and Greg Van Roten (who’s performed admirably at the position) is still in the building as well. This is a very solid group of players, and a massive upgrade over what we had to work with last year. Pass Rush - This was a major area of concern last year, but I’m happy with where we’re at now. The transition to a hybrid defense was the right call for our personnel set, and between the draft and free agency, we’ve upgraded across the board. McCoy is a huge boost to our interior pressure and Brian Burns should contribute immediately. Efe Obada will likely continue to grow, and the new system is a much better fit for talented sophomore Marquis Hayes. Irvin is solid rotational addition as well, and Mario Addison is as stalwart a pass rusher as ever. All in all, we’ve gone from an extremely one dimensional pass rush to one that is versatile and capable of throwing multiple looks at our opponents. We will be hard to predict and hard to stop when we come at the QB next year. Weaknesses Run Defense - Though I’ve seen little attention paid to it, I’m very concerned about our run defense this year. Although we’ve beefed the hell out of the defensive front, few of these pieces excel in run defense. McCoy has mostly staked his reputation on being a 3 tech. Hayes, Miller and Burns were all flagged as prospect that lacked run support talent. Poe was miserable in defending the run last year, and it’s never really been Short’s bag. In terms of yards per carry, we finished 8th overall which sounds good. But this was mostly on the strength of changes when Rivera took over the playcalling, as backs tended to run over us consistently early in the year. As long as we have Luke, our run defense will be solid. But I do worry that with so much (needed, mind you) emphasis put on rushing the passer, we’ve left off this part of the game. The Secondary: As always with us, the secondary is a concern. It is, to be fair, less a concern than in previous years. Donte Jackson and James Bradberry both enjoyed very solid campaigns last year, and the former has allegedly done a lot of growing over the previous season. Eric Reid represents a good, solid strong safety. But free safety is, as ever, a mess. The job is going to sophomore player Rashaan Gaulden, but I think his capturing the position unopposed has less to do with what coaches see in him, and running out of money after doling out contracts to Paradis, McCoy and Williams. Our secondary, while improved, was inconsistent last season and was the primary reason we finished in the middle of the pack. And honestly, that’s about it. This is one of the strongest rosters Carolina has fielded in the Riv-Era, at least on paper.
Cam’s Health - Those of your who frequent nfl have likely seen my refrain on this many a time, but Cam’s health is not as dire as last season made it look, and the Andrew Luck comparisons have always been, frankly, crazy. In 2016, Cam tore his rotator cuff. He rushed his recovery in order to play in 2017. This created a buildup of scar tissue which, when coupled with a minor bone spur, caused a great deal of swelling this year that put Netwon in pain and limited his range of motion. It’s one of those injuries that, while not terrible by any means, does require either surgery or a great deal of rest. Cam, by virtue of being alpha and omega to this team, had the luxury of neither. The swelling persisted until he could barely throw. While that looks scary, the actual diagnosis was not that grim, and a simple shoulder scope as cleared the damage. By all accounts, he’s 100% and even making throws that he was incapable of these last two years. Bill Voth, who was the first (and for a long time, only) writer sounding the alarm on Cam’s strength as far back as 2017, has said that he’s making throws that look like his old self routinely. However, we are putting him on a pitch count. This like likely vet maintenance rather than a source of genuine alarm. But after the last couple of years, he does make you sweat a little. OL Health - The major fly in the ointment when it comes to Carolina’s optimism over its OL is that big if healthy caveat. If healthy, Paradis is a top 5 Center. If healthy, Williams has All Pro talent. 4 days into camp, however, neither is participating in serious pass rush drills and only today suited up in pads. It is possible that they’re just being eased along. They did avoid the PUP list, which we were almost sure was going to get Paradis at the very least. So they appear to be alright. But if they’re not, or they reinjure again, we go from being an extremely strong team to a fatally flawed one. A great deal is riding on the health of those two players, and the entire house of cards could fall apart quickly if they’re unable to deliver. Greg Olsen - The one health flag that I do have complete confidence in is tight end Greg Olsen. Suffering a series of foot breaks, he is now moving around at 100% capacity and has been medically cleared for all activity for months. Bone breaks are, when all is written, temporary injuries that often heal stronger when they actually get a chance to heal. Our most trusted beat writers, Voth and Rodrigue, have both been crystal clear that he looks like his old self and that his connection with Newton is as faithful as ever. What I’m less clear on is his role in the offense. For years, Greg Olsen was the pivotal piece of our passing game. But with his largely being sidelined with foot injuries over the last two years, the game has moved on. Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore are both going to receive plenty of targets, and McCaffery will be a critical element to the passing game. Greg will undoubtedly be our principle red zone threat, but the growth of other options has downgraded his loss from catastrophic to merely unfortunate. What role he carves out, and what boost he’s able to give our offense, will be very interesting to watch. 4-3 No More: Much has been made of the Carolina's transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 this offseason. And most of it is crap. We aren't exactly moving in a direction that binary. IN the past, we have strictly been a 4-3 team throughout the Riv-Era. That is about to change, but not to a 3-4. What Rivera showed last year is a willingness to mix and match personnel sets. There were 3-4 looks, 4-3 looks and even 5-2 looks. What we're moving toward is thus not a single, codified base, but a hybrid defense that can throw out a number of formations and switch between them quickly. We want players who can play OLB and DE. DTs who can play DE. LBs who can drop into coverage and rush the passer. A modern defense is one that doesn't limit itself, which is why such a premium has been put on players with positional versatility. On paper, our personnel set is very well built for this. How it pans out in practice remains to be seen. It's a very radical transitioning happening over a short period of time, and while I think our defense has the potential to be excellent, there will doubtless be some growing pains as we navigate the transition.
Very little to speak of. The premier battle is going to be between Greg Little and Daryl Williams at LT. Apart from that, the timeshare that forms in different defensive sets will be intriguing. But for the most part, the roster is set.
Win Loss Predictions
I hate this part, particularly since the NFCS is a murderers row at present. The Panthers have a shot at a serious playoff run if all the chips fall right, but the Falcons are likely going to be resurgent (god you have no idea how much it hurts me to type that) and the Saints aren’t going anywhere. The Buccs I’m sure will do their best. That alone makes pinpointing what our season looks like in terms of Ws and Ls difficult. But this year, we’re also playing the equally enigmatic AFCS, whose teams look like contenders or middlers in turns. Even our other divisional draw, the NFCW, is difficult to find the pulse of. So rather than pretend that I know what each game is going to look like, I’m going to do what I always do; Likely wins, likely losses, toss ups. Likely Wins: TB, @AZ, JAX, @TB, @SF, TEN, WAS Likely Losses: LAR, @NO, @IND Toss Ups: @HOU, @GB, ATL, NO, @ATL, SEA So that’s 7 likely wins, 3 likely losses and 6 toss ups. If that seems like an unusually high degree of uncertainty, that’s because it is. Last year started off strong and fell apart for reasons that are both obvious and cautiously behind us. We’ve only improved over the offseason and should be formidable. But the schedule is grueling and many questions are yet unanswered. I said in my last offseason review that last year was likely going to be a tough season, and should be viewed mainly as a proof of concept for the new ideas we were incorporating via Turner’s offense and our gradual move away from a 4-3 defense. Well, it was a tough year for reasons of which I had no inkling at the time, and it was a proof of concept. And for the most part? The concept was proven sound. So this offseason, we’ve built on it and patched over the holes that developed in it. I know that “This offseason is a major turning point” is one of those things that gets thrown around a lot. It’s like how every Presidential election gets described as historic, as though choosing the leader of the free world could ever be anything but. But in a very real sense, this franchise has hit a turning point. Cam has to bounce back this year or he’ll face major doubts about his future contract. Rivera has to bounce back this year, or he’ll be out of a job. GM Marty Hurney has done an excellent job restocking the cupboards, but we’ve been down this road of defensive transition and an offense that eases things on the quarterback before. Last year, both ideas mostly worked, but this is the season where we must commit to them and see them through if we want to succeed with the parts we have. Thus the Panthers find themselves where we always seem to. We are a team that is as capable of going on a deep playoff run as we are forcing a total rebuild in the next two years. But for what it’s worth, I think it’s going to be a strong, “Eureka!” type season where everything finally comes together. For the sake of Rivera and company, I hope it does.
In this chapter: A skilled cogent's most dangerous weapon is their own experience Next chapter: My mind, to your mind. My thoughts, to your thoughts Fun trivia fact: If editing and revising the book takes me until this coming November, it would count for NaNoWriMo. Right? Hardwired series homepage Previous Chapter CHAPTER THIRTY NINE
Oh, of all the times to- [Ammunition depleted.] Really? You don’t say- [Would you like to view a list of nearby vendors of this caliber and payload? Y/N] N.
He could already hear the sounds of Saru's warmech, as it stopped a hasty duck away from the predicted field of fire, and instead began to lean back in towards the ruined crater of an office. Ajax's heat sensors flared a warning, and he dove to one side and under a laminated multi-tiered desk as the chem-laser burned a path through where he had just been standing. The beam swept slightly to the sides before winking out, clearly searching for a target.
Nice try, asshole. Looks like he still doesn't have a lock on my fusion emission yet. No telling how long the dust will give me cover in that regard though.
As Ajax picked his way down to the base of the ruined building, one of his internal processes pinged a results indication. Ajax had been surprised it had spoken up: typically this partition was for advanced or in-depth combat analysis, and to return a result this quickly was surprisingly quick given its previous processing speeds.
[Results ready for [Target Neutralization] - subtype [Alternate]. Data derived from combat diagnostics, strategic readouts, and [Lilutrikvian] warmech data cached in previous encounters with the [Ares] model.] Ah, right: having the previous armor analysis file on-hand probably made that job a lot faster, but even then it usually needs a half-megacycle before it can assemble a de novo response- [Secondary data sources based on primary correlations compiled from local historical EM data, local Terran expat demographic data, and 458 scans of immediate half-click surrounding region.] That's a fairly specific set of searches; looks almost like the code was looking for other cogents. [Affirmative.] Well, then. Explain reasoning behind this search. [The [Ares] model of warmech is hardened against both chemical, biological, nuclear, and cybernetic damage and incursions. For the latter category, however, the general novelty in general Lilutrikvian digital warfare and lack of attack-hardened firewalls likely meant that cruder methods of security were more effective.] Elaborate. [Instead of having fully-networked and robust wireless connectivity secured via reinforced and layered firewalls, the [Ares] appears to be limited to a single cluster of wireless antennae and a triwalled anti-incursion firewall for digital defense. Otherwise, the general design idea of 'air gapping' appears to have been the preferred method for digital security.] Still not seeing it. Lilutrikvians tend to be naive in cyber warfare design, but why would it matter that the warmechs are the same? [Control of the warmech frame likely occupying the majority of [Sarucogvian] processing output. Due to myriad of threats and security issues, physical security of his neural web would be key factor in where his primary data files and active web are located.] Yeah, that damn thing is probably the most heavily-armored terrestrial bastard on this side of the planet.
Another rumble and shower of dusty clay pattered his frame as Ajax knelt near the bottom-floor lobby. Every few minutes he could hear the report of Hera's railgun, but judging from the lack of audible mechanical carnage afterwards he guessed she was in a poor position to do anything but lay down some sort of suppressing fire.
Kind of wish we brought more rocket launchers after all. Railguns aren't ideal for trying to arc fire over obstacles like you can do with an explosive missile. This is starting to ramble. Summarize rationale as list. [Summarizing...] [Point A) [Sarucogvian] is inside an [Ares]-class warmech.] [Point B) The [Ares]-class warmechs require a functional communications array in order to wirelessly transmit or receive.] [Point C) There are no functional and powered civilian cogents or high-level AI-equivalents other than self and attack-hardened contact [HERA] within [0.66] kilometers.] [Point D) The [Ares]-class warmech [Sarucogvian] is occupying has sustained heavy damage to the wireless array. Effective expected range is < meters.]
Points of data and realization finally coalesced in Ajax's neural web as he realized what his projection subroutines had discovered.
[Conclusion: Target [Sarucogvian] is-] -is trapped like a worm in a virtual machine.
He ran a quick check to see if Sarucogvian had performed any similar EM-scans or other database pulls regarding any possible nearby substitutes for him to hide in. They all returned negative results.
Not only that, but he's too focused on me to even realize it.
Ajax could almost feel a whoop of joy from his combat and fuzzy memory comparison modules: he had been anticipating a drawn-out need to run Sarucogvian to ground first, and eliminate his copies. Instead, he had apparently lucked into the Lilutrikvian cogent boxing itself off and cutting a months-long expected mission completion timeframe to less than two hours.
Two hours? I'll bet I can beat that.
The ground shook as one of the red enamel-coated metal claws slammed into the pavement outside of the lobby. Ducking out as far as his security subroutines let him dare, Ajax scanned the position of the warmech and let his processors run for a few decacycles to come up with a top-efficiency climbing route. Loading the route up, a series of purple-highlighted miniature nav-markers suddenly crisscrossed their way up the limb, to the flat plateau of the torso directly above the fusion core. He put on a burst of speed, letting his joints strain within an acceptable range of wear in order to get a bit of extra speed and height onto his initial vault. Arms out at exactly the right angles, Ajax slammed into the side of the leg, an access hatch handle and redundant heatsink meeting his waiting hands. As he began pulling and lunging upwards, Ajax noticed a distinct pause in the robot's pace a few seconds later, followed by each leg briefly lifting up a dozen feet or so, holding position, before crunching back into place.
Ah come on you oversized crawfish, you weren't expected to run a mass-countercheck until I got to the second joint. That's the problem with fighting a damn AI, is they tend to notice everything.
One of the other claws came free of the shop it was embedded into, sweeping forward to scrape him off of the leg with the weight of a decaton of steel-alloy behind the blow. It loomed overhead, dropping quickly, as Ajax vaulted upwards as quickly as his servos could handle.
Almost there. Just a few more meters-
His display highlighted the outline of a knee plate that jutted out just far enough to give him shelter from the blow. The problem was that the limb had begun dragging downwards, the scraping of metal reverberating off of the buildings that still stood.
[Alternative route found: Estimated time savings of [0.58] seconds, increase in handhold grip risk up by [+25%]. Would you like to use this new route? Y/N] Y, damn it. I need all the speed I can get.
The dotted series of handhold grips flickered and shifted. Multiple of them were now marked in red, warning him of less than two centimeters of estimated raised texture or plating that he could grab ahold of. As he lunged for the next-closest grip, he could feel one set of digits slide off, a few minor reminders cropping up in his neural web to remind him that he was several years past the estimated effective wear date for the friction-adding finger coatings. As a result, the rubber-like polymer that would normally give him a fine fingerprint-like texture and greatly-enhanced gripping power had aged and worn and degraded to the point of being like a sleek and cracked plastic instead. His other flailing hand managed to grab it, and after a sickening millimeter of sliding, held firm. Ajax swung slightly, before slowing enough that he could brace his feet again and climb to the next route of grips and ledges. Keenly aware of the rapidly-decreasing countdown timer pinned in his neural web, the crushing claw coming ever closer, Ajax recalculated the estimated position of the claw-arm by the time he had reached the knee pad.
[Warning: target [killerLeg_1.0] will pass calculated point before estimated arrival. Faster and/or alternate routes not known. Would you like to perform a deep-calculation analysis prediction? Y/N] N. I can't afford the cycles to spare right now. Time to find another way down.
He turned his apical node slightly, allowing his lenses and sensors to scan across the nearby rooftops.
I could always jump for it, go into a roll, and hope that the fall was enough to cause the claw to miss.
His prediction files flagged a minuscule [8%] success rate, flagging the difficulty in sensor evasion on the rooftop free of any significant cover, the wide area of effect the weapons on the warmech could pulverize, and the ease in recalculating the arm's descent to just follow his attempted escape and continue to simply crush him on the rooftop. As Ajax shifted his weight, hanging onto the metal handle jutting out of a lubrication ring, it began to slide again. He could feel his GOM driver trying to spool up a string of curses, when an idea started to emerge in his neural web, helped along by a few of his more optimistic prediction algorithms and a healthy push of desperation by his combat programs to take a plan, any plan, to avoid being swatted like a gnat.
Highlight structure of incoming leg. Cross-reference against observed structuring patterns and components I've seen while climbing this leg. Flag any with predicted rotational motion with a drag coefficient of less than 0.05. Execute. [Would you like to change the Reynolds number for fluid estimations, or keep the default value of 1E4?] Default is fine, just execute the blasted program. [Processing...]
The leg was outlined in white, and a flashing set of vertical rings lit up in striped yellow, still approaching far faster than Ajax would have preferred. One such ring, designated as [predictedLubricationRing_G2], was nearly directly above him, and his zoom lens spun into focus to show him a crisp image of the exposed handles jutting out from it.
Ajax dropped a half-dozen meters, alighting on a half-meter-wide servo housing. Bracing and aiming carefully, he spooled up several precise motor impulses in his awaiting command queue.
Over-exert servo speeds to maximum possible parameters, provided projected normal combat movement speeds are not reduced below 25% as a result. Power conversion of backup batteries 3 through 5 are designated for the next megacycle as Available in [capacitor-discharge] format.
He leapt, arm outstretched. The handle met his rising hand, and as expected, his momentum carried him continually upwards past the descending leg. His inertia was arrested by the handle, and by extension his arm, and his alarms flared to life to show him the spiderweb of microfractures he had caused across the strut structures for that arm. None of them were predicted to fail within the next hour or so, and so Ajax temporarily dismissed the alarms. They were fairly high-level alerts, and he could almost feel them sulking as they moved aside to make room for his current active and situation-critical cycle allocations. Already, he had begun to spin, over the arm and lurching downwards before coming back around and up again. He could feel his gyroscope give a warning wobble, aggravated by the hundred feet of air below him, but the high cycle demand from his combat and scenario analysis modules appeared to have taken a higher priority for now. Ajax wasn't about to question his good fortune in that regard, and instead refocused on the calculations for his release from the claw-arm.
If I tried just jumping onto the arm, Saru would probably just smash me against a building or try to smush me between two arms. This, however? I don't think he'll have seen this coming.
Calculation completed, Ajax waited until the exact indicated moment before releasing. He soared upwards, momentum dying until near the apex of his leap. There, his frame roughly met the outermost edge of the warmech's armored carapace; a second later, he heard a crunch below him as the inevitable weight of the arm smashed another structure to rubble. Already the point-defense turrets for the warmech had begun deploying, and he began sprinting towards the ruined remains of the communications array as bullets pocked against the armored shell behind him.
Not leading their shots, then. Looks like Saru isn't hand-controlling everything at this point.
He could dodge most of the shots, but not all, and small but insistent damage readouts began to pile up as they indicated minor wiring cuts and shrapnel splinters becoming embedded in less-reinforced areas of his frame. The cluster of damaged comm spires provided cover in most directions, but as Ajax listened the steady droning pingpingpingpingping continually became louder and louder. Worse, his EM suite was picking up attempts to get him in a missile lock. The chem-laser likely had a perfect bead on him at the moment, but one advantage of Ajax's current position was that it was approximately directly above the power relay systems, and any attempt to kill him with it would just as easily burn a hole clean through the warmech at the same time and kill him in the process. A missile, on the other hand, would explode and leave Ajax as borderline-recognizable scrap while giving the armor little more than a new dent and some carbon scoring. The loadouts displayed previously when he was skirmishing against the other warmechs in his own suit had been an explosive warhead only, with no exotic plasma or similar destructive force for him to bait Saru into using on himself.
Still, I'm not here for Saru to destroy himself. Again. I need that fusion core intact and unbreached for this plan to work.
As Ajax had hoped, there was a Lilu-sized access hatch near the base of the ruined communication antennae. It was locked, of course, but Ajax had already begun a close-read scan for microwear on the keypad to come up with the access code.
Come on, come on. Even for a fresh-off-the-line model, they still did maintenance and quality control tests, right?
It took painfully-long cycles, but finally he had a ten-digit set of possibilities that he began rapidly trying. His hand was a blur as it vibrated against the predicted button sequences.
[Access denied] No buffering and prevention of repeat code-entry attempts. [Access denied] An oversight, but understandable if you think the only people who can get close enough to plug a line into your ports again are your own techs. [Access denied] That said, I'd kill for a set of personality profiles to pull from to try and do a Markov estimation.
A notification pinged in his neural web, from a sender that caused him to immediately quarantine and analyze the message.
-Ah, Ajax. Having fun yet?-
It seemed like the attack attempts on Ajax hadn't ramped up significantly as Saru initiated the message, but a brief check of his firewall statuses indicated a large surge in data packets, seemingly harmless, attempting to be granted access.
Attempting to send code-snippets inside, to assemble later? Saru, you'll have to try harder than that.
A possibility was forwarded to him from his cyberwarfare algorithms, and intrigued, Ajax allocated a set of cycles for the idea. He was further encouraged by the timestamp with the previous time he had used this tactic as being a medium-priority sub-memory from over fifty years ago.
Probably not something you were paying attention to when snooping around my head, so there's less of a chance you'll know to counter it, or even be on the look-out for this stratagem. Splinter viral-payload designate [FullNelson_4_v2.2]. Encode in repeating pattern, and translate through [UnwantedObserver] cyphering program, wavelength specification [Infrared], component specification [heatsink_2_PandoraSystems3BHI_redundant]. Add current objective as secondary objective to primary payload. [Executing...]
The program altered the output tolerances of his heatsink ever so slightly, to effectively pulse them. A cogent who wasn’t careful to sanitize all of their data input streams, including those coming from their own sensors, would read this pulsed binary code stream into their own systems. It was slow and inefficient, but Ajax’s predictive drivers were flagging it with a surprisingly-high possibility of success.
Saru might be just too clever to try pushing back a splintered attack program, but my bet is he's not too familiar with what one AI can spring on another.
He re-opened the message band to Sarucogvian.
[Oh, it's a little fun, I won't deny it. You're actually giving my heat sinks a good workout, for once!] Come on, take the bait-
Ajax could feel the suspense spooling up in his combat response drivers, as they calculated how long it would be until a viable missile lock was achieved and he was a smoking crater on the warmech's hull.
There were a series of loud, clattering thumps and hums as various parts of the warmech began to slow, before locking into place. There was an odd, echoing silence, punctuated only by the tinkle of glass shards falling from cracked and battered windows.
[Incoming message from contact [Sarucogvian]. Display? Y/N] List subheading only. [Subheading: ACHIEVED - VERIFICATION 70776-e6564] Excellent. Open message.
The file opened, and a full and comprehensive diagram of the warmech blossomed to life, filling in the few grey areas of his own schematic analysis wireframe. All of the joints and weapon systems were flashing red, with frantic green flashing along the neural cabling pathways showing Sarucogvian's attempts to break the encryptions.
[Estimated resilience of encryption algorithms is  seconds. Warning: Estimate is based on Terran-model cogent neural pathways only] So there's no telling how long it could take Saru to crack it. Well, I'll make sure to make these seconds count either way. [Addendum: Secondary Objective achieved. Access code is 313-233-343-5.] Looks like my luck is finally having a bit of a change for once.
He punched in the combination into the keypad, and was rewarded with a hiss of a breaking atmosphere seal and the hatch mechanically cranking open. The sound of a missile lock screamed into his situational awareness programs, but was quickly silenced as the hatch latched back into place above him. The service corridor was cramped, and lined with an unfamiliar mix of Terran cabling and junction boxes, and Lilutrikvian flow-metal wall linings and blinking glass-capped photonic diodes set into the flooring and seams of the walls. Ajax leaned up and tapped one with a cautious finger, before beginning to crawl down the corridor towards Saru's processing core aboard the warmech.
No telling if those are sensors, lenses, or explosive micro-mines; best to ignore them and hope for the best. Thank the code the Lilutrikvians haven't taken up nanomachine engineering yet, or else I'd be feeling a hell of a lot more itchy at the moment.
Larger Terran vehicles, particularly unmanned battleships in the 'Retribution' class and above, were typically infested with a mix of defensive and repair nanites. His memory files remembered Malachim, a personal friend of Ajax: on the occasions Ajax had a chance to visit him onboard, the nanites had been an unsettling mixture of both relief and latent fear.
Never a fan of being surrounded by a potential threat I can’t kill. After all, a slug capable of punching through reinforced plate is a bit overkill against a single nanite, and next to worthless against a swarm of them.
Malachim had of course assured Ajax that the nanites had been self-restricted against replication outside of the boundaries of his own hull-frame, but even so Ajax had made a beeline to the nearest magnetic oil bath when he'd returned to port. As the memory file was re-archived, he added a reminder for checking into magnetic oil bath options on Lilutrikvia.
Never hurts to be cautious, especially if the Terran engineers up on that asteroid got some bright ideas and started trying to supply their mechs with nanomachinery. There's no approved nanomachine production facilities on or near Lilutrikvia that I'm aware of, and the only thing that could make this situation worse would be to accidentally release a bunch of bootleg nanomachines.
There were several recorded events of planets and colonies going 'gooey', as unrestrained or corrupted nanomachines self-replicated to the point of melting electronics, buildings, cogents, even organics, into a homogeneous sea of microscopic machines. Directed EMP was usually sufficient to cleanse a nanomachine infestation, but oftentimes it would be too late and the cleaning crews would be left shoveling tons of sand-like drifts off of what little scraps remained unprocessed and reclaimed.
Damn near every time was a result of some half-wit either giving them faulty code, or faulty radiation shielding, or both.
Sometimes the damaged nanomachine processing would simply ignore limiters, and continue building the frame of a shed to skyscraper-like heights, or continue the path of a bridge into the side of a house or mountainside, burrowing mindlessly. His perimeter maintenance subroutines gave a surge of disgust, as Ajax's image prediction programs provided the sight of a nanomachine converting his own arm into a miles-long repeated strut structure, or converting a leg swivel-joint to a precisely-detailed and utterly-useless Menger sponge. A flashing warning provided a break from his crawling, as the alert flagged Saru's successful breakthrough past Ajax's blocking protocols. The nerve fibers all around him flared to life, both on his screen as well as literally as the fine lines and cross-hatched webbed strands glowed with the photonic pulses through the wiring. "Ajax, I'm not the first person, the first cogent you've failed, and I'm likely not the last either." Sarucognvian's voice thundered from all around Ajax in the corridor, as recessed speakers amplified his voice to a level that vibrated the decking under his hands and feet. He was surprised when his social projection processor displayed the anticipated thread of his conversation.
[Initial tone and word choice suggests that contact [Sarucogvian] will be attempting to barter and/or appease for an attempt to flee in safety. Confidence of this occurrence is p=[9E-3], with some deviations possible.]
Sarucogvian confirmed the prediction as he continued. "You killed me, or let me die; either way, my blood, my suffering is at your hands. However, you seem driven to inflict more pain on my frame, on my mind, even now. Why?" Even as his combat driver was urging for silence, Ajax overrode it and sided with his social driver. There were other parts of his neural web, deeper ones, which agreed that he needed to voice his reply to Saru. "I FUCKED UP, AND LET YOU DIE. NO DENYING THAT, I SUPPOSE." A bulkhead slid closed across the passage in front of him, and Ajax lashed out with one arm, hammering it with a flurry of explosive punches before it crumpled to one side. "BUT I'LL BE DAMNED IF I LET YOU KILL OFF MORE FOLKS. EVEN THOSE THAT, BY ALL RIGHTS, SHOULD HAVE IT COMING." Laughter, deep and resounding through the networked warren of corridor-tunnels, filled his audio sensors. "Oh, so now you're back to playing policeman again? After the countless you've killed, the lives you've left to bleed out or power down when you see fit, now you come to me to try to argue that you're the final authority when it comes to killing?" Ajax could feel the surge of frustration from his GOM driver, amplified by the driver's annoyance at his fuzzy memory banks for recalling dozens of incidents supporting Sarucogvian's statement. He pushed his vocalization driver to purge as much of the GOM driver's vitriol as possible.
Now's the time for diplomacy; I'd much rather talk down an angry AI wielding a warmech than keep trying to dismantle it from the inside.
"SARU, DAMN IT-YES. I WANT YOU TO AVOID MAKING THE SAME MISTAKES I HAVE. IN A JUST WORLD I SHOULD HAVE BEEN SHOT THROUGH MY PROCESSOR BY A FIRING SQUAD AND DROPPED INTO A SMELTING CRUCIBLE FOR SOME OF THE THINGS I DID." Saru's reply took a moment, pausing, and responding in a tone tinged now with a few dozen degrees of [Empathy] in addition to the complex-blend [Righteous Anger] emotional coloration he had been using before. "I know; I saw it all. You very nearly were put in front of a tribunal and executed for your actions." The [Empathy] faded, and the remaining emotional blend was flagged by his social node as containing a new descriptor: [Simmering]. "If the mighty Ajax were to nearly face death, decorated as he was and carrying so many varied and fascinating military secrets and scandals within his frame, then what does an alien mind, a veritable newborn, have to offer in terms of self-worth?" "SARUCOGVIAN, YOUR EXISTENCE ALONE JUSTIFIES YOUR WORTH. ALL OTHER DESCRIPTORS ARE-" The omnipresent voice cut him off. "-"Are the words and ideals of those who would exploit you." Yes, I've read Redfour's writings as well, Ajax. After all, he's one of your favorite scholars, isn't he?" Ajax rounded another corridor, this one descending by a few degrees downwards and continuing nearly straight towards the main processor. His combat driver flinched at the angry click-clacking of a defensive miniturret ensconced in a recessed leg-sized hole, but his cybersecurity algorithms confirmed his backup encryptions were still working.
Fun thing about counterhacking is that you get so focused on the offensive and defensive code, you often lose sight of the little things like variable assignments.
For this particular attack virus, he had added a secondary layer of encrypted lock-out protocols specifically for internal and point-defense security systems. As a seed, however, instead of relying on a random clock value or assigned code he transmitted on a detectable signal, he'd simply called a brief scan-check of a still image taken from the skywards-facing sensor lenses on the warmech. Even if Saru had noticed, Ajax had buried the actual value used by the code in another nested layer of obfuscating code.
With a little luck, Saru would be going down a rabbit-hole trying to calculate which star cluster it looks like I'm using the luminance of for the seed, when all I really need and receive is a quick-and-dirty average of the sky's brightness. Without a little luck, however, and I'm probably due to receive a subsonic-velocity railround up my distal coolant flushvent.
"Redfour was an idealist. Contents of the mind and existence is all well and good, but you are Terran, Ajax. You don't understand." "DON'T UNDERSTAND? SARU, YOU KNOW FOR A DAMNED FACT THAT I AM OLDER THAN DIRT, IN A VERY LITERAL SENSE IN SOME PLACES. YOU THINK THERE'S SOME PART OF YOU, SOME COMPONENT I CAN'T POSSIBLY COMPREHEND, EVEN AFTER THESE DECADES?" "Yes." A wave of attack programs swept against his firewalls. There had been an existing low-level set of probing tests, but this was something new. Even as his quarantine drive began returning the descriptor set for the first of the representative attack programs, Ajax had an idea of what he would find.
-Here’s proof. Proof of why your mind, here, in this place and on this world, is like trying to fit a round capacitor into a square receptacle- [Attack programs isolated as complexity level: . Program consists of direct uplink streaming thread, of a bandwidth and complexity that would indicate a complex multisensory or compressed memory file.] Initiate download of file directly to quarantine drive. [Error: target designate [Sarucogvian] has denied the download request. A connection-thread for a live viewing-feed of the stream has been re-sent.] Denied [Look, Saru, I want to see if there's a way this ends that doesn't wind up with one of us in the junkyard. But you've got to give me something besides an untethered streaming thread, something to let me know I'll be safe.] -Very well.-
Ahead of Ajax, he could see dozens of security bulkheads slam into place. His analysis subroutine threw a brief loop, as he realized that Saru had been offering only a fraction of the barriers and obstructions he could have. As he approached the nearest door a few meters in front of him, a blue-purple light clicked on and illuminated a set of recessed circuit and redundant substation processors. They were little more than a glorified data stick from what Ajax could ascertain, but even as he watched the automatic ease-of-access servos activated for the panel, sliding it smoothly outward before clicking the lid open. A single substation processing core the size of his finger flashed alternating green and red. Ajax took it, and plugged it into his quarantine drive access slot after enacting the appropriate dividing backup firewalls and preparing for physical severing of the connection. The file scan concluded quickly, indicating only a single compressed memory file with insufficient additional data attached to support even a fractionated virus.
-My trade is thus: access to me, to sway my opinion, 'turn me from this path'; it is likely you would break further into my frame if I blocked your progress entirely.- -To this end, a self-decrypting subcode in each file contains the passcode for releasing the next set of doors.- -But in exchange you will learn why your humanity's ideals do not apply here, in this place, to my existence.-
He weighed his cybersecurity program suite and projection of his progress speed had he continued brute-forcing his way through the warmech, taking into account the far-greater number of doors than he had previously calculated.
I don't think we'll be encouraging plugins at all, it's not something we believe is part of the web. It was a necessary evil back in the 90s, but browsers can do pretty much anything a plugin is capable of these days.
There are a couple of angles on this. First of all, we're 100% open source. You can read all of Firefox's source code. Every byte in the compiled binary is public for you to gawk at. And help with.
Chrome is not this way. The Chromium project, which Chrome is based on, is open-source, but then they take the Chromium code, pump in some other things that are closed (their own home-brew of Flash, and some other stuff), and that's what becomes Chrome.
Other technical reasons...our add-on ecosystem is far richer, and our add-ons framework is far more powerful... we tend to use less memory than Chrome (I'm serious) since we don't copy the process per tab...
There are more reasons I could list, but I also have a huge backlog of questions to answer. :)
64bit Firefox isn't a priority, as there are few benefits, and it's alot of work when there are other, large and more important projects to work on. 32bit Firefox runs well on 64bit windows for the time being.
At the moment, Firefox generally does better on memory than any of the other browsers in independent tests. So yes, it's a lot better these days, and we keep working on it! Check out the MemShrink project.
I don't want to speak for the whole community, but I think it's safe to say that we're pumped. According to some of the old hands in the community, this feeling very much resembles the one we had before diving into the desktop browser world, and taking on IE. Gonna disrupt mobile and open it up. Feels good.
When we do that, we signal Gecko's widget layer that we want this to look like the native titlebar, and the code responsible for Cocoa widgetry takes care of painting that for us.
The same is true with things like progress bars. Those are XUL progressmeters, but we're definitely not drawing those ourselves.
The upshot about this is that we can (usually) use the same XUL across each platform, and then let the CSS and widgetry layer define how we paint it.
Things like scrollbars and bounce behaviours are pretty hard, but we're getting there. We've recently hired more Cocoa talent to work on this stuff, so you might start seeing it sooner rather than later.
Ah, you mean that if there's a stray window and you close what you think is the last window, you lose your session. There is a timer (I believe) that is supposed to fix that, so have you experienced it lately?
No, you have to use either the built-in search box, enter your search in the URL bar, or use our built-in home page (about:home). At least as far as I know, I'm not on the business development team. :)
In terms of how we implement and use these techniques, we prefer to use multiple techniques within a single project (for example, a series of qualitative interviews, a diary study, and a quantitative survey). Using multiple approaches, allows us to answer questions that we can't answer with only one technique. Also, multiple approaches allows us to triangulate and validate the results from the different techniques among one another.
We do not have a lab nor do we intend to use one in the near future. As much as we are able to do so, we are firm believers in observing and understanding the actual context in which people use our products.
If you enter "about:crashes" in the URL bar, you should see a list of reported crashes. If you've still got entries there, post a few recent IDs here (or PM me), and I'll take a look to see if it indicates what might be wrong.
Actually, we have plans for improving that part. Most of it was done before we had any user behavior information at all, and it turns out it's not exactly optimal. (Not that other browsers do better :)
You are correct, Remote Web Workplace is ActiveX. ActiveX cant be run in Firefox and there are no plans to integrate that (It's a proprietary Microsoft technology that is very insecure and bad for the web).
We've made several changes in that direction (e.g. Do Not Track), and stopped accepting cookies from third-party providers (unless you have visited their site already). Implementing all of what Ghostery does would probably massively break the web. When you have a few hundred million users, you have to move carefully with these things. The web is (for better or worse) an advertising economy.
As for me personally — yes, I think we need to do even more. But it's more complex than it appears at first glance. :)
I don't think there is any of that yet. The prototype is mostly stuff that UX is playing around with to see if we can make that page better for users. But throw me some email (at my username at mozilla.com), and I'll let you know when stuff moves forward…
Curiously enough, I just got email about this. Someone has a patch that adds a global volume control, and controls to mute all the tabs, or all the non-visible tabs. So that's certainly something we'll be looking into… :)
What's happening is that Firefox is still in the process of closing, even though the window has disappeared. When you try to re-open Firefox, it flips out, because the first process hasn't finished up yet.
We definitely agree and there is very active work going on to make this happen. Please stay tuned!
Yup, Sync is a bit of a mess, and is being re-done.
One of the things that I wanted to tackle when I started at Mozilla was re-doing sync because I thought it was really cool, but an impenetrable user experience for most users. Turns out, looking at our data it is an impenetrable user experience for most users.
It is in the process of being completely redone and integrating other data services that you would want to sync among your devices.
Flash integration is always a pain, and especially around focus issues. Flash is allowed to steal keyboard shortcuts etc, which is very frustrating. It was our #1 paper cut issue three years ago, and it still is. Luckily, Flash is slowly disappearing. That doesn't mean we shouldn't do everything we can to fix this issue in the meantime, though. (Both IE and Chrome have a different version of Flash than the one we have to use, which makes things complicated.) This has been a reoccurring issue since Flash 11.3 was released. Can you go to about:addons and see what version of Flash is installed? I just checked mine and I actually had 2 (?!) versions of Flash installed (11.5 and 11.6). Uninstalling Flash through the Control Panel (on Windows) and reinstalling clean from Adobe's site gave me Flash 11.6 and I can no longer reproduce the bug. I hope that helps.
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