java plugin galore

January 25th, 2009

Ever lay awake at night wondering what happens when you hit a web page with a java applet on a vanilla Ubuntu? Me neither. It turns out that it's this:

Embarrassment of riches! There are a few problems with this feature:

  1. While it's great that you help me install the plugin, I have no idea what all these things are. All I wanted was "java".
  2. There is no "default" or "recommended" choice. I can see that one of them is selected, but for all I know that's because the choices showed up in this order at random.
  3. Even if I were inclined to think that the selected choice is selected for a reason, there's another choice that's exactly the same.
  4. "No description found in plugin database." is not exactly helpful. In fact, it could be just the thing to help me here.
  5. If I wing it and install one of these, and then it turns out it doesn't work (perish the thought!), the little notification at the top of the web page isn't going to show up again (because a java plugin, working or not, would be installed). So there's no way I can come back to this screen.
  6. If I am the kind of user who understands that the choices in this dialog represent packages in the system, then I don't know what they are called, because the package names are not mentioned. So if I want to uninstall a plugin that doesn't work, I don't know what to uninstall.

There is another dialog in the Firefox settings for plugins:

Strangely, there is no option to uninstall plugins here, just disable. But I guess that if I disable the java plugin, I can revisit that java web page and get that plugin selection dialog again (and try a different one). Still, it takes a bit of detective work to figure that out, it could be made more obvious.

This example demonstrates the difference between starting on a problem, and actually solving it. I'm very pleased that we have these helper dialogs now, but it needs a bit more thought put into it.

Bug: #320989
I actually picked this example because there used to be two or three options in that dialog, but now there are five.

:: random entries in this category ::