Making life better for localizers

We now produce l10n nightly updates. Its already been announced elsewhere [1] [2], but I thought people might be interested in some context and additional details.

At night, we make “nightly builds” – complete builds of source code, containing all changes made during the day. Developers and testers use that nightly build to see if a new feature/bugfix works. Which is great – and also part of the problem. Every night we make a new nightly build. If someone wants to keep using the latest code, they have to keep manually downloading and installing a new Firefox build every day. This quickly gets annoying, and after a while, only the most dedicated will continue doing this manually. To make it easier for people to stay on the latest nightly, we generate nightly updates. This means you install a Firefox nightly build once, then every morning you will get updated to the newest nightly build.

Works great. And is an important part of the development process at Mozilla.
We make nightly builds for en-US, and for each of the 75+ locales, on each OS. However, we only made nightly updates for en-US, we never made nightly updates for any localized builds.
This means that people working on en-US nightly builds get updated each morning, but localizers who wanted to stay on the latest nightly build have to keep manually installing a new build every morning. If we generate nightly updates for en-US, why wasn’t this already done for l10n? …and if we’ve never done it reliably before, how hard could it be to start doing this?

Well…

Turns out there was a *lot* of systems refactoring needed to make this possible. Those of you who were at the Mozilla Summit in Whistler might remember this presentation summarizing what was known about the project back then. Refactoring existing l10n code and integrating with the rest of release infrastructure. Migrating/refactoring l10n nightly repack code from various dedicated l10n systems into the production pool-of-slaves. Reconciling toolchain differences. Solving edge cases of l10n nightlies missing newly added strings. Learning how nightly updates are generated and how that is different to the way release updates are generated! The list goes on and on and on… For gory details, have a look at the interlinked bugs starting with this one. (There might be other disconnected bugs – its been quite a project!)

To be fair, we’re still wrapping up some loose ends. For example, creating updates for these l10n nightlies takes time. We’ve gone from generating 3 nightly updates to generating 225 nightly updates (3 OS x 75 locales). Per branch. Per night. As of last week, there are l10n nightly updates available on mozilla-central, and mozilla-1.9.2, and as you can imagine, generating these 450 nightly updates, serially, takes time. Anyone used to getting a new en-US nightly update first thing in the morning is now seeing a delay of a few hours. This is temporary, please bear with us. Once we finish the transition from a dedicated nightly update machine to concurrent jobs on the production-pool-of-slaves, we should have fixed this delay, and also be able to start producing l10n nightly updates on other branches as requested.

(One remaining question is: which branches are being used by localisers and testers? Some prefer to work on mozilla-191, some on mozilla-192, and some on mozilla-central. If you are working on localization work with Mozilla, what branch would it be most helpful for you?)

De-tangling all this was a huge project, but crucial to Mozilla’s global localization efforts.

In terms of manhours, this is the 2nd biggest project the group has taken on in the last few years. This is now the end of August2009; Armen has been working on this since May2008, and Coop since Nov2008.

This is all super cool stuff; well-deserved hugs, kudos and beer deliveries, should be sent to Armen, Coop, Axel and Seth.

take care

John.

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