Google gets to get on with the business of locking users into their own ecosystem, Yahoo gets to expand the presence of their competing search engine, and Mozilla likely gets paid handsomely for the deal. Win/win.
After reading Nicholas Nethercote’s blog post about using Firefox for one-to-one video calling, I thought I’d try this myself. Note that contrary to what he’s written, the feature (known as “Firefox Hello”) remains in beta as of Firefox 33 being officially released.
The feature is incredibly simple to try out, and seems to “just work”. First, install and run Firefox 34 Beta. Next, locate the “Firefox Hello” feature under the menu:
Firefox will generate a link: simply copy and send this to the remote recipient (who must also be running Firefox Beta):
When they click on the link, you’ll see a notification in Firefox of an incoming call:
Simply click to accept, and hey presto:
You can pop out and expand the call window if needed:
To summarise: no setup needed, point-to-point calling without having to sign up and into a third-party privacy-invading service, and an existing installed base of millions of people. Exciting stuff.
The Thunderbird Conversations add-on by Jonathan Protzenko enables a sophisticated conversation view in Thunderbird plus a whole raft of other goodies. You can read more about the story behind the add-on here and download it from here. It’s a fantastic option for email power users and for those wishing to directly preview PDF content in Thunderbird:
When Mozilla make the tagline of Thunderbird “Reclaim your inbox”, they’re not kidding. If you don’t want to have a conversation-based interface like Gmail’s rammed down your throat, then you can use the stock standard interface. But if you want a conversation view par excellence, this is an add-on that will fit the bill, and then some.
Capping off a nightmare week for standards support and the open web thanks to Google, they have also announced they are dropping support for the CalDAV standard later this year. I’ll have more to write on this topic in the near future (and the general gullability of social networks fanboys who are clueless about why open standards support actually matters), but for now the takeaway for Thunderbird users is that the CalDAV method of connecting to Google Calendar using Thunderbird and Lightning will soon no longer work.
Fortunately and thanks to the outstanding efforts of Philipp Kewisch, Lightning will continue to work with Google Calendar using Google’s non-standard Google Calendar API.
To get this to work, your Thunderbird client will first need the Lightning add-on to be installed and enabled. Next, download and install the Provider for Google Calendar add-on, and restart Thunderbird. Now, when adding a new network calendar you should see an option for Google Calendar:
The address to put in the “Location” field in the above screengrab can be found by using the Google Calendar web interface, at “Settings -> Calendar -> [your calendar name] -> Calendar Address”. Clicking on the “XML” button will display the calendar address to use:
Upon applying the remaining settings your Google Calendar should be up and running in Thunderbird. Due to Google’s assholish disregard for open standards of late, I’d strongly recommend donating to the continued development of the add-on (I have).
A problem I encountered when doing this, and not related to Thunderbird or Lightning, was in trying to import an ICS-format backup of one Google Calendar into another. In short, the following thread describes the problem and the resolution which worked for me:
Whilst working through some Gmail/IMAP/Thunderbird issues a while back, a reader left a comment with a recommendation to check out Postbox, an email client which amongst other things bills itself as “an awesome alternative to Thunderbird”.
As far as I can tell, Postbox is actually a Thunderbird fork, wrapped up in a non-free license with attendant commercial licensing terms and a fraction of the platform support. You get Mac and Windows, and some vague mutterings about demand potentially influencing a future Linux version. UI prettiness aside, a fair number of the advertised goodies seem to have their origins in recent Thunderbird releases, such as improved Gmail support and cloud storage service provider integration. So that’s some of the uniqueness of Postbox already gone.
Regarding the licensing, one of their blog entries entices users to switch to Postbox, highlighting Google’s purchase and subsequent shutdown of the much loved Sparrow email client. Considering Google could just as well purchase Postbox any day of the week they choose, Postbox users depending on proprietary functionality offered by the application would be just as much up shit creek, with no community support in the case of an acquisition and closure.
Licensing and duplication of features compared to Thunderbird notwithstanding, you’d probably expect to get some premium support for the cash shelled out for Postbox, right? Actually, you don’t get any support. That’s right, none. If you look at the Postbox support FAQ, they’ll tell you to read the manual, read Mozilla’s support forums (what?), Google the issue (what the hell??), and at the end of all that:
“Please note that we do not offer one-on-one support offerings to new users at this time. All support efforts are currently dedicated towards providing better documentation and self-help solutions so that our users can more quickly find the answers they need.”
You’d think personalised support would be close to the top of the list of desirable features for any commercial deployment, but apparently the folks at Postbox see it differently…
To recap: proprietary license and associated risks, not free, limited to two operating systems, most features already present in Thunderbird, and no actual support. What are the advantages of this application again? And is Postbox just hanging around in the hope of cashing in with an acquisition itself?
Quick post – the latest update to Oracle Java 7 features Mac OS supported as an equal peer to Windows and Linux – but perhaps more interestingly now includes full JavaFX runtime support in the JRE for Linux. Having cross platform support for Oracle’s next-generation Java UI does finally open up some interesting possibilities for better Java client interfaces than what we’ve generally seen so far.
Screengrab of the JavaFX Ensemble demo app running happily in Firefox on Ubuntu 10.04 x86: