Australis landing plans

8 November, 2013 § 38 Comments

Australis

The team working on the new Australis version of Firefox (myself included) is starting to get close to merging to mozilla-central. We’re too far from being able to say exactly when this code will merge, but I want to go over our backout plan for Australis.

As you may or may not know, Australis is a project to provide an updated visual design, streamlined tab strip, new Firefox menu and improved customization capabilities.

Australis

Due to its large scope, Australis couldn’t be implemented with the ability to toggle its presence via an about:config preference. This unfortunately carries with it a more burdensome plan to undo the changes should there be issues that lead us to delay the release of Australis.

When Australis (currently located on the UX branch) merges to mozilla-central, the Australis team will manage a special project branch that mirrors mozilla-central but excludes the Australis changes. This branch is located in the temporary Holly project.

In the likely chance that we choose to hold Australis on the Nightly train for an extra release cycle, we will use Holly to merge to mozilla-aurora. This will allow the mozilla-central changes not related to Australis to continue moving along with the release trains.

This also presents an issue in that the code that reaches Aurora will have a tiny fraction of the testing hours on it compared to the Nightly builds. To work around this, I’m asking that users who aren’t interested in Australis use the Holly branch for their Nightly builds. This will help spread out some of the testing hours and make sure to catch any potential merge bustage faster. I’ll be posting a link to download Holly nightlies once we merge from UX to mozilla-central.

In the meantime, if you are looking to help test Australis you can download a build from the UX branch.

My contribution to today’s Firefox release

29 October, 2013 § 6 Comments

I haven’t written up one of these blog posts in a while. The previous one was in August 2012 for Firefox 15. Coincidentally, that post mentioned a subtle change to the site identity area of the web browser.

In today’s release of Firefox, there is another subtle change to the site identity area of the browser. Pages that are a part of Firefox itself, whether it be the built-in home page (about:home), our troubleshooting page (about:support), or others now sport a special Firefox branding within the location bar. The goal of this branding is to increase awareness and trust with these pages.

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Clicking on the Firefox name or the two-tone Firefox logo next to the name will show a popup notification that explains that this is a secure Firefox page.

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These changes were previously announced when I introduced them to the Nightly channel of Firefox this past July.

Determining when an element is scrollable in Gecko

16 October, 2013 § 1 Comment

As a web developer, there are often times where it’s necessary to know if an element on a page is scrollable. One way of checking this would be to find the difference of element.scrollWidth and element.clientWidth. If the difference between these two properties is non-zero, then the element is scrollable. However, this doesn’t work for all cases.

In particular, element.scrollWidth and element.clientWidth clamp their values to integers. If the difference between the scrollWidth and clientWidth is less than zero, then the computed difference between the two will result in zero. This is less than good.

Starting in Firefox 16 [1], there is a new property element.scrollLeftMax which returns the difference of scrollWidth and clientWidth, including the fractional component. Also introduced is the companion element.scrollTopMax for use in determining vertical scrolling availability.

Hopefully these properties will find their way in to the other layout engines.

[1] These properties were implemented in bug 766937.

Student project: Australis-styled widgets

11 September, 2013 § 2 Comments

A couple weeks back, Gijs Kruitbosch and I began mentoring a group of students on a new student project focused on building some new Australis-styled widgets.

Team MSUThe team is comprised of students from Michigan State University’s Computer Science program. Pictured from left to right are Dan Poggi, Eric Proper, Eric Slenk, and Dave Thorpe.

The goal of the project will be to create four independent widgets using the Add-on SDK and new Australis widget API:

  1. A weather widget that can show the weather for a selected location as well as up to 5-7 additional locations. This will need to use a public and free weather API.
  2. A music playing widget that will play music located on the user’s local machine. The user can select a folder on their machine and the widget will play any media files that it can find within that folder or in that folder’s children. We may need to limit the recursive depth to 2 folders.
  3. A Bugzilla widget that will show the assigned bugs, review requests, etc. This will be based on Heather Arthur‘s excellent Bugzilla Todos dashboard.
  4. A Spartan Scoreboard widget that will show the date, opponent, and location of the next MSU sporting event, as well as the score of the previous game. It should also include a link to get more information.

Eric Proper, Eric Slenk, and David Thorpe have begun blogging about their progress. You can follow along and get more details on their respective blogs. Eric Proper has an amazing amount of detail already on his blog. I’m looking forward to seeing the blogs from Dan Poggi and Dave Thorpe.

We will be meeting weekly at 9:00am Eastern time on Thursdays throughout the Fall semester.

Backing up your contacts on FirefoxOS

25 July, 2013 § 21 Comments

I’ve been helping beta test B2G and subsequently FirefoxOS since October 2012.  Once in a while I’ve come across a bug that requires me to reset the phone back to its factory state. Unfortunately at this early stage there isn’t a built-in way to back up your data from a FirefoxOS phone. I’m sure it’s on a roadmap, but as with all v1 products you have to make some tough calls when it comes to feature prioritization.

This tutorial provides a step-by-step walk through of how to backup and restore your contacts on a B2G or FirefoxOS phone. It’s not supported so it may stop working in the future, but for now it works :)

To complete this tutorial you’ll need a B2G/FirefoxOS phone, a USB cable to connect your phone to your computer, and the Android Debug Bridge installed (referred to as `adb` later in the tutorial).

1. Start up your FirefoxOS phone and go to Settings.

step1

2. Go to Device Information

step2

3. Go to More Information

step3

4. Go to Developer

step4

5. Enable “Remote Debugging”. This will allow you to use ADB to pull data off of the phone.

step5

6. Connect your phone to the computer using the USB cable.

7. In your console, type `adb devices` to check that the phone has connected properly. You should see your phone listed as an attached device. At this point you can now use `adb shell` to browse through the system files on the phone.

8. Type `adb pull /data/local/indexedDB/chrome/3406066227csotncta.sqlite .` This will pull the contacts IndexedDB database off of your phone and in to your local working directory. If you are curious about the contents of the database, you can install the IndexedDB Browser add-on for Firefox which will let you open up the database.

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And you are now done with backing up your contacts. If you need to reset your phone in the future, you can just follow these steps again but replace step 8 with the following: `adb push 3406066227csotncta.sqlite /data/local/indexedDB/chrome/3406066227csotncta.sqlite`. This will push your backed-up contacts database back on to the device.

Increasing trust with privileged Firefox pages

23 July, 2013 § 3 Comments

For many years there has been an increased emphasis towards increasing the visibility of a website’s identity. Pages served over HTTP lack a verifiable identity, while pages served over HTTPS begin to have aspects of their identity verifiable.

When a page is viewed over a valid HTTPS connection, the web browser is able to verify the identity of the domain that it is communicating with. Firefox uses this information to place a “site identity” graphic next to the website’s URL. Clicking on this site identity graphic provides more information about the connection.

HTTPS

Clicking on the More Information button shows how often this website is accessed, in an effort towards building trust and pointing out potentially untrustworthy websites.

Page Info

When a page is viewed over a valid HTTPS connection using an Extended Validation certificate, the web browser places the certificate’s Organizational Name between the site identity graphic and the website’s URL. With Extended Validation, the web browser not only can confirm the identity of the domain that it is communicating with, but it relies on the vendor who issued the certificate to have verified the identity of the owner of the website. Again, clicking on the More Information button in the site identity panel will show prior access information.

HTTPS+EV

Within the past couple weeks a new site identity view was introduced. Now when visiting privileged Firefox webpages such as about:home, about:config, and about:addons, the site identity area will show a Firefox logo along with the “Firefox” name. Clicking on the either of these will show a panel that confirms to the user that this page is a secure Firefox page.

Nightly

This feature is expected to reach users on our Release channel during the last week of October, 2013. If you’d like to play with it today you can download and install a build of Firefox Nightly.

Picking Up The Crumbs

17 June, 2013 § 25 Comments

A few days ago a new feature landed in Firefox Nightly that makes closing multiple tabs easier than it was before.

I often find myself in situations where I have multiple tabs that I opened only to look at for short periods of time. Sometimes I reach this state while reading articles on Hacker News or looking at funny pictures on Reddit. At the end of looking at the tabs, it would be nice if Firefox had a way to close these ephemeral tabs so you can get back to your previous work quicker.

Close Tabs to The Right

Well, Firefox now does! If you open lots of tabs from Reddit and then want to close all of the tabs to the right of Reddit, just right-click on the Reddit tab and choose “Close Tabs to the Right”. It’s easy and quick!

Why “close tabs to the right” and not “close tabs to the left”? When we open new tabs they appear on the end, and so naturally tabs that have a longer lifetime end up being promoted to the start-side of the bar. This leads us towards the situation where closing tabs “to the right” is a simple way of closing the ephemeral tabs.

Users who are using Firefox with a right-to-left locale such as Hebrew or Arabic should see the equivalent “Close Tabs to the Left” feature.

Huge thanks go out to Michael Brennan who contributed the patches and automated tests for this feature! Unless something drastic happens, this feature will find its way to Firefox Release in just over 12 weeks in Firefox 24.

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