moving blog to http://asadotzler.com

After more than a decade of blogging at mozillaZine.org, I'm moving my active blogging to http://asadotzler.com. Thank you, Kerz, for providing this hosting service to me and many other Mozillians for so many years.

If mZ is willing, this archive of articles will remain here for some time but new blogging will be happening over at the new domain http://asadotzler.com.

If you were subscribed to this blog's feed, the new feed is http://asadotzler.com/feed/.

Thank you all for your participation here and I hope to see you over at the new digs.

Take care,
- A

A Mozilla Lesson from Mos Def

One of my favorite artists of the last couple of decades, Yasiin Bey, made a killer point about Hip Hop and the Hip Hop community back in his debut solo album from late 1999, a thought that resonates a lot with me and my involvement in the Mozilla movement over the last 15 years.


Photo titled Mos Def was shot by Volker Neumann and is used under a Creative Commons license.

Talking about the Hip Hop scene at the turn of the century, here's some of what then Mos Def had to say in "Fear Not of Man", the first track on "Black on Both Sides."

It's a lot of things goin on y'all
21st century is comin
20th century almost done
A lot of things have changed
A lot of things have not, mainly us
We gon' get it together right? I believe that
Listen.. people be askin me all the time,
"Yo Mos, what's gettin ready to happen with Hip-Hop?"
"Where do you think Hip-Hop is goin?"
I tell em, "You know what's gonna happen with Hip-Hop?"
"Whatever's happening with us"
If we smoked out, Hip-Hop is gonna be smoked out
If we doin alright, Hip-Hop is gonna be doin alright
People talk about Hip-Hop like it's some giant livin in the hillside
comin down to visit the townspeople
We are Hip-Hop
Me, you, everybody, we are Hip-Hop
So Hip-Hop is goin where we goin
So the next time you ask yourself where Hip-Hop is goin
ask yourself.. where am I goin? How am I doin?

I've been feeling and saying this about Mozilla since before "Black on Both Sides" was released and I'm certain it's more true today than it ever was before.

If you're a part of the Mozilla community and you're asking other people where Firefox is going or where Firefox OS is going, take a minute to ask yourself, where am I going?


Photo titled The Power of the Fox was shot by Marcia@Mozilla and is used with implicit permission of the shooter (I hope.)

Mozilla has a bright future ahead of it, one that depends on all of us and the many, many more yet to join our movement. Where will you take Mozilla today?

 

Oracle, AVG, Ask, Norton, & Others

The proliferation of software installers designed to trick Windows users into adding unwanted applications to their systems is horrifying. How can so many "legitimate" companies participate in such scammy and evil practices?

The animation above shows one installer with it's 9 unrelated software opt outs.

Why are we allowing this? Why is it OK for major brands to use these tactics and face no repercussions?

It's past time for all of us to start registering our dissatisfaction with these crummy distribution practices that are eroding confidence in personal computing and driving people away from rich and participatory experiences and towards easier and more consumption oriented experiences.

Oracle, AVG, Ask, Norton, others, you all have to stop this. You have to stop paying for scammy distribution for your toolbars and you have to stop taking money for scammy distribution through your installers. This is not acceptable behavior for such respected software companies. It's user-hostile and it needs to stop.

Google and the NSA

If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines -- including Google -- do retain this information for some time and it's important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.

That was Eric Schmidt - Google's then CEO, just a few years ago.

There's been spying for years, there's been surveillance for years, and so forth, I'm not going to pass judgement on that, it's the nature of our society,

And that was Eric Schmidt - Google's Executive Chairman, today.

So, it's just the nature of our society that Google amasses troves of personal data on billions of people from all over the world and is then compelled to hand that over to the NSA.

Nothing to be done about it.

That's our nature, you see. It's inevitable.

Firefox in the Market

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The latest browser usage stats are out at Net Applications:

Firefox has been mostly stable over the last year with Chrome down about 15% from its high. The increasingly solid IE 9 and 10 browsers have helped reverse Microsoft's slide, putting them solidly in positive growth over the last year.

On Tuesday, our preliminary Metro Firefox development work arrived at mozilla-central, the source code repository that feeds the Firefox Nightly channel. This means that if you are on the Firefox Nightly channel and you have a Windows 8 device, your Wednesday Firefox update should deliver a Metro Firefox tile to the far right end of your Windows Start screen.

There's plenty of work still to do, but it's stable enough that we're ready for more and more regular testing. If you're a Firefox or Windows developer and you'd like to get involved, please let me know.

2013 Firefox Work Week in Toronto

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Last week the desktop Firefox team got together in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to do more planning for 2013, hacking on key initiatives, and team building. We had attendance from Engineering, User Experience and User Research, Product, and Innovation/Labs, totaling just under 30 people.

On Monday Johnathan Nightingale and I presented the latest thinking on target markets, industry assumptions, and feature roadmaps for 2013. We were also treated to an amazing trio of presentations from Ed Lee of Innovation/Labs, UX's Madhava Enros, and Bill Selman from UR.

On Tuesday, the whole team participated in an ideation session led by Madhava and Johnath that resulted in an exciting collection of short and long term work items.

The ideation session started with a re-cap of some of the themes from the previous day's planning talks and instructions for everyone to write down as many ideas for Firefox improvements as we could. We posted all of those ideas up on the big wall and then started clustering them -- grouping similar items and labeling those areas.

Here's a picture of the big wall before clustering.


Photo by DoNotLick, and used under a CC license.

And after.


Photo by DoNotLick, available under "she gave me a link to it" terms and conditions.

The ideas clustered into about three dozen areas including Transitions & animations, Kill URLs, Translation, Search, Sharing/emailing/social, Flash, Crash reporting, Platform integration, Tabs, Add-ons and feature integration, Preferences, User created content, User switching, Evergreens, Privacy, Self healing, Help, Humor, jokes & whimsy, Remote control, Add-ons management, Sync & Backup, Profiles & import, Paper cuts, Web Apps, Performance, Personalization, First run, Discovery & suggestions, Passwords, Australis, Network, Save for later, Developer tools, and Download manager.

From there, the team selected about a dozen items to design, prototype, and demo during the remainder of the work week. On Thursday, break-out teams presented the results of that work.

Mike Conley (mconley) and Matthew Noorenberghe (mattn) presented the work they'd done to increase the performance of the upcoming Australis tabs re-design. They worked with the graphics team (several of whom are conveniently located in the Toronto office) on some new approaches and their presentation concluded with a chart showing approximately 30% performance improvement on low-end hardware (a netbook.) Australis is getting closer and closer so this was some really valuable work. Not only will Australis be beautiful, it will be very fast.

After the Australis tabs demonstration, Mike Conley gave a preview of tabs working in the title bar in Mac, a hard-fought victory that will allow the Australis team to implement the planned design properly on OS X.

Next up was Shane Caraveo (mixedpuppy) who showed some of the exciting improvements he's got working for the Social API, including the ability to install new social providers from the Web, enabling and disabling of service providers within the Add-ons manager, and an initial implementation of the Share feature.

Following the Social improvements was Gregory Szorc (gps) with some great work on improving memory usage related to the upcoming Firefox Health Report feature.

Jared Wein (jaws) had three pieces of work to share. First was his work on identifying and warning users about extremely slow start-ups. He followed that up with a nice demo of animating the transition between showing and hiding the Find in page toolbar. And last but not least, jaws showed some nice updates to the style of error pages in Firefox.

Next we heard from and saw demonstrations by Marco Bonardo (mak), Asaf Romano (mano), and Ed Lee (mardak), which included breaking the star bookmarks button out of the address field and combining it with the bookmarks toolbar button, and User Profile integration with Firefox.

Zhenshuo Fang (fang), was up next and shared a bunch of investigation and ideation that UX/UR, Engineering, and Product had done during the week on the Firefox first run experience and the various ways it could be improved. The ideation session here clustered into Celebrating users, Instantly personal, De-cluttered, Australis introduction, Help make Firefox my own, and Firefox boot camp. You can dig in to those ideas here.

Up next was Bill Selman (wselman) who presented some of his work on designs to improve crash reporting and in product help.

Justin Dolske (dolske) shared some of the opportunities that he and a break-out group enumerated for adding more whimsy to Firefox, including an add-on that updates the new tab about:blank placeholder text in the address bar to make it less dry and much more human and inviting.

Christian Sonne (cers), demonstrated the moving of much hated missing plug-in infobar into a simpler and less obtrusive notice in the address bar.

And last but not least, Felipe Gomez (felipe) presented the findings that he and his break-out group developed around captive portals and how Firefox can identify when it's accessing the internet through a captive portal as well as some ideas about handling the restoration of tabs failures that happen when connecting through a captive portal.

There was a lot more than this happening during the week, including some core Firefox hacking and lots of discussion, problem solving, small scale direction setting, etc., etc. There's just nothing quite like getting a geo-distributed team together in one place for a few days of concentrated effort. I can't wait for the next Firefox work week.

update: Jared posted a great write-up also.


For the last six months or so, we've been doing the heavy lifting to build a new social capability into Firefox. Rather than force this integration, a set of features that might not be interesting to all of our users, we took a different approach and built an API that will allow sites like Facebook and others to provide social content to Firefox if Firefox users choose to receive it. If you're not interested in these new features, you'll never see them and they won't impact your Firefox experience in any way. If, on the other hand, you think you'd get value from carrying your social experience with you even when you're off of that site, you should give it a try.

Here's what some Twitter folks are saying about the Facebook integration in this first Firefox release with the Social API.

Some Tips for new Surface RT Users

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Photo by Leo Newball, Jr., and used under a CC license.

I wish the first tip on my list was how to install Firefox on your Surface RT. Unfortunately, Microsoft has denied browser vendors (except themselves, of course) a couple of critical APIs needed to build a high-performing browser on Windows RT so there's no Firefox yet. Firefox will run on the Surface Pro that Microsoft is expected to ship in the next few months.

If you nevertheless invested in a Surface RT, and you're new to the Metro experience, here's a few quick tips to help you make the most of it.

First, update everything.

Start by going to the Store and updating all your default Microsoft apps. They should update automatically when you open the Store, but if not, click or tap the Update notice in the top right corner of the Store.

Second, swipe in the Charms bar and tap the Settings Charm (or just hit the Settings button on the top row of your Touch keyboard) and then click or tap the Change PC settings item. Scroll to the bottom of that list, tap Windows Update and then click or press Check for updates now.

One might assume that is enough to get you all up to date, but not so. To update the built in Office suite over on the desktop, you need to go to the classic Windows Update. The easiest way to get there is to right click in the bottom left corner of the Start screen or hit Win+x and then select the Control Panel from that menu. Once in Control Panel, you can either click or tap System and Security and then click or tap Check for updates under the Windows Update heading, or you can type "Update" into the Search box and perform a Check for update there. There should be a big Office update waiting for you.

OK, so you're all up to date. What next? First, I recommend visiting the Store and grabbing a few of the better apps there. If you're a Netflix user, that should be your first install. If you're a Skype user, that's a good one too. If you've got an X-box, I recommend grabbing Xbox SmartGlass. And, if you're like me, you'll want a clock visible on your Start screen all the time and not just when you swipe in the Charms bar. I tried out four or five clocks and the cleanest tile seems to be Clock, from Jujuba Software. I'm not big into casual games, but I did also grabbed Cut the Rope and Angry Birds Space which are proving to be adequate time killers :) Finally, Fresh Paint is a very nice finger painting app, and if you need an IRC client, IRC Explorer is decent.

Once you're all up to date, and you've got a few new apps, you're going to want to get really comfortable with some of the new Windows 8 gestures.

Swiping in from the right edge shows the Charms bar and you're probably going to find yourself using this quite a bit to get at Search and the Windows charm that takes you back to the Start screen. You can accomplish the same thing with your Touch keyboard by using the Win+C shortcut ("c" is for "Charms") or mousing down to the bottom right corner and up to the charm you want.

Swiping in from the top or bottom of the screen brings up app bar(s). Right clicking or the Win+z shortcut does the same thing.

Swiping in from the left edge of the screen is how you cycle through your open apps. A very short swipe in from the left and back out again brings up a list of your running apps. Win+Tab also shows your running apps list. The venerable Alt+Tab moves through running apps like it has for ages on Windows.

To close an app, swipe down from the top of the screen like you were trying to bring in the app bar but keep dragging until you've reached the bottom of the screen. This is a really nice way to clean up your running apps list so moving between the ones you're actually using is faster and easier.

Finally, to show two apps at once, swipe an app in from the left edge but instead of releasing the swipe, like you would to switch to it, hold it just in view for a moment and you'll see your main app slide to the right. Releasing there will give you a "snap" view of the swiped in app and a "fill" view of the existing app. You can then move the splitter to determine which app is the snap and which is the fill or move the splitter all the way to onc side to return to a single app view.

The next thing you'll probably want to do to get the most out of this new experience is to clean up and customize your Start screen. Here are some basics for quickly organizing things:

Live tiles are pretty cool, but after installing a number of third party apps, your Start screen can start to feel pretty noisy and flickery. Try turning off the live tiles for apps that don't provide you with really useful live information. To modify a tile, select it by touching the tile and dragging down slightly. (To un-select the tile, repeat the same gesture.) The tile will get a selection outline and a check box in the top right corner. You'll also get a toolbar at the bottom of the screen where you can turn on or off the live tile, make the tile smaller or larger, uninstall the app, and unpin it from the Start screen.

Your Start screen is not the only or even the best way to access all of your apps. For example, you can right click or swipe in from the bottom or top to get the toolbar on your Start screen. From there you can access All Apps, an excellent place to launch apps. You can also quickly locate apps by searching from the Search charm. Knowing that you can always get at all of your apps from these other locations, it makes sense to remove apps from your Start screen that aren't providing valuable live tile information or aren't launched regularly. To remove a tile from your Start screen, simply select the tile with the touch and drag down gesture and then tap or click the Unpin from Start item in the toolbar. To add an app back to the Start screen, select the app tile in the All Apps view or from your search results and Pin to Start from the app bar.

Having removed the noise of unnecessary live tiles, and cleaned out infrequently used apps, another useful step in organizing is to re-arrange your apps. Moving a tile to another group is as easy as dragging the tile down to select it and then dragging it where you want it to go. Dragging to the right or left edge of the screen will pan the view so you can drag to areas that were previously off-screen. If you're dragging any significant distance, it's usually easier to do it with Semantic Zoom. To organize in the zoomed view, simply drag the selected tile down to the bottom edge of the Start screen. You'll see the whole screen zoom out and then dragging around is much easier.

Dragging an app between the different existing groups is pretty easy. Not quite so obvious is creating new groups. To do this, select a tile and move it between two groups until you see a faint white vertical bar. When you see that, release the tile and you've created a new group. To give an app group a name, pinch to zoom out and then select a group just like you would select a tile. Once selected, tap or click the Name Group icon in the app bar. When selected you can also move the groups around just like you would a single tile.

Once you've got everything organized, you may want to start looking for efficiency in other ways. The first place you're going to find some speed is to get familiar with your Touch keyboard. I've started to replace the swipe and a tap with a single press of the specific Charm key on the top row of the keyboard and also started replacing a swipe and tap with a single press of the Windows key located left of the space bar. There are also a few very useful keyboard shortcuts that I didn't cover above, including Win+q for searching your apps, Win+f for searching your files, and Win+. for switching your snap and fill views.

There's lots more info online, but these are a few of the things I've learned over the last year or so of using the Windows 8 Metro environment. I hope you find them useful.

First Windows 8 TV Ad - ASUS Dissed?

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Microsoft's first Windows 8 television ad includes devices from all of its major OEM partners except ASUS. Featured in the video are devices from Samsung, Sony (two devices,) Acer, Lenovo (two devices,) and HP.

ASUS, you'll remember, was the OEM to make public complaints about Microsoft's Surface devices.

ASUS also has one of the largest stables and some of the best reviewed devices coming out for Windows 8, including the Vivo Tab, Vivo Book X202, Taichi 21, Transformer Book, and the Zenbook Prime UX21A Touch.

update: Well, I got that one wrong, it was Acer, not ASUS that raised the complaints. Oops. It's still curious why ASUS was left out considering the investment they've made in Windows 8 devices.

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