Nightly Tester Tools is being brought back to life

After my last post about how I no longer have the time to maintain Nightly Tester Tools I am happy to say that someone has stepped forward to take over development and maintenance. I’m even more happy that it is one of the Mozilla teams so finally NTT is going to be officially owned and supported by Mozilla.

I sat down with them last week to talk over what I saw as the key goals of NTT and some ideas I had had suggested to me for the future but they also want to hear from you so go and read about their plans and give them your thoughts.

Where is the updated Nightly Tester Tools?

Many of you nightly testers may have noticed that Nightly Tester Tools’ compatibility override feature doesn’t work with the new add-ons manager and may be wondering when I’m planning to issue an update to fix that. The more astute of you may have noticed that there hasn’t actually been a real code update to Nightly Tester Tools in 2 years, barring a couple of simple app compatibility fixes. Those with a sharp memory will remember that I said just under 2 years ago that I was ceasing work on my extensions in my spare time. I suggested that Nightly Tester Tools might still receive the odd update but obviously that hasn’t happened and the truth is that I can’t see it happening anytime soon. I’m too busy with that whole real life thing to even be able to work on projects I do enjoy, let alone maintain old stuff that no longer really interests me.

This unfortunately leaves a sizable number of users losing a feature that they liked and still potentially have a need for. I can only really see a couple of possible roads to follow from here:

  1. Do nothing. Users will be annoyed for a time but eventually find ways around what they needed NTT for.
  2. Find someone else to pick up and maintain NTT. I’ve had numerous requests for the source code for many of my extensions over the past two years, none have ever apparently tried to do anything though. Perhaps someone out there will pick up the torch this time?
  3. Point all the users to something else, like the Add-on Compatibility Reporter (once that is updated to work on trunk). While nothing else I know of works quite like NTT at least something is better than nothing, and ACR has the benefit of being Mozilla supported, provides Mozilla with valuable information about add-on compatibility and may be rolled into Firefox at some point.

Option 3 is the only one available that involves any work on my part but probably the choice that leads to less user annoyance, unless someone reading this wants to take up the challenge or has a better idea?

Update: Part of the Mozilla QA team are going to take over development and maintenance of Nightly Tester Tools, let them know what you want to see!

New Nightly Tester Tools

I don’t normally do announcements of new versions of my extensions here but unfortunately there was a problem with the packaging of the last version of Nightly Tester Tools so if you want to get the latest and greatest version then you’ll have to download it manually.

Sorry, I’ll try not to let it happen again.

Easy(er) Leak Testing With NTT

David Baron recently put out the call for there to be more leak testing on trunk builds.  We have a number of regressions that we need to find and fix before Firefox 3 goes out the door. The best way to do leak testing has always been to use his excellent leak-gauge script which catches more leaks than the leak monitor extension. Unfortunately the leak-gauge script is not the easiest of beasts to play around with.

Thankfully for some time now Nightly Tester Tools has had the leak-gauge script included in it to hopefully make this process a bit easier. I discovered today that that functionality has actually been broken on trunk builds so make sure you pick up the latest version 1.3b1 if you want to use it (don’t worry i should be pretty stable as betas go). Once installed just go to Tools – Nightly Tester Tools – Analyse Leak Log. Tell it where to find your log and it will create a leak report that you can copy to the clipboard at the touch of a button.

Unfortunately you still need to actually create the leak log, I suggest a script something like this (will need adapting for other platforms):

cp -f nspr.log lastnspr.log
export NSPR_LOG_MODULES=DOMLeak:5,DocumentLeak:5,nsDocShellLeak:5
export NSPR_LOG_FILE=/Users/dave/nspr.log
/Applications/Minefield.app/Contents/MacOS/firefox-bin

Then you can analyse lastnspr.log while still logging the current run. In Firefox you can even set the log analyser as the home page so it automatically loads the last log on startup.

Note that you can’t analyse the log being generated by a currently running app, nor one from a crashed session in an app, both will look hideously leaky. Please be sure to file good memory leak bugs and good leak hunting.

Extension Updates

Obviously for those keeping up with this rather minimal blog I’m somewhat behind where I hoped to be since my last post. Still no new release of Nightly Tester Tools so I thought it worth giving a quick roundup of the few extension’s I’m still working actively on and what’s happening with them:

Nightly Tester Tools is getting the main development work right now. My previous few weekends have been spent working on coding zip support so that it can update an extension’s compatibility info on the fly in the xpi file. This will allow the Mozilla extension manager to do it’s job, which is handling the safe install of the extension itself. Right now I’ve slowed down because I’m about to start talking to Mozilla about getting the zip writing component into the Mozilla platform which will undoubtedly require some API changes. That and I don’t have a Linux or Windows platform to do a build of the component on. If anyone wants to volunteer to assist (you need to already have experience of building a mozilla app) then please get in touch.

Tab Sidebar is an extension that many are waiting for the updates that I currently have in development. A lot of it is there and working, unfortunately there are also some broken bits so it’s really a case of finding the time to get those fixed.

/Find Bar/ is now totally broken on trunk builds of Firefox, but should still be ok on 2.0.0.x builds, though I have had a few error reports and suggestions on how to proceed. The next steps are to make this handle block content in pages as paragraphs and then to try to find and fix what’s causing a rare crash. I also need to work out how toadd to the new find bar widget on trunk without duplicating too much of it, but so far that’s proving to be tough.

Toolbar Thinger is not receiving a lot of attention. I have had some good reports that people are finding it very useful, also a couple of reports of problems unfortunately not in enough detail for me to be able to track the issues down. At some point I want to find a nice icon for it, do a full track through for any issues I’ve missed and then do a first proper release.

Update Channel Selector was always a very simple extension and so unsurprisingly it’s not needed a lot of work. Unfortunately it seems that Vista has changed that. In order to change the channel, the extension has to overwrite a file in the application’s installation directory. Vista doesn’t let you do that as easily as previous versions of Windows did. Unfortunately I do not have a Vista machine to play with so resolving that could take time.

Finally I have taken the step of marking JavaScript Options and Cookie Extras as officially discontinued. It’s unfortunate but I do all this work in my spare time and as you can see from above, I simply do not have enough of it to be able to keep up with the extensions that I want to spend time on, let alone those that I have lost interest in. I will continue to make the extension’s available on my site and I have decided that if enough people let me know that the extension works flawlessly in newer versions of the application then I will update the compatibility information (I am about to do this for Cookie Extras). However I will be releasing no new versions of these extensions.

Since both those extensions are open source (as are all my extensions) if anyone particularly wants to take over development of them then I am happy to discuss that possibility.

Zip Writer Update

I spent some more time this weekend hacking on my Zip Writer component. It’s now pretty capable. It can open existing zip files and remove entries and append to them, happily rewriting the headers and everything exactly as it encountered them. And the other major win is that I have deflate code up and running which makes compression possible.

All this has allowed me to reintroduce making extensions compatible during the install process in a far safer way than was the case before. NTT can now watch the EM datasource, spot that an extension has finished being downloaded, then open that extension’s xpi file and if necessary rewrite the metedata to claim compatibility with the current version of whatever app you happen to be running in.

Depending on time I may have the next release of NTT out the door by the end of next weekend, but things are hectic as usual and I have to be various places over the coming week.