Blog posts tagged: silent-update
News and other things I find interesting
Last modified: Tuesday, May 22, 2012
I will answer some commonly asked questions relating to the series of tasks that make up the silent update project in this post.
Will silent updates first land in Firefox 13?
No, the silent updates work is a series of tasks, and some of it has already landed.
Three of the biggest pieces of work in this new series of tasks are:
- Add-ons default to compatible.
- The Mozilla Maintenance Service, which gives truly silent updates on Windows.
- Background updates, which applies updates in the background while Firefox is running on all platforms.
Add-ons default to compatible landed in Firefox 10.
The Mozilla Maintenance Service fixes the problem of updates not being truly silent on Vista and above due to UAC prompts. Silent updates will occur without this UAC prompt as of Firefox 12.
Firefox 15 will have background updates.
Are background updates the same as silent updates?
No, background updates is a task that makes silent updates better, it is a component of the silent update project.
In Firefox 12, updates will be silent, but they will still be applied at startup. Meaning when there is an update, it will take slightly longer to startup.
In Firefox 15, updates will be applied in the background while Firefox is running. Meaning when there is an update, it will take about the same amount of time to startup as normal.
Will Firefox force me into silent updates?
No, you have always been able to configure how you get updates.
Simply go to:
Options -> Advanced -> Update.
These options are not changing, in fact you will have more control over how your Firefox updates as of Firefox 12.
You can choose to:
- Automatically download and install updates
- Check for updates but don't install them without permission
- Don't check for updates
Furthermore, you can specify whether or not to use the Mozilla Maintenance Service to apply the update. If checked on, you will not have a UAC prompt.
If I uninstall the Mozilla Maintenance Service will the next update just reinstall it?
No, the Mozilla Maintenance Service will only be installed once. If you uninstall the service after that, it will never be installed via an update again.
Will Firefox silently install other things than updates?
No, the only things that will be silently installed, if the silent update option is on, are Firefox updates. The updates cannot be tampered with, if they are, they will not be installed.
Will the Mozilla Maintenance Service slow down my computer?
No, the Mozilla Maintenance Service will take up a small amount of disk space and only be run during an update. If an update is not in the middle of being applied, the service will not be running and will have absolutely no effect on the performance of Firefox and your machine.
Will the Mozilla Maintenance Service make updating less secure?
No, we have worked closely with the security team to ensure this feature was delivered securely. Firefox will only apply updates issued by Mozilla designed specifically for Firefox.
Is updating more often less secure?
No, if you are not updating your browser, then you do not have the most recent security fixes. These are the most dangerous security problems because they are well known and can be exploited.
Will I see the effects of the silent update service in Firefox 12?
No, although the Mozilla Maintenance Service will first be installed in Firefox 12, users will not experience the benefits of the service until the first update after Firefox 12.
The update that installs Firefox 12 will install the service, and so the service itself can't be used to install that update.
The next update after Firefox 12 may be Firefox 13 or may be a minor update after Firefox 12.
Last modified: Monday, March 26, 2012
Mozilla's rapid release process allows us to deliver features, speed optimizations, memory reductions, and much more... faster. Keeping up to date fast is an essential need for the ever changing web.
There is a new release of Firefox every 6 weeks instead of every year. Even with this shortened release cycle, these releases still include major enhancements. These faster updates are possible because Mozilla is growing significantly, and the community of Mozillians at large is growing month over month.
The rapid release process has some very positive side effects, like delivering new web technologies faster, and attracting world class developers who like to see their code ship fast. But rapid releases also have some negative side effects.
One of the negative side effects is that minor annoyances with software updates suddenly become much more noticeable. Most users don't want to think about software updates nor version numbers and now they are being forced to do so every six weeks.
One such minor annoyance is User Account Control (UAC):
Starting with Windows Vista Microsoft introduced UAC, and with it users across the world see this familiar dialog when doing any operation that requires administrative access:
UAC in particular makes every process run with limited permissions, and if you want to do something like write into
Program Files, then the user has to give permissions to the application to do this.
This makes things like automated software updates hard to do without user interaction. If we don't have access to write into
Program Files to perform an update, then we have to ask for elevated permissions. We ask for elevated permissions today when applying updates.
If a user with administrative access gives permissions to Firefox one time via a UAC prompt, and that user has automatic updates on, then there is no reason we should continue to ask them to elevate the permissions each and every time we want to apply an update. The user has already explicitly given permission to do it.
If this worries you, just remember that you can change your mind at any time by configuring silent updates on the
Options > Advanced > Update tab.
The feature page for this task is located here: Remove requirement for the Windows UAC dialog when applying an update. I am the lead developer on this UAC task and the estimated target is the first quarter of 2012.
What's being done to solve the UAC annoyance:
There are several ways to tackle this issue. For example, some browsers that offer silent software updates will install into the user's application data folder and hence do not have this problem. We could do the same, but we chose not to because it can be an administrative headache for some people who manage updates themselves and have to maintain an installation for every user.
We are currently experimenting with a Windows service approach.
This means that an optional component will be installed that automates the software update process better without giving UAC prompts.
Only one Firefox service:
There are four different Firefox development channels you can use. At any time there is a Firefox Release channel, Beta channel, Aurora channel, and Nightly builds channel. These channels give you access to Firefox releases at different stages of the development cycle.
A user can have multiple installations across channels, but only one Firefox service will exist in Windows Services.
Firefox service as an optional component:
The Firefox service will be an optional component. It doesn't need to be installed, and if it is stopped or disabled, updates will work as they did before in every other recent Firefox release.
A user can also uninstall the Firefox service at any time. Updates will continue to occur using the old method.
Other uses of the Firefox service:
Having a Windows service installed means that we can investigate other integration and maintenance points. The possibilities are very exciting.
The Windows service may be used later on for a wider selection of maintenance related things including faster browser startup via prefetching, but initially will be only for software updates.
High level overview of other new Silent update features
Above I mostly talked about silent updates on Windows, but there are other update issues being addressed in several new features across all platforms. This section was originally written by Robert Strong with help from Chris Lee, and Lawrence Mandel and describes these features.
All of the silent update work can be tracked on the wiki.
Lessen how often the "What’s New" page is shown
Estimated target: fourth quarter of 2011.
Every six weeks Firefox informs you of what is new in the release. The feedback from our users is that the information is not required and is actually an irritant. We are looking at ways of displaying information only when it provides benefit. The ability to control if the "What’s New" page should be displayed after an update was added to Firefox 4. The server side capability should be completed soon.
Lessen how often the update user interface is displayed
Estimated target: first quarter of 2012.
After an update is downloaded in the background Firefox waits 12 hours before notifying the user to restart to apply the update and since this can interrupt tasks the wait time is being increased to 24 hours. More details including how we decided upon 24 hours are available on this feature page and the bugs referenced on that page.
Add-ons Default to Compatible
Estimated target: first quarter of 2012.
By default, Firefox requires consent to update if there are add-ons that are enabled and compatible with the current version of Firefox and are incompatible with the update’s version. With this feature there should be significantly fewer cases where consent is required to update Firefox while keeping your add-ons installed and up-to-date as well.
Apply updates on shutdown
Estimated target: to be determined.
After an update is downloaded users notice that it takes longer to start up Firefox on the next run. This wait time is due to the installation of the software update. To eliminate the wait time on startup to apply an update the majority of an update’s operations will be performed prior to shutdown and the few remaining operations will be performed after Firefox has exited. This applies to all desktop platforms though on Windows the service that will remove the requirement for the Windows UAC dialog will typically apply the update.
Improved process flow for updating when there are incompatible add-ons
Estimated target: to be determined.
If an update is declined when there are incompatible add-ons the time to wait until next notification will be increased. This feature is in the planning stage and the amount of time to wait until the next notification hasn’t been decided as of yet.
Other Mozilla products:
Other Mozilla products may use the service described above. We currently plan to have only one Windows service across all products. All supported architectures are also planned to share the same Windows service.
Platform Integration team:
Mozilla started a new Platform Integration team which focuses on issues which need Operating System specific solutions.
I am a member of this new team led by Robert Strong. Some of the tasks being worked on by this team are described above.