I’ve got a quick tutorial of sorts for you today. As you may have read in my last update, I was very lucky to receive an N900 Linux-based phone from Nokia last week. I’ll do a proper in-depth write up about the device and the Maemo operating system in due course, when I’ve had some more time to test it. But for now I’d like to talk about installing Firefox. For a while now Mozilla have been developing a version of Firefox called Fennec, and it’s aimed at mobile devices. The name comes from a type of fox known for it’s small stature. I originally thought it would keep the name Fennec through it’s entire lifespan, but I’ve since been told that it’s only called Fennec as a codename whilst in development. Once it’s released it’ll just be called Firefox. Confused? Anyway, this is all beside the point.
I read earlier in the week that Fennec had been packaged for Maemo and would be available on the N900 and N810. I actually like the default browser in Maemo a lot, but I was also curious to see just what Mozilla had done with the interface. A choice of web browser is always nice on a system anyway, just ask Microsoft… oh no wait, don’t. A quick web search brought up the appropriate page on Mozilla’s website and I was able to install Fennec with ease. So for the benefit of anyone with a Maemo device, here’s what I did.
- Visit the Fennec page on your N900 (or N810) and download the installation file.
- The application manager on the phone will pop up but it can take a minute before anything else happens. You have to be patient, or I did anyway, but then you’re prompted to add the repository and install the application.
- Don’t worry about the warning telling you this software isn’t supplied or approved by Nokia, just tick the box and click continue. It’s all for legal reasons, so you can’t sure Nokia if anything goes wrong.
- Wait a minute for the program to download and install. You’ll be notified when it’s finished and you can now find Firefox in your application menu. You’ll need to click “more” on the first menu page and then scroll down to find it probably. I created a desktop shortcut in one of my workspaces to launch it more quickly in future.
There’s also a full installation slideshow on Flickr.
So there you go, you can now happily use Firefox on your Maemo device. It’s still in beta at the moment but from my brief testing it seems pretty polished and robust already. There are some nice features such as the tabbed browsing and a stripped down UI. Just drag the web page left or right to reveal these extra controls. You can also install add-ons, as we’ve become used to over the years with Firefox. There’s a new utility called Weave from Mozilla Labs to sync your browsing history, bookmarks and everything else between all your Firefox installations, whatever device they’re running on. I haven’t had a proper chance to test that yet but it sounds very cool.
At the moment Maemo is one of the only phone platforms to have this version of Firefox. I expect in time we’ll see it spread to Google Android and others. The iPhone is going to be a problem though, because as we know Apple don’t want another browser on their system. They’ve taken a leaf from the Microsoft book in that regard perhaps. If you do install Fennec and play with it, let me know what you think. It’s early days but I think it has some promise as a mobile browsing option.