Saturday, April 07, 2007

Mozilla Mayhem

The last few weeks have presented some real challenges to Mozilla.

Firstly, the Add-Ons Oopsie

The Mozilla Web Development team finally followed through and rolled out a new redesign of the Mozilla Add-on's page. This is the top landing zone for folks to get the extensions that make Firefox so customizable.

Only when they rolled it out a few problems ensued.

It seemed according to some accounts that only about 150 or so extensions made the cut from the previous 2500 or so previously present.

This had the consequence of rendering a large number of web links in Google, blogs and other pages to the extensions useless as a Add-on Not Found page was generated. I have to admit I (naively) was expecting mass revolt across the web, burning of effigies, riots and panic as a wave of uproar generated by Firefox faithful screamed out for restoration of their extensions.

Alas, it seemed to be a yawn. Maybe I dig the extensions too much as a "power-user" of Firefox. Maybe the average Joe and Jane who stumble across Firefox just don't get (or need) the extensions. I'm not sure what happened.

It seemed that for the most part only extension developers who were left out in the cold and some Firefox power-users were the only ones expressing any concern or passion about the deal.

My, oh my.

Then their servers apparently melted down under the load and they rolled it back to the old-style.

Now they have rolled it back out again, and tossed in some more extensions to bring the current "trusted" pile available for public access up to about 850.

Then there is that whole new "Sandbox" thing with the add-ons.

See, they had split the extensions into "trusted" and "Sandboxed" extensions. The ones in the public area had been vetted by a crack team of, seasoned and experienced Mozilla team members. While those awaiting quality assurance were held in a hard-to-reach "sandbox" area for review, until they were eventually moved into the public zone.

Only that also got rolled back and all the pre-existing extensions got put back into the public zone again: all pre-existing add-ons restored (made public) - Mozilla Webdev

So now, things are back to "normal" over on the Mozilla Add-Ons site. It is cleaned up and site navigation simplified, and some tweaks were made to improve server performance.

At the fundamental level, I really do like the idea the Mozilla Webdev team has in mind with the Sandbox concept:

It is very, very important to us that unsuspecting users are protected from malicious or careless software when using the AMO site.


Additionally, as Firefox’s appeal widens to a more mainstream, less computer-savvy audience, we came to realize that we needed to make sure that the add-ons were comprehensible and accessible to people who were not as comfortable working around installation problems or figuring out what an extension did by experimentation. The add-ons that people find through their use of AMO should be inspiring examples of what the extensible web can provide, and should make users’ lives better in every way.

The implementation just kinda sucked.

For more information, take a minute to read the policy page description and review process flowchart.

Secondly, a new Alpha for Firefox

Gran Paradiso Alpha 3 was released

Mozilla Gran Paradiso Alpha 3 Release Notes

It's clearly offered for extreme cutting-edge testers, but overall I have found it to be very stable on my XP systems. And while I am not quite ready to utilize it for daily usage (over Firefox I am very happy with its performance and minor feature improvements.

Thirdly, Minefield goes to 3.0a4pre

In the past week or so, Mozilla has bumped it's Minefield "nightly " build from 3.0a3pre to 3.0a4pre.

As of this post: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.9a4pre) Gecko/20070407 Minefield/3.0a4pre ID:2007040704 [cairo]

I REALLY want to use this as my daily Firefox browser build. The graphic rendering seems so much better, it seems faster, and I just get a very positive (subjective) feel. However, I remain "chicken" to depend on it for all my blogging/browsing/secure web session needs.

Bonus feature: Discontinuous text selections in Firefox 3.0a. Wonderful for bloggers!

So this "Minefield" build remains like a really nice "topless" sports car; taken out for fast and fun weekend spins on the Web...but probably not quite suitable for daily commuting.

Lastly: Thunderbird 2.0--fueling up for Release!

Let me be totally biased here: I think Mozilla's Thunderbird is the best "home" email client.


Yes there are lots of contenders, but I just really enjoy the way Thunderbird works.

I've been using the 2.0b2 (Beta 2) version of Thunderbird for some time now and positively love it.

Then Thunderbird Release Candidate 1 (RC1) was released just a few days ago. I jumped on it.

It has a number of new features: Including native Gmail support (hurrah!), message tagging, and true Vista support, and a clickable system-tray new mail notifier (like Outlook!).

New features & significant changes in Thunderbird 2 Release Candidate 1:

  • Tools for organizing and managing e-mail
    • Implement mail "back" and "forward"
    • Message Tags
      • Ability to search tags
      • Support for editing tags
      • Improve Usability Of Tag Menus
    • Folder Views
    • Option to file replies in folder of original message
    • Find As You Type in the message pane
    • Enable auto-save by default
    • Recent folder menus for Copying and Moving messages
  • Be Informative
    • Main mail window now shows IMAP quota usage
    • New Mail Alert Improvements
      • Ability to customize new mail alert information
    • Folder Summary Tooltips
    • Add ability to check news servers for new messages at startup
  • Support for new platforms
    • Windows x64 platform support
    • Universal binaries for Intel Macs
    • Windows Vista support
  • Automatic detection of online state
  • Preference dialog redesign
  • Remote image policy changes
  • Two pane view using a folder location picker toolbar widget
  • Spell check now also checks the subject line
  • New Windows installer based on Nullsoft Scriptable Install System
  • Theme updates for all platforms
  • New, combined and improved Add-ons manager for extensions and themes
  • New account types - Gmail (all systems) & .Mac (Mac OS X only)
  • New localizations: Belarusian, Georgian & Portuguese
  • Thunderbird 2 release notes link in Help menu should point to localized documents

According to The Rumbling Edge, over 950 bugfixes and improvements went into this new build from the 1.5 Thunderbird branch. Wow.

Of course...I couldn't be satisfied with Thunderbird 2.0 RC1, so I went poking around on the Mozilla FTP server and found a Thunderbird RC2 (nightly?) non-released build. It's actually dated a wee-bit older than the RC1 version in a parent folder on the server. I'm not sure what the real distinction is between all these....but that is the version I am currently running and haven't had any problems or crashes yet.

Tentative final release date for Thunderbird 2.0?

Still late April.

Have fun!


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