Amazon sets up shop for Web Apps

Amazon_120Amazon has announced that it will now be making “HTML5 Web Apps” available through its Appstore. But before you start packaging your web site into a commercial earner, there’s quite a few caveats to the term “Web App”. Firstly, the apps only come down the wire where there’s Appstore apps to sell them to you, so thats Kindle Fires and Android devices. No word on how the rest of the web is supposed to get access to these web apps.

Secondly, on Kindle, there’s a Chromium-based web runtime which apart from offering some of the usual HTML5 components and the ability to debug apps on-device, does seem to be missing out on webgl, ms pointer events, fullscreen API, camera and microphone access, accelerometer, geolocation, gyroscope and network controls on all the Kindle devices. Up front pricing for apps doesn’t seem to be on the agenda, but a JavaScript version of Amazon’s In-App Purchasing API is now available so app developers can slowly relieve the users of their money with funny money, virtual upgrades and subscriptions.

Still, Amazon does seem to be getting a foot in the door of “HTML5 Web App” publishing. The real question is… do customers actually want web apps. Amazon says it takes care of all the content delivery through the Appstore and will be listing the web apps next to the native apps in the store so they may be hoping that customers, not shown the difference, will not notice any difference. Let’s come back to that in three or four months and see how what review scores are like.

Snippets: Web Storage, VP8, Objective-C Style, Dead Code

  • Web Storage API: The W3C have moved the Web Storage API to the Recommendation stage which means its pretty much done and in as a standard. The API gives web applications a local key/value store in the browser. The user typically has to grant permission for storage and its strictly limited to a maximum of between 2.5 and 10MB though that has been abusable. Web Storage should though provide a handy tool for application developers. The only problem is that the EU “Cookie law” was worded to cover a variety of local storage methods; whether the permission request and lack of third party access pass muster with legal folk we will see…
  • VP8 vs Nokia: It seems Nokia lost out in German courts where it was bringing a case against HTC that included a claim that VP8 infringed a Nokia patent. According to a blog posting from the WebM project, a Mannheim court ruled it didn’t infringe. Whether this will change the state of play as Google tries to get VP8 adopted by the IETF and others is unclear though; Nokia presented them with far more than one patent claim.
  • The New York Times Style Guide: No, not for writing articles, but for Objective-C. It’s been developed in-house for their iOS app developers and popped online via Github under an MIT licence.
  • Bring out your dead: Dead code that is. One way of doing this is with a dead code detector and Oracle’s Geertjan Wielenga has a guide for NetBeans users which shows how to use his dead code detector plugin over a range of different project types.

Firefox 23 has landed

Firefox logoThe important things for developers in a rush…

  • Enable JavaScript as a preference setting checkbox is gone. The logic behind this, according to the bug report is “If a user unchecks this box, they’ll effectively render the browser unusable on a large number of sites. We should not ship this option to hundreds of millions of users”. It doesn’t lock JavaScript on though; you can still switch it with about:config, NoScript or similar. There’s just no easy way to turn it off now. Expect a Firefox Add-on in 5-4-3… By the way, if it was set to off, it’ll have been turned back on with FF23.
  • about:memory has been reduced down to a simple UI. Background on that change comes from Mozilla MemShrinker Nicholas Nethercote. In short, it’s a better UI for memory metric measurement and isn’t infested with UI side effects.
  • Mixed content is now blocked. So if you made a site which mixed HTTP and HTTPS content on pages, the insecure content (the HTTP stuff) will be blocked. And if you relied on it, your page will break. Mozilla’s details on the changes also include a link to the master bug for sites that break under this new set up.
  • Developer Tools in Firefox now include a shiny new Network Monitor; a posting from back in May covers that and the other additions (Remote style editor, Options panel to turn tools on and off, source map support for the debugger and more).
  • Oh, yes, the <blink> tag and the text-decoration: blink have been purged from the system. The bad smell that is the <marquee> tag persists and doesn’t seem to have a “remove this” bug entry for it yet. Still, no more <blink> pretty much everywhere now.

And if you needed more reasons to update, Firefox 23 fixes 4 critical and 7 high severity bugs. Details of those, as usual, on the Security Advisories for Firefox page. As usual, autoupdating within Mozilla should get you there. Otherwise, you’ll find all versions here and release-notes here.

Snippets: FreeBSD 9.2, OpenMP 4.0, Apache/OpenSSL, GNOME/Wayland and Fizz Buzz

FreeBSD: FreeBSD 9.2 is on schedule and with the release of 9.2 RC1 is ready for extensive testing. If all goes to plan then we should see a release at the end of August.

OpenMP: From last month but important, the OpenMP 4.0(PDF) specification has been released. The updated API for parallel programming on shared memory systems has support for hardware based accelerators, SIMD handling, new error handling, the ability to set thread affinity, parallel task groups and synchronisation, Fortran 2003 support and more.

Apache/OpenSSL: Want to have the latest OpenSSL with your Apache web server so you can have Forward Secrecy and Elliptic Curve crypto? SSL specialist Ivan Ristić offers a quick guide on how to compile and statically link in the most recent OpenSSL versions so you can.

GNOME/Wayland: Wayland is set to replace X on many Linux distributions, as soon, that is, as the desktop environments support it. At the recent Guadec conference, decisions were made on how GNOME was going to make the transition and Matthias Clasen summarises them – A tech preview of the GNOME shell as Wayland compositor in GNOME 3.10, two binaries, one for X and one for Wayland and migration of input methods put off till the version after 3.10.

Fizz Buzz at scale: Want to know how not to write enterprise code? Fizz Buzz Enterprise Edition shows you how by taking the less loved design habits of enterprise development and applying them, with a shovel, to the Fizz Buzz game.

Linux 3.10 is this year’s Long Term Stable kernel

Greg Kroah-Hartman, master of kernel stable releases, has declared Linux 3.10 to be this years long term stable kernel. That means he’ll be keeping releasing patches for it for “at least two years”, so folks putting together Linux distributions or products based on Linux can count on 3.10 for two years without a need to hop up a version or two to get a fix. Kroah-Hartman also mentions that LTSI, the project which manages a stable patchset for Linux in consumer electronics, is rebasing on 3.10 too.

What’s in 3.10? Thats where we point you to Thorsten Leemhuis’s “What’s new in 3.10” to give you some background.

Tor to be integrated with Firefox?

Discussions appear to have begun on a plan to integrate the Tor anonymous browsing network software with Mozilla’s Firefox. In the wake of the use of a Firefox vulnerability to expose users of Freedom Hosting’s “hidden services” site, Mozilla’s CTO tweeted “Maybe we should just adopt, support, and bundle Tor in Firefox… “. A positive response for the proposal from Jacob Applebaum led to Eich saying he is getting “key Mozillans on board” with the idea.

In the meantime, Tor users should be ensuring their browser bundle is up to date and Firefox users should check they are running the fixed versions, Firefox 17.0.7 ESR or Firefox 22 released at the end of June, which fixed the vulnerability.

Welcome to Codescaling

Hello, and welcome to Codescaling. These are very early days for the big idea, but what we hope to create is a site of interest to coders at all scales, from the smallest embedded systems, the handiest of mobile devices, the still default desktops, the essential servers and the accumulating clouds. Why such a wide coverage? Well, consider how computing has covered all these different scales of system, yet they are often treated as silos of knowledge but at the same time are becoming increasingly interdependent – The mobile phone that relies on servers and clouds, the clouds that use arrays of embedded sensors to build big data, the desktops where the code typically crafted for these applications. So for the rounded coder a handle on all the goings on should be useful, and thats what Codescaling.com hopes to offer.

Who is the we? At the moment, it’s just me, Dj Walker-Morgan, aka @codepope, former editor in chief of The H, and before that a developer of code for twenty five years earning a living doing X when it was new, Unix when it was balkanised, 6502 when it was in the PET, Java when they said it’d never fly, Python when it was the “cute thing with whitespace” and many others.

So, pop this site in your RSS feed or come back and visit as we … scale up.

Dj