Archive for October, 2010

Firefox 4, Army of Awesome, Prospector, search, AMO, Thailand, testing, stats, Personas, and more…

In this issue..

Firefox 4 Beta for Android and Maemo
The mobile team has released the first Firefox 4 beta for Android and Maemo devices. “A major focus of this release is to improve performance and responsiveness. Firefox 4 Beta for mobile is a significant step forward in sharing a personalized, seamless and encrypted Web experience across devices. Developers have the power to use the latest Web technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript to build fast, powerful and beautiful mobile apps and add-ons that can reach millions of devices. We are excited to see the innovative and valuable mobile add-ons that developers will build for Firefox.” See the release announcement for more details and to watch the video demo.

Join the Army of Awesome
Anyone with a Twitter account can join Mozilla’s Army of Awesome and reply to a tweet about Firefox. “Many times it’s as simple as showing someone where to find the info they need. Just as we routinely rely on signposts to navigate streets, we’ve created some standard signpost messages so you can direct users to commonly searched pages. You don’t have to be a Firefox expert to join the Army of Awesome — simply choose a tweet, sign in with your Twitter account, and select the signpost message that will point the user in the right direction.” For more about this new initiative, see William’s and Mary’s blog posts.

Exploring browser search with Prospector
Prospector is a new series of experiments from Mozilla Labs focusing on analyzing, experimenting with and prototyping improvements on how you search for and discover content with Firefox. “To start, we’re focusing on three main areas: websites you have visited, tabs you are currently viewing, and pages you haven’t visited yet. In each of these, there are different aspects of traversing through existing behavior, extracting relevant information and discovering better ways to search.” Read more about Prospector at the Mozilla Labs weblog.

Refreshing the Firefox search bar
“Firefox 4 will streamline and modernize the Web experience for our hundreds of millions of users. In addition to greatly improving performance, adding advanced graphics capabilities and rethinking how people use tabs to organize their online lives, we have also been looking closely at the search options that we include in the search box, which appears to the right of the URL bar.” Some of these search options will be changing for the Firefox 4 release. “These changes will mean that English-language versions of Firefox 4 will display the following search services, in this order: Google (default), Yahoo!, Bing, Amazon, eBay and Wikipedia. The choices available to our users will vary around the world.”

Discontinuing several features of AMO
Justin Scott has posted an update about the future of addons.mozilla.org (AMO) and some of the features the team will be removing as they continue to rewrite and improve the site. The features slated for removal include: the self-hosted pilot program, email sharing of add-ons and add-on collections, and the ability for users to tag add-ons. Only developers will be allowed to tag their add-ons, and add-ons will be limited to a maximum of 20 tags. For more, see Justin’s post.

Firefox in Thailand update
In preparation for the upcoming BarCamp Bangkok 4 (Oct 23-24), Gen Kanai has posted a short update about the status of Firefox in Thailand, including currently available marketshare statistics for Firefox and other browsers. “William, Dietrich and I will all be at BarCamp Bangkok 4 and are looking forward to hearing from Firefox users in Thailand as well as those who used to use Firefox and may not use it anymore. Whatever browser you use, we hope to see you there too!”

Help test new Mozilla.org home page
David Boswell is looking for help testing the new Mozilla.org home page. “There are so many different page layouts on the site (12 years of organic growth will do that) that it took a long time to fit those into a common template that was flexible enough to handle a range of variations. I’m happy with what we’ve come up with and think it presents content in a clean and attractive way.” Check out the mock-ups and find out how you can help over at David’s weblog.

Compensating for self-selection bias
Jono Xia, part of Mozilla Labs, has written an extensive post about statistical analysis, Test Pilot, and how the team is working to compensate for “self-selection bias”. “Self-selection bias is the bias that creeps into your results when the subjects of your study are people who choose to be subjects. It’s a bias because a group of people who choose to be subjects is not the same as a random sample of the population. Only people who chose to install the Test Pilot extension or the Firefox 4 Beta get the studies; and only people who click ‘submit’ send results back to Mozilla. Therefore, it would be a mistake to rely only on Test Pilot submissions when redesigning Firefox UI.” Jono’s post goes on to talk about how skewed the Test Pilot sample is, and how subsampling or “survey weighting” might be a good (if difficult) way to compensate for this bias.

Personas design contest winners
As part of September’s Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago, the Mozilla team held a contest to select five winning designs to turn into new Personas. The winners have now been announced, and include: Worm Party by Nina Castillo-D’Angier, Dino Dash by Millie Rodriguez, Who ‘Nose’ Their Neighbor by Chrissy Gray-Rodriguez, Nine Twelve by Don Schnitzius, and Gardenia by Allison Manasse. “Keep an eye out for these designs — soon you’ll be able to have them front and center on your own browser.”

Android testing help needed
Firefox 4 Beta for Android and Maemo has been released, and the QA team is looking for feedback and help with testing. If you would like to get involved, head over to Tony Chung’s weblog for all the details about how you can get started.

Software releases
* Firefox 4 for Android and Maemo
* Firefox Sync 1.5

Upcoming events
* Oct 23-24, Bangkok, BarCamp Bangkok 4
* Oct 28-29, Toronto, FSOSS
* Nov 3-5, Barcelona, Drumbeat Festival 2010
* Nov 5-7, Gothenburg, 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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Game On!, MDN, Accessibility, Rust, Panorama, OpenGL, Fennec, Test Pilot, Thunderbird, and more…

In this issue…

Game On 2010: Open Web game dev contest!
Mozilla Labs has announced their first Open Web game development competition! Recent advances in open web technologies mean the time is right to create awesome web games. The top prize for the contest is a trip for two to the Game Developer Conference and the Independent Games Festival in San Francisco. To participate, you need to write a game using only open Web technologies — no plug-ins — that works in Firefox 4. We’ll have a bunch of fun and prizes during the contest as well, so don’t wait until the last minute! The contest deadline is January 11th, 2011. See the original Game On 2010 announcement for all the details.

Sound for Open Web games
David Humphrey has been working on another audio-related project, this time focusing on a system for creating sounds for open web games. “Mozilla Labs announced its Game On competition. SFXR is a little application that allows a user to generate basic video game sound effects. Tomas Pettersson wrote it in C++ in 2007, and Thomas Vian then ported it to ActionScript in 2009. This weekend I ported it to JavaScript: sfxr.js. Right now it allows you to generate various sound effects, modify them if you wish, then create a .wav file.” Read more on David’s weblog, or play with the generator itself.

MDN documentation sprint for web standards
The Mozilla Developer Network documentation team is holding a three day sprint (Oct 9-11) to improve upon and expand the Open Web technologies documentation in the MDN wiki, and they need your help! If you know anything at all about Open Web standards and how to use them (HTML5, CSS3, MathML, JavaScript APIs, etc.) you should email Janet Swisher (jswisher-at-mozilla-dot-com) or join the #devmo channel on IRC. Read Janet’s blog post for more information about how to get involved and how to get started.

New in Accessibility in Firefox 4
Marco Zehe has posted a roundup of the new accessibility features that will be part of the upcoming Firefox 4 release. These include better speed, new HTML5 elements, changes in WAI-ARIA support, a host of bug fixes, various UI and keyboard navigation changes, addition of pinned “app tabs”, a new Firefox app button that replaces the menu bar, and a full add-ons manager redesign. Marco’s post includes a lot more detail about these features, and a short note about Panorama. In addition, David Bolter has posted a quick status update about Firefox 4 for AT vendors.

Rust progress
“Three months ago we introduced the Rust programming language, a new lower-level language that Mozilla is developing. At that point the bootstrap compiler was just beginning to support interesting constructs, the runtime system only worked correctly in single-threaded mode, and library code was mostly nonexistent.” Since then, over 500 commits have been made to the code representing a huge amount of work by a number of developers. Graydon Hoare has written an update about the language’s development progress, which you can find on his weblog.

Aza Raskin on Panorama
The Mozilla Links crew has spotted a recent interview with Aza Raskin in which he talks about Panorama, the new visual tab organization feature that is slated for inclusion in Firefox 4. “Firefox is going to continue to lead in this sphere because other browsers are going on this glut of removing everything, instead of innovating,” said Aza as his closing sentence. Head over to Download Squad for the full interview.

Fennec 4.0: new and notable
The most notable change for Fennec (Firefox for mobile) is that its version numbering is being changed to more closely match desktop releases of Firefox. This means Firefox 2.0b1 for Android and Maemo is becoming Firefox 4.0b1 for Android and Maemo and will be released as “Firefox 4 for Android and Nokia N900″. “We are aligning mobile Firefox and desktop Firefox since the web rendering engines used in both browsers are the same. Treating them as the same version seemed like the right thing to do. Any add-ons hosted on addons.mozilla.org (AMO) that are marked as compatible for Fennec 2.0b1pre will automatically be bumped to support Fennec 4.0b1pre. For more on this and other changes to Fennec, see Mark Finkle’s post.

OpenGL testing: how to help
Last week we turned on OpenGL support for Firefox 4 nightly builds on Mac. The QA team is looking for your help in testing this new feature, specifically looking for feedback about plugin behavior, performance issues, and drawing problems that might be caused by the new OpenGL support. If you encounter a problem, you can check whether it’s OpenGL related by disabling OpenGL temporarily and retesting. To do this, simply change the about:config “layers.accelerate-all” preference to “false”, or uncheck the “Use hardware acceleration when available” in your Firefox preferences (Preferences > Advanced). See Carsten Book’s post for more information about how you can help.

Help improve our participation channels
“Mozilla has never had a traditional marketing program. In fact, we’ve been focused on engaging our users for years — offering ways to get involved via organic marketing efforts and participatory campaigns. We’re exploring even more ways to expand this involvement and connect with our 400 million Firefox users. As part of this, it’s important to take a look at our current participation channels to assess how we’re doing and what we can do to improve. If you have a minute, please take one (or all!) of our quick surveys to share your ideas and help improve these programs!”

** Student Reps Survey
** Facebook Survey
** Affiliates Survey
** Twitter Survey

About the new “About Firefox” window
“Earlier this year, Test Pilot ran a Menu Item Usage Study to better understand how users interact with the traditional menu bar as Firefox transitions to a more streamlined, single ‘application button’. We also examined the sequence of menu bar actions — specifically looking for common sequences in commands. The strongest connection was between the ‘About Firefox’ and ‘Check for Updates’ menu items; after clicking ‘About Firefox,’ 9% of users click ‘Check for Updates’ within 20 seconds. From this data we reasonably assume that many users go to ‘About Firefox’ to check whether they should update. Accordingly, three minor changes to these menu items should improve user experience.” Read more about these changes (two of which are already implemented) at the Blog of Metrics.

Mitchell Baker on This Week in Asia podcast
Gen Kanai writes, “Mitchell was interviewed by Bernard Leong and Daniel Cerventus, two of the hosts of This Week in Asia podcast.” You can listen to the podcast on the This Week in Asia site, or via iTunes. Previous Mozillians who have participated in the TWIA podcast are Mark Surman and Gen himself (twice!).

Test Pilot study code for public review
The Test Pilot team has announced that they will start publicly posting the code for upcoming Test Pilot studies so other people can “check it out and verify for themselves that we’re upholding our promise not to collect any sensitive or personally identifiable data.” You will also be encouraged to point out anything that’s potentially wrong with the code, things that we’re overlooking that might make the collected data less accurate, etc. Test Pilot study code hasn’t really been secret up until now, of course, as it has always been, and will always be, available through Mozilla’s public Mercurial repository. To improve the discoverability of that code, however, Jono Xia is going to start announcing upcoming studies on his blog, linking directly to the code so it’s easier for everyone to find and examine it and to offer feedback. See Jono’s blog post for more.

Thunderbird contributor survey
Dan Mosedale and the rest of the Thunderbird team have put together a survey for Thunderbird contributors so they can better understand how to make the Thunderbird community and contribution process more enjoyable. It’s a short, seven question survey, and they would really appreciate your help. “Once we’re done collecting the data, the raw data will be published along with conclusions and analysis. This data will then feed into how various participation work gets prioritized.”

Finding restartless add-ons in AMO
Nick Nguyen writes, “If you’re running a beta of Firefox 4, you can install restartless add-ons written with the new Add-on SDK. In a nod to the Mozilla Add-on SDK’s original project name, we’re now automatically tagging restartless add-ons with “Jetpack” so that the adventurous can try them out. Visit the Jetpack Tag and install (and uninstall) to your heart’s content!”

Software releases
* Thunderbird 3.0.8 & 3.1.4
* Bespin 0.9a2 (Skywriter update)
* RequireJS 0.14.2

Upcoming events
* Oct 9-11, Online/Paris, MDN Documentation Sprint
* Oct 28-29, Toronto, FSOSS
* Nov 3-5, Barcelona, Drumbeat Festival 2010
* Nov 5-7, Gothenburg, 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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