Firefox OS – What is missing

December 1st, 2013

As noted earlier, I hope that Firefox OS can replace Android on my phone at some point. Mozilla has done some great work in the past month but there is still a lot to be done. Right now the main problems for me are…

  • Hardware support: While Firefox OS is fully open source, neither my old Nexus One nor the Galaxy Nexus can run it in a stable way. At least the Galaxy Nexus has much better hardware than any official Firefox OS phones and even the Nexus One should at least be on par with the ZTE Open.
  • Firefox Sync: This feature is great, I use it sync between my Fedora desktops and phone. Especially sending tabs from one device to another is great. It is totally beyond me how Mozilla could not support this killer feature on Firefox OS.
  • Firefox extensions: Well, I only really need Adblock Plus
  • CardDAV: Another fact that is hard to explain, given Mozilla’s love for open standards is the absence of CardDAV sync. In order to sync contacts you need to use, guess what, Facebook (or Google/Hotmail). Maybe this will make it into a release sooner or later.

Besides those, it would also need solutions for at least news, passwords and file sync to match the functionality I get on Android.

I plan to follow the development of Firefox OS more closely from now on and update this list as features become available or I find other important things that Firefox OS is lacking.

Android apps

December 1st, 2013

The following is a short list of nice Android apps which help getting away from proprietary services (Google, Dropbox, …)

Out of these, FolderSync is the only app that is not open source, but hopefully Encdroid will support fetching files from ownCloud directly soon.

I am still looking for a solution regarding notes, ideally giving me access to the same set of notes on GNOME, Web and Android.

Messaging remains the biggest problem. Sure there’s XMPP, but nobody seems to use it. Maybe can replace WhatsApp? For Email, let’s see how Mailpile develops…

Don’t be evil

December 1st, 2013

Google has done and is still doing a lot of great things, but recently they have crossed a line.

For myself it began with the shutdown of Google Reader, which was a very useful service for me. The company thought otherwise and wanted us to use Google+ instead, but that doesn’t really cover my use case. I looked around and finally went with selfoss, which works fine but feels a bit slow.

Then the Nexus 5 was released and I ordered one day one… big mistake. The first unit I received had a very bad power-on button. Shaking or even slightly moving the phone caused it to create rattling sounds. Also, the vibration motor sounded as if it was dying already. Turned out these problems were quite common… a sign for perfect QA. RMAing was no problem but the replacement was said not ship before mid-december. Sigh. I got the replacement a few days later and started using the phone. Easily the best Android phone I every owned, BUT…

Sadly Google does not care about open source anymore. On the Nexus 5, the closed source Hangouts has replaced the messaging app and the various other parts of the system (launcher for example) are no longer open source as well. For me this is a big deal, but even those who do not care will notice that Google is now actively fragmenting Android by not adding some KitKat features to the Nexus 4 or Moto X. I had big hopes after the relatively smooth and quick rollout of Android 4.3 but with KitKat Google destroyed this illusion.

Could it get worse? Sure! Google banned the CynogenMod installer from Google Play. I guess it is only a time before other popular root-only apps will follow. Some time ago Google also banned AdAway from Google Play, but thankfully there is F-Droid.

It does not stop here. There is another very sad story here. In a nutshell: Google offers a way to import custom CA certificates in Android but in KitKat, there is a very annoying and misleading warning message about this after every boot. The bug was closed WorkingAsIntended and Google basicly asks us to trust them but not ourselves. Nice.

A way out?

It can be hard to migrate away from Google services but thankfully ownCloud is finally getting into usable shape. I use a pre-release of the upcoming ownCloud 6.0 for files, contacts, calendars and news. The only Google services I still cannot replace are GMail and Maps…

As for Android: I will probably switch to a custom ROM soon and not buy anything from Google Play anymore. In the medium term I hope that Firefox OS will be able to fit my needs.


April 9th, 2011

I have been concentrating on job and real life stuff during the last few month but I guess I should take a minute to comment on GNOME 3.0 nevertheless :)

All things considered, the “.0″ release has turned out very well. There are various problems and regressions for sure, but still I am impressed about all the work that has been done, especially during the last two month. I just want to thank everyone involved!

Conferences 2010

July 29th, 2010

I have been lucky enough to make it to the Mozilla Summit in Whistler, BC again this year. Needless to say, the conference rocked. Thanks to Mozilla for inviting me! Everything was organized really well and after seeing the coolest tech (HTML5, CSS3, WebGL, WebSockets, …) running in Firefox 4 Beta for a few days it really improved my feeling on how Firefox 4 will stand up to Google Chrome:-)

Unfortunately I did not manage to make it to GUADEC again :-(

But, thanks to Fluendo and Flumotion, I can still follow the talks as WebM streams!

Pd midi on Fedora

November 19th, 2009

A few days ago, my girlfriend asked me to set up PureData on her Fedora 11 box. Installing Pd was easy thanks to CCRMA. Making it work – not so much…

After countless failed attempts I came up with a simple yet working setup which can be implemented in about two minutes:

  1. install pd-extended, jack-audio-connection-kit and fluidsynth
  2. start JACK: jackd –realtime –silent -d alsa –midi-driver seq &
  3. start FluidSynth:
    fluidsynth -l -i -s -a jack -o synth.sample-rate=48000 /usr/share/soundfonts/default.sf2 &
  4. connect FluidSynth to ALSA:
    jack_connect fluidsynth:left alsa_pcm:playback_1
    jack_connect fluidsynth:right alsa_pcm:playback_2
  5. pd -rt -jack -alsamidi -midioutdev 1

I first tried to not use JACK because I thought it would clash with PulseAudio. Problem with this approach: Pd does not support PulseAudio natively and neither does FluidSynth in F11 (upstream supports it, but that is another sad story). So it’s either PCM sound or midi, but not both at the same time :-(

Fortunately, JACK turned out to work great – but for normal desktop usage, I am still very happy to have PulseAudio :-)


January 20th, 2009

It’s 2009 already, which means: time for another blog entry :-)

During the last months I have mostly been busy with university. Unfortunately things tend to take a bit longer than expected… But now, having only only one exam left, I took the chance to get up to speed with the latest GNOME, Linux and FOSS development.

The general “theme” for GNOME 2.26 seems to be getting rid of legacy dependencies like libgnome(ui) everywhere, which is very nice. Also, there’s a lot of small-but-welcome improvements here and there. Finally PulseAudio will be properly integrated into the desktop (if the remaining bugs can be fixed before the final release, it will rock). Brasero is a 1st class GNOME app now: the team has done some impressive work, just look at the level of integration they accomplished during the last development cycle!

While WebKit/GTK again didn’t make it into GNOME 2.26, the progress still seems to be huge and it should really “be there” for release+1. Even without it, Epiphany got some really nice improvements (woohoo bar!).

In other news, the coming Thunderbird will follow Firefox and provide a nice native look. I really hope the motivation to draw all the needed icons will be high in the weeks to come… ;-)

I’m also pleased to hear that OpenOffice is finally starting a GUI revamp, even if this effort will take quite some time: every journey starts with a first step.

GNOME 2.24 == niiiice

August 18th, 2008

I am very excited about the upcoming GNOME 2.24 release.There’s lots of nice new stuff, but here is what I am especially looking forward to:


  • Tabs
  • fixed DnD
  • Restore from trash
  • Improved removable media eject and insert handling


  • Speed (!)
  • More Tango icon and general UI love
  • Gmail contacts

openSUSE 11.0

July 7th, 2008

Today I received a free boxed version of openSUSE 11.0: thanks a lot, openSUSE and Novell! I’m running and experimenting with the system inside a VM for some days now actually and it really has some amazing features and polish. I will definately put this on the laptop really soon, maybe it will replace Ubuntu as the main OS…

Update: I had to modify a lot of .menu, .directory and .desktop files to get a nicer (upstream-like) menu. Can we please have this out-of-the-box in 11.1?

Modified menu in oS11

Update 2: The Build Service is just incredible. I used it to create some updated bluetooth-related packages (bluez-gnome, obex-data-server, nautilus-sendto). You can find them here. Still not 100% satisfied with bluetooth on 11.0 though.

We really need more feed reader apps

June 30th, 2008

Sometimes, doing GUI mockups is just too much fun, really.

Today I was inspired by this new project to think about feed reader UIs again. Over the years I have used a lot of different apps for reading feeds: Straw, Liferea, Blam, some Firefox browser extensions, Liferea again, Google Reader and finally Evolution-RSS. There are about half a million more, but none of them seems to really satisfy my needs (or… expectations). So, what does the perfect feed reader need? For me:

  • it has to be simple (not full of features like Lifera)
  • it has to be able to render content correctly (read: no gtkhtml)
  • it needs to way to categorize feeds (folders or even better: tags)
  • it should be able to run minimized and notify me if new feed items are available
  • it should have a pleasant look and feel

Maybe Summa will be “the” feed reader for me at some point in the future. Perhaps it will even look similar to this:

Feed reader mockup inspired by Summa

I know, some will hate the mockup but for me, a reader like that would be about perfect. Here’s a sample menu layout as well :) :

A sample menu layout

(Note: some of the icons used here are based on some concept art done by hbons)