07.30.08

Memo from 2006: CamiTools incompatible with Camino

Posted in Camino at 3:04 pm by

Back around the mid-point of this decade, CamiTools was a popular, if poorly-designed and dangerous, third-party preference pane for Camino. In particular, CamiTools exposed a number of hidden preferences that caused Camino or parts of Gecko to stop working properly, and its user-agent spoofing was implemented in such a way that the spoofed user-agent—often some version of Internet Explorer, which caused websites to send incompatible code to Camino—persisted for years without the user realizing it. The “preference tweaks” caused Camino to stop working correctly in bizarre and difficult-to-discover ways, and CamiTools caused the Camino triage and QA teams no end of headaches. Nevertheless, CamiTools was the first widely popular third-party preference pane, and it was even one of the three featured add-ons that “you shouldn’t be without” at PimpMyCamino, if I remember correctly.

I’m not sure at what point CamiTools first became incompatible with Camino; the last reference to it I can find states “Camino 1.0.x only,” which means it hadn’t been compatible with nightly builds since early 2006, hadn’t been compatible with milestone (alpha/beta) builds since late 2006, and with official releases since mid-2007. Jump forward another year-and-change from that and one would hope that CamiTools, which hasn’t been updated in three years and hasn’t been publicly available in nearly two, would no longer be causing Camino users and developers problems. Alas, one would be sadly mistaken. In the last few months I’ve seen one ancient user-agent set by CamiTools, we still encounter users in Bugzilla with it installed, and last night while checking Talkback topcrash reports, I found almost 20% of the incidents I examined (which made up about a quarter of the total incidents for this one stack signature) were a “crash on launch” or “crash when opening preferences” caused by CamiTools. I shudder to think of how many more there might be. If that weren’t bad enough, CamiTools had a sister program, CamiScript (also discontinued and presumed incompatible with anything newer than Camino 1.0.x), that also caused a rash of crashes on launch with Camino 1.6.1.

It seems like just about every Camino release we discover—the hard and painful way, via angry users complaining about us in forums and on software update sites—some new Camino crash caused by an old or incompatible third-party add-on trying to initialize itself inside of Camino’s process. These are the worst kind of crashes; users believe that programs which crash at startup are pretty badly broken, and they shout that experience out to the world while rarely contacting or working with the developers to discover the true source of the crash. In Camino’s case, these crashes (or public reports of them) not only dissuade new users from trying the program, but the crashes/reports also cause users to stick with the last version of Camino that “worked properly” (i.e., the last version of Camino that an incompatible third-party tool did not reliably crash), causing users to miss vital bug-fixes and critical Gecko security fixes that we release in updates and in new major versions. It’s frustrating as a development team to be fighting problems caused by code that is completely out of our control but which nevertheless crashes our application.

Please, if you still have CamiTools, any of its predecessors, or CamiScript installed, remove them at once. They really are incompatible with any recent version of Camino, and if they haven’t yet caused you problems, they will soon.

Second, if you crash when Camino is launching, check for any third-party add-ons and remove them. You can try launching Camino using Troubleshoot Camino, which will disable many recent third-party add-ons (though many older add-ons which are known sources of crashes or incompatibility cannot be disabled using Troubleshoot Camino), but searching for, and removing, all traces of third-party add-ons may be necessary, depending on the add-ons you might have installed.

Third, if you’re experiencing any sort of persistent problem with Camino, please visit the Camino forum provided by our friends at MozillaZine, or file a bug, and work with us. We can’t diagnose problems we don’t know about, or don’t have information about, so we can’t help make it stop (no matter whose code might be at fault).

Finally, let me repeat myself once again: CamiTools and CamiScript are incompatible with all recent versions of Camino. If you still have them installed, please remove them immediately. If you don’t think you have them installed, please check carefully and make sure they are not installed. (While you’re looking, please make sure any other Camino add-ons you have installed are up-to-date and not discontinued.) You’ll save yourself, and the Camino team, a lot of time and hassle, either now or sometime in the future.

07.20.08

SimpleScripts WordPress Upgrade: Simple!

Posted in Life, Software at 8:11 pm by

Unsurprisingly, a new version of WordPress appeared while I was away in Europe. Once returning, one of the first things on my agenda was upgrading from WordPress 2.5.1 to the new version 2.6. This was going to be my first upgrade using SimpleScripts (a replacement for the once-vaunted Fantastico), and an upgrade to an entirely new version, not simply a small security release, at that, so I was interested to see how the process would play out.

First off, I read the WordPress release announcement and learned that there were very few changes that would adversely affect plugins and themes (the latter very good news, since I’m using a somewhat-customized version of the Ocadia theme and the theme’s author, Becca Wei, seems to have vanished shortly after I installed her theme way back with WordPress 2.0 :-( ). Database backups in hand, I then popped over to my host’s cPanel and opened SimpleScripts; the WordPress 2.6 upgrade was waiting for me. Since I was abroad, I’m not sure when the new version appeared in SimpleScripts, but by my count it’s been five days (two of them a weekend) since the WordPress release announcement, and that beats the best performance I ever saw with Fantastico. I switched back to my WordPress admin page, disabled plugins, and then started the upgrade process. About a minute later, I was running WordPress 2.6. :-)

So far everything seems to be working fine, the only “side-effect” being a spam comment that snuck in while Akismet was disabled for the upgrade. That’s more bad luck than the fault of SimpleScripts. ;)

The verdict: SimpleScripts does indeed seem to make upgrades simple!