Neil's Place

December 4, 2003

12:08 AM First draft of canvas tag patch

I put together a first draft of the XUL canvas tag patch. I also added a few examples. I haven't tested patching and then compiling since I've never been able to get patches to apply properly. So I can't guarantee that it will work right. I can only compile on Linux myself but I've hopefully got the Windows/Mac/OS2 changes right. The patch was created against Mozilla 1.5 since that's what I'm using for something else.

The canvas works fairly well, although some features crash (drawing polygons). If anybody has a chance to try it, let me know. Or, if you have bug fixes, especially on various platforms.

Comments ( 30 )

November 29, 2003

Is Mozilla Development Too Hard?
Not really. There's over 100 extensions that show it can't be that difficult.

12:22 AM Canvas Tag Update

I tend to get carried away when I work on something I think is really useful and interesting. Such is the case with the XUL canvas tag I'm working on. Joe Hewitt's original version creates a simple image buffer which can be drawn into using a few drawing functions. My updated version can do that, but also quite a bit more. It supports lots of drawing functions to draw lines, text and images, as well as pixel drawing.

The canvas also supports custom layouts, which can be used to position and size the children of the canvas in interesting ways. XUL doesn't really need this capability -- it's various layout types are quite suitable. However, there was another task I was working on where I realized it would be very useful to be able to use a simpler set of layout tags, where the complexity was hidden behind a custom layout. With the canvas, this custom layout is done in XBL. Actually, I designed the canvas such that one could create custom elements where the actual painting and layout was hidden in XBL.

In fact, I managed to implement a few XAML elements such as GridLayout using the canvas, and was successfully able to display some of the XAML examples from the MSDN documentation completely unmodified. OK, I only implemented the very basics of the examples, but there's potential for some interesting things. Note that I'm not trying to create a XUL-XAML layer -- that would be almost impossible.

Since I don't have CVS write access to the Mozilla, I'm not sure if there's an easy way of creating a patch. So I may have to zip everything up and then hope that I haven't missed something.

Comments ( 13 )

November 28, 2003

1:36 PM nsIObservers Info

I added a small bit of documentation on nsIObservers , which can be used to listen to and notify about global topics in Mozilla.

Comments ( 7 )

November 26, 2003

6:59 PM Browser as Component

Many internal company applications require some component, or extra installation to be done before the application can be used by employees. There are many Web sites that use content that need a plugin. For example, there's lots of Flash, Quicktime, Real video files, Adobe PDF's around. To view them, you either need to install a plugin or perhaps it was included with the browser. Often, a certain version is required (Flash 6, for instance). For internal corporate tools. there's all kinds of speciaalized components that are used. Many applications are written in Java, or Python or whatnot, and require a runtime of some sort to be installed.

Nobody seems to have a problem with requiring that users have such plugins installed. Web sites will just point you to where they can be downloaded. When it comes to browsers, however, people seem to have a notion that browser usage is a either-or thing. You can use either one browser or another, but you can't use both.

But who says you can't use lots of different browsers? Do I even need to have a default browser set? If an application that I need to use wants an Opera HTML/CSS engine, I'll download one and use it. Why does it matter that I don't use Opera to browse the web? There are all these web-based applications that seem to demand that you be using IE as well as some specialized ActiveX controls. But is it really a web application, if it has such requirements? What's the difference between that and requiring that someone be using Mozilla Firebird?

In the last poll, someone seemed to think that XUL couldn't be used by people who normally use IE. This isn't logical. There's no reason an application couldn't insist on the appropriate browser or browser component to be installed, as with plugins. Many XUL features will work, for instance, in the Mozilla ActiveX Control. There are many applications that require downloads first. Why should browsers be any different? On one hand, I could insist that someone have IE 6 on Windows, with an extra component installed to do more specialized UI, or I could just require they have Mozilla and write the application in XUL.

Is it a download size thing? Surely not. Both Opera and Mozilla Firebird are about the same size or a smaller download than Real Player, Quick Time, Acrobat, and many other plugins.

This is why I think a proper GRE is a good idea. If Gecko could be treated as a simple component that can be used with other architectures, it will better be able to distance itself from being a browser that people think you can only have one of.

Comments ( 5 )

November 24, 2003

Mozquery
A project to make some Mozilla RDF creation and query tools. I wonder if ReoPath could fit into it in some way.

November 22, 2003

1:12 PM What I'm going to do

I think I'm going to take the Netscape Communicator source code and make it Open source. That way anybody can use it, change it and distribute it openly. Then I'm going to create a UI markup language and call it XUL. Then, I'm going to promote everything so that other companies like IBM, Sun and Redhat want to help out. As well as lots of independent news sites, documentation sites and projects. All of them will come together to form a number of Alliances.

Then, more open, XUL-based projects, perhaps hosted on a site that provides free hosting for such things, will be created, and each will form their own alliances. I think I'll call these Open XUL Alliances.

Then, we'll need a way to bring the alliances together, since using a generic term to refer to all things that are open, about XUL, and has groups of people, would be a good idea. To to this, I'll hire someone who works at Opera to create a site openxulalliancealliance.com.

That would be a lot of work though. Maybe I'll just go cause trouble in some newsgroups instead.

Comments ( 17 )

November 21, 2003

An Introductory Tour of Mozilla's XUL
By Nigel McFarlane

5:12 PM Experience Required

When I was younger, I used to think applications used too much disk space. I used to think that they were filled with all sorts of useless features. I might have got upset when I saw a bug that had been sitting in a bug database for two years was still broken. I used to hate Microsoft when they borrowed a feature from a competing product. I might have spent time advocating open standards and criticizing a company that came up with a proprietary solution. I used to think like a naive, young, end-user.

Then I got a job doing software development. I found out how software development is really done. After a while, I understood why I was so wrong about the above.

I can't really explain it though. To all those that still think those things I listed above: Once you get a job working in software development and have been working there for a few years, think again. You may understand what I mean.

Comments ( 25 )

November 19, 2003

A Macromedia developer discusses Flex, XUL, SVG and others.
"... I'd certainly be interested in figuring out how we could give back to the XUL community..."

Connecting XUL Applications with PHP
Sample code showing how to post some XUL fields.

1:37 AM I understand some Mozilla source code!

Spending time working on the canvas tag has given me a much greater insight as the how XUL layout actually works. I think I know enough that I can fix layout-related bugs in XUL. Actually, I did fix one, bug 214956. I'm also now familiar with parts of gfx (the graphics code), and from earlier tasks, the RDF code. One day I should sit down and update the RDF parser so that it is not only less buggy but to support some of the newer features in the latest working draft.

With regards to the canvas stuff, it is coming along very nicely. It supports all kinds of things. I'll provide a list of what it supports once I've polished it a bit more.

Comments ( 9 )

November 17, 2003

12:21 PM Macromedia doing XML UI's too

Macromedia gives a preview of their upcoming development tool Flex. It's a server-side application that runs alongside J2EE servers which generates Flash dynamically from XML descriptions. Unlike XAML, it's actually much more similar to XUL. It even has HBox and VBox tags. No mention of whether it supports the flex attribute as suggested by the name.

It uses ActionScript like Flash does, which is similar to JavaScript, although the examples given suggest that getElementById isn't used, so I don't know what DOM features are available. You might be pleased to hear though that it uses CSS for presentation. Databinding is done by web services and similar tags.

It's entirely server side and generates Flash to be sent to the client. Since it's Java-based, it does have support for interacting with server Java objects and such.

There's little documentation at the moment. I could only find a white paper and an introduction, so I'm not sure how sophisticated Flex really is.

Comments ( 32 )