Web Application Coherence

One of the greatest things about Parallels is Coherence. The integration between the virtual machine and the host OS makes virtualized applications feel almost native. It’s a major win for users who don’t want to be locked into a mini-desktop.

I wonder if this concept could be brought to the web in a secure, but convenient method. There are many applications that could benefit. You could pull widgets off a page and onto your desktop as an application. For example you could take Meebo, an online IM service. In a matter of seconds it would feel as if you downloaded a new application, but your still using your browser. People love web applications, and hate downloads. This has been known for a while. Meebo is extremely popular because it feels somewhat like a desktop application, but it’s web based. Think of this as Apple’s Dashboard taken to a whole new level.

Take for example this psudocode (it’s just to make a point, not an API):

<div id="frame">
    <p>This is a window that can be brought to the desktop</p>
    <p id="test"></p>
</div>

var widget = document.getElementById(‘frame’);
 
// This would test if it’s currently coherent
if(!widget.coherence){
    // This would prompt the user to allow coherence on the page.  Typical extension-like install warning.
    widget.allowCoherence();
}
 
// When you first enter coherence mode
widget.coherence.oncoherence = function(){
    document.getElementById(‘test’).innerHTML = ‘I\’m in your OohS, integratin your web pagez’;
};
 
// When you focus (bring a window to the front)
widget.coherence.onfocus = function(){
    document.getElementById(‘test’).innerHTML = ‘Your in focus’;
};
 
// When you first enter coherence mode
widget.coherence.onminimize= function(){
     document.getElementById(‘test’).innerHTML = ‘I\’m idle right now.’;
};

The first time your browser would hit allowCoherence() you would be prompted to allow coherence for that domain. Other than the integrated look/feel it would adhere 100% to typical web sandboxing. This isn’t like building an XULRunner app where JS can write to the filesystem. It would just be a way to make web applications more usable for people. and breakout of the web browser feel.

There are other things that can be done as well. For example css theming could give the app a more native look/feel dependent on the host. Perhaps just an attribute in the <html/> would trigger the browser to render things to look like a native app by default (pinstripe background for page by default, etc). Another great thing to use with it would be offline support. A little more cleverness would allow you to create bookmarks that essentially “open the application”.

Ultimately this would still be about web applications, but making them live outside of the browser window. The user wouldn’t need to install anything more than a web browser. The applications would be as safe to use as browsing to a website.

So there’s my giant idea. Implementing this in something like Firefox would be a rather large task, and to be useful the API would need to be standardized across browsers, but much of the underlying stuff is there. Anyone interested in taking web applications to the next level?

Hell Froze Over

John Dvorak touched a Mac. Strike that, he actually used one, and get this: somewhat liked it. He says he won’t be switching, but would recommend it.

I can see why the Mac is gaining market share, because the rationale for using one is simple. Do you want to deal with the agony of antivirus, firewall, antispyware, and other touchy software subsystems, many of which do not work well? Or do you want to boot Microsoft Word and write a document and be done with it?

This coming from a guy who spend the past 20 years bashing them. He then concludes with:

Yes, it’s a sad day for the Mac bashers.

Mac Sales Up 33%

Apple Third Quarter Results:

Apple shipped 1,764,000 Macintosh® computers, representing 33 percent growth over the year-ago quarter and exceeding the previous company record for quarterly Mac® shipments by over 150,000. The Company also sold 9,815,000 iPods during the quarter, representing 21 percent growth over the year-ago quarter.

Now who is saying the Mac is dead 😉 ?

The Future Of Thunderbird

Mitchell today announced that the Mozilla Foundation is now looking for a new home for Thunderbird since it doesn’t directly meet the mission of the foundation, which is putting most of it’s efforts into Firefox. Three options have been initially proposed (though there seems to be room for more options).

Continue reading

Nokia N800

Several months ago I mentioned the Nokia N800. Recently a Mozilla based browser was released. This got me extra interested. Apparently flash support is improved, and you could run a better browser. Also can run Skype, and openSSH. What more could you want?

Well there is a killer thing missing: offline support. It’s a WiFi only device (which IMHO is fine), meaning no data connection if your not in range of a hotspot unless you use bluetooth and your cellphone, but that’s expensive. I’d love to see offline support. I’m surprised Google hasn’t stepped up to the plate and released a version of Google Gears the N800. Seems like it would be the perfect application.

Very interesting product.

Facebook Acquires Parakey

According to TechCrunch Parakey was acquired by Facebook. For those who haven’t been following. Parakey was Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt’s new venture. Their priors include a certain cvs branch that spawned a certain web browser and a certain developer extension for the browser called Firebug (released through Parakey according to the footer). I’m guessing this isn’t part of a plan for a “WebOS” but to strengthen the Facebook Platform.

For the record Facebook is a pretty decent open source contributor as well as a consumer. Hopefully this means that Blake’s intention to open source most of Parakey will still hold true. Some more work on Firebug would also be awesome.

Congrats to Blake and Joe!

Comcast Problems?

There are quite a few sites linking to this post about Comcast problems with Mac OS and/or Firefox users. I personally fall under both categories, and haven’t had a problem, though I admittedly have had Comcast for several years, and never installed their software/branding, nor do I use any of their services/websites other than connectivity.

I was curious if this is a big problem for Firefox users. A quick scan of reporter data shows a few reports a day (somewhat high, but they are a portal site for many so volume is expected), and comments on the site are somewhat varied. Most are from a very non-technical audience. I didn’t get the sense that there were certain items that were consistently a problem. My general observations are:

  1. Homepage misrenders at least part of the time.
  2. Games are “optimized” for IE/Windows (at least some appear to be .exe downloads).

Anyone have experiences? They are a somewhat flash centric site, which tends to be pretty good cross platform, making this somewhat of an unusual case. Typically sites that are problematic for Firefox/Mac users are very antiquated sites that still reference Netscape 4.x as “supported”. They on the other hand are relatively modern.

So if you, or someone you know has run across problems, let me know. I’d like to get an idea of what users face on a daily basis.

Does Firefox need to steal from Safari?

I’m a sucker for these kind of posts. I love users who share opinions, even if I disagree. There’s a blog post circulating about 9 things Firefox should steal from Safari. I’d like to go over it quickly:

1. Highlight the current text field

I agree. I really like the feature at least on the Mac. I’m not sure it really works in an application that wants to feel native to Windows, but I guess you can debate that for a long time. There was a stalled effort to do this in Bug 251198. There hasn’t been any activity there for a while. As I recall the general opinion around the web was lukewarm.

2. Font rendering

I personally agree that Apple’s font rendering is awesome. But there are many that think it’s an abomination. Joel on Software did a great writeup on font rendering recently that’s worth a read if your interested in the topic.

3. The Downloads dialog

I’m ambivalent on this point. I kinda like how Firefox shows where it’s downloaded. Other than that, I don’t see much of a difference. Then again, I don’t live in the download manager. The only thing I really care about is the download status. Perhaps that’s just me.

4. HTML rendering Speeds

There is a lot at play here. At a minimum David Hyatt’s post on speed testing is mandatory reading. A lot has been changed in Firefox 3.0, including a rewrite of incremental rendering and moving to Cairo. How will this effect performance both perceived and actual? I think it’s still to early to say.

5. The bug reporter

I’d love to know what people think about this one, considering I wrote reporter for Firefox. At over a half million reports, I think it’s been pretty successful despite being buried in a menu and pretty much unadvertised. I’d also love to improve it if someone has some UI enhancements to improve usability that make sense (I’m against change for the sake of change). We don’t show “the bug” by default in the toolbar. You need to customize the toolbar and add it yourself. Obviously it isn’t a feature worthy of such valuable screen real estate. Maybe it could be good to enable by default for debug/nightly builds? We talked about that at one time, but never took action on it.

6. The Find dialog

I hate the find dialog on the top, I think it belongs on the bottom. But I do agree that displaying the total number of results found would be a great little enhancement.

7. Detachable tabs

I still think this is such a Mac thing, but I do like it (I’m a Mac guy, so perhaps I’m bias). There was talk of this at one point. There is a mention of it in the brainstorming page for tabs, sidebar, windows for Firefox 3.0, as well as an old bug (Bug 113934). Currently you can drag a tab between windows, but it reopens in the new window (doesn’t carry the state).

8. Draggable images

Is this a problem in Firefox?

Update: I think it’s only an issue on the Mac.

9. Resizable Text Areas

I like the feature. There is an extension that will give you this functionality. Should it be part of the build? I’m really not sure. Definately not for text inputs (it mucks up at times making a mess), only text areas where it’s handy. Though I wonder if this feature exists in more browsers, will designers by start making text areas so small that we have to expand them all before we can use them?

St. Maarten Airport Fun

A week ago I came back from St. Maarten, an island known for it’s weather and beaches. There are a few ways to tell a good beach from a great one:

  1. Clean beaches.
  2. Evidence that topless tanning is allowed.
  3. Signs like the one to the left warning you of death by heavy metal.

A beach with an active runway for an international airport makes for a good time. So much so I got to this beach a several times. Equipped with a camera phone I took some video’s of the fun. The video’s are slightly grainy since it was taken on a phone, and a bit shaky since the jet blast could be pretty strong at times.

For the record, sand does go through clothing at that speed. It was strong enough that I wasn’t able to watch a takeoff live as I had to turn my head and close my eyes. Only afterward could I watch the video replay.

Noteworthy

Boeing 747 takeoff (can’t even keep the camera up).

Almost being hit by a DHL plane

Side Shot of a landing

There’s about a dozen videos and a few pictures.