mr mr cote

Educational, Investigative, and Absurd Writings by M. R. Côté

BMO in 2016

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Stuff that landed in 2016

Here’s a sampling of improvements to BMO that were launched in 2016.

Improvements to bug-modal

We’ve continued to refine the modal bug view, aka the “experimental UI”. The BMO team fixed 39 bugs relating to the new interface in 2016. We’ve got a couple more blockers before we make the modal view the default, which should happen in the middle of January. We know there are a still a few outstanding bugs and some missing functionality, so we will leave the standard view available for a little while, at least until all the blockers of bug 1273046 are resolved. All future improvements to the bug view will happen only on the modal UI, which is not just more usable but also more hackable.

HTML email

There was actually no real work involved here, as HTML email was added to BMO years ago. At that time, since it was a new feature, we didn’t enable it by default… and then 4 years went by. Just a couple weeks ago a new BMO user suggested that we implement HTML emails, having no idea that the option was already there (buried in many other preferences). That was the prompting we needed to finally enable it by default.

Readable bug statuses

Emma Humphries added readable statuses prominently displayed at the top of the status panel (in the modal UI only). They quickly summarize the status of a bug in a visible place, mainly for triaging and tracking purposes.

A couple examples:

This is part of Emma’s on-going efforts to improve contributors' experiences.

Time zones

One big change we made this year was hopefully completely invisible to everyone: BMO’s database moved to UTC. When BMO was originally deployed in 1998, the database, being based in California, was set to Pacific Time. 6 years later someone suggested that UTC would be a better choice. When I took over management of the BMO team about 4.5 years ago, I was pretty horrified that a major application would be running in any time zone other than UTC, not in the least because of the confusion caused by an hour being repeated every year when PDT switched back to PST, since the presence or absence of DST is not noted in the database. However, we were never able to justify the required effort to move over to UTC, that is, until last year, as we were setting up a failover system in AWS. RDS, the natural choice for a MySQL-based application, supported only UTC, thus giving us a hard requirement to migrate. A heroic effort by dkl got us smoothly switched over in May 2016.

Memory-usage & perf improvements

We’ve known for some time that Bugzilla has a persistent memory leak. It was never a huge issue because the webheads would automatically restart Apache processes when their memory usage got too high, but it is understandably something that lurks in the back of the minds of the developers working on Bugzilla. Dylan finally got frustrated enough to fix a big leak, which resulted in the webheads restarting much less frequently, which in turn led to a performance increase. He’s been investigating and fixing other such leaks when he finds the time.

Stuff we’re wrapping up in 2017

Some of the bigger projects bled over into 2017.

Content Security Policy

We’ve been working on implementing CSP in BMO, starting with the new modal bug view. It was pretty hairy due to generated HTML, inline JavaScript, and other old web-dev techniques that make security harder. After some back and forth, we’re just about there; see bug 1286290 for progress.

Note that CSP can break browser extensions. Since the modal UI is relatively new, there are probably not too many extensions designed for it; however, we’ll be spreading CSP over time. And of course, we’ll be removing the old bug view at some point, which will definitely break some things.

Elastic Quicksearch

In the spring, Dylan hacked up a prototype of a quicksearch alternative powered by an Elasticsearch index. It’s lightning fast, so we explored setting it up in production. Of course a prototype is always easier than the real thing, and we had to do some structural work to BMO to make it possible, although that in turn has had side benefits. The indexing code is just about ready to roll out, and while we’re verifying that it works correctly, we’ll be finishing up the search code. You can also follow the main tracker bug for the whole deployment.

New stuff in 2017

We’re expecting to wrap up the above features in Q1, and we’ve already developed a road map for the first half of 2017 with some fun and long-awaited features. Emma will be going over this in another post, wearing her hat as BMO product manager, a job she has recently, and graciously, taken on herself!

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