Things I’ve learned from the survey thus far

I have a survey link in the Flagfox icon menu for the current version to get some stats and info about Flagfox actions usage, sync, and some of the services involved here. All submissions are anonymous and I will not be posting raw data, but here are a few interesting things I have learned from this experiment thus far. Note that this survey is not otherwise advertised, so this is a survey of more advanced users. (which is intentional)
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Flagfox 5.0.2 update released

I have posted Flagfox 5.0.2 to Mozilla Add-ons. After a Mozilla editor signs off, the update will be available to all users, however you can download it before then via the all versions page.

This update contains the IPv4 & IPv6 address location database updates for April 2014. I’ve been releasing on a mid-month schedule for a while now, however it looks like Maxmind might be back to releasing their database updates earlier again so I may go back to beginning of the month updates. I generally try to keep it vaguely consistent if I can to avoid two updates in quick succession.

This version also contains a temporary link to a user survey in the Flagfox menu. (it’s not otherwise advertised) This will help me get some basic stats about how Flagfox’s more advanced users use its actions system as well as the standard questions about what browsers you use and if you use Mozilla Sync. One submission per person please, and also please avoid sharing direct links to the survey. When you load up the survey via the link Flagfox sends some very basic stats in the URL, namely the count of how many actions you have and if you have any custom actions using any advanced features. No identifying information nor the contents or names of any actions are sent. (the parameters in the URL are human-readable; the big number at the beginning is just the survey ID and is the same for everyone) This is disclosed at the top of the survey and no data should be recorded if you do not agree to proceed. The link hides after clicking as this is a one-time survey. If anyone has any issues with this survey please contact me. All submissions are anonymous.

Flagfox 5.0 update Q & A

I’ve been getting quite a few emails and bits of feedback from various sources, so I thought I may as well put up a post centralizing some common questions and answers.

Can I make the flags smaller?

Yes, however some of the more detailed flags don’t look quite right when you do. See here for more info. It’s just a pref to set via about:config.

Why didn’t you add the size setting to the options?

I didn’t want to include an in-GUI option that didn’t work perfectly. Detailed flags just don’t look right at smaller sizes. Those who reply back to me after I point them to how to change the size often respond “oh, yeah, I see that now”. Having it just in about:config lets me easily leave it as a raw number you can play with, as well.

Will you add back the old flag icons?

No. The old sets are not maintained anymore and full of out-of-date flags. Even attempting to properly figure out how many need fixing would take forever and I don’t have the capability to make replacements that match the styles. They were also bad for various other reasons, hard to make out for many people, and the alternate set was actually upscaled to fit into the still tiny space. It’s quite frankly strange that there are a few people who rudely demand that I revert something I worked on for months because they’re used to the old style. (I still get one guy creating throwaway accounts on Mozilla Add-ons to abuse the review system to repeatedly rant about the lack of status bar support many years after the fact; don’t get me started on the angry email about not supporting a version of Firefox that runs on Windows 98 anymore…) Yeah, it’s a UI change, and there’s a bit of subjectivity, but just because you don’t like it as much as everyone else doesn’t mean you should be an asshole about it.

Why didn’t you add the ability to pick between 3 different sets?

That would be a complicated mess and bloat the installer and update sizes. Again, there’s lots of holes in the old sets that I would have to attempt to (poorly) maintain.

Can’t you just add an option to the options dialog for me?

No. Even if I want to add an option, it needs to be translated into around 40 languages. Flagfox has around a million users and most of them don’t use it in English. The translators are all volunteers and getting any localization updates takes a month or two. Yep, there are downsizes to localization. (though, the positives outweigh the negatives)

How can you say the old sets were out of date? They even had the new Libyan flag.

Yeah, because I added it. There hasn’t been an update to either set in about 6 years, and the primary one was more out of date than the alternate one. I have personally been making an attempt to hack in updates over the years. They didn’t match at all. The size of the old sets was too small to work with without heavy stylization, and I’m no image editor pro. I was forced to limit which flags I could update to avoid making them a complete and total mess. Minor updates had to be ignored. Each individual update was a pain in the ass to do, taking a lot of time, and done always late as I didn’t exactly have a way to know when any of the 250 flags needed changing. It was an unmaintainable mess and the primary reason I decided I had to work towards a better solution. This new set is maintainable. I can actually detect and release updated versions rapidly. If you haven’t noticed, there have been a few more changes in the world as of late, and this is what I need to do to keep up.

There is no Flagfox development team. It’s just me; one guy sitting on a couch with an old laptop. It’s not a full-time job unless you decide to donate quite a lot to keep things going. There is one person working on Geotool. It seems there are quite a few people who can’t grasp that software is written by living people, not always a giant corporation or other organization. This is a free service and this new flag set is the only practical way forward that makes giant improvements in accuracy, usability, and appearance.

Can I have a monochrome mode?

Not trying to be rude, but this question made me laugh. I don’t even want to attempt to count how many countries have tri-color flags. If I made a way for the flags to be monochrome to match other buttons in your theme, you wouldn’t be able to tell many of them apart. People had enough trouble trying to tell apart Ireland and Italy in the old sets. No, monochrome will not work here. 😉

Why are the flags different sizes?

Flags are actually different sizes. Different flags have different aspect ratios. You may be used to flag image stylizations where they’re all squished and changed to be the same size. That is not real life. The 250+ nations of the world have not all gotten together to standardize their flag aspect ratios.

Why don’t the flag colors match?

Flags are actually different colors. The red of Canada’s flag is not the same red as America’s flag. Again, no, the world has not color coordinated their flags. I decided that if I was going to make a new flag set I would do it correctly and respect the actual color choices of each country. Plus, it’s much easier this way.

I don’t like flags at all. Can I have a text only mode?

I’ve been considering this a while as an accessibility feature. It was requested specifically recently by a user, so yes, I’m going to look into implementing this feature at some point.

Why did I put the first-run page on my blog?

If I were to put all 10 translations and all the needed styling to get it working inside the installer it would really bloat up the download size for the update for everyone. Putting it up here also lets me put in updates to links if need be.

Why only PayPal?

Mozilla Add-ons only allows PayPal. Yes, this sucks. I have also provided a second route to donate via Amazon which a few people have opted to use. At request I also put up a Bitcoin address, though as of yet nobody has used it. I would have preferred to also have up a Litecoin address, but could not do so due to technical issues with the client. If anyone has an issue with PayPal, please read this. You can email me to get the email address you need to use to send a donation with PayPal directly if Mozilla’s system does not work for you.

Why haven’t you responded to my email/review/post/comment?

I’ve responded to most people as quickly as I can. I’m ignoring the ones cursing at me. I’m noticing that some of the less coherent ones are getting caught in the spam filter, and I’m inclined to not dig through hundreds of spam emails to find them all.

How has the feedback been thus far, in general?

Overwhelmingly positive. Counting all routes, including contributions, I’ve gotten hundreds of thanks and a couple dozen or so complaints.

Note that the contribution system allows for posting a message, however near as I can tell, there’s no way for me to actually view that. Mozilla doesn’t seem to forward that correctly or put it up anywhere else I can find. Sorry, I have no control over that.

Supporting Flagfox Development

People have asked me if I would consider writing a version of Flagfox for Mobile Firefox. My general response to this is that I have nothing against doing so, however I simply don’t have any mobile hardware to run it on.

TL;DR: Flagfox is free. I’ve been doing this for about 6 years for free, I’ve turned down every offer to sell my users into malware/spyware, and I have no money. If you use Flagfox and would like to support its continued development, contributions are now accepted.

Flagfox is a single programmer project. It’s not a company; it’s just me, sitting here on my couch with an old laptop. Every line of code inside Flagfox is my work, which I usually say I do “in my spare time”, though it tends to consume large swaths of it. I don’t have a big fancy tech job, nor much money at all. The only tech I own that was built this decade is an external hard drive. I’ve got an 8 year old desktop that is increasingly obsolete (one of those early AMD64 CPUs where the time occasionally reports as negative) and a laptop that is a couple years less old, but not exactly a powerhouse. (fun anecdote: my previous laptop died of chronic overheating damage after many years of heavy use, and I only owned it because I won it in a contest; no that is not a joke) I don’t own a tablet or a fancy smartphone. I’m a techie without the money for lots of tech. 😉

So, I’ve come up with a plan: If people want a mobile version, or to otherwise help support Flagfox, you can now directly sponsor it. I’ve set up an Amazon wish list with the basics of what I would need to be productive and develop a version of Flagfox for Mobile Firefox, as well as continue to reliably maintain Flagfox in general. It lists an Android phone and tablet, as well as a new laptop. I don’t particularly want the very high-end stuff, so I’ve selected what I think are good value items. (there’s also lower priority items, e.g. a bigger tablet so I could test both small and large screen mobile) Amazon gift cards of any denomination are also accepted through the same system, however real money would be preferable.

I haven’t made any money from Flagfox, ever. I’ve been developing Flagfox over the past 6 or so years, and I’ve turned down or ignored countless requests to sell my million or so users into malware/spyware or otherwise ruin Flagfox for dubious promises of money. I’ve gotten a few honest business offers, however the couple of light discussions I entered into went nowhere productive. I have a privacy policy that I think is good and I plan to stick to it. Even the basic technical logistics of Flagfox are designed to follow the idea that this addon should not exploit its users. There are other addons that do geolocation for sites, and in most (if not all) cases they simply send the URL to a server for the geolocation data for each site you browse to, turning their addons into de facto spyware. Flagfox uses an internal IP location database which is updated through regular monthly updates (which will apply without a restart in Flagfox 5+). Flagfox does its work locally and avoids talking to any server unless you ask it to look up more information using one of its actions, such as Geotool. Not only is this more secure, but it’s faster too. The websites related to Flagfox and Geotool are ad-supported, as are most of the external actions Flagfox includes, however I don’t receive any money from this.

If I’m going to take contributions for Flagfox development, I’ve decided to also turn on the contributions system provided on the Mozilla Add-ons site. Their system only uses PayPal, which should work well enough. I’m sure someone will suggest I also accept Bitcoin, but that’s not something I particularly want to do if I can avoid it. (though if you’re willing to send me a significant amount, but only through Bitcoin, please do email me)

I don’t know how well this experiment will work. It could result in nothing productive, it could raise enough for me to be able to provide a mobile version, fund the purchase of a decent computer, or it could fundamentally change my life. I shall avoid going into detail with my life’s story, but suffice it to say, I could use the money and won’t waste it.

Flagfox will always be free, but hopefully some people are willing to contribute to support Flagfox and ensure that I will be able to maintain it into the future.

Contribute funds via PayPal (international donations accepted)
▸ Donate equipment via Amazon (please note the listed item priorities)
▸ BTC: 1Bp66Bq3ztkJwNaEjYoH3XkuyU6DSttGFD (Bitcoin accepted)

Thank you immensely to anyone who even considers this. Even tiny contributions would mean the world to me. A good businessman would’ve turned this into a profitable enterprise years ago, but I’m certainly not one. (and all of the ones who have approached me have been a tad shady, at minimum)

This is all new to me, so if you have any problem with one of the contribution systems, for the love of all that is good in the world please contact me immediately.

Update:
The needed items on the Amazon list have either been bought by generous donors or by myself with donated funds. I now own a mid-range Android phone and small tablet, as well as a few other small things I needed. Many thanks to those who donated. The Amazon system had some issues, namely the fact that no notification was sent to me on usage. (in one case a small package arrived without even a name attached, so thank you anonymous stranger) I’m taking down the list now, though Amazon gift cards will still be accepted if anyone wants to send me one.

I’ve also edited this post to put my Bitcoin address in there for those who didn’t find it elsewhere. Again, I can’t in good conscience recommend Bitcoin for general use, however if you do use it I am accepting it.

Middle-Eastern Translators Needed

I’ve often described the process of getting translation updates out of 40-50 part-time volunteers scattered across the globe as herding cats. Some of the cats are quite busy and I’ve not been able to find them or replacements for them.

For Flagfox 5.0, I may be forced to drop the Middle-Eastern locales: Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian (Farsi). I really don’t want to do this, but the Middle-Eastern translator community on BabelZilla has languished over the past few years to the point where there are apparently no active translators available. If you are at least minimally bilingual in both English and Hebrew, Arabic, or Persian (Farsi), I could really use your help. Most of the locale is unchanged from Flagfox 4.x, so the work needed to get things working for 5.0 is not that great, though sufficient that I do not wish to release a partially translated locale.

For more info, see also a similar post on this topic I’ve written for the official BabelZilla blog. BabelZilla is a great community which could really use your help if you’re able.

Click here to volunteer as a BabelZilla translator
(for any addon, in any language)

Update: We’ve managed to contact the Hebrew translator and have a new Arabic translator. 🙂

Twitter

:sigh:

For reasons beyond my comprehension I’ve created a twitter account. I might use it regularly; at a minimum I’ll use it more often than this blog. If you message me there I will endeavor to respond eventually. (DMs sound like a good idea to contact me there) If you follow me I promise to only retweet the highest quality of junk.

My first follower is Goofy from BabelZilla, whom I’ve always suspected was secretly a cyborg with the Internet plugged into his brain, so I can’t say I’m surprised. He actually found me before the Twitter bots did. 😉

@NullDereference