A long time ago, in May 2008, I posted about a remote JS shell add-on I was building. I had been tinkering with a few existing projects (JSSH, SD Connect and MozRepl) but wanted to build something small, lightweight and mainly focused on helping add-on / XUL developers interact with JS running in a separate application. I tried to get the protocol closer to that used by Opera DragonFly and Crossfire, but I never had the time to get it exactly right. When I started work on Firefox Mobile, I used the add-on to interact with Firefox running on a mobile device from my desktop machine. Unfortunately, I never felt the UI and the code were good enough for a public release.
Recently, I dusted off the code, converted to restartless add-ons and made a very simple in-content UI. I say add-ons, because there are two: a probe, and a shell. You install the probe into Firefox Mobile and install the shell into Firefox Desktop (or Firefox Mobile running on a desktop – it’s up to you).
The shell is implemented as an in-content about: page . After installing the shell, navigate to “about:firefly” and you’ll see the simple UI. The shell can act as a listening server or you can connect to a relay server. The listening server is simplest, so start with that.. You start the server on a specific TCP port. Once started, the shell waits for a probe to connect.
The probe is simple. After installing it, you just point it at an instance of the shell by entering the IP address and port. You can connect and disconnect from the “Remote Debugging” preferences. That’s all you need to do with the probe.
Starting a Session
- window – The active chrome window. With this object, you have full access to the window’s JS and DOM.
- firefly – Injected API with some special utility methods:
- getWindow(type) – Returns the chrome window of a given type.
- getWindows() – Returns an array of all open windows.
- inspectJS(object) – Lists all properties and functions associated with a given JS object.
- inspectDOM(selector or element) – Dumps the markup for a given DOM element. You can pass a CSS selector string or a real DOM element to the method.
Since we are talking about Firefox Mobile, you should be familiar with the internal chrome UI code before starting to poke around. The main browser.js has a
Browser object that acts like a manager for the open tabs, so let’s play with it:
URL of active tab:
Add a new tab:
Inspect the active tab JS object:
If you’re interested in using Firefly, you can install the add-ons from here:
Probe: firefly-probe (mobile shortcut:
- Add access to the web content running in the child process. Firefox Mobile is multi-process, so you can’t directly access the web content from the main process.
- Add a pretty output for the inspectXXX helpers. Instead of just dumping the simple text output into the HTML, we could make the output more dynamic – think Firebug panels.
- Add helpers to do more profiling and data collection. Many times I want to know what is happening on the device. Things like CPU and memory usage or why the profile data is exploding.
Bug reports and feature requests welcome.
 Yep, an about: page in a restartless add-on. It wasn’t too hard. I am using a resource: alias for the external CSS file and the favicon. I could have just move the CSS into the XHTML file and used a data: URI for the favicon.