Some time ago, we set up a symbol server for our Windows builds. This was sort of an afterthought, it just happened to be really easy to do in our new crash reporting architecture. It turns out that this is incredibly useful for people. This shouldn’t be surprising, given how difficult it is to build your own Firefox. Some time after we set this up, I found out that Microsoft’s debuggers also supported something called a source server (Note: this page did not contain this much information when this project started). This sounded interesting, but it wasn’t something I had time to work on, so I added some information to Seneca’s wiki, hoping an interested student would pick it up as a class project.

To say that I got more than I hoped for would be an understatement. Lukas Blakk took the project and ran with it, producing a working prototype and fleshing it out to the point where it now works perfectly on current nightly builds. She’s done an incredible job working with a practically undocumented feature of Microsoft’s debugging tools and having the perseverance to stick it out. As a result, you can now debug nightly Windows builds with full source available. We’ve got a handy MDC document available to tell you how. You’ll need a nightly from today (April 15th) or newer, and this will be available in the Firefox 3.0 release builds. Happy debugging!


February 29th, 2008

So, after much wrangling, we have turned on profile-guided optimization on our Windows nightly build machine. The immediate impact is that we got faster, by about 10% on some of our benchmarks. We also exposed at least one tricky layout bug that relied on undefined order of evaluation, but dbaron fixed it. Big thanks to Rob Sayre and everyone else that made this possible!

Next up is probably going to be turning this on on our Linux nightly build machine. I think we’ve resolved the issues there, but we’re going to wait until after beta 4 for that. Apparently we shipped Firefox 1.0 nightlies with PGO, so it should be ok, although that was back with gcc 3.3 or so.

We’d like to do this on Mac, but that still needs some work. I’m hopeful that we’ll get there before Firefox 3 ships.

Firefox on TV

February 14th, 2008

I always get a kick out of seeing Firefox being used on TV shows.  My wife was watching an episode of Nip/Tuck that she had taped (yes, taped, we don’t own a TiVo) and one of the characters was looking up some information on the web.  I did a double take and made her rewind and sure enough, they were using Firefox.  Even better, it was on a Mac!  In your face, Safari!  Of course this is Nip/Tuck so the characters have found out they’re related and are looking at a pro-incest website, but that’s one of the least edgy bits given the show content.

Screen capture from Nip/Tuck showing a character using Firefox

Screen capture from Nip/Tuck showing a character using Firefox with a close up view of the title bar

I Love Places

October 26th, 2007

In Firefox 3, the bookmarks and history systems are getting an overhaul, collectively known as “Places.”  I was skeptical of this work when it first started, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in that view.  I rarely used bookmarks, preferring to just search Google to recall a page I had previously visited.  Just how relevant was any overhaul of bookmarks going to be to my modern browsing?

urlbar autocomplete in Firefox 3

Well, I was wrong.  Places is here, and it’s awesome.  It has improved my browsing workflow so much that I can’t even use Firefox 2 anymore.  In Firefox 3, the urlbar now autocompletes what you’ve typed from both URLs and page titles from your history and bookmarks.  Maybe that doesn’t sound impressive, but in practice it’s fantastic.  I tend to visit a lot of pages on the same site (mostly bugzilla), and with the old urlbar autocomplete, it was hard to find things from bugzilla.  With the new autocomplete, all you need to do is type in part of a unique word from the page title or URL, and it will be found.  In addition, if you bookmark a page (just by clicking the handy star there) it will get weighted into your autocomplete results.

I hear there’s still more work to be done, including improving the formatting of the results, but it’s already vastly improved my day-to-day browsing.  Hats off to the Places team!