Monthly Archives: August 2008

see you at BarCamp Bangkok 2

I’m really looking forward to attending and presenting at BarCamp Bangkok 2, the second BarCamp held in Thailand in 2008, and scheduled to have over 500 people attending!  I’ll be speaking about Firefox 3.1, TraceMonkey, Fennec, and our Mozilla Labs projects.  Hope to see you at BarCamp Bangkok 2!

Internet censorship in Malaysia

Colin Charles, LiewCF and Bernice Low of CNetAsia are all reporting that the Malaysian government is blocking Malaysia-today.net, which is currently accessible at http://mt.harapanmalaysia.com/2008/

Why is TM Net blocking access to Malaysia-Today? Answer: On MCMC orders.

3 Ways to Access Blocked “Malaysia Today”

Malaysia Today Mirror

ISPs ordered to cut access to Malaysia Today website
Practically speaking, censoring a website only brings attention to it, and if the content is available via other urls, then the censorship is next to worthless.
This does, however, bring a sober reminder that Malaysia may claim to provide a censorship-free Internet, in fact they do not.

See you at COSCUP 2008

I’m in Taipei, Taiwan today to speak at COSCUP 2008 (Conference for Open Source Coders, Users and Promoters), one of Taiwan’s leading OSS events.

Today, I’ll be speaking about Firefox 3.1, the new TraceMonkey announcement, and will do a quick overview of the major Mozilla Labs efforts. Tomorrow I’ll speak about Fennec, Mozilla’s mobile project.

Hope to see you there!

How to Travel at a Million Files a Minute

The New York Times has a nice piece on what to do to make your web surfing faster: How to Travel at a Million Files a Minute .  They recommend a faster broadband connection (ideally FTTH), more RAM for your computer, and Firefox and Safari over IE. The NYT has also misspelled tranquility (see below).

TWEAK YOUR BROWSER
Another player involved in Internet speed is the browser you use to navigate the Web. Choosing the right browser has become pretty simple: Most experts recommend Firefox, which you can download free from mozilla.com/firefox.

Firefox’s open-source architecture means it has been tested and tweaked by far more people than proprietary browsers like Internet Explorer from Microsoft. Firefox also uses less of your computer’s memory, freeing it up to handle other tasks. (Microsoft says it will release an upgrade in August that will increase the speed of Explorer.)

But Firefox’s real advantage is its collection of user-generated add-ons. These are small, free modifications to the Firefox browser that can do many things (like change the browser’s appearance, help manage content and integrate third-party search features).

If you’ve ever noticed that a site is slow to load because of graphics-heavy ads, you can install the Adblock plug-in, which eliminates ads from your browser (blocking ads has benefits beyond improving speed — cleanliness and tranquillity [sp] are two that come to mind).

Sites that use a lot of animation (known as Flash animation) can also be slow; Firefox has another plug-in, called Flashblock, that allows you turn the Flash portions of a site on or off. For these reasons, Macintosh users may also want to download Firefox. While Apple’s Safari browser is quick (and far less susceptible to viruses), it does not work with any of these add-ons.

Linux Foundation interviews Mitchell Baker

Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of the Linux Foundation, interviews Chief Lizard Wrangler, Mitchell Baker, of Mozilla.

You can find the audio of the interview here:
Open Voices Interview with Mitchell Baker, Mozilla

And a transcript of the interview here:
Mitchell Baker Transcript : Open Voices: The Linux Foundation Podcast

Lots of historical information in this interview. Highly recommended.

Jim Zemlin: I’m just curious as to, was Microsoft something that really drove what you were doing? {audio dropout} there a feeling in the people who {audio dropout} worked at the Mozilla Foundation at the time and worked on the project of, you know, “We can’t abide by a de facto monopoly web browser, that in order for the internet to be free, we’ve got to be successful,”? Was that mentality present at the time?

Mitchell Baker: Oh, sure. There are some things about Netscape mentality, but when you get past that, when you get the Mozilla Project, and for example why I was there and stuck with it and why a number of people did, one reason is absolutely that. That the browser turned out to be key in how, you know, human beings access the Internet. And if there’s only one way to do it, and there’s only one way to get to the information on the Internet, and that pathway is controlled by a single business entity and a single business plan, and, you know, one that’s giant and has shown itself to be very aggressive at using its assets to promote itself, then you’re in for a disaster. And I think we can see that. Because in, like, 2000, 2001, 2002 when we didn’t have a good product out on the market yet and there was essentially no browser competition, if you look back to it, you can remember that it was full of pop-up ads and spyware and, you know, whole computers slowing down because of all the stuff that was coming in through the one available browser. So we still believe and feel vindicated that you’ve got to have more than one option in these settings.

The later in the interview:

Jim Zemlin: What is it about a project like this—or Linux or Apache—that is so exciting to people; that motivates people to go to such extreme lengths of sacrificing personal time and, you know, extending huge amounts of emotional, physical energy towards something like that at these type of projects? What is it, in your mind, that drives people to participate?

Mitchell Baker: It’s a set of things. Some people have all of them; some people only have one or two of them. In some cases, it’s the sense that what you’re doing actually matters. And that one can see that the openness of the Internet that we want to live in can be affected, can be made more likely by the work that we do. So that’s one thing.

For many of us, the Internet itself. I sometimes say I have the Internet bug, or I was bitten by the Internet bug. I say that because I had malaria once. {Laughs} You know, it’s in the blood, right. There’s nothing you can do about it. And while you’ve got it and while it’s there, you know, you have to live with it because it’s just unavoidable. And I also feel that way about what I call the Internet bug. Alright, it is just such a powerful tool and so exciting, and there’s so much positive that can happen from it and anything that powerful can have that sort of a dark and unpleasant side. And you roll all those things with the feeling that, “Wow, you know, all of this is possible and we can make it better.” I think I’m not the only one who’s got that bug.

A third reason is technology. We’ve always been blessed that we have great technology and very smart people working on it. And that tends to attract other really smart people. And I think you’ll find, at many open source projects—you’ve named the big ones of course—but many of the smaller ones as well, it’s a love of the technology that’s also important.

And there is a sense, I would say, of community and bonding that is an extreme motivator. Sometimes people ask me why anyone would work on a software project if they weren’t getting paid for it. Well, think about how many people don’t like their job. Or feel like they’ve got expertise that doesn’t get used. Or their colleagues or their management or the people they’re responsible for get in the way. Or the company is going in a direction that doesn’t make sense and cuts off all the interesting projects. And your advancement isn’t based on reputation or skill, it’s based on, you know, who happens to like you. Well, we can mitigate or eliminate almost all of those things in an open source project. And so it turns out a lot of people do not want to be couch potatoes, right. And if you provide a setting in which something really interesting is happening, and it matters; you can see that other people use it and it’s got really smart people working on it, and they will accept you if you find interesting things to do, and some of them will even help you. And you can see the results of that, you know, you can generate a reputation and have people interested in you and have your work used by millions of people. That rolls up into a pretty motivating package.

The later in the interview Zemlin asks Mitchell about Mozilla and trademarks vs. how Linux handles trademarks.  That’s maybe the most interesting part of the interview, in my opinion. Finally, Zemlin asks Mitchell for advice re: trademarks and the Linux desktop.

On the greater Mozilla community…

Cheng Wang, who contributes to Mozilla in the support.mozilla.com (SUMO) project, has a great post on support-planning which I wanted to re-post to Planet for more people to see. Cheng captured the recent Summit much better than I could have done. Urls were largely added by me (so feel free to blame me for inaccurate urls.)

This is more of a blog post but I don’t have a blog on planet and I kinda wanted to get everyone’s input/thoughts. I’d tag this #moz08 if that was even possible.

While the many events and happenings up in the great Northern expanse has been well documented, I wanted to write about what, for me, was the biggest take-home message of the entire experience. In particular, as someone who’s been with Mozilla for well short of a year, I realized over the past week that I didn’t know anything about the greater project and goals Mozilla has as a community. I’m hoping in the next few paragraphs to share this with you. If you were at Summit, have been with Mozilla for plural years or don’t much care, feel free to go read another thread… this one’s long.

The first day of the summit, after early morning bears but before rockslide for those keeping track with familiar landmarks, Mitchell Baker, the Mozilla Foundation’s “Chief Lizard Wrangler” gave a speech on what Mozilla means to her and how she views the larger community and its interconnections. In particular, she noted that fundamentally, Mozilla is people dedicated to a central core: human interaction with the internet. From this she built a metaphor that anchored her entire presentation: Mozilla is a tree. We have the elements of Mozilla that people can see: the branches. However, each branch is fed from a core set of roots. These roots inform everything we do, are absolutely vital to the success of the project as a whole and serve as a foundation for everything. While these roots are not what immediately comes to mind for most people when they think of Mozilla (in the greater metaphor, they’re underground) they’re actually more important than the branches in defining who we are and how much we can accomplish.

The first few roots are all aspects of the open-source nature of Mozilla. While I was aware that all of the Mozilla projects are open source, I was very surprised that the central aspects democratic development was so very important to the philosophy of Mozilla that the majority of core values was dedicated to them. Specifically, the first three discussed: open, equal access code and participation; a peer-review based review process and merit-based advancement; distributed and earned authority. Mozilla is completely open: anyone can contribute freely to any aspect of the project or fork your own copy. The review process is by other project contributors and as you earn the respect of the community at large, you gain more and more rights, responsibilities and privileges. As an organization, Mozilla actually actively makes efforts to distribute the authority so that people who have the biggest say are the people who’ve most earned it and no one person can dominate any decision.

Those of you who are familiar with open source projects may be used to this but for me it was a surprise to see it laid out so clearly. It was almost even more surprising that once I took an informed look back at my short Mozilla experience so far, these values guide they way everything is done. Unlike many other organizations where the central values are merely a series of feel-good platitudes, Mozilla stands by every one of its central values. Take bugzilla for example. Bugzilla is completely open, anyone can file bugs and anyone can comment. In fact, anyone can take a bug and assign it to themselves or look at submitted patches and discuss them. As you gain respect in the community, you’re granted the right to confirm bugs, edit bugs and then to approve patches and subsequently to check them into the code. There’s no single approver through whom all code changes must flow; there’s no reward system for knowing the CEO or any other form of cronyism; everyone has to prove [one]self and earn [one’s] position. Outside the central codebase, we still try to take these things to heart. It’s possible for anyone to contribute and later advance through ability and dedication in almost any subproject/subcommunity from Labs to spreadfirefox.

The next root of the Mozilla tree is public asset. This made me smile during the presentation because I’ve heard the expression to describe politicians (mostly saying how they should be, not how they are). Essentially, Mozilla belongs to the people. In every left-wing, Communist, idealist sense of that phrase. We’re not making a product for our own benefit or even for the benefit of our users and certainly not for the benefit of our investors. While we all work on it, it’s no more ours than the air we breathe. Anyone can contribute and everyone should benefit. While we make direct products, we also overall try to make internet a more open place, for everyone. This is tied with the last root: public benefit. Essentially, we want to make the world a better place or at least the internet world. (No plans to open source curing AIDS or something.) This root is so general that there’s not much to say (I mean who tries to make the world a worse place?). The key word is public, I guess. It’s very much a ‘we the people, by the people, for the people’ set of values.

The branches on the tree were the things you think of when you think of Mozilla, the legal entities, the products (especially Firefox), the employees, even the revenue. However none of these are fundamentally central to what the project is about. These “branches” are simply how Mozilla changes the world. We make products, hire employees and go to conventions not for their own sake as it’s often assumed (and to some extent, I assumed) but for a greater purpose. In fact, the Mozilla community would cease to exist if you “cut off” one of the roots but could survive without one of its branches, even without Firefox.

Now, take some time to think about that. Yes, Mozilla’s most visible project is Firefox. We even went to and were trapped in a small mountain resort in large part to celebrate a big Firefox launch. However, Mitchell Baker has unshakable faith that Mozilla can continue without Firefox, that Firefox does not define Mozilla. Perhaps even more interesting are the things she decided DO define Mozilla: the open source nature of the way we operate, the democratic and public benefit goals. We’re not simply using open source development to make Firefox better, we’re using Firefox to further these values and make the web an open, accessible place.

So what does that mean? I don’t know. I just wanted to throw this out there. While we’re a tiny support community and sometimes it does feel that we operate independent of the rest of the Mozilla organization, we share a lot more than is immediately obvious. Even more importantly, we’re all not just working for the Firefox browser. We’re part of the greater community that is Mozilla. Hence, we also represent the democratization of the internet. The open source, distributed decision model can apply to more than just code, that a community can be built entirely around open access meritocracy and not just function but thrive. I think that’s pretty cool.

It also means that I want you all to take advantage of the openness that this model has — the most important aspect of an open community is participation and feedback. My personal e-mail address is: chengwang(at)gmail. You can say anything: suggestions, criticism, opinions, ideas, general comments … I promise I’ll read it. I’m sure this applies to everyone else. Please don’t be afraid to offer suggestions or comments to anyone, to jump in on any project, to ask for help with anything. Yes, people can get touchy if you hit a sensitive subject or even disagree strongly (we’re all human, I’m probably worst than most) but it’s so important that we have this open and public system that you simply cannot hold back an opinion or be shy about doing things. If you don’t want to address someone personally, post it somewhere. Do it anonymously if that’s more comfortable. We have newsgroups, feedback forms, forums, bugzilla. Just remember that your voice counts just as much as everyone else’s so make sure it’s heard (and your actions count double, so make sure to do them!). It doesn’t mean that the community will see things your way (I’ve learned that the hard way) or approve your patches but it would be a greater loss to have no-one hear you at all.

Users, non-users, non-contributors, this applies to you as well. Although, I’m definitely not the best person to talk to about Firefox features or specific projects, someone is. If you’ve really wanted to get started helping but are afraid, don’t be! If you need help finding some way to help or a good place for your comment, I’ll help as much as I can (although a search may be more fruitful, I really don’t know much). Yes, I realize I just invited everyone in the world to overload me with questions; I promise to do the best I can. We have a feedback form: http://hendrix.mozilla.org and that may be a better place for this; we also have http://www.mozilla.com/manyfaces/ which details ways to get started helping. (I do want to make a plug for support… you really don’t need to be technically minded to do it.) If you have specific feedback about what can be done to make this community more open to new contributors or how we can improve the way it functions… you know the drill… just find some way to let us know.

On that note, this is just the beginning of a dialog. What do you think? Is this a good way of thinking of Mozilla? Do you have a totally different view? What can be done to make this community more open to input? What would you like to see done? Was all this obvious to you and was I the only oblivious one? (Don’t worry, if you say yes, my feelings won’t be hurt. It’s pretty evident in retrospect, too.) This doesn’t have to be support-specific. If you have any feedback about any aspect of anything Mozilla related, post it. I may need to direct you to a better place but I will make sure that someone listens.

Man, I wanted to make this short, too. (Reader’s digest version: Mozilla is about openness not Firefox, go take part and be heard!)

Firefox 3 Hacks (O’Reilly Japan)

O’Reilly Japan will be publishing Firefox 3 Hacks (Amazon Japan), authored completely by Japanese authors including:Firefox 3 Hacks

We’re very lucky to have such active and prolific developers and localizers and authors in Japan. With the previous pocket-guide to Firefox 3, and now this expert’s guide, Japanese Firefox users and developers have a pair of great books to help them enjoy Firefox 3 to it’s fullest.

Emura-san’s blog post about the book has an image of the dust jacket cover which some of you might enjoy: Firefox 3 Hacks 予約可能に.

Why Bandwidth Is the Oil of the Information Economy

Tim Wu, who I met briefly at the OECD event in Seoul in June has a great op-ed in the NYT: OPEC 2.0 or Why Bandwidth Is the Oil of the Information Economy. I know that I and most of the people that I work with are addicted to bandwidth.

In an information economy, the supply and price of bandwidth matters, in the way that oil prices matter: not just for gas stations, but for the whole economy.

And that’s why there is a pressing need to explore all alternative supplies of bandwidth before it is too late. Americans are as addicted to bandwidth as they are to oil. The first step is facing the problem.

Americans are not the only ones- I would say that anywhere where broadband has a significant penetration there is an addiction to bandwidth.