about:mozilla newsletter launched + story submissions

about:mozilla, Evangelism, Work No Comments


This past Monday we celebrated the launching of the about:mozilla weekly newsletter, bringing you the latest news and announcements from across the breadth of the Mozilla Project. The current archive of the inaugural issue is here.

Many people helped with this project, including: Mike Shaver, Mark Finkle, John Resig, Eric Shepherd, Paul Kim, Vlad Vukicevic, Mary Colvig, John Slater, and David Rolnitzky. Thanks to all.

If you would like to subscribe to the about:mozilla newsletter, you can do so via the about:mozilla sign-up form.

Story submissions
The deadline for getting submissions in for next Monday’s issue is coming up fast (tomorrow afternoon)! If there are things you would like to see included in the newsletter, please send them to: mozilla-news-submissions (at) mozilla.org.

If you would like to give us feedback about the newsletter, please send it to: news-editor (at) mozilla.org.

Games, games, games

Games, Hobbies 10 Comments


We’ve been playing more non-computer games and it’s awesome. Included: Settlers of Catan (pictured above), Catan card game, and Munchkin. I’ve had some other games recommended to me lately but haven’t had a chance to really look into them at all. If you know of some kickass boardgames we should try (2-6 players, with 3-4 being the priority), leave a comment.

Productivity, redux

Productivity 2 Comments

A while back I blogged a grandiose scheme for reclaiming my fragmented attention stream. These plans included such things as separating work and personal mail completely, and checking each only during the appropriate time; minimizing meetings (both number and length); killing Twitter; minimizing IRC; organizing feeds; and so forth.

I have managed to do many of these things, discovered that others are too restrictive and unrealistic, and added a few other things to the list. Overall the experiment is going swimmingly — I feel much, much more focused, productive, relaxed, and happy with what I’m accomplishing.

Here’s a rundown of what didn’t work, what did, and the new things I’m trying.

Didn’t work

Work and personal email: Trying to separate work and personal mail and maintain some pretense of “regular business hours” when figuring out when to pay attention to which was a failure from the get go. I’ve been working from home for three years and I love my job — the lines between “work” and “life” are blurred beyond recognition. And I kinda like it that way.

Minimizing IRC: IRC is one of the primary discussion and communication channels in the Mozilla Project. If you really want a better sense of what’s going on around the project, you have to join more channels, not fewer. I’ve found an IRC client (Linkinus) that deals with large numbers of channels better than XChat, which is helping.

Did work

Minimizing meetings: I now have three standing meetings per week, accounting for roughly three hours of my time. I had three meetings in addition to that in the past week, but each was under 15 mins in length (with further followup via email). The rest of my time is my own, and I have two full days that are entirely meeting-free. Having huge blocks of uninterrupted time? Turns out it’s awesome.

Killing Twitter: I regressed on this one for a while and reinstalled Twitter for a few weeks, but have just killed it completely now. It really is nothing but noise.

Organizing feeds: This works like a charm. I do occasionally flip through my non-work feeds during the week, but for the most part I save them for evenings or weekends.

Unplugging: This is a bit of a misnomer now, since “unplugging” doesn’t actually mean “getting away from the machines”. It does, however, mean “getting completely away from work stuff” for at least a couple of hours per day. This is where I watch a few episodes of Buffy while playing EverQuest2, for example, or catch up with the week’s TV shows. It’s really no more complicated than giving myself permission to just ignore work for a few hours a day (and more on weekend), but it works. I recommend it highly.

New stuff I’m trying

Killing Facebook: I am no longer using Facebook at all. Not only did I shut off all notifications, I actually “disabled” my account. No more vampire invitations for me! Honestly, if people want to contact me they know how to find me without Facebook.

OmniFocus: The good folks at the OmniGroup have released the first public beta of OmniFocus — their personal productivity and organization app. It’s great. I’ll be pre-ordering it to take advantage of the price reduction.

Spaces: The new Spaces feature of OSX is fantastic. I only have two spaces set up right now — one for my regular mass of apps (IM, IRC, OmniFocus, feed reader, regular browsing, etc.) and one that’s completely empty except for whatever app I’m using to accomplish a task (usually TextMate or Firefox). Being able to just flip-flip-flip between workspaces and clear out all the distraction is just brilliant.

about:mozilla newsletter submission deadline today!

about:mozilla, Mozilla, Work No Comments

Just a reminder that today is the deadline for submitting items for next Monday’s inaugural issue of the about:mozilla newsletter! Turns out 200 words is actually pretty long, so I’m going to reduce that to a maximum of 150 words, with at least one link for more information. Those of you who have already submitted items: don’t worry about resubmitting.

Send submissions to mozilla-news-submissions@mozilla.org.

Some folks have been asking if the newsletter content will be available anywhere other than email, and I’m happy to say that it will! We will be posting the main newsletter content to the DevNews weblog which will also be picked up on planet.mozilla.org. The about:mozilla-only RSS feed is available here. (It’s currently empty, of course.)

For those of you who aren’t reading this because you’re eating turkey: Happy Thanksgiving.

Newsletter news: the name, the schedule, and how to sign up!

Evangelism, Mozilla, Work 20 Comments


As I’ve previously discussed on this blog, the Mozilla Evangelism team is starting an experimental newsletter targeted at our contributor community. A “contributor” is anyone, anywhere, that is interested in and helps with any Mozilla project — we’ll be talking about Firefox development, Thunderbird work, new releases from all kinds of projects, Bug Days, meetings (oh the meetings), schedules, Spread Firefox events, conferences, Developer Days, and so much more.

The Name

The name we’ve decided to use for the newsletter is “about:mozilla”. This deceptively simple name was suggested by none other than our very own Graydon Hoare.

The Service

We have also confirmed that we’ll be using MailChimp as our initial newsletter signup, management, and delivery service. MailChimp has a set of domains involved with their service, including: campaign-archive.com and list-manage.com. I’m mentioning this only so everyone’s aware that not everything related to MailChimp is located at mailchimp.com.

The Schedule

The first issue of about:mozilla will be published November 26, 2007. Yes, folks, that’s next Monday! Less than a week away!

We’re planning to publish the newsletter every Monday morning (Eastern time, hopefully, Pacific time at the very least). This should give readers enough time to check out the calendar for the week before missing any of the meetings and events.

How to submit news

If you have something — a meeting, event, announcement, release, note, or anything else — that you think should be mentioned in the about:mozilla newsletter, please send it to mozilla-news-submissions@mozilla.org. If you have questions or comments for the editor (right now that’s me), the email address is news-editor@mozilla.org.

We welcome submissions from any contributors from any part of the Mozilla community, but we cannot promise that we will publish every submission we receive. Submissions should be succinct (200 words or less), of general interest to our community-at-large, and should include at least one link to more information or details.

Submission deadline: I’m setting a submission deadline of Thursday 2pm Pacific time for items to be included in the next Monday’s newsletter. Anything submitted after that will be saved and considered for the next issue.

Sign up now!

The about:mozilla list has been created at MailChimp, and there’s a double opt-in sign up form available here: about:mozilla sign up!.

This is a temporary location for that sign up form, as we will eventually find a home for it somewhere on mozilla.com. If you have any problems signing up please send a note to me at deb@mozilla.com. This is the first time I’ve tested this particular part of the system, so feedback and bug reports are very much appreciated!


links for 2007-11-20

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links for 2007-11-17

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On ebooks and living in the future

Books, Computers, eBooks 20 Comments

Rumour has it that Amazon will be announcing (or possibly even launching) their ebook initiative on Monday. Included with this is their first foray into the world of hardware manufacture with the “Kindle”1 ebook reader.

Earlier this month, the good folks at Bookeen launched (as in: actually shipped) their third-generation ebook reader, appropriately called the “Cybook Gen 3“. I’ve been watching their progress avidly, and the second I heard that the Cybook was shipping my credit card and I leaped into action. Being quick on the draw, I managed to get my order in early enough to get one of the first shipments. Within days (possibly hours) their initial supply had sold out and all other orders were delayed from a Nov 2 ship date to sometime in mid-December.

I received my Cybook (from Paris, via FedEx) on Nov 7 and have been using it daily since. I’ve taken some pictures, which you can view over at my flickr photo set.


It is, as I say, very much like living in the future. There are some rough spots of course, but also some unexpected highlights. Here’s a quick rundown:

Readability: The contrast and resolution on the Cybook are great. I’m really impressed by the clarity and readability. These e-ink based ebook readers do not include a backlight, so you can only read them anywhere you can read a regular book. The Cybook screen is nicely matte, so there’s no glare issue whatsoever. Grade: A-.

Memory: The Cybook comes with 64mb of content memory and has an SD slot for memory expansion. The 2gb of additional memory I’ve added will allow me to put somewhere in the region of 3000-5000 books on it. Grade: A+++ I’m living in the future.

Weight and size: roughly 300g including cover and battery; roughly the same height, width, and thickness as a 300 page regular (non-trade) paperback. Grade: A+.

Battery life: the Bookeen folk estimate that a full charge should last around 8000 page turns. The e-ink technology apparently only draws power when changing what’s displayed, using no power otherwise. At this point I’ve read around 300 pages and the battery indicator is still pegged at 100%. Grade: A+.

Ghosting, page turn speed: Both excellent. I have seen no evidence of ghosting yet, but this may be an issue that takes a few tens of thousand of page turns to appear. I will post an update later if this happens. Page turn speed (the length of time it takes to completely change the display after pushing the button) is excellent. Not instantaneous, but still faster than actually turning a page in a physical book. No complaints here at all. Grade: A-.

Formats: The Cybook allows you to read ebooks in four formats — mobipocket, HTML, PDF, and plaintext. The mobipocket format is, by far, the best. HTML is second best being quite readable with functioning hyperlinks (assuming the hyperlinks are within the same document — these things aren’t hooked up to the internet). Plaintext is OK, but hard-wrapped formats get all messed up — I need to find a script to un-hard-wrap the Gutenberg plaintext files. PDF — well it depends for what size paper the PDF was formatted. If the PDF is formatted to a paperback-sized page, it’s fantastic. If the PDF is formatted to 8.5×11, then it’s utterly illegible with no way to resize the fonts or zoom the pages (that I have found). Grade: A+ for mobipocket, B+ for HTML, B- for plaintext, D for PDF.

User interface: Overall the UI is good, but not great. The “menu” button (which you use to navigate back to the main library screen, set bookmarks, adjust font sizes, etc) is awkwardly placed. The main “select” button is really too clicky — it’s just loud, when it should be silent. The little rubber cover for the USB port is a bit flimsy, doesn’t really get out of the way sufficiently, and is bloody impossible to remove when the cover is on. I am somewhat tempted just to rip it off now and save myself the trouble of dealing with it entirely. Otherwise, the Cybook is great. Grade: B.

Cover: Nicely made, well designed, good fit. Only comes in a somewhat disappointingly ugly brown and costs an extra $40. Hopefully other covers will come available over time. The cover is absolutely essential, however, even though it is brown. Don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise. It’s worth every penny. Grade: A.

Manufacturing quality: The Cybook is well made and feels very solid. I definitely don’t feel as if I have to baby it or be excessively cautious when slinging it into bags or backpacks. The cover helps, of course, and I strongly recommend you buy a cover if you get one of these. Grade: A.

DRM: Buying ebooks (mobipocket format, f.e.) requires that you enter your device PID before you can download the book. This, I assume, is how they’re enforcing Digital Rights Management (DRM), which is just a fancy way of saying “you can’t lend other people your ebooks, ever”. Given that ebooks are currently priced roughly equivalent to physical books, this is an annoying pain in the ass. Publishers are really going to have to rethink the pricing scheme on these things, because paying the same for a DRM’d ebook and a regular physical book is just nonsense. Grade: bullshit.

Overall, I’m very happy with my Cybook. It’s small, light, comfortable to read, and does its job well. Unlike the rumoured Amazon “Kindle”, it doesn’t do wifi or have a keyboard or read email (wtf), but I’m really OK with that. I spend all day on the Internet — when I’m reading it’s quite specifically an opportunity for me to get the hell away from the machines.

I’m very excited by the possibilities Amazon’s ebook initiative may open up. Currently buying ebooks can be challenging — the seller sites tend to be atrocious, and selection is slim. Being able to buy mobipocket-format ebooks through Amazon.com (with all its reviews and whatnot) would be absolutely brilliant. We’ll see what happens on Monday!

1 – “Kindle”, seriously? Def’n: catch fire; cause to start burning. That’s a little Fahrenheit 451 of them.

Writer’s strike

Movies, Television 2 Comments

John August (writer of The Nines, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory among others) has a blog. It’s a really good blog that I’ve been reading for quite a while now. Recently, of course, he’s been on strike, as he’s a member of the Writer’s Guild of America. While he’s not writing movies and such right now, he is writing about the strike, and it’s all very interesting.


links for 2007-11-16

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