Oct 212009

I just finished a meeting with folks at MindTouch and our IT guys, and here’s the latest on the reliability issues we’re having with the Mozilla Developer Center:

  • The red error messages we keep seeing in pages where templates are being used are happening because of services (or MindTouch extensions) that fail to start up correctly, or have crashed and could not be restarted. This is happening due to an XML reading routine that isn’t thread-safe and needs to be. MindTouch has fixed this issue for the 9.08.1 release that’s due to ship at the end of next week.
  • Another problem that occurs during startup causes the Lucene search service and the MindTouch pubsub service not to link up correctly. This results in the search index not being updated as content is added to the site (or failing to generate at all if we initiate a full rebuild of the index). MindTouch intends to fix this for their Noatak release, which is scheduled to ship in mid-November. They are going to try to deliver a hotfix before then if possible.
  • Another problem with indexing occurs while attempting to rebuild the index; the indexer is failing due to a problem with the new thread pool used in the 9.08 release. MindTouch switched us back to the old thread pool during their visit last week, but this is still an issue that needs to be fixed. However, it’s not currently directly impacting MDC. A real fix is due for the Noatak release.
  • Yet another problem is occurring with the indexing system: a regression in the 9.08 release causes simultaneous read and write operations on the index to cause the read to fail, resulting in search failures. This doesn’t hurt us very often, but does need to be addressed. This, too, is due to be fixed in Noatak.

Next week, IT will have a testbed version of MDC set up, finally actually duplicating our live configuration (two hosts, etc). This will let us do proper testing in advance of future upgrades, and we’ll use this for the first time with the 9.08.1 update, with the hope of going live with that update sometime the first or second week of November.

QA has a test plan for MDC, which will be used to certify each update before deployment.

The long and short of it is this: we finally have a grasp on what’s going wrong, and a plan to fix it — and test it — going forward.

I’ll post again as more information comes in.

 Posted by at 2:49 PM
Oct 152009

This week has been a hectic one for the Mozilla Developer Center. As most folks are aware by now, we’ve had some stability issues lately.

This week, MindTouch sent up a representative to sit down with our IT guys to figure out what’s going on, and progress has been made. There’s still work to be done, and I’m in touch with them to get a status report on exactly what we still need to do. I’ll share that information once I have it.

In other MDC news, I’ve added a cool new template, “manch“, which lets you insert a link to a method in the current interface reference article. You can see it used in the just-added documentation for the nsIHttpActivityObserver interface.

The syntax is simple:


This inserts the text “foo()” with a link to the anchor “#foo()” on the current page. I think this template will help make composing interface reference documentation easier. On top of this, I’ve fixed a bug in the “interface” template that caused it to sometimes direct to the wrong page.

I’ve also updated the Sample interface document on MDC based on minor changes to our preferred style for these pages, as well as new syntax rules for templates that make things cleaner.

 Posted by at 3:36 PM
Oct 092009

The last month and a half have been filled with productivity killers, from illness to hardware problems. The hits keep on coming.

For the last few days, my iMac, which I use when I’m writing because I have so much screen space on it (three screens, courtesy of the integrated screen, the video port, and a USB->DVI converter box), has been acting oddly.

Yesterday I ran some tests on it, and lo and behold, TechTool Pro tells me the video subsystem is bad. Apple’s hardware test utility says the disk controller is bad. I have no idea what exactly the problem is, but clearly all is not well in iMac-land.

So I have an appointment to take it in for service tomorrow evening. In the meantime, I’m working on the MacBook Pro.  Which is a great machine, except I don’t have a really good place to work on my laptop for extended periods. My desk is far too crowded to put a laptop on, so I’m working in the living room. Which is not the optimal place to work for many reasons, both ergonomic and Sophie-nomic.

The point to this pathetic little rant: if you’re expecting or hoping for something from me, I’m running a bit behind at the moment, so please be patient! Sorry!

 Posted by at 12:33 PM
Oct 052009

MindTouch posted a comment in response to my recent post on the new interwiki template, pointing out that the syntax we’ve been using for using templates can be simplified. In the version of MindTouch we’re running now, we don’t need to include the “template.” part at the beginning, so we can simply do:

{{interwiki("wikipedia", "Mozilla")}}

This works for all templates as far as I can tell. This is a simple but nice little improvement. It’ll certainly help reduce clutter, especially on pages that include lots of template-generated links, such as the CSS reference main page!

 Posted by at 3:28 PM
Oct 022009

Until today, creating interwiki links involved using a really weird syntax with the MediaWiki extension on the Mozilla Developer Center. Ugh.

I just added a template that makes creating interwiki links much easier. Now you can simply do:

{{template.interwiki(wiki, path)}}

For example:

{{template.interwiki("wikipedia", "Mozilla")}}


{{template.interwiki("wikimo", "WeeklyUpdates")}}

This should make things much easier when you want to create links like these. As an added bonus, Wikipedia interwiki links detect the language of the page containing the link, and automatically directs to the corresponding language on Wikipedia.

 Posted by at 4:11 PM
Oct 012009

I’ve just finished writing the documentation for the new device orientation support added in Gecko 1.9.2 (Firefox 3.6).  For starters, DOM windows can now receive MozOrientation events.

There are several new interfaces, as well:

I’ve asked for feedback and technical review from dougt among others, so it’s possible this material could change as I receive corrections, but based on my reviews of code, samples, and existing material, this should be fairly accurate.

This is going to be a very cool technology. Obviously it’s especially useful for mobile users, but laptop users may get some use out of it as well. It has a lot of potential both for user experience improvements (such as rotating the user interface based on the orientation of a mobile device) and for web gaming.

 Posted by at 3:30 PM