Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Back To Projects, Firefox 15

I'm back in the office after a one week vacation in the midwest US.  It always helps to recharge the batteries and already there are many projects and tasks for me to work.

LibreOffice 3.6 has been officially released.  We'll do an announcement to City employees and probably deploy next Tuesday in the PM.  It's super easy to do a tarball before upgrade and rollback if required; but beta testing did not indicate any problems.

I have been testing Firefox 15, and the biggest new feature is the ability to display PDF documents inline.  I have been keeping an open mind about this new plugin, but also mindful that with hundreds of users on our network there is no way I can pre-test all of their documents and techniques.  After testing on many sample documents, it looks like we won't be deploying this feature and will instead continue using Evince and Acrobat Reader for viewing content from the web.  The first thing that I always do when testing new software is to give it a big document and see how it performs.  I found this document.  It downloaded quickly, but in my testing I was frequently getting the spinning "busy" symbol as it formatted pages.  I also am seeing pages render as I move down, especially on the symbols below.  I control-middle-mouse technique to change zoom is slow, it sits for a while before the UI repaints leading the user to think that it's not working.  It's possible that this works faster on a local video card VS remote display to thin clients; but the spinning busy symbol seems to be an issue of CPU instead of rendering issues.  I also am detecting some kind of leaking, in the sense that as you open more and more documents rendering seems to get slower.

Very frequently I'm getting documents that while displaying correctly, alert the user that "This PDF document might not be displayed correctly".  This will cause users to question what they are seeing and if the document is complete and lead to more support calls.

There also doesn't seem to be a quick way to use alternative PDF viewers.  I like the button marked "Open With A Different Viewer" which should in my mind open the regularly installed PDF viewer; but instead just opens a file manager for the user to save the file.  They'll never be able to find the file they saved or open it with another viewer unless it's automated.  There is a "download" button right below this button, so it seems redundant to have two buttons that do the same thing.  

So my final thoughts on this new plugin are that it's a great start and it certainly would be wonderful to have inline PDFs; but right now it's a bit too slow and there are some clunky issues with the UI that I believe will confuse our users.  I'll monitor this feature in later versions and deploy if it works better.

We are starting to get requests for Adobe Reader X on our Linux server -- which is not released.   Come on Adobe, it's been a good while since the reader has been upgraded.  64bit versions please too!

Other projects:  There were a few stray thin clients here and there that were not updated to the latest OS updates, so we have been pushing updates as needed.  Our support portal is now monitoring disk and memory usage and I have been tuning the servers to flush disk activity out of memory and to disk.  Most of this cache is generated in the wee hours of the morning during backups and is not because of user activity.  I'm prepping for a meeting with our Office Administrators tomorrow to discuss future email needs.  I'm teaching a class on Friday about using digital cameras and photos with City software (Evolution, GIMP, LibreOffice) and prepping slides and handouts.


Uomo Ragno said...

hi, in our organization we still use Firefox 10 because is a LTS version and suitable for production.

Dave Richards said...

@uomo: Understand. The upgrade process of Firefox is normally pretty stable with no problems. For the most part, each new release offers new features that are useful. It will be easy to disable the internal PDF gender software until it meets our needs.

Dao said...

Firefox 15 won't have the internal PDF viewer enabled by default. See

Also, it would be nice if you could file bugs on the problems you noticed.