Mozilla Dumps "Metro" Version of Firefox

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | March 16, 2014 - 03:27 AM |
Tagged: windows, mozilla, microsoft, Metro

If you use the Firefox browser on a PC, you are probably using its "Desktop" application. They also had a version for "Modern" Windows 8.x that could be used from the Start Screen. You probably did not use it because fewer than 1000 people per day did. This is more than four orders of magnitude smaller than the number of users for Desktop's pre-release builds.

Yup, less than one-thousandth.

22-mozilla-2.jpg

Jonathan Nightingale, VP of Firefox, stated that Mozilla would not be willing to release the product without committing to its future development and support. There was not enough interest to take on that burden and it was not forecast to have a big uptake in adoption, either.

From what we can see, it's pretty flat.

The code will continue to exist in the organization's Mercurial repository. If "Modern" Windows gets a massive influx of interest, they could return to what they had. It should also be noted that there never was a version of Firefox for Windows RT. Microsoft will not allow third-party rendering engines as a part of their Windows Store certification requirements (everything must be based on Trident, the core of Internet Explorer). That said, this is also true of iOS and Firefox Junior exists with these limitations. It's not truly Firefox, little more than a re-skinned Safari (as permitted by Apple), but it exists. I have heard talks about Firefox Junior for Windows RT, Internet Explorer reskinned by Mozilla, but not to any detail. The organization is very attached to its own technology because, if whoever made the engine does not support new features or lags in JavaScript performance, the re-skins have nothing to leverage it.

Paul Thurrott of WinSupersite does not blame Mozilla for killing "Metro" Firefox. He acknowledges that they gave it a shot and did not see enough pre-release interest to warrant a product. He places some of the blame on Microsoft for the limitations it places on browsers (especially on Windows RT). In my opinion, this is just a symptom of the larger problem of Windows post-7. Hopefully, Microsoft can correct these problems and do so in a way that benefits their users (and society as a whole).

Source: Mozilla

GDC 14: Mozilla & Epic Games Run Unreal Engine 4 in Firefox

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 12, 2014 - 09:17 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 14, mozilla, epic games, unreal engine 4

Epic Games has been wanting Unreal Engine in the web browser for quite some time now. Back in 2011, the company presented their Citadel demo running in Flash 11.2. A short while later, Mozilla and Epic ported it to raw JavaScript and WebGL. With the help of asm.js, which is a series of optimizations for JavaScript, Unreal Engine 3 was at home in the browser at near-native speed, with no plugins. Epic's Tim Sweeney and Mark Rein, in an interview with GamaSutra, said that Unreal Engine 4 will take it beyond a demo and target web browsers as a supported platform.

Today, Mozilla teases Unreal Engine 4 running in Firefox, ahead of GDC.

Speaking of speed, asm.js can now reach within 67% of native performance and Mozilla is still optimizing their compiler. While it is difficult to write asm.js-compliant code by hand, companies like Epic are simply compiling their existing C/C++ code through Emscripten into that optimized Javascript. If you have a bit of CPU overhead in your native application, it could little more than a compile away from running in the web browser, possibly any web browser on any platform, without plugins. This obviously has great implications for timeless classics that would otherwise outlive its host platform.

Both Mozilla and Epic will have demos in their booths on the conference floor.

Source: Mozilla

CES 2014: Firefox OS to Power Panasonic Smart TVs

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2014 - 04:18 AM |
Tagged: Panasonic, mozilla, Firefox OS, CES 2014, CES

Firefox OS is a thin Linux layer which immediately loads Gecko, the rendering engine behind Firefox and other Mozilla products, to handle everything else. The entire OS interface is developed in HTML5, CSS, Javascript, and other web standards. It suffices to say that it can handle web apps very easily (it is one).

22-mozilla-2.jpg

Panasonic and Mozilla have entered into a partnership, announced at CES, for future smart TVs to be powered by Firefox OS. This can be very useful for Panasonic. Provided they keep up with certifying new releases, performance should be about the only other barrier preventing their product from running the popular apps as they arise. It also lifts the burden away for developer support.

On the other hand, this could also be good for Firefox OS and the web itself. Mozilla is not a stupid organization and, while they certainly like their products adopted, I would not be surprised if they hope this effort brings content out to play. Netflix and other content providers who want to be on Panasonic's platform would need to support their flavor of Firefox OS. Netflix, in particular, has already made inroads with HTML5 albeit with certain encryption extensions.

Atwood's Law applies to televisions, too!

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Panasonic

Mozilla's WebGL Shader Editor Looks Pretty Useful

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 01:57 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, webgl

Tools for web developers are pretty astonishing these days. You are able to investigate the driving elements and objects as they are being executed within the browser -- and even modify them. This typically means that you can play around with the various functions and parameters while the app is loaded. You receive immediate feedback about your changes.

Web Standards continue to encompass 3D and other game-related tasks. As a result, developer tools are beginning to take advantage of their browser's managed architecture making it easier to tweak and debug content. In other words: you can poke your 3D scene as it is being rendered.

And Mozilla says that editing shaders should not impact its performance.

Now this is quite interesting. Basically all of the GPU's involvement in drawing a 3D scene comes down to two scripts (at least for WebGL 1.0): a vertex shader and a fragment shader. These are operations that run once for every vertex in a scene and once for every pixel an object in a scene occupies, respectively. Together they form a "program" which gives an object's geometry something tangible for users to see.

Here is an example of Unreal Engine 3 being modified at runtime.

The developer tools within Firefox 27 will allow you to modify these scripts at runtime and even turn specific draw calls on or off. This should vastly speed up the rate at which developers modify their effects especially when it comes to fine tuning specific variables such as the rate that waves flow in a water material.

Firefox 27 is expected to be the release version in early February; it is currently in the Aurora channel.

GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) Working on Mozilla's Rust

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 03:59 AM |
Tagged: GCC, Rust, mozilla

Rust is an interesting language in that it aims to be safe and concurrent. It was discussed frequently at Mozilla Summit back in early October both on its own and in terms of the experimental HTML5 rendering engine, Servo. From how it was describe to me from other attendees, it prides itself on its task-based architecture. Basically, your application is (or, at least, is often) set up like a bunch of tasks that get scheduled concurrently and pass messages to one another if they want to communicate. This concept allow for efficient multithreading because each task is inherently independent.

mozilla-rust.png

This may remind you of the experiments John Carmack did with Wolfenstein and Haskell.

Apparently at least one developer from the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) is also paying attention. Philip Herron has been working on the "gccrs" branch to create a GCC front-end for Mozilla's language.

We will need languages like Rust in the near future as processors continue to ramp up in thread count. Just look at the Xeon Phi story from last week: a bootable 288-thread standalone processor based on the Silvermont architecture. If you want this processor to be used efficiently then you better be light on the main thread otherwise your 6 TFLOPs (3 TFLOPs double-precision) will only be quick to behave like an Atom.

Source: Phoronix

Mozilla Summit 2013, Day 3: Toronto Office Tour and Games!

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 7, 2013 - 11:55 PM |
Tagged: Mozilla Summit 2013, mozilla

Summit 2013 came to an end on Sunday after a few closing keynotes, breakout sessions, a tour of the Mozilla Toronto campus, and interpretive dancing of what the fox says. Do not worry, Mozillians in our audience, I will only interpretively illustrate the interpretive dance with a totally unironic Shockwave Flash screenshot.

homestar-smoothmoves.png

Real smooth moves, indeed.

On the topic of Flash demos, the first session I attended included an extended preview of Shumway. As discussed in Day 2, the project intends to keep Flash content alive after the platform fades. A few demos were shown to attendees including a signification portion of the HomestarRunner email, "Your Friends", where Strong Bad harms the entire cast except himself and The Poopsmith (and other off-cast or yet-to-be-introduced characters, of course). The video played just about perfectly.

IMG182.jpg

BananaBread OF DOOM!

"Bananabread" was also modified into a special demo showing live textures from video elements. The game even projected a separate game of Doom against the wall of the level. This can, of course, be used for non-gaming projects as well; projects have been developed to use shader effects on web camera video for GPU-accelerated post-processing tasks.

IMG186.jpg

The closing ceremonies followed the breakout sessions and mostly thanked their community. A few "Mozillians" were voted by their peers for their popular influence and were recognized with signed posters and, in one case, a paid trip to any Mozilla campus in the world. Plus, people were hugged by a fox; a picture is worth a thousand words.

IMG205.jpg

The last event of the day, at least the last one relevant to a computer hardware website, was a tour of the Mozilla Toronto campus. The office is structured in departments around a central kitchen, restroom, and discussion area. They attempt to have a sort-of Canadian cottage feel with a couple of Adirondack chairs and a wood-beam ceiling. There is also a group of desks called "Benoits St." because, well, it just so happens everyone who works in that section is named Benoit.

IMG194.jpg

Community Room with its reconfigurable tables and musical corner.

Thus ends the coverage of Mozilla Summit 2013, Toronto.

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla Summit 2013, Day 2: APCs and Servos in a Flash

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 6, 2013 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, Mozilla Summit 2013

The second day of Mozilla Summit 2013 kicked off with three more keynote speeches, a technology fair, and two blocks of panels. After two days and about two dozen demos, several extremely experimental, I am surprised to only see one legitimate demo fail attempting to connect two 3D browser games in multiplayer over WebRTC… and that seemed to be the fault of a stray automatic Windows Update on the host PC.

Okay technically another demo “failed” because an audience member asked, from the crowd, to browse a Mozilla Labs browser prototype, Servo, to an arbitrary website which required HTTPS and causing the engine to nope. I do not count that one.

IMG142.jpg

Speaking of Servo, the HTML rendering engine ended the “Near Term Strategy and the Products we Build” keynote with an announcement of its full score to ACID1. The engine, developed in Mozilla’s own RUST language, is a sandbox for crazy ideas such as, “What would happen if you allow Javascript to execute in its own thread when it would normally be blocked by Gecko?” Basically any promising task to parallelize is being explored (they openly solicit community insights) in making the web browser better suited for the current and upcoming multi- and many-core devices out there. Samsung is also involved on the project, which makes sense for their mobile products.

IMG138.jpg

Also discussed is Shumway, a Javascript rendering engine for Flash content. Candy Crush Saga was presented as an example of a game, entirely reliant on Flash, playing without the plugin installed in a similar way to how WINE allows Windows applications within Linux. Shumway has been known for a while but is becoming quite effective in its performance. What happens to content after Flash becomes deprecated (be it 3 years, 10 years, or 100 years) has been a concern of mine with videos such as HomestarRunner holding cultural relevance despite not updating in almost 3 years.

IMG143.jpg

Lastly, we saw a demo of the APC Paper which is expected to lead Firefox OS into the desktop market. It is actually a little smaller than I expected from the pictures.

IMG144.jpg

One more day before everyone heads home. So far not much has happened but I will keep you updated as things occur.

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla Summit 2013, Day 1: Unreal Engine and UP

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | October 5, 2013 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, Mozilla Summit 2013

I have volunteered with Mozilla starting about a month after I read the Windows Store certification requirements (prior to that I was ramping up development of modern apps). I am currently attending, due to that volunteer work, Mozilla Summit in Toronto. The first day, Friday, has been filled with keynotes including some partially-new announcements.

IMG073.jpg

Mozilla has a number of branded elevator doors, signs, and carpets covering the hotel to promote the event for the attendees. Unfortunately, my hotel room was not in the tower this elevator serviced. Also unfortunate, I did not realize that until I was on said elevator at in the 27th floor. Moving between the first and 27th floors took all of about 5 seconds; popping my ears took longer. To be fair I was given correct directions by the hotel staff I just did not realize that the building was, in fact, multiple buildings and so my interpretation was off.

On to the important stuff: explosions! The second keynote contained high performance 3D browser games and, albeit less kablooieie, site personalization.

IMG102.jpg

The latter we have talked about before. Mozilla is implementing interface elements in the browser for users to share demographic information with websites. They understand that advertising is how the web works and does not want it outright dead. They do believe (at least some) advertisers mine too much data from their users because they need to mine some data from their users. One-on-one conversation with a couple Mozilla staff somewhat confirms my suspicions that the initiative is to remove the temptation for just a little more data with homegrown solutions. This seems to be their last idea, however, given the discussion at the panel.

IMG093.jpg

The former was an Unreal Engine demo on stage during the “Envisioned Future State” keynote. The presenter had several multi-kills with a rocket launcher. I should note the entire demo ran off of the file protocol so no internet connection was required. This was quite literally Unreal Tournament 3 running native to Firefox.

Well, I think that is it for today! A lot of information was released but I believe these were the top-two most interesting points.

Source: Mozilla

ZTE Open Smartphone Running Firefox OS Sold Out On eBay

Subject: General Tech | August 20, 2013 - 04:37 PM |
Tagged: zte open, zte, smartphone, msm7225a, mozilla, Firefox OS

Mozilla has been working on its mobile Firefox OS for about a year, and smartphones running the OS are starting to become available stateside. The first bit of hardware running Firefox OS is the ZTE Open, which launched last week for $79.99 exclusively on eBay. Unfortunately, the limited stock ZTE made available is already gone, and there is no word on when more smartphones will be available. (However, in typical eBay fashion, users are turning around and selling the $80 phone for $170 if you really want to get your hands on it...)

According to the eBay listing, ZTE managed to sell 985 of the orange ZTE Open smartphones.

ZTE Open Firefox OS Smartphone.jpg

The ZTE Open comes in blue or orange and features low end specifications. Fortunately, Firefox OS and its HTML5 applications do not demand much hardware. On the outside, the ZTE Open has a 3.5” TFT touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 320, a single home button sitting below the display, and a 3.15 MP rear camera. Internal specifications include a MSM7225A SoC with an ARM Cortex-A5 CPU clocked at 1Ghz and Adreno 200 GPU along with 2GB of internal storage expandable by micro SD card. Other specifications include 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, 3G cellular radio, a 1200 mAH battery, and various sensors (accelerometer, ambient light, and GPS). The Firefox OS smartphone measures 114 x 62 x 12.5mm.

Seeing the ZTE Open sell out of its limited stock in such a short amount of time suggests that there is some positive amount of demand for Firefox OS from enthusiasts, but the smartphone and OS platform still has a long road ahead of it before it becomes a true threat to Android and iOS. Much like the fabled Ubuntu Phone, more than enthusiast demand will be needed, along with support from US carriers and app developers. With that said, it is a good first step into the US market and I hope ZTE makes more phones available soon.

Read more about Mozilla's Firefox OS.

Source: Hexus.net

Firefox 23 Shipped. Nice Icon. Nice Icon. Nice Icon. Nice Icon.

Subject: General Tech | August 7, 2013 - 03:47 AM |
Tagged: firefox, mozilla

The hottest version of Firefox, for the next 6 weeks, was just released to the world and much discussion came with it. This version, most controversially, removed the <blink> element. What a terrible destruction of HTML history. How can web developers ever make fun of old VCRs? Resort to... CSS?

Pardon me, I think I am going to be sick. Oh wait, that's just not-epilepsy.

Firefox-23-logo.png

Also removed was the preference to disable JavaScript. Fear not, users will still be able to modify the setting by diving into about:config. Interested users will actually need to, because this change will revert the setting to the default on position if users had previously disabled it. I assume this was a user experience decision for users who temporarily disabled Javascript right before updating Firefox; users tech savvy enough to want Javascript off will know to dive in to the settings registry.

Or just, you know, install NoScript or something.

Firefox-23-memory.png

While we are talking about... about:... about:memory (hmm, this sentence reminds me of <blink>) has been given a slight graphical overhaul. The controls are now on the top of the report which allows users to know they exist without scrolling all the way down. These buttons have some legitimate use for many users: they can now manually force Firefox to clean up its memory footprint.

Firefox-23-dev.jpg

Web Developers also have a few new tools to play with including, but not limited to, tracing network traffic too and from their site. This was already possible with various console configurations but not nearly as aesthetically pleasing or even usable. If your element has very big horizontal bars, it takes a long time to load and is a good candidate to optimize first.

In all, Mozilla seems to be very productive with the number of improvements in just six weeks of development time. The next release is expected to leave Beta Channel on, or near, September 17.

Source: Mozilla