A Levinas quote that might be relevant to Intellectual Property

May 14th, 2014 by bjacob

First of all, let me stress that this is only a personal blog and I am at most only expressing personal opinions here. Now, this post isn’t even expressing an opinion, instead I would like to share a quote. Today’s events made me think about Intellectual Property. This reminded me of this quote from Emmanuel Levinas. It was written in 1934 in an entirely different context, and is part of an essay that can be read online. But the few sentences below talk about general notions that haven’t changed. Here’s the original quote in French (translation below):

L’idée qui se propage, se détache essentiellement de son point de départ. Elle devient, malgré l’accent unique que lui communique son créateur, du patrimoine commun. Elle est foncièrement anonyme. Celui qui l’accepte devient son maître comme celui qui la propose. La propagation d’une idée crée ainsi une communauté de « maîtres » – c’est un processus d’égalisation. Convertir ou persuader, c’est se créer des pairs. L’universalité d’un ordre dans la société occidentale reflète toujours cette universalité de la vérité.

Mais la force est caractérisée par un autre type de propagation. Celui qui l’exerce ne s’en départ pas. La force ne se perd pas parmi ceux qui la subissent. Elle est attachée à la personnalité ou à la société qui l’exerce, elle les élargit en leur subordonnant le reste.


Here is my modest attempt at a translation:

An idea, as it propagates, essentially detaches from its starting point. It becomes, despite the unique accent communicated to it by its creator, part of the common heritage. It is inherently anonymous. The one who accepts it becomes its master as much as the one who proposed it. The propagation of an idea creates a community of “masters” — it is a equalization process. To convert or to convince, is to make peers. The universality of an order in Western society always reflects this universality of truth.

But force is characterized by another type of propagation. The one who wields it does not dissociate himself from it. Force does not get lost among the ones subjected to it. It is attached to the personnality or society that uses it, and it enlarges them by subjecting the rest to them.


Mercurial: a script to import a patch queue from another repository

September 19th, 2013 by bjacob

Here is a import-patches.sh script that makes it less tedious to land patches by e.g. importing one’s mozilla-central patch queue into a mozilla-inbound clone, etc.

Example usage:

  $ cd /hack/mozilla-central
  $ hg qpush patch1
  $ hg qpush patch2
  $ hg qpush patch3
  $ cd ../mozilla-inbound
  $ ./import-patches.sh ../mozilla-central

A customized “planet Mozilla” with a focus on Gecko development

December 10th, 2012 by bjacob

Planet Mozilla doesn’t do what I personally need. Planet Mozilla Projects gets closer, but misses the mark: still far more stuff than I can read, and misses some very useful one-person blogs.

So here’s a Google Reader that does what I want. It currently aggregates 40 Mozilla-related feeds, some of them from Planet Mozilla, some others from Planet Mozilla Projects. It’s unabashedly biased toward my personal interests. You might find it useful too. Suggestions for additional feeds to add are welcome.

Here’s a rough description of what to expect there:

  • Over 50% Gecko-related posts.
  • Some hacking tips.
  • Some other Mozilla technical things.
  • Some other Mozilla non-technical things to stay connected with the wider community, like the excellent Bonjour Mozilla.
  • As little personal/ego blogging as possible — hard to make guarantees as some otherwise very interesting feeds can occasionally digress a bit. That’s a tough call, as I have to refrain from adding some otherwise very useful feeds to avoid diluting the blogroll too much with off-topic posts.
  • No political/philosophical/religious blogging at all. I promise I’ll unconditionally remove any feed I notice doing that. (Oops: now I expect that the Planet Mozilla audience will flame me, pointing out that this post of mine is precisely doing politics. Well, yes, but not that kind of politics.)


B2G debugging with GDB really works. No excuses for printf debugging!

November 9th, 2012 by bjacob

Apparently many people still believe that GDB debugging on B2G doesn’t really work. I know about that: I held that wrong opinion until yesterday.

Turns out that my issues were all caused by simple mistakes.

Of all the standard features of a debugger that I have tried, only watchpoints don’t currently work. Everything else works, including setting a breakpoint on a symbol and getting it hit.

So I expanded a little the MDN page on this topic, with a summary of what works and some troubleshooting information.

So if you were having issues with debugging B2G, check if that helps you. If not, please improve this page!


Extracting useful data from crash reports

August 2nd, 2012 by bjacob

For a while, I’ve been extracting data about Firefox’s graphics features from crash reports. I’ve recently expanded and updated the results, which you can see here:


In particular, besides what users of this page already know, new questions answered include:

Extracting this kind of data from crash reports is very easy. Here’s a nano-tutorial.

The public crash report data is available there:


You want the -pub-crashdata files. There is one per day. Download one of them, for example:


I suggest keeping this file compressed on disk and only decompressing on-the-fly, as shown below.

Each line in this file represents one crash reports. For example, to know how many crash reports there were on 20120801,

$ zcat 20120801-pub-crashdata.csv.gz | wc -l

To know how many of them were Windows XP SP2 users,

$ zcat 20120801-pub-crashdata.csv.gz | grep Windows.NT.5.1 | grep Service.Pack.2 | wc -l

Note that I’m using the dot to match any character, including actual dots as in “5.1″, as it doesn’t make a difference here and I’m too lazy to properly escape dots.

Just look for yourself at the first few lines of a -pub-crashdata file to see what data is in there. In particular, you get the crash report’s AppNotes where Gecko code can write custom annotations: that is how we get to know how many users have WebGL or Layers Acceleration working, for example. You also get the crash signature, so you could plot how crashy a symbol has been over time. You also get CPU info, while GPU info is typically found in the AppNotes. And you also get the HTTP link to the full crash report, which is easy extract with the cut command, so you could make tools giving you right away the crash links that are relevant to your interests.

The data in my graphs was extracted by a C++ program itself run by a BASH script.


E-voting in French election requires out-of-date Java plugin, blocked by Firefox

May 24th, 2012 by bjacob

France is trying e-voting for the first time in the upcoming legislative elections, for French voters residing outside of the country (one million voters), and it’s defective to an amazing extent — even by e-voting standards.

It requires the Java plug-in. Not only that, but it doesn’t even work with the latest version 1.7 of it, and requires the outdated version 1.6, which of course is blocked by Firefox for security reasons.

As a result, the French government (still same link) is going as far as asking voters to use another browser!

Only the Oracle version of Java is supported. OpenJDK is explicitly unsupported.

Update: It seems that Firefox doesn’t block the newest revisions of Java 1.6 (only 1.6.30 and below are blocked). Assuming that’s correct, the French government’s message asking users to switch to a different browser is unfounded.

WebGL 1.0.1 conformance testing, part 2

April 21st, 2012 by bjacob

Last week, I asked people to participate in WebGL 1.0.1 conformance testing. The response has been amazing and I want to thank everyone for that.

The results can be seen in the archives of the dedicated Google Group. Thanks to these, we have identified and fixed a couple of bugs in Gecko, we have landed a couple of work-arounds for widespread driver issues, and we have even found and corrected an issue in a WebGL conformance test that was non-passable on color-managed systems!

So now is a great time to start a second round of mass testing.

Please follow the instructions on this page!

Firefox users: please use a Nightly build from today (2012-04-21) or newer. Results should be very good. Also, at this point, any test failure is very likely to be a driver bug worth reporting to your driver vendor.

While I’m only speaking with my Mozilla hat here, we are interested in results from all WebGL-capable browsers on desktop platforms. These include Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari, on Windows, Mac OSX and desktop Linux.

Your help needed: run WebGL 1.0.1 tests in today’s Nightly build

April 17th, 2012 by bjacob

In the WebGL WG, we’re currently asking people to run WebGL 1.0.1 conformance tests in Nightly builds of their favorite browsers, using recent graphics drivers, to see the actual status of passing conformance tests on real drivers.

As far as Firefox is concerned, some important fixes just arrived in today’s (20120417) Nightly builds, and so, if you have recent graphics drivers, I would like very much you to get this build or upgrade to it, and follow these instructions.

We’re interested in this on the 3 main desktop operating systems: Windows, Mac OSX, Linux. And of course, it is also very interesting if you can test that on other browsers, such as: Chrome 20 or Canary, Opera 12, Safari WebKit Nightly builds.

Many thanks!

Update: Huge thanks to everyone who contributed. I have enough data for rigth now, but as fixes and workaround keep landing, it’s always useful to have more people testing in the future. Other browser vendors may also be interested in more testing. I will probably ask for more Firefox testing in a few days once some more workarounds have landed.

Update 2: Time for a second round of testing! See my new post.

Introduction to WebGL (FITC talk slides)

March 26th, 2012 by bjacob

Here are the slides (rather a plain HTML page) of my “Introduction to WebGL” talk at FITC Spotlight Javascript, just in case that might be useful. After a quick general introduction, I focused on making sure that people at least grasp the basic concepts, especially around shaders. The idea is that once they understand that, they can easily learn the rest by themselves using existing excellent tutorials.

By the way, some notes on “slides”:

  • I don’t understand why people stick to the “slide projector” format. I find that just continuously scrolling through a plain HTML page is much better for many reasons. Most importantly, it allows to zoom in/out as needed (to adjust to the realities of conference rooms), which is not practical once the document is formatted into “slides”. It also allows to include longer code snippets or diagrams without having to worry about slide boundaries, in situations where having to scroll a bit is acceptable.
  • Another thing I really don’t understand is why most slide templates use dark grey text on light grey background. When using a video projector, maximizing contrast should be a higher priority than being cool with colors.
  • Finally, I don’t understand the value of adding pauses to slides (i.e. only showing part of a slide at first, then showing the rest). It probably keeps people entertained, but I don’t understand how it can help people understand things better.

Blogs are the worst medium for a debate

March 8th, 2012 by bjacob

Why is it that when people debate using blogs, this almost inevitably degenerates and causes negative feelings?

Here’s an attempt at a theory to explain that. When X and Y are debating, it should be X talking to Y and Y talking to X. Trivial, no?

But blogs break this trivial requirement. When X blogs about what Y wrote, it’s not X talking to Y. Instead, it’s X talking to The World about Y. The result is twofold:

  1. Makes Y feel publicly attacked
  2. Invites The World to the debate, thus feeding the debate with fresh new people who are not yet tired of it, and who may be missing earlier parts of the debate, since it’s not easy to trace back a debate-by-blogs to its origin.