Warning Bill, the lizard still bites

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Friday 11 September 2015

Death of XUL-based add-ons to Firefox

I will not discuss here right now the big image of the message sent a few weeks ago (although my company is deeply, very deeply worried about it) but I would like instead to dive into a major technical detail that seems to me left blatantly unresolved: the XUL tree element was introduced to handle very long lists of items with performance. Add-ons touching bookmarks, lists of URLs, list of email adresses, contacts, anti-spam lists, advertisement blocking lists and more all need a performant tree solution.

As far as I am concerned, there is nothing on the html side approaching the performance of the XUL tree for very long lists. Having no replacement for it before the removal of XUL-based add-ons is only a death signal sent to all the add-ons needing the XUL tree, and almost a "we don't care about you" signal sent to the authors of these add-ons. From an ecosystem's point of view, I find it purely suicidal.

So I have a question: what's the plan for the limited number of XUL elements that have no current replacement in html for deep technical reasons?

Update: yes, there are some OSS packages to deal with trees in html, but until the XUL tree is removed from Firefox's UI, how do we deal with it if access to the XUL element is not reachable from add-ons?

Wednesday 4 February 2015

In praise of Tristan Nitot

There's a high probability Tristan and I met when we were kids. We were both hanging around the same places at the same time to have access to computers. We met again during the early years of Netscape, while I was leading everything web-related at Électricité de France. Later, he was of course the first one to greet Peter and I when we joined as sherpas in november 2000.

On the 15th of july 2003, Tristan, Peter and myself were on the "special" conference call about a "reorganization". In the next minutes, all our colleagues from the US sent a farewell message and Netscape was no more. After the summer break, Tristan, Peter and myself met at Peter's apartment in Paris to discuss our future. I suggested to take advantage of the OSS nature of Mozilla and launch a software company, but Tristan and Peter had only one idea in mind and it was already called "Mozilla Europe"... I eventually launched "Disruptive Innovations" alone while they remained focus on their project.

Tristan and Peter worked incredibly hard to achieve that, giving Mozilla a unique and powerful presence on the Old Continent. After the official launch of Mozilla Europe, Tristan became ubiquitous. He was so present in European media I started the Tristant-Nitot-Tracker as a joke. Newspapers, Web magazines, radios, television channels, there has not been a single day between 2003 and 2011 without multiple appearances of Tristan everywhere in Europe, and sometimes beyond. I never understood how Tristan found the time and energy to make Mozilla so visible in the media here.

The face of Mozilla Europe is - we'll soon have to say was - Tristan. There's that classic and completely stupid french proverb that says "nobody is irreplaceable"... If someone you hired is replaceable, it only means you have to improve your hiring process. Successes are built with irreplaceable people.

Tristan is irreplaceable, because he's not only giving work, skills, energy and talent. He's doing it in a way that is from my perspective unique: tons of humor in absolutely all circumstances, extreme dedication, convinced and convincing spirit, ability to discuss with absolutely anyone from geeks to politicians, outstanding spoken and written communication, indisputable loyalty, inspiring everyone.

I'm not a Mozilla employee. But Tristan has been, as Mozilla Europe's leader, a crucial person to my company. So let me thank him deeply and sincerely for all the fish he gave me, all the fish he gave us all.

Tristan, all I can say is that you now have more free time to ride your motorbike to come have lunch with me in Saint-Germain! Best of luck for the future, the coaching and the book!

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Welcome cbeard

Among Mozillians, there is a small (not too small, in fact..) group of people who were already here before 15-jul-2003. After that date, we saw old-time contributors rejoin Mozilla one by one, and new hires too, something we had forgotten about since the 2002 Netscape layoffs. Chris Beard was one of them, at the end of 2004 IIRC (time flies, holy cow, time flies...). If old-time Mozillians saw a necessary little shift in the local culture because of these new hires, it was clearly not the case with cbeard, who adapted so well to Mozilla we immediately used his IRC nick to mention him. Having a vision, dealing very well with the community, always open to discussion, leading new projects, highly respected, I'm glad he was appointed interim CEO. Welcome Chris!

Friday 4 April 2014

Sad day

It's a very sad day. I just landed in San Francisco and learned about Brendan's resignation and I am totally shocked. I have very mixed feelings today about the "Mozilla Community" and I am not sure I like what it became.

Mitchell wrote the following:

We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.

Yes, we do. But I think we also value democracy, and what happened during the last days seems to be a negation of democracy. One should be able to express legal opinions without having to face a witch-hunt-like repression.

Today, Mozilla is weaker because of this witch hunt. Mozilla, who is standing for the better of everyone on the Web, is weaker because some people thought it would be stronger without Brendan. This is ridiculous, this is a shame, this is a scandal. A small step for a few, a giant leap back for the Web.

Who said "Mozilla Community"? Who said Openness? Pfffff. I've been a Mozillian for fourteen years and I'm not even sure I still recognize myself in today's Mozilla Community. Well done guys, well done. What's the next step? 100% political correctness? Is it still possible to have a legally valid personal opinion while being at Mozilla and express it in public?

Personal message to Brendan : Paris in April and May can be such a wonderful city. Come over here for a break, I have a few good restaurants, bars and unknown superb monuments to show you... With all my thoughts and support.

"I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it"

(comments disallowed, I still have in mind the hate messages left on this blog last week)

Update: I perfectly understood the fact Brendan resigned because of the external pressure. But that external pressure would probably not have existed at all without the original internal pressure. Reminding Brendan's position was, I already said it, pointing an index at him. Being an employee and explicitly saying in public "I don't support Brendan as CEO because of his prop8 support" triggered the rest. That's where I don't understand the Mozilla Community any more.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Welcome Brendan!

I could not be happier to see Brendan Eich become the new CEO of Mozilla :-)

Brendan has a vision, a unique vision that made Mozilla what it is today, and he is a great leader, respected all over the world, all over our geek's world. Reliable, hyper-smart, friendly and knowing perfectly - of course - the organization he co-founded.

But there is one thing I would like to come back to, because I read something too disruptive to me on planet.mozilla.org: yes, Brendan donated to the anti-marriage equality Prop. 8 campaign in California. I don't like, I don't like at all seeing that pop up again in public space because that's pointing an index at someone for his/her beliefs, that's something that should not happen in a community like ours. When Brendan was under attack, two years ago, I sent him my support. Not a support to his opinion, but a support to his freedom of opinion and freedom of expression of that opinion through all legal means. Including a donation.

Seen from Europe with a European point of view, I do not understand how one can complain about it. Mozilla promotes openness and freedom of choice, that's its Manifesto, that's our core values, why most of us contribute to Mozilla. I want that openness and freedom of choice to be a deep, anchored value of the whole Mozilla community. With that in mind, I entirely respect Brendan's personal choice, that was exposed only because of the Californian law and was attached to the name of Mozilla only because that law makes it mandatory to mention the affiliation of the donator above a given level of donation IIRC. I trust - we all trust - Brendan to be able to deal with the whole community - employees or contributors - equally, whatever their own beliefs or personal choices. I met Brendan 14 years ago and have never seen him behave in a different way.

The Mozilla community at large represents quite well the diversity of thoughts on the globe. We have people who love fire weapons; I don't like it but that's legal in their countries. We have people supporting death penalty; I hate it but that's legal in their countries. We have people from all political sides, including extremes; I don't understand it but I accept it. We have people based in countries one could easily qualify as antidemocratic and who support their regime; yes, diversity is a marker of the human kind. And we have people who have diverging opinions about major societal issues, within the limits of the law, absolutely. We even have true nerds, barely social, who can't understand what's a private and family life. So what? Again, seen from Europe and with a European point of view, not a problem at all.

Pointing an index at someone of our community for his/her beliefs can only have one side-effect: people will stop expressing their opinions because they will be afraid of the kickback, people will be blamed in public for legal behaviours and that's totally unacceptable to me as a European. That's not the world I want to live in, that's not my concept of democracy and freedom of opinion/speech. That's not the Mozilla I want. Brendan, I value your opinion, and that does not say anything about my agreement or disagreement with your opinion itself.

We, as a community, cannot promote openness and freedom of choice without a deep respect for individual beliefs. A reminder of Brendan's personal choices years ago is unfair and violates too much for me the core values of the Mozilla community. I am writing this article because I want it to be the very last time we read about it in public space. FWIW, and given the long chats we had about it in Europe two years ago, I think the above is a quite widely shared opinion in the European Mozilla community.

Welcome Brendan, and long life to Moz.

Update: following a private message, I want to say that, yes, I carefully read the message that triggered my response above. My take is that even in a positive message about Brendan, reminding the Prop8 story is putting, again, an index at him. And I feel it is just totally wrong because his opinion is not less respectable than others.

Update again: I did not intend to let the comments open here, my bad. What I feared did happen: hate messages. Closing comments then. My blog, my prerogative, and the French law makes me accountable for all comments on this blog. Period. Sorry for the people who left polite messages, agreeing or disagreeing; I hope you understand.

Monday 15 July 2013

Precisely ten years ago

Precisely ten years ago the 15th of July 2003, I was in Hossegor on the south-western coast of France, coming back from the town's center to my house. Minutes before during a conference call, I had heard « a reorganization is impacting you, Netscape France HR will let you know about it in the coming days, thank you for your time and goodbye » and that's all. I discovered that all friends/colleagues in the US were sending farewell messages. That was the end of Netscape, that was the beginning of Mozilla as a standalone organization, that was the beginning of Disruptive Innovations for me. That was ten years ago, wow...


Spend three years working like crazy on a project. Slowly start selling and making a revenue stream. Be on the front line almost 365 days per year, provide people all around the globe with support, tirelessly. And then the following tweet appears:

BlueGriffon EPUB Edition mentioned as one of the 3 EPUB editing environments recommended during the American Association of Physics Teachers' conference

BlueGriffon EPUB Edition mentioned as one of the three EPUB editing environments recommended during the American Association of Physics Teachers' summer meeting, along with OpenOffice and Microsoft Word... And in second position :-) Wow. Wow :-)

Monday 24 June 2013

BlueGriffon and '@media print' stylesheets

I'm still playing a lot with (hear "coding on"...) Media Queries in BlueGriffon these days and I ended up trying my own dogfood editing the contents of a famous public web page using Media Queries for responsive design and some @media print stylesheets. Of course, BlueGriffon was not able to show on screen the print stylesheets applied to the document and I found it really sad. So I hacked a little bit (the whole thing is ~10 lines) nsHTMLEditor and nsPresContext to make sure BlueGriffon can show a document in "print" mode in the editable area and of course switch back to the regular screen/all stylesheets. See the result in this youtube video.

Thursday 23 May 2013

New customer

I am extremely pleased to welcome the European Parliament as a major user of BlueGriffon.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Developer Tools! Developer Tools! Developer Tools!

Fixing a bug in BlueGriffon's CSS properties panel yesterday, I suddenly had an idea. Six hours of work later, I have a screencast to show you :-)

Thursday 4 April 2013

15 years of Mozilla, my Webstory

  • started working with SGML in 1991 at Grif, implementing the first CALS tables (that eventually gave HTML tables) wysiwyg editor. Worked with Jean Paoli and Vincent Quint. Met Tim Berners-Lee. Started working on stylesheets (the P language in Grif).
  • 1994: working at Électricité de France, one of the first european customers of the recently released Netscape's browser. We bought thousands of licences, Netscape was not even incorporated here yet.
  • 1998: noticed the Mozilla source code release while working for Électricité de France; was already a CSS WG member. Downloaded code to look at it but too much work to really do it well. Met Vidur, Peter Linss, Angus Davis, Troy Chevalier
  • 1998: Peter Linss makes a referral about me at Netscape but a hiring freeze blocks the process
  • june 2000: I am available for hire and Pierre Saslawsky makes another referral about me at Netscape
  • september 2000: interviews in Mountain View with the Layout, Email, AIM and Editor teams. Moments with Vidur, Beth, Clayton and a few others I will never forget.
  • november 2000: hired by Netscape in the editor team, spending a month in Mountain View, starting diving into editor's code with invaluable help from jfrancis, kin, brade, cmanske, beppe, sfraser and mjudge. First bug fix in the style engine code, memory footprint-related. The day I arrive in MV, there's a barbecue party for the release of Netscape 6.0; everyone including me has a NS6 jacket and a trophy, some have a bonus envelop. I discover, to my greatest pleasure, that Netscape is a company that knows how to say thank you. Hixie is an intern at Netscape doing QA, Hamerly and I turn on the lights at 8am, Scott Collins sleeps every night in the cubicle next to mine, I am almost the only one using the espresso machine, there are baby clothes at the Netscape store for my first son and when I refused to eat at Denny's cmanske replied « I knew you had "class" ».
  • december 2000: peterv and I are the only developers at Netscape France. We send a mail to the whole team to introduce ourselves. Only two persons come to say hello, Tristan Nitot and an HR person. We're in a windowless corner of the offices, with sales people shouting on the telephone all the time.
  • 2001: representing Netscape in the CSS WG, helping Beth in the HTML WG but XHTML2 seems to me a gigantic strategic error and I say it in public. When asked why I work from France for Netscape US, I reply « because they do beautiful things ». During a crepes dinner with Tantek in SF, he challenged me to implement :not() in Gecko; flying to San Diego the next day and spending the night on it, showing working implementation to Attinasi the next day. Adding CSS to the editor. Showing Syd Logan how to greatly simplify the IM conversation view with just a dash of CSS.
  • 2002: all of AOL-TimeWarner France including Netscape moves to a new building in Neuilly sur Seine. Cool times, superb corporate restaurant. Many good and sometimes hilarious memories.
  • october 2002: wrote the Small Screen Rendering stylesheet that will be used in Minimo. AOL wants to patent it even if I warn them there is prior art from Opera.
  • december 2002: reorg at Netscape. Many good friends are gone. I'm myself in complete limbos, spending a few awful days and nights.
  • Q1 and Q2 2003: working on the Anvil project, a new editor at AOL will never release. I also start Composer++, a standalone revamp of the Netscape editor that will eventually become Nvu.
  • february 2003: at FOSDEM in Brussels; meet Mozdev's Brian King (of zibble fame) and Pete Collins.
  • 15-jul-2003: laid off by AOL with the remains of Netscape. Leaving Netscape offices only the 2nd of august. My collection of Netscape t-shirts is orphan.
  • september 2003: meeting with Tristan Nitot and Peter van der Beken in Peter's flat, my two Netscape colleagues from the Paris office. I suggest we start together a company making products based on the open source Mozilla. I suggest "Disruptive Innovators" as a company name. Tristan and Peter skeptical, Tristan would prefer launching a european Mozilla foot.
  • 13-oct-2003: Disruptive Innovations is incorporated... Pete Collins and Brian King gave my name to Lindows' CTO who was looking for someone to work on a Gecko-based editor. I start contracting for Lindows immediately, the result will become Nvu.
  • from 2003 to now: promoting Mozilla and Gecko all over the place. Contracted for many companies and academia around the globe, doing xulrunner-based apps or add-ons to Firefox, some public and some proprietary on intranets.
  • august 2006: Disruptive Innovations joins W3C.
  • so many conferences, seminars with other Mozillians I can't count them all. Wonderful time in Barcelona with Chofmann, epic dinner with Rey Bango and Pike in Berlin, cool week-end in Berlin with Robert Nyman. Gave one of my contracts to Paul Rouget.
  • 2008: inviting Mitchell Baker as a KeyNote speaker to the Netexplo Forum under the golden ceilings of the French Senate.
  • 2010: started working on my next-gen wysiwyg Mozilla-based editor. Rewritten from scratch. First investor in april.
  • 10-may-2011: release of BlueGriffon 1.0.
  • 2013: Disruptive Innovations is almost ten years old, what a ride. I'm still spending most of my time on Mozilla code and technologies, editors and Web Standards. I released the only Wysiwyg cross-platform native EPUB editor on the market, and it's of course Mozilla-based.

More details on how got I involved with Mozilla and Why I work for^H^H^Hon Mozilla. I'm still here, and I just contributed a patch to the editor to fix a regression in the table editor. Wishing a long life to a community that changed mine!

Thursday 28 March 2013

Building Gecko

I have been building my OS X builds of BlueGriffon on the same OS 10.6.5 desktop i7-based machine for the last two years. Two years ago, the i386 part of the universal OS X build of BlueGriffon was taking precisely NINE minutes and 45 seconds (yeah, quite fast) to build from scratch, without ccache, with a -j8 flag.

Today, a build of BlueGriffon based on a very recent pull of mozilla-central on the same machine, same OS, same HD, same CPU, same -j8, same build options, ccache disabled, takes TWENTY-NINE minutes and 13 seconds...

So I have a very naive question: can someone explain me here in the comments why the time needed to build Gecko on a desktop has been multiplied by almost exactly three in these two years? Please no flame, this is not a rant but only a technical question and I would like to understand better; thanks.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

FirefoxOS-based watch :-)

WANT !!!!!

Bambook Watch

Tuesday 22 January 2013

BlueGriffon 1.6 released

I just released BlueGriffon 1.6. More information available here.

/* Enjoy! */

Monday 21 January 2013

BlueGriffon 1.6 ETA

Tomorrow, european time, if all goes well. Next monday for BlueGriffon EPUB Edition v1.6.

Friday 11 January 2013

Thoughts on nsHTMLEditor::SetInlineProperty

  1. get the selection
  2. for each range in the selection
    1. get the startNode, endNode, startOffset, endOffset of the range
    2. if startNode is an element, let startNode be the startOffset-nth child of startNode
    3. if endNode is an element, let endNode be the (endOffset-1)-nth child of endNode
    4. promote selection to an array of nodes, iterating all nodes in the selection from startNode to endNode in traversal order
      1. if  the iterated node is entirely contained in the selection
        1. if the descendant node is an HTML element equivalent to the style to set, replace it by its contents; continue iterating with first child of the original node
        2. if the node is an element and carries the CSS property to set, delete that CSS style ; if the element carries no CSS style and no other attribute after that, replace it by its contents; continue iterating with first child of the original node
        3. if the node is a significant text node, store it in the array, continue iterating
        4. if the node is an inline element node, store it in the array, continue iterating skipping all children of the node
        5. else continue iterating
      2. else if the node is only partially contained in the selection
        1. if the node is an inline node or a text node, split node deep to selection boundaries; resulting node is now entirely contained in selection, apply steps above.
        2. else continue interating
    5. let startNode be the first node in the array and endNode the last one
    6. let direction be 1
    7. if startNode is not an element and endNode is an element, let direction be -1
    8. for each node in the array browsed in increasing index order if direction is 1 and decreasing order otherwise:
      1. if the ancestors of the node set the requested style, do nothing and continue with next node in array
      2. let refNode be the previousSibling if direction is 1 and the nextSibling otherwise
      3. in HTML mode:
        1. if refNode is the HTML equivalent to the style to set and carries no attribute, append the node to the children of refNode; continue
        2. encapsulate the node into the HTML equivalent element to the style to set
      4. in CSS mode:
        1.  if refNode carries only the CSS style to set and no other attribute, append the node to the children of refNode; continue
        2. encapsulate the node into a span carrying the style to set

Thursday 29 November 2012

Resizing elements in the editor #1

I'm the guilty one for the resizing handles (around tables, positioned elements and images) in Gecko's editor. It was a decade ago... I wanted a JavaScript-based implementation but Netscape's management wanted a C++ one to have the whole thing embeddable into an AOL project that you never heard of and never saw the light. Because of that, it's hardly manageable/extensible today and I decided to drop it for BlueGriffon (that's just a boolean to set to false on the editor) and switch to my own JavaScript-based implementation. I spent a short while on that last week-end and here's the first result (or see embedded video below). As far as I know, it's a first for the editor (I mean Gecko's).

Last detail, this should work even if CSS transforms apply to the table. Unfortunately, I filed a bug blocking it earlier today.

Friday 16 November 2012

MathML and Thunderbird

Frédéric Wang wrote an interesting article about sending MathML inside HTML-based emails. And since I found his solution of inserting manually the MathML elements in the markup quite painful, I did what I usually do in such cases: I wrote an add-on...

MathML editing in Thunderbird

So this add-on adds a new button to the formatting toolbar of message composition windows (the π button at the right-hand side of the main window), a new menu entry under Insert and both open a dialog allowing to insert/edit MathML through AsciiMathML. Hope you'll find it useful, it's available from here and it's not a 1.0 yet.

Update: now submitted to AMO, feel free to review it !

/* enjoy */

Thursday 25 October 2012

BlueGriffon EPUB Edition 1.5.4

I have fixed two too well hidden bugs in BlueGriffon EPUB Edition and, while I was there, I added an editing view for CSS stylesheets directly from the list of files. You can download that new version from its web site. Many thanks to @studiowalrus for the feedback.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

BlueGriffon EPUB Edition released

I am happy and proud to let you know I just released BlueGriffon EPUB Edition, the very first Wysiwyg cross-platform editor for EPUB2 and EPUB3 ebooks offering full UI-based control on EPUB packages, including all of EPUB2 and EPUB3 metadata. A more complete list of features and screenshots are available. Implemented with a permanent requirement of conformance to the IDPF specifications, it took more than a year to emerge from the original BlueGriffon Web editor because it's not only some light zip-package management over (x)html editing. EPUB metadata are complex to author and edit, very complex, and it's not a surprise to me if BlueGriffon EPUB Edition is alone right now in that segment of the market.

On the Mozilla side, this is quite good news I must say. Most current EPUB readers and authoring tools are based on WebKit or the rendering engine inside Apple Pages. BlueGriffon EPUB Edition shows that Gecko is a 100% viable solution as a rendering engine for EPUB. It also shows that XUL is still a superb technology allowing very complex consumer- or business-oriented applications.

To celebrate the launch of BlueGriffon EPUB Edition, a discount coupon is available until the 25th 00:00am Pacific time, giving you a 25€ discount per license purchased.

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