Remixable Quilts for the Web

Atul Varma set up a quilt for MozCamp Asia 2012 which I thought was a fantastic tool for that type of event. It provided an engaging visualization, was collaboratively created, and allowed a quick and easy way to dive further into the details about the participating groups.

Screenshot 2014-12-18 15.23.19I wanted to use it for a couple of projects, but the code was tied pretty closely to that specific content and layout.

This week I finally got around to moving the code over to Mozilla Webmaker, so it could be easily copied and remixed. I made a couple of changes:

  • Update font to Open Sans
  • Make it easy and clear how to re-theme the colors
  • Allow arbitrary content in squares

The JS code is still a bit too complex for what’s needed, but it works on Webmaker now!

Screenshot 2014-12-18 15.09.42

View my demo quilt. Hit the “remix” button to clone it and make your own.

The source for the core JS and CSS is at https://github.com/autonome/quilt.


Mozlandia – A Portland mini-guide for Mozillians

Around 1,100 Mozillians will be in Portland next week. WELCOME!

Here is a list of things I recommend that you see, do, eat and drink and some handy tips. I’ve focused on places that are in or near downtown, though included some spots worth going out of your way for.

That said, downtown is not Portland. Well, obviously it’s part of it, duh. But it’s not overly representative of the Portland you’ve heard so much about. Get out of downtown for an evening or afternoon – and check out one of the neighborhoods. Nothing listed here is very far from downtown – Portland is pretty small.

I’ve left a LOT out. And forgot the rest. If you have recommendations, leave them in the comments.

UPDATE: Blue Star donuts, which are far more delicious but far less penis-shaped than Voodoo donuts, will be giving away free beignets on Friday Dec 5.

GENERAL TIPS

  • Portland has no Uber or Uber-like services. If you have Car2Go in your city you can use that here too. Curb is the app for local taxi service through a couple of providers. You can get a bus to pretty much anywhere without too much of a wait. Ride the MAX and streetcar if you’re headed to areas that they service.
  • Oregon has no sales tax. Do your Christmas shopping while you’re here.
  • It gets dark around 16:30 – 17:00, so factor that into any plans for hikes, etc.
  • If you go into the mountains, check the road conditions to see if you need chains for the car, or if the area is accessible at all.
  • Go to Powell’s books. Go a few times. Then go back again. Check out the Science Fiction pillar there – how many have you read?
  • Get high… for a good view of the city: Have a drink at Departures, dinner at Portland City Grill or visit Pittock Mansion for great views of the city. Even driving over the Fremont bridge (Highway 405) provides a spectacular view of downtown, the Willamette River and our many bridges.
  • There aren’t a ton of restaurants/bars/coffeehouses that can hold large numbers of people. If you break up into groups of four (max), you’ll have a much better time and the servers, chefs, baristas and bartenders will like you for it.
  • Be patient. Oregon is home to the slow-food movement in America. Regardless if this explains why your coffee took 20 f***ing minutes to make, it’ll make you feel better to think about that. See also the above note about small group sizes to mitigate the waits.
  • Tipping: I tip a dollar for a good coffee. I generally tip ~20% for any kind of sit-down meal. But I also worked as a barista, server and chef before getting into tech, so I’m biased towards tipping ;)

CARTS – Just the 9th & Alder pod for the purposes of this post. If you’re from California – up here they are not “food trucks”, they are “food carts”… even when they are trucks.

  • Hoang’s – Get soup #17.
  • Nong’s khao man gai – Simple and good and oddly famous.
  • Wolf & Bear – Israeli street food that is amazing. And vegan.
  • Güero – Excellent tortas. Add an egg.
  • La Jarochita 2 – Great Mexican cart. The only Mexican cart (aside from Güero) worth going to at the 9th and Alder cart pod.
  • Brunch Box – A cart that graduated to a proper storefront, but is right by the 9th and Alder carts. Great egg sandwiches for breakfast (try the Black and Blue) and terribly good burgers the rest of time. Very fast.
  • Kargi Gogo – Georgian food. The country, not the American state. Irakli says it’s legit too.

DRINK

  • Multnomah Whiskey Library
  • Clyde Common
  • Pepe le Moko
  • Teardrop
  • Bailey’s Taproom

COFFEE

  • Courier – They also make fresh canneles daily.
  • Heart – Excellent coffee.
  • Barista
  • Coffeehouse Northwest
  • Stumptown
  • Case Study
  • Coava – Not downtown but my favorite coffee roaster in town.
  • Ristretto – Not downtown, but fantastic coffee in beautiful spaces. The Nicolai location is especially great – check out the custom metalwork and crazy woodwork, and visit Schoolhouse Electric in the same space.

EAT – I’ve only noted a few of my go-to places, or those that are near where Mozillians are staying, or open late, etc. I’ve got a somewhat-up-to-date list here with more recommendations, but there’s just really too much to cover. Go out and explore.

  • Clyde Common – Always interesting menu, good whiskey selection, great cocktails. Fries + harissa and a cocktail is a great way to end your day and start your evening.
  • Tasty and Alder (downtown) – Shared plates, everything is good.
  • Luc Lac – Vietnamese + cocktails, serves food VERY late, and closest place worth going to that’s also near the Waterfront Marriot.
  • Bunk – Excellent sandwiches.
  • Lardo – Excellent sandwiches as well.
  • Racion – Amazing cocktails and fun Spanish-tinged molecular gastronomy.
  • Little Big Burger – Fast and good late night burger.
  • Not downtown, but places I always want to go back to…
    • Biwa – Izakaya, open late, always amazing. Burger served only after 11pm.
    • Tarad – Northern Thai food, open late. Pok Pok gets all the attention but after living in northern Thailand, this is where we go for the real thing.
    • Mee Sen – Another good Northern Thai food spot we go to.
    • Podnah’s BBQ – Worth heading up into NE Portland for.
    • La Taq – Next door to Podnah’s, fantastic Mexican bar food.
    • Sweedeedee – Most likely to feel like you’re in Portlandia at this spot. Amazing house-baked breads. Tiny. Expect a long wait but good people watching and excellent food.
    • Por Que No (Mississippi location) – Great tacos.
    • Ha & VL – Get the special soup of the day, whatever it is.

NEIGHBORHOODS – Places to walk, eat, drink, shop and experience parts of Portland that are far more interesting than downtown.

EXCURSIONS

  • Columbia Gorge – See Multnomah Falls, the view from Vista House, climb Beacon Rock, stop at the Bonneville Dam and see Herman the Sturgeon, drive across the Bridge of the Gods (and back), then go for lunch at one of the Hood River breweries. Some easy/moderate 1-2 hour hikes I like: Angel’s Rest, the Multnomah/Wahkeena Falls loop, Triple Falls,  Horsetail Falls, Punchbowl Falls, all listed here.
  • Mount Hood – Drive out Highway 26 to the historic Timberline Lodge with amazing views of Mt Hood (if it’s clear), then down to Hood River and head home through the Columbia Gorge on Hwy 84.
  • Mount St Helens – A couple of hours north, but the view of the blast zone and crater from the visitor center on the NW side is well worth it if the view is clear. On the SE side you can hike one mile underground through Ape Cave, and check out the amazing rock formations and brave the cable bridge at Lava Canyon.
  • Oregon Coast – About two hours drive. Walk the promenade at Seaside, get ice cream at Tillamook, watch storms from the tip of Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia river.

Firefox OS: Devices and Dark Matter

UPDATE: Scroll down for update on May 26, 2013.

Since beginning work on the Firefox OS project, the number one question I’m asked is “Does it run on my phone?”. Sadly, the answer for almost everyone is “no”. The question itself is interesting though, and shows how people – even geeky technical people – don’t have a good understanding of how mobile devices work, nor the whole business and technical ecosystem that brings these things into the hands of consumers (hm, maybe that’ll be my next blog post). Porting an operating system to a device is tricky work in the best of circumstances and when done without the direct assistance of the various business entities involved in the stack for any single device (OEM, chipset manufacturer, original OS vendor), involves a lot of, well, fiddling around. The kind of fiddling around that voids warranties and turns $600 hardware into a paperweight. The success and hackability of Android simplified things a lot, creating a relatively large community of people doing OS-to-device porting, and enabling a lot of what allowed Firefox OS to bootstrap so quickly. However, it’s still not easy.

I was curious about who is playing around with Firefox OS in the dark corners of the Mos Eisley of the device-porting porting world,the XDA-Developers forums. Below, I’ve listed a number of threads involving efforts to port Firefox OS to various devices. Some have builds, some are aborted attempts, but the totality shows the level of interest in putting a truly open Web operating system on low-powered commodity mobile hardware that is very exciting.

Oh, and if you’re interested in porting Firefox OS to your device, the basic instructions to get started are on the MDN B2G Porting Guide. If you scan any of the threads below or have ever tried doing this kind of work before, you already know: Thar be dragons. You could lose your device and your sanity, and will very likely void the warranty. Consider yourself warned.

There are also some efforts at porting to other types of devices, such as Oleg Romashin’s experiments with Firefox on Raspberry Pi, MDN instructions for building for Pandaboard, and a bug for some core changes to Firefox OS to ease porting to basic Linux systems like Beagleboard and Chromebox.

 

UPDATE May 26, 2013

New devices since this was originally posted, and some fantastic updates:

A couple of other notes:


Firefox 11 is Smaller and Faster

We quietly shipped Firefox 11 with a bunch of performance fixes that both reduce the amount of memory that Firefox uses, and improve the responsiveness of it’s user interface.

These types of changes are not easy to talk about. Often they’re very technical, and meaningless to anyone but the developers involved, which is probably why we usually don’t enumerate them in the the release notes or other public announcements. “Firefox is 74% faster when you open menu X, and twice as fast in some garbage collection scenarios!” Yeah, not an eye-popping headline. We could do a lot better in communicating these improvements in broadly meaningful ways though – nice graphs or some competitive site like arewefastyet would help a lot. But until then, here’s a short summary of the improvements in Firefox 11. And if you know of other performance fixes that don’t fall into the categories below, please add them in the comments!

Memory Use (aka “memshrink”)

The Memshrink project has been going for quite a while now, led by Nicholas Nethercote. He blogs weekly updates on the project’s activity. According to Bugzilla, there were 29 memshrink bugs marked fixed during the Firefox 11 development cycle – four of which were P1, or very high priority. Some of the fixes were related to tools and detection methods, but many are actual reductions in memory use. The changes that made it into Firefox 11 include fixes for detected leaks, removing of zombie compartments, lazy-loading data, reducing the size of some caches, reducing memory used while scrolling, and many more.

UI Responsiveness (aka “snappy”)

The Snappy project started last December, and is run by Taras Glek. Its aim is to improve the responsiveness of the Firefox UI. Taras has been posting weekly updates on Snappy activity on his blog. Bugzilla shows 15 snappy bugs marked fixed during the Firefox 11 development cycle. The project had just started, but there are still some significant wins in this release! Firefox 11 includes reductions in queries in the bookmarks system, reduced preference lookups, faster data collection for session restore, and various improvements in the DOM code.

Add-on Compatibility

While it’s not related to performance, I do want to call attention to something that many people don’t seem to know: In Firefox 10 (yes, the previous release) we stopped marking most add-ons incompatible when you upgrade. That means that a LOT more of your add-ons will continue to work when you upgrade Firefox from here on out. The only add-ons that still require compatibility bumps are those that have binary components, since they need to be recompiled against the current version.

Download Firefox 11.


Browser Services Update (TGIF)

My team is “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. Ok, maybe not *that* mysterious, but we’re definitely involved in a variety of projects. Here’s a roll-up of a week in browser-land.

Performance

New Tab Page

New Download Manager

  • Paolo consolidated existing patches into a single one for final pass and check-in. Marco has been reviewing.
  • Paolo and Marco are getting together in Novara on Saturday to sprint on fixing theme bugs and other cleanup required for landing.

Add-on SDK Integration

  • Met with Irakli to create plan for landing the core SDK modules in Firefox so that the whole SDK would no longer need to be bundled with every add-on.
  • Created a feature page for tracking the project.
  • I talked with Brian Warner about syncing Git repos with HG repos.

Web Apps Integration

  • I updated the feature page with latest from UX, Apps and PM.
  • Felipe Gomes is driving the Firefox side of the integration work, with Tim helping out on UI. They’re working together with Fabrice, Myk, Dan and Tim A.

Identity Integration

Share Integration

Evangelism/Engagement

  • Tim and Marco kicked off sponsorship process for Italy’s jsDay conference. They’ll be putting up a booth there, along with Paolo Amadini, representing Mozilla. Thanks to Stormy and Shez for the support from Developer Engagement.

Of course, we all worked on various other things as well, from code review to bug triage to random maintenance fixes. Activity logs and whatnot are listed below.


Brussels: Warm Hospitality Amidst Inhuman Conditions

We’re at the end of our Performance work-week here in Brussels, and gearing up for a two-day orgy of European open-source culture at FOSDEM. I’ve successfully acquired a cold (and hopefully not worse) due to the temperature being consistently below freezing.

However, the people here in Brussels have made up for their weather shortcomings by welcoming us wherever we go. Between the hackerspaces and co-working spaces, and the restaurants that happily take large groups with little or no notice, I’m very impressed!

HSBXL

Performance work-week, Brussels 2012

The hackerspace in Brussels is located in Schaerbeek, a neighborhood to the north of the city center. The space used to be a vehicle repair garage for the city, but was given up for use by the geeks. They’ve installed serious hardware, and have fully-equipped the place with everything needed for survival. Thanks to Rafael and Patrick, for answering all our questions and helping us make mate and to find food nearby. Lunch on the second day was described by Patrick as a “little French place”, but turned out to be a hall of worship dedicated to Tintin!

Performance work-week, Brussels 2012

Faubourg St Antoine is filled with Tintin toys, art and knick-knacks, including some alternate interpretations and even a clarification for something I’d always wondered about. Sadly, they’ve been issued a legal notice from the current copyright (or EU equivalent) holders requiring them to remove all the Tintin materials from public display :(

BetaGroup Coworking

Performance work-week, Brussels 2012

Once the temperatures dropped far below freezing, we relocated to BetaGroup Coworking Brussels in Etterbeek, to the southeast of the center. Ramon Suarez, the manager of the space was very accommodating, taking us on short notice. The wi-fi was blazing fast, the coffee was hot, and the ping-pong was a welcome break from heads-down hackery. The space itself was fantastic, with a great combination of quiet co-working areas, public spaces and private meeting offices. With tons of natural light, steel bridges and a meeting space on what looked like a submarine conning tower, it was truly impressive.

We had a wonderful lunch at a very tidy restaurant nearby.

Overall, it’s been a fun and productive week, if a bit chilly. Like, really chilly. Ridiculously so. Why do people even inhabit places that get this cold? Honestly, wtf.


Firefox Performance Work-week & FOSDEM

The Performance team and some of the Firefox team are spending the week in Brussels, laying waste to some of the performance issues in the browser.

Performance work-week, Brussels 2012

Much thanks to our excellent hosts HSBXL, a hackerspace in central Brussels. We’re equipped with fast internet, lemon soda, mate, techno music, and of course beer.

Following the work week is FOSDEM, Europe’s biggest open source conference. If you’re in town for FOSDEM and want to come hack with us, ping me on twitter or join us in #perf on IRC.

I’ll be uploading pics to flickr with the tag ‘perfworkweek2012′.


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