All posts tagged ‘Software’

File Under: Software & Tools

Rumor: Apple’s Finder App to get Cocoa Rewrite for Snow Leopard

Flickr_snow_leopard_mannequinApple’s OS X operating system ships with two primary application building frameworks — Carbon and Cocoa. Carbon was designed to make it easier to older, legacy apps running on OS X, while Cocoa is the newer, and according to Apple, better framework.

Apple has long encouraged developers to transition their Carbon apps to Cocoa, but the company has it’s own Carbon-based holdout — OS X’s Finder app.

However, according to AppleInsider, that may be changing with the upcoming release of Snow Leopard. AppleInsider’s sources, which the site calls “people familiar with matter,” claim that Finder will see a Cocoa rewrite for the release of OS X 10.6, Snow Leopard.

While Apple hasn’t given many official details about Snow Leopard, one thing it has said is that the next generation of OS X will be fully 64-bit capable. At the same time the company has delayed a 64-bit capable version of Carbon, which means if you’re building a 64-bit app, you need to be using Cocoa.

That’s why Adobe was unable to release a 64-bit version of Photoshop CS4 for Mac — the app is built in Carbon and it’s tough to build a 64-bit app when the framework you’re using doesn’t support it.

But Adobe isn’t the only company with apps written in Carbon, and it would seem awkward (or just plain untrue) for Apple to claim it had a 64-bit system when one of its own major apps didn’t fit the bill.

So while it’s just a rumor, the all 64-bit claim lends at least one practical reason why the rumors of a Cocoa-based Finder for Snow Leopard may well be true.

So far Apple has not announced a release date for Snow Leopard, though Macworld 2009, happening Jan 5-9 seems like a good bet, if not for the actual release, at least for a healthy dose of new details.

[Photo credit]

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File Under: Software & Tools

First Look: Firefox 3.1 Beta Offers Speed, Better Searching and More

beta1 logoAs we mentioned Tuesday, the first beta release of the new Firefox 3.1 browser has arrived. Firefox 3.1, which will land in final form near the beginning of 2009, promises speed improvements, a more refined search bar and support for new and emerging web standards. The browser will also contain a slew of small features that didn’t make the cut in Firefox 3.0.

While not all of the improvements are in beta 1, there’s enough to whet your appetite for the final release.

Probably the most anticipated change coming in Firefox 3.1 is the new TraceMonkey JavaScript optimization engine, which should improve the speed of Ajax-heavy web apps. If you downloaded the beta you may be wondering where the performance boost is out of the box, Firefox 3.1 beta 1 feels much the same as Firefox 3.0.

The answer is that TraceMonkey is still considered unstable and is turned off by default. To enable it, you’ll need to type about:config in the URL bar and then search for the javascript.options.jit.content setting. Change that setting to true and restart Firefox.

However, even after enabling TraceMonkey, we still didn’t see a huge speed difference. Sites like Gmail, Google Reader, the Zoho suite and other JavaScript-intensive apps were moderately faster, but not enough to give to inspire a forehead-smacking “wow.” Of course this is only the first beta, and we remain optimistic about TraceMonkey. Hopefully future releases will show a more marked speed boost.

If you’ve been playing around with the recently released Geode geolocation add-on for Firefox 3.0, you’ll be happy to know that the same API is baked into the first beta of Firefox 3.1. The beta implements it a little differently, but the same W3C-sanctioned Geo API is used behind the scenes.

As the Mozilla developer blog explains:

People who want to try out Geolocation in Beta 1 can install Doug Turner’s Geolocation add-on which adds a fixed Geolocation provider. Once you’ve installed it you can visit p to get your location and update the preference in Tools -> Add-ons -> Geolocation with your latitude and longitude. There are a number of examples of the API you can try on the Geode Labs Welcome page.

If geolocation services aren’t your bag, fear not. Firefox 3.1 offers several user interface improvements that promise to improve your day-to-day web browsing experience in very tangible ways.

The most obvious improvement in the Firefox 3.1 UI is the new tab switching behavior. The tab switcher now offers a page preview, which makes finding the tab you’re looking for somewhat easier. To see it in action, hit the keyboard shortcut Alt-Tab (Ctrl-Tab on the Mac).

tab switcher

It’s worth noting that tab switcher is nonlinear; it flips through the most recently viewed tabs in order, rather than simply moving from left to right across the window. Some will no doubt prefer it this way, but it does take a little while to get used to if you’re expecting the other behavior.

Also improved in Firefox 3.1 is the ability to drag a tab to a new window. In current versions of Firefox, dragging a tab to a new window will create a new tab in that window and then reload the tab. In the beta, the tab simply moves to the new window, no reload required.

Another significant improvement to the Firefox UI is the new support for wild card characters in the URL search bar (also known as the “awesome bar”). As we outlined in a previous post, the awesome bar now allows for special modifiers to narrow or expand your search results.

url barIt’s also worth noting that the you can permanently exclude sites from awesome bar searches by tinkering with the settings in about:config. The blacklisting capabilities should help eliminate some privacy concerns and ensure that your friends won’t discover you’ve been secretly watching the new 90210 when they borrow your laptop for a quick e-mail check.

Web developers will be happy to know that Firefox 3.1 has a number of HTML 5 improvements including support for the <audio> and <video> tags, which promise to make embedding media somewhat easier. These containers can display Ogg Theora encoded videos or play back Ogg Vorbis encoded audio, so you’ll be able to feature movies and music on your pages without a plug-in.

There are also some new CSS selectors included, like support for the @font-face rule, which gives designers a bit more control over a site’s typography. Using the @font-face declaration, web designers can specify true-type fonts and escape the tyranny of Arial, Times New Roman and the other “big five” fonts that dominate the web. [Note that @font-face support works in Windows and Mac, but not Linux for beta 1. Linux support will arrive before the final release.]

Firefox 3.1 also supports CSS transformations and SVG effects for HTML elements, meaning you can blur, rotate, scale and perform other transformations on page elements with only a couple lines of CSS.

What’s missing? The private browsing feature (aka “porn mode) isn’t in this release, though we expect it in the future. Also, the tab-specific selective session restore dialog isn’t fully developed yet, so we’re waiting on that feature as well.

Firefox 3.1 is obviously still a beta release, and we don’t recommend ditching Firefox 3.0 just yet. If nothing else, very few add-ons have been updated (of our dozen or so “must-haves”, only NoScript works with the 3.1 beta), but beta 1 is definitely worth a test drive to see much of what’s in store for the final release. It’s still a bit rough around the edges, but Firefox 3.1 is shaping up to be a very nice upgrade once the polished version arrives.

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File Under: Software & Tools

Windows 7 Will be Officially Known as… Windows 7

Win7Microsoft has announced that the next version of Windows, known informally as Windows 7, will be officially named… Windows 7. This marks the first time since Windows 3.1, that actual version number has been part of the name.

While some are mocking the decision, we actually think it’s about time Microsoft ditched the not-so-clever marketing hype and came out with a product whose name actually makes some degree of sense.

We still have no idea what Windows “XP” was referring to and “Vista,” well, who knows — it looks good?

Unfortunately, while we like the change to a simple version number, the number “7″ is a bit misleading. There are several ways you could do the math, but none of them will add up to seven. The kernel is at 6.1 so that doesn’t work, and if you start with Windows 3.1, 95, 98, Me (cringe), 2000, XP, Vista — that’s already seven versions…

Whatever the case, Windows 7 it is. We just hope the release after that is Windows 8.

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File Under: Software & Tools

First Firefox 3.1 Beta Due Next Week

FirefoxMozilla has announced plans to ship the first beta of Firefox 3.1 next week. Though beta 1 will be a welcome milestone — especially since the final release has already been pushed back several weeks — the most anticipated new features won’t arrive until beta 2, due in November 2008.

As part of its weekly meeting, Mozilla developers have updated the Firefox 3.1 timeline, adding the significant new features — the private browsing mode and improvements to the “awesome bar” — to the list of things coming in beta 2.

Mozilla has also outlined a few other possible new features, like the ability to drag a tab out of a window and open it as a new window, though the notes say that there are no plans to hold any releases to accommodate the features.

In other words, if developers get the code done in time those features will be added, if not you’ll have to wait for the next version of Firefox.

If you’d like to see a full list of what’s under consideration, head over to the Firefox 3.1 Beta 2 wiki page.

We’ll be sure to let you know when the first beta of Firefox 3.1 is available.

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File Under: Software & Tools

Geode Plug-in Will Tell Firefox Where You Are

MozillalabsMozilla is getting ready to push Firefox into the realm of geo-awareness with a new Labs offering that will be known as Geode. The company will make an official announcement later today, but already some details about Geode are trickling out.

Here’s what we know at this point:

  • Geode will be a Labs-based Firefox plug-in
  • Unlike many geodata services, Geode appears to aimed squarely at the desktop/laptop rather than mobile devices.
  • Geode’s goal is make Firefox location aware. Say you’re in Manhattan for the week and you want to find a restaurant. Head to Yelp and Geode will automatically find nearby restaurants and offer directions.

Of course the brief descriptions and hints Mozilla has dropped so far raise more questions than they answer. The big question that seems most relevant is how web services will interact with Geode and what the advantage of having a centralized service will be. After all, sites like Yelp, Flickr and YouTube already offer pretty good geo-searching tools, what will be the advantage of having the browser handle that task?

It’s also worth noting is that Geode will not be the first add-on to bring location awareness to Firefox. The Firefox geodata plug-in Loki can already do much of what Geode promises to offer. Of course without more information from Mozilla, it’s impossible to know how Loki and Geode might differ.

We’ll be sure to update you when Mozilla makes its official announcement later today.

[Update: Mozilla has made its announcement, check out our follow-up coverage]

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