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Mozilla Chrome Operating Systems Software Technology

Boot To Gecko – Mozilla's Web-Based OS 120

Posted by timothy
from the browser-incomplete-'til-it-has-operating-system dept.
kai_hiwatari writes "Mozilla has launched a new project called 'Boot to Gecko.' The aim of this project is to develop a complete operating system for the open web. Unlike Google's version of a web-based OS — the Chrome OS — Mozilla's version is not aimed at netbooks. With Boot to Gecko, Mozilla is aiming for smartphones – and Android forms a part of their plan."
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Boot To Gecko – Mozilla's Web-Based OS

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  • I recently switched back to the default google mobile browser because firefox mobile kept crashing, and was slower.

    The quote at the bottom of the slashdot page is "Jenkinson's Law: It won't work.".

    I think it's fitting.

    • Beta works a lot better.
    • by caseih (160668)

      Not only is it unstable, but Firefox Mobile also consumes a lot of battery. I went to Dolphin Mini because of this issue.

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        If it is based on the gecko desktop engine I'm frankly not surprised. I always gave Firefox out to customers and had been using it myself since before it was even called Firefox but starting with the 3.6.x branch I simply found it unsuitable for purpose as a desktop browser which is why after trying several browsers I switched to comodo dragon [comodo.com] which I now hand out instead.

        I have to support a very wide range of users, from low end netbooks and midrange P4s to the latest multicores and I found the memory and

        • by Lennie (16154)

          Please tell people to install Chrome, not Comodo Dragon. Comodo uses it to block certain competing SSL-provider products they think are 'unsafe'.

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            Sorry but I don't support all the "phone home" aspects of Chrome so I won't allow it in my builds. And since I'm dealing with SMBs, SOHOs, and home users I frankly don't care what Comodo thinks of other SSL providers but in my experience the ONLY times I've seen Dragon have a fit is when they are using an out of date cert or one not in most standard browsers (such as IE,Safari, and Mozilla) and rightly so, as I don't want my customers on websites that are using "Bob's certs" as they are...surprise! Dodgy. F

            • by amorsen (7485)

              Comodo IS the dodgy SSL provider. They have a worse record than Verisign, which takes some doing.

              • by hairyfeet (841228)

                They had ONE fuckup where an affiliate got social engineered, and that was fixed in dragon less than 15 minutes after Comodo found out thanks to their ability to instantly update the certs on dragon. Now considering how much LULSec crap has been going on having only a single fuckup, and that fuckup only being with an affiliate instead of like Sony losing the keys to the whole damned kingdom? pretty damned good work IMHO.

                They also give away an excellent AV that scores in the top 4 in just about every test, a

                • by amorsen (7485)

                  Comodo's entire SSL business is built around letting dodgy affiliates generate certificates. They're the only ones (AFAIK) doing it that way. It will fail again.

                  I don't know anything about their other products and I don't use Chrome either.

            • by Lennie (16154)

              I don't use Chrome either.

              If you don't want Firefox, have you considered Opera ?

    • also, 240x360 screens are not supported :(

    • by asdf7890 (1518587)
      Firefox mobile failed for me as tab switching is unusable on the poxy little QVGA screen my phone has, though I found the built-in browser irritating enough (I'm on Andoid 2.1, it may have improved in later revisions of course) to look into other options. Opera Mobile is what I settled on in the end. Works like a charm, and it seems both nippy and stable. You just need to tweak the settings a little to make best use of a low resolution screen.
  • Reminds me of this: http://www.xpud.org/ [xpud.org]
  • Maybe Mozilla should focus on making a useable Android browser, before trying to re-invent the OS.... Firefox for Android is abhorrent compared to the built-in Webkit browser.

  • I have an idea. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Elbereth (58257) on Monday July 25, 2011 @08:28PM (#36878772) Journal

    How about just going back to making a good desktop browser? I don't want a Mozilla operating system, some sort of "open web experience", a smartphone browser, or anything else that Mozilla is peddling these days. I want a browser that's dedicated to desktop computers, with a UI designed for a big, desktop monitor (not a netbook or a tablet), and I want the browser to render HTML. I don't need a database in my URL bar; a radical, new UI; an integrated PDF viewer, implemented in Javascript; Harry Potter themes for my browser; or anything else that Mozilla has been advertising (except for the faster Javascript performance, which is pretty nice).

    All I want is a web browser. I feel like a throw-back, someone who doesn't belong in today's world, full of ideologically-driven features, heavy-handed developers who tell me how to get my work done (rather than giving me a product that allows me to get the work done the way I want), constant buzz words, and marketing. People keep telling me how fast the web is moving, how fast IT is moving, and all I see are people chasing trends, fads, and buzzwords. That's fine for corporate culture, but when you just want to open your web browser and render some HTML, the last thing you want is to be assaulted with this crap. It's time for someone to make a browser that does nothing but render HTML. And don't suggest Opera, because I certainly don't need a bittorrent client in my browser.

    And why the hell is Mozilla experimenting with all these ridiculous things, like low power servers? For fuck's sake, all I want from them is a browser, not a R&D department that makes the world a better place.

    Thank you and get off my lawn.

    • Not everyone in Mozilla is good at desktop application programming. Don't worry, the same people are still working on Javascript and Gecko. There's just a lot of new kids that only know Java, and they got their new-fangled smartphones and want to try to contribute in that way.
      • by erroneus (253617)

        No, not everyone is good at "whatever." But from where I sit and where I came from, code efficiency and speed was a requirement. Speed meant something when processors were measured in MHz instead of GHz. Efficiency meant something when RAM was measured in KB instead of MB and GB. Perhaps I am bemoaning the lack of need because, after all, the need isn't as urgent as it once was.

        But there is a need once again. We have a relatively new market in these mobile devices. The displays are only slightly large

        • by maxume (22995)

          On a phone, hardware acceleration should generally result in better battery life.

          On every page.

          That's a nice feature.

      • by Lennie (16154)

        I think you do not understand what Mozilla does. (paraphrasing) The mission of Mozilla is to keep the internet and web free of proprietary API and patent problems. To make sure every protocol and system is open and to keep it 'innovative' and prevent lock-in.

        They do this by creating 'products' that people use, as long as the open specifications are the standard (as in widely deploy, industry practices) they are fulfilling their mission.

        In the mobile space, their is very little currently using open specifica

        • by Desler (1608317)

          So "innovative" means playing "me too" with whatever Google does?

          • by Lennie (16154)

            Well, Google is one of the few large organisations that also tries to use open specifications.

            Opera and Mozilla are the other 2.

            But Google is kind of split in half.

            They are saying they want to do web-apps based on an open specifications and they have Android and the app store that comes with it.

            The open specifications are behind as always, but this is normal. A single vendor can come up with their proprietary system any time they want and change it any time they want, a specification supported by multiple v

    • I'm using Firefox 5.0 right now, and it's probably the best browser they've made thus far. They're already working on future versions. If they feel they can develop additional software that's adjacent (or possibly contains overlapping code) to the browser, then why not? If their function, in your eyes, is to make a good desktop browser, then you should be pleased. Just ignore everything else they do if you find it distracting.
    • Re:I have an idea. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kangsterizer (1698322) on Monday July 25, 2011 @08:52PM (#36878974)

      You gotta realize that with the Smartphones outselling computers, if Mozilla doesn't get into mobile web browsers (and yes, Firefox mobile for Android needs A LOT OF WORK), then they won't have a say in the open web one day.

      The things Mozilla work on are far from ridiculous as well. All these things have one point in common: they are made as a try to secure the open, free internet. That's what they do and that's what they always have aimed for.

      Now then again I would like if Firefox issues would be fixed as well - although I don't mind the JS PDF, awesome bar, and new UI. Not caring for personalities either however.

      • with the Smartphones outselling computers

        That won't last forever. Computers sold briskly while they became faster each iteration until they finally became fast enough for most home and office uses. Since then, sales of computers have slowed down. Likewise, smartphones are in an explosion of capability which too will end. Then the only reason to replace a working phone will be A. when switching network protocols (e.g. AMPS to TDMA to GSM to UMTS to LTE) or B. when a non-user-replaceable battery dies.

        And you'll always have cheapskates who run mul

        • by hedwards (940851)

          The market is still too large to ignore. Even if it stalls out at a level similar to the number of desktops, that's still way too many to ignore. Plus some of the things that they're needing to work on for handsets are liable to work their way into the desktop release.

          • by hitmark (640295)

            And right now all but one of the brand name phone firmwares use Webkit as their go to HTML rendering library (Windows Phone 7 being the "odd" one out).

            This then becomes a kind of mobile web monoculture, and i have already seen one site that focuses on mobile Safari. Shades of "Requires IE6" anyone?

            • by tlhIngan (30335)

              And right now all but one of the brand name phone firmwares use Webkit as their go to HTML rendering library (Windows Phone 7 being the "odd" one out).

              This then becomes a kind of mobile web monoculture, and i have already seen one site that focuses on mobile Safari. Shades of "Requires IE6" anyone?

              It's actually less of a monoculture than you think.

              Sure, Chrome, Android, iOS, Nokia, RIM, OS X, Steam all use WebKit as their rendering engine, but they all customize in wierd and wonderful ways. All the Google o

              • by hitmark (640295)

                We should not forget that Apple did bootstrap it from Khtml, the HTML engine made for the KDE desktop. Hell, if people had not noticed and petitioned Apple for the changes (the engine was under GPL or LGPL) it may not be a webkit as we know it today.

        • by grcumb (781340)

          That won't last forever. Computers sold briskly while they became faster each iteration until they finally became fast enough for most home and office uses. Since then, sales of computers have slowed down. Likewise, smartphones are in an explosion of capability which too will end.

          I'm not going to argue with your logic, but you need to bear in mind that the power requirements of desktop systems makes them unusable for the majority of the world's population. I just came back from a very isolated village in Vanuatu, where people still cook over open fires, where the houses still have mud floors... and where every household has at least one mobile phone. You can bet your bottom dollar that as Internet and smart phones prices reach commodity levels, there are billions of people who will

          • I'm not going to argue with your logic, but you need to bear in mind that the power requirements of desktop systems makes them unusable for the majority of the world's population. I just came back from a very isolated village in Vanuatu, where people still cook over open fires, where the houses still have mud floors... and where every household has at least one mobile phone.

            And I won't argue with yours. I just want to know one thing: How do they charge those mobile phones?

            • by Rennt (582550)

              Most villages have the resources to put together - for example - a generator made from a scrounged truck parts, if only they had the know-how. Enough to power a phone charger couple of hours a day. Try powering a netbook, let alone a desktop, on tens of watts a day.

              The bigger barrier would be access to a mobile network, and the means to pay for bandwidth.

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                A typical truck alt provides ~95A (these days, anyway; in the 60s and 70s it was more like 65A) at about 14V with a 60% duty cycle. If you have enough wind then a VAWT driving an alternator actually produces a fair amount of power.

              • by tepples (727027)

                The bigger barrier would be access to a mobile network

                Which comes back to my point. In my country, carriers want to sell customers a $40/mo mobile voice plan before they'll even think of selling them a mobile data plan. Having to buy a separate plan per device is hard for people in countries with undervalued currencies to afford. (See Penn effect [wikipedia.org] for why developing countries' currencies are undervalued.) So people will stick with netbooks or with Wi-Fi-only tablets and PDAs and connect them to the Internet through an AP that multiple devices share.

            • These are generally very power-efficient "Dumbphones", normally Nokia makes low end stuff with awesome battery life. In places without power, quite a few villages will have a shop or charging station for the phones (not from Vanuatu, but a nearby country). Customers buy pre-pay credit and charge their phones at the same time. Phone accounts are being tied into billpayment systems and money sending (Western Union-ish) all over the pacific. But quite a lot of places have power, satellite TV and 3G internet, a
        • Then the only reason to replace a working phone will be A. when switching network protocols (e.g. AMPS to TDMA to GSM to UMTS to LTE) or B. when a non-user-replaceable battery dies.

          c. the carrier or the vendor will stop updating the os, those unable to install an aftermarket os are screwed.

          A lesson has been learned with the PC desktop.

        • Eventually smartphones and other mobile devices WILL take over. It doesn't matter if they become like the asus transformer or not (its a tablet that becomes a laptop). What matters is that Firefox runs on it, and runs well (which is not the case yet).

    • by jlebar (1904578)

      It's time for someone to make a browser that does nothing but render HTML.

      You wouldn't have been able to share this insight on Slashdot in such a browser, you know...

      Seriously, I'm looking forward to the day when someone posts a story on Slashdot about a Mozilla project, and everyone doesn't instantly complain that we're doing X or Y instead of making teh awesomest stripped-down browser, which does nothing but send http requests and display unrendered HTML.

      In the meantime, Firefox 1.0 is still available for [mozilla.org]

      • Dunno if it is what you mean, but with NoScript /. works quite well. As evident it's possible to post, and I have no scripts on /. allowed.
        To view /. in an even more basic way, use Lynx. Dunno if it'll work, don't feel like trying.
        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          Dunno if it is what you mean, but with NoScript /. works quite well. As evident it's possible to post,

          It's things like NoScript which is why I want stuff to be in HTML5, and not "3rd party plugins".

          After all, if you load a Flash object, sure it can do tons more than HTML5, but it does so all at once - pulling ads and possibly malicious javascript, tons of cookies and other crap all together, and all the control I have is "all or none".

          But with NoScript and other extensions, I can deny ad networks their cook

    • by BZ (40346)

      Making the world a better place is Mozilla's primary goal. The browser is a means to that end.

    • by Shark (78448)

      I mostly agree with you except for this bit:

      with a UI designed for a big, desktop monitor (not a netbook or a tablet)

      The trend of wasting as many pixels as possible on UI elements has just got to stop. I don't need a 40pixel wide window border with round corners, huge shiny idiot-proof buttons, toolbars made way too thick and wide by such buttons and the like.

      I buy a 'big, desktop monitor' so I can see and work with as much information as possible. If I wanted an UI designed so bad that windows need to be maximized to be useful, I'd be buying an ipad.

      To me, this is equivalent

      • by hitmark (640295)

        I run the browser maximized mostly because page designs are expecting a large playing field. Still, i do enjoy a minimal Desktop (XFCE) and the new Firefox5 minimalist interface.

    • It's time for someone to make a browser that does nothing but render HTML.

      http://uzbl.org/ [uzbl.org]

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Mozilla's just competing with everyone else. Everyone's doing stupid shit like this - Chrome has built in Flash, PDF, and all that, plus the Chrome OS thing; Opera has more integrated software than anyone needs (seriously, don't they have a web server in the browser now?); even Internet Explorer is doing more and more besides "browse the internet".

      Ironically, the best "pure" web browser may soon be the Steam integrated browser. It's designed to run while the computer is already under extremely heavy load, s

      • by hitmark (640295)

        Funny enough the history of Mozilla contains Netscape Communicator, and one can still see it today in the form of Seamonkey.

      • by Desler (1608317)

        Mozilla's just competing with everyone else.

        No, Mozilla is just trying to copy Google because they've run out of their own ideas failing to realize that this game of catchup they are trying to play is only going to lead to their downfall and irrelevance.

        • No, Mozilla is just trying to copy Google because they've run out of their own ideas failing to realize that this game of catchup they are trying to play is only going to lead to their downfall and irrelevance.

          That and Firefox pretty much stole everything they could from Opera until Opera decides to actually innovate again rather than just sit there.

    • I wish I could have a browser only system without Windows or Linux. I have always hated needing a whole bunch of OS just to run a browser.

      However, the issue will be how far do they go. Networking and being able to save to a flash drive should not be too difficult, video handling will be a must and then it gets tricky. Printers? Games? External applications?

      The only benefit I can see is if this new OS is light, very light. Potentially they could provide a more secure platform if they keep the bloat out. The

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "How about just going back to making a good desktop browser?"

      Because efficiency and speed aren't sexy. That's why "Phoenix" didn't last long and morphed into Firefox.

      The only major reason left to use Firefox is the add-ons.

    • > For fuck's sake, all I want from them is a browser, not a R&D department that makes the world a better place.

      You had a browser. It was called Internet Explorer 6. Then Mozilla came a long and made the world a better place. And now you want a better browser, because you can see that interoperable and open infrastructure is better. Pretty soon you'll be saying things like "I just want a mobile operating system" and "I just want a standard document format" and "I just want a way to read files in the b

      • by Pope (17780)

        I seriously doubt the majority of people on the internet were clamoring for Firefox's horrendous Personas. That was simply a distraction from the mission of "making a great web browser."

    • Perhaps you'd like the Uzbl browser (http://uzbl.org/). Does one thing: web browsing. You are free to disable all unnecessary functions.
  • I thought that Mozilla would have realized the same thing that successful corporate leaders and turn around teams have been saying for years. If you are really good at one thing it doesn't mean you should start trying to do other things to make even more money. This type of thinking has crashed many companies over the years. The best example of this is Boston Market. They went from being a very profitable roasted chicken place to trying to offer all kinds of food and it pretty much ran the company in to the

    • by kbrosnan (880121)

      This is not about making more money. Mozilla is not driven by that economic model [mozilla.org]. Mozilla sees the walled gardens of the current crop of smartphone and similar devices operating systems as a threat to personal freedom and the heath of the internet. This project is an exploration partly to see what technical gaps exist that web application needs access to function in a similar manner to a desktop application.

      There are already companies and working groups [w3.org] trying to accomplish this. Rather than have the spe

  • So they use Android as a base but you can't run Android Apps? That alone kills the possibility of a massive user base and f* if developers want to start porting to yet another platform. I like Mozilla, probably more than Google, but lately Mozilla has just made a lot of really bad decisions. Prism? That was a good idea! I still use it to run things like GrooveShark - works great! But apparently the project is dead - they made it work then killed it. Way to go guys! HTML5 games? Yeah, that was a disaster was

    • by BZ (40346)

      The "yet another platform" in this case is the web. So it's not a matter of porting as much as just being able to write web apps that compete with native apps in ways that they can't right now.

    • by kbrosnan (880121)
      Android is being looked at as it has open source code e.g. the Linux kernel and device drivers that work on the majority of phones produced today. The whole point of this is evaluate what applications on the web need. Instead of one application written 3 or 4+ times for each of the Smartphone operating systems one would write one HTML app and it would run on modern Trident, Gecko, Webkit, Presto, etc.
      • by Desler (1608317)

        Instead of one application written 3 or 4+ times for each of the Smartphone operating systems one would write one HTML app and it would run on modern Trident, Gecko, Webkit, Presto, etc.

        So then what's the need for this new Mozilla web OS? You can already do this now on smartphones and you also have the feature of running non HTML apps as well.

  • Its annoying that these companies and groups keep claiming they're somehow running the browser as the operating system.

    All of them, Google's included, run on an operating system. Chrome (like Gecko) doesn't have SATA drivers for all the chipsets, none of them have virtual memory systems, thread schedulers, video drivers or any other other things the real OS they're pretending isn't there has. They're running a normal OSS kernel, normal set of supporting OS services. The fact that you don't give a user a use

    • by jonwil (467024)

      It would be more accurate to say it has a browser based shell.

    • by cshark (673578)

      Doesn't make it useful either.
      I have yet to see a compelling reason to use a web based os, Chromium included.

      Why is everyone trying to change the landscape in ways that set us back twenty five years?
      That really is what we're talking about with this kind of stuff. Sure it can be done, but why bother?

      Okay, so now I'm supposed to give up my PC which has everything I need on it, and replace it with a mobile device that has serious issues (not the least of it being battery life), and a completely different softw

      • by Dunbal (464142) *

        Why is everyone trying to change the landscape in ways that set us back twenty five years?

        Because everything old is new again. When the internet first became popular with the plebs in the 1990's, there was talk of making everything net aware and net enabled, from desktops to televisions to your toaster. Now with mobile phones having the computing power of the desktops of 5 years ago, the new buzz is thinking that computers will be replaced by mobile devices. Of course this is completely untrue, mobiles fit their particular niche very well but will never have the horsepower to compete with a lap

      • Okay, so now I'm supposed to give up my PC which has everything I need on it

        Uh, no. This is for smartphones. For most people, smartphones and PCs are complementary.

  • After the last three generations of Firefox web browsers, which I only run for my extensions... why on earth would I choose to run Mozilla anything as on os, anywhere?

    Not when there's a slew of already established mobile os's like regular Android, WebOS, iOs, and numerous others to choose from. Maybe I'm old and cynical. But I just don't see this one taking off.

    Mozilla should stick to what they do well, which isn't a lot these days.

  • Gecko as on OS? Be serious. Use a real operating system like emacs.

  • It doesn't do anything well. Rather it has many plugins that try to do everything else.

    Chrome is like Vi which it does text editing very simply, elegantly, and very light and fast. However, this drives people absolutely mad if they need anything more than what is there.

    I guess this makes IE like Visual Studio.

  • We looked at doing this at Sun about 15 years ago. We called it "Netscape on a stick". Never really panned out but we had SunOS-on-a-stick that booted rather quickly off a 80MB PCMCIA drive in a tablet prototype we had developed. Yes, Sun had a working tablet in 1995.

    • Yes, Sun had a working tablet in 1995.

      But not an AFFORDABLE tablet. That 80MB flash drive would have cost more than a car in 1995!

  • by rossdee (243626) on Monday July 25, 2011 @09:53PM (#36879488)

    a caveman could do it

    Does it also save you 15% on car insurance?

  • the listened far to literary to the Google suggestion of doing dumb thing

  • Fork this, Firefox 3.x was great before the Google Chrome and iOS Safari imitations. So someone Fork the classic Firefox 3 we all know and love before this web OS crap takes over.

    Network computers, JavaOS, MIPS and OS/2 didn't work out either did they? Just make the best web browser you can and have a cache mod system to load and unload modules and plugins when needed to save on memory. Why follow ChromeOS now? Focus on what you do best, the web browser is the OS and does not need to be turned into an indep

    • by DarkOx (621550)

      If you like FF3.x so much USE SEAMONKEY. Its a great browser. You don't even have to install composer if you don't want it. The built-in mail application is pretty much at parity with Thunderbird so you can use that do, or don't. Firefox post 2.x is every bit as resource intensive as the old suite was, and post 4.x clearly more intensive.

      You can install new versions of SeaMonkey that give you the latest geko and java script engines. SeaMonkey these days is everything that is good coming out of the Mozil

  • Not only is it extra work, but it means you won't get any user-testing until you are nearing feature parity (which given how many features a modern smart phone has is FAR too late).
    It would be easier and more logical to develop your new API as a standard Android App.

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