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Firefox Cellphones Handhelds Mozilla Open Source Operating Systems Software

Mozilla Makes Prototype of Firefox OS Available 101

Posted by timothy
from the more-than-a-concept dept.
Thinkcloud writes "Even though the operating system hasn't arrived in a version for smartphones and tablets just yet, Firefox OS is available as a prototype module that you can run on Windows, Mac or Linux computers (download page). The initial Firefox OS phones are expected to arrive in 2013, and it's been reported that Alcatel and ZTE are the first manufacturers on board."
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Mozilla Makes Prototype of Firefox OS Available

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  • by organgtool (966989) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:41AM (#42040819)
    The smartphone market already has a ton of operating systems, each with their own ecosystem of applications. What is to be gained by introducing another this late in the game? I would much rather Mozilla focus all of their development efforts on making Firefox better. I just switched from Chrome back to Firefox and the memory management of Firefox still leaves a LOT to be desired.
    • Please be more specific. What do you desire from Firefox memory management?

      • by telchine (719345) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:50AM (#42040965)

        Please be more specific. What do you desire from Firefox memory management?

        Siri, is that you?

        • by tverbeek (457094)

          It's her Aunt Eliza.

        • by organgtool (966989) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:04AM (#42041207)
          I tend to leave my browser open all of the time with quite a few open tabs. A few weeks after my switch to Firefox, my computer started slowing down while I was browsing the web. I figured one of the tabs had a JS proc that was running away with the processor, so I started closing tabs. After all of the tabs were closed, the computer was still slow, so I started the Task Manager. I couldn't determine why it was spinning the processor, but I did notice it was using 800 MB of RAM with no open tabs. I closed the browser down and restarted it and it ran fine, but I never need to do that crap in Chrome.
          • A few weeks after my switch to Firefox

            When was this? Was it several years ago? Recent versions of Firefox are reportedly [mozilla.org] much better at not letting JavaScript make the browser leak memory.

            • At least firefox only has one instance running with a minimal footprint. I installed Chrome on my daughters PC awhile back, and one day I needed to kill chrome via ssh. 5 PROCESSES using way too much memory.
              • I tend to open zillion tabs, i.e. open ten slashdot stories with some of their articles, while doing similar raids on forums, google, wikipedia or specific searches. I once counted 19 processes. Also, when I got to about 140% memory usage, even my mouse cursor was slow, freezing for several seconds a time.

            • It was within the last week. The version of Firefox is the latest one that was available for my OS as of one month ago, but maybe that's the problem. I left Chrome because they no longer supported my OS, but maybe Mozilla is pulling the same crap with Firefox and I am stuck with an old version. I'll have to investigate when I get home.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Keep in mind that when a process frees memory, often* memory is generally still shown by the operating system as allocated to that process, even if it's paged out and mostly idle. Chrome is sneaky in that every tab is its own process, and when a process exits all of its allocated memory is completely reclaimed by the operating system. So Chrome could leak memory, but if you close that tab, it becomes irrelevant. *(a big part of this is whether it's anonymous mmap'd memory or just the break value of the hea
          • by neorush (1103917)
            Watch your add-ons, I have 7 or 8 I use daily, a few of which have some serious memory leaks (over time anyway). I got in the habit of closing FF when I get up from the desk for the night, and just have it auto restore my tabs when it starts in the morning. Even then on a 16 hour coding marathon I still have some memory problems. But with all add-ons disabled this doesn't seem to happen these days.
      • Please be more specific. What do you desire from Firefox memory management?

        How about making Firefox it feels as responsive as Chrome when you have many tabs open? How about making FF support multiple CPUs? This is 2012 already! How about making Firefox support WebP? There are many improvements that could make Firefox better for developers and end users.

        Until Firefox is a better browser than Chrome, Mozilla shouldn't be wasting their resources on a stripped down version of Android that's can't run any of the 700,000 Android Apps and is limited running their FF browser.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        I've got both Chrome and Firefox going at the moment. Chrome's been open for about 2 weeks, and I've got 10 windows open, at least 3 of which have more than 30 tabs. Firefox has been open for 3 days, has 2 windows open, one with 6 tabs, one with just the one. Chrome's using 205MB real memory + 632MB swap, and is at 0.8%CPU. Firefox is at 325MB real memory + 328MB swap, and is using 8.5%CPU So firefox is doing about 10% of what Chrome is, but is taking >50% more memory and about 10x the CPU.
    • I agree, just look at the ecosystem related issues Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT have when compared to iOS or Android. Large organisations like Netflix target as many platforms as possible to cover all bases, but smaller outfits with limited funds are much more inclined to go where the users are.
    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:49AM (#42040943) Journal

      The smartphone market already has a ton of operating systems, each with their own ecosystem of applications. What is to be gained by introducing another this late in the game? I would much rather Mozilla focus all of their development efforts on making Firefox better. I just switched from Chrome back to Firefox and the memory management of Firefox still leaves a LOT to be desired.

      Well, one thing that I would like to see is more free open source mobile operating systems. Right now Android is dominating [slashdot.org] and I'm afraid that this will lead to a stagnant ecosystem in the mobile operating system world.

      iOS is a good operating system but it can't compete with how cheap Android is and how pervasive it's becoming. You may think it's best for everyone to keep their heads down and concentrate on their bread and butter but I'd like to see someone challenge Android to be better. A natural monopoly could arise that causes Android development to stagnate and I don't think that'd be good for anyone.

      As a consumer, you should be excited that another genuine contender is attempting to enter the ring against this unstoppable behemoth.

      I love Android and I've used it as my mobile OS for the past three or four years but I wouldn't turn down another operating system that is open source and somehow better, would you?

      I just switched from Chrome back to Firefox and the memory management of Firefox still leaves a LOT to be desired.

      Firefox OS is part of their labs development. While you may have genuine concerns about their browser, I don't think they should shut down all their experimentation in the name of memory management (speaking of which my own personal experiences have been that their memory management is getting slowly better). Could you elaborate on what "a LOT to be desired" specifically is?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by plover (150551)

        Nobody would argue that competition benefits the consumer. But how do you think they're going to effectively compete? What are the attributes where they could provide value that nobody else is delivering?
        Perceived quality of OS: iOS +++; Android ++; Windows Phone ++
        Perceived user OS experience: iOS +++; Android ++; Windows +++
        Perceived user App experience: iOS +++; Android (variable); Windows (unknown)
        Cost: iOS ---; Android -; Windows --
        App store monopoly: iOS ---; Android +; Windows ---
        App availabi

        • Are they going to give away the OS for free to phone makers?

          Well, obviously, if it's open source.

          • by plover (150551)

            Are they going to give away the OS for free to phone makers?

            Well, obviously, if it's open source.

            Great. Now put a revenue generating stream in there, or at least an inexhaustible source of funding.

      • by Rolgar (556636)

        Think of it like this:

        In the 1980s, you bought a computer from Commodore, Apple or IBM, each with it's own operating system and different programs.
        In the 1990s, IBM (OS2) and Microsoft (Windows) released operating systems that would run on interchangeable hardware that anybody could sell, with MS winning over IBM. Most people then figured they had two choices, Apple with expensive hardware and limited software options, or PC that was cheaper and nearly unlimited software options. Eventually, most retail sof

        • There's one more component that differs from back then: Content is king.

          Users adore their apps, but at the end of the day it's all their media and what they have stored "in the cloud" that matters. All your media will run on pretty much any platform effortlessly now, and web content is generally universal, whereas in the '80s getting content from one platform to open on another was extremely difficult. (Simply *moving it* from one platform to another was equally difficult.)

          So, platform lock-in isn't quite a

    • by jedirock (1453977)

      Obligatory xkcd. [xkcd.com]

      • "the most horrible kluge in the history of computing: Javascript." -Robert Cailliau (developed the World Wide Web with Tim Berners-Lee)

        HTML5 is a classic example Design by committee. We cannot develop for this poor standard with confidence. Rather, one has to do sophisticated browser testing for even the most trivial features. FF OS doesn't any of these issues. All it does is provide another incompatible platform for us to develop for.

        As Facebook found out the hard way, HTML5 Apps will always be slower and

    • by AvitarX (172628)

      I think Firefox os is targeting cheaper hardware.

      Think phone that barely run older versions of android, but snappy. High end feature phones rather than smart phones.

      honestly, if one of them had decent battery and screen I'd be tempted, cost savings would be a perk.

      I want internet, text, and decent camera with flash. I use a fair number of apps, but would be happy to trade sing a website for battery life. Oh yeah, and every now and again, I need the phone function...

    • The smartphone market already has a ton of operating systems.

      ...The smartphone market does have a "ton"[sic] of operating systems, but other than Android, and iOS[tied to one phone manufacturer], the others have either failed to make a market presence, failed to reinvent themselves against the competition, or simply been retired.

      I'm not sure I believe in the third-ecosystem, or all arguments for it...but I see no reason, why a product that can successfully differentiate itself from lets be honest Android, with a unique selling point [killer apps; social integration;

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by seyfarth (323827)

        Chrome runs a separate process for each window. I'm pretty sure Firefox is 1 process. With 1 process normally freeing memory does not return it to the OS. So closing a Firefox tab would not really shrink the Firefox process, while closing a Chrome tab would end a process and return its memory to the OS for re-use. It makes sense that Chrome might be better memory usage after extended use.

        • Chrome runs a separate process for each window. I'm pretty sure Firefox is 1 process. With 1 process normally freeing memory does not return it to the OS. So closing a Firefox tab would not really shrink the Firefox process, while closing a Chrome tab would end a process and return its memory to the OS for re-use. It makes sense that Chrome might be better memory usage after extended use.

          The article is a little out of date, but you get the point.

          http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/windows-7-chrome-20-firefox-13-opera-12,3228-12.html [tomshardware.com]
          "IE9 uses half as much memory as most of the competition with only one tab open. Firefox has always had the lowest 40-tab memory usage total, but version 13 takes its single-tab total down to just 61 MB, which is right in line with Safari and Opera. What the composite score does not show is the speed at which the different browsers return memory back to the opera

          • by seyfarth (323827)

            I wasn't really trying to refute your point. I was referring to someone who might have something like a lot of tabs open requiring lots of RAM, possibly running Javascript. Subsequently after closing most of the JS tabs, I would expect Chrome to use less RAM than Firefox under the same scenario. There might clearly be cases where the opposite is true. The memory usage charts you linked to are interesting. I am surprised that Chrome uses twice as much RAM. I would expect the code for the program to be

            • Even one process freeing memory does return it to the OS. If it didn't, what would be the point of freeing memory in the first place? Some things may want to wait to free memory to try to prevent memory fragmentation, but as soon as a program calls free, the memory goes back to the OS. (If you use a custom allocator, this may or may not be true for your allocator's free function, but the C standard library free function absolutely returns the memory to the OS.) In fact, a memory leak is when a program fails
              • by dririan (1131339)
                Just to clarify, you do generally need to free a whole page of memory for it to be returned, so technically not every free would return the memory to the OS, but depending on the page size, allocations of a certain size almost always should. I don't know if you're specifically talking about Firefox, and if it uses lots of small allocations (haven't really dug around the source, so I'm not sure) that are unlikely to be freed in way that causes pages to be returned, then I apologize.
                • by seyfarth (323827)

                  There are 2 mechanisms which the C library uses to return memory to the OS. First if a certain amount of memory at the end of the data segment is free, it can reduce the size of the data segment. Second (known to work under Linux) if a process allocates large amounts (like 128KB) the memory allocator can use a different form of memory allocation (mmap for Linux). When this large block is freed it can be immediately returned to the OS. I was suggesting a way that memory could remain allocated. The origi

                  • by dririan (1131339)
                    Yes, it depends on how it was allocated. glibc uses sbrk for small allocations (as you said, under 128 KB) and mmap for larger ones. It's actually interesting to read the mallopt man page [man7.org]. It seems to be glibc-only, but it lets you tune all the settings we're talking about, and then some. In any case, small allocations are the big problem, because they're put in the data segment and the data segment can't be shrunk past any data still allocated, so fragmentation means glibc can't use sbrk to shrink it again
    • I found the memory problems with Firefox disappeared in version ten.

      As far as the rest goes, some random thoughts:

      - The key selling point of FirefoxOS is that it's relatively lightweight in hardware requirements compared to Android et al.
      - Android and iOS are, to a certain extent, over-engineered. When Google's "reference design" phones (Nexus series) have battery lives measured in hours rather than days, with no sign that Google even gives a rat's ass (a Google exec was quoted as saying he carries ar

      • I found the memory problems with Firefox disappeared in version ten.

        I've found that there's always someone who claims this on every version released, ever since it started having memory management issues, with some useful entry in about:config that magically never solves the problem, at least for all people.

        • We're up to version 16 now, so I can't be one of those people otherwise I'd have said "It's fixed in the nightly build if you'd just download and install some untested software *rolls eyes* you people suck and are so unfair!" rather than "I found the memory problems with Firefox disappeared in version ten."

          I did seriously find that version ten made a huge difference. I actually was in an argument with a Mozilla engineer on /. for a while at around that time, the engineer absolutely convinced I was wrong/

      • As someone who switched from a browser based OS, WebOS, to iPhone 3GS, and now to Android, I can tell you I will never go back to another laggy HTML based OS. If anything, I’d like to see Android move away from its VM based apps to something like Apple’s native apps. Many apps ran better on my 3GS than they do on my much more powerful S3. Mozilla is going the wrong direction on this one. Native > Java > JavaScript

        The whole idea of using HTML, CCS, and JavaScript as the back end technology

    • I just switched from Chrome back to Firefox and the memory management of Firefox still leaves a LOT to be desired.

      ... and it would also be nice if they finally fixed some of their ten-year old bugs with hundreds of votes (history glitches, modal dialog boxes, focus stealing, unselectable texts, ...). Internet Explorer 6 is now niche, and there are no users to be gained by emulating some of its behavior.

    • by jovius (974690)

      Firefox OS is much more advanced in terms of customizability. Everything can be tinkered with. The OS provides tools to create your own technical functionalities and UI's with common HTML/CSS/javascript. I for one would really like to check that one out. The OS will probably become a cost effective platform for all kinds of interesting projects, because for example only the code needs to be shared to have devices unified in outlook and functionality. This is a natural development, as the market which is dom

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      The smartphone market already has a ton of operating systems

      Lets see... Windows, Apple, Android... uh, hmm... RIM which is dying. Three and a half is a "ton?" The more OSes there are, the better. The farther away from a monoculture the harder it is to write malware.

    • by UPZ (947916)
      To be gained from Firefox OS is an operating system that neither sacrifices privacy or cost. Android may be "free", but in return google tracks everything you do on the phone.
    • Then it fails. At least some is trying something new and making something that is really open and not just some cheap ploy to lure nerds into letting an advertising company track their every action.
    • If focusing on this OS slows the Mozilla Corporation’s progress of fucking up Firefox completely and irrecoverably, then let them make it. That is, assuming they haven't already reached the point of total destruction (they're at least getting there).

      That said... I think the idea of another Linux-based OS for cell phones is pretty interesting, and it could actually be a worthy alternative to Android if done right. The problem is, of course, as you pointed out, the stiff competition they'll face with

    • So have you switched back to chrome now ?
  • by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:46AM (#42040879) Homepage

    ... does it better. And chromeos is already moving along pretty quickly and will have a lot of apps from the gate.

  • They're waiting for manufacturers to ship smartphones with 16GB of RAM before release.
  • Opera OS. That shit is going to be off the hook.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wait. They just released v.200.1

  • by Evro (18923) *

    I had a professor - an Emacs fan - who had a saying, "all software will eventually expand until it can send and receive email." It seems that needs to be amended to "all software will expand until it becomes an operating system."

  • Firefox OS Simulator is an prototype test environment

    They even made an untested new language called "Prototype English" for it. ;-)

  • Its suggested that Samsung tablets are designed by Lawyers to get around Apples stupid design patents [I think ironically by Apples Lawyers]. I know round is the shape of the Firefox Logo, but its an incredibly wasteful shape. I cannot believe that Apple have succeeded in effectively corned the market of square boxes with round corners...its an icon theme at best. I'd rather have no standard shape than a stupid one, even with lasy App develops keeping one [often fuzzy]icon from iOS [A personal hatred of min

  • The world doesn't need another way to arrange apps in a grid. I think that Mozilla has put zero innovation into this, only doing so because they can.

    I would like to see people spending some time trying to come up with new paradigms for mobile operating systems other then to simply arrange icons (rounded or otherwise) in a grid.

    When every OS is basically regurgitating the same ideas, concepts, and essentially provide access to exactly the same content, the idea of multiple vendors is irrelevant. Firefox OS

    • by admdrew (782761)

      doing so because they can.

      Some of the best innovation in technology has happened due to this specifically.

      I, for one, am excited to see what Mozilla can do with this.

  • They release this one day before Jolla will unveil their continuation of Meego: Sailfish OS, which likely will be a highly open platform as well. http://jollatides.com/2012/11/20/24-hours-to-go-great-expectations/ [jollatides.com]
  • this is great news.

    I hope the operators DONT fragment it too much and that Mozilla have a plan for handling this aspect within their architecture.
    Fragmentation is the one thing that could kill this effort

    i hope they get the web intents stuff right. That will be vital.

  • by hey (83763)

    I use Firefox. I like it more than Chrome. Chrome just makes tracking my life too easy for Google.
    Performance is fine for me.

    I just tried this new OS simulator. It was a totally easy install - installed inside Firefox.
    The Android simulator too a full day to install and required Eclipse and Java which pretty temperamental and heavy weight.

    The simulator work well for me. I was able to run Firefox inside it and see some websites.
    There's an "Internet Sharing" option which I haven't see on any other phone.

  • Can I develop for it using a conventional programming language and API, without having to care about appalling things like "browsers" or "server- vs. client-side"?

    If not, forget it. If yes, great news and I hope to see it soon on a phone nearby.

  • Why do we need a firefox OS? The idea seems to be absurd. A web browser is a web browser, not a window system, not an OS. Whatever happened to the good Unix philosophy? Why can't firefox just run on the Linux kernel and use X for the windows? No need to reinvent the wheel here.

  • Why is the UI IDENTICAL to Android?
    Using the simulator felt like using a slightly more responsive Android, but the UX still sucks, and is completely unintuitive.

    Didn't we learn anything from WebOS, Maemo, and Meego?

  • You are such a whiny bunch, sometimes I wonder I am still on slashdot...

    I mean, if we can be happy with a zillion Linux OS alone, then we can be happy with many mobile OS, I mean, it's the same thing. Choice to fit all, right? Not mention all the other alternatives (Haiku, React OS etc...)

    I *like* it, and promote it, just like I like and promote Jolla's Sailfish OS, and Tizen and whatever else is out there... because more competition means a happy *me* (consumer).

    I have a couple of smaller Android phones (~

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