June 24th, 2010

Firefox Sync now available

Firefox Sync (ex Mozilla Weave) is now available in La Distribution.

If you don’t know Firefox Sync, it’s a Firefox extension that allow you to save and synchronize all your Firefox related data (bookmarks, passwords, history). It’s an essential extension for people who use Firefox on different computers.

We’re now proposing in La Distribution the server part, where the Firefox extension actually store the data.

This is an important package for several reasons:

  • It’s not a traditionnal web application but a web service. It’s interesting to have pure web services available, because this change a little bit how you see La Distribution and what it is useful for.
  • Mozilla imagined their Sync offer with this scenario in mind. The service is made available primarily on Mozilla servers, but from day one, it was also released as an open source project, installable by anyone.
  • In contrast with application like WordPress, Firefox Sync is, for various reasons, not that easy to install by default. A package for La Distribution is then a real opportunity to make it available to more users, the one with limited time or limited technical knowledge.

We’re following Firefox Sync progresses since its early versions and waited it reach maturity before integrating it in La Distribution. It’s the case since the 1.2 version and even more with the rebranded version 1.3. How did we succeeded this integration? Here are a few technical details:

  • We use our own authentication system and we had to provide our own PHP class to do so. Was it difficult? Really no, 5 lines in the middle of a 50 lines file. Well done Mozilla!
  • We wrote small patchs to include our libraries, fix an issue when detecting the application path, and provide support for custom MySQL ports.
  • We built a simple home page with some explanations and statistics.

How to start using it right now?

  1. First install the application on your La Distribution installation, it should not be too hard.

  2. Then, install the Firefox Sync Extension from Mozilla Add Ons, you will be asked to restart your Firefox.
  3. Finally, set up the Firefox Sync extension:

    You first have to choose between “I’ve never used Sync before” and “I’m already using Sync on another computer”. This wording is a bit problematic because you have to choose “I’m already using Sync on another computer“.

    It actually means “Yes, i already have an account“, which is the account you’re using on your La Distribution installation. If Mozilla can fix this wording issue, we’ll be very glad :-)

    After that, choose “Use a custom server” then enter your server URL, your username and your password. You will be asked to customize your synchronization parameters. After confirmation, the synchronization will start shortly in the background.

  4. If everything goes well, you’ll have some statistics about your current usage:

We’re very enthusiast to have this new application in our catalog, and we’ll warmly receive any new Mozilla attempt in the domain of server side applications.

When everyone is discussing about privacy and decentralization, Mozilla understand deeply this issues and back it with an inspiring exemplary behavior. Everyone can take notes.

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