Tag Archive | "firefox"

Toshiba AC100 Ubuntu Demo Video

Open Office on AC100You might have caught my excited tweets and posts about getting Ubuntu running on the AC100 over the last few days and if so, you might be starting to realize how close these ‘smart’ books or ARM-based netbooks, effectively smartphones in a netbook-style case, are getting to the netbook experience. The overall experience is certainly not ready for the average customer but take this video as a demonstrator that 1) Processing power is significantly better with dual-core devices to the point where Web browsing is not slow 2) A productive experience is possible through Linux applications 3) that the AC100 is well positioned as a device for further hacks. MeeGo, Android 3.0, Chrome OS and other Linux builds included.  At 800gm for 4hrs productivity, Intel need to take note. I’m definitely looking forward to see if the same hacking process works on the Toshiba Folio 100 tablet.

Before you watch the video though, note that there are problems.

  • 512MB RAM – Ubuntu 10.10 netbook build needs to be a lot slimmer for the AC10. 512MB might work if swap space was fast (not on the SD card.)
  • Battery life – The AC100 is lasting 4 hours but should last 6 or more. A big part of the problem is the lack of screen brightness control – it’s on 100%, all the time. Also, Linux is very uncontrolled when it comes to networking and disk access too and with 152 process running (gulp!) I doubt there’s a moment’s silence for the silicon inside the device. Take the iPad as a benchmark in this area because with a similar size screen and battery it’s getting 10hrs or more.
  • You can’t run a full Linux build from an SD card without disk access blocking from time to time.
  • No sound, video, 3D graphics support or WebCam at the moment as far as I can tell.
  • Installation requires flashing the BootROM of the AC100 – A risky process
  • I’ve seen a few too many crashes.

For HOW-TO articles on how to do this, see the forums mentioned in this post.

Update: Toshiba have obviously taken notice of this work as they’ve allocated someone to take a closer look at it.

Again, this isn’t a solution that anyone could use on a day-to-day basis yet but I regard this as a seminal moment for ARM-based ‘netbooks’ because it’s the first time I’ve ever been able to efficiently run my desktop work processes (Web apps, blogging, image editing, twitter) on an ARM-based device. With the doors open now, I expect the AC100 to get picked up by quite a few hackers in the coming weeks and for progress to accelerate even faster. My testing continues but i’ll refrain from posting further articles on Carrypad unless anything significant happens.

MeeGo Demolishes Android 2.2 in Javascript Test

Note: Article title is a tounge-in-cheek reference to a recent ARSTechnica article. See below for the real story. It’s actually all about the browser engine and platform, not the OS.

As I begin a series of tests on the Aava prototype phone today, the first thing I wanted to get out of the way was a Sunspider javascript test. It’s CPU-intensive and forms an important part of the chain of events that take place to get a web application displayed on your browser. Yes, it’s one of many variables but it’s a good indicator of CPU performance.

I’ve been recording SunSpider tests for a long time now (feel free to contribute to that list) and have been very impressed by the way that both hardware and software improvements have brought the figures down. In the ARM-based world, the best-in-class devices are producing SunSpider results in less than 10 seconds (iPad, iPhone 4) with some new devices even reaching down to sub 6 seconds [See title reference.] In the world of Intel, netbooks are producing Sunspider results of about 2 seconds (using the latest Chrome build.)

SunScript - Netbook_ Morestown Phone.JPG

Click to enlarge.

Above is the result for the Aava phone I’m testing at the moment. 4215ms. It runs on Intel’s Moorestown platform at 1.5Ghz and uses the same CPU as you find in netbooks. Running Sunspider on the latest Firefox build on the netbook and the Firefox Mobile build on the MeeGo-based Aava phone you can see the difference is marginal. 4.2 seconds for a prototype phone is quite impressive. The figures confirm the CPU speed and also confirm that the sunspider score is likely to drop to around 2 seconds with the latest Chrome or Android browser build. Try Sunspider on your phone or PC browser to see what score you get. For reference, I use a ultra mobile PC as my desktop PC. It runs a 1.6Ghz Atom CPU and returns a score of about 4.1s. True desktop PCs will come in at below 0.5s

We really are talking PC-power here but there are two things we must not forget. 1) Multi-core ARM-based devices are round the corner too. A dual-core 1.2Ghz Snapdragon platform is likely to reach right down to the 2-3s range. 2) We must also remember that if you were to run this test continuously on these high-power platforms, you are likely to have a dead phone in just a few hours!

UMPC Product Awards 2009


2009 was, again,  a tough year for designing, building and selling UMPCs. Windows Vista continued to drag down performance and the economic situation meant that many UMPCs didn’t reach the market. Despite that, the advances we’ve seen in 2009 have been some of the best ever. Performance was boosted with the availability of high-speed SSD drives. Battery life was improved through the use of the Intel Menlow platform and market pressure meant that the price/performance ratio took a huge step forward. In one of our videos this year I talked about ‘double the battery life, for half the price.’ That’s how far we’ve come since 2006 but into that equation go more features like GPS, 3G, haptic feedback, better designs, silent operation and lighter weight. Only last week, Fujitsu launched the UH900 which makes it, if our database serves us correctly, the first 5.6 inch ultra mobile PC to break the 500gm barrier. Amazing.

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N900 Web Browsing (+Video)

One of the key focal-points of the N900, and one it does better than any other smartphone I’ve seen to date, is the browsing experience. Fast, reliable and supporting a full flash plugin on an 800×480 screen with finger-focused controls it tries to do what desktops do, in a fraction of the size.

Like other small-screen browsers it has the same screen real-estate issues where pixels don’t help. Fingers cover large areas of the screen when browsing. Top and bottom toolbars hide 30% of the content area and standard web fonts require a zoom to read and reduce the size of the effective window even further. Until we get to the stage where expandable screens become thin, cheap and reliable enough to design into a pocketable device, the issue will remain.

Given the constraints, Nokia, the Maemo teams and partners have done a good job. It will get better too as Fennec becomes available next year and includes features like slide-in/out toolbars, synchronization features and plugin support and then, in 2010, better again when Flash 10.1 is introduced and enables 3D and video playback improvements.

Here’s the situation today though. In the video you’ll see standard web sites, flash, javascript and embedded video working well.

Update on Fennec from the Maemo Summit

I’m a big fan of Weave, Mozilla’s sync technology and i inchm interested in Firefox too. Putting the two together in a mobile device is just mobile web heaven!

Mozilla are here at the Maemo summit and are presenting information on Fennec, the weave, plugin and awesome bar-enabled mobile browser. Click the images for larger versions.


The awesome bar helps reduce typing once it’s populated with history and search results. Weave adds instant-history to that.


Pull-in side-bars keep screen space used for the web page.


tabbed browsing and memory management along with image icons help use multiple pages simultaneously.


One of the biggest features of Firefox – add-ons. Add-ons will be supported and Mozilla are working on improved memory management and security in this area.


Weave. Ties together configuration and history from desktop and mobile PCs


Beta 4 is out already (and will be in the Maemo ‘Extras’ area on the N900 very soon.

Full version will be available before the end of the year for Maemo 5.

Improve your UMPC performance….for free.

Loox U with desktop screen

I’m sitting here in front of a huge 1920×1080 screen with a 1280×800 screen as an extended display. Windows 7 is running and I’ve got 10 Firefox tabs open, Windows Media player, Tweetdeck, Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Mesh, Windows Paint and Windows Live Writer running. (Love those Windows Live apps!) It’s all running smoothly on the tiny Fujitsu Loox U (U820/U2010) in 1GB RAM.

The last time I was able to do this was with the 1.8Ghz version of  the OQO 2+  but it wasn’t as smooth as this. Why?

1 – OS

2 – Fast SSD

3 – NoScript

Point 1. Windows 7 is better than Vista. No argument.  The second point is also well known. A fast SSD helps with program and file access. It also helps with swap files when, in situations like this, you’ve used up all your memory. I’ll talk more about the (awesome) Runcore Pro IV that i’ve got installed, in another post. (Hint: 80MB+ max read speed)

The last point is something I’ve talked about before but can now highlight in a very very simple way.

With 10 tabs running on Firefox, the chances are that you’re using a few heavy ajax or flash-based sites. It should be no secret that web browsing is one of the most CPU intensive tasks you can do on a device and even if you’ve got windows minimised, it’s still using the CPU in the background.

Enter Noscript.

I’ve used Noscript in the past to optimise my browsing experience and there are other, more scientific tests that highlight the advantages but today, because of the dual screen setup I have here, the effect is extremely pronounced.These two CPU graphs taken over about 2 minutes of browsing, show the difference.

Before. Browsing websites. Hitting CPU limits. You can see the typical heartbeat of a flash animation.


After. Browsing websites. CPU not hitting limits. Average utilization is much much less and that heartbeat has gone. A few more processes running in this test too.


Side-by-side view:

 beforenoscript (2) afternoscript (2)

The difference is huge, very noticeable and within 2 minutes of installing NoScript, the fan turned off. It’s firing up every now and again but it’s not pegged on like it was before. As I type this I have 12 tabs open, the Firefox process is averaging 4.5%. I’ve done tests like this in the past and seen the CPU averaging 15-20%.

Bloggers and advertisers will hate you for it but if you’re using a UMPC, it’s one of the best CPU/Battery life/heat/noise savers there is out there. And it’s free.

Pause when minimised.

There’s something else that can be learned from this. When using web-based applications, there is no such thing as a device in standby. ARM and Intel would do well to encourage desktop browser developers to enable an optional ‘pause when minimised’ feature (there’s a reason that the iPhone doesn’t multi-task) . It will have a huge effect on the mobile web experience. If it saves as much as I’ve just seen it would be more significant for the mobile web than a couple of years of technology development. I vote for Opera 11 to have this feature. Combined with ‘Turbo’ it would make Opera the best browser for mobile computers.

Mobile Firefox (Fennec Beta 1) demo [video]

fennec The first beta of Mozilla’s mobile focused browser was recently released, and provided that it runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux, I thought I’d give it a try on my Sony VAIO UX180 [Portal page]. I flipped the unit into portrait mode and recorded a quick demo of the action. I’m pretty impressed so far and I like the interface. They still have some work to do and it will be really interesting to see how good of a web experience you can have on a Linux powered device (like the N810 [Portal page]) with lots of familiar Firefox addons running in conjunction with Fennec. Check out the video below:

Fennec + Moblin2 news.

fennec Fennec, the small-screen version of Firefox, is important for ultra mobile fans. Not just because its a small-screen, finger-optimised browser but because it has been chosen as one of the browser options (the other being Firefox 3) for Moblin 2, the latest version of the Intel-led core operating system for MIDs planned for first release in Spring 2009.

Fennec has support for add-ons but unfortunately, it doesn’t support the mainstream add-ons that are available for the Daddy of the pack, Firefox 3. Thank goodness people are starting to jump on board then because add-ons help a lot with individual tailoring, an important part of the ‘personal’ part of the ultra mobile PC equation. ReadWriteWeb reports that the URL Fixer add-on is now ready.

Exactly what the add-on does isn’t really as important as the signal it sends out to developers and adopters. Fennec is starting to gain traction and awareness amongst developers.

clutter For more about the browser choices on Moblin check out this part of the Moblin website. While you’re there, don’t miss the clutter user interface demo video. Clutter is the new 3D-capable UI architecture that will replace Hildon. The demo looks fantastic. Oh, one more thing I noticed. It looks like they are working on open source hardware-driven video decoding based on libva APIs. In fact the whole Moblin project is looking far more organised than it was 6 months ago and there’s quite a few exciting things to check out on the site if you’re interested in Atom-based MIDs.

Remember though, Moblin 2 is for OEMs to brand and enhance.  Its not an end-users distro.

Use bookmark keywords in Firefox to reduce key presses

Like most people, I’m a big fan of anything that will save time. I find that there are many shortcuts to assist us in the way we interact with our computers that will help us work more efficiently. Firefox is definitely my most used application and thus I utilize many of its tricks and shortcuts. A while back at MPCT, I shared a trick to help squeeze more bookmarks into your bookmark bar. This is especially helpful for mobile computers running at lower resolutions. Similarly, I hope this trick helps people increase the speed at which they can access sites from small computers, such as those with painful to type on keyboards… (continue reading)

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Firefox 3 download day World Record attempt.

Firefox is my recommendation for any device running a ‘low-end’ platform due to its speed and reduced memory footprint and I encourage everyone reading this website to make sure they test out the release candidate ASAP and download the final  version when its  available. If the fact that it’s fast isn’t enough for you, how about being a part of a world record attempt?


Mozilla wants as many people as possible to try and download it in the first 24 hours of it being available.

Via The Register, who point out that there is no current record holder for this new category.  Hmmmm!

Speedtest. Firefox 3 Recommended for UMPCs and Netbooks


Most, if not all of you reading this will have heard of the Firefox browser and many of you will have tried Firefox 3.0 beta. I held back from using it for a long time because it was beta software but the latest release candidate seems stable and has me converted on all platforms now. Firefox 3.0 is fast. Firefox 3.0 is memory efficient. Firefox 3.0 has great features and overall its a clear winner on ultra mobile PC and netbook platforms, especially when using online applications.

Like Safari, it appears from my test results that Firefox 3.0 can process java-heavy pages on a Ghz-class ultra mobile PC faster than the data arrives over my 6mbps Internet connection which means that for rich Internet applications, the bottleneck is at the remote server and there’s very little else you can do to speed up the experience. Apparently, java processing in FF3 is many many times faster than in version 2 so this explains the big improvement with online applications. Not only is the speed improved but there are some great features that will appeal to ultra mobile PC users too. But first, here’s some test results. I took 5 devices and ran speed tests on 3 browsers [*1] using reader.google.com as the target page. It’s a java-heavy page and there’s no flash or major numbers of images to process but its typically my slowest-loading browser application. It represents a typical online application and for web-workers, its a good, tough benchmark.

More info after the jump…

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