Archive for 2005

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23rd, 2005

Merry Christmas everyone! I will be away on vacation until Jan. 3. I may be checking email early in the week, but don’t count on it. If there’s anything emergency-like, my Mozilla Corporation coworkers have my cell phone number. Blog comments may be moderated until I get back.

What’s Coming for gtkmozembed

Friday, December 23rd, 2005

I’ve made a lot of progress recently with low-level libxul and embedding changes, and I’ve been needing to post about my plans for the gtkmozembed framework: I’ve already made commitments in the roadmap that the gtkmozembed code would be integrated into libxul, but but I never really said what I’m trying to accomplish:

  • Define a recommended linking strategy for gtkmozembed: currently many distributions compile Mozilla with -rpath /usr/lib/mozilla-1.7.10 or whatnot, but this is a poor solution because it means that any embedder who uses gtkmozembed (Epiphany etc) is tied to a particular version of Mozilla, and distros have to recompile these apps every time there is a security release of Mozilla.
  • Remove the necessity for any special environment variables such as MOZILLA_FIVE_HOME or LD_LIBRARY_PATH: the fact that you can’t set LD_LIBRARY_PATH and have it take effect in the same process is a particularly odious situation for embedders who actually want to use the GRE the way it was intended.

The solution I am going to implement fixes these problem by exporting the gtkmozembed API from within libxul. There won’t be any more “” separate from the main libxul library, the symbols will be incorporated directly. This will allow gtkmozembed embedders (such as Epiphany) to link using the XPCOM glue and the new XUL glue functionality (agh, I need to document this on devmo!). They will no longer have to directly link against any of the mozilla libs, and therefore won’t be tied to a particular installation of XULRunner/Mozilla/whathaveyou.

The typical process for bootstrapping a gtkmozembed app will be something like this (in sketch form):

XPCOMGlueLoadXULFunctions("all those pesky gtkmozembed APIs");
gtk_moz_embed_set_path(the path from gre_getgre above); // instead of setting MOZILLA_FIVE_HOME, we tell gtkmozembed where we found it

Use gtkmozembed APIs the way you always would (no changes to the APIs)

When you're done:

This app will only need to link against libxpcomglue.a… it won’t need to (and shouldn’t) link against or or anything like that.

Intelligent Design

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

I was avoiding saying anything about the “Intelligent Design” debate, but I’m just fed up with the inanity of it: I believe that God created the heavens and the earth; maybe He used a Bing Bang, and allowed the natural laws that He created to govern evolution of life. Maybe not. There is plenty of empirical evidence for adaptive evolution within species/genera, but not a whole lot of evidence for macro-evolution.

So, we now have a school district or a teacher saying teaching a dull and vague concept like “perhaps the evolution of species wasn’t totally random, and an unnamed Force guided evolution”. How could this statement possibly be offensive? It is at least as scientific as “perhaps the evolution of species was totally random, and was not not guided by an unnamed Force”. We can’t go back and observe the process! At best the question is philosophical-scientific, not empirical-scientific (until we invent a time machine).

I used to think that when I read the Constitution, I would be able to get a fairly good grasp of what it actually means. The Constitution of the United States includes the following sentence in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. What have we done to our Constitution since that sentence was written? This sentence doesn’t say anything about state governments or the local school board! In fact, many states in the U.S. retained official religions or anti-Catholic laws well into the 19th century. The first amendment doesn’t even say “the federal government shouldn’t believe there is a God”: the amendment is very carefully written to prevent the federal government from becoming explicitly sectarian, and it was actually promoted by the state of Maryland and the Catholics in it to prevent the U.S. government from enacting anti-Catholic taxes or laws.

Judicial activism, congressional ignorance, and misinterpretation of our founding documents has run so far from sanity I hardly believe we live under the rule of law any more. When our current president infamously ignores the rule of law and spies on his own citizens, and a lone judge can arrogantly assume the responsibility for banning the mere mention of intelligent design in a local classroom, it is time for weeping and outrage.

New XULRunner Docs

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

The weeks right around Christmas are a hard time to get coding done: many coworkers (both Mozilla employees and others) are on vacation. So I’ve spent a decent amount of time this week working on projects that don’t require extensive collaboration:

XULRunner Roadmap
I’ve put up a new draft of the XULRunner Roadmap and reworked a lot of the XULRunner documentation on and I still need to document the -install-app feature and how to run mac application bundles.
Extensions that Require Dependent Libraries
Advanced extensions may depend on external libraries that need to be shipped with the extension. This is hard because Firefox does not automatically load any dependent libraries when loading XPCOM components. I’ve written up an article on using dependent libraries in extension components. This should also work for loading dependent libraries in XULRunner components…
Stop exporting nonfrozen symbols from libxul
Bug 305949 and its blockers: this is almost done, and once it is done I can tackle the “build Firefox on XULRunner” problem in earnest.

If you haven’t heard the buzz, Songbird is making a splash as an open-source media player and is using XULRunner to drive its user interface! I got a chance to meet the Songbird development team and get a sneak preview of their app; I’m excited that XULRunner is able to make rapid application development of great new apps possible.

Locale-Switcher 1.5

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

I have updated the Locale-Switcher extension for Firefox and Thunderbird 1.5. It is available on my website, and I have submitted it to

New features include fixing the extension for Firefox 1.5 and for mac and loading language and region names from the toolkit and files.

Deploying standalone XUL apps based on XULRunner 1.8

Friday, November 18th, 2005

A couple of people have asked me how they could deploy standalone XUL applications based on XULRunner 1.8. I have written up the solution (I had to fix bug 316857 first) on the Mozilla Developer Center.

The Internals of Gecko Are Not a Platform

Thursday, November 17th, 2005

A platform is a set of APIs that can be relied on to build something great/cool/whatever. The characteristics of a platform include stability, documentation, and good APIs (or at least good-enough). I’m very sorry that Daniel Glazman wants the gecko internals to somehow magically morph into a platform of stable APIs, but it doesn’t make sense to allow that to happen yet. The internals of gecko such as the serializer, plaintext editor, and other bits that Daniel wants to hack are just not good enough to make stable and platform-worthy yet, and are hardly documented at all.

I’m insanely proud of what Daniel has been able to do with a customized gecko! I know that we all want to see his gecko changes incorporated back into the codebase and future releases of XULRunner/Firefox; but that involves tracking the changes that happen on the trunk between 1.7 (which branched 4-April-2004) and 1.8 (31-October-2005), filing bugs, and getting changes landed in reviewable and testable chunks, just like any other gecko hacker has to do.

Finally, I’d like to mention that XULRunner was designed specifically with NVU (standalone composer) in mind: sure, XULRunner is still immature in that it doesn’t have all the deployment code written, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not ready now for NVU to ship it as a bootstrap mechanism and easily-built gecko deployment device. As XULRunner lead, I’m happy to help, and document that deployment strategy as necessary.

XPCOM Shutdown

Monday, November 14th, 2005

I have written a design document on how I plan to implement a clean XPCOM shutdown sequence so that we can restart XPCOM in the same process and make it easier to debug and fix shutdown crashes. Please add any comments to the discussion page on the wiki.

Tree Closure Tomorrow Morning

Thursday, November 10th, 2005

I am going to close the Mozilla trunk for several hours tomorrow morning (Friday 11-November) starting at 6AM PST, in order to land parts of bug 313309.

Class Project Gone Wrong

Friday, November 4th, 2005

An elementary school class started a class project to make planters to take home to their parents. They wanted to have a plant in it that was easy to take care of, so they decided to use cactus plants. The students were given green-ware pottery planters in the shape of clowns which they painted with glaze. The clown planters were professionally fired at a class outing so they could see the process. It was great fun! They planted cactus seeds in the finished planters and they grew nicely, but unfortunately, the children were not allowed to take them home.

Phallic Cactuses

The cactus plants were removed and small ivy replaced them and the children were then allowed to take
them home instead. The teacher said cactus seemed like a good idea at the time!