Happy birthday, Mozilla. It was on this day, 8 years ago, that Mozilla was born. I've been involved with the project for most of that time and it sure doesn't feel like 8 years. Time flies when you're having fun.
March 2006 Archives
This new version ads a host of new features and turns Firefox into the ultimate web app development and debugging tool. You can read about what's new in FireBug 0.3 over at JoeHewitt.com.
(oh, and check out Joe's slick comment system. sexy blog, dude.)
We should all be thankful that Microsoft illegally leveraged its Windows monopoly to enter and then take over the Web browser market because, according to recent Microsoft hire John Carroll, "if IE WASN'T pre-installed, most people wouldn't be able to download all that IM, media playing, or even alternative browsers such as Firefox."
Yep. Before IE was illegally bundled with Windows, no one was on the web using the Netscape browser. None of the top OEMs were shipping Netscape to their users. The Netscape browser that wasn't being used by tens of millions of users wasn't capable of downloading other Internet software. The Web didn't really even exist until Microsoft bundled IE with Windows. Have I got it right, John?
John goes on to say that "The mere notion that such consumers are somehow so skewed by the mere inclusion of a software default that competitors can't gain traction is RIDICULOUS?"
No matter how much he'd like it to, hitting the capslock key doesn't change the facts. Downloads remain a huge barrier to entry for most computer users and it's completely disingenuous for John to suggest that AIM somehow proves his point when OEMs almost universally bundle AIM with new PCs (something that probably wouldn't be happening today had Microsoft not been taken to court and slapped down some over it's illegal activities in the late 90s.)
Do these people even believe the garbage that comes out of their mouths? Do they think we're idiots?
John, your company broke the law. Microsoft was managed by lawbreakers and thugs who strong-armed OEMs that were already shipping a superior browser to millions and millions of users. Microsoft cheated. There is no honor in that, and even less in your sad attempt at defending it.
update: Looks like Blake and I see pretty eye to eye on this one.
update 4:Not only are there exploits in the wild, but it appears they're showing up at hundreds legitimate sites, not just unfamiliar and untrusted sites. These explots are stealing credit card numbers and login credentials. Read more at Washington Post. I expect that Microsoft will be accellerating a fix for this one. There's just no way they'd keep their users exposed until the middle of April.
Yikes. If you're an IE user, even one who doesn't like Firefox, perhaps you should consider using Firefox for the next litle while as Microsoft figures out what to do about this potential exploit.
Ewwww. And exploits are out.
update: And it gets worse.
another update: Explotis in the wild are installing spyware. Expect the keyloggers and trojans to appear shortly. This one is moving fast, folks.
update 3: From the various articles I've read, it sounds like Microsoft doesn't intend to offer a patch until their next scheduled update in mid-April.
Whatever my other criticisms of IE's new feedback mechanism, I want to make one thing clear. This is not "like Bugzilla" as so many in the press have reported over the weekend.
This is a semi-public feedback system where you can see bugs that are reported by everyone except IE developers.
In Bugzilla, you see the real work of improving Firefox. This includes all of the bugs that Mozilla developers and QA reports as well as all of the bugs that our testing community report along with all of the activity that happens during the traige, fixing, and testing process.
In this IE tool, you see only the public feedback, but you will not see the real bugs that IE developers and QA are working on. You will not see the actual IE team working on IE.
If you're in the press and you're writing about this, a much better comparison would be to our Hendrix tool, where users report feedback, that feedback goes to a public location, and discussion may or may not happen as a result.
IE's feedback tool is about as close to Mozilla's Bugzilla as a brick is to fishbowl.
I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I, as much as probably anyone in the software world, appreciate the value of improving feedback loops between user and developer. This is probably a small step in the right direction for them, but it is not like Mozilla's Bugzilla.
On Friday I was contacted by a couple members of the press asking me if I had any comments on Microsoft's new IE public bug database. Since I hadn't had the chance to actually check it out, I refrained from comment.
Now that I have had a chance to check it out, I've got a couple of comments and a couple of questions.
First, the commentary.
The database is brand new and participation is still very low, with only a couple hundred bugs reported so it's difficult to make any serious judgements this early. There are large gaps in bug IDs so I assume they're moderating user submitted reports (maybe cleaning out trolls?,) or they're tracking large numbers of non-public bugs in the database (about 95% of the numbers since the first public one are non-public). I suspect that it's the former and not the latter because the number of non-public records, while a high percentage of the total, couldn't possibly be their full IE buglist. Maybe they've got some kind of combined system where public and private bugs share a numbering scheme, though.
It's called "Internet Explorer Feedback" so I'd wager that this system is a lot more like our Hendrix system, an opportunity for users to submit feedback and not a real public project bug database like our Bugzilla. I haven't seen any bugs that appear to be filed by Microsoft IE developers so I'm assuming they've still got their own private database where the real work happens. Oh, and in the introduction it says that "This is your opportunity to speak directly with the Product Team" (emphasis mine.)
The interface for searching and viewing bugs is really basic and clumsy. They'd have done themselves and their users a favor by going with something a bit more sophisticated if they anticipate any extended participation from bug reporters. I could see filing a ticket here, but I couldn't imagine actually doing any kind of follow-through with that tool. Buglists can be sorted by ID or Title only. Yeah, that bug Title sort looks really useful to me . The submission form is a lot like our Helper and they've got a decent doc on best practices for bug reporting. Also, navigation around the various components of the system is really busted and buggy. Apparently there are fields, at least attachments, which aren't visible to anyone but Microsoft employees. This is going to make any public discussions pretty painful. Oh, and it's painfully slow, especially given how little data there is to actually query.
On to the questions.
Will IE developers and QA be participating in this public forum or is it just a one-way system?
Will Microsoft employees file bugs in this database?
Will there be any technical discussion in these bugs or is this solely a non-technical forum?
Why is the "IE doesn't pass acid2 test" bug report "Resolved as By Design" ;-)
There's less than a week left in the buy two and get one free special on "for Dummies" books at Amazon.com. If you haven't already purchased your copy of Firefox for Dummies now is a good time. On top of the 3 for the price of 2 special, Amazon.com is also offering a $5 rebate on the Dummies books.
Firefox for Dummies is a great book for anyone that's new to Firefox and would make a good gift, along with a Firefox CD, for those few remaining family and friends who haven't yet converted to Firefox. You won't get a better price any time soon, so I'd encourage you to grab a copy this weekend.
From my previous post on this book:
Firefox for Dummies was written by Blake Ross, and I was somewhat involved in the technical reviews during the book's development (completely pro bono) so you know it'll be helpful, fun, and easy to use -- just like Firefox itself :-)
The book is a fantastic guide for people who don't read this blog. That means your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. If you're spreading the word about Firefox, and you run into people who are a bit skeptical about making the transition from IE, especially if you can't be there to look over their shoulder for the first few weeks of using Firefox, this book would be an ideal tool help them get over that initial hesitation. The book also includes an nice little introduction to the Thunderbird email client from Mozilla as well, which for most people does require a bit more help in getting set up and getting comfortable with.
One other reason you might want to buy this book is that it's a really good guide for people who are spreading Firefox. After having read through it a few times, I've found myself changing some of the language I use when helping others get going with Firefox. The overall style and tone of the book is worth absorbing for anyone that spends significant time helping IE users migrate to and get the most out of Firefox.
I'm sure it will come as a surprise to some of you, but I'm not a big extension user. I've tried probably about 1,000 Firefox extensions, giving each one a shot to become a regular, but in the end I keep settling back to just a few.
I always have Resizeable Textarea. This one makes participating in forums and posting at blogs a much nicer experience. The simple extension does one thing and does it pretty well. It lets you resize text areas by just grabbing the corner of the text area and dragging it out, just like resizing a window. There's only one thing missing from this extension and that's textarea size persistence. This extension seems to me to be one of those ultra-low impact features with big wins for those who need it that should just be incorporated into Firefox. It's only going to add a few KB to the Firefox download, it won't get in your way at all if you don't use it, and it compliments the emerging publishing trends on the Web.
The second extension I use is SpellBound, the spell checking extension for Firefox. This extension is another that I'd like to see incorporated with the default Firefox releases. It still needs some UI polish, and it's got a few bugs that need to be fixed, but it offers online publishers (like bloggers,) webmail users, and forum participants the chance to finally stop cursing typos after they've been pushed. This one's a bit heftier and could add as much as 100-200 KB including dictionaries. If the size situation could be improved by integration, I think it'd make a great addition.
While I think that Resizeable Textarea and SpellBound are generally useful extensions, my third regular extension is one that I don't think should be integrated. I use Link Visitor to keep track of which stories I've read on sites like Google News. Sites like Google News are always adding new stories and usually not in temporal order so it's often difficult to see which ones I've already read (or decided I wasn't interested in reading.) To get around this problem, when I've finished reading any stories that I'm interested in, I use the Link Visitor extension to mark all of the links on the page as visited. This is clearly a niche case, and one I'm pleased is filled by our extension community. (BTW, if any of you are interested in becoming my favorite Firefox contributor, Link Visitor needs to be updated to the new Places backend.)
When we shipped Bon Echo Alpha 1, I read at least a dozen blog posts and received several emails from people who said something like "all 45 of my extensions were disabled by this update" and I started to wonder, what kind of web use requires 45 extensions, or even 25, or 10 for that matter. So, if you're the kind of person that can't get by without less than 10 Firefox extensions, I'd like to hear a bit about how you use the web (not just about what extensions you have). Feel free to share in the comments here.
"Experts have noted that, while the flaw is serious, those wishing to exploit it would have to entice users to click a link that takes them to a specially crafted Web site. "
How is this a mitigating factor or anything that should be presented as lessening the concern. When does a browser vulnerability not require that a user connect to a website serving malicious code? It seems like this is a common refrain for all of the the IE vulnerabilities and I'm wondering is it anything more than just spin?
Can any of you all think of serious browser vulnerabilites that don't require a user make a connection to a site that serves malicious content? If not, then why treat that as somehow special.
In-browser AJAX replacements for desktop apps are getting better every day. Right now, I'd place the "state of the art" in web apps at a comparable level of commonplace rich client apps around 1999 or 2000. I've been playing with Ajax Write for about an hour now and it's not bad. It's not Word 2003, but it's certainly a step or two above notepad.
How far is this trend gonna go?
Today, we're making availble for testing the BonEcho Alpha 1 milestone. This developer build is the first of many developer milestones on the path to Firefox 2.
This is _alpha_ code, folks, not beta, and definitely not ready for regular people. These builds might disintegrate, incinerate, pulverise, shred, or melt your hard drive -- and to top it off, we don't offer any support for BonEcho either :P
If, however, you're a Firefox tester and you want to help us out with feedback on this alpha milestone, grab the bits here and have at it.
Also, we're looking for help monitoring the feedback locations, primarily the Hendrix data coming in at mozilla.feedback. If you see any serious issues reported there, please bubble them up to us through appropriate channels (here, Bugzilla, the QA blog, etc.) Thanks
While I'm on the topic of astronomy, I wanted to point out a great open source planetarium application called Stellarium. It's available for Mac, Windows, and Linux so give it a try.
I've just added a new favorite space blog to the blogroll over on the left. Do check out Centauri Dreams if you enjoy space exploration, astronomy, and cosmology.
Just in case there's anyone reading who doesn't already know this:
When we make a new release, we'll say so. Please don't report new releases because someone checks in a change to the user agent or similar. If we're actaully doing a release, we'll announce it. Thanks.
While Google stood up for itself and its users, and won! America Online, Yahoo, and Microsoft caved without so much as a whimper.
Sometimes a great blog post just reaches out and smacks you in the face. This time it's not about Firefox, or technology at all. It's not about astronomy and it's not about cats. It's about a movie. How did I ever miss this way back in 2005:
Snakes on a Plane
I don't watch a lot of television, and thanks to TiVo, I don't watch anything that I don't really enjoy. This year, a couple of my favorites from last year are gone -- HBO's Six Feet Under and (especially) Showtime's Dead Like Me. (What happened to DLM? I never heard anything about it being killed, it just didn't show up this season.)
The good news is that the networks seem to be stepping up, at least NBC, with a couple of great new shows.
Tonight, as Deanna and I capped off a great hour of comedy with My Name is Earl and The Office, we started talking about what it is that we really like about the shows and Deanna suggested that one factor was that neither one uses a laugh track. I think that's a big piece of it. The comedies don't insult the viewer by telling him when to laugh. They don't follow that traditional sitcom strategy of the setup and punchline. As we started to talk about it, other deviations from the traditional comedy started to come out: the traditional sitcom three walled set with multiple cameras has been replaced by a single camera and movement around real-world settings. Not every scene has to end in a laugh (and The Office in particular wraps a lot of scenes with something quite far from a laugh -- a very uncomfortable silence.)
Now I find it completely intollerable watching a sitcom with canned laughter or a studio audience clapping and laughing on cue and I'm going to actively seek out shows that forgoe the laughtrack and the three-walled set.
(note: yes, I loved the original Ricky Gervais The Office. Oh, and thank you, NBC, for putting your money behind these two entertaining comedies.)
The Firefox Flicks ad contest is starting to heat up.
You can follow all the goings on over at the Flicks Backstage Blog. We've got behind the scenes coverage from contestants, guest posts from "Friends of Firefox Flicks" supporters, updates on the contest and prizes as well as ongoing visibility opportunities for our contestants.
If you're thinking about producing an ad for the contest, you've got one month left to do so. We're wrapping up on April 14th.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) orbital insertion has just begun. So far things are nominal but this next hour will probably tell us whether or not we're going to have another amazing satellite orbiting Mars (joining Odyssey, Global Surveyor, and Express.) You can follow the excitement at NASA TV on the web
Today is a very exciting day. Not only are we about to (hopefully) put another great set of tools (amazing cameras, a spectrometer, an atmospheric sounder, and radar) into orbit around Mars, but Cassini just discovered what appears to be large quantities of liquid water near the surface of Saturn's seventh Satellite, Enceladus.
Wow. Fun day.
update1: MRO has been eclipsed by Mars so for the next 30 minutes everyone will be holding their breath. During this time, the mission team will be blind to the status of the orbiter. At the time of the occultation, all measurements were still nominal :-)
update2: I just got an email from someone asking about when we'd see pictures from MRO's HiRISE instrument. Actually, it's going to be a while. The orbitan insertion, managed by a 27 minute thruster burn (the last 7 minutes of which hopefully hsa just completed -- we couldn't see with MRO behind Mars) is just the first step. As soon as the insertion is completed, aerobraking will begin. This is the process where the orbiter slows and decreses the widely eliptical orbit using friction against the Martian atmosphere. This process will take just under 6 months. After aerobraking is completed, the satellite will perform some trim maneuvers that will make more subtle adjustments to the orbit, placing it in just the right orbit for the beginning of the science mission. Then, during the month of October (while solar conjunction prevents any science from happening) the craft will run a series of instrument tests. Then, finally, on November 8th or 9th, we'll start gathering science data.
update3: We have signal reacquisition!! The spacecraft has come from around the backside of Mars and is currently sending telemetry which we're receiving at Goldstone (part of the Deep Space Network). This is great news and confirms that everything is working exactly as expected. The spacecraft is precisely where it's supposed to be and two-way communication has been restored. "MRO is in orbit around Mars" !!
Susan Kitchens, over at 2020 Hindsight also blogged this critical moment for MRO. Check it out.
The Hubble Space Telescope and the series of great cameras it housed have done more to bring the disciplines of astronomy and cosmology into the popular arena than anything in my lifetime.
Today, via Daily Kos, I found this great HST montage. I hope you enjoy it.
I'm back. Today I'll be catching up on email so if I owe you a reply from the last couple of weeks, I hope to get that out sometime in the next few hours.
We'll miss you, Harold.