Crashing, teleporting and syncing Virtualbox

I’ve been playing around with Virtualbox over the last few days, trying to set it up just right for me. One of the hurdles was working around a bug in the 3.0.0 release that caused guests to crash when performing downloads in them. Changing the virtual network card from “PCnet-FAST III” to “Intel PRO/1000 MT Desktop” proved to be a good temporary solution, but the bug got squashed in version 3.0.2.
Next on my list was getting the “shared folder“, which I configured in Virtualbox (look ma, no samba), to automount in my Ubuntu-guest with read-write permissions for my non-root user. I ended up adding this line to /etc/fstab (the dmode and fmode-options did the trick eventually):

teleporter /home/frank/Desktop/teleporter vboxsf rw,dmode=777,fmode=777,uid=1000,gid=1000,auto 0 0

And to wrap things up I also installed the Mozilla Labs Weave-plugin, which syncs a.o. bookmarks and passwords in Firefox between my 3 environments. It caused me some headaches at first, synchronizing just seemed to take forever and no error was shown in the frontend. But I found some obscure messages (things like “Exception caught from onComplete handler of CryptoWrap__decrypt-57 generator”) in the verbose log and Google linked those to a post on the Weave Google Group which explained that the problem was with an incorrect “encryption passphrase”. And sure enough Weave was syncing happily after once I re-entered my -too complex- passphrase.

Mozilla rethinking extensions with Jetpack

Show me a ‘Mozilla Labs’ page on Facebook and I’ll click on that ‘Become a fan’-button immediately. ‘Labs‘ is where new and often exciting browser-functionality is being prototyped (think Prism, Weave, Ubiquity, About:tab, Personas), and where the everyone can get involved in the process. How great is that?
Last week the omnipresent Aza Raskin introduced ‘Jetpack‘ to the community. To summarize; Jetpack aims to simplify extension development by requiring only html, css and -off course- javascript, with a simple API, jQuery and Firebug-integration built in. Publishing your Jetpack is as easy as referencing it in a link on a webpage and installing it is very straightforward as well as it requires no browser restart (and as a bonus Firefox upgrades won’t break Jetpack-extensions either).
Aza’s demo on Vimeo is a great introduction:
(This embedded video can be watched on
It’s still early days and some important features are not implemented yet (e.g. persistent storage, access to the browser’s chrome beyond notifications and the status bar, ajax when behind a proxy), so as far as I’m concerned Jetpack doesn’t outdo Greasemonkey just yet, but looking at the draft specs and at some of the functionality that they would like to introduce in the next milestone, Jetpack could indeed bring browser extensions to a whole new level.
But don’t take my word for it, just install the Jetpack extension and see for yourself.

While waiting for the new Firefox beta

While we”re waiting for the new Firefox 3.1 beta (which will probably be released on march 12th, after which 3.1 will become  3.5), the Mozilla Labs guys announced a prototype “about:tab” plugin. It builds on the ideas they put forward on the labs-blog last august and follows in the footsteps of what Opera and more recently Google Chrome and Safari 4 are doing, taking it up a notch.
about:tab in firefox3.1b by aza raskinAfter installing the plugin, a new tab will show you:

  • the title and favicon of the most recently closed tab, allowing you to reopen it
  • a button containing the text in your copy/paste-buffer with contextual actions;
    • if URL: go to that site
    • if physical address: put it on a map
    • else: search for that text on google
    • more actions might be added and the system will be extensible, taking from Ubiquity
  • a list of six of your most visited sites, with thumbnail and title and with the most recent rss-items of that site

Although the developers claim that it’s “a rough-cut prototype” and that “the visual design isn’t right”, I already prefer this sober and functionally rich new-tab-behavior over the shiny “top sites” implementation in Apple’s Safari4. I sure hope this will slip into Firefox 3.5 in the next few months!

I’ve seen the browser-future, and it works!

Although browsers clearly have become better, faster and stronger (I doubt they’ve become “harder” as well), it sometimes seems as if no revolutions have taken place apart from the introduction of XMLHttpRequest by Microsoft back in 2000. But this morning I saw something that really blew my mind and the live mashup of that great Daft Punk song perfectly describes the mood I’m in since.
The reason for all this excitement is a prototype of new functionality in Firefox that redefines how you can interact with websites and -applications, allowing you to use the web more efficiently. Just watch this video to see what I’m raving about (skip the first 50 seconds to see the actual goods);

Ubiquity, as the 0.1 Firefox add-on is called, is the work of a group of smart people at Mozilla Labs, headed by Aza Raskin. Aza is the guy behind Humanized, the company that developed Enso, a merger of a GUI and a CLI leveraging the power of language in a graphical user interface. Aza and a number of his co-workers joined Mozilla at the beginning of 2008 and they’ve already produced some innovative ideas over the last few months.
Ubiquity is past that initial idea-stage, with a prototype that really builds on the great idea’s Aza and his Humanized co-workers had with regards to the power of language in a UI. I’ll bet you this will be the way to disclose and use microformats in Firefox as well (breaking the deadlock the microformat-guys were in). Even though it’s still in alpha/ prototype phase, this is the Future guys and it works! Now try it out, will ya!!