Category Archives: Dean

Stuff Dean writes

Hard-plumbing The Stand

Just a quick homebrew update.  My three-tier stand is great, but I kept melting hoses when they would touch the hot metal.  Luckily none ever burst and spewed hot wort all over, but I knew that was just a matter of time.

So a friend and I got out the torches and hard-plumbed the stand.  The hoses are now short jumpers that connect vessels to the center line.  Brewed a dunkelweiss with the new setup on Thursday.  Works well and no burned hoses.

Some eye candy:

Easy Thunderbird Account Management Using MCD

Ford Thunderbird Console
From myoldpostcards

Continuing my series on Mission Control Desktop, this post covers some enhancements I made for configuring email accounts in Thunderbird.  The mail.* branch is one of the largest group of preferences you can manipulate using autoconfig.  Setting up the right combination of mail.accountmail.server, mail.identity and mail.smtpserver is just a little tricky.

With the exception of the special “local folders” account, an email account in Thunderbird has four components: an account, a server, one or more identities, and an smtp server.  There are a few preference strings gluing each of these elements together. Each account you create is differentiated from the others by a unique label, defaulting to account<num>, with incrementing numbers. You can also use your own, more meaningful labels, such as mail.account.work-email and mail.account.gmail.

Element Branch
Account mail.account.accountN Glues POP/IMAP, SMTP servers and identities together
Server mail.server.serverN Settings for the IMAP or POP server
Identity mail.identity.idN Name, email address, drafts & stationery folders
SMTP Server mail.smtpserver.smtpN Settings for the SMTP server
Glue settings
Accounts list mail.accountmanager.accounts Comma-separated list of mail.account labels
Default account mail.accountmanager.defaultaccount The label of the default mail account
SMTP servers mail.smtpservers Comma-separated list of mail.smtpserver server labels
Default SMTP mail.smtp.defaultserver The label of the default SMTP server

Here is a quick example:

// Identity
defaultPref("mail.identity.id1.fullName", "Dean Brundage");
defaultPref("mail.identity.id1.draft_folder", "imap://dean.brundage@example.com@mail.example.com/Drafts");
defaultPref("mail.identity.id1.smtpServer", "smtp1");
 
// IMAP server settings
defaultPref("mail.server.server1.type", "imap");
defaultPref("mail.server.server1.hostname", "mail.example.com");
// etc
 
// SMTP server settings
defaultPref("mail.smtpserver.smtp1.auth_method", 1);
defaultPref("mail.smtpserver.smtp1.hostname", "smtp.example.com");
// etc
 
// Glue it all together
defaultPref("mail.account.account1.identities", "id1");
defaultPref("mail.account.account1.server", "server1");
 
defaultPref("mail.accountmanager.accounts", "account1");
defaultPref("mail.accountmanager.defaultaccount", "account1");
 
defaultPref("mail.smtp.defaultserver", "smtp1");
defaultPref("mail.smtpservers", "smtp1");

As you add more email accounts the code can get unmanageable when you try to remember to twiddle the right branches so all the accounts, their identities and smtp servers show up. I would like to present an alternative.

This code builds upon the PreferenceFactory prototype covered earlier.  I put together an object prototype for an account, containing a server, one or more identities, and an smtp server.  There is also a singleton for the account manager.  Now you can instantiate an object and call preference setters on it.  The code is more readable and less error prone.

   // Create an email account
   var workAccount = AccountManager.newAccount({ isDefault: true,
                                                 label: "work",
                                                 type: "imap" });
 
   // Lock Preferences on the IMAP server
   workAccount.server.setPrefs({ hostname: "mail.example.com",
                                 type: "imap" }, "lock" );
   // Default Preferences
   workAccount.server.setPrefs({ check_new_mail: true,
                                 name: "Corporate eMail" });
 
  // Lock Preferences on the SMTP server
  workAccount.smtpServer.setPrefs({ auth_method: 1,    /* User/pass */
                                    username: "dean.brundage@example.com" }, "lock" );
  // Default Preferences
  workAccount.smtpServer.setPrefs({ description: "Corporate SMTP server",
                                     hostname: "mail.example.com"});
 
  // And now a personal account
  var myGmailAccount = AccountManager.newAccount({ label: "gmail", type: "imap" });
  // Go about setting preferences on myGmailAccount as before

Download the source

That block of code replaces the tedious series of defaultPref and lockPref required to set up an email account.  It produces preference settings like these:

defaultPref("mail.accountmanager.accounts", "work-account1,gmail-account2");
defaultPref("mail.accountmanager.defaultaccount", "work-account1");
 
defaultPref("mail.account.work-account1.identities", "work-id1");
defaultPref("mail.account.work-account1.server", "work-server1");
lockPref("mail.server.work-server1.type", "imap");
 
defaultPref("mail.server.gmail-server2.type", "imap");
// etc
 
defaultPref("mail.smtp.defaultserver", "work-smtp1");
defaultPref("mail.smtpservers", "work-smtp1");

Download the source

/**
   By Dean Brundage
   Originally published here:
     http://blog.deanandadie.net/2010/06/easy-thunderbird-account-management-using-mcd/
*/
 
 
/* "Inheritance" helper
   http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2006/01/17/javascript-inheritance/
   copy all of parent's prototype functions to descendant
*/
function copyPrototype(parent, descendant)
{  var sConstructor = parent.toString(); 
   var aMatch = sConstructor.match( /\s*function (.*)\(/ ); 
   if( aMatch != null )
   {  descendant.prototype[aMatch[1]] = parent;  } 
   for (var m in parent.prototype)
   {  descendant.prototype[m] = parent.prototype[m];  } 
};
 
 
/* "Base" for the Mail.xxxx objects
 
   This requires the PreferenceFactory prototype covered in a previous post:
     http://blog.deanandadie.net/2010/05/manufacturing-user-preferences-for-mcd/
*/
function Mail()
{  this.PreferenceFactory();  // super
   this.addPrefBranch("mail");
   return this;
}
 
copyPrototype( PreferenceFactory, Mail );
 
 
Mail.prototype.joinIds = function(collection,separator)
{  if( ! separator )
      separator = ",";
   if( collection )
   {  ret = collection[0].id
      for( i = 1; i < collection.length; i++ )
         ret = ret + separator + collection[i].id;
   }
   return ret;
};
 
 
/* A thunderbird email "account" consists of
      Mail.Server -- A mail server (IMAP or POP)
      Mail.SMTPServer -- A SMTP server
      One or more Mail.Identities -- Email address and name
 
   A thunderbird local folders "account" has only one Mail.Server, nothing else
      Yup, local folders are "servers"
*/
 
/* Object to manage accounts
      I recommend managing mail accounts with the AccountManager unless you
      know what you are doing.
   var myAccount = AccountManager.newAccount();
   myAccount.doStuff();
 
*/
var AccountManager = new Mail();
 
AccountManager.accounts = [];
AccountManager.addPrefBranch("accountmanager");
 
/* Create a new account
   Alerts Thunderbird to the presence of the new account
   See Mail.Account for valid options
*/
AccountManager.newAccount = function(opts)
{  if( ! opts )
      opts = { };
 
   acct = new Mail.Account(opts);
 
   if( opts.isDefault )
   {  acct.useSMTPServer( new Mail.SMTPServer(opts) );
      this.setDefaultAccount(acct,opts.lockLevel);
   } else
   {  acct.useSMTPServer( Mail.SMTPServer.defaultServer );
   }
 
   this.accounts.push(acct);
   this.setPref( "accounts", this.joinIds(this.accounts) );
   return acct;
}
 
 
AccountManager.setDefaultAccount = function(account,lockLevel)
{  
   this.setPref("defaultaccount", account.id, lockLevel );
 
   /* It's possible to create an account before setting the default
      SMTP server.  Clean them up if this new account is the default
      (Expect Mail.Account to inform Mail.SMTPServer of the new default)
   */
   for( i = 0; i < this.accounts.length; i++ )
      this.accounts[i].useSMTPServer(Mail.SMTPServer.defaultServer);
}
 
 
AccountManager.setLocalFolders = function(folders,lockLevel)
{  this.setPref("localfoldersserver", folders.id, lockLevel);
}
 
 
/* Creates a new generic mail account (identity, server, smtp)
   Arguments
     opts: A hash of options. Valid options are:
           "isDefault": true | false (default false)
           "label": string - A unique label for this account, server & identity
           "lockLevel": "default" | "lock" | "pref" (default "default")
           "type": imap | pop | localFolder
 
   This prototype creates an object representing an email account
   It exposes some objects:
      myAccount.directoryServer  // The (optional) LDAP2Server object
      myAccount.identities       // An array of identites
      myAccount.server           // The IMAP/POP/LocalFolder Mail.Server object
      myAccount.smtpServer       // The Mail.SMTPServer object
 
   (The LDAP2Server object is detailed in a separate post on http://blog.deanandadie.net/)
*/
Mail.Account = function(opts)
{  if( ! opts )
     opts = { };
 
   if( ! opts.type )
      throw("What's my type?");
 
   this.Mail();  // "super"
 
   this.id = "account" + ++Mail.Account.count;
   if( opts.label )
   {  this.id = opts.label + "-" + this.id;  }
 
   // Our preference branch is mail.account.accountN
   this.addPrefBranch( [ "account", this.id ] );
 
   this.identities = [];
 
   this.server = new Mail.Server(opts);  // Need this either way
 
   if( opts.type.match(/^^imap$|^pop$/i) )
   {
      this.server.setPref("type", opts.type, opts.lockLevel);
 
      // Important that addIdentity be before the SMTP server is set up
      this.addIdentity( new Mail.Identity(opts), opts.lockLevel );
 
   } else if( opts.type.match(/^localFolders?$/i) )
   {  this.folders = this.server;
      AccountManager.setLocalFolders(this.folders);
      this.folders.setPref("type", "none", opts.lockLevel );
 
   } else
   {  throw("unrecognized Mail.Account type: " + opts.type);  }
 
   this.useServer(this.server, opts.lockLevel);
 
}
 
copyPrototype( Mail, Mail.Account );
 
Mail.Account.count = 0;                                   // Fake class variable
 
 
// Expects a Mail.Identity object and, optionally, the preference locking level
Mail.Account.prototype.addIdentity = function(identity,lockLevel)
{  if( identity )
   {  if( ! this.identities.contains(identity) )
      {  this.identities.push(identity);
         this.setPref("identities", this.joinIds(this.identities), lockLevel );
      }
   }
}
 
 
/* Helper to set the SMTP server
   Expects a Mail.SMTPServer object & optionally, an options hash
   Valid options:
     lockLevel: lock | default | pref
     force: true | false
*/
Mail.Account.prototype.useDirectory = function(directory, opts)
{  if( ! opts )
      opts = { };
   if( directory )
   {  if( opts.force || typeof(this.directoryServer) == "undefined" )
      {  this.directoryServer = directory;
         for( i = 0; i < this.identities.length; i++ )
            this.identities[i].useDirectory( this.directoryServer, opts );
      }
   }
}
 
/* Helper to set the SMTP server
   Expects a Mail.SMTPServer object & optionally, an options hash
   Valid options:
     lockLevel: lock | default | pref
     force: true | false
*/
Mail.Account.prototype.useSMTPServer = function(smtp,opts)
{  if( ! opts )
      opts = { };
   if( smtp )
   {  if( opts.force || typeof(this.smtpServer) == "undefined" )
      {  this.smtpServer = smtp;
         for( i = 0; i < this.identities.length; i++ )
            this.identities[i].useSMTPServer( this.smtpServer, opts );
      }
   }
}
 
 
// Expects a Mail.Server object and, optionally, the preference locking level
Mail.Account.prototype.useServer = function(server,lockLevel)
{  if( server )
      this.setPref("server", server.id, lockLevel );
}
 
 
/* Creates a new generic mail server
   Arguments
     opts: A hash of options. Valid options are:
           label: string - A unique label for this account, server & identity
*/
Mail.Server = function(opts)
{  if( ! opts )
     opts = { };
 
   this.Mail();
 
   this.id = "server" + ++Mail.Server.count;
   if( opts.label )
   {  this.id = opts.label + "-" + this.id;  }
 
   // Our preference branch is mail.server.serverN
   this.addPrefBranch( [ "server", this.id ] );
}
 
copyPrototype( Mail, Mail.Server );
 
Mail.Server.count = 0;  // Fake class variable
 
 
/* Creates a new mail identity. (name, email address, etc)
   Arguments
     opts: A hash of options. Valid options are:
           "label": string - A unique label for this account, server & identity
*/
Mail.Identity = function(opts)
{  if( ! opts )
     opts = { };
 
   this.Mail();
 
   this.id = "id" + ++Mail.Identity.count;
   if( opts.label )
   {  this.id = opts.label + "-" + this.id;  }
 
   // Our preference branch is mail.identity.idN
   this.addPrefBranch( [ "identity", this.id ] );
   this.hasSMTPServer = false;
};
 
copyPrototype(Mail, Mail.Identity);
 
 
Mail.Identity.count = 0;  // Fake class variable
 
 
/* Expects a LDAP2Server object and a hash of options
   Valid options:
      lockLevel: lock | default | pref
*/
Mail.Identity.prototype.useDirectory = function(ldap2Server,opts)
{  if( ! opts )
      opts = { };
 
   if( ldap2Server )
   {  this.setPref("directoryServer", "ldap_2.servers." + ldap2Server.id, opts.lockLevel);
      this.setPref("overrideGlobal_Pref", true, opts.lockLevel);
   }
};
 
 
/* Expects a SMTPServer object and a hash of options
   Valid options:
      force: true | false
      lockLevel: lock | default | pref
*/
Mail.Identity.prototype.useSMTPServer = function(smtpServer,opts)
{  if( ! opts )
      opts = { }
   if( smtpServer )
   {  if( opts.force || ! this.hasSMTPServer )
      {  this.setPref("smtpServer", smtpServer.id, opts.lockLevel);
         this.hasSMTPServer = true;
      }
   }
};
 
 
/* Creates a new smtp server
   Artuments:
     opts: A hash of options. Valid options are:
       isDefault: true | false (default)
       label: A unique label for this smtp server
   Throws an error if there is already a default smtp server
*/
Mail.SMTPServer = function(opts)
{  if( ! opts )
     opts = { };
 
   this.Mail();
 
   this.id = "smtp" + ++Mail.SMTPServer.count;
   if( opts.label )
   {  this.id = opts.label + "-" + this.id;  }
 
   // Our perference branch is mail.smtpserver.smtpN
   this.addPrefBranch( [ "smtpserver", this.id ] );
 
   if( opts.isDefault && Mail.SMTPServer.defaultServer )
      throw("Default smtp server already configured to " + Mail.SMTPServer.defaultServer);
 
   if( opts.isDefault )
      this.setDefault();
 
   // Register this SMTP server
   if( ! Mail.SMTPServer.servers.contains(this) )
      Mail.SMTPServer.servers.push(this);
 
   // Update mail.smtpservers to include the new one
   defaultPref("mail.smtpservers",  this.joinIds(Mail.SMTPServer.servers) );
 
   return this;
};
 
copyPrototype(Mail, Mail.SMTPServer);
 
// Some "class" variables
Mail.SMTPServer.count = 0;
Mail.SMTPServer.defaultServer = undefined;
Mail.SMTPServer.servers = [];
 
 
Mail.SMTPServer.prototype.setDefault = function()
{  Mail.SMTPServer.defaultServer = this;
   defaultPref("mail.smtp.defaultserver", Mail.SMTPServer.defaultServer.id );
}

Quick diff of Solaris patch levels

Suppose you have two Solaris machines and you want to bring them to the same patch level.  Or you are troubleshooting issues on two machines that are supposed to be identical.  I wrote a perl script that compares patch levels on two machines.

It shows something like this:

malfunction % patch_diff sr-host-01 sr-host-02
 
Patches on each system that are missing from the other.
                        sr-host-01  |  sr-host-02
          Wed Jun  2 11:40:40 2010  |  Wed Jun  2 11:40:59 2010
------------------------------------+-------------------------------------
                         118814-01  |  123252-01
                         118959-03  |  127752-01
                         119090-31  |  137110-01
                                    |  142430-01
                                    |  142436-01
 
Patches on each system that are downrev on the other.
                        sr-host-01  |  sr-host-02
          Wed Jun  2 11:40:40 2010  |  Wed Jun  2 11:40:59 2010
------------------------------------+-------------------------------------
                         137147-04  |  137147-05
                         137000-03  |  137000-06
                         125952-18  |  125952-19

Download patch_diff

First it shows all the patches sr-host-01 has that sr-host-02 does not have and vice-versa.  In this simplified case sr-host-01 has 3 patches sr-host-02 does not have and sr-host-02 has 5 patches sr-host-01 does not have.  It also compares patch revisions and shows the different levels on each host.  The machines share 3 patches that are at different revision levels.

To use patch_diff you must first generate a patch list on each machine.

0 sr-host-01 % patch_diff -g

This makes a directory with a NDBM file containing the patches on sr-host-01. Do the same for sr-host-02 and bring the NDBM files together. (It helps if your home directory is shared between the machines.)

0 malfunction % ls patch_diff
sr-host-01.dir  sr-host-02.dir
sr-host-01.pag  sr-host-02.pag

Download patch_diff

Manufacturing User Preferences For MCD

Bottling Line
From vissago

Nobody likes boring code

Mozilla products like Thunderbird and Firefox represent setting choices in a textual “tree” system. (Read the intro.)  Preferences that begin with print. live on the tree branch dealing with printing while those that begin with app.update. are on the auto-update system’s branch.  An easy concept to grasp. In practice, however, the simplicity will easily become a drone of defalutPref(“app.update.auto”, false); if you are not careful.

// This is a boring autoconfig script
defaultPref("browser.dom.window.dump.enabled", true);
defaultPref("browser.download.manager.retention", 0);
defaultPref("browser.download.manager.showAlertOnComplete", false);
defaultPref("browser.download.manager.showWhenStarting", false);
defaultPref("browser.download.save_converter_index", 0);
defaultPref("browser.feeds.handler", "reader");
defaultPref("browser.feeds.handler.default", "web");
defaultPref("browser.feeds.showFirstRunUI", false);
defaultPref("browser.history_expire_days.mirror", 180);
// and so on....

Working at The Preference Factory

Instead of hand-cranking preferences I developed an object prototype to mechanize large blocks of related settings.  The resulting code is more readable and easier to maintain when it looks something like this:

// Some hypothetical printing preferences
var printPrefs = new PreferenceFactory("print");
 
// Lock out printing background or in color and don't allow font download
printPrefs.setPrefs( { print_bgcolor: false,
                       print_bgimages: false,
                       print_downoadfonts: false,
                       print_in_color: false }, "lock" );
 
// Make some sensible defaults
printPrefs.setPrefs( { print_orientation: 0,  // Letter
                       print_to_file: false } );

Whitespace focuses your attention on the block and the object eliminates monotonous pref-branch statement repetition. For the experienced programmer this approach is the familiar object-oriented one of sending messages to receivers. One goal behind this prototype was to help create elegant code, which can be difficult to do in javascript. There is another purpose to PreferenceFactory which I will cover in a later post.

The Bottling Line

The heart of PreferenceFactory is a wrapper around the autoconfig API.  It performs lockPref(), defaultPref(), pref() and getPref() on a branch of the preference tree that you specify when creating the object. Here is the engine driving the factory:

function PreferenceFactory(arg)
{  this.prefNodes = [];   // Nodes in the preference tree
   this.prefBranch = "";  // String representation of the branch
   if(arg)
      this.addPrefBranch(arg);   // Add nodes to the tree and update the string representation
}
 
/* Preference setting helper function
   myServer.setPref("type", "imap", "lock");
   Arguments
     key: The preference string to set
     value: Value to assign to key
     lockLevel: Locking level.
            Valid values are "default", "lock" and "pref"
            Default level is "defulat"
*/
PreferenceFactory.prototype.setPref = function(key,value,lockLevel)
{  if( lockLevel )
   {  switch( lockLevel.toLowerCase() )
      {  case "default":
            this.defaultPref(key,value);
            break;
         case "lock":
            this.lockPref(key,value);
            break;
         case "pref":
            this.pref(key,value);
            break;
         default:
            throw("Unrecognized locking level: " + lockLevel );
      }
   } else
   {  this.defaultPref(key,value);  }
}
 
PreferenceFactory.prototype.defaultPref = function(key,value)
{  if( key )
      defaultPref( this.prefBranch + "." + key, value );
}
 
PreferenceFactory.prototype.getPref = function(key)
{  if( key )
      getPref( this.prefBranch + "." + key );
}
 
PreferenceFactory.prototype.lockPref = function(key,value)
{  if( key )
      lockPref( this.prefBranch + "." + key, value );
}
 
PreferenceFactory.prototype.pref = function(key,value)
{  if( key )
      pref( this.prefBranch + "." + key, value );
}

The “hypothetical print” code example gets its readability from a final function to set multiple preferences.  It uses a function I copied from JsUnit called trueTypeOf().  Its function is much like javascript’s typeof, but handles more than just the built-in data types.  setPrefs() accepts an array or “hash” and iterates over its elements, calling the above setPref() on each 2-tuple.

/* Sets multiple preferences
   Accepts an array or object "hash" and an optional locking level
*/
PreferenceFactory.prototype.setPrefs = function(prefs,lockLevel)
{  switch( trueTypeOf(prefs) )
   {  case "Object":
         for( thing in prefs )
         {  this.setPref(thing, prefs[thing], lockLevel);  }
         break;
      case "Array":
         if( prefs.length % 2 != 0 )
         {  throw("Need an even number of strings to set multiple preferences with an array");  }
         for( i = 0; i < prefs.length; i = i + 2 )
         {  this.setPref(prefs[i], prefs[i+1], lockLevel);  }
         break;
      default:
         throw("I don't know how to set multiple prefs with a " + trueTypeOf(prefs) );
   }
}

Download the full source

Scene from an upcoming post

I alluded to another purpose for this prototype and this is a glimpse of how I use it with Thunderbird in the real world.  Stay tuned.

   // Create an email account
   var brewingAccount = AccountManager.newAccount({ isDefault: true, type: "imap" });
 
   // Lock Preferences on the IMAP server
   brewingAccount.server.setPrefs({ capability: 81,
                                    hostname: "mail.example.com",
                                    port: 993,
                                    realhostname: "mail.example.com",
                                    realusername: brewingMail,
                                    remember_password: false,
                                    socketType: 3,
                                    type: "imap",
                                    userName: brewingMail }, "lock" );
   // Default Preferences
   brewingAccount.server.setPrefs({ check_new_mail: true,
                                    check_time: 10,
                                    cleanup_inbox_on_exit: true,
                                    delete_model: 1,   /* Move to trash */
                                    directory: userInfo.env_home + "/Mail",
                                    "directory-rel": "[ProfD]../../Mail",
                                    empty_trash_on_exit: false,
                                    empty_trash_threshhold: 0,
                                    name: "Brewing Mail",
                                    login_at_startup: true,
                                    using_subscription: false });
 
  // Lock Preferences on the SMTP server
  brewingAccount.smtpServer.setPrefs({ auth_method: 1,    /* User/pass */
                                       port: 465,
                                       username: brewingMail }, "lock" );
  // Default Preferences
  brewingAccount.smtpServer.setPrefs({ description: "Brewing SMTP server",
                                       hostname: "mail.example.com",
                                       try_ssl: 3 });

The source

/**
   By Dean Brundage
   Originally published here:
     http://blog.deanandadie.net/2010/05/manufacturing-user-preferences-for-mcd/
 
   Mix-in prototype for other objects that want to set defaultPref, lockPref
     or just plain old pref().
   Use the utility function copyPrototype() to copy this object's prototype
     functions to other objects.  This can also be used as a stand-alone object.
     Pass the prefix string to the constructor
   Example [mix-in]:
      function Mail.Server()
      {  // It's very important to update the object's preference path
         this.Mail();
         this.addPrefBranch("server");
         // Continue to define Mail.Server
      }
      copyPrototype(Mail.Server, PreferenceFactory);
      // Define the rest of Mail.Server's prototypes
 
      // Then you can set preferences on your Mail.Server object
      myServer = new Mail.Server();
      myServer.setPref("type", "imap", "lock");  // Lock the type of server to IMAP
 
   Example [stand-alone]:
      var prefFact = new PreferenceFactory( ["mail", "accountmanager"] );
      prefFact.setPref("localfoldersserver", "server2" );
 
*/
function PreferenceFactory(arg)
{  this.prefNodes = [];
   this.prefBranch = "";
   if(arg)
      this.addPrefBranch(arg);
}
 
 
// Add a string or many strings to the preference branch
PreferenceFactory.prototype.addPrefBranch = function(nodes)
{  switch( trueTypeOf(nodes) )
   {  case "String":
         this.prefNodes.push(nodes);
         break;
      case "Array":
         for( i = 0; i < nodes.length; i++ )
            this.prefNodes.push(nodes[i]);
         break;
      default:
         throw("Don't know how to addPrefBranch for a " + trueTypeOf(nodes));
         break;
   }
   this.prefBranch = this.prefNodes.join(".");
}
 
 
PreferenceFactory.prototype.defaultPref = function(key,value)
{  if( key )
      defaultPref( this.prefBranch + "." + key, value );
}
 
 
PreferenceFactory.prototype.getPref = function(key)
{  if( key )
      getPref( this.prefBranch + "." + key );
}
 
 
PreferenceFactory.prototype.lockPref = function(key,value)
{  if( key )
      lockPref( this.prefBranch + "." + key, value );
}
 
 
PreferenceFactory.prototype.pref = function(key,value)
{  if( key )
      pref( this.prefBranch + "." + key, value );
}
 
 
/*
   Preference setting helper function
   myServer.setPref("type", "imap", "lock");
   Arguments
     key: The preference string to set
     value: Value to assign to key
     lockLevel: Locking level.
            Valid values are "default", "lock" and "pref"
            Default level is "defulat"
*/
PreferenceFactory.prototype.setPref = function(key,value,lockLevel)
{  if( lockLevel )
   {  switch(lockLevel.toLowerCase())
      {  case "default":
            this.defaultPref(key,value);
            break;
         case "lock":
            this.lockPref(key,value);
            break;
         case "pref":
            this.pref(key,value);
            break;
         default:
            throw("Unrecognized locking level: " + lockLevel );
      }
   } else
   {  this.defaultPref(key,value);  }
}
 
 
/* Sets multiple preferences
   Accepts an array or object "hash" and an optional locking level
*/
PreferenceFactory.prototype.setPrefs = function(prefs,lockLevel)
{  switch( trueTypeOf(prefs) )
   {  case "Object":
         for( thing in prefs )
         {  this.setPref(thing, prefs[thing], lockLevel);  }
         break;
      case "Array":
         if( prefs.length % 2 != 0 )
         {  throw("Need an even number of strings to set multiple preferences with an array");  }
         for( i = 0; i < prefs.length; i = i + 2 )
         {  this.setPref(prefs[i], prefs[i+1], lockLevel);  }
         break;
      default:
         throw("I don't know how to set multiple prefs with a " + trueTypeOf(prefs) );
   }
}
 
function trueTypeOf(something)
{  // Borrowed from jsUnitCore.js.  Thank you.
   // http://github.com/pivotal/jsunit/blob/master/app/jsUnitCore.js
   var result = typeof something;
   try
   {  switch (result)
      {  case 'string':
            break;
         case 'boolean':
            break;
         case 'number':
            break;
         case 'object':
         case 'function':
            switch (something.constructor)
            {  case new String().constructor:
                        result = 'String';
                        break;
               case new Boolean().constructor:
                        result = 'Boolean';
                        break;
               case new Number().constructor:
                        result = 'Number';
                        break;
               case new Array().constructor:
                        result = 'Array';
                        break;
               case new RegExp().constructor:
                        result = 'RegExp';
                        break;
               case new Date().constructor:
                        result = 'Date';
                        break;
               case Function:
                        result = 'Function';
                        break;
               default:
                  var m = something.constructor.toString().match(/function\s*([^( ]+)\(/);
                  if (m)
                     result = m[1];
                  else
                     break;
            }
            break;
      }
   }
   finally
   {  result = result.substr(0, 1).toUpperCase() + result.substr(1);
      return result;
   }
}

Reading Local Files With Javascript

Security Conscious Javascript

Normally, javascript does not have access to local files.  Rightfully so because almost every web server should be untrusted and allowing anybody to read your files is a large security risk.  Mission Control Desktop, however is a javascript application with access to XPCOM, Mozilla’s component object model. This article is an example of how to use it to read local files.

Solaris Printing Configuration

I use MCD to configure thousands of users’ browser and mail clients.  In Solaris, printer preferences are set according to the Mozilla Postscript subsystem in a .printers file in the home directory.  Firefox and Thunderbird do not support this file interface so I use autoconfig to read the file and set printer preferences accordingly.

I wrote an object prototype to read and parse $HOME/.printers which the autoconfig uses to set the print.printer_list preference.  The prototype searches the file for a string indicating the list of printers to use:

# $HOME/.printers
# Set the default printer to riemann
_default riemann
# Display a chooser for three printers, ignoring all others.
_all newton,poincare,riemann

The line beginning with _all is quite important in my environment with 1,700 printers configured through LDAP.  If Thunderbird or Firefox were to try to load the entire printer list, it would become overwhelmed and crash.

extract_allPrinters utility

First, a look at the utility function I use to find the right line.

if( typeof(FileInterface) == "undefined" )  // Barf if the object prototype is undefined
   throw("autoconfig constructed improperly: need classes/file_interface.js before extract_all_printers.js");
 
function extract_allPrinters(path)
{  if( typeof(path) == "undefined" )
      path = env_home + "/.printers";
 
   // Regular expression to search .printers for _all
   re = /^\s*_all\s+(.+)\s*/i;
   lines = new FileInterface(path).grep(re);
 
   if( typeof(lines) != "undefined" )
   {  // Take the first match
      allPrinters = re.exec( lines[0] )[1].replace(/,\s*/g, " ");
   }
   return allPrinters;
}
 
/*
   *snip*
*/
 
// Tell FF &amp; TB which printers to offer a print dialogue for
defaultPref("print.printer_list", extract_allPrinters() );

The first lines check that the FileInterface object prototype is defined.  This is necessary because my autoconfig script broken into component scripts in the filesystem.  Besides making it easier to maintain, I can share functionality between Firefox and Thunderbird while excluding application-specific parts from the wrong autoconfig.

This function uses a prototype called FileInterface (explained later) to grep .printers for lines beginning with _all. If grep returns a match, the function takes the first one. print.printer_list takes a space-separated list of printers while _all is comma-separated, so the final thing to do is replace the commas with spaces.

Later on in the script I call defaultPref to set the printer list.

The FileInterface object prototype

nsILocalFile is the XPCOM interface used to access files on the client-side filesystem.  This object prototype provides only enough functionality to search files, but remains extensible should I need to create or modify.

// All you need is a (string) path
function FileInterface(path)
{  if( typeof(path) == "undefined" )
     throw("Need a path for FileInterface()");
   this.path = path;
}
 
/* Emulate the functionality of unix grep
   Takes a RegExp as it's only argument
   Returns an array of lines matching the RegExp
     E.G.: passwd = new FileInterface("/etc/passwd");
           lines = passwd.grep(/brundage/);
           // lines[0] = brundage:x:1002:1002::/home/brundage:/bin/zsh
*/
FileInterface.prototype.grep = function(re)
{  matches = undefined;
   if( re )
   {  line = {};
      matches = [];
      this.initIStream();
      do
      {  hasMore = this.iStream.readLine(line);
         if( re.test(line.value) )
            matches.push(line.value);
      } while(hasMore);
      this.iStream.close();
   }
   return matches;
}
 
/* Initializes a nsILineInputStream for higher-level functions
   Takes three arguments, assigning read-only defaults to undefined arguments.
   For possible values see: https://developer.mozilla.org/en/NsIFileInputStream
*/
FileInterface.prototype.initIStream = function(ioFlags,perm,behaviorFlags)
{  if( ! ioFlags )
     ioFlags = -1;  // Default mode (PR_READONLY)
   if( ! perm )
     perm = -1;  // Default mode (0)
   if( ! behaviorFlags )
     behaviorFlags = 0;
 
   // Initializing the stream requires an nsILocalFile.  Make one out of the path attribute.
   this.initLocalFile();
 
   // Get the nsIFileInputStream instance from the global Components variable
   this.iStream =  Components.classes["@mozilla.org/network/file-input-stream;1"].createInstance(Components.interfaces.nsIFileInputStream);
   if( ! this.iStream )  // Bad Things
      throw("network/file-input-stream component does not exist");
 
   // Point the stream at the iLocalFile
   this.iStream.init(this.iLocalFile, ioFlags, perm, behaviorFlags);
   // Transform iStream into a nsILineInputStream
   this.iStream.QueryInterface(Components.interfaces.nsILineInputStream);
}
 
/* Initialize an nsILocalFile instance with the path attribute of this object
   Required for streams
*/
FileInterface.prototype.initLocalFile = function()
{  this.iLocalFile = Components.classes["@mozilla.org/file/local;1"].createInstance(Components.interfaces.nsILocalFile);
   if( ! this.iLocalFile )  // Bad Things
     throw("file/local component does not exist");
 
   this.iLocalFile.initWithPath(this.path);
}

There you have it

I have only encountered this single situation that requires access to the local filesystem.  Can you think of others?

That is not who we are now

I don’t remember the year we decided to try, 2003 probably.  It was a New Year’s Eve, near the same hour of the night when I proposed to Adrienne.  I still remember the thrill of intentional unprotected sex.  A mixture of excitement, apprehension, hope and orgasam.  After that, the time between 2004 and 2010 was mostly pain and frustration.

It’s Infertility Awareness Week.  Right now 7.3 million Americans are somewhere along the same path we took; many of them are as lost as we were.  One of those people may be you.  I can not know what you feel, but I know it is crushingly real.

Ours is not a typical infertility story that odds-be-damned ends with a cherished miracle.  Adrienne and I held fast in the medical treatment crucible while the options frustratingly expired despite our efforts.  We wanted children but have physical and financial limits, so leave that struggle behind us, heads bloody but unbowed.

That we are still together evinces the commitment we made for better or worse, in sickness and in health.  We love each other for neither fecundity nor financial motives, but for the people we are; tempered by that crucible.

Although the strength of our relationship carried us, it took the help of an invaluable infertility therapist, kind family and trusted friends.  Without them, mourning the miscarriages and internalizing our situation would have been impossibly arduous.  Letting go of a lifetime of desires and expectations while trying to redefine and reorient yourself is not easy.

We are no longer the-couple-that-can’t-conceive.  The desire will never leave, but I refuse to let it shape me into a bitter childfree person who congregates on forums proclaiming I want nothing to do with children while ranting about affronts of “breeders” and their rugrats.  That is not who we are now.  We moved on.

Instead we find ways to take joy in each other, our careers, hobbies and the people around us.  It feels similar to that first night: excitement, apprehension, disappointment, and hope, but most of all it feels victorious.

Mapping Firefox & Thunderbird Behaviors to Preference Settings

Thunderbird settings

Individual in the Enterprise

Firefox, Thunderbird have full-fledged graphical settings editors.  It is easy for a user to change the behavior of his or her web browser with a few mouse clicks.  While this approach is sensible for the home user, GUIs hamper software configuration in the corporate enterprise.  Although Mozilla products textually represent preferences in a flat file, discovering the right text and value is not always simple.  I will outline some techniques I use to determine preference strings for a given behavior.

Preferences in Mission Control Desktop

Mozilla MCD autoconfig is an invaluable tool to the software administrator.  It runs at browser startup setting preferences according to corporate policy.  After starting, Firefox saves all settings to the user’s local prefs.js file.  The autoconfig API and user  prefs.js work with text preferences.  When you decide to change the application’s behavior your prefs.js is a good place to look.

Start clean

Quit Firefox.  Backup then remove your Firefox profile directory. On linux it is in $HOME/.mozilla/firefox. Then launch the browser starting with a good autoconfigured profile.

Compare

Take a backup of your user prefs.js from Firefox”s profile directory. ($HOME/.mozilla/firefox//prefs.js)  Make the behavior change and apply.  Use diff to compare the preference files.

An example

Suppose your company decides that Firefox should only keep third-party cookies for the lifetime of the browser.  Once the user closes Firefox, it will delete all third-party cookies.  Make the change (for version 3.6.3) in Settings –> Privacy –> Check Accept cookies from sites, then check Accept third-party cookies and change the dropdown to Keep until: I close Firefox.

Your preferences should look something like this:

0 apollo firefox/kzssiknu.default % diff -u prefs.js.pre prefs.js
--- prefs.js.pre    2010-04-22 12:57:30.000000000 -0500
+++ prefs.js        2010-04-22 12:57:39.000000000 -0500
@@ -230,6 +230,7 @@
 user_pref("lightweightThemes.persisted.footerURL", true);
 user_pref("lightweightThemes.persisted.headerURL", true);
 user_pref("metrics.upload.enable", false);
+user_pref("network.cookie.lifetimePolicy", 2);
 user_pref("network.cookie.prefsMigrated", true);
 user_pref("nglayout.debug.disable_xul_cache", true);
 user_pref("nglayout.debug.disable_xul_fastload", true);

See that a new preference called network.cookie.lifetimePolicy was inserted with value 2.  Use these in autoconfig, calling

// Remember third-party cookies until the browser closes
lockPref("network.cookie.lifetimePolicy", 2);

Sometimes it’s not that easy

The above method does not work all the time.  For example, Thunderbird’s password settings are not so obvious.  My company does not allow password storage so I needed to lock out that behavior.
Save Passwords

Inspecting the preferences GUI leads nowhere.  My first resource in these cases is the About:config_entries page on MozillaZine.  It’s a wild wiki page containing mostly-complete setting documentation for all the Mozilla products.  There you will find a table with the right information.

Name Type Meaning of Values
signon. rememberSignons Boolean True: (default): Enable the Password Manager
False Opposite of the above

The About:config_entries page also has pointers to the wiki’s Category:Preferences and The Preferential Project.  Each page has something the others lack.  When these resources fail, I sign on to irc.mozilla.org (as OccamRazor, old-school IRC etiquette rules apply.) or as a last resort, hit a search engine.

Document it

When you find the right text to twiddle document the behavior in your autoconfig as I did for the cookie lifetime above.

LDAP Queries in Mission Control Desktop

Previously, we saw that Mozilla MCD can inspect a user’s environment using getEnv().  It can also retrieve information from an LDAP directory.  I use this feature to inform Firefox and Thunderbird of the user in detail.  The corporate directory knows the user’s full name, mail server and authentication credentials.  autoconfig takes this and, among other useful things, constructs an email account for Thunderbird without user intervention.

The javascript API to deal with LDAP is a bit hackish, however it is all we have.  The first task is to define a function called processLDAPValues() which accepts a queryResults string as its only argument.  Inside processLDAPValues you extract return data from queryResults.

Instead of invoking processLDAPValues() directly, you call getLDAPAttributes() which in turn gets you to your function.  To illustrate, here is the code I use to query the corporate directory server and save the values for later use.

var userInfo = new Object();  // This will hold LDAP results
 
userInfo.envUser = getenv("LOGNAME");   // Unix UID
userInfo.envHome = getenv("HOME");      // User home directory
 
var ldapHost = "ldap.example.com";
var ldapBase = "dc=example,dc=com";
 
if( userInfo.envUser )
{  var ldapFilter = "uid=" + userInfo.envUser;  }
else
{  throw("Couldn't get UID from the environment");  }
 
// LDAP attributes to retrieve from the server
var ldapAttrs = new Array( "cn", "email", "employeenumber", "givenname", "mailhost", "sn", "uid" );
 
// Define how to process LDAP results before we make the call
function processLDAPValues(queryResults)
{  if( queryResults )
   {  // Build the userInfo object for later use
      for( var attr in ldapAttrs )
      {  userInfo[ ldapAttrs[attr] ] = getLDAPValue( queryResults, ldapAttrs[attr] );  }
   } else
   {  throw( "No LDAP results" );  }
}
 
// Call upon LDAP for the values in ldapAttrs array
// Uses the previous processLDAPValues()
getLDAPAttributes( ldapHost, ldapBase, ldapFilter, ldapAttrs.join(",") );

The first thing I do is create a userInfo object that will hold LDAP results for use later in the autoconfig.  To that object I add attributes for the user’s login name and home directory.

The next bit sets variables to contain the directory server’s hostname, base DN and the LDAP filter to use in the search. It’s a good idea to throw an error if there is no $LOGNAME.  (In a later post I will show how to enhance autoconfig error reporting.)

The ldapAttrs array names the attributes I want to return from LDAP.  Change this array to suit your environment.  The last line of code joins the array together with commas and feeds it to getLDAPAttributes along with the hostname, base DN and filter.  getLDAPAttributes is defined in MOZILLA_HOME/defaults/autoconfig/prefcalls.js and does the work to perform the query, then call your predefined processLDAPValues() function.

The example autoconfig script at developer.mozilla.org set preferences inside processLDAPValues, however this is a bad convention.  There are many preferences that require user information and separating pref() calls away from the main block of preference setting can be confusing.  As you can see here I simply run through the array of attributes I’m interested in and get the result from the LDAP query for that attribute, assigning it to the userInfo object.

Later on in the script I ask the userInfo object for those stored LDAP attributes. To set the hostname of the user’s mail server, for example, I call

// IMAP server name from corporate LDAP directory
defaultPref("mail.server.server1.hostname", userInfo.mailhost );

LDAP directories are a great resource. What attributes could you store in your corporate server?

Setting User Preferences with Mission Control Desktop

A challenge with software

Managing software for thousands of users presents a formidable challenge to the system administrator. Publishing corporate policy, using standard environments and providing clear end-user documentation helps. However, it doesn’t beat automatically doing it right.  This is the power of MCD autoconfig.

In an earlier post, I introduced MCD as a way to configure Mozilla products (Firefox, Thunderbird, Prism, etc) and provided background on building them with autoconfig support.  This post covers how to get started with the standard javascript API.  In forthcoming posts I’ll detail the useful enhancements I built using this API.

The environment

First, a quick rehash of my world.  I work in a Solaris shop with over 33,000 users.  Supported users log into a shared Sun Ray server or their personal workstation which mounts a shared NFS directory.  That directory houses the software I support along with about 700 other programs.

While this post is unix-centric, other operating environments that launch managed software can make use of MCD. See the introductory post for  a little more detail.

Mozilla Preference System

Firefox and Thunderbird use a simple preference tree to store all configuration options. Leaves of the tree are strings that store the option’s value.  For example, the preference browser.startup.homepage is a string containing the URL(s) of Firefox’s homepage.  mail.forward_message_mode contains an integer indicating how Thunderbird should forward email messages (inline or as an attachment).  You can find every available setting and their values in the config editor for Thunderbird and about:config in Firefox.

When a user changes his or her preferences the changed values are stored in a file called prefs.js in their home directory. On my MacOS laptop, this is $HOME/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/kzssiknu.default.

The Application Programming Interface

The autoconfig acts on preferences through a javascript API defined in the file MOZILLA_LIB_DIR/defaults/autoconfig/prefcalls.js.  I will talk about the most useful in this post and cover the LDAP parts of the API later.

// Used most often
function defaultPref(prefName, value);
function lockPref(prefName, value);
// Sometimes used
function displayError(funcname, message);
function getenv(name);

defaultPref() and lockPref()

These two functions perform the bulk of work in an autoconfig script.  A default preference setting may be overridden by the user, but a locked preference may not.

getenv() and displayError()

getenv() acts as you would expect from its name. This function returns the value of an environment variable.  I use it to get $USER and $HOME. displayError() pops up an error message.  It is useful for debugging, but a user should rarely see it.

Putting it all together

We now have some basic building blocks to configure thousands of users. Here is a look at a simple autoconfig.js file for Firefox.  These settings will apply to every user.

// Catch errors
try
{
   // Set  downloads directory to a folder on the user's desktop
   var download_dir = getenv("HOME") + "/Desktop/Downloads";
   defaultPref("browser.download.defaultFolder", download_dir);
   defaultPref("browser.download.dir", download_dir);
   defaultPref("browser.download.downloadDir", download_dir);
   defaultPref("browser.download.folderList", 2);kk
 
   // Length of Time to Remember Visited Pages For (Days) - 30
   defaultPref("browser.history_expire_days", 30);
 
   // Automatically Add 'www.' and '.com' to the Location if a Web Page is Not Found - Enabled
   defaultPref("browser.fixup.alternate.enabled", true);
 
   // Lock the cache size to 60MB for shared performance
   lockPref("browser.cache.memory.capacity", 60000);
   lockPref("browser.cache.disk.capacity", 60000);
 
   // fix memory usage with lots of tabs
   lockPref("browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewers", 2);
 
   // Set animated images to loop once
   defaultPref("image.animation_mode", "once");
 
} catch(e)
{
   displayError("autoconfig.js failed", e);
}

Learning preference strings

Finding the right preference setting or combination of preferences that change the program’s behavior sometimes presents a challenge.  I use the About:config entries page on the Mozilla Zine knowledge base.  That page also has a pointer to three more resources.

Another technique is to watch your own prefs.js file for changes when you twiddle settings.  Save a copy of prefs.js before flipping a preference.  Immediately quit the application after the change and diff the two files.

[Edit: I wrote up an entire post on this subject.]

Using LDAP and more fun things to do

In following posts I will cover retrieving information from LDAP, better error reporting, reading local files like $HOME/.printers, and simplifying Thunderbird email account management. Stay tuned.

An Introduction To Mission Control Desktop

What is MCD?

MCD (aka AutoConfig) is a script used to programmatically configure Mozilla products such as Firefox and Thunderbird in the enterprise for multiple users.  Part of my job is to ensure 33,385 people have the right settings to check their email and browse the web.  Centralizing their set up with autoconfig removes the burden from the user.

Why write about it?

Documentation on MCD is old, but not exactly out of date.  The basics of autoconfig have not changed since the age of the Netscape browser.  From trolling newsgroups, IRC and Google, I know many people use MCD, but share little about the subject. (Some do.)  Over the course of my work I wrote object prototypes, extended error reporting and generally tried to make using this bit of javascript easier. I want to reach out to the community and give a little back.

A quick run-through

Most people think of javascript as a browser technology. But, MCD has access to XPCOM, a bridge between C++ libraries and javascript, which gives the developer power to poke at Mozilla internals.  When Thunderbird (Firefox, Seamonkey, etc) launches, it executes a javascript script that makes use of a configuration API.

The autoconfig sets preferences exactly as a user would using about:config. It can also render preferences immutable, locking them down according to corporate policy.  When I inherited the script it was  simply a long string of preference directives with a little LDAP voodoo.

defaultPref("news.server_change_xaction", 0 );
defaultPref("mail.migration.copyMailFiles", false);
defaultPref("network.cookie.disableCookieForMailNews", false);
   lockPref("mail.remember_password", false);
defaultPref("javascript.allow.mailnews", false);
defaultPref("mail.addr_book.lastnamefirst", 1);
defaultPref("mail.toolbars.showbutton.file", false);
defaultPref("mail.toolbars.showbutton.junk", true);
defaultPref("mail.forward_message_mode", 2);
defaultPref("mailnews.wraplength", 72);
defaultPref("mail.wrap_long_lines", true);
defaultPref("mail.collect_email_address_outgoing", true);
defaultPref("mail.collect_email_address_incoming", true);

Not the easiest thing to grok.

After Thunderbird executes the autoconfig it starts up normally, applying saved user preferences. defaultPref settings are overridden by user preferences, but lockPref are not.

If you want to turn on a proxy server and force SSL in Firefox for every user it becomes easy to do:

// Set http proxy to your.server.domain
lockPref("network.proxy.http", "your.server.domain");
// Require and lock SSL
lockPref("network.proxy.ssl", true);

Details, implementation details

There are a number of things required to get MCD working.

Build *zilla (Firefox, Thunderbird, etc) with support

Your Mozilla product needs to be built with pref extension support. Add this to your .mozconfig file:

ac_add_options --enable-extensions=pref

To utilize LDAP (you do want to use LDAP, don’t you?) check the configure script for:

MOZ_LDAP_XPCOM=1

You can check about:buildconfig in Firefox to see if your build is good to go. While MCD documentation is sparse, the Mozilla Developer’s Center has plenty of build instructions.

Software distribution

I work in a Solaris world. Servers and desktops mount a shared NFS directory from a network of servers housing some 735 programs, including Firefox & Thunderbird.  The directory is mounted read-only so average users are not tempted to twiddle with the software.  Although I wrote this paper from a unix perspective the implementation will work in a Linux, Windows, or MacOS environment.  Mounting a shared software repository makes the system robust, however MCD works in a network of stand-alone desktops.

Breaking .cfg “encryption”

*zilla products first read a javascript configuration file in the lib directory called, for example, firefox.cfg.  In the beginning-time, Mozilla developers chose to ROT-7 encode the file, obscuring its contents from users.  When Netscape 7 came out, they did away with ROT-7 in favor of ROT-13. Many Firefox and Thunderbird .cfg files are still encoded this way using moz_byteshift.pl.

The rotary encoding is controlled by a setting in $MOZ_LIB_DIR/greprefs/all.js. At packaging time I patch this file, setting encoding to 0.

// ROT-encoding is bad, mmmkay?
pref("general.config.obscure_value", 0);  // for MCD .cfg files

This tells *zilla not to ROT-decode the .cfg file.

This shadowy file mojo likely came from the day of stand-alone workstations where users had root access and the software maintainers wanted to have just a little control over Netscape preferences.  Hiding the configuration file’s location gives you the illusion of control.

Now, the .cfg file is on a read-only mounted partition and nobody on the system has super-user level access. There is little danger of a user skirting corporate policy by turning off autoconfig.

Pointing *zilla at the autoconfig

When Firefox starts up it checks for and executes javascript a .cfg file giving it the autoconfig script’s path.

// $MOZ_LIB_DIR/firefox.cfg
// the output from the obscuration is still more readable than MORK!
lockPref("autoadmin.global_config_url","file:///path/to/firefox,v3.0.17/share/autoconfig.js");
lockPref("autoadmin.offline_failover", true);
lockPref("autoadmin.refresh_interval", 60);

I left the MORK comment line in there to remind me how far we’ve come already.

These directives:

  • Set the autoconfig url
  • Tell *zilla to automatically fail over to offline mode if online browsing fails
  • Re-fetch the autoconfig file every 60 minutes

Any URL *zilla understands is a valid value for autoadmin.global_config_url meaning you could house the autoconfig script on a web server.

Away you go

Now your Mozilla product will read and execute the javascript autoconfig script you indicated.  There you can set or lock application preferences using a specialized XPCOM API.  I will cover the API in a following post.