On 23rd of April 2015, Mihai Șucan passed away due to metastatic
cancer caused by RDEB.
My name is Mihai and I work on the Firefox developer tools.
When it comes to web development, I like both server-side and
client-side work. I am mainly interested in web browsers, web
standards and related technologies.
11 May 2008, 18:06
Opera Software has finally
released some serious Web
developer tools: Dragonfly. Unlike their first attempt, the bookmarklets,
which disappointed, this time around Dragonfly tries to make up for
the time lost. Even if the developer tools should've come earlier,
it's better we get them latter than never.
Firebug is currently the king
of Web developer tools. It certainly is the best and most complete
one I've used: good DOM
Inspector, good debugger, good console and a nice API, all with a good
looking GUI. The position of "king" is now challenged by Dragonfly
which has some very important ideas.
Packaging and architecture
You can install Firebug as a Firefox extension. Firebug is
practically a Web application with additional privileges, accessing
more of the internal API of Firefox.
Dragonfly is similar, but it's not an extension for Opera. It comes
as an external Web application for Opera - it's not native. Yet,
like Firebug, it has access to the internal Scope API. The Scope
API is a specification written and implemented by Opera 9.5 beta 2.
As such, Dragonfly is not limited in purpose and possibilities.
Perhaps the most important part of this alpha release of Dragonfly
is the Scope
API specification which will be publicly available soon. People
will be able to build their own set of developer tools for Opera
and other UAs implementing the
Scope API. You will be able to build integrated developer tools
into your favorite editors and IDEs. Going even
further, you can implement this into Firefox or other browsers. The
possibilities are quite great: you can end-up debugging multiple
instances of Opera's, or you can debug Opera with Firefox and
vice-versa, etc. Once you have a Scope server in Opera and Firefox,
as well as a Scope client for each browser, you can pick and choose
at any moment the one you like more.
The Scope API and Dragonfly also work over the network. There you
go: you can debug Opera Mobile 9.5 from your Opera desktop. You can
also debug Opera instances running on your friend's computer, via
Internet. If someone implements the Scope API for Firefox, you can
debug Firefox from Opera over the Internet.
That's the smart move made by Opera: now Firebug needs to play the
catch-up game. Firebug will have to implement this kind of
functionality: we will need ways to debug Firefox running on
mobiles, remote Gecko applications. We will also want integration
from the IDE into a running Firefox instance. Unfortunately, I'm
not sure if they will simply do it: or they will come up with
yet-another protocol. That would kinda suck. If I am not mistaken
some of the advanced IDEs today already provide JS debugging, but, as far as I know, they don't
directly inspect a live instance of your browser.
In Opera 9.5 beta 2 you can start Dragonfly from Tools >
Advanced > Developer Tools. Opera then quickly loads Dragonfly
and caches it. Subsequent loads are from the cache - for now
there's a bug which prevents proper caching, but oh well it's
The entire Dragonfly Web application is very small given it's power
and it loads really fast - they've optimized the code as much as
possible. Probably they have further performance improvements
coming. On my Athlon XP 1800+, Dragonfly doesn't feel slower than
Firebug - which is very good.
You have the following tools to play with:
Script viewer. You can view all the scripts with
syntax highlighting. Firebug doesn't have syntax highlighting.
Script debugger. You can set breakpoints and set
into/over/out of each line of code. You can inspect the global
scope and the local execution scope. At the moment, you don't have
breakpoint condition, like Firebug does.
Command line. You can execute any code you want in
the global scope, and, while debugging, in the selected scope from
the call stack. This is really useful in many cases.
DOM Inspector. Here you can view the entire
structure of your document as-is, live. You can inspect the
properties of each node, the computed styles, the matched style
rules from your CSS
files, You can also get a nice "layout" view - based on the
Style sheets. Obviously, you can view each of the
style files in your document, as they are available via DOM 2
Styles. Unfortunately, just like Firebug, Dragonfly doesn't show
your exact CSS file. Still, in Firebug you can see your CSS file if
you choose to edit it.
Console. This is supposed to be an improved
console messages viewer in Dragonfly. Currently, it's still too
simplistic for my taste.
Usage tip: Even if officially you can only use Dragonfly as an
external window, you can use it inside Opera as well. Just start
Dragonfly, enable the Windows panel, and then drag the Dragonfly
window inside the main Opera window. You'll make Dragonfly usable
as any ordinary tab. Go to Tools > Preferences > Advanced
> Tabs > Additional options > there disable "Show close
button on each tab" - to enable the MDI mode. Once you do this, you
can drag and resize the Dragonfly tab inside Opera.
The bad, for now
Dragonfly is only the first alpha release - I even got Opera to
crash once. The problems, sorted by importance:
- You can't edit anything: node attributes, properties, debug
variables, style sheet properties, nothing. You are stuck. I can't
complain: this is coming very soon in subsequent releases of
- Search is quite buggy in Script view and it's especially
unusable in the DOM inspector.
- We don't have any HTTP headers inspection tool, no way to play
with the header requests, no XmlHttpRequest logger, no DOM Events
monitor. These are promised to come soon, as well.
console object for use inside our Web
- The command line does not yet implement automatic complete.
Given Firebug is a much more mature Web application, when compared
to Dragonfly, I can't blame Opera. Most of the issues will be soon
fixed. By then, Dragonfly will be better than the current version
Go ahead and try Opera 9.5 beta 2 and
Dragonfly. Make sure you report all the bugs you find.
4 September 2007, 18:13
Alpha 1 (code named Kestrel) has been released today.
For all web developers who haven't yet checked Kestrel, go ahead
and do it. There are many improvements, and lots of new stuff.
I personally like the performance improvements - see some benchmarks done by
One of the new features I am looking forward to use daily is
history search. I had this in my wishlist
for Opera 10. :)
Opera Mail has been improved very much, but lots of work is only
under the hood - not many visible changes. Nonetheless, these are
very interesting changes, since I use the Opera Mail client from
Merlin. Anyone who uses Opera Mail long enough knows the famous
New features for web developers range from fixes to Web Forms 2
support, to new HTML 5-related work, new CSS 3 selectors and
The completely revamped keyboard
shortcuts will annoy many Opera users, but it's all for the
better, in my opinion. New users who will try Kestrel, will like it
more now, will find it more comfortable in general usage.
Check out the change logs, and
backup your Opera profile - it's best you pick a separate
Related to my site, the current Opera Kestrel build works quite
well - dare I say better than Merlin. The Windows build has some
issues with redrawing the menus, and with the generated content
text color. Besides that, no access keys are recognized (try
I recommend you to try the site with Kestrel. You can play with the
enabled. Also, you'll see lots of fancy text shadows. If you have a
slow computer, you'll notice Kestrel is much faster than Merlin
ECMAScript engine is really faster. However, I still find hovering
the menus slow on Kestrel. :(
Something less obvious to average users is the improved spatial
navigation. There's something I am particularly impressed: try
Shift+Arrow keys to navigate this web site. You'll
immediately notice you can navigate the sub menus, which normally
you cannot do (not in older Opera versions, nor in Firefox).
Kestrel actually sends the mouse events to the elements, as if you
use the mouse to hover the elements. This opens up a whole "new
world" to those who use the keyboard very much. Say "bye bye" to
the supposed inaccessibility of my site navigation (haha). :)
All in all, Kestrel is going to be a great release. I am looking
forward to switch to the new version, when the stable one is
23 February 2007, 11:22
Yesterday I was able to test Joost - the interactive TV application,
also known as The Venice Project. Someone from #joost invited me.
The project is still currently in beta-testing, and the offered
content is somewhat limited for the moment.
I initially expected the application takes way too much bandwidth
for my Internet connection to handle. This was because I read
some article about it (I don't consider I have "a really fat
pipe"). However, reading about Venice's
Bandwidth Usage my fear was dismissed. I can download about 550
MB per hour (I have a 1.5 mbps connection).
The installation was quick and easy.
The application itself does not feature too much bling-bling as I
The graphics are mostly made with SVG (Gecko-based application). I
believe the design needs further improvements - more bling-bling
and not only: it has to be more beautiful.
The application doesn't seem slow, but... I can't tell this for
sure. I tested it on Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 - even slow
applications are fast on this computer. :)
I am looking forward for the Linux version. This way I will be able
to test Joost on a much slower computer: AMD Athlon XP 1800+.
Very quickly I had the following feature requests:
- Video controls for hue, saturation, brightness and contrast.
- For fancy people: video effects. It would be nice for us to be
able to control the sharpness of the image. Image color invert
would also be good.
- Video subtitles.
- Localisation: I want Joost in French.
- Audio equalizer.
Video quality is "good", but not "awesome" or "great". I think
Joost should offer the ability of selecting the quality. Instead of
downloading just 320 MB an hour, why not download 450 MB an hour?
Allow us to select the quality, then most users will be happy.
Those who have slower connections would be happy to see videos.
Those who have "fat pipes" would be happy to see awesome video
On my connection playback went smooth, without any hiccups.
For now, the available content is not "great" for me. This is
perfectly acceptable, since it's still in beta-testing. A lot more
content is promised to come. What I saw and I liked were a few
National Geographic documentaries. :)
The fact Joost is a stand-alone application, not a web application,
creates expectations (at least for me). I expect to see something
jaw dropping. Joost is not jaw dropping, it's just nice and very
promising. Being Gecko based, this application could have been done
as a Firefox-only web application, with an installable extension.
What contributed to the succes of YouTube is also it's only a
simple web site where you can quickly search and play what you
want, when you want. For now, I could easily say "eh, I am not
going to download Joost just to watch some advertising and some
videos. I am not a TV addict!". Thus, Joost must offer something
soo great that makes people download and install an application
just to watch a video.
What I also like about YouTube: no advertising in the videos. All
the advertising in the web page can be removed with simple URL
filtering. If Joost will have too much advertising, users will be
Personally, I don't watch TV - on a regular basis - I don't like it
due to tons of advertising. Sometimes, when I am bored, I like to
watch whatever I find on YouTube.
I told some of the developers in the channel that the available
content is what "makes or breaks" Joost. However, I think it's
worth noting that even if you have the greatest content EVER,
within a buggy, ugly, useless application, you'll quickly loose all
the popularity. Gladly, as I see Joost for Windows is already past
this technological burden. This is the simple reason why I consider
Joost promising: they made a good application. Yes, Joost still
needs improvements (the graphics and some features), but it's
What I did not like is that video seek has some problems. It didn't
work properly for me...
I did suggest that Joost provides/includes all the content on
YouTube and Brightcove - based on some deals. This would be a big
boost to the application itself, users probably discovering YouTube
via Joost, or simply liking to use Joost instead of the YouTube
site. This is of course a rather "hard" deal, because Joost is
practically a competitor to YouTube and Brightcove.
Currently I see YouTube as a site where one can find home made
videos, amateur videos, a site for hosting videos made even by
professional digital artists (seen some demo reels there) -
generally it's all user content ("broadcast yourself"). Brightcove
has videos by "the industry", music videos, and other commercial
content. Joost focuses on TV-like content: 1-2 hours of
documentaries, live concerts and movies. I would better like if
Joost could unify all of them: provide us with TV content (full
length movies), music videos and user contributed videos.
After all, maybe
not allowing user content is what will make Joost successful.
That's about all for now.