Lightning Update

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A week full of announcements:

I’ve been so busy working on the Thunderbird 3 release that I forgot to blog about this new development:  I’m pleased to announce that Mozilla Messaging has engaged Philipp Kewisch, lead of the Calendar project, to help drive the release of a version of the popular Lightning calendar add-on.  The plan so far is for Philipp (who’se in school, but somehow finds time to do Mozilla work after that) to help fix bugs, drive the release, and generally make sure that people who want to upgrade from Thunderbird 2 to Thunderbird 3 will find their favorite extension working there.

If you’re keen to help, let Philipp know, and participate in test days, help QA release candidates that will show up, and if you can, chip in with patches!

Timezone meeting

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Note to people interested in solving the nasty problems of timezone support in calendaring:

CalConnect (The Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium) will host a one-day Timezone Workshop on Tuesday, February 3, 2009, at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. This workshop is intended for and open by invitation to parties with an interest in Timezones, how they are currently implemented and managed, and what to do about them in the future. We particularly want to attract representatives of other industry and technology areas to gain a broad perspective on the problems with Timezones as implemented today, and the relevance of our proposed direction. You do not need to be a CalConnect member to attend the workshop. Please see http://www.calconnect.org/timezoneworkshop.shtml for more information, and to request an invitation to the event.

University of Toronto Student Projects

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What feels like years ago, my friend Greg Wilson, a book author CS prof at the University of Toronto with a deep understanding of both the practical realities of software engineering and open source, roped me into being a “client” for a class he teaches on software engineering, where he matches students with open source projects, and gets the projects to act as if they were typical clients. I have to say, I behaved like a typical bad client. Fuzzy requirements, lousy documentation on our system, erratic email, never around to meet in person, etc.

Still, the two students assigned to me, Mike Wu and Ronald Fung, did a great job. Ronald Fung led a messy part of the project, which was about teaching Thunderbird how to detect RSS/Atom feeds in pages that mention feeds but aren’t feeds themselves, work which will likely make its way into Thunderbird 3 at some point. Thanks!

Mike Wu led the development of a Remember The Milk provider to Lightning, the calendaring add-on to Thunderbird. RTM is a popular website for tracking TODOs, so it seemed a good alternative storage mechanism for Lightning users (alternatively, Lightning seemed like a good front end for RTM users). That add-on is now on addons.mozilla.org. Nice job!

Hamburg: Thunderbird, Calendar, Accessibility, CouchDB?

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In day 3 of a Calendar meeting face-to-face, we had a few deviations from the core of the main topics (Lightning, Sunbird, Thunderbird integration), with two cool side-trips.

First, Marco Zehe came to talk about the state of accessibility in Thunderbird and Calendar. The take-away message to me was that accessibility for “trunk” (Thunderbird 3, etc.) is pretty good, thanks to all the work done at the platform level. There are some outstanding issues, which we agreed to consider as blocking Thunderbird 3, but it’s one of those areas where the next version of Thunderbird will be significantly better than the current one for a subset of users.

Second, at my instigation, Jan Lenhardt gave a talk about CouchDB, which was nicely off topic but thought-provoking. The coolest bit is that about an hour after the end of Jan’s talk, Philipp Kewisch, Calendar hacker extraordinaire, and author of the GData add-on for Calendar, had whipped up a proof-of-concept CouchDB provider for Lightning, meaning that calendar data (events, etc.) can be stored in a couchdb repository.

Kudos to the CouchDB and Calendar teams for building systems that clearly are easy to extend, and to HTTP/REST and JSON for providing great building blocks.

Berlin/Hamburg

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Forgot to mention that I’ll be in Berlin Friday, and Hamburg Saturday-Tuesday, for the Calendar project face-to-face, along with Dan Mosedale, Bryan Clark, Mark Banner, and a bunch of the Calendar contributors. It should be a great meeting where we iron out a lot of the roadmap for Lightning/Thunderbird collaboration and integration.

Thunderbird/Calendar drinks & food

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After a long day of talking about calendaring at CalConnect, some of the Mozilla calendar & mail folks (hopefully at least Daniel, Christian, Dan, Clint and David) will be going out for drinks & more food on Tuesday Feb 5 Wednesday, Feb 6, starting around 8pm or so at the Oasis beer garden. Please sign up for the event if you’re thinking of going, and we’ll try to save you a seat.

Thunderbird/Calendar drinks & food

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After a long day of talking about calendaring at CalConnect, some of the Mozilla calendar & mail folks (hopefully at least Daniel, Christian, Dan, Clint and David) will be going out for drinks & more food on Tuesday Feb 5 Wednesday, Feb 6, starting around 8pm or so at the Oasis beer garden. Please sign up for the event if you’re thinking of going, and we’ll try to save you a seat.

Calendar needs you!

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As I’ve mentioned before, the Mozilla Calendar project, which includes the Lightning calendar extension to Thunderbird, is moving right along. It’s currently at version 0.7, heading towards a 0.8 release ASAP. I’ve asked the Calendar team how I can help, and the answer has been clear — they need more developers. So if you’ve been sitting on the sidelines of either Calendar or Thunderbird and you want some suggestions as to where you could help, check out this bug list. Moving Lightning forward is one of the easiest ways to help move Thunderbird forward — the codebase is in quite a healthy state, there’s an active group of daily contributors (check out the #calendar IRC channel to meet them), the roadmap is clear, and the bugs are clearly marked.

CalDAV good times ahead?

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While I wasn’t looking, a bunch of people have been making real progress in standards-based calendaring interop. I’ve been talking to a few of them, and it’s fascinating to see momentum building in that arena. There are clients getting mature (Thunderbird with Lightning, Apple’s iCal in Leopard, Chandler Desktop, Evolution, probably others I’m forgetting or don’t know about). There are servers getting there too (Chandler’s server, Apple’s CalendarServer, Bongo, a couple that I know about but don’t know if I can talk about publicly yet). As far as I can tell, the CalConnect consortium is working, making sure that people play the interop game, even though I’m sure it’s hard work. It would be nice if Google wasn’t so far out in left field, but you can’t have everything.

Nothing like being minority players to get competitors to cooperate on pushing a standard forward!