Archive for Mozilla

Seven things you don’t care about

[ music | Dido – Me ]

Blame Daniel Glazman, it’s his fault. 😉

  1. Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
  2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
  3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

Let the self indulgence begin!

  1. Building on Dan’s medical theme
    • As a child I had some severe migraine headaches. They’d last for days, and I’d just sleep the whole time, but they’d also be accompanied by incredibly high fevers above 105°F. I’m told by doctors it’s a miracle it didn’t cause any brain damage.  I’m told by friends it most certainly did.
    • In 2006 I got to enjoy the agony of gallstones. I mentioned that, and the subsequent removal of said gall bladder. I have a rather high tolerance for pain, you see. My major attack in October had been increasing in discomfort and pain for about 18 hours before I finally went to the ER. I thought it was bad gas or indigestion. This had happened twice before and passed long before it felt this bad. I was crossing the street, and nearly passed out, so I grabbed a cab home and called 911 (I was still caring for my mother at home and wanted her in the ambulance with me so she didn’t worry, here’s why). Turns out I had developed acute pancreatitis and was in shock. Apparently shooting pains throughout your abdomen is a bad sign, and you should get help. Lesson learned!
  2. I used to run a Mozilla news site called Mozilla News. It’s gone now, the domain lapsed, but you can read our old stuff via Internet Archive. I broke some news a time or two that some people weren’t happy about, but over all, I think we did a lot of good for the community. Also, we had the first animated favicon ever.
  3. I was engaged once.
  4. I got to meet and shake hands with Bill Clinton during his 1996 campaign. He came to Pittsburgh in August and had a rally in the Sewall Center at Robert Morris College (now Robert Morris University). Amazing guy.
  5. My first computer was a TRS 80 Model 100 (I had the printer too!). I loved that computer. It was very light and incredibly portable, ran on 4 AA batteries, and had a built in 300 baud modem. Once I bought the modem cable and started checking out local BBSes, my entire world changed forever. I bought a second one, cut off one modular connector and attached alligator clips, and went phreaking. Some of the best times of my life.
  6. About a decade or so ago, I got hit by my own car. I was at a motel and someone tried to steal my car. I heard it start up, ran out, and stood in the middle of the parking lot. He drove right into me, and I rolled up the hood, over the windshield, and off the side. I hurt my back, but no broken bones or cuts.
  7. I’m a published author. I’ve been published in a couple poetry reviews, a technical book, and most recently tech-edited a book for Wiley, HTML, XHTML, and CSS: Your visual blueprint. I’m also about 170+ pages into a novel, but that’s another story. (Get it? Another STORY? Ha-ha! (that one’s for dolske))

So, now I need to harass seven other people about this.

  1. Justin Dolske because he’s a punny guy.
  2. Chris Thomas because he’s a really smart guy.
  3. Josh Soref because he’s a genuinely nice guy.
  4. Jeff Walden because is hard to find.
  5. J. Boriss because I’m still looking for Natasha.
  6. Sean Umphlet who is a good guy and will not give you up nor let you down.
  7. Tim De Pauw who is my favorite waffle (and a good musician).


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Dreamweaver CS4 “Live View” uses Webkit

[ music | Ulrich Schnauss – Blumenwiese Neben Autobahn ]

Quick note to anyone subscribed to my old RSS feeds: I’ve moved to WordPress, and while all the old bookmarks work, old RSS feed URLs don’t. You’ll need to update them. Thanks.

So, like a brazilian other Photoshop and Dreamweaver users, I was happy to read all the new info Adobe was releasing about the CS4 suite. I’m fairly certain I would undergo severe withdrawl symptoms without PS and DW. As I read over the What’s New in Dreamweaver PDF, I discovered something I had been wishing Adobe (and previously, Macromedia) would address for a while, the less than stellar in-app preview renderer. It was marginally better than IE, but in no way kept up with Friefox, Safari, or Opera. They’re integrating a leading edge open source rendering engine into the app, specifically Webkit.

View your web pages under real-world browser conditions with the new Live View—while
still retaining direct access to the code. This new rendering mode, which uses the open source
rendering engine WebKit, displays your designs like a standards-based browser.
Changes to the code are immediately reflected in the rendered display.

I’m thrilled that finally the in-app view won’t suck. However, this will trigger yet another wave of “OMG Gecko is dead, Webkit roolz” posts from people who don’t understand what they’re talking about. Webkit is a great engine, and so is Gecko. But the two engines serve two different agendas. Webkit is about being lightweight and easy to pick up and easy to embed. Gecko is about being heavy duty, and does a lot more than just HTML. It has a heftier learning curve as well. If you want to embed an easy to learn web engine, grab Webkit. If you want to leverage an entire web platform, Gecko is your choice. They both have advantages and disadvantages, and are best in different scenarios.

To quote Nokia developer Oleg Romaxa in a recent interview,

Nokia will use the best browser for the job. Currently, we cannot make a full-featured and integrated browser with WebKit in mobile. But with Mozilla, we do not need to do anything, we can take existing models and API’s which are available. Also, NPAPI support is already in the Gecko web rendering engine.

Nokia was looking for a platform on which to build a browser for their products like the Nokia Internet Tablet. No one sensible is going to argue that Webkit can’t be part of an excellent browser, just look at Safari or Google Chrome. However, Webkit’s narrower focus meant that for Nokia, the better choice was Gecko.

For Adobe, Webkit was a better choice as it’s more easily embedded into other apps, and doesn’t come with a lot of things they didn’t need, such as XUL, plugin support, etc. Webkit is just part of the development environment. On the opposite end of the spectrum is NVu and KompoZer, which are web editors built entirely on Gecko. They leverage the platform Gecko provides, something you can’t accomplish with Webkit.

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MozNews Redux

[ music | Simple Minds – Don’t You Forget About Me ]

Well, it’s been two and a half years, and maybe that’s long enough. The Mozillaverse is livelier than it has ever been, with more and more happening every day. More exciting applications based on the technologies, new companies being founded, exciting opportunities all around. And in this age of blogs and podcasts and vlogs and feeds, apparently the world needs another voice. Well, MozillaNews is that voice. However, there’s a problem! We need writers and content creators. I don’t regret the 4 years I spent being MozillaNews’ primary content creator, but boy, there’s so much today I can’t possibly do it all.

We’re going to use a new CMS rather than our old custom-built CMS, and while we’ll import our old articles, we’re going to need new fresh content. So I’m putting out a call across all the Internets, through all the tubes, if you want to be a world famous blogger with the adoration of millions, email me at and we’ll talk.


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The REAL Truth About Mozilla

[ music | Foo Fighters – Disenchanted Lullaby ]

Recently someone ran over to WordPress and started a blog about Mozilla stuff. Now, I might have linked to that blog a while ago, but the latest post (as of this date) is nothing more than a personal screed against Mitchell. I never met her personally, but I’ve hung around long enough to feel comfortable enough to say that I doubt she has any significant personal ambitions of wealth here. If she did she’d have left long ago. Have you read this woman’s bio?

But he (or she) did make a few good points, but never got down to the root problems. Mozilla is full of brilliant people. sure, there are some rotten apples, but find me a single organization without them. No one at the top got there by being stupid. However, I think one issue still plaguing Mozilla to this day is management. But there’s another old saying that comes into play here, never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

Mozilla was founded by some people who had less than stellar social skills to start with, and they came from Netscape. Netscape was the golden child for a long time. Then MS came along and abused their position and ground Netscape down to nothing more than a sticker on the wall. A lot of the spirit of NS survived though, and that’s mostly good. But one thing I think that came along that shouldn’t have, and has survived like a virus, is an idea that once a decision has been made, it’s the right one. Arrogance, that used to be called. It is a phenomenon I am somewhat acquainted with. Humility doesn’t always seem to be in sufficient supply at Lizard Central.

Worse, this arrogance had a tendency to make Mozilla look aloof and smug to the community that supports it. The way Seamonkey was handled is a good example. Regardless of how the upper echelon actually felt, they came across as seeing Seamonkey as a bane, a ball and chain, an annoyance best shot and buried. I don’t actually think this is what they intended, but that’s how many people received the news. the Firebird name fiasco is an even clearer example. It wouldn’t have broken anyone’s back to say, “Hey, you know what, you’re right, we made a mistake, and while we can’t change it today, we assure you all that we’re working on the issue and it WILL be resolved within a few months.” The recent transition of Thunderbird was another example, although was handled a little better. But it was still handled poorly enough to give more fodder to trolls like Truthboy over at his WordPress blog.

However, I think there’s a glimmer of hope. They realized, were convinced, or planned all along and just really don’t know how to manage public relations, that Thunderbird is a very valuable property for both Mozilla and the world at large. A property with a lot of promise and potential if handled right. And they’re making some really good moves to help give that promise a chance to come true. I’m not sure this kind of thing would have happened 5 years ago. It shows that the success of Firefox, both in users, visibility, respect, and maybe even financially, has had a positive effect on the culture inside Mozilla.

So, what’s the real truth about Mozilla? They need more education about managing people, not developers. Some good old fashioned person-to-person human interaction across the board. I think that’s really the biggest issue anymore. Now, I know some will say, “Hey, anyone can speak their minds here.” The ability to do so, and feeling like one can are two different things. And I think they need someone to help temper some of the language in communications with the community. A little diplomacy goes a long way, internally and externally.

Take it from me. I’ve never said anything that could be construed as offensive or arrogant.

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Trademarks for Freetards

[ music | Black Eyed Peas – Let’s Get Retarded ]

Ok, this is getting really stupid. One might classify it as retarded. In this Gobuntu non-free package list wiki page, Mozilla’s trademark policy is called “draconian”. I should point out to the Ubuntu crowd that Ubuntu’s trademark policy is incredibly similar, with nearly identical restrictions. And in a major blow to Debian fans, Debian has a trademark policy too. Both boil down to the following ideas:

  • The organization owns exclusive rights to the name in question with respect to computer software/operating systems (depending on how broadly they enforce the name, and how narrowly a court may restrict them).
  • You can make minor changes to the product and still call it by the trademarked name.
  • You may not in any way use that name for commercial purposes that could cause confusion. Forget about opening “Ubuntu In-Home PC Repair” or “Debian Computers Inc.”
  • If you’re not sure if you’re within these rules, ask.
  • If you break these rules, or your use of their name could start to cause confusion in the market, they can and will tell you to alter your practices or even cease using the name.

Why do they need these rules? Because a trademark is IDENTITY. These organizations, just like you and me, need to protect their names and reputations. If I start hawking “Debian Web Browser” that contains spyware, I am damaging Debian’s reputation. If I start giving away “Ubuntu OS” for free, and it’s just FreeDOS with Ubuntu branding, that’s trading on Ubuntu’s good name and can make people think I’m REALLY giving out Ubuntu, when I’m not.

And what about their permission to use it with minor changes? If I change the default bookmarks to my website, and give that away in Ubuntu, that’s nothing major. If I change the default wallpaper, and add my awesome new band’s music to the desktop, and add my really cool “Catapult” game that I wrote. That’s pretty minor. However, if I make the default wallpaper Tubgirl, change the bookmarks to porn sites, remove all networking, and make it turn on the PC speaker at top volume all the time, that’s going too far because I could make people think this is what these distributions are really like. Don’t you think Microsoft would love to be able to get away with trashing user expectations this way?

Well, Mozilla has the same rules. Debian went further than Mozilla was willing to allow, however. So, Mozilla said, “Let us look at your changes and we’ll think about it.” Debian handed the changes over in one giant monolithic patch, which is very difficult for one person to go over, because they have to reorganize it all themselves to really see what’s going on. Debian didn’t want to split it out into separate patches. Mozilla was willing to look at Debian’s changes, Debian wasn’t willing to meet Mozilla half way by making the changes easy to understand. An impasse arose. So Mozilla asked Debian to just stop using the Mozilla trademarks if they insisted on doing things their way. Mozilla can’t and wouldn’t try to stop Debian from redistributing their code changes, that’s what open source software is all about. Debian was well within their rights to keep their changes.

Luckily, for a long time the Mozilla code has had a simple compile time switch that enables you to turn off the trademarked branding and either use the generic branding, or your very own custom branding. It’s incredibly simple. The Debian devs had broken that option in all their changes. Let me repeat that. They broke that switch. The very thing that would make this dead simple THEY BROKE. This was the REAL CAUSE of the Debian outrage. They fucked up the branding switch, and it was hard to fix because they fucked it really well and it was going to be a fair bit of work to either fix it, or manually remove the branding.

Let me make my personal opinion of this clear. BOO-FUCKING-HOO. I guarantee you if I was distributing my own respin of Debian in which I broke Apache, Perl, bash, and set X to only run desktops rotated 180 degrees, Debian would pitch a royal fit, justifiably so. They tell me to stop calling it Debian. “Oh, well, that’s hard because I went through and hardcoded the name ‘Debian’ into all the places you see it now.” Debian wouldn’t care.

Trademarks are not copyrights. Trademarks don’t cover source code. You can build a 100% OSI-compliant build of Firefox from the public sources, and you can even pick to use the GPL, LGPL, or the MPL as your license of choice if you want to use and redistribute the code. But you can’t break stuff and call it Firefox. That’s someone else’s identity, and they’re not going to let you make it look bad.

And honestly, it’s not even a choice. It’s the law. Trademark law states that trademark holders must enforce their trademarks or they risk losing them forever. Ever ridden on an escalator, gone to a laundromat, or purchased anything made of nylon? Those were once trademarked terms, but they became so generic in use the holders lost their trademarks. Xerox very nearly lost their trademark, as have Kleenex, and Band-Aid. Adobe urges people not to say “photoshopped” and Google asks you to “search using Google” but not “to google”. Having your trademark become a verb is even worse than becoming a generic noun.

So the next time you want to freak out because an organization is protecting their trademark, try to remember that the code is still open source, they’re just protecting their identity. You wouldn’t like it if someone passed themselves off with your name, would you?

Yours truly, Asa Dotzler.

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Ten Fucking days

[ music | Pixies – Here Comes Your Man ]

This is a headline I’d love to see in eWeek or InfoWorld next week. I also predict a certain someone will be working remotely from an undisclosed location for a few weeks.

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Suggestion for new link pseudo-class, “:current”

[ music | 12 – Duran Duran – To Whom It May Concern ]

Today I sent out an email to the WWW-Style Mailing List. I’m sure most Mozillians don’t read it, however, so I’m reposting it here for comments, opinions, etc. Please leave your thoughts in the comments as I’m interested in everyone’s opinion on this.

It's entirely possible I'm an idiot, however, I think I see an opportunity for a useful addition to the link pseudo-classes. The link pseudo-classes states:

"The :link pseudo-class applies for links that have not yet been visited."

"The :visited pseudo-class applies once the link has been visited by the user."

Recently I've been building a site, and using a new idea on a navigation menu. Once you get beyond a few pages, it's tedious to manage a code block between pages, so one resorts to server side scripting to manage it. In this case, the current page's entry in the menu is styled differently than the rest to indicate the user's current location in the site.

However, I realized that maybe rather than changing the menu HTML server side, I could just use a pseudo-class and style it differently, as one can have unvisited and visited links styled differently automatically by the browser. To my dismay, I discovered there is currently no method to do this.

My idea, which I'm certain has been bandied about a dozen times before, is to add a :current (or some other name) pseudo-class that refers only to URLs that match the currently loaded page, and can be styled differently like :visited and :link. Already browsers have to determine if an URL is unvisited or not, so I don't really see that this additional check would be a greater onus than what they already do, and it could make life a little easier on developers, less server side scripting.

Comments? I'd love to hear support, but also I'd like to hear why this would be a bad idea.


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Hard truth…

[ music | Depeche Mode – Policy of truth ]

I’m a little tired of ignoring a rather large elephant in my room here, so this is me acknowledging an elephant you in all likelihood didn’t see. However, I do, and I want rid of it. So I’m going to partake in the typical self-indulgent blog post. I don’t want pity, I just don’t want to pretend there’s nothing wrong anymore.

At the age of 28, I officially became the caretaker of a parent with dementia. If that seems a little young, it is, because the parent is definitely on the young side of the bell curve of dementia patients. And as often the case, I’d been a caretaker for several years before the disease was actually diagnosed. It’s amazing how effective we can be at lying to ourselves and avoiding conclusions we want to avoid. I was so good at it I made a complete ass of myself to several people for about six months at the end of 2005 and the start of 2006.

At the start of May 2006, things devolved to an untenable state, and an ultimatum was issued. Either my mother checked herself into the hospital to determine what’s going on, or I would. In a wonderful turn of real life melodrama, my statement was, “I’d rather have you hate me and be well than love me and be sick. One way or another, this is going to happen, today.” She checked herself in, and within a week, we had the diagnosis.

Dementia is a spectrum of diseases rather than a single specific one, with the most commonly known type being Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia tends to describe the condition of the patient and symptoms rather than the cause. She doesn’t have Alzheimer’s, nor does there seem to be any easily recognizable gross organic defect like what you see in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or Dementia with Lewy Bodies.

She was started on several medications immediately, two of which I cannot speak highly enough. Aricept and Namenda. Her reaction to these was rapid and incredibly positive, far more than one would expect reading the literature. Within a few weeks she was significantly more lucid and coherent, and far more capable than she had been in quite a while. She wasn’t perfect, but in these situations, you’ll take 80% of normal when you can get it. For roughly a year things went so much better. For that year I an unable to express my gratitude.

However, about two months ago, things started to decline again, with alarming rapidity. Last week we went back to the doctor after only having a check-up three months ago. We tried some adjustments to the meds, and things looked to improve a little. Until Thursday. Without unnecessarily delving into detail, I was forced to hospitalize her again to see if we could see what was going wrong now. It’s somewhat of a crisis, and things have never been this bad before. Things were actually quite fine Wednesday, we enjoyed the local fireworks display. I don’t know what changed, and I don’t know where things will go from here. We’ll see shortly I assume. There’s a meeting tentatively scheduled Monday with the doctors at the hospital.

I’m saying this because I need to unload, and to stop acting like this stressor doesn’t exist. I’m also saying this to remind people of the old saying, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” It’s rather prophetic that John Lennon said that the year he died. Three dear friends lost parents of their own recently. One’s father died of heart disease, another’s mother to ovarian cancer, and one just a month ago lost both to a car crash. My situation is by no means unique or unusual.

I never had a good relationship with my father, but I love my mother dearly. If you got along with one or both parents, pick up the phone, talk to them, tell them you love them, whatever. But cherish whatever time you have with them, your siblings, your kids, your friends. Life is far too short, and goes by far too fast. It’s like falling from a cliff at night: it’s exhilarating, it’s scary, and you never see the end coming. Enjoy it while you can. Every day can be the most wonderful gift in the universe.

Just don’t get caught making plans.

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When Memes Attack.

[ music | Breeders – Do You Love Me Now ]

Im in ur PCs...

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Safari for Windows… ?

[ music | DJ Format – We Know Something You Don’t Know ]

The world's best browser. Now on Windows, too.

Now on windows? But Firefox has always been on Windows. Oh, you mean your browser. How cute!

Update: Ok, I’m using Safari right now. Actually, it’s nice. The biggest thing I can say is we have to find out what they’re doing for font smoothing and steal it. It’s magnificent.
Firefox text demo 1
Firefox text demo 2
Safari text demo 1
Safari text demo 2

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