DXR gets faster hardware, VCS integration, and snazzier indexing

Erik Rose


DXR is Mozilla’s fast, full-featured code search tool for doing structured queries, free-text searches, and regex matching on huge codebases, like Firefox’s. Since my last post, we’ve completely replaced the production hardware, integrated with VCSs, and made scads of indexing improvements. The last quarter’s highlights include…

  • New stage and production hardware, with our own dedicated build box so we can support multiple codebases
  • Nightly updates from the mozilla-central tree, for both stage and prod
  • No more hours of downtime when a mozilla-central build fails
  • Blame, log, diff, and raw-file links in the sidebar
  • Much better JS syntax highlighting
  • Linkifying much more C++ template stuff: references to class templates, template params, and base classes of class templates when the base class is also a template and dependent on the type params of the derived class template (phew!)
  • Searching for namespaces and namespace aliases
  • Better finding of C definitions and declarations
  • Clang 3.3 support

Tell us what you want.

Now we want to hear from you. We’ve got a big, juicy fourth quarter coming up, and we want to make you happy. What would you, as a current or potential DXR user, like to see happen? Some ideas already high on our list are…

  • Indexing multiple trees, like Aurora and comm-central, eventually targeting the full list from MXR
  • A UI refit that will resolve client-side bugs, improve consistency, and add power. Take a look at the wireframes!
  • Structured search for JS: finding function definitions and calls, variable refs, and so on

What are your highest priorities? What would help you hack better on Mozilla code today? Leave a comment about what’s most important to you, whether it’s in the above list or not, and we will build our Q4 goals based on what you say.

Also, I’ll be manning a table at the Innovation Fair at the Mozilla Summit in Santa Clara. Stop by and make DXR wishes in person!

Finally, thanks to the people who make DXR possible: fubar, for all his ops work; and jcranmer, abbeyj, nrc, Bruce Stephens, jonasac, and nicolaisi, who keep the patches rolling in faster than I can review them!

2013 Web Dev Intern Recap


With the 2013 intern season winding down, we’d like to highlight some of the intern contributions to Mozilla Web Dev projects. This year five interns from four countries spent a few months at our Mountain View office building amazing things:

Ashish Dubey created a communication dashboard in the Firefox Markeplace for archiving communications between app developers and reviewers. The dashboard uses email notifications and syncs email responses, providing some flexibility for users. Ashish also created MarketPlay, an interactive sandbox for exploring the Firefox Marketplace API.

Derek Ries created Kanbanzilla, a stand-alone app that uses the Bugzilla API to provide a Kanban interface to Mozilla’s bug tracker. This allows Mozilla teams to use Kanban without having to keep an external system in sync with Bugzilla.

Shu Hao Wu created a webapp for Mozilla’s support website (SUMO). The app provides offline access to the SUMO troubleshooting wiki for FFOS with fast, full text search that works well across SUMO’s localizations. Shu Hao also contributed to Mozilla’s crash reporter, where he added automated identification of rapidly growing (“explosive”) crash signatures.

Leon Zhang built the first iteration of the Brick web components library. Brick is a javascript library that provides common UI components for web development. Brick builds on the x-tags polyfill to offer the benefits of the emerging Web Components standard today across browser platforms.

Tony Young was a spring intern who refactored several modules of the distributed system powering Mozilla’s crash reporter. He wrote a faster filesystem module, brought consistency to the hbase module, and made storage modules composable to make Socorro easier to install and enable quicker development of new features and components in the future.

Many thanks and well wishes to our interns as they return to school! Also, a great big thank you to Mozilla University Recruiting, for furnishing us with such an excellent group this year!

All of this year’s intern presentations are available on Air Mozilla. If you’re interested in a Mozilla internship, you can get more information from university recruiting, see open positions on our careers page or meet with some Mozillians at a campus near you.

Firefox Marketplace: June 28th – July 18th

Andy McKay

This is a regular post focusing on the status of the Firefox Marketplace.

  • Total bugs open: 559
  • Total bugs opened: 315
  • Total bugs closed: 235

Some specific changes of note:

  • Separated out the API between installing a paid app and a free app (bug 886568).
  • Packaged app receipts now include the origin from the manifest (bug 867265).
  • User interface created for the communication dashboard (bug 885391).
  • Fireplace API moved off to its own URL namespace (bug 875536).
  • App features added to the API (bug 881765).
  • Developer agreements upgraded (bug 891124).
  • Installing of free or paid apps with $0 cost all sorted out (bug 889501).
  • Keyboard auto-suggest disabled for search (bug 890569).
  • Newsletter sign up added to the Marketplace (bug 874932).
  • Payment documentation added to the marketplace (bug 839292).
  • Payment PIN screens localized (bug 885551).
  • Don’t validate apps where the app manifest does an off-origin redirect (bug 849548).
  • Track how many searches return no results (bug 890314).
  • Developers notified of unsupported locales (bug 836147).
  • Fix queue for “public waiting” apps (bug 868526).
  • App name translations now picked up during initial submit (bug 893855).
  • Fixed app installation on Linux (a bug 876293).
  • Polish language search analyzer added (bug 887944).
  • Packaged app origins must be unique (bug 878105).
  • Fix the PIN interface to work well in multiple locales (bug 887875).
  • Allow free with in-app payments apps (bug 857733).
  • Allow localized in-app payments (bug 892612).

Most more important of all, we shipped the Marketplace on phones.

Payments were enabled in Spain and Poland for the releases and apps have been successfully bought.

This was a huge milestone for the Marketplace team who did a great deal of work to get to this point. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

Web Productions Project Updates — July 2013

Chris More

The following is the July edition of the Web Productions accomplishments and upcoming projects.

Recent Key Accomplishments

  • Launched Firefox OS consumer website on-time (UX improvements coming soon!)
  • Migrated lots of legacy pages from the old mozilla.org website to new homes! (bye bye old designs, hello sandstone theme!)
  • Launched improved Mozillians homepage
  • Added voting to Mozilla Reps
  • Released improved newsletter subscription center (More improvements in the works!)
  • Released advanced Google Analytics metrics on Firefox Marketplace (tied to business objectives and KPIs)
  • Developed improved about:home snippet service (Waiting on IT for infrastructure improvements to release)
  • Researched and designed UX improvements to MDN
  • Refined development process and tools

Snapshot of Upcoming Projects

More Info

Have any questions? Chat with us in IRC in #www or #webprod.

Kanban & Web Productions: Lessons Learned

Benjamin Sternthal


Kanban has been making in-roads at Mozilla, and this is no small feat considering the size and complexity of the organization. I’d like to think our team has influenced folks, either to adopt Kanban, or to at least think about alternative development methodologies. Below is the history of how Web Productions came to use Kanban and the lessons we learned along the way.

Continue reading …

Firefox Marketplace: June 14th – June 27th

Andy McKay


This is a regular post focusing on the status of the Firefox Marketplace.

  • Total bugs open: 577
  • Total bugs opened: 244
  • Total bugs closed: 193

Some specific changes of note:

  • Some APIs have been copied to a new namespace for Fireplace because they are unique to Fireplace (bug 875547, bug 875548)
  • Receipt reissue endpoint reserved for when receipt replacement is possible (bug 881788)
  • Reviewer to developer communication dashboard created (bug 879469)
  • Multiple sorting for search results added to the API (bug 867848)
  • Lots and lots of crufty code deleted, which is a big deal to us (bug 881910 and others)
  • Fixes when accessing a pending app (bug 870020)
  • Multiple carrier billing payment fixes in some of the target countries
  • Fixes for Persona changes (bug 884360 and bug 884122)
  • Editing and cancelling reviews work (bug 885297)
  • API now shows created date and number of downloads (bug 867839)
  • Screenshot navigation much smoother (bug 887316)
  • Developed parameter on search API now consistent (bug 886385)
  • Payment setup in the Developer Hub now shows regions for the payments (bug 884443)
  • Cope nicely in the Marketplace with in-app payments that can’t be processed (bug 878216)

The performance on the search API was drastically improved with a few changes. Search performance improvement (lower is better):


Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the “show and tell” meetings recently so there aren’t any updates from there.

Lightning Talk Bonus Round

Michael Kelly

It was raining when the idea first came to me. Deep within the disappointingly well-lit halls of my local coworking spot, I sat in a meditative state as I contemplated the problem of sharing knowledge among the Web Productions team. As my mind drifted in and out of various realities, I came upon a world in which the only television show was the Price is Right. Taking inspiration from the wondrous paradise that this world was, I decided the proper solution was to create a monthly event: Lightning Talk Bonus Round!

Essentially, once a month the Web Productions team gets together to share short 5-15 minute talks on any subject we desire, from programming languages to design principles to mycology. We’re still working out the format and technical details, so there are no recordings available… yet. In the future, we hope to record the event and open it up to the community.

The first Lightning Talk Bonus Round was on June 3rd, 2013. There is a wiki page with links to the notes and details about each of the talks.

Craig Cook – Design Principles

Craig Cook gave a shortened version of a longer talk focused on the basics of Design Principles. He discussed controlling the balance between elements on a page to indicate which elements are more important than others. He also discussed using proximity, repetition, and contrast to help visually distinguish elements and establish the hierarchy of important on a page through visual cues. You can check out his slides on GitHub.

Screen shot 2013-06-18 at 2.53.53 PM

Giorgos Logiotatidis – Django Anonymizer

Next, Giorgos showed us Django Anonymizer, which is a Django app to help you anonymize existing data in the database. As opposed to other methods, such as maintaining fixtures or generating random data, with Django Anonymizer you’d start with a copy of your production data and configure the app to anonymize it, leaving you with data that is anonymous but still looks similar to the data you’d see in production.

This is especially useful in situations where production data may end up with interesting relationships between data that are hard to replicate when generating random data from the start. The Django Anonymizer project is available on PyPI. You can also see Giorgos’s notes in a gist.

Paul McLanahan – virtualenvwrapper and hub

Lastly, Paul talked about two tools that he finds useful during day-to-day development: virtualenvwrapper and hub. virtualenvwrapper is a set of extensions to virtualenv, which creates isolated Python environments for projects that need specific versions of Python or other libraries. The extensions come in the form of commands that help you quickly create, activate, and delete virtual environments. There are also hooks that let you execute certain commands when environments are created, activated, or deleted.

hub is a command-line wrapper for git that has extra commands tailored for working with GitHub. You can clone a repository using just a username and repository name, automatically create a fork on your GitHub account, or even create a pull request for a branch, all directly from the command prompt.

Screen shot 2013-06-18 at 4.45.52 PM

Great Success!

As I gaze over the majestic glory that is the aftermath of Lightning Talk Bonus Round, I realize that we have only just started. My work shall continue, on the first Monday of each month at 10 AM Pacific, in the hopes that someday we will be able to avoid all this knowledge sharing and pool together in a mindspace where thoughts mingle like so many fish in an ocean of web development.

Until then, we shall have to do what we can in meatspace. See you next month!

Firefox Marketplace: May 17th – June 13th

Andy McKay


This is a regular post focusing on the status of the Firefox Marketplace.

  • Total bugs open: 575
  • Total bugs opened: 384
  • Total bugs closed: 284

Some specific changes of note:

  • Start of moving the API from Django Tastypie over to Django Rest Framework (875540)
  • Privacy policy moved out of the main app object on the API (870557)
  • API added for newsletter signup (874958)
  • Regions added to app detail API (873198)
  • Use the new SIM API to determine the location (867793)
  • Signing in after logging out fixed (869664)
  • Marketplace offline experience much improved (875734)
  • Nicer review form for an app (872840)
  • Google analytics added to Marketplace actions (874076)
  • Feature profile detection added to the validator (862454)
  • The Marketplace now supports OpenSearch (872954)
  • App installation on Linux fixed (876293)
  • Android packaged apps added to the search (878918)


We also do a weekly “show and tell” of things that people have done in the Apps group every week. This is a summary of some of the things that have been shown there.

  • Touch events are now possible in the simulator. Myk demonstrated that click and drag with a mouse is now the same as touch events on the device. Available in the preview version.
  • The simulator “push to device” now works on 64 bit linux because adb has successfully been compiled for that platform.
  • App refresh will automatically detect changes in apps installed into the simulator from the Marketplace. Also command-shift-r refreshes but also clears the application cache.
  • Chris showed off the pending review queue addition to the Marketplace. This allows app developers to see how long they have to wait in the review queue.
  • Amy reported that the review team has onboard five new volunteer reviewers for the Marketplace.
  • Basta showed that the Marketplace JavaScript has decreased in size by using a custom JQuery build. Check out the current size.
  • The Marketplace region is now set from the SIM card.

We were also joined on the Marketplace team by Mathieu Pillard. Welcome to the Marketplace team, Mathieu.

The Crimson Twins

Mike Cooper

Crimson Twins is a project that I started at Mozilla to power two ambient
displays that we mounted on the wall in the Mountain View Mozilla office. We
use it to show dashboards, such as the current status of the sprint or the state of GitHub. We also use it to share useful sites, such as posting a YouTube video that is related to the current conversation. Most of the time that I pay attention to the Twins, is when my coworkers and I post amusing animated GIFs to distract amuse the rest of the office.

Continue reading …

DXR Digests the Firefox Codebase

Erik Rose


How do you reason about a codebase the size of Firefox’s? How do you figure out who calls the function you’re messing with, without losing your context in an endless stream of false-positive-infested greps?

You bust out DXR, Mozilla’s code search and static analysis tool.

DXR begins with the technology that powered the much-missed Google Code Search: inverted trigram indices which turbo-charge a fast regex implementation. It then adds a static analysis engine that rides sidecar with the C++ compiler, noting the location and relationship of code constructs. As a result, you can not only do regex searches that return as fast as you can type, but you can also ask “Who subclasses this?” “Where is this macro defined?” and “Where are all the references to this type?”

Last week saw the first production push of DXR since its major redesign early this year. It now rides on a modern foundation of Flask and WSGI; blocks regressions with a looser-coupled, higher-coverage test harness; and delivers a glut of new features and fixes. Here are some highlights.

Indexing and Search

  • Faster, index-accelerated performance on many kinds of queries
  • Querying for callers and callees
  • Ability to find callers of constructors
  • Recognition of typedefs
  • Links to macro references
  • Links from class declarations to class definitions
  • Better detection of JS symbols
  • Differentiation between a const and a non-const function of the same name
  • Handy-dandy path breadcrumbs so you can tell what file you’re reading and move around in the source tree
  • Sorted folder listings
  • First-class support for mobile and WebKit


  • Several thousand lines less code
  • Slimmer builds which consist of only data, not Python code, making development easier and deployment cleaner
  • Replacement of our ad hoc process pooling implementation with Python 3’s concurrent.futures (knocking off about 200 lines)
  • Flask-powered WSGI instead of old-school CGI
  • Redesigned URLs for MXR parity and future extensibility
  • A Vagrant box to ease the spin-up of new contributors
  • A brand new test harness, exercised by a Vagrant-based Jenkins job

Bug Fixes

  • Trouble-free entry of queries. (Bad JS! Go sit in the corner.)
  • A fix for a crash when doing negated phrase matching
  • Fixes for URL- and HTML-escaping bloopers, including shameful XSSes
  • No more duplicate result lines in some types of queries

What’s Next?

I am pleased to announce that the next release is scheduled for one minute from now. Yes, DXR is now under continuous deployment: if it passes tests, it goes up on the servers, eliminating human bottlenecks and errors and letting us deliver goodies—and get feedback—promptly. A great many UI and capability enhancements are on deck next, along with speedy new server hardware to make queries even snappier.

Want to look under the hood of DXR? Check out https://wiki.mozilla.org/DXR, and join us in #static on irc.mozilla.org. Happy hacking!