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KaiRo's weBlog

March 2007

Displaying entries published in March 2007,in English and tagged with "Add-Ons". Back to all recent entries

Popular tags: Mozilla, SeaMonkey, L10n, Status, Firefox

Used languages: English, German


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March 26th, 2007

AMO and the Sandbox

As I mentioned here recently, the Mozilla Add-Ons site ("AMO") is currently being switched to a completely rewritten, new version (v3) nicknamed "Remora". And yes, it had been rolled back after a few hours of operation due to load problems. And it might even go back and forth between versions a few times until Remora is completely up to the task of taking over that high-traffic site. At the time that I'm writing this, the new version is online once again, we'll see if it stays that way or will turn back for more improvements again.

That said, the webdev folks are pretty responsive and fixing lots of bugs that are reported in that new version. For example, the wrong section descriptions I mentioned last time are fixed now. The list of bugs fixed since Remora went live the first time is also worth a read there. Today I discovered though that the "Recommended Add-Ons" listed on the SeaMonkey Add-Ons page are often not compatible with SeaMonkey actually. I guess the fix will also be done fast - filing a clearly described bug is once again the way of choice to get attention to such minor flaws.

The biggest point of discussions around Remora is the Sandbox feature though. Oh, yes, it is a feature, not an easter egg - despite the time of year of its release ;-)
The idea of the Sandbox is actually that users can - with lots of warnings - access add-ons that are not yet approved for public use, test them and comment on them and therefore help reviewers with approving new Add-Ons before they go public. There's even a description of the sandbox feature and a policy for public vs. sandboxed add-ons available on the new AMO site. There's still the problem that the sandbox is hard to find (this is being worked on in the "easter egg" bug I linked here) - and the issue that many add-ons that previously were public have suddenly been degraded to the sandbox. Mike Shaver tried to bring some clarity into that: "we chose a threshold to start with to seed the public site". I guess this was a threshold by user comments, ratings and/or download numbers, and that probably works fine for a good number of Firefox add-ons, and they expected all others just get nominated for going public by their authors anyways. Just that the authors weren't directly informed (don't you have all their mail addresses anyways?) before this went public, so they didn't know. And then there are add-ons like dictionaries, which are usually shown on a page that doesn't link comments or ratings and won't get much of those, and which are probably only interesting for smaller local communities (like my Swiss German dictionary) and won't rank high in downloads. Additionally, there are add-ons for less widespread apps (SeaMonkey and Sunbird), which were badly visible before on the old AMO site, and therefore have less comments, ratings, and downloads - and they the download numbers won't ever be nearly as high as those of Firefox-compatible add-ons, just because of the difference in user numbers of Firefox and the other applications.
All that has probably led to widespread sandboxing of certain types of add-ons and confusion among authors, but I'm sure that situation will improve with time and communication.
Additionally, I think that, with the proper "unapproved, testing-only stuff" warnings and with asking people for commenting on the add-on as well as rating it, the sandbox can be made visible much easier - but again, let's see where the "easter egg" bug leads to in this matter.

The SeaMonkey project plans to only link AMO as the source for add-ons (e.g. on our main web page) in the future, first we need to be sure it works reasonably and we have enough available add-ons. My LCARStrek theme somehow already slipped from sandbox to public without me requesting it or me being notified, so we now have the first SeaMonkey theme listed, but I'm sure there are more themes and other add-ons out there. Please, SeaMonkey add-on authors, submit your work to Remora, and ask for it be shown on public pages!
We now have this good system, which is supporting our software well (and will also work fine with the Add-Ons Manager and its auto-update feature in future SeaMonkey versions), so let's use it!

Update (2007-03-27 03:00 CEST):
1) Mike Shaver has restored all pre-existing add-ons to public, only new extension will go through the new sandbox process.
2) Remora seems to stay alive as the new AMO now after some performance fixes.

By KaiRo, at 16:05 | Tags: Add-Ons, Mozilla, SeaMonkey | no comments | TrackBack: 0

March 23rd, 2007

Promising AMO update - with serious flaws

The new (AMO) version (v3, codenamed "Remora") finally is was online today, and it's it was quite promising. Unfortunately I still see some minor flaws with it - and one more serious issue. (And it has been temporary rolled back to the old version - for performance issues, as I was told on IRC. You can view it on the AMO preview site in the meantime.)

First, the positive sides: It really looks good, polished, professional and friendly at the same time. Then, it has sections for 4 applications, adding SeaMonkey and Sunbird to the previously supported Firefox and Thunderbird. And yes, I'm very happy to see that new SeaMonkey Add-Ons section there. Even more, AMO is now fully localized, available in 10 languages as far as I see, and I'm sure more will be added in the future. From a localizer's point of view, this is really great. Good work, web development team!
AMO has also gained a few features, such as localizable add-on descriptions, flags for pre-releases of add-ons, publicly viewable source, and similar stuff, it even can display add-ons of specific types that are compatible with a specific application - you don't see lots of Firefox-specific stuff on SeaMonkey pages now. And then, there's a sandbox (can be activated by registered users), where add-ons can be accessed that are not approved and made public yet.

And that's where the serious problem happened: Many add-ons that were public previously on AMO are now in the sandbox only and not shown to anyone - unless he's a registered user, has checked to see the sandbox in user prefs and actively clicks on the sandbox link he then gets to see. So, one thing is, it's really hard to get there. One reason for this may also be that once you're logged in, you have to realize that clicking on you mail address at the right top of the page is the link to "Edit user prefs". Another reason it that the sandbox is, as I said, pretty well hidden.
The biggest issue with that sandbox is not that it's hard to find though, but that many previously public add-ons are now hidden in there, including 3/4 of all dictionaries and all SeaMonkey themes! I don't understand why those add-ons, that already had been reviewed and approved for the old AMO site, are suddenly hidden in this sandbox and treated like they are insecure and not approved. (This includes my Swiss dictionary and both my SeaMonkey themes, BTW.)

There are some other flaws as well, but all of those are minor: The "Themes" and "Extensions" sections for SeaMonkey wrongly mention Firefox; once you're logged in, the site feels quite slow; the SeaMonkey themes section is missing almost all categories (only "Misc" is shown, but not all themes available [in the sandbox] have that category set); if you click a link to a listing that results in no add-ons to display (e.g. popular SeaMonkey themes) you get a page without any site decoration, only a "No add-ons in this category!" message that looks unprofessional. This may be just a page that forwards you to a normal one after a few seconds, but as empty as it is it looks strange.

I hope those issues, esp. the hiding of many previously public add-ons, will be fixed soon, as that new system really looks promising!

By KaiRo, at 17:19 | Tags: Add-Ons, L10n, Mozilla, SeaMonkey | 1 comment | TrackBack: 0

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