T-Mobile Merging With MetroPCS

Last year T-Mobile tried to merge with AT&T but the deal was blocked by the FCC. Now T-Mobile and MetroPCS have agreed to merge in a $1.5 billion deal.There doesn’t seem to be much concern that the FCC will disagree with this deal, perhaps because the two companies combined will have a user base of 42.5 million, which will still be smaller than the #3 player Sprint‘s 56.4 million. Because the two companies have similar spectrum holdings T-Mobile claims the merger will allow them to offer better coverage. They also say they will continue to offera range of both on and off-contract plans.

r2d2b2g: an experimental prototype Firefox OS test environment

Developers building apps for Firefox OS should be able to test them without having to deploy them to actual devices.  Myk Melez looked into the state of the art recently and found that the existing desktop test environments, like B2G Desktop, the B2G Emulators, and Firefox’s Responsive Design View, are either difficult to configure or significantly different from Firefox OS on a phone.

Firefox add-ons provide one of the simplest software installation and update experiences. And B2G Desktop is a lot like a phone. So, Myk Melez decided to experiment with distributing B2G Desktop via an add-on. And the result is r2d2b2g, an experimental prototype test environment for Firefox OS.

How It Works

r2d2b2g bundles B2G Desktop with Firefox menu items for accessing that test environment and installing an app into it. With r2d2b2g, starting B2G Desktop is as simple as selecting Tools > B2G Desktop:

r2d2b2g bundles B2G Desktop with Firefox menu items for accessing that test environment and installing an app into it. With r2d2b2g, starting B2G Desktop is as simple as selecting Tools > B2G Desktop:

To install an app into B2G Desktop, navigate to it in Firefox, then select Tools > Install Page as App:

 To install an app into B2G Desktop, navigate to it in Firefox, then select Tools > Install Page as App:

r2d2b2g will install the app and start B2G Desktop so you can see the app the way it’ll appear to Firefox OS users:

 r2d2b2g will install the app and start B2G Desktop so you can see the app the way it’ll appear to Firefox OS users:

Try It Out!

Note that r2d2b2g is an experiment, not a product! It is neither stable nor complete, and its features may change or be removed over time. Or Mozilla might end the project after learning what they can from it. But if you’re the adventurous sort, and you’d like to provide feedback on this investigation into a potential future product direction, then they’d love to hear from you!

Install r2d2b2g via these platform-specific XPIs: MacLinux (32-bit), orWindows (caveat: the Windows version of B2G Desktop currently crashes on startup due to bug 794662 795484), or fork it on GitHub, and let us know what you think!

Also, try out the Wikipedia Mobile for Firefox OS application available on GitHub. You can see it in action here.

Google Glass, Augmented Reality Spells Data Headaches

Google seems determined to press forward with Google Glass technology, filinga patent for a Google Glass wristwatch. As pointed out by CNET, the timepiece includes a camera and a touch screen that, once flipped up, acts as a secondary display. In the patent, Google refers to the device as a ‘smart-watch. Whether or not a Google Glass wristwatch ever appears on the marketplace — just because a tech titan patents a particular invention doesn’t mean it’s bound for store shelves anytime soon — the appearance of augmented-reality accessories brings up a handful of interesting issues for everyone from app developers to those tasked with handling massive amounts of corporate data.For app developers, augmented-reality devices raise the prospect of broader ecosystems and spiraling complexity. It’s one thing to build an app for smartphones and tablets — but what if that app also needs to handle streams of data ported from a pair of tricked-out sunglasses or a wristwatch, or send information in a concise and timely way to a tiny screen an inch in front of someone’s left eye?

Analyzing Mobile Browser Energy Consumption

Recently, technology reporter Jacob Aron wrote a blog post on newscientist.com that talks about how bloated website code drains your smartphone’s battery.

He mentions how Stanford computer scientist Narendran Thiagarajan and colleagues used an Android phone hooked up to a multimeter to measure the energy used in downloading and rendering popular websites. Using their experimental setup they measured the energy needed to render popular web sites as well as the energy needed to render individual web elements such as images, Javascript, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). They claim that complex Javascript and CSS can be as expensive to render as images. Moreover, dynamic Javascript requests (in the form ofXMLHttpRequest) can greatly increase the cost of rendering the page, since it prevents the page contents from being cached. Finally, they show that on the Android browser, rendering JPEG images is considerably cheaper than other formats, such as GIF and PNG for comparably sized images.

One example that is cited is that simply loading the mobile version of Wikipedia over a3G connection consumed just over 1 per cent of the phone’s battery, while browsing apple.com, which does not have a mobile version, used 1.4 per cent.
Yet, in the summary of the paper they find that the results from this study are not meaningful except for the initial loading of just a single page resource. It would be interesting to extend these results in a meaningful way, and study the energy signature of an entire browsing session at a site such as Wikipedia, where a user typically moves from page to page. So, during that session, downloaded web elements such as Javascript, CSS and images would mostly be cached locally. Therefore, we really can’t estimate the energy cost of a total session by simply summing the energy usage of pages visited during that session. Measuring an entire typical session may help optimize the power signature of the entire site. Custom CSS that is applicable to every page of a site would easily outweigh the cost of the apparently excessive CSS download for the render of just the first page.
So, one of the ways that we are looking to improve our mobile browser energy consumption is by implementing the MediaWiki ResourceLoader in order to improve the load times for JavaScript and CSS. ResourceLoader is the delivery system in MediaWiki for the optimized loading and managing of modules. Its purpose is to improve MediaWiki’s front-end performance and the experience by making use of strong caching while still allowing near-instant deployment of new code that all clients start using within 5 minutes. Modules are built of JavaScript, CSS and interface messages; it was first released in MediaWiki 1.17.
On Wikimedia wikis, every page view includes hundreds of kilobytes of JavaScript. In many cases, some or all of this code goes unused due to browser support or because users do not make use of the features on the page. In these cases, bandwidth and loading time spent on downloading, parsing and executing JavaScript code are wasted. This is especially true when users visit MediaWiki sites using older browsers, like Internet Explorer 6, where almost all features are unsupported, and parsing and executing JavaScript is extremely slow.
ResourceLoader solves this problem by loading resources on demand and only for browsers that can run them. Although there is too much to summarize in a simple list, the major improvements for client-side performance are gained by:
  • Minifying and concatenating
  • → which reduces the code’s size and parsing/download time
  • JavaScript files, CSS files and interface messages are loaded in a single special formatted “ResourceLoader Implement” server response.
  • Batch loading
  • → which reduces the number of requests made
  • The server response for module loading supports loading multiple modules so that a single response contains multiple ResourceLoader Implements, which in itself contain the minified and concatenated result of multiple javascript/css files.
  • Data URIs embedding
  • → which further reduces the number of requests, response time and bandwidth
  • Optionally images referenced in stylesheets can be embedded as data URIs. Together with the gzippping of the server response, those embedded images, together, function as a “super sprite”.

Patrick Reilly, Senior Software Developer, Mobile
  • Copyright notes: “Phone charging” by Eml5526.sp11.team1.adam, in the public domain, from Wikimedia Commons.

Calling mobile testers for round two

Thanks to everyone for participating in our first round of mobile gateway testing.

This time around we’d like you to have our new mobile gateway for your default experience.

Follow this link on your mobile phone to opt in: http://tinyurl.com/woptin and send us feedback.

Visually the gateway should look pretty much the same minus a beta logo. All the other changes are under the hood. If you can’t tell the difference between this and the old gateway then we’ve done our job.

Please let us know of any issues on our feedback page and if you don’t want to be in the beta then follow this link to opt out: http://tinyurl.com/woptout .

For those coming back; here are some of the issues that you guys reported that we fixed

  • Missing templates – We’re now using live content so this shouldn’t be an issue.
  • Mismatched Japanese & English templates – see above
  • Missing devices – We’ve added a lot more devices through WURFL. If yours is still having issues let us know.
  • Don’t redirect tablets – Fixed!
  • Remove the donate banners – Fixed!
  • … and numerous others

You can learn more about our mobile projects and future work by visitingour Mobile Projects page. If you are a developer and would like to get involved, check out the page detailing our work. And if you just want to say hello or give us some super quick feedback then join us on irc through freenode #wikimedia-mobile

Thanks for making Wikipedia Mobile better for everyone.