B2G consists of three levels:
- Gonk: a Linux-based hardware abstraction layer for the physical mobile device.
- Gecko: The web renderer used in Firefox that runs on top of Gonk.
- Gaia: a collection of web apps that run in Gecko. They provide some default apps like a home screen and dialer.
All apps on B2G are web apps. That means they are served from an URL. This is wicked awesome. They can run offline by using technologies like AppCache and IndexedDB.
Gaia is served from a domain, gaiamobile.org. Normally this domain is mapped to a local host when doing development.
This devserver will allow running the Gaia UI from your local machine, so that you can play with the Gaia UI in a Nightly Firefox build. This makes it super fast to develop apps since you have a fully array of developer tools available to you and your "modify/reload" dev path is faster.
The downside is that some things are best tested on a are real device/phone. However, for trying out web app development, registering as a web app, and trying out some of the new device APIs, this is a nice, low-cost way to get started.
The Gaia page has instructions on how to modify an Apache web server to serve Gaia. However, I prefer to use Node to spin up a focused server so that I do not have to muck with a local Apache installation, and I do not have to do the work as root. Also, since I like using Persona/BrowserID in Node apps, I will be using Node for the back-end of my web apps.
Remember, B2G and Gaia are still extremely new, and still actively developed. Life on the edge can be difficult, but you get access to the latest developments. An analogy from the iOS world: think of of it as getting access to iOS a year before Apple shipped it in the first iPhone.
- You have some developer tools installed, like make and git.
- You are using a Linux/OS X type of OS. These instructions were run on OS X. You can probably get this to work on Windows too, but probably has a few different steps (pull request that adds those instructions welcome)
- Download the Firefox Nightly. Install in /Applications on OS X.
Firefox Nightly will receive the latest updates that allow the B2G APIs to work. On the flip side, it can update every day, and very occasionally the nightly build can have problems that make it hard to use.
These instructions assume you start the work in your home directory. Adjust the paths accordingly if you do the installation somewhere else. These instructions were run on OS X, but should be roughly translatable to other OSes.
First, modify your /etc/hosts file to have an entry to map gaiamobile.org to your local host:
Then, in your home directory:
mkdir b2g cd b2g git clone git://github.com/andreasgal/gaia.git git clone git://github.com/jrburke/gaia-devserver.git cd gaia GAIA_DOMAIN=gaiamobile.org:8424 make cd .. node gaia-devserver/devserver.js docRoot=gaia/apps
Then in a separate terminal window, launch Firefox Nightly using the special profile what was created by the gaia make command:
/Applications/FirefoxNightly.app/Contents/MacOS/firefox -profile /YOUR/PATH/TO/gaia/profile --no-remote http://homescreen.gaiamobile.org:8424
Where /YOUR/PATH/TO/gaia/profile is the absolute path to the gaia/profile directory.
This profile is nice to use since it is different from your main Firefox profile, and it has the special configuration that allows some of gaia apps special API access.
Once Firefox Nightly starts up, then do the following:
- Open a new tab and go to
- Search for
browser.offline-apps.notifyand set it to false. This avoids the prompts that Nightly would show for each app that uses appcache.
- Create a new config value:
- Right-click and select the
- For the name, use
- For the value set to
- Right-click and select the
The code changes frequently. Before filing issues, be sure to have the latest code:
If you open the About Nightly menu option, it will do a check to see if you have the latest Nightly.
Close down Firefox Nightly first, then from inside the gaia directory:
cd gaia git pull origin master GAIA_DOMAIN=gaiamobile.org:8424 make
Reopen Firefox Nightly. You may also then want to clear the browser caches used
in Nightly. Go to the
Tools, Clear Recent History menu item, then:
- Select "Everything" for the "Time range to clear"
- In the Details section, check all the checkboxes
- Click "Clear Now".
If you delete the
gaia/profile dir, then see the Setup
section above to redo the preference changes in Nightly.
cd gaia-devserver git pull origin master
If you are installing your own web apps into Gaia and want to remove them at some point to test installation flows, you can do that by:
- Go to https://myapps.mozillalabs.com/
- Find the app
- Click the mouse and hold down the button. An X will appear. Release the mouse button to uninstall it.
However, for that to work, you need to give myapps.mozillalabs.com access to uninstall apps:
Close Firefox Nightly
Add https://myapps.mozillalabs.com to the 'dom.mozApps.whitelist:
- Launch Firefox Nightly.
Now you should be able to uninstall your app when going to https://myapps.mozillalabs.com/