[Marketing-Public]Mozilla Design Problems

Michael Gordon marketing-public at mozilla.org
Sun, 19 Oct 2003 17:07:39 -0500

Irwin Greenwald wrote:

>I. Introduction
>Now that Mozilla, TB, and FB are to be offered as user programs, I
>believe it is time to address some design issues that affect recovery.
>First, a word as to my background to establish my credentials for
>bringing up these issues.  I entered the programming profession in 1950,
>first as a scientific programmer and then as a system programmer, being
>concerned with utilities, compilers, and developing operating systems.
>The last five years of my career were spent demonstrating  that we could
>break the security of most any computing system of the era (I retired in
>II. The nature of the problem
>As I began to understand Mozilla, I realized that there were two obvious
>problems with the design and one that is not so apparent:
>1. registry.dat is subject to corruption during crashes.
>2. prefs.js is subject to corruption during crashes,
>3. profiles are subject to corruption over long term use with multiple
>installs of nightlies and heavy account editing activity, which is
>typical of what testers do.
>#1 results in "profiles being lost", which we see too much of in our
>newsgroups.  This is relatively easy to fix by knowledgeable users, but
>needn't occur.
>#2 results in "mail being lost" and/or "profiles being lost" .  This
>usually means that a new profile is needed.
>#3 results in strange things happening with no explanation.
>III. Some suggested design changes
>1. Registry.dat should be closed as soon as profile selection is
>complete.  Currently, it appears that registry.dat is kept open at all
>times, producing strange results on mozilla or OS failures.  I realize
>that this would make "switch profile" impossible or slow, but who really
>2.  Prefs.js should be split into two files, one for static account settings
>and one for "transient" data such as windows positions, sizes, etc.  I
>don't care too much about the safety of the second.  The first should be
>closed after startup and reopened only when account settings are
>edited.  It should be backed up to date named files, and a "restore"
>command provided.  Same for bookmarks (Moz and FB).  Alternatively, the
>whole profile could be backed up to date-named directories, with
>provision for recovery.
>3.  The long term decay of profiles possibly can be addressed by better
>cleanup, (e.g,  deleting files when accounts are deleted, which has been
>a longstanding bug)
>IV. My Own Experience
>1.  I don't recall ever losing registry.dat, but I see it often enough
>in user problems to be concerned.  I believe the fix should be fairly easy.
>2.  I have lost prefs.js a number of times, although not too often
>recently.  OTOH, I haven't had a program or system crash in ages.
>3.  I have experienced profile decay very recently.  It is the
>explanation for my inability to write to newsgroups on some servers.  I
>rebuilt my profiles for both Mozilla and TBird to overcome this
>problem.  It is a very tedious task even when you know what you're
>doing.  It would help if the software named the mail & newsgroup folders
>with the *account name* rather than the server name with an appended
>number.  (I have manually changed these names myself so I can keep track)
>V. Summary
>I believe some design changes are mandatory if we expect to "sell"
>Mozilla to end users.  I have suggested some "cures" for problems I have
>encountered, either directly, or by helping other people.  Your reaction
>to these ideas is solicited, and - if you agree that something needs to
>be done , your suggestions on how to make it happen would be appreciated.
> --
>Irwin Greenwald
>Mozilla Champion
>marketing-public mailing list
Hello Irwin,

I agree with the problems you have encountered personally and the users
on the newsgroups.  I have been a long time user of Mozilla family
products, and I have encountered some of these problems.

1. The registry.dat file had a problem with file size growth, the short
term fix for this was to open Mozilla (Netscape), delete the
registry.dat file, close Mozilla (this recreates registry.dat), and then
with the operating system tools navigate to registry.dat and change its
attribute to Read Only.  If during the creation of the first Profile the
registry.dat is created and saved as a Read Only file this would prevent
further problems with corruption.  If during the creation of a second
profile registry.dat is modified to a Read/Write file, the profile
created, and at the moment the file is saved it is changes back to Read
Only this should protect the registry.dat file from further changes.
Allowing only Profile Manager to write to registry.dat should solve a
whole lot of problems.  One more suggestion on the registry.dat file,
when Profile Manager is opened to create a new profile, Profile Manager
should make a backup copy of registry.dat by date.

2. Prefs.js currently has a backup file in the users profile directory
called "prefs.bak".  the backup copy is written to after each successful
closing of Mozilla.  Perhaps what we need in the program group for
Mozilla is a Recovery application that allows the user to recover from
the last successful opening and closing of Mozilla.  I think the backup
copy should be saved to a backup directory by date, each closing of
Mozilla should write a new file, and after x number of days the files
should be purged automatically.  If Prefs.js were split into two
sections as you suggest then the user configuration with "user.js"
become obsolete.  We then have to instruct the users on how to make
changes with "About:config".  Currently there are several Mozilla
(Netscape) support pages that address how to create the user.js file and
a lots of examples of the changes that can be made in user.js.  All of
these samples have the JavaScript snippet available to copy and paste
into the user.js file.

3. When I installed Mozilla 1.5 I remember Profile Manager presenting me
with the options to remove my old Netscape Profile Name or Profile name
and files.  This should solve the problem of profile decay.  For beta
testers perhaps the best solution is to delete the old profiles and
create a new profile whenever a new version is released for testing.
The point version updates should not need a new profile.

Just my 3 cents worth, when I turned 60 my price went up :-P

Michael Gordon

Character is doing the right thing...
Even when no one is watching...

A Proud User of Mozilla 1.5
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