Does Firefox update despite being set to "never check for updates"? This might be why.

If, like me, you have set Firefox to "never check for updates" for some reason, and yet it does sometimes anyway, this could be your problem: the chrome debugger.

The chrome debugger uses a separate profile, with the preferences copied from your normal profile. But, if your prefs (such as app.update.enabled) have changed, they remain in the debugger profile as they were when you first opened the debugger.

App update can be started by any profile using the app, so the debugger profile sees the pref as it once was, and goes looking for updates.

Solution? Copy the app update prefs from the main profile to the debugger profile (mine was at ~/.cache/mozilla/firefox/31392shv.default/chrome_debugger_profile), or just destroy the debugger profile and have a new one created next time you use it.

Just thought you might like to know.

Can you imagine…

  • Posted: Aug. 18, 2015, 10:40 a.m.
  • Last updated: Aug. 18, 2015, 11:28 p.m.
  • Tags: frontpage mozilla

… an imaginary menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie?

Just over two years ago, I posted about localizing Mozilla extensions. I'd made a website for translators, which automatically created GitHub pull requests. Well, I'm not here to say it's been an overwhelming success, but I think it did achieve my aim of simplifying the translation process.

Over the past month or so, I've rebuilt the website from scratch, to be much simpler, and much less fragile. Instead of having a Git clone on the webserver, and a working copy for every translation (which caused big headaches when it came time to update the clone), the website now stores translation data in a database, and when ready, creates files, commits, branches, and pull requests directly on GitHub. It also updates itself every time the original repo updates, by watching a particular branch. From a translator's point-of-view, not much has changed, although if they use GitHub to register, pull requests will be made using their account for better communication.

For reasons even I'm not really sure of, I called the original "Zoo". Now in a perfect storm of inspiration and originality, I've called this new website "Zoo2". Genius.

It's a little rough-around-the-edges, but it's ready to go. I'm looking for people to translate my extensions, obviously, but now I'm also looking for other extension writers willing to try things out. I have a few criteria, mostly around things I've yet to implement, but if your extension is on GitHub, open an issue and we'll talk. I'm also often in #developers on Mozilla IRC in the US evening/Asian day/European morning.

Edit: I'm hosting this thing on a free Heroku account, which means it must sleep for 6 hours a day (I'd get so much more done if I slept that little) and today's seen a lot of activity so it might be sleeping. I guess you get what you pay for, and I haven't paid anything yet.

1 Million Add-Ons Downloaded

  • Posted: March 30, 2015, 12:16 p.m.
  • Last updated: March 30, 2015, 12:19 p.m.
  • Tags: mozilla addons

This is a celebratory post. Today I learned that the add-ons I've created for Firefox, Thunderbird, and SeaMonkey have been downloaded over 1,000,000 times in total. For some authors I'm sure that's not a major milestone – some add-ons have more than a million users – but for me it's something I think I can be proud of. (By comparison my add-ons have a collective 80,000 users.)

Here are some of them:

I started six years ago with Shrunked Image Resizer, which makes photos smaller for uploading them to websites. Later I modified it to also make photos smaller in Thunderbird email, and that's far more popular that the original purpose.

Around the same time I got frustrated when developing websites, having to open the page I was looking at in different browsers to test. The process involved far more keystrokes and mouse clicks for my liking, so I created Open With, which turned that into a one-click job.

Later on I created Tab Badge, to provide a visual alert of stuff happening with a tab. This can be quite handy when watching trees, as well as with Twitter and Facebook.

Then there's New Tab Tools – currently my most popular add-on. It's the standard Firefox new tab page, plus a few things, and minus a few things. Kudos to those of you who wrote the built in page, but I like mine better. :-)

Lastly I want to point out my newest add-on, which I think will do quite well once it gets some publicity. I call it Noise Control and it provides a visual indicator of tabs playing audio. (Yes, just like Chrome does.) I've seen lots of people asking for this sort of thing over the years, and the answer was always "it can't be done". Yes it can.

Big thanks to all of you reading this who've downloaded my add-ons, use them, helped me fix bugs, translated, sent me money, answered my inane questions or otherwise done something useful. Thank you. Really.

Cookies are a Sometimes Food

There's been a lot of talk about HTTP cookies lately. I decided to take a look at my cookies database and these are some of the things I found:

  • There were 1298 cookies. This is probably fewer than most people have, because I have third-party cookies disabled. Also occasionally I delete cookies from domains I don't recognise.
  • 579 (45%) of them had expired.
  • 468 (36%) hadn't been used for 3 months. 31 hadn't been used for 6 months. 2 hadn't been used for over a year.
  • 401 (31%) expire more than a year from now. 296 (23%) expire more than 2 years from now. 236 (18%) expire more than 5 years from now.
  • 35 expire sometime in the year 2038. 50 expire after 2038.
  • 2 expire in the year 4751 (!!) and one expires sometime after the year 10000 (the value is so large Javascript and I have given up calculating it).

So what?

Firefox doesn't clear away expired cookies. No big deal for most people. You might think otherwise.

It's the expiry dates that get me. Is there really any reason for a website to store a cookie for 25 years? Is it really going to be useful to Dell, to know when I last visited (September 15th, apparently) 900 years from now? Does Bitbucket need to know what repos I recently viewed, until a few decades before the Mayan Calendar requires a sixth digit? (You remember the Mayans, right?)

Sooo, what?

Because I can, I made a small add-on to clean up some of this detritus from the cookies database. It can delete expired cookies, cookies you haven't used for a while (you get to set how long), and will alter the expiry date of remaining cookies so that they don't last until the Sun burns up the Earth. It will even do so automatically, when you take a break to watch Sesame Street.

You can use it now too. Here it is. I named it Cookie Time after a company that makes delicious real cookies (feel free to send me some).

Om nomnom nom nom.

Forked Lightning

I haven't done much lately but I haven't done absolutely nothing. Given that I look at my Lightning calendar every day, some things began to irritate me. I've started to fix them.

(Note that I don't actually plan to fork Lightning and release it, I'm just using the term for pun value.)

Things you can see here:

  • Moved the view controls to the toolbar for space-saving and prettiness reasons
  • Restyled the events to match the today pane
  • Used better colours for my calendars (that's just done with about:config, but I'd change the available colours in the picker)

Things you can't see:

  • Switched on a database option for the offline cache (massive performance win, woo!)
  • Switched to Philipp's javascript implementation of iCal, and made some other changes so that Lightning could be run without being unpackaged, and without version dependence
  • Stopped the month and multiweek views from refreshing all the time when it's unnecessary

All these things and a few more are available as-is on my c-c patch queue if you're interested in trying them. I've done the easy 80%, and I wish I could justify spending the time on the hard 20%, but I just need to look at the picture above to see the reminders of bills that need to be paid.