Monday, March 16, 2009

Tryserver now has unittests on all 3 platforms

Bug 445611 is now resolved fixed, you can see the unittest results on all three platforms here: MozillaTry.

There are hopefully more machines coming that will be allotted to tryserver, with the likelihood that more developers will now use the tryserver. I'm also hoping to start working on setting up the web interface to allow for the selection of which platforms you want to try your patch on and whether you want unittests run or not since at the moment they are turned on for all patch submissions by default.

This patch also required the landing of a patch for bug 479225 where we now call the reftest/crashtest suites and the mochitest suites with make from the top level directory which helped us get rid of a bunch of extra workarounds we had to do for Mac OS since it needed to know which .app file to look for and we're changing that name so often (Minefield, Shiretoko, etc). Now all three platforms are even closer to being alike. Many thanks to Ted for making this possible.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

No More Passwords Please

This is the tentative title for my upcoming white paper, which is the major deliverable for the btr820 course on Research Methodologies and Writing. I'm excited to be doing this paper because a) I love writing and b) I'm looking forward to learning more about my topic which is essentially looking at solutions for the future of authentication on the web.

As users of web sites and applications, we are now subject to having to authenticate ourselves multiple times a day - I read somewhere than an average is 13 but for some of us who spend more time online it's probably twice that. Having your passwords remembered for you by the site or by your browser helps, but that is not a great solution for folks who are on multiple computers. Besides our passwords aren't even that safe to begin with (my bank won't let me use more than alpha numeric characters) and some sites make you change them regularly for extra security (a lie) and so as users we are caught up in a game of constantly trying to stay on top of the latest password for which site and please stop the web now, I want to get off.

What I want to look at is open, decentralized authentication identifiers that go beyond passwords with regards to actual security, that could be in your browser itself, and that would move with you easily no matter what computer you are on.

So I have some questions.

What are the implications of a web browser incorporating an open authentication protocol out of the box where the identifier is the browser itself?

What other options are coming down the pipe in terms of built-in browser features that help users deal with authentication? Is there something better than a decentralized open authentication protocol?

Do browser providers have to stay neutral and leave it up to web application providers to decide how users authenticate on the web or can they step in and lead the charge towards a certain protocol and influence sites instead?

While Weave is an excellent way of syncing your profile across various computers - is it really scalable? What other options are there for having an easy, portable profile which would be able to contain your identity as you move between computers, countries, even to your mobile device?

Thanks for reading this, I look forward to your thoughts on this issue.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

There are no new ideas...

So I'm in a MacOS and iPhone development class this term. It's my last term in the Bachelor of Software Development degree program at Seneca College. I've now done some major project implementation, interface design, web programming, business plans and marketing exercises - a bunch of useful skills have been developed to be sure. However, today I am having a moment of doubt.

Here's the issue:

I'm a pretty new programmer/developer. One of the main reasons I chose this degree was to become more able to help people who are not so into computers and programming, to be someone who could help link the non-tech people (mostly artists) with technology in ways that are comforting and useful not scary and burdensome.


I had this thought that for my MacOS programming assignment I would make a little app to help my freelancing friends keep track of their time spent on contracts and print up nice little invoices at the end. Simple, useful, something I myself would need from time to time when I do side projects. I have a free app called Khronos which sort of does this but creates ugly invoices so I was inspired to improve on it.

Thing is, better (not free or open source) apps already exist. And they're good. As a pretty green programmer (and someone with 7 weeks of classes left) I can't touch these apps for their functionality. I would like to think I would do slightly better on the design, but that's not going to mean much if I can't come close to implementing the kinds of features the other guy has.

Now I wonder how to even a) get motivated and b) set reasonable expectations for myself in this assignment. I am feeling daunted by the fabulousness of these other programs (which I realize took years and a team of developers to accomplish) and it's hard to see how I can dip my toe in the water.

If anyone has read this far - advice is much appreciated. What do you do when you want to write something and find out it's already out there? How do you scope out an app for your first version when there are apps that already do more than your 1.0 could?