Monday, 22 August 2011

Mozilla releases its latest stable version of Firefox 6

Mozilla just released its latest version of its popular Firefox 6 browser today. The updated software is available for download for the Windows platform, Mac, Linux and Android. This is the second stable version of the browser to arrive under the new rapid-release cycle. As expected, some of the changes to the browser are smaller in nature, and are more likely to be about stability and security concerns. But nevertheless, Mozilla still took the opportunity of this second stable rapid release to address a few complaints from users who want version numbers to mean something.
And Firefox fans aren't the only users with a few worries. Rivals such as Opera have a vested interest in opposing the rapid-release cycle, which puts the browser in the news cycle far more often than before. "In the last few months, web developers and IT administrators have expressed some concern about the pace of new browser releases from Chrome and Firefox. We believe in a more balanced pace," said Jan Standal, vice president of desktop products for Opera Software.
And Standal's view on the matter is perfectly understandable, being in the same market as Google's Chrome is as well as the other open source browser: Firefox. Opera still has a very slim market share of the browser market, especially in North America. The majority of its users are in Europe.
And while Mozilla didn't address the complaints directly, it did release some details on how the rapid-release cycle works. It also made several statements focusing on the future of Firefox.
"Overall, the next generation of innovation on the Internet will be made possible by a browser that is an honest broker committed to the interests of the individual user and developer, providing a good experience that match those offered by proprietary platforms, and user control that is superior to proprietary platforms. As Firefox has transformed the browser landscape before, it must do so again," wrote Jay Sullivan, vice president of products for Mozilla.
Now whether Mozilla can do that or not is of course another story alltogether. But the company's recent announcement about making a Firefox-based mobile operating system will play a large role in its own attempts. "There's no reason why mobile apps can't incorporate the characteristics that are important about the Internet. They don't today because Apple didn't build them that way. There's no reason Apple should. Apple has a different view of the world. But we can," said Mitchell Baker, chairman of the Mozilla Foundation.
As for the version of the browser that was released today, Firefox 6 for desktops and laptops contains a number of important stability fixes, as well as some feature improvements, most of which are aimed at app developers.
There's also a new Web Developer menu in Firefox 6, which collates tools for building and debugging Web sites into one single location.
These include the new Scratch Pad tool, which browsers like Opera and Chrome have had for some time. It allows Web developers to test JavaScript before implementing it. The Web console feature also has a new auto-complete option and can have its location customized.
Firefox's visual tab-grouping feature that was introduced in version 4 now only loads the active tab group. Mozilla said in the blog post announcing Firefox 6 that this will cut down on overall browser load times. The identity block, the colored left-most section of the URL, has been given a refresh to better call out the Web site you're on, and the URL bar itself now changes the text color of the URL you're on so that the domain is black, for easier identification, while the rest of the URL is grayed out.
This is a small security modification, and one that's been previously available to users who are comfortable changing their about:config, but it's definitely a strong visual cue that helps you avoid getting spoofed.
Several security flaws labeled "critical" have also been fixed, repairing security issues related to memory management, heap overflows, and unsigned scripts.
And HTML5 also gets some attention in Firefox 6, with some improvements and additional support for the new Window.matchMedia API for Web optimization, WebSockets and server-sent APIs for building more interactive real-time Web-based apps and games.
While some minor improvements were made to Firefox's memory management in this release, users will have to wait another update cycle to see the significant gains that Mozilla programmer Nicholas Nethercote wrote about last week.
The Android version of Firefox 6 includes a new Welcome page and a new look for phones running Android 2.3 (so-called Gingerbread). The browser now supports Indexed DB for storing Web pages in a local database, enabling the Android version to work better when offline.
Mozilla also says that its newly updated browser will start up faster and use less RAM. And the first of several planned changes to support tablets have arrived in this version as well, including font and icon optimization for tablets.
Mozilla's new rapid release cycle promises new versions of Firefox avery six weeks.
Source: The Mozilla Software Foundation.

The Japanese version of the iPhone 5 will include an earthquake warning system

Apple said earlier today that the Japanese version of iOS 5, Apple's latest mobile operating system, will let you know in advance if an earthquake is coming at least a minute or two before it hits. You might say that just a minute or two isn't much, but it's still better than nothing.
Such functionality is common in natively produced mobile handsets, but imported brands have been very slow to integrate the warnings which use a standardized tone and go off even if the phone has been set to silent-- there are some things worth interrupting any meeting for, and a major earthquake even smaller than the one that devastated Japan last March certainly is one of them. With its latest iOS 5 operating system, Apple has now integrated its service. Not that users get much of a warning, as Time reported when looking at how the early-warning system operates. The service isn't based on predictions but rather on early warnings signs that an earthquake has already happened.

Smaller vibrations travel faster than the building-toppling shocks of the quake itself, so depending on your distance from the epicentre, you might get 90 seconds or a couple of minutes' warning.
That's long enough to pull a car over to the side of the road, or step back from the open heart surgery you're performing, or hide under the desk which is the recommended procedure for most people.

And there have been mobile apps linked to the service before, but with iOS 5 it's fully integrated into the iPhone's Notification control panel. The new OS features a new notification center from where the user can define what's important to them and in the Japanese version that includes local earthquakes.
Apple's new operating system is expected to power the next iPhone, and to be launched in the next few months. It was announced in June, but various features have emerged in the developer releases as the product gets finalized ahead of the launch.
It will be interesting to see if the Cupertino company will include the same feature or variants of it in versions that will be shipped to other countries. We will keep you posted.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Acer - New 7 inch Android 3.2 tablet

Acer finally announced its new seven-inch tablet that runs Android 3.2, dubbed the Honeycomb OS, on a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor.
The new device sells for $330. The Iconia Tab A100 offers 1024 x 600-pixel resolution, 8 GB or 16 GB of flash storage, dual cameras, plus a Micro-SD slot as well as a Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB ports.
Acer formally announced its Iconia Tab A100 back in February but with few specifics.

The device was beaten to the market by the company's 10.1-inch tablet, the A500. It's claimed by Acer to be the first seven-inch tablet running Android 3.2.

Android 3.2 not only supports seven-inch tablets, but also provides a zoom mode that magnifies apps that were originally written for smartphones, instead of just awkwardly filling in chunks of the screen with blank space.
Acer has resisted the temptation to add a custom skin, but it does provide Adobe Flash 10.3 as well as a variety of applications on the A100 that reportedly cannot be uninstalled, including: the Aupeo online radio app; the NemoPlayer media player; the SocialJogger Twitter/Facebook client; and the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) client.
Like the A500, the A100 (above) uses Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor, plus an undisclosed amount of RAM (it's either 512 KB or 1 GB, according to conflicting third-party reports).
The tablet comes with 8GB or 16GB of flash storage, plus a side-accessible Micro-SD slot that accepts up to 32 GB, according to Acer. The device maker says the A100 has a vibrant capacitive touchscreen display with a 16:10 aspect ratio and 75-degree viewing angle.
The A100 also has a micro-HDMI port that allows users to share full HD videos in 1080p resolution. But PCMag's review says that only 720p output is offered, so we're still not sure who's right here.
The A100 additionally provides dual cameras, one five megapixel and one two megapixels, and can record 720p video at up to 30 frames per second, according to Acer. Other hardware features include 802.11a/b/g/n wireless networking, Bluetooth functionality, a headphone jack, and a micro-USB port, Acer says.
According to the company, the A100's 1530mAh lithium-polymer battery provides up to five hours of browsing with Wi-Fi, up to four hours of web-streamed video, and up to 4.5 hours of 720p video playback.
Although we didn't see it mentioned by Acer itself, the A100 also includes a docking port, according to PCMag. This allows adding an $80 desktop dock that has its own HDMI port plus support for a bundled infrared remote.
Specifications listed by Acer for the Iconia Tab A100 include:
  • Processor -- Nvidia Tegra 2
  • Memory -- RAM n/s; 8GB or 16GB of flash storage depending on model
  • Display:
    • 7-inch capacitive touchscreen
    • 1024 x 600 pixel resolution
    • 16:10 aspect ratio
    • 75-degree viewing angle
  • Cameras -- 5 megapixel autofocus and 2 megapixel fixed-focus
  • Expansion -- microSD slot
  • Networking:
    • WLAN -- 802.11a/b/g/n
    • PAN -- Bluetooth
  • Other I/O:
    • micro-USB port
    • docking port
    • micro-HDMI connector
    • headphone jack
  • Power -- 1530mAh battery provides up to five hours of operation
  • Dimensions -- 7.6 x 4.5 x .5 inches
  • Weight -- 14.7 ounces

According to Acer, the Icona Tab 100 is available now with 16 GB of flash storage for $349.99, or with 8 GB of flash for $329.99. More information may be found on the company's A100 product web page.