Boot to Gecko – Mozilla phone operating system

Mozilla is gearing up to conquer the mobile space with their project Boot to Gecko (B2G) for smartphones. The goal is to create an open-sourced standard compliant mobile operating system, challenging iOS and Android.

Boot to Gecko uses HTML 5 and a by Mozilla developed API, most current mobile operating systems requires more complex languages such as C# or JAVA. Using HTML 5 in a mobile operating system is an interesting concept, it means that current web apps already using the technology should have an advantage as porting apps to mobile devices will be much easier than before. If Boot to Gecko becomes a success the web will increasingly become the platform of choice for everything, including mobile devices, rendering separate mobile operating systems useless.

Another interesting point with Boot to Gecko is that operators can now provide services across a range of devices instead of having to port all services to different mobile operating systems.

Mozilla have about 20 full-time engineers working on the project with a handful of volunteers supporting it. A lot of the code is re-used from the mobile version of Firefox.

When looking at the road map it is clear that the project will probably take until fall 2012 to materialize. When the project is done it will probably be an uphill battle to get the OS delivered with new phones, phone manufacturers will be reluctant, no doubt. Right now it is possible to run Boot to Gecko on some Android phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy SII, meaning that a phone does not have to have Boot to Gecko factory installed in order to use it.

The road map for the project also includes some features of the Boot to Gecko operating system, such as a by Mozilla hosted app-store, a e-book reader, a e-mail client and the Firefox browser.

Of course a project like Boot to Gecko might seem like it will never take off or even scratch iOS, Android or Windows Phone penetration, but the mobile space is in the same situation as browsers years ago, with two dominant players. For browsers Microsoft ruled the world with Internet Explorer, the release of Firefox changed all that, perhaps Boot to Gecko will do the same for mobile operating systems.

Demonstration of Boot to Gecko:

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Firefox 10 arrives with new features for developers

Firefox 10 is here, the latest update from Mozilla of the popular open-sourced web-browser.

Even-though Google Chrome is increasing in usage at the expense of Firefox, Mozilla is clinging on with a steady stream of new features in to Firefox.

The updates in Firefox 10 is mainly geared towards developers and web designers with improved CSS editing functionality. For example it’s possible to change margins, fonts, colors and other layout options of a website using the CSS-editor, Firefox will instantly display the changes (locally of course).

Naturally this is great if you are a web-designer or developer and doesn’t want to go through all the hassle with making minor adjustments to a layout by uploading and changing style-sheets in a testing environment.

Another feature in Firefox 10 is the Mozilla full-screen API with 3D-capability (Web GL), allowing developers to create full-screen applications and games. Web GL is a standard for displaying 3D-applications using hardware acceleration without any third party extensions, which is another step in making web apps do more than word processing and spreadsheets.

For users not into web-development Mozilla have updated the add-on capabilities, now the browser checks every 24 hours for updates to add-ons, also the overall add-on compatibility is improved.

Below is a neat overview of the development tools in Firefox 10:

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Firefox 3.6 Beta: Latest browser from Mozilla

Mozilla recently announced the release of Firefox 3.6 Beta 1. Packed with new features such as Personas (different visual themes), alert of out of date plug-ins, support for the WOFF (Web Open Font Format) font format, full screen video, faster JavaScript responsiveness and improved browser responsiveness.

Firefox 3.6 Beta 1 Logo

It is a bit surprising that visual themes (or Personas as Mozilla likes to call them) have not been implemented widely in web-browsers until now. Using Personas is easy, go to the website GetPersonas.com and browse the gallery. Then select “Wear this” and Firefox 3.6 Beta is updated without any restart required. Most of the different personas look very good making Firefox integrate better with the nicely looking Windows Vista and 7 user interface. Until now I always thought that Firefox had a dated look but now it appears that Mozilla have solved the problem.  Of course visual themes is not what makes a good web-browser but one have to recognize that there are probably many users out there who wants this.

A lot of users of Mozilla Firefox have been using old and unpatched plug-ins causing various security concerns and browser instability, Firefox now have the Mozilla Plug-in Check integrated in the browser. When the users visits a page trying to load an out-of date plug-in an alert will pop-up. It can of course always be discussed if alerts are the right way to handle update issues, for example Microsoft have moved more towards providing automatic updates without any user interaction.

Supposedly Firefox 3.6 Beta is faster and handles JavaScript more swiftly than previous versions. Of course it is something that it is impossible to measure since the performance enhancements will not be that noticeable for average users. However there is nothing wrong with the browser’s responsiveness. The start-up time has clearly been improved and using JavaScript based applications does seem faster.

Full screen video support in Firefox 3.6 has been improved, however the full screen features implemented only works when using HTML 5. This means that most sites will not benefit from the new video feature in Firefox, since the video capabilities in HTML 5 is not used that widely.  Another new feature in Firefox 3.6 is improved support for Windows 7, when hovering over Firefox’s taskbar entry in the different tab that you have open will show up.

Overall Firefox 3.6 Beta 1 contains a bunch of welcome updated, where Personas and plug-in alerts is the most welcome. However Firefox 3.6 is still a minor update compared to previous versions.

Secunia PSI

If your computer is filled with a lot of different programs (like mine) chances are that it is a full time job to keep track of all software updates. This leaves your system open to vulnerabilities, which in a worst case scenario will get your system hacked.

Secunia PSI is a vulnerability scanner, which basically means that it scans all programs installed on your computer and updates them. Obviously you will get rid of having to check updates on your own, or even start programs to see if there are any updates available.

In addition to checking for updates Secunia also give you a complete overview of the different vulnerabilities using a graph. The software also rates the seriousness (or threat rating) of the vulnerabilities on your system. If you move the cursor over the threat level indicator Secunia will even suggest what a hacker can do to your system using the insecure program.

A scan for the different programs and vulnerabilities on your system does take some time, on a 1, 86 GHz Intel Core2Duo processor with an 80 GB hard-drive it took about 5 minutes to scan the whole system. Not too bad. The system scanned gets a rating, my system got 71%.

Most of the programs Secunia highlights needed updating, but for some weird reason it marked Firefox 3 as a severe security threat stating that “A hacker can typically use this to gain full control of your PC”. However when I started Firefox and checked for updates there were none to be found. After checking the Mozilla website for the latest version of Firefox it seems as Secunia sometimes give erroneous warnings.

Secunia also highlights the programs on your system that is no longer supported (end-of-life). This means that the program no longer receives security updates. There is also an option called Program Monitoring, which means that Secunia continuously monitors every program installed on the computer and checks of for updates on the fly.

A concern with live monitoring of programs is performance issues. The system does seem a little bit slower when Secunia is running, for a home PC it is however possible to turn Secunia program monitoring off and just run the program once a week. For business computers it is advisable to leave it on.

Secunia is a good piece of software and a must have for security conscious users. It is still a bit rough around the edges, but given that it is free Secunia has infinite value.

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