More Haste, Jake, More Haste

Last night, like an idiot, after a couple of glasses of wine I completely forgot about what I'd read on Volker's site and upgraded to Firefox 3.5. This broke Gears. This on the eve of moving in to the testing phase of the Gears project I've been working on for about a month now.

While I could have used IE or Chrome instead, Firefox is the only one for which Gears and HTTPWatch work together and you really need a HTTP sniffer if you're debugging Gears apps!

Luckily, this morning I managed to downgrade back to 3.0.11, which is a simple case of downloading and running the installer. You don't even need to uninstall 3.5. That's one of the things I've always liked about Firefox - it never loses your settings.

Will Firefox 3.5 Even Need Gears

One thing I did get out of my brief look at FF3.5 is the (exciting) knowledge that it's moving towards implementing its own kind of Gears. I've not digested it all fully but if you read the DOM Storage page on Mozilla's site and the W3C's Web Storage page you'll see what I mean. It looks to me like browsers of the future will all have local databases to use for persistent data across sessions. Hopefully without the need for 3rd party plugins.

More To It Than "Going Offline"

While using Gears this last month I've been thinking more and more about what other uses it could have, apart from "going offline".

All you have to do is imagine you have a local SQL database that is easily accessed from JavaScript and you'll get an idea what you can do. It's like having a massive cookie to use for whatever you like. One example would be to keep a cache of values which are regularly used in forms/type-ahead by the user but which rarely change at the server. Why keep fetching them with Ajax when you could get them in an instant locally!

Hopefully I'll get chance to show some alternative usages of Gears shortly.


  1. "It looks to me like browsers of the future will all have local databases to use for persistent data across sessions."

    You mean they will turn into Notes clients? :)

  2. Yes, maybe but the downloaded code is less than 10MB, the setup is done within seconds not minutes, it automatically updates itself and it manages all your extensions. The code is based on and uses real open standards. It is true that browsers now start to do things that Lotus Notes has been doing for years. I am thankful that this is happening because IBM (and by the way Microsoft too) decided to move into a different direction.

  3. Slightly off topic, but have you looked into Mozilla Prism at all? It touts letting the browser act more like a desktop/thick client, which might be a great addition to something like Gears.


  4. Wow, I hope they've thought through the privacy/security aspects of all this. A big database on my local machine that's accessible to the browser? And you thought tracking cookies were bad.

    • avatar
    • Scott Rafferty
    • Thu 2 Jul 2009 04:12 PM

    I find this useful. It let's you sandbox all browsers. Ideal for testing and free.


    • avatar
    • Chris King
    • Sun 5 Jul 2009 08:31 PM

    I've been using the free fiddler tool instead of paying for HTTPWatch recently. I'd be interested in your thoughts http://fiddler2.com/fiddler2

    • avatar
    • Keith
    • Mon 6 Jul 2009 12:52 PM

    I thought Gears was read-only when offline... does it sync back to the data store when reconnected?

  5. Maybe it's just the apps that I happen to code, but I've never found a use for large-scale local storage of any sort. :P I pretty much let the cloud do all of my storage!

    I keep thinking all these new local-storage techniques are here about 10 years later than when they could've been useful to me. :\

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Mon 6 Jul 2009 02:42 PM

    Gears isn't read only Keith. You read-write to the local SQLite database then, when you're ready, you sync back. However, the sync back has to be written yourself.


    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Tue 7 Jul 2009 03:58 AM

    Back to Chris's question about Fiddler. I like Fiddler. It's a bit more geeky/powerful than HTTPWatch, but I prefer the latter as it's only ever one click away (toolbar button in the browser) and is much more elegant.

    Fiddler requires messing with proxy setting in Firefox (unless I'm doing something wrong) and, as I use HTTP sniffing all the time, I can't be doing with this extra hassle.


  6. Jake,

    Unless you need to use a proxy with Firefox, you shouldn't need to use it with Fiddler. It works extremely well for me but is a better as a test bed than anything for the ability to craft a message by hand.

    Firebug seems to also provide the measure of net traffic monitoring I usually require - but I'm not sure on it's compatibility status as of this moment with 3.5


  7. Its probally worth looking at http://www.multibrowserviewer.com.

    We can test 16 browsers without installing them it also allows screen shots from 45 different os and browser combinations.

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