Check out Firefox OS with an Add-on for Firefox

Check out Firefox OS with an Add-on for Firefox

By | October 5th, 2012
1 Comment on Check out Firefox OS with an Add-on for Firefox

If you have been itching to have a look at Mozilla’s upcoming smartphone

operating system Firefox OS you now have the perfect opportunity to try it

out. Mozilla has released an extension that lets you test the OS on your

own computer in an emulator.


														               
							 	 						

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If you have been itching to have a look at Mozilla’s upcoming smartphone operating system Firefox OS you now have the perfect opportunity to try it out. Mozilla has released an extension that lets you test the OS on your own computer in an emulator.

For those who haven’t been following this new OS, it is an effort by Mozilla to create and open, and open source mobile operating system. The aim of Firefox OS is to provide a platform that allows pure web-based applications to run on the system, and behave like native apps would on any other phone. Part of that involves crating new web standard APIs that give web developers access to native device features, from access to the camera and microphone to mundane things like battery levels and vibration. Web apps will be able to send SMS messages, initiate calls and much more.

Firefox OS itself has multiple layers, with the amusing names of Gonk, Gecko and Gaia. Gonk is the lowermost level including the kernel and base functionality. Running on top of Gonk, is Gecko, which you might recall is the name of the rendering engine used by Firefox, like WebKit is for Google Chrome. Running on top of Gecko is Gaia, the actual user interface of Firefox OS, including basic applications such as the home screen, dialler and SMS application. Also running on top of Gecko along with Gaia any user-installed applications. Essentially the whole OS and all applications run on a browser.

Since Gaia—the user interface of Firefox OS— and all applications are running on a browser, why can’t they simply be run directly on Firefox itself? Well, the answer is they can, to a degree. Some of the device APIs are not available on the standard Firefox build though, so you need a special build of Gecko. These builds of Gecko have been available for a while now, after all Mozilla works in the open. It is possible to get all layers of Firefox OS including Gaia, so you can take your own “exclusive” screenshots of Mozilla’s OS by running it on your computer. Emulators of Boot2Gecko / Firefox OS are available that provide the Gecko layer of Firefox OS, allowing you to run it on Windows, Linux or Mac.

Until now, however, that was a slightly complex process requiring you to build a Gaia profile, and point Boot2Gecko builds to it. Now Mozilla developers have made an add-on that can be installed on Firefox, allowing you to launch Boot2Gecko directly from Firefox.

The extension, called r2d2b2g is rather large, about 50MB although it does contain an entire OS and its emulator. The emulator isn’t exactly emulating a device, rather it is just a build of Gecko which has some device APIs enabled. The emulator is specific to the platform you use, so it is important to install the correct one. While the extension is available for Windows, Linux (32-bit) and Mac, currently the Window build of Boot2Gecko is broken, and crashes on launch each time, if you are using one of the other two platforms, you can check it out though.

The latest version of the extension can be downloaded from this location.

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Kshitij Sobti
Inserted into Kshitij's motivation banks is a particularly strong desire for justice. It's sad then, that he wastes his skills gaming, watching TV, and for the mundane task of writing prose. He tweets
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