XUL Runner

I’ve been interested in XUL for a long time. Or, since 2002 at least.

In fact, although I’d forgotten all about it, many years ago I put together an alternate homepage for this blog which used XUL so that you could navigate information which I didn’t want to have to manage or reproduce in my main HTML page. It doesn’t really work any more, but it shouldn’t be hard to fix, if I had the inclination.

What really brings this up is the recent stable developer preview of XULRunner. XULRunner has been promised for years, and it’s really good to see it reach maturity as I’d really given up hope and stopped following its progress (or that of a GRE) a long time ago. You can check out what XULRunner provides and see that it gives you full programmatic control over almost anything you might want to do that Firefox can already do (like rendering SVG; displaying options windows and saving those options; open, edit and save files, etc.) and that it will allow you to embed these features into your existing applications using JavaXPCOM (embedding bindings for Python, ActiveX, GTK and NSView are under way but not yet complete).

XULRunner is an important piece of software as it allows you to install multiple XUL-based applications (say, Firefox and Thunderbird) but only one core XUL platform, thus reducing the size of each of the separate installers appropriately. Indeed, when it reaches 1.9, it will be the default application launcher for Firefox.

Anyone wanting to get started developing with XUL would be best starting with the tutorial on XUL Planet followed by the links on the XULRunner page on developer.mozilla.org. If you didn’t already know, tools like ActiveState’s Komodo (a cross-platform IDE) are based on XUL and work extremely well, so there is already precedent for people creating these types of applications, they just don’t get much visibility (yet).

Using Places in Firefox for exporting browser history

Ages ago I wrote a post bringing light to a bookmarklet attached to a bug in Mozilla’s Bugzilla which allows you to export your Firefox history to a text file. According to Google Analytics, it’s far and away my most popular post, but the code doesn’t work in Firefox 1.5.

People have been commenting on the post and sending me mail asking for an updated version which works in 1.5, which I keep meaning to look at doing, but the new Places bookmarking and history system based on SQLlite has just been enabled in the Firefox nightlies.

This means not only a new way of storing the data, but new ways of querying it, either via Mozilla like we do at the moment but with a new API or by a third-party application so long as it can understand SQLlite, and there are plenty of bindings to do this.

So this should mean that Firefox 1.6 has an entirely new backend for history and bookmarks, at which point writing new code to export the history should be very easy, and I’ll do it then (if someone hasn’t already beaten me to it).

Browse the web from your Nintendo DS

Opera have announced that they’re going to release a browser for the DS in Japan.

Frankly, this is brilliant. The browser on the PSP is all very well
and good, but it’s nowhere near the ease of navigation that a
touchscreen will give. The amount of time I end up waiting at train
stations with free DS-enabled WiFi will make this brilliant (although
the fact that it’s going to be about twenty quid does suck). Suddenly
web services like meebo become much more appealing.

See Russ Beattie’s review of Opera Mobile, and CVG’s article. In related news, this is the best picture I’ve seen comparing the old Nintendo DS with the DS lite.

Jabber clients coming to Nokia handsets

Well, not quite yet, but soon anyway.

Jabber Messenger contact list

Through a chat with Ralph Meijer, and an email to Joe Hildebrand, I got in touch with Shawn Carrigan from Jabber Inc. who sent me a pre-release version of their Symbian Jabber client. and very good it is too. Fast, intuitive and usable.

Check out the photos in my (small) Flickr photoset.

Orange France rolled a version of this out late last year, and I’m
led to believe that they will be rolling this client out across the UK
and the Netherlands in Spring sometime, although their PR department
didn’t return my emails.

It has all the features that you would expect including chat, status
messages, sorting users into groups, user blocking, emoticons, message
templates, playing a sound on new message receipt, profile editing and
so on.

The best thing is that it’s not locked to a particular server, so
you can connect to your favourite XMPP server, including Google Talk.

Jabber Inc. are clearly committed to supporting the XMPP standards as a version which will be released soon will support JEP-65 (SOCKS5 Bytestreams) via multimedia messaging and JEP-45 (Multi-user Chat) via simple MUC.

I know that Jim Hughes has also got a copy, so he may also write something interesting about it. Keep your eyes peeled 🙂

Use an elastic layout on your weblog, web “professionals”!

I’ve had a couple of several-hundred-word posts hanging around on this topic for months now, but my frustration has finally got to the point where the technical stuff can wait – if you have a weblog which has centred text (even Hivelogic and Andy Budd fall foul of this) then make your contents elastic!

When I increase the font size of my browser, I don’t want to be seeing 6 words per line when there’s masses of whitespace to either side of the content container! I want that content container to be the main focus of the page! I want it to expand with the font! I don’t want the page to become less legible when I make the font bigger! This is not a swings and roundabouts exercise! Sort it out! Roger Johansson gets it right on 456 Berea Street, and you call yourselves web professionals – sort it out!

Borland stops its IDE business

Borland plans separate company for Delphi, JBuilder, C++Builder, InterBase, JDataStore and other developer products…

I always wondered how Borland were making money from their IDEs given such strong competition in the Java and .NET markets, and of course Delphi has only ever been a minor player, it turns out that they were wondering the same thing.

I actually feel quite sad – we were taught programming using Delphi at University, and JBuilder was my first Java IDE. Years later, I was using C++Builder now and again, and I was using Kylix to develop cross-platform native applications. No longer.

It’s always a shame to see a competitor in a largely unchallenged marketplace (namely the .NET IDE market) drop out, and I imagine that for most developers, this will be the last time they hear the Borland name.

Blog for cash at the Torygraph

Telegraph gets into podcasting

Whilst skimming the jobs section of a newspaper, I came across this:

“Make your voice heard: podcast reporter, £25k, 6 month contract, The Daily Telegraph”

Gosh, newspapers are hiring specialist “podcast reporters” now? Who’d a thunk it? Obviously the best bit of the ad is you will [have] .. an engaging speaking style. Well, can you imagine what kind of people and voices you might get? Whoever gets the job has to appeal to the core audience y’know.

Anyway, this got me interested, and it turns out that the Telegraph already has several podcasts available, so this job looks like it’s to put someone dedicated to the task (although with it being a six month contract I suspect it’s just exploratory and then they’ll cut them loose – there can’t be any money in it for the paper can there?)

I had a quick look around some other big newspapers: of course The Guardian are doing the Ricky Gervais podcasts and political podcasts (including PMQs) but haven’t yet podcasted up their existing audio reports; The Times don’t seem to be doing anything at all in this area (although they do have an incredibly frustrating habit of having every single link open in a new window!) but they do have a beta version of a desktop search tool powered by Blinkx which is really quite unexpected and makes you wonder about what else these supposedly old-school media enterprises are up to with the new-fangled hyperinterweb.