English version of German macnews.de Interview

I did an interview with macnews.de, but they only posted it in German. Here is the English version:

macnews.de: Josh, first up, tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you do before becoming a Mozilla foundation employee, both for Camino and private? How did it come to your hiring?

Josh Aas: I started doing some hypercard programming at the age of 12 or 13. When I was 15 years old (1998) I started writing websites and web applications in perl for local businesses and some larger companies. I worked on web applications for the next couple of years as a job in high school, but I had slowly transitioned to applications programming by the time I was in college. I wrote some freeware and shareware applications in Objective-C using the Cocoa API on Mac OS X when it came out, including LineBreak, iTunes Publisher, and TextForge. Working on those applications wasn’t fulfilling enough because I wanted to be part of something bigger, so I found a project that I felt was important, challenged me, and that I liked working on – Mozilla. I started messing around compiling Mozilla on a Mac in 2001, within a year or two I was fixing bugs. By 2003 I was actively working on Camino, and over 2004 I spent quite a bit of my time on the project. I am also interested in Linux and systems programming, so I worked as an intern at Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI) in their Linux System Software group for about 8 months in 2004 and 2005. I worked on the Linux kernel and core utilities, as well as some clustering software. SGI is a really great company, and so is the Mozilla Foundation, so I feel pretty lucky in terms of my employers.

macnews.de: You’re only part time at the moment, right?

Aas: Yes – I am part time until I finish school in May. I am still pretty busy with school, so I don’t work too often at the moment. More than a few hours per week if I’m lucky.

macnews.de: What work will you concentrate on?

Aas: All things concerning Firefox, Thunderbird, and the Mozilla toolkit on the Mac really. My highest priorities at the moment are fixing some of the worst UI bugs in Firefox on the Mac, fixing native-looking Mac widgets (and getting Firefox to use them perhaps), and Cairo rendering on Mac OS X. The first two things in that list have simply been neglected for too long, and Cairo rendering is looking like the future of Mozilla rendering on Mac OS X. It will be really exciting if/when that works, because among other things it means faster rendering via the Quartz API.

macnews.de: So you’re more into the Mac Firefox than the Camino project? Who’s doing that?

Aas: I will still work on important Camino components as an MF employee. I will be working on Camino-specific code less, but that isn’t necessarily where the most important work needs to be done anyway. For example – better form widgets and Quartz rendering will help both Camino and Firefox (as well as Thunderbird). That said, I probably won’t be able to keep myself from working on Camino more than I should because I like it so much.

As for Camino-specific code, there is still a very capable group of developers working on it. Mike Pinkerton, Simon Fraser, Geoff Beier, Ludovic Hirlimann, Nate Weaver, Julian Pellico, Jasper Hauser, Bruce Davidson, Asaf Romano, and I are all active at the moment.

macnews.de: Do you think the Mac version of Firefox is good enough yet? What has to be done?

Aas: Good enough for what? If it was the only browser available for Mac OS X it would get the job done nicely. If you want features that only Firefox has, then it does a great job (RSS integration, extensions). If you have standard browsing needs and you want an everyday browser, then there are better options out there at the moment. Firefox has a ways to go in terms of looking and feeling like a native Mac application (though it is coming along nicely). It can also be a bit slow, particularly while launching, and has some bugs that are the result of major architectural problems with the Mozilla toolkit on Mac OS X. All of this stuff is fixable, and Firefox is going to rock soon.

macnews.de: Camino now has its own homepage and seems to be getting “more serious”. Would you say that too?

Aas: The new home page is a great example of volunteers doing important things other than coding. I’d say Camino is getting more serious in the sense that we are learning from past mistakes at the leadership, coordination, and coding levels. Having a good website is something we’ve neglected to invest time in for too long, and that has been remedied now.

macnews.de: Will you work on Thunderbird too?

Aas: Yes. I probably won’t look at it until I am full-time though.

macnews.de: Mozilla 1.8 has been canceled. Do you think that’s sad or logical?

Aas: I don’t see a place for the Mozilla suite in the future. I don’t think it makes sense to invest time in it any more as there are more important projects to work on right now. Mostly that includes Firefox, Thunderbird, and the integrated Mail/Calendar app I keep hearing about. If somebody wants to maintain the Mozilla suite in their spare time without the full support of Mozilla Foundation, good for them. Knock yourself out.

macnews.de: The Mac version of Mozilla was never very good, at least in fixing bugs like enabling the middle mouse button…

Aas: The Mac platform has always been a second-class citizen for Mozilla.org. Nobody kids themselves otherwise. Its simply a matter of resources, and that is pretty much why I was hired.

macnews.de: The Mac browser world is pretty crowded. Safari is very popular and pretty usable, especially with add-ons like Saft. Do you think there’s enough space for both Camino and Firefox?

Aas: Absolutely.

macnews.de: So no plans to cancel it at some point? 😉

Aas: Definitely not. It is so far from being canceled at the moment that the mere speculation is causing us more harm than anything else.

macnews.de: Give us arguments for Camino and for Firefox.

Aas: Camino development has always focused on ease of use, and that shows. It is developed by Mac OS X users specifically for Mac OS X users (its native Mac OS X UI makes for a great user interface experience). Camino launches really quickly, and it renders web pages really quickly as well. I haven’t used any web browser on Mac OS X that seems faster.

Firefox has integrated RSS and a wonderful extension system. It also has some features that Camino lacks at the moment, such as form autofill. It is getting better quickly.

Firefox and Camino share lots of great features that I didn’t mention. I only mentioned things that are different between the two. For more information, I suggest just downloading them and seeing for yourself 🙂 Or check out Camino’s spiffy new website, http://www.caminobrowser.org.

macnews.de: But it still seems odd that both browsers are competing.

Aas: I don’t think it is odd because they have different markets. Camino is probably always going to be more for the average Mac OS X junkie that wants an awesome Mac OS X user experience with a focus on ease of use. Once Camino has its bases covered (version 1.0?) its developers will be able to spend more time innovating, and who knows where that will go. They are free to ignore other browsers and other platforms entirely. It also means that there will be more options on Mac OS X, which is always a good thing. Firefox is going to continue to innovate in its own ways, and should bring some really awesome features to the table (it already has!). Its UI will probably never used genuine native Mac OS X widgets, but that can be a plus in many ways as it allows for more flexibility. And non-native widgetry can be made to look a whole lot like the real thing – I’m working on it 🙂

macnews.de: As a last question, how do you feel about Mac OS X currently? It’s pretty “hip”, isn’t it? Do you think more and more Switchers are coming over?

Aas: Mac OS X is really nice. In terms of UI functionality, it is second to none. And it is screaming fast despite all the eye candy – impressive. I have used Macs for a decade now and I love them (I also use Linux a lot, and I love that too). I think Mac OS X is definitely going to gain users at Microsoft’s expense, and at this point that is a Good Thing. My biggest worry about Mac OS X is that if Apple gets the chance to be the next Microsoft, they will be. We need a new way to do things in the personal computing industry, not just another huge proprietary company running the whole show. Who knows if Apple and Microsoft can share the market in any meaningful way.

macnews.de: Josh, thanks for your time.


5 thoughts on “English version of German macnews.de Interview

  1. The German version on macnews.de is also shortened. The editor skipped for example the first two questions.

    Great that you made available the complete interview!

  2. “If you want features that only Firefox has, then it does a great job (RSS integration, extensions).”

    Since when is Firefox the only web browser with RSS integration and extensions?

  3. Yes well I am still waiting to hear just how widgets,lauchers and extensions can be insulated from embedded code which makes my life hell in a handbasket….

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