Outside a trendy workspace in London's Kings Cross on Thursday 21st April, a man in a fox costume ushers people greets people on their way to celebrate the launch of Firefox 4. Inside people are wearing party hats, enjoying decorated cupcakes and proudly wearing Mozilla T-Shirts in a good reminder to us all that open source software is something that we should both advocate and celebrate as a great opportunity. During the evening we get treated to some great presentations that show off what the latest version of Mozilla Firefox is capable of and also how HTML5 technology will redefine our expectations of what a web browser can do. However, there is much more to Mozilla than Firefox.
Despite the idea of "being in Cyberspace" and the power of the Internet to connect us to people all over the world regardless of our location, we often use a browser to find out about people and services close to us. These might be queries such as finding the opening times of a local store, the time of a train or local expertise. Each time we do this it is often necessary to tell the website where we are, typcially by providing a post code, but what if you don't know the postcode? Fortunately browsers and becoming much more clever, and some can even work out where you are.
Sometimes a piece of software can be so useful and easy to set up that you might end up taking it for granted and not thinking about it that much, even though you use it every single day. For me an example of this is the excellent Mozilla Thunderbird, an email client from the same people who make Mozilla Firefox. While Firefox is very well known, and now commands 20% of the worldwide browser share (well done to everyone involved!), maybe Thunderbird gets a bit overlooked. I've been using Mozilla Thunderbird happily for years now and always found it easy to use and reliable. So I was delighted to see that a new site has been set up to help "spread the word" about Thunderbird which can be found at: http://www.spreadthunderbird.com/. If like me you find Thunderbird really useful you can sign up to become an "affiliate" and place a handsome looking badge on your site to refer people. You won't earn cash from doing this but you will earn "points" that bring you kudos, visibility for your website, and most importantly the knowledge that you have helped. The badges come in all shapes and sizes, from the small (as in the left sidebar if you are viewing this directly on the website) to the very large.
For about the last year I have abandoned the use of my workplace calendar system (based on Microsoft Outlook and Exchange) and using paper diaries in favour of Google Calendar. This solution offers a number of advantages for me, it is entirely web based, it is platform independent and I can even see my appointments on my mobile phone thanks to the mobile version. I've also been using Mozilla Thunderbird, an excellent open source email program, for years.
Up to now the computing experience has been divided into two - online and offline. Being online means using sites through a web browser, offline means working with different applications, mostly designed to work with documents not stored on the Internet, but instead on local file systems. However, changes changes in the way we communicate and work are starting to make this arrangement look creaky and old fashioned so thoughts have turned to how to integrate these two worlds.
Recently my mobile phone broke, well in fact the charger did and mobile phones are rather pointless without electricty so it was time to get a new one. I have to confess that I had been a bad person and not backed all of the various numbers that I have on my mobile. On top of that I'm sure I don't know anybody's number off by heart. Sound familiar?