Friday, June 24, 2011

SOFTWARE: The F Word, Firefox 5

I have a problem with Firefox 4.01. It crashes. Randomly. With an error that something like less than two percent of all Firefox users encounter. And Mozilla can't identify the cause and, as a result, fix it. My main hope was that with the release of v5 earlier this week, the deck chairs would have been re-arranged enough so that the cure would occur through serendipity.

Well, to this moment, no crashes. So, I should be happy. Right? Ahhhh, you know me so well. Of course I'm NOT happy.

Mozilla has cast longing looks at the update schedule for Google Chrome and decided to do it one better. A new major version every six weeks. Come rain or shine or no real reason to release an update, Mozilla's committed to an update every six weeks. This after rather intolerable times between updates 3.0, 3.5, 3.6 and 4.0. Actually, there were a litany of little point releases in between. And all the world, save the attention-started Mozilla main men, was happy.

Now, there's no Mozilla-based reason why the world should look askance at the six-week schedule. There might be a dot release somewhere in those six weeks. But generally speaking, Firefox users are just happy new aims and acheiving those aims is now scheduled.

So, why am I ARRRGGHHHHHing over Firefox 5? Add-ons or add-ins or extensions or whatever you want to call those extra bits of code that actually let you personalize your Firefox experience into the best web-browser (at least for me and anybody I can threaten or harangue). In each extension is a little bit of code that says this will work with versions X to Y. That's important. If something changes in version Z of Firefox, it's important to avoid having the extension try to do something that Z now forbids, treats differently or has removed the linking in capability. Broke software is worse than a virus in many ways.

It's important for extension writers to check out the new version Z and make sure the extension behaves as it traditionally has. And, if so, update the X and Y limites built into the extension, where the new Y is actually Z (See you ARE using that algebra that you vowed never to use again, one minute after you completed your last algebra exam in school). For various reasons (laziness, non-interest in continuing to work on a freebie, death, inability to figure out any key changes in the newest version, acknowledgement of better alternatives, not having time, etc.) some extension programmers do NOT upgrade their extension in time for the release of the new version.

And that bit me on the behind when I upgraded Popeye to Firefox 5 (Quincy is still using FF4). A half-dozen of my most needed extensions, Evernote, FEBE, FfChrome, Save Image in Folder, Show Go!, Stop Autoplay and Wired Marker were disabled, unable to function in FF5. Well, no need to guess what kind of inarticulate sounds I was making. I'm pretty sure that I over-rode some of the thunder that night.

The worst thing, the thing that has murderous visions crossing before my eyes, is that FF5 is really just FF4.02. Little in the way of new code, just a bunch of security upgrades. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Security is good. Many of the extensions I add are devoted to that area, making FF the most secure of the web-browsers. BUT, if Mozilla had gotten off it's semantics horse and just released the new version as v4.02, the upgrade process would have occurred with nary a bit of notice on my part. Everything would have kept functioning and I could have saved myself a whole lot of mental angst imagining what I would do with the throat of a Mozilla decision-maker in my hands.

Fortunately, there's an extension designed to get around this specific issue. Add-On Compatibility Reporter can be found at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/add-on-compatibility-reporter/ and, while functioning in a most peculiar way, will let you survive FF5's difference in versioning. Won't solve truly incompatible problems, but in this semantically the same kind of difference, AOCR will let you continue on, as is, awaiting actual approved upgrades to come rolling in, in the days ahead. Not the weeks ahead, cuz six weeks from now (less actually), FF6 will be released.

Oh fun. Yeah, that was the F Word I was thinking of.

3 comments:

jfeltonx7 said...

Actually I am using the 3.0 version of Firefox. This is very old version. I have not installed the new version. If this Firefox 5 version will available on net than I would like to install this instead of Firefox 4.

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Tina said...

Hi Gary,

This is Genie's daughter. I was just thinking about you as I was reading about the treacherous history of Commodore so I looked around and came upon this blog. The drawing in the banner is unmistakably you so I thought I'd say hello. Hope you're well!

-T

Gary Mugford said...

Tina,

Welcome back my universe. Don't know if I told Genie, so I don't know if you know this. But in the novel I am writing, one of the two main characters is based on you. When the tome finally hits the aether (which is scheduled for some time before I die), I hope you will be pleased with what you see of yourself in Natalia.

Say hi to your mom and Nick when next you see them. Turns out I miss them living around the corner ... or as close to it as a car will get me.