Mozilla blew it with the Mr. Robot add-on

I trust Mozilla to do the right things… in general. I trust so much that I agree to share Firefox telemetry data to its server. I trust Mozilla to hold my traffic data, bookmarks etc with Sync. The thing is that I remember being informed of those options the first time I start Firefox on a new machine. Trusting Mozilla and Firefox is a choice I make, even if it’s the default one.

I didn’t like waking up and reading that Mozilla partnered with a TV show and silently installed an add-on on my computer. I don’t care what that add-on does: Mozilla sneaked it in on my computer. I don’t remember seeing any notification upon restarting Firefox, like “Hey, we partnered with XYZ Corp to collect anonymous data and do something great with it” or “Sorry, we just need to make money… It’s all good, we keep everything private as usual and no marketing bozos will bother you… Do you mind not changing the default and let this add-on run?

Mozilla blew it today and as a result, no more ‘Studies’ from me. Just disable them in about:preferences#privacy:

Mozilla Foundation drops Thunderbird

I’m sad to read that finally Mozilla Foundation realized that Thunderbird is a lemon: Mitchell Baker announced on her blog that “continued innovation of Thunderbird is not a priority” so its evolution will stop and putting the project in ‘maintenance mode’. The Foundation will only provide for security fixes starting from November 2012 and leaving the future evolution of this free software email client to ‘the community’.

As I wrote on G+, I never liked Thunderbird. There is no email client today that I like: they’re all based on very old concepts developed at the time when people had to deal with few messages per week. The only innovation I’ve seen in email came from Google’s Gmail, with the convenient conversation view and with the great integration of chat and addressbook with Circles. Gmail is not the email client I use: I never bought into that sort of convenience. I always wished that somebody would develop a new, modern, email client for my desktop.

With Thunderbird at its sunset and GNOME Evolution its only viable substitute, I’m starting to despair. I have some hopes on Geary, Yorba Foundation’s new email client.

Putting Firefox Mobile on Apple’s iOS

Apple doesn’t allow another browser Firefox  (apparently there are other browsers) on its iOS devices, so Firefox Mobile cannot run natively on iPhone/iPod/iPad. Enter Mozilla Home, the hack used by Mozilla Foundation to allow Mozilla desktop users to bring their data on their favorite mobile device.

The mockup of the upcoming version are awesome:

Building on Firefox Home « Ian Barlow.

Contacts for Thunderbird looks great

Contacts for Thunderbird is the Mozilla Labs extension that was first developed for Firefox and now ported to Thunderbird.

Thunderbird Contacts lets you pull in your “web contacts” from sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. It also lets you connect to your mail contacts inside of Yahoo or GMail. As each contact is extracted from a site, the Contacts add-on tries to merge the contacts from different sites together into a single contact on your system.

I have played with Contacts for over a year and have been waiting for its integration into Thunderbird. Watch it in action: pure awesomeness! Go get Contacts for Thunderbird.

It’s all about Contacts: who do you know?

When it comes to doing anything, finding a job, an apartment or a used car, what counts most is who you know. In the old times it was the size of your rolodex, now it’s the size of you digital addressbook. Being so powerful, it’s no wonder that everybody out there wants it: Facebook, Plaxo, Vodafone, AT&T … all want YOUR addressbook because who you know says a lot about who you are, what you like. Also the FBI likes to know that 🙂

It’s good to notice the quantity of efforts from the free software community revolving around your social capital. After my disappointment with the pretty lame addressbook in Thunderbird 3, I was amazed to learn about MozillaLabs Contacts. It’s a Firefox extension that makes the browser aware of your online contacts and friend lists. Why should you care? Because your addressbook is yours and you shouldn’t be sharing it with everybody only to invite them to join yet-another-social-networking-site. As Michael Hanson puts it in his blog post

This information is also special, because it represents the boundary between “my data” and “your privacy”. When you disclose your friends’ email addresses on a website (maybe you want to invite them to a cool new site you just joined), you are trusting the website to keep that address private. […] The disclosure of your friends’ contact information is an important step: we think you should be in control of it.

Contacts also uses the Portable Contacts definition internally. I aggregate and keep all my contacts in sync with Funambol, so I’m thinking that the best way for me to use Contacts would be if I could have it grab the addressbook from Funambol server. How hard would it be to add a Portable Contacts representation of the contacts stored in Funambol? If anybody is interested, I can sponsor the investigation of the issue and the development with Code Sniper grants.

Three reasons to follow Mozilla Thunderbird development

Since Mozilla Messaging launched Thunderbird 3 I started using it to see if this new version is better than GNOME Evolution, the email/calendar application I used in the past 4 years. Evolution is a decent email and calendar client and I love the integration in GNOME, but it stopped evolving and its GUI has many annoyances. I’ve used Thunderbird 3.0.1 for a couple of weeks and here are three reasons to choose it and why I decided to postpone the adoption.

Search and indexing: Thunderbird 3 indexing is fast and very good. The interface for searching and drilling your mailbox is fantastic, very well done and fast. Check the screenshot.

Tabs: I like to be able to read messages in different tabs. Lightning calendar and tasks conveniently open in a tab and it’s also possible to run Google Wave in one. This shows the power under the hood of this client: it has the potential to become a messaging hub for all services.  It’s annoying that Addressbook and compose new mail open in a new window instead of tab though.

Add-ons: just like Firefox, there are many ways to add functionalities to Thunderbird. The first add-on I installed is Funambol in order to test it and help its development. Then ThunderBrowse, in order to avoid opening Firefox only to check a link in an email and EnigMail to add GPG/PGP support. Nothing mind-blowing yet, but I hope somebody will develop a replacement of the Addressbook with more ‘social’ features. A topic for another post 🙂

Bonus reason: finally! There is an “Archive” button: once you’re done with a message or a thread, and you don’t want to delete it, you hit a button and the message goes into the archives (archiving criteria can be specified). A neat solution for Capo’s problem 🙂

The Addressbook, on the other hand, is pretty lame. It doesn’t contain enough fields, it still has space of a ‘pager number’ (anybody  still using them?), it opens in a window and not in a tab. I hope it’ll improve in next version.

I’m still using Evolution as my main source of data, especially address book and calendar. Even if Funambol add-on for Thunderbird 3 works decently, it’s still unstable and it has other small issues (if you want to help, Funambol offers Code Sniper grants).

Two Funambol community projects to monitor during holidays

There is an interesting movement around two Funambol community projects: the syncml clients for Thunderbird and for Palm WebOS.

Mozilla Messaging is rapidly pushing Thunderbird 3 out of beta and Funambol’s community is ramping up interest in its addon. Carlo Codega, the main developer, started working on a port to Thunderbird 3 of the plugin. There is a first build for Windows, but it has issues and it’s only recommended for developers to fix it. Since the Thunderbird plugin depends on Funambol’s C++ SDK the Thunderbird addon needs to be ported to Linux and Mac OS X. Funambol offered a bounty under the Code Sniper program to prepare the builds for these two operating systems. If you are looking for a way to fill the afternoons and evenings during the holidays go to Funambol addon for Mozilla pages and get the chance to win $50 or more.

Somewhat connected to Mozilla, is the community effort to port the Funambol Java SDK to javascript in order to build a syncml client for WebOS, Palm’s operating system. An informative discussion sparked on Funambol’s forum around the Code Sniper grant and the first attempt of the javascript port done by long-time contributor Mathew McBride. This project and Mozilla’s are connected because if Thunderbird’s addon used a javascript syncml engine instead of the  C++ libs, it would improve its multiplatform support. Anybody interested in helping please join the discussion and start planning the development of the Funambol client for Web OS.

Firefox 3.1 beta 1 adds support for OGG formats

Big boost to the PlayOGG campaign coming from Firefox:

This is the first beta from Mozilla to include support for <video> and the <audio> elements. This beta includes support for the OGG Theora and OGG Vorbis formats on all platforms.

It’s going to be easier to use this format if millions of users will be able to play it without adding additional plugins. This is really a major milestone for open standards on the web. The pressure on patented formats like the whole MPEG4 family will increase.

More juicy details about FF beta 1 on Firefox 3.1 beta 1 – an overview of features for web developers.