FirefoxOSAppDays In Nairobi

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There were a series of over 28 global events promoted by Mozilla tagged, “FirefoxOSAppDays” organized specifically to tell people and developers about FirefoxOS, Mozilla’s new mobile operating system. To tell them how it works, how to access it, how to develop apps for it and to publish them on the Firefox Market Place.

 
FirefoxOS is an open source mobile Operating system engineered by Mozilla that is based on HTML5, CSS and Javascript. The OS is capable of running web applications and Web APIs that can send instructions to the phone’s hardware like the camera, microphone. This means that web developers are at home and can easily build apps for the phone.

 

The best part is that all the web apps developed for FirefoxOS can run across most of the other phone platforms like iOS and Android. You just go to the Firefox Marketplace and download your apps, this reduces the previous developer and leading platform restrictions.

We even tested out the Firefox Marketplace Aurora app for Android it worked just fine. Some of the apps are even built to run offline, meaning you  can access and use them without internet and I think this is a great resource for Africa where reliable internet access still has hiccups. Go deeper into the OS and Marketplace on the products page on our site. You can reach any Mozilla Rep or contributor and we will help you with more information or resources on this. You can contact us or send us an email on our mailing lists.

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The FirefoxOSAppDay event organized by Mozilla Kenya Community hosted on Saturday, 26th January, 2013 in Nairobi was really awesome. Mozilla Uganda Community was represented by two members; Lawrence Kisuuki and JB Ochieng who left Uganda for Kenya on Thursday, 24th January, 2013 so as to help out with the preparations and get familiar with the tools they would need to help out the 150 developers that attended the event on the D-Day.

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The representatives’ transportation, accommodation and welfare was catered for thanks to Alex, the Mozilla Kenya Community Lead. They were picked up at the station by Steve Wanjau, a Kenyan Mozilla Rep, he was very friendly, helpful and hospitable. The Reps stayed at Kenya Comfort Hotel in Nairobi, the rooms had already been reserved. The interior wasn’t bad, though the WiFi was slow and the location was the best since on exit it was surrounded by several essential stores and restaurants. Steers and Debonairs, our home favorites where just a few centimeters and Nakumatt was just around the corner, it was like home. The streets were really beautiful, clean and quiet.

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The next day the Reps were picked up early in the morning and taken to the venue for the event, that is 88MPH located on Ngong Road in Nairobi. It was on something like the fifth floor. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we were hit with the gorgeous well planned interior. We took time to look at the graffiti and vector art, the couches and incubator offices. There was a D.J playing dancehall and billboard music as the guest developers we were waiting for flocked in. Meanwhile J.B and I were hacking away and doing last minute touches on our prototype apps in the same room with Vicky, the Kenyan Mozilla Rep and developer who made a Daily Nation App that generates Kenyan election updates.

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The event begun with a talk from Didem, a Mozilla employee from Mozilla HQ in San Francisco, CA in charge of WebFWD.  She gave a history of how Mozilla and Firefox begun and a brief on Firefox OS and some Firefox products. Raymond, a software Engineer from Mozilla HQ too gave a talk as well and also sampled on how to use Gaia to test the different features on the FirefoxOS mobile devices. Victor (Vicky Jr) and Hezron (Hezy) talked about the development environment and Web APIs. Vicky also demoed his election update retrieval app and how he built it with emphasis on how to code manifest files.

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We broke off for coffee which was in plenty and there since the beginning and until the end of the event, and we also had lunch. It was great that the food was in plenty to the extent that however much the people went back for it, they failed to finish. The food was great, especially the cake and Ice cream for dessert, I think I gained a pound or two.

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After lunch there was the Hacking session where the developers formed groups of about 5 and scattered all over the space, brain stormed on ideas, built prototype apps and called on any of us (Mozilla Reps) to help them out with any problem they had with the code, ideas and probably the FirefoxOS Simulator (which is available for download free online to your desktop test apps). The commonest problem was with the manifest file which enables the app to be read and installed on a device.

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We then went into the demo session which was opened by Alex. The developers were told that those that built the best app solving a great problem would be given a voucher that would offer them access to get a free FirefoxOS Developer phone when it is released. There were about 8 demos and they were all great, though there were those that were really great like the app that helps you budget and track your finances in a simple way (it was actually the best), the traffic tracking and updates app, an animal identification and naming app database, and so many others. You can check them out at https://etherpad.mozilla.org/appday-nairobi-demos

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The event was concluded with Moz-Beer. Those who wanted where free to get large long beer mugs which where filled with brewed beer from the large kegs to the great music in the background. Several people took up the beer that they emptied the several kegs….wow! We left in the night with some people intensively tipsy, that made it all the more fun and we were driven back to the hotel.

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Sunday was our last day in Nairobi so we were taken on a tour around Nairobi town, there were very many amazing and tall buildings. We drove to Thika road, a really huge express way with over 10 lanes, it looked really retro and great. We went to Nairobi national park, this is where we had the most fun. On entrance we met a really huge lion trotting around and it was really close to the car, it was really thrilling. We could see planes taking off and landing to Kenyatta International airport and the Nairobi city landscape with all the buildings. We found Zebras, giraffes, impalas, antelopes, crazy baboons at a rest area, guinea fowls, buffaloes, rhinos, hippos, a castle. We went through a really beautiful cool forest with such great flora and fauna.

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The Brookhouse School, damn I can not even describe. It just looked too elite, large, covered by several country flags, it really looked like an expensive and high quality education school. We later passed by the architectural retro large UN and US embassy, they were located on a street for mostly diplomatic missions such as the Rwandan Embassy. Too bad photos aren’t allowed for security reasons, would have made really great wall papers.
All the photos can be accessed in our website gallery, on our Mozilla Uganda Facebook page here and the Mozilla Kenya facebook page here. You really need to take a peek, they are really a spectacle. Let’s look forward for the next Mozilla event, just keep checking on our site for more updates.

 
Join our mailing list and also join the Mozilla Community, don’t miss out on the fun and learning experience. Come share what you know and learn from others, and the great thing is it is all free.

 

Until next time.

 
-Lawk

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