NTNU Library Toolbar development 2009-01-29


Back by popular demand: the NTNU Library Toolbar. Thanks to all the people who contacted me regarding the status of the toolbar following the cut-off of support for Firefox 2.0.0.x by the Mozilla Corporation. You’ll be glad to know that the toolbar is now fully compatible with Firefox 3.

You can get the toolbar in two ways: via addons.mozilla.org, or from NTNU. I actually recommend the first option because the toolbar will be updated at regular intervals from this address; the downside with this is the fact that it requires that users register to download the toolbar. The second option is “cut loose” from the tyranny of upgrades šŸ˜‰ but it doesn’t require login**.

As of today’s date, the NTNU Library Toolbar has reached version 0.3.1. This version provides full compatibility with all versions of Firefox from 3.x onwards (including various betas). While the functionality of previous versions is in place*, the code base has been largely re-written on object-oriented principles. The speed gains in this version are appreciable when compared with previous versions of the toolbar.

A major change with this release is the fact that the toolbar is now “powered by UBiT 2010”, a euphemism for the fact that work on the toolbar is now officially sanctioned by NTNU Library — i.e. I’m not just doing it off my own back, with all of the risks that entails. Hopefully this will mean that I can dedicate more time to reducing the lines of code, while adding some necessary features.

Version 0.3.1 is by no means the final release of this toolbar, in the coming weeks I expect to fix a few bugs that are currently subject to workarounds (see * under).

Other development news: currently there is a fork in the NTNU Library Development tree, where the toolbar also appears with a compatibility layer to work with various database repository services via a custom XML API implemented in both Java and PHP. For the foreseeable future, this will be an NTNU-only project as the work on this is experimental.

The main development branch is being reviewed, and will also be moved over to a more stable object-oriented code base. Additionally, we will provide a central repository for known resources; the idea here is that the maintenance of the toolbar resources should be essentially farmed out to the users, who can add their own searches to a centralized database. These will be audited and provided in updates via the usual distribution method.

Finally, several people have asked whether we will open source the code for this project; the simple answer here is “yes”, however, we feel that we need to provide core functionality that will allow other libraries to customize the toolbar for their purposes. The date for this will be on or around the date of the completion of the XML-API mentioned above.

A final thought: the toolbar is a testament to UBiT 2010’s commitment to providing lightweight software to heavyweight problems. Thanks for bearing with us šŸ™‚

* The major issue in this release is that Firefox needs to be restarted after adding custom resources as the search menu is not redrawn each time it is opened.

** I’d love to provide an upgrade stream for the toolbar, but we don’t seem to be able to provide a suitable https connection :[

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