August 2004 Archives
In what appears to be the inverse of a backhanded compliment, Stephen Toulouse, Microsoft's security program manager, said to Wired Magazine, "Security is really an industry-wide problem. Just this morning I had to install an update to Firefox to block a flaw that would've allowed an attacker to run a program on my system." If he indeed does use Firefox, maybe I can convince him to post a Firefox button on his site or blog :-) (link via /.)
All gone. I'll let you know if I get more.
Ben talks about some big changes coming to the Extension update system. Scary, but given the state of the current mechanism, I'm glad we're doing something.
I just discovered this website, FirefoxIE, which seems like a nice starting point for advanced users looking to migrate from IE to Firefox with as little disruption as possible.
I just learned that there will be no winFS in Longhorn. I suppose it's a good thing that we didn't take Robert Scoble's advice and start investing Firefox time and resources to utilize MS's WinFS file system:
I'm using Firefox on Longhorn. Works great! But it COULD BE so much better! You don't take advantage of Avalon. You don't take advantage of WinFS. These things are not threats to you. They are platform-level investments we're making for you to use. If you don't use them, I'm sure some other browser will (Opera?) and I'll switch to that.How many hours have software developers blown chasing the ever-fading and ever-slipping featureset that Microsoft has been promising for years.
I'm hardly involved in the decisions about which technologies we build with and upon and I'm sure Robert isn't directly involved in the Longhorn scheduling and featureset decisions, but he did make a fairly well publicized comment about how Mozilla should use Microsoft technologies so I gotta poke at him a bit. I'm also not completely unaware of the kinds of reactions that software makers get when they pull planned features because there just aren't the resources or the time to make them work as well as you'd like :-) so I won't give Robert too much grief over this. Making software is hard.
I guess the lesson to take away from all of this is that it's better to under-promise and over-deliver than the inverse.
Having full 8-bit alpha transparent animations based on the standard PNG format is going to be a real boon to website and Firefox theme development. I can't wait.
I've got another dozen or so gmail invites to give out. First names I recognize to post in the comments here can have them. If you think I'll recognize you, comment here. If you don't think I'll recognize you but you think all the people I would recognize already have gmail accounts, then feel free to post as well.
I've seen complaints from several Firefox users that pageload speed has dramatically decreased since installing SP2. Can any of you confirm this? I don't see it on my machine, but maybe I've got just the right system config to not see it. If you are seeing this kind of problem, please let me know in the comments and please, also, provide some basic details about your system and Firefox version, etc. Thanks.
So I see that MicroSoft has updated their website. Is it really that hard to make the menu and banner pretty in Firefox too? The design is clearly a move towards the standards and it looks highly optimized. Why not take the tiny extra step to style it nicely for Firefox?
I understand legacy sites from a few years ago that saw the trend toward an IE-only web and so never considered making things work well in multiple browsers.
This is different. This is a company with infinite budget, talented developers, and an entire team who are specifically tasked with writing a Web browser, and apparently the desire to move towards the w3c standards. Is it really so difficult when you're redesigning a site from the ground up to make your primary (and fairly simple) navigation menu style and your site banner look roughly the same in more than one browser? No. It's not. It's certainly within their capabilities. Why then?
Maybe Scoble knows.
------- Additional Comment #519 From Micky Mouse 2004-08-25 15:10 PDT [reply] -------Wow. It doesn't get much worse than hitler and cancer, does it.
Asa you are a cancer inside Mozilla project.
This is why good programmers keep away from Mozilla develop.
Because you are like Hitler.
Please kick Asa from Mozilla and other spammer like "us".
What about other feature removals, actual removals, not just the shifting of UI access points? Should we ship a wholly broken feature and release note that it doesn't work? At what point is it too bad to ship? If it's a dataloss problem then do you pull it? What if half of it works and half of it fails? What if we have no idea whether it works or not? What if it's not technically broken but it's just a really ugly user experience?
Brendan certainly leaves the door open to removing "buggily inadequate, vestigial feature" and I think that's quite important. Stubbornly not removing features this late in the game because people don't think 1.0 should have fewer features than 0.9 leads to real problems. If something is badly broken or means a very poor user experience, should it stay in just because a vocal few are willing to live with that brokenness and because we've been shipping those problems to the current user base for some time? I'm not talking about view source or JS console, neither of which meet the "buggily inadequate" criteria; I'm talking about other major features with menu items and buttons and other prominent UI that simply fail, have really bad bugs, or lead to a terrible user experience and which may not be fixed for 1.0. Do we ship a menuitem like "export bookmarks" that simply doesn't work because our community of users is used to that failure? Do we ship the Bookmarks quick search field even though it leads to about a half dozen serious bugs including the appearance of dataloss? (Hopefully these bookmarks problems will be fixed because right now we've got strong and active owership for Bookmarks, but there are plenty of other examples, some of which will surely not be fixed in time for the release.)
Off-line is a good example. It had major bugs that no one was currently addressing and hadn't addressed for years. An IE user attempting to use our off-line would have a horrible experience compared to what he was used to on IE. Not only the dataloss problems and failures to connect and disconnect from the internet when going off or back online, but simple usability failings like not showing the user what items are actually available offline or disabling the bits that aren't available. It's an all around awful experience for any regular IE off-line user to encounter and no one seemed the least bit interested in fixing it for Firefox. Part of the reason, I'm sure, is that the Mozilla community is just used to this kind of brokenness. We're comfortable with that level of failure and we assume so will be the millions of IE converts we're anticipating in the coming months. We've been using half-implemented features with horrible UI forever, but it was worth it because we had pop-up blocking or tabbed browsing or some other feature that made it easy to overlook the warts.
SO what to do about broken features and what about features that we don't have time to test? Should we be shipping unknowns? There are features that I don't test and that I don't have any idea the state of. There could be major bugs reported in bugzilla even, that are languishing in Unconfirmed or mis-assigned or even correctly assigned but not on the radar of the project team. Is crossing our fingers on these features the right thing to do? If it completely ruined the browsing experience for some segment of users then should we ship it because "you can't pull features after 0.9"?
And what about features that are only somewhat broken? A good example is themes and theme switching. We've never done perfect dynamic theme switching, there's always some cruft left over from the previous theme and we've often had dataloss problems associated with theme switching. Today I installed a fresh Firefox build and created a brand new profile -- like I do pretty much every morning. I went to update.mozilla.org and installed the number 2 most popular theme from update.mozilla.org and not only did I lose all the pages I had in open tabs and windows (including a bugzilla bug I was in the middle of reporting) but after a restart I couldn't get my browser back at all. Something about an XBL error. OK, so that's a bad theme, I guess. Apparently, when something goes horribly wrong with a theme, we don't fail back to the default, we just die. User's are gonna love that one. After blowing away that profile I installed some other themes and found that we don't switch fully on several themes without a restart and some themes lead to a primary toolbar with three or four copies of each button. I also noticed that we add really odd scrollbars to some Web pages and XUL windows (like download manager and the theme manager itself) when you switch themes. Also, at least one of my themes likes to clear out the URLbar when I switch to or from it. Is it "good enough" to ship? Is it an embarrassment? I suspect a that judgement is heavily impacted by whether you've grown accustomed to the broken behavior over the years or whether you're a brand new Firefox user migrating from IE or some other browser that doesn't suffer from such obvious failures. We have other features like Fullscreen which might seem fine to SeaMonkey users who are used to the brokenness but which will be a real shock to IE users. Is it better to leave those in and have a semi-functional but embarrassingly buggy and incomplete feature than to not have the feature at all?
We removed bookmark notification because it was highly buggy and no one was working on making it less buggy. The same for off-line. Was that the wrong move? Do we care that there may be some some highly visbile features will make us look really bad to new converts?
If we can't fix them in time for PR or 1.0, should we ship much loved features like dynamic theme switching (or theme switching at all) because we're all comfortable with that level of bugginess or should they be removed? And what's the reaction going to be when other features simply have to be removed, like the really nice find in page highlighting or the auto-scrolling icon that work by changing the DOM of the page? Will there be crying and gnashing of teeth when those features get pulled?
Brendan was right and I was wrong about JS Console and View Source. We can't touch the primary access points for these features because there are too many people in the Mozilla community that need them and the Mozilla community is one of our most important audiences. If we had more time, maybe we could experiment with changing access points but it's too late in the game to get decent feedback, I suppose.
Jakob Nielson on OSS usability:
From a usability standpoint how do you rate open source software compared to proprietary software?
Poorly, I�m sorry to say. I think the reason is that it�s biased highly for one specialised area which is the very technical such as IT systems administrators. But Linux for the average user or other open source solutions for someone who is not a geek rates particularly low.
The reason is, the motivation for open source is not because the person gets paid but the person gets prestige. The developers are designing for each other and they are so feature rich--geeks love features--and you get more prestige by adding features. For the average person fewer features is better and easier to understand.
The value systems are kind of opposite for what average users need and what open source developers want to do. As long as they are designing for other people like themselves it works quite well. But as soon as they try and design for the average person it breaks down....
Open source software, in my experience, does suffer from this problem. Firefox is the exception says Michelle Levesque, who has closely studied this problem.
I have five major complaints about Open Source software development, but in advance I would like to clarify two things. First of all, there will always be exceptions to every rule. For example, I believe that relatively few complaints listed here apply to the Open Source browser Firefox which continues to surpass my expectations.
Creating and shipping great user-oriented software is no simple task. You've got to have solid planning, strong leadership, capable engineers, lots and lots of testing, and most important of all, an understanding of the customer. I think that last bit is the hardest for most OSS projects that try to appeal to more than just open source techie types.
Firefox is doing things differently and has been since it's inception. The project began with a small team of talented engineers who put usability above breadth of functionality and who began by saying that just because a feature was free, doesn't mean it necessarily belongs in the product.
Bad guys may be staring at your children and scoping out your home and valuables. They may be watching and listening to your employees' conversations and stealing your intellectual property.
It appears that the latest nasty Windows worm exploits vulnerabilities in Microsoft products to enable webcams so that attackers can see and hear what's going on in your home or office.
Safer computing? Doesn't sound like it to me.
"If your computer is infected and you have a webcam plugged in, then everything you do in front of the computer can be seen, and everything you say can be recorded," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "It would be like having a regular web cam conversation except you wouldn't know you're taking part in it."
These problems are only going to get worse. Protect yourself. Seek out safer alternatives. Practice smarter computing. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security by bandaid fixes. Demand real security. Demand real privacy. Take back the Web.
I'm having some difficulty hooking up an alternate style sheet. I've added a couple of links over on the sidebar, one for the default style, and one for the nice stylesheet that Grayrest created (slightly modified). If everything was working correctly, the link for the Grayrest Style would swap out my style for his and set a cookie so you'd get a nice persistent style.
Either of the two styles, Grayrest's or mine, seems to work fine as the default, but Grayrest's sheet doesn't apply properly if it isn't the default. It doesn't like being alternate for some reason. Anyone have any ideas what's going on?
update:OK, I found the problem and it was Grayrest's IE hack setting the date2 div's height to 100%. Removing that messes things up a bit with the first post header in IE, but that seems preferable to not seeing any posts at all in Gecko.
Well, for all you folks reading the web version (and not just the feed,) I've got a new look for you. I've been wanting something brighter and more cheerful for a while now and I finally sat down and plugged some happy colors (all taken from the Firefox UI) into my stylesheet. I still haven't done anything to make sure the various archives are looking good, but that can wait 'till tomorrow.
If you're a feed reader, maybe click that link to come take a look at what you're missing (for good or bad ;-) and if you're a Web page reader and this is just too crazy bright for you, consider grabbing one of my feeds with a feed reader -- I recommend the Forumzilla extension for Thunderbird mail or the Sage extension for Firefox.
I've checked the page over in Gecko and IE and I do see the few IE glitches that you're probably seeing. I'm looking for help ironing out those wrinkles in IE so if you have experience in styling for that browser, suggestions or patches are welcome.
If you're using Opera, Safari, or any other niche browser and see problems, I'm happy to fix them if the comments come with a patch that doesn't break things in Gecko and IE.
update: I just took a look back at some of the design submissions from a couple of weeks ago and noticed some real similarities to Grayrest's design. I guess I got some subconcious inspiration from that. Thanks Grayrest. It's a very nice design. Maybe I'll try to get that working as the alternate style.
Mitchell Baker (our fearless leader and Chief Lizard Wrangler at the Mozilla Foundation) blogged last night about the creation of Mozilla Japan and Mozilla Europe. If you're as interested in how the Mozilla community is evolving as I am, you will really enjoy this post.
In addition to announcing the formation of the new Mozilla Japan affiliate, Mitchell shares some background on the creation of Mozilla Europe, telling of the determination of the leadership in that geographic segment of our community to have a more formal organization. I haven't had a lot of involvement with our European community but I was fortunate enough to be invited to Japan for the Mozilla Gumi-hosted Mozilla 1.0 developer event and party. I was the featured speaker at their gathering, which included hundreds of enthusiastic participants and I was just overwhelmed by the excitement and the sense of community there. I came home with a new and better understanding or how large this project and how powerful it's contributing base has become.
I hope to be posting more regularly on the various components of our community and how they have made the difference in bringing Mozilla to where it is today. Stay tuned.
I suppose this would be as simple as hiding or removing the menu items and then overlaying the menu items exposing the features when the developer pack was installed, but I'm not a developer so I'm not sure how exactly to do that.
If you've got the skills to come up with a patch for this bug, I'll help you shephard it through the review and approval process.
The way I see it, Opera is the Internet�s Swiss Army knife. It even has a beer can opener for those late night programming runs. On the other hand, I see Firefox as the trusty, centuries old katana. The blade is sharp and tapered thin, and is used for naught but one thing.
Firefox, built for cutting off heads ;-)
It looks like Netscape 7.2 has been released. This release is based on the Mozilla 1.7 branch and roughly matches Mozilla 1.7.2 in Mozilla (and Gecko) features. I hope that everyone using previous Netscape products will update to this improved version, if for nothing but the security improvements. More and newer Gecko user agents on the web can only be a good thing.
If you're an extension or theme author, now is the time to start paying attention to the builds as we approach the Firefox 0.10 (aka 1.0 PR) and Thunderbird 0.8 releases. You will want to make sure your extensions or themes are still compatible and get ready to rev your max-version at update.mozilla.org. You can read more about this at the Updating Your Extensions document.
Today I've been taking a look over our button campaign stats and poking around the blogosphere looking for more sites to contact. One of the things that surprised me was how easy it is to randomly stumble into a blog that has a Firefox button or link.
While my humble blog doesn't get enough traffic to make any real dent in most blogs' stats, I've decided to post links every couple of days to some of the sites who feature Firefox buttons to see if we can send them some new readers.
As Firefox fans, you all may want to check out some of these sites. Most of them have little to do with Firefox or browsers in general but if you're looking for some new reading, you might find some interesting blogs to add to your list. Here are the first random 10 sites that have Firefox buttons:
I'm not endorsing any of this content and I've only skimmed most of these sites briefly, but they're doing a good deed for Firefox and the Web, so give them your eyeballs for a minute or two.
I'm not a LiveJournal user (except for the purposes of this post) but I decided to finally take a good look at the Deepest Sender extension for Firefox because I've read so much about it around the blogs. It's pretty nice. I've got some minor UI criticisms but beyond that, it's a very capable tool and if you're a Firefox user and a LJ user, you really should get Deepest Sender.
We've made a lot of progress in the last couple of weeks with this button campaign and because it seems to be working, we're going to keep the tool going and Blake and I will continue to send emails to sites that may be interested in adding a button to promote Firefox.
If you're interested in helping with this effort, head over to the button tool and add sites and blogs that have been saying good things about Firefox. If you don't have any new sites or blogs to add, then spend a minute or two and help us gather contact information for the sites we do have.
Our goal was a bit high for the short period of time so we're just going to keep this effort going at a moderate pace until the 1.0 release, by which time we expect to have spread buttons across the entire blogosphere. Taking back the Web is no easy task, and we're doing it one person, one blog, one download at a time. We could sure use your help.
Firefox is making the mainstream. You can see it in yesterday's New York Times article featuring Firefox:
For Katherine Sandlin, a barrage of pop-up ads was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back - in this case, her reliance on Microsoft's Internet Explorer.It's time to push out beyond the blogs and start hitting the mainstream with the Firefox brand and message. The next step in this process is to get a solid team organized to tackle the advertising effort. If you're interested in helping to chase down free advertising opportunities for Firefox, check out Bart's blog post and read how.
Even before her home page could load, thumbnail-size advertisements would crowd the monitor urging her to apply for a credit card or find love online. So she asked around for other ways to browse the Web.
One software switch later, Ms. Sandlin is reveling in a pop-up-free existence and spreading the word about Firefox, a free Web browser developed by the Mozilla Foundation that has a built-in pop-up blocker. Ms. Sandlin is so devoted to her browser that she has taped a note to her monitor warning guests not to click on the desktop shortcut to Internet Explorer. "Do not touch the blue 'E!' " the note says.
StopIE -- a site that explains how you can do your part to rid the web of IE. It sounds like he's going to donate any profits he makes off of Google ads to the Mozilla Foundation. That sounds good to me.
I've been poking around the referrer logs for Firefox and the mozilla.org website and there are some interesting sites linking to us. (Warning: adult content behind some of the links below.)
For a glimpse into who is linking to our Firefox pages, here are the top 10 referrers from yesterday (minus search engines and referrers from other mozilla.org pages):
and here are this month's top ten non-mozilla, non-search referrers to mozilla.org:
I'm desperate (not really, but I'd sure like) to find a free webmail account that supports IMAP and at least 5 MB of space and preferably a lot more. If any of you know of such a thing, please let me know here in the comments.
update: Thanks for all the great suggestions, and especially to Luke, Gerv, David, Steve, and Micahel for the hosting offers.
If you're a web developer or a JS developer, you really should know about Venkman, the JS debugger offered by Mozilla. This is probably the most powerful open source JS debugger available. It's cross-platform. It does JS performance profiling! and it's also a great example of the capabilities of XUL and the Mozilla toolkit as an application platform.
Spread the word!
NASA engineers got the thumbs up on Monday to start planning a robotic mission to rescue the Hubble Space Telescope.This comes as great news to Hubble fans, but even better news to the scientific community.
Mitchell Baker, our fearless leader, reports on the "community" discussions at OSCON. This is certainly an area of particular interest to me and I think many of you who read this blog for its Mozilla-related content will enjoy reading what Mitchell has to say. Her blog is just getting going but it's off to a great start with thoughtful and informative posts. If you haven't already, you should add her to your regular reading list or subscribe to her feed.
I think this blog needs a facelift. I'm actually finding the current state of design, especially colors, to be very uninspiring and I think I'm posting less than I would if it was something I really enjoyed looking at. It was a solid design that fit me well for quite a while but now I want something a lot more upbeat and colorful.
I'd really like to take a few days and dive into a big redesign and template cleanup but with my busy work schedule and health issues still taking a solid bite out of my non-work hours, that's just not gonna happen anytime soon.
So I'm reaching out, once again, to all of you great web designers who read this blog (even if only occasionally.) If you like what you get here and you'd like to contribute something back, how about a new style sheet!
I'd like to continue to include the cute Firefox image over there to the left and I'd like to move to the Firefox browser color scheme (roughly #72F259,#56CAF9,#FFEC7A,#EB6310,#FBCF38.) Other than those (and I'm flexible there) I'm open to just about anything that feels more cheerful. If you'd like to contribute a stylesheet, post a mock-up or a link to the sheet at the comments here. Thanks in advance :-)
One thing I'd really like to see is RPMs for each of the Firefox major releases. This article has info on how to do it.
I'm not gonna try to live blog it because I'd rather enjoy watching the presentations this time around. I think this is the first Mozilla event where I'm not presenting so I'm gonna just take it easy and enjoy.
The Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail client is swiftly approaching its 1.0 release, currently planned to coincide with Firefox 1.0. In order to ensure that all those happy new Thunderbird users have a great experience migrating, we're holding a special Thunderbird Migration Bonanza party all day long on Tuesday.
Bring your Outlook, Eudora, Mozilla, Outlook Express, and Communicator e-mail clients with you and join us on IRC for a day of testing the Thunderbird migration features. The goal is to get as many testing migrations performed on as many clients and as many operating systems as possible and to discuss and record all the problems in Bugzilla.
With your help, we can ensure that mail, account settings, and address books migration and import are all in tip-top shape for the big 1.0 release coming up. I also expect that some of you doing this migration test will see how wonderful Thunderbird is and won't want to go back to your old clients, so please join us on Tuesday on the IRC server irc.mozilla.org, channel #mozillazine for this special BugDay and we'll have a great time getting new users set up and migrated to Thunderbird. For those that aren't ready to make the leap, you can help us with some testing, trash it all when you're done and know that you helped make the Mozilla Firefox/Thunderbird 1.0 release duo the best thing to happen to the Internet in years!
So exciting I had to post twice about it. Actually, today it's posted at the LinuxWorld web site:
�The winners of the LinuxWorld Product Excellence Awards represent the best that open source has to offer,� said Warwick Davies, group vice president, IDG World Expo. �With the help of LinuxWorld Magazine and our experienced judges, we have selected the most innovative and effective solutions for users of Linux and open source. We applaud the developers of these solutions for their hard work and dedication to innovation.�
The �Best of Show� award, which recognizes a product deemed by the judges to be an important advancement and a major step forward for Linux in the marketplace, was presented to the Mozilla Foundation for Mozilla FireFox.
And if Best in Show wasn't enough, Firefox also took home the another accolade with "Best Open Source Solution".
The list of judges for this year's LinuxWorld awards include Kevin Bedell, Bill Claybrooke, Gary Hein, Sam Hiser, Dee-Ann LeBlanc, Robin "Roblimo" Miller, Paul Nowak, Brian Proffitt, Stacey Quandt, Bill Roth, Doc Searls, Leon Shiman, John Terpstra, James Turner, Maria Winslow, and John Weathersby.
I wasn't there but word is that the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox browser took home the best open source solution award at LinuxWorld. Not only that, but I hear Firefox got Best in Show!! Best in Show!! Awesome!
correction oops, Thunderbird was a finalist, but not a winner. Still, what a great day!
Well, we're again looking for your help. You all showed in the download.com effort that you're an unstoppable force. This week we need you all to channel your energies into finding people like you who like us :-) -- sort of.
What's going on is that we'd like to find all of the people out there writing favorable reviews, good Firefox article, or blog posts encouraging others to download Firefox. Then we're going to try to make contact with the Firefox advocates out there and see if they're interested in taking further steps to promote Firefox.
To do this, we need to find out who they are and how to contact them. Doing that is this weeks community marketing effort. You can read more about our latest effort over at Blake's Blog but the basic deal is that we have a web tool where you can log the URLs of good Firefox articles, commentary, or blog posts and the contact info for that writer. If you can't find contact information, then maybe someone else will and the tool allows us to help each other build this contact list.
More over at Blake's Blog.
update: jasidog, in the comments, makes a good point; I didn't say why we were collecting this information. It's pretty simple; we want to make personal contact with those folks and see if they're willing to help us spread the word about Firefox with buttons or other mechanisms.
We win again :) Mozilla Firefox has been named the 2004 Linux Journal Editor's Choice winner in the Web Browser or Client category.