The roads I take...

KaiRo's weBlog

June 2013

Displaying entries published in June 2013. Back to all recent entries

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

Used languages: English, German


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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

June 20th, 2013

Preserving Software: Museums, Archives, Libraries

As I mentioned before, I attended an event on preserving software at the US Library of Congress last month. Jon Ippolito from the University of Maine wrote up a great summary of who was there and what we discussed, so I won't go into those details and leave you with his words on that.

Instead, I'll do multiple short posts on my impressions and thoughts of the event and the subject, probably over the next few weeks.

The attendance consistent mostly of people from the existing software preservation community in the US, the majority of those people knew (of) each other already, apparently. In addition, we had some people from the software creation community - Microsoft's (sole) archivist probably belongs to both the preservation and software communities, then we had a guy from GitHub, and finally, Otto and me from Mozilla.

One thing that I learned with regard to the preservation community is that there are basically three types of projects they operate: museums, archives, and libraries.

Museums only collect a small collection of large milestones in history, but try to get as much on those as possible so they can build up a great exhibit for the public to learn about our and their past.
Archives build up large collections of items with the main intent of preserving them as ideally as possible and usually without any intent to provide them to the public, the items are only available to sporadic researchers. There may be metadata collected on the items that may be available to a larger public, though.
Libraries are somewhat in between: They build up larger collections of items and try to preserve them, but with the intent of some public to have regular access to them, often in a very controlled manner, e.g. via reading rooms.

On this software preservation summit, we had a number of representatives of all three kinds of projects: Museums such as the Computer History Museum, the Museum of Modern Art or the MIT Museum, archives such as Microsoft's, NIST's NSRL (National Software Reference Library - yes, "Library" is a bit of a misnomer there) or the Internet Archive, and libraries such as the Astrophysics Source Code Library, university libraries or, of course, the Library of Congress.

In terms of software preservation, we found that those different organizations and those doing different kinds of collections, can not just learn from each other, they can also help each other: Not every one of them wants every piece of software coming in, depending on what exactly they collect, so it may make sense to forward some pieces to other projects.

It was interesting for us as outsiders to the preservation community to see what those people are doing and how they are organized. In future posts, I'll get more into how and where we as software producers can work with them.

By KaiRo, at 02:22 | Tags: history, Mozilla, preservation, software | 2 comments | TrackBack: 0

June 12th, 2013

Linguistically Mistaking Phrases

I've been back from my vacation and the Preserving Software summit at the Library of Congress for more than a week now, but still haven't blogged about anything, and I recently didn't blog too much at all, mostly because I always fear it takes up too much time. In the last few days, I decided I'll do shorter posts but do them more often, so I hopefully get to communicate more of what's going around in my head (thoughts on that summit will follow as well when I get around to them). Here's the first installment of this, let's see how it goes.

I just listened to a "Fireside Chat" (sorry, only available to Mozillians) with Brendan Eich, conducted by Pascal Finette. One thing that did strike me there was the use of two phrases, by each of them, and their chances of being mistaken from the point of view of English/German crossover.

Pascal, a native German (his accent gives that away as well), is using "a couple" (e.g. "of times", etc.) in many questions in this interview. Now, the interesting thing there is that in German, we're using "ein paar" (which literally translates to "a couple") a lot, usually meaning "an undetermined amount larger than one but smaller than 'a lot'". We are very tempted to use this the same way in English, as it comes very naturally to us - but in US English, I notice that "a couple" usually means "(more or less) exactly two", so when we mean "some probably between 4 and 7 times", we may end up saying "a couple times" and the US English native speaker understands "twice". Oops. We better had said "a few times". I learned this in detail when I requested to stay "a couple weeks" in the office around a work week and thought there would be later discussion of how many weeks exactly, when the other side was "OK, he wants two weeks, he'll get two weeks". Note that in German there is "ein Paar" (different capitalization) which means the same as "a couple", but in most cases we just say "zwei"/"two" so it can't be mistaken.

On the other side, Brendan starts the reply to some questions with "that's a good question" - which, as I learned over the years, is a usual phrase to compliment the person the question came from and say that this is an important issue to ask and talk about. Now, in German, this literally translates to "das ist eine gute Frage" - which we usually say when we recognize that it's an interesting question but we still need to think about this and don't have any really fitting answer, often coming up with one as we go on this. If you're a native German speaker, be aware that English speakers don't usually have that connotation to this phrase, actually they're often happy someone asked this because it's something they have thought about long and hard and have come up with a really good answer for already. If you're not a German speaker, be aware that those who are might understand it this way and be surprised or take your answer as weaker instead of stronger as you intended.

I'm sure there's tons of other misunderstandings between phrases in different languages for sure, I'm mentioning those two because I heard them in this "chat", it's (the) two languages I know quite well, and they're even in the same language family (in linguistics called "Germanic languages") - and still run into things like that.
I'm always interested about such nuances, if you have any to share, feel free to comment here or blog about them yourself, here in this global Mozilla community, it's always nice to learn from each other! :)

By KaiRo, at 17:41 | Tags: English, German, languages, Mozilla | 8 comments | TrackBack: 0

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