15 February 2011 - 2:22Great time to use Firefox 4

If you’ve previously tried a Firefox 4 beta and ran into problems on some websites, I’m glad to report that everything is now working! (At least for the websites I use, and hopefully the sites that you use are working too.) Below is a list of the websites that I’ve run into problems in the past but are working great now. :)

YouTube, Pandora, Gmail

  • Problem: Video/music/flash keeps crashing when clicking links, e.g., related videos or skipping songs
  • Plugin: Upgrade to Flash (Feb. 8 update)
  • Context: Firefox on Windows added Crash Protection with 3.6, and OS X users will no longer worry about plugins taking down Firefox in 4. But there was something different in Flash for Mac that was tickling Firefox in just the wrong way at the wrong time that resulted in many more plugin crashes. (Good thing Firefox could keep running and others tabs were unaffected.)
  • Learn more: Adobe security bulletin, bug 572134


  • Problem: Trying to watch a movie always shows “Once installation is complete please restart your browser to watch this movie.”
  • Plugin: Upgrade to Silverlight 4.0.60129.0 (Feb. 14 update)
  • Context: One major feature in Apple’s latest operating system is 64-bit Snow Leopard, and Firefox 4 combines that with its speed improvements to go even faster. Unfortunately, existing 32-bit code, e.g., Silverlight plugin, doesn’t always play well with the new 64-bit code.
  • Learn more: Silverlight 4 update, bug 598406


  • Problem: Lightning deals don’t show up on various pages like Gold Box pages
  • Context: Firefox 4 supports ECMAScript 5 "strict mode", which makes writing JavaScript code easier and cleaner. Amazon.com combines multiple files, e.g., its own code and jQuery, into a single file to speed up the site; however, jQuery uses strict mode, which applies to the whole file, and some of other other code was no longer valid.
  • Learn more: bug 579119


  • Problem: User-submitted photos, map navigation, search filters don’t appear or don’t work
  • Context: Firefox 4 implements many parts of HTML5 from the <video> tag all the way down to the nitty-gritty details of what properties exist on certain HTML elements. Yelp’s code was counting on "style" in HTMLElement.prototype to be false, but HTML5 browsers will now give true instead.
  • Learn more: bug 608651

So if you haven’t tried Firefox 4 recently because your favorite sites weren’t working, download Firefox 4 beta or have Firefox update itself and try again now. Thanks to the excellent work from all the teams involved to make sure Firefox 4 works great when the release candidates and official release appear in the coming weeks.

7 Comments | Tags: Development, Mozilla

25 January 2011 - 0:39Restartless add-on example code

mfinkle’s recent posts [starkravingfinkle.org] on restartless add-ons reminded me that I was going to write a more detailed post about my restartless GitHub repository, but I’ve been distracted with another project. ;)

So briefly, I’ve put together some helper functions [github.com] that have been useful for developing various restartless add-ons. I’ve organized the repository to have a bunch of “examples/” branches that build on top of other named branches that implement helper functions.

These first few are very simple examples:

examples/autoReload: saves a step when developing a restartless addon by automatically re-enabling when you disable the add-on from about:addons

examples/ensureEnabled: the install method always gets executed even when disabled, so this code makes sure the add-on runs on install; useful when combined with the following..

examples/oneTime: run once and disable itself; useful for debugging problems on other people’s Firefox without doing the usual “copy/paste this into the Error Console”

The next couple helper functions have been incredibly useful for the restartless add-ons I’ve written:

unload: add a callback to run when the add-on is disabled by calling unload(callback). This function makes it easy to ensure Firefox returns to its original state when a restartless add-on is disabled (which is very important for developing as you’re likely to disable and re-enable many times!) (example)

watchWindows: add a callback to run when the main Firefox browser window is open (navigator:browser) by calling watchWindows(callback). The callback will be called immediately for existing windows and future windows, so put whatever browser UI modification code you want inside the callback. (example)

One last helper in the repository is the getString function that adds some l10n support to get the correct .properties file for the current locale. It shows off getting additionally packaged files and picking the right locale and some plural forms. I’ve put together a silly example at examples/l10nDialogs.

Silly l10n example

With all these helper functions, Erik Vold and Nils Maier helped put together some code that loads packaged scripts. We ended up with some code that makes use of getResourceURI so that it correctly works if the addon is .xpi packaged or an extension proxy file. Separating out the code this way lets you better organize the code and makes it easier to share.

3 Comments | Tags: Add-on, Development, Mozilla

22 January 2011 - 13:33Looking for some prototype testers

Edit: The add-on has now been released, so check out the announcement post: Towards Browse-Based Browsing with Home Dash. Thanks for the feedback!

I started hacking on an idea last week in the context of the Prospector experiments [mozillalabs.com]. I’m looking for a small set of people to try it out and give some initial technical feedback. For example, I know I’ve hard-coded some sizes/images that happen to fit my 1280×800 screen on my Mac, but I am curious how it works or doesn’t work on other platforms, window sizes, etc.

You can install the restartless add-on [edit: addons.mozilla.org] if you’re already running Firefox 4 Beta 10 [firefox.com] or later. I’m not really describing it on purpose. ;) But not to be too confused, below is a sketch from when I started hacking on it. And as usual, you can check out the source first from GitHub [github.com] or directly from the .xpi.

Sketch of Home Dash

You can email me the feedback at edilee@gmail.com or just reply with a comment!

23 Comments | Tags: Development, Mozilla, Search

21 December 2010 - 11:20#status 2010-12-20

- Brainstorm next Prospector experiments

At the Mozilla All Hands last week, and we held a discussion to brainstorm various ideas to try out in the Prospector family of experiments. A couple of the current experiments like Speak Words and Instant Preview help users get back to top sites almost instantly with just one key stroke, but these mainly help for the relatively small set of sites that users frequent and not so much the remainder of the history available in Firefox.

So the next set of experiments will focus on improving the experience of searching for pages in Firefox. Interesting findings from Query Stats could help identify relevant pages or help build a better view of your past browsing behavior. Additional data about each page could be tracked by Firefox such as unique phrases from the page or how long a tab was opened and interacted with.

Displaying the search results also received some attention as to how to add all this extra information in a clean way. Some ideas ranged from being more space efficient by showing location bar results on one line to taking up more vertical space as one might not need to use the page when searching. This led to ideas of using the whole tab content area to show rich results and provide interaction such as grouping/switching of types of results like pages, apps, videos, etc.

- Prepare search bar -> button demo

Along the lines of combining the location bar and the search bar, I’ve been hacking together a Prospector experiment that changes the search bar into a list of buttons. This allows for explicit control for the user to decide when searching should be local to Firefox’s history or over the web. It also makes it apparent that there are multiple search engines to choose from and clicking another button switches the current search request to another provider.

When clicking a button, it inserts a keyword and focuses the location bar, so it’s like doing a smart bookmark keyword search with the first location bar suggestion being the search. Combined with Instant Preview, it’ll automatically update the results immediately as you type more words or switch engines.

- Attend Open Web App discussions

I was curious what kind of web-apps were being created in general across the various web-app stores available today because I wanted to see if the search bar -> button experiment above could add to the types of available apps. This is because generally speaking, these search buttons processes some words from the user and converts it to a url or a set of results.

From the screenshot above, the last button is actually for Google Translate, so when I click the button and type “hola mis amigos”, Google translates it immediately as I type to “hello my friends“. This somewhat feels Ubiquity-like, which had all sorts of commands, so potentially allowing the web app manifest to describe these “searches” or “actions” could lead to web-apps that are more than just bookmarks.

- Push restartless code examples to GitHub

I’ve been hacking on restartless add-ons for a while now and noticed that I copy/paste some useful helper functions for when I start a new add-on. Other people hacking on these bootstrapped add-ons could make use of them as well, so I created a “restartless” repository on GitHub. I’ll write a post going into more detail later, but briefly, it’s a collection of git branches where each branch contains a helper function or provides an example usage or pattern.

- Tracking down flash crashes

I’ve been running into Flash crashes on OS X for a while and noticed other people were in a similar situation. So to help resolve it, I started tracking down the various flash crash reports, and I’ve posted about my findings and issues that I ran into.

6 Comments | Tags: Add-on, Conference, Development, Labs, Mozilla, Search, Status