Firefox addon hell is reminiscent of Windows DLL hell

Remember “Windows DLL Hell”? Well it seems the phenomenon is ubiquitous, it’s actually a “feature” of popular and extensible platforms. There’s a new article on The Washington Post about Firefox insecurity due to badly written addons. Folks at Microsoft’s Internet Explorer group might be feeling vindicated by this kind of article: we told you so, as your technology becomes popular it attracts malware. Wink! wink! Eh! eh!

Indeed Microsoft had been down this path before many, provide a rich framework for developers to freely extend your platform with a lot of you-can-safely-ignore-this guidances saying “developer should…” “developer may…”, “developer should remember to…”.

Microsoft architects were not to be disappointed. This being mainly a marketing-driven product development, many took shortcuts (who needs all that security and robustness crap, they’re not flashy features that can sell after all) when creating their Windows products, leading to an insurmontable array of backdoors and frailties to the Windows platform. Amazingly, as i can recall my MFC and Windows SDK developer days, most of the optional elements were centred around management and security. If you must ask I can also reveal that I discovered Unix server programming (kernel mode, user mode, curses, X Window, the whole shebang) round about the same time and was struck by the difference in the approaches taken by the two platforms. I had infinitely many more sleepless nights fighting DOS/Windows memory models and stuff like that than i had with Unix programming. I had no idea that what i was learning would be of such tremendous benefit in the future, i was simply curious and excited to learn the stuff.

Now it’s super convenient to keep bashing Microsoft Windows, but what have we really learned guys? Come on! Oh yes of course, there’s a lot of modern dis-n-dat to go around. It’s funny how many people are busy (re)inventing age old concepts and techniques. Don’t worry if you’ve already fallen for this, a patch or upgrade is soon on its way to fix this. After all modern technology is agile and what-not.

Just a few days ago i posted an entry on my blog complaining about Plugin Technology. I wasn’t aware of anything specific about Firefox at the time but I’d already come to the conclusion that there was a kind of Firefox Addon Hell in motion. My search for a simpler and snappier web browser lead me to Camino. I’m happy with it so far and it’s devoid of addons. Maybe somebody’s been working to overcome that limitation already. 😉

Incidentally, since i migrated to Mac OS X I rarely (if ever) experience “guru meditation” with my laptop. What stopped Microsoft from buying someone like SCO and rebuild Windows on Unix? Apple’s decision all those years back to rebuild their OS on Unix is obviously a case study in architecture strategy: simultaneously broaden your developer base, create an open platform, build it on a solid and “easy to secure” bedrock. There’s a lot more “sex” in the Mac today than ever before, every layer, every aspect seems more confidently done and more comfortable to use.

“Born Somewhere” by Maxime Le Forestier

This song by Maxime Le Forestier is well written. Good lyrics, good tunes. If you like the genre and you speak french that is. If you’ve been travelling to worlds you deem alien to your own then the words make more sense. Er, I should point out that the song is relatively old, easily more than a decade old.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a blog called Entre Le Monde et l’Ecran (Between The World and The screen), some good narration i thought. I like to read about the Third World, especially how First and Second World people perceive the Third World. I checked back in several times on Entre Le Monde et L’Ecran. What was fascinating is that this person had been travelling in mainly Thirld World countries and she was telling her story, her thoughts and her experiences. She’s been lately in Mali, West Africa, where I’m from in case you haven’t guessed. It’s interesting sometimes to see things through somebody else’s lenses.
Born somewhere, Maxime Le Forestier, i wonder what he was really on about. He must have been travelling at the time he wrote the song, or wished he did? Who knows…

Back to Björk :–

“…here come the earth intruders,
we are the paratroopers,
stampede of sharpshooters,
voodoo…”

I actually imagined correctly how the video would be like before seeing it on YouTube!. I did expect it to close with a large ship taking the “intruders” towards further worlds, just like Frodo after defeating the Dark Lord of Mordor. That was a little disappointing. I can’t get it out my head at the moment.

Refreshing chiwara.net – Simple is best

A little blog face lift, with thanks to Wuhan which made my site look nice for so long.

It took me a while to find a suitable replacement, it had to be simple, fluid, not too flashy, more up to date. I settled for this one, took out a few bits I didn’t like. I’m not a graphics designer, in my job i rely on super talented folks who’ll blow you away.

For this blog I simply select one of the thousands free themes available on WordPress.org and make a few changes. I guess this is just a playground that keeps me interested in front-end design.

The downside of this new theme design is that the picture in the top is tiled when the browser window is larger than my image size. To fix this i will have to find an image that tiles well, you can’t have it both ways. I’m not that inspired today to work on this any further, something for another day.

Hope you like it.

Nneka has got potential, soul and r&b

An article on liberation.fr compared Nneka to Lauryn Hill, i didn’t hear of her until now. At the time Lauryn Hill’s debut album impressed me so much that i thought that was a fluke she would not likely repeat (her talent is real, just the record was exceptional). So far I feel I was right about that. Having listened to the samples on Nneka’s web site, I think she’s more like India Irie. Perhaps she’s done some hip-hop work, i should soon find out. She’s definitely got that something.

I just missed an opportunity to see her, says her site nnekaworld.com. I now know to check her out.

Plugin technology : a beauty that often turns nasty

Plugin technology is a universal driver for widespread adoption, dizzying success at times, even revolutions! But plugin technology is often the source of dreadful clumsiness and that utterly leads to the demise of the very thing it made popular in the first place. What goes around comes around. Sometimes.

I’m using the term plugin here loosely to refer to anything that can be called plugin, addon, extension, application or appliance. very ambitious, i admit. Something suports plugin if it’s possible to extend it beyond its original shape, content, purpose or use. If it is pluggable then someone will put it to some uses well beyond what the inventor or creator had originally anticipated. As i was analysing some recurring issues around me i came to this realisation. One day you go like “This is superbe! I can see lots of ways to make this better…” then some time later you find yourself thinking “Oh crap! I’m sick of this, i need something more basic, that just does such and such (instead of trying to be all things for all people)“.

Some examples of plugin enabled technology that have changed our world: human language, electricity, telephony, transportation (road, rail, air), television, cable television, Microsoft Windows Operating System, Eclipse IDE, Firefox web browser, i could carry on. When i talk about plugin for human language I’m thinking of dialects and other specialised uses of the language that deviate from its core elements. I must have confused my reader at this point, but think about it carefully. One can argue if spoken language can be called a technology. Obviously electricity and telephony continue to do wonders for us, but they have dark sides too.

A piece of technology becomes exciting if it has some form of plugin architecture. For better or for worse, everybody want a piece of the action, no one wants to be left behind. After all the innovators’ club is very exclusive with few members, the very large majority simply tag along and try to make the most of it, Rabelais’ sheep of panurge come to mind. But put these wonderful plugin technology in the hands of the masses, it won’t be long before the whole thing is totally messed up. If you take out the part that bolted-on plugins play in a technology failure, you will find that it is very significant.

Apple Computer must have realised this early, that could explain some of their policies. Recently for example when they announced the iPhone and said at the sime time that it won’t support third-party software. In this case any third-party software is a pluggable component for the iPhone, likely to break the stability and harmony of the device even at launch. No amount of testing would eliminate such risks, examples abound to support this hypothesis.

Some examples of plugin technology turned nasty: Microsoft Windows famous security vulnerabilities, pluggable softwares getting bloated to the point of irrelevance (Netscape web browser, Firefox more recently).

This topic is so rich that it could fill volumes after volumes. It’s really the story of how we learn (or don’t really learn from mistakes).

Look around you for examples of plugin technology turned nasty, you could be surprised.

Bjork is brilliant: Volta

I just got hold of my copy of Bjork‘s latest gem, Volta. How exciting! I rushed home to load it up on my iPod and have been ‘sipping’ it meticulously, on a loop. Bjork is right up there with my favourites. Normally I wait for the buzz and the hype to pass before buying new records. But if the artist is Damon Albarn, Radiohead, or Sting, then it’s beyond hype, it’s a different story. Björk, you amaze me all the time. What a beautiful delivery!

On a loop for today. And again, later.

Flickrvision, Twittervision, the web alive

Sometimes you come across a link, you click on it (careful though, obviously) and you’re pleasantly surprised. That’s one nice thing about the web, unbound creative journey. So if you’re bored to tears, or waiting on some sodding task to complete, try out flickrvision.com or twittervision.com – whichever you fancy most.

It’s utterly useless but boy is it hypnotic to just sit there and see the web come alive while you watch…

Off topic: I still haven’t decided which one of the thousand in-depth technical topics I’d like to post here, maybe a short break will help.