The roads I take...
Displaying entries published in March 2007 and in English. Back to all recent entries
March 26th, 2007
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.
One target of pingback is said to be that it should be "implementable with minimal effort", I also read in a few places that it should not attract spam as easily as TrackBack. The latter has been achieved quite nicely, as the pingback client needs to tell the server the source URL containing the original link as well as its target, and the server needs to verify this link to this target actually exists in the source. TrackBack on the other hand just sends the the URL to link back to and needs no verifications, so strictly according to the spec, a TrackBack server just links back to anything anyone else tells it to link. Of course, most TrackBack servers nowadays do verify that their blog is linked from the source - as does this blog here, like I pointed out in a recent post here.
The ease of implementation was not such a clear win for pingback though in my case. Where it clearly wins over TrackBack is "autodiscovery" (automatically discovering link targets in a blog entry that are able to link back via one of those technologies): While TrackBack uses a rather complicated to detect RDF snippet that needs to be placed in the entry, pingback uses a very easy to read HTTP header (and an also easy to detect HTML <link> tag as a fallback) to detect if some page is pingback-enabled. Telling the other blog that it should link, i.e. actually "pinging" it, is quite simple on the TrackBack side though: do a simple HTTP POST with urlencoded data, get very simple XML as a reply that tells if it was successful or not, and that's it. Pingback on the other hand achieves that part via an XML-RPC call. This might be easy to implement if you have an XML-RPC server running on your site already, but if you don't, it requires you to send a rather deeply structured XML document in a POST request as a client, and as a server, to retrieve the data from that doc (I needed to spend some time to even find out how to get this body of the incoming request in PHP) and send an even more complicated XML reply. So the implementation of the actual ping is (without having working XML-RPC support in place already) much harder for pingback than for TrackBack. I guess there's rarely a technology that has only good sides to it...
BTW, I know that there's some XML-RPC support bundled with PHP (via XMLRPC-EPI), but as there's no good documentation of it anywhere (one case where the else good PHP manual really sucks), I even felt safer to manually deal with that form of communication.
That said, I got both technologies to hopefully work now on this blogging system, including autodiscovery for both of them (if both are supported, pingback is preferred), and I hope users of CBSM and our community system will like them.
March 23rd, 2007
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!
March 22nd, 2007
I confess that I like the later Trek series (and the movies) better than the original ones because they were better thought through, with more love to details - but then the original series are just classics. Jim Kirk, Spock and Bones are fun, and those original stories of Gene Roddenberry founded it all. Gene had a great vision, good ideas, just much too little money, technology of the 1960s and no too big care for the small details. Anyways, to a big extent, it was Shatner, always portraying himself in some way, who made lots of those stories work, who gave Kirk his personality, and who brought lots of fun into those Science Fiction series.
And that's one characteristic of almost everything I ever saw or heard about Shatner: fun. No matter if he joked on fandom telling some Trekkies to "get a life", if he made the serious Starfleet captain still look like a human who can have fun (which was seemingly much harder for his successors), if he does projects like Invasion Iowa, or in any other appearances.
I found two clips recently that are worth viewing - and worth a laugh: a DIRECTV HD ad which is a Star Trek VI parody (and Shatner was hired specially to star on it) and Shatner's appearance to honor George Lucas, which is truly Shatner. Really crazy
Nowadays even Kirk advertising a 1980s Commodore computer is fun
Oh, and even J.J. Abrams has been talking to Shatner and Nimoy (who turns 76 himself in four days, btw) because of Star Trek XI (which will be about young Kirk and Spock) - if it was just to get info about the characters or about possible appearances? Even Shatner doesn't clearly tell...
Happy birthday, Bill Shatner - hope to see more fun stuff of you for some years to come!
March 21st, 2007
Before mentioning details about that, some short remarks about the trademarks: Even with that status, and about 6 months after the Mozilla Foundation filed the trademark applications, those marks are not officially registered yet but that should happen unless there's some opposition to that. IIRC, even some "Star Trek" figure once said that bureaucracy is a constant in this universe - and as one can easily see here, it also takes time. A lot of time, given the fast life of the software industry.
Due to our request, the Mozilla Foundation (MoFo) currently is exploring doing trademark filings for SeaMonkey in Europe and Japan as well. Thanks to Frank Hecker and Gervase Markham from MoFo for helping us so much in this regard.
Also, I want to ensure that those trademarks do not mean that anything in our source base will not be covered by the MPL/GPL/LGPL tri-license in the future. MoFo people share our opinion on trademark and copyright being two different things and so we can publish trademarked imagery and names under the tri-license (which only covers copyright).
We're currently in the process of finishing up a trademark policy for using our marks, very much modeled after the ubuntu one.
That leads me to a first real point about SeaMonkey marketing. Once we have that policy up at our project page, we want to put up a good collection of logos and buttons for people to use to link to our project. As trivial as it sounds, this is probably one of our main marketing initiatives - SeaMonkey is a community project, so we need to do community marketing mainly: Our community is not only what makes it possible to keep the project alive, our community is also who needs to spread the word about SeaMonkey.
We need YOU to tell other people about SeaMonkey!
What the SeaMonkey Council can and will do, is to support community members who spread the word with some materials - which need to be made up by other community members though, so we can put them up on our pages, the wiki, or wherever they make sense. If you feel something's missing for community marketing, tell us in m.d.a.seamonkey or even better, create that missing piece yourself and tell us in that newsgroup, so we may be able to put it up somewhere for a greater public and/or improve your creation.
Another way to support people in spreading the word is a SeaMonkey shop with T-shirts, maybe mugs, maybe even other stuff. I'm working on getting such a shop in the next weeks. It will probably be at CafePress, as we can offer more than just T-shirts there and their int'l shipping costs for single T-shirts are better than spreadshirt's. We'll try to not produce income for SeaMonkey with the shop but get that marketing material out to you as cheap as possible - we wouldn't know whom to give any money we earn to anyways, we care much more about having many people to spread the word.
We realize that many people just haven't heard about SeaMonkey. Many users who want an integrated suite might stick to Mozilla suite just because they either don't know about it being a dead project or - even more often - don't know that there's a vibrant project out there which gives them basically the same software, only with a different name and current updates.
This is why getting SeaMonkey onto the suite start page (see my recent blog post) makes sense. Most people who want a browser only have probably migrated to Firefox already, those who want the integrated suite might not know about SeaMonkey though.
We also are looking into getting some word about us out to the press, but as we are backed by MoFo, we need to coordinate such activities with them. This would be no big problem usually, but the suite start page topic has recently stirred some discussions internally there about to what extent they want to actively promote competing projects/products. I'm sure we'll find some solution that works for all sides though and improves choice and innovation on the Internet.
Our primary target audience consists of advanced and professional users and web developers though, and apparently there's a big enough group there who wants an integrated all-in-one solution. We won't reach those through mass marketing though, we mainly need peers in our community to tell them about SeaMonkey.
As I said before: You all need to actively spread the word. Yes, you as a community member are the core of SeaMonkey marketing. Please help us and tell people around you about our project and our great software!
Update (2007-04-04): I stumbled over the correct "Star Trek" cite wrt bureaucracy now: It's Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy who says "The bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe" in the movie "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home"
March 19th, 2007
Well, actually that was TrackBack spam on this blog - getting some of that proved that my support for TrackBack actually works (and probably that even bots can find my blog through Planet Mozilla).
Of course, anger about that spam wasn't far away - "Such a short time this is up and running and now the first spam arrives " - but I could stand it, given that I now know that apparently TrackBack is usable.
And, yes, I already implemented some simple spam prevention, the system now checks if the remote page contains one of the hostnames related to the blog. Checking for an actual link would probably be better, but for now, this should help to prevent most spam here (I hope).
And no, I don't need further spammers attacking this blog - one test cycle was enough
March 10th, 2007
Those systems can work very well for reporting and working on bugs, and even though it could be improved (yes, all improvements I'd like are filed as bugs themselves), Bugzilla has grown into a really good such system over the years. To be honest, I've never professionally studied such technologies, and Bugzilla is the only one I know really well, but when you're working with it long enough and think about it, you begin to understand what this is all about.
One common mistake people are making is to go into a bug report that already has 50 or more comments and is pretty lengthy, and then they request some detail change in some part of the work that has already been done, reviewed and landed there. A recent comment in the "new SeaMonkey theme" bug doing exactly that is what leads me to write this blog entry. The correct solution to deal with such issues caused by a different bug (esp. if that one is a lengthy report already) is to file a new "followup" bug that covers exactly that one detailed issue you're seeing and mark this new bug dependent on the original one. Leaving a comment in the original bug can also help to get attention to the new issue, but that comment shouldn't be more than "I found a problem with X caused by this checkin, see bug XXXXXX" (Bugzilla is intelligent enough to link your mentioning of "bug XXXXXX" to the actual bug report).
Another common mistake is to add comments to the bug that don't add anything that wasn't already said there, esp. comments that just tell "I'm seeing this too" or "I want this fixed as well" or even "Adding myself to the CC list". "Me too" is only useful if you tell that you're seeing this on a configuration where it wasn't clear before that it is affected by the bug. If developers already know the cause for the problem or are convinced that this should be fixed, a "me too" comment just wastes their time - they need to read it and get no new information from that read, while they could use the same time to already actually work on a fix. You're probably distracting other people from work with such comments, keep that in mind.
I even believe that discussion of how some implementation should work in concept is usually wrong for a bug report. Bug reports should focus on explaining what exactly is the issue, finding out its root cause, and the actual fix (along with reviews of that fix). That's even true for feature requests. If the design of such a feature is unclear, this should be discussed in some place that allows to do this more in a real discussion style, allows easy editing of drafts, etc. Use a newsgroup, a wiki page, or both, or whatever fits this issue, link that from the bug, and come back to the bug when the discussion has settled on a specific approach.
So, actually, effective use of such a system comes down to:
- Care that there's one bug report per specific issue, avoid the need for multiple patches/fixes in a single bug report.
- If you want to track multiple or general issues, use a tracking bug for that (such a bug has multiple specific reports marked as dependencies and no specific work/fix/patch by itself)
- Only add comments that add further information that helps to resolve the bug
- Care that new people who look at the bug report can easily get informed of what the specific issue is and how far a fix has been progressed
- File followup bugs for any derived specific issues, such as regressions, improvements to already passed (reviewed/checked in) fixes (unless you're very sure of a logical one-line-fix or that a backout is the only chance to fix the derived issue)
- When filing new bugs, make sure that all information someone else (a developer) needs to fix this bug is there. If you're not sure what such a developer needs, describe the details of the problem you found (when/where/how it happened to you, what version of what software you were using for that, what you were doing in detail)
- If a developer tells you to file a followup or take the discussion somewhere else, just do it - even if you don't understand why this may be a good idea. If you request a fix done by someone else, it's usually a good idea to also follow his requests that ease him working/helping on a fix. It's usually a good idea to add a comment on the bug that says "requested followup is bug XXXX" or "I opened a thread for this discussion at http://foo/bar" or "The requested draft is on the wiki at http://foo/wiki/bar". Helping developers by following their requests can magically speed up fixing
I'm sure this set of common mistakes and guidelines is incomplete, but I think if you follow this advice, working with Bugzilla and other bug reporting systems will not only be more fun for everyone, but also will make fixes appear faster as developers can be more foused to specific working tasks.
Planet Mozilla is just such a site, and there has been some discussion recently about its administration, with the outcome that Asa is probably owning it now, a new set of peers for that administration has been decided, and we'll end up with this main planet site having the full range of all blog entries of "active Mozilla Community members" and a second feed that only has their Mozilla-related entries. Asa is doing a great job there, and despite of some differences of opinion I may with him from time to time, I'm glad he's taking care of that now.
Additionally, for all of us who are in the L10n community, there's another planet page up on the new L10n server, named as Planet Mozilla L10N.
I'll try to get this blog aggegrated on those planets, at least as soon as I have tag support here and can filter feeds for those where required (L10n, future Mozilla-related-only planet).
In other planetary news, I'm still a bit sad that the next Space Shuttle launch to our home planet's orbit has been pushed out due to damage caused by a hail storm and now can only take place after the ISS crew changeover from Expedition 14 to Expedition 15, which means I have to wait until at least late April to see another hopefully great Station construction mission. I hope they get the second half of P6 solar panels retracted more easily than the first half back on the STS-116 mission last December.
But until STS-117 goes out into orbit, I'll keep hoping their preparations go well and stick to those planets down here...
March 9th, 2007
Once I have the tagging system in place, there will be filtered feeds available that list only certain tags and/or languages. For now, the feeds just list the articles the blog overview page carries - the RSS feed has subjects and links, the atom feed includes the full articles as well.
I probably should try to get the blog syndicated on some planet sites now
Asa Dotzler points out that the word of the Firefox marketing manager and a MoFo employee aren't worth as much as I'd like: "The upgrade path for the Mozilla Suite is Firefox. This was decided years ago and has not changed."
In this case, I'd rather leave those people with a scarily insecure Mozilla 1.x with their suite than to work on Firefox-only marketing.
It would have been nice to give those people a real choice. But it seems the time is not ready for giving them such a choice.
"The mission of the Mozilla project is to preserve choice and innovation on the Internet."
How bitter this can sound in a world where Mozilla doesn't even want to give people the choice between software created within the Mozilla family. I had a quite high opinion of Asa at times, but such statements don't fit with that. I may have to re-think this one.
March 8th, 2007
Probably this is really true for you - but unfortunately there are a lot of people out there that have not upgraded to one of our current products yet and are still risking their security daily by using a hopelessly outdated browser. You want numbers? OK, here they are: www.seamonkey.at is the homepage of the German SeaMonkey and Mozilla suite localization - and happens to also contain the default start page of those localized suite versions. That domain had 3.2 million page views in February, originating from about 1.1 million different IP addresses (OK, each address is counted once per day, but I guess that doesn't matter much there). Of course, most of those hits come from people hitting their browser's default start page, 56% of all hits go to that page - so it's no surprise that the suites are leading stats for browsers there. The downside is which one is first - it's still the old, outdated, insecure Mozilla suite, scoring 65% of all hits (bots excluded) on that domain in February! SeaMonkey is "only" second with 29% of all hits, leaving 6% to the browsers that don't have their start page set to this domain - mainly Firefox (3.5%) and MSIE (1.4%), all other scoring far below 1% of all hits. That's surely no representative picture of the web, but it should be quite representative for relative adoption of Mozilla suite vs. SeaMonkey (in German-speaking countries - and I doubt other regions of the world would be much different).
For me, having 960,000 hits a month with SeaMonkey is a good start - but after more than a year of stable SeaMonkey releases and 10 months after the last Mozilla suite update, the amount of remaining Mozilla users is really scary - and looking at a version breakdown is even more so, as 1.7.13 only scores 10%, which means that over 50% of my site hits are even older Mozillas (while about 40% of the SeaMonkey users are using 1.1.x already).
So, clearly, something needs to be done to get Mozilla users to migrate to a newer browser. Someone has to kick their butt, so to say. And now, in bug 373065, we're trying to do something in that way for the default en-US version (and I'll go with a similar approach for German at about the same time). We'll be showing all those people a big warning on their start page that they're using outdated, insecure software. At the same time, we'll be pointing them to the recommended upgrade paths - and yes, Mozilla representatives also feel we should present SeaMonkey and Firefox as equal choices there. Yay! It really feels good that our project is recognized that way
I'm still waiting for some text improvements by Paul Kim from Firefox Marketing and an OK from Gerv from MoFo - but expect to see this warning hitting your start page soon. Oh wait, I forgot, you already upgraded, right?
March 7th, 2007
I will also implement Pingback as a next step, but for now, TrackBack at least is available
March 3rd, 2007
I just hope someone will actually post comments to those entries... Actually, I'm not even sure anyone is reading this. But I guess I'll see over time if people are reading this blog or not.
Of course, people might probably like to hear about other stuff than this blogging system, perhaps SeaMonkey? Yes, some entries about will follow. And also some entries about Karaoke, Austrian politics or other topics, in both German and English. But probably only once this system starts working well enough.
Or do readers want to know more about some specific topic I actually can write about?
March 2nd, 2007
One of the first things I created was some part of trackback support that is not shown anywhere yet (also no auto-discovery support yet). But I should also care to implement pingback, which is probably a nicer format - how come that Hixie is doing such a lot of cool stuff?
Anyways, I should probably get personally invisible on the internet, er, well, no chance actually, better just offline for a few hours to get some sleep...
March 1st, 2007
Well, here I am, writing a first blog entry. One can change his mind some time, right? OK, if really nobody is reading what I'm writing, I'll eventually stop it again. Makes no sense to write stuff that is not read by anyone after all. But we'll see how it turns out.
Oh, and you might tell me that this blogging system I'm using really sucks. Sure it does. It's a new system I'm developing, and it's not nearly finished yet. No, I'm programming it myself not because it's fun to duplicate what's out there - but I'd like to have blogs that are integrated with my community system, and so I got to integrate one.
Until now, I barely can create a new blog and post simple entries. No comments, no trackback, no categories/tags, no feed, no nice-looking permalinks yet, this is upcoming in the next few weeks. Just depends on how much time I have to work on all that.
The first step is done, I'm slowly entering the blogosphere. Let's see if the heat shield holds up