Archive for August, 2010

Sync, Panorama, audio, MDN, DevTools, popcorn, localization, Drumbeat, HSTS, Labs on Github, and more…

In this issue…

Firefox Sync and Panorama in latest beta
The most recent Firefox 4 Beta update includes two brand new features that give users greater control over their Web data and organization. Firefox Sync makes bookmarks, history, awesomebar data, passwords, form data, and open tabs accessible across multiple computers and mobile devices, including the iPhone via Firefox Home. Firefox Panorama (formerly known as Tab Candy) is a new approach to tab management that makes it easy to organize your tabs as you use the Web. “If you juggle many open tabs for work, shopping, music, social sites, vacation planning and more, you can easily group and prioritize those tabs any way you want.” Panorama gives you the ability to quickly pull up an overview of all your open tabs so you can quickly organize, locate and switch between them.

Experiments with audio, conclusion
David Humphrey has been working with an extensive group of web, audio, and Mozilla developers on a project to expose audio data to JavaScript from Firefox’s audio and video elements. This past week, their work became part of the main Firefox codebase and will be available as part of Firefox 4. The project is a brilliant example of what open source makes possible, which David talks about in his final post about the project.

“When we started these experiments, we did so without needing permission. I didn’t have to sign an NDA, go talk to and convince the right people, or get approvals. I just grabbed the source code and started messing around. And I did make a mess, at first. I learned as I went, and we iterated on the API a lot. We weren’t judged for doing it wrong, or for the pace or directions we took. Instead, we heard a lot of ‘this is very cool!’ and ‘have you thought about this?’. We were able to take one of the world’s premier applications (Firefox) and rework it. It’s hard to overemphasize how significant this is. We couldn’t do what we did in very many other contexts. Not one of the people who did this work is an employee of the Mozilla corporation.”

For more, including a video of the talk and demo he presented at the recent Mozilla Summit, check out David’s blog.

New Mozilla Developer Network site
“This week, Mozilla unveiled the newly redesigned Mozilla Developer Network, the latest incarnation of MDC. The website has evolved over the years and we recently decided to change the name from Mozilla Developer Center to the Mozilla Developer Network to better reflect the developer segments that make up our community and provide a better platform for engaging developers in the Mozilla mission and our plans for pushing the open Web forward.” Jay Patel has written extensively about the new MDN site, going over the new homepage, site architecture, plans to grow the community, how to submit your feedback, and the next steps for MDN.

Fennec Alpha for Android and N900
The Alpha release of the next major version of Fennec (the codename for Firefox mobile) is now available for Android and Nokia N900 users. “Fennec Alpha now creates one fluid Web experience between desktop and mobile devices by providing Firefox Sync built-in to the browser. The main focus of this release is to increase performance and responsiveness to user actions. This is being implemented using two major new technologies, ‘Electrolysis’ and ‘Layers’.” Read more about this release on the Mozilla Blog.

Mozilla DevTools coming out of hiding
Mozilla officially has a Developer Tools group again, dedicated to working on tools for both Firefox and the Open Web in general. Kevin Dangoor writes, “Now that we’re getting an idea of what the developer tools in Firefox 4 look like, the devtools team is going to be a lot more public about what we’re doing and invite the community to join in and help us make tools that make the web a better place. Keep an eye on Planet Mozilla or on dev-apps-firefox in the coming weeks to learn more about what we’re up to and where we’re going next.”

Popcorn project’s first public demo
“You may have heard that Brett Gaylor, open source cinema pioneer and director of RIP!: A remix manifesto, has officially joined the Mozilla team to help with Mozilla Drumbeat and the WebMadeMovies project. The WebMadeMovies team recently released their first demo of ‘Popcorn,’ an experimental tool aimed at turning boring old online video into dynamic ‘hypervideo’ that interacts with the rest of the web, pulling data from Google Maps, Twitter and Wikipedia right into the action.” Early reviews and feedback about the demo have been rolling in.

Adding new locales to Firefox 4
Seth Bindernagel, who helps coordinate our incredible localization efforts, writes, “The beta release cycle for Firefox 4 is a perfect time for us to add new locales. This week, we added eight more localizations, all of whom are working toward a completed version so they can be included for the upcoming final release. This new group of volunteers has endured a long wait to be included in this process, so many thanks to them for their patience and sticktoitiveness. Perhaps most noteworthy, we added five new African languages, expanding our presence to new highs on the continent. The entire batch of new locales includes Akan, Breton, Bosnian, South African English, Armenian, Luganda, Northern Sotho, and Songhay.”

Who are our Firefox 4 beta users?
Andres Garcia, one of the interns with the Mozilla Metrics team, has written about a recent study the team did related to the ongoing Firefox 4 beta. The team put together the Firefox 4 Beta Background Survey which was sent out to all Beta users through the Feedback add-on. “In all, over 30,000 people, or roughly 7% of the entire Beta user-base, were kind enough to submit their responses. Analyzing these submissions will not only help us understand the current Beta users, but also reveal which missing user groups we need to acquire to make the Beta sample more representative of the larger, general Firefox population.” Read Andres’ full post to see what the team discovered about our Firefox 4 Beta users.

Drumbeat Festival registration open
Registration for the 2010 Mozilla Drumbeat Festival is now open. “Join teachers, learners and technologists from around the world November 3 – 5 in Barcelona to teach, hack, shape and invent the future of education and the web. Imagine a teeming festival filled with different tents, each with its own unique flavor and focus and you move from tent to tent making up your own experience. The Drumbeat Festival will work just like this — with multiple spaces to teach, make and learn in a variety of different studios, labs, playgrounds and classrooms. Think Makerfaire + Hackfest + TEDtalks + Lollapalooza for open web education!”

HTTP Strict Transport Security
Sid Stamm’s work on ForceTLS, now expanded into the more robust HTTP-Strict-Transport-Security (HSTS) system, has landed in mozilla-central and will be part of Firefox 4. “Though the feature’s core functionality is there, work on HSTS is not completely finished. There are still a few tweaks I’d like to make, mainly providing a decent UI so people can add/remove HSTS state for servers themselves — but none of this is necessary to be specification compliant. As landed, HSTS is the behind-the-scenes implementation that listens to the HTTP String-Transport-Security header and follows those instructions.”

Sid’s post goes on to explain why HSTS is an important step forward for Firefox users’ security. “If Firefox knows your host is an HSTS one, it will automatically establish a secure connection to your server without even trying an insecure one. This way, if I am surfing the ‘net in my favorite cafe and a hacker is playing MITM [“man in the middle”] with paypal.com (intercepting http requests for paypal.com and then forwarding them on to the real site), either I’ll thwart the attacker by getting an encrypted connection to paypal.com immediately, or the attack will be detected by HSTS and the connection won’t work at all.”

Contribute to Labs projects on Github!
“In response to a growing number of requests from the community, we have decided to start mirroring all of the current Mozilla Labs experiments to github! Github is a very popular social coding site, who provide git hosting in addition to several tools to support collaboration, discovery, and visualization of software projects. Our hope is that by hosting projects there we’ll make it easier for more folks to find, follow, and work on Labs experiments.” For more information, see the Mozilla Labs weblog.

Call for privacy policy updates for Firefox 4
Julie Martin and Liz Compton are working on ensuring that our privacy policy is properly updated for Firefox 4, and they need your help. “If there is a feature of Firefox that handles user data, we want to make sure it’s appropriately disclosed to our users in the privacy policy. If you aren’t sure if it’s properly disclosed, we can walk through that analysis together. If it’s a new feature, then definitely contact us.” You can contact Julie and Liz by sending email to privacy-at-mozilla.com.

An API for parsing JavaScript
The SpiderMonkey team has introduced an experimental API to the SpiderMonkey shell for parsing JavaScript source. The parser API provides a single function, Reflect.parse, which takes a source string and produces a JavaScript object representing the abstract syntax tree of the parsed source code using the built-in parser of SpiderMonkey itself. “Behind this simple entry point is a thorough API that covers the entirety of SpiderMonkey’s abstract syntax. In short, anything that SpiderMonkey can parse, you can parse too. Developer tools generally need a parse tree, and JavaScript isn’t an easy language to parse. With this API, it becomes much easier to write tools like syntax highlighters, static analyses, style checkers, etc. And because Reflect.parse uses the same parser that SpiderMonkey uses, it’s guaranteed to be compatible.” Dave Herman is looking for feedback on this new feature, so head over to his blog and check it out.

-moz-element in Firefox 4
Markus Stange recently implemented -moz-element, a new extension to the CSS background-image property that adds the ability to draw arbitrary elements as backgrounds. He’s posted a very detailed article about this new extension on Mozilla Hacks, which includes a whole bunch of ideas about and examples of how it can be used.

Software releases
* Fennec Alpha for Android + N900
* Jetpack SDK 0.7
* Camino 2.0.4
* SeaMonkey 2.1 Alpha 3
* Firebug 1.6b1

Upcoming events
* Oct 1-2, New York City, Open Video Conference
* Oct 28-29, Toronto, FSOSS
* Nov 3-5, Barcelona, Drumbeat Festival 2010
* Nov 5-7, FSCONS

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, announcements, events, or software releases 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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HTML5 video, private browsing, SXSW 2011, static analysis, education, crowdsourcing, and more…

In this issue…

New HTML5 video features for Firefox 4
Chris Pearce has written a series of articles outlining new HTML5 video features that are slated to be part of Firefox 4: the video “buffered” property, the video “preload” attribute, and support for keyframe indexed Ogg files. You can follow along with HTML5 video development through Chris’ weblog.

Understanding private browsing
Private Browsing was introduced in Firefox 3.5, giving users the option of browsing the web without keeping track of their history. A recent Test Pilot study recorded the time users activated Private Browsing, and the time they deactivated it. Though what happens in Private Browsing stays in Private Browsing — that is, neither Firefox nor Test Pilot records anything during that period — we did learn a few things about timing and duration.” Read more about this study at the Blog of Metrics.

SXSW 2011: vote for Mozilla sessions!
It feels like just yesterday we were wrapping up SXSW Interactive 2010, but now the Panel Picker is up and running and SXSW 2011 is ramping up. This year we have three sessions submitted to the panel picker — including our very own from the Engagement team. Please vote them up!” Mozilla’s submitted panels include: Mozilla’s Army of AWESOME: Engaging Non-Technical User Participants, How to Create Prototypes and Influence People, and Mozilla School of Webcraft @P2PU.

Brendan Eich on static analysis
Brendan writes, “One of the best ‘researchy’ investments we’ve made at Mozilla over the last few years has been in static analysis, both for C++ (including Taras Glek’s excellent Dehydra, with which you write the custom analysis in JS) and now for JS itself. DoctorJS is based on Dmitris Vardoulakis’s work this summer implementing CFA2 for JavaScript at Mozilla. Dmitris is a student at Northeastern University under Olin Shivers (who is in fact a super-hero, not a super-villain like his name might suggest). Dmitris is one of many awesome interns we’ve managed to recruit in recent summers.” Read more about Dmitris’ work and DoctorJS at Brendan’s weblog.

A new feature and a new contributor
Mike Beltzner has written not only about a new feature coming to Firefox 4 on Windows Vista and Windows 7, but also about how the feature’s development was done by a brand new contributor. “Alex filed a bug with the design, which included several new UI concepts that had not been previously implemented using XUL, such as a two-tiered Windows Vista-esque menu, and a menu that had buttons in it. At the time the bug was filed, we weren’t sure who would have time to experiment and implement the changes, and considered some of the design items to be at risk for Firefox 4.” This is where the new contributor comes into the story.

“Joshua M (who also goes by SoapyHamHocks on IRC) created a Bugzilla account on August 12th, and put up his first attempt at an implementation the next day. Working with the Firefox team in IRC and through Bugzilla, several iterations of his patch went by, and on August 20th, the patch landed in Mozilla’s codebase. There are some bugs and issues to work out, but thanks to Joshua’s contribution, our Windows Vista/7 users will all be able to look forward to a much more native and better user experience.”

Education for the open web fellowship
“In May, Mozilla and the Shuttleworth Foundation announced a new Education for the Open Web Fellowship. The aim is to support practical ideas that help people learn about, improve and promote the open nature of the internet, as part of our commitment to supporting leaders working at the intersection of open education and the open web. While response was promising, we did not feel any of the submissions were far enough along to award the fellowship in July as planned. So we’ve decided to a) push back the application deadline to October 17, 2010, to allow existing applicants to further strengthen their pitch and new applicants to throw their hat into the ring; and b) offer the early stage proposals a chance at small grants that will help them get off the ground.” Read more about the Education for the Open Web Fellowship at Drumbeat.

Crowdsourcing project updates
Mozilla Labs embarked on a “Crowdsourcing Crowdsourcing” project a few months ago, and recent posts include summaries of what the team has discovered regarding both best practices and related literature. Best practices, which the team has covered in more detail in the post, include having a low barrier to entry, some elements of competition, playing towards individuals’ intrinsic motivations, giving people the “ability to shine”, and having a strong and active community. More about this project is available at the Mozilla Labs weblog.

Mitchell Baker honored by Frost & Sullivan
Yesterday, Mitchell Baker was announced as the recipient of Frost & Sullivan’s 2010 Growth, Innovation and Leadership Award. Mitchell will be honored for her achievements at the annual GIL 2010 event in Silicon Valley on Sept 13th, 2010. The award honor was announced in a press release issued by Frost & Sullivan.

Software releases
* Mozmill 1.5

Upcoming events
* Oct 1-2, New York City, Open Video Conference
* Oct 28-29, Toronto, FSOSS
* Nov 4-6, Barcelona, Drumbeat Festival 2010
* Nov 5-7, Free Society Conference and Nordic Summit (FSCONS)

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, announcements, events, or software releases 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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