Cloth simulations in Javascript, optimized for asm.js

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 4, 2013 - 06:47 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, javascript, firefox, asm.js

Web browsers are getting really good at being general-purpose application platforms.

You can write most applications in web standards if you are willing to give up some level of performance for the gained ubiquity. HTML5, Javascript, and CSS are very full featured; WebGL and WebCL extend functionality by backing apps with surprising GPU horsepower; WebAPIs such as gamepad, telephony, and accelerometer support also keep advanced hardware-specific features open to web developers.

asmjsdrool.png

I can see the web developers drooling already.

But even though performance lags behind reasonable native environments, the divide is rapidly shrinking. Many applications have reached or exceeded the saturation of useful performance at the same time as browser developers narrow the gap between native performance and themselves.

Javascript is often, simply, good enough.

Mozilla has recently added support for the draft asm.js in their Aurora prerelease channel for Firefox. The specification is designed to permit a subset of Javascript to be flagged for optimization in compatible browsers but otherwise execute as normal everywhere else. It is also possible to compile more native code into Javascript if you can afford the ever-decreasing performance hit. Early implementations of asm.js execute code compiled from C within half of native performance.

asmjs.png

Because... pants.

According to David Herman of Mozilla, one of the lead authors of the ASM.js draft, the specification also allows for multithreading through web workers. Applications can take advantage of multiple hardware threads in this way, and potentially other methods as they continue development. I would expect this is especially relevant for mobile devices which tend to have relatively many cores considering their single threaded performance.

James Long of Mozilla compiled a cloth simulation into this Javascript subset. It will run in multiple browsers but will perform better in Aurora both in cloth precision and, as I have found, responsivity.

Check it out, imagine what you could be doing in your web browser in the near future.

Source: James Long

Happy 0th Birthday Firefox OS

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 26, 2013 - 04:19 AM |
Tagged: Firefox OS, mozilla, firefox, MWC, MWC 13

Mobile World Congress is going on at Barcelona and this year sees the official entry of a new contender: Firefox OS.

Mozilla held their keynote speech the day before the official start to the trade show. If there is anything to be learned from CES, it would be that there is an arms race to announce your product before everyone else steals media attention while still being considered a part of the trade show. By the time the trade show starts, most of the big players have already said all that they need to say.

firefoxos.jpg

If you have an hour to spare, you should check it out for yourself. The whole session was broadcast and recorded on Air Mozilla.

The whole concept of Firefox OS as I understand it is to open up web standards such that it is possible to create a completely functional mobile operating system from it. Specific platforms do not matter, the content will all conform to a platform of standards which anyone would be able to adopt.

I grin for a different reason: should some content exist in the future that is intrinsically valuable to society, its reliance on an open-based platform will allow future platforms to carry it.

Not a lot of people realize that iOS and Windows RT disallow alternative web browsers. Sure, Google Chrome the app exists for iOS, but it is really a re-skinned Safari. Any web browser in the Windows Store will use Trident as its rendering engine by mandate of their certification rules. This allows the platform developer to be choosey with whichever standards they wish to support. Microsoft has been very vocally against any web standard backed by Khronos. You cannot install another browser if you run across a web application requiring one of those packages.

When you have alternatives, such as Firefox OS, developers are promoted to try new things. The alternative platforms promote standards which generate these new applications and push the leaders to implement those standards too.

And so we creep ever-closer to total content separation from platform.

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla Rolls Out Firefox 19 Web Browser With Built-In PDF Viewer

Subject: General Tech | February 22, 2013 - 05:11 AM |
Tagged: web browser, pdf viewer, mozilla, firefox

Mozilla recently rolled out Firefox 19 to its stable browser channel, bringing several new features and bug fixes to the masses. The most prominent new feature is a new built-in PDF reader that is now enabled by default. Using the PDF.js javascript libraries, the reader converts PDF files into HTML5 web pages. It is nice to see Mozilla incorporating the reader in the browser by default, eliminating the need for users to use Adobe Reader or other browser plug-ins (like this one we covered previously).

Firefox 19 PDF Viewer.jpg

 

Additionally, Mozilla has fixed several bugs and improved performance. The browser will now start-up more quickly than previous versions, and a WebGL drawing operation error has been corrected, for example. Further, Firefox 19 now recognizes more CSS features including @page and support for fixed-width text transformations. A new debugger has also been added to Firefox 19, which should help add-on developers test their code. Also in interesting news, mobile users running Firefox for Android will also be pleased to know that Mozilla has relaxed the CPU clockspeed requirement to a mere 600 MHz–allowing the mobile browser to run on even more Android devices.

The new version is available for download from the Mozilla website.

Source: Mozilla

CES 2013: Firefox OS Coming to Low-End Smartphones Later This Year

Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2013 - 04:23 AM |
Tagged: zte, smartphone, mozilla, html5, Firefox OS, ces 2013, CES

Mozilla has been interested in smartphones for awhile now. The Boot2Gecko project has since transitioned to Firefox OS, and now the company is nearly ready to officially release the code and begin getting it onto smartphones and competing with the current giants of Android, iOS, and WP8. According to The Verge, who talked with the company at CES, Mozilla’s mobile operating system will be released within the next two weeks.

Mozilla's Firefox OS.jpg

The Verge checks out a prototype phone running Firefox OS.

The mobile OS is coded in HTML5 and uses HTML5 applications. While Mozilla plans to introduce an app store to curate things, currently users are able to find run web apps on the Internet. Do not expect Firefox OS to take the smartphone world by storm this year, however. Mozilla will reportedly restrict the mobile OS to low end hardware, with up to 800MHz single core ARM processors. Further, no OEM phones are scheduled for a US release this year (so far). ZTE has confirmed that it is pursuing handsets with Firefox OS pre-installed. Currently, the company is planning at least one low end smartphone release in Europe late this year. US residents will likely not see Firefox OS shipping with phones until next year at the earliest, depending on how well the phones do in the developing markets and when Mozilla opens up the hardware restrictions to higher-end devices.

Firefox OS Simulator.jpg

Until then, you can check out Firefox OS for yourself in a simulator using the Firefox web browser and a browser add-on called the Firefox OS Simulator. To test it out, open up a Firefox browser window and install the add-on from this webpage. Then click the Firefox button and navigate to Web Developer > Firefox OS Simulator. Then, on the left hand side of the window that opens, click the stopped button to start the simulator. A new window will open running the mobile operating system.

Firefox OS Screens.jpg

The Dialer, Messages, and Web Browser apps in Firefox OS.

Coverage of CES 2013 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

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

Source:

Mozilla Reverses Decision to Axe 64-Bit FireFox Builds, But Support Will Be Left to the Community

Subject: General Tech | December 26, 2012 - 04:34 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox, browser, Internet, 64-bit

A month ago Mozilla announced that it would no longer release 64-bit versions of its popular Firefox web browser due to a lack of resources. While the stable versions for Windows were 32-bit, nightly builds were available to enthusiasts that were 64-bit and could take advantage of more than 4GB of memory.

Mozilla developer Benjamin Smedberg stated that there was significant negative feedback from the community over the decision to axe 64-bit nightlies. While Mozilla has reaffirmed that they do not have the resources to support 64-bit builds, the developers are proposing a compromise that they hope will assuage users. In short, the Release Engineering team will continue to build 64-bit versions of the Firefox browser, but Mozilla will consider it a teir 3 build and the support is left up to the community.

Firefox_logo.jpg

Currently, the plan regarding 64-bit versions of Firefox involves a forced migration of existing 64-bit users to 32-bit versions via the automatic browser updates. Then, after the migration date, users that want the 64-bit version will need to go and download it again. Once installed, users will be informed that it is not officially supported software and they are to use it at their own risk. Click-to-play plugins will be enabled in the 64-bit builds while the crash reporter will be disabled. Win64 tests and on-checkin builds of the browser will be discontinued.

Interestingly, all browser testing by Mozilla will be done on the 64-bit edition of Windows 8. Yet they are only testing and supporting 32-bit versions of Firefox. The current situation is less than ideal as the x64 Firefox browsers will not be supported by Mozilla, but at least the software will still be available for those that need it. For now, Waterfox is an option for those that need to install a 64-bit browser based on Firefox.

Does Mozilla’s decision to stop supporting the 64-bit Firefox browser affect you? What do you think of the offered compromise?

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla ... you do know 64-bit OSes aren't going to disappear soon, right?

Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2012 - 01:03 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox, dumb, 64-bit

Once upon a time was a little company called Mozilla who had a browser that knew some tricks no other browser did.  After a while the Mozilla foundation decided to split up several projects and the Firefox browser was born, again capable of things that no other browser was doing at the time.  The other browsers were quick to pick up on these tricks and to emulate them, but Firefox held onto a respectable share of overall usage which slowly eroded as other browsers came onto the scene to steal away some of that share.  Apparently this depressed Firefox as it decided to start on a steady diet of add-ons and stuffing extras in below the belt which eventually caused such bloating as to make those who cared about Firefox suggest it might want to think about slimming down a bit or at least wear something a little larger, maybe a size 64. 

Instead, according to various sources such as DailyTech, Firefox has decided to dump all development of a 64-bit version of its browser.  IE10 supports 64-bit, Opera supports 64-bit and Chrome does on Linux and is working on a Windows version for the near future, leaving Firefox in the company of Lynx.  While the news stories are specific to the Firefox browser, it leaves one suspicious about the Firefox OS which is being developed for mobile devices; just what features are going to be abandoned as too hard to continue developing for.

imageslife-is-hard2.jpg

"Fans of the non-profit Mozilla Foundation have waited... and waited... and waited more still, for Mozilla's popular Firefox browser to add 64-bit support. With pickup of 64-bit SKUs of Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows operating system rapidly accelerating, it certainly seemed a 64-bit browser would be just around the corner.

Instead Mozilla has made the curious decision to pull the plug on the long-delayed project, while offering only small clues as to why the decision was made."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DailyTech

Mozilla Will Support H.264 Codec For HTML5 Video, Grudgingly

Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2012 - 08:14 AM |
Tagged: webM, web browser, mozilla, html5, h.264, firefox

Mozilla executives working for the foundation behind the Firefox web browser today announced that they would be giving in to the H.264 codec as the open WebM VP8 codec has lost the war. The H.264 and VP8 (part of WebM) codecs are used to encode and decode video files, and are especially important on mobile devices as Flash support is less ubiquitous (or totally absent if you're using Apple products). In the absense of flash, the web turned to the HTML5 standard which provides <code><video></code> tags that allow direct embedding of videos into websites. Also important is that H.264  has wide support for being hardware accelerated on many mobile devices, enabling smart phones to smoothly playback high quality files that the low power CPU portion of ARM SoCs would otherwise struggle with. This situation is also available to desktop users, but is less of an issue as processing power is not as scarce and can, ah, accommodate Adobe's Flash plugin (heh).

images.jpg

The downside, and where all the controversy arises from, is that the H.264 codec is not free and requires manufacturers or sites that stream H.264 videos for a fee to license it as well as users, though the actual cost for licensing is generally rolled into the cost of the OS, device, or other piece of purchased software. Further, because the HTML5 standard does not specifically define a set video codec, there is room for fragmentation. Adobe, Mozilla, and Google eventually would jump behind what is now known as the WebM standard, which is an open (and free) video codec (VP8) that would not require expensive licensing restrictions. On the other hand, Apple backed the H.264 standard. Mozilla would roll WebM into their browser but not H.264, meaning that users could view HTML5 videos using Firefox but not HTML5 videos encoded with the H.264 codec. Google, Apple, and Microsoft would support the H.264 codec for HTML5 videos, despite Google developing WebM (and the included VP8 video codec) and giving word of mouth support for WebM. This meant that Chrome users could view both WebM and H.264 based HTML5 video.

firefox_logo.png

According to the article, Google promised to drop support for H.264 and move solely to the WebM VP8 codec to entice websites to move to the open codec. Unfortunately, the company never came through with that promise, and has continued to offer dual support while Mozilla was left holding the open source support banner and causing their users to suffer as a result. The article references a study by MeFeedia that suggests that as of December 2011, H.264 based HTML5 video accounts for 80% of the market, implying that WebM has already lost the war. Brendan Eich, Mozilla's Chief Technology Officer noted that WebM needed support from a larger entity than Mozilla, and it needed that support in the beginning. Especially with Apple heralding H.264, for mobile site publishers, WebM really needed heavy backing to compete with Apple's market share and influential support of H.264 to have a chance. He further stated that:

"it might not have worked then, even with Google on-side. Now, with just Mozilla going it alone, all we do is kill our mobile initiatives in order to appear pure...That does not serve our mission or users."

Mozilla is now looking to support H.264, if a bit grudgingly. At this point, not supporting H.264 is only hurting their users and market share and not furthering their push for WebM. After all, if users are forced to look at other browsers just to play videos, it will not be WebM that is the only open source software forgotten (rather, the entire Mozilla web browser will wain).

Granted, Google is not the only company to blame for VP8 not catching on, Adobe also failed to properly push the codec. Also, Google is allegedly continuing to develop VP8 and WebM. Right now; however, losing Mozilla's support seems to be the final nail in the WebM coffin and the recognition that H.264 is the dominant format. More information is available here.

Source: CNET

MWC 12: LG gives Mozilla Marketplace a try to boot to Gecko?

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 24, 2012 - 04:29 PM |
Tagged: MWC 12, mozilla, B2G, LG

Mozilla will show off their marketplace for web apps at Mobile World Congress 2012. Mozilla Marketplace will support the upcoming Boot to Gecko (B2G) operating system for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. It is rumored that they will announce LG as a partner to develop either a tablet or a phone for developers of the B2G platform.

ilovetheweb.png

I ~ <3 Paypal... I guess.

Mozilla Marketplace will be a store where developers can distribute and sell their applications based upon HTML 5, Javascript, and CSS. The marketplace will support both free and paid apps with a variety of terms. Developers can have their users paid for the app up front, within the app for microtransactions, within the app for demo unlock, on a subscription basis (not yet implemented), or by donations.

Paypal has been announced as the payment processor for the Mozilla Marketplace. Paypal is not universally adored although we can understand why Mozilla would need to use an existing package. Prices are locked to one of 30 tiers so pricing is not entirely flexible but does run the gamut from 99-cents to $50 as well as of course free.

Hopefully we will get more details about Boot to Gecko or the Mozilla-powered LG phone at MWC in the coming days.

Source: Extremetech

FirefoxX: Coming soon to a TF2 user handle near you!

Subject: General Tech | February 1, 2012 - 05:55 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox

Firefox is my default browser. I often complement Firefox with Google Chrome due to habits introduced in the dark ages where Flash and crash were more ironic rhymes for Firefox users, but I stuck with it. I watched as it grew from a suite and innocent Mozilla build into the standalone browser it is today. Could Firefox be ten already? It seems like it was just yesteryear -- it was just four and we were out in the textfield try{}ing to play catch(){}.

firefoxX.png

Yeah that got creepier as I went on, I apologize.
It’s easier to try{} and ask forgiveness than debug permissions.
… I prefer to recycle my jokes rather than rely on garbage collection.

 

If you are a developer -- and if you are still reading then you probably are -- this version of Firefox has a lot to offer you. While a lot of the features touted as new are not, they are certainly much upgraded from what we are used to. Allow me to put it like this: you may be able to finally uninstall Firebug. You may infer what you like from that statement. Some highlights of the developer features include a built-in page inspector, a web console interface, and scratchpad.

The page inspector allows developers to examine their own websites as well as study the websites of others in a much friendlier interface than Firebug. For quick tweaks, you can edit the CSS from within page inspector and turn whole properties on and off and immediately see its effect.

The web console interface allows you to edit your site as it is temporarily rendered from a command-line interface. This appears to be mostly useful for smaller Javascript tweaks and additions if you have a small change that you would like to iterate upon quickly. The web console also allows you to see network requests which should help greatly with optimizing load times.

Scratchpad is a new developer feature for Javascript which is just too complicated to test upon with the console interface. Scratchpad is somewhere between Notepad and Notepad++ and is used to quickly experiment with full Javascript scripts on the website you currently have loaded.

Don't just take my word for it, see it!

More general enhancements were, of course, also made with this version: WebGL is now antialiased; security, performance, and stability fixes were introduced; and add-on compatibility is much less annoying. The experience feels much more responsive and clean than it has recently, continuing on the advancements started with Firefox 7.

What do you think? Looking forward to new WebGL content now that it will not be as jaggy? Excited about the developer tools or performance enhancements? Let us know!

Source: Mozilla

Mozilla Considers Extended Support for Firefox: a Whole Year

Subject: General Tech | January 12, 2012 - 02:40 AM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox

Just seven months after taking their firm stance against supporting back versions Mozilla is considering following a model similar to Ubuntu: every few major versions, flag one as being supported much longer than the rest and support it while innovating on your main versions. I still believe that supporting many enterprise customers is wasteful for a company like Mozila, but now that they have substantially more revenue as of their recent deal with Google I suppose it could help advertise Firefox outside of work as well.

Firefox-LTS.png

Firefox installments versus long running media franchise installments.

Yeah I was VERY conservative with Final Fantasy... I know.

John O’Duinn, current director of Release Engineering at Mozilla, wrote about the proposal in his personal blog last October and discussed attempts to compromise between long-term support and Mozilla’s current release plan. It is still quite early to tell what they will ultimately come up with and whether it will mend relations with their enterprise customers, but it looks as though Mozilla will not follow their original decision to focus on the present and future at the expense of those reliant on the past.

Source: Mozilla Wiki