Announcement Upcoming changes and improvements to Orbiter Forum

Xyon

Puts the Fun in Dysfunctional
Administrator
Moderator
Addon Developer
Webmaster
GFX Staff
Donator
Beta Tester
Joined
Aug 9, 2009
Messages
6,877
Reaction score
699
Points
203
Location
10.0.0.1
Website
www.orbiter-radio.co.uk
Preferred Pronouns
she/her
Hello Orbinauts,

It's now been a little over a month since we completed the migration of Addons over from OHM into the forum itself. In the intervening time, we've had chance to reflect on our approach to this migration, and our handling of developer content since, and we've been looking at the pain points that we still have left when it comes to the experience of uploading, viewing, browsing and downloading Addons from the system.

Firstly, I do want to note that we have some leftover issues still outstanding from the migration. Most pressing among those issues is that Addons which contained multiple files on OHM now only have a single file available for download - this is a facet of how they had to be imported, due to some differences in the way the two systems handle files; this is something we're looking to fix. Additionally, a lot of the Addon descriptions ended up with some odd characters in them - the OHM fields were encoded differently, and the import ran them through a unicode conversion process, which has left some artifacts in some cases. Those aren't so problematic, but can be edited back out of the description field using the UI here on OF to resolve the problem.

We've also noted that the search function, when it comes to Addons, originally excluded any search term with three characters in it. This is a bit of an issue if you want to search for every "ESA" Addon, for instance. That constraint was relaxed pretty quickly. We do have some improvements to the search system in general in our pipeline of works, which will improve the search system across the entire forum. The 100MB upload limit will also be addressed soon.

Many of you will have noted that it's become more difficult to access the resources section, and that certain protections put in place on the forum site as a whole have limited or prevented the use of privacy tooling such as VPNs. These protections were laid in place in order to enforce this section of our Terms of Service;

1658747969028.png
While these policies have been in place, we have monitored and evaluated the system on a routine basis and have applied additional protections where it's been deemed necessary to protect the software we've been entrusted with. In particular, we initially saw some worrying patterns of behaviour emerge around the practice of indexing the entire downloads section of the site and moved to curtail those kinds of activities.

Our review and internal conversations around those concerns have now lead us to the point where we're more comfortable lifting the restrictions preventing access to this section of the site, so we'll be looking to do that in the near future. One of the main changes which we will be rolling out soon that allows us to do this is the signing of Addon packages to verify to end-users and downloaders that their content is unmodified and has originated from Orbiter-Forum. We'll talk more about this feature and how it works, along with how those signatures can be validated at download-time, in a future post on the specific feature itself. This allows us to be more comfortable with the idea of Addons appearing as links from other places, as delivering a signed payload offers a guarantee to the end-user, which isn't currently present. As a result, we'll also subsequently be able to revise this protective clause in our Terms of Service once that guarantee is in place.

With those aspects in place, we'll then be able to look deeper at the offering we're providing, and look to make changes that support the idea of download clients, by means of an API to interact with the system. We'd like to make it easier to obtain Addons, and to understand the sometimes complicated relationships that can exist between them, which should allow you to build up a collection of Addons that work together more easily. To safeguard the interests of add-on developers who would prefer their content not be retrieved in this manner, we're also introducing a separate section for add-ons which require users to be logged into their Orbiter-Forum accounts to browse. Content moved into these subcategories will therefore not feature in any such API; only add-ons left deliberately in the "public" categories will be able to be viewed without an OF account. We believe this approach allows individual content creators to make their own choices about how their content is handled.

I'd like to thank the users and developers who've already started taking advantage of the system in its current form and who've helped us to identify where the offering is stronger than it was before, and where it can be improved. We're keen to make the experience the best it can be, so if you do have suggestions, ideas, or complaints, please do let us know about them so we can address them.

Many thanks,
OF Staff
 

4throck

Enthusiast !
Joined
Jun 19, 2008
Messages
3,502
Reaction score
991
Points
153
Location
Lisbon
Website
orbiterspaceport.blogspot.com
Really good explanation of what to expect :cheers:
I appreciate the measures to prevent abuse by third-party sites.


(I might have misunderstood, but I'm assuming you are thinking of collections for existing add-ons.)

I don't like the idea of having to move my existing addons into a special category to prevent them from being added into collections.
Collections are a new thing, so it should be the other way around: authors should authorize it if they want it.
You shouldn't assume that authors are OK with it for legacy content. I'm not, and many of the add-on licenses prevent such usage.
Overall collections for legacy content are problematic.

(if I've misunderstood please correct me ;))


About the API, having "a separate section for add-ons which require users to be logged into their Orbiter-Forum accounts to browse"
Could you instead just limit downloads to logged-in users? I don't see the point of hiding the description (it looks as if we have adult content or something :cool:).


I don't want to sound negative or give you a bad day! ;)
I simply have questions, that all. I do appreciate all the work going into OF / OH

Many thanks!:hailprobe:
 

Urwumpe

Not funny anymore
Addon Developer
Donator
Joined
Feb 6, 2008
Messages
36,996
Reaction score
1,678
Points
203
Location
Langendernbach
Such a solid add-on repository with web API sounds to me like a very important step forward towards a Orbiter package manager. Will become interesting to see how things progress from there. :)
 

Xyon

Puts the Fun in Dysfunctional
Administrator
Moderator
Addon Developer
Webmaster
GFX Staff
Donator
Beta Tester
Joined
Aug 9, 2009
Messages
6,877
Reaction score
699
Points
203
Location
10.0.0.1
Website
www.orbiter-radio.co.uk
Preferred Pronouns
she/her
Really good explanation of what to expect :cheers:
I appreciate the measures to prevent abuse by third-party sites.


(I might have misunderstood, but I'm assuming you are thinking of collections for existing add-ons.)

I don't like the idea of having to move my existing addons into a special category to prevent them from being added into collections.
Collections are a new thing, so it should be the other way around: authors should authorize it if they want it.
You shouldn't assume that authors are OK with it for legacy content. I'm not, and many of the add-on licenses prevent such usage.
Overall collections for legacy content are problematic.

(if I've misunderstood please correct me ;))


About the API, having "a separate section for add-ons which require users to be logged into their Orbiter-Forum accounts to browse"
Could you instead just limit downloads to logged-in users? I don't see the point of hiding the description (it looks as if we have adult content or something :cool:).


I don't want to sound negative or give you a bad day! ;)
I simply have questions, that all. I do appreciate all the work going into OF / OH

Many thanks!:hailprobe:
I appreciate these concerns and yes, the extra measures are designed so that creators who would prefer their add-ons not be indexed or downloaded through other means can limit / prevent that.

We did think about the default being to limit access to them. However, when a lot of these add-ons were uploaded, they were uploaded to OHM, which was a site that didn't offer such an option; all add-ons on OHM were available openly for download by any means that worked. In the absence of an active author, I think it's safest to assume that the status quo for the site they originally uploaded to is the situation they accepted (because they accepted it when they uploaded their content to that site), and just offer currently active authors the option to move their content now to be handled differently if they choose to. I'm very wary of making the default behaviour for add-ons here some different set of affairs to what OHM was, because that's not what the people who uploaded to OHM agreed to when they made that choice. Hopefully that makes sense and gives some context to why things are this way around.

I did want to look at making this behaviour optional on an addon-by-addon basis, but this would require custom code to do, which is a deeper undertaking and something I'm pushing us  away from in favour of using solutions that are available to us out of the box. Relying heavily on bespoke code is what lead us into the quagmire we ended up in with the original OHM site.

Such a solid add-on repository with web API sounds to me like a very important step forward towards a Orbiter package manager. Will become interesting to see how things progress from there. :)
Yeah that's one concept that's been thought about in some detail. I'd like to be able to offer downloads and validations as a service to support efforts to make the end-user experience better in that regard. As long as the validity and integrity of the packaged content is protectable, we're pretty happy with such kinds of system.
 

Urwumpe

Not funny anymore
Addon Developer
Donator
Joined
Feb 6, 2008
Messages
36,996
Reaction score
1,678
Points
203
Location
Langendernbach
Yeah that's one concept that's been thought about in some detail. I'd like to be able to offer downloads and validations as a service to support efforts to make the end-user experience better in that regard. As long as the validity and integrity of the packaged content is protectable, we're pretty happy with such kinds of system.

If you need somebody to do evil things to your API test it, I still had the old idea of doing a rip-off of Rusts cargo tool and call it "payload" (Because its Orbiter, after all).
 

Artlav

Aperiodic traveller
Addon Developer
Beta Tester
Joined
Jan 7, 2008
Messages
5,653
Reaction score
403
Points
173
Location
Earth
Website
orbides.org
Speaking of OHM, i don't seem to be able to find where the comments went, or any mention of them disappearing in the state of OHM thread.

In the old days there were comments and reviews on OHM, then later there were links to discussion threads on OF instead.
Neither of them are appear to be in any sort of obvious place (the threads themselves seem to still exist, but without any links to them on add-on pages).

Is that something to be fixed, or is that something fully gone?
 

Xyon

Puts the Fun in Dysfunctional
Administrator
Moderator
Addon Developer
Webmaster
GFX Staff
Donator
Beta Tester
Joined
Aug 9, 2009
Messages
6,877
Reaction score
699
Points
203
Location
10.0.0.1
Website
www.orbiter-radio.co.uk
Preferred Pronouns
she/her
Speaking of OHM, i don't seem to be able to find where the comments went, or any mention of them disappearing in the state of OHM thread.

In the old days there were comments and reviews on OHM, then later there were links to discussion threads on OF instead.
Neither of them are appear to be in any sort of obvious place (the threads themselves seem to still exist, but without any links to them on add-on pages).

Is that something to be fixed, or is that something fully gone?
You know, it hasn't come up until now, but it's a good point; I'd kind of forgotten about OHM originally having comments on it.

We do still have those, naturally, in the old database - it'll be interesting to see if a way of bringing them into XF's discussion system can be found. One for the list!
 

4throck

Enthusiast !
Joined
Jun 19, 2008
Messages
3,502
Reaction score
991
Points
153
Location
Lisbon
Website
orbiterspaceport.blogspot.com
I'm very wary of making the default behaviour for add-ons here some different set of affairs to what OHM was, because that's not what the people who uploaded to OHM agreed to when they made that choice. Hopefully that makes sense and gives some context to why things are this way around.
I don't understand. Are you saying that people that uploaded ten years ago agreed with addon packages/collections?
Legacy addons are mostly for Orbiter 2006/2010, does it make sense to try to use them with future orbiter versions and/or download clients ?
In my view, new features should be reserved for new addons.

I have no problem with the API. But packages are very problematic.
You can take a few add-ons, add a simple scenario, and in 5 minutes create a successful package (ex: "ISS, MIR, Salyut, Skylab all in orbit")
All credit goes to the guy that spent 5 minutes doing it, and as a side effect you'll probably get Spacecraft3 installed into Open Orbiter 2024 ;)


Guys, think this through. These advancements make sense for newer addons, and it would be great if Open Orbiter came with a download client. (y)
Adding old addons to the mix is trouble (dependency of sc3, overwritten default files, old base tile format, etc).
 

Urwumpe

Not funny anymore
Addon Developer
Donator
Joined
Feb 6, 2008
Messages
36,996
Reaction score
1,678
Points
203
Location
Langendernbach
Maybe it would be better to simply give all people 30 days to download and backup all the old add-ons they like and then delete everything, that hasn't seen any maintenance over the past 8+ years....
 

Face

Well-known member
Orbiter Contributor
Addon Developer
Beta Tester
Joined
Mar 18, 2008
Messages
4,371
Reaction score
542
Points
153
Location
Vienna
I think the definition of package/collection in this discussion is a bit fluent.
IMHO, a package or collection would be one downloadable artifact that contains everything needed for the topic. I.e. redistribution of single addons in one bigger addon. Doing this with legacy OHM addons would be a no-go.
However, having scripts or recipes that automate the downloading of all the addons for a topic would not resemble redistribution of the single addons, and since OHM never restricted such usage (but O-F currently does), there would be no problem, since the original authors knew what OHM was back then.

I welcome the idea to sign addons, so the threat of having malicious content disguised as "official" addons is reduced, but at the same time allowing things like scripts/recipes download-managers being built, especially around the older addons. Perhaps you could also give out API tokens to interested download-manager developers in order to control download traffic and/or ensure a network of trust.
 

Face

Well-known member
Orbiter Contributor
Addon Developer
Beta Tester
Joined
Mar 18, 2008
Messages
4,371
Reaction score
542
Points
153
Location
Vienna
Maybe it would be better to simply give all people 30 days to download and backup all the old add-ons they like and then delete everything, that hasn't seen any maintenance over the past 8+ years....
Then someone would do that and build another OHM for nostalgic sake, making us end up with yet another addon repository ;) .
 

Xyon

Puts the Fun in Dysfunctional
Administrator
Moderator
Addon Developer
Webmaster
GFX Staff
Donator
Beta Tester
Joined
Aug 9, 2009
Messages
6,877
Reaction score
699
Points
203
Location
10.0.0.1
Website
www.orbiter-radio.co.uk
Preferred Pronouns
she/her
I don't understand. Are you saying that people that uploaded ten years ago agreed with addon packages/collections?
Sort of. Not directly, since the idea hadn't been voiced yet. But those add-ons were knowingly uploaded to a site that would not prevent such a system from indexing or downloading them.

Legacy addons are mostly for Orbiter 2006/2010, does it make sense to try to use them with future orbiter versions and/or download clients ?
In my view, new features should be reserved for new addons.
It probably doesn't make much sense, no, but that's up to the users who want to try to do that. We can only make decisions about Orbiter-Forum, here.

I have no problem with the API. But packages are very problematic.
You can take a few add-ons, add a simple scenario, and in 5 minutes create a successful package (ex: "ISS, MIR, Salyut, Skylab all in orbit")
All credit goes to the guy that spent 5 minutes doing it, and as a side effect you'll probably get Spacecraft3 installed into Open Orbiter 2024 ;)


Guys, think this through. These advancements make sense for newer addons, and it would be great if Open Orbiter came with a download client. (y)
Adding old addons to the mix is trouble (dependency of sc3, overwritten default files, old base tile format, etc).
The problem with making a platform, especially an open one, is surrendering an aspect of control over how that is then used. I haven't developed for Orbiter in about ten years, so my general considerations are more in the way of making OF function well and supporting the user experience at this point, rather than "will this collection of add-ons crash someone's orbiter process" - it's a valid concern, but it's a bit beyond the scope of what we're trying to achieve here.

Recent activity in this space has shown that it doesn't really matter what you, the content creator, wants, as far as some people are concerned. The mere act of making your content publicly available, in their eyes, gives them "carte blanche" to do whatever they like with it. I don't subscribe to this point of view, but I don't think it's correct for OF to make decisions for other people about their content either. By leaving the default situation as it is (and as it has been for many years), and offering a solution for those who would like to use it, we're trying to strike a balance that works well for everyone acting in good faith here. I appreciate the solution is not without its limitations.

To be clear; the default situation is not that your add-ons are being bundled up by us, just that they are publicly accessible on the internet. What we're introducing is a way for you as a content creator to make that situation different by choosing to make your add-ons available only to registered OF users, if you wish to do that. A reasonable interpretation of that kind of choice would therefore be that you do not wish your add-ons to be thus indexed elsewhere.
 

Urwumpe

Not funny anymore
Addon Developer
Donator
Joined
Feb 6, 2008
Messages
36,996
Reaction score
1,678
Points
203
Location
Langendernbach
Then someone would do that and build another OHM for nostalgic sake, making us end up with yet another addon repository ;) .

Let me quote a famous professor of archeology: "That belongs in a museum!"

Let them do that, let them have the hassle of providing add-ons to people that doesn't work anymore or that require the users to install replacements for obsolete operating systems and runtime libraries. Everything ends. Some add-ons had not been maintained since 2004, because nobody saw the need to care. I bet you still know how your computer looked like in 2004 - thats the natural habitat of such add-ons, everything else is a museum (Or zoo, if you like).

I believe, its time to move on. Waiting for events that will never come, like all those lost add-on creators at least answering their mails, if their 20 year old free email account is still active, is no good idea.
 

Face

Well-known member
Orbiter Contributor
Addon Developer
Beta Tester
Joined
Mar 18, 2008
Messages
4,371
Reaction score
542
Points
153
Location
Vienna
I believe, its time to move on. Waiting for events that will never come, like all those lost add-on creators at least answering their mails, if their 20 year old free email account is still active, is no good idea.

Well, why not? Where should the line been drawn? Authors get informed, deadlines are set, and everything not claimed gets kicked?
 

Urwumpe

Not funny anymore
Addon Developer
Donator
Joined
Feb 6, 2008
Messages
36,996
Reaction score
1,678
Points
203
Location
Langendernbach
Well, why not? Where should the line been drawn? Authors get informed, deadlines are set, and everything not claimed gets kicked?

I would draw the line at 10 years, but that is my personal view. And no. I would just make a public announcement, give people enough time to react (3 months should be more than enough) and I would make sure everybody is motivated to spread the word. Tell people to tell all others, try to locate add-on developers, if they need their consent for maintaining their old stuff, etc. Not let the admins of the repository do that. Its not their job and not their responsibility to please everybody.

Of course, you could also split the repository into a "standard" and a "legacy" section, keep their separate at the front ends and don't have any requirements on the contents of the old add-ons at all. But then, its your responsibility as middle-man. You provide the files for download and people will come to you ask for help. And if you correctly point out, that its not your responsibility to fix the bugs in old add-ons or write manuals that have never been written... you are the bad guy. Even if you are right. You are not even paid for this. But people will see you are the front-end. Not the add-on developer who went missing in the jungle 15 years ago.

So, you can choose: Be a bit evil chronically for a long time, or a really bad-to-the-bone tyrant for a short time.

I would pick the latter.
 

Face

Well-known member
Orbiter Contributor
Addon Developer
Beta Tester
Joined
Mar 18, 2008
Messages
4,371
Reaction score
542
Points
153
Location
Vienna
I would draw the line at 10 years, but that is my personal view.
10 years timestamp of last update of the addon? Good idea, that would include Orbiter 2010 ecosystem, so everything before the terrain change would be gone, except for those that still care about their work.

I agree that actively informing everybody about the pending purge might overwhelm the admins. 3 months is also a long time, I remember Bitbucket giving even a year when they killed Mercurial, but then again that was their genesis, anyway. Sounds like a plan, would vote up.
 

Urwumpe

Not funny anymore
Addon Developer
Donator
Joined
Feb 6, 2008
Messages
36,996
Reaction score
1,678
Points
203
Location
Langendernbach
10 years timestamp of last update of the addon? Good idea, that would include Orbiter 2010 ecosystem, so everything before the terrain change would be gone, except for those that still care about their work.

I agree that actively informing everybody about the pending purge might overwhelm the admins. 3 months is also a long time, I remember Bitbucket giving even a year when they killed Mercurial, but then again that was their genesis, anyway. Sounds like a plan, would vote up.

Yeah, exactly: Who still cares. Or if there are enough people who care.

I don't expect things to be without losses - maybe even large losses. But we could get active maintainers for those add-ons that remain, which could improve quality a lot.

Also, the francophone add-on repository still seems to have less fossils among their add-ons as OH has right now. Its not a disadvantage for them to have more people who still care about their work.

For a less radical approach: What about a small feature in the add-on repository here, to mark add-ons, that had not been updated since 2016 came out, as "missing update", and presenting a list of the "most missed add-ons" based on this? In this case, we could maybe mobilize the community sooner and make more people active in finding a solution, maybe we can also make some add-on developers come back if they see that their add-on still sees more appreciation among the users as the mere number of downloads ever could? The community maybe shrunk a lot since KSP came out, but who remained active is more devoted to Orbiter on the average than ever, I think.
 

Face

Well-known member
Orbiter Contributor
Addon Developer
Beta Tester
Joined
Mar 18, 2008
Messages
4,371
Reaction score
542
Points
153
Location
Vienna
I don't expect things to be without losses - maybe even large losses.

Nah. As I wrote before, those old fossils will just live somewhere else, in some Orbiter nostalgia repository. Maybe O-F should also drop the links to very old Orbiter versions and leave that for hobby-archeologists. It would just make the reality clear: the community shrunk and the main developer practically left. That huge addon repository is only a faint remembrance of long lost glory days, and as you wrote, it belongs in a museum.
 

Urwumpe

Not funny anymore
Addon Developer
Donator
Joined
Feb 6, 2008
Messages
36,996
Reaction score
1,678
Points
203
Location
Langendernbach
Nah. As I wrote before, those old fossils will just live somewhere else, in some Orbiter nostalgia repository. Maybe O-F should also drop the links to very old Orbiter versions and leave that for hobby-archeologists. It would just make the reality clear: the community shrunk and the main developer practically left. That huge addon repository is only a faint remembrance of long lost glory days, and as you wrote, it belongs in a museum.

Yeah, as sad as it is. It sounds a lot like picking up the ashes, but the reality is: We are far fewer people now, than we used to be once.

We don't have the manpower to keep alive, what a ten times larger community once created.
 

Xyon

Puts the Fun in Dysfunctional
Administrator
Moderator
Addon Developer
Webmaster
GFX Staff
Donator
Beta Tester
Joined
Aug 9, 2009
Messages
6,877
Reaction score
699
Points
203
Location
10.0.0.1
Website
www.orbiter-radio.co.uk
Preferred Pronouns
she/her
Maximal file upload size has been raised to 1GiB for Orbiter Addons. Note that this doesn't raise the limit for file uploads elsewhere on the forum, which will remain 100MiB.

If you have need to upload an addon that exceeds this limit, please get in touch with staff about that.
 
Top