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Displaying recent entries tagged with "apps". Back to all recent entries

Popular tags: Mozilla, SeaMonkey, L10n, Status, Firefox

Used languages: English, German

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December 6th, 2013

Firefox OS DevTreff Vienna

Last month, I was contacted within a few days by a local "open mobile devices" enthusiast, a Mozilla events manager and a fellow German-speaking Mozilla Rep, all of them pointing to an event here in Vienna called Firefox OS DevTreff Austria.

While the local just asked me if I'd go there, the Mozilla contacts had been asked by the organizers for a speaker to open up the event. We were trying to get someone more used to talking about Firefox OS, but everyone's busy this time of year, so in the end we settled with me doing this keynote.

Now, I have been giving presentations on different occasions and events in the last years, but I never have actually keynoted anything, so that made me somewhat nervous. The other talks that were lined up for the evening were about app development, to some part about very concrete pieces of it, so I figured I should give that some frame and introduce people to Firefox OS, starting with why we are doing it, moving to what and where it is and giving a bit of glance onto where we want to take it. So I came up with "Firefox OS: Reasons, Status & Plans" as the title (my slides are behind the link).

Image No. 23157 Image No. 23158

The audience was supposed to be about 50 people, I guess 30-35 really showed up (the pictures, taken "in style" with Firefox OS on my Peak, only show one part of the room), but those were an awesome bunch. They were really into the topic, asked interesting questions, and the talks following me were showing that we really had capable developers in the room, from those that do JS in their free time to those who earn their bread and butter by doing apps.
We also had two Mozillians, both of which I had not met in person before, even though I spent a lot of time in this city in the last decade!

As the event was going on, I was often the voice in the room who would have answers from the Mozilla side or could explain our point of view and initiatives - and in quite a few cases, I could loop back to something I said in my keynote. It was really great to see how apparently I had touched exactly on the right things there and gave everything else a good base to build on. Interestingly, there was quite a bit of interest in the DeviceStorage API, probably because accessing local files is something people can refer better to than storing items in-app. I was thankful someone did a talk on our Marketplace and in-app payment API/Services as that's one area I'm actually weak in, but it also sparked quite a bit of interest. The permission model did also get a few questions.

We surely had people with Firefox OS app experience in there, but I think more of those people might pick up web app development, esp. if more similar events come around, which would be cool. And maybe someone should tell them how to do simple apps without larger libraries or frameworks, and explain app manifests in more detail. I hope they will organize more of those and the chance for that will come along!

By KaiRo, at 05:16 | Tags: apps, B2G, Firefox OS, mobile, Mozilla, presentation, Vienna | no comments | TrackBack: 0

September 8th, 2013

Wanted Apps: Simple IRC

At Mozilla, as well as a lot of other Free / Open Source Software projects, IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is the backbone of real-time communication within the project.

The beauty of this chat service is that it's a really simple and lightweight protocol and there's a ton of different clients to access it, including for example ChatZilla, which is written completely in JavaScript, and multiple web-based clients. The latter would make nice Firefox OS apps, one might think, but their major downsides are that they are all running on the server-side and not really on the device you installed the app in - and their UI doesn't really fit the phone form factor.

Now, what I'd really like to see, though, is an app that runs locally on the Firefox OS device in its entirety, and which has a UI that is useful and nice on a phone. Especially the latter might mean not implementing all the fancy functionality that many IRC clients have, but only those parts required for some simple chatting.

We have the technology to run a full IRC client on a Firefox OS phone with the TCPSocket API, and the simplicity of the IRC protocol would make it a nice reason for someone who wants to play with this API.

The UI, OTOH, would make a very interesting challenge for someone who like UX design, as on a phone, you need to be way more minimalistic, and you probably need to consciously decide what functionality and which elements to leave out, or implement completely differently than what we might be used to.

I'd really love to be able to have an easy way to tell my manager via IRC that I'll be late for a 1:1 while I'm on my way, or be able to make a quick inquiry in a chat channel while I'm traveling.

Anyone up for the challenge?

By KaiRo, at 02:57 | Tags: apps, B2G, Firefox OS, Mozilla | 9 comments | TrackBack: 0

July 22nd, 2013

Wanted Apps: about:crashes

We've known for a long time that we'll need some way of displaying crash information on Firefox OS devices for quality assurance (QA) purposes. Anyone helping in debugging crashes needs to deliver crash IDs to developers, and for verifying that crash reporting works and has the correct settings, QA needs to get crash IDs as well and look at the data in those crash reports.

The bug report linked above has not seen any more in 10 months though, as priorities are elsewhere for most of our developers. Also, this functionality can only be achieved via not-yet-existing APIs or via the "apps" DeviceStorage, which requires certified app privileges, which in turn only preinstalled core apps get and 3rd-party apps cannot get at all. The problem is that the submitted (and pending) crash reports are files in a "Crash Reports" directory parallel to the user profile in /data/b2g and we'd need some form of access to that.

In addition, it's pretty unclear how to do a useful UI there. What I personally envision is doing a list of the date/time of the crashes and next to those put a "share" button that allows people to send the crash ID to a larger-screen device via email, bluetooth or whatever. We could directly link the crash reports on https://crash-stats.mozilla.com/ in theory, but the pages there don't have a layout that looks useful on a small phone screen (right now). On future larger-screen Firefox OS devices like tablets, such a direct link will make more sense.

This would be an app (or a screen of Settings, somewhere deep in the Device Information section, probably under the developer settings) that might have a few challenges in creation, but would be huge in reward as a help to improve stability of Firefox OS as a whole.

Right now, people need adb to get info on the crash IDs and dates, with a command like this:
adb shell ls -l '/data/b2g/mozilla/Crash Reports/submitted'
It would be much better and nicer for our work to have that available somewhere via the device's UI.

If you want to help there, please contact me or comment in the bug cited above.

By KaiRo, at 03:04 | Tags: apps, B2G, Firefox OS, Mozilla | no comments | TrackBack: 0

June 23rd, 2013

Wanted Apps: Contact Sharing

One of my main blockers to using Firefox OS as my main phone system right now is that I didn't yet manage to get all my contacts over to my Firefox OS phones, with neither of the versions I tested. One variant that has applications far beyond initial import is contact sharing via Bluetooth.

It would be great if I could send contacts back and forth between all my devices, including the Firefox OS ones. Other phones usually can send and receive contacts in VCard (.vcf) format via Bluetooth, but Firefox OS so far is missing this functionality (even though some VCard support exists for import from SD card in 1.1, though I could never get that to work for me).

A reasonably usable implementation for sharing could be implemented as an app: It would need to read from the Contacts API, present a selection to the user, assemble VCard files and send those off via a Web Activity so the existing Bluetooth sharing can act on them. With that, the sending side should work.
The receiving side would be a bit more hacky, but also doable: Unfortunately, the existing Bluetooth support does not call a Web Activity for handling not explicitely supported file types, it only ends up saving them on the SD card. So the contact sharing app would need to periodically look for new VCard files in that location, read and offer to import them, and finally use the Contacts API again to write them into the system's database.

If someone would pick up the needed work there, I'm sure the app would be quite popular, and I'd love to use it myself. Ultimately, I think this functionality should be part of the official Contacts apps, so having any such app available under a licence that allows Gaia to use the code would be great. Still, I think it would be awesome to have the app so the soon-shipping Firefox-OS-1.0.1-powered devices can use them.

(This post was written and published from a Firefox OS test device.)

By KaiRo, at 18:37 | Tags: apps, B2G, Firefox OS, Mozilla | 4 comments | TrackBack: 0

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