Archive for July, 2009

Firefox, Firebug, XULRunner, Thunderbird, WebQA, Mozilla Camp, JavaScript Web Workers, press coverage, and more…

In this issue…

Firefox 3.0.12 released
As part of the Mozilla Corporation’s ongoing security and stability process, Firefox 3.0.12 is now available for Windows, Mac, and Linux users as a free download from Firefox.com. We strongly recommend that all Firefox 3.0.x users upgrade to this latest release. If you already have Firefox 3, you will receive an automated update notification, or you can apply the update manually by selecting “Check for Updates…” from the Help menu. For more information about this update, see the original release announcement.

Firebug 1.4 accessibility features
The recent release of Firebug 1.4 included UI accessibility for many of the Firebug features. This work was done by Hans Hillen of the Paciello Group, with funding from Mozilla. Further funding is being provided so Hans can finish the remaining UI pieces, fix some outstanding issues, and work with the University of Illinois to develop Firebug features that will help developers check their sites and applications for accessibility support. The documentation for these accessibility features is extensive, and Marco Zehe has written about the project on his weblog.

XULRunner releases
Dave Townsend has posted that two new official releases of the XULRunner runtime and SDKs are now available. “XULRunner 1.9.0.12 is a maintenance release for the 1.9.0 branch (the code that matches Firefox 3.0.x). XULRunner 1.9.1 is the first official release of XULRunner on the 1.9.1 branch (which matches the code in Firefox 3.5.x). Unfortunately we’re not quite at the point of shipping XULRunner releases at the same time as Firefox 3.5.x releases, but we should have a 1.9.1.1 release soon.”

Thunderbird 3 beta 3 shipped
“After a lot of hard work by a lot of people, we’ve shipped Thunderbird 3.0 beta 3,” writes Dan Mosedale. This release includes a number of changes including improved tab functionality, a new message pane summary view, Smart Folders, and better Gmail support among other things. Additionally, the team is working hard on the Thunderbird developer documentation, and they would like developers to read through, edit, and add to the wiki pages where needed. For more information about this release, see Dan’s blog post.

Jetpack for Thunderbird
The Thunderbird team has also been working on making it easier to write extensions for Thunderbird 3, part of which is getting the Mozilla Labs Jetpack experiment running under Thunderbird and exposing Thunderbird-specific points. Andrew Sutherland has blogged about their initial successes, and has made code for the modified version of Jetpack available.

Quick survey for add-on developers
The addons.mozilla.org (AMO) team is looking for feedback. “If you’re an add-on developer who hosts an add-on on addons.mozilla.org, please take a moment to fill out our survey on the statistics dashboard we provide. This will help us improve the dashboard and make better decisions about further integrating statistics with the public site. Thanks!”

Making Firefox faster
Jesse Ruderman has blogged about recent work to improve Firefox’s speed and responsiveness. “User experience designers Alex Faaborg and Alexander Limi are looking to broaden the scope of efforts to make Firefox faster. Until recently, most of the effort has involved reducing the computation time needed to launch Firefox or render a web page. Faaborg and Limi argue that we should also look for ways to make computation time matter less.” The Perceived Performance wiki page contains a long list of ideas aimed at reducing the amount of time users spend waiting for Firefox to do things.

The team is looking for help and feedback. “What kinds of slowness do you encounter while using Firefox? Where should we focus performance efforts, whether by reducing computation time or through more clever means? Can you think of new ways to make Firefox faster where it matters?” Please post feedback and comments to Jesse’s blog.

Get involved: WebQA resources
The WebQA team has put together a page of information and resources for people who want to get involved with the Web testing community. Stephen Donner, the page’s author, is looking for feedback — “feel free to make direct edits within parentheses, as I’ll be editing this quite frequently and will incorporate suggested improvements/corrections, etc. I’m encouraged by the recent team momentum, and need your help in growing interest and documentation.”

Self-empowering communities
Clint Talbert has written an interesting post exploring some ideas around growing leaders as a crucial part of growing communities, and about a possible new approach to help those leaders engage new contributors. His idea centers around the concept of “Community Personas” — various pre-defined roles people play within the community. The idea isn’t to shoehorn people into one or another cookie-cutter definition, as we all play different roles at different times, but to provide an analytical tool to help community leaders.

“By creating personas around specific roles for volunteers you can begin to think about what motivates her, what she’s interested in doing for the project, what she expects from her involvement, etc. Once you start answering these questions, you can create a handbook for your community leaders so that they can easily identify contributors in those roles and quickly know exactly what to do to engage them.”

Clint’s full post is available on his weblog, and you can take part in the discussion there.

Mozilla Camp Europe 2009
Mozilla Camp Europe 2009 has been announced and will be taking place in Prague on the weekend of October 3rd and 4th. Patrick Finch is leading the Advocacy track, and has issued a call for papers from anyone who would like to present on related topics, including: promoting Mozilla software; promoting open source, the open web, and open standards; influencing organizations to change; influencing public policy on software; and organizing communities. Proposals are due by Monday 24th of August by email (to patrick@REMOVE-THISmozilla.com).

Fastest Firefox final video
The Fastest Firefox campaign was launched to help spread the word about Firefox 3.5’s performance upgrades and to give the broader Mozilla community a chance to have a little fun by showing off their own speediest talents. Almost 250 videos were submitted, and the marketing team (with help from the folks at Nobox) has put together a compilation of their favourites. You can check out the final video over at the Fastest Firefox page.

Computing with JavaScript Web Workers
John Resig has written an extensive article about JavaScript web workers, a feature in modern web browsers (including Firefox 3.5) that allows you to run JavaScript in parallel on a web page without blocking the user interface. “Normally in order to achieve any sort of computation using JavaScript you would need to break your jobs up into tiny chunks and split their execution apart using timers.”

The new Web Worker system means scripts can be seamlessly loaded and executed in the background, allowing for significant performance gains. “A relatively minor amount of code yielded 2-3x faster computation power. If you’re doing any computation with JavaScript you should definitely opt to use Web Workers if they’re available — the result is both faster and a better experience for the end user.”

Recent press coverage
Melissa Shapiro, Mozilla’s tireless PR lead, has blogged about some of our recent press. First is the Firefox 3.5 launch that received coverage in a large number of major media outlets including USA Today, Fast Company, Seattle Times, MTV, BusinessWeek, and many more. Then last week, John Lilly was a guest on the NBC Bay Area show “Press:Here“, a Sunday morning news roundtable discussion show featuring top tech leaders and reporters. And finally, this past weekend, Mozilla was featured in the New York Times Sunday Business section.

Open Source for America
Tim O’Reilly, at this year’s OSCON, announced the creation of Open Source for America, which Mark Surman describes as, “a loose, non-partisan coalition of organizations that will raise awareness about the huge potential for open source in government.” Mark continues, “Concretely, the idea is to connect people who know and care about open source with people inside the US government, to help them understand open source and to contribute back. It feels like that can only be a good thing.” Mozilla has signed on as a founding member of Open Source for America. See Mark’s post or the press release for more information.

Upcoming events
* Fri, Aug 7 – Online – Testscripting with MozMill 1.2
* Fri, Aug 21 – Online – Fennec 1.0 beta Testday
* Fri, Sep 4 – Online – Firefox 3.5 Testday
* Sept 14-21 – Everywhere! – Mozilla Service Week
* Oct 3-4 – Prague – Mozilla Camp Europe

Developer calendar
For an up-to-date list of the coming week’s Mozilla project meetings and events, please see the Mozilla Community Calendar wiki page. Notes from previous meetings are linked to through the Calendar as well.

About about:mozilla
about:mozilla is by, for and about the Mozilla community, focusing on major news items related to all aspects of the Mozilla Project. The newsletter is written by Deb Richardson and is published every Tuesday morning. If you have any news or announcements you would like to have included in our next issue, please send them to: about-mozilla[at]mozilla.com.

If you would like to get this newsletter by email, just head on over to the about:mozilla newsletter subscription form. Fresh news, every Tuesday, right to your inbox.

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Add-on contributions, Firefox update, Firebug, Jetpack, Foundation, TraceMonkey, and more…

In this issue…

Add-ons contributions pilot
Do you have a favorite add-on that you can’t live without? Do you want to show your appreciation to its author and support future development? Well now you can.

The most recent update to the Addons.mozilla.org (AMO) site includes a new feature called “Contributions”. This pilot project allows developers to request an optional dollar amount for their Firefox Add-on. Contributions are completely voluntary, so no one is required to give money for an add-on — the aim is to help further build and develop the growing add-ons ecosystem by giving users a way to support their favorite add-on developers.

The AMO team is looking for feedback about this new feature from both users and developers, and they’re also working with PayPal to provide a secure and international solution for facilitating these sorts of payments. For more information and a brief FAQ about the new Contributions feature, see the AMO weblog.

Firefox 3.5.1 update
The Firefox team released the first update for Firefox 3.5 last Thursday. This update fixes a number of security and stability issues and all users are encouraged to update as soon as possible. You can apply the update manually by selecting “Check for Updates…” in the Help menu, or accept the automated update when it is offered. For a list of changes and other information, please see the Firefox 3.5.1 release notes.

Firebug 1.4 now available
Firebug 1.4 has been released by the Firebug development team, and it is now available through addons.mozilla.org. Firebug is a Firefox add-on that puts a wealth of web development tools at your fingertips while you browse. You can edit, debug, and monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page. The team has blogged about this release extensively, with posts by Jan Orvarko, Rob Campbell, and John Barton. The team is going to be writing more about the new features in Firebug 1.4 this week, so stay tuned for further updates and posts.

Jetpack 0.4 release
Jetpack is a Mozilla Labs project that is building an experimental framework for lightweight browser extensions. “Aligned with Mozilla’s goal of enabling open video and audio on the Web, we are pleased to announce the release of Jetpack 0.4, which includes experimental support for recording audio directly to Ogg-Vorbis. These new audio recording APIs will allow developers to build Jetpacks that record high-quality audio directly from within the browser, which can then be played back using Firefox 3.5‘s new audio tag support”. Download Jetpack and read the release notes at the Mozilla Labs weblog.

Mozilla Foundation: July update
Mark Surman has posted the Mozilla Foundation update for July. “The last two months have been very outwardly focused — adding new schools to Mozilla Education, making partnerships around open video, gathering other hybrid orgs at our new offices in Mountain View. All of this brought in new ideas and energy to drive our messaging and visioning efforts.” Mark goes on to talk about the highlights and some details around recent program, communications, community, and organizational development work going on at the Foundation.

Billion downloads campaign
In celebration of the upcoming billionth download of Firefox, the Spread Firefox team has started a new Billionth Download campaign, and you can get involved! “Your task is to take a picture of yourself proudly sporting Firefox apparel (t-shirt, hat, etc) or poster. You can go to a famous landmark, your favorite place nearby, or anywhere you think will make for a great photo.” The team has also created some celebration posters that you can download from the site and print for use in your pictures. Deadline for submissions is July 31st!

Building communities with Tyler Bleszinski
John Slater writes, “Following up on last week’s Q+A with Markos Moulitsas, our latest chat about building communities online features sports blogging legend Tyler Bleszinski. After creating the highly influential Athletics Nation site, which became an overnight success when it launched in 2003, he went on to co-found SB Nation, a network of more than 200 popular sports blogs.” John’s has posted his full chat with Tyler on his weblog.

Poetry + Pragmatics: the Weave version
John Lilly recently gave a talk about the poetry and pragmatics of Mozilla, where “the pragmatics of an organization are how you do things; the poetry of an organization is why you do them.” Ragavan Srinivasan, Weave’s project lead, has blogged about the specific poetry and pragmatics of that project. “We want to reclaim the vision of the browser acting as a true user-agent on the web. We want to help broker user data in a secure and private manner. We want to build the foundational, open source building blocks upon which an entire new generation of web applications will be built. We want to enable the poetry so succinctly captured by Mitchell when she says: ‘I am not a number‘.” For more, see Ragavan’s post at the Mozilla Labs weblog.

Help wanted: writing and refining Web testcases
Stephen Donner and the Mozilla Web QA team are looking for help. Stephen recently started to write Litmus testcases for SUMO (support.mozilla.org), and has also created products in Litmus for AMO and Spread Firefox. “I would love your help in creating testcases for any of the above, so please contact us at webqa@mozilla.org if you’re interested in helping out. The plan is to write testcases and build basic functionality tests and run those every release, in addition to verifying a good portion of fixed bugs for each milestone” in order to reduce regressions and increase development speed. If you would like to learn more, see Stephen’s post and the WebQA group’s wiki page.

Design Challenge honorees announced
The Mozilla Labs Summer ’09 Design Challenge has been completed. In cooperation with IxDA and Johnny Holland, the Labs team invited UX-interested people from around the world to design their solution to the question: “Reinventing Tabs in the Browser – How can we create, navigate and manage multiple web sites within the same browser instance?” Participants submitted over 130 concepts (each including a mockup and accompanying video explanation), which were then combed through by a panel of nine experts who selected four “Best in Class” honorees. Additionally, the wider community was invited to vote on their favorites, resulting in the Challenge’s “People’s Choice” award. Find out which concepts were selected in Pascal Finette’s blog post.

An overview of TraceMonkey
David Mandelin, part of Mozilla’s JavaScript team, has written a post for the Firefox Hacks weblog about TraceMonkey, the new Firefox JavaScript engine. “TraceMonkey runs many JavaScript programs 3-4x faster than Firefox 3, speeding up existing web apps and enabling new ones. This article gives a peek under the hood at the major parts of TraceMonkey and how they speed up JS. This will also explain what kinds of programs get the best speedup from TraceMonkey and what kinds of things you can do to get your program to run faster.” Check out the full post over at Firefox Hacks.

HTML5 drag and drop in Firefox 3.5
Firefox 3.5 includes a host of new features of interest to web developers, one of which is drag and drop, one of the most fundamental interactions afforded by graphical user interfaces. Les Orchard has written an extensive and detailed article about the new HTML5 drag and drop feature, how it works, and how to use it (including sample code). “The new first-class drag and drop events in HTML5 and Firefox make supporting this form of UI interaction simple, concise, and powerful in the browser. But beyond the new simplicity of these events, the ability to transfer content between applications opens brand new avenues for web-based applications and collaboration with desktop software in general.”

Upcoming events
* Fri, Jul 24 – Munich – Open Source Meeting
* Fri, Jul 24 – Online – Testing a Mozilla Web Property
* Fri, Aug 7 – Online – Testscripting with MozMill 1.2
* Sept 14-21 – Everywhere! – Mozilla Service Week

Developer calendar
For an up-to-date list of the coming week’s Mozilla project meetings and events, please see the Mozilla Community Calendar wiki page. Notes from previous meetings are linked to through the Calendar as well.

About about:mozilla
about:mozilla is by, for and about the Mozilla community, focusing on major news items related to all aspects of the Mozilla Project. The newsletter is written by Deb Richardson and is published every Tuesday morning. If you have any news or announcements you would like to have included in our next issue, please send them to: about-mozilla[at]mozilla.com.

If you would like to get this newsletter by email, just head on over to the about:mozilla newsletter subscription form. Fresh news, every Tuesday, right to your inbox.

about:mozilla

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