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FireGPG - Very Useful, Very Annoying
FireGPG is a Firefox extension that allows you to encrypt/decrypt/sign any textbox on any page. More than that, it integrates with Gmail so you can easily send and receive encrypted email! I've been using it for this feature alone as soon as I found out about it's existence. Now there really is no reason to use an IMAP client in my opinion.

So what's so annoying about it? Instead of relying on Firefox's own extension update notification system, FireGPG checks for updates every time you restart Firefox, and pops up an intrusive dialog asking if you want to upgrade. That could be acceptable, except that FireGPG has updates ALL THE TIME. Worse than that, sometimes this dialog is displayed when you click on a link that opens a new window. Ok, you finally bite the bullet and choose to update, causing you to have to restart Firefox. You are now interrupted again with another intrusive dialog outlining the changes in this update. In the event that Firefox crashes (as it often does) before you quit (does anyone ever quit Firefox?), the fact that you've been shown the changes dialog is not saved, and you get to see it again when you restart.

If you're like me, you're fairly annoyed at this point, and you want to turn the auto updates off. So, you go to the options, and click the "Disable FireGPG's auto updates". Now you get a confirmation dialog asking if you're sure you want to disable the auto updates, and that they recommend that you don't. If you click "Ok", you're prompted with another dialog informing you that FireGPG is still in beta and might have security issues (they don't mention this on their website in any obvious manner) and asking, again, if you're sure you want to disable auto updates. I almost didn't want to; who wants potential security issues?

Ok, I realize that security issues with GPG and encryption might be a big problem. I realize that with a new application that is supposedly still in beta, not having automatic updates could result in a flow of duplicate bugs on an issue tracker. However, I feel that the behavior of this application is totally unacceptable, causing me to want to not use it at all.

Here are my suggestions to the authors of FireGPG (and other extension developers): Include the option to auto update, but have it disabled by default: Firefox has an update system that seems to work very well. In the case of FireGPG where "potential security issues" can in fact be a huge problem, use a non-intrusive method to notify the user that there is a security update. An icon in the statusbar, or a system notification (like Gmail Notifier) would be MUCH less annoying.
Filed under: Miscellaneous
Comments:

From Aaron on Nov. 28 @ 1:18 p.m. 2007

Hear! Hear!

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