All posts tagged ‘mozilla’

File Under: Browsers

Firefox 4 Beta 8 Arrives With Faster Graphics, Better Sync

Mozilla has dropped the eighth beta release of Firefox 4. Originally intended as a quick update to fix some issues on beta 7, Firefox 4 beta 8 actually brings over 1,400 bug fixes, some improvements to the new add-ons interface, better syncing and more hardware accelerated WebGL support. There’s also a beta update for Android and Maemo mobile phones, which we’ll look at later.

If you’d like to take Beta 8 for spin on your desktop, head over to the Mozilla beta downloads page. It’s been a very long development cycle for Firefox 4 — the final version is still a couple of months out, since once the betas are done, Firefox 4 moves into the release candidate stage. However, the enhancements being made over versions 3.5 and 3.6 are substantial, and these releases are stable enough to use in day-to-day browsing, so it’s not like we’re waiting a long time for nothing. We can reap the rewards well before the official release date.

The improvements to Firefox’s new sync feature — which syncs bookmarks, browsing history, user preferences and open tabs between both desktop and mobile versions of Firefox — make signing up and starting sync easier for new users. Most of us use multiple screens every day — one or two computers, and at least one smartphone with a web browser — keeping it all in sync is increasingly difficult. That’s where Firefox’s sync tools come in and the streamlined sync interface makes it even easier to pick up where you left off, no matter what device you’re using.

The sync updates in Firefox 4 beta 8 coincide with similar improvements in Firefox Mobile 4 beta 3 for the Android and Maemo mobile platforms.

Firefox 4 beta 8 now supports WebGL on more graphics cards across both Mac and Windows operating systems. WebGL bridges the gap between HTML5 tools like the new Canvas tag and OpenGL, an OS-native graphics engine, to speed up HTML5 web apps and animations. If you’d like to see the new WebGL support in action, grab Firefox beta 8 and head over to the Flight of the Navigator demo page, or check out the release notes page which has a video of the demo.

The latest beta isn’t just faster with HTML5 graphics either. Although Mozilla hasn’t released any precise speed figures, in our testing, the start up time was faster than beta 7 and general browsing felt snappier as well.

The new Firefox Add-ons page

Firefox 4 beta 8 refines the main add-ons page (which is now a page, rather than a separate window, a nice improvement). The URL bar has been removed for the add-ons page, and the button design has been revamped. Although the new, slicker-looking buttons do make the interface a bit nicer, add-ons are still variously referred to as “extensions” and “add-ons.” You can see which “extensions” you have installed, but then you “Get Add-ons.” Firefox veterans aren’t likely to even notice the difference, but it could be confusing for new users.

The list of bug fixes for this release is extensive, but Mozilla’s nightly builds have already been renamed to beta 9, which means we’ll see at least one more, possibly two more beta releases before Firefox 4 arrives in final form. Mozilla hasn’t set an official release date for Firefox 4 yet, but it’s expect to arrive sometime in early 2011.

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File Under: Browsers, HTML5, JavaScript

Building a GameBoy Emulator in HTML5 and JavaScript

Like Flash before it, HTML5 is where programmers are turning to experiment, and nothing seems to make developers experiment quite like the desire to recreate the classic video games.

We’ve already seen Pac-Man, Astroids and Conway’s Game of Life come to the browser in standards-friendly forms, and now Nintendo’s classic GameBoy platform is getting similar treatment.

The Mozilla Labs gaming blog has a guest post by developer and gamer Imran Nazar, who is hard at work building a GameBoy emulator using JavaScript. As Nazar points out, “HTML5 now offers the Canvas element for easily controlling a two-dimensional graphical display.” Couple that with the improved JavaScript speeds in modern browsers and you have the perfect platform for an emulator.

Nintendo’s GameBoy was the first portable gaming system most of us ever encountered, so the nostalgia factor is high. But the real point of this experiment is to help your understand the processes behind the scenes — how emulators work and how JavaScript can be used to build them.

The emulator isn’t quite finished yet, but Nazar has a great series of posts on his blog covering the various aspects of what he’s done. Not only is it a fascinating look at how emulators work, it also gives some great insight into what JavaScript is capable of doing. You can see the latest version of the emulator on Nazar’s latest post.

If you’re not interested in how it works and just want to get your nostalgia fix by playing some GameBoy games, check out this earlier emulator from programmer Pedro Ladaria.

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File Under: Browsers

New Beta Release Gives Firefox a Shot of Jäger

A new beta version of the next Firefox browser has arrived.

Mozilla released Firefox 4 Beta 7 on Wednesday. Unlike the last couple beta releases which mostly just tidied things up, this release is a substantial step forward. Most notably, it includes a new JavaScript engine called JägerMonkey that give the browser a performance boost on script-heavy sites.

It has better support for web graphics and fonts, and it has been deemed complete enough for add-on developers to begin porting over their creations from older versions of Firefox.

If you’re a beta tester already, you’ll see an automatic update today or Thursday. If you’d like to download beta 7 for Windows, Mac or Linux, you can do so from Mozilla’s beta site.

Wednesday’s release comes on the heels of the recent announcement that Firefox 4 won’t be ready until early 2011. Mozilla’s release dates have always been somewhat loose, but the last update was over a month and a half ago, and we were originally expecting the browser to arrive some time between October or January. Now, it looks like Firefox 4′s release date could stretch out as far as the second quarter of next year. It’s a blow to fans of the open source browser, especially since Firefox is seeing increased competition from Chrome, which shifted to an accelerated release schedule earlier this year, and from Internet Explorer 9, which entered a public beta phase in September.

The silver lining here is that it’s looking like Firefox 4 will be much different than 3.6, the current version, and that the update will be worth the wait. Also, the beta releases have been remarkably stable, and, with very few exceptions, are capable enough for every day use.

For the full list of what’s new, check out the release notes. Here’s what has us the most excited.

The enhancement sure to make the biggest splash is Firefox’s new JägerMonkey just-in-time JavaScript compiler. Complicated, JavaScript-heavy sites like Facebook and web apps like Gmail will be more nimble, and you should see a big speed increase on games and demos that previously only impressed those running Chrome or Safari. JägerMonkey is new code that works in tandem with the same TraceMonkey JavaScript code that powered previous versions of Firefox (love the naming convention, by the way) and you can read more about the change on Mozilla engineer David Mandelin’s blog.

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File Under: Browsers

Firefox 4 Pushed Back to Early 2011

Mozilla’s next big browser update is running a bit behind schedule.

Firefox 4′s estimated release date has officially been pushed back to early 2011. The browser’s release schedule, which is posted on a public wiki, has been updated to show some new dates: beta 7 in early November, then three more betas before the end of the year, with the release candidate due early next year.

We were originally expecting Firefox 4 to be finalized by now, in late October, when the schedule was first laid out several months ago. But Mozilla’s release dates are always moving targets, so we were expecting things to change. But not this much. Now, the wait for Firefox 4 looks like it could stretch out to three more months, which is sure to upset those eagerly awaiting an update.

The good news is that the current beta is very stable (at least in our testing) and has enough polish to make it safe for day-to-day use. If you’re feeling a little bit rock and roll, we’d recommend downloading the latest Firefox 4 beta. The new features like the updated user interface, expanded support for new standards like HTML5 and CSS 3, plus a much-improved JavaScript execution engine make it worth the very small risk of a crash.

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File Under: Browsers

The Battle for Choice on the Web Isn’t Over

A thoughtful essay by Stuart Turton at PC Pro argues that Mozilla, having already completed the shake-up in the browser world it set out to achieve, needs a new direction:

Like the catalyst in a science experiment, I’m beginning to wonder if Firefox’s greatest contribution to browsers is not its continued existence, but that it existed at all. Put another way: Mozilla has won all its battles, is it time the company picked a new war?

Turton goes on the suggest that Mozilla apply the Firefox model to develop a desktop office suite to rival MS Office, but I’m not convinced that’s a good idea. How many of you use Thunderbird instead of Gmail or Yahoo Mail?

Since we’re playing armchair quarterback here, I’d argue that Mozilla hasn’t come close to winning all its battles. There’s still a great deal of work to be done in the “choice” department on the web: the choice of open web technologies or proprietary technologies for video, audio and games; the choice of where to store your personal data on the web (and how the browser handles that decision); the choice of whether you get your apps from a store run by a corporation, or through an open, cross-browser platform with no Central Scrutinizer.

In other words, the “choice is good” fight isn’t over, it’s just about different stuff now. If Mozilla is going to change direction about how it promotes its philosophy, these are the places to concentrate. And it seems to me like the company is already doing so.

Of course, these issues are of little importance to the general public, many of whom are mostly concerned that pages load quickly, and that YouTube, Facebook and Gmail deliver the goods day in and day out. For all the browser vendors, that’s an ongoing competition with no finish line.

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