things that interest me this week – 29 oct 2014

Quick Update: A couple of people mentioned there’s no Mozilla items in here. They’re right, and it’s primarily because the original audience of this type of thing was Mozilla. I’ll make sure I add them where relevant, moving forward.

Every week I put together a bunch of news items I think are interesting to the people I work with, and that’s usually limited to a couple wiki pages a handful of people read. I figured I may as well put it in a couple other places, like here, and see if people are interested. Topics focus on the web, the technologies that power it, and the platforms that make use of it. I work for Mozilla, but these are my own opinions and takes on things.

I try to have three sections:

  • Something to Think About – Something I’m seeing a company doing that I think is important, why I think it’s important, and sometimes what I think should be done about it. Some weeks these won’t be around, because they tend to not show their faces much.
  • Worth a Read – Things I think are worth the time to read if you’re interested in the space as a whole. Limited to three items max, but usually two. If you don’t like what’s in here, tell me why.
  • Notes – Bits and bobs people may or may not be interested in, but that I think are significant, bear watching, or are of general interest.

I’ll throw these out every Wednesday, and standard disclaimers apply – this is what’s in my brain, and isn’t representative of what’s in anyone else’s brain, especially the folks I work with at Mozilla. I’ll also throw a mailing list together if there’s interest, and feedback is always welcome (your comment may get stuck in a spam-catcher, don’t worry, I’ll dig it out).

– k

Something to Think About

Lifehacker posted an article this morning around all the things you can do from within Chrome’s address bar. Firefox can do a number of the same things, but it’s interesting to see the continual improvements the Chrome team has made around search (and service) integration, and also the productivity hacks (like searching your Google drive without actually going there) that people come up with to make a feature more useful than it’s intended design.

Why I think people should care: Chrome’s modifications to the address bar aren’t ground-breaking, nor are they changes that came about overnight. They are a series of iterative changes to a core function that work well with Google’s external services, and focus on increasing utility which, not coincidentally, increases the value and stickiness of the Google experience as a whole. Continued improvements to existing features (and watching how people are riffing on those features) is a good thing, and is something to consider as part of our general product upkeep, particularly around the opportunity to do more with services (both ours, and others) that promote the open web as a platform.

Worth a Read

  • Benedict Evans updated his popular “Mobile Is Eating the World” presentation, and posits that mobile effectively ”is” everything technology today. I think it needs a “Now” at the end, because what he’s describing has happened before, and will happen again. Mobile is a little different currently, mainly because of the gigantic leaps in hardware for fewer dollars that continue to be made as well as carrier subsidies fueling 2-year upgrade cycles. Mobile itself is also not just phones, it’s things other than desktops and laptops that have a network connection. Everything connected is everything. He’s also put together a post on Tablets, PCs and Office that goes a little bit into technology cycles and how things like tablets are evolving to fill more than just media consumption needs, but the important piece he pushes in both places is the concept of network connected screens being the window to your stuff, and the platform under the screen being a commodity (e.g. processing power is improving on every platform to the point the hardware platform is mattering less) that is really simply the interface that better fits the task at hand.
  • Ars Technica has an overview of some of the more interesting changes in Lollipop which focus on unbundling apps and APIs to mitigate fragmentation risk, an enhanced setup process focusing on user experience, and the shift in the Nexus brand from a market-share builder to a premium offering.
  • Google’s Sundar Pichai was promoted last week in a move that solidifies Google’s movement towards a unified, backend-anchored, multi-screen experience. Pichai is a long time Google product person, and has been fronting the Android and Chrome OS (and a couple other related services) teams, and now takes on Google’s most important web properties as well, including Gmail, Search, AdSense, and the infrastructure that runs it. This gives those business units inside Google better alignment around company goals, and shows the confidence Google has in Pichai. Expect further alignment in Google’s unified experience movement through products like Lollipop, Chrome OS, Inbox and moving more Google Account data (and related experiences like notifications and Web Intents) into the cloud, where it doesn’t rely on a specific client and can be shared/used on any connected screen.

Notes

Mozilla Firefox – Reset Your Profile, Recharge Your Browser

One of the best features in Firefox is one of its least-known. Many, many people complain of Firefox feeling slow and bloated over time, and in a number of cases, they’re not wrong. They just don’t know that surfing the web can be analogous to playing Katamari Damacy, where simply browsing can accumulate cruft until you have this big ball of metadata that slows you down.

If you find your Firefox experience is sub-par and a little more pokey than you’d like, you should try resetting your profile before moving over to another product. You should know that your preferences, extensions, and themes will be reset/removed, but since you’re planning on installing Chrome or another browser, I’m willing to bet that’s ok (and you should back your profile up before you do this, just in case). Your browsing history, bookmarks, and form info will be saved, and that’s the important thing.

To reset your profile, open up Help->Troubleshooting Information from the Help menu, and click the reset button. This simple procedure will cure most things that ail you performance-wise with Firefox. You should also read our support article on Resetting Your Firefox Profile, which will give you the the full scoop on what happens when you click.

There, doesn’t that feel better?

Firefox OS Update Mechanics

I’ve changed roles at Mozilla, and have been working a lot less with external groups we work with on Firefox and more with partners interested in Firefox OS. A lot of what I’m focusing on is around explaining how Firefox OS works, what makes it different from other mobile operating systems and ecosystems, and what’s required to bring a Firefox OS device to a given market. I’m not the only one (by far) doing this, but I do find myself assembling a lot of docs to help our potential partners understand things.

I’m going to start posting about what I’ve been working on both here and to the Mozilla wiki, and I’ll start with the update mechanics behind Firefox OS. Note that it’s by no means definitive, and particulars may change for a given deployment scenario. The docs I am creating are intended to lay out the concepts behind things (at a 5,000 foot view), so that people can understand what’s going on and what questions they need to ask from a product marketing, development, and operations point of view.

All of these docs are a work in progress, and will continue to be refined. I do vet them with people who know a lot more about the particulars than I do, but feedback’s always welcome from everywhere. In any event, if you’re interested, I’ll be adding this and others over the next few weeks to the Firefox OS/b2g info troves.

Continue reading

Repurposing Build Your Own Browser

Over two years ago we launched Build Your Own Browser as a way to create customized versions of Firefox that could be shared with friends, family, and affinity groups. Since that time we’ve had almost 6,000 individual registrations and almost 4,000 customized versions of Firefox submitted for distribution. We’re very happy with the response we’ve received, and have learned a lot during the time since we launched.

Moving forward we’re going to be re-focusing Build Your Own Browser as a customization framework, and will be shutting the current website down at the end of this month. The product will live on, but future versions will be the engine that creates customized versions of Firefox behind other web applications instead of web application in its own right.

Customized versions of Firefox that have passed review will continue to be available through 20:00 Eastern on June 30th 2012, after which the site will be closed and all account and build information deleted. If you’ve been using Build Your Own Browser to create customized builds for your organization, we recommend that you join the Enterprise Working Group mailing list, where browser customization for organizations is discussed at length.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who’s used Build Your Own Browser over the past two years. It’s been a great learning experience, and we hope to take what we’ve learned with Build Your Own Browser and use it to power newer, easier-to-use customization applications in the near future.

Mozilla Firefox Extended Support Release

Just a quick note that the Mozilla Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) is now available. The ESR is based on Mozilla Firefox 10, and is intended to be used by organizations that deploy Firefox in a managed desktop environment. You can read more about the Windows, Mac, and Linux installers from the Mozilla website, and additional information can be found in the Firefox ESR FAQ. Organizations who use the Firefox ESR are also strongly encouraged to join the Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group; a discussion group focused on sharing information related to Firefox deployments.

a note to myself

andrea posted a link to a note she leaves to herself to remember something important. I have something similar on my work computer to ensure I remember something important, too.

I work with a great group of people at Mozilla, and a large part of how we function is through peer reviews of ideas, code, and the execution on them. those reviews tend to focus on the negative, which can be incredibly demotivating. I’ve found that I’ve fallen into the trap of giving criticism but not praise on more than one occasion, and I want to nip making that a habit in the bud. having this little note front and centre reminds me to start with what I like and why, and then move on to what I find that could use improvement, and some of the options I see that can help get there.

as a good friend of mine says, “two yes, one no” takes you a long way. criticism alone is draining. letting people know what you think they’re doing well is just as important as what you think they aren’t, and combining the two makes for an overwhelmingly positive experience that people can act on.

firefox release dates

Update: Asa put a calendar up that is much better, as it covers all release channels, not just the main line.

because I am always, always trying to figure out when a particular release of Firefox is coming out.

big-assed disclaimer: this assumes unwavering adherence to releasing every six weeks. I will update this page if something happens.

also, New Year’s Day in 2013 is gonna hurt.



Release
Date
Firefox Beta Aurora
27-Sep-11 7 8 9
8-Nov-11 8 9 10
20-Dec-11 9 10 11
31-Jan-12 10 11 12
13-Mar-12 11 12 13
24-Apr-12 12 13 14
5-Jun-12 13 14 15
17-Jul-12 14 15 16
28-Aug-12 15 16 17
9-Oct-12 16 17 18
20-Nov-12 17 18 19
1-Jan-13 18 19 20
12-Feb-13 19 20 21
26-Mar-13 20 21 22
7-May-13 21 22 23
18-Jun-13 22 23 24
30-Jul-13 23 24 25
10-Sep-13 24 25 26
22-Oct-13 25 26 27

Adobe Security Updates for Flash, Reader, and Shockwave Plugins (plus bonus Silverlight & Java updates)

On June 14th 2011 Adobe released updates for its Flash, Reader, and Shockwave plugins to address critical security vulnerabilities in those products. Also getting in on the update fun recently was Microsoft, with a new version of Silverlight and Oracle, who released an update to Java last week that addressed 17 security vulnerabilities.

If you use any of these plugins, you should update them as soon as possible.

If you are unsure of what plugins you have installed and whether they need to be updated, you can visit Mozilla’s Plugin Check. Plugin Check is a web app which helps you identify what plugins you have installed, whether they need to be updated, and where to get the updates.

Related Links:

build your own browser maintenance – 14-jan-2011

Build Your Own Browser will undergo maintenance on Saturday, January 14th 2011. We’ll be updating all repacks and performing server maintenance, which will require extended downtime. The service should be available by 09:00 Eastern on Sunday January 15th 2011, but maintenance may run longer. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns regarding this maintenance, please let us know through the “Contact us” link in the Build Your Own Browser application.

build your own browser – maintenance 5 oct 2010

Build Your Own Browser will undergo scheduled maintenance on Tuesday, October 5th 2010 between 06:00 and 10:00 Pacific time (1300-1700 UTC), and will not be available for use during this time. We’ll be pushing a new version of the application that will add localization support, some l10n-specific settings, and a new queue management system for repacks. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns regarding this maintenance, please let us know through the “Contact us” link in the Build Your Own Browser application.